Monthly Archives: June 2009

Saved by an Angel

Saved by an Angel

I promised Bubs that this post would be aptly named… yes, he was my angel because leave it to me to end an awesome 5-day vacation with a stomach virus that would render me utterly useless on a 12-plus hour journey home. Yes, we only went to Jersey and yet, I think it’s easier to travel to Shanghai, China than to New Brunswick.

Seriously, this trip was straight out of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. First, we flew into JFK. I had researched an awesome hotel for our stay– located in the Flatiron district, just south of Times Square. My college roommate took the train up from DC, so the three of us met up and hung out for three days in our new metropolitan playground. NYC was cool, much better than I remember. We traveled all about, mostly by foot, sometimes by subway. I had forgotten what a truly populated city was really like. Sure, the city is dirty and ugly and muggy but there’s so much going on. I can see now why people who have lived there get bored out of their minds after they move away. Anyway, lots of good sights and good eats, including delicious pizza and superb Reuben sandwiches.

On Saturday, we headed down to New Brunswick. It was actually just a 50-minute train ride down. Where I went wrong was with the car rental. Rent-A-Wreck was the only rental shop open past noon on Saturday. When we got to town, the weather was shit: pouring rain. We got into a cab (apparently, cabbies in Jersey do not help with your luggage) and gave the address for RAW. Google Maps by the way, totally failed us. The cabbie got on the highway traveling south. We’re like, “Uh, the rental car place should be walking distance from here.” Back and forth… finally, we realized Google Maps was wrong, and the place was like 15 minutes away. Then we showed up, the office was in some junky, dingy basement. We got the keys to a Ford Focus. From the outside, the car was all banged up. Once we got inside, there were exposed wires, the parking brake was like pulled out of the socket, there were missing components on the dash, cigarette burns on the seats, totally nasty. Then we couldn’t get the trunk open. After fidgeting with it in the rain, I got them to upgrade us to the Ford Taurus– an equally certified hoopdee with replacement side panels that weren’t even the same body color! When John opened the trunk, he about knocked over– he swore he got a whiff of “dead body.” The car was filthy.

So then I was all troubled. John and my friend were like, “Hello, it’s called Rent-A-Wreck.” Yeah, but for some reason, I had interpreted that to mean a place that rented construction/demo/wrecking equipment in addition to normal cars. Anyway, that boat was a total jalopy, and it seriously had the grossest odor.

Thankfully, our hotel in Jersey was nice. The wedding on Sunday was beautiful. My Chinese reading went well. The bride’s mom came up to me afterwards with nice things to say so that was a relief. The wedding really was lovely.

It’s a shame my stomach started going crazy with the gurgling and the gas at the dinner table. The place only had one bathroom, and I was in that line most of the night. By the time the party was over, it started raining again. Nothing like feeling nauseous, getting drenched, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, and then climbing into a nasty, smelly, sticky car. By the time we got back to the hotel, I had the shakes big time, I couldn’t talk, and I was doubled over in cramps. I missed the after party and the morning breakfast.

On Monday, I was still super weak: nausea, headache, fever, chills. I felt like I was going through some addiction withdrawal. Then we had to backtrack to JFK: return rental car, cab to NJ station (the cabbie was on his cell phone, adding more minutes to his plan, writing on a notepad, and steering with his elbows all at the same time!!), train to Penn Station, train to Jamaica Station, AirTrain to terminal 4. And that was just to get to the gate! Then, 5 1/2-hour flight, shuttle bus to long-term parking, car to In-N-Out to home. Yeah, in retrospect a cheeseburger probably wasn’t the best thing to consume on a sensitive stomach…

When I awoke Tuesday morning, I was convinced I had contracted H1N1. Finally, we decided to see the doctor. She said stomach virus. Cause? Could be anything: touching someone else who was infected who didn’t wash his/her hands, eating contaminated food, an infected person sneezing/coughing on me, etc. She did say though, a cheeseburger was not the best choice for a sensitive stomach (but it smelled so good!). Yeah, apparently everyone else has the common sense I was lacking: chicken, rice, clear liquids.

When I got home, we read about the stomach virus further, and one of the most common ways of getting sick is FECAL-ORAL contact at some stage– whether it’s food prepped by someone who didn’t wash hands after going to the bathroom or whatever… and then I got really grossed out. Ugh, I can feel the nauseas returning just thinking about it.

John showed me some chapter in Alton Brown’s book on sanitation. On Wednesday, while I was at work, he disinfected the whole kitchen, tossed the sponges, soaked stuff in diluted bleach. The house was spotless. Haha, now I see Mr. Belvedere can really be full service if you gross him out enough about sanitation.

My body is still not 100% but thankfully, the weekend is here again. Plenty of R&R the next two days. And I’m already thinking about my next couple meals. Haha, it’s going to take more than a bout with the stomach bug to shut us foodies down!

Feeling Better

Feeling Better

I had a wonderful weekend, and I’m feeling much better. The weather this weekend was awesome: I hit the pool every single day and well, it goes without saying that exercise does wonders keeping depression at bay. Of course, it also helped that my re-entry into baking resulted in a delicious loaf of banana chocolate bread. Haha, the bread was a success (despite my recipe tweaks), and I even earned Bub’s stamp of approval.

I’m also getting excited about our upcoming trip. I have the entire 3-stanza poem memorized for the wedding. I’m still a tad shaky on the last stanza, but I’ll smooth it out before next Sunday. I’m also ready to go with her makeup application. We did 3-4 dry-runs, so I’m optimistic she’ll look glowing and natural. I need to start packing too. Psyched about getting dressed up; just hope my shoes are totally broken in by then and I hope I remember everything!

This past Saturday, John and I toured about Mountain View, which is near my work. We drove by a few rental communities. Most places in my ideal price range ended up being freakishly reminiscent of the old and creepy GatorWoods Apartments in Gainesville, Florida, so I’m thinking we’ll end up somewhere in between my ideal price and our current rent. We did find one community that was decent… but we’ll see. We really prefer to rent from a private homeowner rather than an apartment community. We’ve certainly had our fill of shitty management.

I do like the possibility of going home for lunch and/or biking to work. Plus, I like MV– it has a nice vibe.

On the down side, I would still miss our current place: awesome, empty pool and hot tub, small yard for the pups, quiet neighbors. Argh, housing is such a goddamn gamble. Well, we’ll see what my superstar realtor digs up.

This summer is shaping up to be a busy one. Originally, I was feeling rather bummed about having an uneventful, boring summer with limited travel and such, but as it turns out, we’ll be getting visitors. My good friend’s mom will be in LA next month, so we’ll meet up half way– maybe check out San Luis Obispo for a day or two. Then, my parents told me today that they would like to visit at the end of July. What a relief, because I hate going back to Maryland. So boring. In August, my dear friend in Shanghai will visit the US for the first time ever. Will be great to see her and maybe show her around a bit.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Focus on the immediate. Upcoming trips. Swimming, dancing, baking sweets.

Maybe I’ll watch a movie on Netflix tonight. Anything to replace the depressing story of Revolutionary Road. God, anyone watch that? I totally identified with their disillusionment… we felt that way before we moved to China. Thank goodness we up and left. Was totally the right move for us. So weird to think that people’s reactions to our decision didn’t really differ much from people’s reactions in the film (and what decade was it, the 1950s?? 1960s??). We got the same shit, like, “Can’t you be happy here? This is what life is– mundane. What are you running from?” Whatev.

Will Six Sessions Be Enough?

Will Six Sessions Be Enough?

So I had my first session today. Unlike the couples counselor we saw last year, this therapist came off perfectly normal. I mean, Birkenstocks again (we do have that in common), but her personality didn’t seem the least bit weird or off. That was refreshing.

Thankfully also, the session wasn’t hogged up answering registration/in-patient-type questionnaires. I completed a 2-page form and into the discussion we went. It was weird explaining why I was there… there’s so much context and background that one statement requires some historical reflection which in turn requires another… it’s like I might as well have just start from the VERY beginning, right? I dunno. I’m sure I rambled. I talked about my brother. She suggested his behavior was a form of rebellion for all the pressures my parents exerted on him… I disagreed. I considered his behavior simply a selfish sense of entitlement. To this day, he thinks my parents owe him the good life. Anyway, a lot came out (including tears) and just like that, time was up. At the end, I was so frustrated. I think that’s what I hate most about these sessions: the time constraint. I mean, if allowed to just get it all out, the meeting could be so much more productive. Seriously, today’s session barely scratched the surface and at the end of it, she asked if I was interested in continuing. Well duh, I’ve barely even started. Am I supposed to know whether this is helpful just from 50 minutes? Obviously, I can’t really get a sense until we’re farther along… Whatever. Procedures.

Afterwards, on the drive home, I replayed the dialog over and over in my head. I worry that I didn’t articulate my thoughts well enough, or that stuff just came across all unorganized and disjointed and flat-out wrong. I told her I had prepared that document. I left it for her to read. But it bothers me that some statements I said today seemed contradictory. And in retrospect, I want to clarify. By the time I got home, I was mentally exhausted but I couldn’t stop thinking about my predicament.

When John got home, I was already in bed. I felt worse than before the session. After the session was over, I had asked if she had any exercises or things she wanted me to work on. Looking down at my 20-something Manifesto book, she said, “Well, it looks like you’ve already begun working on things.” I guess, but come on, I only have six free sessions, I need progress… fast! I know, aren’t I an impatient beotch?

So yeah, I felt worse when I got home. John arrived and was like, what happened? After talking to him, I started to gain some clarity. Here’s my deal. I have this internal gauge where I measure my self-worth based on where I fall in the bell curve. As John explains it, it’s all about percentiles. I don’t need to be THE best. I know my limits. For example, even though I admire the courage and selflessness of say, abortion doctors (Dr. Tiller) and humanitarian aid workers and even though I sometimes wish I possessed their intense sense of purpose and mission, I also know that I am unwilling to compromise my safety and security. I’m unwilling to place myself in impoverished conditions and in conflict areas to meet a mission. That’s fine. Yet when I meet, a young talented performer or poet or musician, I’m enthralled. Initially, that captivation serves as inspiration. A small part of me believes that with enough effort, perhaps I too can accomplish something great like that. I yearn to join this “league,” to be of comparable caliber. I don’t want to be better than them, but I want to be in their company. Around that percentile, see? To me, accomplishments that place people in those percentiles are what I consider success. So I feel this urgency about life (it passes so quickly), like I’ve been treading water for the longest time, and how will I ever get to that level? I don’t even think the achievements are for my parents or for others. I’m sure they started out that way, but by now, they are for myself, a sort of validation that all their and my resources, emotional investment, etc. was not wasted on a life with so little to show for.

I’m a strange bird indeed. Consider my hip hop dance class. I practiced a lot. My friends asked if I was learning hip hop dancing so I could go out clubbing. Nope. I just wanted to learn it to dance around at home by myself. It’s like a challenge or a test. I see something cool, and I think that I would like to do it, then I try to do it but it’s like a closed circuit. Because it’s not like I’m showing anyone.

So perhaps John is right: I’m finding too many things I want to tackle, and maybe I just need to focus on one or two activities. I have to say, John was a wonderful therapist for me this evening. I’m feeling better already.

To close, here are some quotes from the manifesto that speak to me:

“One of the hardest parts of being a twenty something is feeling that you need to achieve it all– whatever ‘all’ may be. It’s a feeling of urgency, like you need to achieve in every area of ‘life’ — career, marriage, family, money. All the while being happy and content. It’s a feeling of great pressure — that if you don’t work it all out now, you are setting yourself up for a fall in your thirties.”

“The most difficult thing about being a twenty something is that even with all your plans, there are no guarantees. You are not guaranteed a job after college, you are not guaranteed friends if you move to a new place, you are not guaranteed a passionate career, you are not guaranteed a loving partner. You have to go out and create all this or at least hold the thought that it will all happen”

“If you asked me when I was six where I’d be at almost twenty-six, I would have told you that I would be a graduate of medical school, with a home, a husband, 2.5 kids, and a dog. So far, only the dog part has worked out.”

“An Expectation Hangover about my job and relationships led to a short temper and some physical manifestations of my stress. Not wanting to be too angry at work or the people I love, I internalized the anger and it lead to insomnia, constant heartburn, and a depressed immune system that left me constantly sick. I spent a year worrying about why I wasn’t where I was ‘supposed’ to be and frantically trying to get there.”

“I learned that the most stressful thing in my life was my tenacity at holding on to all the ‘shoulds’ in my life. Shoulds only matter if you’re considering other people’s standards and milestones. I decided it was important to live by my own timeline and gave myself permission to go at my own speed. Life is a wonderful, mysterious process, and my only expectation these days is that everything will unfold as it should. My job is to be true to myself and work at the things I know will make me happy. Everything else will work out around me.”

Next session is June 24. Who knows what will happen from now until then.

Big Day Tomorrow

Big Day Tomorrow

So you know how I’d been feeling a bit lethargic lately? I was convinced that something was not right, because I was sleeping in on the weekends (god forbid), taking a sick day every quarter, and just feeling tired. So I went to see an FP physician. It had actually been a while since my last visit to an FP, so I opted for the works: tetanus, TB, full blood work. When I reviewed the lab results online, the LDL (bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol were flagged as high or borderline high. I about shit a brick. I mean, seriously, I’m exercising 4-5 times/week, normal BMI, blah, blah, wtf right? So I already start jumping to conclusions and then my doctor friend and my doctor both email me to chill the fuck out. The other numbers and ratios are fine so the verdict? Proceed as usual. Haha, thank goodness. I was about ready to go on the cereal diet and swap over to all that bullshit skim/soy crap. No need now: Bubs and I can remain purists. We like the real budda!

I have been suffering from insomnia again lately. My doctor suggested taking a vitamin B multi at night to calm the nerves (so I will sleep through the night) and CQ10 throughout the day to boost my energy. Guess I’ll give it a try. Anything for superpowers, right?

What else. Oh yes, tomorrow’s the big day with the therapist to discuss my personal “issues.” On my drive home this evening, I started to feel nervous about it. Like how is she going to get to know me? And will my history be relevant, or is this strictly from here on out sort of thing? I do want to clarify something though. All this whatever you call it, expectation hangover, I’m experiencing… I’m not saying that I deserve the best of everything. I know that life is unfair, and just because I work/try for something doesn’t mean what I want is guaranteed. I get that. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting it and from trying for it. Because really, where’s the line between accepting the situation as is and achieving the desired outcome?

For example, a lady at work wants to have a child. She and her husband have been trying for years: this, that, treatment this, treatment that, time, money, energy, physical stresses, emotions. At what point should she simply accept that this is the hand she is dealt? I look at her situation and quickly think to myself, “Enough already.” But then I apply the situation to something that I can identify with. I wanted a job (different from the fuel cell startup) with heart, the opportunity to learn new things, and some stability. I searched and searched. I thought I would be stuck in that miserable predicament forever. Other opps came around but they didn’t really appeal to me. I could have stopped and taken that job at Stanford. But for whatever reason, I held on, hoping and believing there would be something better and more suitable. And fortunately, in the end, I was right.

What’s that quote though, “it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.” True except that I’m drawn to the whole “results-oriented” thing. Ugh, I’m getting a headache.

Anyway, I have compiled a document for my session tomorrow. Just quick background about my path, some known issues, and then a description of my personality. Haha, this could get interesting.

Productive Day Off

Productive Day Off

I’m another year older today. Luckily, my birthday matched up with my Monday off from work, so I enjoyed an extra day to my celebratory weekend. Not that I had a party or anything. John was called into the city for WWDC (I’m told that I’m getting upgraded to his 3G iPhone soon). But that was ok with me. I got to do all that I had planned for today: I slept in, rollerbladed with the pups, swam, sunbathed, poked around the computer, cleaned the house, went shopping (scored some cheap finds at Marshalls!!), chatted with some friends over the phone. All in all, a full day.

I’m feeling better about my issues. John got me this book from the library called the 20-something Manifesto. Yeah, I’m no longer in my 20s, but it’s an interesting book that identifies the feelings of disappointment, expectation, anxiety that I experience. I think again, it’s yet another example of how so many human experiences are shared, no matter how individual/unique we think we are.

So even though I don’t generally read books, I’m at least skimming through this one in hopes that it will help me progress from my current pathetic state. Ironically, on my birthday, I also booked an appointment with a therapist. I figure the book coupled with a professional’s help should kick my ass back into high gear.

In other news, my friend’s wedding in Jersey is coming up soon. I am diligently practicing the Chinese poem I will recite at the event. Pretty soon I’ll be able to say it in my sleep. Honestly, it’s been a good exercise for me and my mother. She eats that language translation stuff up, and I get to practice my pinyin input on the computer. So glad that system allows me to bypass writing Chinese characters by hand.

Well hopefully by now Bub has caught the last bus home. Last time I was in SF for a conference, that damn bus blew right by me while I stood there at the designated stop. Had to wait another 20 minutes for the next one. If that happens to Bubs, you can be sure he’s cabbing it home. He’s not a public transit kinda guy.

Fun Weekend

Fun Weekend

Gosh, I can’t believe the weekend is over already. Friday night, we went with some friends to see Killing My Lobster, a sketch comedy group in SF. Show was hilarious. We had a great time and followed up grabbing some nosh at a local gastropub, where food was tasty albeit tiny (tapas). On Saturday, the weather was beautiful. John and I hit the pool (the only ones there, once again!) and ran some errands. In the evening, we watched The Namesake, a wonderful film about the first-generation Indian-American experience (and the experience of the immigrant parents). I think the director is the same woman who did Monsoon Wedding. Very nicely done.

This morning started off with a new recipe ( involving raisins, soy milk, old-fashioned oats, and fresh mangoes. Delish. Then we headed into the city to register for the WWDC conference, which John is attending this week. I did a bit of shopping- scored a nice v-neck sweater from BR for $5 after all my coupons and discounts. I’m turning into quite the BR follower. Yes, so unoriginal but whatev, I like their colors and cuts. Works out ok for me.

I’m happy to be off tomorrow. The weather’s supposed to be perfect for me day!

I Need Help

I Need Help

Once again, I find myself struggling to ward off what seems to be the inevitable. Am I amidst yet another “mid-life” crisis? God, feels like I’ve been through so many already. By now, I should more aptly be in a near “end-life” crisis if anything. But no, I’m exactly one week away from turning another year older and despite having successful stretches of good feelings, I predictably return to this point of dissatisfaction. I’ve discussed it before, and by now, you are certainly sick of the same old drill. What is this thing I am chasing, right?

Only three years ago, I swore that all I wanted was clear skin. If somehow the world order would grant me this, I vowed to be happy forever. Through endless bizarre diets and medications and obsessive compulsive web research, I ultimately found the answer and received what I most desired. And now my greedy-ass self has moved on to the next demand. At what point is this just a moving target for continual self improvement? At what point is it an emotionally destructive game of self denigration?

I went to the open mic again tonight. The same one I attended last week where I was so moved and touched by the words of a young writer/poet. He performed again today and was just amazing. So fucking brilliant, and I can’t help but feel disappointment with myself. I am an entire decade older and what talent have I? Who is my audience? Whose praise do I seek? Honestly, I think it is my own. I see so much beauty and intelligence and wit and talent around me– in people I know, in people I don’t know. And while I am relieved to have this freedom from the physical disfigurement I once suffered, and I’m happy about engaging in exercise activities I enjoy, I often feel such sadness that my life is wasted without any significant movement. So much greatness, so much brilliance around me and I… I feel so ordinary. I admire so many people, but I see so little to admire in myself.

I know this sounds ridiculous. My body even agrees because every time I feel this disappointment, my body does this laugh-cry reaction. The world is falling apart, and I choose not to appreciate what I have but to instead dwell on this insatiable search for whatever thing I can’t even describe. It’s stupid. Maybe part of it is that I do appreciate my good fortune, and that’s even more reason why I feel something about me should be extraordinary, because I have received so much in this life. How do I convert the good input into good output? Ugh, too much time on my hands. If I spent these agonizing hours learning Spanish or dancing hip hop/bboy or cooking or learning software, then perhaps I would be something more. I don’t know, but to be nearly 33 and still be haunted by these demons, I just don’t even know what to say.

And so I’ve decided to seek help. I’m always touting all my employee benefits… I might as well try out the therapy services. I’m not ashamed: I just worry about articulating these feelings in any sensible way such that someone can actually help me. I shall call first thing in the morning. I need to stop running around in circles.