I didn’t realize until this past weekend, but when I left for Japan almost two years ago I had dozens of wounds, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Some of them were inflicted by others, but most of them were self-inflicted. The problem was, in my cozy routine that I had, I was able to ignore the wounds or in some cases just not realize they existed.
Moving to Japan changed all that. The wounds were wide open for all to see and for me to feel. I had in a sense been pretty numb about life in general, choosing to truck along with a sense that all will work itself out in time. And as much as that can be true a lot of the time, I was using it as a way out too often.
Upon arriving in Japan, the first demons to rear their ugly heads had to do with body image and fitting in. I am a petite woman, at about 158 cm or 5’2”. However, my frame has always been on the more stout side, with a wider back and thicker legs. I had maintained the same weight for most of my life, except for when I became depressed at 25 and ballooned to what I would say was a HUGE size for my frame. I had come to think that I had found my natural weight, despite a doctor telling me I should weigh 115 lbs. Japan changed all that and healed a wound that was so deep I never thought it would even scab over.
The forced change in my diet, due to lack of processed foods in Japan, and the added exercise that I get with every day commuting helped me lose about 20 lbs in a way that I didn’t even notice it happen. It was gradual, and gave me time to really love my skin and WANT to see improvement. After a 2 year plateau, I was surprised at how much my body changed. And now I know it is possible of so much more than I was asking of it...but, I have to nourish it correctly.
As for fitting in... As an immigrant to the United States, I never felt like I belonged. I came as a small child, so it was an easier transition than for those who come later in life, like my father, but still I never felt right growing up. I was always dreaming of other countries and cultures, mainly I believe because I was looking for a place I belonged. After two years, I understand, you belong where you are. Fitting in is not important. It took living in an extremely closed society that I had in a way idolized to learn that tough lesson. You will never be Japanese “enough”, you will never be American “enough”, you will never be Mexican “enough"...but you yourself can be much more than “enough.” Your sense of belonging comes from deep inside you, and can’t be changed once firmly rooted. You can make a life for yourself wherever you go, full of love and contentment.
Then came a wound I have ignored for all my life, my relationship with other women. I have always favored my relationship with men over my relationship with women. In some instances, you could say I even betrayed some of my closest girlfriends. This came from a variety of encounters I had as a small child that shaped how I viewed women. I was always left broken from how my so called friends or even female authority figures would treat me. So, as a result I tended to hang out with guys or give them preference. But, such strong feelings of resentment towards women ultimately had an adverse effect on how I felt about myself. I have done some horrible things to other females in my life, but probably have done more damage to myself in that time than any one else. Living in Japan has allowed the wound to scab some, not fully heal...but it is getting there. The huge gender gap in Japan, that is not only visible but palpable helped me see things differently. I even have more female friends than male friends here, a definite first.
There are a myriad of other wounds that also got treated, like me faking my intelligence. I doubt anyone would say I was dumb, but I often down played my cerebral abilities; especially when it came to reading and writing. I let that go when I started to not only teach English, but write this blog. And with that, other walls came tumbling down.
My emotional heart is in much different shape than it was when I left the states. With a great deal of ups, downs, and even some new battle scars I can confidently say that I have never felt stronger. I am capable of more love than I ever have been, and I am capable of more sharing than I have ever been. I am really opening up to the world at large, and not so scared to feel things that are unpleasant, its par for the course. The journey is way worth all those scars, no matter how horrible they feel at the time.
Now what made me realize all this??? I got told the same bit of advice by two different people, at two separate times, at two different locations, this past weekend. I was on another amazing solo travel adventure and I met some incredible people. I had traveled to see a yoga teacher of mine to learn and surround myself with the familiar, but what I received in the end was so much more, the ability to feel love, freedom, and a sense of peace. Not being scared of not knowing what will happen next and embracing the now, enjoying each moment for what it is, feeling that deep sense of belonging within, being open to new possibilities, and understanding nothing lasts forever but that doesn’t mean it won’t last a lifetime. I received a deep sense of healing.