Lesson(s) Learned

If we’ve learned anything in the past six months, it’s that very, very, very little is in our control. We’re all helplessly embedded in the fabric of cities, towns, counties and countries, dependent on our neighbors near and far, and completely incapable of operating on our own.

I always considered myself a fiercely independent person, and sank deeper into that identity when we started our first business. I felt like I was operating outside the status quo and outside of the fluctuations and financial ups and downs that hit a lot harder when you’re in the back of the caravan instead of in the driver’s seat.

COVID-19 absolutely shattered one of my favorite parts of myself – my independence. I realized overnight not only that many things well beyond my imagination were possible – correction, currently happening in real time – but that those external things had near-complete control over my life.

Within a few days, our income was cut down over 90%, we were on full lockdown, and our island was shut off from the outside world. There was no timeline, no hints, no warnings. And the interim – of not knowing when we would reopen, when we could make money again, when things would go back to normal – has lasted for six long, painful months.

We didn’t know what to do, so we focused on what we could do. We could rearrange our business to bring in income. We could apply for the SBA, PPP and local grants and wait out as they ran out of money (twice) before ours got approved. We could speak to our clients, let them know our plan, and keep them updated as things progressed. We could keep our cool and put one foot in front of the other. So, we did.

It’s important to note that most of these changes were very uncomfortable, scary, risky, brave, bold, painful, laborious and miserable. There were days I woke up and just told myself to make it through today, and try for a better day the next. There were tears, panic, loss, loneliness, struggle, lost sleep, anxiety, mental breakdowns and panic attacks. There was all of it, but somehow we just kept moving forward.

And that, at least for us, is the lesson of it all – we just have to keep moving, that will always, always, always be enough. That’s something we can always do.

We’re Supposed to Change

As I’ve navigated the first few months of being 30, I’ve noticed a constant dialogue surrounding the idea of change. Our friends, our family members, our co-workers, our old hometown/high school acquaintances – I’ve encountered the same old phrase consistently: “wow, you/he/she has really changed.”

This is usually commented in an off-hand, slightly negative way, with the underlying meaning seeming to be, “wow, you’ve let life change you. wow, money/success has really changed you. wow, you’ve lost your way to yourself because of a/b/c.”

My reaction to this type of comment is usually, “what do you mean by that?” to which I almost never get a response, since people don’t tell you that you (or someone else) have/has changed as a compliment. What they’re doing is trying to say something they don’t feel comfortable saying without actually saying it, and assuming you’ll understand the meaning so they can wipe their hands clean of their intent.

I’ve never understood our cultural resistance to change in the first place. When someone states, “wow, you’ve changed!” my internal response is “you haven’t?” We should change in significant ways over decades of time. We should learn and grow from our mistakes and heartbreaks and mishaps – that’s the whole point of living a life in the first place. If we’re not changing over time, than what on earth are we doing?

In theory, change should be a fluid and celebrated part of life. We should ebb and flow on our way to who we really are, learning lesson after lesson as we encounter mistake after mistake. I realize that people usually mean “wow, you’ve changed!” to indicate that we’ve somehow betrayed ourselves; by changing our political views, our values, integrity, personality, or what’s most important. But I’ll argue that those things too, should be subject to change as we change as people over time.

First of all, the only person that knows our internal values, morals, items of importance, etc. is us. Ourselves, only. Not our friends, or peers, or co-workers or even family members or parents. No matter how we are raised or what values are instilled in us, we are still individual human beings that have a duty to uncover those gems for ourselves.

Secondly, if we are not supposed to change the big-ticket items, who is determining them? Where do our unchangeable morals and values come from? We start off as children and are taught those things by our parents, teachers, friends and society. We should not be beholden to the values of other people that we were instilled in childhood, and never be able to think critically enough to decide them on our own.

Lastly, we are changing, whether we want to recognize it or not. Over time, your cells are changing. Your brain is changing. Your hormones are changing. Your body is changing.

Just like they do for every. other. species. on. planet. earth.

Even at just 30 years old, I’m changing rapidly. Being a business owner – especially during a pandemic – has been like an internal-change pressure cooker. We’re learning so much and learning to deal and endure so much that it is logistically impossible for us not to change. Change is still scary, but so is everything else. We have to learn to deal with fear and change in order to move towards a better world.

The next time someone says, “wow, you/she/he has changed!” I’m inviting myself to openly answer, “of course I/they have. That’s life. We’re supposed to change.”

Being the Change I Wish to See

It’s been hard to write lately, because to be honest – it’s been hard to merely exist and push through day by day. Tourism is effectively shut down for 6 months now, we missed my only sister’s wedding, missed being able to meet my cousin’s new baby, and have had an enormously tough time being a business owner during this pandemic. Top that off with police brutality, systemic racism, and a state of divisiveness in the country we call home, and the struggle has been really real.

The toughest part of all of it, for me, is the feeling of being unable to do anything about my own circumstances and to change the injustices and systemic injustice going on. I’m just one small, insignificant person. Does what I do even matter?

I firmly believe it does, for two reasons: 1. everything does matter, and collective action can make a difference, and 2. most of the time, that’s what we can do. No matter our financial, physical, logistical or social situations, we can at least do something for what we believe in and wish to see. If we don’t do what we are able to do to change the world – what do we have to say for ourselves?

That is my hope, and the light at the end of my figurative tunnel. I may not be able to control much, but i can control what is in my control – how I lead, how I love, what I speak and post about, what I buy, watch, and eat. My actions may be just a drop in the proverbial bucket, but a drop is a drop is a drop.

I will always do what I can do, at the very least.

Training Season Begins, Uncertainly

IMG_5483Man, these are uncertain times. We have a worldwide pandemic, economic shutdown, and mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming visitors to Hawaii. This means that, in essence, we are trapped on our little island in the sun. We have less than 600 square miles we can roam around in, with no means of travel outside of flight. On the bright side, our 600 square miles are jam-packed with trailed mountain peaks and wave-trimmed beaches. We do have our perks.

I wasn’t planning on running any big races this year, especially in the wake of COVID-19. But this entire pandemic has brought an unprecedented level of stress and lack of control into our neatly-tucked lives. We’re small business owners that should be ramping up for summer, and instead we are praying each day to just make it through to the next, and hopeful that there will  be  a summer to ramp up for.

I started running again a few weeks ago for my mental health, which has been tough to hold on to during this crisis. Last week, though, I decided to download a training plan, get my training-meal staples, and make it happen. I slugged through one decent and two terrible, challenging runs that I somehow managed to finish. Yet today, I woke up on rest day anxious to hit the road again as soon as I can.

IMG_5446Since this is a tough year anyway, I figured my next race should be tougher, too. I’m tired of hot, flat, mundane race courses that all wind along the HNL Marathon’s out-and-back model. I’ve ran the same race 100 times under different names and distances, and have started to get into the trails.

I’ve chosen H.U.R.T. Hawaii’s Tantalus Triple Trek, a grueling, arguably vertical 30-mile trail race in September, as my dream race this year. It’s a small pool of runners, but I’m hoping to snag a registration and be able to race one of my favorite trails this fall. It’ll be my first trail race longer than a half marathon, and my very first ultra. But if there’s any year to do it, it’s this one.

 

Growth

7f837e445be74d2b7cbee1200fd199d7
I sense myself changing,
Ebbing and flowing
Like a river,
Smoothing out the rougher patches of my being.
I feel my spirit
Stretching forth and coming through,
Like the hips of a teenager
Making themselves known.
I know what no longer serves me
Because what I’ve outgrown
Is no longer comfortable.
I notice now
The nuances I did not before;
I hear what you’re really saying
Woven slyly among your words,
And I understand
Exactly
And can no longer be fooled
By pretty-winged things
That do not fly.

The Woman I Am with You

All my life

I’ve been growing, shaping, and changing to

the woman I am

With you

My scars and wounds

small seeds

Blossoming

to the woman I am

With you

My hopes and dreams

Reaching

To the woman I am

With you

My mistakes and heartache

Teaching

To the woman I am

with you

God himself

Preaching

To the woman I am

with you.

And your heart, your growth, your path, your love, your light

Reaching out for me too.

You are my partner, my teammate

My best friend

My soul’s mate, my love, my man

And I know

That in whatever we encounter

We will grow

And be

and do

As the man you are with me

And the woman I am with you.

The Point of the Storm

quotestormI used to watch  The Walking Dead and wonder how people could possibly be stuck in a high-rise apartment or suburban house with zombies roaming about below or outside, respectively.  Like most people, I thought,  Why didn’t they just run for the hills? How stupid are they? I never considered that society doesn’t go from normal to the END overnight, or even over the span of a week. I don’t think anyone watched post-apocalyptic shows or movies thinking about the in-between; when the world has stopped, but not yet collapsed.

Yet in 2020, we’re locked in an awkward in between – schools are closed, businesses are failing, and national and global markets teeter on the brink of collapse. Families of all classes across the world are struggling to put food on the table or pay their rent or mortgage. People of all ages and nationalities are dying and falling ill. Essential workers are forced to weigh the possibility of infecting themselves and their loved ones against a steady paycheck. We’re not at the end of the world – in fact, it really shouldn’t end at all – yet we’ve got a small taste of what a slow descent feels like.

If i were to put on The Walking Dead or Outbreak now, I’d view the characters within those stories with much greater compassion. How could they have possibly known this would happen? I certainly never predicted COVID-19 or its effects, and I’m an overly cautious person. It’s clear our world and business leaders didn’t exactly predict it either. How could they know? How could we have known?

We’re still in the midst of this crisis, but it is finally starting to feel like there is an end to this tunnel, and at least a glimmer of light at the end of it. We’ve lost lives, we’ve lost money, and a lot of us may have lost faith. Yet, I am fairly confident we will not be the same people and countries and businesses and governments and communities we were before this crisis as we will be after it. We will likely be more compassionate, more cautious, more aware of our humility and smallness and less wrapped up in our egos. I would never wish the loss of a human life for any reason, but I do believe that there is some silver lining here.

Haruki Murakami sums this up perfectly in his beloved work, Kafka on the Shore. He writes,

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

That, my friend, is the point of this storm. The point is to change us, collectively and individually, on a million different scales. The universe has its own checks and balances, and perhaps this one is directed at us all. Perhaps, it’s even deserved.

Regardless, we won’t be the same when it’s over.

And that’s probably a good thing.

LEMON

lemon-tree-drawing-14Briefly she
Was a part of me,
And a part of her
As an individual being;
I dreamt of her toes
As they roamed this earth
One day
On their own accord;
I imagined her teeth
Peeked through a grin
At a joke her father told;
I heard the strength of her voice
Speaking out
Against some or all of the wrongs
She’d encounter in her life;
But just briefly she
Was a part of me,
And a part of her
As an individual being
Or so I had thought,
But I’m now unsure;
I do know she craved lemons
Both sour and sweet,
Just as I do
And just as she was;
But briefly she
Was a part of me
The first thing that me consider myself as a mother;
But briefly she
Was a part of me
The first time I planned out an entire future
But so briefly she
Was a part of me
The quietest joy I had ever encountered
But so, so briefly she
Was a part of me
And a part of her
As an individual being;
That part I’m not so sure,
But I named her Lemon
Just in case.

Coconuts on the Beach

 

IMG_9107

In our culture, we are always looking forward – towards our goals, dreams, aspirations. We work each day in the hopes of achieving specific outcomes: climbing the corporate ladder, owning a home, paying off debt, having a family and marriage.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with working for the future, but the problem is that we are so preoccupied that we forget to enjoy the journey.

Consider your path as a timeline; our end goals are just a blip, while the journey to get there stretches out as far as it needs to. We suspend our joy, presence, light and love for 90% of the process. Do we want our joy to be on the straight line, or just a single dot?

Coconuts on the beach

A lot of our culture is fixated on the results of hard work – the instagram photos, highlight reels and coconuts on the beach. But, we forget that life is supposed to be the journey. The process IS life, in itself: growth, change, joy, sorrow, challenges.

Life is not the vacation. Life is every single day before and after it, and also the vacation, each given equal presence and attention.

I have nothing against coconuts on the beach, but it’s not the remedy for life’s challenges. Embrace the journey and remember to enjoy it. After all, that straight line is where you’ll spend most of life anyways