Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meanwhile, I've never been in a funk that couldn't be helped by a good self-portrait

This afternoon we went for a walk along a river that flows through the city.  It's flanked on both sides by cherry trees, which are in blissful bloom right now.  We slowed down every time we passed under a pale pink cloud of blossoms, just to stay in that moment of fairytale beauty a few seconds longer.

Grant spotted some koi fish in the river and he quickly fell under their spell.  One in particular caught his attention and he soon declared that he and this fish were friends.  "He's really friendly," he said.

It is so damn easy to make friends with a 9-year-old boy.

Sensing that Grant and his new friend wanted some time alone, Audrey and I sat down on the stone steps at the edge of the river and watched the pastel cherry petals drift by on the glassy surface of the water.

"What do you think a fish does to make itself appear friendly, or unfriendly for that matter?" I asked her.

She rolled her eyes and we both laughed.  Then she leaned in a little closer to me.  "You laugh more in Japan," she said gingerly.

"I don't know if that's because we're in Japan or because we're on vacation," I said.

Grant ran over to us and said, "Sometimes he swims this way, then he turns around and swims that way.  It's like he doesn't know where he's going."

"Maybe he's not going anywhere," I offered.

I began thinking out loud with Audrey what it means to be on vacation.  Especially a vacation where we're visiting with family.

Since we came here last week, I haven't planned a single meal.  I haven't gone grocery shopping.  I haven't cooked.  I haven't washed a single dish.  I haven't washed any clothes.  I haven't fed the dog, haven't walked him, haven't cleaned up after him.  I haven't done a minute of homework with the kids.  I haven't run a single errand.  I haven't dialed in to a single conference call, haven't taught a class, haven't pushed myself to meet a deadline.  So much of the pressure of everyday life has been lifted from my shoulders.  Maybe when the everyday pressures vanished, that created a vacuum in my soul and laughter rushed in to fill the void.

Grant was back.  "He's so big!  He's really huge.  How do koi fish get so big?"

"I don't know if this is true but I think I read once that koi fish will get as big as the space they're in.  If they have lots of space, they'll get really really big.  But if they're in a small tank they won't grow very big," I told him.

I think that's true.  At any rate it's something that I want to be true.  It sounds so good.

As the sun set the river water grew darker and darker, until finally the water and the slate-grey koi fish swimming in it blended into one slippery shadow.  The three of us quietly rose and gathered our things and walked back to the train station in the enchanted darkness.

Hours later, back in my hotel room, my mind keeps coming back to that koi fish that grew big because he was in a big space.  That means something to me but I can't quite put my finger on it.  Does it mean something to you?  If so would you leave me a comment and tell me about it?  I would love to read that.  Maybe you can help me figure it out.


Your friend, Nancy said...

Maybe....without so many chores and tasks to complete, your mind was free to grow and laughter came out. Our responsibilities (when there are too many)can make us feel confined, perhaps.

I like koi fish, and I think you're right about the big/small space.

Melanie Gao said...

Thanks Nancy, that's very wise. Maybe our everyday chores will grow and take up as much space in our lives as we let them... Something to think about.

We'll be back on Good Friday and can't wait to see everyone then!

Chris & Shelley Courington said...

Very profound thought you've hit upon, Melanie. I think so many of us, myself especially, allow ourselves to be hemmed in by the space in which we find ourselves. We don't allow ourselves to grow to our full potential, instead allowing the limitations placed on us (by parents, job, society, etc.)to stunt our development. I'm hoping to break free of those confines one day...I still owe you and the kids dinner whenever y'all get back to Nashville. Have fun on vacation!

Melanie Gao said...

That is so true Chris. We allow things to stunt our development...

We will get together for that dinner. The stars will align for us! Maybe we can get Nina's stars to align at the same time. Maybe a function at your church one day? The kids and I like visiting different houses of worship.

Unknown said...

That's "The Secret," right? Open a bank account specifically for unexpected cash, and it'll flow. Water rises to its own level. Bigger ponds offer bigger snacks, bigger snacks lead to bigger fish that make bigger snacks that attract bigger fish... wait, this isn't where I meant to go with this. My point is: drop the limitations you put on yourself, e.g., ageism, and there's no limit to the abundance you'll experience. Love you, sis, enjoy the rest of your trip! xo ajp

Melanie Gao said...

So true ajp, so true. Clearly I set up the wrong kind of bank account because cash keeps flowing *out* of mine.

BTW Audrey and I were bored in the train today so we watched Bliss videos. We miss our baby so much.

Anonymous said...

Sis, you made me think of the Dixie Chicks song "Wide Open Spaces." Room to make a big mistake. Wait, that is not where I am going with this. More like, picture a big field where we are walking hand in hand and we can't go wrong. I can't wait to see you on Good Friday. Love, CPTY

Melanie Gao said...

Aww Caro how did you know? I was thinking yesterday about this concept of things growing as big as we let them and how that could be a lesson for my soul, and I wondered what theme song I would choose for this period of my life then, and that exact Dixie Chicks song came to mind! I think I'm gonna download it and make it part of my morning quiet time routine.

I love you Sis!

Anonymous said...

Another beautifully written piece! Made me think, what's the difference between human and fish? We can choose our own surroundings, to certain degree. When looking back, the seemingly random choices we made linked together like a series of dots. And what is a bigger fish for human? It might mean different things for different people, and it's probably not the same at different stages of life too.

I really enjoy reading your blogs! :-)


Melanie Gao said...

Xiang Xiang that is just beautiful - thank you. The choices we made in life link together like a series of dots. The traces of our life. I love it.

Anonymous said...

I recently visited one of my friends house in Beijing. She has two young kids and her husband is a reporter who travels all the time all over the world. My friend has a full time job and her house is huge (4500 square feet). She has a part time A Yi who does cleanings only (5 hours a day) and my friend do shoppings and cooks herself. I asked my friend "you must feel really busy everyday with your work, such a big house, two kids and everything." Surprisingly she said "No. It is easy. I got up at 6:30am and breakfast is very easy to make. Toasts and fried eggs, milk....Shopping is easy, I just walk to the supermarket nearby,... cooking dinner is easy, actually I enjoy the time when I cook, kids are around, they coming in and out the kitchen, grabbing food and we chat about the news at school." The words "easy" and "simple" repeatedly came out from her mouth. Everything sounds so easy to her. Why? I have a live-in A Ying who does cooking, cleaning and some shoppings for us. I still feel busy and tired about house chores and managing A Yi. I know my friend has a large kitchen which allows her two kids to surround her when she's cooking. Mine is too small and if we have 3 people in at the same time nobody can move. But other than that, what I miss? Reflecting myself I think I'm missing an upbeat attitude and I focus too much on the responsibilities. Everything became a task I have to complete in a certain time. Cleaning, cooking, shopping, picking up kids, they are all responsibilities, they are all the tasks we have to finish every day as a parent. So we get tired because responsibilities take away our energy. If I can think differently I may enjoy the course more. Cooking and doing shoppings for families can be something I should cherish more to do. At the end our kid will leave us and we won't be able to have meals with her every day. I changed somehow after visiting my friend. I have been cooking dinner since then and and I found it isn't as difficult as I used to think. Anyway, I think what limits us is in our mind. Evelyn and my husband really like the meal I cooked. And I started to bring them home cooked lunch to work and school. I feel so good about it. I feel when I change my thoughts, things get easier. I don't know if I expressed myself clearly. Your blog makes me think and we just want to share this with you.

Last but not the least, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Melanie! May this year be your best ever!

Jane Zhang

Unknown said...

I know I smile more when I don't have to do all of those things. Last year my husband and I took a vacation together alone... the first real vacation since we had kids! We laughed and smiled so much. It was good to realize that we could still do that. We could still have fun and laugh together. We realized, it's not us... it's THEM! Ha ha ha! But seriously, life gets so busy that it's hard to breathe and enjoy and be present.

I think you've hit on something with the koi. I think we limit ourselves. We don't allow ourselves to dream. I always sing to the kids, "You've got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?" (from South Pacific) :)

Beautiful post, BTW.

Melanie Gao said...

Jane that gives me something to think about. A trip to the grocery store can be a burden or it can be a fun outing, really depending on how we look at it. Next time you see your friend please tell her I said thank you for giving us something to think about. And thank you for sharing that! And thanks, it was an awesome birthday. :)

Jenny I just love the song you quoted. That is so so true. I think I'll start singing it to my kids too. :)