Waking Early Update: Day 37

My early riser experiment started 36 days ago.

I’m suprised to say that I’ve become a morning person….sort of.

I used to hate waking up early. I preferred to sleep in and spend long hours into the night surfing the internet.

But in the past 37 days, I’ve been sleeping around midnight and waking between 7am – 9am. Except for the weekends when I sleep in.

During the mournings that I’m not rushed, my morning ritual is to take a stroll for 15-30 minutes doing yoga breathing, feeling grateful for my life, and thinking about my goals and actions for today. It’s a great way to stay off the day feeling energized and wanting to do things.

I used to often suffer from insomnia, but that’s disappeared completely. I turn off all electronics by 11pm. Then I meditate, listen to music,  or read a fiction novel before drifting off to sleep.

Every day, the first thing I do and the last thing I do are devoted to just me. To spend some time with myself, reflect, and relax.

My goal is to consistently wake up at 7am or earlier. However, that means I have to sleep by midnight or earlier. I also tend to have a lot of energy at night, but that’s likely related to the fact that the night time is when I no longer worry about my job or graduate school.

Overall, I’m glad to have switched to a morning person and looking forward to start working towards my 7am goal.

Trapeze Flying in Washington DC

This week, Dan and I went trapeze flying at the confusingly named Trapeze School New York (TSNY) located in Washingotn DC SE.

I accidently stumbled upon TSNY when I was searching for skydiving places. TSNY opened their DC school less than a year ago, but I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about it.  They originally started in New York City, but they have sister schools all over the United States.  So, how was it?

My experience was AMAZING! Some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

Let’s see….

  • Low Cost? $61 for two hours with 3+ coaches compared to skydiving’s $230+.
  • Convenient Location? A few blocks from Navy Yards Metro near the baseball stadium.
  • Safety? Impossible to fall and injure yourself.

You know that dumb, childlike grin whenever you are doing something utterly absurd yet fun? Well, I was grinning like a fool the whole time.

Well, actually, not the whole time….

Initially, they make you sign a waiver saying they can murder you, and your family won’t sue them.

Then they take you through a five minute safety lesson. Basically, listen to what they say when they say it.

Then, it’s climb the ladder and start swinging.

My first swing was disastrous.  I was swinging upside down by my legs, and I went into a small panic. I wasn’t sure how to get back to normal and land.  I ended up straining my back muscles really bad and thought I was done for the day.

Afterward, as I laid on the floor, I cursed myself for possibly ruining my back.  Then I made a vow to not let one mistake screw me.  Not only was I going to get back on that damm ladder, I was going to do the “catch”.

The catch is when you are doing a knee hang, and one of the teachers catches you by the hands, and the two of you swing in the air. Like so:

Trapeze Flying in Washington DC

Trapeze flying is really natural. The more you think about it, the more you sabotage yourself.

I had an absolute blast. The instructors are very helpful and happy people. The other students were far more advanced, and it was wonderful just watching them jump and flip through the air.

They were setting up the outdoor wiring when I was there. But, it should be ready by now so people can take classes outside.

I would definitely sign up for more advanced classes if I had the time or money right now. But if anyone wants to go together, I’m more than willing.

Jesus at Reef’s Rooftop Bar

Elliot, an old friend from high school and college, came down to visit for the weekend. As obligated by bro-law, we had one too many drinks over the weekend and had a debauchery of fun.

One of the highlights for me was Saturday night in Adams Morgan. Usually, I detest this neighborhood. The sidewalks are flooded with drunks, littered with pizza, and over run with police. Not to mention the closest metro is about a mile away. However, it is a guaranteed interesting time.

At Reef, I join Elliot to smoke a cig on the rooftop. While gazing out at the herds of people below, I overhear a guy and girl talking about God and religion. Like so many modern Americans, I hear the same apprehension, justification, and partial craving in the girl’s voice as she talks about no longer believing in God but still believing in some sort of higher power. That spiritual crisis from the early to late 20th century remains. More young people associate themselves as spiritual but not religious.

I’m intrigued. I used to love studying religions and going to different churches, mosques, and temples. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone talk about religion in a bar since I brought it up two years ago on a Halloween night.

Afterward, I strike up a conversation with the guy.

“Excuse me, I couldn’t help but hear you guys talking about religion. Mind me asking how that started?”
“Well….I just really love God. That’s who I am. I wake up every morning and read the Bible.”

His eyes are fixed in a serene gaze. He reminds me of my old mentor Dr. P, the only Christian I’ve meet that I believed had absolute faith. She embodied what the ideal Christian would be in my view. Humble, loving, and caring for others.

He asks me a few questions, and I find myself lost without words. It’s been nearly two years since I actively thought about mysticism, God, or religion. He takes my silences to mean I’m offended, when in reality, I’m just trying to work it out in my head:

Religions are very complicated. They serve a lot of functions – social, psychological, therapeutic, economic, and of course, spiritual. I think mystics…like in the Christian tradition, you have Meister Eckhart, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross. I think the mystics got to the true root of what religion is about. Which is connecting back to God, to the divine, to reality itself. I think that’s lost many times in churches today. I know a lot of young people who became religious during college, but it was due to feeling disconnected and finding a community that understood and accepted them. Positive associations were connected between going to church and feeling good. I remember once having a vision, I’m not sure if it was real or just my own projections. I tend to think it was just my brain. But I was talking to Jesus and asking for forgiveness.”

“Why did you ask for forgiveness?”

“On one hand, I had distanced myself from the church and had been very critical of Christianity. But on the other hand, it was that I felt that I forgot just what a miracle it is to be alive. That to be a human being is a blessing. There’s so much beauty going on around us, but we forget when we get lost in our daily worries about taxes and car payments and what not.”

As I said these words, I realize I’ve forgotten what a blessing it is to be alive. As the night goes on, our new God loving friend buys drinks for us. Another interesting night out.

My Grandmother’s Grave

This is personal and likely not suitable for a public blog, but it’s been on my mind for a long time…My apologies for not posting for a while. Life is busy, and I have nothing to write.

Last weekend, I went back home to see my older brother off. He was flying out to Japan for a new career and a new life. All my best prayers go out to him.

On the drive back to Washington DC, I made a stop though…to my grandmother’s grave site.

My grandmother died two years ago. It was quite sudden. One day, she just didn’t wake up.

In her last years of life and most of my adolescence, she suffered from dementia. She would run away at night believing the devil was out to get her. Or she would prepare a meal for her non-existent husband. Sometimes, she didn’t recognize any of us. That was the worse.

While I’m certain that my father and my brother felt worse than me, I had a lot of feelings of grief, frustration, and guilt while she was living and dead. Visiting her, I would feel embarrassed that I couldn’t speak to her in Korean. My own grandmother, and I never told her I loved her. Eventually, I stopped visiting her just as I closed myself off to Korean culture.

I remember mourning her death. Initially, my mind was detached and cold from the entire situation. It only really hit me during a service we had where just our family were praying in front of the casket. The love and grief in my parent’s voice overwhelmed me. My eyes tear up just thinking about it.  During the funeral, the priest had each of us put holy water on the casket before it was lowered into the ground. It was an unbearable action.

I hatred every single person there. None of them knew her. None of them really cared. One of the church ladies gave me a disposable camera telling me to document the funeral.  I was incredulous. Are you kidding me? Why the fuck would I want your ten dollar camera to document the saddest day in my family’s history? I was very upset and projecting my self-hatred out to everyone else.

Two years later, walking by myself to the grave site, I still easily remembered where it was. Twelve feet away from a trash can, right by the walkway. I broke down into tears.

Last time, we couldn’t afford to buy a headstone so this was the first time I had seen it. The dates said 1916 – 2007. She was 91 years old?

What a life of turmoil and chaos. Born in the midst of World War I, going through Japanese Occupation, the Korean War, and brutal dictatorships of the 1960s and 1970s in Korea. To come to a foreign land at age 70 with no friends and only one son.

I mourned all over ago and made a vow that I wouldn’t let my parents suffer the same fate. That all the pain, sacrifice, and suffering wouldn’t be in vain. I apologized for not returning for two years and for never telling her I loved her, that she was the only angel in my life.

Driving out of the cemetery, I stopped at an intersection red light. There was a guy with a finger pointing out and making eye contact with me. He asks me for a ride to the next intersection, less than a mile away in exchange for five dollars. My windows are wide open, and my doors are unlocked. But I apologize and tell him I’m in a hurry. Indeed, I’m already late. And it seems awfully odd that he couldn’t walk a mile.

He tells me that he lives just up the street and needs a ride. He pleads with me. I slowly start driving away. He calls me a “fucking fagot”.

I’m a little upset, but I start laughing at the absurdity of it.

I believe that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. That with every high is the possibility for a great low. So, I laughed and drove home.

Enlightenment in Just One Minute

Say whatever you want. But starring into Jim Carrey’s loving-kindness face, my eyes are filled with tears of bliss and gratitude.