Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A MILLION LITTLE TIMES

I used to like watching Bojack Horseman. When I was in LA four summers ago (in 2016, just before the Trump administration), someone introduced me to it for the first time. To my deepest consternation, I have forgotten his name. I know who he is, I couchsurfed at his place and he was never home because he worked on a TV crew. He was writing a play and he had notes and books all over his apartment, and he also had a gazillion tattoos on his body. I just forgot his name. This makes me feel like a bad person, but that's what I am. I am good and bad and all the things rolled into one human being. I know he wrote me a nice review on Couchsurfing, because I cleaned up his apartment in between reading all the books he had, and I wanted to check for his name, but I have been paywalled out of my account because I don't want to pay a fee to keep the site up (I haven't been an active member for years!). At this point of time I'm honestly trying to play a game with all my brain neurons to recall his name: should I go to a baby names website and look through all the names?? is it Leo? Howard? OMG it worked, my brain worked. His name is Patrick!!!!! I wonder how he's doing in life. As I was saying, I first watched Bojack with him, and I followed it for a couple of seasons, but one day I stopped. I don't remember the particular scene or why, but I know Bojack is a depressed character and as far as I know, he doesn't really do much about it. I think it hit too close to home.

I think I'm a high-functioning depressed person, but my sister may not be. I've gone to her school to help her get back in, but she eventually dropped out for good. She recently got a job a couple of months ago, but in the past two weeks, she's missed work without a "physical illness" and didn't inform them prior, so I don't know how long she can hold onto the job. I say "physical illness" in inverted commas because despite not being contagious or tangible like fever or the flu, I know depression can make it pretty physically impossible to move or want to do anything. When she doesn't go to work, she starts crying or curling up and then you can't really get through to her. As a high-functioning depressed person, I can go to work without seeing a point in it, I just become a mechanical robot working on autopilot. My rationale for it is so that I don't become a burden to anyone else. When I'm spiralling into my episodes, I recognize it and I either seek out medication or therapy. 

This time of the year is the worst for my family, I think within the same month in 2016, I had a miscarriage and our cousin that my sister was the closest to, died suddenly in a motorbike accident. This is the first year since then that I haven't had a full-blown meltdown, but I have a feeling my sister hasn't become conscious of her triggers yet, because she went to the cemetery last weekend, and it brought on her latest episode. I had some mean thoughts about her yesterday, I didn't say them to her, but I know I was being very mean about it. Sometimes, she asks how to get rid of depression, and if I have said it once, I must have said it at least thirty times, for her to go to therapy regularly and take medication. I think her condition is so bad that it truly cripples her from even keeping herself in check to do those two things. I don't know what else we can do for her, there was a period of time our other sister kept tabs on her taking her medicine, or sent her to the clinic for therapy. These are things a seventeen-year-old should not have to do. This is the same sister who is also affected by my night terrors, the poor child. I think I had mean thoughts last night because as an onlooker, you can feel helpless and useless.

I don't know why I started this tangent. As a so-called adult, I have made many friends, younger and older, who also suffer from depressive episodes. These are people who have great prospects in life, they graduated from Harvard, they're yoga teachers, they're white men with no financial debt living in Singapore. I know that depression is both a debilitating disease that can affect anyone, and I know that it's exacerbated by capitalism, which thrives off making you feel incomplete and less than, and you have to beat it in the smallest of ways, reminding yourself that you are happy without another pair of shoes, without getting surgery to perfect your vision, without all those things that all these other depressed people have in their lives. You have to constantly ignore every single sign thrown at you, and remind yourself your worth is more than what a capitalist system expects of you, or the completely made up monetary value you can contribute to such a flawed system.

Monday, October 26, 2020

YOU HAD TO KILL ME
BUT IT KILLED YOU JUST THE SAME

I didn't have it in myself 
to go with grace 
cause when I'd fight, 
you used to tell me I was brave 
and if I'm dead to you 
why are you at the wake? 
cursing my name 
wishing I stayed 
look at how my tears ricochet 

and I can go anywhere I want 
anywhere I want 
just not home 
and you can aim for my heart, 
go for blood 
but you would still miss me 
in your bones 
and I still talk to you 
when I'm screaming at the sky 
and when you can't sleep at night 
you hear my stolen lullabies

According to my sister, I have night terrors. None of my exes ever told me this so I'm not sure if it's only happened in recent years. Apparently my thrashing and flailing during my sleep is strong enough to wake her up sometimes. I don't remember if I slept well by myself when I was in New York. I don't remember sleeping by myself very often, ever in my life. I thought I slept better with someone by my side, but I guess not.

Friday, October 23, 2020

WATERMELON SUGAR HIGH

I just had a few moments of being very happy. I don't know why, perhaps my blood sugar spiked from the food I'd consumed, maybe not. I am happiest when I'm in love so I suppose I was in love. Not with anyone in particular, just in life. Yesterday morning, a friend at work, Nate, made Eggo waffles for the morning team, because somehow our pantry always has Eggo waffles stocked. I remember trying them for the first time only after having seen them on Stranger Things. Do people actually like Eggos or was it only made popular because of the series? I love junk food, I eat cookies and ramen and ice cream all the time but I really think Eggos are rather trash. If you're gonna make instant waffles, at least make them good?!?!?!?! The presidential debate is in a few hours. Here is a reminder that Trump hustled in the last elections, polls were shown as Hillary leading, perhaps causing Democrats to lower their guard and not turn out in their highest numbers. Don't trust the polls. Don't trust anything. Go out and vote!!!!!!!!! If y'all allow Trump in the White House for another four years, I swear there isn't enough time, with climate change, to see America ever become great. The world has its eyes on you. Also AOC was on Twitch streaming herself playing Among Us and that's why she will one day be the first woman POTUS, when all the sensible young people vote her in. I'm keeping myself alive just to see that day happen.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

THE LAST BLACK MAN
IN SAN FRANCISCO

We went cycling at East Coast Park today. It's a long stretch of beach from the airport to wherever the heck it stretches to, and it was nice to see, people in their safe groups of five. Parents were teaching their kids to rollerblade, the sun was not too hot as it was past four in the afternoon. It felt lovely, to see pockets of friends enjoying water activities, families rejoicing in raucous laughter. 

I was having a lot of fun, until my left elbow hurt, and I wondered whether it's because I have hyperextended elbows. I don't actually know what that means or entails. Ben told me we both had hyperextended elbows before, and you know me, I thought, oh this guy cycles and snowboards and he knows his body (and mine, and I'm not exaggerating) very well, so if he says I have hyperextended elbows, I have hyperextended elbows, whatever that means. I suppose I have better awareness of my own body since I met him ---- aaaah, that's another chapter for another day. Anyway, my elbow hurt the second hour of cycling is all there was to that. I won't have a bicycle in Vancouver (although I might get a skateboard) so I need to squeeze in all the cycling I can get here. Sometimes, when I spend time in nature, breathing in the breeze, I think, the world is okay. This pocket of time in this pocket of space is okay. Then I swam in the evening, and I did many continuous laps and I love swimming, so that was another pocket of time that made today great. 

I recently watched The Dawn Wall, about these two men who free climb The Dawn Wall, a relatively smooth surface of El Capitan at Yosemite. I'd wanted to go back to climbing classes but my friend Sarah from lululemon went bouldering in a gym last week, landed poorly back onto the ground, and she had a slipped disc or something or the other in her spine, and she had to be hospitalized!!!!!!!! So that makes me wonder if I really want to learn to skate in Vancouver. If I fell and scraped my knees that's fine, but if I have to get hospitalized by myself in another country, I WILL LOSE MY SHIT. Anyway, what I wanted to say was I've been to Yosemite before, but it was in the dead of winter and it was covered in snow, like the Mac OS default desktop once upon a time, and I definitely wanna see it again in spring. One day. One day. Before the world ends.

We watched Feels Good Man tonight, it's about Pepe the Frog and how it snowballed from being a general meme all the way into being an alt-right symbol and listed as a hate symbol, like a swastika, by the Anti-Defamation League or whatever. Bro, that really got out of hand and I feel terrible for the creator, he's such a hippie-type person, who like, needs therapy. Matt Furie says this world is a garbage world, which is completely legit. I hope Trump doesn't win again. The film ends well because Hong Kongers co-opted Pepe to be their symbol for freedom in their protests against authoritarianism, so that's some good shit man. It was a good Saturday and it feels good, man.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

PALO ALTO

We recently watched A Life On Our Planet, which I think should be mandatory viewing for everyone who lives on this planet. It highlights how poorly we've treated the natural world, all our mistakes so far, and I think David Attenborough makes a little bit of a simplistic yet necessary case for how we can do better, and how of course we must: the political will to divest from fossil fuels to renewables, the act of engaging in sustainability, eating what you can grow, etc etc. I think Indigenous Peoples Day recently passed in the US, and there is a lot of knowledge that Western imperialists can gain from indigenous peoples on sustainability. They've lived directly on the lands for thousands of years, taken care of it, taken only what they needed from it, and given back to it. We're coming back full circle, and what's left is for the main actors and perpetrators who are treating the world like shit (and they know who they are, people who work for BP/Exxon and the like) to stop and turn to the alternative. I chanced upon this piece of writing on Orion Magazine shared on an activist group, and I really felt it:

Beyond Hope by Derrick Jensen

THE MOST COMMON WORDS I hear spoken by any environmentalists anywhere are, We’re fucked. Most of these environmentalists are fighting desperately, using whatever tools they have — or rather whatever legal tools they have, which means whatever tools those in power grant them the right to use, which means whatever tools will be ultimately ineffective — to try to protect some piece of ground, to try to stop the manufacture or release of poisons, to try to stop civilized humans from tormenting some group of plants or animals. Sometimes they’re reduced to trying to protect just one tree.

Here’s how John Osborn, an extraordinary activist and friend, sums up his reasons for doing the work: “As things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure some doors remain open. If grizzly bears are still alive in twenty, thirty, and forty years, they may still be alive in fifty. If they’re gone in twenty, they’ll be gone forever.”

But no matter what environmentalists do, our best efforts are insufficient. We’re losing badly, on every front. Those in power are hell-bent on destroying the planet, and most people don’t care.

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.

But it isn’t only false hopes that keep those who go along enchained. It is hope itself. Hope, we are told, is our beacon in the dark. It is our light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the beam of light that makes its way into our prison cells. It is our reason for persevering, our protection against despair (which must be avoided at all costs). How can we continue if we do not have hope?

We’ve all been taught that hope in some future condition — like hope in some future heaven — is and must be our refuge in current sorrow. I’m sure you remember the story of Pandora. She was given a tightly sealed box and was told never to open it. But, being curious, she did, and out flew plagues, sorrow, and mischief, probably not in that order. Too late she clamped down the lid. Only one thing remained in the box: hope. Hope, the story goes, was the only good the casket held among many evils, and it remains to this day mankind’s sole comfort in misfortune. No mention here of action being a comfort in misfortune, or of actually doing something to alleviate or eliminate one’s misfortune.

The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.

Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is.

More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldn’t believe — or maybe you would — how many magazine editors have asked me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here’s the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.

I’m not, for example, going to say I hope I eat something tomorrow. I just will. I don’t hope I take another breath right now, nor that I finish writing this sentence. I just do them. On the other hand, I do hope that the next time I get on a plane, it doesn’t crash. To hope for some result means you have given up any agency concerning it. Many people say they hope the dominant culture stops destroying the world. By saying that, they’ve assumed that the destruction will continue, at least in the short term, and they’ve stepped away from their own ability to participate in stopping it.

I do not hope coho salmon survive. I will do whatever it takes to make sure the dominant culture doesn’t drive them extinct. If coho want to leave us because they don’t like how they’re being treated — and who could blame them? — I will say goodbye, and I will miss them, but if they do not want to leave, I will not allow civilization to kill them off.

When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to “hope” at all. We simply do the work. We make sure salmon survive. We make sure prairie dogs survive. We make sure grizzlies survive. We do whatever it takes.

When we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we’re in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free — truly free — to honestly start working to resolve it. I would say that when hope dies, action begins.

PEOPLE SOMETIMES ASK ME, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just kill yourself?” The answer is that life is really, really good. I am a complex enough being that I can hold in my heart the understanding that we are really, really fucked, and at the same time that life is really, really good. I am full of rage, sorrow, joy, love, hate, despair, happiness, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and a thousand other feelings. We are really fucked. Life is still really good.

Many people are afraid to feel despair. They fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate our situation really is, they must then be perpetually miserable. They forget that it is possible to feel many things at once. They also forget that despair is an entirely appropriate response to a desperate situation. Many people probably also fear that if they allow themselves to perceive how desperate things are, they may be forced to do something about it.

Another question people sometimes ask me is, “If things are so bad, why don’t you just party?” Well, the first answer is that I don’t really like to party. The second is that I’m already having a great deal of fun. I love my life. I love life. This is true for most activists I know. We are doing what we love, fighting for what (and whom) we love.

I have no patience for those who use our desperate situation as an excuse for inaction. I’ve learned that if you deprive most of these people of that particular excuse they just find another, then another, then another. The use of this excuse to justify inaction — the use of any excuse to justify inaction — reveals nothing more nor less than an incapacity to love.

At one of my recent talks someone stood up during the Q and A and announced that the only reason people ever become activists is to feel better about themselves. Effectiveness really doesn’t matter, he said, and it’s egotistical to think it does.

I told him I disagreed.

Doesn’t activism make you feel good? he asked.

Of course, I said, but that’s not why I do it. If I only want to feel good, I can just masturbate. But I want to accomplish something in the real world.

Why?

Because I’m in love. With salmon, with trees outside my window, with baby lampreys living in sandy streambottoms, with slender salamanders crawling through the duff. And if you love, you act to defend your beloved. Of course results matter to you, but they don’t determine whether or not you make the effort. You don’t simply hope your beloved survives and thrives. You do what it takes. If my love doesn’t cause me to protect those I love, it’s not love.

A WONDERFUL THING happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems — you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself — and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they — those in power — cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell — you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.

And who is left when that you dies? You are left. Animal you. Naked you. Vulnerable (and invulnerable) you. Mortal you. Survivor you. The you who thinks not what the culture taught you to think but what you think. The you who feels not what the culture taught you to feel but what you feel. The you who is not who the culture taught you to be but who you are. The you who can say yes, the you who can say no. The you who is a part of the land where you live. The you who will fight (or not) to defend your family. The you who will fight (or not) to defend those you love. The you who will fight (or not) to defend the land upon which your life and the lives of those you love depends. The you whose morality is not based on what you have been taught by the culture that is killing the planet, killing you, but on your own animal feelings of love and connection to your family, your friends, your landbase — not to your family as self-identified civilized beings but as animals who require a landbase, animals who are being killed by chemicals, animals who have been formed and deformed to fit the needs of the culture.

When you give up on hope — when you are dead in this way, and by so being are really alive — you make yourself no longer vulnerable to the cooption of rationality and fear that Nazis inflicted on Jews and others, that abusers like my father inflict on their victims, that the dominant culture inflicts on all of us. Or is it rather the case that these exploiters frame physical, social, and emotional circumstances such that victims perceive themselves as having no choice but to inflict this cooption on themselves?

But when you give up on hope, this exploiter/victim relationship is broken. You become like the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.

And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.

In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

AMERICANAH

Tina moved to Brooklyn and is making new friends, so she has followed Adam on Instagram and reached out to him. Apparently he asked how I've been doing, so Tina told him about my plans, and he said he's glad I'm getting away from my family. I had a lot of fun with Adam and I like being happy for him, and vice versa. When we were together, it was nearing Christmas and I'd bought him the cookbook from The Great British Bake-Off, because we'd watched quite a few episodes together and he loved the show unabashedly. It was adorable. We broke up before Christmas, I think, so I eventually gave the book to Tina instead, and now they're friends. At least online if not irl someday. How funny life works. I love Tina very much and I also care for Adam, so I hope they look out for each other because the world needs more of that. I finished reading Americanah and I absolutely loved the ending. The middle of this week was absolute hell for me, my visa application stressed me out and so did the medical checkup. I don't have the fondest feelings for hospitals and clinics because i) I found out I had a miscarriage in one and ii) once, I was in a car crash while being driven home after being put on a drip for one night in hospital. This time, as always, the nurse had trouble drawing blood, the first vein on my right arm didn't yield any blood, and she said my veins are tricky. So she moved on to my left arm. I almost cried. I don't like blood, I don't like pain, and I don't like hospitals. She used a syringe, and the vein in my left arm cooperated. I was not happy in the middle of this week, but I had a good day today, I saw Tina's face (on videocall) for a good hour and we laughed and I love her, and I'm having a happy moment now. My sister and I are chatting about my day, so I told her about Adam. I call her Jie, because the whole family calls her Jie.

Jie: so who's Adam?
Me: the guy I dated in New York
Jie: the guy with a nice car?
Me: huh?
Jie: isn't there a guy who like drove you and sped around?
Me: no that's Los Angeles, that's literally the other end of the country
Jie: I don't know the map!
Did I know, before I turned 17, that LA and New York are on opposite coasts? I don't know, I cannot recall, and so my sister gets a free pass for tonight.

To all my American friends, to my exes, to my exes' ex-girlfriends, to my exes' current girlfriends, to my exes' ex-boyfriends, to my exes' current boyfriends, to all the non-binary partners, to everyone who lives in America and can vote, please do so. I don't care what your opinion on Joe Biden is, we all know he's trash but Trump has done so much damage that even regular Biden trash would be better. V O T E !!!!!!

Monday, October 5, 2020

EARTHSHOT

I'm halfway through my visa application but there is a lot of documentation I have to procure and settle, including a medical checkup. I hate medical checkups. I had a mini panic attack today, looking at how much I have left to do. Applying for my visa, on top of my password, I was asked to set five of my own questions and answers as verification, so I did. The questions are things like who likes The National, who did I kiss at Central Park, who worked at SpaceX, and the like. There are five questions and five names. I find it hilarious. I don't know why. You can't explain humor.

I had a therapy session and my therapist explained what the brain is made up of. She says the reptilian parts of our brains, the one that's evolved from millions of years ago, is hardwired to panic and perceive threats at the tiniest of notions, and it all happens so fast, if I'm not mindful, a lot of my reactions are just my reptilian brain in action. Then we have the mammalian parts of our brains, that control our emotions, and then the prefrontal cortex, the part that's able to be mindful and think slow. My therapist says, based on stressful childhood situations and events that have happened in my past, my reptilian brain is quick to judge what it thinks are signs of danger, which explains why I can be fatalistic and pessimistic. We are embarking on a journey to rewire and reprogram my brain so that I can balance my instant reflexes, with my rationale that takes in more information, to churn out something that's more in the middle. It's going to take practice but it will one day be second nature, just like it is for me to ride a bicycle. My therapist asked whether I could cycle and how I learned, and I remember clearly. My father taught me, and I remember thinking what the fuck is this man doing, placing me on this gigantic bicycle with no training wheels, I'm going to fall and die, this is child abuse. But he pushed, and I pedalled, and eventually, now I like to cycle.

I hope my school therapist will be as good as my current one, because I sure as hell won't be able to afford one that's not covered by student insurance. Also, at the end of the session, my therapist emailed me saying she enjoyed our session. I know this is because I am very vivid when I recount situations and I also really say whatever I want because I know she's not supposed to judge me. I don't know if you know, but in therapy circles, there are people who try to get validation from their therapists, because they just want to please everyone. That's another issue I should work on, but we'll take one step at a time. I couldn't help but feel pleased, maybe she'll miss me when I move too.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

COURAGE TO CHANGE


I don't know where this video is actually from but the choreography looks very suited to the song.

world, I want to leave you better 
I want my life to matter 
I am afraid I have no purpose here 
I watch the news on TV 
abandon myself daily 
I am afraid to let you see the real me 

rain, it falls, rain, it falls 
pouring on me 
and the rain, it falls, rain, it falls 
sowing the seeds of love and hope, love and hope 
we don't have to stay here, stuck in the weeds 

have I the courage to change? 
have I the courage to change? 
have I the courage to change today? 

you’re not alone in all this 
you're not alone, I promise 
standing together, we can do anything