The Misfortune Cookies podcast was born on Nov 1, 2020! It’s available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and more. We are only three episodes in, and have a relatively small following, but it has been a labor of love. Honestly, we are still figuring out how to angle it…but essentially, you can think of it as Asian Americans Talking About Shitty Life Experiences. Give us a listen/follow, and please reach out if you have any feedback or might like to share your story.
Finding my stride
I feel like I’ve been finding my stride a little more in the past few months. Between therapy (which is amazingly offered for free at my university…well, included in tuition), a local support group, Reddit, and the two wonderful human beings that I live with, I do feel loved, supported, and well-resourced…on most days. Trying to feel connected in 2020 has been an exercise in Just Saying Yes To Almost Everything And Clinging To What Sticks (sounds a little like online dating?). Within reason, of course, as always. Another major contributor to my general mental health has been…
90 days off social media
After watching The Social Dilemma at the end of August, I implemented a three-pronged strategy to preserve myself from the unwanted effects of being on social media. 1) I de-activated Instagram; 2) I de-activated Facebook; 3) I installed a Chrome extension called Remove YouTube recommendations. As a bonus, I disabled all notifications on my phone except for text messages (which, surprisingly, people don’t use that much…). It’s been a great decision and I plan to keep this up. Having been on “the other side”, I can attest to how intentional the psychological manipulation strategies are. I won’t deny that there is a time and place for social media, but in this season I think it’s abundantly clear that it isn’t good at all for my overall sanity.
Inconclusive limbo hell
In the first week of November, we experienced an emotionally draining election and another tenuous pregnancy, which unfortunately ended on election night. I started to wonder, at what point do we stop sharing this news with people? Five miscarriages in? Six? Seven? Am I going to be known as the girl who can’t carry a pregnancy to term? I will say that with each subsequent loss, I feel more numb and less crushed, mostly because I had almost no hope to begin with. Blessing or a curse? No idea.
Wrapping up another semester
This semester at school has been quite intensive – tons of skills practice, overanalyzing the darkest corners of my soul, and processing the nonstop barrage of difficult and chaotic news. I’m surprised by how effectively we’ve managed over Zoom, and am feeling a bit more anchored in my ~budding~ identity as a counselor. Also, I have at least one internship site lined up for next year, which is a big relief.
That’s all I have for now. Stay warm if applicable, and take care!
So we experienced a first trimester twin miscarriage back in January 2019. It was awful, but we remained hopeful – the midwives cheerfully waved me along after my post-miscarriage appointment; “see you in a few months!” they said with a conspirational wink. Our therapist pointed out that we had no reason to believe that this would happen again, or that we would have any trouble carrying a pregnancy to term. We were young, healthy, had gotten pregnant with no real effort, etc. etc.
The first year
The first couple of cycles of trying after the miscarriage were full of adorable naivete. I listened to a ton of pregnancy podcasts. I learned about postpartum care, chose a birthing center, stocked up on cheap ovulation & pregnancy tests (these are my favorite). Each cycle, I was convinced that I was pregnant and then crushed to learn that I wasn’t. It was confusing. Six, seven, eight months went by with nothing but increased anxiety to show for our attempts. We chalked it up to the stress we were under for various other reasons. We also observed with a dose of dry humor that the universe was working decidedly against us – we attended a disproportionate number of weddings in 2019, and for 5 months in a row my fertile window happened to coincide with some couple’s wedding night. But as a year crept up on us – the period of trying that would officially earn us an infertility diagnosis – I became extremely ansty.
And alone. It felt like my peers were either effortlessly becoming pregnant or not remotely close to thinking about childbearing. I didn’t tell anyone that we were trying so hard to try, and found it really hard to talk about with my husband. I felt so betrayed by my body. One of my biggest reasons for pushing through eating disorder recovery was to restore my natural cycles so we could have babies. On particularly bad days, I felt like it was all for naught, even though that was far from true.
Becoming officially infertile – and several twists
In Feburary, we started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist. We did a cycle of follicular ultrasound monitoring with them to check for PCOS and to see if I would be a candidate for medicated cycles. We paid hundred of dollars to learn that I did not have PCOS and was ovulating perfectly on my own, which I already knew, but never trust the patient right? Feeling unsatisfied, unheard, and a little turned off by how aggressively they were pushing IVF on us, we looked for an alternative. In March, we found a different provider that believed in treating infertility by finding the root cause, and not by trying to manipulate the natural cycle.
And then COVID hit.
And then I became pregnant – on my own!
And then I had another miscarriage.
Testing and doing crazy things
The second miscarriage qualified me for a whole bunch of new tests – the RPL (recurrent pregnancy loss) panel, as they call it. Everything turned up normal. I had two endometrial biopsies and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) – both excruciatingly painful. Tubes are clear. Perfectly shaped uterus.
Throughout this whole process I have been relentlessly trying new things. Acupuncture. Arvigo Mayan Massage. Foot baths. Hypnosis. Talk therapy. Vaginal steaming. Functional doctor. Seed cycling. Taking a break from trying. Immaculate diet. Fertility yoga. No running. Reading a ton of books. Reading research articles. And oh, the endless supplements! Meanwhile it feels like the entire world is pregnant. And the ones who are not yet pregnant are going to become pregnant with no trouble at all.
This brings me more or less to where we are today. It’s been nearly 2 years since our first pregnancy, our unrequested invitation to hell. This journey has all but bankrupted me – financially, energetically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way. And before you tell me to relax and be grateful and then surely new life will spontaneously arise from my inner abundance, DON’T SAY IT. PLEASE DON’T SAY IT TO ANYONE. It’s unhelpful because we, the infertile people of the world, are aware more than anyone else of our stress, anguish, anxiety, and hopelessness – and we want more than anyone else to be able to relax, or at least to feel that our stress is manageable. It’s as cruel as telling a blind person, why don’t you just, like, see already? But I’m not trying to preach. Or rather, I’m trying not to, hah.
So why am I talking about my reproductive failure journey on the internet? Well, for one, I’m incredibly lonely. I’m human. Sometimes I need to vent, and this is my blog after all. For two, I am done with feeling shame over this part of my life that has been enormously crippling and is in no way my fault. For three, I believe that story-telling is a really important part of any healing process. Especially story-telling in the midst of the sadness and struggle, when there hasn’t been any sign or confirmation of a happy ending. I always thought that I would wait until we had managed to achieve a successful pregnancy before sharing publicly about our infertility. People don’t know what to do with unfinished chaos. I certainly don’t. One of my recurring wishes has been to be able to time-travel to the moment of the birth of our first child. This limbo feels unbearable, but I know that my work in this season is to come to terms with my story, stay in my own lane, and make space for hard thoughts & feelings without having them consume all my energy.
We still don’t know why we’ve experienced infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. I’m moving on to more invasive and expensive testing. I am prioritizing my mental health/sanity, because the stress of infertility – in conjunction with the normal and very real stresses of 2020 – has become untenable. We are working extremely actively on nurturing our marriage and strengthening our partnership, which feels like it has had to bear SO MUCH in a short 3.5 years. I’m still in graduate school full-time and working part-time. I really, really hope that some day (soon) I’ll be back here with the story of a miracle. But in the meantime I want to honor the struggle of the in-between-and-really-only-god-knows-if-we’ll-get-there.
Kina Grannis – who has walked this awful road for over 4 years – captures the feeling perfectly:
Gonna make this quick and leave it disorganized. I am having even more difficulty than usual answering the question “how are you?” (don’t get me started on “how was your weekend?”/”any plans for the weekend?”). It’s not that I don’t appreciate the nudges & check-ins, because I do! So much. I just don’t do pleasantries very well. My mind spins with thoughts like, how am I, how am I???? I’m reeling and I’m lamenting and I’m also angry, do you want to talk about the plastics industry or the patriarchy? No probably not, uh, is my bone broth done yet? And so I am sitting down right now to try and consolidate – defrag? lol – the past couple of months. And I am trying to keep it light-hearted. Just for now.
This summer, …
I made new Friends and reconnected with old Friends. This has been one of my favorite developments in the past couple of months. The most random people have walked (and re-walked) into my life and made me feel hopeful about Friendship.
I organized. I’m not big on organization and I’ve never watched Tidying Up on Netflix. I believe there’s no shame in mess and that dust & clutter are just symptoms of entropy and capitalism that I have long learned to accept. I don’t even make my bed (thanks hubby). But I do get into frenzies (it’s like being possessed by the cleaning spirit) and I went on a long organizing/cleaning frenzy sometime from June to July. It’s really more of an internal sense of chaos that I try to manage via deep-cleaning and decluttering. I purchased a hanging shoe organizer, a jewelry organizer, a make-up/bathroom sink organizer, a USB cable organizer, and went to town. I hung all my disappearing and randomly reappearing hair ties (millions of them!) on little command hooks. I donated an enormous bag of clothes to ThredUp. Threw out soap bars from hotel rooms from 2016 (ew). Found exactly 7 bottles of Walgreens Acme Treatment Gel, each with about 2ml of product left. You get the picture. This felt really good!
I started singing and playing music again. Last summer, a friend generously gifted us with a keyboard, and for the most part it remained untouched over the past year. If I had to dig deeper, I suppose this is because I stopped listening to & playing CCM (contemporary christian music) and didn’t actively try to evolve my jamming. But this summer I started playing all kinds of new music – from the Zelda soundtrack to musicals to Tay Tay (OH HEY QUARANTINE ALBUM).
I asked for help + followed my intuition about what I needed. TBH the first quarter or so of 2020 was horrible (and I don’t think it’s just me amirite?). My mental health was at an all-time low – imagine crawling around in a video game with a quarter of a heart for a few months. Therapy wasn’t helping and the amont of $$$ I was spending to cry for 50 minutes a week on Zoom was stressing me out. And I want to be a therapist! Ha. Well, after staying at rock bottom for a couple of weeks (and after making an abrupt exit from therapy), I started intuitively sensing what I needed to do. It was so eerie and cool. I would be lying in bed thinking about nothing and everything and then suddenly I would sit up and say to myself, that’s what I need to do. I need to reach out to her and be frighteningly honest about what I’m going through. I need to get help from this professional. I need to be brave and tackle this murky interpersonal conflict. I need to actually drink water. And so on. So I followed my intuition and .. it worked! I feel SO much healthier and happier physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. So I guess this summer I have learned something new about myself, that on some level I intuitively know what I need to do…and that acting on that intuition often takes GUTS.
I started at a new school program and finished my first semester (as of today. YAY!). This probably merits its own post, but I left seminary at the end of last year and transferred to a different Mental Health Counseling program in the area. There are so many thoughts and reasons behind this, but for now, I’ll just say that I am at peace with the journey I’m on.
I was raised in the evangelical Christian church. I don’t mean to brag, but I was pretty good at being Christian. In college, I was actively involved in multiple fellowships at the same time. Jesus was the king of my life. I thought I might become a cross-cultural missionary. And so when yours truly, having aspired and aimed her whole life to be a GCG (Good Christian Girl), married a Jesus-loving BCB (Basic Christian Boy) at the tender age of 24, I praised God, because now the rest of my life would unfold with blissful ease. I would basically live the American Dream (Christian Edition) without ever calling it that. Because isn’t that how the narrative goes?
(Answer: No. At least not for me. That is very much not how it has gone or is going or will foreseeably go.)
If you’ve spoken to me lately, you might know that I’ve spent the past two years or so completely deconstructing that narrative, and wrestling with some tough questions about the faith I grew up in and built my whole life upon. This post isn’t going to be about that journey (phew?), but I thought I would assemble a list of resources that have helped me out in this confusing, painful, and above all utterly lonesome season of my life. In the hopes that it might help someone, anyone. Because when I started questioning things, I realized that none of the “cultural artifacts” of my faith tradition had provided me with any space for mystery, uncertainty, or exploration. They all had resolute AMENS at the end of each chapter. I needed more space to move, more space to breathe.
As a disclaimer, I don’t endorse or agree with 100% of the content on this list. I’ve tried to consume stuff on different parts of the spectrum. So some of this might feature in a book study at a fairly conservative church. And some of it, err, might not.
(Side note – as grateful as I am for these heroes and artists, I am sad that not of single one of them is Asian 😢)
(Update 7/30 – I am actively adding to this list to include non-white voices. I’m still just getting starting in the work of decolonizing my theology/faith and disentangling God and the church from white supremacy, and would love any and all suggestions.)
General permission to take a break from CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) and to wholeheartedly enjoy music that *gasp* isn’t directly praising Jesus
Zelda: Breath of the Wild + Expansion Pack
And while this journey has been very lonely, I have had some truly incredible people come alongside me – in little ways and big ways – to offer comfort, wisdom, and laughs. Some of them are pastors and seminary professors. Some of them don’t believe in God. One of them is my wonderful spouse. They are all priceless. They are the reason I am still showing up, still have hope, still love the light. To these wonderful human beings: thank you.
I was struck by a fancy a few days ago. I would pretend that my living room was a deliciously cozy coffee shop. I would go on a date with my husband to said coffee shop and enjoy a novel but also nostalgic afternoon getting caught up with myself over a hot drink.
So that’s where I am now: I’m at a coffee shop…in my living room. I found a Spotify playlist called CAFE MUSIC ~STUDIO GHIBLI Jazz & Bossa~ and it is playing pleasantly over a mini speaker. The coffee machine just served me a rich mug of decaf coffee (no paper cups here!), and I feel pretty calm. It’s either brilliant or nutty.
Our free month of netflix expires today. We’ve done a pretty lousy job of making the most of our trial, though we did finish whole season of Pandemic (which was great!). Last night, as I was trying to find something we could enjoy together, one of my suggestions was Taylor Swift’s documentary, Miss Americana. The other two members of the household swiftly (ha) yelled “NO”. “But it’s about her finding her political voice and stuff!” Still no. So I ended up watching it by myself last night.
Today, I’m not ashamed to call myself a Taylor fan — but sadly, this wasn’t always the case.
My first encounter with her music was in high school: a boy (!) had burned a CD copy (!!) of Fearless (2008!!!!) and surreptitiously passed it to me one morning before class. Listening to the album was a secret pleasure, especially since I didn’t feel that Taylor Swift’s music matched the weird Emo Indie Christian vibe I was trying to give off at the time.
The next album I listened to obsessively was 1989. This was when I was spending many hours a week driving an 11-year-old girl around the East Bay. I told myself I was playing Taylor’s music in the car for her sake, not mine, even though she definitely preferred Katy Perry. Again, I was ashamed and couldn’t really bring myself to admit that I enjoyed her music — plus, I was still trying to do the Emo Indie Christian thing.
It was somewhere between lifting weights to Reputation and running up and down Broad street to Lover that I started to feel okay owning my fandom. We also got to catch the Reputation tour in Toronto in 2018, surrounded by all of Canada’s 11-year-old girls and their parents. But I didn’t just like her music; I thought she was intelligent and honest and I respected that she was using her platform to speak out about sexual assault and to encourage young people to vote. I suspect that Taylor has two main fan clusters – those who were born when Fearless was released and those who were in high school 🙂 As someone who belongs to the latter camp, there is a strange and goosebumpy feeling around growing up in tandem with a celebrity and having them make music that continues to chronicle your evolving identity angst.
Miss Americana was thoroughly enjoyable – more than I had expected it to be. The main narrative focuses on how Taylor made the choice to become politically vocal after staying silent her whole career. And not just in tweets, but in her music, too: Only the Young is basically an anthem for disillusioned young people who’ve all but given up hope in our democracy. But there are many other aspects of Taylor’s life that we get to see as well: her songwriting process, her relationship with her parents (especially her mom), and her cat. For the first time, she talks explicitly about her struggles with body image and an eating disorder, which makes me want to give her a big hug – I think it’s incredibly brave. Obviously this is her documentary and so it’s going to paint her in a favorable light, but she does come off as an immensely likeable human in a way that would be very hard to fake.
Anyway, I thought she was likeable 🙂
I just wish I could get married again – I would’ve done our first dance to Lover and put a lot more TS in our dance music playlist. Though I’m not entirely sure the husband would agree 😍.
Did you know that YT had to stream videos exclusively in standard definition for a week because their servers were so overwhelmed by stay-at-homers? I can feel myself developing an unhealthy relationship with youtube during this time.
That said, there are some youtube videos / channels that have been immensely beneficial for my mental (+physical) health and overall sanity.
Relaxing Breath of the Wild Music With Rain
No exaggeration, I listen to this in the background every single day – from waking to sleeping. Unless I’m on a call or watching something else….or actually playing the game. It’s just SO GOOD.
I also listen to this one that has music from all Zelda games.
Hip Hop Fit
I do regular workout videos when I feel like it, but honestly lunges get stale after a while. Karl and I danced along to this “beginner-friendly” hip hop choreo video yesterday and had a ton of fun.
On a side note, it is annoyingly hard to find workout vidoes that don’t play on a viewer’s body image insecurities to motivate them. You know what I’m talking about. Let’s get shredded! Sweat off the pounds! Remember the body you came here to get! etc. Even if you started out feeling just fine about your body, you might subconsciously receive the message that you should be unhappy with your body and that you should want to change it. I generally like self.com for workouts that are body neutral and low in diet culture BS.
Last Week Tonight
For COVID-19 coverage, tragicomedy style.
Bob & Brad
They claim to be the two most famous physical therapists on the internet, lol. Lots of PT exercises, tips, and self-massage techniques to relieve anything from headaches to shoulder pain.
Comparative suffering. Empathy rationing. I do that a lot.
Example: Grocery shopping is so stressful right now.
Maybe you can relate (or maybe not) — whenever that thought crosses my mind, another thought immediately pops up and goes, How could I even think that? There’s so much privilege in that statement. I’m able-bodied, financially secure, young, and relatively healthy. What right do I have to be stressed out about meal planning and visiting the grocery store?
As it turns out, nobody is concerned about the nature of my specific stresses and whether they’re valid — other than myself. Surprise surprise.
So let this be my uncomfortable and unfettered attempt at owning how stressful I am finding meals and groceries right now.
I find myself unconsciously holding my breath when I’m outdoors, especially when there are people nearby. As you might imagine, this causes lightheadedness and other weird sensations.
Two people eating three meals a day at home go through a lot of food. It’s hard to come up with twenty meals every two weeks – and meals that will be enjoyed by two people who are often not on the same page about what they want to eat.
When I arrive at the store armed with a grocery list, I invariably find that most of those items are not available. In fact, there isn’t much of anything. But I must not leave empty-handed, because then I’ll have to come back and experience this all over again.
There is so much palpable panic in the air. I have almost crashed into other store patrons multiple times because we find ourselves doing a weird frenzied dance to avoid contact with each other.
I have no hand sanitizer. The store is often out of wipes.
Everybody is talking about COVID-19.
Things are changing on the daily. Limits on eggs. No store returns. Masking tape on the floor. Seating area closed. Change is stressful, even if not on a conscious level.
There you go. My little inner critic is screaming at me right now for whining about something like going grocery shopping. But my point here is that I can own and process my stress while ALSO being appreciative of all the things. I can be stressed about my ‘small’ stuff AND truly mourn and grieve how this epidemic has disproportionately affected more vulnerable folks.
And finally: This is an incredibly challenging time for anyone struggling with disordered eating or any obsessive/compulsive behaviors around food. Especially because they might not feel that their struggles are as valid as other struggles. If you are that person or know that person, please be kind <3. Also, check out this fantastic resource.
The mystery I have been pondering this week: social media, influencers, and the ethics of consumer awareness. This is really bugging me, but I haven’t found a good way to think about it.
The book I have been reading this week: Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang. So far, a little uneven. I preferred his first collection better. I did like the title of one of the stories, Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
Something I have been cooking this week: Poached eggs on toast. I realized I hadn’t poached an egg in over five years. They’re so good and the clean-up is minimal.
It’s been a dark, tumbling year. I know this blog was originally supposed to chronicle my career transition, but I feel sheepish and as though I have nothing to show for the past few years. I am often at a loss for words, even with my closest friends. I don’t know how to explain the things that have happened, the things I’m feeling, and where I am now. And I also don’t know if it all needs to be said – explained, rehashed, justified – over and over again.
I think I am learning to be at peace with that.
The way to become a lifestyle influencer is to embody all sorts of ideals that live just slightly underneath the surface of the conscious mind. Then you can sell anything. People will forfeit the opportunity to do interesting things in real life in order to watch you do mundane things on the internet. We are secretly desperate to move closer to the arbitrary ideal of any given place and time.
The way to become the opposite of a lifestyle influencer is to think critically about those ideals. It will sound tone-deaf, off-beat, and overall plain bad. It will be unpopular and you will most likely not sell things. But… there is no but. There is no real upside.
Now, I don’t know if this is something to brag about, but if I had to summarize the past few years, it would be like this: The Shattering Of Almost All My Ideals. And with the shattering, an incredible loss of identity and community. I’m left with nostalgia and memories of the past, but no real way to connect with those values and those people.
I’m sorry for being vague. I know this is not tumblr in the 2010s (though u gotta love tumblr in the 2010s). And thus I present my musings on the threshold of Spring 2020.
On a totally unrelated note, here is an incredible conversation I had with Karl early this morning (aka when I am having insomnia and he is having the opposite of insomnia):
R: Baby, what’s your favorite color?
R: Is it yellow? Mustard yellow?
K: mm-mm (no)
R: Is it green?
K: mm-mm (no)
R: What is it?
*Except we don’t really know if he said Hotdog or Hoddeok. The latter is plausible because we watched a video on how to pronounce Hoddeok the previous night.
**If you know Karl and want an audio recording, I have it.