Be my guest

day 336: slip into your belle epoque

I started my mini-vacation by seeing Midnight in Paris - Woody Allen's whimsical film about a man who so desired to have Paris as his muse that he found himself - by way of his imagination or (if you're the believing kind) the Peugeot Delorean of his day - in a rabbit hole defined by Paris of the 1920s.  And in the way only Allen can suspend in disbelief, the protagonist was instantly slingshot into an era where authors and artists were addicts of love and sex and ideology, and where - even if only for a moment, it felt like everyone was more romantic, more tragic, and more absolute. 

I have always been intrigued by this notion of time travel. I want to be in an era where I might feel wise and naive, nostalgic and new, sad at the thought that my stay in this other time is short-lived, but overjoyed to have a glimpse of a more romantic version of myself, or a more enlightened version of a loved one lost too soon, or never fully understood. 

I imagine I would feel elicit almost - wise with the knowledge of today and sweaty with the secrets of another time and space. 

It seems fortuitous that I was swimming in this cadence of what was or what could have been, when I stumbled upon David Hockney's iPad art exhibit in the Royal Ontario Museum.  It was intimate almost - process and product all in one setting.   Hockney is the quintessential reinventionist.  He found his iPad to be a new tableau - one where he could use his finger as his lapiz, and could redefine etch-a-sketch in a way that is uniquely vibrant and amazingly translucent to boot. 

As voyeur in his work, we could see both his final work and his work in progress, because every smudge and every stroke was captured on the iPad, like the notes pencilled gingerly as a pianist scribes a new song.  It is something you never get a chance to see - the layers upon layers to give dimension to flat surfaces, the blemishes that become the beauty, the abstraction that seems unruly and yet detangles with ease.  And like time travel, it is an invitation backwards and forewards, an opportunity to see something in its most raw, most anterior form. 

And I loved it for what it evoked not just in the final imagery, but in the prelude to get there.

Between Hockney and Allen, I have been imagining the expansion and contraction of time and space - the slinkie that tethers us from one era to another and that curls its index finger towards us, inviting us to take a peek.  And though I would love a rabbit hole to transport me to a decade of yore, I realize more and more that this is my belle epoque. 

Today.  This moment.  This ever. 

And that if we open our eyes to the nostalgia of now, we will miss it and be in it and lap up in it all at once.  We will be open to new beginnings and maybe even new dates.  We will step boldly into birthdays with fierce and with focus.  We will confess and apologize and forgive each other and ourselves.  We will be exhausted and sweaty and sexy and romantic, because we can be.  Because we are. 

Because this is an era to drink in, to slip into.  It is as lovely because of all that has preceded it, and is as vibrant for what it must support in time yet to come.  Yup, this is our belle epoque.

Drink up, dear friends.

Maria Kim


day 324: i see, she said to herself as she smiled at the sight of it

This afternoon, I attended an informative and engaging event hosted by Mercy Housing Lakefront.  In it, they featured a video where the executive director mused on what she sees when she imagines the state of the housing crisis throughout our country. 

"I see ... the 55 year old man who was found on lower Wacker Drive, who needs four safe walls around him to protect him from the elements, but most importantly to protect him from his past." 

"I see the drawings still seemingly wet from the ink of a crayon that we found left on the kitchen table as we entered a foreclosed home." 

And so she began to recount all the things that she sees - the beauty, the cracks, and the clarity. 

Soon I became smitten with her cadence of "I sees" and began to really see things myself. 

Two images from this past week in particular come to mind. 

I see the man thinking fondly of his father and yet missing him with a wave as high as those crashing along Lake Shore this evening.  I see this same man looking at a picture of his younger self wearing a t-shirt that says "I'm special".  And only now, some 30 years after the photo was taken, does he recognize the real character in the photo - his father, who smiles sweetly upon his young boy, believing the words enscribed on his shirt with a fervor that only a daddy can have.  As I see this boy now man, my heart breaks for him and his heart breaks for his dad.  And I see his dad, looking down at his young boy from the heavens with that same sweet smile as he had in the crevice of the old photograph - rooting for his boy until he can root boldly for himself. 

I see the woman who stepped - on the balls of her feet, and with her mom in her arms - down the aisle to her wedding celebration.  I see the nuance of what shifts an event to a true ceremony, where words and moments and stares are shared purposefully and fearlessly with friends and family, so that the words do not float like bubbles out of our mouths, but knit, purl, stitch into the fabric of our circle - invisible and weightless as the sky, yet omnipresent, heard and wished ever after.

And as we embark upon this season of trick or treat, where masquerades or costumes might obscure what you can see, I smile slyly to myself as I realize - there is so much, so much, so much for us to see - if we only open our eyes, look for the secret in the corner of the photo, detect the wishes that leap into the air with the sweet cadence of a fallen eyelash.  If only we can see. 

Today, I can see.  And I love it. 

Maria Kim


day 306: (em)brace for impact

I recently viewed a great TED Talk where the speaker reflected on the lessons learned (as his heart palpitated ever urgently) ... when it became clear his plane was about to crash into the Hudson River.

He says clarity began to ascend when he heard the pilot say three bold words: "Brace for impact."

Brace. For. Impact.

With honesty and with heart, he speaks of the urgency and the intention with which he lives his life now and with which he compels others to follow suit.  And he pushes his audience to tip the scales in the direction of its brightest wishes and to not wait for the occasion, the to-do, the tomorrow.  He knows the precociousness of every day, because he almost went to his last day.  And for reasons he may never understand, he got a chance to bounce back.  He got a chance to tug himself out of the tumble of every day motion and into the clarity of his life's purpose - as a husband and as a dad - a weepy, engaged and alive dad. 

It seemed all too fortuitous that I stumbled upon this video in the same week that one of our friends took a big and fabulous leap to reboot and seize an opportunity to move to New York.  Though I will miss her a great deal, I'm thrilled for her sense of new beginnings, of exploration, of pick up and go, of roll the dice.  New York is wonder and revelrie and grit and fashion.  It's race and pace and set and color.  It's a leap from family and a reconnect with old friends.  It's shadows and light and uptown and underground. 

Let's face it.  New York is opportunity and reinvention and prequel all in one. 

And so I think of my friend, and I think of Ric Elias' brave new view on his big and small world, and I say to myself:

Maybe it is less "brace for impact" as it is "(em)brace for impact."

In the face of the scariest outcome, the biggest risk, the tippiest of toes, perhaps it's less about bracing for impact and shielding ourselves from an end, and more about embracing for impact and opening ourselves to a new beginning.   Wouldn't that be, couldn't that be, a more divine way of looking at those things which we used to shelve for tomorrow, and now boldly dust off for today?  Whatever that thing is - be it a bold new move, an offer to take someone's hand in life or in coffee, a gesture of forgiveness that could create a waterfall of new love - let's do it. 

Let's let it scare us, let it shake us, in the way that makes us feel palpably and wonderfully alive. 

So that in the end, we can embrace it for the best crash landing we could ever imagine.  And in the face of a new beginning, we can ultimately embrace for impact.

Maria Kim 


day 278: the thursday that went up, up and away

I have been thinking a lot lately about lost time - time that slips through our fingers because we aren't paying attention, because we are too busy, or simply because we think there's always tomorrow so why not waste today.

I was particularly struck by this in a more literal sense on my way out to Singapore this year, where I lost Thursday, July 14th somewhere in mid-flight.  (Because of the time change, the sass of the meridien, and the sheer length of the flight, I ended up arriving two days after I left.)  And so there I was, on the other side of the world, and somewhat melancholy over:

The Thursday that went up, up and away.

And I wondered, especially in this year of great transition, what would I do on July 14, 2011 if I could get that day back?

What would I do if I had a do-over?

2011 (just uttering those numbers sounds remarkable to me) has flown by.  In an instant, I will be one year older, it will be 2012, babies around me will be walking and running, my faithful 12 year old car will need to go night night, people who were once children a mere moment ago will be flashing their adulthood with as much brazen as their first tattoo, I will hopefully be one step closer to becoming a mom (with an overdue MBA :), and life will happen in the infinite moments I am too busy to click into it.

Last week at this time I was at a friend's 40th birthday party.  As with many events, I was the single in a sea of couples, which for the most part does not bother me, but this weekend - armed with an extra special dose of the blues - it got a bit under my skin.  It tugged at the tail of my dress (which was perhaps a little too short because if I can't show off my man, I can at least show off my legs), and shook me.

Whether or not it was intended, I felt like I was "that girl", the one that lingers a little too long in conversations where the others would speak with much less staccato if I weren't around.  The one who receives the question from multiple parties, "Now why aren't you married yet? What's the matter - do you just not want to have a family?" 

And I realized that in the ignorant kindness of others, I could easily just fade away.  I could choose to let the questions tug at the tail of my short dress.  I could replay in my head the stories I heard that night of my friends' growing families, of their kids' hopes becoming theirs, of the pass between his and hers and ours and family being seamless, effortless and light. 

I could dwell in the absence I feel in the face of the abundance of others.  Or I could not.

It's that simple.

Not coincidentally, a few days later I met up with another group of friends, and found out within moments of the first clink of drinks (three beers and a coke), that one was newly pregnant.  For a second - like a fleeting, momentary, but still there second, I had a flashback to December of 2009, where I found out within the span of one day that two different friends of mine had just gotten engaged. I found out about one before I had my first coffee, and the other later that night before I had my first glass of wine.  In both instances, as soon as I found out, I regaled them with hugs and adulation, and then snuck into the quickest and quietest nook I could find to burst into tears. 

And so it goes.  We hear these news of wonder, of hope and of love of those closest in our lives, and sometimes - in our ugliest but perhaps most honest of moments, we feel the yin and yang - the theater masks of happiness for what they have and sadness for what we don't. I get so upset with myself when I have these reactions - the shallowness of it, the selfishness of it makes me sick of myself and my stuff.  But after a while I realize, I shouldn't beat myself up about it. 

I should just lean into it.

And to my friend who's newly with baby, I am over the moon for her.  In an instant, her whole life has changed, and the same can happen for me too.  And if at moments, I'm melancholy for what I don't have, let me sit with it, lean into it, tirelessly work to understand it - so that I can be all the more joyous when my day comes.

And it is with this vim and vigor, that I will reclaim my Thursdays and every day, knowing that my path might not be the "norm", but it will be all mine.  Gloriously, unmistakably, and brazenly all mine.  

Maria Kim


day 252: an infidelity to grief

As I was flying home from Singapore, I did what I often do on trans-oceanic flights: watch an absurd amount of movies.  Among them was Rabbit Hole, a smart and bittersweet film playing off the allegory of Alice in Wonderland to illustrate how rapidly our lives can propel us into ...

an adventure of the unknown. 

I don't know if it was my utter fatigue by this leg of the flight, or if it more accurately was the honest portrayal of a couple navigating a consuming grief like nothing you could utter or imagine - but I was rendered to tears.  Moved beyond what seemed reasonable or attainable on a flight from Southeast Asia all the way home. 

The plot of the movie hit its crest when these (at once) parents and partners went to blows over the way in which they uniquely processed their grief over the loss of their son.  Where the husband clinged to community and memory of this young boy, the wife could find no absolution or resolution except in the kindness of an ironic friend.  And it was in reflecting on this truth, this bare naked truth, that the wife realized the essence of her husband's struggle. 

He struggled with what seemed to be her infidelity to grief.

This scene has sat heavy on my heart ever since I saw it.  Not just because it was so poignant and honest, but because it had a relevance I was soon to understand. 

As many friends have often told me, we are often (if not always) in recovery.

Recovery of a loss, of an addiction, of a relationship, of an opportunity no longer in reach.  Of a marriage played out in our minds, but not in reality.  Of a baby born and lost or a baby never born.  Of friends and family lost in an addiction to an other - be it a substance, a process, or some other vice unbecoming.  Of cancers and disease and illness and rapture.  Of colleagues blurred into friends blurred into family who you miss when the last box is packed, and who you hope - even in the toughest of times, they miss you right back. 

And as I contemplate loss of all shapes and sizes, I realize that we are each confused in the other's grief.

As was unwound in the movie between husband and wife, I see all around me the shards of grief misunderstood.  The husband's frustration with the wife's infidelity to grief was a product of their inability to open the door to each other, profoundly and with emphasis.  To open the door to what was their own backpack of a loss so profound no words could articulate, and no touch could resolve.  And it was only until they realized they would not ever "get over", but they may one day "get through", that they started to find their way back to each other and back to love. 

I believe that we will each experience loss today or one day that is so profound, we will be rendered without sound. 

I believe that when we lose our father, our mother, our sister, our brother, our daughter or our son, we may come ever close to losing ourselves and each other in the process.  I believe that loss is not defined by death, but by absence.  And yet I believe we can get through it, because indeed we will get through it, if we take that first possible moment to tug each other out of the rabbit hole, to believe that family triumphs over bloodlines and borders and to live this life's adventure with the wisdom of grief and a curious, insatiable, incredible hope.

Just like Alice in Wonderland did.

Maria Kim