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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.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tension

A text message from my mother buzzes my phone. She tells me I need to start deciding where to stay in Boston for my sister's September wedding -- even though the official invitations haven't been sent yet, our relatives have booked nearly all the rooms blocked for our party at the hotel where the reception will be.

I consider the price point my mother gives me for a single bedroom there and laugh wryly. I'm not shelling out that kind of money. As it is, O. will have difficulty adjusting to the three-hour time difference and he's not going to be easy to wrangle during the festivities without adequate sleep. I'd rather pay for a suite at a less luxurious place with the same cash and ensure we'll all have a better chance at getting through the long weekend without having to manage a meltdown.

Against my will, my mind turns to the logistical puzzle this next trip promises to be. We've just dealt with the months-long planning process of getting ourselves to Colorado and back for a week of skiing for my mother's birthday -- a trip whose demands far outstripped any usual holiday visits we've made with O. -- and I hadn't intended to throw any resources at our Boston obligations until, say, July. But now I'm wondering how many days we need to be on the ground, how we're going to do two cross-country flights with a kid who can handle at most two hours strapped in a car seat before he's reached his limits. I see standoffs with the beverage cart coming already.

Research flights first, or hotel? My mind spins. I feel like a satellite caught in my family's orbit, destined either to burn up in the atmosphere or circle in the void for eternity.

I reach for my laptop, perched by the sweater I've been working on in fits and starts for D. Then I set it down again. The sweater's yoke, patterned with a geometric array of knits and purls, is perfect, except for one row I've noticed near the lower left of the chest. I've miscounted on the pattern, and everything from the center to the end of the row is shifted one stitch.

There's no ripping it out. Well, there is, but I've knitted the entire yoke, cast it off, and blocked it. Undoing all that work -- it's not worth it if I can find a simpler cosmetic repair. I consider using the same color yarn and just weaving fake stitches over the mistakes. I'm not satisfied with the solution, but I give in, threading a rusty orange length of wool onto a large tapestry needle. Push it under, draw it through, push it under, draw it through. If I had more patience to spare, I tell myself, I'd do this the right way, but the fact is I don't. All the more reason not to go hotel hunting this morning.

As I study the pattern's ins and outs, trying to figure out exactly where to overweave the new stitches, I can't help thinking about our week in Colorado. How my parents insisted they wanted us to be there, O. included, but hardly spent any time with him or us. How much effort we put into finding a baby-sitter long-distance and preparing to baby-proof a condo without having to ship our own safety gear or buy it just for a few days' use on site. How challenging my parents' dining preferences were with my food allergies and how we worked our own cooking and grocery shopping into the schedule so I'd be able to eat.

We'd anticipated all of that and decided ahead of time that we'd make this a vacation for ourselves, regardless of my parents' agenda -- we'd enjoy skiing together, even if the days were limited by our baby-sitting rotations, and we'd have fun being on a dinner "date" with my family on my mother's birthday, even if I couldn't eat anything at the restaurant. But then D. got altitude sickness and a head cold on top of it and by the time the week was over, he'd lost a third of our ski time and completely missed the big dinner in question.

I'm not proud of the way we handled those setbacks. After so much effort to turn a difficult trip into something positive for us, D. and I had a whisper-screamed verbal brawl late into one of our last nights in Colorado because we'd had it with the tension between us, built up over those months of dealing with my parents' requests. Extended family politics have, in the year since O. was born, been at the root of much of our growing frustration with each other. There are other stressors, to be sure, but we keep getting stretched thinner and thinner by the same primary forces we have yet to find a way to push back against together. Instead, we prey on each other's patience because it is easier than trying to appeal to my parents for the consideration they simply don't possess when it comes to their expectations of us.

These thoughts kink like yarn twisted too tightly on my needles as I attempt to oversew the first iteration of my offset stitches. For weeks I've been unable to move past them or, at the very least, push them aside. Now, I'm caught again, distracted again. This is why there are mistakes in my knitting in the first place.

The errant stitches are still just visible to me, but only because I know they are there, behind the camouflage I'm creating, loop by loop. They will always remain, no matter how carefully I match their tightness with the cover yarn.

I sit with my disappointment, unsure whether I should keep going. The act of mending is fitting for my state of mind, but it feels emblematic of all the bending and twisting I've been doing for little cumulative benefit. The yarn slackens in my fingers. This was meant to be a project to bring pleasure to both of us -- to me for the enjoyment of the process and to D., who had been searching for the perfect fall-weight pullover season after season. How had even this become about my family?

I pull the yarn taut again. This is exactly why I have to finish, I tell myself. I need something to feel like I've finally set it right, that I am not totally powerless.

The errant stitches slowly vanish beneath the new surface I weave, leaving their trail like a faint scar. I know I won't forget they're there, but I can at least keep the rest of the world from seeing them.

*

I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.

3 comments:

Stacey van horn said...

Wow, can I relate to this. I don't want to count the terrible family vacations we have had because of our family's expectations.
Trying to make everyone happy when no one wants the same thing is so nervewracking. Do we do what my parents want because we only see them once or twice a year, or do we do what my husband wants since he works hard all year and this is his vacation too?
I have no answers but I do completely understand your pain.

D. A. Wolf said...

I remember these days all too well. There is nothing simple about them. We had two little ones close in age, and made a trip overseas annually - a trip I also made on my own several times.

I think it's a matter of "deep breath" and tolerate it. Sometimes it goes fine, other times... as long as you make it through, you consider it a success.

All that said, the planning (especially with family expectations) can really, really suck. (Send positive waves and empathy in your direction.)

C. Troubadour said...

I'm taking lots of deep breaths these days, Wolf -- more and more when the air is thin! I think we're practiced at tolerating these trips; we're just being asked to do them at much greater length and frequency this year. Hence the shortage on resources.

If we could get back to life as usual in between, I think we'd be in better shape. Even that, though, hasn't gone in our favor yet. Given the beating we're taking, I may declare the end-of-year holidays a local affair to save our marriage!

Thanks for the empathy :). I know you get it.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tension

A text message from my mother buzzes my phone. She tells me I need to start deciding where to stay in Boston for my sister's September wedding -- even though the official invitations haven't been sent yet, our relatives have booked nearly all the rooms blocked for our party at the hotel where the reception will be.

I consider the price point my mother gives me for a single bedroom there and laugh wryly. I'm not shelling out that kind of money. As it is, O. will have difficulty adjusting to the three-hour time difference and he's not going to be easy to wrangle during the festivities without adequate sleep. I'd rather pay for a suite at a less luxurious place with the same cash and ensure we'll all have a better chance at getting through the long weekend without having to manage a meltdown.

Against my will, my mind turns to the logistical puzzle this next trip promises to be. We've just dealt with the months-long planning process of getting ourselves to Colorado and back for a week of skiing for my mother's birthday -- a trip whose demands far outstripped any usual holiday visits we've made with O. -- and I hadn't intended to throw any resources at our Boston obligations until, say, July. But now I'm wondering how many days we need to be on the ground, how we're going to do two cross-country flights with a kid who can handle at most two hours strapped in a car seat before he's reached his limits. I see standoffs with the beverage cart coming already.

Research flights first, or hotel? My mind spins. I feel like a satellite caught in my family's orbit, destined either to burn up in the atmosphere or circle in the void for eternity.

I reach for my laptop, perched by the sweater I've been working on in fits and starts for D. Then I set it down again. The sweater's yoke, patterned with a geometric array of knits and purls, is perfect, except for one row I've noticed near the lower left of the chest. I've miscounted on the pattern, and everything from the center to the end of the row is shifted one stitch.

There's no ripping it out. Well, there is, but I've knitted the entire yoke, cast it off, and blocked it. Undoing all that work -- it's not worth it if I can find a simpler cosmetic repair. I consider using the same color yarn and just weaving fake stitches over the mistakes. I'm not satisfied with the solution, but I give in, threading a rusty orange length of wool onto a large tapestry needle. Push it under, draw it through, push it under, draw it through. If I had more patience to spare, I tell myself, I'd do this the right way, but the fact is I don't. All the more reason not to go hotel hunting this morning.

As I study the pattern's ins and outs, trying to figure out exactly where to overweave the new stitches, I can't help thinking about our week in Colorado. How my parents insisted they wanted us to be there, O. included, but hardly spent any time with him or us. How much effort we put into finding a baby-sitter long-distance and preparing to baby-proof a condo without having to ship our own safety gear or buy it just for a few days' use on site. How challenging my parents' dining preferences were with my food allergies and how we worked our own cooking and grocery shopping into the schedule so I'd be able to eat.

We'd anticipated all of that and decided ahead of time that we'd make this a vacation for ourselves, regardless of my parents' agenda -- we'd enjoy skiing together, even if the days were limited by our baby-sitting rotations, and we'd have fun being on a dinner "date" with my family on my mother's birthday, even if I couldn't eat anything at the restaurant. But then D. got altitude sickness and a head cold on top of it and by the time the week was over, he'd lost a third of our ski time and completely missed the big dinner in question.

I'm not proud of the way we handled those setbacks. After so much effort to turn a difficult trip into something positive for us, D. and I had a whisper-screamed verbal brawl late into one of our last nights in Colorado because we'd had it with the tension between us, built up over those months of dealing with my parents' requests. Extended family politics have, in the year since O. was born, been at the root of much of our growing frustration with each other. There are other stressors, to be sure, but we keep getting stretched thinner and thinner by the same primary forces we have yet to find a way to push back against together. Instead, we prey on each other's patience because it is easier than trying to appeal to my parents for the consideration they simply don't possess when it comes to their expectations of us.

These thoughts kink like yarn twisted too tightly on my needles as I attempt to oversew the first iteration of my offset stitches. For weeks I've been unable to move past them or, at the very least, push them aside. Now, I'm caught again, distracted again. This is why there are mistakes in my knitting in the first place.

The errant stitches are still just visible to me, but only because I know they are there, behind the camouflage I'm creating, loop by loop. They will always remain, no matter how carefully I match their tightness with the cover yarn.

I sit with my disappointment, unsure whether I should keep going. The act of mending is fitting for my state of mind, but it feels emblematic of all the bending and twisting I've been doing for little cumulative benefit. The yarn slackens in my fingers. This was meant to be a project to bring pleasure to both of us -- to me for the enjoyment of the process and to D., who had been searching for the perfect fall-weight pullover season after season. How had even this become about my family?

I pull the yarn taut again. This is exactly why I have to finish, I tell myself. I need something to feel like I've finally set it right, that I am not totally powerless.

The errant stitches slowly vanish beneath the new surface I weave, leaving their trail like a faint scar. I know I won't forget they're there, but I can at least keep the rest of the world from seeing them.

*

I'm linking up with Just Write this week. For more stories and essays, click the button below.

3 comments:

Stacey van horn said...

Wow, can I relate to this. I don't want to count the terrible family vacations we have had because of our family's expectations.
Trying to make everyone happy when no one wants the same thing is so nervewracking. Do we do what my parents want because we only see them once or twice a year, or do we do what my husband wants since he works hard all year and this is his vacation too?
I have no answers but I do completely understand your pain.

D. A. Wolf said...

I remember these days all too well. There is nothing simple about them. We had two little ones close in age, and made a trip overseas annually - a trip I also made on my own several times.

I think it's a matter of "deep breath" and tolerate it. Sometimes it goes fine, other times... as long as you make it through, you consider it a success.

All that said, the planning (especially with family expectations) can really, really suck. (Send positive waves and empathy in your direction.)

C. Troubadour said...

I'm taking lots of deep breaths these days, Wolf -- more and more when the air is thin! I think we're practiced at tolerating these trips; we're just being asked to do them at much greater length and frequency this year. Hence the shortage on resources.

If we could get back to life as usual in between, I think we'd be in better shape. Even that, though, hasn't gone in our favor yet. Given the beating we're taking, I may declare the end-of-year holidays a local affair to save our marriage!

Thanks for the empathy :). I know you get it.