A Dinner Party

Winter is the season of dinner parties. Excuses to get together with people, but stay indoors, dress up in sweaters and sweater dresses and celebrate when the sun sets early and the ever present fog leaves beads on your scarf and colors your nose.

Early evening: Accepting the invitation

It’ll be great to get out of the house. It’s an excuse to dress up, because, why not?

It’ll be fun. I’ll see people and have lively discussion. It’s my chance to be social and energetic and show that I’m a fun person.

I do things. Yes, I do things with people.

Getting ready

What kind of get-together is this? Are we talking full makeup? Or would that be trying too hard?

And what to wear. Is this too much party? Or should I be safe and go with black? Maybe it’s too sad and dark. But black is safe.

I’ll just add some color with my shoes for some fun. Heels aren’t too much. People wear heels to dinner.

Purse. No purse? Purse. Which purse? The everyday one, not too much. And coat. Definitely coat, scarf, gloves.

Okay, ready.

Wait, lipstick. Always lipstick. Yes, done.

Oh, and the champagne. Your one job. The champagne. How could you forget?

And late, of course.

The (late) entrance

Okay, hi. This is a lot of people. I’ll say hi to as many people as possible, and then just happily ignore the others that are difficult to reach. I’ll be introduced eventually. I don’t want to make a whole disturbance now. It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever see them again in my life anyway.

This is a nice spot in the room. Just nod and smile. Don’t forget to ask questions. You can talk less that way.

Yeah, I don’t understand half of what’s going on…but that’s fine. You’re the foreign one. You’re not supposed to understand. It’s a nice excuse anyhow, a nice excuse to not talk. I just feel bad that they’re trying so hard to include me. But I can also see them getting tired of that responsibility. Sorry! It’s okay. It’s okay. I can’t fix that right now.

À table

Ah finally, we’re sitting down to dinner. I can just eat. Eating is a valid excuse. It takes ALL of my attention. It does. Taking the right amount of salad from the bowl. Not looking ridiculous that I can’t get lettuce onto my fork and on a successful journey to the mouth. How to make the lettuce not overly large? Yes, that’s right. Be sure to fit the entire piece in or else you’ll look like a dumb rabbit. Dumb in all senses of the word, considering that you can’t engage in conversation like normal person right now. ALL THE ATTENTION. Okay, that’s normal.

Hm, that wasn’t enough food. I’m definitely still hungry. I thought the “I’m American” disclaimer was well-distributed at this point. There’s not really anything much left though. I can’t be the one to take all of the final drippings.

The bread! Thank God for bread. The bread will do it. Eat the bread.

I hope they don’t expect me to have followed the conversation. My brain is tired. It can only translate so much in a prolonged period of time. I also have the jetlag excuse in my pocket. I must have zoned out for the past five minutes at least. Okay, fine. Try again.

This conversation isn’t particularly exciting. Maybe I’m not actually understanding. But I think I am. Would I be having fun if I was with my own friends? Or is this really just a language thing? Or do people just get boring when they get older? Or am I just more disinterested? I think I’d still be bored if it were my own friends. Maybe I’ve been here too long. Maybe that’s all it is. This is probably what it’s like for outsiders to hear my friends and I hanging out. I’m suddenly so sorry for all of those people that have to sit through us…

Bored. Maybe this is why I don’t come to these things. Just smile. More smiling.

Woo! Dessert! This is cause for celebration.

Post hoc

Dinner, check. We have to be leaving soon. There seems to be lots of talk left in them yet. *sigh* I’m exhausted. But I still look nice.

Okay, yes? Yes?! Coats. I can do that. I have all the things. Coats, gloves, purse.

Bisous! Love you all! We should do this again? Yes, of course! Let’s do this again soon!

*door shuts*

SWEET FREEDOM.

Let’s take a walk.

A walk sounds marvelous.

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You march, I march, Jack

January’s more than halfway over and most of us are getting pulled back into the current of “busy.” In part, busy wishing that this TV listing of tomorrow’s inauguration ceremony wasn’t satirical.

This week has been at odds with itself. It started with a day celebrating Martin Luther King Jr., a warrior for racial justice, economic equity, and peace. It ends with a day that hands the keys to the castle to a man whose every action, comment (and tweet) goes against these same principles. Presumably due to the past year’s events, even more of the media’s coverage of Martin Luther King day moved beyond his reveries. A grittier, more conflicted portrait was painted, making the case for imperfect dreamers who aren’t afraid to colour outside the lines, to echo inconvenient truths.

Speaking of inconvenient truths, the World Economic Forum (held this week in Davos) released its 2017 Global Risks Report citing “economic inequality, societal polarization, and intensifying environmental dangers” as top “contributors” to global development over the next decade, threatening peace, wealth and health. Nothing new, but given that “democracies” are shifting towards the political equivalent of hands over ears, eyes wide shut, twitter tongue stuck out on all these risks, we need the dreamers (which I suspect includes whoever is reading this) to step up and step out.

An opportunity to do so is coming up this weekend with the Women’s March on Washington (or Women’s March for Dignity) on Jan 21st (all genders welcome). The platform goes beyond women’s rights and takes an intersectional approach that includes civil rights, justice in the criminal system, worker’s rights, LGBTQIA rights, rights of people living with disabilities, immigration reform, and environmental protection. The governing principle states that “Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice.” As of now, in addition to the march in DC, 615 sister marches have been planned globally. You can check here to find the one near you!

Twenty Seven(teen)

Happy 2017 people! We’ve seen the memes, the tweets, the snaps – 2016 was an unpopular year. In the end, it became a bit of an exaggerated villain if you ask me… given that humanity doesn’t necessarily do all that much better on average, but still – enough maniacal events call 2016 their home that it’s safe to say we’re all hoping for better.

I, for one, am going to approach this new year with so much love that it’ll give the ending of every Hallmark holiday movie a run for its money. I’m throwing love at the problem (partly because that’s basically my only form of capital at the moment).

Onward and upward ❤

On having things

978-1-60774-730-7.jpgYou’ve probably heard the hype about Marie Kondo’s “The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” (Example A, Example B, Example C, Example D )

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER! 3 MILLION COPIES SOLD!!

First of all, let’s call this book what it is: this is a self-help book for the masses. It’s a self-help book for people who are surrounded by objects, some of which they love/need and most of which are entropy encapsulated in objects.

So yes, this is a self-help book. I know. Bear with me.

I read this entire book and despite the many eye rolls, it was honestly life-changing in a small but important way. It is not about ascending Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and self actualizing. It’s more simply about changing your relationship with objects (and maybe that makes you happy, maybe it helps with anxiety, or maybe you find it doesn’t really do anything for you).

The short explanation of Kondo’s approach is to approach your ownership of objects with intention, retaining only things that “bring you joy” and ensuring you appreciate those things and treat them with care. It sounds SO simple, yet Kondo has raked in millions of dollars for putting this into a book.

Yes, some of her tidying mentality is exhausting. She encourages the readers to have a dialogue with their objects, which I found silly. (*Enters house, kneels in entrance* “Hello house. I am here. Please accept me.” *Takes off jacket* “Thank you jacket for keeping me warm. Now I will ceremoniously, carefully place you where you belong so you can rest after keeping me warm all day….*Takes off shoes* Thank you shoes for helping my feet walk!…and so on.)

But, this book forces the reader to think about about the objects that surround us. We love to buy things, to collect things, to fill our spaces with things. That’s not a bad habit. But, Kondo has a point. When we are surrounded by objects for the sake of having objects, we don’t appreciate what we have, and our space becomes cluttered (i.e., diminishing value).

I drank the Kool Aid, and I applied her method to my space. I held every item I owned in my hands, and if it “sparked joy” as I held it, I kept it. If it did not have that special spark, I gave it away. Slowly I found myself in possession of honestly, 1/2 of my original stock. But what remained were things that I needed and enjoyed. It’s been four months and I found that I take better care of the fewer pieces of clothing I have. I seldom lose things in my apartment, and I have almost no clutter. I used to compulsively make multiple tiny random piles of things in my apartment. The more stressed I was, the faster these little piles of things would crop up. Now, clutter doesn’t surround me, my space is simple, and it doesn’t distract me.

I am fully aware I sound like an infomercial. And whatever, I don’t care. This book is ridiculous, but its central message is great and it’s clearly connecting with people. We are fortunate enough that we have the means to fill our space with things, but we take that fortune for granted. So why not pare our object repository down and re-learn what it feels like to appreciate and value our things?

Well. It’s now time to power off my computer, thank it for helping me write things about things on the internet, and then ceremoniously place it in its special place on my desk.

 

The objects of my affection.

There’s something rather sinister about the fact that when I was trying to think of a special holiday edition of GJH posts, the first thought that popped into my mind was “objects.” There are so many instances where what makes a (wo)man ends up being a collection of objects or the lack thereof. Haves and have nots.

A man is let out of prison. His freedom starts with the reclamation of his belongings. The right to own. A grandmother dies. Her family fights over claims to the object sum of her life.

We are sold success in business class seats, enlightenment in yoga mats, empowerment in red-lacquered soles, productivity in coffee cups, relief in wine bottles.

So, this GJH holiday series will objectify the subjective. Each post focuses on one object and the writer’s subjective experience of it.

Let the countdown begin.

The occasional concussion

I was supposed to write about objects today, and I am so excited to write about what I’ve learned from The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which instructs on how to intentionally own and interact with your belongings. It’s been a lifestyle gamechanger. It’ll come!

pole2-300x206

Google image searched “walk into a pole” and found this gem from from http://www.blog.sibt.nsw.edu.au/tag/atar/page/7

But…a few days ago I sped-walked into a pole  while trying to catch my bus (100% sober) and gave myself what I’m realizing only a few days later must have been an actual concussion. I’m very disoriented still (even still have a bruise/bump on my forehead) and want to let my brain rest, but before I do, let’s take a moment to list out “Things that happen to Michi in two days when her brain is injured”

  1. Have taken the wrong tube train multiple times on my commute, and can’t figure out what happened or where I am. It’s incredible how confused I’ve been doing something I normally do without thinking each day.
  2. Missed my tube stop this morning, but had been trying really hard to pay attention so this didn’t happen.
  3. Locked myself out of my office.
  4. I am writing a report right now, and constantly I think that I have made certain changes or written entire sentences only later to realize that I have made no changes at all. (I don’t know what happened. Did I press ctl+Y a bunch? Or completely dissociate??)
  5. Couldn’t figure out how to turn my stove on, and finally just stood in front of the stovetop with my head in my hands, certain I’d never be able to make dinner.
  6. Somehow moved a ton of folders around my team’s dropbox but I don’t understand how I did it.
  7. Tried to put something into a cupboard multiple times in the same way, each time it fell out, but I couldn’t figure out what was happening enough to adjust what I was doing
  8. Went to my French lesson a day early
  9. Printed a report on A3 paper
  10. Had to return to my office three times before I could go home because I kept forgetting things.
  11. Am generally mystified by everything.

I’m usually a hot mess, but the past few days have been above and beyond. The utter confusion may not come across in the list, but this has been a very out-of-body experience. It feels like I have a loose grip on my brain. I am aware that I could do everything better, but I can’t seem to muster the thoughts/intention to make it happen. So, resting my brain for a few more days and crossing my fingers that things go back to normal soon.

Lesson of the day, kids: Don’t walk into poles.

Opinions. And on having them.

Maybe this was only the irrational fear of a 12-year-old, the fear of not having opinions on anything. It came from this idea that I don’t have anything to say because I don’t have thoughts about them and that those non-thoughts form only non-opinions. I don’t say things because I don’t have anything to say. Without an opinion, I don’t have a stake in the conversation, in what’s being put forward as right, as legitimate, as ethical, as the way things should be in the world. I don’t have opinions on anything. This fear hung in the air for a good chunk of my teenage years.

American grade school (and into college) is a place where young people are lauded for their “participation” because this active contribution to the classroom is hailed as the way that people are heard and legitimate and intelligent. These people are the ones that move the discussion forward, that defend their arguments to others, and have influence, and what I’ve heard called “leadership” skills. To voice your opinion and your thoughts on some issue is to be worldly and to “know your stuff.” In other cultures, it’s called being rude, loud, obnoxious, and/or imposing on others. For a long time, I had trouble reconciling these two worlds.

I’ve come to realize that, back then, I was only gathering information, so-called data on truth. It is without doubt that from a young age, I had some kind of obsession with the truth. I struggled with the idea that perhaps, and probably, there is no real truth in the universe. As you can imagine, this made religion a difficult concept for me to grasp. While you could argue that I wasn’t brought up Christian enough to take certain ideas as self-evident, I’d argue that it was in my nature to be skeptical of that which could not be reasonably or definitively proven multiple times over. Rather, it was my acceptance of religion as a value to human society rather than the belief system of any one religion that answered my questions into why it should exist at all.

I had a certain way of speaking. [Some would argue that this sentence should be written in the present: I have a certain way of speaking. Perhaps.] Things had to be worthy. Statements had to be worth the effort of speech. And correspondingly worth the time spent listening to it. Hey, I’ve always been considerate. Speech had to make some worthy contribution – worthy meaning thought-provoking or relevant, adding something new. Why would you spend your time listening to and learning the same things over and over again? You wouldn’t. But perhaps this leads me to make too many assumptions about what other people would find interesting or relevant or new or of value. Maybe it is only an excuse for me to continue gathering information without making my own contribution to that data collection and its synthesis. Maybe the assumption that people see what I see given the same information is too strong. But hey, I’m learning.

This is yet another fear about which my 20-something-year-old self would be able to reassure my 12- and 15- and 17-year-old selves. I have opinions. And strong ones. I have opinions that after 20-odd years of data collection in the form of experiences, anecdotes, media consumption, diversity, culture, and (I hope) continued openness have cultivated. I have things to say and it matters that I say them. Though I remain reserved, these are opinions that I will honestly share while being conservative with who is worthy to hear them. After years of being a woman, I know well when words only fall on deaf ears.

This past month has reminded me of these past fears and more recent realizations, and really in ways that I would have gladly gone without. It reminded me that I am capable of an emotional violence in my opinions and beliefs at a very basic, fundamental level – a driving force that remains hidden if not completely smothered in the day-to-day. And it reminded me again that there is so much more truth to learn. That settling down is not an option. We must instead strive to engage and listen and contribute and find those things that are worthy. That complacency and blind trust is dangerous. And that those with all of the loud opinions may be more empty air than American reverence would make them seem.