Blogroll

When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

Archives

For posts sorted by date or label, see the links below.

For posts on frequently referenced topics, click the buttons to the right.

To search this blog, type in the field at the top left of the page and hit enter.

Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Two-faced

Halloween was a low-key affair this year. Last week, we again attended the annual pumpkin carving party one of D's friends likes to host, but we didn't go in with a plan as we did the first time. Just a gourd of a ghoulish hue and a vague idea of what we might put on it. Here's the end result:


A pair of eyes apiece -- the ones on the right are mine (adapted from a template) and the others belong to D (carved freehand).



I'm amused that the creepy gaze I thought I was creating ended up looking more concerned than anything else. I guess having another face emerging from the side of one's head would be a good reason ...

Halloween night in question was busy, and not just because we got about 200 trick-or-treaters (fairly standard in our neighborhood). We had a last-minute guest, one of our friends from Portland, who was supposed to be on vacation in Venice but had had his passport turned down the day before at the Portland airport. Too beaten up, the gate agents told him. His only option, if he still wanted to make the trip, was to get a new document issued from the nearest emergency processing center -- which was in Seattle.

"I'm going to be fairly rotten company," he warned me ahead of time. Which was completely understandable. But I paused before telling him that I might not be much fun either. Even though we've known each other for more than a decade, I still hesitated to say anything about what's been going on in the last few weeks. On the outside, there are no obvious signs that mark me -- perhaps I look more tired than usual and my clothes are a little looser, but no scars, no broken bones. Still, I've had my resources tapped repeatedly, dealing with unpredictable pain, diverting whatever energy I have into finding a doctor who will listen, waiting for a diagnostic plan to take shape.

As I hinted here, these aren't things I like to tell people in real life, not even my family, because pain, both physical and emotional, is so intimate. To admit to someone that you hurt is to take a risk -- that the other person will respond insensitively, that he or she will downplay your experience, that you will feel worse for having said something in the first place. So I've learned not to talk about pain out loud if I can get away with it; I do it in this space instead.

But with someone I've known so long, it also feels dishonest to pretend all is well. And I'd been run down enough in the last few weeks that the act of pretending was going to be too much in person, especially because the physical pain is so unpredictable; it can flare up at any time. So I told my friend in brief that I wasn't in the best shape. The result was an awkward few seconds on the phone -- he acknowledged what I'd said but didn't seem to know what else to offer. Then someone came to his door and he said he had to go.

So I'm still turning one face to the outside world and letting the other exist here. I wish there were a way to integrate them more. But for now, this is the best I can do.

12 comments:

TKW said...

Oh my. Aren't people odd? They react so differently on the phone than in person, or else just sit there, slack-jawed. ((hugs))

C. Troubadour said...

Odd indeed, TKW. In person is sometimes just as awkward!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I really relate to your comment here about sharing our experiences of pain with friends and family. And I also take your words as a personal reminder not to engage in oneupsmanship ("Oh, I'm exhausted too!"). The best friends are those who listen and not those who want to shine their own experience back on you. I hope to be the good kind of friend, but am not sure I always manage it.

C. Troubadour said...

Sweet Kristen! It's a balance of the two sometimes, I find. In some moments, hearing that someone else has had an experience that informs his/her way of understanding your own can be very helpful, especially when it feels like few people can relate. But yes, there is also, as you've pointed out, going too far -- forgetting that bringing a personal experience to the conversation is meant to indicate our capacity for empathy, not to one-up (consciously or otherwise).

Such a thought-provoking point, Kristen. I, too, question myself as I try to show my own friends that I hear them, but being aware of the difficulties therein makes us better at it, no? Listening is an art that takes practice; making someone else feel listened to is as well.

So -- thanks for lending an ear :)

BigLittleWolf said...

Pain is indeed "intimate." And sometimes it's easier to share with strangers, or those with whom you aren't close in other ways. Someone who isn't a friend or family member is more able to listen perhaps, without feeling compelled to do something, to fix it, or feel guilty for not being in pain.

All the more reason that this is a safe haven - this writing world - for things we may not want to bring into our "regular" lives.

I do hope you'll get your answers, and soon.

Allison @ Alli 'n Son said...

Why is it that it's so hard to talk face-to-face (or over the phone) about something so person, and yet it's easy to write it for all of the internet to read? I know just what you mean though.

C. Troubadour said...

BLW -- you make such good points. The instinct to fix is a strong one! I think you've illustrated an interesting difference between blog friendships and face-to-face relationships. The audiences we find here are preselected and self-selected, in some ways, for listening. It's understood that we are limited to doing just that in such an environment, so the other things we might ordinarily try to do for friends don't get in the way as much. A lucky artifact of blog culture, shall we say?

Allison -- thanks for stopping by. I ask myself the same thing! And it's not just the anonymity that makes it easier. I think it has something specifically to do with the kind of audience we find here, as I said above to BLW. If only the social rules (or expectations or whatever they are) were more similar between the two spheres, eh?

Arts Web Show said...

Those are some amazing jack 'o' lanterns

Good Enough Woman said...

I'm so impressed by your beautiful, creative jack-o-lanterns! And by the way you came back to them at the end of your post. Nicely done on both counts!

C. Troubadour said...

AWS -- thanks, and welcome. Knives and gourds, easy entertainment, eh? :)

GEW -- I would have been less ambitious with the pumpkins had D not been so into it. He knows his way around carving a bit better than I do. Still, it's always fun to help. Thanks for the words on the writing too.

SuziCate said...

You guys turned pumpkin carvings into works of art! I am impressed!

C. Troubadour said...

Thanks, SuziCate! The right tools make all the difference -- in this case an X-Acto blade rather than a blunt kitchen knife :)

Posts by date

Posts by label

Air travel Airline food Allergic reactions Astoria Awards Bacteremia Bacterial overgrowth Baggage beefs Bed and breakfast Betrayal Blues Body Boston Breastfeeding British Columbia California Canada Cape Spear Clam-digging Colonoscopy Commuter marriage Cooking CT scans Delays Diagnoses Dietitians Doctor-patient relationships Doctors Eating while traveling Editing Endocrine Endoscopy ER False starts Family dynamics Feedback Food anxiety Food sensitivities Gate agent guff GI Halifax Heart Home-making House hunting Hypoglycemia In-laws Intentional happiness Iowa Journaling Kidney stones Knitting Lab tests Little U. on the Prairie Liver function tests Long Beach Making friends in new places Malabsorption Massachusetts Medical records Medication Mentorship MFA programs Miami Monterey Motivation Moving Narrative New York Newark Newfoundland Nova Scotia Olympic Peninsula Ontario Ophthalmology Oregon Oxalates Pancreatic function tests Parenting Parents Paris Pets Photography Portland Prediabetes Pregnancy Process Professors Publishing Reproductive endocrine Research Revision Rewriting Rheumatology San Francisco Scenes from a graduation series Scenes from around the table series Seattle Sisters Skiing St. John's Striped-up paisley Teaching Technological snafus Texas Thesis Toronto Travel Travel fears Traveling while sick Ultrasound Urology Vancouver Victoria Voice Washington Washington D.C. Weight When words won't stick Whidbey Island Why we write Workshops Writers on writing Writing Writing friends Writing in odd places Writing jobs Yakima

Monday, November 1, 2010

Two-faced

Halloween was a low-key affair this year. Last week, we again attended the annual pumpkin carving party one of D's friends likes to host, but we didn't go in with a plan as we did the first time. Just a gourd of a ghoulish hue and a vague idea of what we might put on it. Here's the end result:


A pair of eyes apiece -- the ones on the right are mine (adapted from a template) and the others belong to D (carved freehand).



I'm amused that the creepy gaze I thought I was creating ended up looking more concerned than anything else. I guess having another face emerging from the side of one's head would be a good reason ...

Halloween night in question was busy, and not just because we got about 200 trick-or-treaters (fairly standard in our neighborhood). We had a last-minute guest, one of our friends from Portland, who was supposed to be on vacation in Venice but had had his passport turned down the day before at the Portland airport. Too beaten up, the gate agents told him. His only option, if he still wanted to make the trip, was to get a new document issued from the nearest emergency processing center -- which was in Seattle.

"I'm going to be fairly rotten company," he warned me ahead of time. Which was completely understandable. But I paused before telling him that I might not be much fun either. Even though we've known each other for more than a decade, I still hesitated to say anything about what's been going on in the last few weeks. On the outside, there are no obvious signs that mark me -- perhaps I look more tired than usual and my clothes are a little looser, but no scars, no broken bones. Still, I've had my resources tapped repeatedly, dealing with unpredictable pain, diverting whatever energy I have into finding a doctor who will listen, waiting for a diagnostic plan to take shape.

As I hinted here, these aren't things I like to tell people in real life, not even my family, because pain, both physical and emotional, is so intimate. To admit to someone that you hurt is to take a risk -- that the other person will respond insensitively, that he or she will downplay your experience, that you will feel worse for having said something in the first place. So I've learned not to talk about pain out loud if I can get away with it; I do it in this space instead.

But with someone I've known so long, it also feels dishonest to pretend all is well. And I'd been run down enough in the last few weeks that the act of pretending was going to be too much in person, especially because the physical pain is so unpredictable; it can flare up at any time. So I told my friend in brief that I wasn't in the best shape. The result was an awkward few seconds on the phone -- he acknowledged what I'd said but didn't seem to know what else to offer. Then someone came to his door and he said he had to go.

So I'm still turning one face to the outside world and letting the other exist here. I wish there were a way to integrate them more. But for now, this is the best I can do.

12 comments:

TKW said...

Oh my. Aren't people odd? They react so differently on the phone than in person, or else just sit there, slack-jawed. ((hugs))

C. Troubadour said...

Odd indeed, TKW. In person is sometimes just as awkward!

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I really relate to your comment here about sharing our experiences of pain with friends and family. And I also take your words as a personal reminder not to engage in oneupsmanship ("Oh, I'm exhausted too!"). The best friends are those who listen and not those who want to shine their own experience back on you. I hope to be the good kind of friend, but am not sure I always manage it.

C. Troubadour said...

Sweet Kristen! It's a balance of the two sometimes, I find. In some moments, hearing that someone else has had an experience that informs his/her way of understanding your own can be very helpful, especially when it feels like few people can relate. But yes, there is also, as you've pointed out, going too far -- forgetting that bringing a personal experience to the conversation is meant to indicate our capacity for empathy, not to one-up (consciously or otherwise).

Such a thought-provoking point, Kristen. I, too, question myself as I try to show my own friends that I hear them, but being aware of the difficulties therein makes us better at it, no? Listening is an art that takes practice; making someone else feel listened to is as well.

So -- thanks for lending an ear :)

BigLittleWolf said...

Pain is indeed "intimate." And sometimes it's easier to share with strangers, or those with whom you aren't close in other ways. Someone who isn't a friend or family member is more able to listen perhaps, without feeling compelled to do something, to fix it, or feel guilty for not being in pain.

All the more reason that this is a safe haven - this writing world - for things we may not want to bring into our "regular" lives.

I do hope you'll get your answers, and soon.

Allison @ Alli 'n Son said...

Why is it that it's so hard to talk face-to-face (or over the phone) about something so person, and yet it's easy to write it for all of the internet to read? I know just what you mean though.

C. Troubadour said...

BLW -- you make such good points. The instinct to fix is a strong one! I think you've illustrated an interesting difference between blog friendships and face-to-face relationships. The audiences we find here are preselected and self-selected, in some ways, for listening. It's understood that we are limited to doing just that in such an environment, so the other things we might ordinarily try to do for friends don't get in the way as much. A lucky artifact of blog culture, shall we say?

Allison -- thanks for stopping by. I ask myself the same thing! And it's not just the anonymity that makes it easier. I think it has something specifically to do with the kind of audience we find here, as I said above to BLW. If only the social rules (or expectations or whatever they are) were more similar between the two spheres, eh?

Arts Web Show said...

Those are some amazing jack 'o' lanterns

Good Enough Woman said...

I'm so impressed by your beautiful, creative jack-o-lanterns! And by the way you came back to them at the end of your post. Nicely done on both counts!

C. Troubadour said...

AWS -- thanks, and welcome. Knives and gourds, easy entertainment, eh? :)

GEW -- I would have been less ambitious with the pumpkins had D not been so into it. He knows his way around carving a bit better than I do. Still, it's always fun to help. Thanks for the words on the writing too.

SuziCate said...

You guys turned pumpkin carvings into works of art! I am impressed!

C. Troubadour said...

Thanks, SuziCate! The right tools make all the difference -- in this case an X-Acto blade rather than a blunt kitchen knife :)