In November last year, I took a trip with my mom to Okinawa to visit her older sister, who lives there. From when I was young, living in San Jose, I remember receiving large boxes from my Japanese aunt (she is Taiwanese, but married to a Japanese) with goodies from Japan, especially the Shiroi Koibito White Chocolate Langues de Chat biscuits from Hokkaido. I always had such a fond impression of my aunt, Japan, and Asia, even before I had ever visited, and always felt close to the Japanese culture.
I had gone to Okinawa ten years before, in 2008. That trip, we went as a family and visited all the tourist attractions, as a vacation – beaches, hotel resorts, food, museums, and sea caves. My fondest memory that trip was having “sea grapes” – a green algae seaweed that pops like champagne grapes with fresh sea water when you eat them. And of course, Kokuto – delectable brown sugar produced from a slow-boil heating of raw sugar cane juice from Okinawa. It’s truly a wonderful place.
But my intention this time wasn’t to enjoy these pleasures, even though I did. It was to accept the fragility of life, and see the strength and grace that comes in holding the truth of our mortality.
Intentions and the Unfolding of Life
My primary intention for the Year of the Dog was to reinstate my faith in God. The Year of the Dog Chinese New Year dinner was the last dinner we had with my paternal grandmother. It’s still difficult for me to think about it, because while we didn’t get along personality-wise, she was genuinely a good person. And when a genuinely good person leaves this planet, you feel a light go out.
Along with that hardship my parents and I went through for two years in Taipei, an unexpectedly high number of other irreversible illnesses came up in my extended family. It made us all feel quite vulnerable, and changed a lot for my cousins and parents.
That I had made this my primary intention and stuck fiercely to my commitment and decision really tested me that year, but it became foundational to the path I’m on today. What I experienced from the past year was that life is very fragile, regardless of what you believe about illnesses and disease. While I believe that there is a lot we can do to improve ourselves and our lives, I also came to hold true that we don’t control anything. Our Soul has its nature, and we do not have command over that, nor can we prevent something in our contract. I had to learn to not judge the path of another, no matter what, and instead, to trust the path laid out before me, living with a higher integrity for my actions and staying focused in this direction.
Strive to Live with Integrity
Going to Okinawa this time, I wanted to visit my aunt before I left Taiwan, and enjoy my time with people while they’re still around. To appreciate them for who they are, to learn not to judge, and to experience how I could be of a greater light in people’s lives while we’re all still here. I found that the single greatest accomplishment we can strive for is to live in the highest integrity we can, as this will affect everything that happens in your future. And never, ever even think you can get away with anything – you can’t.
Over the year, I dropped a lot of dead weight around youthful diversions and things that do not truly matter when looking through a longer time frame. Death and disease really puts those things in perspective for you. I started asking myself if my decisions today would lead me to who I wanted to be in years’ time, and whether what I did today would make those who taught me my principles proud of my character. I began to look for orient myself in ways that could make my life more meaningful, and I stopped feeling cheated out of my integrity by others.
This quiet trip to Okinawa really helped see how much I changed from ten months prior, and it definitely felt good to me. A lot of grace goes into decisions like that, and I’m truly humbled to be a recipient of it, and pray to honor it in every step along my path.
2 responses to “Okinawa trip, and the fragility of life”
Hello, Catt. Okinawan here. I live in Tennessee. I love how you put your words ” things that do not truly matter when looking through a longer time frame. Death and disease really puts those things in perspective for you. ” It really hits me. I appreciate your sincere heart.
Thank you so much for your lovely comment; I’m so glad my post made it to you. Yes, what strikes me so harshly this year was that everything I set foot upon two years ago became the only way I stayed afloat during the pandemic. If at any point, I took my foot off this path I describe here (which was over a year and a half ago), I would have had a very different experience of the pandemic. I pray that more people can also adopt these perspectives – though it is very challenging, we need to constantly be in touch with what is true.
Tennessee must be quite the leap from life in Okinawa! Okinawa culture is so simple and modest, but it’s ridiculous how many high quality pleasures are enjoyed there from being by the sea. Many people escape their lives to go there but I’ve noted that Okinawa is itself very modest. I love that place and will likely return frequently as my aunt invites me. And I need my fix of black tea kokuto 🙂