Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: progress

Progress, not perfection

One thing I really appreciate about Taiji–oh, let me say this. I had a class today. It really anchors my week, and  I need to add another class. Probably the Tuesday night one. My teacher is great in that she’s very casual about people making mistakes. She’ll point them out, but in a way that isn’t shaming or blaming. It really is a talent. She’s a very positive person, but not in a forced way.

We were talking about how long we’d been taking classes from my teacher. I said I was her first official student (she had been teaching a friend before that) and it had been something like fourteen years. I still remember like it was yesterday how she was so affirming as to focusing on one thing. I can’t stress enough how much of a perfectionist I was before I started taking Taiji classes. I had the typical Type A Asian mother who insisted that I do a million activities and that I had to be great at them. One of the memories I had that stayed burned in my mind was when I graduated from college, magna cum laude. After the graduation, my mother commented that I would have graduated summa cum laude if I hadn’t gotten the B in Intro Psych. I was very proud of myself for achieving magna cum laude until she said that.

Years later, I mentioned that moment to her. She denied that she had ever said that. That’s her style, by the way, to forget anything that put her in a negative light. That was the moment I realized that she was an inreliable narrator and not to trust anything she said. Like a fool, I pressed her on it. She finally said that if she had said that, she only meant it te be comforting in case I was upset about it.

I dismissed that as bullshit at first. But later, I realized that she truly forgot those situations. My brother did as well, but in his case, it wasn’t just times when he was saying or doing something negative. He helped me set up my new modem and a week later, he completely forgot he had done that. In my mother’s case, it’s anything she didn’t want to remember–especially when it’s something that was negative about her.

I put so much pressure on ymself to be perfect. Then, my junior or senior year in high school, I had enough. My mother was giving my brother money for his good grades. He had undiagnosed learning disabilities including dyslexia (and probably autism) so school was very difficult for him. I was upset that she did not give me money for my grades. Now, as an adult, I understand why she did it the way she did, but back then it just seemed unfair that I was punished for being better at school.

I know that’s now what it was, really. And it was much harder for my brother because he had such a difficult time with school. I had a hard time with the social asspect because I was so weird. I hadn’t quite honed my ability to talk to people so I mostly just looked around feeling like a weirdo.

I can’t emphasize enough how fish-out-of-water I felt as a kid. I honestly felt as if I were in a different country and did not speak the languagee. Plus, I was severely depressed and anxious, and I did not want to live. This started when I was seven, and my teen years were the worst. I was so miserable in school. That year, I gave up on trying to get good grades. I got criticized for getting an A- while my brother got praised to high heavens for getting a C.

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Accepting additional info with ease

People talk about how difficult it is to adjust to the new pronouns of someone they’ve known and love for quite some time. For some reason, I do not have this problem. When gender identity started becoming more talked about as a social issue, I struggled with ‘they’ in the singular. When I changed my thinking to ‘Wait. I use ‘they’ in the singular when it’s a generic person, then it was no longer an issue for me. In other words, when I realized I already used they in the singual, I hod no problem accepting it as a singular pronoun.

And, yes, I kow it used to be one. That is an argument that is proffered frequently, but I don’t find it that persuasive because there are many things that used to be standard that we no longer use. Such as thou and thee. For me, personally, knowing that we currently use they in the singular is a better rationale to me. The other reason that resonated with me was that it’s what people want to be called. I can dig that.

I also had difficulty with neopronouns. I will admit that I’m not as comfortable with those, but that’ss a me-problem. In part, it’s the purpose of pronouns. There is a reason for a set amount of pronouns. They are meant to be stand-ins and not personally applicable to each individual. But, I do agree that he and she is way too limiting. Personally, Idon’t like they for myself, and I have no affinity for the rest of them. I will say that ey/em/eir are the closest to ones that I actually identify with, but it’s more an intellectual connection than a personal one. Honestly, call me any of them other than he/him, and we’re good.

It’s easy for me, though. I rarely slip up, and I also think it’s because I’m in so many ‘other’ categories. I’m not black or white–I’m Asian. Not gay or straight, but bi (or pan, I guess, but I really don’t like that. I tried to just leave it at ‘queer’, but people think that means gay). I have been trying to get away from bi for years, but there really isn’t anything else that I like.

When It comes to religion, I’m not Christian and I’m not an atheist. I am areligious, meaning I don’t care. I like using apathetic for religion, but it’s more hostile than I mean it to be. Or rather, it imparts an ill-intent that I don’t mean. Areligious is good for pubblic consumption because it’s about as bland a word as you can get.

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What constitutes progress

I’ve been home from the hospital for four weeks, which has made me reflective. That’s twice as long as I was in the hospital, as difficult as that is to believe. It feels both longer and shorter than four weeks simultaneously. On the one hand, I have a hard time believing what happened to me happened at all. On the other, it seems so far away from me. When I read about what happened to me in my brother’s Caring Bridge journal, it’s as if I’m reading about a fictional Minna. It’s partly because I wasn’t awake for it, obviously, but it’s also because I’m back to ‘normal’ with only my stamina still low. It’s hard to believe something traumatic happened to me when all outwardly indicators are gone.

I don’t use the walker at all any longer. Not that I used it in the first place. I brought it with me on my morning constitutional just in case and used it a few times so I wouldn’t have to work as hard walking, but I never *needed* it. I never used the commode my brother put together or the puppy pads. I wore the pull-ups (like Depends) for a month, but never used them. The only thing I use is the shower chair–and that’s just so I can wash my feet. Oh, and when the nursing aide comes to wash my hair. It’s nice to have, though, in case I do want to sit down.

I’ve been frustrated as I might have mentioned before because my progress has slowed to a crawl. As I said before (and this is the humblebrag part), I came back with a vengeance and was probably around 85% of my physical capabilities when I woke up (minus the stamina, obviously. But I don’t consider that part of the physical capability, though it is, really). I may not admit it out loud, but I was pretty proud of myself when the physical therapist (PT), a day after we met, said that she didn’t have anything else to teach me. Remember, they were talking about months of rehab once I left the hospital and were pretty dire about what my abilities would be if I woke up. A big if.

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Running in place

Ian and  I recently talked about a thing in video games that is annoying. This is in games that are continuous, such as Destiny 2 or any other ‘game as service’ game. There is a thing that when the season ends and a new season begins, all the caps are reset and you basically have to start over again. Not exactly, but it’s close enough. I felt that way with Monster Hunter World. I took it to surprisingly and poured hundreds of hours into it. I really liked it until the Tempered Elder Dragons and quit cold turkey. Then, Iceborne, the DLC came out. I was hyped, but it was only on consoles at first. I want to say just PS4, but I’m too lazy to look it–ok, it’s both PS4 and Xbox One. I had to look it up because that’s my nature. The internet has been a boon, but it’s also been a curse. In the olden days, if I didn’t know something, I just had to deal with it. Now, I can look it up whenever I want. It’s almost a compulsion, but a benign one.

The basic armor you are given in Iceborne is better than anything I had crafted in the entire base game. Same with the base weapon. I know why they did it–because they wanted the newbies to be able to try the new content without having to grind in the base game. Truly, I understand. From a business standpoint, they want as little obstacle to entrance as possible. If newbies had to play hundreds of hours in order to even get to Iceborne, well, then it would be Dark Souls. So I can’t blame Capcom for doing that. However, it was deflating as fuck to get that good shit and realize that my time in the base game was all for naught.

I know that’s not the case. I know that the enjoyment I got from the base game is something in and of itself. But, it still left a sour taste in my mouth and I could never really get into Iceborne. Part of that was because it so much harder than the base game (which was another reason for the better gear), but it was also because it felt like those hundreds of hours I put into the base game were for nothing. N00bs who were playing for the first time had the same equipment as I did, so why even bother? If I had just picked up the game as a whole, I could have cruised through the entire game on easy mode. Again, I realize that the experiences I had with the game wouldn’t have been the same and would probably have been trivialized, but it’s hard not to feel bitter.

It’s the same struggle I have with taiji. My teacher’s teacher is changing things up, especially with the Solo Forms. I’ve explained this before, but we used to do the Long Form by Master Liang. Which I hated. Then, he developed the Medium Form based on movements by Master Choi. He decided the Medium Form was going to be the main form so my teacher put the long form aside and began teaching us the Medium Form. Her teacher also developed the Fast Form, which was based on the Medium Form and she started teaching that to us as well.

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When Progress Feels Like a Setback

The middle of my back is aching, and my taiji teacher says this is progress. See, I used to have lower back pains as I practice taiji, Before that, I had knee pains. Concentrating on fixing my posture to improve the knee pain led to the lower back pain, and now that I’m working on correcting my posture so that my lower back doesn’t hurt, the middle of my back is grumbling. My teacher has often said that we all carry tension in our bodies–we’re just not necessarily aware of it. The first step to relieving tension is feeling it, which I’ve been doing in spades the last few years. I noticed that my knees were really hurting, and I mentioned it to my teacher. She watched me do some postures and gave me a few suggestions. I worked diligently on her advice, and my knee pain subsided substantially in a month or so. However, my lower back started hurting, so I mentioned that to my teacher recently. She told me to focus on tucking my hips, and I noticed that I was popping my ass out in the middle of every posture. I practiced tucking my hips until it became somewhat a second nature, and my lower back stopped hurting almost completely. Simultaneously, the middle of my back started hurting. I mentioned it to my teacher, and she said it was better than my lower back hurting, but harder to massage (which is a good remedy for aches).

I’m frustrated, I won’t lie to you. It doesn’t help that my knees have been achy a bit, too. I think it’s because I’m focusing on my back, so I’m not placing as much emphasis on making sure my knees extend properly over my toes (but not too far forward). I used to think I was decent at multitasking, but taiji has shown that to be a lie. Yes, I can think about two things at one time, but neither are going to get my proper attention. My teacher has said repeatedly that we can only focus on one thing at a time, whether it’s waist, knees, or arms. I’m always tempted to focus on two things, usually the knees and the waist, but then I end up neglecting both. My sword practice has been helpful in this respect because I do five repetitions of a section of the form. Each repetition, I focus on a different aspect. First time, I usually just do the section as naturally as possible. I follow that up with watching the tip of the sword in the second time through. Then, focusing on the waist. Then, as gently as possible. Lastly, with as much power as possible. I don’t always do it in that order because I don’t want to become rote with my practice. It’s not easy to carry the same focus over to the Solo Form because as I’ve said a time or a hundred, it’s not my favorite thing to practice.

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How to See Progress When It’s Microscopic

i will cut you
Wudon Sword Fencing

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

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

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Dark Souls III: I Got Gud, Part One

burn, baby, burn!
Meet Karla, my new pyromancy trainer.

I’m in the middle part of Dark Souls III, and I have to admit, I was starting to drag a little. This happened to me while playing the first two games, too, as the games are long, and I tend to gorge on them. The first time I played the original Dark Souls, I hated the game by the end of it. I just wanted it to be over, and I couldn’t be happier once I put it in the done folder. I thought I’d never touch it again, but I did, and now, it’s one of my favorite games ever, if not my most favorite game ever. Part of the problem is that I mainline these games, gulping down chunks of them at a time. It would probably be better if I parceled out the experience a bit more judiciously, but I can’t. When I sit down to play a Souls game, I don’t emerge until several hours later. Sometimes, I’m not even sure how much time I’ve been playing. The games really feed into my OCD traits, so it’s not really that surprising that I would experience fatigue while playing them.

A few days ago, I was saying to Ian that maybe I should take a break. Ever since I reached Irithyll of the Boreal Valley, I’ve felt under-leveled and not strong enough to take on the area. I felt all badass after easily dispensing of High Lord Wolnir, only to have my ass handed to me by the common  enemies of IotBV. I’ve complained more than once that I think FromSoft* hates casters, and it really felt that way during this section. It felt very Bloodborne-y (meaning faster action), which reinforced my belief that while I love watching other people play Bloodborne, I might not be as into playing it myself because my reactions are just too slow for that shit. I co-oped the boss of the area, though I hadn’t really meant to. I co-oped with someone else and helped them beat the boss, so I had my ember restored, which gave me almost twice as much HP. I decided to make a run at the boss so as to not waste the ember, and I summoned Anri of Astoria and a human phantom to help me out. I honestly didn’t think we’d beat the boss because the boss gets more HP in direct proportion to how many phantoms you summon. To my surprise, we beat the boss, much to my relief and slight disappointment because I like to beat bosses solo on my first playthrough. Relief because I was frustrated by how much I hated this section of the game. I went back recently just to see if I could kick some ass, and I could. That’s one of the best parts of Souls games–returning to a previous area that completely wrecked your shit and getting your revenge.

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