Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: taiji

Trade-offs health-wise I’m willing to take

I think I’m being hit with round 2 of the crud, and I’m fine with it. Wait, Minna, I can hear you say (or make you say in my mind). How can you be fine with it when you hated it so much the last round? I’ll tell you, and thank you for asking and setting me up so nicely.

Let’s backtrack a bit. I was sick for a long time as is my want. I have this loop of getting one thing–say, chills and fever–then getting something else–like sinus problems–before slowly recovering, only to be hit with a third thing–persistent, hacking cough. Then, when I’m finally over it, I pray to the cold and flu gods that I don’t get it again.

That’s what happened this time. I got over the last thing, then felt decent for a week or so, then I was incredibly tired last week. I mean, I’m tired in general most of the time, but I was at the ‘I literally can’t keep my eyes open’ stage for all of last week. For those lucky duckies who’ve never felt it, it’s when you’re doing something innocuous like watching a video, and then you come to with a start and realize you haven’t seen the last ten minutes/half an hour/hour of the video. That kept happening to me, and one particularly bad night, I passed maybe three hours that way, waking up every ten minutes to ever half hour.

Speaking of sleep deprivation, The Try Guys did a series of videos about driving while under the influence in four different ways, including not sleeping for thirty-six hours straight. They have a doctor in each video explaining the ramifications of driving under that particular influence, and in the sleep-deprived one, he said that people who were deprived of sleep for twenty-four hours, they had nearly the same impairment as someone who blows a .1 on a breathalyzer. His advice was, “Don’t drive when you’re sleep deprived.” He also said most people need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I laughed, albeit it bitterly, because if I followed his advice, I would never drive. I venture that many Americans could say the same. Also, getting seven hours of sleep in one go is not gonna happen for me unless I’m sick. Which, incidentally, is another reason I know I’m getting sick–I slept nearly seven hours (total in two separate chunks)last night after going to bed around midnight.


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Spending time in a brown study

I’m mostly over the sickness right now, but I overdid it in taiji yesterday, so I’m exhausted. I could barely keep my eyes open last night, and I kept dozing off while writing and doing other things. I finally gave in and went to actual bed around two in the morning after falling asleep and waking up every half an hour or so for several hours. I’ve been doing the stretches my teacher taught me for my back and leg, and they seem like they are helping. However, my knees are aching, which means I’m overextending on my postures. This was a problem I’ve had for several years, and while I’m much better at not doing it, I still slip every now and again. I think being sick and adding these new stretches has made me concentrate less on my form, much to my knees’ detriment.

Anyway. I mused a while back about my life and what I need to do differently. Looking back on it, I’m doing a bit better with health. The thing I’ve realized that while I’m really good at quitting things cold turkey (in general. Potato chips are one exception), it takes me a long time to get to that point of actually making the move, and I can only cut out so much without feeling seriously deprived. It’s better to add something to my diet rather than constantly take away things. Right now, I’m concentrating on eating an apple a day (which, as we all know, keeps the doctor away). Before that, I added an orange a day (or two clementines/mandarins) for achy joints purposes. My theory is that if I add things to my diet, I’ll naturally want to eat less of other things. I’ll let you know how it works.

I mentioned caffeine in the previous post. Currently, I drink one cup of caffeinated tea every few days, so I’m mostly caffeine-free. It was so hard in the beginning, but now, I’m mostly used to it. I’m over the initial ‘can’t keep my eyes open’ stage, and I rarely miss the jolt. I occasionally have a pop when I go out to eat, and it now tastes weird. It’s not the same as gluten and dairy, both which still tastes delicious–god, I miss cheese so much. I still eat gluten-free pasta and bread, and I’m back in love with white rice, but there is no good substitute for cheese that I’ve found. Damn it.

My brother is urging me to get an Instant Pot, and I’ve been resistant to it mainly because it’s new and seems like it’d have a steep learning curve, though everything I’ve heard about it has said it’s easy. But, easy for people who cook already or easy for people who don’t cook? Plus, batch cooking is not something that appeals to me. Yes, I know I can freeze it and warm up each portion a day, but that’s a lot of work, yo. Also, read the description to this bad boy. It’s full of techno-babble and shit that doesn’t interest me. My brother laughed and said it’s geared towards guys, and I said, “Yeah. I’m not a guy.”

Side note: My brother likes to run his advertising ideas by me. I have a hard time giving him useful advice because what works on most people actively turns me off. Anything relentlessly cheerful and positive is boring to me, and anybody who hypes their product too much makes me suspicious. My brother was leaning towards using words that are old-timey and suggest solidness like ‘trusty’ or ‘trusted’. To me, if you’re those things, you don’t have to say it. I’m not just going to take you at your word, either. You have to prove you’re trustworthy–you can’t just say it.


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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.


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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.

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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”.

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Kung Fu Fightin’ This Cold

I am still fighting off the third round of this cold, and it’s wearying. Not only on my body, but also on my soul. My body doesn’t know its own mind. I’m tired all the time, but I cannot sleep. This should indicate I’m getting better because I have a long, sordid history with sleep that doesn’t allow me to sleep decently no matter what I try. It’s actually one of the things I like best about being sick–I can get a decent amount of sleep in one stretch. I know I’m getting better when I’m unable to sleep more than six hours.

I’ve been practicing the Long Form alongside the new Medium Form, and it’s surprising how quickly I’ve forgotten the sequence of the Long Form. Scary, really. Once I check the list, it all comes flooding back to me, but I’m afraid of losing it forever. I will say that I like how streamline the new Medium Form is. It’s clean and concise, and there’s absolutely old fat. However, I don’t want to lose the Long Form, so I’m still practicing it.

I need to get my thyroid meds checked, but I’ve been dragging my feet over it. Rightly or wrongly, I associate going to the clinic with getting sick as the last two times I went, I got horribly sick. Anyway, I’m tired. Here’s the Tiny Hamster and friends having a Tiny BBQ on Independence Day.

Inhabiting a Very Mortal Coil

so much tea!
Drinking ginger lemon honey tea like a BAWS.

I hate my body right now. Even more than usual, and that’s saying a lot. I am sick for the third time in as many months, and it’s wearing me down, both physically and mentally. I was almost completely recovered from my second bout of the flu or whatever it was, when I literally felt something move into my throat, set up camp, and make itself at home. I started hacking, and I haven’t stopped since. This is different than the past two illnesses I’ve had. The first two felt more like the flu, whereas this is straight up bronchitis-like, which I’ve had countless times before. I’ve had intermittent bouts of sweating as well, which might also be me in perimenopause. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

I would be unhappy about being sick again regardless, but the fact that Master Choi came from Chicago this weekend to give four seminars made it even worse. I had planned on attending the Liu Ho Ba Fa session on Saturday and the Taiji Pushing Hands session on Sunday, but I knew there was no way I could do both. Since my interest in Liu Ho Ba Fa is strictly academic, it was the one that had to go. I also would have loved to sit in on the Ba Gua session Sunday morning, but, again, there was no way I could have done both. Still. I was going to the taiji session by hook or by crook unless I literally could not get off my couch. It was scheduled from 1-3 p.m., and I was more concerned about the driving than the actual session.

I got there fifteen minutes early and was immediately assailed with a strong burst of incense. I can handle it in small doses, but that much was overwhelming. I went back out into the hallway to wait for it to dissipate and just to gather my resources. I was a bit nervous to meet Master Choi because, well, he’s a master, but also because he’s an elder Chinese man. I’ve had countless aunties and uncles (in the Taiwanese sense–any older man or woman is addressed as such), and I know they can be rude in a way that is uniquely Asian. I didn’t expect Master Choi to directly castigate me for not being able to speak Chinese or something like that, but it was in the back of my mind. I’m always nervous around my elders, and he’s a MASTER, for fuck’s sake. I went as far as to make sure I wore a t-shirt that wouldn’t be offensive in any way, which was me thinking too much, but that’s how my brain operates.

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Struggling to Go with the Flow

still waters run deep
Merrily merrily life is but a dream.

I hate change. No, that’s not hyperbole; I really do. I eat the same food almost every day in roughly the same order. I have a morning routine that I’m trying to vary, but not with much success. When I go to sleep, I have a ritual in the way I lie down that I do every night. There are cycles that I have to complete, even though I know they are ridiculous. When I was younger, if I ever did something on the right side of my body, I had to do it to my left side, too. I had a lot of tics, and I’m not yet rid of them all.

In the past few months, there have been several changes in my life, starting with the car accident. I’m mostly recovered from it, but I still have a slight negative reaction when cars come too close to me on the road. I’m pleased but surprised that physically, I’m nearly 100% again. One thing the car accident did to me, however, is make me think about what I really want in life. For one minute, I thought I was going to die. My life didn’t flash before my eyes, however, so that should have been my clue that I was going to survive.

Another change is this blog itself. I’ve been having a hard time writing for the past few years. I’ve done it in fits and starts, but I haven’t been able to sustain it. About a month and a half ago, I made the decision to dedicate myself to writing every day. Well, at least five days a week. I wanted to make money doing something I love, but more importantly, I wanted to actually do the thing I loved on a regular basis. To that end, I decided I needed a clean start, so I started a new blog. This blog. So far, I’ve met my goal of writing at least five times a week, so I’m pleased with that.

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How to See Progress When It’s Microscopic

i will cut you
Wudon Sword Fencing

My teacher’s teacher opened a new taiji academy last weekend, and I attended the open house. There was a demo, and I couldn’t help but compare this demo to the first time I saw a demo at the old studio. It was a year or two after I started taking classes, and everything looked so amazing to me. One of the masters said, “To the beginner, everyone is a master,” and it was so true in my case. I watched them do the Solo Form, and I couldn’t imagine I would ever be able to do the whole thing. The next time I attended a demo, I knew the whole Solo Form, but I was still really impressed with the people doing weapons. Again, I had no idea how I would ever do anything as amazing as that. I did note that I could tell between the different styles of the practitioners of the Solo Form. “This one is a bit stiff.” “That one needs to bend her knees more.” I wasn’t trying to critique; I was just happy that I could tell the difference. This time, I joined in on the Solo Form (first section only. Sifu knows if he has people demonstrate more than that, it would be boring for the audience), but I didn’t have my sword with me, so I had to sit that out. I could have borrowed one, but I would have felt awkward doing so. As the others did the Sword Form, however, I could see where they were making mistakes, which meant that I had learned the form pretty well. It’s hard to tell because it’s not as if I’m making noticeable progress every time I practice, especially now that I’m focusing more on refinements rather than corrections.

When I first started to learn taiji, it was easier to feel as if I were actually learning something because I had concrete units to measure by. “I’m learning a new posture today!” That’s something my mind can grasp. Once that’s over, even the major corrections are tangible. “You made a mistake here. Fix it.” I don’t like it, mind you, because I hate making mistakes, but it’s something I can work on and notice when I’ve actually corrected the mistake. Now that I’m eight or nine years into my studies, I’m mostly past this phase of the Solo Form. I know the whole form. I don’t make major mistakes. Sifu has changed some of the postures so I’ve had to relearn them, but I at least know them by now. What I need to do is teach myself the left side to keep it interesting*. OK, I have to make a confession. I don’t like the Solo Form. I never have, and I don’t know if I ever will. I really didn’t like it in the beginning, but I knew it was the basis of everything else, so I suffered through it. Now, I don’t hate it, but I still don’t like it. Ever funnier is that the position most people like best and thinks is easiest–Cloud Hands–is one of my least favorites. The kick section, which most people don’t like, is my favorite section. I like complicated better than easy, plus there are obvious applications to the kicks, which there aren’t for Cloud Hands. There are applications, of course, but not so immediate to the eye.

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