Clementine looks at life at 30

My little “Clementine” is a fantastic writer in at least three languages (that is, three languages that I know of). I loved her wit and “storylined” view of the world even before I read her honest appraisal of her “accomplishments and failures in life so far,” I begged to put it up on this humble blog. She agreed! So, lucky readers, you get to share in her reflections. I think many a single lady at 30, or someone lost on their ambitious career path at this ripe young age, or anyone who has experienced some of the many struggles facing beautiful intelligent women trying to fit the pieces of their disparate worlds together can relate. Enjoy it.

My life at 30: failures and achievements

By: Clementine

Since it’s my 30th birthday this Sunday I’m making a list of my life so far, not just this past year. And, I’m dividing it in two parts. First, failures and shortcomings, and five blessings and achievements.

So, on with Failures and Shortcomings:

1. Sex

Sex has been a BIG disappointment so far. I never knew what all the fuss is about. There is something very inadequate with the whole concept, can’t seem to shake a lingering suspicion that I’m being cheated, by whom I’m not sure. The system.

This morning I had to go and do a regular check-up at the gynecologist, and the nurse was very considerate, saying things like “this might feel a bit uncomfortable” and so on, and I felt like telling her that it wasn’t worse than some of the sex I’ve had. For one she was doing something that was actually good for me, also she took her time, and we had a nice chat before hand (we talked about China), and afterwards she told me exactly when she was going to call and give results, plus all I needed to know about the following procedure, and when I would see her again (in three years).

2. Taking care of my little ones

I’ve had two cats, both which I’ve abandoned in one way or another. Even when we were together, I wasn’t loving enough and they both turned out a bit crazy. The last one I called Tintin (like the journalist, which can be a girl’s name in my country) and I had her put to sleep a few weeks back… Had her in my lap when she slowly succumbed to heavy sedatives…

My other little one, my little brother, doesn’t seem to realize that I genuinely want what is best for him. He has some kind of competitive complex towards me. I see myself as nothing less than his biggest fan, but he can’t seem to see that. (As a 22-year-old I chose to move to a place not far from the polar circle – a place where the only inhabitants are the ones involuntarily left behind, not a fun place when you’re 22 – just to be near him when he was a baby.). So, I have to do a much better job as a sister.

3. Subsistence

Moving in with my father as a 29-year-old was a “low water mark” (as we say in my language, I’m not sure it works in English). Coming home and finding that every single one of my old class mates, ex-colleagues and friends makes more than I do was another one. Not to mention not being successful in any of my work or university applications for the last three years. I’m not exaggerating, the only job I got (writing) turned out to not to be a real job at all, and a real job I did get as a purchasing manager at a foreign jewelry company in China I was fired from after getting too friendly with the factory girls. (It’s true! But not as interesting as it sounds).

4. … (How depressing, I think I won’t write a number four, but do let me know if you think of something)

5. Persistence

I feel I’ve never really persisted in doing anything professionally, personally or …physically I guess you could say (like a sport or perfecting a skill or such). That goes for yoga, running, Chinese, living in one place, staying with a job, or in a relationship. I’m so fickle.

Enough about that. Now, here’s to things I’ve done well, instead. Blessings and Achievements:

1. Friends

Holding on to a handful of perfect friends. I seem to have been able to choose exactly the ones I knew would make my life wonderful, and they’ve both changed and stayed the same and I love
them and feel so grateful I can count on them, talk to them and see them (some of them far too seldomly!). I have always been lucky with friends, and it’s such a blessing.

2. Writing

I have written professionally for all the major media outlets in my country that I could have hoped for starting out as a journalist, both the cool magazines and the serious dailies. And I’ve actually done a few reports that I’m genuinely proud of.

3. Boyfriends

I’ve had a few really good ones! I listen to my friends complaining about men, and I realize I have been lucky so far. I’ve met kind, reasonable people, whom I still love and respect, and when any
of them call me it’s a nice surprise. Not that there’s been that many, but still.

No one has ever cheated on me (that I know of), or even broken up with me in a bad way, or messed me up with strange behavior, or made me feel useless, or desert me or… or any of those things that seem to go on around me.

And my hook-ups haven’t been too bad either. Like that guy in the leopard morning-gown, apart from doing an awful job of faking an orgasm (I think he was gay), he was really very decent and helped me with an article later.

Or the pizza-man I picked up in XYZ once, even if he never called me as he said he would it was probably just because I send him home all the way to ABC in a cab – that must have cost him a fortune – and I don’t know what he could have made in a month. Not a lot probably. He wasn’t even a citizen – it can’t have been easy.

Or the TV anchor man who habitually told me to “manage my expectations” when reproached for being hours late, or even excused himself that whatever he had done instead of being on time was “serving the people,” still there’s no denying he made an effort to make me happy. Maybe more than anyone else has ever done, before or after. He just happened to have the most complicated life I’ve ever come in contact with. The man is like an ecosystem, with people depending on him and him relying on other people, doing favors, setting off reactions, trying to manage effects, while you get the feeling the whole process is already so messed up there’s just no way of stopping the race towards imminent catastrophe. (Though in his case it was more of an “egosystem.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist a pun).

One guy I’m glad I never did get involved with (there you go, probably my lucky star stopping me) was that rock-singer “Big Brother Six” in Wudaokou. Apart from being detrimental to my image (not that I have one – but foreign women with Chinese rock musicians are so Beijing in late-90’s, I would have been at least ten years too late), the financial burden would have been severe: for our first date he suggested having pijiu by the (dirty) river, asking me for 5 kuai for 2 bottles of Qingdao (what a scrub!). Besides, I already got all the benefits of his company, after me deciding to end it sooner rather than later he would send me these haiku-poems of unhappy love, such as: “The rain is falling. I want to wait for you in the rain, but where can I go?”

And there you have it, Clementine’s “life at 30.” I love it!


For this, I run…

If we’re Facebook friends then you know I’ve been running up a storm of late. Why do I run?

Because I now can (couldn’t run for 10 minutes on the treadmill without getting side stitches before)
Because I love breaking a sweat in the morning
Because listening to Black Eyed Peas is even more enjoyable when I can pace to the beat
Because I now wake up with a purpose (5k –> 7k –> 10k)
Annnd, because running has helped with my yoga practice

I’ve been practicing arm balances for a while. I love the freedom of “flying,” and the childish delight I get at the tipping point. When my toes leave the mat I still squeal a little “wheeee!” to myself inside (every single time). My asana goal this year is to master the handstand. Surprisingly, running is really helping me build up my core strength and has become a good precursor to my handstand practice.

This video has made the rounds, but I love it so much I want to share it here. Yes, it’s an ad for a commercial gym; yes, it looks a little like soft p*rn; and, no, I have no idea what the sleeping guy has to do with all the amazing postures Briohny is doing. But, it’s pretty darned cool.

Watch it! I hope, some time not too far into the future, to make my own gravity-defying video.

Thoughts on “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”

This provocatively titled NYT article has been making the rounds online and friends of mine have asked me for my thoughts. So, here they are, my rudimentary typed-in-a-hurry-because-I-should-be-working thoughts on a vast vast subject…

The article would be more aptly titled “How YOU Can Wreck your Body”, not “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.”

For precise reasons outlined in this article I have – wait for my sweeping statement – had “issues” with the “boot camp” school of yoga often practiced in North America. Now that’s a huge generalization, as there are plenty of teachers, studios and schools that don’t emphasize the “impressive / acrobatic / supposedly advanced” postures. But, overwhelmingly mainstream yoga in America is about adrenaline, gravity-defying feats, and pushing yourself hard. Case in point, Bikram is popular in America and I find the Bikram style of teaching a little like beating your (stressed out white collar) students into submission. I have walked out of Bikram classes because the teachers felt like “yoga Nazis.” Who apart from the student himself is to know when is the right time to take a break, drink some water, or stop following the sequence all together? It’s supremely egotistical of a teacher to think that he sets the pace 100%.

Another example, walk into a “beginner” or “intermediate” level class in NY and you’ll find people springing into hand stands all over the place. When I first moved to Asia I was surprised to find very “advanced” students spending a lot of time just holding a Triangle pose and never getting into any inversions at all. But this is what yoga is really about. As Black is quoted saying in the article, “awareness is more important than rushing through a series of postures just to say you’d done them.”

If you’ve truly embraced yoga then you know better than anyone else that it doesn’t matter what you look like, who’s looking, and who’s impressed. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I try to remind myself of why I practice yoga. It’s not to look good, not to be cool, and certainly not for the nice glossy photos (which I do enjoy) that I post on Facebook. It’s for my inner calm, my physical health, and happiness which I can share with others.

People do into injuries while practicing yoga and it often happens when you’ve pushed yourself too hard, or a “bad” teacher has pushed you too hard. Remember, if you’re doing it “right” with the “right” people, then you shouldn’t be getting hurt. The first and last lessons I learned at teacher training were to pay attention to student safety and to let people go at their own pace. We all need to be reminded, but in many North American classrooms we aren’t reminded, and yoga becomes just another part of the mainstream corporate culture of “go go go!”

So, these are my thoughts – happy to hear others’ on this controversial topic!

A little bird named…

…Josh D brought me some happy images this morning. (And boy did I need some cheerful thoughts after biking around -10C Beijing at 8am trying to deal with China’s Social Security system, of which I am now woefully a member). Check out the yoga mock-up pages below. Never mind that the headings are just dummies for now, but soon we’ll see “Qi yoga” videos in action! Melikes!

Sun Salutation A video mock-up

Yoga page mock-up

Bear with me…

…while I make a couple of changes.

After losing my domain name I also lost about a year’s worth of posts and publications. In an un-savvy attempt to get it back (doing something fancy like “Importing” code) I’ve messed up a few things on my homepage, such as added a top bar with bizarre menu options! Please ignore – things will return to normal soon (fingers crossed!).