Because isn't it important? Because shouldn't you know about the history of its darkness before you can truly realise beauty? Because sometimes, you need to witness the heartbreak to find that there is a road to healing and hope and light that follows. And because turning a blind eye to the sad parts of a country is like turning a cold shoulder to a person because of their struggles. It's important. It's always important.
When I was planning my trip to Japan last month, it was a little more rushed than I would have liked but it never crossed my mind to not go to Hiroshima. My only set back was timing but in the end, I just made time for it. And yet, when I mentioned it to people, I was met with surprised eyes. Every single time. Every single person. And after, when I came back, or, even while I was still in Japan, I found the same surprised eyes in new friends and questions asked about what it was like, asked in a way that also questioned why I would even choose to go there at all.
I've been thinking a lot about it lately, every day of this week (amongst other things) and about the feeling I got when I saw the remains of what's now called the A-Bomb Dome. One of the heaviest sadnesses I have ever felt. And at the same time, I was so thankful to have been there to see it and feel it and to just be there. I wrote the caption above and posted it to my Instagram because if I didn't truly know it before, after every story I read, every artefact I saw, every recount I listened to, this was sure as hell the very reason I knew I would always come to visit Hiroshima. And, in a way, I guess I wrote it as an analogy to understand everything else.
We live in a world that is so afraid of the dark, so afraid to confront the fear of change, so afraid to admit to mistakes from our own hands, at the comfort of.. just being comfortable. Because it's difficult and it's hard and sometimes too big to even think about. This is our world and this is its people. This is us. Some of us. Most of us.
So I think about what I saw in Hiroshima and wonder about its significance to how I felt then and how I feel now. About the timing of it all and if it means anything more than just coincidental timing or perhaps serendipity is a real thing.
This week has been so difficult. I keep waking up at 5am every morning regardless of what hour I fall asleep. I haven't been able to focus at work and I haven't felt like I was actually living real life. Just another story and something else not quite right. I became that dick on the subway who keeps their sunglasses on even inside the station and on the train because it was just easier to not have to look up and meet anyone else's eyes that way. I know I'm so lucky that my company has the resources it does to help and support us in the way that they have and still are. It's getting better. I'm getting better. We've called this a "fake week" because that's just what it's felt like. Nothing matters and still, everything matters. What happened happened and there is a world that's still turning. And there is work to be done. Of course.
When I came home on Thursday, I distracted myself with a blog written by a girl I met a few years ago when I visited Benny in Antwerp. Now we just follow each other on Instagram because these are the kinds of relationships we forge through this day and age. She wrote something about self-reflection and acceptance and then, I saw my words, from my caption on Hiroshima, on the page. She used them in the context of self-love. And I started to cry. I reached out to her in a private message just to say thank you. Because in all of this, to know that those words I had written to help me understand my own thoughts had inspired another's, is, perhaps, the most touching thing I have ever experienced.
That evening, I found a studio that taught in English and took my first yoga class in two months. It was called "Strong Flow Yoga" and I thought it would be fast-paced and more physical and something I really needed to release all the built up tension from the last week. There was no chanting (thank god) but then as I lay on my mat, the teacher spoke about chakras and heart openers and the focus of this class. And I thought, fucking hell, this is everything I don't like about yoga.
My body was so stiff. It took a while to warm up and then suddenly I was so hot and gross and breathing into every pose took so much more focus than I was initially prepared for.
I stretched. I opened my heart. I relaxed.
I lost my thoughts to the patterns of my breathing and the voice of the teacher.
"Some things are out of our control. So we accept it. We let it go. Breathe it in. Breathe it out."
I stretched. I opened my heart. I relaxed.
At the end of the class, I stayed behind to thank her. I've never felt the way I did after a yoga class before. Hopeful.
On the way out, I picked up the class schedule for the month. And only then, I saw her name..
Ai Hiroshima Hjelm