Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Physical Fitness

Honing my aggression

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.

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Worthwhile of life

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.

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Everybody was Bagua fightin’

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?

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Exercise tropes I disagree with

For years, I would hear people say that running is so great beacuse you get that runner’s high. I hate running, so I dismissed it out of hand. I’m not saying they’re lying ,but that it just never did it for me. Running was the absolute worst, and I only did it when I was forced to (such as in school).

Then, there was all the fluff about how walknig is great because anyone can do it! We all (most of us, bodies willing) do it every day so how hard can it be? Just walk for thirty minutes a day! Which, ok, not terrible advice in itself, but I hated walking as well. I did it as my only form of exercise when I was in the Bay Area for a year to attend grad school, and I walked four miles a day. I hated every step. I did not get any kind of joy in doing it, and it was grim.

It wasn’t even a neutral feeling. I just hated it lots. Once I started Taiji, though, it was–well, I hated that, too. The only exercise I didn’t hate was dancing, so I was happy to put on music and dance around my living room. With Taiji, though, I decided to stick with my second teacher because…I’m not even sure why.

It wasn’t until she pressed a wooden sword in my hand that I felt the click people talk about when it comes to exercise. Here’s the thing. I was deeply depressed for most of my life. I found nothing positive about anything, and if I wasn’t feeling crushed by life, I was numb.

I felt nothing. So maybe it was asking too much from the exercise to give me a boost. But everyone said I would get that boost from exercising. And I kept feeling like I was a failure because I kept resenting the exercise. Hm.

The thing that most people weren’t saying, maybe because it seemed obvious to them, was that you had to find a form of exercise that you enjoyed in order to get that euphoria.

Side note: In the weekend Ask A Manager thread, there’s a question about how to make small talk. The original poster (OP) asked how people got beyond the weather, but still kept it in the small talk realm. First of all, if you live in Minnesota, you never need to move past the talk about weather. But, the questions people brought up were interesting. Food, for example, is not something I want to talk about because I have so many dietary restrictions. It’s boring to talk about what I can eat. Though I will say that my current obsession with Indian food will work in a pinch.

But I don’t want to talk about my favorite food because what I like to eat and what I can eat is very different. If I didn’t have restrictions, I would be eating way more dumplings and mac ‘n cheese than I currently do.

Another is asking if people are from the area. Which, as an Asian American, is very touchy. Talk about your initial microaggression! When I was in college I got asked all the time where I was from. That was inevitably followed up with, “No, where are you really from?”

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A dangerous time

I’m full of energy today, which is a change for me. Since I got out of the hospital, I’ve gotten a solid eight hours a night, waking up only once during the night. I’ve woken  up and not been exhausted, but my body is still mending. All that sleep is going into the deficit I’ve carried with me for decades. I know that’s not how sleep works, but that’s how I think of it, anyway. I’ve had a lifetime of not getting enough sleep and then I had a very traumatic day followed by two weeks in the hospital. The first two weeks at home, my body was just mending itself and recovering from the trauma. The next two weeks, the sedation and narcotic meds were (finally) completely leaving my body, which meant I could feel all the little aches and pains that a body has.

Then, I hit a plateau of frustration because I wasn’t getting any better. Intellectually, I know that it can’t always be peaks. There are going to be plateaus, and, yes, valleys. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. Part of Taiji is accepting things as they are, which is not my strong point. I come by it honestly as my parents are both major worriers (in vastly different ways). I used to joke with K that her mother was very much, “Whatever choice you make, you’ll be fine” whereas my mother is more, “Whatever choice you make, it’ll go drastically wrong”. We both laughed at the time, albeit ruefully. In my case, it meant that no matter what I did, I always regretted it and thought about how different life would be if I had done x, y, or z. This is more my mother than my father, but he’s prone to it, too. When I had a minor car accident several years ago, I was clearly in the right. The witnesses and the cops agreed with this. So did the young woman who was driving the other car. I, too, knew there was absolutely nothing I could do. I was going straight on a local road when she suddenly turned left and slammed into my car. I saw her coming, instantly thought, “There’s nothing I can do” and instinctively relaxed. I walked away from it with a massive bruise on my stomach from the seat belt, probably, and nothing else. My car was totaled, but I was fine. Later, my father started questioning if there was anything I could have done to avoid it. I was getting pissed because there really was nothing I could do. I picked up a stuffed soccer ball my father had made in Home Ec and threw it suddenly at my father. He didn’t even flinch as it hit him. I asked why he didn’t try to catch it and he didn’t even register that I had thrown something at him. It wasn’t nice of me and I felt like shit afterwards, but it made my point–at least to me.

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How to deal with my broken mind

I have a broken mind. This has been true since I was a kid. Or rather, I’ve always been different. I loved to read and always had my nose in a book. I devoured them rapidly, moving from one to the next the second I was done with the first. A part of the reason why was because I hated life with every fiber of my being. I can’t remember a time when I thought it was a good thing to be alive and is it nature? Is it nurture? I don’t know. Or, more to the point, it’s a complex mixture of both. By my mother’s account, I was a happy and cheerful toddler–though she is an unreliable narrator. She looks at things in the past through rose-colored glasses, mostly so she doesn’t have to deal with the negative ramifications that linger.

I am pretty sure this is one of her coping mechanisms in dealing with my father because he’s pretty unrelentingly negative. I also know that her childhood wasn’t the happiest and that she never felt like she was loved by her mother. Who, by the way, was a real piece of work. Probably shouldn’t have been a mother, but it was expected of women of her generation and culture (Taiwanese). She definitely favored her sons over her daughters and for whatever reason, my mother was her least-favorite.

All that is to say that my mother came into parenting with some faulty ideas as to what it takes to be a parent and what it meant to be a parent. More specifically, a mother. I also think one of the reasons she decided to have children was to have someone to love her unquestioningly, which was destined to fail. You don’t have kids for what they can do for you–ideally, that is. Many people do, much to their own detriment.

Ever since I can remember, I was not happy in my own skin. My mom made dresses for me, which is so not my jam. I like a long flowy skirt and I wore a dress now and again in my twenties, but it never felt right. It wasn’t a gender thing, but a sensory thing. I hate clothing and try to wear as little as possible. Dresses generally cover more than other clothing and is restrictive to boot. I liked to climb trees when I was a kid–which was also something that I was told I shouldn’t do as a girl–and that’s really hard to do in a dress. I was considered a tomboy and frowned upon for being, well, too much.

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Tricking myself into being healthier

I’m fat and I know it. Don’t like it, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers my doctor. Which is a lot. I’m going to have to change my doc again, sigh, because she is way too fixated on weight, pushy on me taking drugs I don’t want to take, and just not great in general. I had to pick a new doc during the pandemic and I basically closed my eyes and threw a dart. I chose someone I thought might be more holistic and compassionate, but, no. I’m not too mad at her because it’s so endemic in our society (thinking being fat is the worst thing in the world and morally wrong), but I’m certainly too old to put up with it.

At any rate, I want to lose weight because I hate the way I look. That’s it. I don’t care about the health implications and I never have. I know it’s all the vogue to say that I’m getting in shape for my health, but that’s just not true for me. Except one thing. I want to be sturdier and not so out of shape. I hate losing my breath just from walking more than I’m used to so I want to work on that. A few problems. One, My lung capacity isn’t great. Two, I have never been good with walking up and down stairs, probably because of aforementioned bad lung capacity.

I don’t do well with putting myself on a diet because I tend to become obsessed, much to my detriment. For me, the line between diet and eating disorder is exceedingly thin and easily crossed. Even when I know about the dangers, I feel myself getting pulled into it and am helpless to stop it (I know I’m not actually, but it feels like it at the time.) The way I trick myself is to focus on eating better, not specifically looking for weight-losing foods or diets. I can’t count calories or weigh myself because they become obsessions in and of themselves. I tried to do inches as a substitute for pounds, but I know the conversion and that didn’t work, either.

If I do anything that smacks of dieting, I start spiraling. How do I get around that? By focusing on the foods themselves.

Side note: It seems that the lactose-free foods I’ve been imbibing are no longer sitting well in my stomach so I’m going to have to go completely dairy-free, sadly.

I started the journey by cutting out dairy and gluten. Caffeine is up and down, and I’m still not sure if I should imbibe it or not. I don’t want to talk about it again because I’ve nattered on and on about it, but there are pros and cons to me drinking caffeine that have to do specifically with my migraines. Anyway, eating vegetarian/vegan doesn’t necessarily mean eating healthy because a lot of the subs have oils and such, which means calories. I’m trying to cut out on plant-based mayo, plant-based cheese, plant-based butter, etc. It’s not easy, however, because there’s a part of my brain saying, “You can eat so little, why not gorge on the things you CAN eat?”

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I’m slicing and I’m dicing

My thumb is nearly 100% and I can’t get over how great it is. When I had trigger thumb, I rationalized that it wasn’t that bad. I rarely had to use my thumb so as long as I babied it, it was fine. Not great. It was always tender and I always had to be careful about bumping it, but it was fine. Or so I thought. Now that it’s back to normal, I can’t believe how much I had to accommodate it and how much it low-key bothered me. It’s only in retrospect that I realize how restrained I was by it.

In a metaphysical way, it’s the same with any flaw a person has. It’s hard to see how much it hampers you while you’re in a situation where using it doesn’t seem so bad. Or working around it. It doesn’t help that I have an insanely high tolerance for pain plus my mother’s mentality of stiff upper lip. When I got my steroid shot, the doctor warned me that it was going to hurt because it was in a very sensitive spot. I exhaled as she pushed the rather long needle into the base of my thumb and it was nothing more than a sting at the site of the needle. I didn’t react and we went on with the appointment. At the end of it, she asked how my thumb was feeling. I said fine and she gave me a strange look. She said I was very strong (or something similar) because that was a very sensitive spot for a shot.

She sounded almost admiring of it and I wanted to tell her it was not a good thing, but I just nodded. Someone accused me of humble-bragging when I tweeted about my reaction to the second shot or rather trying to garner sympathy. I wasn’t, but it made me think about how we’re supposed to react to medical things. In a letter to Ask A Manager today, someone who suffers debilitating migraines (of two different types) and was wondering if when they returned to the office, she could get away with crawling on the ground. She worked for a huge company and the vast majority of the commenters were appalled at the idea. The few who pointed out that it was akin to a disability ask were shouted down.

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I am a delicate flower, damn it

The heat has finally broken–somewhat. It’s 75 right now, which is still outside my comfort zone, but it’s way better than 107. My parents were shocked when I told them because it’s actually hotter than where they are–which almost never happens. They asked how I’ve been dealing with it. With AC, a fan blowing on high directly on me, iced water, and ice packs. Also, taking off my shirt when the sun goes down. I’m a less is more kind of gal in general when it comes to clothing in part because of hating clothing on my skin and partly because I hate being hot. Oh, also constrained. In my idea world, I would  be naked all the time in a 50 degree world. That’s not gonna ever happen, though, because that’s not the world I live in.

My energy has been sapped even for the few minutes I’m outside when I’m taking a few puffs. It’s just so oppressive, especially when you’re not used to it. It’s similar to how the South deals with an inch of snow–it’s no big deal unless it only happens once every five years or so. We get over a hundred on occasion, but not for a solid week as we did this time. We’re supposed to get back up in the nineties this week, which is just not right. I mean, yes, it’s June and yes it’s summer. But this is Minnesota! We’re not built to deal with sustained 100 degrees.

Even though I’m inside most of the time, I’m still affected by the heat. My sleep has been worse than usual and my brain refuses to think. I’m grumpy, which, admittedly, is my normal state of mind, but it’s also extra with the heat. I feel like a dope for being so susceptible to heat, but it’s the way I am. I love the cold with all my heart and feel alive when the temperature is around zero. But anything over sixty is not fun for me and past seventy, I want to throat-punch somebody. Eighty? Grrrrr. Ninety is unfathomable and a hundo is personally hurtful.

I’m drinking iced water and iced coffee like they’re going out of style, which is helping a bit. But mostly, I’m just mad. I know it doesn’t help, but it’s how I feel.

In better news, my left thumb is roughly 92% right as rain. That steroid shot was a miracle worker, but I’m glad the doc clarified that it might take up to two weeks to work. I had been expecting it to be like magic and work instantly. Knowing that wasn’t the case meant I didn’t freak when it didn’t get better right away. It took a few days for it to improve at all and by the one week point, I was at roughly 60%. Now, I can bend it with very minimal pain and it’s only slightly sore when I touch it. To be honest, I’ll be happy if it stays like this and doesn’t get any better. I’m just so relieved I can use it again.

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It’s too hot, too hot, way too fucking hot, baby

The week of mean heat continues, much to my dismay. Last summer, my AC went off maybe one or two days. It’s been on almost nonstop since Friday (it’s now Tuesday). It’s been in the eighties at 11 at night. In other words, it’s fucking hot. I have the AC on, a fan blowing on the highest setting, and plenty of ice drinks. Also hot coffee, but that’s only because I ran out of coffee. Been drinking it cold in the past few days. I have an ice pack for my thumb, which means putting it on my (naked) chest as well. I’m eating popsicles like they were going out of style.

Speaking of my thumb, I can actually bend it again! By itself! Without pushing on it! With minor clicking and pain! It’s been a week since I got the steroid shot and it’s so much better than before. What a relief. Even if it doesn’t become 100% again, I’m elated with the results. Science works, bitchez!

In the first several days after the shot, I took it really easy on my thumb. I didn’t do any of my left side weaponry or two-handed weaponry, much to my chagrin. I did the right side sword and right side saber, both which involves holding the weapon briefly with the left hand in the beginning and end of the form, but it doesn’t really put pressure on the thumb itself. In general, I don’t use my left thumb on the regular, especially now that I’ve taught myself to use my right thumb to hit the spacebar, but it’s nice that I don’t have to baby it so much.

One of the boons to being dairy-free/gluten-free now is that there are many substitutes that are nearly as good as/as good as/better than the original product. However, that’s also the down side as the subs use much fats to get that creamy mouth feel. I should have realized that on my own, but I didn’t think about it–probably chose not to think about it. Now that I’ve decided to ‘eat healthier’ (put in quotes because it’s all about the numbers), that means cutting out most of the dairy subs. Cheese, sour cream, and soft spreads–I’m using up what I have and buying no more. I’m also cutting back on chocolate and am very close to animal/fish free. Does that mean I’m going to be a default vegan? Yup, pretty much.

Still hot. Still grumpy. Gonna end it with this video.