Monthly Archives: April 2008

no win-win

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Dudes, I think there are more gophers lurking about. Of course he wasn’t the only one–and of course, you can’t end a game, or a story, on a tie.

Someone has to win and someone has to lose (there are no “win-wins” in good stories, just in good business practices). Some movie companies feel like there can be win-wins, and thus the trilogies (each side gets a chance to win again). But even trilogies largely end up with a tie-breaker.

So the story of my garden resumes again. I noticed little holes, little pockets, and I noticed the curiosity of my dog highly piqued at the garden (she would stare intently at the garden for hours, looking for a way to sneak in and start digging/hunting). In fact, my dog was the one who pointed out the whereabouts of this gopher hole, one I uncovered with a shovel.

I shoved a trap in there. Within an hour, the gopher ate the carrot in the trap, but had evaded trappage. I waited some more.

I’m still waiting.

But now my days of going out in the garden are on hold–this cold has turned into a full fledged flu, and I’m now sitting at home, utterly crabby at every work email (I need to stop checking my work email but like my novel, I can’t stop looking at it). I’m also definitely wallowing in discouragement over my writing.

Thank you for your comments and all your emails–you know who you are, supporting me and rallying me on. I gotta dig deep muster up my will.

I’ve been thinking about will these days–what keeps people going under dire circumstances? I often wonder how people keep surviving, despite the worst of circumstances. I’m the girl who’ll point to the news and say, “Dude, I would NOT deal with that–I’d probably kill myself!” My husband will tell me it’s the human will to survive. Hrm. I wonder if I’m human, because the survival will is not too strong in me.

But then I do start thinking about things that drive me forward. Maybe my things are just different from everyone else’s. Because there are a handful of things in my life that would drive me to survive, let’s say, a death camp.

Okay, I guess I shouldn’t write a blog post while feverish.

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hrm.

I am officially sick. Is it still the cold/flu season? Some pesky bug got into my system at the last minute–I even wonder where I caught this awful cough.

Anyway–sorry for the doldrums posting. I am feeling awfully pessimistic and feeling awfully whiny. But oh well, we all have our individual roads to take in life.

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huckabee

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I wonder sometimes if I’m pulling a Huckabee–striving past futility.

I’m fairly ambitious in my exterior, fairly rock-like, too. Or at least I like to think so. But after being rejected almost thirty times by litmags in the past few months, after not getting into a residency…I am deeply questioning myself as a writer.

I wonder if I can write anymore, since my stroke. I realize all my publications and residency acceptances came before the stroke. I wonder if this is just the freaking end of me as a writer. I wonder if I should just stop writing fiction.

I wonder if the universe is waving a Big Huge Sign at me saying, “You can’t write. Nice try, though.”

And if so–what would I do with myself? Just suck up oxygen until the day I die? That’s kind of what I feel like I’d be, if I weren’t writing, even though in the whole realm of things writing ain’t much. But it’s what I thought I had to offer.

I’m surrounded by overachievers. People who are doing things in the world, starting companies, experiencing success in business, experiencing success in the arts. They are so awesome and I applaud them, and to some extent they all inspire me to do better, to do my best.

But lately, I don’t think my best is anywhere near good enough. Or that my good is anywhere near good.

G*d help me–maybe this is just a passing feeling, even though it’s a feeling that’s lingered with me for quite some time now.

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heightened sense of smell

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I went to my SECOND yoga class last night. It was more difficult than my first class–the instructor was more demanding, the class more crowded, the poses focused on core muscles (the weakest point in my body). I was trembling, I felt my body STRETCHING!

But I still loved it. There is something about yoga that is NON-competitive and it really just makes me focus on myself and my capabilities in that moment. One of the gifts of my stroke (yes, there are gifts) is having been forced to live in the present tense–quite a relief from my normal self. My normal self spends 80% of its time fretting and worrying about the FUTURE. The FUTURE looms LARGE in my mind.

The stroke gave me a bit of a cure from that, robbing me of my short term memory and the ability to juggle things in my head, retain them…in short, the stroke robbed me of the tools/ingredients for worry. I could ONLY focus on the moment and enjoy that moment, for in half an hour, it would dissolve into the recesses in my mind, lost, like the fading of a picture.

And so it goes with yoga. I’m still not 110% in love with it yet–it takes an effort to get my butt to class, but once I’m there, I’m liking it a lot. And afterwards, I feel a great sense of peace.

The after effects of yoga are quite notable. I feel more flexible already, I feel the hint of improved posture. And this week? I have an incredible HEIGHTENED SENSE OF SMELL. I can smell EVERYTHING!

For better and for worse–this morning I was at the Chinese consulate and waiting in line outside, I was nauseated by the smell of cigarette smoke. I tried very hard to keep reading my New Yorker, but I just could not ignore the overwhelming SMELL. And then when we were let inside and we took our places in the seats, our numbered tags in hand, I was overwhelmed by the SMELL of PEOPLE. The smell of people breathing through their mouths, the smell of people who hadn’t showered, the smell of moth balls! It was incredible–and a bit unexpected.

I mean, I always look at my dogs, just reveling in the scents of the world. Sometimes, I’ve envied them their acute sense of smell, they seem to take such intense pleasure out of it, sticking their noses out the car window, sniffing their food and trembling with joy! That.is.not.what.I.experienced this morning.

Then later, I accompanied a friend to lunch–I didn’t eat because the place was not kosher for passover, but I did take pleasure in being out in the sunshine–but oh man. The place SMELLED. Like a kazillion kinds of smoky food. The cacophony of smells was dissonant. I had to step outside. My friend wasn’t bothered by it at all–but how could he NOT have smelled all of that?

Oh, and I immediately picked up a cough last night after yoga. A bit of phlegmy cough. I thought perhaps that was because of yoga.

But I think the cough and phlegm might be–the flu? Argh. But it’s nearly May!

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Filed under Fitness, The Stroke

Today I hate it!

Today–I.hate.my.novel.

I HATE IT!!!!!!!! It is a fifty ton weight around my neck. I want to toss it into the ocean, but then all I want to do is follow it to the depths. It’s like Frodo’s freaking ring. My prrrrrecious! Argh.

I keep thinking about how much of my life I’d get back if I weren’t so addicted to this novel. I’d have more psychic space! I’d have more SLEEPING time. I’d have more leisure time. My mind wouldn’t like, blow up because it’s trying to balance my day job responsibilities while trying to carve out space so that I can imagine my novel’s world.

It sucks me down, some days. It really does.

Today, as I have been for at least a week now, I am totally stuck somewhere in the novel, sometime in the 1960’s in New York City with my characters. And we’re just milling about aimlessly, saying the lamest stuff to each other, like extras on a movie set.

Totally torturous.

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a sign of lameness orrr…the middle finger

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I wrote a letter to an estranged cousin. The letter was returned to me, undelivered. I’d called him, and I’d emailed him with no response. And thus I felt the story had gone full circle, back to a starting point, back to estrangement.

But no. It continues, like any good story, without a neat ending and with a gloriously “messy” trajectory.

My father went on a trip to Korea recently–I called him last night to wish him Happy Birthday and he announced “I went to Korea and back!” Had it been that long since I’d called my father? No, it couldn’t be–I’d just gone to visit him a few weeks ago! My family tends to do a lot of things independently. It must have been a really quick and surreptitious trip. But here’s the thing: he ran into that cousin (but not my female cousin who is truly estranged and tries to avoid any contact with her family for her own, very valid reasons). What?

He told my cousin that I’d written him–via postal mail, via email. That I’d tried calling him.

The cousin said he got the emails from me. But he was so busy moving he didn’t have a chance to reply. But he promised my father that he’d reply to my emails go forward.

My response: Laaaaame. And then: W…T….F. (And I don’t mean “Wednesday Thursday Friday” by that either). In truth, I felt wounded by the excuse. Remember, it’s been MONTHS since I tried getting in touch with him.

“Dad,” I said, “You mean he IGNORED me? That’s so lame (there’s that word again). Couldn’t he have lied and said he just didn’t receive my emails and then get the email from you?” Wouldn’t that have been better? Wouldn’t that have spared my feelings?

My father replied, “It was an honest answer.” Then added, “And he said he’ll email you!” But the honest answer is so lame…and a big “fuck you” to me. I can’t really accept it. And my father is getting old–he fell for that line. I don’t believe my cousin will email me–why would he, given that he’s so artfully (or not so artfully) avoided correspondence with me thus far?

And it’s not that cousin with whom I yearn to reconnect. It’s his sister, the one who wants nothing to do with her father (my uncle) and anyone remotely related to him (including me).

*

Today is my writing day. As if on cue, it started raining last night, and the drizzle and gray sky setting is continuing through the morning. Oh perfect writing day! I love writing on gray mornings.

I love rain in the spring–call me weird, but I just love the rain falling in a world full of newly leafing trees, the humidity making scent blossom. I even like that metallic smell that unlocks when the first raindrops hit the sidewalk. I was reveling in this very sensation last night while picking up a salad on Telegraph–people picking up their walking pace, rushing home to get to a dry place, almost in syncopation with the raindrops, amidst that strange wonderful smell.

And now I write, gray skies outdoors, a novel spread before me, a personal essay about my stroke in the queue, a big mug of Mariage Freres tea and a vase of lilacs before me. Ah, there’s a whiff of lilac right now!

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yoga, sleep

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I liked yoga. Oh man, I was so happy I liked it–I felt a great physical relief participating in class yesterday. And last night, I had the best sleep I have had in months. Was it the yoga? Maybe.

But…I’m tired again. And I have to get writing my novel. I have a personal essay I want to get writing, and a novel to finish (this year!). My hubby said I need a long term project to just really focus on. He’s been writing a book too–working hard at for a few months now, and has some empathy for the writing process. His technical book is getting published in a few months–it’s different, and yet similar.

I think I need to find a want to get UN-exhausted so I can do it all!

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energy blahs

I am constantly tired, once again. I am not sure why. But recently I made the decision to limit myself to one social activity a day because the whole several-activities-a-day regimen I have had the last few months is wearing me down to a nub. And I have got to get myself home earlier from work and go to bed earlier, like by 9pm. Is it because I’m doing more meetings via phone? I am not sure why I am so drained. I am going out of my mind with exhaustion!

Today I met up with a friend that I met via our blogs–we made the transition to “irl!” It was awesome–she brought her newborn son and we cooed over him, chomped on some good barbecue, and sat in the shade, feeling the breeze tickle our skin. It was an incredibly pleasant lunch and it was good to meet her.

But I felt so shameful telling a mother of a newborn, “I am so tired!” Like, I had to totally stop myself from bitching about my exhaustion.

Meanwhile, I have to conserve some energy and direct it to my novel.

Oh! And after years of consideration, years of listening to friends urging me to investigate yoga, and months of pontification–I am going to my very first yoga class on Saturday with my very good friend! I even bought a yoga mat today. How’s THAT for real intention?

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Underhill

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Underhill is back! Conveniently located between two dorm complexes in Berkeley, the field holds many fond memories for me. It was a green expanse that always greeted me when I peered out my seventh story window. Sometimes there were soccer games, other times lacrosse. And often, there were coeds jogging around its perimeter, freshmen determined to avoid the dreaded “freshmen 15.”

Speaking of jogging, It’s where I ran my (one and only) six minute mile, high off several cups of espresso! And yes, I had a witness, my cafe pal–ah how times have changed: he still drinks coffee, I can’t drink caffeine anymore. But we are still friends. It’s where my freshman year roommate and friends would gather with our cups of late night espresso (from Caffe Strada!) for our many study breaks (somehow the study breaks outnumbered the study sessions).

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We laid there on the soft astroturf, many nights, looking at all the windows in the dorm, the high rises lit with light and fervor. Was that a woman changing out of her top? Was that a couple making out or–? Yes, our observations were highly sexualized. And besides, the silhouettes of studying people were not very exciting conversation fodder.

We’d look at the sky. We’d wonder what the meaning of life was (remember, we were eighteen years old and had yet to give up on that quest and recognize it as a hypothetical question). We wondered what we’d be when we grew up. We philosophized. We dreamed. We wondered what would happen if we fell asleep out there.

It was the setting for such diurnal young adult outings, the kind of setting replete with romanticism, drama, and nostalgia–the kind of setting that would make it onto film, if my life were replayed on the silver screen.

But then it got demolished, sometime before my graduation. I was sad when it was gone–I had many happy memories of that astro-turf field atop a parking garage. The remaining concrete girders and twisted pieces of rebar sticking out in the wreckage, the gaping hole in the ground made me even more nostalgic for the setting (and I love nostalgia–I live in the same college town over a decade later). It looked like the wreckage of our youth. They took it apart rather slowly, an agonizing process–if my memory serves me correctly, it happened my junior year, when I returned to that particular dorm complex as a resident assistant.

And then, all I had of Underhill was in my memories.

What a welcome surprise to see it back.

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bleah allergies

I’m very allergic to oak pollen. And the live oaks are in full bloom here. Excuse me while I go hibernate.

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gopher 1, human 0 …human 1

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I set the trap in a retaliatory strike against the gopher. This morning, I’d noticed the trap had sprung–a piece of shiny metal and disturbed soft garden soil clued me in. I told my husband (he promised me he’d fish out the trap if a gopher ever got caught), and we agreed to check on the trap after work today.

I got home from work before him. Curiosity besieged me (and I needed a distraction from two more rejection “letters”). So I went out and poked at the trap with a shovel, tapping it like one would tap a melon–does it sound hollow, or does it sound…full? It sounded hollow, empty. I nudged the trap and lifted it a bit with the shoevel. It didn’t seem very heavy, it seemed empty.

So when I turned it over, I wasn’t surprised. It was empty. The gopher had been quite clever, packing it full of dirt.

Gopher 1, Human 0.

I poked around the garden some more, with a shovel. After yesterday’s digging spree, putting down wire gopher baskets and then planting new tomato plants in the protective wire basket, this digging escapade was nothing. And voila: I hit what looked like a major gopher tunnel.

So I set the trap again.

The plot of the story has taken off!

Update:

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OK. Gopher 1…Humans 1

A mere hour after I set the trap, I peered out into the garden. The trap was sprung–I could see the metal peeking out of the soil. I ventured out. I took a shovel. I prodded the trap.

Hrm. It felt different. I lifted it.

ACK! FUR! I got the gopher. I screamed in horror back to the house. My dogs looked up at me, startled. Is this how victory feels in battle? I don’t like it very much.

Update:
The hubby removed the trap (as promised! Thank you!), and removed the gopher. As I mentioned below in the comments–he said it was “folded in half, the trap broke its back.” Um. Arrrrgh. It was a quick death at least–I have had my fair share of half-dead rodents caught in traps (for G*d knows how long) as well as screaming, freaked out, live rodents on sticky tapes so I find that fact merciful. Was it cute? I asked my husband. He looked at me like I was crazy, “It was folded.in.HALF,” he replied. Oh.

Anyway–we reset the trap in the same spot. According to the directions on the box, if you catch a gopher, you’re supposed to reset the trap and put it back in the same spot. If you don’t catch a gopher for 3 days, then you move the trap.

So far, as of Friday April 11th (twenty four hours after catching the first (and hopefully last) gopher) all’s quiet on the garden front.

I hope it’s all done. This gopher killing thing is disturbing me.

Of course, as with all tragedies, my next thought is, “Maybe it will help my writing.”

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Filed under Inspiring, Life, Writing

doing too much

I think I did too much today. I don’t regret meeting up, separately but in back to back “appointments,” two friends. But now I’m a little puddle of mush and i just want to nap the rest of the day. These are the days when I’m reminded that I’m no longer the same person I was before the stroke.

But no. I want to go to Koreanish’s reading at USF! But I am not sure how I’m going to do it. And I think I have another obligation that’s about to pop up in the same timeframe. It’s already clear to me that I’m going to get NO WRITING done today. Maybe I’ll take a nap and try to rejuvenate.

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