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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!)

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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.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wishful thinking

I bit down on my tongue. Hard. Held my breath, fixed both eyes on a spot on the carpet by the bed, told myself don't cry. I'd managed to get from Seattle to the panhandle of Texas despite surgery, despite infection, without letting on to anyone how I was feeling. My doctor had cleared me to fly, and I needed to go home. For my research, I'd told myself -- to look firsthand at the photos and old letters from my parents' early years together, before I was born, to begin untangling their story for my thesis. That's what I'd finally realized this project was about.

Don't cry, I thought harder. Don't cry don't cry don't cry. But my mother had her arm around me.

"You've been so good," she said. "It's okay, you don't have to be strong anymore today."

Don't have to be strong? Since when did she ever use words like that? The spot on the carpet dissolved into a uniform blur and I buried my head in her shoulder, bewildered but relieved.

"You're so warm," she said after a few minutes.

I lifted my head. "It's fine," I said. I reached for a tissue and glanced toward the door, hoping my father, who usually spent the evening watching TV on the couch just outside the room, couldn't hear us. "This fever's not as bad as the first."

My mother frowned but said nothing, a hand still holding tightly to my shoulder as she surveyed the suitcase on the floor, the airline ticket stubs on the nightstand. "You've had a long day. Now you should just rest."

I pulled the robe she'd lent me closer, leaned my head against hers, and closed my eyes.

*

I remember getting sick as a kid -- flu, strep, bronchitis, the usual. All of which meant long mornings at the pediatrician's office that smelled like old vinyl seats, worn-edged board books, and that nose-wrinkling soap you found only where there were doctors. We never said it aloud, but I don't think my mother or I particularly liked that place.

My mother tended to look worried during those visits, but not because of me. My father would be irritated when he got home. While he doctored the sick every day at the hospital, giving his all to an endless string of cardiac patients, he didn't tolerate illness in his own house. Most of the time, he'd just ignore the problem, leaving my mother to handle all the nursing duties -- administering medication and fluids, keeping track of symptoms, cleaning up vomit. On occasion, he'd pop his head into the bedroom doorway to assess the situation, but he never crossed the threshold.

He did, however, expect my mother to keep the rest of the house running as usual. A hot meal ready to serve, the newspaper waiting by the couch, bills paid, phone calls made, my younger sisters bathed and fed. If things weren't as he felt they ought to be, he'd whine -- at me ("Are you still throwing up?") and at her ("How much longer before dinner? It's getting late."). My mother couldn't help growing annoyed in turn. She never said anything directly to me, but the look on her face when she was caught between my needs and his said plenty: he wouldn't cut her any slack. Couldn't I?

Hers was obviously wishful thinking, but I felt guilty all the same. So I learned to downplay how I was feeling, even if I was miserable. It was better than feeling like a nuisance, even if I wished deep down that it didn't have to be that way.

*

My body remembered this as I leaned against my mother, so many years later, in the dimly lit guestroom of my parents' new house. The mattress on the bed was old, but the comforter was brand-new to match the pillow shams my mother had sewn. "To update things," she'd said a few weeks earlier on the phone, telling me how much she couldn't wait for me to see what she'd put together. She'd wanted to work on the room sooner, but in my parents' nearly four years in Panhandle, she hadn't gotten around to it until then. It didn't matter to me -- being with her, no matter what kind of bed I slept in, was what made home feel like home. Though I did like what she'd chosen, knowing that I would be the one to curl up there.

And how I wanted to do just that. But I didn't want to move while she sat next to me, holding me close. How I'd wanted this too, in those moments when she'd been forced to choose between me and my father. Even early that evening, he'd only grunted, when my mother mentioned I'd been ill, and then complained about what had taken her so long at the grocery store, where she'd gone to get the fresh fish he'd wanted for dinner. Nothing seemed to have changed.

But my mother's arm stayed around me as I glanced toward the door, listening for sounds of the TV, long after the meal had ended. "He's gone to bed," she said. "Don't worry about him."

I dabbed at my eyes, not sure what to say. But for once, she seemed to understand how much I needed her, even more than I'd realized.

9 comments:

TKW said...

This is sad, and beautiful, and poignantly sharp. I'm glad that at last, you were able to be comforted by your mother without guilt or scrutiny from your father. ((you))

SuziCate said...

Mom's always know just what you need and where you are coming from. So glad your mom was there for you when you needed her. Touching story.

C. Troubadour said...

TKW -- thank you for your writer-words. I know you've got your own eye for craft. There was a lot I didn't know how to say in narrating the scene; I'm glad what I hoped would come through did.

SuziCate -- I was glad too. The timing was uncanny for all that led up to the trip, but it meant getting help from just the right person while I was recovering.

Good Enough Woman said...

I'm so glad that your mom allowed you to feel okay about being cared for. You deserve that, especially from her.

:)

(((CT)))

I hope you're feeling better.

C. Troubadour said...

Mending slowly, GEW. And yes, that permission was what was so essential. It took a week of being back in Seattle for me to be able to write it because I was still reeling from it.

ck said...

This was absolutely beautiful. You captured the heart of going home and also left me feeling trapped between my father and myself - wanting to spare my mom, but also desiring comfort.

It was also encouraging to read from a mother's perspective. Sometimes I forget the impact I'm having on my children, especially when they're sick and needier than usual. Thank you for reminding me.

C. Troubadour said...

Such kind words, CK. Yes, going home is complicated, which I sense you understand. And even when we try to anticipate what will be difficult so we can be ready, or have workarounds, or do whatever it is that helps us cope, something we never predicted would throw us is what does that very thing.

I'm glad you felt there were good things to take away too. I don't think anyone until this point has ever said what I've written here gave them encouragement! That made me smile today (and boy did I need it). Thank you.

BigLittleWolf said...

That all important notion of "home." Truly beautiful, CT - bien que je sache que tu ne te sens pas bien, que cela dure et semble ne jamais terminer, que le fait d'aimer n'est jamais simple, surtout entre parents et enfants.

Repose-toi. Parfois les "adultes" de nos enfances nous surprennent.

C. Troubadour said...

Le fait d'aimer n'est jamais simple -- oui, c'est exact. And yet, we cannot help but try.

Merci, BLW. Je sais que vous comprenez bien.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Wishful thinking

I bit down on my tongue. Hard. Held my breath, fixed both eyes on a spot on the carpet by the bed, told myself don't cry. I'd managed to get from Seattle to the panhandle of Texas despite surgery, despite infection, without letting on to anyone how I was feeling. My doctor had cleared me to fly, and I needed to go home. For my research, I'd told myself -- to look firsthand at the photos and old letters from my parents' early years together, before I was born, to begin untangling their story for my thesis. That's what I'd finally realized this project was about.

Don't cry, I thought harder. Don't cry don't cry don't cry. But my mother had her arm around me.

"You've been so good," she said. "It's okay, you don't have to be strong anymore today."

Don't have to be strong? Since when did she ever use words like that? The spot on the carpet dissolved into a uniform blur and I buried my head in her shoulder, bewildered but relieved.

"You're so warm," she said after a few minutes.

I lifted my head. "It's fine," I said. I reached for a tissue and glanced toward the door, hoping my father, who usually spent the evening watching TV on the couch just outside the room, couldn't hear us. "This fever's not as bad as the first."

My mother frowned but said nothing, a hand still holding tightly to my shoulder as she surveyed the suitcase on the floor, the airline ticket stubs on the nightstand. "You've had a long day. Now you should just rest."

I pulled the robe she'd lent me closer, leaned my head against hers, and closed my eyes.

*

I remember getting sick as a kid -- flu, strep, bronchitis, the usual. All of which meant long mornings at the pediatrician's office that smelled like old vinyl seats, worn-edged board books, and that nose-wrinkling soap you found only where there were doctors. We never said it aloud, but I don't think my mother or I particularly liked that place.

My mother tended to look worried during those visits, but not because of me. My father would be irritated when he got home. While he doctored the sick every day at the hospital, giving his all to an endless string of cardiac patients, he didn't tolerate illness in his own house. Most of the time, he'd just ignore the problem, leaving my mother to handle all the nursing duties -- administering medication and fluids, keeping track of symptoms, cleaning up vomit. On occasion, he'd pop his head into the bedroom doorway to assess the situation, but he never crossed the threshold.

He did, however, expect my mother to keep the rest of the house running as usual. A hot meal ready to serve, the newspaper waiting by the couch, bills paid, phone calls made, my younger sisters bathed and fed. If things weren't as he felt they ought to be, he'd whine -- at me ("Are you still throwing up?") and at her ("How much longer before dinner? It's getting late."). My mother couldn't help growing annoyed in turn. She never said anything directly to me, but the look on her face when she was caught between my needs and his said plenty: he wouldn't cut her any slack. Couldn't I?

Hers was obviously wishful thinking, but I felt guilty all the same. So I learned to downplay how I was feeling, even if I was miserable. It was better than feeling like a nuisance, even if I wished deep down that it didn't have to be that way.

*

My body remembered this as I leaned against my mother, so many years later, in the dimly lit guestroom of my parents' new house. The mattress on the bed was old, but the comforter was brand-new to match the pillow shams my mother had sewn. "To update things," she'd said a few weeks earlier on the phone, telling me how much she couldn't wait for me to see what she'd put together. She'd wanted to work on the room sooner, but in my parents' nearly four years in Panhandle, she hadn't gotten around to it until then. It didn't matter to me -- being with her, no matter what kind of bed I slept in, was what made home feel like home. Though I did like what she'd chosen, knowing that I would be the one to curl up there.

And how I wanted to do just that. But I didn't want to move while she sat next to me, holding me close. How I'd wanted this too, in those moments when she'd been forced to choose between me and my father. Even early that evening, he'd only grunted, when my mother mentioned I'd been ill, and then complained about what had taken her so long at the grocery store, where she'd gone to get the fresh fish he'd wanted for dinner. Nothing seemed to have changed.

But my mother's arm stayed around me as I glanced toward the door, listening for sounds of the TV, long after the meal had ended. "He's gone to bed," she said. "Don't worry about him."

I dabbed at my eyes, not sure what to say. But for once, she seemed to understand how much I needed her, even more than I'd realized.

9 comments:

TKW said...

This is sad, and beautiful, and poignantly sharp. I'm glad that at last, you were able to be comforted by your mother without guilt or scrutiny from your father. ((you))

SuziCate said...

Mom's always know just what you need and where you are coming from. So glad your mom was there for you when you needed her. Touching story.

C. Troubadour said...

TKW -- thank you for your writer-words. I know you've got your own eye for craft. There was a lot I didn't know how to say in narrating the scene; I'm glad what I hoped would come through did.

SuziCate -- I was glad too. The timing was uncanny for all that led up to the trip, but it meant getting help from just the right person while I was recovering.

Good Enough Woman said...

I'm so glad that your mom allowed you to feel okay about being cared for. You deserve that, especially from her.

:)

(((CT)))

I hope you're feeling better.

C. Troubadour said...

Mending slowly, GEW. And yes, that permission was what was so essential. It took a week of being back in Seattle for me to be able to write it because I was still reeling from it.

ck said...

This was absolutely beautiful. You captured the heart of going home and also left me feeling trapped between my father and myself - wanting to spare my mom, but also desiring comfort.

It was also encouraging to read from a mother's perspective. Sometimes I forget the impact I'm having on my children, especially when they're sick and needier than usual. Thank you for reminding me.

C. Troubadour said...

Such kind words, CK. Yes, going home is complicated, which I sense you understand. And even when we try to anticipate what will be difficult so we can be ready, or have workarounds, or do whatever it is that helps us cope, something we never predicted would throw us is what does that very thing.

I'm glad you felt there were good things to take away too. I don't think anyone until this point has ever said what I've written here gave them encouragement! That made me smile today (and boy did I need it). Thank you.

BigLittleWolf said...

That all important notion of "home." Truly beautiful, CT - bien que je sache que tu ne te sens pas bien, que cela dure et semble ne jamais terminer, que le fait d'aimer n'est jamais simple, surtout entre parents et enfants.

Repose-toi. Parfois les "adultes" de nos enfances nous surprennent.

C. Troubadour said...

Le fait d'aimer n'est jamais simple -- oui, c'est exact. And yet, we cannot help but try.

Merci, BLW. Je sais que vous comprenez bien.