I love Taiji. It saved my life. Both figuratively and literally. When I was drowning in depression, Taiji gave me a meaning in life and allowed me to temporary calm my anxious mind. It helped me set boundaries with my parents–and, more importantly, it allowed me to put some distance between us. I simultaneous cared less about what they thought of me and cared more about how I felt about myself.
I became less clausterphobic. I will never like being in crowds, especially because of COVID and how susceptible I am to germs, but I no longer freak out in them. I can find spaces where there seem to be none and slither my way through. I was better able to put up boundaries, which helped with my family, and more to the point, I got more self-confidence. I was by no means perfect, but I was in a much better place than I had been before I starcted Taiji.
Then I had my medical crisis and Taiji literally saved my life. I have said more than once that the three things that brought me back to life were love, luck, and Taiji. I firmly believe that the fifteen years I studied Taiji before getting hit with non-COVID-related walking pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke prepared my body for taking those hits. And coming back after a week of unconsciousness.
Taiji has done so much for my mental health and physical health. It has helped me relax and it has gotten rid of all my body aches. And, I don’t have to mention yet again about my love for Taiji weapons–but I will because I can and I want to. Taiji weapons are my life and my love, and I can talk about them all day long. I am currently teaching myself the left side of the Cane Form, and then I’ll move onto the Double Sabers. Probably. Still my favorite form.
For many years, I classified myself as a pacifist. If someone tried to kill me, I would let them. It was how I was raised–to believe that my life was not as important as other people’s. Somehow, I twisted that into believing that my life was toxic and it would be better for the world if I were dead. I felt as if I woke up each day with a negative balance, and I had to work hard all day just to get back to zero (in terms of my effect on the world).
needless to say, I was very depressed, and this mentality was an indication of that depression. I was also wreathed in anxiety, which meant that I was a hot mess all the time. I woke up each morning, my heart sinking to the soles of my feet. It was a Sisyphean effort that I could never stop. No matter how much I did in a day, it was never enough. It didn’t help that I moved the goalposts on myself all the time, which just made everything more difficult.
This was directly related to my mother. She’s very much a product of her culture, wihch said that girls were worthless except for what they could do for others. Their biggest worth was in their baby-making abilities–nothing else mattered. That was why my mother harassed me for fifteen years to have children. She literally said that it did not matter whether I wanted them or not (I didn’t! At all! Ever! The horror!) because it was my duty as a woman to procreate.
Why yes that’s one of the reasons I currently identify as agender–why do you ask?
I’ve written about how my mother has ragged on me mercilessly for not being a good woman. The fact that I’m fat, not married, bisexual, no children, areligious, tattooed, practice Taiji, got two cats (she doesn’t like animals)–all of it upsets her. When I came out as bi, she said: What next, animals? When I told her I got a tattoo: She told me not to tell my father because he would freak out. When I told her I was going to study Taiji: She said that I was inviting the Devil in to dance on my spine. Which, you know, actually sounds kinda rad.
I can’t remember a time when I told her something about my life and she reacted positively. K and I used to joke about how any decision she made, her mother said it was going to be OK whereas any decision I made, my mother said it was going to fail. This happened when K was driving me to the airport and I was telling her what I had packed. It included a roll of quarters and stamps, which blew her mind. My mother believed in being prepared for anything to happen, but that’s impossible.
When I considered moving to the Bay Area to get my MA, I told my then-therapist all the things that could go wrong. I went on and on for fifteen minutes before she stopped me and said, “Minna, half the things you think are going to happen won’t, and you can’t imagine half of the other things that will happen.” I know that sounds trite, but it really hit me. Her basic point was thatt life happens, and there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.
I’m loving Bagua, and it’s making me want to fight some fools. Not for real because that’s silly, but in a sparring situation. I’m feeling my oats in Bagua, and it’s making me more energetic. It’s very interesting because Taiji chills me out. Even doing the weapons forms gets me in a flow state that makes me want to relax and be Zen about everything.
Bagua, on the other hand, makes me aggressive. That is scary to say because as an AFAB person from a Taiwanese background, I have had two cultures telling me I need to be feminine and demure. I have worked for decades to reject that premise, but it’s still in my brain–and in my culture. It’s the year 2023, and we still have to argue that women don’t need to wear bras or makeup in order to be considered feminine and/or professional. I honestly thought that by this time, we would have laid that bullshit to rest. And I also thought that it would be acceptable for a woman not to want kids. But, here we are in the very-much-not-that-world, much to my dismay.
It’s one reason that decidhed I did not want to be a woman. It felt like such a limiting label. I wrote this in a post on Ask A Manager, paraphrased: The word ‘woman’ is like an ill-fitting coat. It’ll cover my body, but it’s not comfortable. My Taiji teacher went in the opposite direction of grabbing the label woman and declaring fiercely that it was hers. We’ve talked about how we’re very similar in our beliefs about our gender, but our choices were very different.
It’s one thing I appreciate about her as a Taiji teacher. I fele most comfortable with people who are not extreme on the gender continuum. In the old days, I rpobably would have called myself androgynous. I don’t vibe with nonbinary. Don’t know why, but it just doesn’t feel right for me. The best of the lot so far is agender. Because gender doesn’t matter to me. There is very little I do that is affected by my gender. Not just because I don’t have kids, but because I don’t care about fashion, clothes, or makeup. I have my hair to almost my knees, but that’s it as far as ‘feminine’ features. Oh, and my boobs. They’re huge, but that’s nothing to do with me, of course. I was born with the genetics that ‘blessed’ me with gigantic knockers, and that’s the end of that. There is nothing about my birth-gender that dictates what I can do in my daily life. I got confused by all the restrictions put on me because I did not understand why me having a vagina meant I couldn’t climb a tree, play sports, laugh loudly, or enjoy sex.
The two that really got to me were not wanting children and loving weapons. The former I understood was a societal thing that was needed to be repeated to keep the species going. If all women decided not to have children, then we would be screwed as a species (deservedly so). But it didn’t stand to reason that every woman needed to have children in order to keep us going as a species, so why was being pushed so hard to procreate?
I really wish that I had known much earlier that my family was fucked up. That it wasn’t just cultural difference. Yes, my family is Taiwanese American (my parents are Taiwanese, full-stop), but it was also highyl dysfunctional. My parents never should have gotten married, and my mother had (and still has) very toxic ideas about family and what it means to be a woman.
I had untreated depression and anxiety. To be fair to my mother, she found me a therapist when I was fourteen or fifteen, but it was a man from the local uber-Christian college. He was pleasant enough, but he was not used to dealing with emo angst-ridden teenage girls. Who weren’t white. I was also bullied a lot in school for many reasons, including being Asian and fat. I would venture, though, the fact that I was just weird contributed to most of it. And I mostly got teased by girls, which can hurt way more. Boys are mean–girls are cruel.
The worst was a girl who picked on me every day in…I want to say chemistry. Not sure of the class. But she was just mean to me. For no reason. Except that I was a weirdo. I did not knwo how to fit in (my empathic skills did not help me out until I went to college), and I just stuck out like a sore thumb.
This girl (I still remember her name) would not let up. I tried to ignore her, but it did not work. One day, I had enough. When she teased me, I grabbed her hair (very short), yanked her head back, and calmly told her I would kill her if she did not leave me alone. Then I let go of her hair and stared down at my desk. She told me I was making a fool of myself, but there was fear in her voice for the first time. She left me alone after that. I felt horrible, and I never did that again. I took the wrong lesson from it; that violence was not the answer. I mean, it’s not, but that shouldn’t have been the sole lesson. What I should have noted was that sticking up for myself worked. Then I should have found ways to stick up for myself verbally. But, you know, I bet she learend a lesson as well–to not fuck with someone. And, yes, sometimes, might makes right.
I missed my teen years when recounting my history. I mentioned it briefly, but I glided right by it because, well, to be honest with you, that was the worst decade of my life. That’s saying a lot because my whole life until my fiftes has been pretty miserable. It was my teens, though, when I actively wanted to die, had dissaciative breaks from reality, got anorexic (with a side helping of bulimia), and hated everything. I skipped to my twenties, which weren’t great–but not as bad as my teens.
Side note: When my older nephew was four or five, we were playing Uno. He was throwing a tantrum becasue he could not stand to lose. I wasn’t trying to win, mind you, but it’s hard to cheat at Uno–even in favor of someone else. I was sympathizing with him because I hate to lose as well. I try to keep it to myself, but it comes out from time to time. He was sighing and rolling his eyes, and he was acting as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. I asked him what was wrong. He said that he hated it. I asked what he hated. He sighed again and said, “Everything.” It broke my heart, but I understood becasue I felt like that all the time, too.
Back to my teens. I was deeply depressed and wished to die every day. I could not remember a moment of joy, and it was grueling just to slog through every day. I was a good student without even trying, but my parents ignored that. They just scolded me when I got anything less than an A. If my brother got a B, on the other hand, then he got praised to high heaven and given money. It wasn’t until much later that I realizedh he had a learning disability and was on the spectrum. School was not his thing, even though he was off-the-charts smart. My mother didn’t think about him being on the spectrum or having a learning disability. To her credit, though, she bought him a (then very expensive) Apple computer (I think it was an Apple? this was back in the late 70s/early 80s) because he was interested in all things electronic. That saved him, I’m convinced, and he still talks about it with fondness.
In my last post, I wrote about my life in the naughts and my teens. I’m up to college. College was an interesting time for me. There were positives and there were negatives. The biggest plus is that I lost both my virginity and my religion in the same night! I was twenty and ready to jettison both. I’ll get to that in a minute. I fucked myself up before going to college by becoming anorexic, but it was inevitable given my mother’s obsession with being skinny. I mean, it was inevitable since she nagged me about my weight all. the. damn. time. Pro tip: there is no better way to fuck up your girl child than to constantly harp on her weight. You’re welcome.
Oh, and disguising it as concern for her health isn’t fooling anyonee, either. My mother tried that tactic, and I saw right through her. She never said a word when I was anorexic and fainting because I was not eating enough to walk. When I was at my skinniest and looked like death warmed over, the only comment she made was that my waist was tinier than hers–and it wasn’t complimentary. She’s four inches shorter than I am and has a smaller frame than I do, so it ws a double-whammy that I was skirrier than she was.
When I was in my mid-to-late thirties and medically obese, I had to tell my mother that she could not mention my weight at all–no, not even under the guise of “I’m concerned about your health”. She made the face she always make when she’s not happy with what was said to her (as if she’d eaten an extremely sour lemon) and tried to push the health angle.
I was having none of that. I knew it wasn’t abo;ut my health, and I was not going to let her gaslight me into pretending she gave a shit about my health. She still tries to find ways to sliiiiiiide it in, but I shut that down. I am not having any of that, especially since I’m in love with my body now. IN LOVE. I’ll get to that later, though, when I get to my fifties.
I made the best decision of my life in my early twenties. It was a negative decision, but that’s how I make most of my decisons. Well, not exactly. Normally, I made decision s by thinking of all the things I hate about every choice and then going with the one I least hated. In this case, though, it was a decision I joyfully embraced. When I say it was a negative decision, I just mean it was the decision not to do something rather than to do something. I’ve mentioned it many times before because it changed my life. Even more than dying twice did. And it wasn’t a conscious decision, really. It was more…look. It’s like this.
When I was in my naughts, I hated life. My childhood was shit, and I thought I was shit. When I was seven, I realized I was going to die one day. That was also when I realized I wanted to die. Or rather, I did not want to be alive. That is a difference with a distinction. I did not want to die; I was afraid of death. But I hated being alive and did not realize this was not normal. I thought all kids hated getting up each day and realizing that they were still alive.
Why did I hate life so much? I couldn’t honestly tell you. Well, I colud tell you some of the reasons, but I don’t know how it started. I don’t remember most of my early years, probably because I suppressed them. So my realization of death and that I wish I were dead are two of my earliest memories, sadly. I have no happy memories of my childhood, aged 0-10. I would never want to go back again. I did not fit in at school at all as the child of two immigrants who really did not want to be in America. Or at least my father didn’t. He was Taiwanese through and through, and he only stayed, I think, beacuse of me and my brother. He left to go back to Taiwan when I graduated from college, and quite honestly, I’m surprised he waited that long.
I was also seven when my mother put me on my first diet and gave me a lifelong body dysmorphia issues. We’re Taiwanese (American), and she gained twenty pounds when she came to America. She blamed butter pecan ice cream, and she obsessed with losing ‘five pounds’ for decades. She yo-yoed up and down, and she made me feel like absolute shit because I was thick to begin with and then was chunky in my childhood. I looked at pics form my childhood through my teens. I was chubby, yes, but I wasn’t the grotesque hellbeast she heavily implied I was.
My preteen and teen years were just as bad, if not worse than my naughts. My mother made me her confidante when I was eleven and dumped all her emotions onto me, making me her therapist. This was about her marital problems and all the things wrong with my father. Don’t get me wrong. He was and is a shithead of the first order. He’s a narcissist who only thinks about himself, and he’s a raging sexist to boot. Like, he doesn’t like anyone, but he really doesn’t think much about women in general*. Their only purpose is to fluff his ego (and maybe other areas) and make him feel good. They are NPCs in his game, nameless ones to boot.
He had affairs and didn’t even bother covering them up. That’s what my mother cried to me about. I don’t remember if she actually mentioned the affairs, but she would go on and on about how he didn’t come home on time (midnight was when he often came home), how he didn’t call, and how he said it was none of her business where he was. At eleven, I didn’t know anything about relationships, but I knew she was miserable. I also knew my father was a selfish jerk, though I didn’t know the term narcissist when I was eleven. I just knew my father was mean and made my mom cry. He was never home, and when he was, he showed no interest in me at all.
I told her to divorce him. Yes, when I was eleven. She told me all the reasons she couldn’t–mostly related to culture. Which, fine. She got to make that choice (though I tohught it was a terrible one. I still do), but then she needed to STFU about him. She had no right to dump that shit on me in the first place, not when I was a child, but especially not if she was going to reject my advice.
I have been studying Taiji for 16 years. It’s the lazy scholar’s martial art. It’s also an internal martial art. It’s about exerting as little energy as you can for the biggest results. It’s gentle and good for your health. Anyone can do it with ease, and if done properly, it will not hurt at all. In fact, I’m in the best shape of my life now and it’s in thanks to Taiji. I will say that the weapons are more muscular, but even then, they are still definitely Taij–well, wait.
I have to be honest with you. The Taiji weapons I do are not, for the most part, strictly Taiji. The Cane Form, for example, was develaped by Master Liang when he was in the police. It was done with batons, of course. The Saber Form, I think it is, is from Xing Yi, another martial art. They are adapted to fit in with Taiji, but they are from other disciplines.
I love Taiji because it’s about being as lazy as possible. How many times can I say lazy? Lazy, lazy, lazy. I am a lazy person. I will say it loudly and proudly. Well, not proudly, but loudly, at the very least. I have much less energy than most people and for most of my life, I’ve been shamed for it.
Side note: I know that ‘laziness’ is an indication of ADHD and/or autism. Rather, people with ADHD have been called lazy all their lives. I have many of the qualities found in people with either or both. My brother is on the spectrum and my mother thinks she might be. My father is purely narcisstic, but that’s neither here nor there. Recently, I wondered if I could be on the spectrum because I have a very high EQ. I don’t seem to be able to find an answer to that.
Anyway, I’ve done a bit of Bagua throughout the years. When I could not do meditation, my teacher suggested walking the circle. That was when I realized that I was not a pacifist and that if someone wanted to come at me, I was going to defend myself. If it comes down to me or an opponent, it is damn well going to be me (who lives). I had a private lesson yesterday, and my teacher told me that the basics of Baguazhang were walking the circle. Single Palm and Double Palm Change, included. Walking the circle both forward and backward. That’s it, though. The founder of Bagua used Deerhorn Knives in his professional life, apparently. He was a tax collector for the emperor and used DeerHorn Knives to protect himself.
I’ve been thinking about gender more because I watched Next in Fashion and had some really big issues with the way gender was portrayed. Or rather, how rigid gender was defined. It also darkly amused me that they were talknig about how gender didn’t matter, and yet, everything for women had to be form-fitting. And showing off nonexistent boobs.
When I was eight, I hated being a girl. Not because I felt like I was a boy–I didn’t. But because I was told by so many women in the Taiwanese church that I wsa not acting like a girl should act. Over and over again, I was admonished for liking to run outside, climb trees, and for laughing too loudly. I hated wearing dresses/skirts, and if I did stay inside, I just wanted to read. I did not want to play with dolls or makeup or clothes.
I never felt like a boy; I just did not want to be made to act like a girl. Yes, even as young as eight, I was aware that the gender I was born into was not the one that felt comfortable for me. My solution at that time was to pray to a God I didn’t really believe in to make me the other (binary at the time) gender, a boy. God was all-powerful–or at least, that was what i was told when I was a kid. It should have been very simple for him to make me a boy. Yes, I now know that God doesn’t work that way, but, honestly, why couldn’t He? I still don’t understand how the God who was presented to me when I was a kid as all-knowing and all-powerful couldn’t make me a boy if He so chose. He could have, the explanation went, but He chose not to because He works in mysterious ways.
Look. I get it. God is not a vending machine. You can put a quarter in Him and get a candy bar out of Him. He’s also not a McDonald’s in which you can have your burger made to order. At the same time, Christianity tried so hard to sell Him as the God who can do anything, you would not be remiss to wonder what you needed to do to get Him to pay attention to you.
Let me be clear. I have never felt like a boy. I never thought I was a boy. I just hated being a girl because it felt so limiting. Think about that. At eight years old, I had been fed so many poisonous beliefs about girls that I wanted to be anything but one. I used to wake up disappointed because I was still a girl. That was not a good feeling, I’ll tell you that much for free.
Then, when I was in college, I hung out with mostly dudes. I did not like so-called girly stuff like clothes and makeup. I did not want to giggle and gab because that was just not my style. I was a down-to-earth person. At the time, i liked sports. I did not like outdoor activities, which made me an anomaly in Minnesota, but I definitely leaned more towards the male side of things, and I didn’t see any reason to hide it.
In my post yesterday, I wrote my review about the second season of Next in Fashion, a Netflix show. I have more to say about it, apparently. It’s been lurking in the back of my mind, waiting to have its day. The further I get from watching it, the more it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think it’s because they tried so hard to be diverse and to say that everyone is welcomed in the industry when it’s simply not true. It has never been, but I get that it’s nearly impossible to see outside your particular framework.
Or, as is often the case, the people who can see the issues have no power to change or improve the situation. there may be people at the entry level who realize what bullshit it is, but they can’t do anything about it. In addition, there are millions of hungry young people who are eager to be in the industry. They are willing to be exploited and abused. If any one individual isn’t, then they will get pushed out of the industry.
Side note: Another reason I don’t like fashion is because there is s much rigidity in the gender roles. There are men and there are women, and enevr the twain shall meet. On the show, it was considered daring to have clothing that people of any gender could wear. Or making a skirt for a man. I mean, come on. Putting a skirt on a dude is almost quaint at this point.
I was annoyed that in at least one of the briefs there was the edict to make an outfit for a woman and an outfit for a man. Yes, I know, that’s the way the industry has always been. That’s not next in fashion, is it? It’s just a little precious to me that they were saynig they were tyring to find something fashion-forward and daring when they can’t even get out of the binary and get past the fatphobia.
I know it’s asking too much. The industry is steeped with sexism and fatphobia. It’s not going to change any time soon. But, can they at least join us in this millennium? I don’t get the stubborn insistence that they have to design clothing for women who look like 12-year-old boys. Tall 12-year-old boys. No boobs, no hips, no ass. Thighs not touching, and, yeah, I’m going to say it, anorexic. It seems like the guys are getting thinner, too, which was not the direction I wanted this to go in. Equality to me means allowing every the opportunity to expand–literally. It’s really hard for me to have any interest in an industry that is actively telling women they need to be so much less.