Happy New Year 2017! I’ve stepped away from this blog, semi forgetting about it, but I haven’t stepped away from writing entirely. In 2016 I organized my stories about Hong Kong into a manuscript of sorts. Hong Kong is still the bad part. I feel like I’ve only been stable for a year on my medications. Prior to that, I felt awful. There were a lot of ups and downs, trying to create balance in my life of work and play while getting healthier. I still wonder if the rejection of medication at the beginning of my journey with my diagnosis was sole reason things went awry. It can’t be. There have to be other factors that contributed to the mental mess I was in for the past decade. I am slowly walking out of the haze, the shadow or the storm, whatever you would like to call it. I try to run, and I slip on the ice because it is black and camouflaged to the pavement beneath me. I remind myself to grow up slowly, just as a friend once told me in college.
This weekend we celebrated the mid Autumn festival and I ran a ten kilometer race. Needless to say it was a big weekend. Mid Autumn festival is the second biggest holiday in Hong Kong, just like Thanksgiving and Christmas in America, we have the Lunar New Year and mid Autumn festival. Mid Autumn festival is a celebration for the harvest that comes in the autumn around the autumnal equinox, which is marked by the appearance of the full moon between September and October. This year the festival fell on September 27, the same day as the Jamieson 10k race.
I got up at 5:15 to get ready for the race and take the 6am ferry out of Lamma Island. Choi and I met Leung in Causeway Bay and went to the Shatin Sportsground via taxi. For those of you who are wondering, the sunrise happens just after 6 and it is a glorious view from the ferry. (I enjoyed this everyday during my yoga training). Check out the sky in the photo below!
I was very full from a breakfast of two eggs, wheat bread and marmalade. I chose eggs for breakfast in keeping with my veggie diet and to pack some protein before the long run. I sipped warm water to help with digestion. The book Yoga Yajñavalkya recommends filling one third of the stomach with food, one third with warm water, and leaving the other third empty. Not too too much room in there as the size of your stomach is only about the size of the fist. Don’t worry though, it expands, and it is possible to get an idea of how much to eat and drink during a meal by following this ratio.
Pre-race there wasn’t much time to warm up. We took a quick photo then put our belongings in the stands. I love the good running buddy juju that got us the numbers 1693 and 1639!!! True running buddies for life!
The race went really well. There were less than two thousand people, but it was still pretty crowded on the race course which followed a bike path over the Shing Mun river and started and finished at the stadium. During the race we steadily worked our way forwards, passing one person after another until about the seventh kilometer when we evened out with our competitors. For the first five kilometers or so, I did not think about anything! I was completely absorbed in running (and passing other people) and it felt really carefree. After the fifth kilometer, I focused more on breathing, making sure every inhale and exhale was accompanied by 3-4 strides. I asked myself “Are you enjoying running in this race?” and I confidently answered “YES!” in my head. Everything was going smoothly, my muscles were working and not cramping which was a relief. I was on adrenaline since the start of the race and it felt like it was being steadily supplied to me throughout the whole race from start to finish.
Towards the second half of the race, I met my main competitor: another female in my age group (20-24). Funny thing is I did not even know there were prizes being given out at this race. She had a steady gait and quick rhythm. I was definitely working hard on keeping my breath together while she was not breathing hard at all. I chased her down at the last two hundred meters of the race, and I finished about 10 strides behind her.
We took some time to rest, drink water, eat Asian pears (Why I love HK: because they give out pears at the end of races instead of granola bars, etc.), and stretch. It is so essential to stretch after every run so that your muscles can relax and grow bigger. I cannot stress that point enough. It will also reduce the lactic acid in your muscles so that you don’t feel as much pain the next day or in the hours after the run.
I met a team of “veggie runners” with the most adorable jerseys, with pictures of animals on the front and the words “love and respect” and “go veggie”. Definitely I must join this organization’s running team if I venture to stay in HK longer. What a great message to share about diet while running.
As we were heading out of the stadium, we saw a results board. Neither of us were expecting anything, but we wanted to see the official times which had been kept by an electronic attachment to our bibs. Lo and behold, my name was listed at #3 in females ages 20-24! With a time of 55.45, I had won a prize in this competition which came as such a surprise, and I am still wondering why this race was not more popular for woman in my age group. Here I am receiving my medal and gift certificate to Jamieson, already changed out of my running clothes.
On to the second part of the mid Autumn festival celebration! The family reunion may be the most essential part as the round moon represents unity and wholeness, such a the family unit. Of course I celebrated with my almost-foster family here, the Chan family.
Having a big dinner and then going out to the streets of Causeway Bay to watch the dragon dance made the evening super special. The dragon dance was not the typical big and brightly colored dragon costume. For this celebration, they create the body of the dragon out of hay, then stick incense all over the body, so a fragrant aroma is carried throughout the city streets. Drums are being played to announce it’s arrival and keep the atmosphere lively. Children carry lanterns of paper or plastic (electric), and there’s confetti everywhere. I don’t have a picture or video of this because I was rushing to catch a bus back to Aberdeen where I take the ferry home to Lamma. From the pier at Aberdeen I watched the moon, its pale silver light reflected down from the sky and I felt peaceful. I truly am a moongirl. To me that means I go with the ebb and flow of nature, I always turn to the moon to feel nourished and comforted because her light is so gentle. Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
I see a doctor in Hong Kong who helps manage my medication for depression and gives me talk therapy. On my sixth visit I am getting less questioning and more of an opportunity to express my current condition. The doctor asks me about my circumstances, which are constantly changing. He asks about my relationships with my parents, which have been a great source of stress and worry. With every visit I am able to respond more readily and to provide a clearer story to illustrate my situation. He remarks that I have made impressive improvement to my quality of being.
Today I talked about my new English teaching job prospect. It’s exciting to experience the aroma of a good meal cooking in the oven, yet still being unsure of how it turn out. That’s the metaphor I am using to describe the feeling of waiting to hear whether I’ve been hired for this job to teach young children phonics and run playgroup classes in a middle class neighborhood of a big cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong. I feel anxious about getting this job, and not getting it. It is good to let out this source of anxiety to someone who can reflect back a realistic and positive point of view about my situation.
Before leaving, the doctor asks me about my depression, and to describe with some subjectivity what it is like to be in my shoes, experiencing it. I come up with a pretty gnarly reply saying that when I am depressed, I tend to dwell in my thoughts. They usually wander to somewhere in my past to an experience that made me unhappy, and then I bring that unhappiness to the present moment. For example, I say to myself, the reason why I am not satisfied right now is due to x, which happened in the past. It is a pretty destructive habit that goes on in my mind, and it is something that the medicine is helping to treat.
After the doctor’s visit, my aunt brings me out to a cafe for some cake and tea. I may add that she is also trained in psychology and art therapy. Our discussions over food usually come back to me and my mental health, something I have been struggling with over the course of my young life. This time we chit chat about relationships, a potential next topic that we can cover in our art therapy sessions for me. Our dialogue goes something like this:
Me: “I am usually a kind person, and I always have tried to be a nice person from a young age. Sometimes though, I become mean, and it just comes out of me. I lose control of how to express myself kindly. I think it may be due to some of my hardships in the past, especially when I was treated unkindly by others.”
Aunt: “You have a longing for healthy long term relationships. We all desire this. Can you live on a island by yourself and survive?”
Me: “No, I would go out and look for people to communicate with.”
Aunt: “Right, or even you would go to a flower or a fish to talk to.”
Me: “One of my friends told me I lack social skills, and I was surprised, but she was right. In college, I went through such a rough period of depression, I forgot how to speak. I stayed at home in bed under the blankets for days. I didn’t have anything to share, have discussions, or ask questions about.”
Aunt: “Did you ever think about your relationship with yourself when you were depressed?”
Me: “At that time, I realized I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t have a relationship with myself, and when I decided to seek treatment for my sickness, I started to consciously cultivate that relationship.”
Aunt: “It is the most important one.”
Aunt: “The way to get to know yourself is to OBSERVE your personal traits and qualities — not to judge or criticize yourself but simply to observe. Do you think you can write down your observations about yourself so that you can get to know who you are?”
Aunt: “Good. And next time we see each other you can share, and then we can work on some social skills. It will be like a training and you can learn how to navigate social situations with more ease and comfort.”
It rocks to have a loving family member who is truly committed to helping me. When I am looking for answers, I can bring up any topic and trust that she has the power to reflect what I am searching for. Over Amelie cake (pistachio, chocolate, apricot, raspberry, and vanilla) and pineapple iced tea, I get my psyche rebooted with loving support. Even just forty five minutes of honest conversation can help make me feel better. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and love for my Aunt who brings me to my doctor’s visits and supports me that way.
I am so excited to start my first blog, which I hope will evolve into a communication platform for all topics that interest me (ie. women’s issues, LGBTQ, food, agriculture, yoga, running, books, health, and environment). This first post is like a purpose statement, so that I and my readers have a clear understanding of why I write and what I hope to share through this blogging experience.
First of all, I want to give you a warm welcome. This is a space that is uplifting, encouraging and positive. I want to create articles that generate a feeling of hope and promote openness to important issues in the world. As global citizens I believe we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. We need to pare down and think critically about our basic needs, cherish them if they have been served, and use the rest of our energy to live out our dreams and create beauty in this world. More often than not, the news brings us down, people leave hate comments on the internet, and children get bullied in school. Our planet needs some serious healing, and we need to turn our minds inside out in order for real life to manifest itself. I hope that my writing serves the community as I promote awareness and sensitivity to hot topic issues in our world today. Please jump on board with comments, constructive criticism, and questions to create a rich learning environment that brings inspiration to all.