Blogaversary!

Whoops I missed my blogaversary but I wrote my first blog post January 6th,2013 and I have officially made it full circle! I honestly thought this effort would have been abandoned long ago, but in the past year I’ve written 55 blog posts and gotten more than 2,000 views! I know its actually not a lot compared to the serious blogs out there, but I’m proud of myself for following through. This blog is more for myself than anything and it has been a great release for me over the past year especially during times when I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. This also marks a full year of my taking cold showers (because eczema).

2015

I’ve never done the New Years Resolution thing before. I guess winter break just comes and goes so fast every year that it never occurred to me to make some big change in my life just because the world decided it was time to change a single digit. This year is different. As hard as I’ve tried to keep a positive outlook, 2014 has been a shit year. There’s really no other way to describe it. But next year, I’m starting over.

Over the past few months, I’ve found some things out about myself. I’ve learned that I’m really good at ignoring my body and basically forcing it to do things that it doesn’t really want to do. I’ve discovered changes that I should be making but haven’t because I’m either lazy or scared. And I’ve realized that as much as I pretend not to, I care way too much what other people think.

No more.

Next year, I’m getting priority. I’m going to take care of myself, mentally, physically, and emotionally. My health is not longer going to be second in line, something that I shove away just long enough to pretend it doesn’t exist. I’m going to do the hard things, because they’re good for me. I’m going to actually stop giving a fuck what other people think. I’m going to stop hating who I am. I’m going to do it so that when 2016 comes, I can look at myself in the mirror and really truly smile.

I know it won’t be easy. It certainly won’t be a smiley ride all the way. But it will be worth it.

Yes, 2015 is going to be my year 🙂

Making Peace

I’m a person who likes to do what I want to do. And I’m a person who will fight to do what I want to do… because I don’t like to be told no. A lot of times its a good thing, but sometimes it means that I don’t know my limits. And I do have limits.

I’m lying in bed right now. Where I’ve been for the past two days. I’m supposed to be exploring Tokyo right now. Taking advantage of my $465 rail pass, but I literally can’t move. Over the past month, my eczema has deteriorated so much that after a ten minute walk, I can barely stand up straight. Somehow I got it in my head that if I could just push through the pain, everything would be okay. But bodies don’t work like that, and that’s a lesson that I’m learning.

After a very expensive trip to the hospital yesterday and almost not making it to Tokyo, I realized that I needed to stop and listen to what my body is telling me. Partly because taking two steps feels like I’m setting my legs on fire. Well actually its completely because of that. I don’t think I would have stopped otherwise. So as I’m writing this, I haven’t completely made peace with myself, but I’m working on it. Because not being able to walk sucks. It really fucking sucks. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it makes life in Japan incredibly difficult and frustrating. And it’s really hard not to hate my own body for rebelling against me.

But seeing as I have no choice but to lie here and spend time with myself, its all the more important to make peace with what I have. So yup, that’s what’s happening right now.

Maybe its time to do some metta practice. That and ironically writing my research paper on healing in Buddhism.

My reason

I’m a Buddhist. It’s something that has always been a part of me, but I never really realized how much of an impact it has had on my decisions and my beliefs growing up. The traditions I followed were taught to me as I grew up but I never thought about the reasons behind them nor questioned any of the beliefs. Honestly, until I decided to join this study abroad program, I didn’t even realize what kind of Buddhist I was (Pure Land if we’re going to put labels on things).

And its super interesting to study your own religion. I won’t say its good or bad because I honestly don’t think its either. It’s interesting because you’re viewing it as an outsider, understanding why others may question your beliefs the same way you question theirs. You see why it may be appealing to someone or maybe not so much.

But the effect it’s had on me? I think its mainly led me to consider how Buddhism has affected my life. And I think it’s saved me in so many ways. Looking at the big picture, it has the appeal of so many other religions, the existing belief that there is something bigger out there looking over us, giving a rhyme and reason to the world. There was a justification for everything that happened to me, good and bad.

Growing up I had a whole host of health problems that still plague me today, particularly my eczema. Just imagine having mosquito bites all over your body, trying your hardest not to scratch, and hating yourself for not being able to control any of it. The worst for me has always been my fear of going to sleep, knowing that I might scratch in the middle of night and wake up with bloody open sores. Then there was the depression and the anxiety that doesn’t really fall far behind this kind of physical and mental anguish.

But I don’t doubt. I have good days and bad days still, but I believe there is a reason for everything that happens in my life. I don’t doubt that growing up with these problems have made me a stronger person today. I don’t doubt that I’m extremely lucky for growing up in a family and environment that could give me the best care I needed.

I do know that Amituofo has been there for me every time. When I was hospitalized for my skin infections as a child, when I’ve had my worst migraines or panic attacks and I was fairly certain I was going to die, when I spent those days in bed crying and ready to give up, and whenever my anxiety creeps up on me at night and I lie there for hours on end wondering if I’ll ever fall asleep.

Life is hard sometimes, but I think it’s always a little bit easier if there’s a reason.

Learning to Love Myself (All of Myself)

I’ve always been told that everyone has their own insecurities and that everyone thinks of themselves as imperfect in some sort of way.  But growing up, I felt for the longest time that everyone was so much more beautiful than me and I longed to have someone else’s body, any body but mine.

I was diagnosed with eczema at birth, atopic dermatitis in scientific terms, but to me, it meant itchy nights with no sleep, waking up bleeding with raw skin and oozing rashes covering my entire body. It meant that as a baby, my parents sometimes had to cover my hands when I slept so that I wouldn’t scratch. It meant that it hurt to shower and even sometimes just to move. It meant that when I finally started going to school, I tried to cover up as much of my skin as possible so that nobody else would see how ugly I was. It hurt that I had cuts in my skin that were constantly infected, but what hurt even more were the stares that I got whenever someone saw my rashes and asked questions like why I was risking infecting others with poison ivy by not covering up my skin (that’s not even how poison ivy works).

Through the years, I discovered that my true friends didn’t care what I looked like because they liked me for being me. But I still longed to be beautiful, to have perfect skin, to be able to show off my body at the beach. When the eczema finally spread to my face, as it often does, I had had it. I holed myself up in my room refusing to go out unless absolutely necessary and my anxiety reached an entirely new level (which obviously did not help my skin). Eventually, I got better with the help of a very controversial medication and believe it or not, some blessed water from a monk, along with some prayer and meditation.

Image

My lovely face eczema in recovery.

 

This was only last year, and to this day, I still check the mirror when I wake up just to make sure my rash hasn’t returned. It seems no matter how hard I try, I still have trouble overcoming the materiality of my physical appearance (no matter how shallow that sounds). I have made a few revelations following my experience at IMS. My winter break was filled with an extremely ugly period for my skin where I would wake up every two hours at night with bloody sheets and cuts in my skin. I’ll be honest, I stayed in the house mostly out of comfort because it hurt for me to move. But I had time to think that I could be so much worse off. While we were at IMS, the teachers commented that we were lucky just to be able to be there because so many people have not had the opportunity. And as I lay in bed moaning in misery, I remembered that I had a home, I had parents and friends who loved me, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a college like Williams, and I was young with a life of so many possibilities. Its true that often times I still end up feeling sorry for myself and conveying this misery on other people, but I have realized how important it is to gain some perspective, to look at the positivities in my life, since after all, brooding in misery was doing absolutely nothing for me. I can’t say that I no longer care how I look or what other people think of me. But I am starting to learn that the first step is finding the beauty in myself and learning to love who I am.