I took Savannah for a walk last week at a park near our house. I wanted a change from our usual Sunnyvale Bay Trail excursion, so I pulled into the Fair Oaks Park parking lot just as a group of Hispanic men were finishing their pick-up soccer game. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and I let Savannah lead me onto the sidewalk toward the grassy area where the men were resting after their game. She pulled me toward them, but I decided to head across toward the other side of the park. I knew she just wanted to say “Hi”, but approaching a group of seven or eight men by myself made me a little nervous, even in broad daylight. We wandered slowly over to the picnic area and the basketball courts. Another group of young Caucasian and Asian men had just finished a noisy basketball game, while an elderly African-American gentleman read quietly at a picnic table. I looked over at the playground and saw a young Latina woman with two small children and a friend. The children were playing on the playground while the women sat and talked. Savannah and I wove our way through the picnic tables, past the apartment with the barking dog, through the no longer spraying summer fountain, and came upon the two young women checking their phones and calling to the children. I smiled at one of the girls as I walked passed her with Savannah, but didn’t stop to talk. A few minutes later, as Savannah and I continued our walk around the circumference of the park, I saw the girls leave the park and head down the street toward the Chavez Supermarket and the 7-11 about a half mile away.
I led Savannah back through the picnic area where the African-American man was still reading, past the apartment with the barking dog, toward the tree in front of the basketball court where a squirrel chattered noisily at us from the safety of the upper branches. Savannah stopped briefly to peer up at the squirrel, but she is no tree climber and we continued our walk. We headed through the no longer spraying summer fountain again and passed by the activity center where I heard a group of teenagers inside talking, laughing and playing games. I saw a young Caucasian man standing outside the center with his art pad on top of the brick wall. I watched as he used one finger to carefully smudge the details of his picture.
I let Savannah lead me back toward the men who had taken a break from their soccer game. She walked happily up to them with her tail wagging. One of them turned to me and smiled, pointing at his teammate he said, “It’s him. He has peanuts.” He must have thought that was the reason why Savannah had wandered over toward their group. I responded, “I just thought she liked you guys.” I talked with one of the men for a little bit. He told me they play pick-up soccer at the park in the afternoons and evenings. I talked to him a little bit about Buddhism and gave him one of my Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo cards. He said he knew about Buddhism, but he hadn’t heard of my particular type of Buddhism. I started walking toward the car when another man came down from the bleachers to ask me what kind of dog Savannah was. We spoke briefly for a few minutes and I shared Buddhism with him as well.
When I came home, I reflected on all the people I had seen and encountered at the park that afternoon. I thought how wonderful it was on a bright, sunny, peaceful afternoon to see so many different ethnic and racial groups enjoying themselves at a small, neighborhood park in Sunnyvale. To me, this is an incredible example of what world peace looks like, and I believe the fact that all these different groups of people were able to find some peace and happiness together on a bright, sunny afternoon bodes well for the future of humanity.
I read such an incredibly beautiful quote today by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. It is truly a revealing and amazing quote about friendship.
If a person has just one good friend, their happiness is doubled and their life immeasurably enriched. This is genuine wealth.
When I sat down to write a blog post this afternoon, I couldn’t manage to write one word. I didn’t have any ideas for something specific to write about, and I didn’t even want to open my website on my laptop to review what I wrote last week. Sometimes I get ideas this way. If I reread what I wrote the week before I can think about what has happened over the past week or even just reflect on the past few days. Today I didn’t want to write at all. It’s unusual for me to not have anything to write about. I feel like I always have something to say, but today was different. Maybe the frustration and disappointment got to me. I keep hoping the voices will go away forever, but so far they haven’t. I’ve even set a goal for myself for November 18th. I’m chanting for ABSOLUTE VICTORY with the voices. November 18th is the day the Soka Gakkai (Value Creating Society) was founded in Japan 83 years ago. This year, a new central headquarters will open in Tokyo and to celebrate the Soka Gakkai’s 83rd anniversary, I’m determined to make a fresh start in life and to be victorious in my own life based on my faith and sincere prayer. I’m expecting the best!
Later in the day when I thought about writing a post, I remembered the above quote. It was so encouraging I was inspired to write this evening. “If a person has just one good friend, their happiness is doubled and their life immeasurably enriched.” How wonderful! Just one good friend – how many of us have a good friend, or many good friends? Do we treasure our friendships? Do we value them? Do we realize the importance of a good friend? Perhaps not enough. If we have one good friend, do we consider ourselves wealthy? Probably not. Friends enrich our lives in many ways. I think back to high school and I was never the person with a million friends. I had a few good friends I spent the majority of my time with, and one very good friend who I’ll always treasure.
Maybe we don’t place enough value on healthy, trusting, and loving friendships. I prefer to develop close and long-lasting friendships with a few people, rather than spend time building a large circle of shallow acquaintances. As the quote says, “if a person has just one good friend…”
I’ve started writing an Epilogue for my memoir. I realized there were two very important questions that needed to be addressed somewhere in the manuscript and an Epilogue seemed like the best place. I decided to briefly address the question of HOW something so bizarre and extraordinary could have happened to me, but I will examine in much more depth and detail the WHY of my experience. The “how” of my experience is more scientific and might never be truly answered, but exploring the reasons “why” this happened offers the opportunity to give meaning and value to my own life and that of my husband’s, as well as everyone else who has been affected by these events.
I’ve also started brainstorming possibilities for an alternative title. Maybe something more poetic? I’m still not sure yet. The two alternatives I’ve come up with I’ve taken from my Buddhist teachings. One is the title of a letter written by Nichiren Daishonin (the founder of the Buddhism I practice), the other is a quote from a different letter also written by Nichiren Daishonin. Both alternatives have profound meaning. The first alternative I thought of is Winter Always Turns to Spring. In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin uses the seasonal metaphor to illustrate to one of his female disciples that just as the long, cold, snowy winter never fails to turn into a warm, bright, sunny spring, the problems and difficulties she faced after her husband died will not last – as long as she has strong faith.
The second alternative title I came up with is a quote from another letter titled Hell is the Land of Tranquil Light. The quote reads: From the indigo, an even deeper blue. The meaning behind this quote is found in the rest of the letter:
T’ien-t’ai states, “From the indigo, an even deeper blue.” This passage means that, if one dyes something repeatedly in indigo, it becomes even bluer than the indigo leaves. The Lotus Sutra is like the indigo, and the strength of one’s practice is like the deepening blue.
While both of these Buddhist quotes have profound significance for me, I haven’t yet decided if I should change the title at all, or if I should keep brainstorming for more ideas. What do you think?
A few weeks ago I received an email from Susan Berk congratulating me on having my experience published in the NAMI Voice Fall 2013 issue. I was surprised but also incredibly overjoyed at discovering my brief essay on the last page of NAMI’s Voice Fall newsletter. Susan Berk’s experience was published in the NAMI Voice Summer issue, and I was inspired to submit my own story after reading about Susan’s. I also posted the same article on this blog on July 10th with the title Building the Silver Lining. To read the NAMI Voice Fall 2013 issue, please click on the link below.
My memoir manuscript is coming along. I’ve sent it out for the first round of editing, and I’m excited to hear back from my editor. I’ve only received positive feedback on my memoir, but it hasn’t yet been reviewed by a professional editor. I so happy to finally be moving forward with my memoir. I realize it still needs quite a bit of work, but I’ve got the essentials down and I think what it really needs is a strong final chapter and clarification in some places. We’ll see what my editor says!
For the most part, things in my life have been going well. I’ve realized over the past few weeks that I will never experience life in quite the same way again. I’ve changed a lot on my own, but my experiences have also changed me. Sometimes I feel like my life since 2002 has been one of those times when your television show is unexpectedly interrupted by an emergency announcement, a breaking news program, or a presidential address. When the announcement, news program, or address is over a voice comes on and states: “We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.” Except in my case the voice states: “We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.” I laughed at this thought for a few days because it seemed funny. Now however, I realize nothing could be further from the truth. My life will never return to the way it was before I started hearing voices, even if every single one of the voices goes away forever and never comes back. I don’t even think I want my life to return to “normal.” I’m pretty sure it wasn’t ever normal to begin with. Mostly, I just want to be happy. Who doesn’t? The best thing for me is to continue making progress in my life, to keep writing, to keep strengthening my Buddhist practice and my relationships with others, and most of all, to live without fear. After all, if I hadn’t gone through what I’ve been through over the past ten years, I would still be a shy, timid woman with nothing to write about.
John and I met my aunt, uncle and my cousin’s family last night for dinner in San Francisco. It was a pleasant evening and we enjoyed seeing each other again so soon after our family reunion in August. I enjoyed the warm, cozy atmosphere of the restaurant and sipped a thick, foamy cappuccino laced with Kahlua. Yum. We talked about my aunt and uncles’ home in New Mexico, the traffic in Colombia where my cousin lives with her family, and how much we ate at the family reunion over the summer. My aunt gave John and I a photo album she made with pictures from the reunion. As I looked over the photos this morning, I realized how much I’ve changed since the summers I visited my cousins out at the Michigan lake when were children.
We’re all older now. We’re adults, some of us with children (or dogs) of our own, but in some ways it’s as if we haven’t really changed that much. We’re still the same people, with mostly the same personalities, just with more responsibilities and more life experiences. After looking at all our reunion pictures, I felt as if I had developed a slightly better perception of family – of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I was able to communicate better with my cousin Chrissy who is my own age. It didn’t seem that my cousins had changed much over the years. It seemed that I was the one who had changed. I don’t know if my family agrees with this or not. Maybe I still seem like the same person I was ten or fifteen or twenty years ago, but I don’t think I am.
I’ve learn to converse better. I’ve learned to be more social. I’ve learned to ask people questions about themselves instead of sitting silently while everyone else does all the talking. It takes effort and it can be challenging at times, but I’m doing it. I saw a great quote this morning on Facebook from the SGI Facebook page that reads:
The important thing is to not be fearful. Boldness builds a strong, undefeated self. – Daisaku Ikeda
I am challenging myself to be bold – to be as bold as I can be. This is necessary for me to be happy in life, to have a wonderful marriage, and to be a successful writer. Yesterday I spoke briefly with a homeless man I see occasionally when I walk Savannah along the bay in Sunnyvale. I had talked with him once before five or six months ago, and when I told him Savannah’s name, he remembered her! I was so surprised. He said to me, “You named her after a night club.” I couldn’t believe he remembered. I didn’t even remember telling him I had named Savannah after the Savanna Jazz Club in the Mission District in San Francisco. I read an article in the San Jose Mercury News about the nightclub’s owner (he wrote a book tracing the history of jazz and blues back to Africa) and decided to name her Savannah after the jazz club. Before we went our separate ways, I asked the man his name and wrote it down in my notepad so I wouldn’t forget. After all, he hadn’t forgotten about Savannah!