Reflections, Deflections, and Misperceptions

My mother believes in bachi, the concept in Hawaii that what goes around comes around, similar to karma or payback. (Pronounce bachi the same as bocce ball, BAH-chee.) When I once worked with a negative coworker, mom gave me a small bachi mirror to place on my desk, angled to deflect the negativity back to that person. Even if this power didn’t literally work, it effectively worked as a metaphor. Seeing the little mirror reminded me to ricochet the destructive spirit back to its source and not internalize it. Mostly, though, it reminded me of my mother’s love and care for me every time I looked at it. So in looking at the mirror, I felt neither vengeful nor antagonistic (although the Man I Married listened to me grumble a lot). The mirror reflected a deeper truth, that the abundant positive people in my life war outweighed the negative.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who Has the Biggest Trash Can of All?

My coworker later became very kind and generous to me. The presence of the Little Monster in all of our lives washed all of her negativity away. I’m glad I made like the duck’s back, letting her hostility roll off of me rather than making waves, because it left the door open for both of us.

My mother has further evidence of bachi and mirrors. Honolulu now employs an automatic garbage collection system, in which the garbage truck empties giant, square trash cans into the truck with a robotic arm or forklift. Residents set their 96-gallon cans curbside on collection day, so that the trash collector need never leave the cab of his or her truck. However, my parents live off of a narrow, twisting mountain road on which there is no sidewalk or curb. In some spots, there’s not even a grass or weed strip to the side of the road. On trash collection day, this makes for a tight fit for cars squeezing past each other and between the behemoth cans. Mom arrived home one day to tell Dad that a trash can had jumped out in front of her car and knocked off the sideview mirror on the passenger side.

Dad cackled. Yes, my dad cackles. He points and cackles. How could she possibly have hit a nearly 100-gallon, stationary, brightly-colored object?

What Trash Can?

“Bachi,” mom warned him. In fact, she went one further. “Double bachi,” she hissed.

Soon after the mirror was repaired, sure enough, Dad came home to admit that he, too, had swiped a trash cash with the side mirror. Back the car went to the repair shop. Then, Dad did it again.

“Double bachi,” Mom said knowingly.

Yet, I’m not sure I agree about bachi, because bad things happen to good people, and bachi doesn’t account for that. Perhaps karma does, in which we’re suffering payback for rotten deeds we did in a past life. Call it karma, or bachi, or fate, what I ultimately hope is that good is reflected more than bad.

Awhile back, a pusillanimous person tried to send me yet another inaccurate invective via a false name over the internet (it’s no coincidence that pussy forms part of the awesome word pusillanimous). I did not accept Mrs. Fly’s message and quickly deflected it back, thinking of my bachi mirror. I also thought of our friend Mac’s wise thoughts on the matter: if we put ourselves out into the world via our art, we have to be willing to accept what comes back to us.

I decided to counter Mrs. Fly’s need for negativity (sadly based on a misperception) by sending something positive out into the world. Although it’s mighty tempting to wish double bachi upon Mrs. Fly, why expend my energy on lowering myself into that gutter (which requires even more energy to climb out of) when the Little Monster’s presence in my life has turned a high-wattage lightbulb on to the fact that my life is bounteous and inundated with kind and well-meaning people? It’s an isolating experience to have a child who is not safe around other kids without constant supervision, and yet I’ve never felt a sense of community as strongly as I have since he became Mama’s Little Monkey Monster.

Mirror Mirror, Where in Hell is that Photo?

So that day I decided to write something nice about somebody rather than respond to Mrs. Fly’s buzzing. But what could I write, and whom could I write it about? Hm. There at my feet was the 16-pound box of Christmas goodies that my mother had sent to help me with thank you gifts for teachers and counselors. I needed to look no further, and I wrote my December Mele Kalikimaka post about Tutu. To illustrate the blog post, I knew exactly which photo I needed: the one of Tutu decorating her Christmas tree in her short muumuu under the Hawaiian sunshine, with Pearl Harbor in the background. I easily found a thirty-year old snapshot of Tutu, taken on my first Kodak Instamatic, but I couldn’t find the recent digital photo. I started going through stacks of photos and boxes of memorabilia trying to find the print. (This activity falls under a technical writerly term called procrastination, when we spend hours doing things related to our writing, yet none of it is actually spent at the keyboard producing words.)

Frustrated, with boxes and papers strewn around my office, I nearly gave up, thinking about my wasted time. But that’s when the bachi magic happened. I’d been hemming and hawing over my commitment to my motorcycle mama memoir, which took a back seat with the Advent of the Little Monster now over two years ago. Getting the momentum going again was like pushing a boulder uphill. For one thing, I could not locate the map that traced our 26-state motorcycle journey, which was to be the centerpiece of the book. I of course blamed this on the Man I Married (what else are husbands for?). In tearing apart my room to find the photo of Tutu, I found not only the map, but the navigational journal I’d forgotten I’d kept and all of the postcards I’d mailed home during the trip, which I’d forgotten I had.

If I’d taken Mrs. Fly’s bait, nothing good would have come of it. But because I decided to write something nice (and it’s easy to write something nice about Tutu), I discovered important source material. Which might also be fate telling me to get off my okole and write that durned book. Or was it simply bachi? Only the mirror knows.

At any rate, full speed ahead on pushing that 96-gallon-can of reflection (otherwise known as a book and hopefully not trash) uphill.

Well, maybe not full speed, but incremental movement.