Sunday, January 31, 2016

Delayed. And that's okay.

Up until recently, I was ready to get out of here. Ever since high school, really, all I could think about was leaving, moving far away to another country, staying there, and leaving everything here behind. In college, especially leading up to graduation, all I wanted was to get up and go, to move on to the next place.

But then I didn't have a next place to go to, and so now I'm still here.

And even though I still want to go. Even though there is still something in me pulling me outward, as there's always been. I'm afraid to leave. I'm just now realizing that leaving everything behind means really leaving everything behind. Starting over means really starting over. I desperately want out, but I'm not as ready to seize it as I thought I was.

So for now I'm still here with Ma and my dog. I'm going to stay and soak up all the love and warmth  that I can, gather all the comfort to hold inside me that I can. Until I'm a little more ready. Until I can trust myself a little more to be alone and do things on my own, to sustain good thoughts and good feelings. I doubt I'll ever be all-the-way ready. Hugh Laurie says you're never completely ready for anything, and the planner in me grudgingly can't deny that. I don't know when it'll be. Hopefully it's soon; as much as I love my two anchors, I know there's nothing substantial for me here. But I guess that's between me and God. We'll see.

In the meantime, at least now I'm a little more ready to stop feeling so guilty about being "stuck" here. Delays shouldn't be as shameful as I've made them out to be.

Friday, January 29, 2016

BOOKS! (My Wish List)

As mentioned in my last review, this is the second of two books that I was able to buy for $2.91. Not only that, but it's also a translation of a hugely popular French novel published in 2012, which got me so excited that I barely needed to examine what it was about (as much as I usually do) before buying it. I didn't even know that the lottery was that big of a thing in France, and coincidentally I ended up reading this novel right in the midst of all that hubbub about the $1.6 billion Powerball that was going on a couple weeks ago here in the States. So this ended up being a timely story that did not disappoint!

My Wish List by Grégoire Delacourt
(Originally La Liste de Mes Envies)

Jocelyne is French woman in her late forties who is bored with her life, having settled after enduring much heartbreak and abandonment. She lost her mom at 17. Her dad began succumbing to dementia when she 18. She married the first man who expressed interest in her, who'd initially only wanted sex but became her husband when their tryst led to pregnancy. She had two children before giving birth to a stillborn child, which she never got to mourn properly because her husband blamed and abused her for the loss. When she was younger, Jocelyne had dreamed of being in deep love with a man who was passionate about her, of being beautiful, of being a fashion designer, of being happy and free. Instead, she's living in the small and slow-going town of Arras, running a fabric shop, working next to a twin pair of frenemy shop-owners, married to a man who only loves her to a certain extent, and the mother of twenty-something children who have long left home and are hardly bothered.

Over time, Jocelyne has learned to be resignedly content. But two events interrupt that contentment. She starts a knitting blog that surprisingly generates a following, and later on she wins the lottery. Jocelyne starts tengoldfingers on a whim, figuring she'll pass the time by taking up something that everyone else seems to be doing these days. Her writings about stitches, techniques, patterns, fabrics, and the items offered in her shop actually amass a sizable readership of women that turns into an unexpected and off-putting community for Jocelyne─a community that looks to her for answers to life questions, but also offers her tremendous support when, say, her husband is ill. The blog might be the first instance in her adulthood where she feels like she means something significant to others. People want to hear her voice and appreciate her for being herself, without her having to convince them to do so.

The second event, which is the major event of the novel, is Jocelyne's lottery win. She follows the advice of her twin shop-owner neighbors and absentmindedly buys a ticket just for the heck of it, and ends up with 18 547 301,28 € (equivalent to $20,084,872.56 as of this post's publishing). After receiving a hefty orientation from the lottery organization's in-house psychologist, Jocelyn decides that she doesn't want anything to change too much. Though her pre-lottery life may not be the life she dreamed of, she appreciates her life because it is hers; it's stable and she's worked hard to maintain it. She may be bored, but she's not completely unhappy. So she doesn't want to sacrifice what she has for money, and is loath to pursue the multiple "wish" and "need" lists that she makes while contemplating her new secret fortune. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), that resolution comes to naught when someone else makes the decision for her.

My Wish List is a fairly quick read; I read it in two days and probably could've read it in one if I was in a hurry. Generally it's relatable to women and moms, or anyone who's wanted more out of life and just hasn't gotten it yet. I mean, who doesn't fantasize about having the means to do whatever they want when they want? Who doesn't yearn for a do-over in life? My Wish List's cover poses this question to all of us, "If you won the lottery, would you trade your life for the life of your dreams?" Take this book as an opportunity to see how you would answer that question.

Favorite quotes:
"I'd like to have the chance to decide what my life will be like, I think that's the best present anyone can get. The chance to decide what your life will be like" (32).
"Because our needs are our little daily dreams. The little things to be done that project us into tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the future; trivial things that we plan to buy next week, allowing us to think that next week we'll still be alive... You can spend your life filling a house, and when it's full you break things so that you can replace them and have something to do the next day. You can even go so far as to break up a relationship in order to project yourself into another story, another future, another house. Another life to fill" (111-112).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Talking with Yasmin 11

Today I'd come in with things I wanted to talk about (can't remember what they are now), but Yasmin had had two exercises in mind so we went with those instead. She said it was up to me to choose, since it was my session. But then I figured that if she'd taken time to plan something out I might as well see what it was about. Turns out it wasn't about much. The first exercise was listening to her read from a certain book, and that was nice. The second exercise had something to do with self-esteem and was a dud, to be quite honest. I know she's trying, but meh. Eh well. Blahblahblah. Notes here:
  • Yasmin starting off by reading Be-good-to-yourself Therapy book by Cherry Hartman
    • Express your opinions; it's good to hear yourself talk
    • Asking for what you need/want and respecting whatever "no's" you might get, but not inflating the importance of said "no's"
    • Been trying to avoid rejection like the bogeyman because you're not sure how to rebound from it and don't want to know what that "no" says about you and what you're lacking
  • Feeling unmotivated this week; been thinking about the fact that there are no guarantees in life
    • No guarantee that things will work out for you, no guarantee that people will receive you or respond well to you, no guarantee that the thing you love to do will ever love you like, what's the point?
    • Not trying to be negative, just astounded by the uncertainty of everything. Everything is a risk and that's terrifying

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Things People Give Me #25

My friend from high school is currently living and working in Germany, and we've been exchanging messages occasionally to keep abreast of what each of us is up to. This morning I woke up to a new message from her, and I enjoyed it so much that I asked her for permission to share it, with minor omissions and whatnot. It makes me so glad when people trust me with their thoughts and tell me things like these. It's a lengthy offering of honesty and reflections on applying to grad school, selling yourself, teaching, progressing at a job you might not have felt cut-out for, and discovering what you like and want to do most. Very timely and relevant for other 20-somethings like us who might be struggling in this wonky phase of post-graduation or preparing for post-graduation. For your reading pleasure:

[her original message]
 Hi Danielle, see? It took me more than 3 weeks to respond. How are you? It's been a busy month for me. Although we had winter break until the 11th, I still felt really busy. I've been working on my grad school apps this whole month. U of [Whatnot] wanted a 4-6 page Statement of Purpose AND a 1-2 page Personal Statement!! Too much!!! I am a really slow (and reluctant) writer so it always takes so long. For some reason, I don't have any sort of writing process and I always feel lost when I write. Somehow I can't get my thoughts together because I have so many. And especially because this was an application essay, I felt really under pressure because it determines the next two years of my life. It's just so hard to sell yourself honestly, you know? How do I know what I would contribute? How do I know my strengths and weaknesses? They are asking us to know ourselves and communicate a coherent image of ourself to the admissions committee, but in all honesty, people aren't all that coherent. They are complex and inconsistent. Trying to project a coherent self just feels like a lie and I can't write if I feel like I'm bullshitting. So anyway, it was super hard. I had to ask a friend to help me brainstorm and focus on specific aspects of myself before I could really get the app done. But it got done eventually. Now I'm working on my U of [Whatnot] one and it's smoother sailing because it's not as long and I feel like I've already organized my thoughts when writing my U of [Whatnot] one. What's challenging about this essay is trying to use the Canadian spellings of things. But it's not that big of a deal. 

Teaching is alright. Definitely different from what I expected. Have you taught anyone before? Stood in front of a classroom and sweated? I thought that with my years of tutoring experience, I'd be well-prepared, but teaching is a different game altogether. It's psychological. It's figuring out how to motivate people to want to learn. It's learning group dynamics, which people work well together, who distracts whom, considering their age and maturity level (The 9th graders are in the gender-split phase where the boys refuse to interact with the girls and everyone is apathetic because it's cool. Little do they know that the world is not driven by apathy, but by passion). It's recognizing that different classes have different personalities and you have to be ready to adapt, be flexible, get the quiet classes to participate and the loud ones to calm down. It's learning that your plan never goes as expected. As a student, you never realize how much planning a teacher does. They structure the way the class runs. I'm always surprised by how much authority I have too. Whatever I plan for the class is what we do. It's a weird, new experience, but I'm happy I get to do this for 10 months. It's not exactly my cup of tea, but I'm learning a lot, and it's helping me strengthen my weaknesses. I hate public speaking, dealing with discipline problems, raising my voice to be heard, but I'm being forced to. And I know all of it will get easier as I go along.

I think the best part of this whole experience is the freetime. I was really lost my senior year. I was having panic attacks the summer before my last year, which I had never had before, because thinking about the future and not having something concrete was really scary to think of. It's like you've been walking around this whole time and suddenly you come to a cliff and you look down and panic because you don't know what's down there. I really felt useless, having studied German. Like, German is a good to know if and only if you have a main skill too, which I don't. So I panicked all the way through applying to the [Whatnot] and the Austrian version of the [Whatnot]. And then I breathed a bit when I got the grant because now the cliff was a bit further away. And now I'm here and the freetime has allowed me to really think of the stuff I want to do. You spend like 16 years straight through being educated that you barely have time to think about your own passions and your long-term goals because you have so many short-term goals in front of you (finishing that paper, studying for that exam, doing required readings). Once you have free time, you fill that time with what you want to do and it helps you see yourself so much clearerly. Having time to just think and reflect was really valuable because I realized that I really like building things, designing stuff, figuring out how things work, programming. But most importantly I really like to help people. And maybe one day I could help more people if I had more money. Tip better, donate to Wikipedia, stuff like that. And I can't do that stuff with just a degree in German. I want to learn to make programs /websites/applicaitons that help others (it also pays well). It became totally logical that I should apply for a Master's so I did. And I hope I get in so I can continue to work on my goals. 

What have you been up to now without the bookshop? I too worked in retail before and I know I can do better than be walked on by people with money all day errday. So can you. What have you been doing with your freetime? Volunteering? Finding another job? I wouldn't be too hard on yourself either because like I said, freetime also has its value ;) I hope you are doing well despite the insecurity, and I have absolute trust that you will figure it out eventually :) Take care!
Sorry I wrote so much haha! honest writing is the only writing I like doing
[in response to my response to her original message]
Aww, I'm glad you liked my message - of course you can reproduce it if you want haha! I'm applying to the School of [Whatnot] because they take people from basically any major since [whatnot] is an interdisciplinary field. I am an interdisciplinary at heart, so it should be a good fit. Plus I will learn how to program and design applications. And then I will finally have a main skill to pair with my German. I'm applying as a citizen and hoping the spellings don't matter because I have been integrated too long in American society d: I really enjoyed reading your message too! And never worry about "making things about" you. That's what friendship's about! (among other things). I'll send you another message next month, but until then, keep doing you in all your writing, cooking, reading, twerking glory ;)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

BOOKS! (Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown)

This book is very special to me because I'd learned about the man who mailed himself north to freedom in elementary or middle school, but had no idea that he'd written about it afterward. This book is doubly special to me because I was able to buy it and the next book that I'm going to review for a grand total of $2.91 at a calendar store. The cheapskate and the bookworm in me are both insanely pleased right now.

In a nutshell, Henry Box Brown's story goes like this: In Virginia, Brown and his wife had different masters, but he often did additional work for his wife's master and gave the scoundrel money because said scoundrel had the power over him to demand such things. When Brown wasn't able to meet his demands, one day he came back from work to find his wife and children gone. They had been sold further south by his wife's master. Greatly distraught, weary, and rightfully enraged, he had finally had enough of the tyranny of slavery. And in March 1849, with the help of a couple trustworthy associates, he risked death to have himself sealed in a box and mailed from Richmond, VA to Philadelphia, PA. This memoir is part of his later work as an abolitionist speaker, actor, and storyteller.

Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown by Henry Box Brown

At only about 60 pages, this book is one of numerous precious testimonial slave narratives that we have access to today. Henry Box Brown employs it as a means to tell his story, as well as to offer some theories about the treatment and conditioning of black people that are strikingly relevant to the current BLM/New Civil Rights Movement. For instance, early in the book Brown discusses the nominal quality of black marriages and a particular lack of autonomy for black female bodies. Sexual agency does not exist for black women, and he makes clear that a slavemaster's right to a female slave's body supercedes that of her husband's. He then boldly supposes that one of the strongest motives for even the most "respectable" men to own slaves is sexual: white men keep slaves in order to have unlimited access to rape as many black women as possible, and then profit off of their mixed offspring as an afterthought. The devaluing of black women is nothing new, and on top of that, it's profitable.

In another instance, Brown draws from his  childhood to demonstrate how slave children are brainwashed to think that their innate purpose lies in subservience. Brown and other little ones on the plantation mistakenly believe that their master is God and that the master's son is Jesus. Said master and son are amused by this superstition of theirs, and encourage it. On other plantations masters might even sit amongst slave children to teach them the word, but won't allow them to read the word themselves─or even touch the Bible! Fortunately for Brown, he stops believing that his masters are divine when his mother corrects him with her own instruction, emphasizing that he know Christ for himself. His family is able to teach and empower him at home; many other black children are not so lucky.

Speaking of Christianity, Brown is very open about having been conflicted about the religion. As a black man who was controlled and taken advantage of by white people who wielded a warped, disingenuous piety against him, this isn't a surprise. Nearly all of the people who own him or use their power to mistreat him and other slaves are white, so-called good Christian people. A slave-owning Christian extorts money from him for years, then sells his wife and children away. And surrounding slave-owning Christians whom Brown has grown to know and trust are deaf to his pleas to help him get his family back. So, understandably, he's got beef! Brown writes that he could've very well been bitter and ended up hating Christianity, but he instead embraces it because he's learned that the faith is really about love and freedom for all. Neither he nor his narrative are anti-Christian, but he acknowledges how other black people might turn out to be so.

Something that's also salient for the Movement today is the frequent economic manipulation that slaves were subject to at the hands of their owners or overseers. To counter centuries-long assumptions of our people's inert laziness, we often try to remind ourselves of the power of the black dollar. And I think the beginnings of this sentiment can be gleaned from Brown's stories of slaves lending or giving masters money based on negotiations that go unhonored. With promises of freedom, of not having loved ones sold off, or of receiving their own facilities as incentives, slaves would work to save all the money they had to meet their masters' exorbitant demands. And in return, they'd be tricked into diverting their funds to other purposes, placated into compliance just long enough to forget about running away, or flat-out swindled out of their money by masters who'd never had any intention of conceding to the terms agreed upon in the first place.

With all the points Henry Box Brown brings up (and there are more), he ties them all back to the reality that generally, white people didn't have qualms about owning people because we were not people to them. This isn't news to me, but reading it the way he tells it makes it difficult to swallow because I see the same anti-black sentiments expressed in 2016, especially in response to continued calls for justice, equality, and humane treatment. Many a time Brown overhears slaveowners and other white people saying that blacks "don't have souls" or "don't have feelings" to justify their own depravity. Such depravity, along with many things good and bad, is sown into the fabric of this country. I think Henry Box Brown wrote this narrative to ensure that Americans not only don't forget this fact, but that we do what we can to resist and correct it. His journey to freedom is astounding, but what he has to say about it is even more so.

Favorite quotes:
"For I feel convinced that enough has not been written, enough has not been said, enough has not been done, while nearly four millions of human beings, possessing immortal souls, are, in chains, dragging out their existence in the southern states... Having, myself, been in that same position, but by the blessing of God having been enabled to snap my chains and escape to a land of liberty─I owe it as a sacred duty to the cause of humanity, that I should devote my life to the redemption of my fellow men" (1).

"The advocates of slavery will sometimes tell us, that the slave is in better circumstances than he would be in a state of freedom, because he has a master to provide for him when he is sick, but... no amount of kindness can be made the lawful price of any man's liberty, to infringe which is contrary to the laws of humanity and the decrees of God" (29).

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Talking with Yasmin 10

Notes from today's session. I did the compassionate statement assignment Yasmin gave me last time, but it was so hard for me to do! I've realized that when I have negative or judgmental thoughts about myself, in my mind that's the truth. That's just how it is. So trying to re-frame these statements or come up with positive rebuttals to them was greatly challenging and uncomfortable because I felt like I was going too easy on myself or denying the truth, like I was being naive or something. But I did it, and now I have a record to go back to and reassure myself if/when those thoughts resurface.
  • Pole class frustrations; can't stand not being good at things especially when there are witnesses, disappointed in yourself, frustrated when you don't get the hang of things right away 
  • Reading through my entries for the compassionate statements assignment 
    • feeling a lot of unresolved disquietude and guilt; self-induced pressure to do get it together
  • "difficult emotions" meditation
    • getting comfortable in the uncomfortable 
    • RAIN, recognize experiences instead of resisting them, and allow them to happen without attaching meaning or judgement

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

DeelaSees turns THREE! :)

Today makes three years since I created this space for myself. Happy Blog-iversary to me, and to anyone who reads this!

I will continue to use my words for good, and to write them well.


Monday, January 18, 2016


America Ferrera's brilliant self. Ben Feldman's fine self. A diverse ensemble cast given the chance to shine on screen because diverse people actually exist, not just to earn brownie points or mark off a checklist.

Representing for all the toiling masses in the retail/service industries, and the crap we put up with for the sake of teamwork and a buck.

Plus, clever and hilarious to boot.


I know I just sat up until past 3am watching all of your episodes, so I'm a super newbie. But for real, you've henceforth got a loyal fan in me. Lately I haven't laughed as much as I used to, and this show has allowed me to reminisce on my days in retail and laugh  from my gut, at the top of my lungs.

Thank you! 

Attention, shoppers: Superstore is coming to NBC for a special 1-hour preview on November 30 at 10/9c!
Posted by Superstore on Monday, November 2, 2015

Sunday, January 17, 2016

BOOKS! (Cure) - proof

Another advanced reader copy taken from the bookstore break room. I usually don't read scientific books of any sort, but I was intrigued by this one's title and premise. The power of the mind to heal the body is currently a very trendy topic, so this book will be right up the alley of many people who already believe in this phenomenon. However, this idea is also met with much skepticism among doctors and scientists who doubt the efficacy of alternative medicine. What makes Cure different from many mind-body/self-transformation texts, however, is that it takes a scientist's approach to explore whether there is evidence to substantiate the use of the mind in medical practice.

Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant
(on sale January 19th, 2016) 

The new age-y title is likely to entice and intrigue many as it did me, but please don't get too excited. What Marchant presents is radical, but not that radical. She doesn't argue that we can think ourselves well (the idea that positive thinking can cure diseases is not a theory that she can support neither as a doctor nor as a scientist). What she does argue, however, is that by using practices meant to influence the mind in conjunction with more conventional treatments, our brains can play a major role in mitigating and relieving symptoms. This in turn can lessen the suffering and anxiety associated with conditions that are difficult or unresponsive to conventional treatment alone. And potentially, these relief methods could put us on the path to developing more efficient and patient-centric medical practices. In short, incorporating the multi-faceted abilities of the mind more into treatment can't be said to cure diseases all on its own, put it could get us going in the right direction.

Jo Marchant, an accomplished British geneticist and science journalist herself, drew upon many sources to conduct her research. She interviews patients and participants, and she consults or observes the work of doctors, researchers, specialists, and practitioners in the UK, US, Italy, Switzerland, France, Costa Rico, Russia and Canada. Just as the sources of her material vary by geographical location, the studies that she presents concern various phenomena and experiments. For example, the placebo effect, the brain's manipulation of fatigue, hypnotherapy being used to relieve debilitating IBS symptoms, virtual reality games and other forms of distraction being used achieve pain relief for burn victims, the merits of consistent one-to-one support and comforting speech provided by caregivers, as well as others. Readers are led to envision the possibility that the mind can be used to enhance treatment for a myriad of physical and mental conditions.

Marchant uses the first half of the book to set a foundational understanding of the ways in which the mind and body work together (both proven and not-yet-proven), and the second half of the book to apply that understanding to everyday life. Three particular chapters in this second half got me thinking. In Chapter 8, "Fight or Flight: Thoughts That Kill", she argues that societal and environmental conditions can affect our biology in such a way that certain populations (in her example, poor Black communities) are being set up to exhibit chronic stress, unhealthy behaviors, and fear mindsets that endure through adulthood. Chapter 10, "Fountain of Youth: The Secret Power of Friends", is all about longevity and loneliness; since social bonds have been found to reduce stress, Marchant explains how friendship can keep us alive. She saves what may be the hottest of hot button issues for last in Chapter 12, "Looking for God: The Real Miracle of Lourdes", using a popular Catholic pilgrimage site in France as the framework to explore how belief in God might be said to improve physical health and healing.

Ultimately, Marchant admits that this field still needs a lot of research, as there's so much about our brains especially that we still don't understand. At the same time, she repeatedly emphasizes the point that while numbers and quantitative results are important, how patients feel─not just physical sensations but also their psychological state and how they experience their illnesses─is also crucial, and should be taken into account when treating them. Because, as she writes, patients aren't just bodies and certainly aren't machines. They are complex human beings. They're people! Cure is a slightly challenging but incredibly informative read that will be useful to scientists and non-scientists alike.

Favorite quotes:
"It turns out that experiences of social exclusion or rejection─such as being shunned in a game, receiving negative social feedback, or viewing images of deceased loved ones─activate exactly the same regions of the brain as when we are in physical pain. When we're socially rejected or isolated, we don't just feel sad. We feel injured and under threat" (181).
 "The evidence shows something very different: that our bodies and minds have evolved in exquisite harmony, so perfectly integrated that it is impossible to consider one without the other. Terms like 'mind-body' and 'holistic' are often derided as flaky and unscientific, but in fact it's the idea of a mind distinct from the body, an ephemeral entity that floats somewhere in the skull like a spirit or soul, that makes no scientific sense" (255).

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Talking with Yasmin 9

Today's session began with mediation and ended with a homework assignment! Doing something different, which is a welcome change from me just coming in, sitting down, talking, crying, talking while crying, and then leaving as usual. Well I mean that happened too, but at least this time it wasn't the only thing that happened. Here are my notes:

  • Been feeling better
  • Declined the interview for a certain job in Japan; even though moving to Japan is something that you really want, had the intuition to know that you had to let this particular opportunity go; feel you need to make peace with yourself first before uprooting your life to another continent
  • "Waiting around" meditation; looking inward during periods of waiting and uncertainty instead of diverting to outward distractions
  • Developing self-compassion
    • Common humanity; sense of yourself as part of humanity in which other people share your struggle and difficult experiences, can empathize with yourselves and each other 
    • Try hugging yourself; hug yourself by placing hands over heart, reassuring yourself that you're not alone because you always have you
  • For NEXT WEEK: As you have them, make a list of negative thoughts/criticisms that you form toward yourself and re-frame them as compassionate statements

Monday, January 11, 2016

What's the Big Deal About Dating?!?

Today I had a less-than-stellar initial (and probably only) appointment with a psychiatrist in Yasmin's office. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to say "Nah", and pass on this doctor and his meds. What I'm about to tell you has little to do with why I was put off by the appointment, but it is something that's come up before and is starting to annoy me. Somewhere along his line of questioning he asked me,

"Are you dating?"


"Why not?"

Whatchu mean, why not?? Because I'm not, that's why!  "...No interest."

I understand that this is a fairly reasonable question for a psychiatrist to ask, but his "Why not?" sounded a lot like, "Oh. That's... odd. Why aren't you partaking in this normal person activity?" There are plenty of things about me that could render me an abnormal 23-year-old, but I don't see why dating should have anything to do with it. A young 23-year-old woman can't decide to forgo dating without needing a reason for it? I have my reasons, and those reasons aren't necessarily your business. But hey, for the sake of this post, I'll humor you.

I've been single all my life, and am a creature of habit! No one's ever expressed genuine interest. I've never been interested in anyone enough to pursue something like that. It's too much work (boyfriends: you have to spend time with them, talk to them, feed them, take them on walks; it's just too much work!). It's a distraction that's not even on my radar right now (I'm trying to figure out my life and you want me to sacrifice precious time and energy to keep some dude company? TUH!). Whatever a date or a boyfriend might have to offer me is currently of dubious value and not appealing to me at this point in time. And frankly (and most importantly), I just don't want to!  I don't know why people can't accept "I just don't want to" as a good enough reason for things. It's a good enough reason for me, at least.

Yasmin has also brought up the subject of dating multiple times in our sessions, like I'm missing out on something. She's recently married and so is a believer in the power of love and companionship, and how a healthy relationship can change your life for the better and all that jazz. And that's cool. I don't disagree. She wants me to be open to things, and is only encouraging me to reconsider options and broaden my horizons. Okay. But miss me with that. I get it from family, from friends, and now from well-meaning mental health professionals. Miss me with that, please.

Whew! I just had to get that off my chest. I feel better now. Maybe dating is fun and educational for most people, but I'm good with my singleness for the time being. Happy Monday, y'all!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Tell the Truth!" - Concussion

Like in Bridge of Spies, in this film a man is hired to uphold an oath and do his job, and people ridicule him and call him un-American for doing. his. fricken. job. Said man chooses to adhere to professional standard and human decency rather than to mob mentality, and the consequences are more than he bargains for.

Seen Monday, December 28th, 2015: Concussion

Nigerian-born Dr. Bennet Omalu's life changes when he's assigned to do an autopsy on the body of Mike Webster, a former Pittsburgh Steeler's star and the city's hometown hero. Dr. Omalu finds that repeated head trauma contributed to Webster's mental demise and death, which leads him and his colleagues to put a name to a new degenerative disorder that other football players might also be in danger of developing, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). When his findings are published, the NFL endeavors fiercely to shut Dr. Omalu up and keep the truth buried.

"Even Legends Need a Hero / Nothing Hits Harder Than the Truth"

What I really like about this film: The very first scene with Dr. Omalu (Will Smith), where he's testifying in court for a murder case and the judge skeptically asks him, "Do you have a medical degree?". In response, Dr. Omalu calmly recites all the receipts from his studies, doctorate, multiple masters degrees, and specializations acquired from prestigious institutions on at least three continents, just so everyone in the room knows 1) not to try him like that again, and 2) that they could never even aspire to his level of excellence.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Prema, Dr. Omalu's wife. She impressed me in Beyond the Lights and she impresses me still.

I must mention that I greatly appreciated the way in which Omalu and his wife's faith was emphasized. It wasn't done in a corny or dogmatic way, but in a way that speaks to belief in oneself and one's purpose. I know God, and knowing God means trusting His vision. And knowing God means that when I have truth, I must tell it, even if people tell me not to. I think that's a message that can resonate with many people.

I'm also glad the film clarifies that even though Dr. Omalu  initially doesn't get what the big deal is about American football, he isn't out to take down the sport with his findings. He just wants people, and athletes especially, to be made sufficiently aware of potential risks involved with playing the sport.

What I don't like about the film: Prema is kind of just there. She has a past and desires, she has endured trauma, but these things are only mentioned in passing. As a character and the female lead, she exists only to be Dr. Omalu's companion and cheerleader, which is a waste in my opinion.

When Dr. Omalu gets invited to Capitol Hill and is offered the position of chief medical examiner for Washington, D.C., and the recruiter tells him that he represents every bit of what it means to be American because of what he's done, and that he's reached a new level in his profession now, and that they welcome him aboard.... As if he's reached the Promised Land or the Pearly Gates or something, and all of his life's work and hardships are only fully validated by a white man in a suit telling him, "Well done". I appreciate the sentiment that he is finally being recognized for his integrity and brilliance after fans, the NFL, and the Feds did him dirty for so long. And the scene doesn't even go beyond five minutes. But the way this moment of triumph is set up just rubs me the wrong way.

Lastly, this isn't a criticism of the film itself, but a reaction to a note made at the end of the film. Apparently, back in 2013 the NFL settled a lawsuit filed by 5,000 former players, on the condition that the organization would never have to reveal how much and when they know about the harmful effects of football-related head trauma. Which means the NFL knows A LOT more than anyone about something that could be killing athletes. And they. will never. tell. Ever.

Would I recommend it?: Sure. Like Creed, this is a sports film that isn't just about sports, so it has enough in it to keep it interesting for non-enthusiasts such as myself.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Talking with Yasmin 8

Today was our first session of 2016! And it went better than I expected. It helps when both parties are engaged in the conversation. Here are my notes:
  • Was way up on a major New Year's Day positivity high... until a pair of your adult cousins started sweating you about being 23 and not having a job; tap-dancing (although probably not purposefully) on your guilt and insecurities about being unemployed and dependent on your mom
    • But if your mom understands your situation and is okay with it for now as you re-strategize, then that's okay! It's her house, and hers is the only opinion that matters on this subject!
  • Telling people you "don't know" what you want to do next even though you do; just trying to avoid hassle of explaining your aspirations to people who probably won't get it
    • It's not wrong for you to want what you want, just because no one wants it or understands it
  • Main issues right now are the job thing (needing to feel like you're doing something worthwhile, contributing to something), and the self-esteem/self-image thing (obsession with weight and appearance as life obstacle, difficulty maintaining positive thoughts and feelings about self)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

BOOKS! (Song of the Exile)

I feel like God really wanted me to read this book, because the timing was just too eerie. Back in October I spotted it while doing recovery in the used section of the bookstore I used to work at, and decided that if that book was still shelved in the same place when I came in for my shift the next day, I would buy it. Which I did. I read it in December, and was so focused on its Hawaii/young wartime lovers plot line that I felt hit in the face when I realized that the book is actually about the sufferings and invisibility of comfort women. I'd learned about comfort women in college in a Korean history course and revisited the atrocity briefly in a Japanese lit course, but this book puts all of it in your face. Repeatedly, relentlessly. I finished it on Christmas, and a few days later, bam! The news hit about the sham deal between Japan and Korea regarding comfort women. (I encourage you to look it up, but basically Japan gives South Korea a paltry $8.3 million-dollar donation─not reparations, mind you─ to "support" the surviving women who were forced into sex slavery by the Imperial Army during WW2. In exchange, South Korea must remove the memorial statue that faces the Japanese Embassy in Seoul and never bring up comfort women in official discussions again, so Japan never has to own up to it or feel bad about it. An utter. and complete. sham. It's insulting.) Anywho. I was like dang, I literally just spent days reading about this! And these women continue to be treated like afterthoughts.

Song of the Exile by Kiana Davenport

A tale of young island love, becomes an epic wartime love story, becomes a nightmare. Kiana Davenport has done impeccable research on the worst of the worst that happened during WW2 (something few want to acknowledge or address), as experienced particularly by brown and Asian people (people who are rarely mentioned with dignity in American conversations about contributions and sacrifices during WW2). Which means that you might want to take this book in small doses. Books move me deeply but very rarely induce physical reactions in me. I've never cried reading a book, never gotten sick to my stomach. But with Song of the Exile came frequently necessary breaks because what was printed on the pages would become too much for me. 

The novel is anchored by two young and devoted lovers named Keo and Sunny. Keo finds his calling as a jazz musician and leaves their home island of Honolulu to follow his dream to New Orleans, later ending up in Paris. His girlfriend, a Korean-Hawaiian college student and painter named Sunny, follows him to Paris in 1939 as WW2 is starting. Under German occupation Sunny slips off to Shanghai to find her long-lost older sister. Keo follows her and eventually finds her, but then loses her when Japanese forces take over the city. He ends up in a prison camp elsewhere in China while Sunny is seized and taken to Rabaul as one of hundreds of thousands of sex slaves ("comfort women"/"P-girls") who are starved, tortured, abused, raped, reduced to their bodies, and murdered by the Japanese Empire's armed forces across East Asia and the Pacific Islands. Keo is liberated and taken back to Hawaii in 1943 and spends the next decade traveling the world, playing the trumpet and searching for Sunny. Meanwhile in Honolulu, Keo's family and neighbors survive the pressures of the stringent post-Pearl Harbor U.S. military occupation only to face another fight as islanders fiercely debate an impending vote on statehood for Hawaii.

The Hawaiian woman on the cover and the synopsis on the back make the novel appear to be about Sunny. But then it seems not to be, since most of the novel is comprised of Keo's story from Keo's perspective. And then you realize that this book in fact is about Sunny, because long after the end of the war Keo and his family are haunted by her absence. An absence that embodies the way in which comfort women continue to be made invisible. Their experiences are questioned and dismissed, they aren't respected as fighters like male soldiers have been, and they are often shamed for enduring all that they were forced into, rather than being honored and shown compassion for having survived. This book is a love letter to the island that raised Kiana Davenport, but is also a mournful tribute to the women who were forgotten and given no peace.

Exile comes to mean many things in this novel, especially if you think of exile as a perpetual separation or a prolonged distance. It can refer to native Hawaiians having their culture destroyed or watered down by colonization and tourism. It can refer to the devotion that jazz requires, as Keo isolates himself from others while on a quest to overcome his greatest fear of being mediocre. It can refer to the displacement of millions during the war, or the type of suffering that unmakes a person leaving them to return home never quite the same. It can refer to Keo and Sunny both separated far away from home, away from each other, away from who they used to be. The title's "song of the exile" is jazz, a music of wanderers like Keo who are constantly searching for truth, excellence, and belonging. It is also the ocean, the divine mother whose scent and waves always beckon her children back home to Hawaii.

I looked up Kiana Davenport and learned that this book is actually the second of her "Native Hawaiian" trilogy. I am so impressed by and enamored with the poetic fluidity of her prose... but Lawd. Song of the Exile has really had me going through it. If the others are anything like it, I might need to wait a couple months before trying them. This book is beautiful  and enlightening and heavy.  So, so devastatingly heavy. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning about Hawaii pre-statehood or about the horrors that civilians of color suffered during WW2. However, if you're the type of person who feels things deeply, please take your time and be careful.

Favorite quote:
"Healing hands of the mothers of her mother, ancient mele chanters and tale weavers chorusing in Mother Tongue. They will gently bathe her, soothing her bones. They will rinse her hollows. Swaying on the ocean floor, they will turn, passing her nightmares from hand to hand like heirlooms. Her pain will be made bearable; they will bear it with her. 

Listening closely in those dreams, she will hear her mother's mother and that woman's mother, chant out how Sunny Sung became a woman, how she exacted ho'opa'i, revenge. And broken girls, that army of women in her blood, will rise beside the elders. In nights of sleeplessness, they will keep watch, turning the darkness womanful" (354).

Friday, January 1, 2016