Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Holidays

What I’m thankful for this year

I don’t do holidays. I did them as a kid and when my niece and nephews were kids, but I’ve never liked them. Holidays, I hasten to clarify, not my niece and nephews. Them, I like a lot. More and more the older they get! They’re really great young adults. But holidays? Being forced to be around people I may or may not spend time with on the regular given my druthers? Nah, son. Not for me. My mother once said to me indignantly that just because something is a tradition, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Which, true. But, I would counter that just because it’s tradition, it doesn’t make it good, either.

This year, my brother is having a Thanksgiving lunch. I am not going because I don’t feel comfortable being around groups yet. If I hadn’t been in the hospital recently, I would consider it. Well, no, I wouldn’t because if I hadn’t gone into the hospital, my viewpoint would be not to do holiday things as it’s been in the past. It’s the hospital that changed my thoughts on many things, including the pandemic. Which is now endemic. It’s here to stay and I’m not letting it rule my life any longer.

So, if I were a year out of being in the hospital, I would consider going to my brother’s for Thanksgiving. This year, though, it’s too close to my hospital stay for me to consider it. I don’t want to get sick again. And while I’ve relaxed on the pandemic, I’m not ready to be around a group of people again.

So. I do feel grateful this year, though. Thankful, if you will. I’ve spent the last few months pondering my life and the fact that I’m still alive. A brief recap: I somehow got pneumonia. Not sure how. I wasn’t going outside much at that time, but I did open it up a crack from my earlier days of self-isolation. I called 9-1-1, opened the front door for the cops, then collapsed in the front hallway. The cops bagged me when they arrived (with oxygen) while waiting for the EMS. During the ambulance ride, I had two cardiac arrests and a stroke. They had to shock my heart twice and applied an Epi pen once.


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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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The end of the year is nigh

The end of the year is right around the corner and I can’t stop thinking about what a strange year it’s been. Terrible in so many ways. The pandemic. The current president. The mingling of the two. I’ve been reading past posts I’ve done on my gaming throughout the year to get ready for my end of the year game awards I was playing Syndicate back at the end of February right before the soft lockdown. I can’t believe I played Syndicate this year. I feel like it was ages ago. I also realized I played a ton more games than I remembered playing. To be fair, most of them I only played for a few hours. But, still. Good Pizza, Great Pizza was this year? If Found? Code Vein? I feel as if I’m living in some alternate universe and I want to get out of it.

Anyway. I’m not here to talk about video games. That will be a post (or three) by itself later. I’m here to talk about how happy I am to see the end of this year and how weird that it’s simultaneously been the longest year and the shortest year ever. I have heard the same thing from several people so it’s not just me. February seems like such a long time ago, but it also seems like just yesterday. I can’t help thinking about that younger me and smile ruefully at how naive I was. Not just me, but everyone in America, really. So many of us thinking the pandemic would last a month or two. I was supposed to fly to NY in early July and pooh-poohed my mother at the end of February for suggesting I cancel it. I was also planning on flying out to Philly over Halloween and surely I would be able to do that!

Yeah, no. Looking back, the idea that I would be able to fly in July is unfathomable. I’m not beating myself up about it because very few people thought the pandemic would last as long as it did. Back in February/March, the general thought in America was that it would be a few months before life returning to normal or some semblance thereof. It isn’t our fault as our government handled it so fucking poorly in the beginning. Not only did they underplay how terrible it was, but their advice was contrary. Don’t wear masks and go about your business as usual! Do wear masks. Six-feet apart. But still buy things!

The worst is the president. He had done active harm and January 20th cannot come soon enough for me. Trevor Noah did a bit about all the things this president has done wrong concerning the handling of the coronavirus and I couldn’t watch the whole thing because it was both enraging and profoundly depressing. One thing that has been made crystal clear during the pandemic is how little certain lives mean to those in charge. All the talk about it only affecting those who were already at high-risk wore me down. Even if it were true (which it isn’t), don’t our lives count? Don’t we matter?

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Holidays in a weird and wild world

Note: I don’t celebrate holidays. I feel the need to get the way before I go on my screed. 

Thanksgiving is coming up and it could not come at a worst time in terms of Covid cases soaring in America. In my state, you cannot gather with another household at all now because our cases peaked at 7,500 cases in one day. I don’t think the strictures have gone far enough even though I understand why the governor had to walk the tightrope. I really didn’t like the press conference, however, because it was definitely targeted at the yahoos who refuse to wear a mask because ‘MURIKA FUCK YA!

To wit, he praised everyone for doing so much and emphasized how hard it was and how unfair it was. I don’t disagree with the latter, but I am not at all down with the former. So many people have flouted the rules and/or don’t think Covid is an actual thing. Then, he went on to emphasize that this four week restriction was going most definitely going to only be a month because the vaccine will certainly be ready to go by then.

I mean, what. But that wasn’t the worst of it. He ended by saying he knew that come April, we would be sitting in that Twins stadium maybe without a mask, sitting with your brother-in-law having a hot dog and a beer. There is so many things wrong with this statement. One, the fact that he was so positive about the timeline. It’s one thing to say something like ‘with the information we have, it’s likely’ or something similar. But he phrased it in a way that made it inevitable, which I think is a recipe for disaster. I know he wants to keep people’s spirits up, but that isn’t the way to do it.

Secondly, the whole situation is aimed specifically at a certain type of person. I’ll just be clear–the Covid deniers. That’s not something I would do even in the Before Times, and it make it very clear that the press conference was not for me. It was for the recalcitrant assholes who whine about freeeeeedum and personal choice. Mostly Republicans, but not all of them. There’s a thread in Ask A Manager’s weekend post about Thanksgiving and whether or not to travel for it. Most people came down on the side of not traveling, especially as many states have come out with no mixing households mandates.

There were more than a few people, however, who disagreed. They were thoughtful about it and said that it was up to each individual (or family) to assess their risks and be careful when comingling households. They pointed out how devastating the lockdowns/restrictions have been to the mental health of people. They were right about the latter part, but so very wrong about the former. It’s part of why we are where we are right now–the emphasis on individual choice.

My parents bring up Covid every time they call. They say that cases have to be down, right? They can’t understand why the numbers keep going up. Their country, Taiwan, has been the platonic ideal of how you should deal with a pandemic. I’ve had to tell them over and over again that the things that worked in Taiwan wouldn’t work in America for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one is because  individual freedom/choice has become fetishized in this nation.


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A new year, but the same old me

It’s the day of the eve of New Year, and I’m doing the tiniest bit better. I had a horrible night in which I was shivering and sweating alternately. I have Googled cold vs. flu several times, and I still don’t exactly know the difference. I feel like being ‘feverish’ (I don’t get fevers as my base temp is 97) is a symptom of the flu, and there is some writing that backs me up, but it’s hard to say. It doesn’t really matter as there’s no cure for either a cold or the flu, but it’s just my natural inquisitiveness that I want to know. Either way, I woke up with the feverish symptoms gone. Now, it’s ‘just’ a stuffy head (nose, brain, throat, ears–the left one is blocked), sometimes a runny nose, a hacking cough with a sore throat, and just a general exhaustion.

Here is ABBA’s cheerful Happy New Year song. Enjoy!

Obligatory Holiday Post

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m not a holiday person. At all. For many years, I had a revulsion to most of them for good and not-so-good reasons. Christmas: way too commercialized, long-drawn, and exclusive (in the true sense of the word, not meaning swank or posh). V-Day: made-up holiday making men feel pressured to buy expensive shit for their girlfriends (very heteronormative), make grand gestures, and it’s a recipe for disappointment. Independence Day: it wasn’t.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. A funny thing happened this year, though. I ended up not caring about Christmas in the best way possible. I don’t watch TV, and I have ad-blocker online, so I didn’t have to see the excruciatingly terrible commercials associated with Christmas, which really helped. Yes, it was irritating to hear the music on the radio or in stores, but that was really time-limited, which helped. So, here we are the day before Christmas (Christmas by the time this gets posted), and I don’t even know how I got here. I am surprised at how quickly this year went, but that’s a different post.

I tweeted and posted on my FB wall about how strange it was to go from hating Christmas to not caring about it (in a positive way). I think it’s taiji, but I’m going to attribute most positive changes in my life to taiji. Anyway. Here are my two favorite Christmas songs. First, Vienna Teng singing The Atheist Christmas Carol.

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New Year’s thoughts

hopefully better than the last!
New year, same shit?

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I do take time in the weeks leading up to it to reflect on my life. This is a grim time as I think my life is crap in general. If i had a hard reset button, I would slam it without thinking about it. Except. I wouldn’t want to give up my friends, taiji, Dark Souls, Shadow, my brother and his family, and, ok, maybe not a total reset.

But. There are always things I wish I were doing differently. Some are ongoing such as my desire to publish a book (though my writing is not going great at the moment), but others are pretty specific. Let’s start with the one I think I will achieve the easiest.

1. Learn the taiji Sabre From. I just learned the third row of six, and this one I will accomplish barring some unforeseen obstacle in my way. So, let’s add to it learn the Cane Form. I am through the first row of four, but it gets batshitcrazy in the third or fourth row. I’ve seen my teacher perform it, and it’s jumping all over the place. I cannot wait.

I also have to teach myself the left side of each form because that’s how it works. The teacher teaches the right side, and we have to teach ourselves the left side. It’s a good way to discover where I’ve been fudging it on the right side, and it reinforces the teaching. I have to brush up on the Sword Form left side.

A funny side note: I still haven’t taught myself the whole Solo Form because the Solo Form got drastically changed when I was teaching myself the third section. That’s the section with most of the changes, and I decided to let it settle down before trying to teach myself the left side. And, to be honest, I am still not a big fan of the Solo Form, though knowing the applications has helped as has learning the Fast Form. The Fast shorter form. Which is the new Solo Form. I would like to learn the whole Fast Form this year as well, but that is a little outside my control.

Side note to the side note: I have been struggling to make it to class for a few reasons, most of them health related. That in turn makes it difficult to learn new things because we’re all at different places. I would like to make at least one class a week in addition to my Sabre Form private lessons every other week. That entwines with another of my thoughts so you’ll have to wait for it.

Prediction: I will get this one. And I will be stoked to learn the next form, which I’m hoping will be the Fan Form. Or maybe Dual Sabres. With a side helping of the karambit. Which is not a taiji thing, but so fucking cool, anyway.

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Navel gazing for the new year

One of the worst things about my depression is how it makes everything at least twice as difficult. I am my own worst enemy, as I have noted time and time again. For those who have never experienced depression, it can be difficult to comprehend just how time consuming it is. A small example: when I have to go out, say to taiji, I first have to convince myself that I will go. Even if I want to go, the idea of driving fifteen minutes to get there is daunting. On my worst days, it seems impossible. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it in my past. It doesn’t matter that I can do it in my sleep. Every fiber of my being does not want to do it ever again.

It used to be that way when my BFF and I used to go out dancing. Both of us suffer from depression and the overwhelming desire never to leave the house. We’d talk about how we both had to stop ourselves from cancelling, and we always had a blast when we went out. Not only was it difficult to make myself leave the house (my leaning towards inertia is high), but I would imagine everything that might possibly go wrong while I was out. Again, even for something as simple as going to taiji, I ruminate about will it drain me (not completely invalid when I’m sick), can I put up with talking to people for that long (an hour and a half. Not exactly earth shattering), etc. I go to the co-op afterwards, which brings with it a whole new set of worries. Even something as banal as talking to the cashier can tie me up in knots.

I mention this because there are two things I really want to focus on in 2019. As I’ve written before, I am not big on resolutions, but I do like to set goals for the upcoming year. The difference to me is that goals have steps with concrete actions that seem achievable. By the way, I hate ‘actionable steps’. I know what it means in context (something you can actually do as opposed to a theory or an idea), but to me, actionable means something that you take legal action on. It’s a personal pet peeve, but it sticks in my craw every time I read it.

All of that is explanation as to why I tend to have the same goals every year, even if I have concrete steps I can take to actually meet the goals. I  have to overcome my inertia to even get to the point of doing something about it. Then, I have to deal with the negative self-talk. No matter what I’m doing, there’s a voice in the back of my head saying, “What’s the point? Why bother? Nobody cares.” Some days, it’s better than others, but it’s always there. It’s happening as I write this post. Most of the time, I can ignore it enough to get what I need done if it’s part of my routine. But, if it’s something new, then it’s much harder. Or if it involves driving. Which is one of my least-favorite activities in life.


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You’re a lonely one, Mr. Grinch

We’ve all heard the song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”–especially at this time of the year. We know the story (How the Grinch Stole Christmas!), and I think Grinch has gotten a bad rap. It’s been a while since I’ve seen, but I have to admit I have much sympathy in my heart for him. He’s just going about his business trying to keep himself to himself. Then, the whole town is all LISTEN TO OUR LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS CHRISTMAS MUSIC MR. GRINCH LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LISTEN TO US SING LOUDLY MR. GRINCH MR. GRINCH MR. GRINCH!!!!

He’s all, “I can’t see you, you’re not there, lallallalalallallala,” which would be my tactic.

Underneath it, though, I’m sure he was hurting. He saw all these happy families and was only reminded of the emptiness in his own life. I can relate. Not because I don’t have friends and family–I do, but because of the relentless reminder of how you’re supposed to be soaked in the festive atmosphere. Even as isolated as I am from society in general, I can’t escape it. If it’s not the fucking insipid Christmas songs that are playing when I go into the grocery store, it’s the incessant posts on FC and Twitter and the websites I visit about the holly and the jolly.

I wrote about how I was trying to be more chill about it, but my hackles are automatically raised when I hear yet another Christmas carol or see yet another picture of a decorated tree. I know my reaction is out of proportion to what’s actually happening (people are not Christmasing AT me), but it’s still intensely irritating. It’s like any other popular media that I can’t escape–it’s alienating not to be in on the good cheer. Actually, it’s worse because you’re expected to be into Christmas. There are exceptions, of course, if you’re from other religions, but if you’re areligious such as I am and raised Christian, you’re expected to love Christmas as much as everyone else does. Or if not love it, then at least be neutral about it (read, shut up with your negativity). I’ve seen people complain about people who put anti-Christmas posts on their FB walls (which I’ve done), saying, “Why can’t we just enjoy this?” implying that those of us who don’t like Christmas are not-Christmasing at THEM.

That’s the problem with being in the minority–everything you do is put under a microscope. When you’re the majority, your behavior is considered the norm, so it’s not questioned. It’s similar to, say, when NFL players protest police brutality, and fans say something like, “Don’t bring politics into my sportsball enjoyment!” There are already politics in your goddamn football game, but because they align with your values, you don’t recognize them. Pointing out the sexism or the racism or queerphobia in something isn’t bringing politics into the picture because they’re already there. It’s the same with Christmas. Me pointing out that it’s become a crass commercialized money grab isn’t me bringing politics into Christmas–it’s me pointing out what’s already there.

To get more personal with it, I’ve always had a problem with how we’re all supposed to be filled with good cheer and goodwill towards our fellow human during this specific time because we should be doing that all year round. It’s feels way too performative to me, and that’s how I feel about the holiday in general. There are also way too many expectations of how the holidays *should* be (which is evident from all the threads in advice columns dealing with family expectations), which ends up with hurt feelings. People put way too much pressure on the holidays to make up for childhood disappointments (and don’t even realize what they’re doing), and the real thing can never live up to the ideal.

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Battling the holiday onslaught and other miscellaneous thoughts

Now that Thanksgiving is done and in the bank, of course the whole nation turns its attention to Christmas.

*sigh*

Before I get to that, however, I want to rave about how adding twenty minutes of stretching to my taiji routine when I first get up and sprinkling more stretches throughout the day has really helped my back and my leg by extension. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s amazing how my back pain has nearly disappeared, and the numbness in my right thigh changed into fiery hot pain in the upper thigh, then fiery hot pain just above the knee, and then back to numbness but to a much less degree. Then, after class yesterday, it was back to fiery hot pain, but only for a few seconds. In addition, we did the whole Solo Form (Medium) yesterday, and for the first time ever, I was able to do the whole form without my back hurting like hell by the third section.

However, my sleep is all over the map, which means I’m probably getting sick again. Which, you know, sucks. I’m so fucking tired from the minute I wake up until the minute I drop off to sleep. I also have this thing where if I miss the window for falling asleep, I’m up for a good long time. I was up for nearly twenty hours yesterday, not for any good reason, but just because I couldn’t fall asleep.

Now, let’s talk about NaNoWriMo. I said before it started that I was going to set my own goal because writing 50,000 words a month for me is not a problem. I was already writing 2,000 words a day for months before that, so yeah, I wasn’t worried about 50,000 words. I said I wanted to look into marketing and publishing, but that didn’t happen. I’ve decided I will set aside a different month to do it in. In that month, I’ll lift the 2,000 words a day requirement and focus on editing, marketing, and publishing. I’ve decided which novels I want to publish (one which is on my other website), but I need to do a little updating.

So, what have I been doing this month? Starting four different novels. I worked on the first one for a few weeks, then decided to shelve it. The second one lasted a few days, I think, and the same with the third. Then, I had a conversation with a Twitter friend, @NotSoSilentMajo, who inspired me to start something completely different. I don’t want to talk about it right now because I prefer to wait until I’m done with a novel before talking about it, but I can say it’s urban fantasy. I’ve never attempted fantasy before (though I love reading it), so I’m excited about it in a way that I haven’t been in quite some time. Thank you, @NotSoSilentMajo for giving me the kick in the (not-so-flat yellow) ass that I needed to get out of my rut!

Now. On to Christmas. Me when thinking about it (apropos because I dressed up as Yoko Ono for Halloween one year):

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