On Failure

“Sometimes you experience failed expectations as heartbreak and disappointment, and sometimes you feel rage. Failure or things not working out as you’d hoped doesn’t feel good; that’s for sure. But at that time, maybe instead of doing the habitual thing of labeling yourself a “failure” or a “loser” or thinking there is something wrong with you, you could get curious about what is going on. And really this is where I think your education will come in handy.

“If you can just remember that you never know where something will lead. Getting curious about outer circumstances and how they are impacting you, noticing what words come out and what your internal discussion is, this is the key. If you want to be a full, complete human being, if you want to be genuine and not pretend that everything is either one way or the other way but you can hold the fullness of life in your heart, then this is the opportunity when you can get curious about what is going on and listen to the storylines. And you don’t buy the storylines that blame it on everybody else. And you don’t buy the storylines that blame it on yourself, either.”

“Your best qualities come out of [failure] because it’s unguarded and you’re not shielding yourself. Failing better means that failure becomes a rich and fertile ground instead of just another slap in the face. And so I can tell you that it is out of this same space that come our best human qualities of bravery, kindness, and the ability to really reach out to and care about each other. It’s where real communication with other people starts to happen, because it’s a very unguarded, wide-open space in which you can go beyond the blame and just feel the bleedingness of it, the raw-meat quality of it.

The question is, are you going to grow or are you going to just stay as you are out of fear and waste your precious human life by status quo-ing instead of being willing to break the sound barrier? Break the glass ceiling, or whatever it is in your own life? Are you willing to go forward?”

–  Pema Chodron, Fail Again, Fail Better


These two quotes, put together, called out to me.   First, relabeling of the experience of “failure” and second, using it as an opportunity to become something more.  She uses the terms breaking the sound barrier, the glass ceiling, ceasing the status quo, not wasting your life, moving forward.  All very strong words to shuffle around.




A Little Bit On Courage

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If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.

* Brene Brown, Rising Strong



I am not one for museums generally.  They are pretty places, but not someplace where I can say I’ve ever felt inspired.  But walking through SFMOMA the other day, just based on lighting alone, I found myself surprisingly taken in.  There were some displays where you could sit, lounge (see below), and find yourself faintly stirred.  There is a musical piece up on one of the upper floors that simply evades photography.  That one is best experienced live, ephemerally, and then captured in memory.  But better than a memory, you can also simply come back.


An Ode to the Sloppy Messy Life


I used to have deep, intoxicating fantasies about my minimalist life, my capsule wardrobe, pin(terest)ing Scandinavian decor onto my virtual moodboard, salivating gray and white color schemes, juxtaposed against splotches of color.  Just like my wardrobe choices!  Rejoice!  I wanted few and perfect objects, I obsessed about the way a plate looked set against the curving lines of my knock-off coffee table (it is, regardless, still a hot piece of furniture, by the way).  In the interim, in my real life, my living situation slid from being merely dusty, to a “hot mess,” to the abject holy horror in which I currently reside.  What happened?  A dog happened, a kid happened, prior to that a relationship-household merger happened (I probably should have mentioned this prior to the dog and kid happening, but, as I will address later – these things no longer matter).  In short, a series of life events happened, and where before that antique glass plate sat eloquent and lightly dusted on my coffee table, the plate has been abandoned to parts unknown.  The table is in the basement (at least I know that much).  The baby mess reigns supreme.  My kitchen is fifty shades of brown.  And yes, I mean that exactly how it sounds.

But I am as content as I was before.  I still like a well put together outfit, even if I generally see it on someone else.  My life is a barely put together, I clean what I can.  Every new addition (three so far, dog included) made life harder, more difficult.  Now everything I own is covered in dog hair, and that includes all my black pants.  My workout clothes are furry.  I can no longer guarantee getting anywhere on time.  Life is a hussy mess.  I like it.  There was some adjusting, where I couldn’t figure out if I was actually happy because I was too busy reacting, but the dust isn’t settled, and I’m living in a constant state of almost-improvement.  There are little bits and pieces of beauty that I can still see, even though our living room is now a jungle gym.  I used to think of wabi sabi as imperfection, but now it’s a more attainable idea: the everyday inevitable sloppiness that accompanies a life being lived.

A Non-Confrontational Way to Handle Sexism

Direct confrontation, although viscerally satisfying and in some ways, brave, doesn’t always work.  I found a more soft spoken method of dealing with careless remarks by Ash Huang in Lean Out:

I don’t laugh nervously when people say careless things.

This is one I learned from the trolls. When someone makes a racist comment or sweeps someone into stereotype, I ask that person to explain the joke to me. For instance:

A laughing group of random blonde women cross the street in SOMA. A man I’m with says in falsetto: “Ha ha ha, look at us, marketing is like, totally the best!”

Me: “Oh, they’re in marketing? How do you know them? Are they old co-workers of yours?”

Trolling carelessness works because this kind of injustice thrives on community. People are blindly intolerant because they are rewarded for shunning and fearing the Other. When you refuse to participate in a universe where women are weak and inconsequential, women become more than a generalization. The shared joke is no longer funny because there’s no more shared joke to speak of.

Life Bits: racing, fears, and glasses


A little bit about about life improvements and small victories. I am in the habit of reacting to challenges with fear, and to a lot of other things with fear. It should come as no surprise that when my friend suggested running an obstacle course, and especially once I saw the pictures, that this scared the bejesus out of me. I lost sleep. But after hopping over some low walls, climbing and crawling all over the place, and somewhat mastering those circular monkey bars, it was done. And it’s even sweeter after all of that fear.


Here it is, my unspectacularly boring new airfame glasses from JINS. They don’t cut into my cheekbones, they cost $100 total, and I only waited 30 minutes for them. Life is sweet.

In other news, I will not be in Italy in time to see this, but if I were, I would visit the Floating Piers, because they will be gone by July 3.

I’ve been feeling particularly productive today, possibly because I’m attempting to 1) make to-do lists and 2) single task as part of the Infomagical’s single-tasking bootcamp.

Had to get a new (to me) clothes recently, so I’ve been checking out eBay, Tradesy, Thredup, and Poshmark.  There’s some good stuff to be had.



On Secret Receptions


I’m happy to report that I hired my wedding reception photographer off Task Rabbit, and that this was a brilliant idea. I was so happy, I was even able to afford a tip afterward.

The odd thing about the reception, aside from the usual craziness (there was a lot of it) is – do you casually mention this to friends?  Let me back up a little.  Due to having not say in the venue or “mandatory guest list” dreamed up by my parents, the entire venue/restaurant was full without allowing either myself or my partner to invite our friends. So far as anyone knows, we had a civil ceremony, period. Full stop. So, it seemed logical not to talk about the thing that no one was allowed to attend. That seems wrong, in a way – to post pictures so that people can be insulted that they weren’t invited. So, it’s not exactly a secret, but I have not let out a peep, not a word, not a…oh, wait…except here.

Ah, life.  Why so complicated?

I suppose if we were to invite people over, I could leave some pictures lying casually around, and when questioned, then I could explain how myself in person.

Affordable Asian-Fit Glasses


These aren’t marketed as “Asian-fit” technically, but they were designed in Japan, and I tried them on my own cheekbones, and they fit perfectly and were airy light.  Quite affordable too, at $80 with lens included.

See more, here.

A Reading List: Summer 2016

Everyone has book recommendations, I prowl Goodreads on and off for suggestions. I look for offbeat reads, I’m on a constant search for work that lurches into the unknown, and somehow manages to grip you.  I know, I know, everything topic under the sun has been written before (This has been probed ad nauseam, but in a the best and least snotty way Here). I don’t have a type, when it comes to books, I will read anything as long as it doesn’t fall into a formula.  The thing is, when you read the plot summary or the back cover, they usually do the book a disservice by making them appear less interesting than they are. You have to go a bit on faith.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl.  I will admit to having a soft spot for noir.  I’m not going to go into the plot.  Hearing plot summary read aloud is a mood killer.  But I will say this: the tone is perfect; reading it feels exactly like dipping your toe into darkness. I had that feeling straight from the beginning, and the feeling is rare for me.  It comes only once in three blue moons.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann.  Historical fiction, and the voice of the narrator is seductive and rich. You like him right off, and he makes everything he does, even polishing silver, sound interesting.  This is not a common experience.  In fact, I’ve experienced the opposite very often – I hate the narrator right away, even if the book is good, I have developed a visceral hatred that somewhat sours the experience.  But in this case, because his voice is so charismatic, it draws you in and in and in.

Immortality by Milan Kundera.  I did not add this to be a jerk. Kundera was probably an author that appeared somewhere on your college syllabus, and I’m sure there are layers of homework and analysis that could accompany reading this book.  I’m adding this because when I read this book, I felt an inner lightness. Kundera writes to avoid linear plotlines. Let me just say that right off. But when you’re reading, you hardly care. You find yourself living in the moment, because the ideas and the nuances that he points out are just so fascinating.

The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton.  I’ve written about this book before, and I’m still surprised at how she made this mammoth  849 page book into a fast read. There is a good mixtures of dialogue, history, and richness on every page. I didn’t care so much for the charting of the stars and celestial alignment, but that’s only because I found the rest of the material more interesting. Let me also point out that I personally do not care for gold mining in New Zealand as a conversation topic, but in the right hands, it can hold your attention.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Kline.  10,000 points for creativity. As a female, tomboy, and sister to a younger brother, I’ve sometimes wanted to poke my way into the mind of an adolescent gamer boy, and this does just that. This also has a good series of puzzles, a lot of it, incidentally involving 1980’s trivia, which you cannot predict. And for a book about gaming, there are strong female characters, which is something I did not expect.

Happy Reading!

My Journey Towards Optimism

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I usually try to keep the tone of this blog light, playful, positive, and occasionally sarcastic, but a victimless type of sarcasm, ideally the type that sheds light rather than obscures. But I digress. That is a topic for another conversation.

If I had met myself around 2005 and attempted to start a conversation, something along the lines of – Hey me, how’s it going?  Vintage 2005 me would have found something to complain about, and the conversation would have proceeded from there.  The old me was still a creature of habit, I didn’t particularly consider underlying thought processes. Why did I say what I did? Was I being negative? What was the tone and effect of my words? There was a singular lack of self awareness of habits I had taken in without thinking, one of which was that complaining was a means of conversation.

I look back fondly on 2005 because that was when I met my first bona fide optimist. It was jarring.  Every day was a good day, every moment of every day was super fantastic. He wasn’t being sarcastic either, and he could be sarcastic. He had that in his arsenal, but when you asked him how things were going, they were going great. It made me feel jaded, no in the sense that I had been around, but in the sense that I couldn’t look around me and see anything good, I was immune to that. It slowly dawned on me – not in 2005, mind you, maturity was still a long ways away – but years later, gradually and imperceptibly over time, that that was not how I wanted to live.

What happened? To be honest, I’m still in the process of evolving. But I think that over time, my particular optimism developed because I started living the life I wanted to live.  I didn’t start hiking until maybe 3 years ago. I had thought about it, sure, but I just didn’t do it. I had wanted to go vacation by myself – in Nepal – but I didn’t get around to that until 2014. Every step was scary, and still is.  I have an endless capacity for fear. But gradually, I developed some small set of skills, a hint of stubbornness, and realized that I had an inherent capability.  I’m gradually (and this is still an ongoing process) becoming a person that I find interesting.  Along with this development, this willingness to start from the bottom, start over, fail, suck in front of an audience, came an accompanying sense of optimism. Because if I just assumed I would fail, I would probably fail. People rarely succeed in spite of themselves.

To put things another way, it is as if the act of putting myself through small challenges required that I change my way of seeing the world, and I had to put away the armor of my dark thoughts, and leave myself vulnerable – because that is what optimism is for me, a kind of vulnerability* – in the hope of achieving something greater.


* Vulnerability, yes.  I think exposing your cheeriness to the world sometimes makes other people want to knock you down, disagree with you, whatever. And if you fail, you test your optimism.  How strong is it really? Can it survive this disaster? How about this one? How about now?