Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 84

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

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

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

Invisible and yet still despised.

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

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

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

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

Jack asked me yesterday how I was doing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 81

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

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

I. Can’t. Even.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 76

I’ve always loved the song “Colors of the Wind”. Today I fell in love with it a little bit more when I realized that, like so many other things, it could be extrapolated further.

Or I could be stretching. I’ve been known to do that. But I’ll stretch regardless. Yoga, after all, is good for the soul.

Sometimes when I fall in love, there’s that immediate need to tie things down, to possess, to be certain of each and every single inch and moment. There’s the desire to melt into the other person, to meld, to create something new that was never before.
Sometimes, when I fall in love, I forget that the object of my affection has their own agenda, their needs, edges that might not align with mine.

I forget, that when someone says “love”, they might not mean the same thing I do.
I forget, that when I expect, when I tighten my hold, the only person I end up hurting is myself.

Sing me a song, a lullaby, a dirge.
Remind me to slow my dizzying spin through space, pause, and listen.
Remind me, that the condensed water of a soul can keep a man alive.

I’ll wander the paths of you, hidden and sunlit. If my bare feet should pick up thorns and sharp stones, then I’ll hear your spirit and know.
I’ll taste the wine-ripe fruits of you, tart and frost-sweet. If I should remain unsatiated, then I’ll reach within my own spirit and know.

Even should tomorrow be fire and earthquakes, thunder and sweeping tides,
I curl within my eyrie, secure and warm.
Even should tomorrow be filled with birdsong and a cornucopia of delights,
I only need enough to feather my nest and leave the rest for you.

Remind me, not to count the worth of what I receive, but to weight them in joy.
Remind me, not to measure the tears I’ve wept, but to raise those Fated scissors.

I’ll climb the sycamore, perch in the branches, and let the eagle tell me of where he’s been.
Places far away. Winds filled with the scents of adventure. Everything sprawling under his wings, beauty and terror blurred until he chooses to focus.
I’ll beg him to teach me his secrets, of how to arrow in on my prey and soar above everything else.

Remind me, that my circle does not break simply because a link has fallen away.
Remind me, that I am loved by more than I could ever imagine.

I’ll curl up with the wolves, nestle in their warmth, and let them tell me of the moon.
The ebb, the flow, the haunting call of the nature within and without. The howl that is loneliness, a declaration of self, a warcry, a summons of my brothers and a song to Spirit.
I’ll beg them to teach me how to run as a pack, how to bow to Alpha, how to become Alpha when the old one falls under sharp hooves, how to play with the pups, and how to howl so that my tribe may find me.

Remind me, that the land dies when it is owned and lives when it is seen for what it is.
Remind me, that there are more colors in the wind than we can know, more songs in us than we could ever imagine.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 74

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

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

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

But then why do I stare into space and yearn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 69

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

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

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

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

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

See me. Love me. Witness me.

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

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

What does it mean? You tell me.

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

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

But it’s a lie.

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

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

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 68

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

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

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

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

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 66

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

A message I received:

Ni hao ma Ekatje,

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

Wo men zai liao ^^

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Day 66, y’all.

慕哲咖啡 / Cafe Philo – a review of sorts

When I walked into Cafe Philo, I hadn’t really had a proper meal all day, it was raining, I was ovulating, I’d just left an event where Caroline Gluck discussed various depressing and frustrating things and I was going to be waiting to attend another event by the same from 7pm to 9pm.

To clarify, yes, I was going to attend both of her book signing/talks on the same day because 1. practicum hours and 2. I did really want to see how things would change since she would have two different interpreters for each event.

So there’s the backstory.

I ordered a smoked chicken apple panini, smoked chicken Caesar salad, milk tea, and waffles with ice cream.

Yes, I know. Anyways.

The smoked chicken salad was good. It had canned corn, lettuce, two slices of hard-boiled egg, tomatoes, and cucumber. If you’re a fellow American and you’re expecting enough smoked chicken to make this a meal, however, don’t. This isn’t the US. The smoked chicken was very much for flavor, not satiation. Also, the Caesar dressing — it wasn’t. I’m not sure what it was, but it more closely resembled the sesame seed butter Japanese salad dressing than something involving mustard, egg, olive oil, lemon juice, and anchovies.

The panini came with a tiny side salad, which was nice. It also had tomato, cucumber, and cheese in addition to the smoked chicken and apple slices. Pretty darn delicious. I’d totally come back and order this again.

The milk tea was okay. Not particularly awesome, not disappointing. There was a lovely little bit of foam art on top that smelled faintly of honey for some reason. It wasn’t too sweet, which I appreciated.

The waffles were where I hit the wall. First of all, however, let me tell you there’s a lot of waffle involved. They came with a lovely little arrangement of fruit and whipped cream, so apparently Cafe Philo is really dedicated to making sure we get our five a day. Kudos for that, truly.
Two Belgian waffles, so it can be pretty filling on its own. Good thing, as they have savory waffle platters, although just from looking at someone else’s order, I think there’s not enough filling for the amount of waffle given. The waffle should be a vehicle for filling, not the main character. But I digress.
The waffles were crunchy. Palate-scratching crunchy. Tasty, if you like your waffles to resemble cookies, but I like mine to be fluffy with a bit of crunch.
The ice cream, one scoop of vanilla and one of chocolate, didn’t work for me. The vanilla didn’t quite taste like the type of vanilla that I love. Maybe it’s a more Asian type of vanilla, but it didn’t do it for me. The chocolate was actually a turn-off because it was not only not very good chocolate, it was mint chocolate. I want pure, dark, velvety smooth chocolate when I’m adding waffles to the scene, yo!

Overall verdict?
I probably wouldn’t deliberately come here again, but I’d be happy to eat here if ever I had occasion to. Just, maybe skip the desserts.
It was pretty busy on a Saturday evening, but then again, many places in Taipei are. I couldn’t focus enough to do actual work, but it was fine enough for blogging. The waitstaff are very attentive and were complete sweethearts. Also very good at topping up water, which doesn’t always happen.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 65

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

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

I said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 63

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Full circle, as always. *sighs a little*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But really, why?

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

Open my hands and fly, I suppose.