Friday, April 22, 2016

Accepting the Impermanence of All Things

(BGM: Angel by Sarah McLachlan)

I'm sitting here with a cup of Darjeeling tea spiked with soy milk and a heavy heart. The hazy light of an overcast mid-afternoon sky glares down angrily at me through my window like an overly-critical Donald Trump and I feel judged within my soul; time to pay up for all the decadence I've enjoyed in this country. The tide is finally going out on this season of splendor, and the reality is starting to set in: I might have to say 'sayonara' to my beautiful Japan.

The last time I wrote, I was busy putting one hundred percent of my energy into two things: my job and my personal life; all the while battling a festering chronic nerve pain disease that makes maintaining both quite difficult at times. But finally, since last month, my three-year work contract came to its natural end and once again I find myself in the comforting hum of my old Fujitsu Lifebook. It's good to be back at the keyboard! Free time (rather, 'me time') like this seems harder to come by, lately. (Yet looking back, I can be very proud that my prior efforts are now paying enormous emotional dividends. That work was certainly not in vain).

Despite intense pressure mounting from the outside which threatens to implode the walls around the happy little world of my imagination, I'm going to keep sipping my tea slowly. Yes, my current way of life is seriously threatened by unemployment. Yes, I'm aware that once again, I could lose everything I own within the next few months. But for some strange reason this time around, I'm okay with it. The Me of ten years ago would have flown into an utter frenzy, applying for jobs I wasn't qualified for and lost in self-induced depression the rest of the time. I would stay in Japan no matter what the cost! Little did I know that such desperation, instead of making my life easier, would eventually lead to far greater costs in lost health and wasted time. After going through that agony too many times (five times to be exact), I just can't afford to expend that kind of energy, anymore. Have I finally grown up? (Philosopher Alan Watts makes an excellent case for letting go here.)

This time around, I'm trying a different approach: accepting the impermanence of things. Deep down in my soul, I know that everything about this situation will pass, from the uncertainty of unemployment to my stay in Japan. Ultimately, my life is inherently impermanent too, so why should I hang on so tightly? The reality is that I have nothing to fear. I can just relax and float up to the surface of this ocean, trusting the water to carry me. Any changes will bring more possibilities, good lessons and new experiences. What fool would try to resist that?

While keeping this in mind, I am actively looking for work, sure, but no longer out of an unhealthy desperation or obsession. Japan has been my beloved home for fifteen years and I would like nothing more than to stay here. (Fifteen years is a long time for an ex-pat to stay in one place by today's standards). But if Japan no longer wants me around, I can live elsewhere, enjoying the process of experiencing a whole new place as I go. Japan, as beautiful as it is, is still just one country in an awfully big world full of wonder. In situations like this, wanderlust is a gift -and my bucket list is really long.

As the old adage goes, "this, too, shall pass."


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