Getting lost in the jungle 

Sunday we drank makkoli. Bowls of it at first with our Korean bbq. I burned my lip on the heat of the pork and shoved so much lettuce wrap in my mouth I nearly choked. The smell of grease and fried pork clung to my hair and shirt the rest of the night. 

The silence of Seoul. 

I didn’t sleep much on the plane until I was delirious and then everything hurt from sitting. How do you sleep through the ache. 

We rode the bus through the city in the rain but it didn’t feel any differently because I was with Taryn. 

The bowls of makkoli turned to bottles. And my mouth turned to puddles and I drank until I felt the hangover settle in behind my eyes and in my throat and then we chugged bottles of water like we had been stranded in the desert for weeks. 

Sunday we went to Olympic park and browsed around the world peace gate before going into the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the art museum. A strange suffocated display of a great female artist. Of someone who was comfortable being an analogy an icon an idea. An abstract human. I love Frida Kahlo. 

We wandered around the area of Seoul akin to the city district. We stopped at the palace where Taryn befriended a group of European men. “Where are you from?”

“Poland.”

“Europe.”

We walked along the stream and tried to have beer but that was interrupted by a city patrolman who apologized to us for enforcing the law. 

We ended up outside a convenience store with an older Korean gentleman who tried to express his distaste for the Korean government. A city being overrun by welcome foreigners while the locals are being ignored. Being an outsider. 

Subway tunnels 

To be so obviously something. White and pink and brown. 

Chicken and beer with Johnny. Michelle. What do you see?

Richard is always around. 

Chips and cookies and ice cream bars of delicious unfamiliar flavors

Rose tea 

I want to want something more. But there is nothing more. 
“My stomach hurts. I hope it’s not the duck’s blood.” 

There’s always this moment during travel when you forget this isn’t always what you’ve done. You don’t take early morning flights and take your chances on buses and down streets and listening to directions in a language you don’t know. You haven’t always bought your food out of convenience stores and stared at symbols that are meaningless and converted the cost of a can of beer into an amount that makes sense to you. You haven’t always lived out of hotel rooms and ended every day sweaty exhausted but fulfilled. 

Taryn and I are in Taiwan. She fails to switch from Korean to Mandarin. I say things like, I meant to say xiexie in Chinese but forgot. 

I enjoy Seoul. It is a massive towering city with overwhelming options of food and 7/11s and people who speak minimal English. A city with glass buildings and tree lined sidewalks that double as parking spaces and pedestrians making their own way along the taxis and delivery scooters. 

But being in Seoul didn’t feel like travel. I had to remind myself of where I was, even though the quiet Koreans engrossed in their cell phones on the subway should have been reminder enough. 

Being in Seoul just felt like a visit with Taryn. Taryn led me around and ordered food in Korean and knew the best menu options and had her regular stops where we could get the chicken and beer and sit outside with snacks. 

Taiwan has felt like travel. Like learning and wandering and discovering some place new. 

I turned 28 a week ago, but my birthday could have been ages ago, so much has happened in that week. 
Richard. Richard is a figment of my imagination most days. A face in a frame. A laugh over my shoulder. A dark haired boy with broad shoulders who will turn and look away. Who will not be quite right. 

But seeing Richard’s parents has brought him back wholly in my mind. He did exist. These are the things. This is the way he moved and laughed and spoke. This is why you loved him. This is his assuredness, as his mother flags down a taxi and moved us from table to place. This is his sense of humor, as his dad inserts a one word response or polite disagreement. This is his confidence moving about the world, as his parents were comfortable in our discomfort of one another. Telling us to order not the 5 course but the 7 course meal, you are young. Asking if Richard told us about when he moved to Illinois. Remembering my face from the video he made the last time we saw one another. Laughing at my memories but also getting that bubble of grief in your chest as you know, never again. 

Talking with them was so many things: it was hard, it was incredible, it was closure. It closed this circle, filled in these gaps. I gravitated and resisted his father: his mannerisms so alike. The way he nodded his head yes or reached for his wallet or held his face before a laugh. You are Richard, before he was Richard. And it was resistance as I felt my presence had to be painful to them in the same way theirs pushed at me. They bust at the seams with him: all of him which originated in them. But mine is almost worse because it creeps out, these pieces I have of him. His words and his movements and his ideas for life after college. All those times he wasn’t with them but wanted to be with them. All those times he spoke their language or craved their food or taught me to count with my hands. When he sat in the back of my car, inconsolably sad with this yearning for his family and his home. 

His home which is beautiful, sprawled in its small way. Shorter than Seoul, I can see the sky as I walk along the streets. Muggy, tropical, with one sighting of a big scuttling beetle, and store clerks who speak perfect English and sweaty vendors at the night market. 

Which is dirtier? Asked Terry

Why? Asked Taryn 

We have our own style, they clarified. 

I don’t mind the dirtier. It feels more comfortable to me. Open. Less like hiding and more like trust. 

So much. 

They see you too. When a small boy makes a funny face at a passerby, when a group of school kids gets rambunctious, when a young man walks past with a bag over his shoulder: there you are. 

You’re everywhere in this city, and you’re everywhere that I’ve wandered since. Where do we go to get the ending? Where do we go to say goodbye? To isolate the feelings? To commemorate the feelings? To capture them and bottle them for the right moment? There has never been a right moment. It has been always and it will continue. 

Such caliber of feelings. You are loved. They love you so, and all we can do is continue to let you go. Continue to let you wander. Let your travel lust win. But how hard it is. 

Despair and joy and attachment and trust. How do you learn to love with open hands? 

Celebrate your life

My 20 year old sister, thinking I’m sad to turn 28:

“It’s still a celebration of your life!!! Be happy!!” (Exclamation points hers)

My dad, always so sentimental and sad to be far away from me:

“Happy Birthday baby! Here’s a few pics that seem like they were not that long ago, even tho it’s been 28 years. Hard to believe! Always had the infamous piñata parties.”



Yes, I did. My mom and aunts made the rainbow; the mermaid was store bought. The rest I don’t really remember. There was the donkey one I bought myself for my 23rd birthday, when I played flippy cup with tequila and didn’t have a hangover the next morning. There was the ugly pink cone one we bought from the Mexican grocery on the far side of Tucson for my 12th.

My parents always made a point to make me feel special on my birthday. I was an undemanding child–quiet, reserved, with special bouts of energy usually on random occasions. All I usually asked for was cake, a piñata, and some good food. On my 10th birthday, my dad took the day off and we went to see Dr. Doolittle at the theater. My birthdays in my twenties have been strange, as they’ve been mostly self-organized. My 22nd the last I spent with any family. My 20th the last I spent with my mom’s family.

I’ve had birthdays in Michigan, Indiana, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, Ireland, and now Wisconsin. I’ve had birthdays in hotel rooms and on the floors of friends and in cars and at the pool and in the rain.

It’s when all the people I’ve laughed with and let down and sloppy kissed come out of the woodwork and I couldn’t love it more. I couldn’t ask for more. Every year, I have new people to celebrate with and new places to add to my list.

28 looks good on me.

so I’ll write

Trainwreck is arguably one of the better movies I’ve seen this year, although, really, I’ve only been letting myself watch quality films this year…but I guess it stands out for its comedic quality. It’s one of the few movies I’ve seen this year that had me doubled over in laughter, clapping my hands and crying in the dark theater.

(It Follows, Gone Girl, and the Babadook were good too.)

I’ve been reading everything, everything I can find. I’ve been poring over reviews and old clips of Amy Schumer’s stand up. Looking to see what else she has to offer, trying to name what’s problematic in her comedy and what she doesn’t get quite right. There’s so much. But there’s a lot she gets right, and I like many others, am tired of the criticalness, and just want her to have her day. Can we do that? Despite the fact that she is a white heterosexual female who’s written a white, heteronormative script? Baby steps. Baby steps.

Reading this: Amy Schumer and the Power of the Lady Jerk

It finally clicked for me, one of the things she gets right: The Lady Jerk. (But what about Natalie Portman’s character in No Strings Attached? What about Ellen Page in Juno? I would even argue for Aubrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to be included. All display qualities of the lady jerk; of the woman who doesn’t want to be loved; who isn’t pursuing love; of the supposed relationship dynamic flipped on its head–needy guy, resistant woman.)

Amy of Trainwreck is a well-rounded character. She’s a jerk, and she’s not. She’s not afraid. She doesn’t flinch or cry or doubt her decision when John Cena’s character says, “Fuck you, Amy. You’re not nice.”

“You’re not nice.” 

I guess this is the wall that I feel like I hit, time and time again. In my professional and personal world. I am not nice. I try, especially with new people, mostly so I don’t scare them away. But it is not my natural state. I have to have a sincere investment in someone to be nice to them. To show them my love language in actions or gifts or something more than my presence and my words. It’s hard for me. And just because I’ve invested in someone–that doesn’t guarantee my niceness. A long day, a missed meal, a bad conversation, and my niceness goes a-packing. And I am seen snarling, griping, making crass jokes. I am not nice. It breaks my mother’s heart; it makes my sisters laugh; it seriously limits the number of close friends in my life. I can’t help it. And I struggle always with this quality. I don’t want to be a bitch, but I don’t mind being a dick. Dicks have feelings too. Bitches seem one-dimensional and self-involved. I am neither.

And I struggled with this, this not-niceness. Is it wrong? Bad? Why is it so hard to be associated with a not?

From “Amy Schumer and the Power of the Lady Jerk”:

Which brings us back to the Blanket “Bitch,” whose existence stems in part from an assumption made in both rom-coms and the culture at large: that niceness, for women, is a kind of default state—one so deeply assumed, and so thoroughly diffused into expectations of femininity, that the only thing remarkable about it would be its violation. Women range when it comes to intelligence and attractiveness and funniness and every other quality that makes a human a human. When it comes to niceness, however, we have—in language, and in life—assumed a kind of ontological grandeur: Either she is nice, or she is not. Either she is a bitch, or she is not.

And I’m tired of this dichotomy. I sense it lingering there in all of my interactions. I will be liked, if I can smile and nod and compliment. I will be avoided if I give in to my gut–if I roll my eyes or don’t smile or change my mind or shrug my shoulders. If I criticize your word choice, your decision-making. If I insult your mother–I will be alone.

I hate that. I hate navigating that with other people, mostly because I do feel like it is something that only females have to do. Expectations of femininity that do not exist in masculinity. In the world of maleness. I’m tired of it. And maybe that was my favorite part of the movie:

The movie is, by way of its star and its plot, giving a woman permission to do something that many a movie-dude has done before, by default: be a jerk, and be loved anyway.

I don’t fucking care if you like it, but it would be nice if you did because that’s who I am. This is who I am.

breadcrumb-less

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

I just found a friend’s blog and noted how we narrate our stories depending on the listener. A frequent occurrence she claims from childhood does not exist in my memory bank of experiences with her. Does that matter? What if others cannot validate the who you’re pretending to be? Who do you believe?

I’ve been thinking about the Russian nesting dolls of experience and context. The order in which we meet people and how this informs future interactions. Because of how we learn and how we make decisions. I’ve been thinking about overthinking. I’ve been thinking about decision-making.

dolls To simplify it, every person we meet nests inside our future interactions. If I hadn’t gained the knowledge and insight from interacting with F, would I then turn around and interact in the same way with G? What if I met G before F, how would my interaction then be different with G?

See what I’m saying? I’ve been thinking about how my interactions with different individuals at specific times in my life has changed the way I interact with future people and how I read people. I’ve been thinking about how you can’t stop your judgment, but how we can suspend it. I’ve been thinking about how we judge but don’t act. Form a checkbox but maybe wait to check it. Or not.

gutOkay

sevens 

Veintisiete

My friend left but we became closer. I learned to navigate the long, windy roads of grief. I’ve analyzed connection and love and tried to feel when my old habit would be to reject any feels. I’ve balanced speaking out with fear and shame. I’ve become more comfortable in my own skin, while demanding more of that skin, with a better understanding of how my decisions impact it. I don’t know myself. The goals and the things I’ll like next year will be different. I don’t have to know. I’m leaving the moments to myself. The episodes. You can have that, Morales. It’s good for you. I’m trying to give in to my need to consume and produce. To balance out producing with productivity. To balance out consuming with critical absorption. I’m trying to get a handle on nature and the sun. I want more of it. I try to destroy less of it. I’ve got a better respect for the people and places that have influenced me. Realizing that it’s a two-way street, that I am not a bystander. I too am an actor with a role to play and lines to say. Trying to understand that I have potentially 80 more years of this, and what that means for what I do or don’t do today. I’m trying to immerse myself in the fluidity of the world and to be more aware of the direction of the current. Shall I swim or shall I float? It doesn’t have to be one or the other all the time. 

Day 9,844

My perfect day. What would be my perfect day. I thought about this a lot in Ireland; how so many of the days seemed like perfect days.

The recipe would read something like:
3/4 c knowledge-either reading, talking or watching
1T writing-even if it’s only a sentence or two
2 c food and beverage-something new, something good, something fresh
Combine, pour into bowl
Bake outside for 45 min

I’ve been thinking lately of the privilege of circumstance. What if I hadn’t been born female or heterosexual or white appearing? What if I hadn’t been born into the middle class family I was? The most frustrating part of me is my inability to put into words the thoughts I have. The things I know and understand that I can’t verbalize, just because. The feelings make sense to me but not in words.

The salience of an identity
I’ve been thinking about being female. It’s a trite observation, for sure, but I’ve been consumed with thoughts of how hard it is for women to escape their bodies.
We are animals on this planet. I think it’s easier for men to forget this. I think for men (of course I don’t know, I don’t remember being a man) they feel as if they’ve breached the dichotomy of mind/body. They are higher beings because in a sense they’ve escaped their own evolution. I think of the bros who lift and what a high that is for them because they’re reminded of their bodies regularly. The male species is strength = survival. The female species is more complex = survival.
I think about what that must be like, to escape your evolution. To be free of the obligations of your species. Not a hunter/gatherer, but free. Not even really needed for the perpetuation of the species. Just around. Free to act on your strange, primal desires as you see fit, willy nilly.

But as a woman, I always am my body. Every 40 days or so, I’m brutally reminded. There was a fury a few months ago when Rupi Kaur posted some of her work to instagram that showed period blood. She did a whole feature on period blood. Images of blood in the toilet, on the sheets, in a woman’s sweats. How gross, said us.
I have a friend who finds women’s bodies repulsive. Detailing the brick and mortar of them brings disgust to his face, listing the functions of them is almost impossible.
But I can’t escape it.
Even when I’m not battling the cramps of my uterus, or the ovulation clenches of my fallopian tubes, with ibuprofen and slow runs and long naps–it’s there. In the weeks before when I get quiet, tired. When my morning workout seems to take twice as much motivation to get through; when I look past the salad I’ve made and seek out a burger or a candy bar; when instead of laughing or forming a retort I grimace and side eye. When I tear up at the strangest sentiments, it’s there. In many ways, I am at the mercy of my femaleness. I have to be aware of my reactions; it’s the only way to curb them, so I have to be aware of where I am in the calendar. How many weeks out? How many days? It’s the only way to reason unexpected pain or fatigue or forgetfulness. Period brain, when I forget to do the simplest things, when I drive in circles or stumble out of my shoes, or get tangled in the straps of a bag. When I only want to interact with certain people or wear certain types of fabric. How I interact with the world is so connected to the physical capabilities of my body. Of that mass of organs below my waist which dictate the size and shape and mood of me. Of how sometimes that presence radiates out to my hips, my knees, and most of all, to my brain.
I speak to older women: my mother, my colleagues, who are on the other side of the rotation. My mother, whose uterus and corresponding bits were removed; my coworker, whose body is pulling away from reproduction. The blood stops, but the turmoil continues.

I will always be woman.
It’s not all that I am, but it’s a consideration of who I am. How I choose to manage the woman has to come first. I don’t think it makes me less than. I think it makes me more than. I am constantly aware–this is all we are. You can forget and create and dream and search for loftier things. But this is all we are. I hold it and release it and cry over it. Because it is a nothing that forces me to feel something.
I think of how men know this. Society = patriarchy = men
I think of how I’ve heard people say that women’s bodies are threatening. How it’s present in imagery from novels to movies to everyday language used in the press.
I think of how women’s bodies are controlled, through our healthcare policies (you cannot force me to carry a pregnancy to term. I am not an incubator) through pop culture. How we’re shamed continuously for being too thin, too fat, too strong, too sexy, too ugly, too smart, too stupid. Too loud, too quiet, too dirty, too hairy.

Anything to keep the woman quiet, don’t you think? I think of how our bodies are sexualized. How can they not be? Heterosexual sex happens in a woman’s body. Inside. And so they are obviously capable of sex and life. You can’t separate the sex from woman, but you can, because we do. We do it every day. It’s a choice we decide not to make. Sex is all we think of, but we pretend otherwise. Sex is not all we think of, but we are overwhelmed by it anyway. Either way, sex is all we think of. The contradiction of being a woman. You aren’t until you are. How all of it has been taken away from us, the lack of control we have in defining and being woman. I think of the control we push onto each other, did you see what she was wearing? that top, that cleavage, those shorts, those legs
The shapes and the sizes we ignore.
I think of how we can’t just let women’s bodies be–let the cleavage show and the fat hang out and the ass glance. Let the wrinkles breathe. I think of the hair and the smells and most of all, the blood. How covert it all is, to be the body of a woman. We can’t escape our evolution; we can’t escape the basest, simplest purpose of our natures, of our bodies, but do we deserve to be punished for it? Just because we are constant reminders of nature and the animals we started out as? Of what we will always be?
Reproduction needs a home, if we continue to live in a world dominated by straight men.
women = sex
sex = body
body = nature
nature = simplicity
simplicity = shame
women = shame

It’s enough to have to be the monitor of this body from the inside. How the ovaries affect the brain, the brain the ovaries, the ovaries the flesh, the flesh the way I move through the world. To be its familiar. To be its constant companion. I don’t need this external shit as a constant reminder too. My body is powerful enough to keep that in perspective for me. The hum is loud enough. It is always on. I don’t need a back-up generator. I guess that’s the problem, then, isn’t it? The struggle to silence the bodies of women. We can’t hear for all the noise of you.
I might never take advantage of its capabilities, but I will always be at its mercy.

hullo

I met a girl! I met a girl.

Where do I start? What can I say about her? She is the exact, utter opposite of me in so many ways. I am reserved, a blank slate, a rare breed. I keep to myself; I think my thoughts; I sit quietly with a book and only smile with the corner of my mouth rather than showing my teeth. I make eye contact but don’t care to verbally engage. That’s me–loner for life.

This girl though.

She speaks to strangers willy nilly. Not just, hi how are you, but in your face, hi how are you look at me, listen to me, speak back to me. She wears shorts, jeans, open-toed shoes to work. Sometimes her hair is clean, mostly it is braided. She speaks loudly, enthusiastically as I mumble or shrug or don’t say anything at all.

And I sit back, incredulous, watching these people come alive–these people I’ve been skirting around for months, drawn to her like a moth to a porch light. Open, receptive, outspoken. I can’t believe it. How the same people who barely acknowledge me, will wave at her from half a block away. The people who struggle to remember my name will shout hers from across the room. It’s so funny, how people can’t read one another…take reservation, introversion as a personal slight.

It’s just…It’s wow. It’s jaw dropping.

Not everyone is receptive and open to her. Some people feel accosted, affronted, aghast. How dare you speak to me like you know me
How dare you dress without respect for the professional cultural norms I’ve determined in my mind
But many people are like me– bewitched, awestruck.

To me, she is a breath of fresh air, a cluster of positive energy. The sun after the storm. The storm after the drought. Opposites attract. Electron to a proton. (I’m the electron in this scenario, obviously.) I find myself exhausted, but in a good way. Recharged after a long sleep, a brutal workout.

Where did you come from, girl?

I don’t know, but I’m glad you did.

She spur of the moment invites me to lunches, outings by the river, bike rides, hikes, community events. She is interested in what I’m interested in. She asks me questions. She doesn’t let me slide by superficially. Surface level, no. She apologizes for the negative energy in my life. She makes plans with me. She believes in me.

Do you think people meet for a reason? A purpose?