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Monday
Jun042012

An Atheist's Guide To Self Recovery In The Highly Functional Individual.

I write a lot of silly rules on twitter, and though they touch on truth, they're by no means serious "rules". I do, however, have 2 rules that I tend to live by, and they largely shape my world view.

1. Blame yourself, not the world.

2. A single mistake can't unravel everything, 80% of the time, it'll all be alright.

These two simple tenets essentially boils down to; take responsibility, and don't fall apart when something goes wrong. I guess a simplistic way of looking at it would be "positive thinking" or "Glass is HALF FULL!" or other similar trite expressions.

***

Taking Responsibility is one of those "Growing Up" lessons that teen shows try to teach everyone, but a lesson that seemed to have gone over most people's heads. It goes hand in hand with "don't fucking make excuses". The expletive is just there to illustrate the level of frustration it causes in other people when you do. It's easy to blame circumstances, other people, or things that seem to be entirely out of your control, whether to other people, or to yourself. Victimising yourself is one of the easiest ways of dealing with any situation that flinches on the unpleasant, however, unless you are a "victim" in the legal sense of the word, or you're that damsel tied to the train tracks and want/expect rescuing, MAN UP.

In its more primal sense, learning to blame yourself also puts you in control of your own life. It might be riskier, but there's nothing more edifying than realising that you are the stumbling block between where you are, and where you want to be.

Learning to apologise is that other caveat that comes with this first rule. People don't know how to apologise anymore; they'll start with an I'm Sorry, and then attach some excuse to it that seems to take away all culpability. That is not an apology, that's an explanation. Own up to it, that's the only way the apology is going to come from you. Besides, it's almost impossible to retort to someone who is saying sorry and putting the responsibility on themselves.

***

While we're being adult and taking all the blame for ourselves, let's not just dive headfirst into that pit of despair. As the second rule stipulates - a single mistake can't unravel everything; 80% of the time, everything is going to be okay.

If, however, you seem to be making mistake after mistake and never gleaning any shred of pattern recognition, then you should probably take a step back, maybe let someone else make the decisions in your life for a while.

Most of the time though, everything is going to be okay.

That might just be the single most important phrase in getting through everything. By all means, allow yourself time to wallow, to mourn, to do whatever it is you have to do when everything is not okay, but know that there will be an end date.

Know the end date, as in, actually have a day in mind. It could be one day, it could be a year, but know exactly which morning you are going to wake up, pull yourself out of bed and back into the mess of things. This usually happens organically, but for longer than it might be necessary. If you gave yourself ample time to fall apart, it's amazing what you can tell your brain to do when it's time to pull it back together.

***

We are all creatures of habit, and I don't mean the daily rituals or the road you take to get to work. We form habits of thinking and of outlooks that resist any kind of change. There's a reason why the 12 step programs take 12 steps from recognition to recovery. Know that it's all on you, but don't kill yourself over it.

It is almost the opposite of faith, it seemed the closer I came to these two principles, the closer I crawled towards atheism. Having to rely on yourself takes out the possibilities of fate, or destiny, and anything you achieve becomes an actual achievement, which can't be all bad.

After you have pulled yourself together, you need to start heading where you want to be, again. On the continuous line of everything that can be done to get to where that is, set two limits. "Point of what you're willing do." and "Point where things get too stupid to do."

Cross that first point. Don't get past the second.

Between those two points is the risk gap where real change can happen. This graph pretty much applies to everything in life.

---things you're willing to do--->| {risk gap} |---things too stupid to do--->

Writing a prosaic self-help entry on my blog is probably in that risk gap right now. But you know what? Apparently when the writing style of some book that's gotten under my skin is not influencing me, my writing comes out bland and clichéd and more than slightly dictatorial. I do apologise for my absence, I am entirely out of practice and I needed to ease myself back into things, and I had an end date on this whole "My brain is deteriorating and I have nothing to write" spiral, and today was that day.

Wednesday
Jul132011

Revival

I'm a little jittery because there's a little too much caffeine and nicotine and too little food in my body right now. Then there's the guilt that I've been putting off, of not being here for a good few months, and the backlog of reviews still pending. But this blog is my party, I get to run it whatever way I like dammit.

Hi again, it's me again.

I don't think it's fair for drama schools to pump people's heads full of personal bullshit then just dump them with a 4 month long Summer break to deal with. I'm a little over half way through the Summer, and so far I've been keeping my brain preoccupied with unimportant sub-interests. Trouble is, my brain is increasingly capable of absorbing useless information, and so no matter how many new sources I throw at it, it still manages to find room for idleness.

Had these pursuits been forms of output instead of endless input, the story might have been different. And here lies the real problem, the one I've been dodging for as long as I can remember: What do I actually have to say? What exactly do I want to put out into the world? I've written some hundreds of thousands of words here on this blog and what has it all really been about?

***

On Loneliness:

It take a special kind of state of mind to actively push people away and still feel lonely at the end of it. I'm always so ready to reject people, which is incongruous with this sickening greed for affection. The truth of it is, so rarely do I find someone who resonates with me that when I find the few that do, I grapple for them like it's a lifeline, squeezing everything else out, until I squeeze the life out of it. In the process I forget that the other person might not feel as I do, and so I feel rejected in return. Slowly, my fear of having nothing to offer starts to give off the stink of desperation. For someone who prides herself on needing no one, I am cripplingly dependant.

On Love:

In reality, I'm completely out of practice. Through simulation, I'm an open wound. At this stage, my insurance papers against heartbreak is pretty much iron clad, never daring to touch anything resembling real. There's no actual purpose to this, except to be able to tell it "You can't hurt me". If I was reading this in a play I would immediately assume that this self destructive behaviour comes from someone who has been hurt before, but I know better.

That, and the fact that, really, I just don't like a lot of people.

All my past tendencies have clearly indicated that I am unwilling to settle, even for someone who worships me; especially, for someone who worships me.

I'm not unhappy with where I am, I just needed to straighten things out in my own head. Actually, after that cathartic sentence I feel strengthened in my limbo. I'm still waiting to lose my breath, and hoping to be able to recognise it when I do.

On Career:

My panel review with my teachers at the end of the last semester left me in a bit of a head spin. Eventhough everything that was said about my acting was complimentary, there just wasn't a terrible lot that was said about my acting. It took a little while for the sting of that imaginary backhand to wear off, and for me to take what was actually said at face value.

I had been faking it, my enthusiasm for theatre. I've been competent enough to get away with it this entire time but a few weeks into this Summer, something was made abundantly clear to me.

Film. Of course it's film. It's always been film. (And it only took something like Tree of Life for me to admit to it.) No theatre, no matter how obviously great, has ever made me feel that way. Granted, not much else in any medium has either. There's a reason that Cinema Studies lured me away from all my other chosen majors in my arts degree. There's a reason all my dreams come complete with camera shots and editing choices too.

This doesn't make what I want to do any easier, but having a clearer idea of where I want to go is comforting.

***

Somehow, through stringing all these confused thoughts into sentences, my nerves have calmed down. I'm almost ready to go to bed, and before 2am! Fancy that. Maybe I should come back to this more often.

I know what I don't want to put out into the world. There's that too.

Monday
May162011

Vindication

I dreamed about a boy I hadn't thought about in years, this morning. Details I didn't think I'd remember were all there. The nape of his neck that ran down in a smooth slope into his muscular back, the warmth of his skin that was eternally and inexplicably caramel, the crook of his back where I would rest my head, my "nook", the smell of him. I didn't think I'd paid that much attention, perhaps I did, or perhaps this is all a fabrication of my mind. Nonetheless the same sensations he inspired in me came back in full force.

It was the only time I felt looked after.

He was the one who I can say, without hesitation, had truly loved me. Yet I had treated him so terribly, with such indifference. I broke his heart, the night before his birthday no less. I couldn't understand it then. I quite simply did not believe in heartbreak, or love, or any of the other things that made a person vulnerable to another. Yet he was the only person I allowed myself to be vulnerable in front of. Only once in my life have I ever reached out to another person for support, the full kind, the kind where you barely make it into their arms before you collapse in a heap into them. His was that pair of arms. I was only able to stand because of him, but I gave him none of the credit. Just his presence would be a source of comfort, I was drunk with his warmth.

He wanted me to be better, and in rebellion, I wasn't. All the things I took issue with him, all the fundamental ideological differences we had that seemed so monumental at the time are, in reality, nothing. But I was an idealist then, I would grow to be more tolerant, years later.

This is the relationship that is going to haunt every other one I will have in my lifetime. I was spoilt to the point of conceit. A part of me would perhaps always be searching for something to come close to that abundance of affection.

Looking back at the nineteen year old me, I wish I could grapple her to the ground for the sheer ingratitude. Not to ask for a different outcome, but only that she could have been more kind. But some of you might remember nineteen year old me, there was a whole other bag of problems there that I'd rather not delve into just yet.

This post is about J, and the apology he deserved, but never received. If this blog is all about a public confessional, then let this be the first of my major confessions. Forgive me father, for I have broken a heart.

This is all so many years ago, and we have both moved well and truly on. We have spoken since, and even met up once, the night before I moved to New York. We are, by facebook standards at least, "friends".

At the end of the dream, he walked away from me, and I grieved, in a way that I never did back then.

Monday
Apr252011

The Bed and The Light

When you look at the grand scheme of things, the place where you live is probably pretty important. Doesn't the dream always begin with the house?

But all of us are now so used to the constant state of the temporary, that trivial little things like where you lay down to rest every night becomes just the collection of what you can put up with. Here, is never where we will end up, and we will get everything that we want, There, right?

Perhaps it's just my age, and the fact that the rest of my life is all in flux, but it worries me that I'll never actually get There.

All this is to say, I don't like where I live. Try as I might to fill this space with stamps of me, to find the holding place for all my belongings, there are certain deal breakers that I'm afraid this little nook of mine does not fulfil.

A neighbourhood, sunlight, elements that would invigorate rather than the fatiguing wakings and sleepings that need to be determined by electronics.

I don't sleep anymore, I rest for stretches of no more than 4 hours at a time. I can't say if this is because of my restless mind, or the magnetic fields of all the electronics in the one studio room, but I like to think that the lack of sunlight is the culprit.

The best part of sleeping in on a Sunday was always the warmth on your face trickling inside you telling you that there's nothing you have to get up for, not today. Now there's just the hollows of my room, filled with lists upon lists.

When there's nothing else wrong with my life, I would still find something to complain about. And today, I just miss the sun's intrusion in a place that's mine.

Saturday
Feb052011

Subject Rehash, the KK fiasco.

This is in response to the 3 years worth of comments I have received on my most controversial post, Hating Kylie Kwong.

I'm going to break my silence.

I can't believe how much traction that little rant from almost 3 years ago has, and is still getting. Interesting fact, the most searched for terms that would land you there is "is Kylie Kwong gay?" seconded by "Kylie Kwong husband". Clearly there is a general interest in the public regarding her marital status, that's a market that her people should really look into.

All the comments have entertained me to no end. From those who agree with me, to those who think that I "obviously hate myself" (I'll be honest, I couldn't really follow the logic on that one). To even a drinking game created by a fellow hater. The happy news is that over 95% of the comments join me in this rally that I unwittingly championed, and even the ones who don't share my wrath seem to see my point and have stated their case as such. But I still feel like I need to clarify a few things. By way of organising my thoughts, I am going to address my latest comment, which is an example of a very lucid and gentle criticism of my outpouring of bile.

LOL. I had fun reading the blog and comments. But I must say it's so typical of the Chinese to be so defensive of what's authentically chinky. Personally I find it rather stupid to be arguing about KK being less than Chinese and how that gets in the way of her "representing" her so-called heritage. It just hints of some deep insecurity about one's own Chineseness... it's like a game of how Chinky are you? Frankly when I'm confronted by something like that, I just give up. The only place you can get authentic Chinese food is presumably China... and yet it's also in China you can find the biggest McDonald's in the world. And really who gives a jizz about whether it's authentic or not--just as long as it tastes good, I'm down with it.

The way I look at it: we all grow up with our own version of what's Chinese... every family has its own spin on dishes--and in my family cause we're Malaysian chinks, we love our spices and we would add them liberally. In a way it's Creolised--the foundation is Chinese but the treatment has changed. We eat everything with bird's eye chilli. Numbs the tongue but it's fucking yum. And I can see that with KK's cooking too cause she's 5th gen--although I have to admit that sometimes she goes a bit too far. Fried duck eggs? Culturally, that's just silly. But from a culinary point of view, it sounds intriguing. So I don't think KK's all that bad. She's a more interesting TV chef than Martin Yan... LOL... that guy just cracks me up with his lame jokes and chink accent but how's that for a stereotype? He simply drowns everything in "wonderful powder"!

If there's one thing I agree with all the haters on this thread, it's that KK tries too hard to pass off as some kind of Chinese/Asian whatever... she should relax the power lesbian attitude a bit and just go with the flow. Get drunk or get laid or something... LOL.

And also that we should all just admit that the thing that makes Chinese food taste so damn good is MSG.

-JK Feb 3, 2011

The main point that JK (for whom I am going to use the masculine pronouns, for simplicity's sake) makes is my own identity crisis. A Chinese Authenticity Complex of sorts. You'd be right, as a first generation immigrant who moved to Australia at the age of 8 from mainland China, and visits the place every 3 years or so, my "Chineseness" is something that I think about a lot. Clearly my diaspora is no longer that of native Chinese, drop me in the middle of where I was born today, and I wouldn't really know what to do with myself. I understand the nature cultivating cultural identification and the varying degrees and ways people come to terms with theirs. I am not even going to take offence with your use of the word "chinky", because that is your prerogative, but I would gently remind you that just because you have reclaimed that derogative term does not mean others would be so comfortable. Mainly I just think it's an inelegant word for something that I hope denotes an elegant part of my identity.

Of course I don't object to the infinitely wide range of Asian identities. I am completely behind taking what is yours, making it your own, and forging your own sense of self. In fact my objection is that her identity is not specific enough. Even in the original post I made the point that China is a huge country with I-don't-even-know how many regions, all with their own customs and cuisine. That is not even including the different cultures outside of mainland China, such as Indo-, Thai-, and of course Malay-Chinese like yourself. My issue with Kylie and her show, is that she presents a generalised sweep of one China that only cooks with Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, and Japanese light soy. Even from a culinary point of view, her dishes are bland and uninteresting, which makes the whole Chinese Authenticity stamp she puts on them all the more insulting. Co-incidentally, I have had fried duck eggs in China, they weren't very tasty nor exciting.

How many times has a non Chinese friend of yours, or anyone who has not experience Chinese food outside of take-out, made a comment pertaining to how much they don't like Chinese Food? I encounter this almost on a daily basis, and I've given up on trying to explain to them how that is not even Chinese food, let alone inclusive of the vast smorgasbord of culinary delights yet to be tasted from that side of the world. What I deplore so much in Kylie is the perpetuating of this myth. That all Chinese food is supposed to be aiming to achieve the mediocrity that is served in take-out joints catering to Western palettes, and that they all taste the same. Its seen as greasy and strong and what is unfathomable to me, unhealthy, when most of the Chinese food I have been exposed to down the south eastern provinces is light, delicate, and nuanced. The landscape of food in China itself is changing constantly and new fads and innovations come in and out of fashion, including a lot of modernised, Westernised, fusion cooking. I accept the whole shebang, I would happily taste test my way through all of it, but dammit just make it good.

I am not going to retract a single thing from my original post, because as ranty as it was (It was rushed out in 10 mintes as my laptop battery dwindled and therefore unorganised and somewhat rash), I still stand by my every point. Lastly, darling JK, I almost agree with you on the point about MSG, but I haven't cooked with MSG for over 6 years now (as long as I've been cooking), and my food is delicious.