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Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Beached as

Once in a while I feel very bummed. Usually it's hormones related. But knowing the cause mitigates the effect only a little bit (if at all). At times like this I feel very foreign here and wish I could go back to some place where I felt at home. Then I have to remind myself that every place makes me feel like an alien in some way - and the only way over something is (usually) through it. I've not made much of a habit of turning back and at the age of 37 I'm not sure I want to start. I would rather climb this mountain. So yeah, integration continues. I will try harder and if I ever get the point where I've done my utmost and I'm still not happy, I can reassess the situation then. 

Maybe part of it comes from not having been anywhere else for ever so long. 

And another thing that I remind myself of is the fact that the bad and the good comes together. I can't have the good without going through the bad, it seems. So the only thing I can do is try to get through with as much grace as I can muster. 

At times I like to come here and read about myself. It's soothing because it's a friendly voice that understands. It's also nice because I find (mostly) that I like myself. When I go back a long way I find (surprisingly) that many things about me are unchanged and at times I feel also that my instincts are good, and wish I had trusted them more. 

So I'll redouble my efforts to be me. 

Thursday, 8 April 2021

After you've gone

About a month ago now, I guess, you moved back to New York. I don't know how things really are going but I hear from you quite frequently and it's nice to know you're still alive. We don't really have conversations - just little pings of quips or photos. Once you said you were feeling stressed and anxious. Other times you reply to my notes about post that had come for you, or send me cute animal photos from Reddit. 

We redecorated your room a little. Swapped the old bed for a new one and got a vintage shelf. Now we play music in that room in the evenings. Unsurprisingly I've decided to leave your blanket and pillow on the bed. I still go there to nap sometimes because I miss the smell of you. 

Walking to the grocery store the other day I thought of how it was when you were living here. Sometimes when I used to see you come out of your room unexpectedly I was still struck by your presence (the color of your hair, the shape of your nose, how you wear a hoody like its a permanent hug). It seems unfair to me that when the sight and thought of you can bring me so much joy, none of that makes a dent to your misery. I wish that I could take some of that happiness you bring to me, and make you feel it too.

I know sometimes things were hard and we were both very sad and frustrated. But when I have the presence of mind, I remember that you are not the sum of your problems, overwhelming though they may be. I'm friends with the person who is struggling against all the things he is not.

Once when you first took the medication for acute anxiety you told me that you feel very woozy and might not remember anything later, because it interferes with short term memory. I said well in that case I want you to know that I love you and I've always loved you. You laughed and went back to your room. 

There are times when I don't know if you find my affection for you awkward and/or troublesome, but I think mostly you like being liked (like that time when I called you fatface and you said unfortunately it's true and I said oh come on, that was clearly a sign of affection and you laughed). 

I also cannot really explain why I should feel so strongly about you, but I'm ok with that. Like you always say, it is what it is - except maybe I say that with acceptance whereas you sometimes say it more so in resignation. It's odd but I've found time and time again that when I feel this way about someone I don't really think it's necessary that my feelings are reciprocated. I just want to be able to express fully how I feel without being a nuisance. It seems that we're ok at this equilibrium. The rest of the time I just want you to be happy again - maybe not today or tomorrow or the day after, but at some point. It would be good to see you smile and laugh and enjoy being your loving, wonderful self.

I still (I think) say goodnight to you every night - just a message. Sometimes I tell you love you or send you a hug or a squish. I don't quite know why it's so important to me, this ritual. Maybe because it's the only thing I can do. Occasionally you write me back but usually not. Once or twice you've written to say you miss us and I promise to visit when the pandemic is through. 

Sometimes my phone shows me photos from the past and every time I see your handsome face I feel a surge of affection and hope that we'll (all of us) be happy again. 

Goodbye, my friend

J called and woke me up early this morning to tell me that you'd passed away. I was shocked beyond belief. My first fear was that something was wrong the last time we met and I never managed to get to the bottom of it, and now it's too late. But they said later that it was a heart attack in the night and you went quiet and peaceful. 

Looking back now I guess you knew. It makes sense why you chose not to tell anyone about it, even though I asked and asked - because what could anyone have done except get all upset? 

Such a large part of me wishes that we had spent more time together just being friends because your presence brought so much goodness and strength to my life, especially in the really hard times. Of all the teachers I had you were one of the best. You always pushed me to the edge of my abilities (and then maybe a little bit further) but never made me uncomfortable or mad (there was that one time when we wanted to work on polyrhythms, when I was being particularly difficult. And you had the wisdom to just call it quits and say we'll come back to it another time). You gave me all the answers to my unreasonably demanding questions (yeah count all of the beats all the time pls), and always had so much patience with my struggles. 

You used to try to sneak bop songs into our improv and I would roll my eyes and you would sigh. We spent so much of our time talking and laughing hysterically that we'd run over time and the next person who booked the studio would be pissed. 

I have so many videos of us dancing routines together, and videos of that series we meant to make. 

I'm so glad that we hung out together as friends that one time at Bob's. Nobody danced and even though there was music, we really just wanted to get drunk, talk trash, and hug. We were standing outside, drinks in hand, talking to friends and acquaintances and I was so proud to be hanging out with you, to be able to call you my friend. I told everyone that you are my tap teacher and my favorite teacher. I think it was clear that we had a great deal of affection for each other. I remember you sitting at the bar behind me and leaning backwards into your arms for a snuggle. At the end of the night it was me who bundled you into a taxi. 

In the beginning we had one lesson a week, but then I decided we should have two. It seems incredible now how hard I worked on tap. One of the classes would be for routine, and one of them was Taco/Technique Tuesday.

I remember Laura and Eddie Brown and the chair dance from Tap Dogs, and how proud of me you were every time I finished a routine. I remember us laughing like maniacs when you invented that stupid move sitting down. I remember us talking like gangsters because I don't know why. And also when I injured my foot and you said you had a chair dance routine I sent you a photo of a stripper in a chair and we laughed at that too. It seems like most of our time was spent just laughing. 

We used to run into each other at the 7-11 or the McDonalds and you were always worried about that electronic lock on the door. 

Every time you went on about the old-timers I'd half-listen and think I'd ask you about it later. Now there won't be a later. 

Remember how I always use to joke that your business card should say: "For a good time call... somebody else"? And how that time when you first taught Bibi, you said it's going to be a fun class and she said "Angela says you don't like to have a good time"? The others would sometimes mention that you had talked about me in class with them, and it always made me so chuffed whenever that happened. 

You had such a booming voice and such a sharp laugh people would turn their heads when we were talking and walking or riding the subway. Often times you'd be so caught up in what you were saying (some story about tap, most likely, or music) and we'd pause in the middle of the little intersection just across from 7-11 and blether on. At the very end you always say (rather formally) "Alright Angela, good work. I'll see you next week", do a little bow, and wave as I walked away. 

You had those yellow tap shoes that matched my beret so we'd wear that sometimes to make videos. You wore the Emirates football jerseys but also had a Transformers one. And those sweat bands. Also you had the grey pork-pie hat and I considered getting something similar for videos just so we'd match. 

I'm sad to think that if I went back to tap again, you would not be around to be proud of anything I learn or achieve. Your esteem and good opinion of me gave me so much strength and confidence. The way you taught made me always feel like there's a clear straightforward path to progress and you would slowly take me where I should go. Your confidence in me and your presence felt like a secret weapon. 

At the beginning of the pandemic I worked a bit on Laura. I kept thinking I’d film myself and show you when I’ve made some progress, and then I didn’t get around to it. 

Jedi can't quite believe you're gone either. Today I saw your status on Facebook as "active" and had to restrain myself from messaging you to see if it's just all be a big joke or some terrible mistake. Of course we wish you were just hiding somewhere for some reason and will come back when everything's all cleared up. 

I keep thinking of Stephen King's Dark Tower series and it just occurred to me that you must have read them too and how we'll never get to talk about books again. Or Mad Men. Remember that time when I mentioned that I was watching Mad Men and you started to sing the theme song and pretend you were falling? I laughed and laughed.

I've never been good with the concept of "never." 

If there is such a thing, I hope we meet again in the clearing at the end of the path. 一路好走,my friend. I'll be seeing ya. 

-----

Last night I dream that I was in a weird house full of the kind of weird things I like, and Winston Churchill was there, grumpy and odd. But we made friends and walked out to the back of the house, going through a basement he'd be tidying up, into the garden, and then right into the river were the water was flowing but not cold, and the stars were reflected on the surface of the water. 

As we stood in the river holding hands I felt happy because I'd found a friend. Someone's who's odd just like I'm odd, and I was understanding and understood. Then I woke up and on waking realized it was you I'd found. 

When I turned on my phone there were photos from Jedi and 念祖, from your memorial today. They had a big paper cardboard cut out of you on stage, in a tuxedo, looking so young and handsome. On the huge screens in the background, my video was playing. 

I can only take all the kind words of encouragement and faith and confidence you've ever given me and keep them close for all the days until we meet again. 

----

I feel like it's been nearly a year since you passed away but time in lockdown feels so strange and relative. All I know is that now I'm dancing again, a little bit, and I miss you and think of you all the time. Some relationships end when you feel like you've exhausted every possibility and given/taken all you had to give/take. Some feel like everything has yet to happen and it's already beyond your reach. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

down & up again 2

 A first I thought I was just frustrated and angry with you all the time because PMS, but then my period came and went and even on days when I felt chirpy and upbeat, the sound of you arguing with someone in your room would stress me out immediately. Then I realized that I just have no tolerance left. 

One day I told you that it was really stressing me out and the real problem for me is that we don't see eye to eye on what the issue is. When I ask you to work on what I perceive to be the fundamental, underlying problem, your answer is "I can't", and if that's the case, then I feel like everything will always be worse than it could be, and that I couldn't bear. If the answer was "I'm working on it, give me time", then I would support you forever, but it's not. 

I also felt like things were starting to stagnate. I don't want this to be another place where you tread the same old path and live the same ingrained habits. More than a year ago when you started to call me up to keep me on the phone for hours, I told you that something has to change and maybe you are just burning all your bridges before that can happen. Now I wonder if I am one of those bridges. 

Maybe by keeping you here and cushioning you from the worst effects of your behavior, I'm enabling it, or putting off that moment when you'd either sink or swim? I don't know. Like a lot of other big issues we face, it's not an experiment. There's no re-do, no control group. If it goes badly, I can't hit rewind and try it again. I can't practice it until I get better at it. We agreed that you would start looking for somewhere to move to. I said I wish I could have done something more to help you, and I hope we'd still be friends. You hugged me and said of course we will, and made a joke about how I haven't done such a bad job since you weren't dead yet.

Since then you've gone up to Hamburg for a few days and come back. You started taking anti-depressants about three days ago and seem to be in a generally better mood. I can't help but think that some part of you feels bad for making my life difficult, and is trying your best to be your better self, even though you said you couldn't. Yesterday you made a joke about people shouting yea or nay in the British parliament. Today you came and told me you have another appointment with a psychiatrist. In between there are times when we kid around about something, and you laugh. 

Before bed I still go in to say goodnight and sit with you for a few minutes. I massage your hand or spoon you and stroke your face. Sometimes you start to say something about your problems and I have to gently remind you that we have an agreement. I just want to be able to express my affection for you without having to delve into the things which we are both of us powerless to change. I just want to carve out a little space and time for something else to exist.

Just now I heard you having a long meeting with your colleagues. At the end of it you said something to the effect of how they're always welcome to call you if they need help, because you'd be happy to talk to them. Something about the way you said it (and what you said) - was really you. The you that you are when you are not only the sum of your burdens and your fears. The kind, generous, and gentle person who just wants to help and share and be good to everyone. The person that I miss the most when you are not yourself. 

We haven't set a date for you to move out. I remind myself that just because you've had some good days, it doesn't mean that everything will get better. Perhaps your problems will drag you under again, and I don't know how or if I will be able to cope with that. But every time the real you resurfaces, I'm filled with gratitude, if not hope. I'm suspicious of hope, and I try not to have any expectations, but I'm glad for all those moments when you are not sunk so deep in pain you can't feel anything else. I'm happy every time you approach me to see what I'm doing. I'm happy every time we hug.

I'm still rooting for you.

From Felix's wall... because it describes her so well, I wanted to hang on to it.

 慶祝媽媽 64 歲生日的一些想法與心裡話.

在我眼中的媽媽, 總是待人真誠, 安分守己, 處事圓融. 她在五, 六十年前純樸的金門長大, 直到為了唸大學才移居台北, 認識了爸爸. 本來願望只想當老師的她, 在我心中一直是個既傳統卻又開明的母親. 在我成長的過程中, 她與爸爸從來沒有要求我學什麼才藝, 讀什麼樣的書, 唸什麼學校, 選什麼科系, 交什麼朋友.
個性單純簡單的媽媽, 因為婚姻, 家庭的關係, 自淡大歷史系畢業後竟也與爸爸在商界打滾四十年了. 我從小就看著媽媽兼顧母親與會計, 人資, 財務, 甚至編輯, 翻譯的工作. 不論是與銀行的業務主管打交道, 與倉儲的司機大哥搏感情, 與打電話來發飆的難搞客戶危機處理, 或與外商公司的高階主管應酬 - 她雖然真誠卻絕對不傻, 雖然單純卻從不會看不清楚對方的真正動機.
但是, 她從沒讓商場上的謀略與算計改變她本性的謙虛與善良. 她就是我的媽媽.
小時候, 當我與同學有不愉快, 或媽媽自己在工作上受別人的氣了, 常常聽媽媽說:
「對方這樣對待你, 那是他的品格與格調. 你如果把他放在心上, 或是去與他口出惡言, 不就把自己降到他的等級了嗎?」
說實在的, 年輕時我的個性很衝, 無法把這樣的哲學放在心上. 但隨著職場與生活上累積了經驗, 近年來, 每每遇到不舒服的人, 不中耳的話, 或不滿的事時, 總是能想到她的話而釋懷.
我漸漸邁入中年才越感受到自己多深的受媽媽影響. 相較於許多前同事, 身邊朋友, 我實在是不算精明, 不懂謀略也不喜算計. 不管是在職場上為自己的職涯升遷爭取機會, 拉攏靠近正確的主管之類的, 或是在生活中投資理財找錢滾錢的方法, 都不是我擅長的領域. 年近四十, 我已經很能夠坦然接受自己的不足, 缺點, 短處.
我會的, 只是把自己非常有限的能力所及, 責任範圍內的事情做到最好.
在工作與生活上一直幸運能有貴人相助, 主管提拔, 好同事好朋友信任, 我寧願相信只是因為我繼承了媽媽的待人真誠, 善良誠實.
比起職場上的運氣, 有這樣的媽媽才是我幸運的起源.
媽, 生日快樂.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

An example of resilience

 From the NYT

I kept thinking, what can I do with this time? I went straight to the Academy of Vocal Arts after high school; I’ve only ever known singing. What can I do with no degree? What the coronavirus has shown is that we’re not confined to staying put in one location anymore. We can do anything from anywhere in the world. I read a lot about people who made a career transition into tech. And I began looking into software engineering. I started learning a coding language, and did that the entire summer.

Now I’m what they call a “resident” at a software engineering immersive program called Codesmith. It’s an intensive program for three months that takes you up to being hired at a high level, mid to senior.

I’m not leaving singing. I’m preparing myself for having a skill set in an industry with a lot of opportunities and straddling both worlds. This idea people have, that you’re either a singer or not a singer, it’s just not the truth. And now, more than ever, it can’t be the truth.

I really do believe I’m coming out of this feeling so much more empowered. I’m relying on myself to invent my future, as opposed to feeling I’m the victim of a system. I’m not saying I’m always at the computer with glee. I have shed a tear or two for my life and career. But at the same time, you have to keep moving forward. My dream has always been, and will always be, to be a singer. But now I have more than one dream.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Down and Up Again

 We had the worst Christmas in my living memory. Usually I don't make a fuss about Christmas. If in Germany we tend to spend in at Julian's parents' house. This year we decided to socially distance and just had a quiet one at home with the household. I bought a tiny little potted tree way back in November. We made cookies and decorated the tree, and everyone made an effort to get some presents. 

I got two books from Julian (one of paintings by Thiebaud, and one is about brush lettering). I gave Julian a pair of headphones much earlier, and then bought and wrapped a MUJI jumper (he was complaining of not having enough warm jumpers to wear). I knitted Sören a big grey and sea foam green mobius strip scarf, since he basically never took off the navy blue one I made for Julian last year. Sören's mum was in touch before Christmas and she decided to get Sören a Bose bluetooth speaker, and a big bottle of nice Scotch for us. Julian got eco friend super mario boxers for Sören, and similarly themed socks for everyone, which I used as stuffed stockings. 

The part that didn't go so well started around the time when M came to visit. I noticed you getting more and more down and frustrated all the time. By the time M left and Christmas came around you were sleeping poorly, barely eating, and pacing all day. When we opened presents you had a little note in an envelope which said that our gift is a KitchenAid and we should choose one. I was so touched and you were crying at least half the time. 

On Christmas day and the following days things got really bad. I would get up in the morning (super early) to have some quiet time to myself, and then spend a few hours sitting with you in your room, trying to calm you enough so that you can at least drift in and out of sleep. Then the day would be spent trying to stop you from getting frantic and hurting yourself. Finally you rushed off to Hamburg.

I worried about you endlessly when you were up in Hamburg. I packed your suitcase and pillow and stuffed some chocolates in your bag. When you arrived you texted "thank you for the chocolates" and I thought that was a good sign, you noticing something outside yourself. But the rest of the time still seemed full of anxiety and defeatism.

You came back yesterday (unannounced), your old self again, and said it was nice to be home, which I was happy to hear. In time maybe you'll start to see this place with us as a home too. Not like the home you had before, when you were married and things were very different, but also a home. A place where you are loved and comfortable. Somewhere where you belong. 

I want to make changes that will impact in the long term so had to sit you down and make you promise that you would get help and get meds so that these periods of intense anxiety and panic wouldn't happen again. This morning you woke up, and seemed fine. Better than you've been in a long time. 

At lunch time I heated up last night's left over lasagna and we ate together. You went back to your room to game some more before starting work. Knowing that you are well, and home, I now feel quite contented. 

Monday, 21 December 2020

She got that right

 Judy Garland Quotes

Always be a first-rate version of yourselfinstead of a second-rate version of somebody else.

Monday, 14 December 2020

A door stop

Today you said something about how some people learn to be hardest on themselves and believe that others must share their own low self-estimation. I hugged you and told you that I think you're wonderful and I like you just as you are. You said that you disagree with me and I said that's where you are wrong. Then I told you that it's only one of the many things you are wrong about, and I can't even begin to list all of them as it would fill an entire hardbound book so heavy you could use it as a door stop. 

Thursday, 3 December 2020

A while ago

 A while ago we had the worst fight in ages, mostly because the boiler issue. I get so overwhelmed with anxiety and frustration sometimes and if you go on and keep underlining the worst possible outcome (however likely it may be) I just end up shouting which then sets you off shouting.

To be honest I’ve never had a friend I shouted at/with so much but every time it happens we make it up after, so it’s not (absolutely) a bad thing.

We also did some fun stuff like birthday with homemade chocolate cake, paper crowns, craft beer, and hand knit socks:


and I made you a badge with your nickname on it: 


We had French onion tart, rucola salad, and white wine at dinner, and popped some corn after so we could all watch Arrested Development together.

Over the next few days you were sometimes sad to be alone. But not all the time. 

We also went to the fields and gathered greenery for our advent candles. I got these tiny little mushrooms from Oxfam (along with a bunch of other old decorations). You said that you had them as a kid.



We also baked Julian’s favorite Christmas cookies. The first batch was filled with jam and the second with chocolate ganache.

Today we decided to make some homemade pocky sticks from the NYT food section.

It snowed overnight the other day and everything came up all frosty. It may be the winter of our discontent but I'm happy about the snow. 



Wednesday, 11 November 2020

A little joy

This morning you slept in but I got up early to put chocolate buns in the oven. Then I went into your room to check why you were still in bed. I sat on the edge of your bed behind you and put my head down on your side. You petted me awkwardly. Then I went to the other side and laid down in front of you. You put your arms around me as I curled up, and I felt that you liked having me there.

We chatted slowly about this and that, the same way we do when I say goodnight (I lie down and pat the bed, you sit down, then I curl up around you like a snail and put my head in your lap. You get up to brush your teeth and walk around mumbling while I wriggle around under the covers). 

Sometimes I get a clear sense that my presence and affection makes you happy and brings out something good. The days right now are so repetitive and the things we do daily over and over feel like small rituals. I want to build new habits - positive expectations of comfort, safety - of freshly baked things and warm meals and someone being there, morning, day, and night.

Because many other things are hard and often bad, without recourse, beyond control or ability to influence. Because all we have to lean on is our goodness to one another. Because it’s good to arrive and throw a tantrum and let it all out and be scooped up and held. And it’s good to be the one to say come here, where I can look after you.

Before you went to take a shower I sat you down and brushed out your hair. Today the server was down for maintenance all day and with nobody to shoot at you were getting agitated and anxious. I like to think that me brushing your hair was ten minutes that were better than the ten minutes before or the ten minutes after. It’s not much, but it’s also everything.

You look very handsome when you are happy.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Jeremy

 


Goodbye, my friend. How quiet and empty it all seems without your laughter.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Stop all the clocks

'Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone'

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, 
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, 
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum 
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. 

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead 
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead, 
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves, 
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. 

He was my North, my South, my East and West, 
My working week and my Sunday rest, 
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; 
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong. 

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; 
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun; 
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; 
For nothing now can ever come to any good. 

W H Auden

Buffalo Bill

[Buffalo Bill 's]

Buffalo Bill ’s
defunct
               who used to
               ride a watersmooth-silver
                                                                  stallion
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
                                                                                                     Jesus

he was a handsome man 
                                                  and what i want to know is
how do you like your blue-eyed boy
Mister Death

You are the finest

“You are the finest, loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known—and even that is an understatement.”


― F. Scott Fitzgerald