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

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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.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Scenes from a graduation, part 5: details

"Dad's going to ask where he needs to go when you pick him up," says Almost Dr. Sis. I nod, still a little groggy after a few hours' sleep, at the sheaf of maps and schedules tucked next to the gearshift in her car.

In twenty minutes, after I drop my sister off at campus, I will be back in her apartment, where our other sister is still slumbering on the living room couch. At that time, I'll review the route to my parents' hotel that my sister has marked in pen and pink highlighter -- there's a road race that will close many nearby streets; I don't want to get caught in detour traffic -- and I'll reread the printout of the e-mail she's forwarded to our father about where to wait with all the other physicians who will be hooding a graduate. Though she's explained to him that all he needs to know is spelled out on this single piece of paper, we both know he'll ignore it.

It irritates me that as a doctor, this man is meticulous about procedure and expects everyone else he works with to be too, but that for this event, he won't even glance over these instructions. He's trained us well. This little exchange in my sister's car is one of too many in recent years, where we scramble behind the scenes to ensure his good humor. There's too much at stake otherwise, too many casualties in the cycle of blame. If he is tardy, fails to locate the processional line, enters by the wrong door, it will be his loss of face. But he'll tell us that we -- wife and daughters -- should have known where he was supposed to go, and then he'll sulk. The idea rankles because he is unfair, but more so because it would be especially unfair to my sister to have him mar her day so unnecessarily.

I've gone back through every page my sister's given me and added my own notes, just to make sure everything is clear, fighting off the familiar tightness in my chest that makes my breastbone ache whenever we have to keep my father on his best behavior. But I don't say anything as we drive, my sister and I, through the foggy streets of the city toward the university, where I'll deliver her for the all-college commencement exercises. (The rest of us will join her just for her hooding, a separate medical school ceremony.) Frowning into the passenger visor mirror, she fusses with the angle of her cap; I silently admire the blue-black sheen of her hair, which dulls even the rich velvet of the same color.

I can't imagine what is going through my sister's mind in this moment. At one time, I might have tried, but we've both changed -- not unexpectedly -- in these years since we lived under one roof, and the sisterly understanding we may have had when we shared an address has shifted into new territory. I want to sense, as I thought I once could, what she's feeling, but she doesn't speak, and I don't wish to disturb her silence. I can't trust the read I'm getting from the tension in her jaw, but I'm conscious of my own discomfort, that she can sense it, and that it's irritating her.

My thoughts turn to the terse whispers I overheard between my sister and her roommate as I was waking, a misunderstanding about who needed the shower first. (The roommate is on rotation at the hospital.) And then the box of Kleenex I finished shortly afterward -- not seeing a recycling bin but loath to add to the disarray spreading through every room, half of it the detritus of a messy roommate and the rest my sister's packing-in-progress, I catch her while she's ironing her dress. "What do you want me to do with this?" I ask, holding up the empty container.

"Don't recycle it," she says.

Dutifully, I break down the box and put it in the garbage can. Five minutes later, she clucks with dismay. "I needed that to hold other things," she says, exasperated.

It's a simple misunderstanding but somehow an emblematic one too. Such small incongruities -- if these exchanges are so hard for us to navigate, what else will I misinterpret? Back in the car, I'm gun-shy from the memory. Our disconnection feels more pronounced in this space than it has since those first years after I left college, the last home we ever shared.

I will myself to relax for her, not to make things worse. "You look great," I say as she gives her cap one last look in the mirror. I pull up to the curb of a circular driveway; she snatches her robes, peacock blue, from the back seat, and I tell her to call if she needs us to bring anything she's forgotten.

As she crosses the driveway toward the main hall, others in peacock emerge like rare birds. I feel the day's first ripple of excitement in my chest at these sightings, remembering what I am here to celebrate. I want to take out my camera, to catch my sister as she walks away, pulling her robe up by its billowing sleeve while juggling her purse. For a moment, in this awkward pose, she feels less intimidating to me, still very much that confident woman but with the spirit of a little girl playing dress-up.

She turns, though, noticing that I haven't pulled away. Maybe she sees me leaning over the passenger seat as I fumble through my bag and thinks I'm examining the maps to get back to her place. She steps back toward the car; I pull forward and open the window. "You're on A________ now, and you'll turn right onto E________ at the intersection," she says, not unkindly.

I smile and withhold my regret -- no picture, just the memory. I need to get out of the way so she can move on with whatever comes next.

For more from this series, please click here.

2 comments:

BigLittleWolf said...

I've read this a few times now. Oh, so lovely lovely lovely. And the dynamics of every family, so extraordinarily complex.

C. Troubadour said...

The dynamics are complex, BLW. Writing about them in the shorthand form of an essay is too! There's only room for a slice of the whole picture, and I find myself wrestling most with the issues of balance and pacing. And then there's life outside the writing, which has been getting in the way a lot lately. Fortunately, there are no deadlines here.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Scenes from a graduation, part 5: details

"Dad's going to ask where he needs to go when you pick him up," says Almost Dr. Sis. I nod, still a little groggy after a few hours' sleep, at the sheaf of maps and schedules tucked next to the gearshift in her car.

In twenty minutes, after I drop my sister off at campus, I will be back in her apartment, where our other sister is still slumbering on the living room couch. At that time, I'll review the route to my parents' hotel that my sister has marked in pen and pink highlighter -- there's a road race that will close many nearby streets; I don't want to get caught in detour traffic -- and I'll reread the printout of the e-mail she's forwarded to our father about where to wait with all the other physicians who will be hooding a graduate. Though she's explained to him that all he needs to know is spelled out on this single piece of paper, we both know he'll ignore it.

It irritates me that as a doctor, this man is meticulous about procedure and expects everyone else he works with to be too, but that for this event, he won't even glance over these instructions. He's trained us well. This little exchange in my sister's car is one of too many in recent years, where we scramble behind the scenes to ensure his good humor. There's too much at stake otherwise, too many casualties in the cycle of blame. If he is tardy, fails to locate the processional line, enters by the wrong door, it will be his loss of face. But he'll tell us that we -- wife and daughters -- should have known where he was supposed to go, and then he'll sulk. The idea rankles because he is unfair, but more so because it would be especially unfair to my sister to have him mar her day so unnecessarily.

I've gone back through every page my sister's given me and added my own notes, just to make sure everything is clear, fighting off the familiar tightness in my chest that makes my breastbone ache whenever we have to keep my father on his best behavior. But I don't say anything as we drive, my sister and I, through the foggy streets of the city toward the university, where I'll deliver her for the all-college commencement exercises. (The rest of us will join her just for her hooding, a separate medical school ceremony.) Frowning into the passenger visor mirror, she fusses with the angle of her cap; I silently admire the blue-black sheen of her hair, which dulls even the rich velvet of the same color.

I can't imagine what is going through my sister's mind in this moment. At one time, I might have tried, but we've both changed -- not unexpectedly -- in these years since we lived under one roof, and the sisterly understanding we may have had when we shared an address has shifted into new territory. I want to sense, as I thought I once could, what she's feeling, but she doesn't speak, and I don't wish to disturb her silence. I can't trust the read I'm getting from the tension in her jaw, but I'm conscious of my own discomfort, that she can sense it, and that it's irritating her.

My thoughts turn to the terse whispers I overheard between my sister and her roommate as I was waking, a misunderstanding about who needed the shower first. (The roommate is on rotation at the hospital.) And then the box of Kleenex I finished shortly afterward -- not seeing a recycling bin but loath to add to the disarray spreading through every room, half of it the detritus of a messy roommate and the rest my sister's packing-in-progress, I catch her while she's ironing her dress. "What do you want me to do with this?" I ask, holding up the empty container.

"Don't recycle it," she says.

Dutifully, I break down the box and put it in the garbage can. Five minutes later, she clucks with dismay. "I needed that to hold other things," she says, exasperated.

It's a simple misunderstanding but somehow an emblematic one too. Such small incongruities -- if these exchanges are so hard for us to navigate, what else will I misinterpret? Back in the car, I'm gun-shy from the memory. Our disconnection feels more pronounced in this space than it has since those first years after I left college, the last home we ever shared.

I will myself to relax for her, not to make things worse. "You look great," I say as she gives her cap one last look in the mirror. I pull up to the curb of a circular driveway; she snatches her robes, peacock blue, from the back seat, and I tell her to call if she needs us to bring anything she's forgotten.

As she crosses the driveway toward the main hall, others in peacock emerge like rare birds. I feel the day's first ripple of excitement in my chest at these sightings, remembering what I am here to celebrate. I want to take out my camera, to catch my sister as she walks away, pulling her robe up by its billowing sleeve while juggling her purse. For a moment, in this awkward pose, she feels less intimidating to me, still very much that confident woman but with the spirit of a little girl playing dress-up.

She turns, though, noticing that I haven't pulled away. Maybe she sees me leaning over the passenger seat as I fumble through my bag and thinks I'm examining the maps to get back to her place. She steps back toward the car; I pull forward and open the window. "You're on A________ now, and you'll turn right onto E________ at the intersection," she says, not unkindly.

I smile and withhold my regret -- no picture, just the memory. I need to get out of the way so she can move on with whatever comes next.

For more from this series, please click here.

2 comments:

BigLittleWolf said...

I've read this a few times now. Oh, so lovely lovely lovely. And the dynamics of every family, so extraordinarily complex.

C. Troubadour said...

The dynamics are complex, BLW. Writing about them in the shorthand form of an essay is too! There's only room for a slice of the whole picture, and I find myself wrestling most with the issues of balance and pacing. And then there's life outside the writing, which has been getting in the way a lot lately. Fortunately, there are no deadlines here.