I shared with a friend that from time to time the idea of going to Tokyo alone for three months was daunting. That said, over the years I’m almost inured to being a jigsaw piece in the wrong box. In so many areas of my life I’ve never quite click-fit. In response she sent “Where do Mermaids Stand?” an essay by Robert Fulghum. (If you don’t know it, please click the link. It will help you make sense of this post.)
I’ve wished for the opportunity to live in Japan part time for many years now though I’ve never quite been able to pull it off. My plan to study Ikebana at the Sogetsu School allows me to live wholly as an artist and designer for the first time in my life. Now my gifts and passions can take center stage rather than hanging around the props room. It’s a thrilling feeling.
But this week with my departure 5 weeks away, the rent deposit paid and my apartment confirmed, I began to feel quite out of sorts about the prospect. Suddenly a number of familiar negative messages bubbled up from the unconscious. There I was, staring again at the same old self-defeating toxins I’ve battled all my life.
What’s the use of doing that? What’s it good for? What makes you think you’re an artist or a designer? If you were good enough and driven enough to be one you would have done it long ago. Who do you think you are kidding? Why would you want to put yourself in a situation that is out of your league in every respect?
Yikes! I thought I’d done with all that. Why would that nonsense start up again at this stage? Though they once did, feeble absurdities like that can’t hold me back anymore.
All my life I have sought out opportunities to create. I write, draw, sew, garden, sing, cook, design, redecorate, remodel, arrange, reorganize, assemble, build or manage something almost all the time. I’ve often done it alone, so that’s nothing new or uncomfortable either. When not creating, I put myself in arenas where I support other creatives—in concert halls, galleries, design shows, literary events, gardens, fine restaurants and the like.
What I am undertaking is what I already started in Abbotsford, Vancouver and Victoria—the study of an art form at the beginner level. The only difference is that I’m doing it in another city. Let’s not indulge in the exoticism of Tokyo. That merely falls into the pit of Orientalism. Let’s be smarter than that.
I certainly am good enough to study, practice and learn something (anything) at the beginner level. As a bonus, by studying Ikebana at the source I get to focus on beauty and be surrounded by a culture that values it in every aspect.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t know that the culture is deeply flawed in many respects or that I will never fit into it. I accept that as part of the package—the way you might an aloof lover whose imperfections (when all things are considered) are sometimes best overlooked. Why? Because it’s only fair. I have my own less than perfect cultural baggage.
Thanks to a sensitive friend, I will worry even less about fitting into any number of constricting cultural slots. I know who I am and where I fit. As a mermaid I’ll take my rightful place beside the King of the Sea.
Stand your ground, it’s sacred. (Attribution unknown).
As for my long-held wish to live in Japan, I’ll find out soon enough if it measures up to expectations. Dreams don’t always. Fortunately they often surpass the limits of the imagination.