Archive for February, 2016

More lessons from Monkey and some dredged up thoughts

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

Later never came.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I’m not going to.

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

Yeah no.

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

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

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

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

It will be more than enough.

Tracking Asian presence across mainstream romance, 2016

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

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

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

 

The Principle of Desire – Delphine Dryden

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

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

 

Burning Nights – Julie Wetzel

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

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

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

 

Legal Edentity – Karen Harley

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

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

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

 

His Road Home – Anna Richland

Marine biologist Korean-descent heroine.

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

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

The Crystal – Sandra Cox

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

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

 

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

Tally: 4 positive to 4 negative.

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

Oh Monkey…

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

Very potent, apparently.

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

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

*breathes out. relaxes shoulders*

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

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

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

 

With hope in mind:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Affirmation from mooncircles.com that resonated today:

The beacon of life-destiny beckons me forward.

I step toward new goals despite impediments.

The stones in my path will become future stars.

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

 

My birthday is coming up!

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

*breathes out and lets it go*

Grace, remember? Okay. I can do this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

…for all the wrong reasons…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*sigh*

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

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

There isn’t that solace in this book.

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

*sigh*

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

So far, 2016?

Two to zero, with disappointing characterization in the lead.

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

 

Clarity: a manifesto of sorts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal:

This year: fall completely in love with myself

In five years: fall utterly in love with life

In ten years: find someone to share my bliss with

Health:

This year:

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

In five years:

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

In ten years:

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

Career:

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

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

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