Someday this pain will be useful to you (or what to do when you’re stuck in anxiety quicksand)

 Tetsugoro Yorozu, Self-portrait with a cloud, oil on canvas (1922) (currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art, Hayama)

The past month has been a rollercoaster of emotions, from the high of starting a new life in the city I’ve wanted to live in for so long, to moments of loneliness and scary anxiety.

I’ve always been a worrier, and a lot of things make me nervous. Change most of all. There is a side of me that really likes things to stay the same. I don’t want summer to become autumn. I don’t want to leave things – homes, jobs, people, regardless of whether or not I actually like them. I even find it hard to leave a place I’m visiting for a day. I resist and fight and push against change. But not changing is even worse. Continue reading Someday this pain will be useful to you (or what to do when you’re stuck in anxiety quicksand)

How I changed my habits and changed my life

Daily rituals, routines, habits. Lately this seems to be a popular point of discussion. Up until about a year ago, though, I hadn’t given much thought to my habits, other than when I was trying to break a bad one. But since I’ve started to form new habits, my life has changed significantly, for the better. Continue reading How I changed my habits and changed my life

Citizen of limbo: on solitude, belonging and freedom

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Zoe Leonard, Chapter 17 from Analogue, chromogenic colour prints (1998–2009)

In Yiyun Li’s story ‘On the Street Where You Live’, a six-year-old boy with autistic tendencies is asked to name the one thing that scares him most. Unlike the other children in his class, who mention things like snakes or monsters under the bed, his answer is monophobia – the fear of being alone. And yet he’s chosen not to speak to most people, and struggles to connect with those closest to him. Continue reading Citizen of limbo: on solitude, belonging and freedom

Love, Tokyo

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Kumi Obata, Refreshing dream, etching (2007)

Early on a summer morning, the park is a magical place. On the way there, I pass other early risers along the river pathway. Dog walkers, joggers, a man facing the water with his stand and sheet music set up, strumming a guitar and playing the harmonica as one foot taps out the rhythm. In the field across from him some boys kick around a soccer ball while a group of elderly people practice tai chi beneath the trees.

I walk under the railway bridge and enter the park, where the river opens out into a large pond. On my iPod, Maria Callas is singing an aria by Saint-Saëns. It begins to rain, and I feel my heart soar with the beauty of her voice and the trees and water, and gratitude that I am here. Continue reading Love, Tokyo

On sharing

Noako

Naomi Okubo, Greeting card from Paradise, acrylic on cotton cloth (2016)

I hesitated for some time before making this blog public. And again before putting up my previous post. Then recently I came across this passage in Rebecca Solnit’s collection of essays, The Faraway Nearby, which gave me comfort and courage. Continue reading On sharing

Departures

Since moving to Japan four years ago I’ve had to say goodbye many times, to friends, family, colleagues and students. Each time, I tried to hold back  the full extent of my feelings until just after parting. For me, showing too much emotion has always felt like a loss of control. Yet in hindsight I regret the times I held back more than the times I let go. Continue reading Departures

A monument to Unsatisfied Desire

clarice-lispector

‘The “ever after” of passion tastes like a stubbed out cigarette.’

In Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector’s ‘Letter to Hermengardo’, the writer, Idalina, advises her reader about desire, the tendency to seek after pleasures, and the pain this brings. Continue reading A monument to Unsatisfied Desire

On race and belonging

On Between the Covers, poet and writer Claudia Rankine talks about the title of her book Citizen being in part about belonging. This is a theme that has been often on my mind since moving to Japan four years ago. Continue reading On race and belonging

Only connect

Today’s post will be a short one, to share this excerpt from Yiyun Li’s essay ‘Dear Friend From My Life I Write to You in Your Life’. She writes about a childhood friend who committed suicide shortly after they resumed their correspondence as adults. I think this is a beautiful reminder of the power of writing to connect. Continue reading Only connect