Archive for December, 2015

New Year’s Eve of 2015 – saying yes to hope

Beautiful post on Saturn moving into Sagittarius. I wanted to quote, but I ended up wanting to clip the entire thing, so  I suppose y’all will just have to head over and read it.

And yes, it’s for everyone, even if you don’t believe in the quackery:

Fortunately, miracles aren’t granted only to the holy, the pious or the righteous. Miracles aren’t saved for the popular kids that are so #blessed. That’s privilege and it’s a human construct that has nothing to do with actual blessings. Miracles are something much more interesting. Miracles are taking place all the time. In big ways. In teeny-tiny ways. Inside every life. Miracles simply exist. Without our force. Without our coercion. Without our manipulation.

Every time you love out loud you are opening a space for a miracle to enter. Every time you seek to create a safe and just world for all you are helping miracles to occur. Every time you remember that your liberation is bound up in the liberation of every other being on the planet, you have been granted a miracle. Every time we remember and act on the fact that we are all here to serve one another, we have been part of a miracle.

Say yes to the miracle. Say yes to hope.

Even though we may carry past traumas and abuse. Even so.

And on this New Year’s Eve, I’d like to take a step towards not carrying all that anymore. It happened. It sucked. Let’s talk it to death and figure out what lessons were to be learned from all that tragedy, and for fuck’s sake – let’s move on.

If:

Saturn in Sagittarius might also be asking us to harness our faith, show up for what we believe in and offer our lives as sites for the miraculous to occur.

Then, yes.

2015 has been difficult and illuminating.

As I said to Thene, purity can indeed only be found in torture, re: Katherine as a name. In order to refine or distill anything, one pulverizes, shreds, steams, boils down, all to break something down into small enough pieces so the essence may be captured.

And perhaps I should not forget that in order for any light to be created, there must be a death of some sort.

Even so, I have much to be grateful for. There have been beautiful moments, all the more so because of the contrast of loss and anger.

What I want from 2016: Health. Love. Story. Joy.

Thus my goals:

I’m committing to showing up. Every day. No excuses. No whining. No nothing. I get the day off if I would have called in sick to work, but otherwise, no. But if it is one of those days, leading into #2….

I’m committing to self-forgiveness. It’s okay to fuck up. It’s okay if I tried my best and it didn’t net me what I was looking for. If it’s a bedridden day, it’s a bedridden day. Suck it up buttercup, snag another book off the TBR pile, and just settle into your blankets.

I’m committing to loving myself first. Put on your oxygen mask before you worry about others and all that jazz. Questions: Are you fed? Are you watered? Have you had enough sleep? Are you warm? Are you calm and centered? If not, drop everything and fix it. The car ain’t gonna go nowhere if the engine’s shot. I am the thrust behind my life’s trajectory; it is only sensible to make sure the rockets are functioning at all times.

I’m committing to boundaries. Say no to users and abusers. Say no to other people’s emotional labor. Say no to non-reciprocity. Say no to everything that drags you down. Say no to stupid fights that won’t get anywhere. Just. Say. No.

It’s New Year’s Eve. I have a map, a full belly, a comfortable ship, and the horizon extends beyond infinity. Let’s go, shall we?

On babying. Or not. The cruel illogic of the biological clock.

Eight of Swords

I mentioned that I’d drawn this card today in chat and someone mentioned that the keywords sounded a lot like motherhood. So we started talking about mothering and the choices there.

Motherhood is a choice like so many others, but for some reason, I cannot be logical about this one. It doesn’t feel like a choice. Or if it does, it feels like one of those stupid “if your mother and your wife both fell into the sea and were drowning, which one would you save” decisions.

Tangent: choice, to me is like picking a dessert. Hard, but doable. Decision, for me, is more like “okay, this is the piece of soul I will sacrifice”. More weight. More oomph. More spirit-killing.

I was devastated when my boyfriend of ten years told me that he thought having a baby would ruin our lives.

There were numerous reasons to believe this to be the case:

We had a nice living situation with two other friends in a pretty nice place in a pretty nice location. Having a baby would nix that right quick.

My health situation wasn’t too shiny at that point, even thought it had yet to get really bad.

Boyfriend was still juggling the attempt to get a college degree along with his 50+hr/week job.

My job situation was strange and fucked up and we weren’t really making a ton of money between the two of us.

So yes, it was logical, it was practical, it was sensible — and it hurt like a motherfucker. (tangent: why exactly does a motherfucker hurt?)

All the illogical feels came out. All of them. (probably not helped by the fact that boyfriend kept saying he wanted to marry me and then throwing fits about actually doing it)

Logical brain goes:

It’s a baby. You can get babies other ways. Like adoption (hella hard though, nowadays from what I hear). Or fostering.

It’s not a special bundle of special symbolism of your love or your significant’s love for you.

Him not wanting a baby with you has absolutely no bearing on you as a person or your relationship or anything except he doesn’t want a baby. With you.

You don’t really want a baby right now either. You’re not the healthiest person on the planet and there’s a lot of health risks associated with pregnancy and you want to write and that’s hella hard with a baby in the house as you can tell from your enbabied writer friends.

Illogical feels scream:

Him not wanting a baby with you is absolutely a judgment on you as a person, as a girlfriend, as a housemate.

I want my baby, my child where I can map their features and wonder over how much of me and my beloved is there and how much is just their own special amazingness.

A baby absolutely is a special bundle of special snowflake symbolism of our love and my beloved’s love for me.

But if I don’t get in the baby-making line now, it will never happen and that would kill me. Kill me. Kill me dead.

I had a dream the other day where I dreamt that I missed the boat. That I was past the age where I could bear children and I was surrounded by my ex-friend R and her children and her friends with their children. I remember standing there, with this terrible ache, the gut-deep certainty that I’d fucked up somehow and I was paying for it.

I woke up, terrified, shocked down to my toes at the visceral grief coiling in my stomach.

Because it’s true. The idea of motherhood scares the shit out of me and yet.

I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong. I’m not known for having the most patience and I don’t suffer fools. I’m afraid that I’ll snap at the wrong time, do the wrong thing, and the next thing I know I’m paying $500/hr for therapy for my kids.

I’m afraid that will mean the end of my attempt at building a writer career for the next ten or so years. At least. I want to write. I want to take a stab at actually making this work. I find it hard to work with distractions at the best of times. Having a baby… oh man.

I don’t have a huge amount of energy, (yes, logical reason #100000 why babies now is a terrible idea, thanks), and I can’t imagine being a newborn’s caretaker without also imagining the absolute hell it must be.

Boundaries. I am shit at boundaries. I soak up other people’s emotions like a sponge. I try to anticipate needs. I’m the hostess who is always refilling glasses, popping up to throw just one more thing into the oven, making sure everyone’s full and are they sure they don’t want more dessert. I’m supposed to be building boundaries and walls and stuff to keep myself sane and safe and having a baby is by definition tearing all of that down.

I’m a shut-in introvert. I am all too happy to hang out with people online and just do my own thing. I cannot begin to anticipate what it would be like to be on-call 24/7 to someone who you can’t even really logic with for the first four years. …oh yeah, wait, I kinda did that at my old job and it sucked balls and even then I had some buffer space.

But oh god I want the option.

Disturbing trend lately: I’ve been reading a hell of a lot of breeding romantica and I’ve been disgruntled when heroes and heroines in a romance aren’t down to have babies.

*facedesk*

Everything is complicated by the writing and wanting to write.

I need quiet and I need space and I need to be able to think within myself.

If I don’t choose writing, I cannot know right now if I would regret the lack of a child more at the end of my life or the lack of my stories and that’s where the real struggle is.

There was the thought of waiting for the children to be grown up enough. Just maybe eight years. But I know a lot can happen in eight or ten years. There might not be that expanse of time I’m expecting. And if there isn’t. If there is only today and maybe tomorrow, then what do I want?

For now, I want the writing.

The clock is ticking, ever louder, ever closer, and it’s driving me slightly mad.

In the end, I’ve made the decision not to make the choice.

I don’t even have a boyfriend right now.

If I do find someone, who knows if it will work out?

If it does work out, who knows if they’ll want children?

If they do, with PCOS and assorted issues, who knows if I’ll even be able to to have children?

…so.

I need to work on my health first.

Then my boundaries and my self.

Then my work.

And if I meet someone, I do. If it works out, I do. If he’s down to fuck for babies, I do. If I manage to get pregnant, I do.

Otherwise, I suppose I don’t.

I say that, but it’s still so nebulous as a decision that it might as well not be one. Iddt said once that it seemed ridiculously fatalistic over something so big.

But it’s the best I can do and the best I can offer myself, such as it is. I can’t live life ever hoping that all the stars will align and a chimera will bound out of the forest and all will be well. I’d rather save myself. Or as much of myself as I can with what tools I have. And right now the writing is more important than babying.

And in the end, I suppose that’s all I can really ask of myself.

 

Danger zone friend zone: when you think you’re a nice guy

I keep hearing people say “nice guys finish last” as if it were some sort of tragedy, some inexplicable idiosyncrasy of human (female?) nature, and it baffles me.

Well, for one thing it’s not actually true. Nice guys do just fine in the marital stakes. But let’s talk about perceived niceness versus genuine goodness and what that actually means.

Whenever someone says: “Oh, X is such a nice person”, I sit up and take notice. Not in a good way, mind. If further probing “how so?” yields a more concrete answer like “he’s very considerate” or “her integrity is impeccable”, then never mind. Otherwise, the alarms go off.

The problem with “nice” as a descriptor is that it’s 99.99% used when the person speaking can’t come up with a better adjective.

It’s a passing grade, a low D- rather than an A, but so many people brandish their niceness about with the entitled expectation of joy and happiness as a result of being called “nice”. It’s more of “I can’t think of anything objectionable about this person” rather than “this person is simply amazing”.

Then there are those who treat “nice” as a benchmark for behavior when it’s really the lowest common denominator, made worse by the fact that there are those who tick things off on their list of “nice person behaviour” without really pausing to think about the required empathy behind the gestures rather than the actions.

I’ve met a lot of self-termed nice guys and I just have to point out: any man who uses the term friend zone is automatically not truly a nice guy in the sense of genuine goodness.

When I say that on Quora, that gets a lot of indignant yelps.

Friend zone complaints:

I keep seeing “how do I get out of the friend zone” and the question often implies (malicious?) deliberation on a woman’s part to keep a man on a leash for favors while withholding sex, but all that could change if you just entered the right cheat code (sufficient application of …something?) and the guy is asking for hints as to said cheat code.

  • if you’re my friend, I do not actually owe you sex for nice things you do for me. Look up general reciprocity in friendships. If you don’t understand that friends do nice things for each other and you treat a “might have sex with me” friend differently from a “normal friend”, then you’re not actually a nice guy.
  • if there’s no chemistry, no amount of nice things you do for me is going to change that. Assuming that there’s a cheat code somewhere that will change your experience into god-mode is insulting on multiple levels: I’m not a whore. I do know my own mind and my preferences. If you can’t manage to respect a woman’s agency and the right to her decisions about who to have sex with, you’re not a nice guy.
  • complaining about how I’m lacking as a friend because I haven’t put out when you’ve been so nice to me is terribly objectifying and insulting and hurtful. If you don’t value me as a friend for my conversation and brain and spirit and other things I do for my friends and you’re just hanging around lying to me in case I might have sex with you – you’re in fact not a good person.

She only sees me as a “nice guy” and put me in the friend zone; how do I make her see me as someone she could date?

  • have you asked?
  • no, sorry, being nice is the lowest standard there is. You don’t get whatever you want just for being nice. Entitlement isn’t nice.
  • if you’ve asked and she said no, then respect the woman’s choice.
  • she didn’t “put” you in the friend zone. You did that yourself by offering yourself up as a friend. If you were upfront and said “it’s dating or nothing, baby”, then stick to it and get the hell out of her life. Take some responsibility for your life.
  • if you genuinely think she’s a user – then get some self-respect and GTFO. Otherwise, don’t whine about it.

Let’s talk about nice guys versus bad boys. Nice guys finish last; girls always go for the bad boys – that trope gets a shit ton of play all over and it’s beyond passe. All right. Maybe girls go for bad boys, but most women don’t.

I like a man who knows what he wants and is unapologetic about it.

I like a man who is direct, who doesn’t wiffle-waffle over something as ridiculously banal as what’s for dinner.

I like a man who is competent and who is confident in his capabilities.

I like a man who knows his goals and how to achieve them.

I like a man who has leadership capabilities and the ability to fix things if they go wrong.

I like a man who is self-aware and who is straightforward about his desires and his needs.

I like a man who is man enough to do emotional labor and take pride in it.

I like a man who has a life and hobbies of his own and doesn’t need anyone to complete him as a person.

None of that translates to “I want an alpha-hole man-whore player who will run roughshod over all of my sensibilities”. (what some of these dating sites seem to imply)

For that matter, substitute “woman” for “man” and “he” for “she” and you have a list of attributes I like in my friends.

This isn’t that difficult, people.

If the best thing anyone can say about you is “nice” rather than any of the descriptors I’ve used above… do you see the problem now?

 

The allure of billionaires, in terms of spoonwork

As a reader and writer of romance, it’s interesting to watch the millionaire romance novel trend. Oops, billionaires now, sorry, because inflation.

(never mind that Thene has assured me that inflation hasn’t really been an issue in  recent ever)

One iteration of the rich-man-swoops-in story that’s been very interesting lately is the prevalence of the “I can’t do it on my own and you’re the only person who can save me” narrative.

There’s the waif who just graduated with some (often stereotypically useless) degree, who has student loans out the wazoo, and who has problem keeping herself alive and making rent. Suddenly, the rich man deus ex machinas into her life and he falls in complete and utter devotion to her despite the reader’s bemusement.

The mind-boggling aspects:

This woman has no friends. Like, none. She shares her apartment with no one (no wonder she can’t make rent) and there’s no one who could possibly bail her out, float her some rent, or heavens forbid, allow her to crash on their couch for a while. Of course, my take on it is: don’t trust a person who has no friends. There’s usually a reason for it and you should run away. Fast.

This woman often doesn’t have the slightest clue as to how to survive. I’ll forgive the ridiculous degree (women’s studies, anyone?) and massive student loans because that’s just how the two thousands have gone. However, why isn’t this woman temping? Why isn’t she working as a barista? Why is she clinging onto this idea that she’s going to be able to use her degree in a job that will pay the bills long past the time when she should have woken up and smelled the shit sandwich she made for herself? For that matter, why do all these heroines live alone? I lived in a house with six other people to keep expenses down at one point and I have never lived along in an apartment in my life for financial purposes. And the ten million dollar question is why is this billionaire who is supposedly really intelligent and competent attracted to this woman who is apparently failing at life?

Seriously. Suspension of disbelief just doesn’t work. And I’m not saying this from an elitist snob standpoint. Look at who Mark Zuckerberg married. Look at who Steve Jobs married. Look at Melinda Gates.

Honestly, guys. I know this is escapist fun, but really? This sort of Cinderella narrative is actually damaging because even the Disney princess had friends. Sheesh. Stop furthering the notion that women don’t have or need friends and can be perfectly happy and fulfilled with only her beloved rich hubby as a companion for life.

But let’s not talk about the women anymore. Let’s talk about the m/billionaires and the damaging narratives there.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the men simply outsource almost all of their spoonwork. Other than amazing sex with a zillion orgasms per night with their hugely awesome cocks, that is.

Need a gift? Throw diamonds and shiny shit at the love object. No need to think too hard when diamonds are a girl’s best friend, right?

There’s always a maid and/or chauffeur, so no worries ever about who leaves the dirty dishes in the sink or fights over why you don’t care enough to take me to the doctor’s office.

There’s room service or a housekeeper who makes the most amazing food.

The little woman needs to get dressed? Personal shoppers to the rescue! You never have to go along on a shopping trip (unless it’s for lingerie) because you hired someone to do the gruntwork of finding the nice things and then sitting through the trying-on torture.

Anything broken? Money will fix it! Even if/especially if you broke it in a fit of a rage. Appliances never dare to break down around you, but if they do, then there will always be some 24/7 person you can call to make the issue go away. In fact, why even bother with appliances? Just buy new clothing for every day or send it out to be washed professionally. You can afford it, after all.

Need to travel? Private jet with showers all the way, baby. No need to worry about travel stress or setting up a comfortable itinerary or being a considerate travel companion when you can just spend all your time in the air having sex.

….

Right.

If you read carefully between the lines of what’s going on, there’s almost no thought to the m/billionaire’s supposed devotion. He snaps and things that the heroine needs just happen.

This is especially interesting when one considers the studies that say men still don’t do equal amounts of housework in the home (but they think they do!) and that women are still expected to take on more childcare responsibilities (to the point where house-daddies are kinda sneered at and more than one father was accused of being a weirdo perv when sitting at the playground watching their kids).

The questions I’m left with:

  • why are we (many of us female) romance authors perpetuating the myth that women do not have or need friends? For that matter, what the flying fuck is up with the “I have no female friends, but I have a gay bestie who serves as my maid”? That’s just not right, guys.
  • are we indirectly perpetuating harmful social expectations and cultural mores by these narratives where the solution to men not doing enough emotional labor is to simply marry someone who can afford to outsource all of it?
  • now that we’ve bravely moved into the frontiers of romance where m-preg is a thing, can the daddies who do primary child-care please stand up and step out? If not, why the fuck not?
  • is the allure of poly relationships partially a female response to lack of male emotional labor? In that “welp, if I’m fucking three guys, surely ONE of them will do the dishes and cook dinner” sense? And if so, guys, maybe the solution is to write heroes who do the fucking spoonwork and heroines who refuse to deal with a guy who doesn’t put out.
  • when so many conflicts center around “there’s this bitch who’s after my man and refuses to take no for an answer”, coupled with the heroines have no friends narrative — what are we actually perpetuating here? The myth of scarcity and “all women are in competition with each other” is simple bullshit. Again, isn’t the solution to change things so that more men are good catches rather than trying to kill each other for the few men who somehow grew up being taught about spoonwork?

So okay, I hear y’all who are screaming “it’s just escapist fun! why so serious?!”, but I can’t agree. Not anymore.

And in fact, you can’t scream “I’m just writing/reading what I like and it doesn’t matter” and complain about romance novels being derided as bodice rippers and soul-rotting brain candy at the same time.

More than one scholar has posited that if you track romance novels tropes and themes, you will also track shifts in cultural expectations and social mores. We have come a long way from pro-pseudo-rape masquerading as love and there’s no reason to stop now. Writers and readers have always been at the forefront of change; now is not the time to drop the ball.

Write the world you want, sure, but how mindful (and effective?) a writer will you be if you don’t question the impetus behind the drive and tease things to its logical conclusion?

 

 

 

What’s in a name?

In which we talk about identifiers, race, magic, will shaping energy shaping matter shaping will (you mean, like magic?), goalposts that don’t stay put, and all that good stuff.

Or, in short, boundaries.

It’s interesting how almost everything in my life lately can boil down to that one thing: boundaries.

I’ve changed my English name a couple of times in my life.

I went by Jennifer at one point. Jenny for short for slightly longer than that. Then Tina during my middle-school-high-school phase, then Ting in college.

Jennifer, if I remember correctly, was because I identified so deeply with a character in a book I read that I insisted on being called that. I don’t remember which Jennifer from which book, which is a complete tragedy, but I seem to recall her being smart, kind, and very brave.

I was never terribly fond of the name itself though, oddly. Now, Jennifer feels a bit too stiff, a bit too proper, a bit too ruled for my taste. When I think of a Jennifer, I think of a blonde, blue eyed girl with good grades and long hair in a prep school uniform.

I went by Tina when I moved to China because it was similar to my Chinese given name, but it never really clicked either. It was always a sort of placeholder, something for people to call me while I had no idea who I really was and who I was growing into. It was a name chosen hastily, without thought, because I’d been going by my Chinese name for three years prior. Tina feels outspoken, maybe a bit brash, and not in the least bit shy. She also feels a bit truncated, perhaps hiding parts of her personality, perhaps hiding from the world.

When I applied to college, I tried to go by Leria. I’m not sure where I found this name and why. Maybe from Laria, which can apparently mean “the stars are mine”, except I’ve always been more fond of e than a.

Who knows at this point? (reasons to keep a diary #1999992)

Leria failed miserably.

Tamutenda, one of my first friends in college, flatly refused to call me by Leria: “Your mother didn’t name you that.”

I tried to point out that my mother certainly never named me whatever their pronunciation of Ting-Jung was either, but that didn’t fly.

I continued to try to insist and continued to fail. Probably because I kept answering to Ting. (here’s a note for why boundaries are important)

Things came to a head when E, my best female friend at the time, said that she couldn’t possibly call me Leria because it was too close to Laria, which was the name of her brother’s girlfriend and I gave up. Or did I give up because my boyfriend was also supremely not-on-board with the idea?

Who knows for sure at this point?

Slight tangent: I wonder why it’s completely “acceptable” to make fun of Asian names into adulthood when it’s not quite the done thing for “normal” names? (the answer probably has everything to do with racism)

Now, many years from college-freshman-me, I wonder how much of their objection was rooted in racially charged anxieties?

The distaste for what could be perceived as self-erasure by taking on a “Western” name, perhaps? Disdain for someone “taking the easy way out” or “succumbing to Westernization” or “bowing to the man”? (we’ll talk appropriation/assimilation/borrowing later)

The sense of encroachment? These names are okay for you immigrants to use; those are not? These names are okay for white people, but not for you?

Thene was surprised at one point at my desire to take on an English name and my preference for Chinese people who maneuver globally to take an English name. She mentioned a friend of hers talking about how his family member was forcibly re-named by the authorities when he immigrated.

E expressed her “surprise” and “found it funny” when she heard that her cousin had met a Taiwanese girl who called herself Giselle. When prompted as to why that was worthy of surprise and discomfort, she said that it didn’t feel like an appropriate choice for an Asian girl.

I didn’t argue with my friends because what I didn’t truly realize back then was that names are important.

More than one school of thought and magic has posited that when you name a thing, you have control over it, that you can either bring it into being, bind it, or banish it.

When a Chinese child is born, oftentimes the natal chart is drawn and consulted (Asian natal chart, btw, which measures out the weight of your bones to tally your fortune in life), and a name is chosen based on the elements of the words (gold, fire, water, earth, wood) to complement or balance out the elements of the child. Number of brush strokes to form the words are also important, because magic. The meaning of the words matter, as well as whether a word is seen as feminine or masculine. Dragon, for example, although acceptable for my name according to number of brush strokes, is considered way too masculine for a girl’s name. Way way way way way too masculine.

All of this is weighed and considered because we believe that to name a child is to shape a child, that a name will influence the child’s fortune and destiny.

Superstition and folklore and cultural belief aside, names are important because what a person names you defines their perception of your worth.

Names are important because it is your choice what you wish to be, your choice what reverberations you wish to send out into the world to herald your presence, your choice what messages are sent when a person calls for you.

When I returned to Taiwan, I decided to change my Chinese name after being called by it for a while. The name I was given didn’t suit me or my goals anymore and I didn’t like how it was written and it just bothered me.

My parents were supportive while I ran through word options and consulted a natal chart reader and wavered back and forth on which elements I truly needed versus wanted and the whole show. It helps, I’m sure, that about half of my family changed their names when I was in high school and almost all of my cousins have done it at some point.

Their willingness to allow me that choice, that expression of self and need and desire woke me to another facet of love and boundaries.

That isn’t me. That isn’t who I want to be. This is what I want to be called now. This is what you will call me because it is my choice.

It is my choice, not yours.

So no. I reject your perception that x and y and z aren’t names for Asian girls. I reject your unwillingness to respect my choice about what I’m called. I reject your thoughts on what is desirable for me and what paradigm of immigrant culture purity you think I should adhere to. I reject the baggage of those who came before me even if I acknowledge their back-breaking tragedy. I reject the boxing up of myself into politically correct, culturally desirable, easy to chew, digestible candy bits.

I like the name Aikaterine, although I’ll probably choose something more like Katheryn or Kathryn if I ever get around to legally changing my name in the US. (difficult to do all that when not in the US)

There’s a whole slew of variations that I’m happy to be called by and I figure anyone who has an opinion (or an asshole) can pick a variation and run with it.

That’s the extent of freedom I’m willing to allow others in what to call me.

Aikia. Katsiaryna. Katerina. Kata. Katka. Katje. Katri. Kaja. Kaitrin. Kathe. Kait. Katre. Katia. Kasia. Kaisa. Katika.

Pick one. Deal with it.

I’m not answering to Ting anymore.

Because that’s not me. It’s never been me.

Call me torture (like Thene) if you must have something that begins with a T.

 

 

 

 

 

When it appears that I really do need a big bludgeon to the head…

Thank you, as always, to Thene for providing prompts when needed. Thene has a new niece, Sylvianne, and of course, first thing she does is pull up a natal chart.

Of course.

That’d be the first thing I’d do too. It’s why I asked the birth time.

By the way? Calling it that the girl is going to get called silly-anne at some point. It’s a lovely name and I interpret it as meaning grace from the forest since Sylvia means from the woods and Anne means grace. And well, if silly-anne is the worst that she can get called, that’s not too bad. Unlike Raquel, whose brother went “Raquel you smell” upon being told that was her name. After her mother went to great lengths to find something that kids couldn’t make fun of…

Anyway.

Natal charts. Numerology. Her showing me Sylvianne’s birth chart prompted me to look at mine and I fell headfirst into quackery again.

Apparently 2015 is a 7 year for me, which means “take time off and fucking rest”. And, get this:

“The 7 year can be a year of secrets and deceptions. Affairs with married people are common in 7 personal years. Be cautious this year who you are attracted to and get involved with.”

This is where I headdesk a couple million times, right?

Thank you, universe. It’s December though, so we can move right along, right?

Seriously, though. If I’d known it was a rest year, I would have just been all “okay, sure” and given up on getting anything done.

*rolls eyes*

Nothing got done this year. Nothing. It was pretty much “boink around and feel sick” year.

Next year is an 8 year, which, no lie, I’m looking forward to. Although, that 8 personal year (power! execution! burn baby burn!) combined with an 6 essence year (home, family, domesticity) is going to be interesting.

I have had at least two people tell me that if I’m going to get married, the time is next year, so we’ll see. It’ll be very very interesting to see how that plays out.

But the numerology stuff is really not the big bludgeon to the head.

I finally found out what the point of the North Node was and I can’t believe it took me so. damn. long to get around to looking it up. Darn you past self! You claimed to be so curious, but you never bothered to look into this!

Apparently the North Node is the lesson that you’re here to learn in his lifetime. The South Node is your past and what you need to move away from.

So. Get this.

My South Node is Scorpio:

“The SN in Scorpio is primed for disaster even if the passage of years diminishes the occurrences of these catastrophes. There is an excessive attachment to pain and crisis and a heightened emergency preparedness that now merely drain her energy. The fires of hell have been Home Sweet Home and agony-ecstasy the customary state of being. She is so habituated to growth through suffering, that when peace arrives, she stays tense and frightened, anticipating the return of pain, and fearing stagnation and boredom. The extremes of visceral sensation have been so intrinsic to her vitality that she misses the median where the cultivation of simple pleasures in an earthly garden awaits. ”

- JM from Raging Universe (read the entire post; pretty worth clicking)

*headdesk another ten million times*

And this, in tendencies of my South Node I should really fucking leave behind:

  • Attraction to crisis situations
  • Over Concern with other people’s business
  • Impatience
  • Inappropriate intensity
  • Judgmental tendencies
  • Preoccupation with the psychological motivations of others
  • Resistance to cooperating with what others want
  • Overreacting
  • Destroying something in order to eliminate one part
  • Obsessive-compulsive tendencies

Oh wait, is any of that me? Try all of the fucking above.

North Node in Taurus:

In essence? DRAW. SOME. FUCKING. BOUNDARIES.

Learn to use your powers wisely; yes, sometimes that means not at all. Lie back and let the sun warm you, the earth’s bounty is yours and you only have to reach out. Work hard; play harder. Trust in yourself.

But above all…

GET THEE OUT OF THE EMOTIONAL LABOR KITCHEN AND PUT SOME DAMN SHOES ON.

I might be wee bit frustrated that it only took me 29 or so years to get to this realization. The signs were all there; I just wasn’t smart enough to pick up on it. I’ve only gone over my natal chart a handful of times in the past, all the time focusing on where Venus was and where Mercury was and so forth and completely missing the tiny little footnote in the corner.

I have Cancer rising and my moon in Taurus.

That translates to “home and hearth and financial security are where it’s at”. In numerology, my expression number tells me that my goal is a happy home life. My soul urge number tells me that my happiness stems from financial freedom. My inner dreams number tells me that I dream of spending my life in the pursuit of knowledge/learning and I have a secret wish to be a teacher/mystic.

…add everything up and it all points to: Your entire being just wants to recline in comfort and be fed grapes grown from your own labor by the pretty men you hired for the job. Stop stirring the pot and sit the fuck down.

Okay. Fine. It only took me until my Saturn return to figure this out.

I guess that’s fine too.

So now I guess I’m off to embrace my sensual side, grow myself some grapes, become self-sustainable through work I’m going to charge for, make wine, and hire myself some sexy men to man the fans and peel the grapes.

P.S: Complete hysterical aside: apparently women with Cancer rising are known for having nice tits? Ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

 

Quora – the promised land that wasn’t

Let’s file this misadventure under “limitations of Quora”, shall we? Also known as how my attempt to answer the question of “Do many Asian people have an inferiority complex against white people? If so, why?” and how it resulted in being told that:

  • it would be a huge mistake to assume every negative thing happens because of a person’s race (in response to my concrete examples of things I have experienced)… the more you act inferior because of negative thoughts from your own making or from douchebag comments the more likely you to actually become inferior.
  • I have never ever seen any form of racism in my life. What exactly are the types of racism you go through on a daily basis or even just any scenarios during your life? (when my entire response was completely based on things that had happened to me and seriously? Syria ring any bells? the current political rhetoric of the US? the whole mess in Europe right now with refugees?)

and this particular gem:

Though I do think these scenarios are exaggerated, they are most likely not intentional as I think you are a victim of your own mind. It seems as if this is how you feel they see you, not necessarily how they actually see you. The reason I say this is because English is your first language and you are a Chinese-American so you obviously do not have a Chinese accent, and people are telling you that your English is good? Come on, this just sounds like the perfect caricature of the typical American you would hear from someone who has never been there. People are assuming that you are “demure/coy/geisha-lady”? As if that many Americans actually know what the means.

I am not sure of your intentions, but I feel that you are over-analyzing all of this as a victim. This is just over sensitivity. The other day I listened to an African-American woman assume that the reason the woman at the grocery store checkout didn’t smile back at her was because she was racist. As if that is the only logical reason. Lighten up, and you will realize that white people aren’t as bigoted as the liberal media in America likes to portray.

Bingo! Can I have my prize please?

Oh wait, it’s a box of chococrazy with white privilege marshmallows? I think I’ll pass.

It never fails to amuse and astound me to witness the many ways people can contort themselves trying to get around the concept of racism.

I do think these scenarios are exaggerated – should I be grateful, good sir, that you think something might have happened, just not what I think actually happened? Because, you know, the words I heard could have been completely mis-interpreted by me. Words like “you so lucky, sucky sucky for five dolla”. Words like “There is the most adorable older Chinese couple sitting across from me on the T. They are the WASP-y-est thing ever. Him: Navy blazer, blue striped button down, khakis. her: think Elizabeth Warren but Chinese.”

This latter bit prompted a two hour conversation on why it was so “adorable” to see Chinese people dressing up like white people and how her choice of words was racist. (an entire thesis could be written on this conversation, involving the concepts of “old money” and “styles of wealth and “most people of that age who are Asian and have wealth are nouveau riche and look it” and “I’ve never seen anyone not white dress like that” and ultimately devolving into the mention of “wiggers”.)

*sigh*

…they are most likely not intentional – let’s talk about how the very fact that someone can say hurtful and and terrible things without intending to, with no thought to it is the every epitome of white privilege and and is in of itself racist.

…I think you are a victim of your own mind – no, I am not a victim of anything, not even racism. I do not define myself as a victim. Yes, bad things have happened to me, through design or not, but that is not how I define myself. The connotation of victim is that it is an absolute and that is absolutely not the be  all and end all of me. But for the purposes of your usage – no, I’m still not. This isn’t only in my head. If you cared to read any of the ten million articles available on the internet, you would see that it is a thing. But I suppose you would just like to call it mass delusion and over-sensitivity from a people who lack “maturity”, “originality” and “responsibility”.

Come on, this just sounds like the perfect caricature of the typical American you would hear from someone who has never been there. – It sounds like a caricature, yes? Unfortunately, I’ve lived in the US for most of my life and I can tell you that all of these things have happened before, multiple times. And did you just imply that I have no idea what I’m talking about because I’m not American/don’t live there? Dude, that’s racist.

People are assuming that you are “demure/coy/geisha-lady”? As if that many Americans actually know what that means. – You’re trying to erase something I’m trying to tell you by brushing it off. That’s racist. Fact: I have been spoken about with reference to geishas before. Fact: enough Americans know enough from movies like Memoirs of a Geisha to be unintelligent about it.

…you’re over-analyzing. That’s just over sensitivity.  Lighten up, and you will realize that white people aren’t as bigoted as the liberal media in America likes to portray. – and you, sir, are racist. Furthermore, I don’t believe you have actually read anything I said with an eye towards understanding. None of what I have said has come from liberal media. Not one thing. It’s all been personal experience. In fact, you are going on my list of examples of racism for erasure and gaslighting. Thank you for making my point for me.

I’m not sure how much more I’ll use Quora in the future. If I do, there might have to involve copious linking or copy pasta of my essays here.

I feel like Quora could have been a great instrument of good, a platform where the average person could ask experts things like “is it actually realistic that a virus engineered to kill only women actually succeeds in wiping out all women on a planet?” and get answers.

What I actually see is a lot people using it because they can’t be arsed to do a cursory search, using Quora as an IT help desk, or they’re trying to get people to perform emotional labor for them on the same damn questions “there’s this girl I like who friendzoned me what should I do” ad nauseum.

Short answer: guys, you need to learn to trust women. You may say you do, but you don’t.

 

 

Money: paradigms, transparency, taboos, etc

Let’s talk money.

Or, if you’re an USian — let’s not.

I’ve lived in Taiwan, China, and the US for long enough periods of time to gain some feel for how much people talk and do not talk about money and the differences are striking.

In Taiwan/China it’s perfectly kosher to meet someone and start talking about how much you each make, how much your house cost, how much your spouse is pulling in, etc etc etc. People just kind of stand around, exchanging all these numbers without really thinking too much about it.

In the US that whole aspect of life is seriously hush-hush. I had to apologize a couple of times when I really wanted the information, “hey, I’m sorry for asking, but we were thinking of finding a place in the area and how much is the rent on your place?” and I still got strange looks. And forget talking about salary. That was like asking someone in public, “hey, have you ever thought about anal sex?” or something similar. Not quite “have you ever done it in the ass?” but close.

I was on someone’s donate to me page, and their answer to “why not Patreon?” was:  ”I’m uncomfortable with the transparency sites like Patron and Kickstarter that make public financial amounts and goals. It’s really no one’s business how much or how little anyone is making.”

If they meant “no one gets to judge me and my decisions about my life based on my income”, then sure. Yes. Definitely.

However, I disagree that it’s no one’s business how much anyone is making.

I would like to know what the person the next cubicle over is making. If we have roughly the same duties, then I would like to know if we’re making roughly the same and if not, why. I would like to know what the men and women of the same company make and if there’s any discrepancy that can’t be easily explained by ability / achievements / seniority. That last is suspect, by the way, depending on the male to female ratio of the higher-ups.

I would like to know how much money my professor is making (and how hard was it to get to where she is now) because that would affect my decision as to whether or not a life in academia is actually a good idea financially.  Spoiler: probably not.

I would like to know how much my senators are worth and where they’re getting their money because that sort of info might affect how they vote.

Knowledge is power. I see absolutely no reason why anyone would deliberately disempower themselves.

It’s valuable knowledge to find out that my friend, who carries a full-time job, is incapable of paying for a studio apartment on her own, much less save for a mortgage or children down the road. It’s invaluable to know that most of my friends are in the same boat.

It’s useful to know that the other temp I work with has difficulty making ends meet because of high insurance deductibles and co-pay and she needs to choose to alternate which bills are late because she needs to make rent and daycare first.

It’s helpful to know that the single dad down the street is selling plasma because it’s either that or turn off the heat in the dead of winter.

Know your fellow human being. Know what they have and don’t have and the story behind it all. Better yet, know more about what other people in other countries pay and don’t pay for, what their lives are like, and what their stories are.

Why?

You’ll find out the person who supports Obamacare/food stamps/ some other helpful gummint thing isn’t some lazy louseabout who can’t be bothered to get a job. It could be someone you know. It could be someone who you care about. It could be one of your friends or family members. It could be someone who could be a friend.

It’s easy to live in a bubble when no one is talking to anyone about important, potentially dangerous bits of information like this. It’s easy to believe that you’re the only one, to believe in the crazy-making of “pull yourself up by your own damn bootstraps”, to buy into the idea that if you only work harder, you’ll be able to dig yourself out of your life into a better one.

The thing is, we’re not alone. We don’t need to be alone.

It’s more than politics and equality and fair wages and fair pay and all that good stuff though. It’s also about empowering your children and helping them understand this world we live in. It’d be nice if we could give them a better world than the one we inherited, but that’s another blog.

I’ve never understood not being upfront with children about money, how much there is of it, and how it works.

My parents were spectacularly awful at it.

My mom chose to tell me that she uprooted me from the only life/language/culture/school system I’d ever known because I refused to learn Chinese when it was in fact because my father realized that he wasn’t going to be made partner in his firm and they figured they’d have a better chance at better pay/partnership if we returned to Taiwan.

Let’s set aside the mental trauma of believing that all of my subsequent suffering was my own damn fault and the trauma of having a cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on me when I wasn’t even warned of things and consequences.

They did it again three years later, to similar effect regarding trauma and rage and other fun shizz. This time it was moving from Taiwan to China. And no, Taiwan and China are really very different in culture. Simplified Chinese is also sufficiently different from Traditional Chinese that I wandered around for about three months illiterate. Again!

It is my (perhaps fond) belief that I would have had an easier time of adjusting and understanding just what the hell was going on if they had put it to me in simple mathematical terms:

This is how much money daddy is making. This is how much money we need. If we stay in the US, we will not be able to afford much of anything, including college for you. So we are moving.

and then:

This is how much daddy is making. This is how much money we need. This USian company is willing to pay a shit ton of money for daddy and us to go China (also known as the hellhole where the natives are so poor they eat banana skins along with the bananas [not true btw]) and we’re really sorry this is happening but hey you get to go to an American school and possibly to college in the US later, okay?

My parents, in fact, were so very weirdly non-communicative about money that by the time I went to college in the US, I had this idea that we were middle-lower class. Yes. It’s pretty humiliating. I’m ashamed. No need to rub it in.

In my self-defense, I was making assumptions based on my parents’ visible (to me) spending habits, the amount of money they gave to me for my lunch money, the mathematics behind when they refused to buy me things, and the conspicuous consumption of my peers.

Oh, and I was adequately punished by the fact that I chose not to go to NYU because of the higher (much!) price tag. So there.

Whereas my brother is four-almost-five years younger than I am and he grew up with an different attitude towards money because the environment he was used to was massively different than the one I was used to. By the time he was aware of stuff, my parents were doing much better and we were eating out more, etc. However, he was also never sat down and talked to about just how the whole broken system worked. As far as he knew, it was either feast or famine (red envelopes! rando bonus money! parents refusing to give allowances!) and he never learned how to pace himself or budget.

It also led to his deciding that attempting for medical school and all its assorted fees and loans and lost economic opportunity and so forth is a good idea.

Prediction: probably a terrible idea given someone titled an article “medical school, my $1mil mistake”. (we’re working on trying to dissuade him without discouraging him)

I’m at the point where I feel a good portion of society’s ills could be solved with adequate application of real life numbers at a young enough age.

Answers I wish someone had asked me when I was younger, before I made my college decision (no, not a typo):

- approximately how much money will you need to have the kind of lifestyle you want?

- on that note, what is your absolute baseline “want” for lifestyle?

- so, about buying a house and stuff… you might want to look up house prices in the area you’re thinking about buying versus income

- you realize that college isn’t just about going and learning shit, right? It’s also about stuff like networking, internships, all that?

- do you really like trees more than you like having NYU on your resume? Also known as do you like to have nice things?

- do you understand that you probably can’t just walk out of college with your fresh diploma and get a job that will keep you in the way that you are accustomed to?

- having an English/communications/psychology/women’s study degree with no further intent to study further is maybe just one step above having a degree in dog-sitting. You realize this, right?

- if given a choice between going to a small lib-arts college and subsequent job-hunt versus taking the money and doing something with it, what appeals more? Keep in mind the above question.

- are you capable of taking whatever job you get and being okay with it by virtue of the fact that you’re getting paid, or do you need to be happy and fulfilled in your job?

- do you understand the power of compound interest and delayed gratification and all that jazz?

- on that note, did you know that the only way to get out from under student loans is to pay them off? Bankruptcy will cover that Lamborghini you bought on credit, but not your students loans, just FYI.

- do you understand how shitty it is to live in a country with no nationalized healthcare and be old and broke?

- do you know what the average pay is for a temp/barista/receptionist/entry-level-shit-job in the city you want to live in?

- do you know the chances of getting an entry-level-shit-job are for the city you want to live in?

- on a scale of one to NOOOOOOOOOOO, how much do you want to be one of those people who have to go home and live with their parents after college?

- given the answer to the above three questions, do you want to reconsider the decision on your major?

- do you understand, like truly understand, that you will be judged by the company you keep and who your friends are is going to influence your future success and happiness?

- furthermore, if you’re female, did you know that it gets way harder to meet people after college? Yeah. I’m talking about mawwiage, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

I’m sure there are many other questions that I would have wanted to hear, but those are some of the main ones that that keep popping up when I talk to people around my age.

You can’t learn well when you don’t know what you don’t know. Worse, there are so many myths about how the world works that are either artifacts from an earlier time or just plain not true ever and those muddy the waters further.

Even with the internet being as helpful as it is – it’s only as useful as the search terms that you put into it.

So I’m all for education, for transparency, for shutting down this silly notion that we’re going to refuse to discuss something that’s a major part of our lives.

 

Thoughts on Patreon: part I (myths and morality)

I set up a Patreon account yesterday.

It was exhilarating and terrifying because of various intersections of: money! adulting! charity! begging! transparency! arts-ing!  pull yourself up by your own damn bootstraps! you’re an artist; you’re supposed to starve; it builds character! fake it until you make it!  friend-exploitation! and various other very friendly(?) vectors of thought.

I apologize for those of you who read the above sentence and wanted to cry because of punctuation abuse.

I set up a Patreon account for a couple of reasons:

  • I think it will be a fun experiment, both in terms of my new foray into “intending” and “manifesting” and in terms of “huh, I wonder what will happen?”
  • Asides from the thought experiments, it would be really nice to get some positive recognition.
  • Money really wouldn’t hurt either. *grin* Yes, this is separate from the above.
  • I figure it’s my way of letting the universe know that I’m ready to be hardcore srs bzness (like I wasn’t before) and to be paid for it.

As with all things, I’m going to analyze the entire process to death. Said process, of course, including the thoughts that went behind thinking about getting an account and then proceeding to create one.

I figure that part of the services I offer is to try things out and then ruminate endlessly upon them so that others can ping off my thoughts.

But that’s jumping ahead.

Going back to the very beginning, my ideal of Patreon is that it would enable people who provide some sort of service/art to have their lives crowdfunded by those who believe that they provide value to the world. Preferably, said people who then turn around and then patronize (in a good way!) others who they believe to be of service.

Consequently, I believe that it is only fair and desirable that people be able to live (well!) and create art off what they gain through their patrons’ support. I do not believe that Patreons should be reserved only for those who are starving and I do not believe that there should be some sort of arbitrary upper limit where people should go “nope, that’s enough money, stop patronizing me”.

So, there alone is a lot of baggage to be unpacked. I had to weed-whack through a lot of bad logic and suppositions (hereafter to be referred to as myths for short) to get to the point where I was okay with hitting launch and going “hey universe and its inhabitants, please to give me money so I can continue being me”.

 

Myth #1: I’m not deserving

Essentially I decided to let other people decide if that was true or not. That’s part of the thought experiment.

I blogged briefly a while ago regarding my disagreement with another author about authors asking others to fund their writing and I figure I should stand by my reasoning back then. Asking strangers/friends/family/your sentient (and money-earning) pets to support you is perfectly moral, provided it’s all safe, sane and consensual. In fact, I still hold that it might be slightly worse to go “hey spouse, I would really really like to stay home and write, okay?” because there’s that expectation of doing big things for your spouse that you might not really like but you’re going to do anyways because you’re married to them.

If I think it’s okay for other people to do, then I should be okay doing it myself, right? Right.

Even if what I’m offering is slightly atypical. Rants, reviews, and random musings?

Oh well, I’ll let other people sort out whether I’ve been of service or not.

 

Myth #2: There’s no point / I’ll starve anyway because no one will care enough

Slightly related to myth #1 and kind of linked to myth #6. However, same difference. Let other people decide. I will do my best in what I do and I’ll let everyone else sort out what they think is fair. Again, thought experiment.

 

Myth #3: I’m not starving enough to justify this

Mmm. I don’t believe Patreon should only be for the starving. Spiritual starvation is bad too, for that matter. In general, however, I believe that this could be the start of something beautiful, something that could prompt more people to create and be supported for what they bring to the world. Life isn’t black and white, or rather it shouldn’t be.

I believe that artists also have a right to things like the ability to raise children, buy houses, have more than a subsistence living. I do not believe in the art is its own reward justification that so often gets trotted out. Yes, we enjoy what we do, that really doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get money for it. Once we start going down the road of “you enjoy your work, therefore you shouldn’t live well”, then that says really dire things about our society and economy that I don’t think should be supported in any way shape or form. Other than it already is, that is.

 

Myth #4: This is going to suck because I’m going to have to justify everything all the time

I’m all about transparency. Part of this experiment will be all about numbers and what the numbers say.  I’m going to start posting numbers in a hardcore way. Word count. Blog posts written. Books bought and reviewed. Royalties received from Amazon.  That said, I’m not going to change my behavior or lie about it. I’m going to keep up the YNAB analyses (Yeah, I’m aware I missed a month or so) and I’m going to keep up my donations to Doctors Without Borders and I’m going to buy me some booze once in a while. If someone doesn’t want to be my patron because they really don’t think I should be donating money to DWB while being on Patreon, that’s cool. I appreciate the money and I cherish the thought behind giving me money, but it’s not going to change who I am and what I do. No one gets to buy a piece of me. You get my thoughts and my words and that’s going to have to be enough. My attention, I’m pretty free with, so have at that if you like.

 

Myth #5: Patreon is only for real artists

Part of the thought experiment as well. Yes, I write stories. I will give them free of charge to my patrons. But I also provide other services. I translate. I interpret. I answer questions on Quora. I write posts on all sorts of random topics. I beta-read. I crit. I review books. As Thene said, I aim to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. I also try to provoke thought through my own endless navel-gazing.

I keep coming back to this, but it’s all about what other people think, not what I think. Do I provide value: Y/N? If so, please throw money at me, thank you. It will enable me to keep providing value in my various ways.

 

Myth #6: This is friend-sploitation and that’s not okay. Also known as the wail of “when will it end/where’s the line?!”

This one is tricksy. There’s a very clear taboo against mooching and exploiting your friends. I’m certain most of the world does it anyway or thinks it’s being done to them, but that doesn’t make it right. (Friend-zoning, we will talk about that in depth at some point. I figure talking about friend-zoning and emotional labor and using the EL to make it not an expletive laden anger-fest will be my gift to the world. )

So if you want to give me a birthday present, please to feel free to throw money at me instead. If you want to treat me to dinner once in a while, then either do that or toss the equivalent amount of money at me. Or a cup of coffee. Or a drink. (Yes, we will talk about the taboo of money and transparency also, but later. )

I’m not going to harangue my friends to be my patrons. It’ll be there, accessible and in plain sight, but I’m not going to be a pain about it the same way I’ve never gone out of my way to ask my friends to buy my books. If you don’t want to throw money at me, that’s fine too.

It may be because I grew up in a culture where red and white envelopes were just a way of life, but I’m completely okay with the whole concept of supporting friends in a financial fashion. My mother talks about how my grandmother’s wealthy friend used to give her and her siblings immense red envelopes at new year’s, with the understanding that it was her way of helping them pay the bills and buy food.

So the line is: I’ll mention I have this thing and you can do what you like with it and I will never harass you about it.

 

Whew. So all that. And we’ve barely started.

So I have a Patreon. Now what?

Well, I’m going to be blogging more. I’m going to be better about posting my reviews to this blog. I’m going to really get back on the train with the writing. I’m going to set up a “services” page where people can contact me about beta-reading, reviews, etc. I’m going to update my Fiverr account.

Essentially, I’m going to keep being me, but I’m going to document being me in a centralized location.

I also have a notion about my book reviews, where I’m not just going to review the book as a reader, but I might start critiquing it the way I would something I’m beta-ing and give people a taste of what kind of beta reader I would be.

 

Ready? Let’s do this.

 

P.S to self: I really need to sort out my categories…