harness

ON BEING ASIAN AMERICAN

There has been so much discussion about race in America. I’m not going to make any comments on what I think is right or wrong. I just want to share my experience as an Asian-American. There is an interesting intersection as an Asian in America – first generation Chinese-American, to be more specific. Even though we, generally, do better for minorities, we are often seen as foreigners. Smart. But nonetheless, we are seen as “others.” We are seen as exotic, foreign, even oriental (like a rug…). Growing up, my family was isolated. My parents didn’t know English very well, so they stayed within their own bubble. After my dad immigrated here, he slowly brought family members over, one by one. I can’t imagine how lonely it was when he was here by himself...

(FRI)END-ZONE

I’ve had a burning frustration for years: men who I’ve loved being with in a platonic way, who I’ve gotten really close with, when suddenly, they cut the friendship short leaving me with no explanation whatsoever. This poem is dedicated to all you lovelies—I hope some ladies can relate. is it okay if we play this game of hide and seek smile so meek even though we are both taken by unique hearts?   i can see you are terrified to get too close there’s a cautiousness a force field a cold shield visible to my eyes only sensed by my heart alone   this distance is devastating a secret wound bleeds in me and i know it bleeds in you   we both shine in remarkable ways so why can’t we shine together in those fleeting moments of meeting?   why do i detect a hostility in your body ...

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE: THREE WAYS I’VE CHANGED SINCE MOVING ABROAD

  After moving to Stockholm this past spring, I’ve tried my hardest to dive right into the Swedish lifestyle. I haven’t exactly bought myself a Volvo yet (the beauty of living in a city with public transport!!) but I’ve definitely become more “Swedish” than I had realized. As a dual citizen (thankful an American met a Swede in the 90s, and I now have two passports) I’ve lived in the US for 15+ years and visited Sweden annually, so I’d always seen myself as something of a mix between the two. While in the States for a few weeks in July, it struck me that my thoughts, opinions and actions on certain things have done a complete 180- simply by osmosis is in my newfound home. Some of them I’d say are pretty positive, while others show me how great aspects of American life can be. Here are ...

HOW TO OVERCOME THE FEAR OF JUDGEMENT

Every painting session for me is a life lesson. It’s my subconscious guiding me towards what it wants me to change in my world view. This particular watercolor sketch, created while sitting on a windowsill in Paris, amidst a heat wave, was a huge breakthrough. Perhaps it’s a realization, to which all almost 40-year-olds arrive. It’s quite amazing, however, to witness it manifest itself while painting. I guess I call it “letting go.” I tried so hard to measure out axis and relational positioning. I was mindful of perspective and the direction of all lines. Yet, there’s always room for human error. Your hand wants to keep going, not constantly stop for the math to catch up. Therefore, there were tons of mishaps, tons of re-dos and not having an eraser drove me insane. I gue...

LULLABY FOR MOM

When did you first feel like a grown-up? When you graduated college? When you got married? Bought a house? Had a baby? Not me. Adulthood sucker-punched me at age 53, when I had to make decisions about my elderly mom. Mom was a formidable woman. She came from a poor Cuban family of 11 children, the middle child in a family where the four girls were significantly less important than the seven boys. It’s sobering to be faced with the raw realization that you are a witness to your parent’s entire life. No, you weren’t there for all of it, but you heard the stories about her youth, how she was teased by her siblings, how she had to walk for miles to get to school in shoes resoled with cardboard, the heartbreaks that defined her. You begin to uncover the mystery that is the most influential pers...

BLIND WALKING

It feels as if I am walking, walking blindly into unknown territory; as if a cloth is over my eyes, and a gentle wind at my back forcing me to move forward. But I’m stuck. Is it fear? I think so. I feel as if I am being gently pushed off a cliff, a cliff I have walked patiently on for many moons – years maybe – pacing back and forth from the edge, afraid to get too close, afraid to peer over to see a hint of what could be there. But now there is a gentle wind behind me, forcing me to make tiny, awkward, clumsy steps forward. I have one foot on the edge of the cliff, steady and securely on the rocky ground, and one foot over the edge. I feel gravity pulling my foot out further, so that my leg becomes outstretched. My foot begins to lower, slowly giving into the gravity pull, slowly I begin ...

FROM MAJORITY TO MINORITY

I remember being warned several times that culture shock was sure to occur when I set foot in India. I was a little nervous, a little skeptical, but very excited to say the least. I personally feel that I am open-minded and accepting of other cultures and beliefs even though they may be different than mine. It is our differences that make our world so interesting. If we were all the same, how boring would that be?  Back to culture shock. At our orientation in Des Moines, we even had a seminar about culture shock and what to do when it occurs because it can be quite debilitating to some.  Culture shock: a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation.  However, I do not bel...

CONSTANT SEEKER: LEARNING TO NAVIGATE YOUR LIFE

What to do if you are never satisfied with yourself and what you do. You think that giving up is an option? I tried, believe me. I was not satisfied with it either. I was at my five-to-nine day job, next to the copy machine working constantly because tomorrow was a deadline for everything. I felt the heat of the machine and even an open window could not hold the hot air around me. It was my fourth job I had changed in five years. I thought I would go crazy. Since the moment I graduated from school, the constant seeker in me had woken up. I picked up my first job in children’s library and attended classes at University. That was my life. It might have been very satisfying, but it was not. When half of a year past I started questioning what I am going to do next, what my next steps are...

WAVES OF WANDERING FEET

Riding in the back of a truck where gypsy music soothes in the background Wind blows strings of hair across my face covering my sight and so I close my eyes as I feel the breeze smell the scents of grassy roots hear the Sea, waves crashing Carried by blistered feet due to two days of barefoot walks across the land town, garden, lava, pavement, tile and wooden floors I wait for the strengthened callouses to form   The soles of my feet have wandered streets homes of magical Spirits   We arrive to the sweet wooden Medicine cabin where air flows smoothly through our lungs At night, the lights around the bed light our dreamy state oh and when we wake, it is to the morning rays shining through the leaves of the fruity trees or to the raining sky pouring love onto the land!   Autho...

DEFINING YOUR HAPPINESS

Do you remember having to look up vocabulary words in English class? For me, it involved the use of a large hardcover dictionary; for some of you Dictionary.com or a similar website may have been your source. No matter what source was used, you found that most words were not limited to one definition, but often there were multiple meanings. Happiness is a trending term. It is a broad word that many try to define narrowly. Many self-help books have been written on it, public speakers hold seminars and conferences about it, life coaches offer their services to help guide you to it…. What does it mean? Just like many other words, happiness has more than one definition. Dictionary.com gives two: the quality or state of being happy is the first and most basic meaning, and the second is good for...

THE DEATH OF HARAMBE DEMONSTRATES AMERICA’S ENGRAINED HYPOCRISY

Last year, the country broke out in rage when the 17-year-old silverback gorilla, Harambe, was killed. Cincinnati zoo officials were forced to make the difficult decision to kill Harambe after a 3-year-old boy crawled into the enclosure and fell into a 12-foot-long moat. Harambe drug the boy through the moat and inadvertently risked ending the boy’s life. The encounter lasted 10 minutes before the decision was made to kill Harambe and save the little boy. This incident obviously shows a severe lack of responsibility of the zoo and a degree of negligence of the parents, but more importantly, it shows the extreme hypocrisy of the American people. First of all, many people responded to this violent tragedy and parent’s reckless behavior with violent and thoughtless remarks. There ...

WON’T HOLD ME BACK

you weren’t the first,  and i’m sure you won’t be the last,  but you gave me no room   to be me;  always wanting the dream  not the reality—    you didn’t want my nightmares,  my dreams, or even me;  just a perfect model of a woman  whose silhouette would sit prettily in her cage  to be seen and not heard or sit   perfectly perched on her pedestal without  complaint and perfect restraint   of her tongue     i have never made a good mannequin   nor you a good god—    always trying to tame me, hedge me in, get rid  of my muchness you were the hand of society always  slapping me down as if i were some insect   to be crushed,  but my song like the cicadas will be heard;    my heart is wild, rebellious, and fierce and my dreams   burn brighter than the wings of the sun a...

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