Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Personal Life

Anthony Bourdain and the legacy of depression

Content Note: In this post, I’m going to talk frankly about suicide, suicidal thoughts and ideation, and severe or chronic depression. Please don’t read if these things are trigger points for you because I want you to take good care of yourself.

I read about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide the first thing when I hopped on social media on Friday. I saw one of the people no my Twitter TL posting a clip of Bourdain and saying it was a good way to remember him. With a sinking heart, I Googled Anthony Bourdain and found out that he had died earlier that morning. For whatever reason, I immediately thought it was suicide, and I was saddened when I saw it was true. I felt even worse when I read that it was his good friend and fellow chef, Eric Ripert, who found him. I can’t imagine being in that position, and my heart hurts for Ripert.

I’ve always loved Bourdain, ever since I first saw No Reservations many years ago. His lust for life, food, culture, and people (not to mention alcohol and cigarettes) was fully displayed wherever he went. What I loved best about him is that he would approach every culture with respect, not viewing them as a curiosity or specimens in a zoo. He showed the good and the bad of the country he was in without sensationalizing it in either direction. He was a good ally, even though he probably would never use that word or recoil in horror if he heard himself being described in that fashion, which is one reason he was a good ally. But, this post isn’t about that. I will write more on that later, however.

I watched No Reservations voraciously, living vicariously through Bourdain. I like to travel, but I also…don’t. I’m very much a homebody, and I have a hard time with the actual travel. I love visiting new places and exploring, and very much like Bourdain, I prefer not doing the touristy things. I’d rather eat where the natives eat, see the funky local stuff, and go way off the beaten track. I am never as bold as Bourdain was, though, as my anxieties oftentimes got the best of me. I loved the way he would eat anything placed in front of him, and he was gracious about it, even if he didn’t care for it. He was a good model of how you should act when you visited another country. He was the opposite of an ugly American, though he’s painted as a bad boy in his own country. Or was when he was younger, at least.

I hadn’t watched his shows recently, but I saw him being fierce about #MeToo, which started because he was dating someone who had been one of Harvey Weinstein’s victim. Again, I will write more about that later, but for now, I’m going to focus on the suicide. Every time I saw a tweet or quote from Bourdain standing up for #MeToo, I smiled. Even though I no longer watched his show much, I still had a soft spot for him. And, yeah, I’ll admit I had a massive crush on him when I first started watching the show, and I still found him intriguing years later.


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Beyond freaks and geeks

Oh, you think the darkness is your ally, you merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man; by then, it was nothing to me but blinding! The shadows betray you, because they belong to me. I will show you where I have made my home, I will be preparing to bring justice.

–Bane

I was born a weirdo, and I’m comfortable living on the fringe. Hell, more than comfortable–I thrive on the edges. I’ve never been a normie, even though I’ve tried hard to fit in. I wore a powder blue sweater for my senior picture, had feathered bangs, and wore makeup. Whenever I think about it or see a copy, I stare in wonder. Who was that girl, and how did I know her? When I spent a year abroad in Asia, I quit doing all the girly things I had started doing just because I felt I should. I stopped shaving my legs and armpits–I didn’t really need to especially since as a Taiwanese American person, I didn’t have much hair. I cut my hair short so I didn’t have to deal with it (and because it was too damn hot for my usual mop), and I stopped wearing makeup because it just melted off my face in a hot second, anyway.

I felt much more myself once I stripped away all that shit. I still wore earrings, but no other jewelry, and my style of dress was lackadaisical at best. In Thailand, I had someone tell me I looked like a gratui, which is a boy who dresses/looks like a girl.  It was said with a laugh and no intention of malice, but it stung. I had enough issues with my own femininity; I didn’t need other people questioning it as well. I never felt like I was enough of a woman, though to be clear, I didn’t feel like a man, either. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a boy so badly, I would pray to God to make me a boy. I mean, hey, He created the world, right? So making me a boy shouldn’t be any big thing for Him. It never happened, and I woke up every minute feeling bitterly disappointed. Again, I want to stress that I did not want to be a boy; I just didn’t want to be a girl. To me, I saw how much better it was to be a boy (in both of my cultures), and I was like, “Sign me up.”


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I have a dream…or more like a nightmare

I have a dream that I’m June Cleaver with a loving husband, Ward, who goes off to work and does…work things all day long. While he’s gone, I take care of my two kids, uptight older kid, and the little scamp, the Beaver. Why is he called the Beaver? Who knows? The smarmy brat, Eddie Haskell, comes over from time to time to do whatever smarmy things he does, and I spend all day cleaning the house in heels because that’s what you do when you’re a white woman in the 50s, apparently. What the camera doesn’t show is me clutching a bottle of Valium, popping them like candy because IF ONE MORE PERSON WALKS ON MY CLEAN FLOOR I AM GOING TO LOSE MY SHIT.

Why do we never see that part of life in the 50s? How many women were sleepwalking through the day, just trying to get from one minute to another? I’ve been thinking about it for several reasons, and how in general, societal norms are so omnipresent and normative, we don’t even think to question them (society in general, not specific people). I’ve been thinking about it because of a few things I read online. One was a tweet by DJ Khaled about how he refused to go down on his wife, but expected her to do it to him because he was a man! He deserved it (but she didn’t was the implication), and given the one video of his I’ve seen, I can only conclude that it’s a business transaction for him. He gives her stuff; she gives him blowjobs. I tweeted a PSA to women who liked to get with men–don’t go down if he won’t, either. It boggles my mind that I have to say this in 2018, but there it is. I’ve also hoped that there would be less pressure on women to have kids, but apparently, it’s still pretty steady from what I’ve heard from younger women.

*sigh*

Another thing that really struck a chord with me was someone on an open thread at Ask a Manager was talking about seeing people her age (thirties) having all the ‘normal’ markers of adulting, marriage, house, kids, andd even though she didn’t want them, she was feeling as if she was falling behind. I totally empathized with that. I don’t want any of the trappings of the ‘normal’ life, but lately, I’ve been thinking how much easier it would be if I did. Not just in the big things such as marriage and kids, but in, well, almost every way.


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A general malaise

little pieces of me everywhere.
Feels like I’m coming apart.

I had two fillings put in on Thursday, and it wasn’t a big deal because they were in the front, and I had just had a root canal a few weeks ago. The dental assistant was telling me how much pain meds I could take at the end (Ibuprofen vs. Tylenol), and I said it probably wouldn’t be a problem because I didn’t take any for the root canal, and I had a Vicodin prescription filled for that. Both times, she gave me four Advil on my way out. It held me fine for the root canal, but I’m having a little more trouble this time around. My jaw still hurts–or rather, my gums–and I’m wondering if I inflamed it by brushing. I didn’t brush the first night per my dental assistant’s instructions, but I have been brushing since. I also wondered if it was because my dentist injected more numbing gel in my gums than for the root canal, but that doesn’t make sense. It might just be normal soreness, but it’s rather annoying.

I bring it up because that’s my life in general right now. Nothing big or horrific is going on, but I’m feeling a general malaise. It’s hard because logically, I know I have no reason to feel this way*, which actually makes it harder to deal with. When things are shitty in my life, I can accept that depression is the way I respond. When things aren’t shitty (and they really aren’t right now. I have great friends; my relationship with my family is the best it’s ever been; I’m writing every day; and I’m also doing taiji every day), what’s my excuse? It’s one of the problems with being intelligent and more than conversant about psychological concepts–I’m aware where I’m fucking up and how. Usually. We all have our blind spots, and therapy has helped me figure out mine In general, though, I know what’s wrong with me, and even know the ways to fix most of the problems; I just don’t do them for whatever reasons. Even when I know the reasons, it’s frustrating and embarrassing to me.

I feel aimless. There are too many things I want to do, but I just…don’t do them. I have a lot of shame about the fact that I’m a lazy bastard, but it’s not enough to motivate me to change. I’ve written before about how I’m my worst enemy, and I can talk myself out of anything by listing all the things that could possibly go wrong. I’ve been brainstorming podcasts, streaming, live-tweeting, and YouTube ideas, and all of them sound good to me, but have I done them? No, I haven’t. I know what I have to do. After all my planning, I have to just pick one and do it. The way I got myself to move to California and get my MA in Writing & Consciousness was by agonizing over it for several months, and then just doing it. It’s how I make all my big decisions, actually. My BFF reminded me once about how it looked to her when I got my cats. She said, “I said to _____ (her husband), “Minna just got cats! It’s so sudden!”.” In thinking about it, though, she realized I’d been talking about it for years before actually doing.

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Let it snow, let it snow, fuck yeah!, let it snow

april snow brings may...rainbows?
It sure is purty!

I am a happy camper right now, and I’ll tell you why. It’s been snowing steadily since Friday night now Sunday afternoon), and we’ve gotten 12.5 inches of snow so far (and still counting). Yes, it’s mid-April, and no, this isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke. When I saw earlier in the week that we were supposed to get 8-12 inches, I was stoked, but skeptical. The last time we were supposed to get a lot of snow, it turned out to just be a big, fat lot of nothing. I was not about to get my hopes up only to have them dashed again. I woke up Friday morning to nothing. I tweeted about WHERE IS MY SNOW?, and a fellow Minnesotan reminded me that it wasn’t supposed to start until night. I knew that, but I was so excited, I wanted it to come early.

A light sleet started to fall around 1 p.m. Then, hail. Then, nothing. Intellectually, I knew that it wasn’t really supposed to start until late evening, but I still kept an eye out for it. Around ten, it started to snow steadily, and by the time I woke up Saturday, we had a few inches. It was lightly snowing, but I wasn’t sure we would get the real snow we were promised. Around ten a.m., it started snowing for real. Taiji was cancelled as the snow continued to fall. It made me so happy, and it kept. on. falling. By the time I went to bed, we had 7.5 inches (with other areas having a foot already), and I was pretty content with that. By the time I woke up Sunday morning, we had 12.5 inches (and it was still snowing, which it still is).

I have a longstanding agreement with myself that if we get over a foot of snow at a time, I will do nekkid midnight dancing in the snow. I haven’t had to put this into practice, but now, I actually do. Of course, there’s the small problem that I’m still sick, which means dancing naked in snow probably isn’t a good thing. Still. How many chances do I get to do this? Not many. It’ll be brief, and, disappointing the few people who ask for it every time, video-free. We’ll see if it’s actually at midnight because my sleep schedule has been all over the map since I’ve been sick. I’ve been going to bed at weird times, sleeping for longer than I normally would, and having to deal with a very cross cat when I wake up (my current theory is that he thinks he’s DYING because breakfast is at a different time every day now).

I want to say, I know most of my fellow Minnesotans are thoroughly sick and tired of the snow and cold, and I don’t blame them at all. It’s mid-April, so it should be spring! I love it, but I also know that I’ve very lucky because I have a snow guy and a garage, and I work from home so I don’t have to deal with driving to and from work. I’m totally privileged in this situation, and I fully acknowledge it. That’s part of the reason I can really sympathize with other Minnesotans. That said, I’m loving it. I love snow. I love the way it looks as it’s falling. I love the way it feels on my body. I love everything about it (until it melts and turns everything brown and muddy), and I make no bones about that.

Anyway, it’s supposed to be cold enough to stick around for a few days, and we’re supposed to get maybe an inch more on Tuesday/Wednesday (along with a little more today). I’m just going to enjoy it while I can. To my fellow Minnesotans, remember what Prince sang, “Sometimes, it snows in April.”

Everything sucks

I now have a hacking cough and my ears hurt. My stomach is starting to hurt as well, and I’m just done. I’m done with my body. I’m done with my immune system. I’m done with being sick. That’s all I have to say. Here’s Maangchi making ginseng chicken soup. I wish she were here to make it for me.

Awkward dancing in my head

Ian had a thing yesterday (he’s here visiting me) with his old colleagues at Game Informer (GI) for their 300th issue of their print magazine. He asked if I wanted to go, and I said sure both because I wanted to meet the GI crew and to support him. Immediately, I was assaulted with anxious thoughts about the event. Would I look stupid? Would I sound stupid? Would I embarrass him in front of his old colleagues? Objectively, I know I’m decent at small talk and mingling with people. In my brain, however, I’m THE WORST PERSON EVER AND NO ONE WILL LIKE ME. It hearkens back to my days as a kid–fat, friendless, and endlessly picked on. It’s hard to escape that mentality, even forty years later.

Another problem is that I don’t interact with people I don’t know very often in my real life. Online? Sure. But it’s much easier to curate an interaction online and to end it when you’re done with it. It’s not as easy to do in real life, and I’m not good at gracefully extracting myself from uncomfortable situations. I’m the one who gets cornered at the party and has someone talk her ear off for hours about a problem I could care less about. I’m also the person who has cashiers pouring their hearts out to for no apparent reason, and yes, I’m working on curbing this behavior in others. I know part of it is my own fault for asking follow-up questions, but it’s ingrained in my head. Also, eye contact. It feels rude not to look someone in the eyes, though.

Anyway, my point is, I was fretting about this shindig for the whole week leading up to it. Not constantly (which is an improvement), but once in a while, I’d think, “Oh shit. I’m going to make a fool of myself.” What helped was to shove it in the back of my head whenever the thought popped up. I haven’t been able to do that successfully before, but I was able to this time. Then, the day of the shindig, I started telling myself things such as, “You aren’t that big of a deal. No one is going to give a shit about you.” I know that sounds horribly negative, but it’s not in this case. One of the problems with having a low self-esteem is that, paradoxically, you think too much of yourself. What I mean is that I simultaneously think I’m the worst person in the world (which is low self-esteem) and that everyone must be thinking of how horrible I am (which is egotistical if you really think about it). When I was at my lowest, I thought everyone was constantly thinking about what a terrible person I am. The minute they met me, they’d say it to themselves, and they wouldn’t let up until our interaction ended.

This is pure horseshit, of course, First of all, most people care more about themselves than they do about you. I’m worrying about how I’m coming across to others, and they’re probably doing the same to a greater or lesser extent. Even if they aren’t, they’re not laser-like focused on me, waiting to pounce on any misstep I may have.

The other thing I told myself is that if I get stuck, just get the other person to talk about themselves. This is something I’m really good at, and I can do it for hours on end if need be. It works ninety-nine out of one hundred times because as I said, most people hunger to talk about themselves, and for the last one out of a hundred, well, that’s a bit more difficult. I have only run into that person once or twice, however, so it’s not a big deal.


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That’s Just the Way I Am

nom nom nom!
Shadow lovin’ his almond milk ice cream treat.

Ian is here visiting, and I asked him if he thought Shadow was talking more than usual. I know he is, but I was wondering if it was just a little more or a lot more (my choice). It’s hard to tell when I live with him, even though it was pretty extreme in that it started after Raven died. Ian said yes, a lot more, which just confirmed my belief.

Shadow rarely meowed when Raven was alive. Shadow was also more aloof and liked to spend a lot of his time alone. I used to call them Shadow and my Shadow because Raven was my Velcro cat while Shadow was more paws off. Raven didn’t meow a ton, but he would sometimes get in a chatty frame of mind, and he would meow at me for several minutes. His voice always sounded cross, even when it wasn’t, and he was a very affectionate cat.

When Raven died, Shadow underwent a complete personality change. He became clinging and would be anxious and unhappy if I were out of his sight. When I went to the back porch to smoke, he would reach his paws up on the sliding glass door and meow piteously. I had explained to him what happened to his brother, but I don’t think he really understood. What I can tell you is Shadow definitely changed after his brother died. Instantly and startlingly in some ways, and more slowly in others.

The talking thing has gradually grown over time. I’ve realized it’s his way of making sure he gets his treats because Raven used to be the one to inform me of eating time. I don’t think either of them ever realized that I was going to feed them regardless, or they were just trying to ensure they would get their food. Either way, Shadow has taken over that duty, and he’s pretty definite when he thinks it’s time for food.

He also has a relatively new habit of biting my face when he wants breakfast. Not hard, of course, but just gentle nibbles. If he doesn’t do that, it’s just his face in my face when I open my eyes, or him walking on my face. He’s seemed to have lost his sense of boundaries, at least when it comes to me. He wasn’t a lap cat when his brother was alive, but now, we spend most nights with him warming my legs.

In the past few months, he’s slowly become more independent again. He’ll disappear for hours as he used to do, but we still have our nightly ritual of chilling on the couch together. It’s been a year and two months since Raven has died (has it really been that long??), and I’d say his personality now is a blend between his old personality and his more recent one.

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Minding My Mindfulness

Ed. Note: I am not starting my bad movie live-tweeting this week. In fact, I probably won’t do it ‘live’ when I do start it, but I’ll discuss that more in the first actual bad movie/live-tweet post. 

I like to pride myself on my multitasking abilities. I try to do two or three things at a time, and I find my brain going to bad places when I concentrate on one thing. It’s one reason I don’t like meditation even though I know it’s supposed to be good for me. Currently, I am eating breakfast, watching the Olympics, and typing this post at the same time. I have about one-third of my attention on eating, one-fourth on watching the Olympics, and the rest on typing this post.

This started back when I used to have really bad demons in my head, and I needed a white noise option to drowning them out. I found out that by splitting my attention in several directions, I was able to keep them to a dull roar. I used to read a book as I was walking home from school (not a smart idea. For the children at home, don’t do this!), so I guess that was the prototype to the current multitasking me.

My taiji teacher likes to say that we are not as good at multitasking as we think we are. While I might bristle at this, she’s right. The only way it really works for me is when the things I’m doing don’t really need my concentrated attention. Or, if one thing needs my attention, then the other things have to be suitable for background noise.

I bring this up because I fell on the stairs twice Friday night as I was doing the laundry. I was reading something on my phone as I walked down the stairs because of course I know how many stairs there are! I don’t actually need to pay attention, do I? Apparently, I do because I missed the last step two times in a row. When I went to put the third load into the dryer, you can bet I made damn sure not to be looking at my phone.

Let me back up. I had a root canal last Tuesday, and the process itself wasn’t bad at all. I had a nice nap, and it was done before I knew it. They gave me pain meds and scrips for more pain meds and antibiotics with instructions on how to use them. When I told my dentist it wasn’t bad at all, she told me to wait until the Novocaine wore off. I did, and it still wasn’t bad at all. I dutifully took the antibiotics, but I didn’t need the pain meds.

I was fine the next day as well. Then, that night, I started feeling feverish*, but not bad enough to take the pain meds. I felt like I had a low-grade flu the next day, and my mouth ached. I still didn’t take the pain meds, but I definitely was not at optimal health.

I mention this in relation to my tripping because my sleep has been really shitty since my root canal. Shittier. Why? Because I have to take the antibiotics every eight hours, and my sleep is so weird, it’s hard to take them on a rigorous schedule. Ideally, you take the pill at the exact same time for maximum effect, which meant setting the alarm to get up at five to take the third pill of the day.


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