time, travel

“Time, travel.”  If I saw these words printed at the top of a newspaper article it would read, “Time-and-travel.”  But here, the words are separated with a comma.  Separated because time moves one direction while the act of traveling is bidirectional in the construct of time.  Time and travel both move forwards, but only through travel can one move backwards.  Separated, but connected. But remove the comma all together, and the words “time travel” mean something entirely different.  We’d have to go back in time to ask a living Einstein if time travel is possible, but here and now, I am saying no.  Time still moves forward in our minds as we travel backward in time.  We’d have the memories of the future to affect the present life.  But right now, I wish I could travel back in time, one year from this very second, with all my memories of that year to guide me in my decisions.  There is much I would’ve done differently.  I would have done more for myself.  I would have asked more questions.  I would have required more answers.  With my priorities straight, it would have been easier to talk, easier to listen.  I know for a fact, things would have been different.

I love travel.  I love to travel.  I love traveling.  If I traveled back in time to one year ago, I think I still would’ve walked onto that plane with her.  Not because I love traveling or because I loved her, but because that week in San Diego was the week in my life when time stood still.  I looked out over the ocean, a wave would come towards the sand, crash, and fade away beneath the ground, as if it never happened.  Seconds later, the act repeated itself.  Stuck on the same song, the music I was hearing as we were in CA was something of a fantasy.  As the impossible isn’t supposed to happen, time stood still.  Yes, if I could do it again, I would.  But it would be different.  I’d prefer it was reality than fantasy.  For one week, I couldn’t talk, couldn’t think clearly.  All I thought was, “this can’t be happening.  So much good surrounding me, standing with me in my arms, while outside of this my life is still the same, bad. Time is standing still as it waits for me to come back to the reality of sadness and loss that is my life.”  But with her in my arms, I thought when I left CA my life would be different.  I would stop losing.

“Fantasy:  the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need.”

if only I would have been realistic.  I would have seen she wasn’t real, that she was incapable of understanding the realities of my life and incapable of doing something real for someone else other than herself.  She wanted to be a fantasy, a happy thought, but nothing more.

“If you could have dinner with anyone, real or fiction, who would it be?”  “Dr. Emmett Brown.”


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“The first page. . .”

First-year writing, the name of my first class of my first day of college.  Along with the usual formalities, the professor made it clear that we were to do a lot of writing throughout the semester.  At first intimidated, I look back four and a half years to joyfully revel in the words of my young mind as I sit here now, with eyes propped open from to many cups of tea, and a notebook flipped open to the first page.  On the cover of this notebook, a green and white composition notebook, are the word’s “Saji’s Writing Notebook,” and inside I find words that make me think, laugh, cry, and remember.

“The first page.  I find this one the most difficult to write.  Perhaps it is because I don’t know where I am going that I find it so hard to start.  Then again, does anyone know where they are going? Of course there are times that you know you are going to a certain destination: work, the park, the garage, the bathroom.  But where does one go. . . after the bathroom?  Where could have one been if they hadn’t chosen to go to the bathroom?  So, this is why we travel.  We search out places that could be where we want to be.  Exotic places, common places, or smelly places (like the bathroom).  As we travel, we search for clues that hint to us that we’ve reached our destination.  Maybe it’s an intriguing coffee shop that says, “You’ve made it. . .now come inside for some caffeine.”  Maybe it’s a special someone, that perfect, one-in-six-billion match.”

My first page of my writing notebook is actually very revealing.  It seems at first that my thoughts are random and juvenile as I consider the bathroom to be a suitable place for a life to settle.  But I feel as if I still know exactly what I was thinking and feeling all those years ago when I first wrote those words.  I was feeling restless, scared, and possibly a little worried that I was in the wrong place.  There are so many places in the world that one could be, how are we to know that we are in the right place? or doing the right thing?  I look back at these words with self-admiration, as I still consider this a problem all people face in life.  I didn’t know, then, what the solution to this problem is, but I almost figured it out as I stopped writing and hurried off to class.  In my last sentence, I wonder if one can find stability and certainty in another person, “a special someone.”  For some, the answer is yes, most definitely.  For others, no.  I feel the same as I did back then.  Call me dumb, but I still want to believe that a special someone to share life’s mystery with, is the best thing that can happen to a person.  Even though this idea of mine has failed miserably in the past and caused me a lot of pain, the thought of a new someone is rejuivinating, motivating, and simply calls me to explore the world ever more.  It makes sense, to want someone to rely on to give you that feeling of reaching your destination.  It’s not a feeling of accomplishment, not something to be proud of, per say, but it’s a good feeling that can only be described as calming.  Calming, because no matter where you are in life, “work, the park, the garage, or the bathroom,” you don’t have to feel worried that you are in the wrong place doing the wrong thing.  As long as you have that calm feeling created by a special someone, you can relax and enjoy the ride that is life.  Is it naive to think that you can wholeheartedly trust and rely on someone else? Yes.  After all, they can always change their mind, lie, cheat, and desert you.  But we grow wiser as we grow older, we learn how and who to trust.  And with an initial leap of faith, we can stay young, take chances, and have fun.  Why are relationships so fun when they are young?  Because that’s how a lifelong relationship is supposed to be.  Ciao

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tv drama

I sometimes think hollywood is just like real life, but with all the boring parts taken out.  After all, boring doesn’t sell movie tickets, boring doesn’t keep viewers coming back, and boring doesn’t win you a positive review.  We watch TV when we are bored, because we crave conflict, drama, and suspense.  We constantly want something to stir up emotions in our mind.  

What happens when the emotions stop?  when life is just, boring?  Does that make life bad?  What is it about being bored that makes us search for something new, even when what we have isn’t bad?  It’s good, but it’s boring.  Why is drama so fascinating?  What causes our sick desire for conflict and tension?

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Thanks again to all of the cooking writers out there who donate their wonderful recipes to us wannabes.  I’d especially like to thank the persian cooks who have helped me connect with another part of my heart that I feel I sometimes don’t have the opportunity to visit.  Tonight I made ghaymeh.  Absolutely one of my favorite persian dishes, one I ask my grandma to make for me every time I see her, as I did just two weekends ago.  

For the first time in twenty years, I watched my grandma cook.  She wouldn’t let me help though.  Iranian’s like to do things themselves.  But I watched, and listened to her explanations with the help of various English speaking relatives.  I wished I could’ve asked her questions, like my 4 year old cousins were doing.  I also helped my grandpa pick fresh basil from his garden.  My grandpa builds a garden wherever he is living.  Like my dad says, “and there’s Grandpa, with his love.”  After we picked the three foot tall basil stems, we sat together on the patio furniture under a cool, seventy degree sun, and proceeded to pick the basil leaves from their stems.  It didn’t take long before our finger tips were covered in basil essential oils and two giant fruit bowls were filled with basil.  Persian’s eat basil, mint, parsley, chives, and radishes by the handful at every meal.  It’s an acquired taste, but it really is refreshing to wash down a mouthful of umami from the rice and meat, with fresh herbs and leaves filled with water, monosaccharides, and hints of natural oils.  It’s sort of like the sensation of waking up with morning mouth and popping an altoid in your mouth.  To non-persians, parsley, basil, and mint are usually thought of as garnishes and often ignored on the dinner plate.  But that day, like everyday, our dinner table had a platter full of fresh greens as if it were a course in itself.  

It took me twenty years to sit down with my grandparents and observe the simple customs that I can only define as “Persian.”  There, with my three uncles, three aunts, father, and grandparents, we ate, took pictures, played cards, ate again, drank chai, ate cake, watched persian music videos, and ate some more.  It’s not that I hadn’t done these things with my relatives in the past, but after twenty years, my mind, my definition of myself, who I am, where I’m from, have finally come together to form a satisfying image which I proclaim as “Me.”  Luckily, it didn’t take me longer to realize how my Persian blood influences my American life.  That same weekend, my 88 year-old grandpa, baba bozorgh, flew back to Iran, to where he was born, where he had seven children, farmed sweet potatoes, wheat and pomegranates, and where he wants to die.  

Esfahan, Iran, the second largest city in Iran, is home to half of my family, yet I have never been.  Of course it’s a hard country to visit these days, but I feel that there is more to my family, my heritage, than eating and cooking.  There is a way for me to visit and explore.  I’m half done with my application for an Iranian passport which will allow me to enter the Islamic Republic and stay for up to three months.  I can’t wait to soak up the ancient history that is around every corner in Iran.  Privy to a first hand look at the political situation and the social dynamics of an Islamic, but democratic government, will allow me to answer for the first time the question I get every time someone asks me where my family is from, “So how do you feel about Iran?”  Well, to this day, all I can say is, I have no idea, I’ve never been there.  I do know its people and their hidden suffering and yearning for many of America’s freedoms.  I know of the mentality and personality that can only be attributed to a life of social fear and insecurity.  But Iran, I don’t know it.  I know of things Iranian, but not Iran.

It seems to be the reoccurring theme of my life, but I tell myself, “Someday.”  Someday this, someday that.  Someday, someday soon, I’m going to Iran.  I’m going to learn how to read, write, and speak Farsi.  I’m going to pick a pomegranate from a tree.  I’m going to walk on the palace stairs at Persepolis, the very steps that King Xerxes the Great once climbed.  I’m going to walk with my grandpa amongst his fields.  I’m going to shop in the great bazar and buy a silver tea set, a hand-woven, persian rug, I’m going to read on the steps of the Khaju bridge.  I’m going to swim, and maybe scuba dive!, in the Caspian Sea.  I’m going to risk my life by walking across the street (#mce_temp_url# ).  But most importantly, I’m going.  

I went online earlier today to find the exact recipe for ghayme.  My grandma never uses any standard measuring devices to cook, so I needed more of a guide than mere intuition to come up with something edible in the end.  I’ve visited this woman’s blog (#mce_temp_url#) in the past to make other Persian dishes and it must’ve been fate to visit the site again tonight to find her latest post be a recipe for the very dish I was craving.  While my dinner didn’t taste like Grandma’s without the basmati rice and zereshk that always accompanies her food, I am content.  So very full, and content.    Growing up, my dad and I never had very much money to afford fancy things.  But we always ate well.  Fresh fruit, meat, fish, buttery rice, milk, and ice cream.  Food is love in my family, and there’s a whole lot-a food.  Thank you again to the cooking writers out there for helping me to learn how to cook and how to love.  I also enjoy your stories that are folded in amongst the onion and garlic, stories I have also begun to write from my own family meal time experiences.  Bokhor!

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feeling needed

it feels so good, feeling needed.  Knowing it is you who can give help gives you a purpose.  The sense of pride in the service you give motivates you to be better and work harder in every moment.  You feel strong, powerful, and in charge.  It doesn’t matter that you’re not 100% confident in what you are doing because people will inevitably trust you, no matter what, because they need you.  No matter what you do, they will still come back to you, begging, asking you to give them what you gave them last time.  They need it, not you.

Then, once they have it, they forget you.  You start to feel less and less important the more and more you give.  Pretty soon, it is you who needs what you have been giving away.  Left with nothing and no one, you desperately search for someone that can give you something to make you feel strong again.  Four unanswered phone calls later, you realize it’s your fault everyone is gone.  You gave them everything they needed from you.  Unless it is you they actually need, why would they stay?  

It’s sad to think, maybe that’s why I want to be a doctor, just so I can feel needed.  It won’t matter that I never develop a real connection with people because all they really want from me in the first place is my medical opinion.  I can get my “feeling needed” fix, one person at a time.  Story of my life.   But this isn’t who I am.  I want friends, people to like me, understand my complex personality, want to get to know me, want to listen to my stories and my adventures.  But that’s too much work in the real world.  No one has time for that.  That’s why our parents just go to work everyday, come home, and go to bed.  Sure they have “friends” that they eat lunch with at work, that they see at holiday parties, and that give them a call when they have an extra ticket for the game.  But all those other times, without a specific someone in this world, you are likely to be alone.  That’s when your innate strength and power have to pull you through.

and when that fails?

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the worst mistakes

The worst mistakes are the ones you don’t know you are making.  Before you know it, you’ve done more harm than you intended and it’s harder than ever to admit to yourself that you are making the worst mistake.  So what are the signs?  How can we diagnose a mistake from early on before it’s too late?  

I wish I had a personal polygraph machine in my head.  I need to know if I’m lying to myself, giving myself false hope.  What I’m about to do, they say, requires complete dedication and commitment.  Yet here I am, going back and forth, as regular as the moon, changing my shape, changing my size, changing my color, changing my mind.  But for the moon, it is normal and accepted.  But for me, I am left to hide my uncertainty and fain sureness through the clouds that are in my mind.  

Am I making a mistake?  Should I remain hopeful?  Does being hopeful ever work?  The worst mistakes reveal themselves if we are hopeful without thought.  

But can’t we also recover from the worst mistakes?  Reflecting on our mistake should reveal a way to move on, smarter, more confident in the next decision.  How did you do it?  So easily, so quickly.  Where did you buy your personal polygraph machine that allowed you to be honest with yourself?  Could you, perhaps, use your machine on me, and help me?  Would you be willing?  No, you don’t have time.  It was hard enough for you.  Why would you want to do it again for someone else?  

Alone, I’m left to wonder how the north star stays true, while I revolve with the moon.

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move past

Monday’s season premiere of House emphasized a point.  We need to move past what has been holding us back.  We need to move past the bad things that inevitably happen.  We need to move past whatever it is that we’re going through in order to continue on to things that could be better.  

Dr. Daniel Amen, a clinical neuroscientist and psychiatrist, attributes the ability to move past to a healthy brain, specifically, a properly functioning anterior cingulate gyrus and deep limbic system.  Overactivity in the ACG, he states, is like a car that is stuck in gear and won’t shift to new tasks, new thoughts, and new directions.  Unlikely to forgive, one with an overactive ACG is probably stuck on past harms and tragedies and can not seem to recall the many wonderful memories that outnumber and outweigh the hurts in actuality.  The science behind this overactivity revolves around imbalances in critical neurotransmitters.  Serotonin deficiencies, he notes, are likely in such patients.  Similarly, low serotonin levels also correlate with overactivity in the deep limbic system, along with lower dopamine and norepinephrine.  A healthy DLS produces a general happy, positive, and high spirited individual who draws people in and creates significant positive memories that will last into the future.  Including parts of the brain such as the he amygdala and hippocampus, it is no wonder that a healthy emotional center is essential for the maintenance of an optimistic and motivated mind.  But when there are deficiencies, something which approximately 10% of American adults experience, the result is a range of depressive disorders which can be debilitating and deadly.  

The limbic system, the emotional center of the brain.  When it doesn’t work, we’re sad.  Sadness, it’s a disease.  More common in adults than the “common” cold.  I would argue that it’s even more contagious.  It certainly doesn’t foster health, personal growth, and interpersonal interaction.  But fortunately, they say, it’s treatable.  SSRI’s, TCA’s, MAOI’s, SNRI’s.  OMG!  Drugs scare me.  I want to be a doctor, but drugs scare me.  

Or at least, they used to.  I don’t know if it was the ending of the House season premiere, or just my exposure to the medicine of medicine in that last months.  But for some reason, I dreamt a good dream last night.  It was all there, from the beginning. Every good thing, the beach, the canoe, the trees, the smell of caramel, the naps, the wine, the scooter, the lemonade, the Bob Marley, the snow, the manicotti, the very first dance, it all came flooding in from the deepest parts of my DLS.  But, it was a dream of memories, of things that are done and over.  Not a premonition and not an optimistic outlook like the one love can nurture.  

I have to move past this.  Like House, I must move past not only past hurts and failures, but past my own unwillingness to move past.  

The truth is, I know I want to forgive.  But I’m so stuck on angry.  I don’t like it.  All I can do right now, all I have time to do, is to ignore my faulty brain, ignore my thoughts, ignore myself.  Somehow that makes me better, or at least good enough until I move past.

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