Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Musings

The Art of Peace

“It was so much nicer this time. When you smile, you’re much….cuter? Is that the word?”

My father to me on the phone yesterday about why his trip home was more pleasant this time around. I started laughing as did my mother. I was talking to him through LINE, which mean she could hear him as well. He said, “Is that not the right word? Attractive? Is that better?”

By now, I’m flat-out laughing, but I tell him ┬áI know what he means. He keeps pursing it, and my mom says the Taiwanese equivalent–kuh-ai. I say, “Yes, cuter, but that’s not exactly the right word.” I kept telling him I understood what he meant, and more importantly, I didn’t get pissed as I would have a few years ago or even last year, even though what he was trying to say is a literal meme about one of the most condescending things you can say to a woman.

Last year, I would have lashed out and told him angrily how condescending he was being, blah, blah, blah. He would not have understood what I was saying at all, and it would have gotten ugly. I would have felt pissed off and insulted, whereas he would have felt confused and affronted. It would have gotten uglier and uglier until one or both of us exploded in anger. We both have terrible tempers and are very bristly, so we’re like oil and water.

Or we were, anyway.

I marvel at how effortless it was to keep my temper most of the time during this visit. The thing is, I’ve changed. He has as well, though he’s still more himself. One of my father’s biggest flaws is that he cannot imagine someone else not feeling the same way he does, but for whatever reason, I didn’t take it personally this time. I was able to see that’s just him. His narcissism. His prickly skin. His shaky sense of self and pride.

The thing is, I didn’t have any plan. I mean, I told myself to be chill about it, but I’ve told myself that in the past and failed miserably. He would say something incendiary, and I would explode without even thinking about it. This time, he could say the same thing, and it didn’t push my buttons. I was able to not react to the words and see the intent instead. I was also able to remember his limitations and firmly delineate his issues from my issues.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I credit taiji for the ability to deal more effectively with my father. It’s given me a sense of self that I didn’t have before, and, more importantly, it’s taught me how to relax.

I will admit there are still a few things that have made me snap or that have me on edge. One has to do with my mother. I’ve said before how she has a habit of narrating events from her life as if she’s Morgan Freeman. It’s fucking annoying especially if I’m trying to do something else. Another is her laser-like focus on my father’s ailments. It’s a tricky line because he’s failing in many ways, so it’s understandable that she’s concerned. However, she focuses almost all her energy on him, and I think it’s one way for her to not have to look at how lopsided their relationship is.


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Acting Like an Adult For Once

mantra mantra mantra
Going to my happy place.

It’s hard to see progress sometimes because it’s not something that happens in huge leaps and bounds (usually). It’s slow and incremental, and it takes a lot of time to accumulate into something tangible. It’s the same with anything that increases over time, and it’s only easy to see in retrospect if you live with it every day. I’ve talked about this before, and I have a great anti-example. I only see my parents once a year at the most, and it’s easy to see how they’ve aged from year to year with such a gap in between. However, when I dare look in the mirror, which is probably once a month or so, I’m astounded anew at how old I am because I feel like a twenty year old inside. I know that’s trite, but it’s true. How the hell did I become this middle-aged woman staring back at me? I look at my age spots, wrinkles, and faded skin, and I wonder where the time has gone. But, since I live with myself, I don’t notice it on a daily basis.

I’ve written about my fraught relationship with my parents, and I’ve also written about how it’s improved in the last few years. I really noticed it when my parents and I sat down to have a talk about my future last night, something I was dreading. It happens every year, and it usually ends in recriminations and tears. There’s shouting and hurt feelings on both sides, and it twists my insides for weeks. This time, my mom informed me the night before that my father and she wanted to have the talk before my father went back to Taiwan, and I was expecting it to go much the same.

I resolved just to nod my head and agree with whatever they said in order to make it go more smoothly. There was no point in arguing, and it wouldn’t be an affront to my core just to say whatever to get it over. The problem is, my parents know how to push my buttons. Of course they do because they’re the ones who installed them. My father, especially. He makes baseless assumptions about me, well, his basis is, “I feel this way, therefore you must, too.” He even brought up the classic fight we used to have throughout my childhood, something we’ve argued about since.

I used to wash my hair in the morning, and then go outside with wet hair. He would say, “Put on a coat; I feel cold”, and it still bothers him that I would refuse. He said I said it was because he didn’t ask nicely, but that wasn’t all of it. I wasn’t cold, so why should I put on a coat? He said he felt cold for me, and I retorted that he could put on two coats and feel warmer. I added that I was right in that I had hyperthyroidism when I was a child, which meant I was never cold. I’m hypothyroid now, but I still rarely get cold–though my threshold isn’t the same as it was when I was younger. Anyway, to him, it’s an example of how I was a recalcitrant youngster not minding my elder. To me, it’s an example of how he’s a narcissist and can’t imagine someone feels differently than he does.

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Not ALL Opinions Need to Be Voiced

and fire. all the fire!
I still love my lotus blossom. Deal.

I love the internet as most of my longtime readers know. I’m a heavy user, and the amount of information you can find is breathtaking. The downside is that the amount of opinionated and baseless bullshit is also breathtaking. I know I’ve ranted about this before, but I ran across a thinkpiece in The Federalist (I know, I know) that made me roll my eyes so hard, I’m still searching for them somewhere behind my couch. It was a million-word piece about how tattoos are going to be the downfall of America because reasons!

Full disclosure: I have four tattoos. No, I don’t regret getting them. No, I don’t care what they’ll look like when I’m old and droopy. No, it wasn’t a phase, a youthful rebellion, or me trying to be trendy. No, I’m not worried that they’re on my body forever–that’s kind of the point. I got my tats before it was a cool thing to do, so, yeah, I’m a hipster tatted up gal. I was doing it before some of y’all were even born! Get off my lawn, too. Also.

Fuller disclosure: I think this falls under the category of, “If you don’t like them, don’t fucking get one.” No one is forcing you to get a tat (and if they are, you need to think about your life choices as to who you allow in your life), so you can live your life gloriously tattoo-free if you want. YOU DO YOU! Go on with your unadorned self! Be proud of your mark-free skin! No one is stopping you from being great without a tattoo, are they?

Back to The Federalist masturbatory piece. The dude is roughly my age (40) which puts him firmly in wagging his finger at the youngins range. Here’s the thing, though. I skimmed his whole piece (and it went on for fucking ever), and I couldn’t get a coherent reason why he thought tattoos were the Worst Thing On Earth. One of his points is that we have no culture reason for them, unlike, say the Polynesians. He even made a stupid joke about big Polynesian men please not beating him up for dissing on tats. He says it’s fine to get a tattoo if it has meaning to you, but he’s not down with random tats, and you need to know about it.

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I Hate Change

I hate change.

I don’t think I can overstate how resistant I am to change, and, yes, I know it’s not a good trait.

I’m a creature of habit, and living alone, I can usually do what I want when I want where I want. All of this has been thrown out the window by having my parents here. I get up a few hours after they do, and by the time I’m up, they have a list of things a mile long they want to talk to me about. As I’ve said before, I’m barely coherent before my first swig of Coke Zero, and my brain refuses to comprehend what is being jabbered at it in the wee hours of the morning*.

Yesterday, Saturday, I was so discombobulated, I checked my social media without even thinking about it. One of the reasons I set myself a rigorous schedule is because it helps me cope with the vagaries of life. I only looked at my mentions and my notifications, and once I realized what I was doing, I stopped. I didn’t check the rest of the day, but I felt bad about it, anyway. I’ve been doing it long enough that it should be a habit by now, but because everything else is topsy-turvy, I slipped back to my old habits.

It’s hard to watch your parents decline mentally and physically. It’s even harder when I only see them once a year at the most so the changes are stark. My mom is holding up pretty well because she takes really good care of herself, but my father is going downhill fast. He’s been having a lot of physical problems, and worse, he doesn’t do what he should to rectify them. It’s difficult to be completely sympathetic because he’s been a hypochondriac all his life. He sees doctors constantly, and there’s always something wrong with him. When we went to the doctor this time, he had a litany of complaints. The doctor was great, but he also said, “You are in good physical shape for your age.” In other words, the litany of complaints are quality of life questions rather than actual crises.

It’s not to say there aren’t actual problems and that he’s not in actual pain. I’m sure he is. However, it’s hard to know how much of it is real and how much is exaggeration.

Anyway, my parents have a rhythm they’ve perfected over the years, and as dysfunctional as it is, it works for them. To an outsider, it looks bizarre–and it is–but if they’re both happy in it, there’s not much anyone can do about it. My mom isn’t as happy as she pretends to be, but that’s not the point of this post.

My childhood was chaos littered with unreliable narrators. I never knew what was real and what wasn’t, and as a result, I have an excruciating need for the truth. Not only do I need the truth, I need to verify it five or six times before I’ll ultimately accept it. It’s also why I need my routines. It’s part of my OCD traits, and it’s comforting to me to know I’m going to do the same things in the same order until the end of time.


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Patience, Grasshopper

I forgot I was taking Wednesday off social media and immediately checked my mentions and notifications when I woke up. When I remembered, I stopped. I hadn’t looked at my FB feed or Twitter TL, and I don’t plan on doing that today. I feel bad about it, but in my defense, I’m discombobulated by my parents’ visit.

Speaking of which, one of my biggest pet peeves is being talked at the second I wake up. This is an ongoing issue with my parents. They’ve been up for hours (usually) by the time I get up, and they have a list of things they NEED to discuss with me the SECOND I wake up. As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my favorite things about living alone is that I don’t actually have to talk to people most of the time. I work at home, so I don’t have coworkers, either. I don’t sleep well, either, so I’m usually groggy when I wake up. I feed Shadow his breakfast (which he didn’t care for this morning. Probably because it’s a day old and had been in the fridge. This is a new pet peeve of his); I smoke half a cigarette; I do my taiji routine. After that, I start on my big vat of Coke Zero (sob, we didn’t have enough time together), and I slowly start feeling like a human being.

After an hour or so, I can do any communications I need to do as long as they’re electronic. To actually talk to people in real life, I need at least two hours of silence. I’m not saying this is a good thing, nor am I saying it’s optimal. I realize I’m privileged because I can set this schedule for myself on a regular basis. That said, I hate having questions pelted at me the second I walk in the vicinity of my parents. Not only haven’t I had the time to wake up yet, my brain isn’t yet functioning. It’s yawning and grumbling and slowly stretching its metaphorical arms.

I’ve given up coffee for several reasons, one being that as I get older, it’s harder on my stomach. The downside is that I don’t get the boost drinking coffee gives you. I love my Coke Zero (noooooo don’t gooooooooooo), but it’s just not the same. I’m sure there’s nearly an equivalent amount of caffeine, but it doesn’t kick in the same way. I want a punch to the gut, which coffee delivers. Coke Zero (why, Coca-Cola, why???) is more like an ivy drip with its steady stream of caffeine.


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The Frustration of Art

I remember fondly my twenties for one reason: I wrote as if the world wasn’t watching, and I was damn good. I reread some of the things I wrote back then with amazement. My writing was fresh and alive, and the words just popped on the page. I’m talking specifically about my fiction because I didn’t start blogging until later, but it remains true for the first few years I blogged. I was good, damn it, and it actually saddens me to read my old works because I feel as if I’ve lost a step or seven in the passing years. Why? I have a few reasons. Let’s tackle fiction first.

One reason I started writing fiction was because of my frustration at not seeing stories that resonated with me as a Taiwanese American bisexual woman. Even now with literature being more diverse than it was twenty years ago, finding those specific parameters aren’t easy. Taiwanese is a subset of Asian, and we’re not talked about very much. Hell, most people only know that we’re great at producing electronic goods. We used to be known for manufacturing cheap goods as well, but that’s slowly gone away.

Most Americans don’t know or care about the fraught history of Taiwan concerning its relationship with China, which is frustrating, but understandable. It has no affect on Americans, so why should they care? It’s not something I write about much, but it definitely influences my writing. In fact, I think I may inject more of it into my writing, come to think of it. Anyway, I don’t have a problem with making my protagonists Asian, specifically Taiwanese. Or women. Or bisexual. The problem is that I’ve been writing the same variance of a story for many years, and it’s becoming stale to me. I’ve reread some of the more recent fiction works I’ve written, and while they’re still good, they’re not singing to me.

To clarify, I can read something I’ve written and recognize that it’s a solid piece of work that might interest a reader who’s never read anything of mine. To me, however, it’s old hat. In addition, I like to put in black cats because I’m a huge black cat lover, and I want to mention my passion for taiji as well. Again, these aren’t problems in and of themselves, but I feel as if I’m in a rut. In addition, my fiction writing has gotten more prosaic, and I’m not entirely pleased with it. I recently wrote a sequel to a mystery I wrote sixteen years ago, trying to recapture the feeling of the original, and I just didn’t feel I did it justice. The protagonist is one of my favorites in a large part because she has no fucks to give, and she’s mostly amoral. That’s not fair to her, really. She has a moral code; it’s just different than most people’s. God, I love her so much. I really wanted to bring her back, but I’m a different person than I was when I first wrote her, and she’s different now, too.

I feel as if I’m restricting myself too much in my fiction by making my protagonists like me every time. I’m trying to mix it up, but I really want to see someone like me in fiction. I think the problem is that I need to get that novel published before I can move on. I’m not good at the business end of art, which is something I’m realizing in my blogging as well. I have this vague idea that I can self-publish, but if I want to go that route, I’ll have to do more of the business shit myself. That’s not something I’m interested in at all, but I could learn if I choose to.


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It’s the Little Things

It’s late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, and I’m loving this social media-free Saturday thing. I had a bit of a conundrum, though, because a friend of mine was going to be attending a difficult event, and I remembered a few hours ago that I told her to tweet through it. I checked my mentions, and she had tweeted me (and a mutual friend). I wanted to be supportive, so I checked her tweets and answered one of them. I didn’t look at my other mentions or my TL, and I feel like that’s a good compromise.

I also realized that the air conditioner had been running for the past few hours. I checked, and my thermometer said it was 79. That wasn’t right because I had bumped the set point to 76, which means the temperature should have been less than that. I felt the air coming out of the vent, and it was cool, but not cold. Damn it. The air conditioner had shut off. I didn’t want to go out, but I was sweating bullets. I hate the heat as I’ve mentioned several times before, and I knew it would only take one push of a button to reset the air conditioner.

“It’s dark out, and I don’t want to,” I said to myself grumpily. I also didn’t want to sweat bullets all night long, either, and if I didn’t do it, no one else would. I grabbed my phone to set my flashlight, then went to the side of the house. There were bugs everywhere, and I tried not to think about the new bites I’d be accruing. I’m covered in bites, which is another reason I fucking hate summer. I pushed the button and went back in, and then I waited to see what would happen.

I know it’s a little thing, but it felt like a mountain to climb before I made myself do it. I’ve been in a funk lately, and I’m struggling to get out of it. I’ve written before about the difference between internal depression and external depression, and this is definitely external. I acknowledge that I have no reason to be depressed, and I don’t know what’s causing it, but it’s still there. I don’t want to kill myself, but I do have intrusive thoughts such as, “No one cares about me”, “What is the point of life?”, and, “I’m tired of being alive.”

Everything takes extra effort. I went to taiji class last night at the other studio for the first time in months, and I almost talked myself out of going. I’ve realized that I hate driving at night now, ever since my accident, even more than I did before. Let me rephrase: I hate driving on the freeway at night. Even if it’s not dark, I just get tense in a way that I don’t while driving during the day. It doesn’t help that there’s no air at the other studio, which is not fun, believe you me.

My stomach is hurting, and I think it’s the honey dew melon this time. I’m discouraged because after I gave up gluten and dairy, my digestive problems cleared right up.


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The Art of Note-taking

taking all the notes.
Back to school!

First of all, I’d like to report that social media-free Saturday has become normal for me, and I’ve noticed that I’m much less stressed when I’m not constantly scanning my social media outlets. I did see the notifications on my phone, and I did have to fight the ┬áimpulse to check my friend’s posts on FB, but other than that, I didn’t even think about it. Today (Sunday), I woke up and after my morning routine, I answered my notifications. I quickly scrolled for news, and the biggest news in that the new Doctor Who is Jodie Whittaker, a woman! I stopped watching during the Smith years because I hated what Moffat did to Smith and River Song. In addition, I couldn’t stand Clara to the point of cringing every time she was on screen, and I haven’t seen a single Capaldi episode. However, the news that the new Doctor is female and that Moffat is gone might be enough to push me back into watching. I’ll probably give the new series at least one episode.

I was a pretty good note-taker when I was in school. I learned over time what I needed to write in order to remember the rest of what the teacher said. It got a bit hairy when I used to have fugue episodes* for an entire semester during my sophomore year, and I’d come back to myself with pages full of scribbles. Other than that, though, I had it down to a near science.

Fast-forward to taiji classes. My teacher has suggested throughout the eight years I’ve been practicing that I take notes. I’ve resisted for the first several of those years because I write every day (type rather than write, but same thing), and I didn’t want to make it a chore. However, she’s been more direct about in the last year, saying I should take notes (not just me, but her students in general), and it’s not like her to give a direct order, so I took her seriously. I started carrying a notebook with me in my purse, and I would scrawl down whatever I thought was important.

By the way, another reason I love my computer is that I have terrible handwriting. If I’m writing quickly, I can barely make out what I’ve written. I considered getting a tablet just so I could take notes efficiently in class, but in the end, I opted for good old-fashioned notebook and pen.

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Third Saturday Social-Media Free

So, this is the third Saturday I’ve been social-media free. I managed to remember it this week and didn’t even peek in the morning when I woke up. I had to check something from one of the people I follow on Twitter, and I managed to do it without looking at my TL itself. It’s a weird feeling of being simultaneously disconnected and in tune. Disconnected from social media and the world at large, but in tune with myself. Which is not necessarily a good thing. I may try extending the blackout through tomorrow if it continues to go this well.

My teeth are hurting. They have been on and off for the past few months. At first, I thought it was a sinus problem, but now I’m not so sure. I know I grind my teeth, and I used to have a mouth guard that was made specifically for me. I bit my way through it though, and it’s not cheap. Anyway, when I eat hot or cold food, my teeth hurt like hell for several minutes. They dully ache at other times. I know I need to see the dentist, but I’ve been dragging my heels on it. I hate going to the dentist for several reasons, not the least because I haven’t gone in a few years, and I’m embarrassed about it. My dentist is really good, though, and I like the dental hygienists, too.

I also should go to the doctor to get my thyroid meds checked again, along with what food sensitivities I might have. I already know I’m lactose-intolerant and have a sensitivity to gluten, but I’m starting to realize that there are other things that affect my digestive system in a negative way.

It’s Sunday. My self-imposed ban of social media is over. I checked my mentions and responded as necessary, but when I started looking at my feed on Facebook, I found myself getting tense. I haven’t even looked at Twitter yet. I think I may go a second day without checking my TL and feed. We’ll see how far I can take this!

On a different note, I’ve been watching more clips of best and worst auditions for various talent shows, and I have a few general tips. One, don’t ever compare yourself to icons like Whitney, Mariah, and Michael (Jackson), let alone sing their songs if you’re not an absolute powerhouse. Match your songs to your personality. Well, first of all, make sure you can sing. After that, though, the song has to match your voice. This young woman who said she sounds like Whitney had this kittenish voice which would have been better suited to…um…well, not Whitney.

I also have a top three list of songs you should never sing in audition. I’ll give you the reason for each. 3. Proud Mary by Tina Turner, especially if you’re a white dude. Yes, I know there’s a CCR version, but people singing it in audition are definitely trying to do the Tina Turner version. From her growl to her wiggle to the outsized attitude, it’s a performance that I have yet to see anyone else pull off. 2. Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and a million other people. The reason for this is a bit different. This song has been covered within an inch of its life. I love this song and have heard dozens of covers, each better than the last. Most people who try to sing it in audition want to put their own spin on it, but butcher it mercilessly. I have only heard one good version of it, and it’s mostly because the guy’s voice was amazing. The arrangement was pretty pedestrian, but he made it his own.

By the way, I saw David Williams’ comments from the initial audition, and he wasn’t mean at all. Plus, he’s hot. But that’s another post for another time. Anyway, Kyle’s version is pretty much a straight cover, which is why it works for his voice. If you can sing like this, then go ahead and sing Hallelujah. Otherwise, stay away from it.

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