Sunday, 31 August 2014

Like juggling

... sometimes there's  domino effect. You drop one thing and all the rest comes crashing down. Times like this you need to know what's solid ground - what you can count on to prop you up.

Sometimes it's not the intent but the execution. Some people have good bedside manners, and some not so much so - perhaps that's all. 

How much of it is in my mind

... and I've always struggled to be all here. It occurred to me that you must be very good at that: steadfastly seeing only what is in front of you, what needs to be done. I do wonder though - if my mind works a different way, is there also some reason for that?

From "A 500 Mile Solo Hike Put an End to my Loneliness":

Expectations certainly played a role. At home in Wyoming, I anticipated regular social interaction. So if someone turned down a dinner invitation, or I failed to make plans on a Saturday night, I felt lonely. Smiling selfies that friends posted on Facebook triggered a sense of envy. And when peers chattered about visits with their parents, the emptiness inside me ached. I wished I could show my mother the life I’d built for myself in Wyoming. I missed her stalwart encouragement, and the snail-mail cards she used to send just to say, “I love you.” I longed to go home to her at Christmas.

On the trail, it was different. I knew I was going to be alone; I wanted to be alone—I wanted space to hear myself think. I felt no pressure to make plans, and no self-pity about eating dinner by myself. On the contrary: I treasured the solitude. I woke up when I wanted to, took breaks when my blisters demanded, walked at my own pace, and camped when I was tired. In the mornings I woke between 5am and 6am and savored the silence as I watched the red glow of dawn inch its way over the horizon. And as I walked along alpine ridges, gazing at emerald valleys and elegant peaks, I marveled at having these enchanting places to myself.


But there was another reason our encounters were so fulfilling: distractions were nonexistent. There were no text messages or emails to interrupt us; no one was worrying about places they had to be, or things they had to do tomorrow. They weren’t preoccupied with people who weren’t there. Some hikers didn’t even bring their cell phones on the trail. We were there together, in the moment, fully engaged. And we listened—really listened—to what others had to say. These were true conversations.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

I have a feeling

... that this is going to be one of the more strange ones.

But it's good practice isn't it, for not jumping to conclusions. So here's to staying positive and thinking good thoughts. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Balancing Act

It's hard to know when it's a reason and when it's an excuse. It's hard to know when to cut some slack and when to push on. It's hard to know when to pull socks up and when to fall apart.

Sometimes I remember the ping of the microwave as another bowl of canned soup is warm. When I did nothing but eat and sleep for days.


The Wedding Banquet and The Ice Storm, which I first encountered as a book. I think I like them for the same reason. 

"So please be kind... if I'm a mess"

Some days shouldn't exist.

When my friend was suicidal during college, we had a system. Instead of asking "how are you?" I would just ask for status, and he would give me something from 0 to 100. 100 is "Happy", 0 is "I should be dead". It saved a lot of pussyfooting around.

Here's today's status: 30. 

Some days I wake up and know that it's hell. It's like an inexplicable cloud that rolls in overhead, or some unwelcome guest who breaks down the door. Yesterday I spent the whole day with a knot in my throat - feeling like I'm always close to tears. This morning I woke up crying because sometimes I hurt in an unquantifiable way, somewhere that doesn't exist. It's scary because I don't know how to fix it, and I'm used to thinking that I can fix everything.

This unhappiness is like a chronic illness. Over the years it's gotten better (I spend at most a few days sad, rather than a year). But I admit (reluctantly) that I am a long way from being whole.

Whenever I get like this I lose hold of the things that I believe to be true. I feel deeply broken. I feel like a burden. I feel like the people I love deserve better (everyone, I think, deserves to date a normal girl. not someone like me). I feel like a liability, lurching and reeling, constantly in need of propping up.

Or maybe what I need is a place to fall apart.

I spent the morning at home, doing everything painfully and slowly (head pounding and eyes stinging, because you know, crying is an exhausting business). Dog and I went to the park and I sat for a long time, watching him watching me (trying to work out why I took him there but won't play with him). Then I went home, got dressed, and went back to normal (what else could I do?).

Except of course the flip side of normal (hurt/sad) is just as before. It's like a problem I need time to solve. Bashing my head against it right now won't help (learned that. the. hard. way.)

Mostly I want to know if you could love someone if they are say, as damaged as me.

Other than that I am good. I can carry on.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Four things from this morning

... which relate to other things from a few days ago. But one thing at a time.

  1. It's like a having a chronic illness. Sometimes I wake up and know that today it's just going to take it out of me.
  2. Maybe we crawl so far just to find a safe place to fall apart.
  3. Can't just sew it up (there's no going back). 
  4. I forget the fourth one. But that's ok, it'll come back to haunt me for sure (haha)
Only just taking notes down, that's all. 

Monday, 25 August 2014


"now listen to me honey while I say. How could you tell me that you're going away? Don't say that we must part. Don't break my aching heart. You know I love you truly many years. I've loved you night and day. How could you say it to me honey, can't you see my tears? Now you listen what I say... "

{Fiona Apple, "After you've gone"}

It has been suggested...

"you gotta go to Austria and try a proper one...... I mean the Strudel... though you can try an Austrian too if you find a fitting one of course... a Konditor... so you can have strudel and him..." 

I must say this sounds like an attractive proposition.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Sunday, 17 August 2014



Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Nice and depressing, just the way we like it

"I think writing about unhappiness is probably the source of my popularity, if I have any-after all, most people are unhappy, don't you think? Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth." - Philip Larkin

grape vines and lullabies

When I was small (like, less than five years old), we lived in central Taipei with my grandparents and my father's siblings and their families. The house had maybe three or five floors, and my grandfather owned the whole building, so we could run around on every floor. 

On the rooftop there was a garden with grape vines and a rope swing. When my brother and I were kids my father used to play the guitar and sing for us and he wrote us songs. He wrote me a lullaby that him and my mother used to sing to me - it mentions the grapes on the rooftop, ripening as I slept. 

When I was eight I had my kidney surgery and I was in the hospital for about two months, constantly in pain. My mother would sing me that lullaby in the hospital room to put me to sleep.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Occasionally, I get a letter from someone who is in 'contact' with extraterrestrials. I am invited to 'ask them anything.' And so over the years I've prepared a little list of questions. The extraterrestrials are very advanced, remember. So I ask things like, 'Please provide a short proof of Fermat's Last Theorem'

- Carl Sagan, Demon-Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark

Monday, 11 August 2014

This is kind of embarrassing but...

I was listening to This American Life and one of the episodes mentioned someone who saw a photograph of herself as a teenager and was surprised because she thought she was actually quite pretty (though she didn't think so at the time).

This reminded me of yearbooks from grade school. I went to a nice primary school in a fairly well-to-do neighbourhood. The teachers were nice and (I think) the students probably were too (it's hard to say as I had little social interaction with them). But these were pretty messed up times because my parents sent me there to live with my extended family (along with my brother). On top of not speaking English, I was missing home terribly and feeling quite isolated. Also, around the same time (though I'm never sure exactly when), the uncle I was living with started to sexually abuse me.

I think I spent a lot of school recesses lying under a tree at the edge of the school's park, far away from the playground, staring up at the (unbelievably) blue sky, watching clouds go by between the branches. I can't recall any internal monologue during these hour-long meditations, or ever being bored.

Some years after that (not sure when) I found the yearbooks from my primary school. There were photographs of all the kids I had gone to primary school with. I think we were mostly in the same junior high school then (I must have been about 13 or so). I took a knife and a thick black sharpie and carved up the faces of my classmates and scrawled profanity all over the pages (mostly personal attacks of the one-word variety directed at them).

I suppose in part it was because I was a social outcast. A few people even bullied me, but not many (especially not after I beat the living daylights out of one of them). Mostly I was ignored and/or feared. I remember one classmate asking me (in genuine confusion) why I am nice sometimes and mean sometimes. I didn't know how to explain that my worldview and my thoughts were different from his - that I was in a very different place mentally, and that I couldn't tell enough of my story to make him understand why I was the way I was. It felt like we'd never meet in the middle.

Another part of me was just angry because my peers didn't appear to be miserable. Then (as now), I had a strong impulse to be the person I envisioned in my head. I wanted to have blue hair. I wanted to wear corsets and garters. I wanted to stab myself repeatedly in public and bloody up the lunchroom so that everyone would know I was emphatically not ok (I had blue hair, and wore corsets and garters, but I didn't self-mutilate in public). I resented them because they seemed normal and happy, when I wasn't either of these things (whether by inclination, or by circumstance, it seemed).

In retrospect I realize that it's just as likely that they were dealing with their own crocks of shit. But that wasn't really something I had access to at the time (even now, I don't know for sure. I just imagine that it is a possibility). Mostly I've given up being angry at myself and everyone else, especially after my uncle died and I realized that I'd never be able to bring about the sort of justice I'd spent years and years gearing up for (I tried though, even though it was the hardest thing ever).

The other night as I was cooking dinner with Julian he was teasing me, pretending that I am young and naïve, that I wouldn't know what to do if I was kissed. I had to tell him that this is one thing you can't tease me about, because I will cry. I was young and naive once, but the first man who kissed me was a predatory pedophile extended family member, and I still lament the fact that I will never know what it's like to be kissed for the first time by a boy I like.

Sometimes the things I think are both mortifyingly embarrassing (like mutilating those yearbooks), and really just quite sad. But this is kind of where I talk to myself and to anyone else who cares to listen, so there's no point in pulling any punches. 

oh Hank

"You've got a million-dollar talent, son, but a ten-cent brain" - Roy Acuff to Hank Williams, on the dangers of his alcohol abuse

it was working until it wasn't

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

- Jack Gilbert, "Failing and Flying"

the heart's stubborn pretending

The soft wind comes sweet in the night
on the mountain. Invisible except for
the sound it makes in the big poplars outside
and the feel on his naked, single body,
which breathes quietly a little before dawn,
eyes open and in love with the table
and chair in the transparent dark and stars
in the other window. Soon it will be time
for the first tea and cool pear and then
the miles down and miles up the mountain.
"Old and alone," he thinks, smiling.
Full of what abundance has done to his spirit.
Feeling around inside to see if his heart
is still, thank God, ambitious. The way
old men look in their eyes each morning.
Knowing she isn't there and how much Michiko
isn't anywhere. The eyes close as he remembers
seeing the big owl on the roof last night
for the first time after hearing it for months.
Thinking how much he has grown unsuited
for love the size it is for him. "But maybe
not," he says. And the eyes open as he
grins at the heart's stubborn pretending.

- Jack Gilbert, "Getting Old" 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Garden Party

{Facebook: everyone has been having an unspeakably exciting time. what have you been up to?}

It's too much pressure, really.

Today I went to Julian's grandfather's garden party. We had fine weather, abundant food/drink, and shaded pavilions surrounded by greenery. I accidentally landed in the (secretive and unexpected) fish-pond. (to everyone's immense amusement).

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing. ” 

- Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

(yes, that is a mountain of wurst)

... and I adore these party lights. 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Everything changes (but nothing does)

During my first year at Edinburgh I discovered Basildon Bond letter paper and also blank white postcards from the post office. I would copy out poems and stick them on the fridge once a week. Then I'd remove the old ones and put them on my room door. Sometimes people would be caught standing before my door, lost in reading some line or other. 

I guess I did that because I had to talk to someone - even if the words weren't mine, and they were only scratched onto a page. These bits of paper moved several times with me and are probably still in a box somewhere, in my storage room in Taipei. So much of myself is in there. 

In my fourth year I posted them on the living room door (I used to work in the living rom). Every time I was exhausted by my work, I would get up and walk to that door, stretch, and read some poems to myself. Then I'd ask if there was anything else in the world I'd rather be doing, and the answer would be "no," so I'd buckle down again. (those were good simple days).

When I fell in love with Richard I was surprised by the fact that he read Jean Rhys. I was equally surprised by the fact that he didn't read poetry. I began to copy out poems again, but this time they were given to him for journeys away from home, or stuffed into his pidge once a day to be discovered there when he came into college. 

I recently began this habit again and it's amazing how the tactile sensation of copying out words that speak to me still calms my mind. 

Here's one I discovered long ago. 

When the little devil, panic,
begins to grin and jump about
in my heart, in my brain, in my muscles,
I am shown the path I had lost
in the mountainy mist.

I'm writing of you.

When the pain that will kill me
is about to be unbearable,
a cool hand
puts a tablet on my tongue and the pain
dwindles away and vanishes.

I'm writing of you.

There are fires to be suffered,
the blaze of cruelty, the smoulder
of inextinguishable longing, even
the gentle candleflame of peace
that burns too.

I suffer them. I survive.

I'm writing of you.

- Norman MacCaig, "Of You"

Thursday, 7 August 2014


Three what? Three whales? Three subatomic particles? Units make a big difference, you know. 

You know, the guy across the hall...

is probably trying to be friends with you. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Days like this

... I'm glad I workout.

This is for you...

(and this, and this, and this too). 

Schwäbischer Kartoffelsalat

A photo of the first attempt. I didn't let the potatoes cook long enough (though today Isabel did suggest that I might want to use a different kind of potato that becomes more mealy when cooked). Still, it tasted pretty good and looks nice in the photograph (that's all that matters, right?)

{recipe via The Daring Gourmet}

Monday, 4 August 2014

The end of a weekend

Sunday... spent almost entirely in my old purple dress with no underwear on, alternately curled in bed at odd hours (sleeping off a hangover), and/or half-heartedly tidying the flat. 

{via inkskinned}

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Let's put on something ridiculously short and go dancing

while we still can.

I long so much to make beautiful things

"I long so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things require effort — and disappointment and perseverance." - Vincent van Gogh

You don't say.