Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Wellness

Mindfulness takes…mindfulness

i just lost a tooth. An old decaying tooth, I think, but still. I think it had a crown on it, but also, sitll. I had not been to the dentist since before the pandemic and had just been about to make an appointment when the pandemic happened. Now, this is forcing my hand because…well, I think this is the same tooth I lost before. Maybe? I’ve been having issues with this particular tooth for a long time. I’m not good with my teeth. Or wait. Maybe it was the other side. I have a missing crown there.

I don’t remmeber. All this was before I ended up in the hospital, so, rightly or wrongly, I put it way down my list of things to worry about. Probably wrongly because I’m still alive, which means I need teeth. And now that I’m in my second bonus year, I have to entertain the thought that maybe I won’t be dying for the third time any time soon.

In my first bonus year, I was just amazed to be alive. I marveled every day at the miracle, which meant not much time for anything else. Now that I am less stunned by it, that means I can look at what living my life actually means.

In the past two weeks, I have injured myself three times. I fell down the front stairs once, fell on the driveway once, and spilled hot coffee on myself once. The last incident was a complete accident as I just sat down on my couch, picked up my coffee, and spilled it. I wasn’t doing anything outlandish like carrying twenty things at once (which I’ve done), juggling three different beverages (which I’ve also done).

It wasn’t boiling though it was close, but it was mostly caught by my shirt. Or so I thought. Today, I saw that it’s red and sore, but not skin peeling off, thankfully. I put antibiotitc ointment on it and hope that it’ll be ok. I will admit that I’m a bit unhappy about it, but what am I going to do?

As to the two falls, those were totally on me. In the first case, I was not paying attention as I went down the stairs. I was scrolling on my phone, which is a bad habit. The second time, I was pulling a heavy box that was falling apart into the garage–or was I pushing? Either way, I slipped and fell. I ended up with a bruise on my left knee and a slightly tweaked right pec after the first fall, and a bruise on my rigth boob and a nasty scrape on my right elbow after the second fall.

Then, after the two falls, I got my fourth vax, the bivalent booster, which fucked me up but good. I was expecting it, but it’s still harder every time than I prepared myself for. I’m exhausted, and I think it’s the last gasps of the shot. It’s been…two weeks since my shot, I think? Two weeks and one day. I got it on a Friday.

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Life lessons I’ve learned

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned in my 51 years on this earth. First, there were some things that my last therapist told me that have stuck with me.

Before I was tthinking about moving to the East Bay in order to attend grad school, I was obsessing over all the negative things that might happen. My therapist listened to me patiently for roughly five minutes before cutting me off (she had to, otherwise I’d go on forever). “Minna,” she said. “Half of the things you imagine will never happen, and you can’t imagine half of the things that will.” Her point was that I was needlessly worrying. It was also that I was trying to frantically apply control where I had none.

The illusion of control is somethnig I think about often because me dying twice underlined my lack of control. Twice. (Both dying and underlying.) There is no use worrying about shit I cannot change–which is almost everything. Life is short. That’s a trope, but it’s true. And it can be over in a blink of the eye. So, yeah, plan for the future–but don’t forget to experience your present at the same time.

Another thing that really struck me was when my father and I had this huge fight over whether I was grateful or not to him for all he’d done fro me. When I said no (because I felt pushed into being performatively grateful), he asked why he should love me then. Which showed how nakedly transactional he was. I told him it was part of his job as a father. Like, did that need to be explained? To a raging narcissist, yes. My father did not do anything that did not have any apparent value to him, which included ‘loving’ someone. I put ‘loving’ in quotes because he’s not capable of actual love.

This argument was in the car as I drove him to the airport so he could fly back to Taiwan. He called me when he arrived in LA for his layover and hesitantly said he loved me before hanging up. I felt nothing at his announcement because if I had to force it ou of him (which I wasn’t trying to do! I was just answering his question) and because I was beyond caring at that time.

I brought this up to my therapist, and sh esaid, “This is a big thing to him and a small thing to you. Two things can be true at the same time.” That hit me hard because I thought that an experience had to be the same for everyone who experienced it. Which, I admit, was a naive and childish viewpoint, but one that many people had. I wasn’t even astonished that he viewed that moment differently than I did, necessarily, but that they both could be true at the same time.

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Neurospicy is the new neurodiverse

Neurospicy is the new word for neurodivergent. I’m not sure how I  feel about it, and I say this as someone who is pondering whether or not I am–neurodivergent, I mean. In the last few years, I have heard it being called neurodivergent, neuroatypical, and neurodiverse. Neurospicy is a newer one, and I think I like it in a casual setting, but not for something like an office. Just like I wouldn’t use queer in a more formal setting, but I would with my friends.

I only started thinking about this issue seriously in terms of myself a few years ago. Why? In part because I did not present in the typical way, which I learned was more based on male behavior than female behavior (as are most medical diagnoses, sadly). I learned about a decade ago that the hyperactive thing was a drastic simplification of the matter. There was also a hyperfocus aspect that people overlooked when they talked about the inability to focus. Those two things (not being hyperactive and being able to focus with a laserlike precision) made me dismiss the idea that I had ADHD for a long time.

I kept getting drawn back to it, though. Things like being repeatedly told you’re lazy because you wouldn’t (couldn’t, actually, but it looked like wouldn’t) do simple things like check the mail or recycle empty boxes (the ones my cat, Shadow, doesn’t want). I would castigate myself for being lazy, which didn’t help, of course. I didn’t even learn of the term ‘executive function’ until about five years ago.

I did hear about hyperfocus before then, but I still didn’t think it was me. Until I read more and more about it. How it presents it women, I mean. I no longer identify as a woman, but I definitely grew up being treated as one. Oh, and it’s often talked about as a kid’s thing, when it’s definitely not.

The other complication is that I have trained myself from a young age to overcome some of the symptoms without even knowing it. I have, er, had a phenomonal memory. So I can overcome the shortcomings like being bad with details by brute force. I was also trained to take care of other people’s emotions so I was forced to pay attention to other people to an unnatural degree. I also have an off-the-charts EQ and can read people like books to an extent that makes them uncomfortable.

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People always tell on themselves

In the last post, I was talking about how people have a hard time looking at their own flaws.  I said that I was comfortable with mine, but that’s not completely true. There are flaws I have that make me uncomfortable, but I at least know I have them. I know I can work on them if I want.

It boggles my mind how other people don’t see themselves as they are. I mean, I know the brain is inclined to see the best in itself because that’s how humans are made. But the extent to which some people deny their own flaws or project them on other people is endlessly fascinating to me.

It’s one reason I read advice columns. The letter writers often tell on themselves without realizing it. The thing they’re writing in about is not the thing that is actually the problem. A good columnist will see that and answer the real quesstion, not the one being asked. Captain Awkward is pretty good at this as is Ask a Manager. The two of them collaborating was the best thing ever. I also love that Alison (AAM) will answer a question just because it interests her, even if it doesn’t really fall in the category of work-related. She’ll be honest about it, too. That she picked it because it tickeld her fancy.

Captain Awkward tends to write reams in her response, which is one tihng I like about her. I am verbose, and I appreciate a thorough reply. Plus, I read quickly and she writes very readable text. Alison’s replies are longer than average, too, but also highly scannable. They both have an engaged style of writing–like we’re having a conversation. It’s a skill that not everyone has, unfortunately.

The thing I really appreciate about Alison is that she will admit when she is wrong and take other people’s points into consideration. I have read her for several years and have delved into her archives. She has expanded and grown, and she’s wiser and more mature now than she was when she first started (obviously). I like that she has a sense of humor and seems eminently human. She’s warm, even in her writing. She’s compassionate and no-nonsense. She’s a nice blend of pragmatic and caring. Her one flaw is that she’s pro-pranks, but we all have our shadow sides. (To be clear, not harmful pranks, but the ones that those of us who don’t like pranks would consider annoying. And she’s made it clear that she thinks pranks are opt-in and not opt-out).

Both of them will get to the root prablem, rather than get caught up in the face of the issue. To me, part of my enjoyment from reading AAM is because of the commentariat. What people bring into the questions is the most interesting part by far. There are some questions that have a pretty much universal answer (such as the repost today about a woman who was wilding out at the medical office in which she worked. The letter writer was her boss. The employee was taking naked pics of herself at work, including in front of her boss’s (the letter writer) desk. That’s not the whole story, but that’s the main gist. Consensus: fire her), which are usually highly-entertaining, but there isn’t much room for discussion.

The best ones are the ones in which you can look at them from several points of view. Maybe the LW (letter writer) is correct to be upset with her coworker. Maybe the coworker has a reason for being the way she is. There was a letter (and several updates) from a woman who was the boss of someone she (the LW) was jealous of. The LW clearly stated this in her letter. She didn’t hire her employee and never would have if it had been her choice because of the way the employee looked. She openly admitted she was jealous and probably made her other employees think the attractive employee is bad aat her job because of the way she (LW) treated her (employee). The LW was in therapy for anxiety and an eating disorder. She was doing better until this employee was hired.

She stated in this letter that she lied to her boss when her boss (the one who hired the attractive woman) asked if she was jealous of the employee. She said she wasn’t, and the boss believed her. In other words, according to the writer herself, she was jealous of this employee. And yet, in the comments, there was a sizable minority of women who were skeptical about the employee saying that her boss was jealous of her. “Who would say that?” “She thinks too highly of herself.” These were the comments, paraphrased, and when it was pointed out that the LETTER WRITER HERSELF had said that she was jealous of the employee, these commenters doubled down. Well, yeah, but the employee sounded full of herself for saying it out loud!

Here’s the thing. I knew when women were jealous of me. They were not subtle about it. At all. It wasn’t because I was full of myself; I hated the way I looked, but I knew that some people found me very pleasing to the eye. I couldn’t help but see it. I also couldn’t help but see that some women were snide about me because I didn’t fit what they thought a woman should be, but the guys liked me, anyway. These were hetero women who believed the  attention of men was the pinnacle of success.

In addition, the LW was paraphrasing what her boss had said to her, so that migth not have been the way her report had phrased it. The employee could have said, “I feel like I can’t do anything right with the LW.” The big boss could have prodded a bit and the employee could have realized at some point that, yes, the LW seemed jealous of her. It was fascinating and frustrating to see the women who insisted that the employee was full of herself when the whole letter was that the LW was jealous of her report and never would have hired her. I don’t think I was reading at the time because I did not comment on this, and I probable would have if I had been.

There were several updates, gathered here. It became clear that she had been minimizing what happened, even though she was always clear that she was responsible for what happened. Still. There were people who insisted her report overreacted, despite not knowing the details or any of the people involved. It was fascinating how she revealed a bit more each time, and it ended with her settling with her report on the advice of her (the LW’s) lawyer. And even then, theer were people in the comments who insisted the LW was somehow the one being wronged somehow. One person even said she thought the report was a jerk for suing the LW. As noted in the comments of that update, we all bring our own shit into these letters.

Personally, I could not get behind cheering on this OP because she did harm to another human being. Deep harm. In addition, she was such an unreliable narrator, I felt that I could not trust what she was saying. I understood why Alison and most of the commentariat wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but while I was glad she was improving, I couldn’t help but notice that the harm she did her report was revealed to be worse with every update.

That’s human nature, though. We don’t want to look at the nasty stuff inside our head until we’re forced to do so. Even then, most of us would find a way to ignore it or pretend it wasn’t happening. This LW was fired for her denial, which was the catalyst for her drastically changing her life. At least she found the strength to deal with her flaws. That’s more than most people can say.



Taiji is the answer no matter the question

I have had a bad week. I fell twice; both times were completely my fault. The first time, I was walking from the couch to the kitchen with my NYT crossword puzzle soup mug with ginger honey lemon tea in it (cold) in hand. I stumbled over something and sent the mug flying. It’s thick, thankfully, so it didn’t break, but it sprayed tea everywhere. It was only about a quarter full, so at least there’s that. I crushed Shadow’s box (he wasn’t in it!), and I scuffed up my left knee. I also slightly pulled my right pec, but I was happy that it was that minimal. Back in the day, I would have pulled something or twisted something or just ached everywhere.

Then, the next day, I was lugging a box of cat litter into the garage. Or rather, pushing it because the box was falling apart. What I should have done was open the box and brought win each of  the two cartons individually. They’re not light. But, no. I didn’t do that. That’s one of my problems–I don’t do the thing I know I should do.

Funny side note: One time, I was telling Ian that my mother had complained to me about the way I put paper bags away. I mash them up and shove them in the cupboard. She told me I should fold them neatly and stack them. I said to Ian that I knew she was right, but I wasn’t going to do it. He was gobsmacked. He said, “Wait. You admit that she is right, but you are going to continue doing it your way, anyway?”

“Yup,” I said cheerfully. I knew myself, and I knew I couldn’t be bothered to do it the right way. I have changed that habit now, though. I fold the bags neatly at least 2/3rds of the time.

Anyway. I was pushing the box of two cat litter cartons when I felt myself pitch forward. I put my hands out to brace myself, but I also relaxed. That’s the thing that Taiji has instilled in me–the instinct to relax when I’m about to smash myself up. It doesn’t stop me from being clumsy, but it has helped me tremendously not to fuck myself up.

The biggest example of this was when I got into a minor car accident several years ago. I was going thirty-five on a local road (30 mph was the speed limit, but nobody goes that speed). There is a place when you can veer off to the freeway to the right (on my side, left on the other) and then a bit further, you canturn left to go on the freeway the other way (right on the other side, naturally).

This is not a well-designed “intersection” because it’s marked minimally. If you live in the area, you know how it is, but if you don’t, it’s a mess. Plus, the road itself is winding in a way that is difficult to explain, so I normally give directions to the next exit–which is more straightforward. Anyway, os I was going forward on my side, I noticed that the car on the other side of the road (an SUV, I think), was suddenly veering to the left at a high speed. They clearly needed to get on the highway and overshot the exit. I thought to myself, “I’m going to get hit” and my body instantly relaxed. A few seconds later, I was hit. The entire front of my car was stoved in, and my airbag deployed.

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Blah blah blah

The pandemic is not over, but I’m resigned to most people thinking it is. We’ve reached the point where it’s basically like the flu. And for most people, a bout of COVID means a week of feeling awful before getting on with their life.

I’m trying not to be bitter, but it’s hard. It’s not their fault. I understand that most people are able to move on and not think about it. I also understand that you cannot ask society in general to care about those of us who are more vulnerable. I know this, turly, in the bottom of my heart.

But people who just blithely say, “People get to assess their own risk level” irritate the fuck out of me. Yes, they get to assess their own risk level. I’m not arguing with that. But their assesssment affects other people, and it’s because of people refusing to be prudent in the early days that we’re still here at all. It really frustrates the fuck out of me that if we had had a hard lockdown in the beginning, maybe we wouldn’t have to worry about the next variant.

Or not. COVID has been cruel as fuck, not to mention persistent, It’s easy to believe that there’s nothing we could have to slow it down.

No. I don’t believe that, especially not in the beginning. Now that we have vaxxes, yeah, it’s probably going to be that a few thousand people die from it every year is what we get from now on. Like the flu. We’ll get jabbed every year and pray that it hits the strains that are actually prevalent that year.

Those of us with weak immune systems will need to be more careful, but that’s the case in general. I’m feeling punk today (and not in a good way). It’s been this way for a week or so. The annoyiing thing is that it’s not an actual cold or anything. It’s just me feeling rundown and tired.

This may be weird, but I’d rather just be sick. Then I can get through it and get back to life. This whatever has been lingering for a week, making me feel meh about everything. It’s not bad enough for me to just sleep, but it’s enough to make it dififcult for me to focus on anything.

Just a weird side note: It’s the day after Thanksgiving, which means it’s Black Friday. Does anybody even do Black Friday any more? I never did, but I can’t imagine anyone would nowadays. There are online sales at all times. Why go to an actual store at an ungodly hour to get something on sale? To be fair, not everyone shops online. In fact, probably more people don’t than do.

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Knowing you’re a freak

I am a freak. I know this. You know this. There is no disputing this. In terms of all the societal norms, I fail them. We’re not even talking about the biggies such as married, children, religion, etc. Those are a given, and it’s not something I think about much (despite my voluminous blogging about them). There was a time in my thirties when I was wistful about that part of my life. I was telling K that sometimes, I got jealous when I heard someone else had gotten married or had a kid. Admittedly, more the former than the latter. Actually, not the latter at all. I have never wanted kids. Ever.

But the former, yeah. Or someone who was promoted to a high position. It would stir a ping of envy in me that I could not articulate. When I brought it up to K, she said, “Minna. You don’t want any of that. You would be so unhappy if you had that life.” She was right, too. It made me think about what I really wanted–and it wasn’t a spouse with kids in a cookie-cutter house in the suburbs. I do live in the suburbs and don’t have an issue with that part because I have access to the cities while also the quiet of living in the suburb.

She was right in that I wasn’t pining for the actual things that these other people had–but for meaning in my own life. It’s easy to overlook that because I don’t have any of the societal benchmarks to gauge my life by. I’ve seen some YouTubers talking about this because their job as content creator is a fairly recent thing. It’s not easy to explain to people who aren’t in the industry because “I make videos for YouTube” sounds simultaneously mundane and incomprehensible. It’s like writing is some ways. Everybody writes, so they think that everyone can do it. Which, yes, many people can write–but it doesn’t mean they can do it well.

My friends are all on the outside more or less. They may fit in for certain aspects of life, but they’re all creative types. I don’t get along well with normies. Or rather, I don’t feel comfortable with normies. I can get along fine with them because of my superior people skills–by the way. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that I can read people in a way that other people can’t. I wrote about it yesterday or the day before, and I have to say that it’s the core of my personality. I was born with the talent, but I honed it when my mother forced me to be her confidante when I was eleven. She had all these emotions that she forced me to deal with, which meant I couldn’t deal with my own. It also meant that I became even better at honing in on people’s emotions. My brother talks about me being really good about reading people–and it’s partly innate, but mostly nurtured out of necessity.

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A stroke of good luck

I became aware of the interview John Fetterman (running for US senate in Pennsylvania against Dr. Oz) gave to NBC. I read about it in Slate before actually watching the interview. What I learned from the article was that he had a stroke in May. He’s back and says that he can still serve. He is saying that the disability is temporary and he will be back to normal one day.

Let’s put aside the latter sentiment for a minute. Let’s start with the interview, which I watched once I was at my laptop. From the start, I was put off because the interviewer for NBC noted that things were very different, that he was using closed caption, etc. Why did she need to note that? I mean, I have to wear glasses when I read, but that’s not noted every time I talk.

I’m not going to go hard on her for mentioning accommodations or the fact that he had a stroke.  By the way, I’m having to rewatch the interview as I type this because I don’t remember everything in detail, even though I watched it an hour ago or so. That’s one of my issues with my ischemic stroke (not sure what kind he had), by the way. My short-term memory isn’t as good as it used to be.

I want to talk about that for a minute. I had a phenomenal memory before my medical crisis. I could remember long conversations and videos I had seen in detail. I never forgot a name, no matter how long it had been since I saw someone. Now, however, it’s different.

I can still retain information I read/see, but sometimes I have to refresh my memory before getting the full recall. I don’t remember people’s names immediately the way I once did, and sometimes, I have trouble recalling who I told what to. I have forgotten words now and again, so when Fetterman said empathetic, paused and said, emphatic and could not be sure which he meant, I related to that.

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The little things

Yesterday, my brother came to drive me to my echocardiogram appointment. Except, there was no appointment made, apparently. We got there and they said they had no record of it. My brother and I went to get burgers at Culver’s instead, which was so good. Even with no butter (They invented the ButterBurger) and a gluten-free bun, it was juicy and so meaty (got the double). I learned that you can get a triple or more if you ask, but that would be just way too much meat. Even a double was plenty for me.

I promised my brother that the heart center DID call me. He believed me because I immediately emailed him after to ask for a ride. He figured out that the person probably jotted it down on the wrong client’s page–and I remembered that she did have computer problems while we were talking. So, yes, either wrongly noted it or it didn’t take at all. Plus, as I was messaging Ian to tell him I had an appointment, he asked how long it’d been. It had been ten months, so I was surprised that they hadn’t waited for a year. That’s when we scheduled it for while I was there–they wanted it to be a year.

It got me thinking about driving. I haven’t driving much since I got out of the hospital. To be fair, I didn’t drive much before because of the pandemic and because of my shitty immune system. The last time I went out before I landed in the hospital, I went to Target. I am convinced that’s where I got the walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, even though it wasn’t in the week of when I got it. I just Googled it. The symptoms do not show up for two weeks at least. So it was probably there. It doesn’t make a tangible difference, obviously, but it’s a relief. I had been racking my mind, trying to figure out where I got it (back then).

Let me set the background. I have a shitty immune system. I’m not immunocompromised, at least as far as I know. But I do have a shitty immune system, which is how I always phrase it. In the before times, I got bronchial-related illnesses two to three times a year. My doctor said I had the lungs of a seventy year old. I smoked two to three cigarettes a day (not two to three packs) slowly throughout the day. I smoked half a cig when I got up, then a quarter cig several times during the day. I never wanted a whole cigarette (except when I went out with K. It was our thing), but I liked the little kick that a few puffs gave to me. My favorite doc told me it wasn’t a big deal or something to worry about when I mentioned it to her. When I asked why doctors were so strident about smoking, she said because if they told people they could smoke a few cigarettes a day, their patients would take it to mean they could smoke six packs a day. Which, fair.

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You have the right to….breathe

Today at Ask A Manager, there is a question about a scented product. As someone who is allergic to almost everything under the sun, it was of keen interest to me. At Ask A Manager, she asks that we take the letter writer at their word. That doesn’t mean we can’t question the LW about their perception, but we are to accept that what they write is true to them. I think this is fair. What I’ve noticed, though, is that a good writer can slant things completely in their direction (whether they mean to or not).

In this case, notice the description of Jane and how the LW leans on the fact that she thinks Jane is having a tantrum (basically). I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, more about me.

I am allergic to everything under the sun. I was recently lamenting on Twitter as to how all I want are unscented (but I mean fragrance-free) products. They are so fucking hard to find and, no, ‘spring rain’ is not an acceptable substitute. One of the worst reactions I’ve ever had was to a Febreze scent called Spring Rain or something like that. I was trying to mask the smell of cat piss, and I figured that would be the closest to nature that I could get. I sprayed it and I could not breathe. I ran from the hallway and opened up all the windows in the house. I was gagging for the next hour.

Another example was that my brother recently got into essential oils. He carries bottles of them with him and sniffs them to calm himself down. He thrust a bottle at me once and told me to smell it. Like an idiot, I did. I said like an idiot because I knew it was going to be something that
I would be allergic to.

When I was a kid, I got allergy shots every week. I didn’t know why; I just knew they made me miserable. I’d get the shot, sit for half an hour while my arm swelled up like a balloon, and then was allowed to leave. This happened every week until suddenly, it stopped.

It wasn’t until much later than I realized (when I was able to Google it) that they were injecting me with whatever I was allergic to in order to try to desensitize me. They probably stopped when it didn’t work. It never got smaller. My arm just stayed swollen for the whole half hour before we left. Any time I got the dreaded allergen test, it was thirty or so dots on my thigh. All of them would swell until it was one huge swollen bubble. I cannot tell you how awful that made me feel and how much I dreaded it.

Back to my brother’s bottle of poison, er essential oil. I unthinkingly smelled it. My head snapped back, and I’m sure I grimaced as I thrust the bottle back at my brother. It was lavender, which was something I was most decidedly allergic to. Had I known it was lavender, I would not have smelled it at all. I don’t care how natural it is, it’s terrible to me.

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