Monthly Archives: December 2015

Top 10 Things You Won’t Believe Made Me Cry, Gasp, and Laugh in 2015

It’s the last day of 2015, which is surreal to me. Where the hell has this year gone? Looking back, it seems as if so much has happened, and yet, so little. On a social media level, I’ve pulled back from talking about politics as much and have mostly stuck to posting cute cat GIFs and videos, joking with friends, and occasionally bringing up a topic of interest that might or might not be political. I’ve come to the conclusion that social media is not the best medium for political discourse because of the inherent restrictions, and I haven’t regretted not being as politically involved as I used to be. Concerning my writing, I am pleased that I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing on a daily basis. I used to do that effortlessly, and then I stopped writing entirely for roughly a year. There were several reasons for it, and while it made sense at the time, it made me sad because writing is as necessary as breathing to me. I’ve said before that I write, therefore I am, and that’s never been more evident than in the time when I wasn’t writing.

I’m proud that I was able to stick to my goal of writing a post every day in the month of December (assuming that I’ll finish this one, which I will), even if most of the posts were filled with rambling thoughts that didn’t make a cohesive whole. One of my issues is that I’m a perfectionist, which means I’ll quit if I don’t think something is good enough. The problem with that is I rarely think anything I do is ‘good enough’, so I usually can talk myself out of publishing a post that isn’t word-perfect. I have several posts sitting in my drafts folder, languishing, because I refuse to touch them again. By publicly declaring that I would publish a post a day, I forced myself to write posts that I otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s silly that I have to put such artificial constraints on myself in order to make myself publish, but it worked, so I can’t be that mad about it.

I’ve realized that I still have trouble writing and publishing posts that I consider inflammatory, but I managed to do it, even if I had to lock one of the posts in order to do so. I accept that I have to create reasons for myself to do things I want to do, but won’t for one reason or the other. I’m not happy about it, but I will continue doing it if it means I actually get shit done. I mentioned in a previous post that I want to write and edit one or two trilogies in the next year as long as an anthology of short stories, so my short-term goal concerning those will be to finish the first book of each trilogy in January, at least the rough draft. One is already done, and I have about fifty more pages of the other before it’s done as well. Depending on how that goes, I’d also like to finish the first drafts of all the stories I want to write for my anthology, but I think I may need more than a month to do that. I don’t want to set myself up for failure, but I also don’t want to stop pushing myself when it comes to writing.

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A Sisyphean Task

I wrote yesterday about some of my mental health issues that I want to work on in the new year, but the post devolved into me navel-gazing yet again. To continue with that musing, I’ve been thinking about boundaries. In yesterday’s, post, I talked about how difficult it is for me to set boundaries, and today I want to talk about how that extends to my brain as well. I know that sounds confusing, but just stay with me, and I’ll explain to you what I mean.

In my family, my father was big on saving face and not losing face. How he was seen by other people was of utmost importance, and he had this elaborate and byzantine set of rules as to what was acceptable behavior and what wasn’t. The one example that I use over and over again because it was so bizarre to me at the time is when I told a friend of his that he was playing tennis. I didn’t say with someone else, but that part is pretty implicit in the statement. My father blew his lid when he got home and I gave him the message. He was mad because me telling the one woman that he was playing tennis with someone else was somehow insulting to the woman who had called. My father didn’t bother explaining, but later I figured out that he thought it made him look like a jerk for not inviting the woman to play tennis with him. I didn’t understand it at the time, and decades later, I still don’t think I did anything wrong. However, the overreaction of my father made me chary of giving out any information to anyone lest I provoke the same reaction again.

To this day, I tend to hoard information rather than share it, even if it’s appropriate. My father had effectively drummed into me that you don’t tell–well, anyone anything. My mother reinforced this notion, but for an entirely different reason. If I tell her something, she’ll tell everyone or she’ll take over the idea as if it were her own. She has a way of making me feel incompetent, even when she’s purporting to be supportive. By her taking something over, it says to me that I’m not capable of doing whatever the thing is or that I need to be propped up. I know that’s not her intent, but it’s the practical result. I also know that it’s partly her need to be in control, which I’ve inherited in spades, although it manifests in a different way. In fact, my hoarding of information is one of the ways I try to be in control. If I’m the only one with knowledge, then other people can’t act in ways I can’t control.

Another thing that complicates the problem is that because I’m aware of most of my issues, I am constantly second-guessing my reaction to situations. I know I’m needy and clingy, even if it doesn’t always manifest outwardly, so if I feel slighted in a situation, I automatically think it’s all my fault. Sometimes, it is my neurosis talking, but other times, it’s a valid response. However, I’ve been told all my life that I’m overreacting or that what I feel isn’t really what I feel, so now, I’m hopelessly mixed up as to the proper response to a given situation. It’s similar to how I used to not express my opinion at all, then I went in the opposite direction and expressed my opinion all the time. Now, I’m realizing that it isn’t always important to have the last word, but simultaneously, it is important to not stuff down my feelings and opinions all the time, either. I already feel as if my opinion doesn’t matter, so keeping them to myself reinforces that feeling. It doesn’t help that as an Asian American and being bisexual, my opinion actually doesn’t matter to many people who are caught up in the binaries of black and white, straight and gay.

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Taking Out the (Emotional) Trash

I tackled the concrete things in my life I want to do in the next year in my last post, and now I want to focus on the mental health issues that I want to work on in the upcoming year. This is more difficult because I can’t simply say, “I will set better boundaries three times a day–” Hey, wait. I actually probably could do that. It’s just a matter of discerning what boundaries I want to set and then do it. Yeah, that’ll be easy. A better example is, “Just stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself all the time.” OK, yeah, I’ll get right on that. I’ll just eradicate the thoughts that have been in my brain for nearly forty years like that. I”m snapping my fingers in case you’re wondering. That’s where the ‘write down concrete steps’ comes in, but so much of the advice for combating negative thoughts is horseshit. “Just replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.” The problem with that is I feel as if I’m lying when I say positive affirmations about myself. I can’t tell myself I’m beautiful because that is just patently false*. I can’t tell myself that I’m worthy of love because I don’t know what that even means. The few positive things I can say about myself–I have nice hair and eyes, that I’m smart and creative–I can’t even take any credit for them. I was born with them, and while you could argue that it’s up to me to use my creativity and my intelligence to my best ability, I was still born with them.

The other problem is that some of my best attributes are also my worst problems. I’m empathetic and have a knack for getting people to open up to me, which is ostensibly a good thing. I can hear you saying, “What’s the downside to that?” The downside is that sometimes, it’s more about appearances than actually caring about the other person. I’ve explained before that I need to be seen as a caring individual, which is partly why I exert myself in such a fashion, but there’s also a part of my brain that says, “This might be the only positive interaction this person has all day. Don’t fuck it up!” Again, it’s part of my training from childhood that I feel responsible for everyone else’s feelings. Logically, it’s self-aggrandizing to think that if I don’t respond to someone’s tweet or I don’t follow up on a person telling me s/he’s had a bad day, I’m sending that person into an irrevocable death spiral. Emotionally, it’s how I feel. I’ve been trying to work on it, but it’s not easy. Especially since showing concern and asking questions is like breathing air to me.

The thing is, I feel like a hypocrite when I do this and I’m not feeling it. It’s gotten me in trouble when people think we’re closer that we actually are. For all my caring and empathy, I have a coldness at the core of me. I have very few close friends in real life, and I like it that way. I prefer spending most of my time alone with my two cats. They’re enough companionship and sometimes, they can be too much when they’re being especially bratty. Despite my array of issues, I’m comfortable in my head,** and I can entertain myself endlessly. I don’t want to go out every night, and even when I have something planned that I know I will enjoy, I have to talk myself into actually leaving the house.

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New Year’s Resol–

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I have enough opportunities to flagellate myself year-round without the added pressure of being aware I haven’t lost twenty pounds in two weeks, am more likely to be killed by a terrorist shooting lightning bolts out of his fingers than I am to get married,* and my chances for winning an Edgar Award are slim to none. In addition, in our gotta-have-it-now society, it’s easy to think if you don’t succeed in the first month, you might as well give up for the whole year. A few years back, I decided it was better to set goals than to make resolutions, and ‘they’ say it’s actually better to set concrete goals with discrete steps than to just say, “I want to lose a hundred pounds”, but it still didn’t spur me to actually meet the goals on my list. The last week or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about missed opportunities this year, and I’ve decided to revisit the idea of setting goals for next year. Some of them are concrete, such as losing weight (or inches in my case) and publishing a novel, but others are more nebulous like setting better boundaries and not being so hard on myself.

I’ve been reading some of my unfinished (and finished but not completely edited) novels, and they’re pretty good. They’re unique just by the dint of the protagonists being Taiwanese American bisexual women** like me. Toni Morrison said:

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

This is why I started writing prose in the first place, and I resent anyone who tells me that my writing is too niche or that I shouldn’t always write about Taiwanese American bisexual women.

But I digress. My point is that my novels have some value just because my protagonists are not ones you see every day or at all, really. Beyond that, my writing is solid. I write mostly mysteries, and I have a good sense of pacing and characterization. My dialogue is pretty spot on, and I’m really good at planting false, but believable clues. I’m weak on description–I hate scenery with a passion, and I sometimes bog down my writing with too much minutia. Still. I find I can breeze through one of my mysteries and still be engrossed in it. I’ve also notice that I’ve been writing different versions of essentially the same story for several novels. I’m currently working on two different trilogies–I like trilogies for some reason–and I’m trying to decide which one is better. Also, more palatable for a wider audience.

When I write a trilogy, I usually have some idea of the second and maybe the third as I near the end of the first, which is good because I can then go back through the first novel and plant seeds for the second and third. When I write a novel, I have the general outline in my head before I even start writing. Mostly. Usually. I don’t outline on paper because I find it to be a waste of my time. If I’m going to write something down, it’s going to be the actual novel. I usually know who the killer is from the very start, though I have changed the villain in a novel once or twice while writing it. Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of having a different protagonist for each novel in the trilogy, and in an earlier trilogy, I was going to kill off the protagonist of the second novel.

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland

My winter wonderland
I love snow!

It’s the day after Christmas, there’s a blanket of snow on the ground, and it looks so soft and inviting. If it sticks around, I’ll probably do a little nekkid snow dancing later on because that’s a thing I like to do. Preferably at midnight when it’s dark and people are asleep so I don’t have to explain to the cops what I’m doing. I love snow, and I love winter, Christmas notwithstanding. This post is not a paean to winter, however, it’s a post about why I cannot quit Skyrim. Hey, it’s relevant because it’s always snowing in Skyrim. And, since I added a mod that makes snow prettier, the snow really pops. It’s a bit too intense during a snowstorm at night, though. I can barely see where I’m going.

Anyhoo, I’m fifty-plus hours into Skyrim, and I noticed that my interest started flagging around the forty hour mark. The dungeons started to feel a little samey, and I wasn’t quite as eager to fus ro dah as I once was. By the way, I rarely use that Shout because while it’s quite funny to send someone across the environment, it’s a bit tedious to have to chase them down to finish them off. I know that it’s good to use to force enemies off cliffs, but I’m mostly fighting inside, so that’s not really relevant right now. By far, the Shout I use the most is the Storm Call, which as the name implies, brings down a massive storm upon the area. I only have one word of it so far, but it’s already OP. The problem with Shouts, however, as with most of the combat, is that it does damage indiscriminately to friends* and foes alike. I find this one of the most frustrating aspects of the combat, by the way. If you’re fighting with someone, you can’t accidentally hit that person (unless it’s a follower, I think) or that person will turn on you.You can imagine a storm that rains and lightnings in the area around you is not optimal when fighting, say a dragon that is attacking a town. I tried that once, and a guard immediately turned on me after being hit by lightning or something.

I reloaded a previous save right quick, I can tell you that much. It’s funny because when I played The Witcher 3, I didn’t reload a previous save except maybe twice because I wanted to live with the consequences of my actions. In Skyrim, however, I have no qualms about reloading a previous save if I accidentally deal friendly fire or make a decision I’m not fond of. I’m not sure why, except I’m not as invested in the story in Skyrim as I was in The Witcher 3. I think it’s because the story in The Witcher 3 was more realistic in a fashion than is the story in Skyrim. The trials and tribulations of the townsfolk seem more real than those of the townsfolk in Skyrim. My two favorite quests in The Witcher 3 (The Bloody Baron and trying to help someone become the monarch of Skellig) contained some of the best writing in games I’ve ever seen**. Conversely, in Skyrim, the stories are a bit more generic and more video gamey. I don’t feel that most of the decisions I make matter that much, but to be fair, I’ve avoided a few of the heavier decisions just because I don’t want to make them.
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Is It Over Yet?

Brotherly lick.
He’s lucky he’s cute (on top)!

This morning, my problem child*, Raven, horked on the carpet in the foyer and shit on the bathroom floor. He obviously got into the eggnog and partied too much last night. He’s like the teenager I never wished I had, and it’s a good thing he’s so cute because he’s a pain in the ass sometimes. I was grumbling under my breath as I cleaned both up, and of course, he’s acting as if nothing’s wrong. Merry Christmas! What a great way to start off what’s already a trying day. Before I go any further, I want to stress that I am not dissing people who really get into Christmas. I understand that it’s a thing for many people for one reason or the other, and that I’m the weird one for not caring about it. I’m used to being the weird one, but it’s alienating when it seems like the whole world around you is celebrating something you either actively hate or just don’t give a shit about.

Side note: I don’t care about holidays in general, my birthday included. I don’t see the point of putting so much effort into one day. I feel the same way about weddings,** anniversaries, and any Hallmark holidays. Don’t ask what I think about Valentine’s Day unless you want me to get completely apoplectic.

I try to keep most of my distaste to myself because I know my opinion is not popular, and I don’t want to rain on other people’s parades. I just wish that people who love Christmas would at least try to understand why some of us may not find it as merry. For me, it started fairly early. I wrote an op-ed in junior high school about the commercialization of Christmas, and that was, what, thirty years ago? More than that. Good god. Am I really that old? ::checks all the white hairs on head and concludes, yes:: Anyway, it’s only gotten worse since that. I’ve already wrote that post, so I’m going to focus more on how it feels to be an outsider. I like to joke that I’ve been raised by wolves, but it’s not far from the truth. My parents are first-generation Americans, and they didn’t know much about American culture before they moved here.*** As a result, I missed out on a lot of cultural touchstones that other people my age instinctively seem to know.

In addition, things that have mass appeal have rarely been my thing. I know a lot of people**** think I’m a contrarian because I hate tradition and because I’m an asshole. I can definitely be the latter, but I don’t hate tradition, at least not reflexively. Give me a second, and I’m sure I can think of something traditional that I like….Um….well, there’s…how about…damn. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something in a few hours.
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The Two Faces of Depression

It’s the day before Christmas, which means the end of the year, which means I’m starting to think of all I haven’t accomplished in the past year. Again. There are two times I do this in a concentrated way, one is my birthday, and one is at the end of the year. Both are grim times, and even though they’ve gotten better over the years, some years they hit harder than others. This, apparently, is one of those times. It’s sad, too, because I really wasn’t expecting it. I used to hate and dread Christmas, but this year? I was cruising along, not giving a damn. Then, about a week ago, I started noticing that I was becoming testier and that my thoughts were turning darker. I say testier and darker because I’m always testy and my thoughts are usually dark, but there was a marked downward turn. If you’ve never experienced depression, it can be difficult to understand. “Hey, Minna, if you notice that you’re starting to feel depressed, why not just do something to prevent it from happening?”

Believe me, if I could, I would. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing that I’m slipping in a depression and feeling helpless to stop it. Correction–it was worse when I’d start feeling depressed, but didn’t realize that I was tumbling into the abyss. The world would turn gray, and all the colors drained from my life*. I’d start thinking about everything I hate about myself, and before I knew it, I’d be inert on the couch. Back then, I had voices in my head all the time, one in particular. I called him The Dictator because he was so rigid and unyielding. He was absolutely ruthless in crushing any whit of self-esteem that I had. There were lesser voices in my head as well that I thought of as his minions, and they did his bidding 24/7. The Dictator was so real to me that I could almost see him. He fed me a steady stream of negativity until it was all I could think. “You’re worthless.” “You’re fat.” “You’re ugly.” “You’re gross.” “You should die.” “Nobody loves you.” “Nobody should love you.” The worst part was that he knew my weaknesses so well, he would sprinkle enough truth in his statements to make me believe him. “You’re so needy and clingy” would preface “no one will ever love you”, and because the former is true, it was hard for me to deny the latter.

I know it’s weird for me to talk about him as if he’s an entity outside of myself, but it’s how I felt at the time. I had this intruder in my brain, and he ruled my brain with an iron fist. I believed everything he said and allowed him free reign of my mind until my last therapist finally got me to talk about him. I’m making it seem cut-and-dried, but it was anything but. I didn’t know this person lived in my brain, much less that he had absolute control over my thinking until after many years of working with my last** therapist. With patience, she was able to tease out that I had this complex system of shoulds and shouldn’t, what I had to do and what I couldn’t. There were stupid things such as if I looked at a clock and it was on the quarter hour, I had to count to twenty-five. When my therapist heard about that one, she asked what would happen if I didn’t. I started to answer, but i couldn’t because I had never thought of refusing. I just automatically did it. I don’t know how it even started, but it soon became a hard and fast rule that I had to do it. After my therapist asked me that question, I consciously stopped myself from counting in that situation. At first, it was uncomfortable and I counted more often than not, but I was able to break the habit. Now, I only start counting if I’m really stressed, and I rarely finish.

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It’s My Party, and I’ll Tear It Apart if I Want to

My team is better than yours.
We’re number one!

I used to be a sports fan, specifically of the Vikings, the Twins, and the Timberwolves*, more tangentially, the Wild!** I’d watch the games and be elated if they won and despondent if they lost. Even so, I’d get over it in a few minutes and go on with my day, so I never was as rabid as fans can be. I rarely went to a game, and I never painted my face in team colors. I didn’t do the wave or chant that we’re number one, and I usually did something else as I watched the game, as is my wont. Over the years, my enthusiasm in sports waned for a variety of reasons, a primary one being the damage that professional sports does to a human body. The news about concussions and the NFL is horrifying, and I can’t in good conscience support a sport that leaves men battered and brain-damaged by the time they retire.

Despite the intro, this post is not about sports–at least not the kind that involves throwing balls around a field.*** This post is about politics and how rooting for a party and sometimes a candidate online feels very similar to rabid fans rooting for their teams. One thing that always amused me about sports fans is how every call against them is bogus and every call for them is legit, but also about goddamn time! It’s not as amusing when it happens in politics because the latter actually matter in the real world, unlike the former. But, just as sports fans can get mired in the minutiae of the rules of their game, so can people who follow politics get hung up on inside bullshit that would leave outsiders scratching their heads.

Side note: I find this to be a problem with the internet in general. It’s too easy to cosset yourself in some niche and then become convinced that you are the norm because everyone around you agrees with you. You could firmly believe that the sun is a puppet of the great overlord, Dragoonish, a Martian with three heads, two noses, and green skin, and you’ll find at least one person who agrees with you on the internet. I’ve ranted about this before, but sometimes, the internet feels like one big echo chamber.
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Positively Losing It

My tap measure finally arrived*, and I took my measurements. It’s official. I’m the fattest I’ve ever been in my life–or at least any time I’ve measured my boobs, waist, and hips. I knew I was up there because my favorite pair of pants were getting tighter, and the number on the scale at the doctor’s a month ago confirmed my suspicions; this is just crossing the t and dotting the i. I’ve been slowly working on removing things from my diet as a way to eat more healthily, starting with chips and then adding baked goods, but I backtracked today and bought cookies for the holidays. No, i’m not going anywhere or seeing anyone–they’re all for me. It’s better than buying muffins or cookies every time I went to the store, however, and this will be the last batch I buy, at least for a while.

I have to be careful how I plan on losing weight because I’ve dealt with eating disorders all my life. I was an overeater as a kid, partly because of childhood traumas and partly because my mother put me on my first diet when I was seven. She’s obsessed with her weight as well, something I didn’t realize until I was an adult. She disguises it by claiming it’s about her health, but it’s not completely true. If so, she would just eat better and exercise and not care about the scale or that she’s wearing smaller-sized clothing. In addition, when I was anorexic (twice), my mom made catty comments about how now I was smaller than she was, and she wasn’t being complimentary. There was a competitiveness to her that wasn’t pleasant, especially as I was struggling with the eating disorder itself. And, when I was in Taiwan the last time, she had to comment on my weight to the point where later, I wrote her a letter saying that any mention of my weight was off-limits. She protested saying she was just concerned about my health, but I knew that was bullshit because it was always my weight she mentioned. And, when I was anorexic, she never mentioned my health at all.

Anyway, I’ve written ad nauseam about how I’m wary about dieting or focusing on what I eat at all because I slip so easily into ED (eating disorder) thinking, even when I think I’m being rational and healthy about my decisions. I can start out being relatively healthy and then quickly become disordered in my thinking. Next thing I know, I’m staring at pictures of dessert for hours a day and fainting on the dance floor at a First Ave. concert. Believe me, I did not intend to end up in that situation, but it was inevitable given how crazed I’d become about my dieting. That’s the thing that scares me. I don’t intend to become trapped in my eating disorder thinking when I start to diet, but it’s always hovering just underneath my consciousness. I don’t know where that line is or if I’m just deluding myself into thinking that I wasn’t being disordered in my thinking from the very start. I know that the first time I lost a large amount of weight, I did it in an unhealthy way. I cut my intake down to roughly a thousand calories a day and exercised up to seven hours a day.  This was the summer before I left for college, and I couldn’t keep up that exercise regime once I entered college. Instead, I cut down my intake even further. I ate a bowl of oyster crackers for lunch and another for dinner along with a piece of fruit (I didn’t eat breakfast and still don’t), and I’d be so starved by two in the morning, I’d binge on five or six packets of chips from the vending machine. Then, I’d feel guilty, so every few days, I’d throw up what I ate. That’s how my bulimia started, though I didn’t think of it in that way because I never did it more than twice a week. I know, I know. Bulimia is like pregnancy–you can’t be just a little bulimic any more than you can be a little pregnant. Granted, once or twice a week was better than every day or several times a day, but it’s the same mentality, which is not a healthy one in the least.

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