Creative Writing · Mindful Living

The Traveling Bottle

The journey of this perfume bottle originally started back in Washington D.C.. It got refilled for the first time in Chicago last year and again this year in Seattle and just came back to me in Colorado Springs- traveling the nation all alone without me, making me think of the doll of the dwarf from the French movie, Amélie. Every time I take a deep breath after spraying the perfume, it still makes me feel like I can achieve anything in this world, continuing to perfectly function as my ultimate daily motivation booster.

Daily Life · Mindful Living · Random Thoughts

Living as an INFP: My Identity Crisis and the Story of the Empress Masako

I decided to share the story of my identity crisis here as I thought some of you might relate to it.

Ever since I got married to my American husband about 13 years ago, I was eager to be more assimilated into the American society and the culture. I wanted to be able to talk like him, communicate like him and work like him because despite the all of the problems the U.S. faced, at the end of the day, I loved the country so much, and when my time came, it was quite natural that I became a U.S. Citizen, renouncing my Japanese nationality as the duel citizenship is illegal in Japan.

In spite of my strong commitment to dedicate myself to the county and the aspiration to be like a real American who grew up in the U.S., my work constantly demanded the Japanese part of me as a teacher and a translator, which eventually made me feel suffocated as it seemed like the American society was telling me I was not good enough as an American and I felt guilty that I was not Japanese enough as I was merely looking at my motherland from the outside for over a decade.

Of course, I could have applied for any other jobs that were detached from anything related to Japan but I could not find anything that exceeded the salary I was receiving, so I went back to college to prove to myself that my English and communication skills were still good enough to professionally survive in the mainstream society here in the U.S. without selling the Japanese part of me, and I finished the program but the job hunt sucked, my career transition failed and I was back to the suffering phase from the suffocating feelings again.

One day, as I was doing some research for my work, I came across the interview of the Empress Masako and I was completely fascinated by how beautiful her Japanese language was with her sophisticated and humble manners. The aura she carried as the empress was so stunning that I was genuinely grateful that she was representing Japan. And, I suddenly remembered how she grew up abroad as the daughter of the Japanese diplomat and she eventually ended up graduating from Harvard University, Tokyo University, and Oxford University, working as the diplomat for Japan.

She met the emperor while she was at Oxford University and decided to marry him as he proposed her, saying that he would protect her with all of his might for her entire lifetime, which was such a romantic love story. And then I also recalled my former student back in DC, who has worked with her when she was the diplomat, once told me that the way she talked and acted was totally like the American who grew up in the U.S.

The realization that she was perfectly nailing both of the identities as the Japanese and the American was astonishing. In order to be more Americanized, you do not have to be less Japanese. it is possible to be both in the authentic and the natural way. However, it is not so easy to acquire the adequate balance as the nature of the culture of the two countries is so different, but when it is achieved, the true virtue can be formed, which can be incredibly powerful in a very positive way.

The notion hit me like an epiphany and she instantly became my ultimate role model even though I have no brain or elegance like she has, and the fact lifted all of the weight off my shoulders, and the suffocating feelings disappeared.

When I look at the photos of the cherry blossoms I took back in DC, now I reflect them as my new goal here in the U.S. The cherry blossoms in DC were gifted by the Japanese government over a century ago and they continue to be cherished and loved by the people in the U.S. Now I wonder how amazing it would be if I could become such a being like that here in the U.S. in the future.

Mindful Living

The New Life Healed By the Power of Nature

It has been over three months ever since we moved to Colorado Springs from the Washington D.C. area and two months ever since we moved in to the new house we bought, which was the very hectic and stressful period even though it was supposed to be the exciting time to start the new life.

Despite the positive mindset, living in the hotel rooms for two months, dealing with the tons of paperworks to buy the house while looking for a new job in the new area took so much out of me. Each time I received the rejection email after applying for a job and seeing my friends, old classmates and co-workers upgrading their careers on Linkedin, I felt as if a part of me was sinking and I was overwhelmed with the pressure like our entire life was falling onto my shoulders like the countless big rocks from the cliff. When I realized my career transition did not succeed, the source of my confidence completely vanished, as though my job defined everything that I was, feeling every inch of my body screaming that I completely messed up.

What eventually healed me from the awful feelings was the beautiful nature of Colorado and the unconditional love our dog, Jasmine, gave us no matter what. Jasmine continued to love every version of me, which meant so much to me to regain my confidence and the morning walks with her refreshed my mind every day. The gorgeous mountain view and the beautiful sunset that you could witness here almost on a daily basis made me reassure I already had everything I needed, feeling how stunning American nature truly was.

Even though I kept telling myself and writing here how material wealth did not contribute to your happiness from a certain point, I was trapped again. The idea of not being able to contribute to fulfill the responsibilities to pay the bills and the mortgage made me feel like the total failure as a spouse and an adult in this society. And the worst part of all was that it was all in my head. Is this the typical INFP symptom? I was just hurting myself by being overly scared for our future and I was mad at myself that I was not becoming who I thought I was supposed to be.

Now I clearly know once again that all I truly need is the happiness for our family by being able to embrace the daily dose of the amazing cappuccino and the beautiful nature Colorado offers, responding to the love Jasmine gives us.

Shinto religion teaches us that “nature has a sense of power and presence that is inescapable and beyond human control or understanding,” thus we have to give in to the power of nature by accepting and appreciating the way it is. Now that I am back to work again, I should not forget that all I need is just to breathe the nature and relax.

Mindful Living

It’s the Goodbye Phase Again

It has been approximately 4 years ever since we moved to the Washington D.C. area from Germany. Now that we are so attached to the place to proudly call it our home, our fate is calling us to move again all of the sudden. Oh well, then I guess we have to move again.

It is the bitter sweet mixed feelings of sadness to leave and excitement to start a new life again just like I felt 4 years ago. As I go through this over and over again, I became such an optimistic person, who is totally opposite of who I used to be years ago. Changes always contain hope. That is my mindset now and perhaps it is my ultimate strength now that I have lived in various countries and places.

The life in the Washington D.C. area was genuinely so stimulating and precious that all I have left is nothing but gratitude just like I have said the same in Germany 4 years ago. I am honored and grateful that I could work for the U.S. military and the various U.S. government agencies with the amazing people in D.C. It also means so much to me that we adopted our fur daughter 3 years ago here, I became a U.S. Citizen here over 2 years ago, and graduated from the university certificate program for the career transition 3 months ago.

At the same time, the era to live with COVID-19 taught me so much just like everybody else. I learned not to take our health and normal life for granted and how the hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin contribute to form different kinds of happiness. It is insane how lots of people, especially in the United States, are obsessed with the idea to attain happiness through dopamine such as achieving a higher status in life by having a better career that enables you to earn more money to buy bigger better house and car etc. However, I finally realized life could be so much better with ease by embracing happiness through serotonin and oxytocin like enjoying morning coffee and walks and truly caring for our dog. In short, I grew to be much more detached from the world centered around the material wealth and to cherish what we already have.

Now, the life is taking us to Colorado Springs in 10 days. It is the journey to drive 1673 miles (2673 km) to the west side from the east side, crossing the country. When the new door is there for you, just open it, have fun and let yourself guide you to a better future because it is not a place or people that make you happy. Only you can make you happy, you know.

Mindful Living

The Effect of Morning Walks

A quick breakfast and a big mug of Cappuccino later, I get dressed quickly while my dog, Jasmine, the giant yorkie, jumps on the door of my closet, begging me to hurry up. I grab her leash and the keys and we head out to the outside world. We repeat this every single day when the weather permits and this is the routine so dear to me.

We usually walk for 15 to 35 minutes in the morning, depending on my schedule. We smell and breathe how season changes as we occasionally greet other dogs and their owners. 

As I continue this routine for over two years, I started to clearly notice how the walks are helping me to maintain my healthy mental status even during the lockdown due to the pandemic of COVID-19. 

I have read several articles about how morning walks have the effect to prevent from being suffered from depression and to improve the condition if you are suffering from it. With my body and mind, I am strongly sensing how true that is. 

The walks perhaps have the similar effect to meditation. As you walk, you are entirely focused on the now by acknowledging the scent of the trees and the air that surrounds your body. Feeling the nature with everything I am, I embrace the oxytocin in me as Jasmine gives me eye contact.

Even though I also walk her in the afternoon, the freshness and the sensation I feel during the morning walks are unbeatable. They simply keep me going throughout the day, making me grateful that I get to share such peaceful moments with her. 

How do you feel when you walk in the morning?

Mindful Living · sustainability · Sustainable Living

1133 Days After Moving to America : The Journey to Happiness

I feel like I could write again after being gone for so long, so let me just try.

When I moved to the United States back in the summer of 2017, I was filled with ambition and excitement to achieve the American dream. I was eager to work hard to earn more money to be wealthy. I was buried deeply into the notion that the materialistic wealth equated success and happiness in this country.

Life was so good for a while like that, but something hit me. When Husband and I bought a brand new car and when we almost purchased the condo we wanted last spring (we’re glad we didn’t), I felt numb. No joy, no happy cry, just nothing. The numbness even scared me but life still went on, then just like everybody else in the world, COVID-19 hit us. We were both working remotely from home and even though I was not a fan of teleworking, I was simply happy that I could be with my dog almost 24/7. She seemed to feel much more relaxed also. At the same time, I felt guilty about the time we had to leave her home all by herself for 9 hours or longer on weekdays.

I began to gradually think to myself that if I were to keep on working hard for a few more decades like I used to, I would end up missing out the majority of 13 to 15 years of being able to spend with my dog. The idea seriously saddened me as for us who gave up on having a child, our dog meant the world. And it didn’t take longer until I started to wonder what happiness really is, knowing I am more than fortunate to be able to think this way, and I realized I didn’t have to be wealthy. I just didn’t want us to worry about money. That’s all.

Living with such a realization, I started practicing mindful meditation and eco-minimalistic lifestyle as a flexitarian based on the growing interest in sustainability and I feel like I began to truly embrace the ordinary within the daily life like a big mug of cappuccino and the solid morning walk with my dog make me feel the happiest on earth. That is the point where I am now, still figuring out which paths to take and as an INFP, my ideas can probably evolve as time goes by, but that is still a part of the long journey called life indeed.

Mindful Living

(21 Days until I Say) Goodbye, Germany/Tschüss, Deutschland

The last year in Germany went by really fast. I mean, unbelievably surprisingly crazy fast. Our six years here will end exactly in 21 days. Will I cry? Probably!!! Am I going to miss it? Absolutely!!!

“Are you excited that you are moving to the U.S.?” 

“I should say yes. I am positive and hopeful but there is a moment every day that I feel extremely sad.” 

“Oh, we’re gonna miss you.” 

“I’m gonna miss you, too!!!” 

It is the phase of goodbyes. I have experienced it before more than once like there is nothing new about it, but one thing so sure is that I am NOT a fan of it AT ALL.

Deutschland ist schon meine zweite Heimat. People say where you live eventually becomes your home. After living here for six years, Germany already became my home. Though I am not German and my German is far from great, I tried my very best to be a better person in this country despite the fact that the attempt might not have been always successful. And now, “Please stay!” and “I don’t want you to leave!” mean so much to me more than ever. How many times do you think I have wished that I could be in Japan, the U.S. and Germany at the same time? 

The beautiful Rhein River on the bridge between Kastel and Mainz, the cobblestone road on my way to the station, the latte macchiato and the Glühwein with my friends, the Christmas markets we went throughout Germany, the sound of the church bell near our apartment, the commute to Frankfurt on S-bahn I have done countless times, the gates of departure at Frankfurt Airport where our trips started, and the sound of German language (especially, the dialect of Hessen). The priceless ordinary pieces of my memory are forever remain to be so dear to me.

Like I wrote before, it is not a place that determines your happiness. Wherever you go, it is you who make you happy. And when it happens to be so easy to fall in love with the place, it gets even easier for you to feel your happiness, Vielen vielen Dank, Deutschland. All I have for you is nothing but genuine gratitude, Germany. Thank you so much for the best six years of our life.

Now America is calling. It is the East Coast: the brand new world. It is time to go and I will definitely discover new happiness there.

Mindful Living

The Shot of Espresso Macchiato in Italy Tells All About Happiness

I have written an article about how much the power of a cup of good coffee contributes to the feelings of happiness before. I also mentioned that my deepest love for coffee started ever since I had a shot of great espresso when I visited Paris for the first time when I was twenty. The exact feeling still stays the same till this day.

Living in Europe for about 8 years in total, finding a cup of good coffee through traveling various places in Europe completely became my greatest joy of everything. I had the amazing opportunities to travel to Rome, Florence and Paris last and this week on vacation and I entertained myself so much, going to different cafes and trying different coffee every single day in Italy and France.

At La Casa Del Caffe in Rome, I finally found the one. The very best coffee I ever had in my life.

As soon as I entered the cafe filled with tourists and locals, I ordered and paid for a shot of espresso macchiato and received the receipt at the cashier. As I handed the receipt to the barista, he promptly placed a tiny saucer and a spoon on the counter right in front of me and hurried his way back to the prestigious-looking coffee machine where the greatest creation was formed with pride.

Within a minute or two, the cute espresso cup filled with the coffee with the drops of milk on top was on the saucer. The taste was just so heavenly- the creaminess of the milk softly wrapped the rich flavor of the coffee. No sugar or anything else was necessary. Just amazing!!! It was the exact moment I truly thought I was the happiest person on earth. I really don’t think I was the only one who felt this way. 

The very next day, I returned to the cafe and tried the cappuccino this time, which was absolutely fascinating also.

Where did you have your best coffee in your life? Have a happy life with coffee, everyone!!!

Mindful Living

Happiness Is Simple

Time flies fast. This year is about to end in four days. How do you summarize this year? Do you think you had many events that could make you feel happy? I truly hope so.

When it comes to how you define happiness, it reflects the perspective of how you see your own life. How do you observe your own life and what could make you happy?

I lost my mother over two years ago after the battle with the terminal stage of cancer. The last year of her life became my ultimate source to redefine happiness in my life. She was the master of finding happiness through the simplest events of her daily life.

She was happy because the sun was shining and the flowers outside bloomed. The pleasant way some neighbor said hello to her made her smile, and the good taste of the caffe latte in the cafeteria of the hospital made her day during her chemotherapy. When she lost all of her hair, she started going to the nail salon and sent me the photos of her nails every month with excitement. Since before and even after the discovery of the cancer, that part of her remained as her charm that could make her radiant until severe dimentia caused by malignant brain tumour killed who she really was. She constantly showed gratitude towards the simplest factors that occurred in her everyday life, and she lived her 58 years of her life to the fullest. Happiness was indeed ubiquitous. 

I am forever grateful for having her as my mother, and after losing her and turning thirty without her, I feel like I finally became a few steps closer to the way she observed her life. It takes time and strength for one to become positive and optimistic like her. I am certain that she also had her own process that made her who she was. At the same time, through witnessing her life and death, I realized life was too short to regret and to feel sad. It is better to cherish your each and every day because you never know when you die.

I loved every cup of my coffee in the morning, am content that I met new amazing people through work, had fun traveling different places, read a few good books, had some good hot wine on Christmas markets, and a few days ago, my student surprised me with a slice of brownie he baked, and my husband is peacefully snoring on the couch as I write this. I guess I am able to conclude that I had a pretty good year this year.

May all of you be blessed even more with lots of happiness in the coming new year.

Mindful Living

The Power of a Cup of Coffee

How many of you start your day by turning on the switch of your coffee maker at home or at work? You prepare your favorite big mug and wait for the few minutes until the coffee is made. And you finally get to taste your first sip. This is the very moment I feel that I am so happy. It literally makes my day. I wonder if anyone agrees with this or knows the exact feeling?

When I lived in Japan or the States, I was not really a coffee drinker. What changed me was the European life. When I traveled to Paris for the first time at the age of twenty, I was fascinated by the fact that a cup of espresso could be that delicious and a cup of coffee had the great significance to the lives of the locals there. I ended up living there afterwards and then in Portugal and now in Germany and I completely inherited that culture as a part of my daily routine with the growing love for coffee. What is your story with coffee? Why do you love it so much?

As I write this, I am sipping my black coffee that is in the gigantic pink Le Creuset mug, and once again, I think to myself how happy I am.