I recently made the decision to stop regularly going to my iaido class. My reasons are complex, but simply put, I felt that what I wanted was taking me away from that class and exploring other wonderful avenues in my life’s journey. For two years now, I have worn the crest, the mitsudomo, of my sword school on a chain around my neck. But as I move away from mugai, I do not feel right continuing to wear the necklace that marks me as a student because I have chosen to walk a different path for now. Perhaps some day I will don it again, but not today. I just wanted to take another moment to talk about the other necklaces I have, most of which I haven’t worn in the past two years because there was already one lace around my neck.
In 2008, Bethwyn gave me my first birthday present (asiding The Mastersword, which she chipped in for and is one of my happiest memories). It was a scattering of wonderful things, but among them is a clear quartz pendant on a black rope. It’s been chipped and glued together from when it snapped in half, but to me it is a special necklace for celebrating the joy of my relationship. Strangely, as I went to put on the mitsudomo, it snagged on this necklace.
In 2005, my dear ex-lover Ivy gave me a pendant just before I left Singapore for the second time. (Strangely, and perhaps sadly, I wrote very little about those weeks on my blog, which was used for a very different purpose than it is today.) For months, perhaps more, I had been looking for a yinyang necklace, which I had felt expressed a core part of who I was. I strove for balance in my life, a perfect equilibrium of white and black, good and evil. Being fifteen, I didn’t really find it, but I did wear the necklace an awful lot as a reminder to myself to be a good Taoist (and to lock in my qi, or something ridiculous like that). As I study Taoism, particularly through Taiji and the Tao Te Ching, I recognise its concepts as profound and important to my life. Curiously, this second necklace was looped around the mitsudomo when I tried to put it on.
Somewhat unrelated, I have a necklace that is only half of a set. It is the yang, and Bethwyn possesses the yin. For one of our early Valentine’s, perhaps second or third, we both independently came up with the idea of having matching halves of a yinyang necklace. I think it was shortly after watching Mulan 2 (a terrible film, by the way) that we both secretly plotted to get a set for the other. And on that Valentine’s Day, we exchanged presents and were astounded to find we had gotten each other the same thing, from the exact same store on ebay. We wore one set to pieces over a number of years, and then kept the second as a kind of spare.
There are other necklaces I don’t really wear; the mala beads for meditation, the rosary beads for prayer, and the cross from Kairos, the life-changing spiritual retreat I went on in high school. But each of these charms holds a special place in my heart, and it is… strange, but wonderful, to be able to wear any of them or none of them. My neck felt empty, devoid and naked at first, but now it feels rich in possibility.