Monthly Archives: April 2009

struggling

snow

I have been irritated. Irritated by allergies–little itches that seem to originate on the inside of my eyelids, my throat, and my nose. Even inside my ears. Or maybe not my allergies, maybe…swine flu. 😛 Because in addition to allergies, it seems I have come down with flu, despite the flu shot that has served me well all season long a bad cold. So now sore throat, runny nose, depleted energy…all irritations. But mostly I’m irritated somewhere inside my psyche, in a place that I currently find inaccessible and even mysterious.

Easily angered, easily hurt, moody, insecure, uncertain…irritation.

I was not aware of this irritation until I read Eve’s post in which she detailed a therapist’s irritation at her patient and her ensuing investigation into that irritation and its possible source. Irritation looks as if its source is external (such as my irritation by my surroundings, including people and my environment) but it is really internal. OMG: I have been…IRRITATED!

As my therapist once told me, “Someone pushes your button…but it’s YOUR button.”

My buttons are being pushed. I am irritated. And even though every ounce of me wants to strike blame on others, I know that I must look inward.

Looking inward is like going through an unkempt, unsavory jungle–looking through all the muck and discards, stuff that I’ve ignored, decided to deal with at a later time, hurt feelings fermented. Some of the stuff is old, and it never goes away: for example, I have settled all things with my father and forgiven him for all the ways in which he hurt my feelings but the scars remain, and so do my reactions to those behaviors. So when someone behaves towards me as my father did, I settle into an old and unhealthy behavior pattern. I become…irritated.

See? It’s a lot of digging, looking into my past hurts and insecurities and then turning the magnifying glass onto myself, highlighting all the scars, mars, hurts that albeit hidden, still exist.

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crowded head

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These days I have 4 jobs: 1) a part-time job as an HR director at a high tech startup, 2) a part-time job as a coordinator for an Asian American student retention program, 3) fiction editor for a small litmag, and 4) writing my novel (and now my memoir).

So my mind’s crowded. I’m grateful for all the projects: 2 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this while recovering from my stroke…and I am fortunate in this economy to have a job (even though it’s still a shift from the golden pre-economic-crash-depression days).

My mind’s also crowded because I am focusing as much as possible on my novel these days, and not so much short stories. So that means all these scenarios get into my head and I have no outlet for them. Not that they’d even make it into stories of course, but still, I like to bat weird things around in my mind.

Like how my OCD began. I think about the time my mother told me to never be near anything dirty, ever, because “once you get a white handkerchief dirty, you can never get it that white again, even if you wash it many times.” She also called cleaning house “disinfecting,” a term she probably learned as a nurse. And working at the surgery center for a few years didn’t help: I was never so sick so often as when I worked there, and yet I was surrounded by lots of disinfectants and an obsession for cleanliness and most of all, a lot of greed. Inside my head, I kept trying to clean that greed off of me. But I never got myself as clean again, never as white as that first handkerchief had been.

Of course, there was the Aliens movie, when the Android tells Ripley he found humans disgusting–I remember to this day the way in which he, with great revulsion, detailed how we eat food, and that it comes out as vile waste. Ew. Yah. I didn’t appreciate being a human at the time.

Or about the woman who sat next to me today in an afternoon meeting at my community college job. I sat with my friends to the right, and this lady I’d never seen before, to my left. She had a tiffin tin, and I remarked upon the metal contraption (I looove tiffin tins). She’d brought a salad. I made a bit of small talk, which she took as permission to blabber. She was nice, but she did not care about her audience, and whether or not she was connecting with her audience (me).

Her eyes peeled open wide (and I mean wiiiide), she raved about her raw food diet, and detailed the contents of her lunch, and raved on and on about Cafe Gratitude, a place I find repulsive (the attitude there makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up–it’s not an overtly rude attitude but one of great saccharine cheerfulness). Ohgawd. In most situations, I would have gotten up and extricated myself somehow, saying I needed to go talk to someone. But nope. I was sitting next to her.

To my right of course, were my friends chomping on McDonald’s chicken mcnuggets. Wobbedy wobbedy wobbedy–how awesome and weird and completely opposite, is that?

This is why I don’t like to sit in the middle of long tables. I feel like I’m being pulled apart in two different conversational directions: the group at one end, and the group at the other end of the table. It’s schizophrenic.

I picked up an overpriced prescription. I came home to two literary rejections. Yay. Not. But whatever.

It seems like a very very long time ago that I was in Austin at a friend’s wedding in early April.

I’ve begun running on this Couch-to-5K plan. It’s amazing–I am really liking the running thing. And I have discovered that since having the hole in my heart (PFO) closed, I can actually do aerobic exercise without intense difficulty. It’s like a miracle. Ever since I was a child, I have been unable to run without feeling like I was going to die (seriously, it was that painful). Even with daily exercise, I’d find myself gasping for air. I marveled at how other people could run.

And now I am becoming one of those people. The running is good for me, physically and psychically. I also wonder if as the farther I am able to run, the longer I’ll be able to write, whether I am programming myself to go the distance, to endure.

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in other news

in other news…i’ve decided to write a book about my stroke and recovery, based on what i’ve written here. now: where to begin…

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book list

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I am putting together an Asian American student success program and then teaching a basic skills reading and writing class for that program focusing on Asian American literature in the Fall. Soooo excited. My undergrad major was in English literature with a minor in Asian American studies, and my thesis was on Ethnic literature (I wrote my senior thesis on Louise Erdrich and Leslie Marmon Silko’s works).

Then, I went to grad school in education.

Meanwhile, I was starting a career in high tech, mainly working in recruiting and HR.

I went back to school for my MFA in creative writing.

And it seemed that my educational background would never jibe with my career. Until NOW. Do you know how ecstatic it feels for my inner life to make SENSE in the external world?!

I’m putting together a book list for my class–and am having way too much fun with the possibilities. It is a basic skills writing and reading class, so I have to keep my ambition in check and in sync with the reality of student abilities. So there will be no reading of 2 novels in one semester.

I decided awhile ago that I would teach Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese–it is a graphic novel that would be accessible to basic skills students with a theme relevant to Asian American students and yet not compromise on complexity of issues and analysis for young adults.

The thing is, I don’t want to hang the class’s hat on one work. I wanted to come up with other pieces of literature–and I searched my head for a theme (if not for the students, at least for me) that could run throughout the chosen pieces of work. In a moment of epiphany today browsing through the bookshelves of my neighborhood bookstore, I spotted Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, another great graphic novel (yes, Iran is West Asian).

I would center the class around those two graphic novels (perhaps just excerpts from Persepolis to lighten the reading load–reality check again). Yessss. I plan on having a mini-reader or make copies of shorter works like poetry and essays and perhaps a short story or two. But now that I have my two main works, I am going to happily search through works by other Asian Americans reflecting other Asian American ethnicities that might enlighten Yang’s and Satrapi’s graphic novels.

There is a big population of Mien students. It makes me sad that I cannot find works by or about the Mien American community.

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Filed under Reading, Teaching

audience of a dream

I am not much of a cryer–but I do weep when I see people achieve their dreams. I cry during Olympics medal ceremonies, and I wept watching this youtube video of Susan Boyle, who surprised the judges of Britain’s Got Talent (the UK “America’s Got Talent”–or rather to be more accurate, “America’s Got Talent” is the US version of Britain’s Got Talent).

She’s not Hollywood (she’s frumpy), she’s cheeky (loved it–she bantered with the judges), and she’s got big ambitions (she said she wants to be like Elaine Paige). Usually these things do not line up on television.

On TV, there are only a few molds that say “winner” and it usually involves being a size 2 (or smaller), being well coiffed, and being young, for starters. And usually, producers set it up so that the people who are frank with their ambition fail. There have been so many contestants before her who have claimed a talent rivaling Whitney Houston’s, only to belt out something that sounds…nowhere near Whitney Houston. So you see the audience members roll their eyes awaiting a horrendous performance from Susan Boyle. We have been trained to have very standardized expectations.

But oh man. What a performance. It’s amazing. The judges said it was the biggest surprise ever. They said it was a wake up call from their cynicism. Simon Cowell’s facial expression, upon discovery of this talent, is unforgettable. We should all have someone look at our work in that way in our lifetime. I could die if someone (perhaps an agent) read my novel and made such a face.

Well I’ve watched the video of the performance over and over now, it’s so inspiring. Others are inspired too, even as they wonder why.

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is publishing sustainable?

Howard Junker, editor of ZYZZYVA, was asked “is publishing sustainable?” by an energetic but naive student. His reaction and the content of the letter, is hilarious (at least it is to me). It’s always good to start your day with laughter.

I guess there is more than one definition to “sustainable.”

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Pesach begins!

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As I sit here, I’ve just finished up a great workshop series with Elizabeth Stark and her Craft Techniques. Great class and you can do it from the comfort of your own home via telephone!

As I sit here, the hail that pounded the earth earlier this afternoon, so that the vegetable garden looked as if a child had left a massive collection of white marbles strewn around…has long since melted.

As I sit here, the chicken broth/soup is on low simmer, waiting for matzo balls tomorrow. The gefite fish is in the fridge, the aspic chilling so that it will become firm and cradle the gefilte fish patties. The brisket is thawing. The chicken liver is waiting to be transformed into chopped chicken liver salad. And tomorrow, more cooking.

Tomorrow the holiday begins but today is all about getting ready and in “order.” Chag Sameach, everyone.

This weekend, I’m off to attend my BFF’s wedding in Austin.

And in the past few weeks, I’ve twittered the following (and I think I’m much more cheerful via twitter than here on this blog–perhaps my short twitch brain muscles fire at a more cheerful pace than my (uh) slow (?) twitch brain muscles…come to think of it…probably. Because my novel is more morose than this blog:

  • btw, i’m still reading 2666… ;P ppl have sed they dislike the middle section, but i’m really liking it.
  • ok. this is weird, being my anonymous alterego on twitter, i feel like an impostor! happy sunday everyone!
  • vicky cristina barcelona very good. penelope cruz amaaazing. now wondering why, w/ all my travels to europe, i have not set a story there.
  • however, vicky cristina barcelona makes me want 2 stop eating. every single woman is so THIN. oops-i just ate a meatball. delish food>thin.
  • what does one do w short stories once they’ve been rejected all over the universe?
  • i have 2 nights of blissful sleep…and then every 3rd night I toss and turn.
  • my 3 pounds of water weight now dissipating: going 2 the bathroom every 20 minutes. whee! if only my allergies could dissipate so quickly.
  • I want 2 say that having made it thru the brutal middle of 2666 (reading murder after murder)…it’s hard for me to begin the 3rd section.
  • it’s kinda like having watched silence of the lambs and then watching the history channel. wobbedywobbedy. i need a moment. i need a moment.

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