Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Holidays

Navel gazing for the new year

One of the worst things about my depression is how it makes everything at least twice as difficult. I am my own worst enemy, as I have noted time and time again. For those who have never experienced depression, it can be difficult to comprehend just how time consuming it is. A small example: when I have to go out, say to taiji, I first have to convince myself that I will go. Even if I want to go, the idea of driving fifteen minutes to get there is daunting. On my worst days, it seems impossible. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it in my past. It doesn’t matter that I can do it in my sleep. Every fiber of my being does not want to do it ever again.

It used to be that way when my BFF and I used to go out dancing. Both of us suffer from depression and the overwhelming desire never to leave the house. We’d talk about how we both had to stop ourselves from cancelling, and we always had a blast when we went out. Not only was it difficult to make myself leave the house (my leaning towards inertia is high), but I would imagine everything that might possibly go wrong while I was out. Again, even for something as simple as going to taiji, I ruminate about will it drain me (not completely invalid when I’m sick), can I put up with talking to people for that long (an hour and a half. Not exactly earth shattering), etc. I go to the co-op afterwards, which brings with it a whole new set of worries. Even something as banal as talking to the cashier can tie me up in knots.

I mention this because there are two things I really want to focus on in 2019. As I’ve written before, I am not big on resolutions, but I do like to set goals for the upcoming year. The difference to me is that goals have steps with concrete actions that seem achievable. By the way, I hate ‘actionable steps’. I know what it means in context (something you can actually do as opposed to a theory or an idea), but to me, actionable means something that you take legal action on. It’s a personal pet peeve, but it sticks in my craw every time I read it.

All of that is explanation as to why I tend to have the same goals every year, even if I have concrete steps I can take to actually meet the goals. I  have to overcome my inertia to even get to the point of doing something about it. Then, I have to deal with the negative self-talk. No matter what I’m doing, there’s a voice in the back of my head saying, “What’s the point? Why bother? Nobody cares.” Some days, it’s better than others, but it’s always there. It’s happening as I write this post. Most of the time, I can ignore it enough to get what I need done if it’s part of my routine. But, if it’s something new, then it’s much harder. Or if it involves driving. Which is one of my least-favorite activities in life.


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You’re a lonely one, Mr. Grinch

We’ve all heard the song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”–especially at this time of the year. We know the story (How the Grinch Stole Christmas!), and I think Grinch has gotten a bad rap. It’s been a while since I’ve seen, but I have to admit I have much sympathy in my heart for him. He’s just going about his business trying to keep himself to himself. Then, the whole town is all LISTEN TO OUR LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS CHRISTMAS MUSIC MR. GRINCH LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LISTEN TO US SING LOUDLY MR. GRINCH MR. GRINCH MR. GRINCH!!!!

He’s all, “I can’t see you, you’re not there, lallallalalallallala,” which would be my tactic.

Underneath it, though, I’m sure he was hurting. He saw all these happy families and was only reminded of the emptiness in his own life. I can relate. Not because I don’t have friends and family–I do, but because of the relentless reminder of how you’re supposed to be soaked in the festive atmosphere. Even as isolated as I am from society in general, I can’t escape it. If it’s not the fucking insipid Christmas songs that are playing when I go into the grocery store, it’s the incessant posts on FC and Twitter and the websites I visit about the holly and the jolly.

I wrote about how I was trying to be more chill about it, but my hackles are automatically raised when I hear yet another Christmas carol or see yet another picture of a decorated tree. I know my reaction is out of proportion to what’s actually happening (people are not Christmasing AT me), but it’s still intensely irritating. It’s like any other popular media that I can’t escape–it’s alienating not to be in on the good cheer. Actually, it’s worse because you’re expected to be into Christmas. There are exceptions, of course, if you’re from other religions, but if you’re areligious such as I am and raised Christian, you’re expected to love Christmas as much as everyone else does. Or if not love it, then at least be neutral about it (read, shut up with your negativity). I’ve seen people complain about people who put anti-Christmas posts on their FB walls (which I’ve done), saying, “Why can’t we just enjoy this?” implying that those of us who don’t like Christmas are not-Christmasing at THEM.

That’s the problem with being in the minority–everything you do is put under a microscope. When you’re the majority, your behavior is considered the norm, so it’s not questioned. It’s similar to, say, when NFL players protest police brutality, and fans say something like, “Don’t bring politics into my sportsball enjoyment!” There are already politics in your goddamn football game, but because they align with your values, you don’t recognize them. Pointing out the sexism or the racism or queerphobia in something isn’t bringing politics into the picture because they’re already there. It’s the same with Christmas. Me pointing out that it’s become a crass commercialized money grab isn’t me bringing politics into Christmas–it’s me pointing out what’s already there.

To get more personal with it, I’ve always had a problem with how we’re all supposed to be filled with good cheer and goodwill towards our fellow human during this specific time because we should be doing that all year round. It’s feels way too performative to me, and that’s how I feel about the holiday in general. There are also way too many expectations of how the holidays *should* be (which is evident from all the threads in advice columns dealing with family expectations), which ends up with hurt feelings. People put way too much pressure on the holidays to make up for childhood disappointments (and don’t even realize what they’re doing), and the real thing can never live up to the ideal.

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Battling the holiday onslaught and other miscellaneous thoughts

Now that Thanksgiving is done and in the bank, of course the whole nation turns its attention to Christmas.

*sigh*

Before I get to that, however, I want to rave about how adding twenty minutes of stretching to my taiji routine when I first get up and sprinkling more stretches throughout the day has really helped my back and my leg by extension. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s amazing how my back pain has nearly disappeared, and the numbness in my right thigh changed into fiery hot pain in the upper thigh, then fiery hot pain just above the knee, and then back to numbness but to a much less degree. Then, after class yesterday, it was back to fiery hot pain, but only for a few seconds. In addition, we did the whole Solo Form (Medium) yesterday, and for the first time ever, I was able to do the whole form without my back hurting like hell by the third section.

However, my sleep is all over the map, which means I’m probably getting sick again. Which, you know, sucks. I’m so fucking tired from the minute I wake up until the minute I drop off to sleep. I also have this thing where if I miss the window for falling asleep, I’m up for a good long time. I was up for nearly twenty hours yesterday, not for any good reason, but just because I couldn’t fall asleep.

Now, let’s talk about NaNoWriMo. I said before it started that I was going to set my own goal because writing 50,000 words a month for me is not a problem. I was already writing 2,000 words a day for months before that, so yeah, I wasn’t worried about 50,000 words. I said I wanted to look into marketing and publishing, but that didn’t happen. I’ve decided I will set aside a different month to do it in. In that month, I’ll lift the 2,000 words a day requirement and focus on editing, marketing, and publishing. I’ve decided which novels I want to publish (one which is on my other website), but I need to do a little updating.

So, what have I been doing this month? Starting four different novels. I worked on the first one for a few weeks, then decided to shelve it. The second one lasted a few days, I think, and the same with the third. Then, I had a conversation with a Twitter friend, @NotSoSilentMajo, who inspired me to start something completely different. I don’t want to talk about it right now because I prefer to wait until I’m done with a novel before talking about it, but I can say it’s urban fantasy. I’ve never attempted fantasy before (though I love reading it), so I’m excited about it in a way that I haven’t been in quite some time. Thank you, @NotSoSilentMajo for giving me the kick in the (not-so-flat yellow) ass that I needed to get out of my rut!

Now. On to Christmas. Me when thinking about it (apropos because I dressed up as Yoko Ono for Halloween one year):

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Winding down Monster Hunter: World, oh, and yeah, Thanksgiving

femdante is way sexier than mascdante.
FemDante in all her glory! And the Dante Devil Sword–which is actually a Charge Blade.

I am writing this on Thanksgiving, which is a weird day to me. First is the fiction Americans are told as children as to how the Pilgrims came to America, were welcomed with open arms by the natives, and they celebrated together by eating turkey and maize and whatnot. It’s a flagrant whitewashing, and it took me way too long to learn the truth. Christopher Columbus was an asshole who got lost, brought death, slavery, and pestilence to Native Americans, and there was no happy turkey dinner. It’s true the Native Americans at the time helped out the foreigners, which I’m sure thy regretted by the time Columbus was through with them.

In addition to that, I hate holidays in general because they bring out the worst in people. Or rather, they put so much pressure on people to have a certain kind of day, it’s stressful. Thanksgiving and Christmas in particular fetishize families to the point where if you don’t have a good relationship with your family, are estranged from them, or simply prefer not to spend time with them if you had your druthers, you are made to feel like a freak, an unfeeling asshole, or a wide range of other negative things. I feel alienated on a regular basis, and no more so from Thanksgiving to Christmas,

How am I spending my Thanksgiving? Much like any other day. Writing, watching YouTube vids, reading, playing MHW (Lunastra dropped today, which I’ll get to in a bit), snuggling with Shadow, and overthinking things. I don’t think it’s sad, and I don’t have any desire to celebrate–especially as I can’t eat most of the staples of Thanksgiving dinner, anyway.

Jumping dramatically to another subject–Monster Hunter: World. Still working on the Tempered Monsters, and it’s still bullshit that you have to track them to get the investigations. Have yet to get a Radobaan quest, so I still haven’t fought him solo. I did the Kulve Taroth quest two more times so I could get the Golden Shell to complete the Palico armor set. It’s ridiculously gilded and pompous, but I love it. My favorite Palico armor set is from Xeno’jiiva, the ‘final’ boss (storyline boss). It’s ethereal and makes Shadow look like he’s late for the wedding. I really wish I could have done the Kulve Taroth Siege properly, but there was never anyone doing it when I went to dive in. Probably because it’s better with a coordinated team of four, which I don’t have.

I did the Code: Red quest multi as I predicted, and I had a blast! It’s a special arena quest in which you fight one monster after the other. First Anjy, then Odo, then Rathalos, and finally, Teo. I went with pure power rather than any element, and I was the team healer per yooz. It’s amusing to me that I’m a Switch Axe user (Swag Axe in the parlance of ‘the community’) and a healer because they’re not that compatible. I don’t care, though, because I’m a healer first and foremost.

Anyway, with a good team of four or even three (had to do it with only two other people once), we can get the deed done in roughly twenty minutes or less. I know each monster has less health than their solo counterparts, but it’s still a thrill to take ’em down. It’s the best when the team works as one, such as the time one of my teammates set a trap for Teo, set down two Mega Barrel Bombs, and the rest of us set down our Mega Barrel Bombs as well. That did HUGE damage to Teo, and he was easy peasy to kill. I did the quest six or seven times, and I even got a Teo gem from one of the fights! I have unlocked the ability for the Elder Melder to make Teo gems now, so I never have to fight Teo again if I don’t want to.

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I Have a Dream (and Not a Good One)

Still fighting off a new round of crud. It’s cold and snowy (yay), which makes driving…interesting. I heard a good speech on MLK Jr. on NPR, but I had to get over the preachification cadence that I find off-putting. He brought up something I didn’t know–by the time MLK Jr. was assassinated, he had a 70% disapproval rating from white people and a 55% disapproval rating from black people because he was anti-war and focusing on eradicating poverty.

I hate how he’s been defanged and become some kind of teddy bear. On his day, people trot out his I Have a Dream speech in justification of wanting to be ‘color-blind’. It’s a good speech, don’t get me wrong, and has some strong aspirations. However, it’s used by white people to gloss over the racial strife that exists as well as the social injustices.

I much prefer Letter From a Birmingham Jail, which is sadly apropos today. MLK Jr. had no problem speaking his mind when he thought it was called for. He wasn’t just a wise old Uncle Remus telling a good yarn about peace and getting along.

I’m feeling pretty grotty, so it’s more fighting off the crud on this bank holiday.

Resolution in the Face of Indecision

I don’t have much use for New Year resolutions, but I’ve been finding myself at odds in  the last month or so, and I’m not sure why. It could be because of the anniversary of the lost of my beloved Raven, or it might just be that time of year. At any rate, I’ve been more morose than I have been in some time. Maybe because I’m closer to fifty than to forty, but I’m contemplating the end of my life and what I’ll have to show for it. I will say that on the familial front, my relationship with my parents has never been better, and as I’ve said, I attribute it to taiji. My teacher was recently talking about how tension makes you numb so you can’t physically feel things. Then, when you first start to relax, all you can feel is tension. You had gotten so used to it, you never even noticed how tense you were. When my relationship with my parents was at its lowest, I had my shoulders hunched up around my ears metaphorically all the time. I was so tense all the time. Then, with the help of taiji, I learned to release the tension. It was great, but I started noticing how great my tension was. My shoulders were like rock, and the small of my back was constantly aching. Talking to my parents made me tenser, which I also noticed.

Quite frankly, this was the worst of both worlds. When I was tense all the time, it was just a way of life. I didn’t know any differently, so I just accepted it as normal. Then, I learned it wasn’t normal or even sustainable, but I didn’t feel I could do anything about it. Rather, I could keep doing taiji, which I have, but I didn’t feel I could do anything more tangible. So, I felt more physically horrible than I did when I was tense all the time, even though I was ostensibly doing better. I felt the same emotionally. For years, I had defenses a mile high, and I was bunkered down behind them. Once they started falling, but I yet didn’t have anything to take their place, I felt as if my emotions were pinging all over the place. It was a really uncomfortable place in which to be, and I felt powerless to do anything about it.

Now, I find I am much more able to control my emotions and not be as controlled by them. I’m in a better place emotionally, even if I’ve been more morose in the past few weeks. I’m also healthier overall, my recent illness not withstanding. I am no longer defensive when I talk to my parents, and we’re actually able to have meaningful conversations without shouting on either side. I’m astonished, actually, at how far we’ve come.


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Hoping the New Year is Better Than the Old

It’s the end of 2017, and I, for one, am not sorry to see the back end of it. It’s been a lousy year politically, and there hasn’t been much for me to crow about, personally, either. I lost my beloved Raven at the end of 2016, and I still think about him almost every day. It’s not as painful as it was when it first happened–and it was such an unexpected shock–but it’s a dull, aching throb that doesn’t go  away. Shadow (his brother) and I have slowly adapted, but it’s been a long, hard road, and we are nowhere near normal. Or, to be more accurate, we have created a new normal. One in which it’s only the two of us. In the first six months after Raven’s death, Shadow was a changed cat. He was clingy whereas he used to be sweet, but more aloof. He would spend hours on his own downstairs, sauntering back upstairs whenever he felt like it. Right after his brother’s death, Shadow clung to me like glue. He followed me everywhere, and he meowed mournfully whenever I had to leave. When I went to the back porch to smoke, Shadow would stretch out his front paws up on the sliding glass door and cry until I went back in.

He was never much of a talker when his brother was alive, but he truly found his voice after. We have a wake-up ritual now that includes him meowing at me until I get out of bed and feed him. He’ll meow at random times during the day, and he’ll mournfully cry when I go to bed. I have theorized that the meowing in the morning and when I’m headed for the kitchen is because he used to rely on Raven to inform me when it’s time to eat, and now that Raven is gone, he has catted up and is taking over the duty of letting me know it’s time to eat.

Another change is that he snuggles with me much more than he used to. He used to like perching on top of the couch by my feet (he still won’t sit in his brother’s spot more than a few times), but now he prefers either sitting in his hidey hole (favorite bed) or nestling on my legs. After six months, he started doing his own thing again. In fact, he’s downstairs as I’m writing this. But, he will come up eventually, and he will stiff-walk down my body as I go to sleep tonight because that is part of our new normal as well.

I’m tired. I’m doing better overall, but I’m still in recovery. I will continue this post tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a video of Shironeko (white cat) snuggling with a buddy. Happy New Year, and may 2018 kick 2017’s ass.

Too Tired to Think–and Dark Souls III

I’m writing this on Christmas, and I’m feeling out of sorts. Not as bad as in past years, but there’s still a vague ‘I should be celebrating, but I’m not, and that makes me a bad person.” As I said, it’s much more subdued than it has been in past years, but it’s still there. I like to say I’m immune to advertising*, but there is still enough societal pressure that makes me low-key feel bad for not celebrating.

I still feel like shit with congestion and cotton in my brain. My ears are scabby and gross, and if I pick the scabs (I know, I know), pus oozes out. My lymph node is almost not-swollen any more, which is good, and it’s barely tender. I’m still going to go to the doc after the holidays, though, because I need to get a grip on this. I also need to get my thyroid meds checked, which may help with the sinus crap.

It’s been almost a year since I’ve cut out gluten and dairy, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it–except for cheese. God, I love cheese, but it doesn’t love me back. As Tim Minchin says, “I cannot Camembert any more.”

Why does cheese have to be so goddamn delicious???? And why is it so hard to duplicate? “I love cheese, but it’s plain to see, that cheese doesn’t love me. I am such a fool in love; I just cannot get enough, but it’s an unrequited love!” Sing it, Tim! The rest of it, though? Not. I’ve gone back to my Taiwanese roots and reacquainted myself with rice. Which, by the way, smells so delicious while cooking. And, PSA: rice cooker all the way for a perfect cook every time. Anyway, rice is way tastier than bread, and it’s way more versatile. I’ve also discovered non-gluten tortillas, bread, and bagels which are all nearly as good as the originals.

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Merry Happy Jolly–Or Not

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. If you’re someone who loves eggnog, elves, tinsel, Christmas trees, and all that fun stuff, I hope you enjoy yourself, but this post is probably not for you.  This post is for those of us who are not into Christmas for one reason or another. Maybe you’re not a Christian. Maybe you were raised in a culture that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Maybe you’ve had a shitty year and don’t feel like celebrating this year. Maybe you’ve had something tragic happen in the last month–lost a job, a family member/friend, an animal companion, a relationship–and being holly and jolly is the last thing on your mind. Maybe you struggle with chronic depression, and you don’t want to pretend that you’re feeling the Christmas cheer. Maybe you have a toxic family situation and you’ve cut them off for the first time, so everything is weird and strange. I’ve been several of those before, and it’s not a pleasant feeling.

Or, maybe you’re like me in that you don’t understand the need for forced bonhomie during a very specific time of the year. Maybe the hypocrisy of ‘good will towards all humankind’ for two weeks gets to you, and you want to point out that we need to be a better country all year round, rather than do feel-good things in the last two weeks before the end of the year.

I’ve said this year, the holiday season hasn’t been as annoying for me personally as it has been in the past. I used to feel as if people were having their holiday cheer AT me instead of just doing their own thing. It’s hard not to feel suffocated by it, however, as it’s everywhere this time of the year. For whatever reason, it just hasn’t bothered me as much this year, which I’ll take as a boon. I don’t think it’s because there’s less hawking going on because there’s not, but because I’ve reached a better place in my life, emotionally, I mean. I’m able to deal with things better than I used to, and that apparently includes holidays.

I’m still not rah rah about Christmas, however. I’m at best indifferent, and I would like to ignore it completely. I still have the crud, which is really sapping my energy. I went to the store today (Christmas Eve day), and I was dizzy while I was there, and I was exhausted by the time I got home.  I’m going to the doctor/TCM/acupuncture in the new year because this shit has been staying for far too long.

For anyone who’s not feeling the holiday spirit, I wish you peace during this difficult time. I’ll probably binge-watch Poirot while munching on sweet kettle popcorn, sipping my ginger lemon honey tea. Hopefully, Shadow will be snuggling on my legs, and I’ll be feeling better physically. I’m not going to lie. I’m a bit glum. Partly because of the time of year, and partly because I’m ill, but also because I’m contemplating my life, and I have some difficult choices to make. If you’re struggling this Christmas, vow to do one thing just for you. Read a book. Take a walk. Soak in a bubble bath. One thing just for you. It may not make things all better, but it will certainly not hurt.

Here are two atheist Christmas songs that I quite enjoy. First up, Tim Minchin with White Wine in the Sun. This version is from a week ago on James Corden (and the first time I’ve heard it. There are a few updates!)

Next up is Vienna Teng with The Atheist Christmas Carol.

Both of these songs make me cry because they’re so lovely.

And, of course, I’m going to wrap it up with ‘O Holy Night’, the only Christmas carol I like. This version is done by Angelica Hale, a finalist from America’s Got Talent.

Inching My Way Towards Normal

I went to taiji and overdid it, but it felt good to get moving again. I’m exhausted now, so I think it might be nap time soon. I’m currently eating gluten and dairy-free mac and cheeze. It’s not bad at all (Amy’s), but it’s oddly gummy. I added spinach, vegan sour cream, and chicken to it. Quite tasty. The trick to eating substitutes is not to think of it as the real thing and to judge it on its own merits. Also, all the dairy substitutes are things I’d eat with other things, but never on their own. Fake cheeze is not munchable by itself, at least not to me. For milk, my favorite is cashew milk, but again, it’s not something I would chug a big glass of.

I decided to do something a bit different this year for the few people I actually buy gifts for. Normally, I buy a soap basket for my BFF, Kat, and a game on Ian’s Steam wishlist, and call it a day. This year, I went for different things that I think (and hope!) each of them will get a kick out of. I’m not a big fan of Christmas (massive understatement), but I find the cheer and hoopla to be far less irritating this year than in past years for whatever reason. Maybe I’m just mellowing with age, but I’ve found the holiday season (starting with Thanksgiving) to be eminently ignorable this year.

I am off social media Wednesday and Saturday, and I’m thinking of adding Monday as well. I notice that I’m more agitated when I’m heavily involved with social media, especially Twitter. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when the shit is constantly flashing before your eyes. Most of the people I follow are political junkies, so, yeah, it’s not a happy place to be in general.

Anyway. Here’s on of my favorite versions of O Holy Night. Enjoy.