22 October, 2020

Your New Normal

I don't know you. 

I don't know the myriad ways your life is different now from this time last year.

I've seen talk about a "new normal" and I've seen people protesting "not MY new normal".

Okay, Nostradamus. You don't know that. You can fight change all you want - and if you are one of the "not MY new normal" types, I would bet that you do - but that doesn't make it true.

So let's play "what if".

What if the current situation is your new normal for the foreseeable future. Could you manage? Would you be content?

Current situation overall means restricted travel, limited shopping - and most of it online, limited eating out - most of it delivered or take-away, virtual meetings, virtual education. What if that new norm sticks around? Could you manage with this in the long term?

Current situation specific would include your job, your current living situation - roommates, spouse, kids - your current location. What if nothing changes? Will you be satisfied? (and if not, what can you change?)

All this is inspired by a conversation we had in my house recently.

Of course, we want to travel. We were supposed to take a trip to the US this past June, and because of where we live, there are many ancient and interesting locations we would love to visit. Not to mention that I have friends and personal history in nearby countries. 

We cannot travel.

We do not know when - if ever - we will see any members of our families again.

And yet, we are content. If this is our new normal, it's fine. Better than fine, actually. We work online, and although hours and pay have been reduced, we're okay. We are safe, and we live in a beautiful place that has a climate that suits us. 

Everyone is different. I know some people would not be able to live so far from their families or from the comforts of the culture they are in. I get that. We've found we are happy here. We want to be able to go places, but if we are "stuck" limiting our travel to within the boundaries of Vietnam, well, that's still okay. 

What about you? What needs to change in your life, if anything?

19 September, 2020

Red's World

People are unpredictable.

I installed filters on my facebook. Not about political posts. This was before all political hell broke loose, and my filters were more to weed out the psycho Covid-hoaxers, the anti-maskers, basically the people who made the pandemic seem like an anti-American extravaganza, which, can I just say, that attitude is EXTREMELY offensive and off-putting to the ENTIRE WORLD who is also struggling with this? I mean, "check your white privilege"? How about "check your American ethnocentrism!" DAMN! 

Try watching the world news once... and not from an American network. Rant over.

ANYway, I set up these filters because I was becoming enraged on the daily, and anger is - well, a strong suit or a bad suit, depending on your perspective. Suffice to say, I've learned to keep it in check, but my poor husband is now the only one who gets to (has to) hear my rants when morons wax poetic on my facebook wall! And I don't gain anything from flying into a rage, either.

Thus, filters.

Since then, I have rarely seen anything from family members. Haha. They weren't the most active facebook people anyway, but it seems telling that the specific keywords I plugged in as filters might be blocking them. Were they my triggers all along? Or have they just not been posting much of late? 

People are unpredictable.

Recently I suddenly started hearing from a friend from high school and college. She's someone I had been in touch with sort of regularly - messenger mostly. We had supported each other through grief, all winter. Then in May she stopped responding to my messages. I kept sending things I thought would interest her, amongst regular chatty messages, with no response until a week ago.

She apologized with the "things are stupid here" excuse, which I get. No hard feelings, truly. The thing is, in the interim I've learned to get on without her contact. I responded to her first burst, but her latest 4 messages (all this past week) sit unanswered in my inbox. I've read them, but ... what's that song? "You've been gone so long I don't know you at all"? Something like that. Not really. It's just that with no interim contact our lives seem to be splintering in different directions.

My closest friend now, the one person I am in the most regular contact with, is an old friend from Junior High, who lives in India. We were friends on Facebook before and we started talking through WhatsApp when I lived in China. Now we talk about every other week. Maybe the fact that she has her own issues to deal with is refreshing to me. Maybe it makes me feel good to help her out. Or maybe it's the consistency of her friendship.

I know that everyone in the US is going through unbelievable crap right now. India too. But at least India isn't in the middle of political upheaval. I try to think of things like that and be understanding. Life is crazy and I'm in the sweet spot. 

I need to answer those unanswered texts. I hated it - felt abandoned - when she didn't respond to me for three months. Is "justice" or "vindication" a good enough reason to do the same to her? Whatever she was going through, she's past it enough to reach out. That's more than I can say for most of my family. 

Apart from the everyday being everyday, that's about it.

Oh, and a typhoon. This one wasn't as much as was expected. I should have predicted that. I'm used to hurricanes from living on the US east coast. Same deal here, but different. The storm made landfall way north of us, and the winds calmed down and broke it up a bit as it went. So... Nothing major to report weather wise. 

Stay safe out there. Keep your distance, please! I would like to visit my home country sometime within the next 5 years!

05 September, 2020

Death Blog

I give up. 

I'll embrace it.

I'll become a Death Blog. Or "Grief Blog" if you prefer.

Only because the times that I feel like writing, the times that the words start actually flowing, are the times that I am thinking about, dealing with, or remembering death or grief-related things.

Today, I received a message from my sister's closest friend from high school. They had not been in frequent contact of late, but regular contact nonetheless, and she only now heard about my sister's death last January. 

I'm actually touched that she reached out to me. There are two other siblings between myself and my dead sister, siblings whom she knew - probably better than she knew me. So the fact that she contacted me to say, "Wth? I had just talked to her January 1st. She was feeling better!" means something.

I guess ... I win? Maybe my sister talked more about me than the others? Or maybe mentioned that we had become close in recent years? Of course, this random message came during the day in Asia, so maybe she'd sent equivalent messages to my brother and sister and I was the first responder. Who knows?

It was a welcome chat. 

This friend had lost her uncle the day before my sister died, so she took time for her own grief and now has a fresh wound to assess.

But don't we all? I mean, you can't help when you find out about things that happened while you were looking in another direction. These days we are all dealing with our own stuff to the extent of blocking out the rest of the world. Necessarily, I believe.

There are too many deaths, too many issues, too many problems, too many isolated frustrations, for any one person to tackle them all. All we can do is whatever we have the strength and energy for in each given moment. No harm, no foul.

Be you. Take care of you. Take care of others when you can. That's the honesty of 2020.

22 August, 2020

Reassessing What's Important

I am utterly apathetic these days. 

I don't think it's depression. It was, and sometimes is, but even when the depression fog lifts, I have zero motivation to do anything.

I'm learning two languages. Theoretically. I cancelled both classes last week, and haven't looked at the homework for either one.

I called off the classes because I'm trying to finish the novel I started in Nanowrimo last year. The ending is proving elusive, and I thought that if I gave myself permission to focus just on writing, I could sort it out. I did not. I wrote less on the days of the cancelled classes than on previous days. 

I called my mom the other day. Thought maybe a touch of normalcy would help shake me out of this ... whatever it is. It did not. It was yet another conversation of small talk, peppered with updates on my siblings as much as she knew. (My family does not partake of deep conversation with each other.)

So I'm just here to make sense of my own self.

Learning Mandarin was vital when we lived in China. I still think it's a good idea, and it is helpful with my little online Chinese students. But am I learning simply for vanity? To be able to brag? It will look good on a resume if I ever go back into the normal workforce, but how likely is that?

Learning Vietnamese is a good idea because I live here, but many foreigners don't bother learning it. Two reasons. 1) We are in a touristy area where minimal Vietnamese is needed. Most vendors and businesses that will have dealings with a foreigner have some basic English. 2) Pronunciation is apparently vastly different from north to south, so learning it in one place doesn't mean you'll understand it elsewhere. BUT 1) vendors and business-people appreciate a foreigner who at least tries to speak Vietnamese - even poorly, and 2) We haven't yet traveled away from the central coastal region, so ...

Do I continue with language classes? For both languages?

Before I started teaching online, when I decided that I was a Writer first and foremost, I forced myself to spend time writing. I keep adding hours teaching, which makes it feel like my main job. I mean, being paid NOW is more motivating than working long hours for the potential of payment later, should I ever be published. 

I think I need to cut back on teaching hours, and maybe relax the Mandarin for a bit. I don't know what that looks like time-wise, but at least I have an idea of a potential solution!

Thanks, Blogger. This has been productive.

21 June, 2020

Taking Back My Year

I have wasted a quarter of the year. (By Lunar Year standards)
I'm done. 
I'm taking back my year.

I'm using the lunar year because a)It's in my head due to the book I'm working on
b) We arrived home in Vietnam from my sister's funeral on Tết Eve. That is to say, "Lunar New Year Eve". When we woke up at home the next morning in Vietnam, it was "Year of the Rat". I was born in "Year of the Rat", so this IS. MY. YEAR! I just need to do what I need to do.

Knowing that this was a new year, I declared that this was going to be a great year, with no more death, and all good things!

Then came Covid. Crap. My city basically died. This should be tourist season, but I'm watching friends flounder with no tourists to do business with. When Covid hit the US, I floundered, too. Family and friends didn't understand the seriousness. Somehow, I took that personally.  No more.

Then race issues happened in the States that cannot be ignored. As one who used to work with law enforcement and adopted the "blue" lives stance after hearing their side years ago, I know there are multiple sides to the protests and riots in the US, but this time, I fall firmly on the #BLM side. I floundered again.

But I'm taking my year back. I lost a quarter of it to death, grief, disease, riots... basically the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The Year of the Rat began on January 25. I still have 3/4 of the year until the year of the Ox begins on February 11, 2021. 

My family will do what they will. I'm not ignoring them, but I've slipped back into everyone's comfort zone of not discussing heavy stuff. 😕 What can I say. Everyone is better off.

This is MY year. I need to focus on my own self.

I am bumping up my exercise. Not just so that I feel better about my "covid body" but also to give me more energy and improve my actual health.

I do something in my written WIP every day. Days that are busy, I might just review what I did the day before. I'm in editing mode, so word count doesn't really matter, but I count anyway. Some days are 100-ish. Some are upwards of 700. I'm happy with that.

I'm doing my best to walk more again. I got out of the habit during Covid, and now that there's no real disease danger it's freakin' hot, so I am less motivated. But I'm doing better. 

I'm being more social with people actually near me. Not ignoring those far away, but calling every couple weeks is enough. The people around me are the ones who I need to address daily.

I'm reading. Book goals. 

I'm done grieving. It may creep up on me sometime, but you know what? Death is a fact of life. I'm sorry for my brother, but part of the reason we don't talk about death is because we all know it's inevitable. Sorry you lost a kid. You'll be lost from my life sooner or later, unless I leave your life first. I'm not prepared to lose so much of my life feeling sorry about loss!

My sister's death killed me. For a while. But she's gone. Done. Better off, if I'm honest. YAY! Go you! Life = death. Suck it up and move on. And that's what I'm doing.
Oh, don't worry. I know there will be times I'm still reduced to tears about my losses. But it's done. 

I'm done.
I'm taking back my year. 

This is me.
Call me selfish; I'm a survivor. (That's what all the funeral bulletins keep saying!!!!!)

So, forgive the language but F*** YOU death. I'm over it. Take me when it's time. I'm going to keep living until then.

05 June, 2020

More Foreboding - surprise!

I'm not saying this for sympathy.
I'm not saying this in ANY WAY relating to my opinion on current events.
I'm saying this because my head and heart are flooded and it's better out than in.

I keep waffling on whether to write or not write. Few people in any of my social platforms seem to be saying things not related to #BlackLivesMatter. Which they do. Black Lives DO Matter, and I've never understood the arguments against that. But this isn't that.

...I have seen one friend who regularly - weekly? maybe? - shares Covid statistics for her county.

So if something isn't Covid or racism related, it's not likely out there.

Oh... one high school friend is in limbo waiting for a liver transplant. There's that.

Everyone has their stuff and I am not in any way ignorant of that, but I have to put my words out into the ether because they are poisoning my life.

Yesterday was the 31st anniversary of the Tian-An-Men massacre. I was in Taiwan when that happened, and helped volunteers airlift Taiwanese news articles about it, to send information across the Taiwan Straits into China where there was a news blackout. The subject brings me to tears. The People's Republic of China still denies that it happened.

Yesterday was the annual peaceful protest / vigil in Hong Kong. PROC has taken over Hong Kong while the rest of the world is focused on Covid. They tried to stop it. It still happened. 

Violence and protest is everywhere.

Also, earlier this week was the birthday of my nephew who took his own life in September. (Did I mention that in an earlier post? Sorry if I'm repeating myself.) My brother's family is reliving his death daily.

Also! I had a message from my mom last night that my OTHER brother - not the father of the deceased nephew - has been called up into a riot area. He's National Guard now. We don't know where.

Oh, yeah, and my dad is 80, my mom turns 80 this year, and Dad's been in renal failure for a few years (he's stable). Recently their gym has reopened so they are going back to fitness classes. I mean, great for them, and I'm proud they are taking care of themselves - I honestly don't know how safe their state is or their town or their facilities. But through all this they are the primary guardians of my military brother's two young daughters. Dear God, Please keep them all safe!

It's a crap shoot guessing which of my family members will die next. I thought, after my sister's funeral just before the new Lunar Year, that I'd have a good year free from more death. I'm beginning to rethink that guess.

We all die. 
It doesn't truly matter. 
I couldn't go to the funeral anyway!
It just weighs on me.

02 June, 2020

Life is Too Much

I can't anymore. 
I can't feel more than I already feel.
It's too much.

I spent a lot of words trying to make sense of my nephew's suicide.
Then I spent more words than I had access to, processing my sister's sudden death.

Covid hit. I used up as many words as I had trying to get friends and family in the US to understand that the pandemic is, in fact, real. It has, in fact, deeply effected countries around the world. It is ...
Never mind. I gave up on that fight. Ya'll are on your own.

Next came all the racist horrors that are igniting conversation. YAY! Finally, someone started saying, "Yes, I have white privilege. No, I don't agree with these racist actions. What can I do?" And finally, people are answering. Finally, people are coming together and helping each other. I found words enough for a blog post. I spoke as much as I feel might help. Not much, but hopefully people know I disagree with the brutal murder of an un-armed, restrained black man. I can't say a lot.

Then I started seeing on every social media: "Watch for the ones who are silent." Implying that silence = complicity. In some cases, it does. In some cases, we are simply exhausted! I can't feel anymore! I can't say any more. I just can't! I'm not sleeping because people thousands of miles away - people I do not know - are facing systemic injustice.

Ostracize people for silence about racism? Screw you. How about TALK to people who are silent and find out WHY they are silent. Then... choose your actions.

Yesterday was the birthday of my nephew who killed himself last fall. I have personal shit going on that nationwide riots will not change. So shut up. Shut up about thinking your issue is the only issue.  

I say this about everyone who pushes their issue and brooks no argument that their issue may not be foremost in the minds of every single other person. There are a lot of issues. Going 100% at every single issue that one feels for will KILL a person!

There is also a lot of personal pain. The fact that a person cannot give 100% to your issue when they are fighting other things at the same time... Please look at my few tweets and my blog post, and understand I have not, and will not, perpetuate the problem. But I cannot spend any more energy fighting a vast problem when I'm grieving and now on the brink of a depression of my own.

Watch for the ones who are silent.

HELP those of us who are silent!!!!

P.S. In a few days, we'll start seeing a spike in Covid cases in the US. Yippee. Yay for jeopardizing those fighting one issue in the name of fighting another issue. Which do I choose? I want to feel for both! I want to speak about both!
I can't.

I can't care.  
I'm dying from the inside out.

Ask me any questions you want, but don't judge until you hear me.