Buddha has no six pack

I used to lift up my shirt every morning and ask myself: “Do I have them yet? Is today the day I’ll get a glimpse of my six pack?”

Years passed and I asked: “Ok, maybe a four pack?” Then it became:  “For sure, I’d have a one pack by now.”

But those days never came. What came though was the acceptance that there isn’t any kind of pack that would settle into my stomach area any time, and I am totally at peace with that.

At first glance, I am the embodiment of skinny. I’m lucky I got the skinny gene from my family. But skinny doesn’t equate to healthy. There was no way I could run a mile without gasping for air; my inhaler never far from my hand.  Those bootcamp classes at the gym? It never failed for my entire skin to breakout in hives after sweating for an hour. I used to run out of the class so quickly so no one would see the bumps on my skin that made me look like a swollen red potato.

But, darn it. I wanted those six pack.

That six-pack would have been a validation that I, too, could look like celebrities and supermodels. I would have killed for those rock-hard abs on the cover of magazines. That model-esque look would prove that I was pretty too. I guess growing up in a family where you never heard words like “beautiful,” “pretty,” or  “You’re enough” would do that to someone’s self-esteem.

It took a while for me to battle those insecurities. I admit, I still laugh at my husband’s face when he tells me I’m beautiful.  But I have learned to appreciate my body, love handles and all. Yoga has taught me that. When I first started practicing, it was for pure workout at the gym. Then, I found a studio with supportive teachers who not only helped me practice the right way, but also taught me to love myself. I soon realized that belly I have is what supports me in inversions. That stomach I used to hate looking at is what holds me up in poses. It’s the gut that I listen to when things aren’t right. It is my very core in more ways than one.

Now, every morning, I lift up my shirt and say: “You’re a one sexy woman!” When I practice and I’m able to hold myself up for 10 breaths without any pain in my body, I thank my non-six-pack stomach. For I have a strong core that keeps me in check. Sexy is a state of mind. Beauty is how you see yourself.

The other day, I was admiring this Buddha statue in the yoga studio where I practice. He is normal-looking, but he certainly does not have a sick pack.


Ode to leggings

leggings gone wrong

Leggings so comfy, you can’t help but wear it 24/7.
You want to sleep in it, romp with it
Wear it to work even.

Leggings so soft and cozy,
You pretend you do yoga just so you can squeeze in it.
I love my leggings too, don’t get me wrong.
But the ways you wear it, I can write you a song.

If you wear one, don’t wear a multi-colored underwear.
Because when I see your leopard thong
It makes me want to swear
That I saw butt cheeks so big, I thought it was King Kong’s.

Do the bend over test.
Would the size of your ass give grampa a cardiac arrest?
Because, girrrlfriend, it’s not really sexy.
In fact, it’s really nasty.

And while I’m at it, let me correct you;
That tights aren’t leggings
So please take my cue.
Those sheer, thin hosiery
Are probably not for you.

Wear them under a skirt, a dress or an oversized shirt,
Don’t pass them as a pair of pants–
This wish, I hope you grant
Tights are not leggings,
This is my ode, I’m begging.

The power of looking up

It’s amazing how much we miss because we’re always looking down. Last week, I was volunteering for an event at my local library, a place I go to often, but not really pay attention to. I was tasked to meet and greet conference goers and was not allowed to be on my phone. During the downtime, nobody walked by me for a long time. Minutes ticked by and I was getting bored. I remembered looking up. To my surprise, there were graphics and art on the ceiling — very impressive art, actually. I stood there, mesmerized. It’s amazing how I missed that all this time I’ve been going to the same library, just because I refused to look up.

I’m always caught up with something that requires me not to look around. We’re always tinkering with our phones whether while walking or maybe on the train or bus that we miss things. Sure, maybe simple things such as an artwork on the wall or ceiling. But what if they’re bigger things? No wonder life flashes before our eyes oh-so fast. It’s because we’re too focused looking at the ground.

For instance, I used to read books on the train on my way to work. It passes the time during rush hour quickly, and it gives me an excuse not to make eye contact with people I didn’t really want to start conversations with. However, I’ve become more mindful about staring blankly at a space and just turning my brain off. I found that looking outside the window and watching as the city goes by or maybe people watch is sometimes a lot better than burying my nose in a book. Now, I smile at people even if all they give me is a scowl. Who knows? Maybe I’m the first person to smile at them all day.

Look around you more. Maybe you’ll find an unexpected treat — be that an artwork or something more.

Mutation situation

I’m probably the best person to work for the CIA or go on a bank heist. Not that I would ever do any of those things. I say this because I have no fingerprints. No, I didn’t burn my prints or peeled them out. Lady Gaga said I was born this way.

For real.

When you look at my fingers, I do have those concentric circles in almost all of my fingers — very, very faintly. I didn’t even know about my no fingerprint syndrome until I had to go through my naturalization process about six years ago. When it was time to get my fingerprints done, it took the lady an hour and a half scanning my hands because we didn’t know why nothing was coming up. I have sweaty palms, I said, thinking that was the reason.

I was sent to a couple more fingerprinting places and still, na-da. Finally, the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security in Chicago said if I want to have my citizenship, I needed proof that I’m not a criminal. I was told to go get a letter from every area I’ve lived in; I had to go to five local police stations to get letters that stated my criminal record is clean. As if that wasn’t a pain in the butt already, I remember having to explain to potential employers at the time why I can’t be fingerprinted and won’t meet their background check requirements. They thought I had loose screws in my head.

What baffles me is that to come to the U.S., you have to be fingerprinted. And 13 years ago when I was at my point of entry to the U.S., I was fingerprinted again — with ink and a stamp pad. A bunch of circles came alive on the paper, but they must not have run those prints because I would’ve been stopped immediately. I’d like to think it was the sweet 16-year-old look on my face that got them to pass me up. I could’ve been a threat.

Don’t even get me started with smartphones and tablets. I have to swipe or press extra hard to get them to work. At one point, I wanted to use flip phones again just to be able to actually text without having to press my fingers so hard that my phone may break. So for sure, iPhone 5S won’t get my business.

An article I’ve read said that a mutated DNA causes this syndrome. So, really, the lesson I learned from all this, every time a touchscreen fails me, is that…I’m a mutant.

X-Men, here I come.

Kids aren’t that horrific after all

I used to not like kids. They’re loud, they talk too much, they’re messy, they’re needy, and overall just generally sticky miniature people. But after this summer, I realized that what I felt as annoyance toward them really is just a little misunderstanding.

This summer has changed me in many ways. I spent six noisy weeks with close to 100 students, ages from 4 to 14 years old, at my work’s summer camp. Half of those camp-goers are the sticky miniature people. Although I never really had any difficulties connecting with tweens and teens (maybe because I still act like one), the little kids were the ones who terrified me the most. I remembered feeling so overwhelmed the first couple of days: The young ones wiggle too much, their attention span shorter than the smallest person in their class. They ask too many questions and they seem to always want to hug people after eating flaming-hot Cheetos, and they babble (a lot!).

At one point while a kid was telling me why he pushed his classmate, I was like, “Jeeze, how long does it take to get a sentence out of this kid?” Making conversations were difficult especially when they do it half screaming while snot bubbles out of their noses. Half the time, I thought to myself: “Please don’t let me be the one to mess up this kid’s head.” I’ve never had to break things down to the basics just to explain to a 4-year-old why he can’t go to the cookie party (it’s our incentive to kids who excelled in good behavior).

However, at one point during the camp–not sure when but probably somewhere in between yelling at kids to sit their butts in the chair, picking up crumbs off of the dining room floor (really, these kids eat like they have holes in their chins, I thought), and drying a soaked little girl under a hand dryer–I realized that these kids had touched my heart and I didn’t even see it coming. They wiggled their way into my cold heart and stayed there, probably with shoes untied, eating Cheetos with their butts hanging mid-air and knees planted on the chair.

I’ve also become more patient and understanding. Spending an entire morning almost every day telling a kid not to do cartwheels and jump on the couch would teach anybody that sometimes it’s alright to repeat yourself many times and sound like a broken record. Explaining to little kids that just because someone said something mean to you doesn’t give you any right to hit that person or say mean things back would make any adult realize that, hey, it’s OK to walk away and be the bigger person. At the end of the day, we have these little kids in each and every one of us.

I survived my first-ever summer camp. Kids are all of those things I mentioned earlier — loud, messy, needy and sticky, but hey, I know some adults who are all these things too. Kids are also full of wonder, curiosity, joy, and they have infinite love to give. And for that, in a lot of ways, they’ve taught me to love life even more.

As I waved goodbye to their school buses, I got a little teary-eyed. And all I wanted at the time was another tight hug from someone shorter than me.

Adventures in colonoscopy

Excuse me for this TMI post, but I felt the need to share a bit of what I learned during my colonoscopy. It’s a procedure done routinely for older people, but seeing that I’m nowhere close to old age, it came as a surprise when my doctor said I had to get it done.

Lesson 1: I’ll die not even 24 hours without food in my stomach.

Sparing you the details of what happens in the bathroom to prep for colonoscopy, another thing to do a day before your procedure is go on an all-clear liquid diet (water, tea, broth. Rinse and repeat). I can’t live without food. I’ve skipped meals before but it’s not like I’ve done that intentionally. I just simply forgot. The fact that it was a conscious effort not to eat made it even more difficult. I got so used to my feeding times and my second breakfasts.

I learned that if I ever got stuck on a mountain with no food, I’d soon die from hunger. Or, better yet, people I’m with at that mountain would kill me. Turns out, I’m annoying without food. All I remembered saying for two days were — and with dramatic pauses and hand gestures — “Is this what death feels like?” and “I’m sloooowwwly dyiiiiiiing.”

Lesson 2: Give things a chance.

Before my procedure, I was never into graham crackers and ginger ale. When I woke up from recovery, that’s the snack the nurse gave me. I gobbled it all up. And for some reason, I bought a pack of ginger ale and graham crackers that weekend. I’ve been eating it every time I think my stomach is upset. It’s a mental thing.

Lesson 3: Listen to my body.

I’ve been having stomach issues for about a year now, but I never paid attention to it until very recently. My other GI doc told me I just had gas when I first had it checked out. I ignored him but deep down, I knew I’m not well. This new doctor knew right away, minutes from telling him my symptoms, that something is wrong. I still don’t know the full results yet, but I remember him telling me this during our first session: “You see, a heart has four valves. When you’re having heart problems, there’s only four valves to look at. With stomach, everything about your body and emotion are connected to your gut. Stress and anxiety can do such a big harm to your stomach.”

Could it be that my former job and lifestyle have done so much harm to my body?

Lesson 4: It doesn’t take much to knock me out.

Apparently, I was all sorts of joy coming out of that recovery room. Anesthesia totally knocked me out so I don’t remember anything, including stopping and looking down my pants to make sure I had my underwear on.

Lesson 5: Moving on

Though I’m anxiously waiting for results (and making my stomach hurt in the process of over thinking), I’ve done lots of steps to make me feel better. And since changing jobs last November, I’ve felt a ton better about myself and I intend to never, ever ignore the little things that tell me to pay attention to myself.