Procrastination and I

My history with procrastination and postponing living the life I want to live:

I’m Sure I’ll Spend Time with My Kids Someday
I’m Sure I’ll Get a Cooking/Exercise/Cleaning Routine Started Someday
I’m Sure I’ll Find Out What my Spouse Is Into Someday

But no matter what it is that we postpone, time doesn’t stand still while we postpone.

Death Gives Life Value in that it Creates Limited Supply of Time

I used to procrastinate a lot more. I feared starting because I didn’t know how to take breaks and I didn’t know how to emotionally deal with a finished product less than perfection. It wasn’t that I could work hard, I can handle hard work (sometimes I worked for 126 hours a week and did my best the whole time), so I always wondered why I had trouble getting started.

Me Most My Life = I Hate Everything Imperfect, Especially Myself, I Can Only Work on Something 100% Free from Risk of Failure

For me it was fear, if I started something I had to face emotionally both outcomes, a good and a bad outcome, and I wasn’t emotionally robust enough to handle more failure in my life.

I’m Suffocating with My Own Expectations for Myself

I took failure personally, thought it made me a failure, then I found a quote that said “failure is not the opposite of success it is part of success.” – Arianna Huffington

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Failure Not the Opposite of Success… If that Is True I’m Avoiding Success.

I had heard of Edison testing thousands of light bulb materials that didn’t work, his friend Walter S. Mallory asked “ ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’ Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work!‘”

Volume 8 The Thomas Edison Papers at Rutgers University

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Trying – Failure = Remaining Success

Failure sums up my early life, but I didn’t even begin to understand the value of that failure until about 3 years ago. Slowly my attitude changed and that changed everything significant to me.

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Each Day Has Good, If You Look for It You Can See It

Three years ago I was a new mother, and I hated it, my mood sank lower than ever before, so I sought and began practicing new coping mechanisms including ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy), radical acceptance, mindfulness and stoicism.

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Baby Doesn’t Respect My Vacation Day Request

Last year was the last straw in a positive way, the last coping mechanism I needed to deal with the stress of modern life and uncertainty in an ever changing world was gratitude.

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Before Gratitude
what a life
After Gratitude

I thought gratitude was something you either were born with or you were not born with, or something you were raised with or not raised with, but I was wrong, I was able to pick it up in a few months after finding a really clear and beautiful post challenging me to try it.

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Still Feel Lucky I Found the Gratitude Challenge

Somewhere along the line I stopped wanting to be happy and started wanting to be good, meaning I wanted to live in a way I wouldn’t regret. Interestingly I became happier anyways, but over a few years I realized that being happy emotionally is like being full physically. It’s not meant to be a consistent state, there isn’t something wrong about it, but it’s not the most important thing, it’s something to be listened to, managed, enjoyed, but it’s not the main point of life to me.

live your best life
In Your Own Way, to Your Own Standards, Don’t Be Evil!

Example a school bully may be happy while bullying another child into suicide, that isn’t worth chasing, it’s not evil to be happy, yet it’s possible to be evil and happy, therefore happiness isn’t the whole picture of a good life.

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Seeking Happiness While Being a Parent
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Seeking Growth, Patience, Learning and Teaching Opportunities While Being a Parent

It sounds cheesy, but I try to live a life of virtue now and happiness comes as a byproduct, but I don’t seek it. Living by my values aligned with good brings me joy and satisfaction.

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I’m in Debt, a Bad Person, and a Failure in both Career and Parenting…
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I’m in Debt, a Good Heated Person, and a “Beginner” in both Career and Parenting!

It was hard to encounter the idea of “valued based living,” since I’m not religious and didn’t know anyone else personally who focuses on values based living.

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Is Life Supposed to Feel Like Non-Stop Effort with No Progress?

I encountered Russ Harris by accident in the book “The Confidence Gap,” later I found Stephen Covey, Chris Voss, Rachel Macy Stafford, Dale Carnegie, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus who all made the case for living based on values and accepting happiness that came without focusing on how much came and when. Martin Luther King is also said to have lived a values focused life, but I haven’t read that part of his philosophy before.

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The Power of Books Has Always Helped Me in My Darkest Hours
  1. “While we are postponing, life speeds by.”
  2. “Nothing … is ours, except time.”

Most my life I was stuck postponing everything I wanted to do to study (in hindsight I could have balanced studying better), but at the core of the problem wasn’t the studying it was the reason for the studying. I was studying for the wrong underlying reason (fear).

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In Middle Age You Start to Have the Questions for the Answers of Youth

I wasn’t going to medical school because I hoped to work as a doctor or make a difference in that way, rather I felt I had to do it.

Back to the grind
If $70,000 Wasn’t Enough for Our Family to Live a Good Life I Guess I Need More Than That to Live a Good Life

My mother had Munchhausen syndrome, she put the idea in my head the world was almost impossible to survive in, to do it we needed pain killers to kill any pain (mom was also a prescription drug addict), money to buy what we deserved to have and to get what we wanted immediately. It was weird and complicated growing up with my mother, but I only very recently considered that it wasn’t originally my idea to go to medical school. I started “wanting to” be a doctor when I was two, my mother had given me books about doctors that made it seem fun among other things (brainwashing = the dark side of the delightful “It’s My Turn Now Doctor”). It’s embarrassing to think I was brainwashed and didn’t figure it out either immediately nor upon adulthood.

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Yeah, I’ll Just Stay Here Without Thinking About It (My Most Costly Personal Mistake So Far)

Three red flags started alerting me to the idea I didn’t want to be a doctor, 1. I had trouble writing my personal statement saying what made me want to be a doctor. 2. I didn’t think the doctors I followed had a good life that I wanted (family balance was skewed too far towards work) 3. I wasn’t sad when I didn’t go to medical school, I was confused and embarrassed, but not sad at all.

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Usually I Do What I Say I Will, But Not This Time…

It’s been about five years now and I know that I was more suited to intellectual vs service pursuits and that I have more passion to be a philosophizer and writer, than I ever had towards medical school.

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My True Passion is Philosophy

It’s hard to choose your major in college when you are so young that you don’t know who you are nor what options are out there. Or easy, easy to choose poorly…

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My Drug Addict Parent as Well as the One Career Aptitude Test Both Said “Surgeon” So It’s Medical School for Me I Guess!

But here I am today, I am alive, well (thanks to gratitude) and finally have time to do what I want because I didn’t get to do what I thought I wanted to do.

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Stoicism Gives Me a Satisfaction in Being Alive, a Belief I Have Power to Make a Difference in My Own Way, a Belief I Have Intrinsic Value as a Living Being, and a Belief in a Unity of Humankind

Being stoic started with reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey, he talked about “proactivity” being able to choose how to react if we are angry or not angry, it’s our choice not to hit our spouse, boss, child, friend, computer, dog ext. The moment between when something happens and when we act is the space we have to be proactive “to choose how we respond”.

My 1st Step to Stop Procrastinating: Understanding I Had the Choice

So the stoic response to the “busyness” of modern life is that it is our choice.

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“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” – Epictetus

We don’t have to postpone what we do because we don’t “have time”. Time is all we ever have.

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Why Am I Choosing This?
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Because I Care Too Little For My Own Well Being

My 2nd Step to Stop Procrastinating: Understanding My Life Matters (At Least to Me)

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“If you want something you’ve never had. You must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” -Thomas Jefferson

When I read this quote from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (his private journal on the struggle to live a good life, which inspired a lot of my life and habits):

“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.”

-Marcus Aurelius

I realized that I didn’t love my nature, I didn’t know my own nature very well and I had almost no idea of what it demanded of me. I made a choice to believe that I do matter (without knowing for sure) based on the idea of valuing diversity, mentally letting all animals, plants and people matter to the grand tapestry of all living beings gave me a sense of self worth I had always lacked.

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Why? Because Mom Lives Matter (All Lives)

So under the assumption I matter (which is my choice to make and I have no logical evidence against) the issue of taking breaks, self-care, making time to enjoy life at a deep level and taking time to seek inward to answer who I am and what I wanted became valid pursuits. I felt the need to justify if any of it mattered (why do it) before figuring out how to do it (live my best life).

My 3rd Step to Stop Procrastinating: Hoping I Can Stop Procrastinating and Live My Best Life

Being emotionally abandoned by my parents, who both had mental health problems, is what I feel caused me to question if I did or didn’t matter. In the end it’s not that I have proof that I can or will matter to others, yet I can choose to let myself (and or all human life) matter to me or not.

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Knowing “Why” Gives You Strength to Find “How”

It takes some amount of hope to try something new, to make a change and determining (or deciding) that it matters is where the hope comes from, it may take more than hope to complete a project, but it seems to require some hope to begin one. Hope seems to be the emotional ticket price of going somewhere new.

You Can Choose Your Mental Destinations

Stephen Hawking said “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the Universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

you've changed my life
Rest in Peace Stephen; Entropy of Black Hole = [(kc^3)/(4ħG)]A

I had a poster of that quote, for years I was always looking for a reason it was true. Today my perspective is that it isn’t true or untrue, that it is simply a choice to fill your heart with hope or despair. Mark Manson wrote an interesting book against hope gone wild Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope. I enjoyed the book, but having read it there was a sense that he was right about extreme cases while at the same time missing the total picture. It’s taken eight months to explain why I refute his principle that hope causes suffering. P>Q, Q≠P. Hope causes suffering sometimes, it’s true. There is suffering, but that doesn’t mean it’s because of hope there are myriad factors. I think entitlement and high expectation are more to blame for suffering and mental inflexibility as well, rather than hope.

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Loved Your Book Mark, It’s Wrong Due to Over Simplification of an Open System

No view of the future has evidence, both hope and despair are illogical, or alogical (perhaps not only lacking, but not meant to contain logic). It seems that we trick ourselves into thinking we are psychics who no the future while most of us scorn such people as fake. It seems like we all don’t know the future, not what possibilities there will be, nor which ones we will choose. It seems that both the path of hope and despair are completely free and available to all people at all times. Often I gravitated towards despair, perhaps because both my parents did, perhaps not, but my sister in the same circumstances to hope. She was focused more on others, helping in some small, possible way, I was focused on creating the illusion of stability in an ever changing world. I was much happier, I didn’t know about psychological baseline. I am happier by fate, by DNA than most people, I have a gene for optimism. So perhaps I was wrong that hope belongs to the miserable. There is a power hope has over the inner-world that makes it seem dangerous, but it’s about using the right tool for the right job. Hope doesn’t work as a contraceptive, as a way to prevent STDs, it doesn’t work in place of insulin or driving skills, but nor do any of those things work to make life seem worth living. I’ve been finding that all human emotions have valid uses, but also that like tools the situations they work best for are complex and nuanced.

My 4th Step Stop Procrastinating: Mindfulness Journaling

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Writing Helps Me to View my Mistakes without Judgement, Analyze Them, and Change.

Julia Cameron is known for “Morning Pages” writing down normal thoughts, I did that for a few years, but eventually switched to Stoic Meditation Journaling like Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. Meditations was the name of a book, which was intended as a private diary (much like the Diary of Anne Frank). Some differences would be, it doesn’t matter if it’s private or not, it’s not meant for complaints, but feelings are fine. So I could write “I” get sad when my husband makes jokes about me, rather than ranting about it. It’s a similar, but different mental experience. It’s a good place to work out the landscape of the mind, but there is a sense of control, not complete control, but some control. I would say morning pages is like permissive parenting of yourself, you allow fits, you don’t do anything to get in the way of emotion. In stoic journaling, you don’t hate the fits or the emotion, but you question the validity of the beliefs that lead to the fits or the emotion. You can still validate the feelings, but you don’t view them as you. They are like fish in a pond. You “have” anger, but you “are not” anger, because you are much more than that. So you write about struggles and challenges, but it is different because the overall view is that you are not your struggles nor your triumphs, but instead something larger than both. Not the white chess pieces, not the black chess pieces, but rather the board or the player. Morning pages is writing thoughts on paper, stoic journaling is writing meta-thoughts on paper. Thoughts about thoughts. Ex, I notice I’ve been feeling negative often in my life I wonder if I’m getting enough of a rest or if I’m too over scheduled or if I am not accepting my own anger or sadness ext. Rather than life seems so hopeless today, I’m very busy, it’s my husband’s fault, it’s my fault… Both types of writing are actually great, but for different things. Morning pages is great to complain to yourself, unload your heart of bitterness that keeps lingering and be better conversation with other people so you can listen about them instead of dominating the conversation with your unhappiness. It’s a good mind dump, it’s a good place to validate your feelings of hurt and suffering that everyone goes through. But it’s not the same as meta thinking. Morning pages is like a tool to deal with a chronic illness, stoic journaling is like a cure to change the way you think to what you choose it to be.

My 5th Step Stop Procrastinating: Discipline, Plan, Prioritize

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With a Plan With No Emotional Stamina
I'm lost
With Some Emotional Stamina But No Plan
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With a Plan and Emotional Stamina

In a perfect world everyone would be emotionally and mentally ready to just make a plan of what they want to do and do it, in my childhood I was like that, but in my adulthood it seems that there are metaphorical weights of priorities that drain people’s resources enough to prevent them from having the energy to do what they plan so that they fail to do what they plan enough to loose faith in their ability to improve their own life or to make plans that will work. At least that what happened for me, but I hope that my failures help others to be able to analyze their failures with no shame, so they can find the small errors that keep them from living their best lives as well. Though I’m sure there are many differences, there may be a common ground between any human and myself in that humans fail and have to deal with change and failure in order to create a better life.

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We Are Different; Yet In Some Ways the Same, In Some Ways We Can Learn Together

So after roughly 30 years of procrastination based of not knowing that I could control my life, not knowing if it mattered to make my life better, then choosing to decide it matters (while still not knowing for sure), facing the doubt of if I could control my life via my thoughts and beliefs and yet doing so using writing powered by the hope that I did matter and the belief that we can all change, it only took about 4 years to stop procrastinating. To my knowledge I don’t procrastinate any more, somethings are under my radar, when I notice them I adjust, I’m not perfect by any means, but I am playing the piano I wanted to play, loving my kids as much as I’m able to, forgiving the past to live in the moment ext rather than wanting to do those things “someday”.

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Thank you readers for all your help, some have offered wisdom when I was stuck, some love when I was hopeless, some company on the road of life when I felt alone, some strength via inspiration when I was tired of struggling. I feel like one chapter has closed in my life today (essentially the prologue) and I’m interested to see what I write in the book of my own life from here. In a way reality is the writer, my life the article and you are welcome editors.


At the end I notice a promise and a choice underlying the ability to believe I can live my best life, a promise from my now self to my future self to try my best and a choice to believe it matters.🕸️

💐 Journey of Kujichagulia (Self Determination) 🌻

My Happiest Day

Last year when my son was born, unexpectedly I felt that suddenly with a newborn baby and a four-year-old to take care of I “could” finally start living my best life.

I don’t know why it wasn’t when I left my 9-5 a few years ago, I don’t know why it wasn’t when I turned 18, I don’t know why it wasn’t after I finished my education, I don’t know why but it was March, 10th 2019 when I felt like I could begin to write in the book of my life. It was the moment I felt my son’s hair for the first time, the feeling of his thin, silky hair and the feeling I can start my life will always be linked for me. It was the moment I started breathing with my soul and not just my lungs.

Last year I came upon a really interesting blog post, by Lovie Price, about the labels that define us, part of a larger self determination project that was too ambitious for me the first year with my new baby.

For Lovie Price

That was 2019, this is 2020. For me things are so much different, something about the decade changing has really allowed me an emotional and mental refresh. I’m finally washing diapers every other day instead of everyday, which means I only have to do one load of laundry a day, I can now alternate clothes, towels, and bedding.

Life with One Load of Laundry to Do

Last year I was recovering my physical stamina, I was struggling to get a rhythm for meal planning, cooking, feeding two kids, balancing the two kids and myself, adapting school to have different aged children at the same time. It was such a struggle I had to start with just staying on top of dishes, then laundry and dishes, then laundry dishes and taking out trash, then laundry, dishes, taking out trash, and putting most things away.

This year I’m so surprised at how I’ve managed to make clean up, cooking, child care and school routines. Somehow I got the basics of life in order in the middle of chaos more than I had ever done so before. I got most my sh*t together surprisingly. I had more work than ever before, but also more love and acceptance, which allows you to unfold your true potential (I’m searching for the quote that says that better, but the down side of reading so much is it’s hard to retrace the inspirations).

What’s Hard Becomes Easy with Practice

So now about four months after I wanted to do follow this process of self determination, I have taken care of the basics enough to be able to do so in an unhurried and enjoyable manner.

“Whoooo are youuu..?”

(The Traditional Kwanzaa Question to Ask on January 1st)

“[This] is about beginning to define and then re defining yourself.”

How I currently define myself:

  1. I am a dreamer/idealist/upholder of my values. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Responsibility) My values guide my day and emotions.
  2. I am an philosopher/deep thinker/critical thinker. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Intellection) I process reality to know truth.
  3. I am a teacher and open minded life long learner. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Learner) I grow my skills and knowledge.
  4. I am a human being. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Resolver)
  5. I am a writer/blogger. (Clifton Strength Finder Name = Input)

(These are things that have formed islands of my personality, that I had trouble seeing until I took the Clifton Strength Finder Test, it took me a year or two after that to understand what they really meant and how the interacted with each other in my life. These are not what I would want as much as they are my natural temperament, these are the parts of me that are effortless rather than the alliances that formed over my life time outside of my control and personality such as marriage, parenthood. I am “a person” who is married, I am not “a wife” in my own mind that does not define me, not because I don’t want it to, just because it never has existed in my mind that way.)

I Needed a Test to Tell Me Who I Am…

Let’s move on:

  • I am extremely optimistic.
  • I am introverted, I love people, but they drain me rather than fill me.
  • I am a warrior in my attitude towards my values and duties.
  • I am deeply peaceful, strengthened by years at a Daoist Temple, but actually starting with a love of nature and visceral connection to nature.
  • I am easily distracted, money, deadlines, staying on track, feeling grounded are constantly a struggle.

[Define how you feel and what drives your reactions to things]

  1. I struggle with social relationships, I find that people don’t appreciate the way my boundaries affect them and I don’t appreciate expectations that I would know without being told what is expected from me in a group setting. The way I communicate seems to create tension where I wouldn’t have tension by myself. It just feels like there is friction between me and almost any kind of social interaction.
  2. I am tend to hyper focus on details and loose sight of the big picture.
  3. I am a recovering perfectionist, I find it hard to not throw the baby out with the bath water, if someone I love is dishonest at all it’s hard to not stop loving them. That is what protected me against an amusingly abusive mother and it’s really hard to drop the habit of wanting to completely dispose of anyone that shows dishonesty no matter how small, even my toddler, which I have a duty to love, therefore that is a tough situation.
  4. I am not friends enough with my own anger, I still mentally invalidate my own emotions by default without even looking at them without judgement or questioning if they may be valid for the situation.
  5. Whatever I do get done isn’t enough by half, even though I succeed and work hard, it’s never nearly enough.

“And so on…many lists . You can even be silly- “I am a salad eater”. You can be fatalistic – “I am a loser”.. whatever you want. It’s YOUR private list. And if you are truly ready to tackle that baby elephant , you begin here. With brutal honesty. Defining as much of yourself and your psyche as possible. The lists will grow even longer and deeper- like all of the roots and branches of a tree meshing with the vines and weeds. It can become overwhelming- pace yourself. After you have several pages- (yes pages -because we are writing down only labels here, not the why’s , what’s and how’s yet) take a breather- you are going to need it. Review the lists for a few days . Embrace the good and the bad and then accept this is where you are at this moment. There is much growth ahead, if you are willing and committed. Peace!”

Quotes Taken From Lovie Price’s Article “Let’s Start with Labels” (the first of a 10 Step Series of Self Determination).

When I made my list I didn’t care about it being private because I feel so typical, I feel like so many other middle aged people in my struggles it feels like no one would bother to hunt me down and lynch me, which is a privileged feeling to have, but I find that it unnecessary to feel guilty about what good I do have knowing that I’ve had a decent amount of challenges, no one who has known me would begrudge me the comforts I have.

I’m not sure if my elephant is that I don’t finish projects vs that I do finish projects but it is never enough, both are true to a large extent. I’ve never finished “the book,” but I’ve never had much time, though there was an author who worked an hour a day at lunch, so I suppose I do have time. I suppose my truth is that I am hardworking, but I have trouble allowing myself to work on something that feels significant to myself vs that would help others. I was trained to help others first and do my hobbies second and the amount of help other people would want from me would turn that into 0 minutes a day. So ethically I wonder is it fair to write for three hours a day while the children play instead of cleaning or making my husband lunch or playing with them? Jerry Jenkins says no, he was a writer, he played with his kids and wrote when they were asleep, he made time for his wife too. I have no idea how he did that. But I find as a father, gone all day, coming home and spending two hours or so with his kids, is different from me waking at 2AM with the baby and not being done with the eldest until 8 or 9PM. I suppose I should also add “I am conflicted about priorities and how much break time to take,” to my list.

A summary of the 2020 model of “me:”

  1. I am a dreamer, philosopher, teacher, human, and writer.
  2. I am very optimistic, introverted, diligent towards my values and duties, deeply peaceful, easily distracted, conflicted about how to distribute my time between my loved ones and myself.
  3. I struggle with social relationships, getting stuck on details, tolerating dishonesty, accepting and validating my own anger, feeling that my best effort is enough, and finding a balance in my home life between time spent making my kids life enjoyable and time spent enjoying my life (since I still don’t enjoy 9/10 parenting tasks).

The first time I did this I covered the more superficial labels as well as separating good vs bad, but this time I was already past the superficial labels, I saw marriage and parenthood as gifts of fate more than who I am, since I never pursued either. I also think the good and bad about who I am may be linked, like the ability I have to get everything that needs to get done goes hand and hand with my impatience, so I can turn it down, but both get turned down, I no longer think of my good and bad qualities as separable after reading this article by Mark Manson about how to overcome your demons I no longer see them as demons at all.

Last year I said:

  • How I currently define myself:
  • I am a writer.
  • I am a teacher, gardener/farmer, martial artist, reader.
  • I am a mother, granddaughter, sister, daughter, etc.
  • I am a roommate & friend.
  • I am an artist and a blogger.
  • I am a minimalist.
  • I am healthy,
  • I am sensitive,
  • I am unconventional,
  • I am introverted,
  • I am connected to the Earth,
  • I am a stoic.
  • I am impatient,
  • I am rude,
  • I am careless with money,
  • I am forgetful about birthdays,
  • I am a frequent leaver of many unfinished projects.

This year, as even more of a stoic, I separate that which I can control and that which I can using the metric “Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within your control. And some things are not.” – Epictetus

Metamorphosis Between Last Year and This Year:

  • I am a writer (became philosopher).
  • I am a teacher, (gardener/farmer merged with teacher), martial artist (merged with teacher), reader (merged with writer).
  • I am a mother, granddaughter, sister, daughter, etc. (gifts, I could have been an orphan)
  • I am a roommate & friend. (gifts, I may not have had friends)
  • I am an artist and a blogger (became and merged with writer).
  • I am a minimalist (became human).
  • I am healthy, (gifts, I was often ill despite eating well and exercise in the past)
  • I am sensitive, (the gift of being human)
  • I am unconventional, (I was born this way so strongly it’s not a choice)
  • I am introverted, (merged with philosopher)
  • I am connected to the Earth, (merged with human)
  • I am a stoic. (merged with philosopher)
  • I am impatient, (I sometimes am impatient, but not so often I define myself like that)
  • I am rude, (I sometimes am rude, but not so often I define myself like that)
  • I am careless with money, (I’m not money oriented, but I keep better track about it now)
  • I am forgetful about birthdays, (Sometimes, but I remember more than I forget, it’s human to forget sometimes)
  • I am a frequent leaver of many unfinished projects. (merged with human)

Intersection Between Past and Present Identities (Underlined is the Same Across Last Year and This Year)

  • I am a dreamer, philosopher, teacher, human, and writer.
  • I am very optimistic, introverted, diligent towards my values and duties, deeply peaceful, easily distracted, conflicted about how to distribute my time between my loved ones and myself.
  • I struggle with social relationships, getting stuck on details, tolerating dishonesty, accepting and validating my own anger, feeling that my best effort is enough, and finding a balance in my home life between time spent making my kids life enjoyable and time spent enjoying my life (since I still don’t enjoy 9/10 parenting tasks).

It’s clear to me, that most of who I am now, was present last year, but my ability to see myself clearly was worse last year, it’s as if I could only see in myself what someone with a superficial relationship with me could see, as if I was just an acquaintance with my own self.

I think about my exercise coach sometimes, he fell in love with dance, was an athlete, made a his fortune as an exercise coach, became a parent, wrote a book and became an author, was always a motivational speaker and writer. People see him and think exercise coach. But if you exercise with him for awhile you notice how different he is from a typical coach, who is fit, but doesn’t care about or mention your feelings or soul, spending a bit of time you discover he is a motivational speaker as well. But if you read his book you find he is a deep thinker, he is a stoic, he is a real author (not just someone interesting who someone can write a biography about). If you know more about him you know he loved dance and only worked in exercise as a coincidence of fate, you know he went out of his way to become a parent. I’m talking about Shaun T by the way author of “T is for Transformation.”

It was interesting that it was easier for me to get to know and understand different layers of Shaun T, than to get to know and understand myself. Because every time I wanted me to be someone I wasn’t it stopped me, every time I realized I don’t like cooking I hit a wall, a wall where I wanted to be a person who wanted to be a super mom, but I am not that person. I wanted to be my grandma who was the funniest, more loving, open, “balls out” kind of person I’ve ever known and also best cook. But I just am not that person. I had to give up the idea of who I wanted to be that went against my strengths I was born with, my personality to accept who and where I was and it made me rethink where I wanted to go. Sure, I can cook a normal meal, but I’m not interested in the flavor profile like a cook would be… I can say a kind word to people I see on the street and check in with family and friends, but I can’t go from call to call to call to party without being totally depleted. I can develop some traits of my grandmother, but I will not be my grandmother even then. I have skills and talents she didn’t and lack skills and talents she had. Even if over time I become more like her, I don’t think it is healthy or helpful to try to be someone else. I give up, I’d rather be a good me, than a horrible impersonation of someone else.

It’s time to be me as I am and celebrate who I am, even though I accept I may improve, I am getting very close to being completely at peace with who and where I am now.

It’s interesting to give up something unhealthy that you love, I can’t describe the feeling of knowing my grandmother was the perfect person to me and at the same time feeling like she was a beautiful maple tree and I’m a beautiful blue berry bush and it’s okay to grow to my potential instead of trying to prune myself into her.

I remember in the movie Heidi, the villain, shouts “I am what I am and don’t ask me to change!”

Even though we all change, everyday, there is I think a large amount of inner peace in accepting who I am and not demanding that change.

The feeling is like watching a wild tiger in the jungle, seeing it as beautiful and scary, then noticing that you are that tiger. It’s a change of perspective (like the end of the movie “Life of Pi” when the tiger represents the cannibal portion of the character leaving or also the end of “Planet of the Apes” when the astronaut finds he has returned to Earth rather than been stranded on another world). If anyone knows the name of that feeling I would be grateful? I can’t quite find the word for it.

Wishing you all a wonderful afternoon and acceptance of yourself as you are! 1/10 steps done, time to take my kids on our afternoon stoic walk.

✍️ The Day I Became a Profession Writer 🌻

Today I purchased Grammarly “premium,” a grammar checker, for about $75. I had received $24 for writing today (a simple amateur review of children’s underwear), so it was a little bit less to take from my husband for my writing “hobby”.

Ever since I watched “Omo’s Child” about the mingi practice in Ethiopia of killing babies and children whos’ top teeth grow in before the bottom ones, I’ve been over-analyzing all my spending.

I’ve always been thrifty; I think that’s normal for someone growing up in an Asian American household. Then being a working college student for a dozen years took me to an even higher level of thriftiness. After college, I took my first baby to work with me for a few years (empowering or exhausting? perhaps both), and now, for the past two years, I’m a stay at home parent with our family of four on one income; I’ve gotten even thriftier. But after watching “Omo’s Child” it’s driven me to a mental place like the end of the movie “Shinlers List” where Shinler wonders how many people he could have saved instead of keeping his wristwatch.

We all have certain issues, charities, groups that are more dear to us than others. For my dad and my sister, it’s dogs. They love dogs more than me. They may deny it, but since I have always had dog allergies, verified by blood tests and hives, and they still choose to have dogs, the evidence is there. I don’t resent it, but I won’t go along with any lies that it isn’t true. I do understand their preference, because there is something wonderful about an animal with the ability to know immediately how you feel, care about it, and comfort you. I won’t do that for my family, I sometimes know how they feel, sometimes care and sometimes comfort them, but so much less than a dog would, so I understand the preference for dogs.

I never thought of myself as someone who loves babies, even though I have had two. I never enjoyed playing with dolls, I also didn’t enjoy menial service towards my own babies, even though I did enjoy watching the mystery of their personalities unfold and seeing how life changed as our family grew. So I don’t quite understand why the particular injustice of mingi haunts me as much as it does, but it does.

Last year I read “Not for Sale,” a book about human slave trafficking. Prior to that book, I had never known how large of a problem it is, but though I feel sympathy for those people, in the end, I didn’t feel called to do anything about it. It didn’t feel as if human slave trafficking was just, but also it didn’t feel as if it was my particular responsibility or within my ability to solve.

I don’t live in or near Ethiopia, I don’t speak the language or know about the culture, there is no reason that I am aware of that I should become involved, but yet I haven’t lost the feeling that “this shouldn’t be allowed to keep falling through the cracks.” That there should be some way to end this peaceably.

In school, Martin Luther King Jr was celebrated (perhaps disproportionately), but I couldn’t resist becoming a fan of his writing. Not only the “I have a dream” speech, but also his letter from Birmingham Jail, or perhaps more so. He spoke of peace, but also of taking immediate action, not waiting for justice, but seeking it today. Knowing social justice is a slow process, but getting started in the now, rather than waiting for society to be ready. I remember him as acting despite not having a clear path, instead of waiting for change to be handed over, carving progress day by day, despite protests from not only enemies but especially from friends and loved ones who don’t understand. I started celebrating Martin Luther King Jr’s Day by carving a baked potato with the face of any civil rights leader I choose (Malcolm X, Gandhi ext). Martin Luther King Jr came to be a symbol more than a human being. He stood up not for African Americans, not for Americans, but for all of humankind. I’ve never been brave enough to learn too much about him, for I’d rather not lose my ideal of him, maybe someday.

There are three things I learned from Martin Luther King Jr’s example: one we humans are all a family regardless of having different preferences or appearances; two what matters more than avoid failure is striving to stand for what is right to the best of our abilities as common people; and three that the though we can’t do everything about everything we can make some difference to something.

So, I am beginning this year with a personal resolution to stop yelling at my daughter. I’ve done very well so far, I’m going to keep checking in with myself and make sure I don’t backslide, but it feels as if it’s already done. Thanks to cookies I used to bribe myself…

But I also hope that I will be able to do something for those other babies someday, perhaps this year, perhaps in the future.

Last year I became aware of and fascinated by the concept of Lokahi, meaning the Hawaiian concept of restoring something broken to wholeness. It also represents a connection between humankind, God (or spirituality) and the land (or nature). It’s a trinity that exists as one, many other people may have been introduced to that by religion, but I’ve never been particularly relgious.

When I first became interested in helping end mingi the first internal criticism was “what about taking better care of your own kids?” So yes that is my responsibility, that is a higher priority, I will do that first, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some time or some way to help the other children later.

I’ve been wanting practically all my life to be more of a real writer, perhaps publish a book or series of articles, but I didn’t have a reason.

Jerry Jenkins, the author of “Left Behind” (an interesting fictional story) and mentor to many beginning writers, had always said that a writer has a message to bring to the world. I didn’t have one. I liked writing for writing, I enjoy words, enjoy the craft of writing, but one day I began to understand. The best-writen books such as “The Book Thief” sometimes fall far behind books less eloquently written that speak of the remarkable truths of humanity such as “9 Habits of a Hands-Free Life” or “How to Win Friends and Influence People” or “Meditations”. Ryan Holiday also describes that it doesn’t matter how good your writing skills are if your story is strong, the story matters more than the writing.

Almost all my life I’ve had too many book ideas, last year I tried to pick one that stood out to me over the others and none did, so in an effort to free my soul of the past and generate new ideas I got rid of all my past book notes. And for the first time, nothing new came to me.

Which is probably good because I have a ten-month-old son and four-year-old and a whole lifetime to write.

Yet, I feel more human when I write. So I prefer to write a bit each day. I prefer to get better, to keep learning, to experience the world in that way which clears my mind best and improves my mood. So since I’m writing anyways I wouldn’t mind a meaningful project.

I contacted the foundation who takes care of the children who were saved and what they are in need of is mostly money, having produced a video for exposure they need money to feed the kids ext. I’m not comfortable taking the money my husband earns for that, I’m not comfortable fundraising for that without having more details and also I’m not an extrovert. But perhaps I can use the motivation to take my writing to the next level. Perhaps I can do some paid articles I otherwise wouldn’t be brave enough to do and be able to donate that money without taking away from someone who doesn’t feel the need to support the same cause that I feel a need to support.

It would fit three needs I have, one motivation to do professional writing, two a feeling I have a deep underlying message behind my writing worth spreading, and three that I have a purpose to my life (whether self-ascribed or ascribed by fate is unknown to me) that is a worthy “ikagai” (reason to get up in the morning).

I took my daughter to see “Frozen II” on December 25th and although I was never very in love with the series, I do resonate with the feeling of knowing there should be more connection to something that I’m passionate about in my life, that even though other people value what I’m currently doing (raising kids, teaching, ext) I don’t, it’s something I don’t resent, yet containing a hollowness that lacks a way for me to use my unique skills in a way valuable to me. I hope that I will be able to change that this year. Even if I can’t do much to change the world for the better, I think trying will change me and allow me to live fully.

Henery David Thoreau said, “I don’t want to die without ever haven fully live.” I think that if I died today that would describe me, I’ve lived, I’ve traveled a little, but I wouldn’t wager that I’ve ever fully lived to my potential. Not that I have to do something that everyone hears about, but there is an internal feeling that although doing everyday chores with love and honor is a wonderful service to my family and somewhat the larger human family, there is some part of me that could be used that is instead languishing.

I’ve like using Grammarly for spelling corrections for the past few months, but this is the first article I’ve written in the Grammarly system and I haven’t enjoyed seeing the assistant that describes my honest soul as “a bit band in engagement”… perhaps I am, but it’s a bit uninspiring to be confronted with that, I’m not sure if I’ll hide the assistant or write somewhere else, but I think what I won’t do is change my truth to gain a higher rating from a computer. For me, writing is so much about being a human being and so little about tricking the computer system for ranking, if it ever becomes the other way, I think that will be the last day I write.

🌟 10 Points of Gratitude in 2019! 🎉

Thank you for my son 2019!
  1. Gratitude towards gratitude itself, this was the first year I found what it is to be grateful, what it feels like, how much it heals. I may have never done that without a special gratitude challenge that I happened upon. I don’t believe in destiny for sure, but it felt like destiny. It felt like “when the student is ready the teacher appears.” No other article has ever changed my life that much, that is why it has to be my article of the year, looking back on it, it was a simple and straightforward post, but it helped me to bridge a gap that I had been waiting to cross all my life. Now most days I write a note about gratitude, one things that inspires me (🌞 1. INSPIRATION), one thing that inspires me about the way are happening in the present moment (⏰ 2. TIMING) and one thing that I’m grateful about some kind of human connection in my life (💞 3. CONNECTION). If I miss a day I don’t mind, but it has really changed my brain to be constantly connecting to positive things in my life as well as looking for unneeded things that could be dropped. Thank you to Nomzamo for the article as well as so many others, her blog is defiantly my blog of the year for 2019!
  2. My son being born, it really is less life changing than becoming grateful, for it affects me in all my moments with him, my relationship with my daughter, with my husband, the way I enjoy being alive, the way I think of myself as I try to establish an mental identity independent of my family. My son was born and from the first second brought me joy and has never stopped.
  3. My daughter being forgiving, I was really sick during my son’s pregnancy and really impatient and mean, it was the same me, but more concentrated, so it showed me all my flaws on steroids and now I can work on them, so in a way it was good to become aware of the problems and also that my daughter is forgiving enough that we can forge a new relationship now and in the future.
  4. My family being together, my husband and I have unresolved bitterness that prevents us from being a happy couple, but I am grateful we are a stable couple, that we are a becoming a supportive couple. The children really enjoy our family being a whole and it gives me hope that in the future there will still be something left to repair.
  5. For life, life is a struggle, it’s full of pain and happiness, more happiness than pain for me, but not a single day goes by without problems and massive compromise about how I would like to live my life. I wonder and don’t know if all family members have to constantly live with compromise about how to use resources, which person’s hobbies get priority, which person’s sleep schedule gets to mess up everyone else’s ext. But every breath is still sweet, every dawn beautiful, the sunshine and the rain equally magnificent to me.
  6. For not being a doctor, my daughter is four, if things had gone differently I would have started and finished medical school and would now be working as a doctor, I would be in debt from school, but with earning power to pay it. But I think I would not have one or both of my children and no price on Earth would have been worth not having them or not having the time to love and protect them. For some people career is their baby, for me, my babies are my babies. I really want an identity separate from them, but not because I don’t treasure them, just because that is the road to sanity for me, to be mentally separate, to have aspirations that I own and pursue not ones I push onto them to own and peruse.
  7. For not having my mother in my life. It’s great that my real mother is not in my life. I would have had to explain drug addiction, pedophilia, bipolar disorder to my daughter already, she may have been hit or choked by her grandmother already before we knew it would be a problem. I would have felt less empowered to make changes, I would have spent a lot of time feeling angry about the past instead of just living in the present. I’m glad for reconciliation where it is healthy, but I’m even more glad for separation where it is not.
  8. For debt, having debt has shown me money is not everything. These have been the happiest years of my life and the poorest as well. I don’t plan to intentionally not save if I can, but the myth of money bringing happiness has been completely and utterly shattered for me this year. I’ve been hammering away at it, but now it’s gone. Money isn’t power, it can be used to buy things, change things, but it can also exist without changing anything. A lot of times money simply stays in the bank and doesn’t even reduce the fear of not having enough money later, because all money can be lost, any bank can close, any government insuring a bank can itself fall, nothing is certain about money. It can be a great tool, but it is the worst master I know.
  9. For safety, there are so many things I don’t love about my country, but it is fairly safe and safety feels great. It’s funny that many people who live here don’t feel safe, and of course it’s not completely safe, but it’s very safe compared to most the world. It is interesting that it’s 49th out of 160 on Safe Around Rankings (we are way less safe than Japan that doesn’t have guns and a bit more than China where people will give you drugs and steal your kidneys) which seems right to me vs 118 out of 163 in the Global Peace Index (which seems to count how people feel more). There is a vibe that a lot of people feel afraid, though I am not one, I notice it. In Mexico a lot of killing is happening, my husband’s family is from there and goes back a lot, people are frequently being decapitated. Overall the safety here is fair, no matter how you scale it or spin it, it’s just obvious many countries are safer, yet there is not constant non-stop violence either. I’m grateful for the amount of safety we have, it’s not that nothing could ever happen, but incidents are spaced out in our average life spans.
  10. For the truth, there are people who lie, information that is wrong, but the truth is the same from all angles, the truth helps heal disease, the truth is slow and doesn’t magically cure injustice, but it allows a discussion, it beings a journey, it rings true in the heart, it changes you over time like a river carves a canyon through rock. The truth makes writing worth it, learning worth it, it makes the pain of being wrong worth it.
After Writing This My Son Broke My Computer and My Daughter Shared Hers With Me and Encouraged Me To Write… Life Is So Extremely Up and Down Lately. Love and Best Wishes for 2020 to You! 💐

👶🏿 How Can We End Mingi in 2020? 💀

I’ve learned that by focusing on what I can do today with what I have towards what I want I can always do something.

Sometimes my heart bleeds, right now about the children born with top teeth before lower teeth in some parts of Ethiopia (the mingi). They get killed for that, or because they are twins, because their mother wasn’t married, or is married, but without the blessings of elders.

I’ve been thinking about it for a week, it stays on my heart. There are so many bad habits I have, my country has, the world has, this is just one, but it really stays on my heart.

My husband and I were watching “Omo Child: The River and The Bush,” produced by John Rowe and Lale Labuko. I really didn’t want to watch it at all, my daughter and son were watching with us and we had just watched “One Child Nation” a movie about many Chinese babies being killed. My daughter saw the Chinese babies in the trash dumps in black plastic bags and she said that she loved them so much, I saw a preserved baby in a jar who looked so much like my own son, the hard thing was his smile, he looked so happy and grateful, yet the ocean of circumstances added up to a beautiful and wonderful and male baby still being killed. It wasn’t just the girls (even though that’s not fine to kill girls either). I was so disappointed in myself, in my people, that they got the math wrong.

China was legitimately worried about everyone starving to death, they were over a billion people, the population was exploding and food production was crawling forward. But it never needed to be one child, two would have worked. They killed so many babies, they force sterilized woman, babies were killed before term, at term, as newborns, they were not always mercy killed, sometimes because their parents hoped they would be rescued they were left in the market and died slowly of exposure, what a horrible thing to have happened. But at least it’s over now. Now there are too many old families with not enough children to care for them, so the equation of how many children could be fed was re-examined and it never made sense for it to be one… the way the population control happened could have been so much more humane, even at the same cost, if only there hadn’t been so much fear that it was done in a panic that overcame all humanity, dignity, reason. If only.

My very good friend was born in China, her family moved to Japan to have a second child and they moved here for work, so I know someone in my very small circle of life who was directly affected by the one-child policy.

So I was disappointed in my own people, that we are all so unquestioning, I didn’t question the policy myself, it didn’t affect me since my ancestors left China for Hawaii, but all the same, it seemed like it made sense to me, I never questioned it.

If I did question it, I thought it was unfair to prefer boys to girls, I didn’t think, killing already born babies is wrong how can it be stopped.

I felt to blame partially, even though I couldn’t have done anything and was born in the wrong time period to do anything. I felt to blame because I didn’t mentally challenge the right of it.

Then I learned for the first time about mingi, killing already born babies for getting teeth in the top before the bottom and other stigmas. It is similar in a way because it’s believed that if they stay the village will starve from a curse. In a way it’s the same dynamic, fear of starvation, causing killings that do affect food consumption, but in a more complicated way.

I don’t know much about Ethiopia, but I really hope there is some way I can support the people who know more than I do to be able to help save those babies.

I don’t want to talk about abortion, I am in favor of abortion, I know that mothers in most places only have the energy to raise a certain amount of children in modern countries, if they can abort unwanted pregnancies including rape pregnancies then they will more likely treat the children they raise later with more love and patience. There is a difference between killing babies unborn vs born.

It seems like everyone would agree it is wrong to kill an already born baby, yet it happens and we don’t stop it.

Lale Labuko did end the mingi practice in his village and saved 37 children, but there are still many other villages doing it.

It’s a hard issue, the government outlawed it, but yet people do it because it is there culture. It calls for not war, not government intervention, but cultural intervention, cultural change.

Removing the children requires supporting them, changing the practice is a more sustainable solution, but it is so ethically twisted.

Who has the right to ask other people to change their cultures? But on the other hand who has the right to practice culture if it kills others (like jihad and the crusades)? If you can’t kill others who are innocent, can you kill ones who have murdered without being guilty of murder as well? Is there a difference between a soldier and an assassin? Is there a difference between murdering people and eating meat? I think so, but I can feel that it’s a fine line.

I think it’s wrong to kill babies that are already born and healthy, (though not ones who need a huge amount of life support that is insanely expensive), but then who gets to define healthy? Does that mean not depressed if depression is an illness? I don’t think so. Does that mean not retarded? I’m not even sure honestly.

I haven’t drawn clear moral maps of all my ethics, but I’m sure killing babies already alive and healthy violates them.

However isn’t that a parenting choice? Or is it? How far are children in their parent’s care? But what of the parents who refuse mingi and can’t protect their babies from the village as a whole.

It’s been about a week of thinking about it and I can’t really decide what to do about it.

I’m not sure if I have the right to judge the situation without knowing more about it, I’m not sure if the model works in a larger way I don’t understand, I’m not able to provide personally for all the orphans who would be saved if they were all taken away from their villages, I’m not able to communicate with the villagers that their babies would not cause plague and if I could if it would matter, I’m not sure how I could help or if I should help. I’m not sure if I shouldn’t have been focusing on teaching my two kids or loving them in all the seconds I was worried about the babies half a world away. But no matter how unsure I am if I can help or how I can help or if I can help, I can’t spin the situation in any way where it is the right thing to let two-year-old children die because their top teeth have grown in before their bottom teeth.

If nothing else it seems like teeth removal should be an option… I wonder if a march of peace and singing would be enough to end the practice. I wonder what could be done, but I don’t know and perhaps that is why other people also hesitate to act on behalf of the innocent.

After watching “One Child Nation” the last thought I had was, at least it’s over (killing live babies in China) and after watching “Omo Child” I don’t have that closure.

It’s something I want to stop, but I have no idea if I will be able to do anything to stop it at all.

However I think the very first thing in any bad situation is awareness, if we all know about this, smarter people than me, kinder people than me, more powerful people than me can take steps, find a way and I’m sure the greater the public awareness the greater the minds and hearts facing a problem, the better odds we have at ending this situation that our distant cousins are still facing.

In 2020 isn’t it time that curses of ourselves on ourselves, curses of one culture on itself and curses of one culture on other ones all end?

At least start to end?

To what extent the human heart is willing to live in a panic of fear, that is what allows the cruelty to happen, what we still have to fear is fear itself. For humanity can overcome change, challenge, and adversity, but the biggest impediment is panic, mob rule, and scarcity mentality.

If I imagine myself as all the world, there are still bad habits within myself as well. In my heart I own that, I own that I’m not perfect.

My goal in 2020 is to stop yelling at my daughter when I get frustrated and overwhelmed, to show her love when I am angry and frustrated. Somehow I hope that ending my cruelty in my own family leads me to a mental place of well being that allows me to find a way to help the larger cruelty of humanity against itself.

But being honest, I don’t yet know the way and I don’t yet feel that I can make a difference in something so large. But since I’m willing to make a small difference, since I’m willing to have no timeline, I have hope that someday I’ll stand on the side of the innocent someday. One thing my daughter did that I can already do is to love those babies, some are loved, but others never know love, I can send them all my love and my apologies that they ended up on the wrong side of fate.

I don’t believe if there is karma that it is a reason to allow this kind of cruelty, I don’t believe that if there is or is not a God it is Gods will, I believe if there is a God he or she left many things in the hands of us humans and this is a human bad habit that I hope will change soon. How can we all move forward into a bright future when we don’t prioritize human life over people’s right to live in fear?

The question I title this article with “How Can We End Mingi in 2020?” is not one I have the answer to, but it is something I am open to finding out, when the time comes. 👼🏿

🌪️ The First Day of Kwanzaa – My Mother in Law Gives Me Some Humility 🌪️

Usually, December 26th, is the first day of Kwanzaa, but I started on the 24th this year. Because that’s the day my husband’s family celebrates Christmas, even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I wanted to allow him to celebrate it with my full support. I wanted also to celebrate Kwanzaa with his full support and let our two kids take and leave whatever traditions they chose.

I was feeling so close to my son that day, overjoyed that he is in my life, a very loving and easy to care for baby 9 months old and all too soon going to walk and start being a toddler and stop being a baby forever.

My heart was completely at peace when my daughter, 4 years old, wanted to start Kwanzaa that day. Our Kwanzaa is already very unconventional, since we are mixed Asian, Mexican and somewhat, but not very much African. It’s unconventional, but very sincerely from the heart also. I really believe that since the ultimate mother of my mother is African (as is everyone) that Kwanzaa and African values become the birthright of humanity as well.

Usually the central black candle represents the African race, but to me, it represents more, solidarity of humankind and living beings in general.

The traditional value of the first day is “Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.” I just extend it further inward to mean the unity of the self, and further outward to mean the unity of the human race, and once again to include to an extent living creatures such as pets.

It’s weird being mixed (both my parents were mixed), in that there is no way for us to exist and go about our daily lives without blending concepts, styles, values, ext that some other people will be offended by, it’s not done in disrespect, but it does bother some people, yet it’s something we can not help or choose. We ourselves are a fusion of what some people would have wanted unfused, but it was never a choice for us, so it becomes second nature to break traditions, not because we like it, but because we were forced to break them early and became aware that it is possible and sometimes beneficial and other times unavoidable.

There were three things on my mind, one was how do I live in an “antifragile” way, how do I tie my individual value with the holiday so it matters for me? The second was how do I practice Rachel Macy Stafford’s idea: “Living fully means… reaching for connection, even when your hands shake.” That was easy because I had a kind of social anxiety that a celebration was going on at our home as well as the big one at my husband’s home (the only time my husband’s six siblings assemble fully). I don’t have much small group social anxiety and don’t mind meeting people or medium crowds, but I do kind of hate and get nervous about parties, so I was literally having my hands shake hours before the party started and I remembered the movie “The Way Home” where a Korean grandma keeps telling her grandson how she loves him even though he keeps misbehaving. I remembered that I wanted to stop being like the little boy who stole from his grandma for Gameboy batteries and to start being like the grandma who only responded with love each time her grandson was bad.

I also had Maya Angelou’s: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better,” to soothe my soul.

I had text all my husband’s family that we were not doing gifts this year, my husband had called his mom and asked that the gifts be kept in the bedroom until we left and moved to the tree for opening when we went home at about 8PM. Because my mother in law had said yes I had decided to go to their Christmas celebration with the best possible attitude.

I warned my daughter for two months our family doesn’t do Christmas gifts, we do birthday gifts and her cousins do get Christmas gifts, but don’t get birthday many gifts, which is true. But we had asked that the gifts not be under the tree to set up my daughter for success that she not throw a big fit.

We had problems earlier this year that when the family visited our home on normal days my daughter would jump on them (literally) and ask them what present they had brought her. It was quite sad that she didn’t say “hello” or “how are you” or “thank you for coming to see me.” It happened about three times and each time I tried to stress that gifts are okay, but people are what matters. I was saying that with my words, but the way my family was acting was saying something else, that’s why I decided to do a gift free Christmas for our family this year. I needed to change the way we do it, I needed that for me, for us, I knew it might inconvenience the others, so I apologized right from the start for the inconvenience, but this is what I needed for us this year.

Everyone was supportive saying they would respect our choices and that they thought it was a good idea.

My husband worked Christmas Eve, I taught the kids math and most of our normal school routine, but not too much so they wouldn’t be drained later (we skipped reading). My husband came home, we were all excited to go to grandma’s house to see her, thank her, my daughter was going to give a dance show and play with her cousins who would have slept over the night before.

When we got there things were different than we expected, literally first thing was so many presents they overflowed the tree and took up the living room walk space, second thing was no cousins they were hours late even from their update – so no kids to play with for my daughter, third thing my mother in law had given up music and dance because her new pastor didn’t advocate them and had given us no heads up about that.

I was so proud of my daughter that she was good, we even talked about it, I told her “I am so, so proud of you for being good,” she said, “because of the presents, I’m okay mom, but it’s okay for me to talk about it?” I’m so proud that she was okay, it filled me with so much appreciation of who my daughter is. There have been times I worried I needed to take my kids away to China, or Mexico or Hawaii to raise them with values, but they are showing me that even if we are around drug users or materialist or whomever it won’t infect them like the plague, it’s a little harder to see that stuff and answer extra questions I don’t feel like I have the answers or energy to answer, but all is not lost raising kids in the city in California. We can live in a country where Donald Trump is the president without living in a house where men can disrespect women, we can live in a state where a lot of materialism and rudeness is commonplace, without allowing it to enter the way our family communicates. It’s on our streets and minds, but it doesn’t need to be in our homes or hearts.

I was a little off-balanced by everyone telling me one thing and doing another, because in my family that doesn’t happen.

But then I remembered gratitude and that saved me.

Gratitude to see the people who were there, to share those moments, to be able to talk in person.

Gratitude to the woman who raised my husband with no help from his dad, who left before he was even two years old.

I felt so much gratitude for my mother in law when I realized how hard it must have been, she had been imperfect leaving my husband in Mexico to go work in the U.S., she had hit her kids more than warranted, but the amount of work it takes to work, come home, actually home cook food, every day is so staggering. She didn’t have patience or education to share with her kids having gone only to one or two years of school, but she gave them life, courage, and cooking skills. She basically gave them all she was and all she had to give.

I really wanted to express our gratitude to her that night, but I didn’t get the chance, she served food and then retired to her room. Even if I would have talked to her, I don’t think she would have understood. I speak her language, Spanish, but in a way, I don’t speak “her” language. I don’t know how I could really connect to her, everyone says “thank you” when it means nothing, so when you mean it, it doesn’t communicate the sentiment well. “Thank you” has become like a boat with many holes, it can sail, but it can’t carry what it was meant to carry anymore.

So even though I was surprised the gifts were on display, I was sad that three people had lied to me, which in my family is a major offense, I remembered my challenge to myself to be “antifragille” not to let anything about Christmas ruin my day in any way I could control. I realized I was not embracing my husband’s family without also embracing their custom that many lies are acceptable and common for them. I remembered that I had professed to myself the idea of viewing humanity with unity and that means laying down the expectation everyone “take up” the values that work for me and “put down” the ones that work for them. I remembered the gratitude I had for my grandmother who raised me, even though she was racist, I remembered the gratitude I had for my mother-in-law for raising my husband, giving life to the person who gave life to the baby who I hold in my arms right now. And in gratitude I felt love and shame, but when I remembered Maya Angelou’s “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better,” the shame lifted and I forgave myself the slip into bitterness and was able to: “Living fully means… reaching for connection, even when your hands shake.”

When I forgot about the gifts, the show, who was late, who was absent, I was able to see and enjoy who was there, ask “how are you doing?” Notice them as human beings like me, making it through the winter, mostly having been sick, mostly having been tired, mostly with good attitudes and appreciation for the joy our kids bring us. Mostly forgetting our kids come from us, us from our parents.

I chose the tornado to represent unity of humankind and the first day of Kwanzaa because all humans breathe, no matter which holiday we celebrate once a year, we all can’t live five minutes without air. It unifies us even if we don’t embrace unification, like a tornado brings everyone together in loss against their wishes… air brings us all together, all us lost siblings of the first mother. 🌪


🙊 Born to Lead Raised to Follow 🐵

Thinking About Why I’m Having Trouble Owning Who I Am (A Thinker ie Philosopher)

I woke up before dawn again today and started reflecting on life as I do almost every day naturally, I was still thinking about the wind-powered canoe, Hōkūleʻa, that has circumnavigated the globe. I was thinking there is no way Ferdinand Magellan was the first person to circumnavigate, there may be no records of the Chinese or Hawaiian or other people who circumnavigated first, but I really suspect they were out there. I wondered if whales or albatrosses circumnavigated and if they do it’s no less amazing because they are animals, it’s more amazing to me.

Whales usually live their whole life in half an ocean, from the equator to a pole, that’s already a lot. They have friends their whole life that they visit and are unrelated to, that’s better than me sometimes… but what if one whale just went home with its mate’s family to the other side of the world (they often meet in the middle to mate)?

I just looked up albatrosses routinely circle the globe, it can take them 46 days to do what I’ve never done. But they were made for it. That is amazing to me, imagining the views they have seen in a lifetime. They fly nearly 16093km/10,000 miles at a time, they fly for hours without flapping, they are working smarter not harder and they are doing what they were born to do.

I still struggle with “nia” (purpose), I think I am a philosopher at heart because it feels like my wings are wings of thought, it feels like my journey is tied up with ideas, understanding how the lens of the mind paints the world and is painted by it… it feels like I have one eye socially blinded and one eye open to the invisible world of internal mental architecture.

But it’s so hard for me to own it.

I grew up alone in the woods (with my family, but no other kids at all), I’ve always immersed myself in books not just reading them, I interact with ideas in many ways throughout the day, I try on some, grapple with some, stare astounded at some, sadly acknowledge some quarantining them to an area of solemn truth so they won’t make me bring down everyone’s day with a constant complaint about human trafficking or injustice.

I guess I have an idea prison.

I don’t kill ideas, but I have an island of silliness I excommunicate ideas to (mental Australia) and another island of prison (mental Guantanamo).

I was reflecting this morning one life and noticed that it is completely a natural flow state for me to reflect, and I was thinking “I am a philosopher” I don’t know if it sets me apart from other humans, or if in quiet moments we are all philosophers, but if we are all philosophers it doesn’t take anything away from me at all, maybe that’s our nature or maybe that’s my nature. But I definitely feel threatened using that word, I could say more easily I am a scholar because I went to college (even though usually a scholar has one more degree than what I have), I could say more easily I am a monk because then I’m studying someone else’s ideas in a way some religion said was okay for me to do, but to be a philosopher is to be a leader, to study my own choice of information, to choose what facts to collect, to say something without citing it, not that it hasn’t been thought before by others, but still having originally thought about it.

That is what they killed in me in school, not the ability to think, not the ability to learn and combine original thoughts, but the idea that I have the right to think without backing up what I say with other people’s thoughts or books. Often there is a truth in crowd wisdom, but sometimes it’s really, horribly wrong (the holocaust, human trafficking still going on, ext) so it’s important to know we can speak out before looking at what others are saying and even when we are alone in speaking our truth.

In matters of the heart, there are no other sources.

I can’t turn the paper in because I don’t have the three books to back me up about 1. what I was born to do and 2. who I am and 3. what my heart wants.

Lilia Tarawa gave a TED Talk about being told she was a leader and being in trouble because of it.

I’m not sure if I am a leader in the way Lilia is, but I know I am a philosopher in the same way other philosophers in the past were, driven by ideas just to watch them in their natural truth in my mind, unmotivated for a what can you do with that idea sort of goal, but not blind to possible solutions to problems. In math there is the operation, the way to use addition ext, most people use this, then there is the proof, the way to check if the math is vaild in the physical world beyond just being a social construct, some people use that, then there is theory, whatever led to the idea of the operation to begin with, that is what facinated me, not only the action, not just the shadows of the puppets, not just the puppets but the culture behind the actors behind the puppets, the mind behind the actors, the society behind the culture, the universality behind the humanity behind the culture, the physics behind the blood flowing in the hearts of the actors behind the puppets, the orbit of the Earth being tilted, causing a season, causing an emotion of joy or hope or contemplation, causing a scene to be imagined collectively, causing a crowd to gather to see it, rituals being made, neurons being formed, humans all hoping to get throught the day as best they can even though a meteor could wipe out the planet with greater likelyhood than someone winning the lottery…

Lilia Tarawa grew up in a cult, in New Zealand, I grew up in a larger cult called “America,” I’m not trying to dismiss in any way her difficulties or bash the US, I just am unable to not see it as also a cult anymore.

One of the things she hated about the cult is that they hit children with rulers, that is still legal here in the southern states and still done in schools, at homes it is legal to hit your children at home any way you want as long as it’s not considered excessive. When I was a child I thought it was illegal, but as a parent, I looked into all our state laws and found our state make almost no absolute laws, no law about when to leave a child at home, how far they can be from a parent, what age they can walk the city alone, it’s left to our discretion legally, but law enforcement will respond to complaints and other people will complain so parents and children have a limited freedom based on arbitrary people complaining… other people’s thoughts and opinions really infringe on us and also us on them, it’s like a sandpaper that grinds all of us here in California. So many different people live here, it can be beautiful, but also very annoying. Like the man who doesn’t want me to breastfeed where kids from school can see it, the state says I can, I say I can, I don’t have a problem with the law, but I do have a problem with him, he makes me uncomfortable arguing with me that I am undecent when neither my moral code nor the law says I am, attacking my value system in front of my kids as I am also in a way attacking his value system in front of the kids he wants to protect. We live so closely packed that we all get emotionally bumped, though physically we don’t yet bump here. It’s very unpleasant. I know because I also live in Hawaii half the year. So I have room to breathe half the year and live in a concentrated dense urban area the other half. I notice many people are better able to think, be polite and live respectfully in less crowded areas, I think we are always at the point of frustration when we live in a more crowded area then whatever our personal ideal is.

Rats start eating each other when the cage gets too crowded, box with fists when it’s a bit crowded (and form a loving family group when there is enough room. I don’t know if people are like that, but I know I am like that. Maybe other people can thrive in the city better than I can, but it’s hard for me. This is not an excuse for me not trying to have a good attitude, this is just me noticing the truth about myself to then combat the unease as best I can.

Lilia Tarawa’s video about her life and upbringing has always stayed in my heart as a story of a woman who was a leader, even if I am not meant to be a leader, I feel like I need to have the basic operations of leadership to live a good life and run the family that I don’t want to be in charge of (but my husband won’t be in charge of)… in life, I would imagine that we all need a leader, but I’ve seen a lot of poor leadership. I wasn’t a born leader, I was born solitary, I liked my family, but naturally went off into my own space the majority of the time, same with school, I made friends, but spent recess solitary enjoying the grass, rocks, feeling of imagining the Earth rotating ext. Whatever small amount of leadership I had, was also crushed, I was someone born without too much leadership and then having had that successfully crushed it’s going to take a while to get the leadership part of my brain out of prison and rehab it.

Here is to Lilia Tarawa and all good leaders of the world, big and small, children and adults, men and women.

Lilia’s story is a metaphor for all of us learning to be adults and put the limiting parts of childhood away as we grow to be the leaders of our own life, as well as a difficult, but beautiful story in and of itself:

Thanks for joining me on my journey this year! 🐒

🌏 Hōkūleʻa and Kwanzaa 🌍

Sometimes it feels like being human, in real life, is bizarre, it’s so much more complicated than a book or a movie… there are so many factors and choices, so much information and debate and “noise” that sounds like a debate.

I remember going to Body Works, an exhibit on plastinated human corpses to learn about the body when I was planning to go to medical school, it was quite interesting, I went to the German exhibit, I returned to a Chinese exhibit and then I returned again to the German exhibit with my daughter. The first time I noticed how beautiful the blood vessels are, the second time I noticed how detached we (who we really are) are from our bodies, the third time I noticed how damaging stress is for us. The exhibit had been redesigned to show the causes of health problems, cigarettes cause black lungs, sugar causes obesity and diabetes, but excessive choices (more than 6) cause some stress which then causes inflammation and heart damage. It’s interesting and terrifying because we have so many choices all the time. I have felt that burden as a shopper, as a learner, as a person since the internet started having so many more options. I love the internet, I will continue to use it, I’m grateful for the free educational materials, for the inspiring people I meet there, for the ability to share my thoughts, writings or art with the world from my home, but there is also a huge mental drain. I could be doing thousands of things each day, I study a language for less than 10 minutes, but it could be anything, math, physics, coding, anything, there is so much that it is daunting. Maybe not everyone is as mentally printer jammed as I am, but most people are affected to some extent by the mental overload that is unhealthy for the body causing inflammation to the body damaging the cardiovascular system over time leading to increases of stroke and heart attacks.

I read Rachel Macy Stafford’s post and a few things stuck out to me as the reason I’m starting to celebrate Kwanzaa this year:

Living fully means letting your heart lead, even when the world tries to dissuade you and derail you.

It means finding your voice, even when you feel unheard.

It means facing painful truths, even when it would be easier to push them away.

It means showing up, even when you don’t feel ready or equipped.

It means reaching for connection, even when your hands shake.

It means forgiving yourself, even when you don’t feel worthy.

It means tuning into the small, still voice of belief, even when doubt is loud and obnoxious.

-Rachel Macy Stafford

Kwanzaa is going to be a celebration of choosing to live fully as much as I can, and a recommitment to my life improvement system.

The first holiday I minorly tweaked was Holloween, I started munching mini carrots while trick or treating with my kids. The first holiday I radically tweaked was “Independence Day” it became “Slugpendence Day” the day I stop going out to handpick parasite ridden slugs off our property in the worst infestation in the country (Puna East Hawaii) for two weeks. Kwanzaa is the third holiday that I claim for myself (with no disrespect to how other people celebrate it).

I’m now in the process of tying together my current values with the traditional values of each day for Kwanzaa (each of seven days has its own value) and also with one of the above sentiments from Rachel Stafford because she always helps me connect to my heart.

That way like the Hawaiian canoe voyage connecting Hawaii, back to Tahiti the return voyage of the ancient migration that founded Hawaii, I am connecting myself to Africa the ancestral home to all humans, my heart and my own mind/identity.

December 26th, the first day of Kwanzaa, the central black candle is lit, it represents the African race, but to me, it represents more, solidarity of humankind and living beings in general. The traditional value is “Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.” For me it’s about being one as a human race, to the extent that it is sensical to do so, not by eliminating real differences or foods or customs, but by finding emotional, mental and spiritual common ground, it’s about meditating about the face of the mother of all mothers today, and how her lineage led to my family over time, imagine what she was like. That will be the day I think of “Antifragility” when I think of how the human race has come as far as it has, although there is so much missing history we have done a lot that we have traveled the globe and can communicate in an instant from anywhere, I think the next step is to stop killing each other in war, homicide, even suicide (with exceptions for severe medical conditions). I’d like to think of all of us humans a unified, if only in my mind and only the first day of Kwanzaa, and think about the “antifragility” (growth from chaos and stress) that our vast tribe has undergone to reach today, although we are imperfect we are strong and adaptable. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… reaching for connection, even when your hands shake.” If we all do that, someday we will be a world and collection of nations and collections of souls at peace. I will also reflect on Maya Angelou’s: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.

December 27th, the second day of Kwanzaa, the leftmost red candle of challenge is lit for “Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.” To me, that is about “Transformation” from what we truly were to what we want to be. Shaun T writes in his book “T Is for Transformation,” that we are like relay racers handing a baton from ourselves to ourselves. I like the metaphor. It will be a day to thank my 2019 self and all my past selves for doing what we could and handing the baton off to my 2020 self to reach for some new goals and dreams. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means…  letting your heart lead, even when the world tries to dissuade you and derail you.” I will think about making goals with my heart this year for the first time and think about how to name my blog, which is untitled. I will also reflect on Maya Angelou’s: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.

December 28th, the third day of Kwanzaa, the second red candle of challenge is lit for “Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.” To me this resonates with the value of Kindness, the community I feel like I belong to is the writing community, I have received a lot of kindness and help this year, but I still feel like too much of a novice to offer much help back, I hope someday I will be able to create something useful to this community who has helped and supported me so much emotionally this year. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means…  It means finding your voice, even when you feel unheard.” I will also reflect on Maya Angelou’s: “Feeling seen and heard enables human beings to reach their highest potential.

December 29th, the fourth day of Kwanzaa, the third red candle of challenge is lit for “Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.” That resonates with my value of “Action” but I don’t understand how yet. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… showing up, even when you don’t feel ready or equipped,” and Maya Angelou’s: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

December 30th, the fifth day of Kwanzaa, the first green candle of hope is lit for “Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.” I’m going to see if my value of “Awareness” works with this day, but I feel like it’s a personal struggle to really know what my purpose is. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… forgiving yourself, even when you don’t feel worthy,” if I do find a purpose there is the pain I haven’t lived by one and if I don’t the pain of uncertainty. I will also reflect on Maya Angelou’s: “We need much less than we think we need.

December 31st, the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the second green candle of hope is lit for “Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. I will try to connect to my value of “Prudence” born from pain. I will meditate on Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… facing painful truths, even when it would be easier to push them away, and I will also reflect on a quote I can’t attribute “When you fully accept who you are the world doesn’t bother you anymore.

January 1st, the seventh day of Kwanzaa, the last green candle of hope is lit for “Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.” I will try to connect my value of “Assertiveness” with the last day of Kwanzaa, which includes the meditations “Who am I?” “Am I really who I say I am?” “Am I doing all I could be?” I will also think about Rachel’s statement: “Living fully means… tuning into the small, still voice of belief, even when doubt is loud and obnoxious.

Above I mentioned the canoe (named Hōkūleʻa), in 1976 she sailed to Tahiti with exclusively Polynesian navigation, and also “served as a vehicle for the cultural revitalization of Hawaiians and other Polynesians” it began kind of a cultural renaissance first by going home to Tahiti, then by “closing the triangle” sailing the three boundaries of Polynesia (New Zeland, Hawaii and Easter Island) and then going on to sail the world circumnavigating the globe in three years. In 2015 this small canoe from Hawaii made it to South Africa and for some reason, it was really touching to see the two cultures meet and made me feel really hopeful for humanity that we can live in harmony together without losing anything important of ourselves.

May your heart find joy, peace and love this winter. 🕊️

💗 My Heart Song 💗

My heart song is a simple song used as an 8th grade warm-up for cello:

Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G

Today is not the first time I heard this song, Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 “Prélude” (it’s been the only song that ever made me feel as if there is a God and his fingertips are stroking my face), but today was the first time I recognized it as my heart song.

I remember my daughter finding her heart song, a song that seemed to open her soul up and set it on fire, a song she loved from the first time and although she doesn’t hear it every day it never loses its power over her. Her song is “Louder” by Charice.

There have been a lot of songs that I enjoyed in my life, but only a few have touched me deeply and overall music has been a positive that pulls me out of thinking that humanity is cancer on the Earth (due to pollution ext). Maybe there are negative aspects of me, of people, of humanity, but to me, music is enough to prove, at least emotionally, that the average is better than bad, better than neutral, beautiful, to me the average is beautiful and there is beauty even in the ugliness.

I haven’t been writing as much because I am trying to digest some complicated transitions in my life, I could easily say I’m getting ready for the holidays, but it’s not true, I’m not big on Christmas, I decorated as much as I will the first day of December and even though I’m super excited about Kwanzaa I haven’t finished painting my candles, I haven’t hemmed my dress that is too long (it drags on the floor since I’m only 5’0) and I haven’t figured out how to wrap my headwrap that matches my dress, I haven’t researched the values of Kwanzaa deeply yet either, I hope those things are done joyously at my own pace very unlike the holidays I’ve lived through so far that were rushed through and unchosen. But I really wanted to write today to say there is this weird thing I call a heart song, it may have other names, but it’s a real thing when you find yours it will make sense.

It’s important to find, recognize and cherish your heart song no matter how humble or silly or whatever it is. I believe that now.

Next year I hope I can play mine on the cello, it will be an interesting feeling, I’ve played a lot of songs (or some at least) but never one that filled my soul, in the same way, as this one does.

I hope you too find your own heart song and when you do, don’t turn it aside as being too cliché, or too simple ext.

I hope to be more consistent in writing soon, but I also want to do it in a manner that is enjoyable and unrushed, so it will require I get a lot better at time management and life management to be able to do it in that way, which I hope I do achieve in this coming year.

Thank you so much to you for reading, it’s been very motivating to read your writings and comments and have you share my life with me as well. 💐

Four Months of Emotional Meta Data

If you’ve been reading my writing for a while you may know already that I’m a wife, stay at home mother of two, home school teacher, martial artist, minimalist, and practicing stoic. For the last four months, I’ve been tracking my overall feeling each day using bitmoji images (free personalized cartoons) and (a free drawing program). I just fill one calendar square each day using a free calendar from imom. I’m completely honest about how I feel, even if I don’t like or understand it and that has the added benefit of me validating myself each day just for being who I am and feeling however I feel (how you feel is part of who you are after all).

Images Connect Much More Easily to Emotions Allowing Them to Speak

The point was actually to examine my mental lens, the way I see the world to gain more control over my own subjective outlook and therefore use it as leverage towards building the life I want as far as I can within the circumstances of my life that are outside of my control.

Johari Window

In 2001, when I started college, I was introduced to the concept of the “Johari Window” meaning the self divided into the part you know, the part others know that you don’t, the part everyone knows and the unknown. I was puzzled for the last 18 years as to how to discover more about the unknown and hidden selves. Being married has taught me about the blind self and doing my “Stoic Quote of the Day” habit publicly on has taught me about my open self, but I didn’t know how to find out more about what I didn’t know about myself.

I recently read “How Emotions Are Made, The Secret Life of the Brain,” which discusses that emotions are not universal and vary from person to person quite significantly. In an effort to find out definitively what anxiety and depression were to sell drugs targeted to them all the MRI data revealed that they aren’t objective, distinct phenomena at all, but can overlap or be distinct depending on the individual. Using the data from four months of my “Emotional Diversity Project” I found I have 22 distinct emotions: triumphant, sick, grateful, inspired, hopeful, connected, troubled/dissident, tired, peaceful, mad, thoughtful, happy, motivated, hot, kind, sad, stressed, exhausted, lost, overwhelmed, frustrated, in pain.

Using Google Sheets to Map my Feelings Over Four Months

During the process, I found it helpful to know that on a bad day, if I was exhausted, or frustrated or in pain (it was a migraine) that it was likely to pass. Now looking at the data of a few months it’s a positive feeling because I think the various projects I’ve been working on, which are kind of difficult to measure, such as the consistent gratitude challenge, values-based living ext are going well.

Possible Connection of Gratitude and Life Quality

Speaking about my strongest feelings, triumph, sickness, and gratitude, triumphant is the feeling that I was able to live by my values a decent amount, it’s the feeling of winning at the game of life according to the metrics I’ve held myself accountable to, it’s a direct result of having found my individual values and planning small ways to express those values in everyday life. A phrase I heard on a cartoon (of Maui capturing the sun) was to do your work with honor and aloha, it all started with me washing one extra dish that wasn’t mine “in the name of good,” I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s the first time I had ever done work with honor and aloha. It feels very different. It looks the same, takes a similar time, but inwardly it feels quite different. And to me it’s not dependant on any kind of belief system, there isn’t the dependency on any reward now or later, it’s simply doing what seems right to me for no other reason than to be a force of good in the world, in the here and now, to make my day, my little world and the larger world a better place.

In defining good and bad, I’m thinking what let me enjoy the day or make progress towards my goals vs what seemed unhelpful towards my goals and also unenjoyable.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

– Marcus Aurelius (Stoic Quote 22)

It may seem pointless to track your feelings, but if you track them you may understand them and yourself better. I often think of myself as “sick all the time,” I think as a child I was sick quite a bit more than typical and I probably never challenged that automatic negative thought until now, but looking at how much more I’m well than sick gives me a deep gratitude and dispells that feeling that “I’m always sick.” I feel really lucky that I’m probably sick a really average amount at this point in life and that my health is great, colds and flus are just part of my reality that affects pretty much everyone sometimes. It was interesting separating the days I felt bad due to my attitude, there were not many, but they are opportunities to take back more of my life for enjoyment or to complete my goals. I’m grateful to have such a high setpoint, meaning I don’t need to struggle to be optimistic or satisfied, if I do nothing I’m pretty cheery, my father, mother and only sister all struggled with medical-grade chronic depression, so being normal would have been lucky, but I think I’m even more optimistic than normal so I’m extra grateful for that good luck. I do have some good habits that bring up my well being, but it seems like it’s so much easier to go from medium to very happy, rather than mustering energy from a deep depression to get to a medium state of well being. Exercise, sleep, eating well, connecting with others, all help, but for me not as much as aligning my life with my values, that is the real hidden gem in my opinion, but perhaps not for everyone? I’ve heard some people say service is healing for them and it’s soul-crushing for me.

I was anxious, depressed, afraid, bored, 0 days, that isn’t how I operate, not only in the past four months but also as far back into the recent past as I can remember I just don’t get those particular feelings. I get stressed and overwhelmed when other people would get anxious. I get tired, overwhelmed, or mad where other people may get depressed. It’s not like I don’t have negative feelings, but they tend to be extremely physical. My physical feelings are feelings to me, when I am tired, I’m not happy and tired, I’m just tired. When I am hungry, I feel extremely incapable of feeling any other way. My feeling can mix, I can feel bittersweet about my kids growing up as they should be, but also that our time together has passed forever, but it’s rare, for the most part, my feelings are very straightforward and the negative ones are very physical for me. Hot is one other people may not understand, I don’t do well in the heat, my brain shuts down in extreme heat much sooner than average, it’s not that I complain or get sick in a noticeable way, but like hunger I can’t have a feeling other than hot in intense heat, it incapacitates my feelings of anything else.

My pleasant feelings are more difficult to understand for me than the unpleasant ones. I was surprised at how seldom I am happy, I enjoy my life very often, I am satisfied very often, but I am only happy on days I eat favorite foods. For example, a child playing at the park has that happy exuberance, one that gets 100% on a math test may be pleased, but isn’t “happy” in the same was as running through a field of flowers with friends. In a way, it makes sense that I’m not happy often, because I don’t seek to be happy, but I was surprised that it was only 6 days out of 4 months. I can see why if you define depression as simply not happy many people would fall under that category. Or if you believed you were supposed to be happy all the time it would be easy to label yourself as depressed. I know I was almost never grateful in the past, I’m impressed that I was able to become legitimately grateful as often as I have, not only because it’s a nice feeling, but also because as a leader of myself it means I have a decent amount of power to change my feelings subtly to what I would want them to be. It’s not a simple, have a good attitude fix, but it is very possible to change your mindset to what you want it to be. The biggest enemy is perfectionism, sure no one controls every thought or feeling and some techniques fail, but just like physical exercise, mental exercise can lead to mental wellness in time. Another interesting thing was that I was only motivated 5 days out of 4 months, but I was very productive (excluding when I had the flu recently). So waiting to be productive when I feel motivated had been and would be a total disaster as far as anything getting done and letting go of the belief I had to feel motivated to be productive was possibly the best belief trade I’ve made in my lifetime. Tsycovsky wrote a letter about it that changed my views, he describes that he hated sitting down to work writing music, but after forcing himself his best music came. I had always imagined when you are inspired and motivated your best work comes, but in actuality, that time is so fleeting almost no work of any kind happens under those conditions…

I found it interesting that I have strongly neutral feelings, not “meh” as in I don’t care, but kind of a curious investigator who hasn’t formed an opinion about the outcome of the study. I think it’s been very helpful in dealing with my flaws and the pain of life to back off taking a negative view of myself and my failings and although I’m not taking a positive view of having problems all the time (sometimes I achieve that mental flip) I do achieve a neutral view of many problems and that lets me investigate them and work with them without shame which would make it a much slower healing process.

When I feel like I’m not living life the way I want, that the priorities I am actually living by are wrong, that I’m failing in what really matters, when I’m having trouble connecting to what really matters to me, that’s when I feel incongruent or troubled. It’s also called cognitive dissidence, a conflict within my mind between what I want and what I am doing. It’s a particular type of feeling, like a vegetarian eating a bad steak, a good steak or a neural steak. When it’s a bad steak it’s the worst, but even with a good steak you still have that nagging feeling about what you said your values were and if you need to re-evaluate or not.

I’ve been thinking so often 7 days out of 4 months, that I’m starting to change the way I think of myself. I’ve been told by other people when I don’t want to do what they want me to, that I’m not a thoughtful person, and I always believed that, but looking back on my life, I’m very thoughtful. It’s such a deep part of who I am that makes parenting young children hard. I’m not lazy, I’m not selfish, but spending time with the constant noise of play and questions and togetherness has cost me the quiet solitude that nourishes my soul to the core. I don’t like parenting, I do my very best with all the kindness, respect, dignity and love I can muster, but it’s not enjoyable to me. It’s quite unenjoyable, and the biggest question for me was why? I love my kids, I chose my kids, I would like to have more help than what I have available locally and my husband doesn’t want to move. That is a huge source of discontent between us and it affects my life so very deeply. I don’t really know if A. I spent less time taking care of my children if I could enjoy it or not. I’m not sure if it’s my personality not to enjoy it B. If it’s not even enjoyable by anyone in truth or C. If I’m overworked? I don’t know if I will ever truly know the answer, the situation will be solved by time, each day my kids grow up more than I want them to, I want them frozen in time until I can “fix” myself into enjoying their childhood. It’s my biggest conundrum, I hate the constant demands of raising small children, but I am afraid of it passing me by because I know I wasn’t able to “enjoy every second” and a part of me wants to do that. Because I haven’t really decided if it’s a wonderful magical opportunity that I have, or if it’s just a lie that I should politely ignore as I happily notice that the time of intense servitude with not enough breaks or personal time is ending.

In closing I want to encourage everyone to try this kind of visual feelings journal to have data to do some meta-thinking about your own emotions as part of yourself, it made it much easier to know how I feel on a moment to moment basis even though I only recorded the day as a whole. It probably helped me value other people as being different than me and fun to learn about, I hope I’ve been picking up on my loved one’s mental states better (but that’s hard to know for sure). It’s made me more patient with dealing with other people, which I find frustrating a lot. It’s improved my life so much that I am recommending you try it in your own way as well, even though I hate recommending anything, what it helped with more than anything else was tracking the metaphysical changes I was trying to make in my though pattern habits to be able to get a sense of if it was working to be more grateful, if it was shifting other parts of my mind and when I could stop doing it consciously without abandoning the habit. 💝