What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Writing

Happy New Year, friends!

Ok, ok. The new year started nine days ago. I’m a little late to the game. But you know what? Technically, a new year starts every single second so there.

I decided to give myself a break from writing what with a two month old and the holidays and what not. But at some point, a break can become a state of being so I forced myself to take time to actually write.

It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about. But it is a muscle that has taken a good 3-5 month break because let’s be real, I haven’t written much in the back quarter of the year.

I couldn’t even get it together for the typical 2016 round up posts like my top posts of the year, my top Chinese posts of the year, my top books, etc.

So, what have I been doing instead of writing both to relieve stress, exercise my brain, as well as entertain you lovely people?

Here then, is a handy list:

1) Munching on Sasquatch.

Look. He’s two months and change and fat. SO DELICIOUSLY FAT.

He’s my last baby so dammit, I am his sole source of nourishment and he’s gotta be 15+ pounds by now and I MADE THAT so you know what?

I GET TO EAT HIM.

2) Playing Two Dots and its sequel, Dots & Co.

Instead of doing something productive like reading or writing or parenting, I play this mindless game. I’ve even thrown money at it. I’m not too proud to admit that.

I even got my brother, my sister-in-law, Cookie Monster, and some friends addicted.

I’ve done my duty to society. You’re welcome.

3) Read.

I finally got off my ass and started reading again. Ok, I guess I haven’t really stopped reading so much as took a month or so break from reading fantasy novels that really are a huge time investment.

It has been glorious.

I will be doing a book post soon so I will expound on those books then.

But needless to say, reading has been awesome. The authors are really stepping up their game.

However, this does cut into my sleep so I am tired. A lot. And this also does not help with the writing thing.

4) Stalked and overshared on Facebook.

Ok, that really isn’t any sort of new behavior. But it certainly has taken up a lot of my time.

5) Adulting.

Yes, yes. I have gotten a head start on my goals for 2017 and actually started to pay medical bills on time. (Seriously – this is the first time out of the four babies I have actually paid for the birth bills within six months of the baby appearing.)

I also submitted insurance claims and opened brokerage accounts and transferred money and added beneficiaries and made sure that if Hapa Papa and I were to both die that Sasquatch would get his fair share of our loot.

Priorities, people.

6) Avoided reading the newspaper.

Even though I have a digital subscription to the NYT and used to also read HuffPo religiously, I have completely stopped reading articles unless they are posted on Facebook.

I think I got burned out on the news during the election.

I know I should go back to reading because being informed during the Trump Presidency will be key to making sure our rights aren’t eroded and stolen out from under us.

But still. I needed a break.

7) Using my Instant Pot.

Okokokokok. I don’t want to overstate my actual usage. But I’ve used it 5-6 times since my friend came over and made me dinner so I consider it a win.

It doesn’t really take up that much time. I just wanted to brag.

8) Texting.

Again. Not a new thing. But I want to be honest.

Now that I list things out, I feel a little embarrassed. After all, you can’t call yourself a writer if you’re not writing.

(Although, really. Is it a constant state of writing that makes you a writer? Or you have to write a certain percentage of time? I mean, if you’re not actively seeing patients, you’re still a doctor, right? So how come you can only call yourself a writer if you write? Sorry. Tangent.)

Anyhow, this is just a pre-emptive pronouncement that there are BIG THINGS coming down the pipeline. And by BIG THINGS, I mean, just the usual. I just wanted to hype myself up to get excited about writing again.

Mostly, I just need to get back in the habit of writing and re-learning the fact that I can no longer dedicate huge swaths of time to writing (among other things) and need to figure out how to work productively in short spurts of time.

You know, be an actual grown up.

Alright. That’s it for today. What have you been up to during the holidays? Let me know in the comments.

Letting Go of “Should”

Lately, I’ve felt so blah. As if I needed a Life Makeover. New clothes. New hair. New makeup. New body. New habits. New life. Nothing particularly wrong with my current life, yet still, I feel unsatisfied.

The problem with any makeover or getaway, however, is that eventually, you go back to your life. Your real life. And even with new clothes, hair, makeup, or whatever, someone, namely you, still have to maintain and live your life.

What use are nicer clothes if you don’t wear them because your kids will just use you as a human napkin anyway? (I cannot tell you how many times I have to repeat to my children, “I am not a napkin.”) What use is my fancy haircut if it’s in that weird stage of growing out and I just have no patience for it anymore but am too lazy to style? What use is all my expensive makeup that I never wear except on special occasions? (And don’t suggest that I wear it on a regular basis because then I will have to also wash my face on a regular basis and that idea is laughable.)

Really, why can’t I just outsource my whole life and only reap the benefits? Can’t someone spend time with my kids but they will still love me and search me out? Can’t someone cook for me or clean for me or work out for me? (I suppose given enough money, I could hire a cook and a house cleaner, but I really don’t have the inclination to do that, no matter how I complain.)

The thing is, I can do all these things, but I already feel crushed enough by an ever increasing list of “things I should do.” And it’s not that these things are even bad things. They’re all good things. Things and activities I legitimately believe will make me feel better about myself and my life.

However. I have realized (finally) that I tend to crumble when it comes to expectations. Some people rise to the challenge. I am not that “people.” One of the side effects of my childhood and the demands to be the best and never quite being good enough, as soon as I get wind of any expectations (no matter how reasonable), I worry about failure and not being good enough or perfect enough. Instead of working ever harder to achieve a goal, I make a bunch of exacting standards and rules and things to achieve and I look at that list and say, “Fuck it!” Because come on! I will never be able to do all of these things so why bother?

For example, when my friend, Fleur, initially floated the idea of spending the summer in Taipei last year, I was game – but I made very clear that I was only tagging along for the ride. She would have to find the preschool, tell me where and when to apply, work out with the teachers, find a place to live, and I would just throw money at her. The thought of me doing anything was horrifying and terrifying and paralyzing. I didn’t want her to have any expectations of me.

And for some bizarre reason, Fleur was ok with that arrangement. What can I say? She’s awesome. (And one could argue that she was going to be doing it anyway, I might as well benefit!)

Well, a funny thing happened. Once there was no expectation of any work from me, I actually did the majority of the research for where we would live and found us a place over a weekend. That’s about the only thing I did though. (Fleur still handled all the applications for the school, found us places to eat, and went to places for us to buy things. I just went along for the ride and negotiated for cheaper prices.)

Without the spectre of responsibility, I had no problem looking for a place. I had no problem conducting actual research (which is normally anathema to me). Go figure!

And that’s the thing: I wanted to be able to disclaim all responsibility in case of failure. Why? Because I take failure personally. As if I failed versus a situation not working out.

For instance when we finally arrived in Taipei and the apartment I rented for the summer (and there was a repeat of the scenario when we arrived at the apartment I rented earlier this year in January), my mother showed up at the apartments and just basically did her Taiwanese mother thing and ripped the place apart. I was livid. I took things personally – as if this were my apartment and my fault. When of course, how was I supposed to know? I could only do the best based on my research.

But nevertheless, I took my mother’s criticisms as an indictment of me as a person. She was baffled (and not more than a little pissed off) that I was so upset and angry with her comments. She kept asking, “Why are you so defensive? This has nothing to do with you!” Except in my mind, she was telling me I had failed and that yet again, I wasn’t good enough. My best was just not up to par.

Of course, there are decades of parent/child dynamics at play here (and my mother is pretty much impossible to satisfy), but in general, why was I so upset when my mother was merely pointing out facts and reality?

There is definitely more to say about this topic, but I am exhausted (and starting this post rather late in the night), so I will table that for another time. Suffice it to say, my therapist, Dr. T, thinks that the next thing that would be good for me to work on is to let things go. To not see statements of fact (or opinion) as a judgment on my worth.

I have to tell myself that it is a “good thing to do” versus another “should.”

It’s a vicious cycle, my friends. Also, I now have Let It Go stuck in my head. You’re welcome. (Sorrynotsorry.)

May you have a should-free day.

How Did My Mother Do It?

I know I’m not unique in this feeling but can I just say that I often feel like a failure as a mother. I realize this is perhaps our generation’s invention and that we clearly have too much free time or guilt on our hands because in the grand scheme of things, who cares as long as our kids are happy, healthy, and alive?

But I honestly feel constantly torn because how I’m raising my kids seems markedly different from the way I was raised. For sure, a lot for the better (see lack of abusive father), but a lot not necessarily so. I realize most of us parents (but particularly mothers) feel like we’re failing because we compare ourselves so much to one another. So much so that this crushing sense of failure is completely fabricated in our own minds. Plus, most of it is perspective and seeing only part of someone’s life.

For instance, some people actually think I’m a Tiger Mom when in reality, I am far from it. I mean, by the time I was Cookie Monster’s age, I could already read, write, do addition, subtraction, knew my times tables, had played piano for a year, and could ride a bike. Cookie Monster can do none of those things. (Although, I suppose he can read and write over a hundred Chinese characters so that’s something. And now that I think on it, he can do very basic addition.)

I mean, compared to my own mother, I am a million miles behind already.

Also, I really don’t know how we eat.

I don’t go out to eat often with the kids so I must be feeding them something, but what exactly, I’m not sure. I buy a lot of fruit and snacks from Costco but not produce because although I hate the idea of frozen vegetables, I hate throwing away money even more. And when I buy produce, I really should save myself the extra step and throw my money into the trash can directly.

I feel conflicted because when I was growing up, my mother worked full time and yet still managed to come home and cook a Chinese meal of rice, soup, and at least 4-5 other dishes. I’m lucky if I can make pasta and dump ready-made sauce on everything.

It’s not even that I can’t cook. I can. I actually cook rather well. It’s just that I’m SO LAZY. And why cook when my kids will just refuse it anyway?

But I feel bad because food is such a huge part of culture and my kids aren’t getting much Chinese/Taiwanese culture this way (except when we go back to Taiwan – hmmm… clearly, another trip should be in the works, right??). Are my kids’ fond memories of food really going to be quesodillas and nuggets? This makes me want to cry.

But I really am SO lazy. So I make quick and easy and 80% guaranteed chance of eating type foods. And I make a lot of hearty soups. Not my mom’s – or white people’s – but some random hodgepodge. It tastes reasonably good, I guess. (But apparently, I make it too often because Cookie Monster really hates repeating meals. Little punk.)

Sigh.

My stomach is SO SAD.

I know I wrote last time about how it was a royal PITA getting Cookie Monster’s kindergarten registration stuff ready. How did my mom stay on top of this crap BEFORE the internet? I barely got it together and everything was online!

Did I mention that my mother worked full time? Sure, we had a nanny briefly, or a child care provider, but from when I was 9-10 years old, we were home alone. We were very independent and I could make rice, cook basic foods, and we watched hours of TV (with no ill effects), didn’t see much of our mom (who was for all intents and purposes, a single mom supporting us on her own without any monetary support from my dad while he was wasting our family’s money and fucking his way through Taiwan, but I digress) but I never felt deprived.

Somehow, she managed a career, our education, piano lessons, Chinese school, church, food, art lessons, horseback riding lessons, tennis, speed reading classes, and who knows what else, PLUS the daily task of keeping a household. ALL BEFORE CELL PHONES AND THE INTERNET!! AND THE INTERNET ON CELL PHONES!!

FFS, I’m a SAHM and other than preschool, my kids have no lessons. I can barely clean my house and feed my kids. WTF IS WRONG WITH ME?

AND HOW THE FUCK DID SHE DO IT?

My mom was a motherfucking Rock Star.