Archive for the ‘Of Tigers and Feathers’ Category

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 84

There was a line of girls waiting for the elevator when I got back to the dorms this evening. The elevator doors closed on me as I walked in. The resulting red mark has yet to fade.

No one said anything. Not sorry for not holding the elevator doors. Not a single query of are you okay? Not a single sound.

It seems oddly symbolic, very apropos for everything that’s happened.

Invisible and yet still despised.

The danger of being whisper-thin glass is that when I hold on too tightly, the broken shards shred the softest parts of me.
The burgeoning scream coils in my throat and echoes in my ears, every beat of my heart a silent cry.

Why do I fall in love with unavailable people? What are these experiences meant to teach me? What am I meant to learn from these repetitions?

Being single has been especially hard these last few weeks. I feel like there’s no place to hide, no place to crawl into, and my skin isn’t large enough to contain all the grief and frenzied anxiety. I feel like I’m no one’s priority and I’ve had to remind myself to take a deep breath and remember that being in a relationship doesn’t guarantee that I’m anyone’s priority.

You come into this world alone. In the end, you will leave this world alone. In your travels through the world, perhaps you will meet those of like minds and travel together for a while and perhaps you’ll meet bandits who take you for all you’re worth and then some.

Jack asked me yesterday how I was doing.

I thought it was a bit of a silly question as I’d just unloaded on him all the various ways in which my life was falling apart: my professor calling me out on the carpet in front of the entire class, the sea of red ink that was my mid-term, the comment “knowing this would be useful” on the section I’d left blank because I had no idea how to answer, a person I thought to call friend telling me they had nothing for me in my time of need, that same person essentially calling me fat and no wonder considering how I ate, classmates turning cool because I’m too intense, too weird, too too, still sick, still not breathing well, still stressed, my edits stalling because of the drunken landscape I find myself in, drowning in work, drowning in inadequacy, drowning drowning drowning. So near the edge that I’ve repeatedly thought about turning in a request to take the year off.

Instead of re-capping the endless pity party, I said that Maslow’s very basest level was getting met and nothing else.

But rather than that being another prompt for a pity party, I’m going to treat it as the pyramid base it is.
I’m safe, even if I don’t feel it. There’s no immediate danger.
I’m fed. Well fed. I have fuel to burn.
I’m clothed.
I’ve ways of getting around to the places I need to go.
I’m housed. Very nicely, in fact, so I can hide if I need to.
I technically have the means to do what I wish, to build upon what I have.

It is the waning moon.
I banish the small evils that prey upon my mind.
I release those who do not love me.
I reverse the wounds I carry into wellsprings of insight.

I banish the petty evils that lurk in my soul.
I release wishes for what I cannot have.
I reverse the negativity placed at my door into mirrors of deepest obsidian.

I banish the sad evils that bedevil my spirit.
I release hopes into the wind to hope some more.
I reverse the burdens on my shoulders into blessings from without.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 81

I’m going to try a bit of a hibernation because I’m on the verge of throwing a toddler tantrum of I can’t even, I can’t deal, I won’t. If I was whisper-thin glass hosting a legion of arachnids before, consider the glass shattered. Remember the fire analogy? I’m so on fire I’m set to be all crispy death if I don’t find a way to put out the flames.

Someone told me that they’d been avoiding me because they thought I’d be ranty and depressing about the election. Another someone has gone from asking me to hang out, eat, and do work together to being incommunicado. Multiple someones have told me that I have taking this too hard, that I’m being too pessimistic, that I’m being way too serious. (read: being a downer) My parents don’t get it and think I should get over it, that this is just something the US has to work through.

I. Can’t. Even.

I feel as if I’m pinballing through an asteroid belt, freezing, slowly running out of oxygen. Whilst being spilled glass, frantic arachnids, and on fire. You keeping track of everything all right?


I’m going to, for the first time in years, not have Gmail up in a tab all the time. (this should be interesting)

I’ll Tweet when I have something to say, but I’m going to stop reading my timeline. If I have nothing to say, I’ll check my Twitter notifications once a day in my morning.
I’ll hop onto email three times a day, respond to what I have to, and get back off.
I need Facebook for my grad school program, which is one of the more unfortunate things, but I’m going to commit to not reading my timeline there as well.
I’m going back on my news fast because I can’t even begin without screaming at the moment.

I’ve thought about it and wavered and wiffled and waffled because I don’t want to be unavailable if someone needs to contact me. But…
People could get in contact if they needed to, whereas I need to get out of the car skidding over black ice.

I need to stop sitting in front of my laptop, endlessly tabbing back to Gmail.
I need to stop reading through Facebook and Twitter, desperately trying to engage, and falling short of contact.
I need to stop waiting for help and try to put out the flames myself.

I get it. I really do. People back home in the US are terrified and upset and they need each other right now. I’m half-way across the globe and I’m reasonably safe and distant from everything. People are doing everything they can to cope and to help each other and it’s holiday season and they’re busy and and and. And I’m simply not there.

It is what it is. I get it. But I need to stop sitting here and hitting refresh because it’s doing nothing except turning up the heat.

In further attempts at self-care and putting out the fire:

Tonight is the full moon in Taurus.
I did laundry. I tossed it in the dryer because warm fragrant laundry is the best. And because I love myself enough not to make myself hang it all up right now. Laundry, to clean, to make fresh, and to affirm that life will still go on. Life is, in fact, in the smallest details. And because when all other productivity fails – laundry is constructive and easy to do in this age of washing machines.
I bought a jar of cold-pressed coconut oil. I’m going to mix it with some lavender and treat myself to some petting after my shower later. The scent of coconut oil is marvelously soothing and I anticipate it melding well with the lavender. The skin hunger is intense and almost painful, perhaps especially because it draws near to that time of the month. I wonder, though, if the stress might not delay it slightly.
I bowed out of dinner engagements with undecideds and had dinner alone, in the peace of my castle. Boundaries. When the enemies are laying siege to the walls, the only to do is to hustle your people within and bolt up the gates. Diplomatic attempts can wait.
I treated myself to a lovely lunch, had a very nice dinner with leftovers, and nommed all the sweets. Fat and sugar. Oh yes. If I had access to dark chocolate, I would make myself hot cocoa, but I will have papaya milk instead. Fruits. Vegetables. Fats. Sugar. Protein. ALl the things a brain, body, and spirit needs.
I will turn off the lights soon and lie in bed, cocooned in my blankets, and breathe.
Tomorrow, I will sing because Taurus is connected to the throat chakra and because the only way to dance out of the fog is to start singing.
Tomorrow, I will wear red as reminder, as a battle cry, as a warning.
But today, today I will curl within my shell, and hum gently into the welcoming night.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 74

Pensive. I’m sitting in the library, a friend across from me, on our laptops, being productive.

It’s been a good day. No qualifiers. Good.

I finished the Frankensteining of the second book and it feels good. I had lunch with Jie, was productive in a gorgeous library that ticks all the finer points of being a student, had dinner, and am now tapping away at my laptop while listening to music.

But then why do I stare into space and yearn?

A song that’s been running through my head lately:

If you miss the train that I’m on, you will know that I am gone.
You can hear the whistle blow, a hundred miles

Is it the skin hunger rearing its head?
Is it because I want someone to cuddle and pet me for a job well done?

But there are no promises, no guarantees of shared dreams.
Perhaps you’ll hold me, but you hold me because you want the skin contact, not because you’re happy for me.
Perhaps you’ll hold me, but it’s because you want sex, not because it’s me.

I refuse to lie anymore.
Not to you. Not to myself. And definitely not helping anyone lie to me.

It’s been a good day.
I won’t lie and say I’m not yearning, not hoping, but it’s been a good day.
If there are only ever more days like today, where the most I can complain of is saudade, then so be it.
But I won’t lie and say I’m not waiting, not wishing.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 69

Some days I understand what it might be to go insane. Consciously insane.

There are people who wander around NTU, at least one man and one woman, who walk around and talk at people. The man said hello hello hello hello good morning good morning to me once as I passed. I said good morning back because. Because. The woman I’ve seen around, shouting things at students as they walk past. I’d say something except I’m afraid and because I don’t know what to say.

I said this morning to Kelly that I’m not a good person. I’m not. I don’t say anything to the woman because of my fear of not being able to communicate. My fear of not getting through. My bone-deep shame. My horror. Maybe it would be good for her, just as long as someone pays attention, even if they don’t understand.

But not me. I do not simply wish to be heard. I do not simply wish to be seen. I want to be known and understood and to be penetrate. I want to seep into every inch of you, meld with you, till ever after.

I lie here. In my single room. In my single bed. And I try to hold on, to keep hold of that burgeoning scream.

See me. Love me. Witness me.

Being with someone simply because they’re there, a warm body in the cool nights, a fixed point to stare at in the dizzying rush of the world’s revolution. Being with someone because of skin hunger, because the need to be wanted, to be touched, to be desired, to be stared at with feral intent is more than the need for self-respect. Being with someone in that most basic of ways, using them, being used, and then waking up the next morning with devastating self-loathing to do it all again. Being with someone because maybe you don’t see me when you’re coming all over me, but I can pretend it’s because of ecstasy and not because of your impenetrable love for yourself over me. Being with someone because maybe you don’t hear me when you’re groaning out my name but at least it’s my name you’re saying, at least someone is saying my name with something akin to worship, akin to love, akin to actual tangible emotion. Being with someone because. Because.

I petted myself this morning as I came down from the dream that woke me screaming. A dream where a man held me down, covered my mouth with his, choked me with his tongue thrusting deep into my throat, and slowly strangled me to death.

What does it mean? You tell me.

I petted myself because there was no one else to do it for me. I petted myself because there was no one else around to understand. I soothed my heartbeat down until I could sleep again, exhausted from dreaming.

So believe me when I say, I understand what it’s like to curl under a threadbare blanket with someone, groveling for body heat, trying to warm myself enough to venture back out into the cold world in search of more. I understand that sometimes you never get to the point where you can brave the elements again. I understand that sometimes you take what’s given because you don’t know if there’s ever going to be anything else.

But it’s a lie.

It’s the lie of the lotus-eaters. It’s the lie of drinking sea water when you’re thirsty. It’s the lie I tell myself when I say that it’s better to be with a person who isn’t right for me than to be alone.

Some days it’s hard. Some days it’s easy. Today is harder than some. But still I believe, in the idea of being worth something better than simply scrabbling for scraps of someone’s affection.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 68

I heard once that when you have tamed something, you are then forever responsible for it.
I reject that.
I reject you.
All the emotions you once said you had for me, I return to you.
All the emotions that I once dreamt of for you, I return to you.

I was sleepwalking before I met you.
Why didn’t you let me be?
I was dreaming before I met you.
Why didn’t you let me sleep?
I was floating before I met you.
Why didn’t you let me dream?

You woke me and now I hurt.
I touched the flames and now I miss the warmth.
The world spins.
The stars dance.
And I revolve alone, awake to my loss.

The cherry blossoms have fallen.
You once kissed my hair and lamented their passing.
Now I stare up at the barren branches, alone, your warmth a forgone memory.
Perhaps next year. Maybe never will they blossom again.
I hold a match in my hand, wavering.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 66

Further adventures in the land of OkCupid. Because why not?

A message I received:

Ni hao ma Ekatje,

I live in Los Angeles, California, USA. I was inspired to write to you because you seem to be a happy, compassionate and educated woman. I would love to learn more about you. Care to tell me some things that are not in your profile? I invite you to visit my profile. Is there anything more you would like to know about me?

Wo men zai liao ^^

My name is [redacted]. What is your Chinese name?

ps: my Mandarin is very simple. I would like to learn more from you to show you respect.

I found the message baffling, to be honest. Simply, confusing.

My entire profile is in English. I flatter myself that it’s in proper English, with no indications that I would find it difficult to navigate in the language and would be more comfortable using Chinese. Rather, I don’t understand in which ways he thinks learning Mandarin from me would be showing me respect.

Respect for my perceived culture? Respect, again, for my comfort should this go somewhere? Respect for my potential wishes involving possibly future children being brought up with my language? I don’t even know. Genuinely at a loss.

The Pinyin for “ni hao ma” and “wo men zai liao” – why use Pinyin? Chinese is a language of endless homophones, so we’d run into problems even if he had indicated accents, but those are without accent marks. Why not simply copy and paste Chinese from Google into the message box if we wish to communicate in Chinese? Sure, I am pretty sure I know what he’s trying to communicate because I have some grasp of the language, but… in a way it’s like netspeak, except much much worse.

I’m not so much nit-picking at a perceived lack of effort as – if he wants to know my Chinese name, which incidentally is something that I haven’t really used much in the last thirty odd years, then it’s senseless for me to give it to him if he’s going to use Pinyin for it. My name is specific, with particular characters that have meaning. Calling me Chen Yingcheng is just going to make me cranky for all the reasons that I found it irritating when my friends used to insist on calling me Ting. 陳映澄 is my name. Chen Yingcheng isn’t, no matter that it might be the Romanization on my passport. Which I still don’t have, funnily enough.

And yes, I’d give it to him with family name first, because if I’m giving you my “Chinese name”, by golly you might as well use it properly.

For those who want to play devil’s advocate – he could have simply asked me my name rather than specifying my Chinese name. There’s an assumption there that I don’t understand.

This possibly might be nit-picking – I have stuff in my profile. Why not simply talk to me about stuff I’ve put out there that presumably I want people to engage with? Why ask for more things that I haven’t put on the profile before striking up a rapport? It smells a little of entitlement, although I will admit to possibly being cranky over the weirdness with the Chinese.


People I want to talk to don’t want to talk to me. People message me who I don’t particularly want to engage with. All the weirdness happens here because online dating is truly strange.

Day 66, y’all.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 65

Meta-note: the counting of the days. Is this actually meaningful if I’m not aiming for a goal? I don’t know. Maybe you can tell me.

Thene and I were talking about being needed. In friendship. In love.

I said:

I miss being able to curl into someone and give comfort and receive it.
I miss knowing that seeing me will make someone smile.
I miss …well, terrible as it sounds, I miss the feeling of being the center of someone’s life.
I don’t want Mercury or Venus, but it hurts that I don’t even have Pluto. (not having him on so many levels. Poor demoted planet.)
I would like to feel that kind of gravitational force at some point again, a pull strong enough to bring someone across oceans and cultures.
Right now, I feel a bit like a dandelion seed on the wind.
And I’m tethered to you, but perhaps we’re Halley’s comet to each other’s Earth right now.
I’d like to be the sun.

So many of the people in my life are meteor showers, if we’re to flog the dead analogy. Yet I’ve always liked the idea of ever afters.
I don’t believe in possession – but I do believe in gravity. What’s reciprocal. What pulls us together. What, in the end, we sacrifice for.
Ever after only surfaces in the face of opposition. Ever after attempts to understand, to brush back the veil.

And then we spoke of long relationships and the worth of the fabric they weave of our lives.

I don’t judge things by longevity anymore, I don’t think.
I can fall in love in moments. The light that someone brings to my life in the course of a month can burn more brightly than what someone gives me in years of knowing each other.
Longer is not …I used to think that you grow into someone, you learn their nooks and hidden places. But I don’t believe that anymore. Some times we lean away, we hide little divots of shadow, we twist rather than grow.
Ever after is a conscious decision of choosing the other person, every single time, every chance that choice is given. Ever after is love. A long period of being together doesn’t guarantee anything, not even weight, only inertia.

Thene: “I don’t think you can grow into someone because I don’t think people stay static. The things you do know about them are not eternal truths. They are moments.”

And so we are. And part of love, of ever after, is that in every moment, I choose you.
You, specifically, and no one else would do.
I know this, because I find my mind reaching for yours even when I’m happy and enjoying myself.
I want to know what you will say to this, I want to know your reaction to this thing I’ve said, nothing else stands in for it.
I need you to be you, undiluted, uncensored, unabashedly you.
Ever after is realizing that no one can take your place, holding onto that different, and seeing the worth in it.

And I need someone to need me because I make their lives wonderful rather than being the band-aid that keeps things together until they can plaster something else over the gaping wound.

Also, reason #4532 of why I love Thene: our conversation eventually led me to come to the conclusion that what matters in the end, after 16 months of contemplation of being single, is tentacles and cocks.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 63

I’ve been struck lately by how ironic it is that I’ve chosen to major in a field that will require decorum of a sort that I’d always been ambivalent about.

Trigger: we had a class on stage presence and as part of the class, we had to observe our classmates and note their postures, facial expressions, body language, and how they were or weren’t emoting/projecting whilst speaking. It was very illuminating how very much you could tell about someone’s confidence/stress levels and subconscious desires if you paid attention.

We also discussed appropriate seated posture for women versus men, because it came up that people have been lambasting President Tsai for the way she sat. It was interesting, most if not all of my classmates thought that the classic “legs together and held at an angle” was for the dinosaurs and that it didn’t matter if a woman sat with her knees open. I’d been brought up differently and I pointed out that Hillary Clinton always sat that way. Of course, HRC is in her sixties, so not the most persuasive argument.

Something I’ve been trying to do recently is to keep a smile on my face at all times. For one thing, there’s that study about how your brain releases endorphins if you smile. For another, there is the proverb about how “even if the hand is raised, one does not strike a smiling person”. Lastly, I do have resting bitch face and it’s probably best to just get into the habit of always smiling rather than be caught unawares.

Teacher’s comment: you did very well, but you didn’t smile until you were on stage; you had a sullen look as you got up from your seat and walked up.


It truly is funny, how right now I’m having to consciously modify a lot of my behaviors and mannerisms according to what my eldest uncle has always requested of me: “smile without showing your teeth, sit without your skirt rustling, keep your back straight even when asleep, talk in a well-modulated voice, and never laugh too exuberantly”.

I used to resent it, because I saw it as rank sexism (which it is), but now that I’m choosing to do something where presentation is as key as knowledge and expertise, I might have to return to those lessons of my childhood.

Full circle, as always. *sighs a little*

Another full circle: I woke up this morning and realized that there is actually very little reason for me to be in any way stressed about what is going on with my graduate program.

I’d been considering the line between letting go, flowing, and giving up. I’ve been despairing a little, uncertain if I’m simply sinking into the quagmire.

The thing is, almost nothing in my life has gone the way I expected it to.

I thought I’d be married with children. I thought I’d be the relaxed eccentric owner of a coffee shop. I thought I’d be a psychologist working with troubled youth. I thought I’d be a journalist, investigating corruption and exposing wartime atrocities. I thought of forever with people who no longer speak to me.

I thought many many things and the only constant in everything is the desire to love, be loved, and to bring a little joy to the world. And to write. I’ve always wanted to write. My words. My voice. My stories.

So why worry about this program? Either I graduate or I don’t. Either I pass the professional exam or I don’t. Either things happen, or they don’t.

I will do my best, as usual, but on the other hand, I don’t even care. The world could end tomorrow and stressing would be all for naught. Or, on a more positive note, I could meet the One (or the Duo or the Trio *sly grin*) tomorrow and get married the next day and decide to give NTU up for a life on a boat set to sail around the world (unlikely, really, the giving NTU up bit, but you get the idea).

I used to think of schooling as a set-destination trip to somewhere. Somewhere better, or somewhere concrete, with a set itinerary and plans.

But really, why?

For all I know, as with all other things in my life, it’s a springboard to something completely unknown rather than a path.

Open my hands and fly, I suppose.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 62

Cassiel (listening to Haya Band’s Silent Sky and Qinghai Lake 代青塔娜 – 寂靜的天空 – 青海湖)

Solitude is in every sweep of the hand that goes unnoticed, every word that falls unheeded, every gaze that goes unmet.
It is in every closed book, every misunderstanding, every quiet plea for help that is dismissed.

Solitude is when you cannot breathe in the midst of a crowd and your heart whispers softly that no one will notice if you just. let. go.
It is that soft smile when you turn and realize that you stand unmoored in a world of mirages and mist.

Cassiel. Angel of tears and solitude. Guardian of time and master of karma.

The one who listens, who bears you up in the midst of that solitude.
The quiet presence, succor in the midst of an ever spinning world.

Perhaps not the laugh in the darkness, but the gentle hand in the night.
Perhaps not the brilliance of the sun, but a lodestone to the stars.

Dusk feathered wings. Bronze mask of implacable mercy. Fate’s obsidian blade.
When you look back, who is reflected in those eyes of impossible blue?

I’m feeling very untethered today, as if I could simply open my hands and float away.

I had a very minor asthma attack yesterday. I’d taken a nap before class because I wasn’t feeling well and woken late. I had 20 minutes to get to class from bed to door and it usually takes about 20 minutes to walk to the school from my dorm.
I ran most of the way, dashing across a six lane street with three seconds showing on the pedestrian light.
By the time I reached the class building, black spots swam in my vision and I wanted to throw up and pass out, preferably in that order.
I couldn’t breathe smoothly for most of the class, swimming close to the edge of desperation.
Today, I woke up feeling beaten and bruised, probably in reaction to the attack and the aftermath. It took everything within me to pull myself out of bed. I still can’t take in a full breath and my chest aches. I feel warm, enough that I think I am going to have to go buy a thermometer and start recording how I feel and the corresponding temperatures.

There’s still homework to be done. Endless piles of work.

On days like this, I almost feel like it’s a blessing and a relief to be so loosely caught. All those I love – they are safely tethered. My death may devastate some, but I trust that they will be caught and kept secure in the end.

“To die will be an awfully big adventure”, after all.

I’m not feeling suicidal. Maybe depressed, I can’t tell, because it could be simply be lack of sufficient oxygen.
Mostly, I love life, but it can be such effort.
I’ve loved. I’ve seen things that touched and awed. I’ve laughed hard enough to gasp for breath.
I was speaking with Jane the other day, and I remember saying that I wanted to Do as a child was to make the world a better place, to bring happiness.
I might not have succeeded as much as I wanted, may not have borne up those I met the way I wanted to be supported, but I’d give myself a passing grade for effort.
If I open my hands, I think of flying, not falling.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 58

Jack pointed out yesterday that having four bouts of fever, two severe enough to be almost hallucinogenic, in seven months is not precisely normal. I had a twinge for a moment, where Fear whispered in my ear again, and then it passed. Mostly.

The thing is, Fear, I’m not quite afraid of Death. I’ve been flirting with Thanatos for far too long to be scared of him. He is darkness and respite, forgiveness and mercy.
You, however, I do not like and do not want flitting around me.
Always, I’ve been more afraid for those around me than for myself.
So rather, thank you for illuminating the way.

If I were dying. If I had cancer – would I still be doing this?

Do you see magic when you gaze upon me?
If so, then summon me, bind me, keep me at your side.
Tether me softly, my love. Tether me gently, for I am lighter than air.
Weave a net of gossamer, anchored with strands of braided nettle.
Knit a robe of starlight and moonshine.
Weight the jesses with the sound of crystalline bells
Bar the way with your love and perhaps
Perhaps I shall coalesce out of the mist
Take shape and bind my spirit to yours long enough
Just long enough until you release me

There was this beautiful post about autumn and dying and welcoming the cycle of life and…well, I’ve always been fond of the fall. The spring is sometimes too fervent and the summer cloying, but I adore the crispness of autumn and the quiet of winter.

What would I do if I were diagnosed with something dire?
For sure, staying at NTU would be right out.
Staying in Taiwan would be right out immediately after that, no matter if it might be suicidal. If I have to die, I refuse to do it in a place with 90% humidity most of the time, is stultifyingly hot, and has flying cockroaches big enough to send me into hysterics.

I’d move back to the US.
I’d probably continue writing.
I might indeed go back to my idea from before, of renting a small seaside place in Scotland and staying there until the end.
I would try to spend as much time as possible with those who want me to, barring those who would disturb my rest. My crazy relatives might have to be banned from my sickbed because in no level of hell would I want to deal with all their drama if I were actively dying.

Dandelion fluff and twilight dew. The lazy spin of winged samara upon the air.
Wanda said the other day that she was struck by how I was smiling, how I looked when she saw me for the very first time. Thene said that Chris once said he thought I was the happiest person he’d ever seen when we first met.
Those are good and beautiful things to know, because it’s those thoughts I will treasure most going forward.

Perspective. So thank you, Fear, for that.

Look upon me as if upon a miracle and I shall do the same for you.
How has this universe bent itself and twisted so that we could meet?
Can we ever know how many angels deliberated over our fates?
Smile, my love, smile when you look upon me and I shall do the same for you.