Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On Life, Death, and Happiness with a five-year old.

I was probably the same age when I first contemplated on death. A visitor took shelter at our house and after dinner, I overheard them talk about death. It was something about my mother's mewa. The visitor suggested my parents conduct some rituals and buy a Tshe-pa-me statue, which would help prolong my mother's lifespan. 

The next morning, I sat below the window and imagined what it would be like if my mother was to die soon. I was barely five, not even in school, but even at that age, I knew how to fear death. I ended up crying alone, all the while hoping my parents would adhere to the advice at the earliest possible. (And I was so happy when they bought the statue.)

Three decades later, I am confronted with a similar situation, only this time that it's with my five-year-old daughter.

Last Friday, my paternal Aunt passed away. As much as we have tried to keep the news from Lolo, she heard us talk about it - obvious to the happenings of the days following it. On our way back from picking up my nephew from Dechencholing, Lolo wanted to know why we age and die. In the simplest convincing way, I said it's the natural process that all living beings have to go through - humans, animals, and plants alike. Yet, she kept asking, "But why?"

I took the opportunity to narrate why Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha - because, he dared to ask "why". She listened with all her ears and heart. Again, she asked, "But tell me why do we (or I) have to age and die?"

"Well, Lolo, we can't escape this. But we do have a choice - to be happy or not. I also think about life and death and I choose to be happy all the time. You can also make the same choice." I really didn't know how much of the conversation (or monologue) got into her small innocent brain, but our next conversation said a lot about how much she understood:

"Then, how can I keep away from aging and dying?" her little big question.
"Prayers, darling, prayers. We need to keep our prayers strong and be a good human altogether, which you already are."

From the back seat, I heard her swallowing saliva and trying to keep her eyes from welling (at one point, she cried asking why and why). "So, prayers are our saviours?" she wanted final word before I brought the car to the halt.

I said, "Yes," and she walked in ever determined to keep her prayers strong.

[Note: I am re-reading the book What makes you NOT a Buddhist by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. The incident with my daughter came close to testing my beliefs and in a way, I am glad we were able to accept the impermanence, yet decide to live happily while we can. ]

Sunday, January 29, 2017

What makes me a ^Boring^ traveler

The sky is gray. Will it rain? Or snow? I am not sure. All I am aware is- I am playing the same song Choe Nge Soo En for the 100th time. A perfect fit for the gloomy Minnesotan winter weather. My flat-mate is all dressed to go for the pot-luck dinner at a Professor's place which I graciously decided not to go to, all because I am not that crowd-girl [anymore].

"Why have you become such a boring (quiet) girl?" Ngawang had exclaimed way back then in 2009. She was right. She is right even to this day. Said another way, I told my husband's friend how meeting KP tamed my wildness (bigger imagination is left for the reader to imagine the [ex]-wild in me). Jim raised his brows in disbelief, "I won't ever believe you were wild."

Well, maybe I wasn't wild as I claim to be - except for the permed yellow hairdo, the fancy pair of glasses, and colorful clothes some pitch fluorescent, not to miss the faux leather jacket I wore to my first date with KP. How is that for an imagination? For sure, I have aged in my choices. So is the excitement level.

This defines what makes me not a traveler or said in a rusty way, a boring traveler.

For one, I realize I no more enjoy bigger crowds. Too much of hi-hello tire me out. City buzzes bring out the insanity in my head. When I confided a friend, her rebuttal was, "I prefer city life. I like seeing lots of people buzzing around." This made me feel even more different than I thought, in a weird way. 

Food has never been a calling agent on the list of must-haves. Should someone ask me what would be the nicest meal I had for the week, I go mum. That's another of my traveling weaknesses. I am not tempted to enjoy a good meal in a good restaurant (whatever that means). All I look for is some food to fill me up - can be a bowl of soup, a plate of salad or two slices of bread. 

Places. I am OK to go to a historic and cultural place. I like Arts and museums. I don't mind gardens either. Yet again, not so fascinated to explore something for it. This portrays the retired side of my traveler trait.

Except if I have people to meet in the place I go. Oh! I love catching up with old families and friends. Better still if I get to know newer faces. I enjoy listening to their stories, without having to go out on a cruise or dine in a restaurant. This is my whole idea of traveling - to meet and connect with people.

Does this mean that the western concept of post-retirement traveling won't work on me? Ha! Not that I worry. The retirees here travel around the world and come back with fascinating stories from all over. Like the two 83-year ladies who my niece Lilly and I met during our break. These ladies are preparing the Taktshang hike this February. 

Having said so, this hasn't helped me jerk off the crowd-tiredness that's mounting in me, increasingly and deeply. Anyway, I take that this is the call to the mountains, solitude, and aloneness (which by definition is not loneliness). At large, I admit I am quite not an interesting traveler.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Story of the Day

My daughter came running to me. Behind her was the man I hadn't seen in years. So weird and unsure to see Karma after six good years. Beyond destiny's bound.

Karma and I dated in college. Lovebirds. Sadly, we parted in a not-so-nice way. I was pregnant when I left college. He couldn't go against his mother who had other plans for him. With an unsure future, I returned home with a degree and a belly.

I was blessed with a cheerful girl. In every bit Lhasen is me - from the way we laugh to the way we poke each other with our toes. Except that she has her [unseen] father's face. His every bit of feature. 

"Sir, don't we look alike?" Lhasen is said to confronted him. Well, this is the upside of having a cheerful girl, one who is easy-to-talk-to and one who wins hearts immediately. 

Imagine this scene: a six-year-old making a big claim, to the man whom she had no idea would be the man written in her destiny. In Karma's words, "Without a knock, this little girl walked into my classroom, gazed for a few minutes and blurted out how similar looking we were. I felt like I was looking at myself."

My family had accepted us wholeheartedly. My parents said they would help me raise Lhasen. It wasn't easy but knowing I had help, I gathered strength to raise her as a single mother. There weren't many occasions where we had to talk about her father and the few times she asked, I told her the truth (with no bitterness). Lhasen accepted early on that her father is alive somewhere, just that he isn't with us.  

And today, she brought him home.

In that flash, my alarm rang. I was to wake up my niece Lilly and had set the alarm few minutes before 8:00 a.m. I certainly couldn't go back to sleep. I tossed and turned for another hour in the bed, trying to make sense of the dream. A dream it was, yet so real. What if it was real? 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Our Princess Bella - the one who brings the best out of everyone: Happiest 4th Birthday

Dearest Lolo,

Your Mama finally sits down to write the annual birthday letter to you.

Yes, I missed your birthday this year around as well, but you and I know we mean well even with the time and distance between us. Watching you celebrate your Bella Birthday with our family made me realize and accept that you are not only my daughter but everyone's. I am always so proud to tell every person I meet that you are the gem of three generations, three families. You gotta be proud of that, darling.

How coincidental that you choose Princess Bella to be your birthday theme this year. I am sure you know the fairy tale already (because you know every story by now) but let me narrate in brief, anyway. Bella represents not only beauty but kindness, love, and patience. She brings the prince out of the beast. She sacrifices for the happiness of others. And in you, I will look forward to these qualities as you grow up to be a woman. I know you will - for what we see in you for now and for what we wish out of you.

Four years since you redefined happiness for us. Four years since you captured our hearts. Four years since you colored our laughter. 

I still remember the day I knew you came to me. I also remember the look on your Papa's face when I shared the news. He was five minutes short of going to Paro for a meeting that morning. I came out and blurted the news. He stood still - so unlike your Papa who likes to stand firm, devoid of any emotion (at least he tries for reasons of his own). In a moment, he held me tight. A new life was born for us. 

The story didn't end there. As the news passed from one ear to the other, everyone in the family wanted to be the best for you. It was like nine months was too long to wait. Impatient. Anxious. Excited. Cautious. Prepared.

You came. Announcing your arrival with the longest labour I can recall. But you came and that mattered. Without that moment, I would have never known the joy of life. A life out of life. Thank you for choosing me to be your mother. 

And now four years? Girl - you are growing up faster than we wish. 

I apologize for being away and for missing the [precious] ten months of your childhood. One day, we will sit in a cafe and look back to this moment. While I will be forever sorry for being away from you, you may see a silver lining - for this separation has groomed you to be more independent than you would have otherwise; for this separation has brought you closer to your Papa; for this separation has gotten you a new best friend (your Grandma); for this separation has made you taller (did you know you have grown three inches taller since I left?); for this separation for brought us closer. Oh, I love you, my girl - no matter what separation between us, you will always be Mama's girl first.

I wish you the best. Thank you for being the light of the house. Under the same sun and the moon, your Mama sends her love and thoughts. 

Signed with love,
Mama for Jan 08, 2016
Woodside, NYC