Category Archives: reflection

While I was gone this summer…

Hello, World.

It’s truly refreshing to blog again after a few months’ hiatus. It has been too long, but now that I am settled back into internet life with working wifi, it is time to get typing.

Here’s a list of things that happened this summer:

1. Worked at Camp Ramapo

2. Moved houses (again)

3. New laptop (Mac, finally)

4. Got accepted to a study abroad program (China in February of next year!)

5. Realize the importance of community

I’m still working through many emotions – I have to type out my feelings or I will go insane.

After working at a summer camp for kids with Behavioral disorders and on the Autism spectrum, I feel as if I have gained the confidence to communicate with people and expect a degree of respect and appropriate behavior from them. Before I launch into the anecdotes of valuable lessons learned from working as a camp counselor at a special needs camp, I have to own up to something I have been experiencing, long since I was a child.

This summer has taught me to raise my voice because it is valuable and worthy, and so many people – children and adults have worked together to create a loving community together at the camp where I was lucky enough to be a counselor.

It’s time to say it. I am a survivor of emotional abuse.

I didn’t realize how to identify what I was going through when I was a child because I had always felt this pervasive emotion of “otherness” tied to my culture, tied to my immigration status, tied to my sexual orientation.

I always knew I was different, but due to expectations of my culture and people I talked to growing up, I attributed what was going on at home to my own personal inadequacies and carried a huge sense of guilt and shame.

The only types of abuse I was familiar with learning about were physical and sexual; in being unable to identify with the stories of abuse I learned about, I could not name what I was going through.

The culture I grew up in emphasizes respect of one’s elders and love for one’s family above all else. Chinese culture is also patriarchal, so sexism exists and extends into certain families. Since Classical times up until the Cultural Revolution (which Communism in theory taught equality of the sexes) and modern times, boys have been valued more than girls in families.

Of course it’s important to note that every family is individual despite sharing a culture, but I am writing from my own experiences and interactions with other Chinese families in my community.

My family had a hierarchy where my younger brother was at the top and no matter what I did, I would always be at the bottom. I was told over and over that I was “stupid”, “ugly” and “fat” at a young age until I graduated high school. I was humiliated by my father’s reading my journals in elementary school and taunting me with my words, then asking about certain events in rage. He was emotionally manipulative – one instance would involve him speaking to me kindly, then in the next hour he would hurl verbal abuses and throw water in my face.

There were no conversations – if I tried to argue, screaming would take place and in the end, my father would always be right despite my attempts at reasoning. There was no reasoning with my father – though his relationships with my mother and brother were different, he would still act similarly with them; he would swing from kind to angry and vindictive multiple times the same day. He didn’t humiliate them to the same extent that I was, but he would still use verbal abuses and yell while focusing on one of our mistakes i.e. forgetting to lock the front door for a longer time than it deserved.

On the surface; at church, at social gatherings, it seemed like my family was tight-knit. Many parents complimented how blessed my family was to have a son and daughter: a sign of prosperity and fortune in Chinese culture. My parents made sure to parade me and my brother at potlucks and dinners at friends’ houses, praising us for our accomplishments to any parent that would listen, even arguing over which child would be more successful in parents’ discussions of their children.

At home, I lived in fear and felt powerless to do anything. I dreamed of running away but was put off by the rage I would face from my father if I did. I dissociated often and started to cut my wrists when I was in middle school. I became depressed and stopped eating regularly at 14 and constantly thought of new ways to end my life. I never attempted to end my life because I was too fearful to. I used to attribute that to my sense of personal failure, but now I am grateful I never attempted to take my life.

Although I feel that I have made some progress – I have come to realize that I am worthy and deserving of love and kindness and have a supportive community at school and work, “home” can never be the home my friends return to. I have created distance between myself and my father, and am never at “home” for too long. Home is not a place where I feel safe emotionally. In fact, it never was. I dream of the day I will live alone, away from my family.

I hope that naming my negative experience will lead me to the long process of healing.

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It’s one of those [I hate the world] days

I’m sitting in the bathtub and eventually when the water is high enough, I lie down in the water with my feet towards the drain, Frida-esque.

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[What the water gave me – 1938 Frida Kahlo]

Perhaps Frida managed to see all that in the water a.k.a her life in the water. I, however, part simpleton and part drained from a long day saw this:

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[What Frida Taught me – Heather Horton]

But with shorter, fatter thighs and calves plus wide feet. Don’t hate because I actually don’t mind that part of my body. I’m completely okay with it and have been this way since maybe birth. That’s water for you. Or maybe life.

I don’t see anything and perhaps things are looking rather bleak and colorless. But then, that’s just quite literally what I see.

Suite No. 5 in C Minor by Bach about sums up how I feel. It’s a wistful song on the cello that goes up and down the minor scales with the melody soaring up a bit before it dips down into low notes.

I let the water down the drain and saw my body sort of sink into the bottom of the tub as I continue to lay until all the water drained. I guess I have more to think about death than life, and right now isn’t the happiest of times in my life but isn’t the worst.

By many standards, I should be very satisfied. To start with, that my college bathroom has a bathtub, for goodness’ sake. Fancy schmancy private school with a killer tuition my folks are paying for with no complaints though it costs the price of an extremely nice car to attend yearly (though I’m on financial aid) and by the time I graduate, my folks could have had four extremely nice cars. The only condition they put is that I do well in my studies and remind me to be healthy every now and then. My body has been weak since last year when I started my first year; I’ve caught just about everything going round and been working many jobs plus getting more and more work from unrelenting Professors.

People have been reminding me to take care of myself, though and last Spring since my depression set in again, I haven’t been the most conscientious of my health. A friend of mine passed away a bit more than a month ago, so now isn’t my best time exactly. But life goes on and I know how precious life and people are. I don’t need a bathtub to tell me that.

When the water drains with my body lying still in the tub, I’m thinking about how precious life is and how everything can pass away right before your eyes at an age as young as 17 – the age of my friend who had yet to experience going to college, a romantic relationship, get his first job, get married to the man he would fall in love with (now that prop 8 is overturned again) and grow old. I always was told how precious life was but never knew for myself until I experienced loss. 

That’s what the bathtub gave me today.


Burning Incense

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At midnight, my dreams drift back to the room I burnt my first incense stick in, my own box of incense I purchased from a store heady with fragrances of various places, each scent as  idiosyncratically beautiful as its place of origin

I touch the flame of lighter to tip of cone. The flame dances red, gleams before it extinguishes. Coils of smoke wind into cobwebs made of ancient, pungent smoke trails. My bedroom is covered in webs of smoke.

Regret lingers like the smell of musk from freshly burned incense.

Perhaps, time will have mercy

And restore the stick,

Tracing it back to its first lighting, when it first started to release tendrils of scent.

Perhaps, time will have mercy and go back to that moment of anticipation, hope stored up in those thin shells of fragrance.

But it’s not possible; I burned up my box of incense yesterday.

In my dreams, I reach for the last incense stick in the final box, feeling like the little-match orphan in a room frosted over by nightmares in a blindingly cold white hospital room.

The burning incense stick is my life, the flame is white-hot pain inching its way down under my skin,

Reducing my body to the cinders left on the porcelain bed below.

Smoke rises past my eyes above the ashy shell of the collapsing stick. I burned up my box of incense yesterday but your body is in the hospital room in my place.

I burn incense for your life, extinguished on a bed of porcelain and weep silently into my pillow.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/prompt-guilty/

This poem is written in response to the daily prompt. It is a Chinese custom to burn incense to honor the deceased, and that was going through my mind after I burned incense one day. The poem is also related to a painful experience I had in a hospital room and tied to the recent death of a friend, as well as guilt I have after the event.


Hurting and Grieving

I can’t do anything right. I open a bag of pretzels and eat a few, then I can’t finish the bag. I open my journal and write a few lines but I can’t fill the rest of the page. I open my make-up bag and pick up and eyeliner but as soon as I attempt to apply it, I’m unable to do so. Other people might assume I’m distracted, but I am merely consumed with one thing, and it is grief.

It is raw grief, since I found out about my friend’s death a month ago. The grief in itself is debilitating; I can’t focus or go through my daily routines without messing something up.

I suppose I also feel guilt to some degree. I wonder why I feel happy sometimes and why it was my friend that passed away instead of anyone else. I wonder why he took his own life. I struggle with feeling like I haven’t done enough, that somehow, miraculously, I could have prevented his death by a phone-call from the other side of the US coast or told him about my own struggles with mean-spirited people in elementary school and high school. Hindsight isn’t helping, I know. It just serves a vicious cycle of guilt which feeds the grief monster.

There’s an awful cliche that goes something like this: Time heals everything.

The mourning process has just begun for me and honestly, there are days that I feel like I can’t function at all. I know the impact of the pain will gradually become less astute to a degree, but the loss will probably always hurt. And maybe it hurts because it is evidence of how much we love the ones who have gone out of our lives suddenly, abruptly.

I couldn’t sleep last night and  I thought that I would reread articles to help me gain closure. Wrong. At this point, everything is personal and the emotions are a roller coaster of grief, guilt, anger, darkness (yeah I know the last one isn’t an emotion but it might as well be). I braced myself by taking a few breaths then read the articles and became angry because some idiot reporter got the details wrong about my friend’s age and exactly how many family members he had. The articles were also maddeningly objective, and included the comments of school authorities that seemed like they wanted to take the blame off of themselves for any cases of bullying or students whose mental and emotional health they might have overlooked.

Here’s a blog post which about sums up my feelings towards the news reporting on my friend’s death, from a great resource for those of you grieving out there, by the way.

http://www.refugeingrief.com/2013/12/have-you-been-the-news-when-death-becomes-everybodys-business/#more-1137

I guess I’ll go back to trying to finish those pretzels now. Army of Me by Bjork is playing on my iPhone. Right on cue.


Letting Chances Slip

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多少悬在半空中 Duoshaoxuanzaibankongzhong Suspense in midair (my translation of the title)  by Li Guijun

Do you ever feel trapped?

Are you afraid of what could happen, what happens next?

Like there’s a perfect moment where something can happen but you’re too afraid of what could go wrong?

There are honestly so many possibilities…Where do we go from here? 

If I have learned anything at all from relationships with friends, family and romantic relationships, it’s that fear gets in the way of things that might have otherwise been truly magnificent. Or truly ugly.

Fear is good, sometimes. It teaches us to be cautious, and we should be cautious when we only have one life to live (unless you believe in rebirth or an afterlife) and one of our actions can cause another, so on and so forth, a chain reaction to occur.

So just to clarify, caution is good but so is risk. The good kind. Despite the consequences. I’m afraid to fail, I’m afraid to get hurt, I’m so afraid that I will regret my decisions. This is in a similar vein to my post on listening, however instead of saying what I need to say, doing what I need to do.

Big breath. Cue the drumroll. Here’s a confession, y’all. There is someone I’m interested in, and there was a perfect moment that I missed, that I should have seized. It’s a she, by the way. Yes, I’m bisexual, ask me about it later. Onto the rest of the story. There’s a fine balance between friends and lovers and well I’ll admit that I might be interested in love. I tried to shrug off my feelings the first time we had a conversation but they only grew stronger as this friend and I got to know each other better. Before I do anything that involves feelings, though, there are some things I have to know. (I don’t know whether anything will come out of this post (haha pun), depending on the answers to questions I have (Dare I say I’m a hopeless romantic?) but here’s a simple outline of steps I and you, dear reader, can take.

As a queer lady who has fallen for straight ladies too many times, I have had my share of misfortune so here’s a quick (but by no means easy) guide!

Step 1: Find out if she’s also into ladies or not. So there’s this challenge. The other ones come later, but I’ll list them anyway in case I have any luck (don’t count on it just yet).

Step 2: Find out if she’s into you, because unrequited love hurts.

Step 3: It’s all on you, baby. Aka make a move.

I hate how I just outlined my prerogatives in steps, as if this is some wacky step-by-step guide to dating girls, but those are the important things one should know before getting into a relationship. Step 1 doesn’t have to be so black and white if the person happens to return my feelings but perhaps I am the first girl she’s interested in. I don’t mind being the first girl she potentially likes, since she might be questioning and I respect that. She might prefer not to put a label on her sexuality at all. I’m cool with anything as long as there is mutual respect.

Oh, and  this is just my personal opinion. This blog is kind of like my virtual journal. Obviously I don’t intend to speak for all bisexuals out there.  Y’all are awesome by the way. Haters gonna hate.

Well, cliffhanger. I’ll update once anything happens, however, moral of the story: Sometimes fear is good but the consequences of taking risks aren’t always bad. Now get out there and do what you need to do. I kind of need to sleep, so that’s what I’ll do now. Goodnight.


Listening

Listening

I guess I’m good at listening, if anything. You see, I’m an introvert and when I am having a conversation with someone most of the time, I will be the one hearing, nodding, absorbing. Sometimes I feel like a sponge. Sometimes I pretend to listen, and I’m pretty good at pulling it off until someone notices that I might be zoning off (not very often, I’m sort of a con-artist at this) and asks me what I think about what they just said.

What do I think?

That’s a question that isn’t directed to me very often, excluding my College colloquiums where the class is small enough that I can’t hide my presence or hide myself in my silence. I used silence in the past because it has been a tool for people to pay attention to me that something was wrong. Although it sounds like a plan that would backfire, my parents noticed, and they were not very receptive to that silence. I was also going through a hard time in school back then, and things are better now thanks for asking.

I think one of the worst things is to have someone ask you why you’re so quiet when 1. the person asking might not know what you’re going through at the time (and trust me, everyone has **** they’d rather not talk about) 2. if the person is hostile, they are (again) being inconsiderate of what you are going through or if you’d just rather not say anything at all. Nobody should be forced to do something they are uncomfortable with (unless it is an ethics issue or alas, homework or work related things). We should all be respected.

There is a time for everything, a time to be silent, a time to speak [Ecclesiastes 3:7]. Be silent when you need to be, and speak when you have to. I used writing as a way to help me get through my hard times in high school and I still use it to help me heal and cope with grief and loss. I also enjoy talking to friends and sometimes family because sometimes I have to analyze things in my life – that helps me heal, and it is healthy to get your emotions out there, even if it is a quiet way like drawing, writing, photography, meditation, self-reflection. Quiet is not synonymous with indifference (okay depends on context) and it is not always a bad thing. Let me mention that I do not enjoy small talk and prefer intellectual conversations. Great person to chat up at the bar, I know.

Sarcasm aside, I was listening to John Mayer’s Say what you need to Say the other day, and thought about how true it can be. The silence does not protect you, in the words of poet Audre Lorde. I have to disagree here because some things are better left unsaid, such as anything racist, homophobic or sexist but the people who are unfortunate enough to encounter anything such as the just-mentioned (pretty uncomfortable situation and yes, I have been a bystander if you’re wondering) should say something. The silence indeed will not protect you if you are wounded by anything or anyone. The hurt remains, and yes, I am saying this out of having experienced that hurt. There are also multiple ways to use “quiet” activities to help you heal, such as writing, etc. (see the previous list of things I mentioned).

There is a time for everything, a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7) 

I hope you and I find the right time to be silent and speak when we need to.


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