Archive for February, 2014

What would you do during your last seven days on this Earth?

Thinking on this question makes me realize anew that I’m really an extraordinarily lucky person. I have a vague bucket list of things I’d like to experience one day, but nothing of the sort where I’d pull out my life savings to do if I knew I was only going to live seven more days. 

So…

I think I’d write out my will first and update all of my beneficiary information. At this point in time, it’s likely to all go to charity. Specifically, probably to Doctors Without Borders. I’d set up notifications that would post to my online social media accounts informing people as to my death that would post the day after my supposed death day. Day after so I would have the chance to cancel them if a miracle happened.

I’d hire someone to clean the house and car, thoroughly. No sense in making grieving people clean up after your mess. Then I’d figure out where I wanted to die and pull out enough money from my retirement accounts and savings to cover it. Right now I think I’d want to find a quiet cottage somewhere in Scotland by the sea.

I’d have one last dinner party with all my friends and then I’d fly back to Taiwan to see my family.

Then I’d spend the rest of my days quietly doing whatever the fuck I wanted, alone. I’m thinking I’d need to find a pretty town by the sea. A place with coffee shops and restaurants with great food. Small boutiques to duck into and explore.

The interesting thing for me, thinking about this, is that right now I think I would like to die alone. I wouldn’t want to tell anyone that this was happening because I wouldn’t want to deal with their grief and their questions. At the point where I’m dying, then I’m going to make it all about me and part of that is I would want to be in a position where I don’t have to take care of anyone else and their feelings.

The only friend I have currently who I’d consider taking with me and letting in on the secret is Thene. I’m thinking that she’d be good for long  rambling walks, quiet meals at the local restaurants and being sane and sanguine about what’s coming next.

I probably won’t, just to spare her. I’m not sure that I’d be thrilled to be recruited to be someone’s companion for their last days before death and have to deal with the after details. Perhaps I’d walk into a hospital, day of, and let those who know how to cope with deaths of a stranger deal with it.

I’d write long letters to everyone I thought I would be leaving behind, in the hopes that I could alleviate their grief. I might or might not spend some of my time writing, since I don’t know how much I’d care if I only have seven days to live.

Part of me realizes that this sort of plan might sound very selfish. I’m essentially deciding that probably no one will have a chance to say a final goodbye and I’d be withholding information that I’d probably rail at someone else for keeping from me.

But you know what?

If I’m dying, then I don’t give a fuck.

You never know what’s going to happen in this life. I could tell you that I have seven days to live and the next day get the terrible news that my boyfriend was killed instantly in a metro accident. Nothing is certain.

I can only live each day to the extent where I will not regret having spent a day on what I spent it on.

I can only be as good a friend as I know to be and always say farewell to my friends and family with love and my best wishes.

If I’ve done that, if I manage that — then I don’t think it matters if there’s a final goodbye or not.

Besides, I don’t truly believe that it’s a final goodbye.

I believe in reincarnation. I believe that souls who are drawn to each other will be drawn to each other through time and space. There will always be another meeting, should you and I wish it. There will always be more chances for love.

 

 

 

 

 

Tokyo, Godzilla, and above all, fire, fire, fire.

I’m a bit of a pyro.

Especially when it comes to burning things. Bridges, in particular.

I was reading a book by Charlene Teglia, who is, btw, one of my new favorite authors on my auto-buy list. It isn’t just that her writing is funny and sexy, that her characters are amusing and alpha and hot, or that she has a great handle on the line between adventure and romance — but because her characters come up with some of the funnier ideas I’ve read.

In “Dangerous Games”, her heroine compares the hero to Godzilla.

In a good way.

Apparently, Godzilla is the tragically misunderstood hero of the Tokyo-ites,  who defeats other monsters to save them and causes urban renewal in the process. As Melinda put it, she wasn’t in need of nice; she was in need of urban renewal. Tokyo needed to be razed to make way for new construction.

More and more, I’m coming to realize that we humans are creatures of habit to the point where we often invite abuse and neglect.

Man cannot be an island.

Yes, that is true, but too often we take that to the extreme.

I’ve reached the point where, due what has happened in the last two years, I’ve come to the conclusion that in friendships as well as love, it is better to be alone than to be with someone and lonely.

A nine year old friendship blew up because we had different ideas of what it meant to be a friend and what support meant.

Another ten year old friendship is on the rocks because once again I’m being asked to set aside my personal morals and qualms in order to be a good and supportive friend.

Other relationships I have with various other people are also faltering because I’m getting to the point where I’m not willing to wait for Godzilla to come out and raze the city for me — I’m ready to fire the first cannon and set fire to everything in sight.

Those friends who haven’t quite gotten the note on general reciprocity?

Those bosom buddies who somehow always manage to make you feel small and not quite up to scratch?

Those who only know how to take and take and take with never a thought as to how they could lighten your burden and bring a smile to your face?

The promise-breakers?

The ones who are only ever around when the going is good and gone in times of famine?

The ones who message you in the middle of the night with their traumas but who don’t want any part of your dramas?

Those who think that their own comfort  and lack of drama is more important than standing up for a friend when they’ve been wronged?

I’ve done a fair bit of pondering and one question that keeps cropping up is: are these people really worth my time, energy, and money?

A family friend said to me once, “Get you out of that huddle of misery and spread your damned wings already.”

He meant that our lives were intertwined because of a mutual need for warmth and comfort but not anything deeper, that we were a nest of chicks shivering together to stay alive, and whatever relationship I thought I had with them was doomed to never survive the improvement of their circumstances.

I didn’t want to hear it. I was offended and upset and I didn’t want to believe it.

However, I’ve been thinking back to what he said this past week and I’m coming to the conclusion that he was right.

I only have so much time, so much energy, and so much money. How can I justify placing myself last when my resources are so very finite? Even second place is too far down the list when the person you value above all else doesn’t similarly value you.

It is better to be alone than lonely.

Life’s too short to spend upon those who don’t bring you true joy, those who don’t love and cherish you for who you are, and those who don’t understand you.

Sometimes you need to burn the world down around yourself, turn every single bridge and road to ash, before you can truly see yourself and where you need to go.

Bring on the torches.

 

 

Recovering (?) third-culture kid

Of course, my first question to that is: is that even possible?

It’s like saying that you want to heal the trauma of being born — sounds great on paper and then you really start thinking about it…

Cecilia Haynes wrote a post a couple of years ago which touched on the suggestions of “down with the label of a recovering TCK” and “down with the pity parties”.

I’m not going to presume her thoughts are still the same on the situation, so this post isn’t really so much a response to what she said as an exploration of my thoughts about being a global nomad.

Aside: I don’t really want to use the term TCK when I’m really not a kid anymore, but much as I love the sophistication of the term global nomad, I get this feeling that only having lived in three countries ever probably doesn’t really constitute ‘global’.

I recently saw an episode of Community where Britta tells everyone (paraphrase) not to get so caught up in frivolous excitement that they push aside their true grief over what is something that should cause sorrow.

And that’s sort of where I stand right now.

Yeah, I appreciate and pay tribute to what made me who I am: I don’t call it being born lightly.

However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a corresponding and equal darkness behind the glimmer of every mirror.

Saudade. The ever present, so-softly-lingering unresolved grief that is simply a part of who I am.

“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness. ~ In Portugal of 1912, A. F. G. Bell”

I think that’s what makes it so insidious, why TCKs are more likely to have depression, why it’s usually seen more as a part of who we are rather than what we have.

It’s not a wild, passionate, keening sort of grief. It’s not even the quiet solidity of finding yourself in bed, aware of  the weight of every single ton of air above you and every newton of gravity dragging you down.

It’s not even really “Ragaouna Misr” all the time.

It’s simply a knowledge, deep inside, that there will always be pieces missing. There will always be something just out of reach and to hold something in your hand, you must let go of something else.

Everything has a price.

Of course, you can scoff and say that’s the way of life. How is that so much more tragic and sad than all of the other petty grievances being alive visits upon us?

I don’t think it is. I don’t claim it is.

I just know that for every move we did, it was like a little death.

It was saying goodbye to the possibilities of lives lived out there, of specific joys that would forever now be out of reach, of universes turned aside.

The BFF who is almost a sister/brother who would want you to stand by their side at their wedding?

Childhood friend turned lover then husband?

Best friend that knows you, every wrinkle of your nose, every glint in your eye, every story of your forming and being?

Getting to know your relatives well; actually being a part of the family rather than a treasured guest who is still a bit of an outsider?

Learning a city inside out, growing with it, and melting into its very heartbeat?

Having the solid assurance of knowing who you were, where you were from, and where your roots are?

Getting and maintaining a solid group of friends of the no-matter-what and call-to-hide-a-body type?

The bone deep happiness that comes from having only a couple of easily accessible comfort foods that don’t require Moriarty levels of handling to get?

I’m not saying it’s impossible.

But it didn’t happen for me.

Every time we moved: every time I lost friends who previously swore they’d keep in contact; every time I felt like the ugly duckling in my family because of how rarely I saw them; every time I put down something I wanted because it wasn’t portable enough; every time — all of it was the detritus of lives lost that could have been.

And so, saudade.

 

I was talking with my friend the other day and I think we surprised ourselves.

I was talking about how being back in Taiwan was really good for me.

Being in the majority.

Being welcomed ‘home’ by immigration rather than interrogated.

Being able to speak Chinese, think Chinese, be unabashedly, unreservedly Chinese.

Eating all the comfort foods that I love.

Being able to talk about acupuncture and Chinese traditional medicine as valid methods to health.

Simply being a part of myself that I am not when I am in the US.

 

She said she never knew, that she was never aware.

 

Now I can simply smile and say, “Saudade.”

 

Third culture kid, global nomad, or simply living a life in circles

I was linked to a survey designed by my friend’s sister yesterday. It asked questions about being a global nomad and how I used technology to keep in touch with friends and family.

Suddenly, I was thrown back into that perpetual state of wry resignation. The remembrance of being caught in limbo, enfolded by endless space. Of always being in the dark, unknowing of what was ahead, what was behind, and only knowing that there was too much emptiness.

See, my problem was that before college, I wasn’t aware of what I was. Only that whatever it was, was wrong and undesirable.

Too Westernized. Too independent. Too defiant. My mother made a comment recently about how I seemed to have no fear and how she was relieved when, after a particular traumatic incident involving being abandoned by the side of the road and the car driving off for five minutes, I seemed to have developed a healthy sense of fear.

It horrified me. The thought that my mother, one of the two people supposed to love me best in the world, wanted that knowledge of fear for me.

But then, that was how they were raised. How they saw the world to be.  I thought about it and even if I could never condone it, never really forgive the relief she had, I could try to understand her thought process.

In Chinese, there is a maxim: the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.

At least a generation ago, maybe even now — not having any fear was a recipe for disaster.

Then I arrived at college.

There, I was told that I was a third-culture kid, that I was a part of a community of global nomads.

One would think that I felt like I belonged. Isn’t that supposed to be how it goes? Global nomads finding community within themselves rather than among others?

But I didn’t.

Again that faint niggle of inferiority.

I don’t adapt well. It takes me three nights or so to get used to sleeping in a different place than normal. Crashing on someone’s couch is a recipe for poor sleep and short tempers. I carried around a safety blanket for years, insisting on dragging it along even at the expense of clothing when luggage restrictions became prohibitive.

I wasn’t adventurous.  I’m deathly afraid of heights, anything with many legs, dogs, men I don’t know, and the dark.

I didn’t know how to swear in multiple languages. In fact, I was hard pressed to swear in one.

I don’t like change.

I’m actually a fairly particular eater. I don’t like things that are too sweet; I dislike fruit with meat dishes; I detest nuts in anything other than desserts or on their own.

Moving and going to new places didn’t fill me with a sense of excitement. It suffused me with dread.

I didn’t know more than two languages, which put me as the odd person out in a community where often people know three, four, sometimes eight languages.

Somedays I feel uncomfortable claiming to be a global nomad. The skin doesn’t quite fit right, with wrinkles where the sun don’t shine and tight across other places.

So right now, I find it entertaining that once again I’m being asked to represent something that other people think I am but which I feel ambivalent about.

In China, people, even the taxi drivers who took my fare used to ask me whether I preferred Taiwan or China.

In Taiwan, every time I liked something, my relatives would smugly ask if there was such a thing in America.

In the US, even though I hold the passport, even though I speak with no real accent, even though I am for all intents and purposes American — I get asked my purpose and length of stay when I pass through immigration.

And now I’m being surveyed for my habits and thoughts as a member of a group I do not really feel entirely at ease in.

Then again, it’s always been thus. Why would I expect it to be any different?