Humble Brag of the Day: So Happy.

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Just now, sitting on the side of my bed next to two contented cats, drinking my coffee, looking out at the sun, listening to some stranger’s perfect playlist on Songza, or Spotify or something, with nowhere to be, and probably plenty to do but nothing really urgent, I thought to myself, “I am so happy to be right here, right now.”

Yes.

Those moments when I feel so consciously and completely happy are really cool. I think we all probably have a lot of these types of moments, but I am not sure we all have the time to stop and revel in them. We are all so busy.

I feel lucky to have the time for these moments because they are amazing, nearly tangible, and validating, and delicious, and freeing. I am so happy.

Summer brings these moments more frequently for me because I am on holiday for an extended period of time (cue the overpaid teacher trope here) and I have the luxury of being just me, in my space, with the freedom to do whatever.

It is such a lovely feeling to be happy. Cats know.

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And my horoscope today? Affirming:

Virgo Daily Horoscope

Finding yourself with some time to relax, you may delight in the pleasant sensation of feeling laid-back. With the same focus that you applied to work, you now only allow yourself thoughts of the present, peaceful moment. Filling yourself with deep, cleansing breaths, you release all tension from your body as you exhale. A sigh of contentment may even escape your lips as they curl into an easy smile. Your eyes might wander, scanning your surroundings for beauty to appreciate, perhaps drifting to watch birds flying past an open window. In this moment, you can feel their playful joy as they revel in their freedom. Today, even if for just a few moments, you can enjoy a time of relaxation and feel the same delight.

Shoes have always been a subject close to my heart.

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I do love shoes. This is true. I used to march around in my mom’s friend Vicki’s shoes when I was little because Vicki was tiny and they almost fit. For a while I went through a phase of only ever wearing flat shoes… I was a tall kid and in high school that was particularly vexing. But the truth of the matter is, flat shoes are not as fun, flattering, or attractive. Then I became much more of an equal opportunity shoe opportunist. Today I definitely prefer heels, and if at 5’10” that’s an issue for you, that’s your deal. Anyhow, it basically just comes down to me loving shoes.

My love of shoes, however passionate it may be, shifted on my adaptation to Asian norms for the 5+ years I was there. I came to understand shoes as a truly exterior function of living. Shoe racks became not a closet accessory (well, not just a closet accessory) but a standard outside every entrance to every home I visited. I became accustomed to never wearing shoes that I wore outside the house, inside the house. The more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense. And the even more I thought about it the grosser the idea of ever traipsing in the house with all the exterior dirt from my shoes covering the floor became. It realigned my shoe relationship, although it certainly did not diminish my love for all things zapatos. I know lots of people love shoes as much or more than I do (I mean shoe porn is actually a thing), it is all over the internet. [The images that make me wanna vomit now are these kinds where people wear their shoes in bed trying to look sexy… Your shoes? In your bed? Touching your pillow? BLECH. (I get that they think it is like, porn-star sexy, but really. Yuck.)]

So it makes sense that when I came back to the States I continued to adhere to the no shoes in the house rule, especially because I live in the Mission and if you really wanna get grossed out, check out my sidewalks someday. BLECH. I had a couple of complications with my practice: cats. While cats are very clean themselves, some of their indoor habits are not so much, eg: the litter box. My solution was to get a beautiful new Miele vacuum. And this worked well. I vacuumed in the morning and in the evenings, sometimes in the late afternoons. It worked fine. People removed their shoes in the house, I vacuumed, I maintained my sanity. [My downstairs neighbor might have been on the wrong end of this arrangement, asking me one evening in passing, “So, how often do you vacuum anyhow?”] But I kept it up because I was sensitive to the reality that people who ask others to remove shoes on entering their home and then expect them to walk on a filthy floor is as gross as wearing shoes in the house in the first place. And I was proud that was never a problem in my casa.

But then, things in my casa changed. Someone unfamiliar with cat habits (and my own vacuum tendencies) began to spend a lot of time in situ. And he was not only unused to a shoe free home situation, he was more distressed about cat dirt than the filth spiral my brain obsessed on when I thought about what was on my sidewalks and logically and subsequently on my floor, and eventually… god, who knows where…

Shoes became the norm (and I was vacuuming less for lots of different reasons, mostly because when you are sharing company with someone else they think it is weird that you would rather vacuum than hang out. Fair enough.) And as shoes became more normal, vacuuming became less critical. Housecleaning was still a priority – I mean, I am who I am, after all – but it became more like a weekly thing. And less than pristine floors were easier to ignore, as shoes were always on. We carried on like this for a long time. Sometimes frustrations would erupt around the state of the floors. Mine because, why was I the only vacuum obsessive? And his because, what was the point of vacuuming or sweeping when as soon as one was done it needed to be done again… I argued that this was flawed logic. It was as if one should never wash a dish as it would obviously get used again. Or why make the bed, it would obviously get unmade again. It is just the cycle of life… there is no futility in this repetition, there is sanity.

Or at least for me there is.

And over time, the hardwood floors became a less and less shiny, showing more and more wear and tear. I thought to myself repeatedly that they were going to need to be completely stripped down and refinished. A total do over.

Now things have changed again. I am vacuuming two or three times a day, and my shoes are off. Walking around on the floors in my bare feet feels grounding and familiar. When I came home from yoga last night and slipped off my shoes, it became clear I would need to vacuum, cats being cats. I considered that had I been wearing shoes, the circumstances would have been the same in terms of needing to vacuum, but I wouldn’t have noticed.

And this insight made me think about wearing shoes in my house for the last however long. It was just a way to ignore the real issues that were right underneath me the whole time. The dirt and refuse and icky details remain regardless if you are feeling them, or dealing with them. And walking over them with your shoes may seem to lessen them or diffuse them by swishing them around, or even appear to crush them, but they all remain, steadfast, just ground further into the beautiful hardwood beneath your feet.

What was once something easy to fix with daily diligence has now forever marred my hardwood floors, unaffected by superficial efforts to sweep it up.

It is going to take a lot of work to restore them.

But it is possible.

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Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right…

One of my recurring thoughts while I was living in Hong Kong was this idea that I was spinning my wheels. I remember – acutely – looking at my life and wondering what I was doing. I remember thinking to myself, “My goodness, all my peers are doing things. Like buying lots of houses, and having lots of babies, and accumulating lots of things and planning for lots of days lots of years down the road.” At which point I would look around at my life and say, “My god, how did I get here!?” I was not buying lots of houses, or having lots of babies, or accumulating lots of things, and I certainly was not planning for anything anywhere down the road. It seemed like I was doing something wrong. Maybe everything. But, so was everyone else around me. Of course, I judged these people, my friends and allies, equally as harshly: “Look at us, escapees all, avoiding the reality that is life in Manchester, Liverpool, Ontario, Paris, Melbourne, London, Sydney, Wellington, Seattle, and places far less interesting in between. What were we doing? Where were we going?

The wind in the willows playing Tea for Two
The sky was yellow and the sun was blue
Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand
Everybody is playing in the heart of gold band
Heart of gold band

The reality I was doing tons (tonnes) of things. I was traveling and reading, and writing and taking endless snapshots of it all. It was not perfect, and there were bumps in the road, but I can say with confidence, I was on the road. My friends at home used to say to me, “Oh, I wish I could do…” And I would say, almost glibly, “Well, you can. Why not come over and just do it?” And they would say, “No, I can’t, I have to….”

As I was walking round Grosvenor Square
Not a chill to the winter but a nip to the air
From the other direction she was calling my eye (note 1)
It could be an illusion, but I might as well try
Might as well try

Now I am back in the US… [You don’t know how lucky you are, boy… Back in the US, back in the US] and I find myself checking in on my friends in far off places, who continue to live the way I was living and it looks different now. Now I look longingly at the photos of the Chinese New Year holiday spent in Saigon, the weekend in Samui, the quick trip to Shanghai, to Tokyo, a little sun session in KK. And I say, almost audibly, “I wish I could do that… but I cannot because I have to…”

Have to what, exactly? When pressed to answer… I have nothing.

Well I ain’t often right but I’ve never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way it does in the song
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right

Right now we are studying empires and imperialism in World History class and we are focusing on the cyclical nature of things. How history doesn’t exactly repeat itself, but if you pay attention, you can make fairly accurate predictions about how things might go – because once in a while you get shown the light. And it is not by accident that this unit of study coincides with the Lunar New Year, because that is a tradition I also like to share with my students and we talk about the cycles of the Chinese zodiac and the patterns and the pleasant predictability of certain elements that make the less predictable shit a little easier to deal with.

My students drew visual representations of cycles at one point last week. There was no limit on how they interpreted this. They could choose perpetual, repetitive cycles, finite cycles, patterns… here are some of the things I got:

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And in the midst of all this, while feeling a bit sedentary these days and frustrated at my go-to response falling somewhere between “I cannot do — because I have to do —” or “You can’t just —” I woke up to a beautiful New Year of the Snake feeling all pleased about my clean house and the wonderfully familiar sense of a new beginning it dawned on me in the most obvious way, I’ve been here before: When I was there I thought I should be here, in spite of the radness of my life (and it is important to acknowledge that the pull to live the life you feel you should and enjoying the life you are living are not mutually exclusive…) and now that I am here I find myself stymied by reasons why I cannot be there. But as the series of thoughts marched across my morning brain, they felt far less significant. After all, they were marching, after all. And truly, I had been here before, so it follows I will probably be there again sometime too.

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I glanced over at Max as he carefully un-straightened all the pictures I had equally carefully straightened the day before. The whole pattern played out in the sunshine, and then I got up and readjusted the pictures.

And reserved my rooms in Bali.

As I picked up my matches and was closing the door
I had one of those flashes I had been there before
Been there before…