Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Self Esteem

Wedding showers brings out my David Attenborough powers

My niece’s wedding shower was yesterday, and I managed to pull it together enough to actually go. What’s more, I got the wedding shower gift sent to her house, and Amazon sent her birthday gifts to me on time, and I had the gift bag and tissue paper ready to go. By the way, whoever invented the gift bag has my undying gratitude. I used to take pleasure in wrapping gifts by hand, but ever since I discovered gift bags, there is no going back.

I wanted to channel my inner David Attenborough before I went. I was joking on Twitter that I should study the party-goers as if they were a different species, but it was really more about cultivating Attenborough’s inquisitive and attentive attitude. He goes into any situation with an open mind, and his tone is always one of wonderment. I have never heard him be judgmental or censorious, which is quite the feat. Plus, his voice is so warm and soothing. It’s like pouring maple syrup over your problems, and it’s a balm to my soul.

I knew going into the shower that much of the issue was my own shit. Yes, I have philosophical reasons for being against weddings and showers, but I have to be honest with myself–most of my anxiety was over me being a freak and worrying about whether I would do anything to embarrass myself or my niece.

Confession: I felt an immediate connection with my niece from the moment I saw her. As I said at her shower, I never knew I could love someone like that until that moment. She looked like me when I was that age, and more than one person assumed she was my daughter when we were out and about together. Which did not go down well with her real mother. I’m sure it was complicated by the fact that she’s white with Danish/Swedish (I think) background and did not at first glance look like my niece. You can see the resemblance if you look harder, but on the surface, it wasn’t as apparent.

I thought of my niece as the upgraded version of me. There were many things that we had in common, including a love for boys at an early age, a fearlessness that, sadly, we both lost over time, a wild imagination that translated into a writing ability (and in her case, an artistic ability as well), and a few other things as well. In other ways, however, she was unlike me. She was a stunning girl who turned heads wherever she went. Rail-thin like her mother, and she had a keen interest in makeup and fashion since she was young. She wanted to shave her legs when she was eleven, and she started wearing makeup on the daily a few years later. Her favorite colors were purple and pink, which is most definitely not like me.

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I am, but. And, again, but.

I’ve struggled with identity all my life. Growing up as a fat, brainy, weirdo Asian chick in a very white Minnesota suburb was all but guaranteed to make me feel like a freak. I got picked on almost every day, and the days I didn’t, it pretty much was me wandering around lost in my own thoughts and never quite understanding what was expected of me. I like to joke that I was raised by wolves, but it’s pretty true. I have an apocryphal story about how the first pop song I heard was Electric Avenue by Eddy Grant when I was in sixth grade. The first movie I remembered seeing was Star Wars (the original, whatever the fuck it’s called) when I was seven or eight, and I hated it. I also saw Superman at the time with my youth group roughly around the same time and had nightmares for a month.

I’m just going to say it. I don’t like movies and TV for the most part. I once told a professor I had in grad school that I didn’t like movies, and she looked at me as if I said I ate puppies for fun. She said it was like saying I didn’t like sandwiches, which was a bad analogy for me because sandwiches are delicious. I realized then that my opinion was objectively Bad, and I should keep it to myself.

Side note: I wasn’t going to get into why I don’t like movies and television shows for the most part, but it’s actually an integral part of this post, so here we go, the Cliff Notes version. I have a vast imagination, and I like to let it run wild. It’s one reason I can write fiction almost endlessly, and I’ve only had one serious writer’s block in my life. Tandem to that is that my brain never. stops. thinking. Worrying, ruminating, chewing over every goddamn thing. It’s exhausting, but it’s something I’ve dealt with most of my life as well.

Put these two things together, and you might be able to see why I don’t really care for movies or television. The whole time I’m watching a movie, the criticizing part of my brain is chattering on and on about what is wrong whatever I’m watching while the other side of my brain, the creative side, is thinking of a dozen ways it would have done the scene differently–and better. I can never forget that I’m watching a movie or television, and I never really get into it.

To that end, most of the shows/movies I like either are based on the premise that the theatricality is part and parcel of the show (one reason I love musicals), or the writing is good enough to pull me in and allow me to override the chattering in my brain.


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Shifting perspectives

My brother once told me that he doesn’t regret any decision he’s made. This was about a decade ago, and it blew my mind. I pushed a bit, and he said there was no point in regret as he couldn’t change anything he’d done in the past. He’s not wrong. Regret in and of itself is useless and can be harming if it causes shame. Shame keeps you stuck in bad behavior more often than not. On the other hand, it’s hard to learn from the past if you refuse to study it at all. I think there *may* be a truism about that floating around the interwebs. Since then, he’s made indications that there are things he might have changed or that he wished had gone a different way, but in general, he is an eyes-forward kind of guy.

I admire that about him. I also envy that about him because I regret almost every decision I’ve made in my life. Where I want to college. Going back to a certain boyfriend twice. Not questioning the narrative he laid out for me because I thought he was trustworthy.

Side Note: I recently talked to my mom about this ex of mine, let’s call him Todd because that’s most definitely not his name. I always held a slight grudge because she and my father had dinner with us once, and they both did not like him at all. I attributed it to my father not liking anyone who wasn’t properly effusive/deferential/in awe of how amazing he is plus a shitload of other unspoken expectations and my mother deferring to him. I found out during our recent talk that the reason she didn’t like him was because he took my love for granted (ironic given her own marriage) and because he caused me so much pain. She said he was using me and he was selfish.

We discussed a bit about how he dumped me three times and came back to me twice and how he lied to me in our relationship about having dumped his ex before she went abroad for a semester. In reality, they were in an open relationship, but only because he insisted. I found out by reading a letter from him to her. Yes, a physical letter. I was looking for something else on his desk, and when I saw a letter from her, I read it. When I brought it up to him, he got mad that I read it. Which, yes, invasion of privacy, but it allowed him to neatly sidestep the fact that he fucking lied to me. Why? Probably because he knew I wouldn’t have agreed to going out with him if he told me the truth. I was very straight and narrow at that time, and I would not have agreed to be in an open relationship. Funnily enough, though, when the girlfriend came back the next semester, he was ‘dating’ both of us at the same time to figure out what he wanted. I started dating someone else, and Todd couldn’t take it after a few weeks.

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Faking it, but not making it

too crowded!
My brain is not a great place to be.

“Fake it until you make it” gets tossed around a lot as a way to deal with overcoming low self-esteem issues. The theory is that our brains believe what we tell them, so by acting as if we’re confident, we’ll eventually become confident. I’ve done it my whole life, but it hasn’t made me any more confident than I already was. If anything, I think it’s hindered me from actually developing more confidence. From the outside (and if you don’t talk to me for very long), it seems as if I have my shit together. I had it ground into me that I was not allowed to show emotions, especially negative ones, and I still have difficulty expressing those emotions out loud.

Side Note: When I was younger, I was a sponge for all the negative emotions around me. I could actually feel them as I walked by people, and it made me physically ill at times. This was before I was able to erect good emotional shields, and it’s one reason I don’t like being in crowds. On occasion, I would flash on why someone was feeling the negativity they were (though, of course, I had no way to confirm it. I was not going to ask a near stranger if they were being abused by their husband, for instance), and it made me profoundly sad. It was exhausting for me to be around people because I would be drained from running the emotional gauntlet.

Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) is all the rage right now, and I hate it. I wasn’t sure why exactly until I read someone explain their distaste for it in an Ask A Manager column (where they are overwhelmingly for it). She explained that it felt like gaslighting to hear the therapist say, “That’s just a feeling. It’s not real.” She was more eloquent and expansive, but that’s the part that really resonated with me. A big part of CBT is focusing on behavior (duh), and dismissing the feelings behind them. I’ve already spent a lifetime dismissing my feelings; I don’t need to pay someone to do that as well.

Side Note II: One thing I really hate about AA and all the groups that have sprung up that are based on AA, well, besides the fact that it’s success rate is no better than any other recovery program, is the insistence on powerlessness. Again, I couldn’t exactly explain why until I was talking about it with my then-therapist. I was participating in a CoDA program (Co-Dependency Anonymous) online, and I just couldn’t get past that (or the god shit. I hate the god shit). My therapist recommended a book to me by Dr. Charlotte Kasl called Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. My therapist described the theory in a nutshell–for people who are not Bill W. types (i.e., white male Christian), we spend a lot of time feeling helpless/powerless, anyway. We don’t need to give up the power because we don’t have it. If anything, we need to feel empowered, rather than powerless.

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Envying carefully-cultivated FOMO

*BONUS POST*

I am so done with floors.
Shadow putting himself in a timeout.

I am experiencing FOMO right now, and I know it’s 100% on me. I’m not even talking about FOMO as in seeing how great everyone’s lives are on Facebook and wishing mine were the same. On that topic, however, I’ve been thinking how easy it is to cultivate a FOMO kind of life online. If I wanted to, I could do it in this manner. Post pictures of my trip to Malta last year. Post pics to Binghamton from a few weeks ago. Talk about how I’m going to Philly in a few months to visit my other BFF. Talk about learning sword in taiji and knowing it to the point where I’m impatient with swordplay I see in popular culture. Talk about my friends and how fortunate I am to have them. Post pictures of my cat, Shadow, especially the one I posted here in which he put himself in a timeout. I will note that he opened the drawer himself and then hopped in it. I rarely take pics of him these days, but that one was so adorable, I had to snap it. Wouldn’t you be filled with jealousy if you saw this cute face peering out at you from a drawer as you were sitting on the toilet?

I would also mention how I was eating ice cream for lunch (dairy-free, gluten-free) just because. Haagen Daz Chocolate Salted Fudge Truffle Non-Dairy, to be precise. Want to know something funny? I think the store brand dairy-free ice cream at Target is better than any of the branded ones I’ve tried. I don’t go to Target that often, however, so Haagen Dazs is good in a pinch. I can eat the same thing every day if I want (and often do), though I’m not sure others would envy that. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission to do anything, and I just bought a video game yesterday without having to negotiate it. Granted, it was a ten dollar video game (on sale), but still. All decisions are made by me and me alone. I work from home and have a flexible schedule, and all the work I do can be done anywhere as long as I have a computer and a Dvorak keyboard. I can go to bed whenever I want and get up whenever I want*, and in general, am free from normal society constraints.

The biggest way I could make people jealous is by flaunting my child-free state. I have posted many times that I am positively gleeful to be child-free. I like children in theory, and I like them in small doses, but I do not like children more than, say, two hours at a time. By children, I mean kids under six. Six to ten, maybe four hours. Ten to eighteen, a day. I’d up that incrementally until the ‘kid’ turns thirty upon which they become full adults. Is that ageist? Yes. I’ve felt that way since I was a kid, however. I’ve always liked older people, and I have a hard time relating to anyone under thirty. But. I could post pictures of me doing adult things whenever I want–and by adult, I mean going to see a movie I want to see that doesn’t have Legos in it–having a drink at three in the afternoon if I drank, etc. I know that the purpose of an online presence is make other people jealous, but I don’t see the point. And, yes, I know that’s not the actual point for many people, but for some, it absolutely is.

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Turn that frown upside down

One of the persistent issues in my life has been a low self-esteem. It stems from being told implicitly and explicitly that my opinions don’t matter. More than that, I was made to feel like I had to keep everything to myself. The only person allowed to be angry in my family was my father. And, since my mother made me her confidant when I was eleven (or earlier, but that’s when I first remember it happening), I learned that my feelings were secondary to hers. It got better when I was in my thirties, but it’s reverted now that my parents are elderly and my father isn’t in the best of health. And is still the same narcissistic, yet insecure person he’s always been. Some of the things she complains about are things he’s done their entire marriage, which is nearly fifty-one years in length. It’s frustrating as hell because I can remember her complaining about the same things thirty-five years ago, and I don’t have a better answer now than I did then. Or rather, my answer is the same. Divorce him. I know she won’t do that, however, so all I can do is–nothing.

I hate that she only calls me to complain about him. She might ask me about myself (or not), and she might even listen for a few minutes, but then it’s time to talk ad nauseam about him. I wouldn’t want to hear that much about him if he was a good person and they had a great relationship. The fact that he’s not and they don’t just makes it even more painful. I know that on my end, I should just give a couple nondescript answers and end the call as soon as I can. I don’t, however, because I feel guilty that she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to. I shouldn’t, I know, but it’s my programming. I’m only here to manage the feelings of others. I thought I had it under control, but the fact that my parents are in the last stage of their lives has made me soft. It’s ironic that I’m better able to deal with my father because I just accept he is who he is. I know that he’ll never change, so it’s easier to gray rock him into oblivion. I just nod and agree with whatever he says or state my case once and then move on. I can do that because I don’t expect anything better from him. From my mom, it’s another story. I know she’s better than what she’s displaying right now. She’s a badass woman who single-handedly brought sandplay therapy to Taiwan. She has a waiting list for clients that is over a year long. She’s the foremost expert on the subject in Taiwan. She’s highly respected in her field. And, yet, in her personal life, she’s reduced to being the helpmeet of my father.

I’ve said before that one of the reasons I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship is because I can see myself in her. I could easily be that person, and it scares the fuck out of me. She couldn’t call him at work because it would make him lose face (yeah, I don’t get it, either); he would get angry if she asked him to let her know when he wasn’t coming home for dinner (because he was fucking around); and his way of punishing her would be to angrily yell at her until she backed down or give her the icy silent treatment.

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The magic of pants that fit

the room of doom.
Striking fear in my heart.

Today was errand day. My new progressive glasses were ready, and I had to pick up my meds, too. On my way to Target, I heard the beginning of a discussion on sleep on MPR. I sighed because every other time MPR did something on sleep, it was how important it was to get seven to nine hours.

I FUCKING KNOW THAT. STOP TELLING ME THAT. TELL ME HOW TO DO THAT INSTEAD.

Apparently, this show was going to include that pertinent information, but I missed it because I was in Target. I’ll have to look it up later and listen to it to get the pearls of wisdom. I did catch the tail end, and the advice was to put an ice pack on your eyes. It does something to slow the heartbeat (probably ‘coz you think you’re about to die and everything shuts down) that makes it easier to sleep. I did wonder if you’re just supposed to leave the ice pack on your eyes as you fall asleep, and I wear a sleep mask, so what about that? But the doctor said you could use a frozen pack of veggies, which I have. I may have to try it. I’ve tried everything else, so why not?

Anyway, I got my new progressives, which the doc warned me would take time to get used to. He was a month into his first pair, and he was still adjusting. He said the trick was to really focus on whatever it is you’re doing, which is not easy for me to do. I have a tendency to multitask and scan things rapidly, so this will be an exercise in getting me to slow the fuck down.

It’s strange because if I move my head too quickly, the object I’m looking at sort of bends in the middle. I imagine it’s similar to what being on hallucinogenics is like. In general, though, everything is crisp and clear. It’s actually strange because it’s been ten years since I’ve had my eyes checked, and my left one has gotten really bad, apparently.

I also love that there is no line on my glasses. I remember the days when if you needed bifocals, you got that nice line on the glasses. Yes, I’m that old. I chose lenses that were a bit bigger this time with a black half-frame. I like them, but it’ll take getting used to as well.

I like them, though, and I take it as a sign that I’ve done something to take care of myself. It’s a big deal for me because I tend to put these things off for forever. See not getting my eyes checked in ten years. I probably would have left it off even more but one of the nose pieces fell off and one of the handles was broken. I had taped it together, but come on. I’m a grown woman. I should not be jury-rigging my glasses, damn it. I also had toothpaste around my mouth when I went to pick up my glasses. Mortifying! It’s from not looking in the mirror, and I need to start doing it because it was the second time it happened this week.

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Depression is a tricky bastard it is

I’ve been experiencing a medium-grade depression for roughly six months, and it’s time to admit it isn’t going away on its own. I gutted it out the first few months because I thought it was temporary, but now, I fear it’s not true. I want to mention that I always have a low-grade depression. Always. Some days, it’s very minimal. Some days, it pushes the line between low and medium, but it never goes completely away. There is an argument to be had whether it’s depression or anxiety or a combination of both, but whatever it is, I’ve come to accept it in my life.

I do not want to accept the medium-grade depression, though, because it’s actively hindering me. When I have a low-grade depression, I can still go about my life and do what needs to be done with little problem. With medium-grade depression, the intrusive thoughts are more intrusive, and it’s harder to ignore them or brush them away. In addition, the depression knows me and my weaknesses very well, and it uses the knowledge against me. Once I catch on to its manipulations and become immune to them, it changes its tactics.

For example. When I used to be severely depressed, an entity I called The Dictator would tell me that I was toxic, worthless, and no one would care if I died. It told me that the people I thought were my friends weren’t really, that they were just being nice. Why would anyone want to be my friend? I didn’t have any redeeming qualities. I was fat, loutish, uninteresting, and unattractive. I firmly believed this, and no one could tell me anything to the contrary.

Now, I don’t believe any of that. Well, I am fat, but that’s just a descriptor and not a pejorative. I also think I’m boring, but I’m willing to believe that’s just me being hard on myself. I no longer think The Dictator is a part of me, but I haven’t gotten rid of the depression. It’s changed its attack, however, because it’s a sly and sneaky bastard. Now, instead of telling me the above, it tells me that I’m worthless because I’m not doing anything with my life. I don’t have an office job. I’m not moving up in the world. I don’t have many friends. I’m not putting out content in a way that is meaningful, and no one gives a shit about my writing. I’m never going to be published unless it’s self-published. Maybe ten people will actually give a shit if i die, and I’m not counting online people in that number. Not because they’re not real and not because I don’t care about some of them (and they probably care about me in return), but because it’s simply not the same.

All of this is true. Well, most of it is true. Some of it is more a feeling thing than an actual thing, but it leans on the side of being true. It’s hard to argue with any of it, except for the content part. That’s on me. I haven’t done what needs to be done to even have a chance of being a known content producer.

Side Note: I hate that phrase, ‘content producer’, because it’s simultaneously pretentious and antiseptic. But, it’s become an accepted phrase, especially for YouTube/Twitch.

I don’t like the term ‘creative’, either, for someone who produces artistic content, but it’s better than content producer. I like artist, but I understand that it’s not very inclusive. In general, I just like to say I’m a writer.


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An alien in isolation

the glasses are what makes it work.
However you do it, just write.

I read about how to write from time to time, and I recently learned about the Snowflake Method. I’m not going to link to it, so you can Google it if you want. I was not impressed with the website because the guy was hawking it HARD. I can get past that, though, because I know that’s part of writing these days. I skimmed through all the self-aggrandizement and hard sell bullshit to see what his actual advice was, and it would be fair to say I was skeptical from the start. I have a bias against named systems for most things, especially creative endeavors,

Putting that aside, I reached the part about him saying something like, “If you’re like most people, you dream about your novel long before you write it. You research it and–”

That’s where I tapped out because it just underscored how weird I am. I’ve seen a version of this given as advice or how that particular writer works many, many times. “I have an outline”, “I write down the names and how everyone is related to each other in beforehand”, etc. People talking about how they do all this research when they build a world is common as well.

I’m not disputing that this works for other people, obviously. In fact, it seems most writers have some sort of outline/plan/research thing they adhere to. I don’t. At all. I don’t think about a novel before I write about it. I have  ideas come into my mind, and they are usually fairly fully hatched when they arrive. I write mysteries for the most part, so let me give you an example of my creative process. Note, I tend to write trilogy, so this is what happens when I’m starting a new one.

I’m finishing up a novel, and I have an idea rattling around in my mind. For example, at one point, I wanted to write about abortion. Or rather, have abortion as a main driver in the story. I let that marinate in my brain for days as I finished whatever I was working on. Then, suddenly, I knew how abortion was going to be featured, how it would affect the arc of the story, and who was going to be murdered (the doctor who performed the abortion). I also knew that the anti-choice movement was going to be featured because of course they would be given the topic. I also knew the reason for the murder, although I wasn’t quite sure who the murderer would be. With that knowledge, I started writing.

Another example is a short story I wrote, which is still one of my favorite stories that I’ve written. I wanted to write about depression and the color red. I am inordinately proud of this story because it’s actually beautiful prose, which is not my style at all. I am not one for elaborate descriptions and an exquisite turn of phrase. I’m good at dialogue and building characters. The rest of it, eh, not so much. This short story, however, I paid more attention to my phrasing, and it was almost lyrical.

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I’ll tell you what I want (what I really really want)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with the rest of my life. My birthday is coming up, and that usually causes me to think of what a waste my life is. This year, there is also a strong sense of ‘what do I really want to do?’ alongside the usual ‘my life is worthless’. I’m putting them in order of most important to least important, but I haven’t sorted them out completely in my mind. I may do some moving around as I write.

1. Finish Sekiro. Sorry. I know that’s not a huge life goal, but it released on Friday, and I’ve been playing it almost compulsively ever since. I had to mention it because, duh, FromSoft game. I’d been nervously anticipating it because there was so much hype, and it had so much to live up to. There was no way it could be everything rabid FromSoft fans wanted it to be, right?

Wrong.

It’s fucking amazing and blew my mind from the very beginning. Again, I’ve only put in a dozen or so hours, so I’m not ready to declare it the best FromSoft game ever, but it’s definitely as good as Soulsborne games. I plan on finishing it this week, but we’ll see how it goes. It’s very difficult, more so than Soulsborne games because of the technical combat, and it’s already kicking my ass. I will definitely have more to say about it later on.

2. Get back on the stage.  I miss performing. A lot. I remember my days with Theater Mu back in the mid-nineties, and it was such a fun time. It was one group I actually felt a  part of, or at least as much as I can feel a part of anything. Those were my peeps, and while I had reasons for not trying out any longer, I do miss it intensely. Not just performing with others, however, but also writing, staging, and performing my own pieces. I was quite good at it, but it took a lot out of me. Basically, it was two to three months of intense prep plus an hour or two of sick anxiety for ten minutes of actual performance and two minutes of an incredible high–only to be followed by a crash and a lethargy for hours if not days afterwards.

I have never felt the high such as immediately following a performance. It’s intense, and it made me feel as if I could do fucking anything. I have never done anything stronger than marijuana, but I imagine it’s like being high on drugs. If I’m honest, I also miss the planning and writing almost as much as the actual performance, but I feel as if I’ve missed my window to do the kind of performing I used to do. It’s hard to explain, but it usually read like a funny stream of consciousness, but every word is carefully planned and mesmerized.

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