Reason #78 to Keep Living: Writing

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And, just like my post on books, I have somehow never given writing the spotlight as a reason to keep living.

Writing has always been a love of mine, but it has also been a continual frustration. (If you write, you know what I’m talking about.) When I was working full-time, trying to explore a bit of Tokyo, and completing assignments for my online courses, I had hardly any time for my own personal writing. When I did have the time, my writing came out garbled and confused. I was out of practice. I had no good ideas. Not even any decent ideas. I wrote awkward and bizarre story after awkward and bizarre story. I was angry and tired.

Why did I like writing in the first place? I couldn’t remember.

Then, I quit my job. Continue reading

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“You have it good, … you can still feel fear, my head is dark, I haven’t had any dreams for a long time.”

— Herta Müller, The Fox Was Ever the Hunter

Translated by Philip Boehm

Reason #77 to Keep Living: Looking Forward

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My dad used to say that he never wants to retire because when you retire, you die.

But this isn’t true. For example, the average Japanese person lives far past retirement. There are more centenarians here (people who live to the age of 100 years) than anywhere else in the world.

Don’t worry. I won’t let this turn into another long spiel about Japan. The point is, many elderly Japanese people are more active, both physically and mentally, than elderly Canadian or American people. I’m not saying this is the sole cause of their longevity, but it can’t hurt. They go to the park and exercise; they volunteer in the community, cleaning up garbage around their grand kids’ schools, sweeping up the roads, or running classes at the local community center; they read and play musical instruments and bike, bike, bike.

The elderly Japanese fill their lives with not only things that keep them busy (like watching TV or listening to the radio), but with things that give them purpose. Things to look forward to. Continue reading

Reason #76 to Keep Living: Partnership

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Although the word ‘partnership’ elicits a sense of formality or legality, here I mean partnership as more of a long-term friendship or relationship. I mean it as the pact you make with someone, however overtly or implicitly, that says you will be leaning on each other now, counting on each other, working for each other.

Partnership means there is someone out in the world standing up for you and standing by you. Making you laugh, making you talk, making you go to work, go to bed, making you tea (or coffee, or a smoothie, or bringing you milk and cookies).  Continue reading

Reason #75 to Keep Living: Milk and Cookies

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The air turns colder outside. I went from using air conditioning one night to pulling on my heaviest pajamas the next. However much I wished for fall during that suffocating summer, I didn’t expect it to come so soon, or so suddenly.

I certainly didn’t expect it to bring such a chill, grinding into the marrow of my bones, sliding up behind my ears, and tucking in between my toes. I find myself frozen when I sit down to write.

But here is a hot mug of milk and a chocolate chip cookie. Some heat to melt the stiffness in my hand. Some sweetness to warm me inside and out.

For now, at least. Then bed, then the lull of blankets and pillow. Continue reading

“We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh nothing!” Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts — not to hurt others.”

— George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Middlemarch

Reason #67 to Keep Living: Quiet Places

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Sumida River, Tokyo

Life can be loud. Traffic on the street, birds in the trees, people talking in a clamour at the subway station, sometimes even your own headphones in your ears — it can all be loud.

Life can also be loud in a spatial or visual sense. Although I’ve generally become accustomed to bustling Tokyo, there are still times that shuffling crowds of people, tightly packed buildings, and bright billboards overwhelm me. They seem to be shouting, and maybe they are — at least in the sense that they all fight, squabbling, for my attention.  Continue reading

Reason #66 to Keep Living: Discovery

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When my employer first told me that I was going to be working and living in Tokyo, I believed that the monotony of my life — at least for the time being — was over. It was Tokyo, after all! The most populated city on Earth! A city I had already visited and hardly even gotten a taste of. Surely, in a year, I could have a significant bite, but never, never the whole meal.

I think I was right about never experiencing all of Tokyo: it’s so massive and diverse that it would take a lifetime to do so. (Without being able to speak Japanese, it would take longer. An eternity.) But I wasn’t right about my monotonous life coming to an end. It turns out that no matter where you are in the world, no matter what city you live in, what people you know, or what work you do, your life will be monotonous if you let it be monotonous.  Continue reading

Reason #65 to Keep Living: Books

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Can you believe that after sixty-four reasons to keep living, “books” hasn’t been one of them? Well, it certainly has, I just haven’t written about it yet.

Of course, there was Reason #37 to Keep Living: Old Books That Stay Young, in which I wrote about classic literature that continues to push, poke, and pinch the heart and brain; there was Reason #17 to Keep Living: Libraries, in which I wrote about those magical places that offer books for free. There was Reason #2: Comics and Reason #14: Story Time.

But there hasn’t been a post for books in general or books in their entirety. This post is for old books and new books and children’s books and comic books and all the books that have ever been written by anyone. It’s for the books that comforted and joked and taught and horrified. This post is especially for those books that challenged, that kept me up at night, made me think, and, best of all, made me change.  Continue reading

Reason #58 to Keep Living: New Challenges

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Here’s me in Thailand. I am sweaty, fatigued, and my thighs are smeared with mud. My boyfriend and I had been exploring for a while on and around Railay Beach (near Krabi) when we decided to take a “trail” which supposedly led to a lagoon. The path, which started steep, soon became a climb. I ditched my flipflops. Before long, my muscles were aching, the trail became a sheer drop-off, and I realized I wouldn’t be making it to the lagoon.

This was one challenge I couldn’t complete, and for good reason. (Who wants to traverse the possibly deadly side of a ravine far from any medical help, anyway?) But this wasn’t the only challenge that my travels have faced me with. Continue reading