Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Taiji

Finally! No longer feeling like warmed-up puke

I started feeling better Sunday night, and when I woke up on Monday, I was markedly improved. Sinus was clear (although my ears were still scabby and crusty. Yes, they become filled with pus when I pick the scabs), cough was mostly gone (one or two hard coughs every few hours), and better yet, I had more energy than I’ve had in the last month. I didn’t feel like death warmed over, and I actually looked forward to going to taiji. More to the point, I had enough energy to propel myself out of the car.

It’s difficult, though, because I don’t like leaving the house in general. It’s my low-level depression that makes it twice as hard for me to get in the car and drive. My BFF and I have talked about how fucked up it is that we’d set up a date to go out dancing. We did that maybe once a month, which isn’t a big ask, really. Both of us would spend the whole day psyching ourselves up to go out and begrudgingly get dressed. I’d leave the house, feeling extremely reluctant to go. I’d reach my BFF’s house, and she wouldn’t be dressed yet.

Side note: We have a running joke about her being perennially late. Like other issues in our friendship, once we hashed it out, it was fine. I just mentally added twenty minutes to a half hour to whatever the start time was supposed to be, and it worked out. Funnily enough, one time, she was supposed to pick me up at my house at, say, eight. That meant I’d change around eight-fifteen. The doorbell rang at eight, and I exclaimed, “You’re early!” She said, “We said eight, right?”

We’d chat while she decided what to wear. She often roped her husband into the process (if he was there) because he had a sharp eye for fashion.

Another side note: We were shoe shopping once, and I was griping about my wide feet and how shoes looked so bad on them. She said she once asked her husband if a pair of shoes made her feet look big. He said, “_____, no guy has every looked at a woman and said, ‘Damn, she’s fine, but those feet are too fucking big!'” I laughed, but the message has stuck with me, even though that was probably twenty years ago.

We’d smoke a cigarette on her porch before reluctantly leaving. Once we hit the club or restaurant or whatever, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but it took a lot of wherewithal to get there in the first place.

It’s the depression. When it was chronic and really bad, I could barely make myself brush my teeth, let alone leave the house. Now that I ‘only’ experience low-level depression, I can make myself do the things I need to do outside the house. However, I don’t have an office job, so I don’t have to drive every. That’s another thing. I hate driving, and I’m terrible at it. There are many reasons for that, but suffice to say, it makes it easier for me to cancel on outings whenever possible.


Continue Reading

Making a bad situation worse

There is something intensely boring and self-involved in being sick. At least for me, that is. It’s hard to do much else when I’m not at my best or even at 50%, and it makes me cranky as fuck. I am not at my better self when I’m sick. Mostly, I want to withdraw into myself and hide from the world. Hm. Come to think of it, it’s not much different than regular me. I jest, I jest. (But only partly.) Since I am purportedly a goddamn adult, I manage to keep most of this shit to myself, but it’s harder to do when I’m sick. I’m funneling so much energy into being miserable, I have little left over for the constant controlling of my emotions that I do on a regular basis.

My taiji teacher suggested acupuncture, which I am fine with in theory. In reality, though, I have a complicated reaction. Not to acupuncture itself. I think it’s a good thing. But to the fact that I’m Taiwanese, and I know little-to-nothing about it. If I go to someone in Minnesota, they’re most likely going to be white. So, there’s a layer of shame and defiance in my attitude to begin with, which is not a good way to go into a new situation. But, as uncomfortable as that is, it’s better than going to someone who’s actually Chinese because I have even more feelings about that. It’s part of being in the diaspora–never feeling as if I belong to anywhere in particular. I know to many old school Chinese/Taiwanese people, I’m a disappointment/shame to my culture. In addition, I’m Taiwanese with a grudge against the Mainlanders*, which would not end well, either.

Regardless, I need to do something because every time I start to come down with something, it’s never-ending. It goes something like this. I start to feel off, which means my energy starts flagging. That lasts for a week or two. Then, sinus issues. Then, bowel issues. Then, coughing/sneezing/sore throat issues. Sinus issues may or may not persist. Throw in flu-like issues from time to time, lather, rinse, repeat. Last night, I was lying on the couch under a blanket and my cat (on my legs), and I got the chills. That’s another phase of being sick for me.

I’m tired of this. It seems to happen every year. My taiji teacher asked if it could be a prolonged sense of allergies, and that might be part of it since I’m allergic to everything. It’s worse when I get up in the morning and then for a few hours before I finally drop off to sleep. My ears are totally scabbed over with crud, and they hurt.

I’m in the same position, still have the chills, and I’m sipping my honey ginger lemon tea. Is it helping? Dunno, but it tastes good.

I really liked this song until I figured out what it was about (which was by the end of the song–it’s pretty obvious. At first, I thought it was about a lover, which would have been bad enough, but it’s God, which is even worse). Too bad because her voice is gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

 

*Brief primer: Chiang Kai-shek fled the Mainland to get away from Mao. He took over Taiwan and ruled it with an iron fist. Taiwanese people were considered second-class citizens under his regime, and he considered it part of China. My parents believe in an independent Taiwan and that we are Taiwanese, not Chinese.

Moving on up

badass asian chick with sword!
Shaolin Sword. Different, but still cool.

For the first time in two weeks, I feel like a semblance of myself. I said when I first started feeling punk that I’d rather have a few days of intense sickness and then get over it then to have something that lingers forever and ever. When I was first sick, it was a low-level, but pervasive exhaustion that sapped my will to do anything. Then, I had three days of concentrated crud, which, while it sucked, was bearable when I got marginally better the next day. Then, yesterday, Monday, I felt significantly better and went to taiji for the first time in weeks. We took it easy, and we did a little of the Sword Form, which always makes me feel better. I was careful not to overdo because I know myself. Like many people, when I start feeling better, I’d go hard at whatever I was doing and make myself sick again.

You’d think it’d be easy to tell myself, “Remember, just because you’re starting to feel better, it doesn’t mean you’re completely better.” Well, it’s easy to tell myself that, but it’s harder to truly embrace it. I’m a pretty low-energy person in the first place, but being sick makes me almost completely immobilized. When I finally can move without much exhaustion again, I want to go hog-wild (which for me means going to TWO places in one day rather than one).

I left taiji feeling a bit tired, but not excessively so. It felt good to go to class and stretch my limbs. It also felt good to see my teacher and classmate (there’s usually only the two of us on Mondays) after being absent for a few weeks. I still did my daily routine, but I learn so much in class that I don’t like to miss it. In addition, we’re going through the Sword Form with refinements and slight tweaks, and as I’ve said a million times, THE SWORD IS MY JAM. I love it with a passion unmatched for anything else. I would sleep with my sword if I could (well, no, I wouldn’t, but it’s always in my heart), and I could do sword for hours on end.

Why do I love it so? I can’t fully explain it, though I’ve thought about it more than once. I’ve told the story before of how once I ‘graduated’ from the Solo Form, my teacher mentioned the Sword Form. I vigorously said I didn’t want to learn weapons (oh, I was so young and naive back then), but she gently persisted. Finally, one day, she pressed her wooden sword in my hand, and as soon as I closed my fingers around the hilt, that was it. I was born to wield a blade, and I haven’t looked back since.

I know some of my classmates are envious of my Sword Form and how easily I learned it, but I can’t take any credit for it. It just came naturally to me, and I practice it frequently. I do something with the sword every day, and I practice the Sword Form about once a week. I understand my classmates being a bit jealous, but they don’t see how diligent I am with the Sword Form. I get a bit tired of having to play down my ability or biting my tongue from saying that I’m good because I practice. I mean, yes, I have natural talent. I’m not going to downplay that because it’s true. In addition, I’m good at learning stuff. Well, usually. When I’m not, then I don’t do that thing any longer. I’m not proud of it, and it’s not a good thing about me, but it’s the truth.

Continue Reading

Caffeine and taiji (not together, though)

CAFFEINE!!!!
I need to mainline the caffeine.

Caffeine. Let’s talk about it. It’s been a few weeks of having one cup of caffeine a day (and, yes, I’m putting it that way because it’s all about the caffeine, not about the vessel), and my god. It’s been a bitch, to put it bluntly. I knew it would be hard. I knew I would struggle. That’s why I did a cut-down rather than a cut-out. Vivid memories of going cold turkey haunted me as I started this endeavor. Cue the intensive headaches–had to take my migraine headache Excedrin-generic pills–and the lingering lassitude. Not to mention the inability to focus. I was walking around as if I were in a fog all day long.

The headaches have mostly gone away, thankfully, as had the mental fog. The lassitude, however, it persists. My sleep has been shittier, too, and I’m sure it’s because my body is adjusting to the caffeine deficit. Also, I had to slam down some extra caffeine on Saturday night to pick up my parents from the airport, and I’m sure that didn’t help. The weariness has been so bad, I’ve been tempted to up the caffeine to two cups because that’s not bad for me, right? I know the moral of this story is a hard look at how much I depended on caffeine to get me through the day. If my reaction is this severe, then it means I should not have gotten hooked in the first place. Caffeine is definitely a drug, and it’s frightening how many people are addicted to it.

Now, taiji. There’s no connection between the two, but I want to talk about both. There was a letter to Ask A Manager about the CEO of a small nonprofit making all the employees participate it taiji sessions twice a week for twelve weeks for ‘health’ reasons and for ‘team bonding’. The OP participated in the first session, which exacerbated her* chronic condition, and she asked to be exempt from the rest. The CEO said she didn’t have to participate, but she had to sit in the sessions. She said it made her feel singled out and punished (told the CEO this) and was basically told to deal with it.

I mention it not just because I’m horrified the CEO would mandate taiji but since we’re on this subject, don’t do this, CEOs. Taiji is amazing, and I think everyone could get something out of it, but it’s not helpful to MAKE people do it–or watch it. Being resentful isn’t the right mind-frame to learn taiji. In addition, there are different kinds of taiji, and some are more strenuous than others. This is what my main gripe with the commenters for this post stem. There were several who were like, “Oh, it’s just standing there” or “It’s just meditation” or “It’s just stretching”.

Continue Reading

With a sword in my hand

We started up with the sword again in taiji a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t be happier. As longtime readers know, I love the Sword Form. It’s funny because on Saturday, my teacher was telling one of my classmates that she (my teacher) might start her (my classmate) on the sword soon. My classmate was hesitant about whether or not she wanted to do it, and I had to internally smile because I resisted with all my might when my teacher first suggested it to me. She had the same reaction when her teacher told her it was time for the Sword Form, except in her case it was because she wanted to focus on open hand forms. In my case, while I was into the martial arts side of taiji way more than the health side, the thought of weapons slightly repelled me.

Thankfully, my teacher pushed the issue by pressing a sword into my hand. The minute my fingers closed over the hilt, I was hooked. This was what I was meant to be doing. I’ve learned two-thirds of the Sabre Form, and while I like it, it’s not the same. The Sword Form sings to me in a way I can’t explain. The sword is an extension of my hand, and I feel both powerful and graceful when I’m doing the Sword Form.

I’ve written this before, but I taught myself the left side of the Sword Form in fairly short order. To put it in perspective, I still haven’t learned the whole left side of the Solo Form. I was near the end of the third (and last) section when my teacher’s teacher went nuts changing things, and I decided it was better to wait until the new Solo Form was settled before trying to teach myself the left side. Quick reminder: my teacher’s teacher’s view is that he teaches the right side, and you teach the left side as a way to see if you really understand what you’re doing. It’s a solid idea because it’s easy to fudge the movements you don’t know or do something unthinkingly. When you have to teach yourself the left side, it brings up all your shortcomings.

I have spatial issues, so teaching myself the left side of the Solo Form was–and is–hell. My brain screeched to a halt when I tried to teach to show it how to do the left side. I would do the right side, then try to copy it on the left, and my brain would grind to a halt. I literally could not make myself do the left side. It was frustrating as hell, so when I decided to teach myself the left side of the Sword Form, I approached it with much trepidation.


Continue Reading

Patience is a virtue–just not mine

taiwanese tai chi sculpture!
I don’t want to be made of stone.

When I was learning Dvorak, I forgot QWERTY within days because it never felt natural to me. At the same time, I wasn’t anywhere near proficient in Dvorak yet, which meant I had to muddle alone typing roughly 30 wpm. Before that, I typed closer to 80 wpm, so it was agony to be able to do less than half of that. It took a few months for me to feel comfortable with Dvorak, but now I type roughly 100 wpm.

I think of this often now because of all the changes in taiji. My teacher, my classmate, and I had a candid talk about it yesterday in class, and it felt good to get some of the frustration off my chest. I told my teacher while I knew rationally that things were going to be better in the long run, and I trust that because I trust her, emotionally, it’s difficult not to get frustrated by all the changes. One, I don’t deal well with changes in general. It’s part of my PTSD and obsessive nature, and while I’ve gotten better at it with age, it’s still something I struggle with. Two, it’s hard not to be resentful of the newer people because they’re learning all this for the first time rather than having to unlearn an old form in order to learn a new one.

A part of me feels like all the stuff I’ve learned before is wasted now that so much of the Single Form has been changed. Intellectually, I know it’s not a waste because the core of it is still there, and the fact that I know the old way means that I can understand the newer concepts more easily. The problem is, I learned the old form fairly easily, so it doesn’t seem as if there’s much added benefit in the speed of learning the new form. That really isn’t a humblebrag, though it sounds as if it is. It just underscores the fact that I’m grumpy about all the changes. There was a time when it seemed as if the changes were happening every week, even though it was more like once a month. Still, after doing the same thing over and over for years, it can be overwhelming at time.

For example, there is a posture–movement–called Parry and Punch (well, the actual name is longer than that, but that’s the short name for it). There are four of them, and in the old form, they were all the same. In the new form, they’re all different. In the old one, they were all Parry Outward (I think) and Punch. Now, they’re Parry Inward and Punch, Parry Upward and Punch, Parry Outward and Punch, and Parry Downward and Punch. They’re all slightly different, and they’re giving me one hell of a fight. I have the first one on lock, and I’m slowly getting better at the second, but the third and fourth are kicking my ass. It’s doubly frustrating because I’m used to learning things quickly (at least the basics) so not being able to do so with the Parries and Punches is making me irritated. I will say it’s partly because I practice the first section more than the second and third, and the first Parry and Punch is in the first section. The second and third are in the second section, and the last is in the third section.

Continue Reading

Health is fleeting and fragile

I think I’m mostly recovered from my recent bout of whatever, but one thing is giving me pause. Quick backstory: I don’t sleep well. I never have for a variety of reason, and it’s been something of a Thing for me for all of my life. I remember being six or seven and reading until midnight, stuffing a towel in the crack of my door so my mother wouldn’t realize I was still awake. I can’t remember the last time I went to bed before midnight on a regular basis–when I wasn’t sick. When I am sick, all bets are off. I can sleep at any time for any amount of time (my normal sleep is six hours. Which is much better than the four hours I used to sleep a night/day on a regular basis.

This time around with my sickness, I started getting tired after being awake for twelve to fourteen hours of being awake. This made me sleep schedule go all wonky, and while I’m physically recovered from the illness, the twelve to fourteen hour thing is lingering hard. As a result, I’m going to bed anywhere from eight p.m. to midnight (with a rare two or three in the morning, very rare these days) and getting up at the crack of dawn or before. It’s really strange to wake up when it’s dark or barely bright. It’s been weeks since this pattern has been established, and I’m still thinking of it as temporary. I’m still freaking out when I start getting tired at eight in the evening, and I’m nervous that this will not change. Why nervous? I’m not really sure. I think it’s partly because so much of my identity has been wrapped up in how fucked up my sleep schedule was and how little I slept, and it’s difficult to do a mindset change about it.

It reminds me of all the changes in taiji. First of all, I hate change. Intellectually, I know it’s normal and healthy and whatnot, but emotionally, I don’t deal with it very well at all. I know all the changes the Solo Form is going through right now are probably for the better in the long run–it doesn’t mean I’m dealing well with it on a day-to-day basis. It’s not learning the Solo Form that is the problem–I’m good at rote learning. I know it really irritates my classmates from time to time, but it’s nothing I can take any pride in because I was just born that way. It’s not as if I’m a show-off, either. I just…learn quickly. It can be a detriment in the few cases when I don’t learn something quickly, but that is not the point of this post.

It’s the same with my sleep pattern. I don’t like it right now. Intellectually, I know going to bed at midnight and getting up at six is roughly the same as going to bed at four and getting up at ten, but it feels different. Let’s take Mondays, for example. My class is at 12:30 p.m., which means I usually get up around 11 a.m. and leave by 12:10 p.m. Now, I get up at 6:00 a.m., write my post and do some other work before I go to class. I might even do my fiction writing before class, which means I’m done for the day by the time I get home around 3 p.m. Normally, I wouldn’t have anything done by the time I went to taiji, and it all would be waiting for me when I got home. On the one hand, it’s nice to be done with everything by early afternoon. On the other hand, it’s just fucking weird.

Yes, I know I have to adjust to it in case this is just the way things are from now on. I know it’s not really a big deal and  that I’m making it bigger than it needs to be. That’s my M.O., though, and I’ve gotten better about it the older I get, but it’s still how I react to things. I’ve joked with my BFF that I may argue with her vociferously when she tells me something, but I’ll go away and think about it. That’s me in a nutshell, both the bad and the good. Stubborn as hell and apt to digging in my heels when pushed. Will think things over when not as heated and will change my mind if I see a point in what I’ve been told. It’s not ideal, but it’s how I deal with things. I know this about me, and I accept it begrudgingly.


Continue Reading

Adjusting to change

childish stamping of my feet.
Wah wah wah!

I hate change. I’ll out-and-out say it. I’m highly resistant to it, even when I know it’s good for me. No matter what I can tell myself about it, I still hate it. I’m slowly getting better at it, but it’s still something that can put me off-kilter for the rest of the day, even if it’s a small thing such as a change of an appointment. I bring this up because my sleep has been fucked up ever since I was sick. My normal sleep pattern is roughly go to bed at three/four in the morning and get up at nine or ten. It used to be go to bed at six or seven in the morning and get up in the early afternoon. In general, I slept through the morning because it’s my least favorite time of the day, and late night is my favorite. Since I’ve been sick, however, all bets are off. I’ll go to bed at any time, which means getting up at any time. I also sleep more when I’m sick–sometimes up to a whole eight hours! It’s one way I gauge whether I’m getting better or not–when I start sleeping less, I know I’m getting better.

This time, I’ve noticed that after twelve-fourteen hours of being awake, I’m exhausted. I’m mostly better (think 90%), but the exhaustion is the same. This has resulted in me going to bed between eight-thirty and nine-thirty at night, then getting up at four-thirty in the morning. I’m currently writing this at four-forty-five in the morning because I write my posts when I first get up, and it’s really strange. This is normally the time I go to bed, not the time I get up. Waking up to dark is messing with me more than it really should. I’m groggy, only half-awake, and grumpy. I have my thermos of ginger lemon honey tea at hand as well as my Diet Coke, and I’m still barely awake.

I think I’d rather get less sleep and feel more awake than get eight hours and feel as if I could sleep endlessly. I think my extreme tiredness of the last few days might be because of my dental work as well as it’s still a bit achy five days later. I’m so tired, I feel as if I could sleep for the rest of my life. It’s so weird that I my usual habit of getting less sleep makes me feel more rested. I still feel like shite (watching too many Brits on the YouTube), but it’s marginally better than I do now. Another frustrating thing is that I can be dropping from exhaustion when I finally go to bed, and then I lie there, wide awake. It’s as if my brain takes it as a challenge. “Oh, you’re going to sleep? I think not.” Everything I’ve pushed to the back of mind during the day comes flooding back, and all I can think about is how much everything sucks. That’s always been the case, but it’s even more annoying when I’m so fucking tired.

Continue Reading

I Can Fly! Oh, Wait. No I Can’t.

I was taking out the trash the other night, and it was dark out. I do it late at night, and my front light isn’t working. I went to check the mail, and I didn’t notice there was a huge slick of ice in front of my mailbox. I noticed when my feet went up in the air, and I landed on my knees and night elbow. If you ever want to feel completely in your body, just fall. You will be aware of muscles you never knew existed before.

The pain was sharply intense, and I’m saying this as someone who slept through a recent root canal. I couldn’t believe how much it hurt–and how quickly the intense pain went away. I admit I stayed on the ground for a minute or so, but I soon got back on my feet and checked all my limbs for possible damage. My right elbow was scraped with a little blood, my left knee felt puffy and sore, and my right knee ached a bit, but that’s it.

Nothing was broken. Nothing was wrenched, twisted, or dislocated. I kept an eye on it the next day, and while I was achy (especially in my left knee. My poor knees. They can’t catch a break), nothing actively hurt. My left knee still feels bruised and a bit puffy, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

I bring this up for a few reasons. One, I’m still clumsy. I still fall on the regular, though not as often as I used to. Two, it wasn’t my fault this time. The last time when I fell on the stairs while doing the laundry (or more accurately, on my way to doing the laundry), it was my own damn fault for reading my phone as I was walking. This time, however, there wasn’t much I could do because I simply didn’t see the ice in the dark. It helps me understand that sometimes, things do just happen. Three, I instantly relaxed as I was falling, and this is something I’ve noticed in the last few years. Yes, I still fall, but I’m more able to do what needs to be done to minimize the damage. It’s not even something I think about–I do it automatically.

It’s the reason I walked away from my minor car accident with nothing more than a big bruise on my stomach (from either the seat belt or the airbag). It’s the reason I only have bruises and aches after falling off ladders or on the ice as I most recently did. It brings me a small measure of comfort knowing that while I may still be clumsy and fall from time to time, I don’t have to take maximum damage from it.

It’s a revelation to me as someone who’s been clumsy all her life. Yes, I’m working on being more observant and trying not to run into things in the first place, but it’s nice to know that when I make a mistake, I won’t necessarily have to pay for it (too much).

The State of My Mind

It’s time to come out and say it–I am depressed. I’ve alluded to it before, but now I’ll just say it. I’ve been low-level depressed for a few months, and I don’t know why. I think it’s partly because of the anniversary of Raven’s death, partly because of being physically sick (though maybe I got physically sick because my depression lowered my immune system. It’s hard to say), and partly because it’s just how I roll.

The thing is, in the past, when I was depressed, it literally incapacitated me at times. I remember losing countless hours to depression because I simply didn’t have the energy or the wherewithal to do anything other than sit on the couch and stare into space. It was chronic, and it was serious. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it out of my twenties, and it’s still somewhat unbelievable to me that I have. There were periods of higher activity, but in general, I was barely functioning.

Now, I am doing the things I need to do. I am productive every day whereas in the past, brushing my teeth was an accomplishment. In addition, the depression isn’t a part of me, and it’s really strange to feel it coming at me from the outside. Back in the day, I felt as if I was just a ball of depression and it was the only thing that defined me. Now, it’s more like an annoyance such as an ingrown toenail. Persistently there, infected, but not paralyzing me.

In addition, when I had chronic depression, I was numb most of the time. I’ve described it as being frozen, and I couldn’t identify an emotion if my life depended on it. I was really good at pretending emotions, but it was because I’m adept at quickly reading other people’s emotions. It was a bitter irony that for many years, I felt other people’s emotions more intensely and immediately than I did my own. I had no idea what my own emotions were as they were buried under layers of depression.

Now, I have emotions, and sometimes they’re out of whack. I have anger issues, and while I normally keep an iron tight grip on it, when I blow, it’s quick and ugly. It’s difficult because I don’t know all my triggers–well, to be more accurate, I know the broad topics in which there are triggers, but I don’t know exactly what will set me off. After years of not being allowed to express my anger, I still have difficulty expressing it appropriately. It’s all or nothing, and the times it’s all are terrifying to me.

I’m also feeling a lot of sadness. There is no specific reason, but it’s there. I’m grieving, and I don’t even know why. I’m sure part of it is Raven–I’ve been missing him intensely lately, but that’s not all it is. It’s also the feeling that I’m wasting my life and if I die today, what do I have to show for it? I have put so many obstacles in my own way, I feel defeated before I even take a single step.

Also, I’m still fighting a relapse, and my sleep is shit, and everything is difficult. Here is the latest The Mazzy Show; she never fails to make me smile.