Letter from Tokyo: “The Waking”… “I Know What Time It Is”

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
–  Theodore Roethke (The Waking)

Hi Friends,

I just woke up with a huge smile on my face. Today’s not only my day off, but my first day off in the first pay cycle where my fellow orientation members and I have received a full paycheck (the last check we received was for a five-day period). We were all suffering and broke, but not one person to whom I spoke regretted the decision of moving their lives to Tokyo. Some of us came with more cash, and were thus a tad less miserable; some of us borrowed from family; and, some of us ate ramen every day for the last three weeks (and even the ramen eaters were thankful to be here). No more ramen this week! (We’re unbroken!).

I’m meeting up with my orientation classmates tonight to celebrate our elevation from poverty (we’re kinda like the Jeffersons… without Florence), but first there are so many things to do in the day (go to the bank, head to the supermarket to buy something to eat with my Wonder bread– probably butter (if I’m feeling generous with myself– cheese), buy some lotion for my ashy elbows, etc..

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I want to start feeling more and thinking less. My problem has always been overthinking, overanalyzing, and not simply being in a moment. I was talking to my coworker B two days ago about my attraction to two younger guys and asked him what I should do, and he said “You’re really overthinking this. That’s a problem with women.” He’s right. Being attracted to, and possibly hanging out, with younger guys (and not even that much younger) doesn’t require as much contemplation as I’ve devoted to it. It’s not a big deal, especially since we’re all grown. My  favorite cliché is “Life is short,” so why forget that? Starting today, it’s going to be about live live living, and encouraging my entire being to   “dance from ear to ear.”

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Life is good, isn’t it? Another thing I’ve said before, which I’ll reiterate, is that living in a shared house brings with it  an immediate group of people to hang with/watch tv with (albeit bad Japanese shows)/talk to ’til the wee hours/and party with. In my Borderless dwelling, we’re all on the same page (well, except one housemate, who’s extremely reserved). My housemates have planned a party for this Sunday, which in essence without labeling it “party” is something we do every weekend: food, snacks, alcoholic beverages, and a bit of giddiness. The party will be a nabe party; I’ve been told that nabe is a large pot of beef, rice, onions, and other things thrown in. (I didn’t pay attention fully, as I won’t be a part of the preparation– just the consumption).

My housemate RT asked me last night why I seem so happy. He said that it wasn’t natural that someone who’d uprooted their whole life would have no sadness or yearning for home. I’ve been here for less than three months, and thus am planted in the Honeymoon Stage, but even after the three months are up what would I yearn for? My friends are scattered around the globe, my parents are in Jamaica, Skype allows me to speak to everyone who’s also on Skype, there are enough English speakers around to not have a language deficit, everyone here is so polite (!) and there is absolutely nothing in NY that’s not in Tokyo (except snow). There’s nothing wanting or missing… life is full. Wait, that’s a lie– I need some black haircare products (I’d go to NY to pick up some Organix leave-in conditioner and fly back).

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

I know nothing. The older I get the more I realize that I know nothing, and it’s starting to appear that no one else does either. It just doesn’t make sense; it would seem the older one got the more answers one would have, but it seems there are just more questions. I’ve been listening to Kool Moe Dee non-stop for the past two days, and his question “Do you know what time it is?” has been reverberating in my ears/head/mind. What time is it?– not the hour, but in the other sense? He knows what time it is, but what time is it for me? Time to explore/create/be joyful/be bold/”be”/paint the broad strokes and not just the details/write some letters/again- time to live live live. What time is it for you?

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Adrenaline flows through me. The shakiness I feel is the best possible kind; the uncertainty that comes from being open to whatever life presents and the anticipation of what’s waiting for me. I can only “learn by going where I have to go,” so I’m going to get dressed and face this Happy Thursday.




She’s skint and lives in a box. A cardboard box that she took from the dumpster behind the UPS store. No, she lives in a large place.

She screams often. No, she just has a very loud voice. She has a very soft voice, and had to take voice lessons at her local community college to reclaim it.      

She’s shrewish. Nope, she’s calm and peaceful. She thinks that everybody loves her. She thinks that everybody hates her. She might be right.

She’s multi-lingual. She counts body language, and Pig Latin among her languages. She studies oinks. She wrote a song that pigs love bacon too, and even the vegetarians in her suburb started eating bacon (only at night–in darkness, you know). She speaks one language, but knows that monolingualism doesn’t exist.

She wears bright colors to look like her favorite bag of candy. She believes that colorful clothing reflects happiness. She wears only black clothes mourning her losses. She mourns the loss of her first love, but she can’t remember his name. She can’t remember her first love’s name…was it her best friend Faith who moved away?

She has never been away. She thinks the world is dangerous. She is homeless, because her heart is nowhere. She’s looking for a home and so she travels everywhere. She thinks the world is only in her mind. It’s a safe place.

She is a genius. She is a fool. She lives to jest.

She saw a man die once and was happy when he woke up. She understands that to die means many things. She likes the poem that begins, “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. I feel my fate in what I cannot fear. I learn by going where I have to go.”
She is an insomniac and wakes to wake.

She is ancient. She is young. She is a baby in the next life. She doesn’t understand the passage of time. She read in a book that she’s dust and will become dust. She thinks her heart is ash.

She encompasses all things. She’s the devil incarnate. She’s divine.