THROUGH THE FIRE: Turning the Page

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By SHARON YAMATO
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on Jan. 19, 2012.)

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As I open up my brand spanking new 2012 Metropolitan Museum of Art calendar, I can’t help but find myself assessing how my new year will be an improvement over the last. There’s something about looking at that slick, clean “January” page with no scribbles or cross-outs that makes me hopeful. I can do whatever I want with that blank page. I can write everything down in my neatest handwriting so as not to forget anything. Being neat and organized. These are good goals for the year.

Ah, I only wish that setting real goals for the year were as easy as organizing my MMA calendar.

Having spent most of the tail end of 2011 in bed with a nasty cold, I’m now having a hard time getting revved up for 2012. With the sad New Year announcement of the passing of Gordon Hirabayashi, it’s no wonder I at once feel caught between looking back and stepping up to the challenges that lie ahead.

His life is a lesson in our tumultuous history: the story of a man who single-handedly defied curfew and exclusion orders based on what he thought was right. What’s more, he took a then-unpopular stand on his own. He had no precedent to follow. The author of a play on his life, Jeanne Sakata captures the man through his own simple but profound words: “I am somewhat aware of what was, and is. I have a glimpse of what ought to be. I seek to live as though the ought to be, is.”

Would that we could all live our lives with a fraction of that kind of humility and moral integrity.

During this time of Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, presidential politics, global warming, turmoil in the Middle East, nuclear threats and on and on, it’s hard to get a handle on what one person can do to make a difference. Perhaps the prospect of what looms ahead for our country is so impossible to fathom that turning to my own little calendar is my way of avoiding all these larger issues. Should I start supporting things I care about with money or time?  How do I choose what organizations or individuals to support?  What do I need to do to take a stand and make a difference?

Besides the larger political and social issues that engulf us, there are also the personal conflicts that provide a source of continual distress. These conflicts can arise out of something as simple as choosing what movie to see or as complicated as what career choice to make.  Relationships — both personal and professional — continue to reward and thwart me. I only have to look as far back as the past few months to remind myself that even with age, my choices in friends and business partners have sometimes not been the most prudent. These are lessons you’d think I would have learned by now.

So far this year, my answer to all the questions of how to improve my life has been to run away, both literally and figuratively. I’ve found myself watching more stupid TV shows and sports events in the last few weeks to last a lifetime. January is a great month for switching channels from mindless chase shows to football and basketball games. Anything to keep from thinking.

And to make up for my week spent in bed, I ran 48 miles last week — a record during a non-marathon training month. I guess you could say that now that I’m feeling physically better, I’m not feeling at all well in my head. Trust me, endless bad TV can do that to you.

Whenever I start moaning about the dismal state of things, my Spanish-fluent mate yells out “vacas flacas.” The term refers to “skinny cows,” which are a metaphor for a barren period in the economy or one’s business. He uses it to describe the fact that I am constantly looking at the dark side of things, better known as the glass half empty. It’s an outlook that inevitably leads to inaction.

I need only be reminded of the people that I truly admire to break myself free of this negative kind of thinking.  As I muddle through international and national crises, personal dilemmas and the common cold, I will remind myself of and try to live up to Gordon Hirabayashi’s words: to live as though the ought to be, is.  This is my goal for 2012.

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Sharon Yamato writes from Playa del Rey and can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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