Tracking Asian presence across mainstream romance, 2016

This is my on-going tally of what I see when I see Asian or Asian descent characters in mainstream romance.

To clarify, I do not deliberately seek out POC fiction. I read what I want, when I want, and I don’t really believe that I should have to turn to “POC fiction” to get balanced portrayals of people who look like me and who share similar backgrounds.

All things aside, the poverty of this post in comparison to the hundreds of books I read tells its own story.

 

The Principle of Desire – Delphine Dryden

Beth had never met Lin before. He was on the short side, pudgy, fussy, with a limp hank of blue-black hair dangling over his forehead. Nothing to write home about, and definitely not a likely kinkster, though she tried not to judge books by their covers. He was obviously a good dungeon master, but Beth still had trouble thinking of him as the “DM” without giggling.

Mmm. Let’s see. There’s the general emasculation there. Dude is short, pudgy, fussy, with limp hair. And the heroine giggles at the idea of him being assertive/alpha enough to be a dungeon master despite his skill at DMing a role-playing game (mostly cerebral, something Asian are good at). Oh, my cup runneth over with stereotypes.

 

Burning Nights – Julie Wetzel

Shuri – Japanese fox spirit who pretends to be the heroine’s friend, kidnaps her, and then uses her as leverage to get hero to get her out of servitude to the crazy baddie. Oh wait, it’s the highly sexualized Asian chick who is so sweet and demure and helpless and sexy – until she stabs you in the back, necessary for her to accomplish what she wants because she’s too weak to actually get anywhere morally.

Kusanagi – crazy, paranoid, psychopathic, really fucked up Japanese dude who got off on weird power plays, refused to believe the white dude wasn’t out for his territory despite white dude’s repeated assurances that he was there for peace despite the fact that white dude didn’t tell him in advance he was showing up or asking permission to land in his territory (whoa, wait, I wonder why an Asian dude would be skeptical about such things…).

The rest of the cast involving a lot of native Hawaiian people who were subjugated by the crazy Japanese dude and who needed the white dude to step in and save their collective bacon. This isn’t kinda-sorta-maybe offensive at all. Also why do the two words “Pearl Harbor” keep popping up in my brain?

 

Legal Edentity – Karen Harley

South Korean + Scottish hero. David Argeld. Civil lawyer. Descriptions: “stud”, “genius with women”, “quadruple orgasm”,   ”incredibly, unbelievably gorgeous”, “sleek, dark, and trim”.  Bit of a player, it seems. Footloose and fancy free, except when it comes to his “darling” and her “adorable knobby knees”.

Taiwanese heroine. Jeannie Lin. Descriptions: “shyness bordered on the pathological”, some self-esteem issues, “soft-spoken, with gorgeous brown eyes, midnight black hair, and the most exquisite rear end”, “sweetest, most serious, and timid creature around”. Hidden depths. Programs. High-powered brain. Waiting to be “awakened”.

Much as I wasn’t super excited by Jeannie and her shyness, the hidden fire mostly made up for it. David though, David could drop by and rock my world anytime. I cannot even begin to say how awesome it was to see an Asian (okay, half, but still good because he apparently looks Asian) dude who had game. Cannot. Even. Begin. To. Say.

 

His Road Home – Anna Richland

Marine biologist Korean-descent heroine.

Hero is the son of an illegal Mexican immigrant. I loved how this was handled. She has a son who got a Purple Heart, but she can’t take a plane to go see him when he comes home with a double amputation because of her papers.

Just, the whole thing, all the details, so well handled. It was gorgeous. At one point, hero and heroine are in the grocery store, talking about T-day and an old woman approaches them and the hero has this minor freakout because he has to remind himself that they’re allowed to be there, that they have just as much right to be making T-day plans as this little old white lady. It was heartbreaking.

The Crystal – Sandra Cox

Villain is an “oriental” named Lai. Black hair. Coffee colored eyes. Can apparently pass for sixteen with her hair up in pigtails.

Crazy psychopathic lady who splashed acid on the face of someone she thought of as a rival. Woman twisted by a terrible childhood and ended up a thief, killer, and ringmistress of organized crime. Trades upon her sexuality. (Of course.)  I assume she’s Indian since she’s from Calcutta, but I honestly don’t know because we’re given very little detail about her. She keeps being referred to as an “oriental” which was kind of …weird and off-putting and IDEK offensive because there’s so little we know about her that she’s almost a caricature of herself. For all we know she’s half Chinese and that’s where the vaguely Chinese name comes from.

 

To my surprise, 2016 seems to be a good year so far. We have more positive impressions than bad ones. Even if the bad ones are kinda horrific. 

Tally: 4 positive to 4 negative.

Still, I’ve read maybe 100 books so far this year and only 7 impressions total? Kinda shitty odds.

Lost

When I was eighteen, I wanted to know the meaning of life. Mine, to be specific. Why was I here? What could I do? Did it even matter that I existed?

Twelve years later, it’d be nice to know the meaning of my life in abstract, something separate from what it means for me, but mostly I’ve been struggling with the question of lessons learned and abandoned. What have I learned? What have I failed to learn? What do I yet need to learn?

March has been difficult. I don’t know why.

It’s been difficult to breathe on too many days. Too many mornings where I rose from my bed still tired. And the depression circles, ever vigilant, and for some reason the fires burnt low this month.

Stories aren’t often written of those who stay at home and tend the hearth. It is always the boy who leaves, the girl who marries, the querent in search of a quest who gets their heart’s desire.

But the doing is in every day. To rise every morning. To do the day’s work. To keep the fires burning. To keep the larder stocked. To slay the dust bunnies where they lie in the dirt and procreate.

It is a choice. Every single day is a choice. An affirmation.

I need to remember that. To keep belief strong, to keep faith that just getting up, getting fed, being clean is an accomplishment in of itself. That what little is done today is nevertheless a stepping stone to a better tomorrow.

I need to believe that the ones who stay at home can get their heart’s desire too.

Perhaps part of the malaise is just the weather turning or the cold that we’ve all been struggling with since the new year came. Perhaps part of it is that I still have no concrete notice as to whether I have been accepted into a grad school program this September or not. Perhaps part of it is because my parents have been feuding. Perhaps part of it is because I feel like I’ve sold a part of myself for the sake of ease and deluded security. Perhaps part of it is because I’m going to be in the US for four months and it’s terrifying on so many levels. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know what of my dreams I cling onto because they are mine and how much of them are just for comfort. Perhaps it’s because I keep scoring myself on the shattered remains of what I lost.

It doesn’t matter. I can’t let it matter.

There are no guarantees of tomorrow. There are no plans laid that cannot be scattered. The universe and the fates make us no promises.

I am here now. I can only do the best I can, now. All I can do is tread the path that is littered with the fewest traps for regret.

Boundaries and grace.

Once I send off my tax payments, then I’ll know how much money I have to spend over the next four months. Then I’ll need to budget what I can and cannot do based on that. Boundaries.

I need to finish Sunshine and Phoenix Awoken, stat. That has to be my primary priority for the month of April. That, and try to sell off bits of furniture as we go so the house can be cleaned in readying for selling. Anyone want a leather couch set?

I don’t wish to see anyone from before except for Thene and her household. I don’t want to be nice for the sake of being nice. I don’t want to dispense comfort. I don’t want to sugarcoat the truth of how very difficult it was this last half-year, how very abandoned I’ve felt, how disposable, how scapegoated, how very unappreciated. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, aye? Well, I haven’t had any good interactions with anyone from my previous life except with Thene, so I’m drawing that circle closed now. Boundaries.

To a large extent, going to MA feels like stepping backwards. How very fitting that Saturn will be retrograde in that time period. Lord of Karma, Master of Time, I pray that I have learned my lessons, that I will not be ground beneath myself. Grace.

I’m learning how to protect myself without lashing out at others.

I’m learning where my jagged edges are and trying to heal them without covering them up and hoping for the best.

I’m learning how we maneuver around the gaping holes in our lives and how we use others as bridges across chasms.

I’m learning where my dreams lie, where my heart lies, where my mind shies away from the truth.

I’m learning. Pray Saturn that I have learned enough.

More lessons from Monkey and some dredged up thoughts

I read this by Felicia and thoughts came spilling out. Thoughts that I had not really registered as True and Valid and Worth Noting until the avalanche came crashing down years later.

It seems to be an ongoing refrain, a song I wish I could stop singing, the earworm that I want to excise and decapitate so it will never trouble me again. The issue of living insufficiently within myself. The question of how a person who thinks and rethinks and stares in blind fascination at her navel can be so oblivious. The mystery of feeling things and thinking about them, but never arriving at the logical conclusion.

If I could draw, I’d sketch a picture of a woman, curled in on herself, head bent, neck exposed, unwitting of the sharp blade coming at her from behind, of the spear poised in front of her, because she is too rapt in herself.

People want to read about your dark times only in the past tense, only when you’ve made it out to the other side and you are gleaming and dressing your wounds. There is so much talk, so much desire for that which is real and authentic, yet we see time and time again how people are rewarded for their artful representation of a coveted life. People want their darkness in manageable doses (that one book everyone reads/movie everyone sees) because possibly they have so much (or little) going on in their lives that they don’t want the burden of someone else’s grief. Rather, they reach out to light so religiously they don’t realize when they’ve been burned and blinded by it. – Felicia Sullivan

and

It’s hard, really fucking hard, to see the constant stream of posts that speak to how everyone’s life is so! fucking! awesome! when my life is anything but, but their life isn’t my life and there’s no joy in comparing myself to others and what they chose to edit and project out into the world, so all I can do is keep attempting, keep doing, keep working, and keep being my most honest self–even if it’s not as attractive as the world would want it to be. – Felicia Sullivan

It’s actually why I went from being a devout follower of food blogs and loving cooking to …the person who fiercely resents being asked to cook and who hasn’t really read a food blog in years.

I used to be all about the food blogs – I loved everything about it, how food molds us and how we in turn manipulate food and memories in an unending cycle, how it was a window into someone else’s life, how inspiring and warm and cozy and lovely it was. It was inspirational. This, too, you can do at home. This, too, you can do to create a home. This, too, can be bliss that you can own and savor.

And then one day I quit the whole thing cold-turkey because all of the silken cheer was suffocating. I didn’t have a wonderful husband or a precious baby and my dreams scattered in tatters around my broken feet. Of course I didn’t realize it then. Hence the questioning bewilderment by now-me to then-me: “how did you not know? how does one not know that the shape of your life isn’t how you envisioned it to be?”

Because, of course, the triggering was when almost all of my favorite food bloggers weren’t just happily married, but when they were reveling in the joy of anticipating motherhood. Yes, also, I’m apparently really slow sometimes, but mostly I thought it was because they were moving onto a phase of life that wasn’t accessible to me and so I drifted away, thinking that I would return later.

Later never came.

Now I realize that it was because I simply couldn’t do it, couldn’t pretend not be both completely disbelievingly envious and ashamed that just as I couldn’t do puff pastry from scratch, nor could I shape my life into something as adorable and photogenic as those macaron-lives they turned out by the dozen. Even their trials seemed like distant fairytale obstacles, just a plot device certain to be overcome by the deserving, even though I’m sure they didn’t seem that way for them.

I wasn’t doing something that I wanted to be doing. I was living a life that resembled what I wanted on the outside but turned out to be stuffed straw on the inside. I was drowning under the weight of fear and inertia and never twigged to it.

I don’t think I can do it still. I haven’t gone back to a place where I can truly enjoy cooking, grocery shopping, or the minutiae of feeding myself.

Cooking still reminds me of unrewarded and unappreciated emotional labor and broken hearts. All the loved ones I fed, hoping to nurture, hoping to be fed in return, begging in my silent passive aggressive way to be loved. All the time and energy and resources sank into something so terribly ephemeral as a meal, as the hope of love, as a wish for home.

I never used to understand how people could miss a meal, how they could knowingly skip eating, but now I find myself resenting the effort required to eat well. I find myself begrudging of that very basic of needs.

It’s unhealthy and I know it and I suppose now the only thing to do is to work past it.

That said, I think I will have cake for dinner. Cake that someone else baked and that I paid for.

Because another lesson of living within myself is realizing when I’ve hit a wall and I’m standing with my nose to the brick right now.

It seems a bit ridiculous, and that’s a thought I need to dig out of my brain, that it’s ridiculous that I feel exhausted even though I barely have to worry about adulting enough to carry myself through life, which might be another facet of guilt I should excise. I haven’t done my steps. I haven’t written. I am stressed over the interview next Thursday. I am apparently not going to cook or clean my room or anything vaguely responsible.

And I’m not going to.

I found myself on the verge of tears on Friday because I couldn’t do the trilled R or the French R and I had barely written and I’d barely done my steps and I had been cranky all day without knowing why and I just wanted one thing to go my way. One thing. And no. I still couldn’t do my Rs and I resented all the meal times that my parents wanted me to be present for, both cooking and cleaning up after and and and and and…

Yeah no.

Cake for dinner. I will walk around the living room and read if I feel like it. I might go to bed early despite having spent most of today asleep. I will cosset and cherish the fuck out of myself and never  try not to wonder if that’s all there is. Because it is all there is at the end of the day.

You arrive in this world with no one. You leave this world with no one.

Why is it so impossible to accept what should be gratingly self-evident?

I have myself. I have cake. I have a quiet night in because my parents are leaving for a class at 4pm.

It will be more than enough.

Oh Monkey…

Sun Wukong, king of the monkeys, trickster extraordinaire. How much more powerful is he when he’s coupled with fire, as he is in this coming new year?

Very potent, apparently.

The last few days have been a study in drama, with multiple lessons letting me know that I’m not as centered as I thought myself to be, not quite as enlightened as I flattered myself to be, and definitely not quite as graceful as I want to be.

In less than 72 hours, I’ve managed to blow up at my mother, fight with my father, threatened to move back to the US despite it being a truly shitty idea and a slap in the face to my parents, descend into melodramatic hysteria while talking to my brother (suicide ideation may have been mentioned), touched a knife with thoughts of self-harm, utterly piss off a friend while having the best of intentions (note to self: get better at apologies), and had someone tell me that they were completely in love with me, did unhealthy things in the pursuit of that love, and that I shouldn’t have accepted his tokens of affection, that I was a horrible housemate, that I “nearly blew up” my ex’s relationship with his new girl, and that I “ruined” all of my housemate’s lives.

*breathes out. relaxes shoulders*

Monkey… you’re certainly coming in with a bang. If this is what the upcoming Fire year is going to be like, consider me warned and slightly terrified.

Or can I hope that this is just Monkey’s warning shot over the bow, his reminder to clear out the trash in preparation for next year’s bounty?

After all, he hasn’t quite arrived yet. It’s the eve before the New Year, so perhaps it’s that fiery energy blazing in, sweeping away the green wood of last year?

 

With hope in mind:

I offer up to Love a pledge to love myself, to hold through each day the idea that the Universe loves me, to remind myself that every moment on this earth is a gift and to forgive others their trespasses so that I may forgive myself.

I vow to Love that I will respect and honor others by first respecting and honoring myself and that I will first look for the story in every tragedy and the smile in every detour.

I invite Love into my life. I invite those who would love me, who would be loved by me, who wishes to be mutually beneficent, who could help me, who I can help, who I can teach and who I can learn from.

I will search for the seeds of selfishness, of self-centered shadows, of fear and doubt, and cast them out as I find them.

Reminder: I must not encroach upon others in a wild flail to regain my balance; do not punish others for what I have done to myself, but also do not soften on boundaries.

 

My mother, my mirror, the one who blazed the trail that I too often mindlessly follow.

Elle, Kev, my sister-friend, my brother, my mirror, the one who I poke at when the image doesn’t reflect what I think it ought to.

My father, my mirror, the one who gave me most of my irritating logical-pokiness and who turns it on me in balance for my wrongs.

Iddt, my friend, my mirror, the one who hollowed himself out to balance my empty need.

I thank you. I forgive you. I love you. I release you. Forgive me.

 

Affirmation from mooncircles.com that resonated today:

The beacon of life-destiny beckons me forward.

I step toward new goals despite impediments.

The stones in my path will become future stars.

I continue to create the fullest potential of who I AM.

 

My birthday is coming up!

I originally planned on publishing Goddess in Waiting as a birthday gift to myself. That does not seem like it’s happening in time, so revisiting and revisions are in order.

*breathes out and lets it go*

Grace, remember? Okay. I can do this.

Realization of today: I have a problem with apologies, especially to my parents, because I’m still struggling with a fear of fundamental rejection. Admitting to doing something wrong is (to my unenlightened mind) akin to inviting censure, attack (abuse?), and abandonment.

Good to know. Let’s do better moving forward. Note to self: get better at apologies.

Lesson: if you love someone and give to someone, then it is up to you to be clear-eyed about what your expectations are and if you are draining of yourself to feed an endless pit.

Another lesson: what works for you will not necessarily work for others – belief in meditation, warm baths, and the healing power of screaming out your rage can be just as much dogma as is found in organized religion. Do not evangelize. Remember, the sick person is not always, if ever, receptive to “did you try x? because it was super helpful for me, etc”.

Monkey be bold. Monkey be wise. Monkey — let’s try not to burn the good away with the bad.

Burning Nights by Julie Wetzel — well, this one certainly might keep me up at night…

…for all the wrong reasons…

I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve read by Julie Wetzel. A lot.

That said, the latest installment in the Ancient Fire series made me rather sad. Even more sad because she’s one of my auto-buy authors.

For one thing, Burning Nights was a bit of a letdown compared to what I was expecting. Julie says at the end that it was hard for her to write, and I think it does show a bit.

There’s a lot going on with Darien and Victoria and instead of retreating and regrouping, giving the characters a bit of a respite to sort out what’s going on and make some headway with everything that’s piling on them, even more stuff gets heaped on top of Darien. It’s getting to be a bit silly, especially as what happened was almost certainly avoidable if Darien had followed proper protocol. Instead, he didn’t, which seemed rather odd for someone as worldly as he is, and of course everything goes to pieces.

There’s little to no Zak in this book, which was disappointing, because Zak was always good for a smile or chuckle. Without him around to leaven the story, it wasn’t quite the same.

I felt like Julie had fallen into the “how do I top what’s come before” plotting trap, where the writer tries to outdo herself at every turn and ends up with a frenetically paced series where the characters never quite seem to come out ahead no matter what they do, you start questioning if the MCs really get to have any life to their own, and everything starts to feel incredible because seriously, how did they manage to get to their age without all this happening and now it all comes in one big glob?

Also, this entire detour just felt…unnecessary, again. It could have been easily avoided, but no. It also didn’t feel like it did too much for the overall plotline than revealing yet more crazy waiting for them in the wings, which, again, I’m tired of things blowing up at this point.

For another thing, and this was my main sadness — I’ve my first two Asian character sightings of 2016 — and they’re the baddies.

*sigh*

To a certain extent, it really felt like Julie went, what can I possibly come up with that is cooler than what came before?, and then went oh yeah, Japanese youkai stuff is really cool and has shiny things that  I could use, and then of course if you’re using stuff from Japan, then oh yeah, the baddies are Japanese too.

What’s troubling is that in a previous book, there were the ifrit who had been being used by the bad guys. So there was already a “welp, cool, the brown people are the bad guys again” feel, but that was made marginally better because they had been forced to it.

There isn’t that solace in this book.

The main dude is a sociopathic, paranoid (wait, is that redundant?) monster and Japanese. The person helping him is a kitsune (of course, because heavens forbid we use anything else interesting from Japan), who he forced into his service, true, but still.

*sigh*

It’s just frustrating. It’s really hard to see Asian characters anywhere and it just burns when they almost inevitably turn out to be either stereotypes or the baddies or both.

So far, 2016?

Two to zero, with disappointing characterization in the lead.

That aside, I’m seriously uncertain if I want to continue this series at this point. I feel like I signed up for a mostly-sweet, playful, light romance with some paranormal elements, but right now with the new reveal of Darien’s abilities/specialness, it seems like Darien and Victoria are far, far away from just being able to to be two people making a life together. The plotline is turning out to be massively more epic than I anticipated coming in. There’s a lot of stuff going on and it doesn’t seem to show any signs of winding down or getting manageable and even if Darien and Victoria can keep going, I for one feel like I need a bit of a break.

 

Clarity: a manifesto of sorts

It’s coming on my 30th birthday and I figured I should take some time to step aside from the hurly burly, revisit, revise if necessary, and restock.

The last few weeks or so has been rocky. I’ve felt a bit tapped out, itchy, restless, simultaneously wishing to for a fight to raise sword and shield to and just wanting to be left alone.

It may be that it’s because I’m nearing my period. It may be that I’ve been over-socializing lately. It may be that I’ve felt sick and haven’t given myself enough downtime to recover. It may be that I’ve been pushing myself hard in January and now I’ve discovered too late that I’d burned too many spoons in my enthusiasm. It may be that Dana Gerhardt is right and I’m feeling the effects of the transiting sun being in a balsamic relationship to my natal sun. Or maybe maybe maybe…

Whatever it is, I’ve decided to tell it whateva.

What I love about my birthday is that it falls after Chinese New Year, which falls after the usual New Year. The fact that it falls immediately after Valentine’s day is just extra cherries in my cake.

Not really feeling quite up to speed on the new year yet?

Never fear, there’s another chance to do over with Chinese new year, with new burst of energy from the change in the stars.

Not really settling into the groove of self-love and positive affirmations yet?

No worries, there’s an entire week before I hit my birthday. Enough time to sort of slide into the water instead of being made to jump into the deep end.

With that in mind, maybe it’s time for a manifesto. Because why not? I’ve never done something of the sort before and it seems like fun.

I love… slipping into other realities through the lens of other people, and hatching dreams.

I believe… in grace, in love, in that fanged monster we like to call Hope and I believe that light is brought to the world one lumen at a time.

I am committed to… being that one lumen, to cradling every dream I can find in my hands, and nurturing my light so that it may not only light my world, but hopefully another’s.

Goals (I like lululemon’s idea of setting goals 4 times a year):

Personal:

This year: fall completely in love with myself

In five years: fall utterly in love with life

In ten years: find someone to share my bliss with

Health:

This year:

set my routine in stone. 10k+ steps a day. 3o min of walking after meals. sun salutations in the morning. do the exercises the doctor prescribed nightly. meditate. love my body while still nudging it to be the best it can be.

In five years:

move towards being more vegetarian except possibly for the bleeding times. learn balance and grace so I can travel more.

In ten years:

(this part is hard) be at home within myself, body and mind.

Career:

This year: finish Phoenix book 2. publish Goddess. finish and publish Silenced. possibly publish Letters.

In five years: wrap up the Phoenix series, including spin-offs. find my tribe. find writing partners. be making enough money to cover my base expenses.

In ten years: have at least 40 stories published. making goal-money (6k+/month) off my writing.

 

 

 

 

January 2016: an overview

A life is so-oft composed of numbers. Numbers that circumscribe. Numbers that set you free. Numbers that adulate. Numbers that undulate (mostly those pertaining to weight). Numbers that name and shame and circle like piranhas in the dark.

Don’t bleed. Never bleed. Not in the dark. You don’t know what’s hiding out there.

So, in that vein, that open vein,  let’s see how the numbers fall.

It’s only the 30th, yes, but I’m starting to embrace what it means to live with what I have and what I have access to. Tomorrow is my grandmother’s birthday, and so it will likely be an all-day whirlwind of social social social social interactions nibbles bites interlaced with vague urges to alternately throw myself out the closest window or to shut myself into the bathroom and quietly turn on the steam bath and wash away everything and step out and say fuck you all.

Ah, positivity. I do so well at it.

I slept all day today and it’s hard to breathe but I have enough brain cells to rub together for an overview now at 10:30pm, so let’s do this now rather than hoping I have the energy to do it tomorrow.

Excuses. I need to stop explaining, stop with the reasons, stop with all the little self-nibbles. No is a full sentence. So is a statement of intent.

Assuming no steps taken and no words written tomorrow, I will have an average of 1312 words and 9216 steps per day for January. Highest number of steps was 16000 and most words written in one day was 3287.

There was one day where I took 300 steps all day and three days with zero words written.

A month. In numbers.

The earlier part of this month came easily. Maybe I coasted on the high generated by the multitudes who were excited by the start of a new year. Maybe I glided on my own enthusiasm.

The numbers started tapering off on the 16th, with the first zero coming on the 24th and the other ones following closely.

Back to affirmations. Back to positive dreaming. Back to the drawing board to create a mirage to walk toward.

To be fair, the latter part of this month involved odd nights where insomnia hit hard and days where my brain felt like it was in pea-soup fog and my heart just wanted to rage like a too-tired toddler on crack. Tantrum and tantrum and tantrum until I’d broken everything and then maybe I could find myself in the shattered remnants of the world.

There were moments when I curled up on myself in bed and wondered if this was how 2016 was going to be, just another straggling knock-kneed nag unable to keep up with the herd.

But as Esme said:

But this bout of illness was a reminder, I believe, not of how stupid it is to be hopeful, but how moving through our lives, and through suffering, is a part of our hopefulness, and is a part of the most resilient aspects of ourselves. That I will keep looking forward to my better days and ride out the hard ones is a testament to the stubbornness and tenacity that has kept me going through difficult times so far. I haven’t given up–not yet–because I’m damn stubborn. Chin lifted. I am willing to present as a goddamn mule.

And so: being sick didn’t “ruin” my 2016. My 2016 is still wide open and ahead of me. I’m still going. I’m still doing great, according to my requirements of what it means to live a good life.

Hope. Because even though it is that cruel thing with razored feathers, it is all there is some days.

Jody speaks of when healthy isn’t an option and how to learn to love a chronically ill body:

I also see a body that is still standing. It is a body that is broken on a cellular level, and it struggles to provide for its basic needs, but it keeps on struggling. It hasn’t given up, and so I haven’t given up. I do not fight it anymore — it does its own fighting. Instead, I nurture it. I wrap it in love and compassion, and I recognize that my body is doing the best it can. And, while its best won’t win races or even qualify as “healthy,” it’s good enough for today.

In terms of learning to accept our bodies, there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy. There is certainly no magical line that constitutes value and worth. Our bodies are our vessels, and loving them and ourselves means treating those vessels with care. I eat well and minimize harm today because I love my body, not because I expect to change it. Through time, I have learned to find beauty in my body’s refusal to give up, but I also recognize that eventually all of our bodies reach their limits. There is beauty and grace in acknowledging and accepting that, too.

Esme’s word for 2016 is alive. Mine might have to be grace.

The inherent grace of my life, where I am fed, clothed, sheltered in all sense of the word, and have access to medical care. Where I am loved and cared for, no matter how that love and care manifests.

The grace to bend, to submit, to acknowledge that which I cannot change, what I can, and what isn’t worth battling over.

The grace of knowing there is always that ultimate no and the grace in being able to say “thank you, not today” and mean it.

 

Submission and safewording to the universe

I was thinking the other night, about my vague and unrealized interests in BDSM and started wondering, as Thene once asked, how much of that was curiosity and how much of that was genuine interest.

In the end, does it matter? Maybe, maybe not. Because let’s go slightly past the flesh and think about what it means when taken to its logical conclusion.

The thing is, it’s a beautiful thought. Or can be.

The ideal is theoretically someone who both takes control of you and is yet in service to you. Someone who knows your hard limits, cares enough to push you just enough past the point to ecstasy without harming you, someone who has to pay close and careful attention to your every shudder, every whimper, every flinch, so that they may best gauge how to serve your needs and desires. Someone who knows what you like and is committed to giving it to you, perhaps giving just a little too much, to take you beyond the edge into sweet oblivion, but with a net to catch you and bring you safely home again.

And if you move into the other aspects of domination and submission, the idea of someone committed to helping you be a better, purer version of yourself. Discipline when needed, praised when warranted, and of course, above all, someone who is completely all about you and your journey into that sweet place where you can think of nothing at all, close your eyes and simply be.

It’s a beautiful thought.

The reality, of course, is questionable.

Extended to its logical (?) conclusion, I started thinking about the universe as the ultimate Dom.

Saturn, Lord of Time, Master of Karma. Pluto, Lord of Death, the Underworld, intuition itself, king of insight. The Destroyer. These forces in service to the Universe and to us.

Of course, all of this is by nature spoken from a position of privilege. Enough privilege that I’m not sure how far or how deep this analogy can go before I start twitching. Much like my discomfort with the privilege inherent in the notion of laws of attraction and the thought of people choosing every single thing that happens to them. The idea of Earth as a school is all fun and games until you really start taking a good hard look at what is happening in certain places of the globe. Yes, let’s carry everything to its logical extension, but by golly, I don’t need to be comfortable with it.

But let’s talk about the fantasy, shall we? Sometimes the only way to explore a concept is in isolation and in the best possible circumstances. Kind of like trying to pin down a quantum…?

Dare I say yes? (but I already have, because clearly I’m here and not dead)

And what is my safeword? (scene-ending. session-ending.  =Death?)

And what is happening as correction and therefore cannot be safe-worded out of versus something that is meant for the experience and can be? (do we see my intense discomfort with connecting non-safe-wordable-shit as “correction”? here is where the analogy goes to tatters for me.)

…wrenching the mind back to the perfect circumstances analogy schtick…

But, with that thought, there’s something liberating there. (snide voice: yes, there’s usually something liberating about privilege…)

If this entire thing is for my pleasure and my edification (theoretically) and everything goes only so far as I allow it to (still running up against that whole privilege thing…), then there is something supremely liberating about knowing there is a safeword there.

What is it anyway? Pondering.

Safeword out of the dysfunction part of my relationship with my parents.

Safeword out of the relationship that wasn’t working anymore.

The correction bit regarding my health that I haven’t been able to safeword out of yet.

….

The thing is, it’s a novel thought for the most part – the ability to say no.

Yes, you’re allowed to change. Yes, just because something was this way for a longest time doesn’t mean that it needs to be eternally that way. Yes, you’re allowed to move on. Yes, you’re allowed to tell someone that what they’re doing is hurting you.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

And the flip side of that, of course, is: no.

No to being put on the spot for extra emotional labor.

No to saying yes to authority just because.

No to staying in relationships where I’m not a priority.

No to people who just aren’t that into me.

No. No. No.

If I believe. If I allow myself to believe. (hard, really, again with the tattered analogy)

Then I can believe that most things happen for a reason. I can believe that I allowed most of the things in my life to happen to me. I can believe that these experiences were perhaps necessary, that perhaps I needed them to grow into myself.

Perhaps I could have learned an easier way. A better way.

Perhaps I can console myself that it would have been a slower way.

Perhaps I can console myself that I might not have learned anyway because I’m terribly stubborn.

But if I allow myself to believe.

Then I can believe in safewords, in the ultimate grace of a Universe that is watching and won’t give me more than I can stand, in my ability to take and stretch and bend and submit and finally break out of myself into something purer.

Maybe.

Maybe I believe in fairy tales.

 

 

 

So much easier this way. Almost like cheating, except…I deserve it

I was just thinking tonight, how much easier it is to love myself single.

One entire wall of my room is window and at night it turns into a massive mirror.

I see myself. Endless glimpses of myself. I can’t get away from me, in fact.

Getting ready for bed. Sitting at my tiny desk. Looking up while blow-drying my hair. A side-ways glance when thinking while reading.

And I don’t mind it.

I’ve always had an odd relationship with mirrors.

For the longest time, I startled when I looked into a mirror because I wasn’t expecting what I saw.

Never.

I don’t know what I expected.

It wasn’t as simple, as …dirty-clean as thinner, paler, differently colored hair or eyes or more delicate features or shit like that. It was this visceral jerking back of “wait, what’s that?”, this sense of seeing something that wasn’t expected, that the me in the mirror wasn’t truly myself at all.

Now, though, I’m settling into myself. I look up and the face looking back at me is expected, is pretty to me, the smile intimate and familiar.

It’s easier, now.

I like my body more now that I don’t have to worry about someone else liking it or wanting to sex it. I like it more now that it serves only me, that the only person who gets affected by my cycles of mood and menstruation and energy is me.  I like it more now that it doesn’t feel like a traitor to the cause of being a better example of femininity.  My body serves me and only me and that’s fine. I’m a kinder mistress than anyone else has ever been to me and it’s wonderful.

And no, it’s probably not fair to anyone, much less myself,  that I feel this way.

But I do. And I’m single. So I suppose I should revel in it while I do.

Or maybe it is fair.

Dante whispered in my ear today, “Test me, baby. Test me all you like. I won’t back down and I won’t flinch because it’s my privilege and my duty as yours to make you certain of me.”

And Thryn said softly, “It wouldn’t really be love if I could tell you why, would it? If I could parse it, if I could lay out exactly why you’re home to me and why I dream softer with you and why the only shelter I’ll ever need lies in your eyes and your arms… then it wouldn’t be love. It would be a transaction, a business merger.”

I’m falling in love with myself. With this body that tries so hard. With this heart that will not quit. With this mind that amuses and dazzles. With these senses that open up entire universes to me.

I’m falling in love with Love.

It feels almost like cheating. This effortless joy, untainted by sly glances hinting at inadequacy, unmarked by insidious “buts”, just mine.

Aedrian takes my hand in the dark and shushes my worries. He knows what it’s like to feel like your love isn’t enough, that you could love enough to shatter yourself and shred your heart and it wouldn’t take up even a dust mote’s space in the universe, but he’s willing to try.

Could I do any less?

Let’s play on easy mode for now. Hard mode will come along sooner rather than later.

 

Treading softly upon the self

I tweeted yesterday (with more txt speak, of course, since, Twitter):

That moment, twelve days into 2016, when you realize you’re beating yourself up for breaking your New Year’s Resolution… to stop beating yourself up for stressing out.

*laughs*

Oh my goodness. It really was funny when I realized what I was doing. Funny and sad, yes, but funny just the same.

I was going to do a “first week of 2016″ overview, but it was only day five when I thought of it and then I blinked and it was the ninth. So when I re-thought it and decided the first half-month of 2016 would do, except today is the 13th… I decided to just go ahead and write it anyway.

Thirteen is a nice, solid, much maligned number anyway.

So how’s 2016 treating you thus far, babe?

So far, the numbers are pretty positive. I’ve made my 10k steps on almost every day, except for one. I’ve written more than a thousand words every day, not including journaling. And I’ve been mostly getting to sleep and waking up at very reasonable hours.

There were a couple of nights of weird insomnia around the solar term Little Cold, but that’s hopefully behind me now.

If 2016 were a guy, I’d say that the first date was very promising and he seems like a gentleman, albeit one that keeps me up nights thinking about him. Definitely second date material, though I’m still observing.

*laughs*

To continue the dating analogy, I have also realized that in the end it really does circle around to myself. Something I was thinking about yesterday, at the tail end of my period, when I realized that I was being immensely grumpy for really no good reason at all…

Was it because the period was a physical symbol of yet another month without conventionally approved growth, because it was a sign of missed opportunities, because I was secretly hankering after baby-making?

Or was it because I was upset that I’ve only been doing a thousand or so words a day when I really wanted to be doing something spectacular like 3 or 5k?

Or was it because I was feeling sick again and it’s been seven freaking months and for fuck’s sake?

Or was it because mom and I had another reprise of the relationship talk and I was feeling uncertain and sore?

Or was it just the hormones balancing out and the slight fever getting me down?

I have no idea, but really, the why doesn’t actually matter, because none of those things were worth being grumpy over. I was comparing myself to others and that shit needed to stop. Stat. I was fretting over what would happen when/if my parents cut off the gravy train before I was ready. That shit needed to stop too. I’ve survived. I will survive. No sense in borrowing trouble.

I made word count. I made step count. My cycles are getting more regular. Anyone who’s complaining just needs to shut the fuck up.

I realized, too, that part of me was uncertain and wiffly-waffly because of the way things ended between me and some of the people in my past.

I realized that I thought that I, in a way, didn’t deserve love, or wouldn’t receive the love that I wanted, because I can be a judgmental, high maintenance bitch I have high standards. Standards that so many people have looked at and told me that I was delusional for holding to. Standards that people have told me will lead to me crying alone into my porridge when I’m shriveled and cold.

And then I realized that I was wrong. And everyone who told me that it’s better to settle than to be alone was wrong. And everyone who looks at me with pity because I’m alone is wrong. And every person who tells me that one of these days I’m going to regret everything is dead wrong.

Because I won’t let it happen. I won’t, because if I die trying, I’m going to have the most wonderful love affair with myself for the rest of my life.

Something I reminded myself of yesterday:

Life isn’t about the end. Not truly. It’s not about who you leave behind, what your legacy is, or what people whisper about you after you’re rotting/burning.

Because you won’t care when you’re dead.

Today exists. Am I happy today? Will I regret spending this day this way if I were to die tomorrow?

Today is a journey, a potentially amazing one from the moment I step out of bed to the moment I fall into dream, back in bed.

If Today were a journey, would you regret what you’ve seen and done or no? If no regrets, then why worry about what the sum of days will be at the end of your life?

I didn’t do all that much in Barcelona, even though I knew it was possibly a once in a lifetime trip. We visited the cathedral that looked like (from the outside) some kid had gone nutso with popsicle sticks and papier mache. We walked around some. We visited another cathedral. And we went to the beach.

That’s it. More than a week, and that’s all I remember.

Mostly, the beach. Lying on the sand. Swimming nude in the ocean. (oh god, tits are fucking buoyant in sea water) Learning to accept my body and not take shame in it. The deliciousness of Iberico ham on croissants with a fresh fried egg on top. Having mangos that actually tasted like mangos for the first time in years outside of Taiwan — in Europe. *big eyes*

I don’t regret any of it. Maybe I could have seen more. Maybe I could have tried out the nightlife in Barcelona. Maybe I could have pushed myself past my comfort zone.

But in the end, I would probably go back and just do the same thing because I’m me and my health was that way and the beach was amazing.

So it’s all good. All that money spent. That once in a lifetime chance.

No regrets.

I told my mother I wasn’t ready a couple of days ago. She was worried because I’m 29 and the clock is ticking, the fuse is burning, and soon I’ll be considered an old maid rather than an eligible maiden.

I told her that I was still in a tentative position. I still have to work on my boundaries, my ability to say no, my incessant need to please and soothe. I still have yet to recover fully from all the emotional labor I did for the past eleven years and the bitterness of how very futile it all turned out to be. I still don’t trust, not really.

This particular crab has withdrawn into the sea, into the deep, and is working on building that shell. Maybe that’s going to be a problem because crabs can only mate when they molt and this might be the wrong time to be growing a hard shell, but if it’s so then it’s so.

As I said to myself:

It’s all right if I’m single for the rest of my life, because it might take me a lifetime to fully understand myself and to court myself the way I deserve to be courted. Might as well get on it, stay on it, and perfect it. And I can’t do that as easily if I’m distracted by a guy.

Better to figure things out this lifetime, work on polishing that self-esteem, build and maintain proper curtain walls, and fully realize and implement the art of loving the self first. Because I don’t want to do this again.

If being single this lifetime is the price to pay, then so be it.

Maybe I can let my next lifetime off the hook.

Song for this moment: Galileo from Indigo Girls

The affirmations continue.

I am worthy of love.

I am worthy of being loved the way I need to be loved.

I am worthy of being loved the way I want to be loved.

I can do this.

I can realize my dreams.

I can heal.

I can move on from the past.

I can forgive. I can even, gasp, forgive myself.

I will not say no to love. I will not say no to bounty. I will not say no to joy. I will not say no to all the good things in life that the Universe grants me. I will not close my eyes to Love.

I will say yes to hope. Yes to Love. Yes to forgiveness. Yes to myself. Yes to sleeping in when I need it. Yes to that extra snack. Yes to the nap in the middle of the day. Yes to being a cat in human skin if that’s what it takes.

Yes? Yes. Yes!

It’s day 13 of 2016 and I’m just fine.

Touch yourself with gentle joy. Speak to yourself with tender love. Step softly upon the self that carries you. Listen to the small voice within you. See yourself with sweet clarity. Hear the comfort that comes from deep within, the voice that says just one more step, one more, to the light.