Archive | April, 2015

Who will you be today?

20 Apr

Who will you be today?

 

I am constrained by an identifier

That took consciousness and effort to announce

 

I am a writer

 

I am constrained by an identifier

That took consciousness and effort to separate

From my self doubt

 

I am not a writer

 

I am anchored now

I fight for my place here

The more I struggle

The more I sink

 

I drown

But seek no air

 

I want to be right

For I am a writer

And you can’t tell me otherwise

 

I fight to be right

For fear that I am wrong

 

I fight to be right

And sink further

 

I fight to fit the mould

But am creating cracks

 

Let the cracks become tears

And the tears become breaks

 

Let yourself float

 

Who will you be today?

 

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I almost didn’t survive my first day on my own in a foreign country

16 Apr

I didn’t think I would survive my first day on my own in a foreign country.

I woke up nauseous, dehydrated, and overwhelmed. My first thought was to get water, so I took a cold shower to try to shake my nerves off, and went downstairs to ask where I could buy some. The young girl at the front desk didn’t speak much English and pointed me in the direction I should head. I swallowed hard realizing that this was the first time I was in a country that I didn’t speak the language, and that I was alone. I mentally prepared myself to wander in the quest of water. The sun threatened to reign down past the overcast at any moment so I didn’t have much time. What if I fainted? Would I be robbed? Licked endlessly by the adorable but filthy stray puppies that littered the streets? Is this how people got rabies?

I headed down the unpaved road and found a small shop immediately adjacent to the hotel. I sighed in relief. I wasn’t going to die. Not like this.

The shop owner nodded and greeted me with a “Sawa dee”.

“Water?” I asked, wondering if I should have practised my miming skills.

He reached into a fridge and pulled out a water bottle. I inspected the label and the lid remembering that in Slumdog Millionaire foreigners were scammed by the locals who would refill old water bottles with tap water and reseal the lids. Sure, I found water with ease, but I didn’t want to end up with salmonella or e coli.

The bottle looked legitimate enough.

“How much?” I asked

“5 baht.”

I reached for my wallet, watching everyone from the corner of my eye. Not that I would know what to do if they actually pulled something. But I just wanted them to know I had my eye on them.

“I only have one thousand baht”. I pulled out the note. The storeowner starting laughing and peered into my wallet but all I had in there was American and Canadian currency and a coin from South Korea that I wasn’t sure he would take. He continued to laugh and spoke in Thai which made me uneasy. I wanted to tell him that when I got to the airport the exchange counter was closed and that I had to use an ATM. I didn’t know the machine would spit out a single 1000 baht bill. I didn’t even know those existed. But I didn’t know how to say that or how to mime that so he would understand.

A young boy came to me and took my note and disappeared into the back. I stood, unsure of what would happen next. Is that how easy it is to get robbed here? Someone comes to you, you give them your money, and they walk away with your money? He returned shortly after with change for me. I counted the change but had trouble because the bills were so new to me. I stuffed the foreign bills and coins into my wallet and ran back to my room with my water.

***

After I was hydrated enough I felt ready to search for food. Food under 995 baht, of course. I was still anxious about being in a new place and I didn’t entirely trust my sense of direction (how do you say “help I’m lost and sweaty and hungry” in Thai?) but I told myself I had to be brave and couldn’t live in the constrains of my room forever.

So I headed towards the main road and wandered yet again. I passed by some non-Thais (i.e. white people) and wanted to jump onto them and beg them to be my friend and save me but I restrained myself. I also stopped myself from running into the first Starbucks I saw and I think I deserve a lot of credit for that. I found a 24 hours café called Tom n Toms and headed inside. (I now realize that this café is the Thai equivalent of Starbucks because it was pretty pricey compared to other places).

I ordered a ham sandwich. I don’t like ham but it was the only thing I recognized on the menu and figured I was falling below my needs for protein after 22 hours of travelling. I took my first bite and wanted to vomit. I was still nauseous and uneasy. Is it too late to get on the next flight back home? I asked myself. I put the sandwich down and took a sip of my overly sweet iced tea which literally shook me.

Tom N Toms

Diabetes iced tea and untampered water

And then something remarkable happened.

Beyoncé’s Single Ladies came on the café radio and I felt a sudden sense of relief and calm. I knew that song! (and most of the dance moves from the music video, shhh) Beyoncé reminded me to be courageous and fierce -just like her alter ego Sasha Fierce– and that the world isn’t that scary of a place. She reminded me why came to Thailand in the first place.

Thank you, Beyoncé, for saving me. Is there anything you can’t do?

beyonce pad thai

Beyonce pad THAI! Get it, get it?!

 

 

Part 2: Running away from your problems isn’t always a bad thing

14 Apr

In my last post on having a mental breakdown I ended with the idea that in order to survive a mental breakdown you must face your problems. Now I’m going to tell you that I coped with my mental breakdown by running away.

I know, I totally contradicted myself there. But hear me out.

I am running away from my problems because I can only draw one type of tree.

Wait, wait! Stay with me! Let me explain.

I recently read Creativity Inc. which was written by the founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Edwin Catmull. In the book, Catmull discusses the importance of being able to see outside of a particular paradigm or way of thinking. This is something that can be facilitated by a creative and positive environment (the specifics of which I won’t get into, just read the book, it’s worth it).

For example, if I ask you to draw a tree you will visualize a particular type of tree such as a maple or an olive tree. That is your model for what a tree is. Some people are able to shift their default understanding of a tree, to allow it to encompass other types of trees. Additionally, they can see and draw the tree based on the area around the tree rather than the tree itself (i.e. the negative space).

I found myself living in a reality where only one type of tree existed and that tree was all there was to life. There was no negative space, no alternative. And when any other type of tree came in the mix, I couldn’t accept it because it challenged my entire worldview.

So what did I do to overcome this? I changed my world. By moving myself into a new environment, I allowed myself to see more trees. I detached myself from my problems so I could gain greater perspective and learn to accept.

(Okay, so my analogy is lame. Whatever, you understand what I’m trying to say. I’m going through something, gimme a break.)

What it feels like to have a mental breakdown

14 Apr

I pride myself on being smart. Intelligence has always been the benchmark of success for me, something for which I have been consistently praised. Those who know me well know that my modus operandi is one where logic trumps emotion. Being smart and being a good problem solver is such a strong part of my identity and my self-worth that when I am faced with a situation that I cannot think my way out of, it bothers me to my core. And because I don’t place much value to emotions, I push my way feelings down, away from my coveted brain, so I can focus my energy on fixing.

When the unresolved problem visits me again and again, it lingers on the sphere of my consciousness. It taunts me and sends me on a downward spiral. The more I fight it, the more it pulls me down. I can’t help it. I have a neurotic compulsion to obsess and fix. It’s how I’m wired, it’s how I was socialized, and it’s what I consider to be normal. If I can’t solve the problem, then I have failed and I am an idiot.

Working within this all-or-nothing and everything-rests-on-my-shoulders paradigm of thinking, I recently I had to face the reality that my mental capacities were being threatened and that I was becoming stupider. I was expending too much brainpower trying to fix an unfixable problem and suppressing my emotional problems. And that’s never a good thing.

I finally reached a breaking point and because I have neglected things for so long, I’d like to finally share what it feels like to have a mental breakdown so you won’t make the same mistakes I did.

Here’s what you can expect:

You can’t concentrate

You can’t really focus on any one thing because so much is going through your mind. You check out and stare into space frequently become tired easily. You also get lost driving home on a route you are very familiar with.

Your emotions become unregulated

Because I was never good at addressing emotions as they came up, when I hit my breaking point, my emotions spilled out of me like projectile vomit. The majority of what I felt was anger or sadness, and that’s mainly because I don’t really understand how other emotions feel because I never gave myself the freedom to feel in-between emotions like disappointment, sadness, vulnerability, abandonment, joy.

I would become livid at a coworker for not responding to my email within an hour and cry while watching Keeping up with the Kardashian’s reruns because “before it was just Kourtney alone dealing with Scott but now it’s Kourtney AND Mason”.

Yes. This is what it got to: crying during the Kardashians. DON’T LET YOURSELF GET TO THIS POINT!

You are consumed by negative thoughts

I spent a lot of time imagining intricate and disastrous scenarios.

I would imagine a scenario where family members die and I’m unable to cope, or I would imagine losing control of my car and crashing it into a pole (this is while I am actually driving). Similarly, I would imagine myself falling and breaking my ankle as I’m going down a set of stairs, or imagine being told I have an incurable cancer and only have a few weeks to live.

I couldn’t stop these thoughts. I think it was my subconscious trying to tell me that what I was going through was as important as life and death and I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

You have fucked up dreams

Not only are you haunted by negative thoughts during your waking hours; you can’t even be at peace while asleep. I have had a few sweat-inducing nightmares in my lifetime, but nothing compares to what I experienced in the past while.

One particular dream shook me.

I am on vacation with my sister and we are on a beach. In the horizon there is a tsunami coming. We have to climb up a hill to get away but we aren’t going to make it in time. My sister is scared and begins crying because she can’t swim. I tell her to climb a nearby tree with me and to hold her breath when the water hits and to hold on tightly. I tie her to the tree and then tie myself and try to calm her down. 

Then I look down and there’s a baby in my hands. I think, ok, I need to protect the baby. I hold onto the baby and tie the two of us to the tree.

When I look down again, my mom is on the beach. She can’t swim either, so I have to untie myself and bring her up and tie her to the tree as well. 

The water is roaring towards us and then I wake up.

The more things slip out of control, the more you fight back and try to tighten the reigns

When I woke up from my dream, the first thing I did was look up what it meant to have a dream about tsunamis. According to Google, the water represents your emotions and feelings, and by watching the water approach you, you are essentially seeing the effects of your buried emotions. Tsunamis are caused in the real world by changes under the surface (i.e. earthquakes) and symbolically this represents fundamental changes in you and your life that you must accept. Moral of the story: you need to let the water hit you.

I didn’t like that answer and my first response was to shake my head like nah man, fuck that, and Google “how to survive a tsunami” as if I could change anything. Bad news folks, if you don’t know the water is coming there isn’t much you can do but get hit by the waves.

If you want to survive, you’re eventually going to have to face your problems. Bring them the surface and address them. Let the tsunami hit you and trust you can swim.

So how am I going to face my problems? By running away.

Read more in part 2.

Things I don’t Understand

8 Apr

How come when you get a compliment on a nice shirt you have to say thanks? Why is it inappropriate to say “I know, that’s why I bought it”?

Why do we celebrate being born? We should be celebrating the woman that endured months of discomfort and hours of tremendous pain during pregnancy and childbirth during the day of your birth. Give her some cake, man.

Why thongs? Why are underwear lines so faux pas? I think we should discuss this.

Why do people yell at someone who doesn’t speak the same language like they’re gonna suddenly understand them?

Is it just me. or is he saying “mouf”

One time I heard a French guy get asked a question and respond with a shoulder shrug and make sound like “iuunoo” like he was saying “I dunno”. Why did he do that? Why didn’t he go “uhnesaypah” like “je ne sais pas”?

Why do people use cell phones while peeing in a public bathroom? And why is it not rude to have someone hear you pee and flush, but it’s rude to talk to someone while chewing?
Why is “how are you” still a greeting when everyone knows we don’t really wanna know how you are?

Why do we let cats poop indoors but not dogs?

Speaking of cats, why is my body all like oh a cat, let’s shut down your lungs because I’d rather you asphyxiate than play with that treacherous feline.

Why shake hands and not bump elbows? Less germs.

Why do we have to ask to use the bathroom up until high school and why doesn’t this translate to an adult custom where we announce to everyone whenever we need to be excused to have a bowel movement?

Who invented the contact lens? And who volunteered to be the first participant of a new technology that fit directly onto your eyeball and had to be peeled off after use?

Ditto for tampons.

Why do dogs love car rides with the window down but freak out when you blow in their face?

Why do seagulls holler at their entire gang when they find food but then refuse to share when everyone shows up? What jerks.

If height is such a coveted male attribute, why don’t guys wear heels?

Why is height such a coveted male attribute?

Why do humans connect with music? Where is it ingrained in our biology and evolution to connect with and be moved by a tune? Maybe I’m just a rational person astonished by a spiritual experience.

Why do we have armpit hair and why do I have to get it waxed?

Who first thought it would be fun to stand on top of a wave and why?

Why does everyone love Taylor swift?

Gotta shake, shake, shake it off