Monday, April 25, 2011

Complicated Me

I have lately become acutely aware of one of my flaws.  I've been led to see it by my time in Japan, meeting lots of new people and, being so far away from home, reconnecting with old friends as I try to keep a handle on anything familiar (not to mention a lot of thinking I've been doing about the past).  I've been a bluntly honest person for a long time, and many people can't handle the quantities of truth I dish out (but I think more so it's the attitude with which I serve).  That's not my problem though; I am direct and I don't wish to be anything but me, and I like being the person people can go to if they want it straight.  The people I am very good friends with are unassuming, smart people who aren't afraid to reflect upon themselves and the world around them with a clear and sober mind.  I am perceptive and have a strong intuition, and I express myself articulately.  My problem is that I can't decipher between what I should say and what I should keep to myself.  That's where I get into trouble. 

I'm practically incapable of knowing when to keep my mouth shut.  If someone says, "Why don't I have a girlfriend," I don't take it as a rhetorical question.  I proceed to tell them just why they don't have a girlfriend.  Mix that with my wry, crass humor and how I am a bit oblivious to social boundaries, add in my propensity to tell just about anyone very personal details, and you have a personality best served with a couple of shots of tequila.  I've had people tell me, "It's a good thing you're cute."  I know that, despite how clever I often think I am, my naivety about how the world works actually prevails.

I have a lot to offer if you can get past my toilet humor and, even more, if you can avoid taking my strong opinions and comments too personally.  As honest as I am and intend to be, sometimes I say things just for effect (which I hope you will consider when you read my left-wing extremist posts).  But this much is true - I always mean well.  I never want to hurt or offend anyone, I really don't.  (Except faceless corporations.  It's ok to steal from them and defamate their names - I learned that from The Simpsons.)  I learned when I was 20, after making a lot of mistakes, that you just don't hurt people you love on purpose.  I took it to heart, and I apply it to everyone, even if it doesn't appear so sometimes by things I say.  I learned when I was 21 that it's just not worth adjusting who you are to make everyone happy.  Despite my strong conviction to be who I am, I sometimes find it unfortunate that my humor has no boundaries.  I think because I am such a lover of humanity, and a crunchy granola type, I can't imagine actually discriminating against someone, but I'm also painfully sarcastic, which is why in my brain it's ok to make classist, elitist, racist jokes; because there's nowhere in space or time that I could come anywhere close to actually meaning those things...

Man, that stuff is just really funny to me!  This terrible Jewish joke just ran through my head that 2 friends and I used to tell to each other repeatedly in high school.  But guess who one of those friends was, and the person who told me that joke?  A really good friend of mine who is Jewish.  I guess I just can't get along with people who take things seriously.  Not "too" seriously, I mean like, seriously at all.  I guess I do see a boundary there - A few 17 year old kids telling Jewish jokes in Florida is different than if I was in Poland talking to an 80 year old lady.  Ok, there's a boundary I recognize.  See, I guess I'm a little daft in that arena.  Jokes are one thing.  The reality of a situation is another thing.  I guess I'm just a little too adept at separating the two.  See what I mean about not being able to keep my mouth shut?  Now a bunch of my Jewish friends who I really like and respect are complaining about me.

The thing is though, I think if I lived in the time and space of World War 2, I would have risked my life hiding people in my cellar.  If I lived in the south during slavery, I would have left the light on.  If it was my hand hovering over that red button in 1945, actually my hand never would have gotten that far.  I just don't believe in hurting people.  Not on purpose.

Bill Cosby said, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."  I think ease of offense is a sign in a person of negativity, and an indication that they identify strongly with certain ideas or events.  I don't believe in that kind of identification and I think it poisons us, so, as much as I truly don't want to hurt people, some people feed on negativity and they will turn words meant to create laughter and fun into a reason to be offended, and a yummy meal of negativity.  I don't want to diminish myself by editing what I say around people, which is a form of trying to make everyone happy, so I just have to come to terms with missing out on relationships with people who take things personally and who are easily offended.

It's complicated, I'm complicated (as most of us are), and it has taken me many years to realize that I can't insult someone that I have known for three days and expect them to laugh and understand where I am coming from.   What to do?

As for sharing TMI (too much information (which I do on an almost daily basis)), one reason I have become so open over the years, and a reason that my social boundaries have gotten even more blurred, is that I think it really helps people to hear about other people's crazy and embarrassing life experiences.  That's why "groups" help people, and why in part therapy helps people, because you find out that you are not the only one and that you are not alone.  People keep secrets for many reasons, but the only reason I don't share stuff is because I am afraid of what other people might think about it.  I define that as a way that I limit myself through fear, which I have another opinion about.  I say f#&* that.  I will not be defined by my insecurities and fears.  Life is too precious and short.  So, I embarrass myself.  So, I make myself vulnerable.  So, I offend a few people.  I do it in pursuit of a laugh or enlightenment or love.  So be it. 

From Japan,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Love The One You're With

Recently, a friend of mine said that they really liked and benefitted from some of my advice on the subject of relationships, so I thought I'd spread the love.

Romantic relationships are a huge focus for many people on this planet.  Even if you don't want it to be, even if you try to stay away from it, romance finds you for better or worse.  Maybe you are only attracted to Asian plus sized models, but Russian Playboy types are the only girls who call you.  Perhaps a little bump and grind at the lady-boy's club once a month is enough for you, but your slightly attractive but strangely socially-invisible neighbor keeps offering to have you over for instant ramen.  We all have our difficulties.  The point is, you gotta love the one you're with.  Not the one you're with could be if they weren't raised by republicans, or the one they could be if they had a little plastic surgery, or the one they could be with a little more ambition, or the one they could be if they felt the same way about you as you feel about them;  the one they are.

Do you love him, or do you love who he has the potential to be?  Do you love who she has proven to be through her actions, or do you love who she tries to convince you she is with her wordsIf you have accepted and love the reality of the person you are with, you are golden.  If you are attached to the idea of what this person could be and how your relationship could be, you are suffering, or you will suffer, and you will continue to suffer until you respond to your reality instead of your imagination. 

It doesn't take much at all to know if someone is worth your time and energy.  I can understand why people pour over their memories of a date and try to analyze the details;  this love stuff is emotional and it's human nature to invest in them deeply.  We're talking about procreation here.  That doesn't mean you have to be stupid.  Did they call you when they said they would, or did you have to text them, Facebook them, and talk to their friend to get a second date?  Let's be real.  I don't care how much time they spent telling you how amazing you are.  You cannot trust words.  You cannot make life decisions based on words.  You must look at a person's behavior over time, even if it's a short time, and judge if this person behaves in accordance with their words and your needs right now, because life is not the movies, and people very rarely create real change in their lives.  

I am saying that people should stop torturing themselves and wasting time on delusions, in turn tying themselves up with false people when they should be available to meet someone great.  If at any moment you realize that this person is not the person you need them to be, tell them and move on.  If you know this person will never feel about you the way you feel about them, recognize the reality and let it go.

I was asked how I came to these conclusions.  After I thought about it, I realized that it was by force of a broken heart.  Many years ago, I loved this guy so much, and he didn't love me, and I had to - I had to - think of a way for it to be ok.  I thought it through, and came to some realizations.  I realized that I wanted something that didn't exist.  He existed, but a connection between us did not exist, and I had to stop trying to have something that did not and would not ever exist.  I wasn't heart broken over something real, I was crushed by something imagined, an imagined reality that I thought could or might someday exist.  That's the kicker though: Possibility.  Especially when it comes to relationships, we're living in the future, because we believe that (especially if you are American) anything is possible in the future, right?  I had to realize that I couldn't live in an imagined future, because it was tearing my present apart.

And that was it.  I learned from that experience.  I still have a long way to go, but things are looking up.

From Japan,

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Reading List for Pregnancy, Birth, and the First Years

I'll be updating this list.  I just wanted to get it started.

Pregnancy and Birth:
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
by Ina May Gaskin

What to Expect When You're Expecting
by Heidi Murkoff

by Marie Mongan

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
by La Leche League International

The Newborn Days:
The Baby Book
by Dr. Sears
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child
by The American Academy of Pediatrics

The Vaccine Book
by Dr. Sears

I don't have 1 or 2 good sources for this yet.  My advice is to do a lot of research before making this big decision.  Unless you circumcise your child for religious reasons, I think it's time to stop doing it just because it has been done for so long.

Endoscopy and Health Update

Unless you really love me, you probably don't want to read this account of my health tests and results.  It's up to you.

All of this has been in pursuit of the cause of the pain down my right leg that started about 3 weeks after I arrived in Japan.  I have also had stomach pain since about December.

In January I had an allergy test, a sonogram on my abdomen, and a couple of blood tests.  It turns out that I am allergic to shrimp, mold, dust, and some insects.  I am slightly anemic.  I have a polyp in my gall bladder, but I do not have gall stones, which I was told I had in the US.  In the US, they insisted that I needed to have surgery to remove my gallbladder.  I'm glad I declined; I would prefer to keep my organ until there is at least a consensus.

Recently I had an endoscopy and they told me I have a hyperplastic polyp in my duodenum.  Supposedly, both polyps (those in my gall bladder and duodenum) are harmless and have no potential to develop into anything serious, but they said I should get rechecked in a year just in case.  At the time of my endoscopy, they had me try some stomach meds for a few days to see if it would help with the pain.  A couple of difficult days ensued because I couldn't nurse Knox on the meds, but it did help and I have only had a couple of times with a little pain since then.  The stomach issues are just about resolved, I'd say.

Last week I had x-rays on my pelvis area and they didn't find anything that would be causing my pain.  I might have to go for an MRI, which isn't pleasant because I'm tired of taking my days off to have medical tests.

The pain down my right leg is improving.  It doesn't hurt on the weekend when I am not sitting so much.  I'm wondering if all I've needed all this time is a new chair.

From Japan,

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cherry Blossom Season

A cursory explanation of our Sakura adventures...

A Sakura Tree
A friend of mine told me that you don't know it's spring in Japan by the weather, but by the things that are happening. Students start school and there are many ceremonies, and the scattered plum blossoms give way to the prolific cherry blossoms. In Japanese the trees are called sakura, and the word is heard everywhere over 3 or 4 weeks. At first I was like, "The trees are just blooming, right?" It seems, though, that the trees are not just blooming. A lot of culture surrounds sakura, and I got a lot more excited about it because of all the hype and plan-making.  This is one of the things I love about Japan - appreciation of nature.  Even Starbucks has very pretty sakura cups and mugs for sale.  They rarely put out new designs in Japan, to my chagrin.  I have a sakura mug, white covered in the pinkish blossoms with Sakura 2011 noted in gold.  Sakura is really beautiful, and I'm glad everyone is celebrating it.  The trees explode with the sakura blossoms overnight.  It looks like the trees are covered in pink ice.  That, in conjunction with the pleasant warmth and everything else getting green, makes them stunning.  They get more full over a week, last for maybe a week more, and then the blooms blow away in the wind.  I have heard of people taking sakura vacations where they follow the warmth and the blooming trees from southern Japan to the north.  The blossoming and the falling away happens so quickly.  The brevity of sakura season makes it that much more precious and beautiful. 

Our Sakura Date started with a trip the the local Everyone

The park across from my school - no one is ever allowed on the grass.  Crazy, eh?

Our Sakura beverages.  Peter's is a special Sakura themed wine drink, I think.

When the trees bloom, people have hanami.  'Hana' means flower and 'mi' means to look.  When you have hanami, you go out and enjoy the sakura trees, and usually have a picnic.  I went to 3 hanami events last weekend.  On Saturday, our beautiful and generous friend K came over to watch Knox while Peter and I went to a local park.  We had her come for his nap so he wouldn't have to endure a babysitter for too long.  I told him that K would be there when he woke up and that Mommy and Daddy wouldn't be there.  He knows K and he understood.  We picked up snacks from the konbini and sat under the trees, taking pictures and making use of some rare time alone.  The park is pretty big and the trees are so beautiful that we sat in three different locations over a few hours to see different views.  Many other people also enjoyed the park, and we ran into some JET friends, too.  We called on our way out to see how Knox and K were doing.  She told us that he had a quiet sob when he woke up and that he wasn't talking to her, so we headed home to save the babysitter from certain discomfort.  He was acting strange and giving K sideways looks until I realised what was happening...  I assured him that K was staying the night, but that Mommy and Daddy weren't going anywhere again.  Then he was better.

On Sunday morning we went to an amusement park called Rakutenchi, in Beppu.  I had no idea where or what this place was, but we made plans to go there with our English conversation group.  Knox absolutely loved it!  I've never seen his face so amazed and excited.  It was awesome just to see his face with his big eyes and dropped jaw.  We road a cable car with a doggy face up the mountain from the parking lot.  It's VERY steep.  The view of the ocean and city was pretty awesome.  Knox kept saying, "Ride doggy bus!!!!"  We saw balloons, a duck race, lots of big plastic animals that kids can sit on, goats, monkeys, a llama, a boar, roosters, a peacock, a pony, penguins, etc.  Knox also road a kids Thomas the train and a coin operated panda.  We had hanami in the shade next to a nice open area with some of the faux animals and gorgeous tulips.  The tulips here are so pretty and perfect that they look fake.  It's so nice to be able to relax a little in a place where Knox can run free and I don't have to run on his heels to make sure he's safe.  It was some sort of costume day at Rakutenchi, so we saw lots of people dressed up as anime characters.  We brought bento boxes of food from home, and we had all kinds of cookies and crackers.  In Japan everyone brings food to share, so we tried salad, tamagoyaki, bread, chocolates, and more as everyone passed things around.  We received a shipment of organic peanut butter right before we left the apartment, so we made PB crackers for everyone.  We missed some of the park, including a huge suspension walking bridge, but I think we'll go back in 2 weekends for Knox's birthday.  It's only 1-sen ($10) to get in!  We rode the cat-faced car back down, and Knox was really excited because there is a cat bus in Totoro, one of his favorite movies.  On the way down he was yelling, "Knox ride cat bus!!!"

Kids can drive their own Panda.

Me and Knox riding Thomas the train

The view of Beppu from the Rakutenchi Cat faced cable car

Sakura on the street on our way to Kitsuki
After Rakutenchi I went to Kitsuki to attend a festival meeting.  Thanks to my awesome friend N, I get to be in a parade as a lady in waiting to the princess, wearing a kimono!!!!!!!  I am so excited to finally wear a kimono!  It's kind of an ugly kimono, but whatever.  The meeting was quick, they measured my head for the big black wig I will wear, and we headed back to Beppu for a JET hanami.  Beppu park is gorgeous and I'm so glad I know about it now.  It's sprawling, has sakura everywhere, and sits in front of the mountains.  Beppu park has a kids playground, interesting gardens and landscaping, and grass that we didn't get yelled at for playing soccer on (not that I played soccer).  Good place.  I want to go back.  It was really nice to see a good turn out of JETs, as I hadn't seen so many of them in a while.  Some sat on blankets and talked and snacked while others played soccer.  I had to keep Knox out of the socer game.  A friend donated strawberried to Knox, which is a big deal cause strawberries are like $1 each here.

Tuckered out

The weekend was great and I think we made the most of sakura.  We will try to enjoy it again next weekend, but the blossoms are already blowing away. 

I feel refreshed.

From Japan,

Monday, April 4, 2011

I live in Japan

I can finally believe that I'm here.

In Japan, that is.  When I applied to participate in the JET program, I couldn't fathom actually getting that phone call and hearing someone tell me that I was going to live in Japan.  Even when I did get that phone call, and when I got on the plane, and for months, there was a strange distance between my reality and my brain.  It still hadn't clicked that I was on the other side of the world and that, honestly, I had been chosen. 

Perhaps being an actor set me up for this lengthy period of disbelief.  I've spent a lot of time being rejected and a lot of energy bolstering myself to maintain a healthy spirit in the face of rejection, as that is a significant part of working in entertainment.  Though it's not healthy and was not my intention, I made rejection my expectation so I could protect myself from disappointment.  I tried to be better, to forgo all expectation and just live my life, to put value on simpler things, but I continue to strive toward that healthier self.  Instead I just created a decent shield.  I tried to convince myself that I didn't need success to feel satisfied, but I discounted the deserved fruits of a job well done, fruits I had not enjoyed in too long.

I've walked on and in so many amazing sets, the best in the world, at the Warner Bros. lot, where everything is illusory.  I've seen people gasp and gaze in disbelief at a shiny wall that they thought was the ocean, Styrofoam that played snow, and great facades that led only to tiny spaces with views of two-by-fours.  I've spent all day in a giant hotel in Vegas only to walk outside and find myself in Culver City.  All these months, I've felt like I was on a set.  I've actually touched things and been surprised they were real.  I look at the beautiful sloping Japanese rooftops and have to remind myself that it's not Styrofoam cut and shaped into tile.   I came from a world where everything is fake, to a world where everything is different.  You can see how I might get the two confused.

But now, I'm really here.  I have a real life here. 

Last week many teachers left, and this week many new teachers arrived.  I think the confidence I've gained from not being the person most foreign to the room has helped me.  Also, the disasters smack of reality.  Funny that it took a situation worthy of James Cameron to make me understand my reality better.  In all, I guess the scenes and the things and the people all seeped into me as I learned about them, and now I know enough to feel at home.  And I may look foreign to them, but to me, I could just be standing in Chinatown in LA or NY.  I'm in danger of being perceived as insulting, but it's just that I'm quite accustomed to looking at faces different from mine.  What reminds me that it's different is that I don't see any other colors of people.  I think I've seen two African American people since I've been in Japan and one Native American person.  What makes me know I'm in a foreign country is not that there are so many Asian people, it's that, where are all the other people?  In Tokyo, I guess.

Anyway, what I meant to say when I started was how fortunate I feel.  I have a husband who is willing and excited to join me in my adventures.  I have a beautiful child who excites my heart and my imagination.  And I'm living in Japan, something I wanted so badly.   I could exercise more and I need to figure out some health concerns, but otherwise things are really great.  Just about any complaint I've ever had has dissolved with my coming here.  My hours are wonderful, taking time off is easy, the money is good, Peter gets to work and watch Knox, I have amazing health coverage, I have time to write and study with very little interruption, the food and environment are more pure, there is a cultural atmosphere that supports sustainability, I am distanced from the political climate of hate in the US, I hardly even remember that gas prices were ever an issue - not because the prices are great, but because my car is so small - and the omiyage policy keeps me happily snacking on foods from around the country and the world all day, every day.

I'm 31, and I finally think that if, indeed, I am never a movie star, it might be ok.  ;-)

From Japan,