Thursday, December 23, 2010

Back from the Dark Side of...Not Blogging


Sorry for not writing in so long.  Between Thanksgiving, the end of classes, final projects, saying goodbye (many times) to the semester CIEE students, starting a new semester, going out, running errands, and a sprinkling of medical issues have made for a very interesting--and busy--two and a half weeks.  My friends are traveling in Southeast Asia, and I have a new schedule which allows me to attend classes in the afternoon, providing me the much-needed time and space to slow down and really take things in.

I have been using the free time for reflecting and feeling.  For those of you who have had a conversation with me that has lasted longer than thirty seconds, you may have noticed I'm a bit...cerebral.  Emotions and I haven't always been on the best of terms.  I would even go so far as to say I don't like them.  At all.  They are messy and have a will of their own.  Crying?  What the hell?  I don't have time for something as banal as crying.  Don't my feelings know I am studying A Very Hard Language to become a Person who is Going Places and Making Her Way in the World?

Apparently not.

About two weeks ago I stormed into Christie's office (the director of CIEE--Taipei division) with a list of demands.  I needed help with housing.  Four people in one tiny living space was getting too much to handle, the bathrooms had long since been out of hand, and now there were rats.  Not to mention there was some kind of bureaucratic miscommunication with my winter tuition bill, and I had paid the wrong person.    Add Mandarin Chinese to this mixture.  Get a very pissed off twenty-one year old.

I had told Christie about my history of depression, but, as with most things about me that are close to the vest, I dressed it up with an anecdote and presented it with an ironic twist.  I have become quite good at this kind of disingenuous charm.  I didn't want people to think I was this vessel of melancholy petulance who spent her nights crying because she felt unloved.

Which, of course, I was.  For a long time.

The conversation quickly veered away from what I thought was going to be a "business" meeting to some of the more tender feelings that lay underneath my frustration and brusqueness (i. e. homesickness).   The next thing I knew, I was blubbering like a little girl.  In the CIEE office, of all places.

That conversation helped me pin down a specific fear: I am afraid of asking for help because I dread appearing to be incompetent to others.  She encouraged me to try to expose the emotions I was feeling to the light, because repressed feelings fester "like worms digging into the dirt", she explained.  I know this to be true from years of therapy and consulting with mental health professionals, but there is a difference between knowing something intellectually and actually being prepared to deal with it.

In my case especially, this difference is about a hemisphere wide.

Christie advised me to notice where an emotion is in my body when I feel it.  I've been taking her advice, which has forced me to slow down and pay attention to myself.  The book she loaned me--essentially a manual for feeling things--takes these guidelines further.  Does the feeling have a texture inside of you?  A color?  A shape?  One thing I have noticed is that I'm shaking a lot less, because I'm no longer forcing my feelings into a deep dark corner in my chest.  I've just been letting what rises rise, without judging anything.

Allowing my emotions to come up naturally has also opened up a Pandora's box of memories that I had stuffed away into an attic of I'm Not Going to Deal With This Ever.  But, as I've learned, pain does not kill you.  It waxes and wanes, and it's an indicator of a malady that needs attention, as with physical pain.  Good memories of myself have surfaced as well.  Memories when the world was a good place, and I was secure and happy.  One particular memory that I enjoyed was when I was about four and I was grocery shopping with my mother.  I had a pair of what I called "fireman" boots, which were black and yellow rubber boots that exactly matched the jackets of the firemen in our neighborhood.  I often saw the firemen grocery shopping, and I always made it a point to tell them that I had boots just like theirs.  And, wasn't it cool that I was grocery shopping just like them?  The fact that my mother was paying for all the food and pushing me in the grocery cart was but an insignificant detail.  I was food shopping.

And I always got M&Ms at the checkout counter.  Life was sweet (no pun intended).

This is why I've been a little out of touch.  Feeling things has been inconvenient and strange, but necessary.  My friends have also been dragging me on shopping trips and clubbing marathons to keep me from being mired in my own reveries and reflections.  And a tiny little hiccup called Advanced Chinese classes has been beckoning my attention.

So.  If you are reading this, thanks for your patience and understanding.  I told you all this wouldn't be a blog of Look At Me Eat A Piece of Exotic Food and Attempt to Speak a Foreign Language.  I'm not saying this to judge all the other travel blogs, guides, and memoirs that have this content.  I just believe in truth in advertising.

Know that I am happy and safe.  To my family back home, much love.  To my new friends in Taiwan, I look forward to spending more time together in our new home.  To my classmates who have already returned home or are returning soon, I wish you a safe trip and a restful vacation with your families.  Keep in touch.

Peace and Joy.  And a very Merry Christmas and a glorious New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Letter to My Mother

PREFACE: I wrote this letter to my mom while procrastinating working on my final project.  My friend, who, like me, is a smart, beautiful capable person fed up with male mediocrity, insisted I share this letter to the whole world.  I told her that I'd publish it on my blog later but she was having none of it.  She told me to post it now.  So, what the heck?  No time like the present.  Life is too short.

Elizabeth Edwards died two days ago.  And I feel horrible that such an accomplished woman died overshadowed by scandal.

She believed in her husband, championed his cause, raised his children.  And how did her husband pay her back?  He had an a tawdry affair, fathered a child, and denied it.  While his wife had cancer.

Imagine if the roles were switched.  What would people say about Elizabeth if she had an affair and ran for president while her husband had cancer?

Will she be remembered for her intelligence, her career, her eloquence, or her passion for her causes?  Nope.  She will be remembered as the wife of a failed presidential candidate.  As the caricature "Saint Elizabeth".  As a monster who screeched at her aides and at her unfaithful husband.

Her life, one full of potential, has been reduced to a Page Six blurb.  All because of her stupid husband.

I'm realizing how unbelievably unfair our society is.  A few weeks ago I went shopping with Marta.  She needed to buy a camera and I provided company and interpretation services.  We were in a department store looking at creams and makeup and diamond rings.  The entire floor was devoted to women's beauty products, and they were quite expensive.  Most floors in department stores are filled with products for women.  And yet, women make 77 cents for every dollar men make in the U. S.  How is that?

If I have to spend the rest of my life alone, I'm prepared to do it.  Days like today I don't know why I'm working so hard to acquire a skill set and understand myself, but I know that it will be worth it one day.  If I have to work three times as hard as a man to get any recognition, then so be it.  If no man meets my standards right now because I'm too busy busting my a** to make something of myself, then so be it.  Let them call me a b***.  Let them call me heartless.  But I will not die under the burden of someone else's failures.