Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Holidays

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.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time–Shut the Fuck Up

I hate Christmas. Longtime readers will know this about me because I won’t shut up about it. To be fair, I hate all holidays, but it’s Christmas that really rubs me the wrong way. I wrote an editorial in my high school paper about the crass commercialism of Christmas, and that was thirty years ago. My feelings for Christmas have only grown in disgust since then. Many moons ago, I started posting yearly about the one Christmas song I like (‘O Holy Night’), including several versions of the song. I also posted about depression as many people get depressed at this time of year, whether it’s because of Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) or dysfunctional family issues coming to a head or whatnot. I know there are other people who feel the same way I do, but we’re drowned out by all the aggressively good cheer. And Christmas commercials. Oh, lord, the Christmas commercials. I saw my first one this year a few days after Halloween, and I’ve been grumpy ever since. The first Christmas commercial denotes my season of personal hell in which I grit my teeth and bah humbug my way through the month.

Speaking of Christmas commercials, that Kay is a ho, ain’t she? Every kiss begins with Kay my ass. I love how Christmas commercials have become a way to guilt your love ones into buying you expensive presents to show you they love you. And by love, I mean I want to burn it in a fire.

Burn it ALL in a fire, Angela!
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Thanksgiving: What I’m Thankful For

First of all, I am not a big fan of holidays. At all. I used to hate them with a passion for many reasons, but my hatred has mitigated over the years. Side note (and, yes, I know I just started the post. Deal): Many of my negative emotions have lightened over the years, and I give credit to taiji and therapy, but mostly taiji. I’ve written tons about that before, however, so moving on. Holidays. I see them as society-dictated enforced family time. That’s fine for people with good families. For those of us with dysfunctional families, holidays can be fraught with drama and hard feelings. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my hatred for holidays has subsided as my relationship with my family has improved. However, I still LOATHE Christmas and how commercialized it is. I also hate how it starts so early. I saw my first Christmas commercial in early November, and there’s a local radio station that plays Christmas music all through December. It seems they’ve already started. It’s also annoying how rabid fundies (read, FOX) bleat about how us dastardly heathens are ruining Christmas by forcing people to say Happy Holidays in stores, and they don’t see the irony in their complaints. They want a secular place that is doing secular business that supports the secular reason for Christmas to say Merry Christmas. Irony is not their strong point, nor is rational thinking.

Anyway, I have problems with Thanksgiving for other reasons, obviously. We can all agree that killing off the native population and giving them small pox is a bad thing, right? RIGHT! In addition, I’m an introvert and don’t like to be around groups of people for an extended period of time. Partly because I’m a weirdo who has very few traditional/mainstream ideas, but mostly because I tend to attract all the sad sacks who want to tell me their sob stories. I’m working on not asking follow-up questions, but it’s like second nature to me. In addition, I don’t always have to ask questions for people to want to pour their guts out to me. I guess there’s something about my demeanor that invites other people to tell me their woes.

Side note: I used to not talk about my opinion ever because I was taught what I thought didn’t matter. Then, in true overcompensation fashion, I started to espouse my opinions all the time. I’m the ‘well, actually’ guy in my brain a lot of the time, and I can get caught up in the nitpicky details when they don’t actually matter. Sometimes they do, but they often don’t. It’s because I’ve lived with unreliable narrators my whole life, so I tend to hold on to ‘facts’ as if they’re talismans against the shifting sands I often find myself on. I’m learning now how to differentiate between opinions and information that should be shared, and ones that I can just keep to myself. I have a few trigger topics like psychology. I hate how people throw terms around that they’ve heard or read but don’t really know what they mean. Ahem.


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Freedom Isn’t Free on Independence Day

democracy is crumbling.
The cracks are showing.

I hate holidays in general, and the Fourth of July is one of my least favorites. There are several reasons for it, including that only some people were truly free at the time, but it’s especially grating this year because of this president. He’s doing everything in his power to destroy our democracy, so it’s kind of hard to be patriotic* right about now. I have no desire to celebrate, even if I were so moved, which I’m not.

I’m tired. Bone tired. Soul tired. Wishing I didn’t have to get up in the morning tired. What is happening in America is not normal, and yet, it’s our new norm. I don’t get American positivity: I really don’t. There’s this naive ‘everything is going to be OK’ mentality that I just don’t understand. “Yeah, this sucks, but he’ll be impeached any day now!” Really? I don’t see any evidence of that happening. And, even if were true, then we have President Pence, who is arguably worse in some ways. Empires do fall. Societies crumble and never recover. Why are we so certain we will survive this regime?

I’m also tired of the constant outrage over everything this president does. His tweets about Mika were heinous, but not unexpected. The one thing I have to give credit to this president for is that he is exactly as he appears. There’s no deeper meaning to what he says and does, and he’s a disgusting pig. It’s also interesting how the media only really gets riled up about this president when he’s attacking one of them (or a news station as in the fake wrestling video).

Is it disgusting? Of course. Is it surprising? Fuck, no. Someone tweeted at me that we have to call it out every time, that it’s never excusable. She totally missed my point which is that it’s a matter of focus and energy. There is so much horrifying shit flowing from the various orifices of this president, it can obscure some of the actions he and this Congress are taking. It’s his one genius, really, muddying the waters to the point where you can no longer remember why you were mad at him in the first place. He’s throwing shit in hopes that it’s enough smoke and mirrors to hide his wrongdoings.

I sympathize to a certain degree because he keeps going lower than most people think is possible. The thing is, though, the sooner you realize he has no floor to how shitty he can be, the sooner you can stop being outraged at everything. I’m not saying to become apathetic, but it’s not helping anyone to be in a constant state of outrage. I should know. I find myself in a better mental state when I limit my social media and news consumption, and I think that’s a good thing. I know I need to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world, but I don’t need it to glut myself in it until I feel completely hopeless. It’s a fine line between being a responsible citizen and doing harm to my mental health.

I have nothing more to say. Instead, here’s a hilarious video of Patrick Stewart explaining how he discovered rather late in life that he’s not circumcised. Enjoy.

 

*I’m not patriotic during the best of times, and this is definitely not the best of times.

An Ode/Eulogy to Valentine’s Day

Ed. Note: I wrote this on Valentine’s Day, even though it won’t be posted until the day after. Just so there’s no confusion.

I have a complicated relationship with Valentine’s Day. I have always professed to hate it, and I do, mostly, but it’s for more complex reasons than I normally admit. I would tell people when asked (and sometimes unprompted) that I deplored the commercial aspects and being told that I have to buy lavish gifts to demonstrate my love. I firmly believed that you could show your love in many different ways at any time of the year, and I didn’t need Hallmark to dictate when I should display my love, damn it. That was all true and sincerely felt, but there was a deeper, darker reason I hated it so much–it’s because it consistently let me down. Yes, even I, as jaded and bitter as I was, I had bought into the promises and dreams Valentine’s day had fed to me, lies, really, during my teenage years and into my twenties. I wanted the romance, to be wined and dined, and to be made to feel like a queen. I wanted happily-ever-after that was the bailiwick of fairy tales and Harlequin Romance novels. When I was in a relationship during those years, even though I would pooh-pooh Valentine’s Day, I would secretly hope that my partner would surprise me with a magical night. It never happened, and each time it didn’t, I became increasingly bitter. Even though I tried to pretend I was fine with having a low-key Valentine’s Day, I wasn’t. In other words, I was a lover scorned being spiteful towards my ex-lover.

During my thirties, I tried to make my peace with Valentine’s Day, even though I dreaded its arrival every year. I was not in a relationship more often than I was, and each Valentine’s Day was a stark reminder that I was single. Our society is very couple-centric, and it’s not like I need another day to shove my alone-ness in my face. I get enough of that wherever I go–you really can’t escape it anywhere. Back in my thirties, I desperately wanted to be in a relationship, although I would have vigorously denied it. I was an independent, strong woman, damn it, and I didn’t need no man or woman to make me complete. Yet, there was something inside me that longed to be one half of a couple. I couldn’t squash the feeling, no matter how hard I tried. So, much of my bluster about Valentine’s Day was because it made me feel my lack of a romantic relationship keenly, and I hated feeling that way.

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