Underneath my yellow skin

One frayed nerve

I’m hyped to be on my own again. It’s the way life was meant to be lived. And yet….

I’m nervous. I’ll admit it here. My system worked (calling the cops when I felt faint and Ian contacting my brother when he, Ian, hadn’t heard from me the next day). My brother found me and everything marched ahead accordingly. But, there was a healthy element of luck in there that I called 911 before fainting. Had I waited two seconds longer, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make the call.

For a while, my mother was obsessed with figuring out how I got the pneumonia. I’m sure in her mind she was thinking if we could pinpoint what gave me pneumonia, then I could avoid it. As I pointed out to her, however, we could guess until the end of time and not be entirely sure what caused the pneumonia.

I finally had to tell her that she can’t wrap me in bubble wrap for the rest of my life. I was going to die at some point because that’s what we’re all going to do. She got an unhappy look on her face and I knew that she wanted to disagree, but she could not. She did say that we could be careful and not be too risky. Which, yes, it’s true. I pointed out that I don’t do risky things. Before I ended up in the hospital, I was especially careful as we were in a pandemic. Granted, I opened up a little bit after getting both vaxxes, but that meant I went to Cubs twice and went to get lunch to go with my brother.

Yes, my brother had Coronavirus and didn’t tell me until after he’d seen me, but I got tested and did not have it. Plus, I had non-COVID-related pneumonia, so that wasn’t the problem, anyway. I have bronchial issues and have had all my life. I get bronchitis like once a year (though, ironically, not during the pandemic) and it lasts for months at a time.

My mom was really annoying me by suggesting that being out in the cold caused the pneumonia (which I’m sure stemmed from my father as that’s one of his beliefs. He told me he believed that the cold open the pores and made it easier for germs to enter the body. Which, I mean….This is something that has actual science behind it and he has it exactly backwards. Heat opens your pores which is why it’s recommended you take a shower when your nose is plugged or use a Neti pot with hot water. When I told my father this, he got that hateful mulish look on his face and repeated that it was just his belief. Which was wrong. Putting that aside, that’s not how germs work! Sigh.). Even if she were right, I did not take morning walks before I landed in the hospital so that wasn’t how I got pneumonia in the first place. I told her somewhat snarkily that I only started taking a morning walk after I got out of the hospital and I didn’t do anything other than go to the pharmacy once a month before the hospital. In my car.

It’s been frustrating because facts don’t matter at all to my father and to a lesser extent, my mother, either. I know we all have our areas in which we cling to misbeliefs. In my case, however, I will think about the contrary evidence even if I denounce it upfront, and I may later change my mind. But my parents? No. What’s even more frustrating about my mother is that she will ask for advice and then reject it out of hand. I know this. She’s been that way since I was a kid and has only gotten worse the older she gets.

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One week

One week. Barring a positive COVID test, that’s how long I have until I get to return to my bachelor’s life. It’s incredible. At the six weeks to go mark, I was despairing of ever living alone again. Then, I realized it was only five weeks and suddenly felt freer. I don’t know why as it’s only one week less, but five weeks felt doable whereas six weeks seemed insurmountable. Now, it’s one week, and if history is any indication, this is going to be the hardest week to get through.

I don’t know why, but the last part of doing something is always the hardest. I mean, I have my theories, of course. It’s because the finish line is in sight, but out of reach. It’s right there! I can see it so why can’t I be there already? A week is nothing in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, a week is how long I was lying in a hospital bed unconscious. It’s enough to change my life–and to not change it at the same time. Everything is the same and yet completely different because of that week. Or rather, because of the events that led up to that week. Me having pneumonia, calling 911, passing out in the front hallway, and then suffering two cardiac arrests and a stroke on the way to the hospital. That all took half an hour or so to occur, which is such a short period of time.

When I first left the hospital, my recent trauma was all I could think about. Even when I wasn’t focusing on it, it was poking at me in the back of my mind. Why it happened , what exactly happened, was it going to happen again, etc. I talked about it with my medical team and with friends and family. I wanted to know everything that happened while I was out. My brother was good for the basic information as he started a Caring Bridge journal in which he wrote daily of what happened to me. He noted all the things the docs told him and directed everyone to the journal when they had questions about me. He said it allowed him to have a nexus for people to consult rather than to pester him in several outlets. In addition, it helped him order his own thoughts about what was happening and keep everything straight. He’s not one to emote, but I know it was really rough on him. He was my default contact person because I’m not partnered, have no kids, and my parents live in Taiwan. He’s the closest person to me, both geographically and familial-wise. He was the one who made decisions as to what happened to me, which is a burden I would not wish upon anyone.

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A dawning realization

Yesterday, I went to my brother’s for Thanksgiving (along with my parents). I wasn’t planning on going ,but my brother really wanted me to go because he had made too much food. That’s what he told me, but I knew that meant he wanted to see me. I was able to rebuff my mom asking me to go, but this was my brother. He didn’t ask for much and he’s done so much for me in the past few months. I didn’t want to go, but I felt I had to for his sake. Plus, he was making brisket so I knew I would eat well.

I went. It was great. The brisket was fantastic as always. Chatted with his family (including wife, two kids, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law) for a few hours and then came home. My parents really enjoyed themselves as well, so it was all good. Until dinner.

We were having a light dinner later than we normally would. My father had had a paranoia episode before we went to my brother’s and I was wary of a return. There wasn’t one, but the threat of one made me tense. I knew it wouldn’t happen during the Thanksgiving lunch because my father can control it that much so he doesn’t go full-blown paranoid in front of outsiders (which begs the question of if they’re part of the dementia if he can control it).

At one point, my father set down his fork and got that look on his face–the one that meant he was about to say something problematic. Whether in an ‘ism’ realm or some paranoid shit, I couldn’t say. But I was sure it was going to annoy the fuck out of me.

My father: Lunch was so good.

Me: Yep. (Waiting for the other shoe to drop.)

Him: It’s even more impressive because a man cooked it.

Me: …. (quietly adding money to my PP donation as I had decided I’d do when one of my parents annoyed me. PP being Planned Parenthood)

Me: (in a carefully bland voice) Why doe you say that?

My father: Because they don’t have the opportunity to learn. (Pauses, gears in brain churning) Many famous chefs are men, though. (Which he had said earlier at lunch as well.)

Me: Yes, they are. (Thinking, patriarchy!) And it’s not any harder for a man to learn to cook than a  woman.

My father: (Rambling lots of bullshit while I grit my teeth and add money to the donation)

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Trying to get nice and cozy

There are three genres of games that I like. Roguelite-likes, soulslikes, and cozy games. Actually, since coming home from the hospital, I haven’t really played any roguelike. I dipped my toe back into Binding of Isaac: Repentance, but I didn’t enjoy it. That’s a game that I used to play every day for years (Rebirth), but every new iteration has made me play it less and less because it gets harder and harder. And it was plenty hard in the first place.

The soulslike I’m playing right now is, well, Dark Souls. Also Dark Souls III. I just bought Tails of Iron by Odd Bug Studio, which is affectionately known as Rat Souls and is about a rat doing soulslike stuff. But I’m shadowing Ian in Dark Souls and mucking about in the second DLC of DS III, which is enough Souls for me at the moment. Oh! I ventured into Sen’s Fortress in the original game to get the Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring so I can do the Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring/Hidden Body combo for the rest of the game. That makes me nearly impossible to detect by the enemies until I’m standing right in front of them. In order to get Hidden Body, I had to kill the hydra so I could kill the golden golem so I could free Dusk from said golden golem. Then, I summoned her so I could buy Hidden Body from her. Yeah, it’s that complicated. Once I did it, I realized that I could not be summoned by Ian for the Hydra fight. I messaged him to apologize and he thought it was funny I had just unthinkingly killed the Hydra.

As for DS III, I hate this DLC. It’s so incredibly hard and tedious. I know you could say that about all of the FromSoft games, but they always make their DLCs for the hardcore fanbois. And as a squishy caster, it’s never any fun. I played the third game when it first came out, which is not the way I usually play these games. So I could not consult the Wikis as extensively as to how to do things. I clearly remember finally beating the first boss of the second DLC with the aid of the two NPCs. I wearily trudged to the next area (after going to Firelink Shrine, of course). Bat demons took me to the next area and I sat down at the bonfire. I was embered because that’s what you have to do to summon. Someone immediately invaded me, which meant I had to jump off a cliff in order to deprive the invader of the satisfaction. Before I could do that, however, phantom archers arose and arrowed me into oblivion. I actually cried because I was so frazzled at that point.

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What I’m thankful for this year

I don’t do holidays. I did them as a kid and when my niece and nephews were kids, but I’ve never liked them. Holidays, I hasten to clarify, not my niece and nephews. Them, I like a lot. More and more the older they get! They’re really great young adults. But holidays? Being forced to be around people I may or may not spend time with on the regular given my druthers? Nah, son. Not for me. My mother once said to me indignantly that just because something is a tradition, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Which, true. But, I would counter that just because it’s tradition, it doesn’t make it good, either.

This year, my brother is having a Thanksgiving lunch. I am not going because I don’t feel comfortable being around groups yet. If I hadn’t been in the hospital recently, I would consider it. Well, no, I wouldn’t because if I hadn’t gone into the hospital, my viewpoint would be not to do holiday things as it’s been in the past. It’s the hospital that changed my thoughts on many things, including the pandemic. Which is now endemic. It’s here to stay and I’m not letting it rule my life any longer.

So, if I were a year out of being in the hospital, I would consider going to my brother’s for Thanksgiving. This year, though, it’s too close to my hospital stay for me to consider it. I don’t want to get sick again. And while I’ve relaxed on the pandemic, I’m not ready to be around a group of people again.

So. I do feel grateful this year, though. Thankful, if you will. I’ve spent the last few months pondering my life and the fact that I’m still alive. A brief recap: I somehow got pneumonia. Not sure how. I wasn’t going outside much at that time, but I did open it up a crack from my earlier days of self-isolation. I called 9-1-1, opened the front door for the cops, then collapsed in the front hallway. The cops bagged me when they arrived (with oxygen) while waiting for the EMS. During the ambulance ride, I had two cardiac arrests and a stroke. They had to shock my heart twice and applied an Epi pen once.

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The worst of both parents

I talk often about my parents and my difficulties with them; I’ve written countless posts on the topic. What I don’t talk about as often is how I’ve incorporated both the worst and the best of my parents. In this post, I want to focus on the former. Why? Because that’s’ how I roll. And because I’ want to work on myself and not just sit on my laurels.

By the way, I was wondering how much time I would be given before the ‘what are you doing with your future?’ questions started in again from my parents (mostly my mom). It was two months. I was hoping for being freed of that discussion this visit, but I wasn’t. And we’ll probably have another. Add to that the underlying anxiety of me dying plus just general family dysfunction, and, yeah, the next week-and-a-half cannot go fast enough.

I talked yesterday about how family dysfunction is so intricate. It’s hard to focus on one aspect of it because it leads to another aspect. I feel the same here. I can talk about the traits, but then I need to give so much backstory about it. Oh well. That’s how we’re going to do it. My anger. I’m the Hulk when it comes to anger–I’m always angry. I just try to hide it from the world at large. Both my mother and K told me to fight while I was unconscious. They told me I was a fighter and that I needed to fight. I woke up ready to fight someone. I didn’t know who I was fighting, but I was ready.

It was good for my recent experience to be angry, but it’s not good on a regular basis. It’s exhausting and it makes me tense. I feel like I’m on tenterhooks and I’m ready to snap at any moment. Right now, I’m defensive around my mom because I know she’s just looking for reasons to be worried about me being alone. She can’t accept that what happened to me was a freak accident that I couldn’t have predicted. I asked my brain doc if I could have prevented it and he said no. Which was comforting, oddly enough.

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Untangling the webs

It’s hard to talk about family dysfunction for several reasons. One, it’s considered taboo. There is a strong feeling that family is everything in America* and to say anything to the contrary is outre. There was a thread on the weekend post at Ask A Manager from someone who wanted to know how to tell her father that she’d be spending Thanksgiving with her mother’s side of the family. The original poster (OP) made clear that she saw her father regularly as the only sibling who lived near him. It wasn’t as if she’d never see him again. Many people were supportive, but a surprising number of people scolded her and called her selfish (because she said as one point that her mom’s side of the family was more ‘fun’. That wasn’t the only reason she gave, though.) A not-small number of people acted as if she said she was going to shun her father and never talk to him again. It was so bizarre. Her question was how should she talk to her father about it and more than a few people took the opportunity to scold her instead. Even the context of she was the only sibling who was there (because of pandemic) and her father went on a cruise one year instead of stay for the dinner did not dissuade some people.

My own view which I did not express was that fuck holidays. More nuanced than that is in this case, she spent time with her father (which she noted). It wasn’t as if she was going to cut him off completely (which can be merited sometimes). She just wanted to know how to tell her father she wanted to spend Thanksgiving with her mom’s family. But, no, she was selfish for even considering not spending Thanksgiving with her father.

You can probably guess that I’m not a big fan of tradition for the sake of tradition or ‘but faaaaamily!’. My mother once told mem that tradition wasn’t bad. I agree. Tradition isn’t bad in and of itself. But, it’s also not good in and of itself. In other words, question everything. That’s pretty much my motto.

Back to the matter at hand. If I told you I took a morning walk with my parents, you’d probably think, “Oh, that’s nice. What’s the problem?” Because if I’m mentioning it, you know there’s a problem. I’ll get to that in a minute. The way it works is that I walk as fast as I can on the way out. That means I’m way ahead of my parents because I walk much faster than they do. Then, I wait for them and we walk back at a more sedate pace .Fine. Dandy. It’s worked pretty well. Except in the past few weeks, my mother has taken to saying, “Are you cold?” when we meet at the halfway point. One day she said, “I bet you’re cold!” So one day, she asked if I wanted t go for a walk I said yes as long as she didn’t ask if I was cold halfway through. It wasn’t the smoothest way to bring it up, but it wasn’t terrible, either. A bit passive-aggressive, which is the way of our family.

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Dark Souls can still surprise me

I love the Souls games. I’m sure I’ve said that a time or a hundred, but it bears repeating. One thing I love about the games is that no matter how many times I’ve played them, they are still capable of surprising me. For example, I’m shadowing Ian in Dark Souls (my character is doing what his character is doing in case he needs a summon). I just killed the hydra for reasons before realizing that means he can’t summon me for the hydra. Whoops! That’s not what surprised me, though. That was just me playing on autopilot doing what I needed to do before heading down to Blighttown. Ian is sat at the bottom bonfire ready to take on Quelaag. I have the master key and can go in the backway, which I shall. It means I won’t get the best pyromancy in the game (Power Within), but I can get it later.

What did I need to do? Get my pyro flame up to +10 so I can trigger the secret pyro trainer in Blighttown. That meant grinding for 12,000 souls to go from +9 to +10. I also want to do the Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo, which meant killing the hydra to spawn the golden golem, killing it in order to spawn Dusk, then buying Hidden Body from her. What I’m saying is that it’s a lot. I did it, though, and then realized to my horror that I had killed a boss before Ian did.

Anyway, none of that is what surprised me. One, I talked about before. Summoning Lautrec for the Bell Gargs made him disappear from Firelink Shrine. That annoyed me because I hate invading him for Anastacia’s soul (don’t ask) and wanted the Ring of Favor and Protection as soon as possible. Imagine my surprise when I went to FLS after killing the Gaping Dragon and finding Lautrec sitting across from Anastacia again! I summoned him for the Gaping Dragon along with Solaire (same as the Bell Gargs), so is the game saying he chills at the FLS until it’s time for him to murder Anastacia? That would make sense. Some people speculate that he romances the Fire Keepers, then kills them for their souls. For the goddess he serves. Fina, the goddess of fatal beauty. That’s why he’s found locked up in the Undead Parish where there’s the soul of a dead Fire Keeper on the altar. It’s an interesting theory and one I can get behind.

At any rate, I’m pleased I was able to murder Lautrec in FLS and not have to wait until Anor Londo to invade him. I mistimed my kick and had to actually fight him, but that was no thing. Three or four swipes of my Zwei+10 and he was gold dust! I was tempted to do a quick run into New Londo to get the Very Large Ember so I could upgrade my Zwei ever further, but I’m not trying to get TOO large in this run. I don’t think levels matter if you play with a friend with a password, but still. It’s tempting, though. If it were closer to the beginning of New Londo, I’d do it. But it’s a fair bit of a way in so I’m going to wait.

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Open world in real life

Despite my rebellious nature, I tend to follow the rules more often than not. I am not going around being lawless willy and nilly. I mean, I guess you could say my whole life is against the rules to some people. I have not managed to hit one ‘normal’ milestone–and, yes, I’m proud of it Not in the ‘give it to the man’ sort of way, but that I managed to hold firm to my own values despite great pressure from my mom–e,r society. But mostly my mom.

In video games, there is a genre of games called open world games. You can probably guess from the name that the world is, indeed, open–although that can be interpreted differently in different games. Mostly, it means that you can go anywhere you want at any time instead of having to progress down a linear path. The problem with many of them is that in order to fill the world, they add repetitive quests that you just do over and over (such as collect fifteen feathers in each section. Or they make you get things for people, snidely known as fetch quests. Or even worse, you have to escort someone somewhere and they walk at half your speed. Looking at you, Skyrim. I didn’t realize just how annoying that was until I played The Witcher 3 in which the NPCs jog along at a brisk pace.

Side Note: I cannot wait to play Elden Ring which is basically an open world Dark Souls IV. I will admit trepidation about it being open world, though, because the many dungeons dotted around the world have been described as this game’s version of Chalice Dungeons. Which I hated. Absolutely hated. Someone in the RKG posted that in his opinion (because of course it was a him), you hadn’t really beaten Bloodborne if you didn’t do the Chalice Dungeons. Which, I mean….I hate gatekeeping in general. Saying someone isn’t a true such-and-such fan if they don’t do x, y, or z annoys the fuck out of me. In this case, the Chalice Dungeons are mostly for grinding. Yes, there is at least one unique boss in them (can’t remember if there are more), but it’s still mostly for grinding. I tried to do them, but I just found them confusing and boring. One thing I like about FromSoftt games is how different each area is. All. The. Chalice. Dungeons. Are. The. Same. I got hopelessly lost in them and I gave up after doing…I don’t even remember which dungeon. My favorite outfit is in the dungeons, but fortunately, early on. (Bone Ash Set.)

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A life plan

On Twitter, I started a thread about how I make one major decision a decade. In my twenties, it was that I didn’t want children. Still the best decision I’ve made in my life, by the way. In my thirties, it was that I didn’t want to get married. And, yes, I make decisions about what I don’t want rather than what I do want. It’s how I roll. What was my decision for my forties? That I didn’t  want to be in a monogamous romantic relationship.

I am now fifty and before I ended up in the hospital, I was pondering my gender identity and whether I wanted to try dating. Yeah, during a pandemic, I was thinking about dating. Maybe because of the pandemic? At any rate, I was thinking about whether I just wanted Netflix and chill (without the Netflix) or to actually date. As for the gender identity, I have never really clicked with being called a woman, but accepted it by default (as with so many things). My question is, do I not feel like a woman because of all the times I’ve been told I wasn’t a woman or because I felt like something else? In other words, was it a positive (going towards something) or negative (going against something) decision? I had a hunch it was the latter rather than the former because I don’t feel like a man or anything else. I don’t feel like any gender, honestly. I connect more with woman because of shared experiences that female-shaped people have, but I don’t feel like I’m a woman, whatever that means.

Side Note: To clarify the negative/positive thing, I don’t feel like a woman, but I don’t feel like any other gender , either. So I’m apathetic about gender as I am about much of other labels. I accept bi, reluctantly, because it’s the least-wince-worthy one to me, but I don’t like it or really feel it describes me. I feel the same limitation with gender pronouns and would simply prefer just to go by my name.

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