Time passes too quickly. I am afraid that my life will fly by in the blink of an eye. I have been in Japan for six months and yet somehow all of the ups and downs have been recorded and filed away in my memory palace, quietly waiting for a moment in the future to be tapped into and fondly recalled. Right now the days seem to slip by, like the smoke that I see from my window, wafting out of the bathhouse chimney as the boys romp around and make a fire to heat the bath. It turns this way and that according to the wind’s whim.
Today I was asked how I deal with moments of separation. Every Friday morning, before beginning group yoga, Chika picks a theme and we share our thoughts, our hearts. This is the start of spring break, a period of limbo when all the island’s children graduate from one grade and have a couple homework-free weeks before a new grade with a new teacher begins. It is also a time when a heavy influx of tourists take the ferry to Ogasawara. In a handful of days, I’ll be leaving Chichijima. This is a time when everything is changing.
In response to the question this morning, I talked about how my mind is so deeply imbedded in the past and future that I am relieved of the burden of the present. How certain objects and figures accrue symbolic value as markers in time, and how I have been fortunate to never experience a serious moment of separation. I welcome change and so for me, separation is the chance to grow, to learn, to flourish. Change can sting but change can also heal. Change is the phoenix rising from the ashes…one door closes, another opens.
It is only now that I realise why I felt such a strong pull towards making a life in Japan: I needed to understand how my Japanese identity formed my childhood, I needed to become closer to my mother, and I needed to learn how to shake off the stress-addicted mindset that my alma mater trained me for. I have learned to trust more deeply, to see clearly and to understand the needs of other human beings. I believe that I’ve made a positive impact on those around me, have helped a close friend to heal, to show the children new ways to create artwork, and, courtesy of my never-ending silly antics, to create laughter.
I, I, I, I: ai (the Japanese phonetic word for love): I am still selfcentered but perhaps less than when I began. Love of others and a strong community begins with acceptance of self, as my good friend Sanae likes to say.