Retreat: Testimony

Wow.

So I forced myself to drive out to the university where spring retreat was being held- I had seen many pictures of this place in all the pictures I stalked when I first befriended my fellowship friends last summer so I was curious to check it out.  The night before, my anxiety kept me up all night with me knowing I should show up at a respectful time to participate, especially since I felt guilty that I had not paid anything and had not planned to come, much less stay.  Nobody knows how hard it is to push the small part of yourself through all the anxiety and fear, simply to challenge yourself to be present in the experiences of life, no matter what they are.  Something so natural to someone else, like looking forward to how fun retreat is, or a vacation, is stressful to me no matter what.

Anyway, as usual, there were things I was not too keen on, one of them being the Sunday message given by the pastor (more on that in another post), but one of the most crazy experiences this Sunday was testimony.  To be honest, I was a little apprehensive as the last testimony I witnessed was during their Thanksgiving dinner led by the pastor… it felt a bit forced and inauthentic, with every single tumor that disappeared, every mini good thing that happened, resounding in ‘PRAISE THE LORD.’

I thought it was strange that testimony was scheduled for more than an hour as nobody spoke for the first five to ten minutes.  However, slowly but surely, one by one people went up to speak.  These felt spoken from the heart.  One kid was in high school, and he talked about how he felt he was in a dark place, and was depressed that he wasn’t getting good grades.  He said he knew that it might get better, yet he might regret if he didn’t speak up about it.  Another who really got to me was Donna, Bobby’s mom who lost both her father and her husband AND got cancer all around the same time… nuts.  She apologized for being difficult to be around and also spoke of her pain and gratitude for the kids especially.  It was really hard to listen to her, but I felt her suffering, and a couple people were crying with her.  It was so real, and I was almost tempted to go up and talk about my experiences too, except I still don’t know if I’m completely convinced of the beliefs in the bible and I still question a lot of things… but I do wish I have the courage one day to speak up, and at least talk about my personal experiences or give a word to encourage others, especially the younger kids.

May 2, 2017 Update and Thoughts on Identity

I finished watching “Sing” last night and I have to say, even though it was more enjoyable than not, I couldn’t help but compare it side by side to the other Pixar films and feel that it fell a bit flat.  First of all, maybe there were just too many characters with subplots that the overall arch had a little struggle in transition and screenplay… my favorite was probably Johnny and his father’s relationship and how it reconciled towards the end, that was touching.  But the rest felt a bit disconnected and the emotion didn’t feel translated well, particularly with Buster Moon and Meena’s story.  It was lacking a bit of a magical, more in-depth touch that Pixar movies like Toy Story, Up and Finding Nemo/Finding Dory has.  That said, I will refrain from judging the whole of Sony vs. Pixar animations since Pixar’s had a few apparently lackluster ones recently, such as “The Good Dinosaur” and “Cars 2”.


 

On the days when I wallow in depression or pity for myself, whatever mood or situation that brought me down tends to lead to other thoughts that bring more negativity.  I noticed that in a lot of the issues regarding inequality in America, I don’t necessarily have it the worst – for example, I am not a black woman,  I am not a refugee, and I am not living in poverty.  However, there are many other parts of my identity that I am discriminated against, and I start to sit back and count all the ways in which I am “losing out” in our society.  Asian, a woman, and also dealing with chronic illness and anxiety/depression issues.

But you know what?  I don’t particularly concentrate on that every moment of my life- most of the time, I’m just, me.  And in another perspective, I have one foot in in multiple kinds of discriminative causes and conditions, and that gives me a firsthand look into other people’s eyes and experiences.  I have greater empathy and understanding because of it, and I can use this as a strength in life.

“You’re either a Blessing or a Lesson”

I found this quote somewhere on tumblr a long time ago, I think it might’ve been said by Frank Ocean but don’t quote me on that. This particular thought always stayed with me with the way I interacted with people.

As a homeschooled child, I never realized how naive my expectations for other people in the world were.  In a sense, I probably believed I was better than everyone else, in that I held myself to high moral standards, and my friend once told me that I was one of the few people she felt had such a moral compass who would never do the wrong thing or hurt someone.  My college years, I learned two things:  the full extent of my ability to hurt somebody I cared about (even unintentionally), and second of all, just how wrong the assumption that others hold the same beliefs, perceptions, or morals you do is.

I entered college beginning to experiment so that I could find my sense of self, both on a personality and aesthetic level- I made mild changes such as growing my hair long, got it ombre’d, began wearing some make up, piercing my ears, paying attention to the way I dressed more and how I carried myself.  It was such a sense of vulnerable freedom, to spread your wings out yet knowing that the immediate safety net of your parents weren’t beneath if you fell.  I tried to reinvent myself for the better- the cooler, more confident version of me.  To my disbelief, I was not quite a wallflower anymore, and even though I was still really shy, I forced myself to try to venture out my shell, and realized people not only seemed to notice me, but liked me.

However, my confidence was still in a budding phase, and the few people I felt a click with, I attached myself to quickly; I saw only their great qualities when they showed me a small act of kindness, and without realizing it, I subconsciously put them on a pedestal.  And then the first time they broke my trust or let me down, I felt myself spiraling downhill.  I wasn’t sure why my sense of other people’s emotions were so heightened, and oftentimes I can’t fall asleep at night being overwhelmed by all the problems that exist everywhere: I wish I could turn it off.

The intensity of my personality has given me the ability to observe and for the most part, see each individual clearly for both their flaws, potential, and beauty.  Everyone possesses both “good” and “bad” qualities, and these traits are what make them unique. I grew up seeing the world in black and white, but now I see that many things fall in the gray. Things don’t always work out in life, and we might end up becoming lessons in other people’s stories, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving to be blessings.

As for ourselves, once we realize not everyone around us think on the same wavelength, we can reach a better understanding and be more tolerant and take things less personally.  If someone wrongs you, they are simply a lesson; move on, and cherish the ones who are blessings.

Embrace your strengths, and continue improving the rest.

She Needed a Hero

“She needed a hero, so that’s what  she became.”  -Pinterest somewhere

Sometimes, life gets to you.  And I think especially with people dealing with chronic illnesses, it can feel so constant and repetitive like a truck repeatedly running you over.

These days, as the weather gets colder and colder and we hit the 20s at night, I am more and more susceptible to darker thoughts of depression and wanting to give up and lay in my bed forever, to avoid all risks and perils of being outside.  I had a moment a couple nights ago where I realized it was food poisoning later, but that night I felt such discomfort and anxiety that I felt like I was going to lose my mind… I had been feeling this crazy anxiety all week, and insomnia was hitting me so hard again.  My body couldn’t relax, my thoughts were clouding my mind, and as much as I wanted to calm myself and tell myself that it was all temporary, just a bad night of nightmares mirrored in reality, I got scared with fleeting thoughts scattered into my brain of temptation.  The worst kind of temptation, where I thought it would be better to slit my wrists, drown myself, than endure more of this never-ending suffering.  And I knew I would never follow through with it, because at the end of the day, it does take just as much courage to end your life as it does to choose to keep going, and I picture images of my parents looking at me, horrified by how much work they invested to help me, and I failed them. But I felt like I was being repeatedly punished anyway when all I wanted to do was be.  Not constantly survive, but just exist.  Float around, and try to achieve some “normal” milestones in life, like get a job, maintain a social life, date, explore.  Because all of that isn’t already hard enough by itself, right?

The feeling I’d been having deep in the pit of my stomach lately is mainly anger, and then guilt.  Feeling like I am not a good enough friend, or daughter, while struggling to fix what’s on my plate.   And trying to make sure I’m vulnerable and open to other people with my struggles, but not overburdening them or scaring them away with the amount of problems I have.  Nobody likes being around unhappy people.

In addition, once you share that information with people, it can either go really well or downhill.  People might start to distance themselves and you become “the Other,” the sickly one they don’t really want to deal with… or they start hovering and panicking and treating you like you’re really different and need assistance with every little thing, like you’re useless.  That’s how my grandma and cousin reacted and it became really exhausting and annoying quickly.  Or I suppose, there were the few handful of great friends I still have now who have always treated me like a human being, but put into consideration my needs whenever I needed, and I will always treasure and love them for that.  Sharing their day and problems with me, just as I do, the way it’s supposed to be:  Equals.  No pity, no ignorance, none of that shit.

Secondly, trying so hard not to be consumed by fear.  Fear that I am not capable of being loved, that no one will ever be able to or want to deal with me, fear that I have nothing to offer them.  Knowing all of it is not true, yet somehow still standing here, wondering.

Thirdly, just the isolation.  This is about to sound real emo, but it’s crazy how many times I’m surrounded by so many people, yet feel so alone.

Some days, I’m able to work through it and just think, fuck it, I’m fine.  Everything’s fine.  Just breathe.  Other days, and it’ll get worse as we get deeper into winter, I can’t help but feel shackled to a singular spot, paralyzed by the knowledge that I both know and don’t know.  What I can expect, and can’t expect to have out of life.

And then the people that I feel relatively comfortable around and at peace with, at the same time, don’t.  I’m tired of hearing people use the common response “Pray about it.”  I very much want to give in that it’s out of my hands and part of a greater plan, but I can’t.  Do it.  Maybe it’s my resistance to giving up which is what it would feel like, or my inability to just hand over my faith blindly, and I want to pray to God and ask him for help, yet things in life still keep rolling on whether or not he’s really answered.

Am I believer?  I don’t know.  Do I believe Jesus died on the cross for our sins and is our Savior?  I’d like to.  But I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.

It Never Ends

I spend all week feeling some type of way, trying not to feel so much because it’s too much to handle- I feel like Tommen in Game of Thrones some days.  Of course, compared to that world I guess this one is okay, but any worse and I’d want to jump off a cliff too.

What is the light at the end of the tunnel?  Maybe this week’s is meeting new people and friends and attempting some norms like laughter and blending in with everyone else.  But once the day approaches, I’m feeling another type of way. Anxiety.  Fear.  Feelings of doubt- why do I bother, why do I try, why can’t I turn off my thoughts, why is it so hard just to, be?

Is it supposed to be this hard for everybody, because I don’t think it’s the same?

This week’s two favorite pieces of music:

  1.  A new discovery, which is “Save Me” by the korean boy band BTS.  They’re not perfect, but I’m impressed with the vibe of the song and the dance.
  2. An old favorite, which is “Forrest Gump” by Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE, also my favorite color… while we’re at it, my other songs that I like by him are “Pink Matter” and “Lost.”

Sigh.  I’m in a sad place right now, but I won’t talk about it here until I’m ready.

 

Life can be (but is not always) Farting Sunshine and Rainbows, But It’s Okay

I don’t know if anyone else follows a certain page featuring kids with special needs, but for the past year I’ve followed Christopher Ulmer’s mission relatively closely.  I support his goal to interview these people and to share their stories and perspectives with the rest of the world as normal human beings who just want to be accepted and treated the same way.  But maybe I’m feeling pessimistic today?  I’ve definitely been feeling annoyed at a lot of things lately.

I would always watch each video uploaded the day it came out and try to learn what I could from what I saw. But one thing nags me right now.  It just seems unrealistic that every single one of these human beings give happy-go-lucky answers, smiling about how they think about girls, friends, and their mom, and how they want to spread love and joy and appreciate everyone and all those good feels.  I’m not hating on it, I think it’s great, but it starts to feel repetitive and, well… can we call out the elephant in the room and discuss more about feelings and the tough parts?

Because it’s okay to feel anger, frustration, and pain at what hand you’ve been dealt in life.  It doesn’t do to focus on it and become drowned in it, but at least, speaking for myself here, there are moments, days, weeks, even months when you just have had it and you’re fed up.  At those times, is it not human, all the more real of emotions, to just let yourself feel, go through it, and then try to try again?   I want someone to say all this in one of his interviews, because it’s real.  It’s the truth.  That is what it means to be an inspiration:  getting back up despite everything, not a few seconds of positive babble that downplays their experiences and has cheerful, content, beaming kids in every clip.  I just feel like when all the kids appear to be of the same mold and outlook, it’s not a full or completed portrayal of the full range of human experiences.  For the people who go through chronic conditions as well as the people surrounding them who help, it’s different.

To “normal”, healthy people, I would like to explain what it is exactly that chronic conditions are like.  Sure, everyone goes through rough patches in life, maybe break ups, loss of job, those kinds of situations.  But having a chronic illness is like having a guarantee of those things either existing 24/7, reminding you with every small thing you do like breathing, moving a couple feet downstairs, or needing to ask someone for a favor.  People with chronic conditions have to wear a mental suit of armor at all times.  So when I see privileged people get all worn down by something like grades or worrying about not getting a job despite a 4.0 GPA and a million extracurriculars, I can’t help but feel a little pissed off and discouraged.

It’s a bit like someone getting upset that they got distilled water instead of spring water, when so many people elsewhere have access to no water at all:  there is almost little to no chance of them obtaining it.  So, just to even know there is a possibility, a hope, to gain something if you work hard at it and have a bit of luck, is a huge thing by itself.  What the absolutely worst circumstance is knowing that you will never get that opportunity, because it’s simply not in the cards for you.

And tonight, I’ll whine a bit and get it all out, but come tomorrow?  Tomorrow, I will have no choice but to wake up and work at it again, replenishing my mental and physical attitude as best as I can.  Even though you’re standing in the middle of the gym or the supermarket and feel really off and just unwell, you’re still standing there, smiling at strangers, holding up a conversation, putting on a mask to blend in with society so that you fit in as best you can.  And as you steer yourself towards the car with the handicap spot, you take down the sign because you don’t feel like you deserve or want that label for yourself.  Moments later, you see a tall, white dude walk out, stare at your car in its forefront spot, peer at you, and decide to continue walking.  And then, ladies and gentlemen, you know once again, that you have been judged in the span of five seconds.  But what options do you have, except to brush it off and continue on your day?

For so long, I felt like I had no right to complain, but I do.  It’s not okay to take it out on other people, but I do have a right to feel sad or upset.  It’s okay to feel this way.  It’s okay to be realistic and just call things out on what they are sometimes.  After all, we DON’T live in a world that shits sunshine and rainbow farts.  There is a lot of cruelty and injustice happening all the time, all you have to do is turn on the news to get that.  We can’t blindly ignore it as if it were not part of our world, but we also cannot let ourselves become consumed by it.  What a delicate balance and just plain fucking hard thing to do.

Courage

It’s been two years since the worst time of my life, and I’m really proud of me and thankful to my friends for getting me through that period.  The scary part is that it’s not over, and that moments like that might return. You will battle your mind every second, everyday, and for me, my body as well.  How do you even begin to heal?  I think maybe you don’t, the best you can hope for is the courage to manage.

This blog I’ve started is my own personal space of happiness, and while I don’t want to deny the part of me that hurts, a reminder for all the good things is maybe what I need.  I had a huge mental breakdown today, and could feel myself slipping downwards- I wish there was some way to alert others as if you were holding up an “S.O.S.” sign.  Constantly worrying and standing on the edge of a hole man.  I’m exhausted.

But I’ve made it this far, haven’t I?  Look back on the few greatest moments that have graced your life, and let yourself feel, but then try to remember all the positive, even if it’s a tiny handful or is yet to happen.  Live to achieve that feeling, because it will remind you of everything that you’ve withstood and represent, which is Courage.  Courage doesn’t always show up in just the actions of a doctor, firefighter, or activist.  Sometimes it goes unnoticed, unappreciated, even.  But recognize it for yourself.  And try to channel it towards something better or greater.  That’s all I can say as a note to myself, and for anybody reading this now.

What I Learned in Taiwan

That year had been particularly rough on me, and I remember being on a bus in a desperate attempt to swig away my sorrows at TCNJ Senior Night, texting on a whim confirmation to my parents to sign me up for school in Taipei.  I was and am always hesitant and doubtful of new and scary experiences, but my grief momentarily blinded me from worrying, and it ended up being one of the best. decisions. ever.  Not knowing what to expect, my mom and I hopped on a plane in late May, and our first days of exploring the campus of National Taiwan Normal University excited me endlessly.  My mom finally coped enough to leave me to my independence after two or three weeks, and that week and a half was the funnest ever.  Sure, there were moments where I was so exhausted I was just barely able to move to buy myself dinner, and sure, the dorm’s strict curfew of 11:30pm was annoying, but for the most part, I was content to be able to manage my life without feeling so restricted.  Among the highlights of my trip were:

    1. Visiting my moms’ old friend’s village, which felt like a town in a Miyazaki film.  Her sweet and kindhearted family can COOK.
    2. Meeting up with my TCNJ friend Lauren at Danshui and having the MOST MAGICAL BUBBLE TEA at a cute cafe
    3. Going to Beitou Hot Springs and trying to compete against stolid old people by sitting in boiling water on a 90+ degree summer day- guess whose fingers were prunier?? Yeah, we didn’t win.
    4. Typhoon night where I huddled in my dorm with two yams from 7-Eleven
    5. Attending a 12 Cellos concert, courtesy of my aunt (phenomenal performance) in Kaohsiung
    6. Meeting new people, eating and bonding on mini-trips

During these mini travels, after months of therapy was I able to muster the courage to communicate my needs to new friends.  I tried to mask my shaky confidence as I explained what I needed: their understanding in walking slowly with me because it was hard for me.  I still remember the fear I felt bringing it up to my friend Nio as I walked with him and another guy through the streets, realizing if I didn’t say something soon I wouldn’t be able to keep up, and I was tired.  Surprisingly, without blinking or giving me any side look of pity, Nio said “Sure,” slowed down and casually asked me what my condition was.  A heavy weight lifted from my shoulders, and I felt acceptance.  What I learned was that as inconvenient as conditions like mine were and as rare as awesome people are to find, they exist. And sometimes you have to forgive yourself and distinguish yourself from your chronic conditions, and take a leap of faith in opening up.  Recognize that sometimes, you are not the problem.