Mingbin, Gaga and Me


I do not want to get on this plane.  I want to stay in this state of airport gate-waiting for eternity.

I’m not afraid to fly. I don’t particularly like it, and usually I feel a little ill when I fly, but it’s only an hour flight and I have good music and a book about George Harrison (my travel buddy) so I should be set.

No, I want to stay here because this is the first time I’ve felt a sense of calm in the past several days. I got a tea, put on a travel playlist my friend made me, and set up to write this blog. It’s nice to stop, to breathe, to pause this state of existential dread.

I want to stay here and think about how adorable my Lyft driver, Mingbin, was. He was a tiny Asian man, probably 70 years old, driving a Mazda with a dancing flower attached to the dash. After a few minutes of pleasantries, he switched on a CD and suddenly I was back in my sophomore year of high school listening to Just Dance by Lady Gaga.

I have so many questions.

Did he make the CD for himself or was it given to him? It’s clearly a mix of Gaga songs spanning several records, and some are remixes. Is he playing it because he thinks I will like it? Or is Mingbin a Little Monster himself? One can only hope.

I watched the little plastic dash flower dance along to Born This Way as we passed an IKEA and I remember thinking about how much I’d rather re-live the 24 hours of travel to India (turbulence and airplane food-induced diarrhea included) than set foot in an IKEA for an hour. That place is like a maze, set up to destroy and feast on the souls of new homeowners.

I miss Mingbin. He didn’t try to make small talk, which is good since I didn’t really want to talk and also couldn’t understand him very well. He drove like a little old man,  thankfully, because I’ve clung on for dear life in the back seat of many a car in my day. He just played a ridiculous amount of Lady Gaga while I alternated between giggling and singing along.

So Merry Christmas everyone! Happy Hannukah, Happy New Year, congratulations on your new baby, have a nice time at the gym today, happy winter. I hope we can all be just as adorable as Mingbin this holiday season, or as he described it “this long weekend.”

xo

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Webs


Three spiders have made their homes outside my apartment windows. Sometimes, I watch them spin their webs in the dark, orange streetlights barely illuminating the fibers. Usually they’re sheltered from the rainy Oregon weather but every so often, when it rains sideways, huge holes appear in the meticulously symmetrical designs. I’m always so amazed at the spiders’ diligence. They never stop. They’re never deterred. I’m assuming they’re never discouraged, though I don’t have much understanding of spider brains and emotions.

I’m proud of them. I’m inspired by them. They’re my little friends, my little roommates, and I root for them every night while I fall asleep. I hope they know how much I care about them. I hope they know how much they matter to me.

I hope they feel me, silently cheering them on in solidarity, because if they can rebuild, so can I.

Summer Vacations Are Over


I just realized I’ll never have three solid months off for the summer ever again. And if we’re being totally honest, I’m not that sad about that. I never really loved summer vacation.

I grew up in a pretty rural area, but it wasn’t so rural that everyone else lived in a rural area….if that makes sense… Basically, I lived on 8.5 acres and my neighbors lived far away, but just a couple miles down the hill was a large development where tons of people lived pretty close to one another. We all went to school together, but I didn’t live close enough to them to spend hours upon hours every day making friends. I was a little bit of an outsider. While they all walked to each other’s houses every day in the summer, I stayed home with my sister and played in the yard, or did work in the little orchard we had, or made up stories by myself. My parents worked a lot, though they definitely did make efforts for me to have play dates with the other kids. It just wasn’t the same as living ten feet away from your best friend like all of the other kids did.

So my childhood was a little different from most kids’. I never minded much when I was little, because I didn’t realize there was an alternative. It helped me learn to entertain myself, and I got really comfortable being alone with my thoughts, which I think is super important and a little rare these days. I transferred to a high school in town when I was 14, and the same thing happened — I didn’t live near any of my friends, wasn’t able to just drop by. I loved high school and was really happy, so this wasn’t much of an issue, it was just different. My house was never the meeting place, because my house involved a 20 minute drive out of town.

Sometimes I drive through neighborhoods and see all the kids riding their bikes together, or walking to a corner mart, or just playing outside on someone’s lawn. I don’t know if I wish I’d had that childhood, really. It would’ve been nice to be able to be more social if I’d wanted, to have the typical high school experience you see in the movies where the best friend drops by all the time. But honestly, I’d be a different person. Those sorts of experiences change and shape you in ways we never really expect, so I don’t know who I’d be today. I’m sure I’d be lovely, but I happen to enjoy myself at the moment and I’m not terribly willing to change that.

So I didn’t care much for summer vacation, because summer vacation meant a lot of time alone. I’ll bet if I had those three months now I could find some really awesome things to do with some pretty awesome people, but I’m so excited to start my new job and make friends in this new city that there’s little that could make me want three months off of school or work.

It’s nice to be excited like this.

Folw Yur Drms


It’s 11:30 p.m. I went to bed at 9:30 (after I graduated from college I turned into a grandmother and am perfectly okay with that). When I can’t sleep, I think about weird stuff:

1. I was walking home at night one time when I ran into a few (very drunk) people sitting on a roof (not exactly the safest spot for drunk people). They yelled at me until I sang part of a song from Pocahontas. College is weird. Drunk people are super weird. It made me laugh, though.

2. A lady at a coffee shop told me that the sun has been turning yellower over the past few years because of the government. She said we all need to watch out because the sun is heating up and getting closer every day. I trust her, because she seemed to have gotten this information from credible sources (her own delusions). She was sweet…just very confused about the sun. And heat.

3. My roommate and I ordered pizza once and our delivery boy was so adorable it hurt. He asked us how our day was going and then told us to follow our dreams. I’m pretty sure he was very stoned, but that’s okay. Except that he was driving. Oh God…

All those things made me laugh for various reasons, but I do see a trend. Everyone being delightful and lovely (minus conspiracy theorist lady) was intoxicated in some way. Maybe we should start trying to be silly and let loose and make each others’ days when we’re sober. Just force people to sing and tell them to follow their dreams sometime. Maybe don’t say that the sun is burning us alive in a very scientifically inaccurate way, though…

Night night! xo

Between


I guess I can cross “drink a Heineken in Germany” off my bucket list. While I’m at it, I could create a bucket list…

So I’m halfway to Bangalore! I’m sitting in the Frankfurt Airport eating pineapple slices and drinking beer. It seemed like a good purchase at the time. To be honest, it still feels pretty good. People were looking at me strangely for a while and I thought maybe I wasn’t supposed to drink beer in this particular part of the airport until I realized, it’s 9 am here… Whatever, it’s midnight my time and I just flew in a tin can for 10 hours, so I deserve a beer.

I’ve already learned a few things during my short travels, and I thought I’d tell you about them before I pass out in a corner from confusion and early-onset jet lag (that’s a thing, right?):

1. I’m apparently a nervous pee-er. I don’t think I’ve ever used the restroom this many times in two days, much less 12 hours.

2. TSA agents in Seattle tend to be friendly. TSA agents in Frankfurt…not so much. An extremely sassy (and when I say sassy, I mean grumpy) German man told me to leave my sweatshirt and shoes on as I went through security, which then caused the scanner to beep and then I got aggressively patted down. I’m always patted down at airports. I should just expect a subtle grope, at this point, when I travel. In the States, they usually tell you they’re going to use the back of their hands and then they’re really gentle about it, but here the lady (who was really nice, thank god) basically gave my boobs a squeeze and it was a little bizarre. It wasn’t creepy or bad, it was just bizarre. Anyway, screw that noodle-brained man for making me leave my shoes on and causing me to get fondled.

3. Apparently I give off a German vibe. I’m flying on a German airline, so all the flight attendants speak both English and German. Even though their default language for addressing most people was English, they always started nattering on to me in German and I could barely get a word in to tell them I couldn’t understand anything they were saying. Even an Indian lady started talking to me in German. I should’ve made a sign (I’m Very American) and worn it the whole flight.

4. Hot towels are a gift from the gods. I love them, and they love me, and my face loved them, and they loved my face.

5. Children like me. A lot. The little Indian girl sitting in front of me kept playing peek-a-boo between the seats with me. It lasted a really long time, and I didn’t really know what to do because we didn’t speak the same language, so I just kept puffing my cheeks out and waving. I probably looked like an idiot. She didn’t care.
I was also slobbered on by a small German child who looked like he was my offspring and it was both weird and awesome at once.

6. You can tell what people are saying usually, even if you don’t speak their language. Sass and hand gestures are universal.

7. Seriously, guys. Everyone thinks I’m German. At this rate, I’ll be making wiener schnitzel for the entire airport before I board my flight.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Home


No feeling matches this
stirring in my bed, expecting to be at school
then opening my eyes and…home.
Where every moment feels slowed down
a bubbled sanctuary from the world
as nothing touches me but softness —
the hugs of my mother
the quilt of my youth
the cat sitting on my face.

Champa


If words were fragrant
my poems would smell like champa flowers.
Heady, deep and sweet,
they smell like —
The moment I knew I would grow up
My daydreams of adventure
The dark room I adopted in my adolescence
The isolation I felt as I became someone no one else had known
The reason for my faith
My future.

If fragrances were words
the champa flower would be Shakespeare.
Songs to Krishna
carried on the breeze like soliloquies
depicting his lotus eyes
whispering softly —
I could feel you before you were real
I looked for you and found nothing
I waited for you, and you came
I love you like I’ve loved no other
I’ve seen you, but I was blind to all else
I know you like I know myself
I carry you deep inside
I thank you.

There ends part 4 of my childhood poetry series, which describes more my adolescence/early adulthood and less my childhood, but which is a huge transformative part of who I am today.

I Grew Up So Well


I may be up at 2 a.m. and it may be because I finished editing a short story I’ve been working on for a year and I may have just submitted it to my university’s literary journal so I may be having a mini heart attack but also may be feeling so accomplished that I can’t stop jittering. Y’all, I actually finished something. Conceptualized, drafted, wrote, edited, re-edited, ruminated, re-re-edited, and…submitted. This is real life.

And it got me thinking…I had the best childhood. (How’d this thought train happen? I wrote something! –> Reading as a child helped me write –> one time I wrote a crappy story about Cleopatra and my mom loved it –> My parents were so supportive –> My parents had such eclectic taste in everything –> I practically came out of the womb singing Neil Young.)

When I say “best childhood” I don’t mean “most innocent” or “happiest” necessarily. I mean I had a childhood that I look back on and appreciate, because I accidentally was a pretty insightful kid. And everything I did then, everything I was exposed to, has made me pretty awesome (if I do say so).

Want an explanation? I present you with a series of poems from my childhood, which you will receive every other day for as long as I can come up with them. They will all be first drafts and will probably be written in the middle of the night, so feel free (gently and lovingly) to offer criticisms and ideas.

We’ll begin with BLOCKS.

I drag Pops’ box blocks, dead like wooden bricks
across the oriental carpet (red spirals from somewhere I will dream of later)
and — thunk — drop rubber zoo animals from their cloth prison, only to box them in again
within the lifeless block-walls.
The harder they come the harder they fall
Jimmy Cliff sings, high and warm, as lions leap upon giraffes, teeth tearing through tendons and muscles, spurts of blood hitting onlookers.
Years later I will remember this carnage fondly
if only to laugh at my morbidity as a five-year-old
and to rent a copy of The Harder They Come
which was about drugs
according to Dad
and I didn’t know that meant violence, too, because drugs are always paired with violence
at least when desperation gets involved,
so we document it in movies that hurl knives against the TV screen.
Age 5 doesn’t allow for true understanding of desperation, but I must’ve seen it
because I replicated it
with lions
in my house.
Peace often followed, as the lions
sick with remorse and giraffe flesh
bathed in the sun, rolling in the red tide of a rug born somewhere I’d never heard of.
As all I couldn’t comprehend washed over me
heavy accents filled my ears
and mondegreen* stole my understanding, turning every sad lyric into something pleasant.
Them a loot them a shoot them a wail shanty town.

*mondegreen is the mishearing of a word, usually within a song.

Fall Is Not For Lattes


photo(1)

A photo of my gorgeous college campus last fall.

Every girl in college is excited about fall because “yay pumpkin spice lattes, cozy sweaters, and boots!” This isn’t to say I’m not excited about those things too, because I love me a chunky sweater and some tall boots (pumpkin spice lattes are another matter entirely — my taste buds are very friendly but do not wish to tango with pumpkin spice ever again), but it is to say that there are a lot more wonderful things about fall than sweaters.

This is my favorite season. How could you not want to spend every waking moment outside (or at least looking outside) in fall? Every breath you take is filled with the smell of earth, of leaves, of cold, and everywhere you look there’s a new color you’ve never seen before. The world has changed for us to simply look at. We’re always so preoccupied with doing, making but in fall, all you have to do is watch. These silent changes happen over night, and as you wake up, throwing open the curtains, the earth reveals a startlingly red tree that was yellow the night before, or a bare tree that was fully covered yesterday. Am I the only one who wishes I could be constantly awake in fall so I could see the changes happen slowly before my eyes?

The eye was never tired of gazing, night or day, in calm or storm, it suffered but one grief, and that was that it could not look always, but must close sometimes in sleep.Mark Twain, Roughing It.

I wonder if this is how it feels to be in love: to want to stare into your partner’s eyes and simply look, observe, because just their heartbeat, the fact that they’re alive, is enough. That’s what fall is. It’s the long moments of serenity you feel when you just watch something unfold and grow before you, attaining new levels of life right before your eyes.

Spring is a time of rebirth and growth, and fall is when everything shifts to sustain that life through hardship. It’s like a mother, who gets you ready for bed and kisses you goodnight before winter comes and covers you with its cold blanket. Fall is our protector, our guardian.

So breathe, because it’s fall, and fall smells like life.

So Here’s Something…


I was packing today (I leave in 3 days, y’all…going back to college!) and came across an old diary from two years ago. I hadn’t seen it in years, and I read through the whole thing.

It detailed everything from getting asked to prom to being “dumped” by my prom date a few weeks after the actual dance to getting my first kiss (yeah, that seems a little out of order, but that’s how I live my life) to having my first boyfriend to going to college to…and then it stopped. And as I write this, I realize it was  that time, October 2011, when everything slid downhill. It’s funny when you’re so ecstatically happy and in love with someone and in love with your life, and then suddenly you want it to end. I’ve contemplated this so many times on this blog, each time gradually a little deeper, a little darker maybe, but I’ve never written about this because I’ve actually never thought about this. This post was supposed to go in an entirely different direction, but I may have just had a revelation.

I’ve thought about how terrible I felt at the time. How I couldn’t get out of bed, and how my relationships with everyone but about 3 people suffered dramatically, and how I ate stale, dry cereal in bed one night for dinner because I didn’t want to leave my room. And I’ve thought about how terribly tragic that all was, but I’ve always thought about it like it happened to someone else. In a way, it did, because I wasn’t myself. But depression is scary in one specific way: there is no outside force acting against you. Sure, maybe you’re Vitamin D deficient, maybe you had a traumatizing life event, and those are outside forces, but it isn’t a bacteria, it wasn’t a car crash, it isn’t something you had happen to you.

It is you. Or it feels that way, anyway.

I remember thinking I was eating away at myself. Having spurts of thoughts like I am doing this to myself. Having other moments where I liked feeling so miserable because at least I felt something. Not wanting the panic attacks to go away because I didn’t know how to define myself without them. Not caring that I was being destroyed because I had nothing to be whole for anymore. 

I’ve never really talked to my father about this. I had a really amazing conversation with another blogger about it, and they said they’d never talked to certain members of their family about their suicide attempt even though it must’ve been at least 25 years since. It’s weird…we can’t tell the people we love but we can tell strangers. It’s no fault of mine, and it’s no fault of my father’s, but I’ve just never really told him. And it’s been almost two years, and sometimes it feels too late to bring it up because it’s over. But I think I’m still a little traumatized by the realization that at one point I didn’t want to live anymore.

I think it somehow makes it hard to explain to someone that you had suicidal thoughts because doesn’t everyone? Doesn’t everyone have that moment when they’re looking over a bridge and they have the urge to fling themselves down into the abyss below? Well, sure, those thoughts happen all the time. But they arise from changing levels of adrenaline or something, and you would never just chuck yourself off a bridge on a whim.

You might swallow a whole bottle of pills, though, and fall asleep forever. You might think about that in the middle of the night after a panic attack. You might take a few extra of those pills, pills you were supposed to take for sleeping, and see how deep you could go, knowing you’d wake up because 3 isn’t an overdose but 30 is. 

I always thought it’d be more dramatic, like you see in movies. The heroine, tears dripping down her face, picks up a bottle of pills, closes her eyes, raises the bottle, and…slams them onto a table. No. I won’t do it. But real life is seldom so concrete or exciting. I thought about it, long and hard, wondering what my family would do without me, deciding that they’d be fine. I thought about it, but…I couldn’t get out of bed to do it. I couldn’t fight the depression long enough to end it. And that part is the only part that seems dramatic to me. It might fit into a movie. “I couldn’t fight the terrible weight pushing down on me, George,” Selma said in her light Southern drawl. “I couldn’t move to numb the pain.”

And I make fun of it, like that, because that’s the only way I can handle it without breaking into a million pieces and crying myself to sleep. But that moment, marred by a haze of one or two too many sedatives, is strangely sharp in my mind. I’d blocked it out until a few months ago, but…it’s not that I decided against doing it. I was just too tired. The pills probably didn’t help the grogginess, but it seems like maybe that grogginess saved my life.

When I was seeing a psychologist, I was saddened by the fact that I couldn’t remember a lot of my time in the fall of 2011. It was like I knew I must’ve been doing something…I was breathing and alive after all…but that time is just blotchy black spots in my mind. My psychologist said that my mind probably wasn’t ready to let me remember everything. Like maybe I needed to ease myself into the reality of that period in my life. So I read diaries and remember. I open notebooks and see “Am I crazy” scrawled across pages in red pen, written during a panic attack. I hear a song and cry. I wake up from dreams and flash back. 

It’s like PTSD, only mildly satisfying, because remembering makes it real. Remembering gives me a reason to feel bad for myself. I can’t remember for too long, because then I’d get nothing done. I don’t want to live in the past, and I don’t want to wallow. But I do want to allow myself to simply remember. Remember that something terrible happened within my mind, and I — very slowly and against more than a few odds — fixed it. 

There will always be books like The Bell Jar that take me back to those few months. I’ll go back to the town I used to live in someday, and I’ll probably remember horrible moments and cry and cleanse myself, stand up straight and walk away. I’ll find old notebooks, old poetry, old watercolors. Therapy tools. I’ll find them and remember, and I’ll bow my head. But I’ll move on. Someday, I’ll move on. For now, I’m in limbo, living an amazing life that would never have happened if those thoughts had turned to actions. 

I write frankly about these experiences because writing allows me to process. Your feedback is, as always, greatly appreciated. However, this blog is meant to be a safe place for both me and my readers, so I will ask that any negative comments be taken elsewhere and appropriately shoved up your arse.