I’m pregnant.

Yup. We’re having a baby – she’s kicking me right now.

It recently hit me that I’m about to head into the third trimester. I figured I should probably write something on this blog. But what? Recap all the TMI details of how pregnancy has been? Talk about the weirdness of pregnancy after infertility & loss? Discuss sleep-training and breastfeeding controversies? Type in all caps? Eventually decide to say nothing at all because there’s a tiny part of me that still doesn’t feel safe enough to announce to the internet that I’m pregnant?

I’ve settled on doing a Q&A with my previous self – the one in the thick of it and not knowing if she’d ever get out – and imagining the questions she would’ve wanted to ask me. Here goes…

How does it feel to FINALLY be pregnant with an actual baby? Oh, it feels pretty amazing. Even complaining about my tailbone and my reflux and baby kicking my bladder feels kind of thrilling: like humble-bragging, grateful-complaining.

How has your pregnancy been so far (physically)? I have an extremely detailed record of all my physical symptoms and when I experienced them. I’m sure you’re not surprised. To summarize, weeks 5-12 were horrible due to unrelenting, round-the-clock nausea and vomiting. I was also fatigued beyond what I could’ve imagined, but being knocked out was the only thing that really took the edge off the nausea so I didn’t mind that much. Weeks 12-17 were me slowwwwwwly transitioning out of feeling like crap and beginning to eat again. Weeks 18-24 were pretty amazing energy and appetite wise. Since then I’ve been heading into uncomfortable territory once more – backaches, pelvic pain, and food just…coming back up.

How has your pregnancy been so far (emotionally)? I was a nervous, anxious wreck until about 14-15 weeks. Even though every appointment/ultrasound was completely reassuring, I cried constantly and spiraled daily. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for my punishment to come. Therapy was my lifeline, and poor K put up with a lot from me (while going through a lot on his end too). But something shifted pretty quickly around 15 weeks – a combination of encouraging statistics, slowly beginning to see a bump, dwindling nausea, and starting to feel baby move around. My heart still feels really “tender” all the time – I cry at most TV shows, many youtube videos, and out of the blue. Sometimes I am just overcome with feeling – by how much I love my baby, how lucky I feel to have her. So, normal pregnant person stuff 🙂 But sometimes I think I’m still grieving (and will always be grieving) my experiences of infertility and loss. My path to pregnancy has been drastically different than the vast majority of my peers (especially at my age). I’m learning to own that and accept that.

When did your bump start growing and what does it feel like? If I’m honest, I didn’t see anything til about 12 weeks, and even then, I had to be trying really hard. 14 weeks I had a bump that might have been a baby but also might not (I felt huge, but looking back at pics I was laughably tiny). I think around 16-17 weeks I began to look more unmistakably pregnant. I measured my belly at 24 weeks and it had grown a whole 10 inches, which is incredible! Having a baby bump feels like…when you eat a lot of food and feel uncomfortably stretched out, except 10 times more intense, plus it’s hard to wear shoes/give hugs/wash dishes. And also, you’re still really hungry.

How has eating/body image stuff been? Has it been hard to watch your body grow? Actually, this has surprised me: so far, I feel really good in my body. I am eating a lot of food very frequently, and I don’t feel any guilt around my eating at all. If I’m honest, I’m dreading stretch marks (which 90% of pregnant people get!), though so far so good on that front. Anyway, I already have some stretch marks from my ED recovery and they’re not that bad once they’ve faded. I don’t flinch from looking at my body and it’s summer so it isn’t like I can hide under big hoodies. This isn’t to throw shade on anyone who isn’t feeling so good in their bodies, pregnant or not. I think that’s totally valid and I’m still mentally prepared for days like those. But it’s also super nice to know that it’s possible to be feeling okay.

Okay, last question. How the **** did you end up getting pregnant? Oh friend. Oh my love. I know you are completely convinced that your body is broken and needs fixing and that you just need to find the right diagnosis or to do however many rounds of IVF it takes. I know you roll your eyes and want to scream when your husband, both of your therapists, AND several well-meaning friends/family suggest that maybe, just maybe, there is nothing medically wrong with your body. That maybe your spirit needs healing and you need to stop fighting yourself and that your mind needs a break. That it’s been a monumentally difficult year or so of upheaval and grief and relational pain. I don’t mean that medical conditions causing infertility and loss don’t exist, they absolutely do. It’s just that you don’t seem to have any of them – which I know is even more frustrating. You have healing work to do that doesn’t involve any more procedures or supplements. And that’s how you end up pregnant, with child, with life.

Self-care vs Resilience

This is a topic I did some research on recently for my program. I was so intrigued and couldn’t believe that this wasn’t being talked about more! Basically, it addresses an unnamed question that I haven’t been able to answer very well:

Why does self-care feel so…meh?

(for lack of a better word)

When COVID-19 hit, I was constantly talking about and hearing about the importance of self-care. Confession: it wasn’t very convincing. Sure, I love bubble baths, candles, and essential oils as much as anyone. Working out and taking steps to eat and sleep well are game-changers for my mental health. But if I’m honest, prioritizing “self-care” (as defined by popular culture) never took anything more than a tiiiiny edge off from my mountain of anxiety, chronic stress, and sadness.

Source: https://thingsgrow.me

According to Patricia Kerig (2018) – who has done a lot of research on how to address burnout and secondary traumatic stress in helping professionals – here are three reasons why self-care just doesn’t cut it sometimes:

  1. The emphasis is on the individual, not the system. It places the burden on the person at the mercy of unhealthy or even toxic systems to do all the work. Organizations and more powerful entities don’t have to take any responsibility.
  2. Self-care activities often work by helping us to distract from unpleasant emotions, rather than providing us the tools to process them. Caveat – I am a huge fan of distraction. But I know that it can’t be the only tool in my toolkit.
  3. It isn’t a very culturally-sensitive concept – it can feel awkward or produce resistance because it feels self-centered.

To make up for these deficits, Kerig developed a curriculum called Resilience for Trauma-Informed Professionals (R-TIP). She defines resilience as an interaction between self & environment; is a set of skills that can be developed rather than a personality trait. It is also multidimensional (emotional intelligence, meaning-making, interpersonal relationships).

If you’re a mental health professional, there is a continuing education course available here. I’m also citing her paper below.

But since most of us don’t have time to read a research paper and are not members of the APA, here are my takeaways re: how we can reframe the way we think about self-care:

  1. When feeling burned out, consider that this is not a reflection of individual failure or weakness on your part. Try to get curious about the systems you’re a part of – your workplace, school, household, etc – and see if there is a way you can ask for support or have your needs advocated for.
  2. Consider how to develop strategies for dealing with stressful and traumatic situations in the moment, and not just after the fact. If you’re anticipating a triggering or stressful day/event, be prepared and have a plan. Breathing, mantras, and escape strategies can be useful.
  3. Be careful of practicing self-care that is lacking in self-compassion. It’s so easy to take self-care and make it performative! Notice if you start telling yourself things like, “I failed really bad at self-care today, I need to do better.” Practicing self-compassion makes us more empathetic with others too. Sometimes we are so used to this punitive posture that we punish ourselves with our so-called self-care! (e.g. working out even when we’re exhausted, letting the logistics of self-care activities create even more stress, etc). It’s ok to let go of things that aren’t promoting healing and nourishment.
  4. Ask for feedback. Even though I like to think of myself as a highly self-aware individual, I know that I’m a poor judge of my true mental/emotional state. If you’re feeling brave enough, asking for honest feedback from a close friend or a family member can be valuable. I’ll ask my partner, “How do you think I’m coping with life? In your opinion, is ___ working for me?”. Sometimes the answer is hard to hear! But it’s in the spirit of trying to be more collaborative and systems-aware in the way we care for ourselves.

Source:

Kerig, P. K. (2019). Enhancing resilience among providers of trauma-informed care: A curriculum for protection against secondary traumatic stress among non-mental health professionals. Journal of aggression, maltreatment & trauma, 28(5), 613–630.

The Unlikeliest Gamer, aka me

This is a long overdue tribute to the Legend of Zelda series for helping to bring unexpected healing, hope, and joy to my soul over the past two years.

I was taught – by the lovely combination of my moralistic singaporean education and conservative church upbringing – that video games were dangerous. Addictive. A waste of time, an idol of the heart. Gaming will make you red-eyed and sleep-deprived and relationally-stunted and, of course, violent and cruel. You will get into trouble with strangers online. You will lose control and not be able to stop. I was wary of boys who gamed (which was many of them, especially in my field of study)…lucky for my husband, he never talked much about how formative video games had been for him when we were dating, or I might have tragically judged him 😛

In 2019, I started getting serious about weeding out beliefs & values that no longer made sense for me to hold on to as an adult. Some of these core beliefs had to do with heavy-type stuff, like my theology, sexuality, politics, cultural identity, and body image. And some of these beliefs were a little more frivolous, but no less important. For example, I gave myself permission to have really, really, really long hair. I’d been raised to believe that short hair was, I don’t know, more sensible and chaste and somehow good, but my hair is now down to my belly button, and I love it. Another example – I started using the dishwasher for the first time in my life, which is antithetical to the industriously-wash-everything-by-hand complex I’d somehow internalized. Stuff like that.

Skyward Sword & Twilight Princess

So when my husband brought home the family Wii, along with two Legend of Zelda games (Skyward Sword & Twilight Princess), I was curious.

https://www.taminggaming.com/game/The+Legend+of+Zelda+Skyward+Sword

I started out by watching him play Skyward Sword. He would encourage me to play, but I was too nervous. I remember trying to walk Link up a plank and being terrified of falling off. I didn’t have any controller muscle memory from my childhood to fall back on, and so everything felt awkward and clumsy. Monsters scared the crap out of me, and I would actually scream whenever a Bokoblin or a Deku Baba showed up on the screen.

But I rapidly – really rapidly – fell in love with the puzzles, the logic, the art, the terrible dialog, the music, and the act of doing something for FUN. I wanted my own file, and ended up playing through the whole game twice. I remained terrified of combat, though, and would beg and beg for K to fight bosses for me and just let me do the puzzles, side quests, and dungeons. And of course collecting and hoarding crap. He always refused, and I gradually had to overcome my terror – and my illogical fear of failure. I woke up with a sore right arm many times during those months. The feeling of triumph when I beat a boss for the first time…priceless.

So I was done with Skyward Sword and ready to move on to my next Zelda game. To be honest, Twilight Princess was too scary for me. Midna is so freaking creepy. So I just enjoyed watching K play and had to look away whenever he transformed into Wolf Link. To my delight, being able to share Zelda together as a couple felt like a way for us to level up in our relationship. I would look up guides for him and we would play through the game as a team. It felt so refreshing to be able to share a world with him that was outside of meal-planning, chores, organizing our social calendar, and hashing out our feelings/differences. Luckily for us, it wasn’t long before we got our hands on not one, but TWO Nintendo Switches, along with the hottest new Zelda game…aka Breath of the Wild, thanks to our very generous friends. So K and I could both play at the same time lol.

Breath of the Wild

What can I say? This game was a pretty big shock after SS & TP – just look at the art. It occupied me for nearly a year. Sometimes a scene would make me cry. I’m not going to attempt to explain the game, but playing BotW was without a doubt the most spiritually engaging experience I’d had in years. I felt real grief that I’d waited so long to discover this world. The musical score became one of my primary calming mechanisms – to the extent that I talked about it frequently in therapy. The shrines, logic puzzles, and the very complicated physics problems were like candy for the nerd in me who wasn’t getting much of a kick out of helping kids with elementary school math at my job. Some of the puzzles were pretty tough – especially the Divine Beasts.

We eventually gave in and bought the expansion pack, hehe.

Did the hundreds of hours I spent playing BotW make me a better person? I want to say that they did. I worked through my fear of failure and risk-taking. I was moved to tears by the art, humanity, and of course the engineering genius that went into the making of this game. My husband, sister-in-law and I routinely spent delicious evenings yelling at the tops of our voices at whomever happened to be playing. “USE STASIS YOU DUMMY” “YOU SHOULD EAT THE MIGHTY BANANAS” “YOU PRESSED TOO EARLY TO PARRY ATTACK” “GET OFF THE HORSE” “THAT’S NOT THE BEST PLACE TO FARM THE SHARD OF FAROSH’S FANG” “WHY DON’T YOU EVER HAVE ANY MONEY” etc. etc. It definitely helped to let off some steam during the tension and misery of lockdown 😉

The game, vast and sprawling as it is, did not last forever. The day came for me to beat Ganon (pretty anticlimactic imo) and eventually I got tired of hunting koroks and upgrading my gear. Thankfully, there were still plenty of games in the Zelda series to tap into (or get back into, for K).

Ocarina of Time

We purchased an N64 USB controller from Walmart (for less than $10!), downloaded an emulator and our next gaming adventure, The Ocarina of Time. OoT was released in 1998, and was an entirely different experience from BotW (2017) or SS (2011). Here is me as young Link, chilling in Kakariko Graveyard in my Firesuit.

Even though I was anticipating a less sophisticated experience, OoT was a true delight to play. I was determined to use as little of the online guides as possible, which made it extra rewarding. I inherited some vicarious nostalgia from K and all of his friends, for whom OoT triggered some serious ~feelings~ and memories of, you know, simpler times. OoT took me to the very start of 2021, and I officially beat Ganon on January 2nd of this year. All by myself and on my first try.

Majora’s Mask & Wind Waker

Which brings me to the present. K is playing (and recently beat) Majora’s Mask, and it was probably the most existential and profound game of the lot – really underrated. I am playing Wind Waker (and loving the Irish themes!!). I’m incredibly proud of myself for learning four different controllers (Wii, Switch, N64, GameCube) in spite of the initial clumsiness. I learned that it is okay and non-consequential to die – and die several times over – in a video game. My reflexes are much sharper, I’m able to calm myself down and focus during combat, and I want to say that I don’t scream as much when I am startled by something. I have bonded in an entirely new and wonderful way with my husband and my SIL. We even connected with two of our favorite elementary school kiddos over Zelda – whenever we see them, it’s all we talk about.

(Also…totally decorated our living room with these BotW travel posters)

The biggest gift that these Zelda games have given me is something to look forward to when it felt like everything just…sucked. Sounds small, but I believe that these games have worked a miracle in the midst of my depression and anxiety over the past couple of years. I remember one time my period was a few days late, and I thought I might finally be pregnant. When I started bleeding – aka not pregnant – I decided to lie in bed with a heating pad on my belly and play Zelda. Of course it didn’t take the sting away, but it was a relaxing and enjoyable activity that felt accessible to me. When you’re depressed and don’t have the energy to do anything, having something you look forward to is no small feat. In fact, it’s priceless, and you should keep doing it (within reason) until it’s no longer helpful or enjoyable.

Here’s to years & years of playing through Zelda games and prioritizing fun (and unlearning old biases). TBH one of the things that makes us most excited to be parents is looking forward to playing Zelda with our kids, heh. Here’s also to hoping that Nintendo gets its act together and finally decides to release BotW 2…

Wintry updates

We launched a podcast

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!

Attempt at light-hearted summer update

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.

That’s all!

A toolkit for surviving the deconstruction of my faith

*Deep breath*

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.)

But without further ado…

Books

Non-fiction – religion/spirituality

  • Rescuing Jesus, Deborah Jian Lee [link]
  • Falling Upward, Richard Rohr [link]
  • The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen, Lisa Gungor [link]
  • Inspired, Rachel Held Evans [link]
  • You Are Your Own: A Reckoning with the Religious Trauma of Evangelical Christianity, Jamie Lee Finch [link]
  • Every Moment Holy, Douglas McKelvey [link]
  • Stages of Faith, James Fowler [link, summary]
  • Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Pete Scazzero [link]
  • Boundaries, Henry Cloud & John Townsend [link]

Fiction/memoir

  • The Crosswicks Journal (series), Madeleine L’Engle [link]
  • Any fiction by Wendell Berry [link]
  • Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis [link]

Podcasts

  • Reclaiming My Theology, all of it [link]
  • Evolving Faith – this
  • Another Name for Every Thing – this, this, this
  • The Liturgists – particularly this
  • Unlocking Us (with Brene Brown) – second half of this especially

Music

  • Kings Kaleidoscope (Zeal, Beauty Between)
  • Gungor (Archives)
  • Andy Mineo (II: The Sword)
  • General permission to take a break from CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) and to wholeheartedly enjoy music that *gasp* isn’t directly praising Jesus

Miscellaneous

  • Wine
  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild + Expansion Pack
  • Enneagram
  • Centering Prayer

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.

Manifesting Coffee Shops

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.

That’s all I wanted to share 🙂

Musings on T. Swizzle

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 😍.

Helpful youtube videos

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.

That’s it for now!

Spring

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The tree outside our home has decided to bloom.

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?
K: *grunt*
R: Is it yellow? Mustard yellow?
K: mm-mm (no)
R: Is it green?
K: mm-mm (no)
R: What is it?
K: Hotdog.*

*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.