Category Archives: life experiences

When the Going Gets Tough…


…the tough go to the circus.

The Kinoshita Circus is Japan’s largest* and it’s a real circus, staged in a tent, complete with clowns, jugglers, contortionists, acrobats and animals. It was pure delight from start to finish (except for the motorcycles in the giant sphere. That act was entirely too loud and scared the pickles out of me). It was charming, totally professional and yet not quite, especially when the juggler dropped his bowling pin for the third time and the acrobat missed the trapeze and fell into the net. Kudos to him, though, as he climbed right back onto the platform and completed the act. There was an aged elephant who stood on her front feet, then her back feet, then looked right at me as if to say, “Well, what do you expect?” Four bored-looking zebras trotted around the ring in one direction then the other, barely stifling their yawns, eager to get back to their cabbage and carrots.

George feet
We weren’t allowed to take pictures. Just imagine George’s feet times 100.

But then there were lions. There were eight lions, two each of tawny males and females, and four pure white females. They didn’t do much, just jumped through a hoop and did a couple of group poses. The males reared up, but there was no pretense at fierceness, no gnashing of teeth or snapping of whip. The tamer clearly loved them and was loved in return as he patted their magnificent haunches and tugged on their swishing tails. They walked around the ring, swaying their powerful shoulders and flipping their enormous paws. And we were seated less than ten meters away. I cried openly throughout the act, overwhelmed.

By the time we got home that evening, my scalp was beginning to show. So the next morning, armed with the lingering flush of being that close to so much feline magnificence, I plugged in the razor, took a deep breath and mowed a swath right along the top of my head from the middle of my forehead, a reverse Mohawk, an irreversible, total commitment. When I asked Rochi to help with the bits I couldn’t reach, he didn’t flinch, even though I know he was at least as scared as I was.

head shaving

Picking up that razor brought back the feelings of waking up after my second surgery. As I gradually became aware of the tubes leading in and out of my body, the machines I was attached to, the medical staff bustling around, the difficult and painful recovery that lay ahead, I panicked. All I could think was, “I can’t do this. I just did this. I can’t do it again! I can’t!” I wanted to leap off the table, yank out the tubes and run away from the sterile room, the sterile hospital, the entire sterile, surreal medical world.

Instead, I remembered a visualization I had learned. I closed my eyes and found myself sitting comfortably on a warm rock in a sunny glade under trees swaying in a breeze lightly scented with jasmine. Surrounding me was my tribe, who had taken the form of pastel colored unicorns. Waves of empathy, compassion and love flowed from their soft, gentle eyes, all toward the center of the circle, all toward me.

I experienced all of that in just a few moments but it was enough. My heart stopped pounding. My breathing slowed. I opened my eyes.

Over the past few years I have kept having experiences that left me thinking, “Wow. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.” And I keep being wrong about that. But I have learned a valuable lesson: Courage isn’t a lack of fear. Courage is being afraid of something and doing it anyway. And I give thanks every single day for continuing to find that courage in myself and in the people around me.

*Big, squishy clowny hugs of gratitude to Randy and his friend for making this happen.

Bruised and Battered

Japanese trucks

This horrible week is finally coming to an end, and not a moment too soon. Sometimes the universe chooses to throw a succession of mud pies at you and you just have to duck. It feels like I got hit by a Mack truck, or more likely Hino or Isuzu. And more like a convoy than a single truck. Or maybe I’m a scarecrow in a field, buffeted by wind and rain. Or a rag doll drowned in the washer and then pummeled in the dryer. At any rate, I’m bruised.

As much as I’m a fan of new experiences, I’ve had several firsts recently, most of which I could have done without. This week’s was calling and riding in an ambulance. They sent a fire truck as well. There was no explanation except that that’s how it’s done here. Of course, my Japanese is not perfect and I may have mixed up “heart palpitations” and “spontaneous combustion”. We’ll never know. In the end, all is well and I can cross that off the list of things I never wanted to do in the first place.

To be honest, I did want to see what it’s like to ride in an ambulance, but the conditions were not ideal. It struck me as I sat there on the bench in the speeding (slowly) emergency vehicle that they hadn’t provided a seat belt. It’s funny that they go so far as to send a fire truck as well as six, yes six, EMTs but nobody was concerned about me falling off the bench and flying out the rear doors of the ambulance.

Work says they’re making arrangements to make sure I get all the hardest parts of this new project we’re working on and that I should be flattered. I’m not. They want me because I’m the best, yet they have no intention of paying me more. I’ve had to have the humiliating conversation about money three times already and am getting tired of fighting about it.

I’m tired in general. My head, my heart, my soul. Bad things are happening and there’s nothing I can do about them. I am painfully conscious of the unfairness of the universe and this leads to frustration and hopelessness. I’m trying to fight back, but there’s a limit to my strength.

Where is my guardian angel when I need her?