Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Wellness

Little things mean a lot

I never thought about my thumb before it started being a problem. It makes sense. Why would I think about my thumb? I have two of them and they do what they’re supposed to do. Period. That’s good enough for me. Until my left thumb started twinging in pain. Nothing big. Not often. Just once in a while, it would tweak. And the joint would pop and lock when I bent it. This was perhaps two or three times a week. The clicking didn’t hurt; it was just annoying. Then, about a week ago, things escalated dramatically. The base of my thumb started hurting more regularly. Again, not in and of itself, but if I touched it or moved it in an odd way. Not hurt, but more like ached. The clicking was deeper for a lack of a better word, but still did not hurt.

It was highly annoying, however, and I knew I did not want it to get worse. I Googled it because that’s what I do. It’s rheumatoid arthritis also known as trigger thumb in this particular case. There are stretches recommended for it, which I’ve been doing every day. In addition, I have picked up a splint for it that I am wearing most of the day and night. Is it helping? I think so? It’s hard to say.

I have to say, before I got the splint, the pain increased dramatically. the base is painful to the touch, though not inflamed-looking. The clicking is more often than not, ranging from a quick, barely-audible click to a deep, grinding click. Bending the thumb is painful at the base and the clicking itself hurts sometimes. Once in a while, the bending pain is excruciating, but it’s bearable most of the time.


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On the contrary; life as a contrarian

I’m a contrarian. I know this and to some extent, I embrace it. I swear to the heavens that it’s not out of spite or because I think I’m better than anyone else, but it’s just how my brain works. I tend to look at something from several angles and poking holes in theories. I will say that part of it is me always rooting for the underdog, which means I want to represent the minority viewpoint more often than not. It’s also because I hate things being misrepresented. It’s one reason I had to step back from politics because of the in-fighting. I expect Republicans to attack Dems, but it’s Dems viciously tearing each other apart that drives me fucking nuts. It’s always been that way, but it started getting really bad during the 2016 primaries and it has just gotten worse over time.

I am a far leftie in theory and a not-quite-as-far leftie in practice. That means I get to see the ugly on both sides. It really irks me that some Democrats online spend more time slinging arrows at each other than across the bow. What is the fucking point? I’m not talking about discussing the differences and hashing out what’s important to the party. I’m talking about demonizing the other side and declaring them the enemy. Seriously. We’re talking about degrees of how far we should go on an issue rather than being on opposite sides. It’s frustrating and irritating, and I want no part of it.

However, this post isn’t about me being a contrarian about ideas and politics and whatnot, but rather about me being contrarian when it comes to pop culture.  Now, while it’s true that in the aforementioned instances, there is often a small part of pure contrarian because that’s who I am. It’s 95% not that, but maybe 5% that. In this case, though, it’s simply I don’t like what other people like. I know some people think it’s me being hip or whatever, but it truly isn’t.

A recent(ish) example is Knives Out. It was a huge success and it got raved about over and over again. So many superlatives, so little time. It was an ensemble cast with a quirky detective, which should have been right up my alley. I watched the trailer and was…not impressed. Everyone talked about how great Daniel Craig was, but I could not get past how terrible his accent was. Maybe it was purposeful? I mean, he’s a great actor so I cannot imagine he couldn’t do a spot-on accent. Also, he appears clueless, but it had to be an act, right? Like Poirot.


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The more things change….

I gave up coffee. Again. Maybe not for good, but I switched back to green tea for my caffeine. Why? Because my sleep has been terrible since I started drinking it again. Green tea didn’t seem to have that effect and it’s delicious, especially with pomegranate. I haven’t had this bad of sleep in some time and it’s really messing with my head. Yes, my migraines have been kept at bay, but is it worth it? I don’t know. With the absence of the migraines, I would say yes. But, in the middle of a migraine, I would say no. It’s the duel of the conflicting health issues!

On the weapons front, I loaded up today. I did the beginning of the Double Sabre Form, sword drills, the whole Sabre Form, the Karambit Form, and spear drills. Oh, I forgot to do the one row of the Cane Form I know, so I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m still thinking about about a music/form mashup and we’ll see if I have the energy for that. One thing about going to the demo is that it fills me with possibilities–much like a kid with her nose pressed to the window of a candy shop. I want everything I can see and all at one time. My teacher likes to say that there’s a lifetime to learn things so there’s no reason to rush.

She’s right, but that doesn’t stop my brain from whispering that I’m behind and need to catch up. Not that kindly, of course, as my brain is really mean to me most of the time. Actually, I have to check that. It used to be horrid to me. I had a constant tape of negativity that looped in my brain and it just felt normal. I called him (and it was definitely a him) The Dictator and he was a cruel master. He had so many rules and regulations, it was impossible to keep them straight and not mess up.

Side note: Quick background about the Dictator. I grew up being constantly told, mostly by implication, that my feelings were not valid. They constantly got minimized and ignored, and I was not allowed to show any kind of negative emotion. Negative meaning anger, sadness, depression, etc. Only my father was allowed to show anger because he was king of the castle and allowed to do whatever he wanted. The rest of us had to tiptoe around him and catered to his every whim.

I internalized those messages to such an extent that even now I have difficulty showing human emotions in a natural manner. It’s one reason I prefer writing because it’s easier to mimic through written words than through speaking. I’m better at it, but it’s still not something I can do without thinking. In the past, I’ve been able to mimic the emotions because I’m observant and I used to do some  acting in my youth.

I want to be clear. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel the emotion on some level. If a friend told me they, say, got a great new job, then I felt happy for them deep down inside. The problem was that I had wrapped my emotions in multiple layers of cotton that I could no longer feel them. Not only that, I couldn’t even access them.

I had a flat affect at the time because I was in a deep depression and I felt as if I could never get out of it. Now, I’m still not as emotive as ‘normal’ people, but I can more easily  pass. And I have access to my emotions, albeit muted versions.


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Happy Lunar New Year + taiji demo

Happy Year of the Ox, everyone! I’m not a huge celebrator of holidays, but I’m more into Lunar New Year than the alternative because, well, just because. That doesn’t mean I do much about it, but I at least acknowledge it–mostly because my family celebrates it.

One thing that comes with the Lunar New Year is the demo at my taiji teacher’s home studio. Last year was right before the pandemic really hit and it was both great (saw the Double Sabre Form) and terrible (car wouldn’t start afterwards because of the bitter cold). This year, there was question whether there would even be one given the pandemic, but they decided to do it on Zoom.

My teacher was in charge of it as she does all the online Zoom classes, but this was the first time she’d done an event of this magnitude. We had twenty-five or so people, which was more than I expected for a Zoom event.

The way it was handled was that my teacher had roughly twenty slots for demos. Solo demos, which was the only way it made sense. It was limited to 2-3 minutes per demonstrator. Hm. Not a good word. Presenter.

It would have been better in person, of course, but there were a few benefits to it being online. One, we’re in the middle of a wind chill advisory and it might get down to -45. Two, for me, it was nice to be able to sit in the comfort in my own home and not have to worry about my physical energy levels. Also, while I enjoy watching the group presentations, it’s easier to focus on the details with single presenters.

One thing that blew my mind was that two of the women who demoed did their routines to rap/hip hop, one being a Beastie Boys song. I had never thought about doing a routine to music, let alone hip hop/rap, and it was the most amazing thing. One was the Dancing Wu-Li Form and the other was a mixture of sabre forms.

At first, I was taken aback with the two of these being brought together. But, watching the first demo, I immediately got into it and thought, “Why the hell not?” Then, I was besotted by it and by the end of the demo, I was thinking of which forms I could unite with which rap songs.


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If you can’t say anything nice

Come sit by me. That’s usually my attitude towards that saying, but today, I’m going to put a spin on things and list all the good things about me that I can. Why? Because normally I gloss over them or downplay them or ignore them completely. I’m not comfortable with any kind of self-praise, evev if it’s just me saying it to myself. I’m treating this as just an experiment to take the heat off myself and I’m pretty sure I’ll explain away every positive point, but so be it.

Let’s start with the physical. I have two features I like. One is my hair, which is funny because I wear it in a topknot all the time. When I wear it down, I get compliments on it. It could be simply because of the sheer length.

Side note: I’ve mentioned this before, but my hair used to reach my waist. It stayed there for several decades until a few years ago, it began to grow again. I had no idea why. Normally, I would give credit to taiji, but that wasn’t something that had changed in that time. After some reflection, I realized it was probably my change in diet. That was around the same time I cut out dairy and gluten plus some other things that were giving me issues. That made sense to me and I’m sticking with it.

It grew to nearly my knees, well, a few inches from my knees, and I noticed that the edges were getting scraggly. I cut off roughly six inches and it’s now at the top of my thighs. I’m holding out hope that it’ll grow past my knees and that’s my new hair goal. The old one used to be let it turn all white a la Storm from the X-Men before chopping it off.  Now, I want it to reach my ankles.


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Conflicting health issues

i have suffered from migraines for quite some time. Let me backtrack a minute. I’ve had a low-level headache pretty much all my life. It’s always been there whenever I really think about it. For decades, it’s been something I’ve lived with and just dealt with as need be. I took ibuprofen when it got bad, and that did jack and shit. I will confess something that I rarely talk about. When the migraines hit in the old days, they were fucking awful. Two ibuprofen did nothing to them. My migraine just laughed at that pitiful attempt to block it. Three? Ha! Not a chance. It took six in order for the ibuprofen to have any effect on the migraine. Which, by the way, I didn’t recognize as a migraine at the time because I don’t get auras.

Side note: This is one of the reasons that it’s important to not have a fixed idea as to the symptoms of a health issue. They don’t manifest in the same way for different people.

Side note to the side note: It’s similar to how most medical studies are done on white dudes. Well, that holds true for a lot of things, but the medical part is especially pertinent here. I was in my thirties when I discovered that Asian people needed much less of most medications than do white people. It was around the same time when I also realized that as a woman, my ‘normal’ dose would be much less than a man’s. This had disastrous results when I tried to find a solution to my sleep issues. Hm. Was it in my late twenties? Maybe. That or my early thirties.

I was desperate. I had tried a bunch of things that didn’t work. Hot milk before bed. Hot chamomile tea. Lavender in the bath (how I found out I was allergic to lavender). Ambient music. White noise machine. Which, I will say, did help, but didn’t eliminate the core problem. Same with earplugs and an eye mask, but those didn’t come until later. At some point, I tried melatonin, valerian, St. John’s Wort (more for depression than for sleep, but didn’t work). The valerian actually made me suicidal because it slowed my brain down so much, I couldn’t make a coherent sentence.


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Feeding my addiction

Weapons. Let’s talk about them. Why? Because I’m obsessed with them. I mean, I’ve always loved my weapons, but in the last few months, they’ve really become deeply meaningful to me. As much as I love taiji in general, I would not have said the same for the Solo Form. I’ve really struggled with the Solo Form. I hated it from the beginning and, honestly, I didn’t know why I stuck with it especially since I had a disastrous experience the first time I tried taiji due to a terrible, manipulative, shady teacher.

With my second teacher, I fought her every step of the way. I was recalcitrant and grumpy, pushing back hard on whatever she said. I hated the Solo Form. I hated it so much that I didn’t practice it at home. In fact, I added a second class a week because I wouldn’t practice at home. Why didn’t I quit especially as it was not mandatory in any way? I’m still not entirely sure. Something inside me kept pushing me to go. I needed something to do as exercise as I hated nearly every other form of it.

In addition, I wanted to have a way to defend myself if I ever needed it. I have been in harrowing situations in the past and never want to be in one again. Or rather, I never want to feel as helpless as I have in the past. Indeed, I have already seen the fruits of my labor in other ways. Such as my minor car accident in which I saw the other car coming towards me. I thought, “I’m going to get hit,” and my body immediately relaxed. I didn’t will it to relax and I didn’t consciously think that I had to relax–it just happened.

But did I ever learn to love the Solo Form? No. I still don’t. I don’t hate it any longer, but I don’t love it. And yet, there was something in me that kept pushing to do it. I resentfully started practicing at home for five minutes a day. Just the warmups and maybe a bit of the Solo Form. Oh, I also did the weight-bearing set that is in taiji as well.

Against myself, I started incorporating more and more of taiji into my daily life. I added a third class and my home routine stretched out into ten minutes, fifteen, and now, up to forty-five minutes with the expansion being on the weapons side. I’ve had to cajole and trick myself into doing more taiji because that’s the way my brain works, but whatever it takes.


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Learning the rules before breaking them

There’s a saying in writing that you have to know the rules before you can break them. I agree. And I am at the point where I knowingly break rules I think don’t make sense. Such as using a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence as I did in the last sentence. Or ending a sentence with a preposition. That is one I do a lot because I don’t see any reason not to do it. That’s pretty much my excuse for anything I do that breaks the rules in writing–it makes the flow better. I’m about communicating, not about the stiffness of rigid rules. I will not give up my semi-colon, however; that, I will not do.

There’s a similar thing in taiji. The first thing you learn is the Solo Form, which is the basis for everything else in taiji. I hated the Solo Form when I first learned it. That was over a decade ago. I got used to it, but I never liked it. With the long form (Master T.T. Liang’s form), there were just so many things I didn’t like about it. A few years ago, my teacher’s teacher modified it to be more in line with Master Choi’s teaching and suddenly, I liked it much better, especially the Fast Form. I was talking about it with my teacher during our last private lesson because I was saying how when we used to do the whole form, my lower back would start to hurt at the end of the first section. By the end of the third section, nearly twenty minutes later, my whole back would be cramped up and it would hurt. I didn’t understand how this was supposed to be good for me!

In addition, I had the habit of collapsing my back knee which gave me tendonitis around my knee. I had mentioned that to my teacher when it was the worst (about five years ago) and she gave me tips to deal with it. They helped, but it was a lot of effort to reverse the damage. Anyway, I was saying how I could do the whole current form without my lower back hurting and I couldn’t figure out why. My teacher mentioned the change in form and it clicked in my brain. I mean, of course it made sense that changing the form would ameliorate the pain, but I just didn’t think about it. My knees don’t hurt, either. The difference is that this form is focused on the martial arts applications whereas the old form was more for health benefits. It was more theoretical and difficult to get exactly what you were supposed to do.


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Love me, love my weapons

I’ve told this story several times, but it’s a defining moment in my life. One of those sliding door moments of, what if I went the other way? That’s a bit dramatic because it would have happened sooner or later unless I completely quit taiji, but still.

Let me back that train up a bit. When I first started taiji, I was looking far something to back up my swagger. I was able to carry myself with pseudo-confidence, but if anyone actually approached me, I would be screwed. I didn’t care about the health or mental health aspects (still don’t, although I am grateful that they are added benefits) and I really had no interest in weapons. I just wanted to know the martial arts aspects and how I could defend myself if need be.

The first time I tried deer-horn knives, I was intrigued and loved them, but the flash image of me killing an opponent while walking the circle shook me. When my teacher explained that it was a positive, my brain saying that I was worth fighting for. I loved the knives, but I put them down when I was ready to meditate again (or rather, gave them back to my teacher) and rarely thought about them again.

Until that fateful day. It was after I learned the Solo Form and didn’t know what was coming up next. My teacher told me that it was time to start the weapons, meaning the sword, and I literally recoiled in horror. I had no interest in weapons because I was not an aggressive person. Yes, that was my thought at the time. Who but an aggressive, angry, snarling, raging asshole would be interested in weapons?

Here’s where the story starts, the official story, I mean. My teacher told me it was time to start learning the Sword Form. I demurred. I had a million reasons why I didn’t want to do this, but the bottom line was that it weirded me out. She picked up a wooden sword and held it out to me. I refused. She literally pressed it in my hand and told me to just hold it for a few seconds.

Side note: My teacher is incredibly patient with me. She knows I’m contrary, cranky, and resistant to new things. She rolls with it, pushing me when I need to be pushed and explaining things I need explained.

The second my hands closed over the hilt of the sword, I never wanted to let go. I knew this was what I was meant to do; I have never had that kind of kinetic connection with anything in my life. It felt like an extension of my hand and I never wanted to let go.


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Minor stressors becoming a major stress

My previous post was about a family issue that is compounded by a bad habit of mine and now it’s threatening to bring about a migraine. You can read about it here. Yesterday, I had to take my Migraine Excedrin (generic) for the first time since I started my caffeine regime. My sleep has gone directly to shit and I’m stressed about it even when I’m not looking for it. The document, I mean. The problem is that there is three or four places it should be. Three or four places where I would put it, I mean. I remember my brother bringing it to me and me putting it in something and putting it on the shelf under the coffee table. Which is funny because he remembers me putting it on the coffee table, which I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do. He added, or on the table by the couch. The one with the lamp. Also not what I would have done.

I’ve checked the three or four places several times and now, I have no idea where else to look. There are places that it’s not possible at all because I don’t go into those areas. There are places that are highly unlikely because I just simply would not put anything there–but I’m getting desperate.

The hidden part is that looking for this blasted thing is draining my energy–not that I had much to begin with. I’ve been making deals with myself like, “Check this area, then you can have your pudding.” And not the British version of pudding, but literal pudding.

By the way, sometimes, the simplest things are the best. Instant almond milk chocolate pudding plus a plant-based whipped cream with blueberries, chopped cranberries, and chocolate granola FTW.

Anyway. Gotta keep looking, but I’m running out of ideas.