Our apartment in Taipei is larger in size than the one Dave and I shared in Portland. We have an eat in kitchen, two bedrooms, a living room, a good size bathroom, AC and a washing machine. Though our furniture (many apartments come “furnished” here) is made entirely of wood – and by that our “couch” is more of a hard wooden bench, at least it was here waiting for us when we moved in. Sitting on this solidly crafted block of wood provokes any number of physical discomforts – a crook in the neck, numbness of the lower extremities, low back pain, but it is the ideal vantage point to take in our humble abode.
I postulate that feng shui, (the Chinese art of positioning objects, especially buildings and furniture, based on a belief in patterns of yin and yang and the flow of qi) was not prioritized in the design of our home. The space has potential but the layout is a bit off and the institutional shade of white running from floor to ceiling coupled with an old drop tile ceiling sends mixed messages- am I living in an apartment or an insurance office? The brass and crystal (or more accurately, plastic designed to look like crystal) light fixtures and a railing to nowhere in one corner of the kitchen also leave me scratching my head. Yes, the trip to IKEA is long overdue.
In the days leading up to Christmas, I yearned for the traditions that make this time of year so familiar and comforting. Downloading Elvis Christmas and buying snowflake leg warmers got me halfway there – but I needed more. I needed to bake Christmas cookies. Ah, but I forgot to mention- we have no oven, like many people here in Taipei. A minor setback though as I quickly determined that our small toaster oven was fit for the challenge. I ran around town gathering all of my ingredients, including those that would just have to serve as substitutes (no vanilla?, I shall use brandy!). Hours of hard work produced 8 blackened peanut butter cookies. Not one was worthy of Christmas gluttony. Granted, it was a complicated task. My Taipei toaster oven does not have a temperature dial, which meant the baking time/cookie size ratio was left to pure guesswork. With the experiment a complete failure all I was left with was a bad taste (charred, really) in my mouth and a crotchety disposition. As I cursed my crispy cookies my emotions unexpectedly climbed to a higher altitude leaving me on the verge of a full blown temper tantrum. Yes, I was pissed off. I actually stomped my foot on the hard tiled ground, let out a GGGGRRRRRRR!! and then looked around my kitchen for someone to share in my theatrics.
Fortunately for David and the rest of the human race I was alone. In that moment of seeing red thoughts flooded my mind- here I am, for the first time in 30 years (as in, the first time ever) away from my family for the holidays. That kind of stinks. What am I doing with my life!? I have no career, I hate my wooden couch-bench, and all of my friends are having babies in a far away lands filled with Christmas trees, sweaters and mulled wine (not for my pregnant friends, of course) When it rains, it pours (oh, and by the way it was also pouring outside as it had been for about a week) and there was most definitely a dark storm cloud gathering force over my head.
While I wish I graced this planet as the best version of myself at all times, I can only give it my best go. For me, this means keeping narrow minded, self relishing behaviors such as those mentioned in the incident above to a minimum. Typically, these episodes occur at regularly scheduled intervals that are more or less predictable, if you catch my drift, but as I find myself far from the comforts of home and without the structure of my previous life I seem to be a bit on the touchy side.
I needed to downgrade this emotionally charged situation before I time-machined it back to age 6. Perhaps it was because the movie rental place down the street offers a disproportionately high number of romantic comedies compared with their other English selections, but I allowed my imagination to take me in a very strange direction. The only way I could find any humor in the current situation, was to view it through a different lens – and my preferred lens was that of a 1980’s romantic comedy (the 80’s had the best romantic comedies- Overboard, When Harry Met Sally, Sixteen Candles, etc. etc. etc.) Imagine it – Christmas is on its way. Newlyweds (yes, in this version of my life I am still a newlywed) David and Andrea have recently relocated across the globe as David has found a better job prospect in Asia. Andrea, though sad to leave all of her friends and family finds the idea both thrilling and romantic. Their first Christmas away from the U.S.A. is filled with mishaps and frustration. But they love each other and know that together, anything is possible. Sitting in a half furnished room on top of unpacked boxes (because I would rather that to my couch-bench and plus unpacked boxes would mean we brought more home furnishings along) they scrape off the crispy black outer layer of Andrea’s peanut butter Christmas cookies as they gaze lovingly into each others eyes and enjoy their new life together. The simplicity and humor found in Taipei reminds them that they don’t need much to be happy. With a clink of their wine glasses the scene pans out to a beautiful evening cityscape.
As I enter into the year 2012 I aim to remind myself that life can be viewed from numerous angles. You know the old saying – glass half empty or glass half full? If I measure the contents of this glass in terms of choices, opportunities, love and freedom then my glass (as I suspect for many of you as well) has quite literally been overflowing with whatever beverage I desired for most of my life. So as we all roll into the new year I will do so with a positive spin and knowing that I hold the power to shape my life and my point of view as I see fit. Pretty powerful stuff, really.
In response to the moment of self doubt ignited during my temper tantrum I can only look around and say “of course this is where I saw myself at age 30!” In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, I suppose my resolution this year is simple – strive to be better in every possible way, and that includes my amateur baking. I gave the cookies another go on Christmas Eve and wouldn’t you know it, success was mine (if success equals 3 hours of baking and 12 halfway tolerable gluten free chocolate chip cookies)!
Happy New Year to you all!