Tag Archives: Personal

On Women and Power

8 November 2016 – There were tears in my eyes when I voted for Hillary Clinton.

9 November 2016 – There were tears in my eyes throughout the silent ride to school. My carpool of strong women could think of nothing to say. Like many of my colleagues, I cried at work that day. I sat in a school-wide meeting called by our director, stunned, as he explained to the students that at our school, we value dignity and respect. We accept everyone, he emphasized, and we do not believe in hate. How to explain this to middle school students who, like the rest of us, had just watched hate win?

10 November 2016 – Our carpool was no longer silent. Shock and despair turned to anger and we realized the most important of lessons: Our voices were all that we had. I had the good fortune to be living in New York City and I was well aware that life would remain largely unchanged, despite the persistent chill in my chest.

22 November 2016 – It took about two weeks to accept that I was afraid.

December 2016 – Plans were formed and we waited.

18 January 2016 – Preparations finalized and we waited.

21 January 2017 – Women’s March on New York City. Women’s marches everywhere.

February, March, April, May, June 2017 – The carpool to and from school became an opportunity to call government officials at the local, state, and federal levels. We gave donations, signed and circulated petitions, read the news aloud, listened to the radio, joined online interest groups. We attended marches and protests. We spoke up because we could. We spoke up because we could not stop reading about people living in places that had become openly repressive and dangerous. We spoke up because these people could not speak.

And we realized, our voices were all that we had.


My political awakening came during the Obama years. I voted for the first time my first year in university, there was a financial crisis and promises for changes afoot, and I was studying to be a social studies teacher. Politics took on a relevance it never had before and I was excited to be involved. By the time Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party nomination for president, I assumed the United States was ready to join the nations that had already elected women to the highest offices. It was 2016, after all.

Like more than half of the country, I was wrong. The people may have been ready but the Electoral College was not, and it is the Electoral College rather than the people who make this decision. So much for demokratia. The people hold power . . . except when they don’t.

This was not an issue of politics. This was an issue of women.


I have watched from afar, in horror, as the United States has increasingly restricted what can be taught in schools and what books are available for young people. I have watched from afar, that sinking feeling again in my stomach, as the nation’s courts deny women the right to their own bodies, again and again and again.

And I ask: What are they so afraid of? What are they running away from? What are they scrambling to hide?

I am a student and teacher of history, and this is the pattern of the world repeated over and over.

So I answer: Power.

After all, we do not silence people who we do not fear. We do not delegate inferior status to those we exclude without repercussion. When we do not feel threatened, we need not respond at all. In fact, we likely don’t even notice.

This leads me to the conclusion that men in power fear women. They fear opposition. They fear ideas that could harm the illusion they have built around themselves. And this illusion? That whatever power they think they have is, in fact, theirs. If it were, if that power were rightfully earned and positively utilized, there would be nothing to fear. Nothing to hide. Nothing to silence.

Clearly, there is a great deal to repress.

And this says a great deal about power.

Criminalizing a woman’s right to her own body suggests that the people making these laws are afraid of everything that makes a woman. And so I ask: If this is the case, who actually has power?


Head held high, I needn’t answer. I need only act. With my very self as the threat, my existence proves stronger than your resistance. Power lies in me and of me and through me. And no amount of you can take that away.

Women’s March on New York City – January 2017

Building Peace: A Greeting

In May 2016, I started a series of blog posts entitled “Building Peace”. This led, two years later, to a book that tied together many of the ideas presented in these posts, ideas that remain fundamental to the role I want to play in this world. I have written just a couple “Building Peace” posts since then, perhaps because I find this theme far more obvious now than when I first began tugging at stubborn threads. Somewhere along the road, these nascent ideas coalesced into an identity.

And it has been a road.

A significant personal change is that I like who I am; the adult can speak to the child in me without crying. In optimistic moments, it’s enough just to know that. In pessimistic ones, I still find that it helps to spend time among trees.

Rereading, I stand by what I wrote back then. So maybe it’s not that I have changed, but that the way I understand myself has changed. Not so lost after all, perhaps.

December in the Gregorian calendar situates us at the end of a cycle. There are certainly other means of marking time, but standardization allows for a more connected world, and a blog is a product of such a world. Readers of this blog come from 151 countries and this is astonishing to me. I thank you for the privilege of writing and I thank you for your patience in reading.

Western tradition says that this is the time of year for us to reflect on the past year and resolve, in the new year, to act differently. To push back on convention, as usual, I would like to suggest that the best time to make a change is the moment in which you recognize that a change should be made. Walk peacefully.

But in keeping with convention, which has a time and a place, I offer the greeting that ends many yoga classes. It takes different structures, forms, and languages, and it has meant different things to me at different times. I share this greeting because it is a reflection of how I try to walk in the world, behave in relationships with others, and consider my actions in relation to the planet. I hope that it resonates with you, too. And regardless, I wish for you what you wish for you.

Hands to the heart reminding us to have clear and loving intentions.
Hands to the forehead reminding us to have clear and loving thoughts.
Hands to the mouth reminding us to have clear and loving communications.
The light in me recognizes and honours the light in you.
Namaste.

Schalkau, Germany – September 2021

What I Didn’t Know

I’m surprised at how much I miss it.

I’m surprised at how often it is on my mind, on the tip of my tongue, a marker of how and where I spend my time.

I’m surprised at my own mentions of it (and a little embarrassed) and surprised by how much of it has shaped me.

I didn’t expect it to be everywhere.

I should have known better.

I don’t know how you can just switch things off, he said.
I shrugged. Survival mechanism.

And it is.

I’ve lived a lot.


If I had to guess, I’d say the letters started when I was in middle school and experiencing the first of what I consider my two most significant life transitions. I don’t know if I came up with the idea on my own or if the social worker suggested it, but I have always thought better on paper.

I have written dozens of letters that I will never send, letters that remain hidden away inside dozens of diaries in a box in my parents’ basement. (I’ve always said that one day I’ll burn everything.)

I’ve been thinking back a lot, back to things I should have done with the letters that I wrote. Back to things I wish I’d never lived, never known, never learned, or not in the ways that I did.

I realize now that I could have been angry, had every right to be angry, and making the choice not to be has made me who I am. The funny thing is that I didn’t know it was a choice. What was it again? Oh yes, survival mechanism.

Although it was rather darker and stormier than that.


So I ran.

I ran to, I ran back, I ran away. But you can only run so far and so fast and sooner or later, well, you’re only human, after all.


I don’t think I’m unique in having a complicated relationship with the word “home”. I’ve written about this at length and can summarize with the conclusion that has sustained me for a long time: Home is people, not places.

In this way, there are many places where I might feel at home because there are many places where I have people. In some senses, I’ve gotten used to missing them, both the people and the places. But being used to something doesn’t mean being comfortable with it; doesn’t mean being at peace with it; doesn’t mean it isn’t jarring or surprising, or soft or gentle.

Missing my homes, my people, is all of these things, and it happens all the time.

Having walked this road before, I should have known better. But even if I had, there was nothing else I would have done.


I don’t miss the weather but I miss parts of it: convenience, predictability, ease.

I miss running to the store just under the road at all hours, windows and balcony door open because I could see my apartment from there and I’d be back in a minute.

I miss bike rides on the beach and stopping, soaked, under the palm trees to drink teh halia that was sickly sweet, but not as sweet as the teh halia at the Indian place where they knew my order, chided me for not eating enough, and were worried when I didn’t turn up for a while.

I miss watching the sunset over the nearest temple (remember when they rebuilt it?) while sitting with a group of friends at plastic tables, bottles of beer and empty plates of hawker food all around us.

I miss seeing the clouds fade from their early morning footprints in the sky, miss the turquoise house on the corner as I ride up the canal on the way to school.

I miss familiar faces in the climbing gym, making jokes in the mirror at dance, running into people who I knew in places where I didn’t expect them to be.

I miss meeting friends on train platforms, wandering through neighbourhoods in search of cafés, taking photos, always stopping for something to eat.

I miss our department office full of choice words and laughter, colleagues who became friends. I miss knowing people well enough to know when someone was having a good day or a bad day or when something was, for whatever reason, just going on.

I miss the rhythm of days that were always too long, with rarely enough time to do what had to be done. I miss the camaraderie that, year after year, we built and maintained because that’s what you do when you’ve been somewhere for a while.

I miss tapping on a door, asking for a minute, spending ten or twenty.

I miss knowing where I was and who I was and how it felt to know this about myself.

I spent a long time looking.


Before the school year ended in June and before I left Singapore in July, I knew I was ready to go. And I knew that I wasn’t ready to leave. I missed the Singapore I had known before the pandemic, and I still miss it. But now I miss everything else, too, and everyone.

I didn’t know how much a part of me that world had become, or the people who were and are part of that world.

I didn’t know how much I learned there, how much I grew into myself, how important those years were for the person writing this right now.

Of course, I couldn’t have known.

Maybe if we did know, life would stagnate and we’d grow complacent, unwilling to make waves because they can hurt. Survival mechanism? Maybe.

Maybe, if we did know, we’d never change anything at all.


Most of my letters over the years have been fueled by frightening, intense emotion, but that’s not the case right now. That’s why this isn’t a letter.

Instead it’s a story, a story of the mess my life was and how I tried to rebuild it. It’s a journey in the way that walking a little slower, listening a little harder, loving a little deeper is a journey. A journey of the body, and also of the mind. And in this journey, in the knowing of people and places, perhaps we can also come to know ourselves.

I didn’t expect to miss this home as fully as I do, but that tells me something about myself that I think is worth knowing. And I am grateful for having learned it.