Yakudoshi Got the Last Laugh On Me

Call it karma, superstition, what have you, but the last week of yakudoshi got the last laugh on me.  You see, I was in the last year of yakudoshi (a.k.a. atoyaku, 後厄 ) until the Chinese New Year of 2020, or January 25th.  Although Japan doesn’t celebrate the New Year according to the Chinese calendar anymore, a few traditions still relate to the “old” New Year (kyūshōgatsu, 旧正月).  The yakudoshi years begin and end at the old New Year according to the Chinese lunar calendar.

green leaf plant beside tree
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it has been raining a lot.  Apart from a little bit of snow around “big cold” time, it’s been raining day after day after day.  As such, the deck of my home, which isn’t in great shape anyway, gets really slimy and slippery due to algae.  One weekend not too long ago, a few days before the “old” New Year, I was taking out the garbage when I slipped on the deck steps like Charlie Chaplin and landed on my back and rear.  My left shoulder and elbow hurt, but my elbow in particular started to swell.  While the rest of me soon recovered quickly, my elbow just got more sore and swollen.  I could still move it well enough, but the back of my elbow hurt like hell.

Finally after a week of this, I decided to see the doctor, and after a quick examination he determined that I had bursitis.  The fluid sac inside my elbow had gotten very swollen and irritated due to the fall and would take weeks to heal.  Thankfully nothing was torn nor broken, so that was a relief, but here I sit with a Japanese-style poultice on my elbow to help ease the swelling.

The lesson of this is that:

  • Don’t wait to see a doctor if you suspect something is wrong.  For me, the week long pain in my elbow made me miserable.  If I had known better, I could’ve gotten a medical examination earlier and saved some unnecessary grief.
  • Keep your deck and stairs maintained and clean.  I previously tried various schemes to keep moss and algae off the wood, but this time around, I tried a bucket of water and a kitchen sponge with a rough side.  Just scrubbing those steps got the algae off immediately.  Of course, keeping it clean in the first place prevents algae from growing, but if I had spent 20 minutes sometime in the last several weeks scrubbing the deck and stairs, I could’ve saved myself a serious fall.

Finally, yakudoshi is finally done, but I like to think (joking) that it got in one last dig at me.  To be honest, I never really took the tradition seriously, and still don’t.  A little home maintenance would’ve saved a lot of trouble, and that’s on me.  Further, 2018-2019 were pretty good years overall.  True, I lost both of my remaining grandparents (different sides of the family) and that put me in a long funk, and looking back I think I had gone through a longer grieving process than I would’ve thought.  Plus, the company I work for had undergone a major restructuring and that meant the constant fear of being “redundant” for months.  Finally, I had some minor surgery after an old medical issue came back to haunt me which was no small stress (plus medical bills).

But are these really due to an inauspicious year based on an old Chinese-style wordplay?  Sooner or later we lose our loved ones, and companies grow, change and shed employees from time to time to stay competitive.  Our bodies can’t stay 100% healthy all the time, either. It’s easy for me to say these things here and now, but even when they suck they’re a part of life.  There’s no guarantees of security and long life. These are things we cannot truly rely upon, like so many other things in life.

Further, in spite of these difficulties, I also got to see my kids grow.  One graduated elementary school, while the other started it.  We made a lot memories together as a family, and my wife and I celebrated our 15th year anniversary too.

A certain famous Indian Buddhist named Nagarjuna described such things as the Eight Worldly Concerns, sometimes called “Eight Winds” in various Buddhist circles:

  1. Happiness and Suffering
  2. Gain and Loss
  3. Praise and Blame
  4. Benefit and Harm

The idea is that these “winds” blow us back and forth.  At times, we’re happy, at times we’re sad.  Sometimes we gain some kind of boon, and other times we lose something dear.  Similarly, our boss tells us we did a good job, and a few weeks later we get scolded for some mistake, only to later be praised again some time later.

There’s no rest when being blown about by these winds.  Praise and fame are not something we can rely on, and blame and loss don’t last forever.

Knowing this to be true is one thing, but actually being able to stand calm the eight winds like a mountain is something that takes time, reflection, persistence, and perspective into the nature of things.  Easier said than done.  But the alternative is to spend a life time chasing after the “good” side of the eight winds, and forever lamenting the “bad” side.

So, Yakudonshi or not, the last few years had their ups and downs, but it all worked out somehow in the end.  😎


Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: