You might have noticed that things have again slowed down a bit at the blog. In August my in-laws returned home to China, so Min and I have moved fully into new parenthood, resuming all of the household matters like cooking and cleaning, as well as a raft of baby-related tasks. We think it’s important, though, not to treat these things like work, but to enjoy the opportunities to serve each other, as the time remaining after all of this is done and professional obligations are fulfilled is surprisingly little. I’ve also made commitments to the organization of the New York City / New Jersey Net Impact Service Corps and my very first nonprofit board membership with Compass Yoga, an organization conceived by my friend Christa that will bring the benefits of yoga practice to nontraditional and under-served communities. All of these are very meaningful to me, so I make great effort to protect the time and energy that goes into each. Unfortunately, this also means that my own professional and educational pursuits outside my formal job and personal hobbies currently reside lowest in the pecking order.
I’m certain that with time and creative scheduling these things will eventually weave back into the fold. I’ve already locked in 30 minutes a day each for Mandarin and Japanese study. I may not make much in the way of dramatic improvement, but can at least keep the wheels well-oiled. I’m also mindful to maintain small indulgences, squeezing in episode of anime over lunch or before sleeping, when there is time. I’ve also continued to push interesting things I find through the course of work or news scanning to my Twitter feed, and have noticed that the longer I’ve been active and more focused my posts, the greater the interactivity with other users. Until another significant shift in the balance of things (e.g., my daughter stops waking up four times a night), blogging may have to remain resigned to an as-able basis, will be more photo-centric and text-light, books will just have to wait a while before they are read, and social outings will be largely contingent on whether they can be snuggled into the couple of hours in between naptimes.
Trying to shoehorn everything into nooks just so can lead to frustration, especially when unexpected disruptions upend thoughtfully crafted plans. One thing being a parent has taught me already is to get flexible, as if your life depended on it (which it may). Plans may not happen according to the original schedule and sequencing, but can still happen if you think quickly.
Another effect of hyper-scheduling, whether you have children or not, is a loss of down time. I’ve become more acutely aware of the negative effect this has had on my energy level, especially in the last couple of months. My solution has been to take experiences that, in the past, might have been rather ordinary, but approach them with the expectation that they could be much more than what they appear. Opportunities to decompress and find nuggets of zen can pop up in unexpected places. I offer my ramen shop meditation, recently realized on a stop at Kambi in the East Village:
Contemplate the char on the gyoza. Too little would leave the dumpling plain and lacking its satisfying crunch. Too much would make it bitter and burnt. Deft application of heat results in a crispness and essence of carbon that can be equally appreciated on the bottom of a great slice of pizza.
I always like sitting at the bar, which gives the best view to the work that goes into one’s bowl. Despite having filled ramen orders likely numbering into the tens of thousands, the chef still uses a digital timer to boil the noodles. The precision is that important and shortcuts would never do. Also important is the shake at the end, to drain water out of the noodle basket. Every chef does this differently, some insisting that particular flares, flicks, and rolls are absolutely essential to the taste and texture of the final product.
Into the bowl first goes tare, the concentrated base, followed by soup stock, noodles and carefully arranged toppings of seasoned egg, green onion, wood ear mushrooms, roasted pork belly, nori, and sesame seeds. Layer by layer, a balanced ecosystem of flavors and textures comes into being. My own mind is noisy and messy. When I submerge my thoughts in the bowl I find quiet, if only for a little while, and that makes me happy. Itadakimasu.