Monthly Archives: August 2007

a good cry

I am having a good cry over an email one of you, my dear readers, sent me. What you said made me feel less lonely and a lot less stupid for what I’ve been feeling.  I am sorry that you do understand what I’m going through, for that means you have suffered surprising loss yourself.

You know who you are. Thank you.

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Please visit me

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Dear Muse:

Please visit me today. I’ve really been gaining weight and getting depressed and frustrated standing on the steps of your house, diligently trying to write but in reality just writing very uninspired stuff. I’m hitting delete almost as quickly as the words themselves. When will you come out to visit me? I’ve just been waiting for you to make an appearance.

Please visit me. I really need you. I need to know that it can happen, that I can put a few good words (nay, brilliant words) down on the page. That I can have a few brilliant ideas, that I can have some brilliant insight into the characters and story here. I am starting to lose belief in myself, and that is wreaking havoc on me and my wellbeing.

I’m begging. I’m in my PJs, unshowered, braces on my wrists (see? I really have been typing to the point of hurt), waiting and waiting.

I’ll be here all day.

Thank you.

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and tremble

earthquake. this one, i could feel starting before it climaxed into a huge tremble.

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Transform…transforrrrrrm

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My MFA program starts up this week–my first workshop since the stroke is next Tuesday evening. I’m trying to amp myself up for the return to school! I really am full of hope. I really do feel like a new beginning approaches.

But I am also filled with self doubt as the door begins to open.

By physician standards, I’m cured. I waved goodbye to my neurologist months ago. Same with my speech therapist. The PFO, aka the hole in my heart and diagnosed cause for the strokes, is now closed. I was cleared for exercise a month ago–and this past Sunday, I went on a morning hike in the Sierras, marking the fastest pace I’ve ever set on a hike.

I still tire remarkably easily, I was exhausted after that short hike. After a day at work, I spend the next day recuperating. It takes me FOREVER to write anything at all, though it is still more than I could write a few months ago (and before that, in the early days after the stroke, I couldn’t write fiction at all). And after a day of fiction writing (because it does take me an entire day to get a few pages down now), I’m exhausted again.

I’m inspired and so discouraged and exhausted all at once.

Will I EVER be the same again? No. What is my writing like now? I am filled with self-doubt about my fiction. I think it might just totally suck. After all, I don’t catch my writing errors until the 3rd or 4th read through, so what’s to say I can’t even detect sucky writing when I see it? The thought of not writing anymore is driving me nuts. So of course, I move forward, blind and full of hope, making scattered mistakes along the way that scream, “Your brain is NOT all the way back!”

Today, I wrote something down. On the 3rd read through I realized I’d misused a word. I’d used “transfer” to say something like, “Who knew one could transfer a common fruit into such remarkable food?”

Hrm. I think I misused that word, I thought. Transfer, transfer, transfer. It didn’t sound right. But what was the correct word? I KNEW it was simple, but I couldn’t figure out the right word.

After ten minutes (yes, TEN MINUTES–that’s a LONG time to spend on something so f*cking BASIC!!!!!!!)….I hit the nail on the head.

Oh. Transform. Transforrrrm. I should have written, “Who knew one could transform a common fruit into such remarkable food?”

This is my writing life. I feel like a retard who might not even know the extent of her retardation.

And yet–ignorance is NOT bliss.

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Filed under Life, The Stroke, Writing

mountains

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I’m in the mountains for the weekend, spending warm afternoons lazing about on the couch, while the gusts of wind cool the prickly sweat off of my body. I really like it when the backs of my knees dry like that–because I really hate it when I’m sweaty in my joints. I actually hate being sweaty, but especially so when all I’m doing is sitting still.

Despite the temperature, it is a nice pace here–we always wonder why we don’t come up more often every time we visit. And then we go back to the bay area and forget all about this haven where things slow down in a greatly pleasurable way. Even our dogs love it here. Maybe it’s because we have a gigantic sectional couch here and they just prefer it (their lives revolve around the couch, as does mine).

It’s a great transition–Summer is about to turn into Fall, my last semester in the MFA program is about to begin, and the hellish past 8 months are behind us–ironically, this very place in the mountains is where it all began. But now we’re here again, and all is well.

“It’s like 2007 didn’t even really happen,” he said, conveying the disbelief we both feel. He said this as we were returning from a morning hike, the granite sand crunching beneath our heavy steps (the photo above is from our hike). Indeed, this year has been incredible. In some ways, I’d rather forget it, if not for the valuable lessons learned from all the challenges.

Did I really have a stroke? Did we really lose a loved, close family member to sudden death? And the numerous hospitals stays and the surgeries, and all the twists and turns that made us feel very unsteady on our feet. It’s unbelievable.

But still–I know what is valuable, there has been a lot of thought put into the recovery. I know I still have lessons to learn, but this year has been rich.

And now it’s going to be Fall. A new season lies ahead.

What to do going forward? We’re looking forward to a new year–the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the calendar New Year, Lunar New Year. It can’t come fast enough.

The resolutions and goals lie ahead of us–whether it’s losing weight (remember how I lost all that weight after the stroke? I gained it all back. Bleah.) or getting myself writing again, or just taking care of ourselves and regaining our footing.

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the flurry! London, Paris, Beaune, Paris, London

London and France Mosaic

The trip was a flurry. Six days, five nights…2 countries (England and France), 3 cities (London, Beaune, France). The schedule: Land in London, eat dinner, sleep…wake up the next morning, take the train to Paris, pick up a rental car and drive to Beaune by mid-afternoon. Two nights in Beaune, then drive to Paris. Two nights in Paris, then arise early and take the train to London. Spend an hour in London, then go to Heathrow and fly back home.

It was like drinking concentrate, an overwhelming pace of living, an overwhelming tide of sensation; in the end, I gave in to the pace. I gave in to the fact that I would not be able to see everything I wanted to see. I gave in to the natural pace of things, to all the surprise gifts that such ambitious travel would give me.  I “went with the flow,” and let the river carry me.

You see, I’m normally someone who has a list of things to see, and sticks to them. Not an itinerary (I am not THAT anal), but a list of things to do–and everything beyond that is gravy. But when you’ve got a matter of hours in a town (literally: in London, we waited 2 hours for our luggage, and ended up at our hotel in time for dinner, only to wake up the next morning before dawn to catch a train to Paris)…when you’ve got a matter of hours in a town, you just have to go with the flow. You have to look up at the sky, see the gunmetal clouds holding off rain, or see a red phone booth or a red metro sign and smile.

That has to be enough.

In fact, you have to say to yourself over and over, “This is good enough.” Because you are there, and you know you want to stay longer, but that’s not going to happen. I wouldn’t recommend the “day or two in each town on a week-long trip” vacation strategy–but in the end, it’s a whole lot better than nothing.

I’m home now–realizing that I never made the time switch to Europe. My body recognizes this time zone and I fell asleep and woke up on my regular schedule on my first night and morning home.

Now I sit here, in fond disbelief, of our travels. Some things that make me smile:

  • Indian food in London (we always make time for Indian food in London).
  • Antonio and his martinis (and the way he makes them) at the Egerton House Hotel.
  • Walking through London’s neighborhoods…reading the signs of all the famous people who lived in the homes–in Belgravis, in Chelsea, in Knightsbridge, etc., etc.
  • Going through the chunnel. It was dark and black, and we didn’t see a thing out the windows of the train, but it was also so very cool to be jetting underneath the waters between England and France.
  • All the countrysides.
  • White cows!
  • Boeuf bourguignon in Burgundy.
  • Our friends’ Great Gatsby-like wedding. Complete with beauty and symbolism and irony and romance.
  • Escargots in Burgundy!
  • Birthday in Paris.
  • Oh–I loved that it was eerily cold in London and Paris! I hate the heat.
  • The falafel in Paris! Unexpected. Delicious. And an informal contrast to all the formal gastronomy of the previous days at the wedding and in Paris.
  • Wiener dogs everywhere in Paris!
  • Red, red, red: red flowers in the hotel window boxes, red awnings, red metro signs, red guard uniforms, red phone booths, red buses.
  • Beautiful architecture everywhere.
  • Walking through the streets of Paris, especially the Marais and its Jewish neighborhoods.
  • Stumbling across some great food when desperate and hungry and unguided.

See? It was a crowded, packed week that left me exhausted and yet wanting more…but it was enough.

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blink

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I feel like if I blink, I’ll miss something here in Paris, we are moving so quickly, the pace frenetic at times. The week has gone by in such a blink as well (if I were to further that metaphor).

I wonder how this will all sink into my head, my psyche–I know that the color red has just been amplified in my eyes these days–something about the color red, here in gray but beautiful Paris (a testimony to its beauty–really, what can look so pretty in gray?), is incredible and becoming. Red flowers in windowboxes, the red signs of the metro, red awnings…all against a deep metallic colored sky and black ironwork and creamy white building facades. And Parisians (when you can spot the rare Parisian in August) don’t wear anything but black.

And then there are all the windows of all the homes in these towns, with the inhabitants occasionally hanging out the windows, watching us as if we’re characters on a television program. Old men, old women, possibly homebound during a workday…and then there’s the man above, taking a cigarette break on his very narrow balcony, looking at the world from above. I looked at him and thought, “Just like a writer viewing his story.”

I’m tired yet stimulated, my body doesn’t know what time it is, sometimes I don’t know where I am, and so I feel like I’m sleepwalking in a wonderland. Sunny Beaune, in the Burgundy countryside, feels like a dream, and now I’ve segued into another dream set in Paris. Nevermind London, which has become foggy already in my memories, even though we were just there a few days ago–was that a dream? And yet, here I am in bed, about to succomb to more literal dreams.

Tomorrow we hustle over to London on the Eurostar train through the Chunnel…and then we’re bound for home. Home! Another town looms ahead.

(and as soon as I hit London–I realized red a big color there, too–the red doubledecker buses, the red phone booths, the red guard uniforms at Buckingham Palace…! Though somehow, London is not so gray as Paris).

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in Paris

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I’m in Paris! It’s beautiful here, more beautiful than I remember.

We have kept up what I consider an insane pace–spending no more than 2 nights in any single place. London, one night. Beaune, two nights. Now Paris. But this is our last stop. And I have internet access again! So–hello.

It’s past 1am. We arrived mid-afternoon. Already, in town, we have taken a walk on the Champs Elysees to the Place de la Concorde and through random streets of the 8th arrondissement, and had a gorgeous dinner at a wonderful restaurant set in a Belle Epoque building. And–our hotel even gave us a free upgrade to a huge suite…everytime I look out the window (regardless of what room we’re in), I see a fairytale courtyard, every window with a flounce of red flowers in the windowboxes.

(the picture above is of the Arc de Triomphe from the Avenue de la Grand Arme side as we approach Paris–the Champs Elysees awaits!)

Update: Here’s the other side of the Arc de Triomphe…we took a walk on the Champs Elysees tonight, and the view of the Arc de Triomphe was the most pleasurable part of the walk (I am not a fan of the Champs Elysees during tourist season, even though I am a tourist myself):

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visuals down!

I’m in the airline lounge, resting at the airport before boarding an airplane to…further rest for 10 hours in the air.

On the way to the airport, I did a typical “me” thing: I dropped my camera. My BRAND NEW camera that I am SO HAPPY about. I broke its lens mechanism. I got yelled at, I yelled at myself. I am so lame.

So. No nice camera on my trip this time. Which means no pictures.  It will all be up to my words to describe all that I see and feel! I’ll be journaling in my moleskine like a madwoman so I won’t forget London, Paris, Beaune, and our friends’ wedding (the purpose for this trip).

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Filed under Life, Travel

baby season

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I got 2 baby announcements in the mail today–one from a friend that I have not heard from in months and months. I was starting to get worried about her and decided to send her a card, when I got hers, welcoming her son into the world, instead.  Ah–she had been pregnant this entire time!

The other announcement came from a friend who just adopted a baby. She and her husband have been trying to have a child for nearly ten years and just last year, made the leap to adopt a baby from Korea. Just two months ago, they picked up their daughter and brought her back here–and every single email from them has been about the progress of their new family. So busy have they been, I suppose, that they have only just now gotten around to sending out the hard copy baby announcement.

Just recently, I decided I was okay about my infertility, now in discovery for nearly a decade–that if I went my whole life without having a child, it would be okay. Not happy about it, but okay. For many years, I was not “okay” about it.

The juxtaposition of the two cards is striking to me–a friend of mine who plans her life out year by year (“I want to have a baby by such and such an age”) having her baby on schedule…and a friend of mine who has yearned and suffered to have a child (several IVF attempts included), both having children. And where am I? Somewhere in between?

When I receive baby announcements now, I am not filled with insane anger as I used to be. The cute cards with pictures and shoe and rattle graphics used to turn me upside down emotionally–both with happiness for my friend as well as anger for my own fate.

What do I feel now? I still feel a genuine happiness for my friends–their cards and messages and faces filled with so much joy. For myself–I feel curiosity (what would my life be like if I had a child?), deep grief (for I have lost something), and relief (for all the things I can do without children).

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Making the time

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Making the time to write is a tricky thing. As I skimmed through my bloglines this morning, I came across Elizabeth’s post at Fluent and Nova’s post at Distraction No. 99, both detailing their writing struggles–getting out of that box, making the time to write, watching others do it, willing themselves to do it, too.

I am in the privileged position of working part-time and having the temporal space for writing. And still, I do not write as much as I should–why? Because I am tired. But then I think about Laura Hillenbrand and how she wrote Sea Biscuit with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and I start with the bouts of self-flagellation.

It never ends.

But yet, we all persevere, for that moment of beauty. For The Good Writing Day.

When I do have a good writing day, I get so high off the achievement–my feet barely touch the ground as I think about all the good words I’ve put down, all the good words that in such a particular order make for good story, character, theme, language! How does it happen? It’s like magic.

This weekend, I went on a long motorcycle ride with friends through the coastal mountains of California, down to a small cove on a beach. (no, I am not gutsy enough to ride my own motorcycle for such a long stint yet–I rode on the back of my hubby’s motorcycle). My back ached from sitting in such a fixed position for hours but still, it was an intensely pleasurable ride. At times, I looked up, the visor on my helmet flipped open, at the glimmering green trees and the blue sky peeping out between, and the golden sunlight streaming down…and imagined I was flying. That is how it feels to have a good writing day, at least for me. Everything looks beautiful, and I feel unhindered and free.

And yet that magic doesn’t happen everyday. I just have to sit at the steps of the Muse and just BE there when she comes out. If I’m not there, and she comes out, then I’ve missed her appearance. So I have to wait, like a forlorn lover, at her feet, for her random appearances, and wish and wish and WISH for the meeting, when it happens, to last as long as possible.

In the interim, I just pound out the words, sometimes very lifeless, knowing that they suck so hard I’ll probably edit them out. In fact, I just edited out an entire character and subplot of a short story I’m writing. It didn’t fit–what was I doing?

And now I search for that magical subplot, the thing that the character needs, that is part of that character’s life, that I can’t see right now, past my haze of exhaustion and frustration.

Well, I’m not searching so much as waiting at the steps of the Muse’s house.

And that’s what making the time is all about. Half of it is waiting. Well, maybe more than half.

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sucky sucky: rejections

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I got my, I don’t know, tenth rejection letter from another litmag for my short story…the same one that was a finalist in a writing contest (sorry, I’m not naming the contest to protect my identity). It is so f*cking discouraging to send sh*t out and then hit the wall each time. And here I am, plugging away at other stories in an act of blind faith and soulful desire.

The first short story I ever wrote got published by the first litmag I ever submitted to. It is a wonderful litmag, and I didn’t even know how good of a litmag it was when I submitted that short story, because well, it was the only litmag I’d ever heard of and read. I just figured, “Hey, I’ll submit THERE!”

What’s more, the editor responded within a week. And my story was published within 3 months. How’s THAT for freaky? (Now that I know better, I know it’s truly an exception case). And he wrote one of my recommendations for MFA programs (and I am convinced he got me accepted, if not on the waiting lists, of some top writing programs on the East Coast).

I knew the publication was a lucky break, and I knew I was going to face a long road of rejections for future stories. But it still totally sucks to get all the rejections. And I know I have many many more to go.

Bleah.

It’s times like these that I wonder what my life would be like if I just didn’t write stories anymore.

But of course, that life would be much much worse. So I’m stuck with the whole “sucks that I got rejected again” happiness.

Well. At least Autumn, my favorite season, is around the corner. Kind of. In a couple months. Yes. *sigh*

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