My Ch’i

The Ch’i of Jen – Who doesn’t love an origin story?

When I launched this website originally, it was because I had, almost in spite of myself, managed to get a short story published in an anthology, “Martinis & Motherhood; Tales of Wonder, Woe and WTF” *shameless plug* ( View on Amazon). As crazy as this achievement was, it also opened my eyes to all the work that goes into the independent publishing of a book like this. Most of my fellow authors in this anthology were already successful published authors, bloggers or columnists and had websites, social media sites, headshots and a basic understanding of the editing process. I did not have these things.

For my first assignment for the book’s marketing, I was asked to provide a 150 word description of myself; my goals, my dreams, my background, essentially what makes me “me.” Now if, like me, you’re wondering how few words 150 truly is, I’m already past that here and, as you will discover if you stick around this website, I am nothing if not meandering in my storytelling, so this was a huge challenge. 

To complicate matters, it was needed immediately, and I was on Spring Break with three young boys, my husband and our extended family. Needless to say, there isn’t a ton of time for quiet self-reflection in that setting. But there was a beach. I decided to sneak away briefly because there’s nothing better than a walk near the ocean for finding some inner peace. So, I threw on sneakers, a visor and some optimism and went in search of “me.”

I love to walk along an ocean’s beach.  I find it has the ability to simultaneously soothe and inspire me. I had in my earbuds with my trusty, eclectic playlist cranking (more on my admittedly odd music habits in the “Channel Surfing” section, btw). It pinballed from the Backstreet Boys to Bruce Hornsby to the Chainsmokers and even some L’il Wayne thrown in for good measure. When it landed on Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” though, I pulled up short, plopped down in the wet sand near the roped-off area of protected sea turtle eggs and stared off into space because I realized I might be having a good ol’ Oprah “A-ha Moment.” In what I imagined to be my “beautiful woman contemplates her possible existential crisis” face but was probably more like “harried mom tries to relax but realizes her butt is getting uncomfortably wet and sandy” face, I started making a random set of connections.

I was thinking about what I draw comfort and inspiration from and made what I considered at the time a mind-blowing discovery. I raced back (okay, maybe I was still meandering-it’s a gorgeous beach) for some Google-Wikipedia confirmation and voilà – the “Ch’i of Jen” was born. 

Ch’i (or Qi) is the Chinese word/symbol for one’s life force. My light bulb moment on the beach came as I realized that my life force appears to derive from all things ‘CH’ – the beach, my children, charity, chocolate, champagne, Chicago (the city and the musical), being a chubby Cheesehead, Channing Tatum… incidentally, this list is not necessarily in order. 

Believe me, I am just self-aware enough to know that a middle-aged suburban mom and Chinese symbols are a ridiculous combination. I will never get the “Ch’i” symbol tattooed on my body (mostly because I know any self-respecting tattoo artist with knowledge of these symbols will switch my “life force” symbol with something that roughly translates to “I want to talk to a manager” and I’ll have no clue).

“The Ch’i of Jen” is still not fully fleshed-out yet, either – as with any evolving theory, there are exceptions to the rule.  For example, I hold firmly to my beliefs that “The Princess Bride” is the best story every written, “The Wire” is the best television show ever produced, Brad Pitt is the most under-appreciated actor of his generation and, as God is my witness, nothing will ever be more swoon-worthy than Cillian Murphy as that Peaky Blinder rogue, Thomas Shelby – none of which seem to involve ‘CH.’ Another interesting note – I can’t come up with a single fitness regimen that includes a ‘CH’ – which explains a lot.

Turns out, though, the important part is the journey – finding and embracing what defines “me” is movable and challenging, often frustrating, sometimes joyful, full of the highest highs and some pretty low lows.  I don’t think anyone can boil it down to 150 words without leaving out some really juicy bits, but that’s ok – it’s really fun to try… and try… and try some more.  There are approximately 187 million quotes I could insert here for inspiration (all attributed to Abe Lincoln or Morgan Freeman, if you’re on Facebook or Instagram), but the journey is an individual one.  I hope you’ll stick around and follow mine and that you’ll also go forth and continue to find your own Ch’i. Of course, if there’s cheese of any kind involved, you’ll probably find I’m already there and can’t wait to chat with you!

PS – If you’re curious as to how I ended up boiling it down to 150 words for the original assignment, you can buy the book *shameless plug #2* ( View on Amazon) or check out my “About Jen” page, because that’s basically an updated version of it – Cheers!