Treading Carefully

May 24th, 2017

Today, more than ever before, I felt anxious about my pages being critiqued at my writing group. Perhaps they were horrible. Perhaps that they would see that I had failed. Perhaps they would sense that I didn’t work hard enough. A number of negative scenarios ran through my mind.

Although I knew that I would survive it. And my fellow writers wouldn’t hate me for it.

That’s the strange thing about this. To be so vulnerable, to be judged in the spotlight, and still come out relatively unscathed.

During the critique, I held my breath. I knew that they had good intentions, and the rule generally is to keep silent. So I did. Defending myself isn’t natural for me in the moment (I am better at analyzing the situation and coming up with the most off-the-wall commentary later). The pin pricks came. And then they ended.

Sometimes I remember the gift that I made for my mom a long time ago as a kid. At that time, I really didn’t put too much effort into it. What was the point if I couldn’t find the passion? So I made something just because either Christmas, Mother’s Day or birthday was coming up. Not because I wanted to. Gift giving doesn’t come naturally to me. So I gave it and she was disappointed by it. Simply said so. So no presents for you, then.

So that results in this belief: why bother if I don’t have the passion?

Then it returns to this: Because you have to do the hard work for the in-between moments. You have to do it so that you can get to the good parts.

So I endure it in anticipation of the better times.

What happens in the moment of silence?

May 23rd, 2017

This is also the moment where I say: the bonfire was pretty awesome although at least 3 people cancelled at the last minute (complaints of the hottest day for a bike ride, not feeling well, and a similar reason). No worries, although it was sad that you weren’t there, it’s totally okay!

But I found myself blubbering about everything random possible. About whether people should eat a whole potato or cut it up. But I really wanted to know: when is it inappropriate to eat a whole potato?

I always find that in social events, I want things to happen in a certain way. I want to not only socialize with the guests, but to also prepare food, and organize appropriately so that the guests can find the food. Can’t lose face! But that day on the bonfire, sand blew everywhere, the fire hadn’t started. We should have bought a table. We should have planned better. But that’s always the way it works.

And so what I wanted to talk about: silence.

In the conversations with one other, I have practiced to savor silence. There’s always a moment that all of us feel awkward with the silence. Because the immediate reaction is the fear that we’re not good enough—not interesting enough, not social enough, and everything else like it, not a good enough friend.

I can tell when someone has extreme discomfort with silence when I allow it to settle. It sometimes happens when I don’t want to answer questions in depth anymore. Or that yes, I am not interested in particular in the subject at hand. It sometimes also happens when I feel attacked so instead I pull back. And I let myself savor the silence.

Sometimes it pauses. Sometimes it continues. Sometimes we stare at each other in the silence.

This is the cynical version of welcoming to San Francisco

May 15th, 2017

It took approximately five years until my car was broken into. The passenger window smashed. Then the wing window too. Then it got broken into two more times.

But it took almost 7 years until my bikes were stolen. Just a bike but all my bikes. From my garage. Devastating yes. It all had started approximately in 2009 when I first used my pink mountain bike, which I had returned it to my parents’ garage, so it’s still there. But in 2010, I acquired my KHS steel road bike. Then in 2011, my aluminum cannondale bike. Then in 2014, another bike.

And although my interest in riding has decreased significantly in the last few years, I had always worried whether my bikes would be stolen right out of my garage. So much so that I started locking them in the garage almost two years ago.

But then to my shock, when I went downstairs on Friday evening to ride my bike to David’s place, they were gone. I had hopped downstairs, gave dirty looks to people who looked at me with my helmet on, then when I went to the garage through the side door, I looked to my bikes…and simply, they weren’t there. I immediately went to the backyard, confused. because it would have been very difficult to undo all my bikes. My landlord wouldn’t have done such thing, because that would be absurdly ridiculous without consulting me. And so it was simply done that they were stolen. i saw the broken window in the garage, just so small that a hand could slip through. Then I saw the tool, a long wirey thing.

And I was devastated. I knew what this meant. It meant that it happened earlier. That I didn’t notice. And that it was unlikely for the bikes to turn up again. Because that’s the way this city worked.

And then, the process. I patted myself on the back only slightly for registering my bikes with the city database. But I was not happy, of course. I called police. Then I hunted for the serial numbers in my place, trying to gather all the information, and set my expectations for what I needed to do next. I contacted my neighbors and the landlord. FIX the window.

And once all of that was done, I sat at my desk as I felt like my belongings, my items…were all violated.

Didn’t I care for the bikes enough? I didn’t like the idea of grubby hands going through all the things that I had on the bike, lest even riding it. Did I have things in the trunk bag? Food perhaps? And that new tube that I had stuffed inside? As well as the tire lever? Displeased.

And so once the police arrived as well as CSI to brush fingerprints and my landlord who so obnoxiously went through all of this almost with a smug look (yes, isn’t it great that your things weren’t taken? and hey you just quoted it as $500 missing), I sat alone and there was nothing I could do. My bikes that I had carefully collected were gone. And here it was, a time of history simply erased and stolen.

Welcome to San Francisco?

Broken Screen

May 3rd, 2017

The squawk of the pigeons made me notice. So I started paying attention to the enclosed alcove outside my window, the bathroom window and the walls. First, the pigeons, the sun, the rainwater that would collect. Then the screen and the way that the dust would float onto the top of the toilet.

The pigeons have somehow decided not to come here anymore perhaps due to my insistent scare tactics. But the screen is there. So I look at the screen all time. Its rust telling me to do something about.

I finally did something. Last night, I looked up how to remove rust from the screen. So in the morning after finishing a routine of checking email, I pulled the window screen away and rinsed it in the deep kitchen sink. I took a scrap towel and doused it in white vinegar with my bare hands. Then I dumped it into the bathtub filled with water and baking soda. I tipped initially a third of a cup of baking soda. Then a fourth from my handy huge bag of baking soda in bulk from Costco. There the screen sat for over an hour, spreading the smell of iron throughout the apartment.

Then I returned from an old toothbrush to brush the excess. Could it be clean? Could it? I scrubbed and the toothbrush tore into the screen. A hole now. For some reason, before all of this started, I thought: wouldn’t it be easier to buy another one? A shiny one?

But no, must use our old parts.

And my mind wished for a reason to replacement.

I stared at that broken hole with the toothbrush in my right hand and I pondered. Did my wish get granted? Was it destined? Was it everything that I wanted?

Birthday wishlist 2017!

May 2nd, 2017

This year, I have been working on being prompt. And so with that, also means a self-centered post like this!

Just in time! Now what to ask for…

Previous years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, forgotten year in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, a forgotten year of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002

1. Presence of my favorite people (over presents obviously)
2. Bountiful sweet fruit like strawberries, peaches, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi…yum yum in my tum!
3. Candy. The fruity kind.
4. A journal to accept my writing—at least an essay or a short story perhaps?
5. An influencer or an event to help me promote Ice Cream Travel Guide. My abilities are just not good enough right now.
6. A daily motivation (or habit) to write. Or at least the motivation to further edit my existing short stories and essays.
7. A scarf holder to hold my 10+ scarves and not break from the weight
8. Some kind of inspiration to do better with seeetthere
9. Fulfilling income-generating work. Really.
10. To get all the data off my old desktop. Come on!

In a gunfight, I’d die. In an embarrassing way.

April 26th, 2017

Self-preservation during a physically dangerous situation goes like this for me:

  • Seek shelter
  • Stay hidden
  • Stay quiet
  • Do absolutely nothing
  • Peek to see if coast is clear
  • Flee
  • I am a master of listening to what the police say to do during an armed shooter situation. Hide!

    In elementary school, I was the master of dodgeball. That is, I was very good at dodging. Because I never participated in throwing the ball, nobody would try to hit me in the initial action. But as the kids got knocked out, there would be me left. The one who never drew attention to herself. Not knowing how to catch the ball or even throw it, I escaped any attack. Until then. But I would run well as the last person on my team. But we all know how that goes.

    I just couldn’t even defend myself.

    So clearly when I took the Would you survive a movie gunfight?, I “died” the embarrassing death. I amazingly was the only one who didn’t get hit during the gunfight, because simply put, I was hiding. But someone smart decided to shoot the scuba tanks near me, thereby blowing them up, killing me in the process.

    Well at least it’s not as bad as shooting yourself. Accidentally.

    Understanding the process of dying

    April 25th, 2017

    The very first person close to me to die was my grandmother, my dad’s mother. What I knew of her was this: she was paralyzed to a wheelchair due to a stroke when I was 2, her face was round framed by permed dyed black hair, and her voice struck fast and sharp. We weren’t particularly close. Yet the day she died when I was around 12, I felt a strangeness in the air like a whisper.

    I was lying in bed. My eyes closed, willing myself to sleep. But I woke as if a softness had brushed past me. She was dead.

    Then the house phone rang. Quiet hushed voices. A pair of feet pattered downstairs and the garage door opened. A car drove. I knew what my parents would say the following morning.

    Perhaps my mind knew since my grandmother was struggling in the hospital. But that was my first encounter with death. And soon too at the funeral as my sister and I said words on the podium that was likely lost on everyone. “We’ll see you again,” we said.

    There was death that followed. My step-grandmother later. A neighbor my age who died from suicide. A colleague who stopped answering his email. The oral surgeon who I was referred to by my dentist and entered his office with a slip only to be turned away by “he’s dead. he’s not taking any new patients”. My grandfather. A friend who suddenly died from a medical complication when her daughter only an infant. They’ll collect over time, I know.

    Then in my work in design with healthcare. I was struck by the fear that people had with death. Even more so the way that society avoided any talk of death. People will do anything to prevent their own death if they must stare it in its face. But the moment that the face is hard to see, it’s easy to do all the bad habits again. Fear paralyzes us or forces us to action.

    Chris’ adored dog passed away awhile ago. I have this issue where I ask questions about him all the time. Did he like his belly rubbed? What did he do when he met other dogs? Would he attack a bunny? Or just chase playfully? I know the answers to these questions, but it’s because I know it’s part of him. Plus I want to know how it was like to know him. So I ask.

    And yet. My friend’s mother died last summer. I didn’t know much about her until the last few months she was suddenly in our lives, appearing frequently in my friend’s life. I want to ask questions like the way I talk about Chris’ dog. Did she talk to you about sex? Did she ever punish you harshly for something you did? Did she ever say i told you so? But there are moments that I struggle. Where I hesitate and the words filter through my mind. I need to say freely. Death isn’t the end of us. For those who left behind can choose to remember.

    Searching for the word “kill”

    April 24th, 2017

    It all started because I started to wonder about a conversation I had with a friend years ago. “Kill” was the most poignant word related to the topic. Being who I am, I have logs and logs of all my online conversations. Partly to serve as reference, but also to serve as a way to time travel.

    So I searched through the chatlogs for the usage of the word “kill” within a folder of chatlogs. A significant number of results popped up through the Finder search. As I flipped through each file, I became aware of one distinct thing. “Kill” was used almost jokingly like “I would kill for sushi”. Or perhaps in response to a conversation where we whined about something not going right in our lives whether it was fussy manager or a nagging parent. What dawned on me was this: I never used the word “kill”. Perhaps in contrast, I find the word strong and violent (which may say something about my friend). Rather, I just resort to feelings of “I am angry” or “I don’t like it”—statements that aren’t provocative themselves and simply are just inaction. When he did mention “kill”, I jumped to more peaceful statements like “you’re just feeling vengeful now” or “things will get better”.

    Maybe it says nothing about me. That many people are like me. A bit more peaceful. I don’t know if it has anything to do with my gender where I have been shaped by society to embrace agreement and complacency. In my mind, physical violence has never made sense. Because it doesn’t do anything except express anger. It doesn’t resolve the problem. It just provokes it and leads to consequences. Even in the most flippant use of the word.

    This friend though, I realize, embodies the words of violence even if they aren’t physically expressed.

    But what strikes me is how the language that we use is how we express ourselves everyday. When I was young, I decided that cursing was dumb. I could use more elegant language to express frustration or anger. I used a curse word only once in my life when I wanted to make it clear to people in an emotional moment that I was very upset. But since then, I have avoided it, resorting to plain language that perhaps masks my anger constantly or curates the emotions into the world. I wonder though if I have lost something in the process.

    Should I be expressing violence in my everyday language? To suggest action? Maybe it means nothing. But there’s something strange about it, to allow myself to imagine the physical violence that I so disapprove.

    Sit in the silence

    April 20th, 2017

    We sat on the park bench. The wind blew through our hair. For the purposes of the conversation, I tilted eastward so that I could see my companion clearly. As a result though, the wind flung strands of hair in my face. I felt itchy, but I knew that it wasn’t an hour yet and didn’t feel like the value was squeezed enough. So I continued following the conversation, letting it go wherever it will.

    I had the lines of gratitude and see you again ready.

    And then sometimes the conversation would stop. She would say something. Or I would say something. And no need to add more. Because perhaps the energy wasn’t there.

    I could have learned more, but I felt the boundaries or the boundaries were created in my mind. I could have dug deeper, but I was hesitant to jump into that. And yet.

    I sat in the silence. Just letting it drape. Because I could choose to say nothing at all.

    Things I learned from cycling…

    April 10th, 2017

    …well, it’s just cycling. You can’t just apply it to everything in life, expecting life lessons.

    But I think that I had a revelation during the 65+ mile bike ride, the Cinderella Classic that started at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

    I had insisted on going first, afraid that I’ll fall behind. It was always that constant battle. I knew that I would be the slowest, so I wanted to ride off first so that I didn’t fall drastically behind. But I did. Kind of. And still that gap depressed me.

    At first, I had set up an iPod to keep me company. I couldn’t hear that well over the wind (no headphones allowed so it was playing over the speaker) and the metal spinning of the bike. But it died within an hour.

    I would be riding for at least 30 minutes alone. Only my legs powering my pedals. Sometimes other cyclists passing me. The lights changing red, green, yellow. The wind whipped at my face, halting me. And seeing dots disappear into the distance.

    But the rest of my friends stayed for me.

    “We did it,” I declared at the end. “Despite the rain. Despite the headwind.”

    If I believed, if I saw in myself the power, perhaps all of the above wouldn’t matter. Perhaps the pain was only created by my mind.