Of Tigers and Feathers: Day 2 – the question of the shelf

Ah yes, the shelf, and the corollary question of loneliness.

As a woman past the big three-oh (we’ll discuss the hilarity of that insanity later), I’m well on my way to being considered on the shelf.

There’s this notion in the air that I must make efforts to change my single status, whatever it takes, and even more interestingly – the onus is on me and me alone.

But wait, one thinks, shouldn’t the onus be on the person wanting to get married?

Yes, but we’re not just talking about the usual expectations of cleaning up, putting on a face, and walking out of the house to put myself out there (we’ll discuss this later too).

If I were to put it in marketing terms, this isn’t about flogging the product, commissioning a gorgeous cover for the book, or making sure that it’s in the right channels for widespread availability. This is the editor suggesting changes to the plot, to the characters, maybe even something that changes the story as fundamentally as whitewashing or moving the setting to a different planet.

There’s also this idea, not ever fully verbalized, that whatever it takes doesn’t just expect me to contort to fit whatever box will have me, but includes shifting my expectations, my paradigms of fairness, and changing what my notion of the ideal life would be.

And the prize in exchange for all this?

A husband (and kids).

By the way, a happy ending isn’t part of the package. That comes separate. The idea floating around me right now is to hop on the bandwagon lest it pass me by, so I will have security, and to have kids before I’m too old to have any.

 

Everything has a price, it’s true, but you need to know the value of what you’re trading and the worth of what you’re buying.

 

Who is the best person I can be, and what will singledom look like as that person?

What will my ideal life look like if I plugged the preferred version of myself into a relationship?

What will I be giving up that would be irreplaceable if I were to stay single?

What will I be sacrificing to be part of a couple?

How much does fear and loneliness factor into all of this?

How far away can I push the fear?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

First off, I’m rejecting all the worst case scenarios that people like threatening me with.

There’s no saying that my spouse will live as long as I do.

There’s no guarantee that even if they do, that they will be willing or able to take care of me should I need it.

There’s absolutely no promising that they’ll be a shield against loneliness rather than something that causes it. One of the times I’ve felt absolutely alone was in the same bed, cuddled up to my then-boyfriend.

There are things that no one can protect you from, not even if your love is true. There are things that are beyond the best of us. And whereas the world at large loves the stories of devoted spouses working tirelessly for the people they love, I don’t believe that is the only story. Or even the preferred story. (we’ll discuss the questionable practice of over reliance later)

My friends have dragged me past the quagmires of depression, out of self-doubt, talked me down from the ledges of anxiety, prompted me to pursue my dreams, and stood by me while I struggle with an unnamed chronic illness. The person/people I would like to thank the most for helping me get to where I could publish my first book is not my then-boyfriend of nearly a decade.

And honestly, if the entire world wants a younger, prettier, more polished someone else… I refuse to believe I’m missing out. And if who I am can’t shine brighter than physical attractiveness, well then, might as well know we’re not a good fit now rather than later.

My ideal life right now is one where I have enough money to pay the bills, travel a bit, and indulge once in a while with my friends. In an ideal life, I would be writing as much as I wanted, have the means to engage in art at my whim, and have the health to do what I wish.

If I had to put what I wanted onto a checklist and shuffled them into order of importance:

1. Health/energy/time to do what I want with my life

2. A sufficiency of resources (monetary or barter or whatever makes the bills go away)

3. Friends/family to share my life with

4. My writing/art-ing

5. …?

Those are all things that I would not exchange for a husband. Everything else is negotiable, depending on the husband in question.

Compromise is a beautiful thing and I’m not saying my way or the high way, but I’ve lived a situation where what I really wanted out of life was ever so slightly out of reach because of how the relationship ended up being parsed.

Maybe one cannot have everything, but as they say: quality, price, speed, pick two. Or back in college it used to be: sleep, grades, social life, pick two.

Pick two.

Having a comfortable life and my art. That’s my two.

What’s yours?

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 1

Yesterday at dinner, my eldest aunt started talking about how “it’s better to have daughters”.

In general, there’s only one real reason why that is said around here: post marriage in law issues. In recent years, however, it’s also been coming up regarding the general unwillingness of their sons to perform emotional labor versus their daughters’ consideration and empathy.

So what would it be this time?

Turned out to be some unholy blend of the two.

According to her, her sister in law is a lovely woman who works herself to the bone doing all the things that are expected of the wife. In this particular story, things like cooking up the New Year feasts every year, without help. Keep in mind that often there are different celebrations and thus a lot of work to be done the entire week of the lunar new year. The amount of work would be enough to drive me into seclusion every time lunar new year rolled around, but that’s just me.

This year, her daughter told her to drop everything, including her two brothers and their wives, and took her mother out on a vacation abroad.

How her daughter was able to accomplish this?

Via her amazing foreigner husband who footed the bill and took them on a wonderful trip through Europe.

 

Therefore, my aunt concluded, the obvious thing to do for me was: “We should go to the temples, burn lots of incense, and pray that you find a good husband.” Oh yeah, and do good deeds so I can deserve such a wonderful paragon who will be willing to take care of my parents when they get old.

Uh-huh.

 

Let’s sort out the (many many) threads to this mess.

Lately, there’s been a lot of bounce in my family and in the general atmosphere about how so many men get married and start worshiping their wives to the exclusion of their parents, especially after the kids come. So whereas it used to be expected of the sons in the family to take care of the parents when they get older and to do the usual filial piety things like checking in, taking the parents to the doctor’s or grocery shopping, and so forth, now it’s often the daughters who’re doing it because the new wives are frequently very meh about performing to this sort of cultural expectation.

For one thing, in-law relationships are both super ingrained and the stuff of legend around here. It almost never fails to make an appearance in any televised drama. In fact, there are shows with hundred plus episodes that focus around nothing but in-law drama. There are numerous idioms passed down through the ages about the particular hell that is dealing with your mother in law as a new wife, each one funnier (scarier) than the last.

So whereas the more self-aware mother in law tries to curb the daughter in law hating crazy and attempts to ease everyone into the new situation, there are still women who go “this is how I ground my way through” and lay down the law and haze (yes, it’s hazing). Because, of course, why let someone take the school bus or, gods forbid, drive them to school when you personally had to walk uphill to school both ways in a raging typhoon?

For another thing, in our section of the world, we haven’t quite moved past the cultural expectation that a married son will still live with his parents so he can help take care of them. As one might think, this assumption is really interfacing badly with more modern thinking. Unfortunately, in Taiwan, a combination of helicopter parenting and general economic crazy (for some ungodly reason, real estate here is in the top five expensive in the world) means that most men do live with their parents at home and then it’s a whole stinky kettle of rotted fish to try and change that post-marriage.

For yet another aspect to the insanity: grandparents here expect lots of access to any children that might result from an union. These are their little passes to the only version of immortality open to us, after all. And with the economy as it is, oftentimes parents will have to leave their kids with the grandparents in order for both parents to go to work. This, of course, complicates the whole question of moving out.

Then there’s the usual bullshit where there’s the pay gap (smaller than the US though) and the still-prevalent (if somewhat more muted than other countries) expectation that a woman will give up her job to stay at home after marriage (because duh, children). I would not be surprised if this fueled part of the on-going expectation that it will be the son’s job to take care of the parents.

So there’s that snarling mess of piranha-teethed worms. (yes, I imported an alien species just so I could say that)

 

It’s fascinating how there’s this gradual shift from reliance on the sons to depending on the daughters, and how instead of looking at how screwed up the situation is and going “oh hey, maybe we should fix all these fucked up factors”, some people’s reaction is to try and patch things up with non-solutions.

 

Of Tigers and Feathers – a romantic’s journey through singledom

Why this project?

The seed for this started with Jess Zimmerman’s essay on hunger and how what the world sees as a man’s hearty appetite equals that same world’s definition of a woman’s avaricious voracity.

It started me thinking.

In what ways have I been curtailed and starved as a woman? Society’s thoughts on whether I’m skinny enough, pretty enough, compliant enough, submissive enough, kind enough, gentle enough. Read: feminine enough. Because it’s 2016 and we still have enough outdated gender notions to sink the Titanic.

In what ways have I been told “no, that’s enough” as an immigrant? To be grateful that I’m allowed on this hallowed ground. To be grateful that I’m part of a “model minority” easily allowed a visa and not one of those illegal aliens to be deported on sight. To be grateful for the things I have, and if I’m not sufficiently ecstatic, to “go home”.

In what ways have I been squeezed and packed into a plexiglass cube as a person of color? Almost always the demure sidekick as opposed to the heroine, the helpless foil to the main character’s sassy kick-ass personality, the shy introvert in need of a white savior. If not the red shirt, then the slinky, sly, sexy femme fatale out to get the heroine’s man, no matter his disdain or outright insult. Or simply invisible in the vast seas of media, no matter if the setting is historical anywhere to a thousand years later in space to places of sheer fantasy where vampires and werewolves roam.

In what ways have I been scoffed at for wanting more as an artist? Told to be grateful that anyone wants to read me at all. Mocked for the thought of wanting to make a living off something I enjoy. Treated with gentle condescension, patted on the head, and told I’d have to get a real job so I could live in the real world.

And then there’s the idea of being neuro-typical. Of being gender normative in the way your particular society wants. Of conforming, always conforming.

How have I been starved? How am I hungry? What will feed me versus what will nourish me?

Then, I read Kristi Coulter’s essay about the real reasons why women drink. As someone who regularly turned to cocktails to get through the day/month/year and who really bought into the “oh, your day blew? Have a drink!” band-aid kool-aid in the past, I cringed and nodded my way through.

Your boyfriend refuses to help out around the house? Pick up a glass of wine, put on some music, and vacuum the floor yourself.

Your boss is a racist sexist dickhead? Throw back a shot or three and keep trucking.

Your health insurance doesn’t cover dental or the tests for your mysterious chronic illness and you’re fielding medical bills seemingly aimed to get you bankrupt? Here’s a fifth of whiskey, now hush.

You’re stressing out because you can’t find affordable daycare but you also can’t afford to stay at home? Have a “mommy juice” and laugh your woes away.

And it all circled back to the question of hunger, of “hysterical” demands, of not being allowed to ask for what we need to survive and thrive. We’re not just drinking because it’s fun; we’re drinking to numb the pangs of starvation.

Let’s drink to forget so we can keep on keeping on in a country that doesn’t offer adequate support to new parents, that speaks of freedom and liberating the world but refuses to face up to its own racist and sexist agendas, that expects its citizens to be the best and brightest without offering the scaffolding required to build them up.

Let’s drink so we don’t fight, so we can all pretend that everything’s just fine.

Then, I strolled over to Kristi Coulter’s blog about sobriety and it really hit me, how in many ways abstaining from alcohol was similar to abstaining from other similarly mind-altering things. Things like using spirituality to hide gaping wounds. Like using relationships to try and keep back the darkness. Like relying on everything except myself for what I need. Like chasing everything shiny to block out the screaming emptiness inside.

 

Of Tigers and Feathers is an exploration into hunger, into the depths to find the source of that hidden ache, and hopefully into a state where I can not only acknowledge what I need, but find ways to be satiated and feed others.

Don’t ask; don’t tell – chronic illness edition (intersection with fat shaming)

It’s funny, but living with a chronic illness means that sometimes I feel like every moment of my life has to be justified and explained and asked permission for.  Especially situations when I appear to be having fun.

Almost everyone has an opinion on how I should fix things. Almost everyone has a hypothesis about what I’m doing wrong. Spoiler: it’s because I’m fat.

Persistent inability to breathe? Because I’m fat.

PCOS? Because I’m fat.

Depression? Because I’m fat.

ADD? Clearly because I’m fat.

Inability to gain rest from sleep? Because I like my cake, duh.

Weirdly painful periods involving enough blood to make my bed look like a murder scene? Because the gods are punishing me for loving my carbs, natch.

It’s my responsibility to keep going to doctors even though no one really has either solutions or even a proper diagnosis. (you’re just fat. lose weight and you’ll be all better.)

It’s my responsibility to constantly apologize for anything I do that is less than perfectly healthful (bonus negative points because no one really seems to agree on anything… except that I’m fat) and to essentially ask permission for being sick.

It’s my responsibility to try everything under the sun to fix myself, because if something isn’t working it’s because I’m not doing it enough. (oh, you have no energy because you feel like you can barely breathe all the time? exercise! oh, you’re walking 5 miles a day and it’s not helping? clearly exercise harder and more!)

And most recently?

My godmother very sincerely told me to never tell anyone about my health issues.

Not my future friends because they might stigmatize me or they might let something slip to the wrong person (read: everyone) and cost me a job or a promotion or an internship or *gasp* a relationship.

Not my future colleagues because of the same.

Definitely not my teachers or my supervisors because that’d be torpedoing my future.

Absolutely not anyone I might have a relationship with because … duh, who would want me if they knew of all this?

….

*blink blink blink*

So. This is a thing.

Welp.

Fuck that thing.

For one:

I’ve never been much for the dark secret conflict plot type of romance novels and so I really don’t intend to write that sort of bullshit into my life. Besides, “I live with a chronic invisible illness that no one can diagnose and no one has solutions for” is a pretty shitty sort of dark secret in terms of jaw-dropping drama bombing.

Even though, seriously, I think it might be legit grounds for divorce for keeping this sort of thing from your significant other. Chronic invisible illnesses might not make for awesome screentime drama-emoing, but in terms of how much it actually affects a life with another person, it’s a sight worse than having a secret baby or being a step-sibling or being the bastard love child of a mafia boss or whatever is trending right now.

For another:

I don’t want to be any part of the crazy. I don’t want to be friends or lovers with someone who doesn’t get it because this isn’t just about me, it’s about everyone else dealing with the bullshit.

I’m not going to be part of the problem. I’m not going to go around indiscriminately screaming about my issues, but you can bet your entire net worth that I’m not going to hide it from people who intersect my life in meaningful ways.

I have a chronic illness. No, I don’t know what it is. All I know is that it affects almost every aspect of my life. I often can’t suck in enough oxygen to keep my brain going. I can sleep for sixteen hours and wake up exhausted. I very often have only just enough spoons to get out of bed and keep myself fed (and sometimes not even that). I get drained by social interaction, no matter how much I enjoy it or how much I like you and if I get too drained, it can be bad enough that I have to retreat to bed for a day or two. I get random weird pains that might or might not land me in bed for days from the most innocuous of activities (once was laid up for seven days with debilitating lower back pain after I attended a three hour seminar; should make going back to school where all the classes are in three hour blocks very exciting in that roulette sort of way).

And now for the non-Hallmark sidenotes:

No, this doesn’t make me “stronger” as a person. I survive. I often feel like I survive badly. I don’t see much benefit to living with this level of quality of life. If anything, I sometimes feel like the smarter, braver thing to do would be to just end it.

No, I’m not a magically happier person. I don’t necessarily appreciate what I have more when I have the wherewithal to appreciate it. Oftentimes the not-bad days are crammed with “must do all of the things to keep life moving” rather than “oh my, this is nice, I’m going to enjoy life because I can actually smell the roses without shooting pain through my back today”.

No, I don’t automatically have some sort of wisdom or patience or whatever qualification for sainthood because I live with pain, almost perpetual exhaustion and a persistent lack of oxygen.

I’m not saying I’m a special snowflake. Having a not-perfect body is part of life and almost everyone will encounter a phase like this at some point. There will always be someone who is suffering more than me; that doesn’t in any way negate what I experience daily.

It’s your choice whether or not to make allowances for my limitations; I don’t expect it. All I ask for is the basics of respect and humanity.

I make no excuses, give no fucks, and tell it how it is. You should feel free to do the same.

I can be a flakey friend. I routinely drop off the face of the planet when I get sick. It’s your prerogative to decide you don’t want to deal with that.

I can be a difficult person to love. I have limited resources and the answer might be “no” a lot of the time. It’s your call as to whether that’s a deal breaker.

That’s okay.

I’m going to be honest about my limitations. You should definitely feel free to do the same.

 

P.S: No, it’s not because I’m fat.

 

Nobody’s angel

My mother’s sulking again.

My grandfather mentioned that he wanted to come for a visit.

Now.

To the US. Where he doesn’t speak the language and where a lot of effort is going to have to be expended to cater to his very-Asian palate.

To the house where mom is already going off the deep end about not being able to clean in time.

To visit the daughter who he once reduced to a sobbing wreck kneeling at his feet, begging for mercy. The daughter he once humiliated in front of all of her subordinates.

Escorted by his son in law because of course granpappy dearest can’t make the trip alone. The son in law who had to stand by and watch him fuck up, over and over and over again. The son in law who got to deal with the aftermath of what the old man did to his company and his family.

Mom’s sulking because Kev and I aren’t thrilled by all this happening.

She’s sulking because Kev pointed out that it was kind of shitty to “persuade” (read: guilt trip, manipulate, and “logic”) my dad into escorting granpappy to the US.

She’s sulking because I pointed out that having her husband (who she’s been having epic fights with) and her father (who her husband pretty much dislikes and who has issues with her) under the same roof might be …explosive.

She’s sulking because somehow she’s taken our lack of caring for a narcissistic crazy old man who delights in playing his kids off of each other as a fundamental lack of filial piety. She’s taking it as a sign we’re going to discard her in her old age because we don’t believe in the traditions of said filial piety and because we’re terrible ingrates who don’t understand the value of family loyalty.

…I really want to tell her that, no, we’re not going to discard her in her old age because we don’t believe in filial piety. I, personally, am going to disappear off the face of the earth and be dead to her because she’s crazy, uses me as a scapegoat, refuses to respect boundaries, and because I’m sick and tired of being abused.

How’s that for them apples?

But no. Kev told me to stop sabotaging myself with my smart mouth. So I didn’t.

It’s tragic, really, how much damage a parent can do to a child.

It’s easy to laugh at the idea of daddy issues and make jokes about mommy trauma, but the truth is that our parents shape us in ways that we never saw coming.

Kind of like black mold. You scrape away and disinfect one layer and you think you’re good. Then the next wet day comes and you realize that there’s veins of black death running all throughout your house and the only reasonable thing you can do to save your life is to abandon everything you’ve ever had.

Except you can’t get away from your mind. You can only keep disinfecting. Or you pray for a quick death.

Except black mold doesn’t result in quick deaths.

Everything is complicated by the fact that I got into a graduate program for interpretation and translation at National Taiwan University.

It’s a prestigious university and a useful program.

I gave up a prestigious university and a useful program once because of my parents and I lived to regret it.

I could tell my mom to fuck off and go find a job at Starbucks and try my best to wipe her out of my life, but at what cost?

And at what cost if I were to stay in Taiwan, close to her and her particular brand of crazy? At what cost if I were to live with her under her roof because she’s paying for my schooling and my living costs?

I have maybe a month to figure it all out, before my tuition comes due. Once the tuition is paid, I’m pretty locked into the decision.

May the gods grant me strength. And wisdom. Lots of it.

 

 

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.

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.

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.