Monthly Archives: January 2009

in new york and so happy

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that’s it. that’s all i had to say. in new york and so very happy. it’s cold and that makes me happy too. i’m meeting up with friends and that makes me very happy. another friend is flying into town to stay with me the remainder of my trip here and that makes me incredibly happy.

the one thing that did not make me happy but still amused me: a garbage truck drove by and spewed poo-colored gooey liquid out its back (on accident–the sanitation workers looked HORRIFIED and then their faces melted into helpless smiles) right in the crosswalk by the apartment.

noted to my OCD self: do NOT walk through that crosswalk the remainder of this trip.

p.s. Randa summed up the whole garbage truck incident in one adept sentence, “The garbage truck took a shit?!” Yes. The dump truck took a dump.

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twitter-style!

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short post!  so excited about heading out to New York tomorrow.  see you soon, NYC peeps! i’m bringing my woefully bright ice blue but VERY WARM Cali-Sierra-style parka with me to brave the chilly temps so that if there’s a google satellite picture of New York being taken when i’m out on the streets..i WILL be VISIBLE to the NAKED EYE, so obvious will my bright blue parka be in the black, grey, and navy blue wardrobed sea of Manhattan.

and triple yay for the trip: not only am i going to see my beloved NYC and the wonderful friends who live there…i will ALSO hang out with my A2 BFF who’s flying out to NYC to rendezvous with me!

booyah–two checks off my fun list.

Update: uptop is a picture depicting my one light blue jacket in a sea of dark jackets.

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the stage is set!

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On a new schedule! Two days of work (Mondays and Tuesdays) and then a stretch of days to focus on writing and finishing my novel.

My boss asked, “So uh, how’s your new schedule going?” I just replied, “Well. Lemons, lemonade you know. Going to use the extra time to finish my novel.” Which pretty much sums it up.

Going slow, but moving forward. One of the profs (a Famous Writer) in my former MFA program once told me that her husband, a Very Famous Poet said you just have to wait for inspiration on the steps. So you have to show up to write everyday. Sit on the steps, sweep the steps, but be there to meet the Muse. Sometimes the Muse doesn’t show up and sometimes she does. But if you’re not there, you’ll miss the Muse when she comes by.

So right now, that’s what I’m doing. Showing up to write and doing the work with or without inspiration. Meeting the Muse.

Writing a few hundred words a day some days, and a couple thousand other days. I have to remind myself to not get down on myself like I did while at Hedgebrook, when I would flagellate myself for NOT writing like the Famous Writer who would crow her word count at dinnertime for the day–“3,000 words! 5,000 words! Sucky day: only 2,000 words!” I was having a hard time because I set unrealistic expectations for myself, and then held myself to those unrealistic expectations. It broke me.

Now I go at my own pace, and a few hundred words is still just fine. And I won’t beat myself up into writer’s bloc. This is really the beginning of my writing discipline, something that I, if I am to be perfectly HONEST, have NEVER had. Not when I was in my MFA program, even, when I would slam out words but not consistently. I have never had a consisting writing regimen. So now I begin, and it feels good. (Now if only I could start doing this with workouts–maybe one discipline will stir up another)!

I’m also reading Roberto Bolano’s 2666, gifted to me by my fairy godmother (she is a real person, this fairy godmother–I’ve nicknamed one of my friends who has gifted me “necessary luxuries” like a place to stay in NY and 2666 in the past few months, my “fairy godmother”). It is AMAZING and EXACTLY the book I need to read right now. Early on in the novel, I stumbled onto a FOUR-PAGE-LONG-SENTENCE. It was extraordinary, and reminded me of a writing exercise that Aimee Bender once had us do in workshop: to write a 150 word long, grammatically correct, sentence. It was fun…but four pages I think is amazing. And I may do just that, as well. And there’s more: his shifting perspectives, the way in which the characters wander, and his complete confidence with his prose and with the narrative. I am being guided by a master.

Another friend, Nova, has inspired me to put everything I have into my novel. So often, I come up with a story idea or a scene and I partition it into a short story, separate of my novel, because I find it doesn’t fit “perfectly.” When she said that she has been funneling everything into her novel, it hit me: WHY DON’T I DO THE SAME? And so…now, when I have an idea for a scene in a bar or the image of food or whatever, I have been sticking it right into the novel, with some great delight and surprise.

I have discovered that it really all does go together. One afternoon, I found myself obsessing over the hurtful and confusing “feedback” from my boss. I’d sifted through and picked out the useful bits of his feedback but found myself drowning in the emotional sting. I stuck the sting into my novel. I stuck my boss’s words into the novel, and wove it into my character’s life…and it was such an illuminating experience. For me and for the character.

I shop in this way–I just buy what I like without a particular outfit in mind, and in the end, the outfits get created and the wardrobe has a theme, and it all goes together; in fact, it goes together in a unique way that doesn’t make me feel like I stepped out of a catalogue. And in fact, because I buy what I like, I’ll always wear them, and they’ll never go out of style, at least for me. So…WHY have I been so narrow minded and been doing the equivalent of shopping for only ONE thing, or WHOLE outfits each outing?

So that’s the setting in which I begin to fulfill my promise to myself. I am writing and finishing my novel.

I ask you to fulfill a promise to yourself, too. And do it with great urgency.

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this shit has me in tears

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Watching the inauguration of Barack Obama. I was a Hillary Clinton supporter and so he was my second choice…but shit, I am broken down in tears and filled with inspiration right now. This is historic. HISTORIC, people.

I never thought in my entire lifetime, that we would elect a person of color as President in America. NEVER.

And my father, who arrived on the shores of America in 1969 and faced racism that he still hasn’t been able to detail to me…but the kind of racism that made him take me as an infant to a school and ask, “How can I raise my daughter so she doesn’t have an accent like I do?” The administrator, in a quandary over such a request in 1974 said, “Don’t teach her a word of English, I will teach her English.”

Such that English, despite my birth in the U.S., is my second language, taught to me by an African American preschool teacher who had no trouble with her “r’s” and “l’s” and “b’s” and “v’s.” So my English is not my parents’ English but the English from a surrogate parent of language. And perhaps from another teacher, I got my peculiar country pronunciation of words like “produce” (praw doos) and “guitar” (geeed tar) and “insurance” (IN surance). (Wait. Those are pretty big words for a four year old. Maybe I picked that shit up later when I moved to California! Eeee). So I was despite all efforts, ironically, not immune to accents. So that at least on the phone, no one could tell I was Asian.

He didn’t think, he said to me, that America would elect a person of color as President of America in his lifetime.

This is the same man who firmly believes that North and South Korea will reunite. And a man who thought that that would happen before today.

I am crumpled in tears, thinking about the long road–and even if you didn’t vote for Barack Obama, even if you preferred John McCain who I highly respect and someone who could have had my vote, you have to concede that this is day of great history, and you have to sense the inspiration and imagination of children broadening EVERYWHERE. They will have a different life than I did growing up, and I cannot wait to see the long road ahead.

I am so proud of our nation.

And here are a few words from Margaret Cho on today’s inauguration. Margaret Cho is a fellow Korean American woman whose parents also told her this could not really be her country because she was not white (my father told me the exact same thing with bitter strength, bracing me for his experience of America) and who was also a former Hillary Clinton supporter.

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the stroke going into macro

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It’s only now that enough time has passed for me to even get anywhere enough distance to view the event of my stroke and my recovery on any sort of macro level. I really still can’t see the experience in its entirety, not within the context of my life and me as a person.

It has just been way too in my face, like standing one foot away from somebody–you feel intimacy, you can smell them, you can touch them, you can see the pores on their face, but you can’t get a sense of their entire body, you don’t know how the parts all fit together viewed from afar, you can’t separate yourself.

I’ve understood bits and parts of it as they relate to who I am today. The micro-things like my relationships and such.

But as a whole–it’s just starting to come into focus, I’m just finally getting enough distance. And that’s an interesting experience as well. The stroke is behind me. My recovery is by most definitions, complete. And now–how has it changed me? Because we must posit without debate, it HAS changed me both physically and psychically. There is a black dead spot in my brain and it will not go away, the neurons have fired new paths around the dead spot. And in the process of forging these new pathways, I have found new ways to think and process the world and my experiences within it. Emotionally, I’m changed because it was a life changing experience–it made me grow up, gave me new knowledge, it made me feel less permanent in this world, it gave me a window into my own brain.

For a few months, really, I was an infant, as infants also have underdeveloped thalamuses (or thalamii). I had a left thalamic stroke–the thalamus is the hub of the brain, and the hub towards the left brain was heavily damaged. Which left me with my right brain–a side of the brain that is emotional, intuitive, empathetic, and very present tense. The left side of my brain–a side of the brain that is organizational, logical, past and future oriented (ie., experiences and planning go forward) was damaged. The left thalamus itself has lots of functions–like retrieving memories (thus my short term memory problems) and self-soothing (thus my inability to self soothe).

I was living wholly in the present tense and that was just spectacular, like an infant–I was at peace. The world was beautiful. You’d think I’d be freaked out about how fucked my brain was, but I wasn’t aware of all that until a few months later when I healed enough to realize the deficit.

In the interim, my brain was quiet. I mean QUIET. You know how you can never shut OFF your brain–you know how even in the mellowest of moments, your brain is always humming and chattering about what to make for dinner, how you’ll make dinner, what ingredients you might have in your pantry, and oh remember how mom used to make chicken and wait did you clean the kitchen? and did you pay your bills? what if the water shuts off if you didn’t pay the bill? and wait back to chicken…? That chatter was OFF. It was quiet. So peaceful. I couldn’t remember and I couldn’t plan, and I didn’t have any worries.

People pay a shitload of money and spend a lot of time to try to “empty their mind” and get to that level of zen.

But it also sucked. I couldn’t even cook or bake, because I’d start mixing something in the mixer, walk away because I wanted to check email and then come back half an hour later and wonder, “Why the HELL is the mixer on?!” That was the end of my cooking for a few months until my short term memory healed enough.

I could blog–because I was just writing stuff down, not knitting together a narrative. Blogging/journaling is a present-tense activity. But I could not order off a menu. There was no way I could make a choice–I think I made it a habit to order hamburgers for awhile (and I’m not a big hamburger lover).

I was completely dependent on others of course. But I was at total peace–and this window into the present tense, living 100% in the present moment was spectacular and life changing. That I had this ability to broach such nirvana and that it EXISTED was amazing. I mean, there are a few things I miss from that period of my life, and living in the present moment (and only the present moment) in total peace is something I miss.

Other differences–I used to HATE beer, and now I LIKE beer. I still can’t remember most details in my life 2-3 months prior and 2-3 months after my stroke. There are conversations I’ve had with friends that I CANNOT RECALL, no matter how much they remind me. And who knows what else–but if it happened between Octoberish 2006 and Marchish 2007, I probably don’t remember, unless I wrote it down. I find that I remember things that I once wrote down because my visual short term memory was in a lot better shape than my verbal short term memory.

I’m still getting to know my new self. I’m very much the same person, but every once in awhile, I discover something new about myself (like the fact that I now like beer).

And now–why is it SO HARD for me to write an essay about my stroke? I’m guessing it’s because I still don’t have enough distance (it took me 10 years after my depression and nervous breakdown to write about IT)…I’ve been working on an essay about my stroke for awhile now, at first not knowing how to sort out this gargantuan experience into 10-15 pages. And then after a time passed, I gained more understanding and came up with a structure.

it’s still not done, because I myself have not finished processing the experience. I think it will take some more time.

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hills valleys plains meadows rivers mountains canyons

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So anyway. Sooooo anyway. So anywaaaaaaay. Sooo–anywaaaaay. SoAnyway!

Seriously. Trying to switch subjects. Using the segue. It’s been an emotional and at times dark couple of months. I’m embarrassed of how much I’ve whined and cried. I’m trying to switch subjects, switch gears!

And a new wind is blowing. Literally. There are like major winds blowing in the Bay Area! For the last two nights, I’ve been lulled to sleep not by the television but by the howling and thunderous gusts of winds in the canyons followed by the hiss of wind tossed leaves and branches. Gust hissss. Gust hissss.

And for the last two mornings, I’ve been awakened by those thundering gusts and mezzo (or alto?) soprano hisses. At night I go to sleep listening to the wind. In the morning, I awaken to what I think are waves on a beach. Am I asleep on a boat? Am I on the shore?

No. It’s just the winds: guuuust–hisssss. Like waves pounding a beach, and then the foam receding from the sandy shore.

The temps are in the 70s (seriously! in January!) and it’s hard not to sense change. And I’m going with it. I hate change, but it’s necessary! I’m wearing a sundress–in January! And I don’t live in the earth’s southern hemisphere.

And I can’t wait until New York. (I just have to work on not building it up in my head so much that I set myself up for disappointment).

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now getting back up

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Before the hammer fell, I was in emotional pain. Afterwards, I licked my wounds. Now, I’m peering around, getting back up with really no clear idea of what to do next and no clear vision of my trajectory go forward.

Meanwhile the weather is amazing and beautiful–the sky is blue blue BLUE and so clear that you can see the windows on the office buildings in San Francisco from where I live in Berkeley across the bay. The last of the gingko leaves are falling, and so there are piles of what look like golden origami on the sidewalks. The last few remaining leaves on trees flutter against this blue and clear and sunny backdrop. Last night, there was an amazing moonrise–a large white full moon floating slowly above the Berkeley Hills.

It’s hard to fall into too much despair when the surroundings are so picturesque–to the point where a brilliant Oscar winning cinematographer couldn’t make this shit up.

This is the setting in which things crumble. It’s so odd.

I’m going to New York in a couple of weeks–purposely scheduled for after the work calamity, so that I could take a break on the cheap, meet friends, have a change in scenery, get my head together, research my novel.

I’m determined to have good come out of this. I’m writing. I’ve made more progress on my novel in the last few days than I have in the last few months. Desperation is a great motivator, and everything feels incredibly urgent these days.

To all the friends who have offered me comfort I thank you. To my husband who has stuck by me and given me support, I thank him. To all who encourage me I thank you. Let’s make this year a great one. Change is coming, and it isn’t just in the form of a new president.

Update: And oh oh oh! And as of January 26, 2009 it’s going to be the year of the Ox. Finally–MY year has COME. Things are lining up…in fact, I made some Korean rice cake soup (dduk gook) today and I am kicking things off RIGHT.

Update 2: Oops. Oh no, I misunderstood. “According to Chinese Zodiac, if the zodiac sign of birth year is same to the zodiac sign of yearly cycle, then that’s an unlucky year to the person. Many troubles will come to bother the person. The person needs to manage events with caution at work, at home or traveling to avoid argument, lawsuit, accident, libel, blooding and money loss.” Okay time to eat the soup and hunker down and keep moving forward–the last year of the Ox (1997) was a horrible year for me.

But there’s this: “Career: The Unlucky Year Star and Fighting Stars move to your career area in year 2009. People relationship in your business or job circle will be poor. Business development has the difficulty to expand. You will face strong competition with coworkers in the company. Unfortunately, you are the underdog in the competition. You might keep losing your spirit, cannot focus on your task and then impact your job performance. The good news is that a Knowledge Star appears this year. If your job is related to art, writing, publishing, entertainment, creativity, acting or speech, then you have the chance to show your talent to people and open the door for your better job opportunity.

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licking wounds

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It was a brutal week, people. I had to lay a bunch of people off (I feel safe saying this now because it’s done…and because I’m anonymous and I won’t risk revealing what company I work for I’m airing my thoughts and feelings here–and those of you who do know, please don’t spread the word, even if we’re only one of thousands of companies laying people off).

I have a strange and deep loyalty to the company I work for, but it was fucking brutal. It was heartbreaking. It was personal for me. I hired most of the people, I was friends with them, I am a near-founder at the company, I had to do everyone’s exits. When possible, I gave them their last hugs. And sent them out into the cold. I imagined what they would do with the rest of their day, how they would feel the next morning. I kept it together for the remaining people because HR can’t break down in tears. And the remaining folks have to keep marching on.

Also, I had to do it knowing that my hours would be reduced, and with great uncertainty about my own job security. And with a great need to be comforted, but not always getting comfort. It’s also more complicated than I’m revealing in this post because I dont’ feel like revealing all.

But it’s over. I’m going down to 2 days of work/week. After most of the lay-off logistics were completed, I broke down. My boss knew I was upset but didn’t want to deal with it, but he didn’t have a choice. I broke down and cried and bawled in front of him.

Not great form for an HR person, but what the hell, it’s who I am. I’m an emotional HR person who hugs people at work, laughs in the office, and on very rare occasions, cries behind closed doors.

And I spent a great deal of this week both angry and incredibly sad.

It’s over and now I look up and see the world before me, glimmering under the bright blue winter sky. I feel exhausted like one only is after a good cry or devastating news. What can I do with both these boundaries/limits and possibilities before me? I don’t want to despair.

I’m going to spend the spare time writing. (OMG it is so HOT in this cafe! WTF? Why do they heat it like this? It’s like my parents’ house which is heated to an unbearable 85F. I’m going to DIE from this HEAT).

Okay like I said, I’m going to finish my novel. I’m going to make the best of it. I’m still going to try to accomplish my fun list (because of course you can still be happy and have fun without money and in a crumbling economy)…including that trip to New York (I am so blessed to be spending so little on the trip (sans food and sustenance of course) because of a credit with the airline and because my awesome friend hooked me up with an empty apartment).

But of course, the pragmatic side beckons and says I should take a shit job and slug through.

But I’ve *always* slugged through in life, and maybe maybe MAYBE this is the time to pursue dreams with furious abandon.

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New York here I come!

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*hop hop*

I’ll be in Manhattan from January 28th through February 1st.

I am sooo excited. I’m going to relax and enjoy life for a few days, and also venture over to Queens to do some research for my novel. It’s all I can think about, it’s even surpassed my dread over a grim week to come.

Thank you to a good friend who HOOKED ME UP (the luck! her generosity!) with a place to stay in New York City for those few days.

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