Day 21 // 365 Days of Gratitude

today i am grateful for the magic of airplanes

let’s not forget that 200 years ago

this was only the stuff in dreams

we wanted to fly

away

away

out of here

out of there

now we’re in the dream

living the dream

so let’s not forget

the magic

 

without believing in magic

we’d have no

such thing

as these things

we hold so dear to us now


 

i have spent all day, before the sun rose in beijing, and almost part night, in planes/capsules, flying through time, across time, going back in time, now i’m in another airport, bangkok airport, was in hong kong, each a new experience, enjoying this. next stop, vientiane, laos!

Day 19 // 365 Days of Gratitude

I’m gonna be real honest with ya. I feel like I’ve been writing and thinking too much about how what I create whether it be in text/video/image form will be received. Instead of holding onto my gut feelings, following what I feel like I want to share. I’ve been kinda lost with doing this whole ‘share one thing you’re grateful for each day’ and ‘put up interesting videos’ thing. So I haven’t been working on any videos even though I have some footage from stuff because… I don’t want to churn them out just for the sake of putting it out there. For me, it matters that my h e a r t is in it. That matters more than the image quality, the editing style, all that. I do miss having some friends around who I can blabber to and they’ll just get it. I hate doing the thing I do for academic writing where I write a sentence over and over again because it doesn’t some profound enough, not scholarly enough. There shouldn’t be ‘not enough’ because I am enough and what I want to put out there should be enough. So yeah, I’m gonna focus on the heart feelings and the things that I’m like wow yeah i want to capture these feelings through words or film or photography, whatever feels right for that moment. I’m blessed to have access to all these art forms, and I’m only just starting to truly learn what art means for my soul.

And today, I am so so so so so grateful for my cafe job and especially for the people I get to do it with. I’m learning so much about l i f e (as always) and what it looks like to stand firmly on this earth holding hands with other beings (this is meant to be a metaphor. if you don’t get it, sorry. i can explain if you want. but it makes sense to me. wait, listen to michael jackson & akon’s song Hold My Hand, maybe it’ll make sense after that)

 

 

[the following is raw]

so ya and i’m gonna start a side blog that will be a drawing board for the cafe/eatery i hope to one day have. healing through food. healing with food. idk about name yet, just wanna get these concepts out there cuz this is the mission, this is the core. a cafe grounded in chinese food/medicine tradition, working to craft and distribute nourishing plant-based foods that nourish the body mind and soul. a menu that changes seasonally, not cuz it’s hip to do, but because it’s firmly rooted in traditional chinese medicine and philosophy to go where the wind blows, follow the path… a lot of connections to buddhist tradition too, so want to honor that, and all the people who are part of such traditions and practices. open to all. i don’t want to make this a business where profit > people/food justice/etc. but i gotta find money. and then use that money to redistribute access and power. i think this is something i’d like to do in the places i grew up (hk and beijing) because i  want to serve the communities i grew up around, the people who literally make the places i hold so dearly in my heart, so that’s people from your the school janitor you see every morning but don’t know the name of, the lady who serves you your school lunch every day, the jianbing lady outside your school door who you buy food from once a week but never really stopped to ask how she makes it here every day, or where she lives, because you’re too caught up with the next quiz you have to take and where you’ll go to college, the driver who honks loudly at every moving vehicle, and you wonder why he’s raging like that but you don’t bother to ask, you go home to do your home work, continue on living as a robot, and forget what it feels like to actually feel alive, it’s for the guides who led you into the jungle, the one you locked eyes with and whose soul graced across your soul over that fire and the raton bracelets that one person so patiently held in their hands while you looked at them in awe of the wisdom in their patience, you wonder if you’ll ever see them again, and you probably won’t because they live in rural indonesia, an area you don’t even know the name of, but one you felt at home in, but it’s not your place, not your home, but isn’t this planet our home and not our home at the same time? it’s for the women who have worked for your family, picked up your dirty clothes, washed up your dirty bowls, swept the floors, and bought the food you put on the table, it’s for them and their sons and their husbands, it’s for the white-collared 9-5 desk-sitting, back-aching, soul-draining youngling who’s just trying to make it at this thing called life but doesn’t have time or energy to call home let alone eat a meal at home, it’s for the multi-million dollar company CEO who works on their phone 24/7, even lives the conference calls in dreams, and wakes up just a bit too late to eat breakfast, a client is waiting, cannot stop to take care of myself, there is a client waiting, a deal to close, more money for my family, more money for my children, more money so my children don’t have to grow up like i did, so they can do waht i didn’t get to do but wanted, wanted, wanted in my heart so much and left alone for so long i don’t even know what it feels like to want

so this is for us all for all of us who are just trying to make it through this life in one peace, and wanting to do this and love this and and live this. and i believe. it’s possible. and that food, food and the things put nourish fuel can be a starting point and it’s not everything …

*i recorded myself reading this after i wrote it, and added some live bits i didn’t write out at the end. i’ll share if you want to see me laying half-upright on my bed with my camera angled awkwardly against my face. lol…*

Day 18 // 365 Days of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the taxi driver/师傅 who drove me home after my TCM massage therapy session. Our brief chat was deeply light-hearted and left me smiling. His ability to laugh a little at even the heavier topics, like politics and the state of migrant villages, was a refreshing reminder that we don’t have to take ourselves too seriously. He told me about his new taxi driving job, being a good driver, a funny incident with an elderly passenger… And as we navigated through the narrow backroads of a vanishing migrant village, I commented, “以前村子在的时候更乱。(This road was even more chaotic when the village was here) To which he wittily said, “那也没共产党乱!”  (Still can’t be more chaotic than the party!) We shared a laugh. Several times, he dove into a serious tone and then resurfaced saying things like it’s not a matter of good or bad, releasing tension. Our interaction ended with him wishing me a happy life. 祝你生活愉快! And I walked away smiling, replaying his parting wish over and over again. This guy isn’t some famed philosopher, he’s just another human being who’s lived life long enough to hold wisdom. With his peasantry background and my international school upbringing, our worlds could not be more different. Yet, at the same time, if we choose to look deeper, we are still just two human beings living life to the best of our abilities.

Day 17 // 365 Days of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for the magic behind social media. Namely, the connections I can make with like-minded, like-hearted souls around the world. The more I put out, the more I get back. Loneliness creeps up on me often when I’m made to seem like an anomaly, and I make myself feel worse by only seeing the differences and not the similarities. People tell me, and I tell myself, I’m

With my blog posts and YouTube videos, I’m finding that the more I put out, the more I get back in connections made. Even if it’s not a full-on relationship that develops, that sparkle of inspiration or resonance I feel with someone is beautiful on its own, too. Loneliness creeps up on me often when I’m made to seem like an anomaly, and I make myself feel worse by only seeing the differences and not the similarities. People tell me, and I tell myself, I’m

Loneliness creeps up on me often when I’m made to seem like an anomaly. People tell me, and I tell myself, I’m too idealistic, too weird, too loud, too happy, too depressed… the list can go own if we want it to,and I’m able to make myself feel worse by only seeing the differences and not the similarities. I’m trying, though, to reroute these thoughts patterns to focus on the deep interconnectedness of things.

Whenever I experience something, I want to share it with others. It’s just too much to keep it all to myself. My blog and YouTube channel are merely manifestations of this incessant desire to share my joys, my sorrows, my fears and in hope that you feel able to do the same.

A Fear of Not-Doing-Enough (Day 16 // 365 Days of Gratitude)

Today I am grateful for the challenge of doing less. I am grateful that I am able to take this time for myself, with the moral and financial support of my parents.

Believe it or not, doing less is harder than it sounds. Even as I’ve removed many external pressure to do, I still find myself caught in the vicious cycle of do-do-do. For someone who has grown up in a fast-paced, capitalist society, it is ingrained in me that productivity and efficiency are top priorities. The thinking goes that if I’m not producing anything, I’m wasting time. So I always have to be on the move, on to the next thing. But the thing is, doing less doesn’t equate to wasting time because doing less frees up so much more room to simply be, for reflection and contemplation, which are central, in my opinion, to living fully. If all we know is to move onto the next thing, without pausing for reflection, are we really making the most of our experiences?

I am so good at doing that I’ve forgotten how to truly sit with myself. When difficult emotions arise, I immediately clamp down on them, pushing them deep into my unconscious mind. The mechanism that detects and acts on said emotions is so well-tuned it operates subconsciously. Quite scary to think that sometimes I’m not even aware of what I’m doing to myself.

During these months off school, I’m relatively free of any onerous responsibility. So naturally, I am doing less. I know this period of healing is a necessary, balancing act. Yet there are still many nights when I lay awake wondering, Am I doing enough? Am I fully utilizing my time away from academia? Should I be doing something different? In my head, I am answering yes to all those questions. Yet, there is always that voice inside – my own worst critic – trying to skew the answer to no.

The greatest challenge is overcoming those negative voices. And in the process, learning to treat even the darkest thoughts with love and compassion because fighting them is not the solution. I must try and empathize with my fearful selves for they are just as much of me as my hopeful selves.

I’m a (real) good talker when it comes to promoting self-love… slowing down … noticing ourselves in this moment. All that good stuff. You might read these blog post thinking, Wow, Claire’s really got it all down. But let me tell you, I don’t. I really don’t. I say these things because I need to hear it from myself. I’m far from getting it all down and frankly, I don’t think that’s the point of it all. We can’t just tick off ‘Love myself’, ‘Slow down’, ‘Live in the moment’ and be set for life. We need to be reminded of these things throughout our lives, because in the darkest moments, those voices of fear and hopelessness will nevertheless find their way back to us. With strength and bravery, we can face those moments and come out stronger.

Suffering, hardship, and pain are inevitable. It is not in our power to expel them from our lives, but it is in our power to learn how to deal with our pain – openly and tenderly. Friends, there is no deadline. There is only life.

 

The Home in Family Dinners: Day 15 // 365 Days of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for family dinners when (almost) all the seats at the table are filled. Usually, it’s just my mom, my brother, and me. That’s how it kinda went through most of my high school years. My dad travels a lot for work and has a lot of business dinners to attend so it does feel special when there’s more than just a few of us eating together.

In my family, we always eat at the table. Around 7 pm on most nights, we set the table with chopsticks and a soup spoon. My mom is usually working her magic in the kitchen with the exhaust fan on, the flame turned up high, the tsheee-tshee-tshee sounds of food tumbling around an extremely hot wok, smells of yumminess wafting through the kitchen door … I’m always excited and always the first at the table. And between helping my mom bring each dish to the table, I can’t help snag a few bites here and there. Once most the dishes are set, I start calling the rest of the people in the house, and slowly, each of us trickle in and find our spots at the table. My mom always makes it a point to make at least 3 to 4 dishes when there’s more than two people eating. The last dish comes after most of us have begun eating. And naturally, my mom is the last one to sit down, breathe, before picking up her chopsticks. It’s a real process – from the preparing to the cooking to the setting to the eating – filled with love and generosity.

Sitting down to put words to this experience shows just how elaborate and ceremonial a meal at home can be. This is how I’ve eaten dinners at home most of my life. So I never thought of it as special, or worth noting. I thought other families ate this way too, but that’s definitely not the case, and the foods I find familiar might not be the same foods others find heartwarming.

When I prepared dinner for myself in college, some white American suitemates once remarked at how ‘faaancy’ my food looked.

“Ooooouu~ that smells so good. What is it? It looks so faaancy!”

“Uh, it’s just some stir-fried vegetables and tofu.”

What I wanted to say was that this wasn’t fancy to me, this was dinner at home almost every night, and my mom made this sort of thing times three or four. Is it fancy because this is your idea of “ethnic” food? I don’t know why I started feeling so uncomfortable cooking the way I knew how to prepare food in front of my white American peers. I was always on guard for the next questions about what this sauce labeled with Chinese characters was, or what that weird looking vegetable was. These weren’t things I experienced first hand, but I heard the “Wow, that’s so exotic!”s hidden in their hyper-cheerful tones and in their gazes even without them saying the words.

So I guess that’s when I first realized how I ate at home is special and wonderful because it is my home, my idea of a family dinner, my family. And I don’t have to compare it with any other. We all have our different versions of home, family, family dinners, dinners at home, and all of those are valid and special and worth cherishing.

Food is what I often find my family and I around whenever we gather. Food is what nourishes the body and the soul and the connections we hold with each other. Food is love, strength, and support, in many, many ways.

Day 14 // 365 Days of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for books. I love the feeling of getting swept up into a book. For a few hours, I tune out the rest of the world and enter an alternate world of the characters. When I read a book, I still feel somewhat mindful of my surroundings, but when I’m looking at a screen, I feel completely sucked in and I don’t particularly like that.

I do like reading. I just don’t read as much as I’d like. Honestly, the biggest thing in my way is my darn electronics… Something about this internet thing is really addictive. Today I didn’t even touch my laptop until evening time, largely because I was so into the book I’m reading – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I started the book like over a month ago and, up until today, have made very little progress on it. I didn’t look at my phone many times either, not that I’m constantly on my phone in first place.

Today was a lovely reminder that there are other ways to occupy time other than scrolling through the internet.