So I spent a long weekend in New York. Hubby currently has a job there so it was a quick visit to see him. Of course we have been married forever and in typical unromantic form, he failed to take any days off. So I had a couple of days on my own to fill and somehow that was not a problem. The weather was just beautiful and it was great to walk around in flip flops and complain of being hot.
I did some serious damage at my two favourite shops and saw lots of friends old and new. Saturday night, one of my friends from college organised a dinner and a bunch of us got together. We all went to school together and some I’ve known for 35 years. My that makes me feel old. But the upside to all this ageing is having history with people. We don’t keep up on a regular basis although thanks to Facebook, I keep up with some better than others but every time we see each other, we just fall into a very easy dialogue. It’s just great that I have these friends and great that we still get together after all these years. The funny thing is, there have been gaps of years with some of them, I guess these things happen when you know each other over 30 years but then we just pick up again.
So on the one hand, there was much catching up and on the other, I met someone I was introduced to on Facebook through a mutual friend. It really didn’t feel like we had never met, we sat and chatted for 2 hours in Starbucks and didn’t run out of things to say. The truly astounding thing is, her best friend lived on my floor freshman year. How is that for a coincidence? We did not go to the same school and are no where near each other in age and yet… This year has been filled with so many people coincidences that I am no longer surprised. The world seems vast but in fact it is one global village.
I kept meaning to take photos of all the delicious food I had but I’d forget and eat it. I could never be a food blogger. I would say the highlights of my food trip were the two meals I had at Candle Cafe, a vegan restaurant around the corner from where hubby lives. I’m not vegan but I am dairy free and he is veggie so it was a good compromise. I had a wheat free brownie sundae with coconut ice cream. How great does that sound? On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had a 1 pound lobster for lunch at Chelsea Market. That and a couple of American size martinis made my weekend.
Now I’m back home and dealing with the mountains of things I have to do. But the sun is shining and I can’t complain. Life is good.
I am not a health and fitness expert so I’m not going to attempt to talk about the science behind overtraining. I’m just going to tell you what happened to me. I began going to the gym seriously 2+ years ago after a 8 year break. During that time, I gained more and more weight and my blood pressure shot up. I finally adjusted my diet and began exercising in an attempt to stay off the blood pressure medication. I joined a very nice local gym which had just opened. It is a gym that specialises in MMA training. I don’t have any interest in fighting but I really liked the conditioning classes and so I began. Of course the classes were super tough but because it was a brand new gym, there weren’t that many people yet so I managed to keep up. Before you know it, I was stronger and fitter and I began to increase the number of classes I was taking. I could handle it, I thought and at a peak I was taking 8 classes a week. I loved the fact that I could do all those classes and keep up.
In between, I would take 3 week breaks here and there since I didn’t train when I went home to Tokyo and I had cataract surgery and had to stop for almost 4 weeks. I noticed when I came back, I was stronger. I thought it was strange and there were people at the gym who would suggest that it was a sign my body needed rest. Well, I just had three weeks off, that should be enough rest.
Then I took my annual summer holiday with my family. Since it is a holiday involving my entire family, I treat myself to a personal trainer to keep the stress levels down. I was chatting with him about my routine at home and he said to me, “that’s just a lot of stress on your central nervous system” a sentiment that was echoed on a programme I listened to on London Real TV. I also noticed that while I was away and training 3 times a week, I felt great and lost weight. So finally I began thinking about how much I was doing and came to the conclusion it was too much.
Since I’ve been home, I have added one more day off so now I go to the gym 4 times a week and do 5 classes and you know, I feel so much better and stronger when I go to class. I can go all out during the classes knowing that I have the next day to rest and recover. Maybe you know these things when you’ve been involved in sports your whole life. I never was, so it never occurred to me that you could do too much exercise. But as with everything else, it doesn’t matter what anyone says if you’re not ready to hear it. I’m glad I was ready before I did any real damage.
People have long bought into the notion that youth is good and ageing is bad. Some alter their outward appearance to maintain an image of themselves when they were younger. But while you may reach your physical peak in your 20′s and 30′s, is that when you should peak as a human being? Because if you do, it’s only down hill from there, right? That’s many decades of a slow decline because most of us will live into our 70′s or 80′s if not longer. Do you want to keep looking back reliving what was, instead of looking ahead to see what the future holds?
But what if you embrace the idea that you only improve with age? Then every year brings new adventures, new confidence, new skills. They weren’t kidding about this wise woman/man stuff. I find as I get older, things that mattered desperately when I was younger are no longer that important and I am able to put things in better perspective. It is a truly liberating feeling to follow your heart and not really care what other people think. I just saw a trailer for a wonderful new film called Advanced Style. These are some wonderful women who are following their hearts and expressing themselves through fashion. I hope to be like them when I grow up although I have a sneaking suspicion they may always have been like that. All of us have a desire for self expression and growing older has given me the courage to act on it. My current form of self expression is trying to build and juggle two businesses. I did not plan for this to happen. I didn’t sit down and think, “I want a business, what should it be?” They evolved organically and although it took a lot of work to get them started, they are both growing. Growing slowly, because that’s something else I’ve learned along the way, it doesn’t have to happen in an instant for it to count as a success. A major lesson for someone so impatient that I read the ending of the book first and then fill in the middle bits. What I bring to the table now is the experience from many decades of life lived. I’ve been fortunate enough to have very interesting life experiences and they have all shaped my outlook. And so most days I am happy. I procrastinate a fair amount but also gets lots done. I can’t remember what I did before I became this busy. Sure I have days where something sets me off and I have a good rant about it as well as the days of self doubt where I wonder if I’m just crazy to be doing what I do. But I have a wonderful family and friends who will very patiently listen to me and support me.
But most of all, I am proud of who I have become. It’s been a very long time coming but I think I can truly say that I am comfortable in my own skin and with the place I occupy in the world. Okay some of us learn a bit more slowly than others. But who cares as long as you get there in the end. It’s not a race, it’s your life. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Happy New Year. This is a post I meant to write at the end of last year, but in true procrastination form, never quite got around to it.
2011 was a very eventful year for me and the world. The world you know about, but here are some highlights from my year, good and bad.
The year did not start off great with my dad in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. I learned that Japanese medicine is crap at telling you worst cast scenarios, so he went in thinking that this was a routine procedure (triple bypass) and came out not knowing his PIN number. I couldn’t make it to the surgery due to the masses of snow on the ground, so arrived to find my dad in ICU post op, completely disoriented, hallucinating and looking ancient. A bit of a shock when no one has prepared you for it. Anyway, a year on, he is making slow but steady progress to the point where he is starting to make more sense and according to my mom, his eyes are regaining their focus. I’ll be home next week so I can see for myself but it did really make me think about existing as opposed to living. He was a vibrant, vigorous man who at 85 had a very active social life and was out on his own all the time. Maybe it would have been better for him to have had a couple more years on medication but maintaining his lifestyle as opposed to having a surgery that will probably rob him of maybe two years of his life. He made the decision so this is the way it turned out but it does make you think. My kids came out to help and they were wonderful, they took turns so my mom would have support for an extended time as opposed to everyone turning up for 2 weeks and disappearing. My son, who was on his gap year stayed for a month taking his grandpa for walks everyday even if it was to the end of the condo building and back.
Back in London, I resumed my cooking classes and pursued the opportunity to turn the roasted nuts I serve in class into a product. Working with a distributor, Kinomi was born. I had never done anything like this before and I know if it wasn’t for J, I would have given up. By the end of May, I had a product that I could actually start selling. I had really good feedback at the first show I did and there is nothing like having someone who isn’t your friend like what you are selling and actually pay money for it. The next step beyond that is having people who haven’t even met you buy your product. Obviously we all do it all the time but when you’re on the producing end, it’s surreal in a good way. By the end of October I was selling in Harvey Nichols. Hopefully they are selling well enough so that the store is willing to keep stocking me. I even got a little write up on their website http://www.harveynichols.com/hnedit/food-and-wine/whats-in-food-wine/kinomi-nuts-by-hiromi-stone-at-harvey-nichols/. I have also started selling in some local shops and hope to grow the stores I supply in 2012. Any suggestions or leads are most welcome.
My husband came home after a year in Prague and so the whole family went to Hawaii on our summer holiday, including my parents. My niece got married, the first of the nieces and nephews to do so. We became empty nesters in the autumn when my son went off to university. He and his sister are at opposite ends of the country having very different experiences, but they are both enjoying themselves so my day to day obligations as a mom no longer exist. I now enjoy them when they come home and know that the chaos in the house won’t last. They are kind, smart, thoughtful young people and I am very proud of them. And did I mention funny, some of the best times are when we all sit around after a meal and just “banter” as my kids call it.
2011 turned into an unbelievable year for meeting new and wonderful people. I guess it is because I am now doing something specific that I can tell people about, I have met some really interesting people. People have been so supportive and kind, I really appreciate it and hope to do the same for anyone else who might need a hand. I am also settling into the neighbourhood and making new friends. It’s great to feel connected to a neighbourhood and see people you know in the street to have a quick chat. This is probably the friendliest place we’ve lived in, we are very lucky to have found it.
This is definitely turning into a novel so I will sign off. But you can’t look back on 2011 and not mention the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that hit my country. The people who live in that region are used to natural disasters, they had training days and scenarios worked out for what to do when a tsunami hit. This one exceeded everyone’s expectations and just wiped the area out. As tragic and horrible as it was, they can rebuild. But the man made disaster of a nuclear meltdown, the effects are so long lasting I worry about the future of the region and Japan. As a Japanese person living overseas, I was very proud of the way the Japanese people reacted in the face of the tragedy. I was also touched by the outpouring of support globally The last time I gave any thought to Japan in the world was the 80′s, when Japanese cars were being smashed in Detroit and Japan bashing articles were fairly common in the American press. I guess a lot has changed in 30 years.
Okay, I’m really done now. I don’t make new year’s resolutions because I’m not that great at reflection or forward planning. I hope that 2012 is a wonderful year for all and may we take a step closer to peace.
I was having a nostalgic moment and was on YouTube watching clips from Southern All Stars, a Japanese band from my youth who are still going strong. Their lead singer is the band even though I think all the other members have remained the same since the 70′s. I enjoy them more as I get older. But one thing struck me this morning as I was watching clips both old and new, ”here is a man who is living with passion”. I think that is what has made them so loved by their fans. Maybe that’s why so many people want to be musicians, it is such an overt expression of one’s passion.
There are countless seminars, books and TV shows telling you how to find your passion. Everyone says, “live your passion”. What does that mean? I had always expected it to be a lightening bolt from above, one day I would wake up and know exactly what I wanted to do and it would make me deliriously happy. But I realise now that that’s not the way it happens for most people. You may be one of the lucky few who knew from a young age exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up. For me, it’s finally starting to become clear in my 50′s. But in order to get there, you have to live life and participate. It’s a bit like jumping rope. There are two people turning the rope and you have to find the right timing and jump in. If you hesitate, chances are you’ll get tangled in the rope and fall over. You have to take that risk and jump in. Once you’re in, you can decide if this is what you wanted. But you can’t find that out on the sidelines waiting and watching for the right moment. So all my life experiences have led me to this period in my life when things are starting to make sense and what is happening feels right.
You need to be an active participant in life, pay attention. Listen to people, engage with them you never know when some casual comment will spark something in your brain. You may not notice the connection right away, but it will be a seed planted. Who knows, that may become your purpose, your passion. It’s never too late to start something new, go ahead, jump in.
I’ll leave you with two clips from Southern All Stars, one From 1978 and twenty years later, From 1999. Enjoy.
I’ve taken on some translating in the last week that has kept me very busy. I tend to go into hibernation mode when I do these jobs. My little breaks usually consist of me going through Twitter to see what’s up in the world. Well one of the people I follow on Twitter is Jeremy Piven. I know he’s not really Ari from Entourage but when I read his tweets, I can almost hear Ari speaking and I love it. Anyway, yesterday morning I’m just scrolling through as I was a little panicked about the current project and the timing involved. And I notice a strange blip in my timeline. For those of you who have Twitter, you know, that pretty much they get updated in multiple minute increments. But there it was, between 4 minutes ago and 8 minutes ago, a tweet from 12 hours ago. I caught it out of the corner of my eye and scrolled back up to have a better look. I thought, “how did this end up here?” and proceeded to read the tweet. It was by Jeremy Piven and it was a retweet from Tiny Buddha about creating change. How great is the name Tiny Buddha? They also have a great profile picture of a, you guessed it, Buddha looking very serene. I went on to the site and found a collection of posts by different people all having to do with thoughtful living. Just going on the site made me feel calmer. Apparently they have something like 5 million page views which makes me wonder how I missed it. I’m not a huge fan of people with lists for how to get things done. 5 steps to… 10 steps to… then you read and discover that actually step one is about 20 steps and so on, so this wonderfully simple program could very well take you the rest of your life. Which is fine if that’s what you were expecting, not so good if you had hoped to reach enlightenment in the next month or so. The posts I have read so far, some of them do have that multi step approach but if you ignore that part, I like the messages. So I feel that I have stumbled upon a goldmine of serenity to visit when I need.
So thank you Jeremy Piven for Tiny Buddha and of course, Entourage.
My dad is having surgery right now and I can’t be there. The horrible weather has kept me grounded in London. I was supposed to arrive in Tokyo on Monday to be there for Tuesday. I should have known when hubby couldn’t make it home from Prague on Friday, it would not be smooth sailing (no pun intended). He couldn’t get on another flight until Sunday, so we would miss each other entirely. I had planned Saturday as family day so needless to say, I was a little miffed.
Sunday rolls around, I’m up at 5:30 to discover my flight’s cancelled. Can’t reach home, put my status up on Facebook. My sister and nephew have made it to Tokyo (no snow in Hawaii) so I thought she would see my status. Stay on hold for about 15 minutes with travel agent only to be told the earliest they could get me out is Wed. Thought of every possible permutation for how to get home, but just couldn’t bring myself to spend £2400 for an economy ticket with a layover. A small panic later including a desperate e mail to a friend who flies a lot to see if he knew anyone that could help, I come to the conclusion that some things are just beyond my control and weather is one of them.
Now I come from a family of ridiculous optimists so at no time am I worried about the outcome of my dad’s surgery. I know my mom’s in good hands with my sister and nephew there. So I decide that I might as well enjoy the unexpected vacation I have at home now. Hubby actually made it home on Sunday and I have had 2 days of hanging out with my kids and hubby, something that happens very rarely around here these days.
As far as I can tell, my flight is scheduled to leave tomorrow and I’ve gotten word from Tokyo that my dad’s surgery was a success. So, I’ll be able to spend time with him and celebrate new year’s with them.
Don’t fight what you can’t control, just breathe.
I get this question a lot. It was a question that was never asked until I moved to London. I grew up partly in Japan and the States so my English is very American. So when I lived in the States, people just assumed my parents were immigrants and in Japan, of course I sound native so no one ever questioned it.
But when people first meet me here, they try to place the accent, the body language; all cultural cues to figure out where I belong. And that’s where the problem begins. Because although my English is American, I am not, nor do I consider myself to be American. But from having lived so long in the States, my body language is very western, so I do not come across as a Japanese woman of a certain age either. So people ask me where in the States I am from or whether I am Canadian. I tell them I am Japanese from Tokyo and doubt is just written all over their face. Now really, why would I lie about a thing like that? I’ve managed to condense my life experience into, “I was born in Japan and spent a lot of time in the US”. That seems to satisfy most casual inquiries. If I am getting to know you as a friend, then the story would get fleshed out in further conversations.
The thing is, while we were living in the States, I pretty much identified with America as that’s where I had spent most of my schooling. But as I am now 13 years out of the States, I identify more and more with Japan, a country that is my spiritual home regardless of how much or how little time I have spent there. And now with my crusade to bring Japanese cooking into the homes of London, I’ve started thinking a lot about things I’ve taken for granted and comparing and contrasting my experiences with Japanese and western food.
But that’s another post.
Life is hectic, life is manic. As modern women, we take pride in how much we are able to accomplish in a day. Multi tasking is a given, the question is, how many tasks can you do simultaneously?
Since I work from home and for myself, my periods of intense activity come in bursts. I have times when I can’t even think straight I’m so busy to vegging on the sofa during the day. But the down times are few and far between, mostly I live in manic activity. Lately I have been so busy that I can recall conversations but not with whom or where they took place. I was not fully present obviously, or I would be able to remember these things.
Then something happens to make you stop and think. In this case, it was a terrible something. A young person was taken very suddenly, a senseless accident. I saw how his friends are still in shock, I can’t even begin to imagine what his parents are going through. Gone, in an instant, before he even had a chance at life.
I was always a bit cynical about the ” live each day as if it could be your last” thing. How incredibly tiring to live that way, I thought, too intense. But now I see it’s not about intensity, it’s about intent. If you do everything with thought, then you are fully present in your own life. When I go, I don’t want a string of half done, half assed projects that I can half remember to be my legacy.
So I hope to take a bit more time and care in everything I do. I’m not striving for perfection, just to go about each day with a little more thought and a little less action.
As if to send me on my way, I went to a meditation class last night given by my neighbour S. She demystified it and made it something accessible. Creating stillness, making the periods of jangly activity farther apart, these are all by products of meditation. Armed with this new tool, I hope to recreate that blissed out feeling I had last night during class on a more regular basis.
Looking back on the first half of this year (okay, it’s a little over half) I’ve noticed that this year has been full of beginnings and endings. I thought I would recap some of them to see if I can see a pattern.
Hubby took a job in another country, thus ending a period of self employment. It is also the beginning of a commuting marriage although so far he’s doing most of the commuting. It is only a 1 hour time difference but still makes communicating a bit tricky.
I started teaching cooking classes at home which signals the end of many years of raising children and thinking up crazy schemes. It turns out that the simplest idea is the easiest to launch, go figure.
Because I am such a great time waster, I have also started doing translating work. The deadlines force me to plan my time, something of an alien concept for me.
My son graduated from senior school, or high school to those outside the UK. We went to the ceremony, got a glimpse of what his life has been like the last 5 years and loved that he has made such great friends. He is home now for a gap year after having been away at school. I’m sure this will take some adjusting on both sides, but I am looking forward to it.
My daughter finished her first year at uni and is moving into a house for the autumn. She will really have an address that has nothing to do with home.
I began a new exercise regime. Now this is brand new. I had joined a gym last year when I overhauled my eating to get into shape. I was lucky enough to meet up with a great personal trainer who really knew his stuff. But the gym itself wasn’t great and it became harder to get to once we moved. I realized that for the last couple of months I was only going to the gym to see him. So it was a waste from both a financial and fitness perspective. Then a new gym opened in my neighbourhood. I had been watching it being built for months, since it is so close to my flat. But when I told my son it said it was a mixed martial arts gym, he said to me, “that’s cage fighting, mom”. Well that didn’t seem at all like the kind of place I belonged. But when they finally opened, I went on their website and saw they had classes for women. I
e mailed them basically saying that I am a 51 year old female, is this the gym for me figuring I would either get no reply or a polite this is for hard core athletes kind of answer. Instead, I got a very friendly e mail back inviting me to come down and have a look around.
To make a long story short, I went, I saw and I took my first boxing class. It was lots of fun, the instructor was very patient and nice and made sure I was doing things correctly. Everyone on staff has been really nice too. Now I have no interest in doing any mixed martial arts, but I understand how the training could be really beneficial even for someone who doesn’t want to stomp on the other guy. Since all the classes are included in the membership, I plan to take advantage of it as long as my body holds out. Who knows, I may finally shed some of the fat that’s been covering my muscles for decades.
So I guess it’s a big transition year for me, this blog is a new thing too. I’ve been in contact with lots of different people through this blog and am following some truly fun blogs. There are lots of talented people out there.
I hope the rest of the year is as action packed as the first half. Stay tuned.