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Belief and Philosophy Break Divorce Reading & Writing Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

BREAK: Divorce and Voice

When writers, readers, and critics speak of a writer’s voice they are referencing the writer’s chosen words that reveal the writer’s self, how she perceives and moves in the world. Voice is the writer’s soul and spirit, and how the writer brings this to the page is the writer’s voice. Being honest to our voice, to who we are, is the key task in the writing of a story, and our life’s most significant mission. If we cannot be who we are, then who shall we be?

When we refer to a writer’s voice, most telling and daunting is that there exists a distinctly proscribed way of conveying written text codified by primarily male writers. It has been this way for centuries. It will continue to be this way. In the process of trying to convey our story, we quiet or even lose our voice because we are fearful. We strive to appease or appeal to people who judge us according to an unknown or mysterious standard that often, we can never achieve as it is rather subjective. And yet, it is imperative that we persevere and risk writing who we are as otherwise, our voice is silent, and if ours, then many other women who are out there too. When we are courageous about our voice, we pave the way for dozens of others to follow suit.

We must have faith in the story. Believe in our right to write. While writing is a learned skill, the ability to reveal who we are is directly correlated to our willingness to be vulnerable on the page. Our words are meaningful because our story matters. The voice that we summon is one that acknowledges our full self. This voice is the beautiful, courageous, resilient, complete self who has declared her right to live as a one who wants to set the terms of her own life.

Whoever controls the text controls the story. A delivery through the medium of writing often prompts a different reaction because texts impart a permanence. Words on a page compel an undeniable respect. Every major cultural, religious, legal, and creative institution’s laws and customs are upheld, reinforced, and codified by text. Someone writes the text; another person interprets this text; yet another person writes a story based on this interpretation. We are readers of a story several layers away from the primary text. Imagine what remains and what changes. Given this truth, it’s important to throw your own voice into this layered chorus and write with everything you are. You are your voice. Write your truth to power.

 We may feel inhibited about the physical act of putting words down on a page. An easy solution is to simply pretend that we are speaking to someone: talk to the page! For accuracy, we record our voice with a phone or device, and transcribe the spoken words. Edit for clarity. Speaking and writing use different parts of our brain, but know that communication is linked, writing inhibition is real, and however we get our words onto the page will be fine. The vast majority of the globe’s illiterate are women, but our wisdom transcends what is written; this is how we have survived through the millennia. Know that through the power of our oral storytelling we write a story on the page—for those of us who cannot write we put our words down on paper. We do this by recording our story.

A woman’s voice is often considered dangerous. How often are women accused of being shrill? The numerous complaints about a woman’s voice—her accent, her tone, her articulation are familiar to anyone follows the commentary about women in the public spotlight. There are no end of complaints about the actual pitch of a woman’s voice, but what most dig at is a particular woman’s willingness to use her voice in an arena that women rarely participate in.

Breaking silence is looked upon as disruptive and to break the silence about our marriage, enshrined across the globe as an institution to maintain stability within a system of patriarchy, is considered at best poor taste, and at worst, a display worthy of public condemnation. Marriage is considered private. Personal. And it is. But to dismantle a marriage through divorce requires outside documentation (just as marriage did), and to write the details of this break-up potentially place women in the position of being seen as dangerous. We may or may not be the very first woman in our family to divorce, but it is highly likely that we are the first woman who records the reasons for the divorce. It is inconvenient, if not unpleasant for most people to be presented with anything that disrupts the norm. The truth is the details that prompted your divorce are unimportant to most, but they are important to you, and therefore worth writing.

You may be quiet, someone who is reluctant to expose your private happenings to anyone, but you have a right to exercise the use of your voice. There is no reason for your silence.

Write your divorce story. Discuss the inclusion of your divorce story in your legal file.

Write your story. Change your mind. Author your life.

 

 

Categories
Break Divorce Health Self-help

BREAK: Choosing a Therapist

A therapist can be an important person in your life during divorce. I’m not going to discuss why one refuses therapy. Frankly, I can’t get into that. You have to do what works for you. Therapy helped me through divorce.

While I started therapy with one person at the beginning of my divorce after 1-2 meetings, I felt a little uncomfortable, plus I was moving. I decided to search around for a new one.

I had a solid therapist who really helped me transition through divorce. Here are my suggestions and ideas:

  1. Google and do some research about the practitioners in your area. Ask for recommendations from friends.
  2. Note that psychiatrists can prescribe meds, but psychologists and counselors do not.
  3. Do you think that this person can help you as you are moving through your divorce? Remember that there are different steps. A person who is there smack in the middle of your crisis can be great for that time period, and may not work post-divorce. We turn to different people at different points. Understand and think about what you need.
  4. What is the background of the therapist—area of expertise? Perhaps the therapist is an expert in adolescent behavior or addiction, couples therapy? You have to get a handle on this.
  5. Area of knowledge/framework: Personally, I avoid Freudians. Freud was an interesting philosopher and a cocaine addict with dubious ideas about women. If you say you are a Freudian practitioner, I am going to run the hell away. Call me a downer, but yeah, my feeling is that Freud probably made a helluva lot of women feel bad about themselves. I vote for Gestalt or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — the latter, in particular, deals in the here and now. But most practitioners do know and understand different modalities. For me, I wanted to just get through the divorce. Yes, I delved into early childhood, but in the trenches of divorce I had no bandwidth to rewind as the divorce itself was grueling week after week. I didn’t get into a huge amount of my past until later. Now, I’m ready to work with a different sort of therapist. So again, you have to figure out what you need.
  6. Do you feel comfortable talking to this person? Age, background, gender, ethnicity, political leanings? You will be meeting this person at least once a week or so, how do you feel about this person?
  7. Therapy is about emotional work and understanding people’s position in society and within the context of a certain type of patriarchal culture. I have personally never worked with a male therapist, but then again, I have seen a male gynecologist exactly once. In the past, I have also prioritized therapists who understand my position as a woman of color. I’ve had black, Asian-Chinese and Korean descent, and white women therapists. Before you run to a therapist, do some reflection about what you think you will need during this time period of the divorce process. Some people feel more comfortable working with people who are completely unlike who they are. Others not. It all is down to knowing who you need to be on your team. A therapist is on your team.
  8. If you don’t want to see a therapist or are unable to do so, make sure you can count on friends or family as you transition. Divorce is hard. We all need support!
Categories
Belief and Philosophy Divorce Passing in the Middle Kingdom Poetry Reading & Writing Self-help

Passing in the Middle Kingdom: When I Sleep

This poem When I Sleep was first published in an anthology released by the Asian American Women’s Artists Association Cheers to Muses. I believe there are still hard copies of this book available through the organization. Work exhibited or featured ranged from sculpture to prints to writing. We do not create in a vacuum; at any time there are others who are creating, making, and expressing, and it’s important to note that we are not alone in this way. Women who have chosen a path predicated on expression and creativity often find themselves on the fringes of a society, and so it is important to know that you are not alone in this endeavor, that is often looked upon by outsiders as rather peculiar. It’s important to note that there are avenues of art that are always accepted by society should they fall into the matrix of womanly arts–these are not to be dismissed. But when you begin to question existing narrative frameworks art becomes dangerous.

Always remember that writing is a radical act. And as anyone who writes will tell you: writing is not a choice; it’s a compulsion.

I was remembering what a Korean American friend of my sister’s once told her: “Why can’t you just conform?” LOL. This is such a terrifying statement on so many levels. What was it about how this young woman was raised that she would level this type of criticism? Rather terrifying. The world finds so many ways to keep women compliant.

The poem below was a real dream I had many years before I divorced. I was extremely unsettled, filled with anxiety, but it was difficult for me to discern why or how as seemingly, everything on on the surface seemed to be as it should. Child. Spouse. House. Work. Check. Check. Check. It’s the potential hell of surface oriented idea of a heteronormative nuclear family that is a disguise for unrest and discontent. I found out years later, unsurprisingly that many people I knew were more or less drug-filled, bodies numbed from what modern capital declares is contentment. Purpose and happiness are complicated when it comes to obligations and definitions of women and place. Our bodies know what our minds fail to grasp. There is no peace without sleep, lack of sleep is a form of madness, and this absurd modern condition is the killing of what it means to be who are meant to be. What does one do if the dreams offer no release from the day? If the day is a continuation of what is reflected in a dream?

This poem underwent quite a few drafts. It is much shorter than the original, but I tried to keep the idea of the upset of the ordinary: How we squelch the true ideas we must confront in the daily habits of washing our face, walking across the floor, going to sleep. At this point too, I began to see how the power of beauty, youth stands with age.

There is too a refusal to awaken, because to truly rise means to live seamlessly between what is honest and to acknowledge what most deny. We live this way to shore up some idea of what should be– that is rooted in concepts of scarcity and fear.

The ideal state is to live without denial of who and what you are, to peel off the layers of sleep that seep into our waking hours, to boldly move your body, all of who you are, into a state of consciousness rooted in an awareness of mortality. Calm. Acceptance. Peace. Joy.

And now I head to the water. Have a great day. Aloha.

 

 

When I Sleep

 

Memory drowns in dreams—

monsters of the deep bare incisors,

scrape with scales.

Incandescent. Ravenous.

Earth’s belly spits a picture:

you run on a meadow to muses,

blossoms of poetry.

I lift my hands in a corner of disbelief.

 

Trapped by morning.

Eyes raise to the sun.

Escape vanquished by daylight’s rip.

Night’s pictures, a pornographic loop.

 

I am sorry, but I too

have impossible songs that swell.

We bend, but the nightly reprieve will not halt.

 

I splash water onto my face,

note lines on my neck,

imagine words murmured in your sleep

did not leak into my own.

Categories
Belief and Philosophy Poetry Self-help Woman. Warrior. Writer.

Adolescence and Clothing: Inner and Outer Selves

These patched retro Levi’s jeans are from my very early adolescence, fashion-wise–from that leftover phase of hippy rebellion. As someone from the GenX cut-off year, I was influenced by this era older than myself and the era in which I lived. At boarding school, I swapped three skirts for this pair of blue jeans that has small embroidered hearts in purple and pink on the back pocket. Thanks, Mary, yes, I still have them. I kept patching them, but of course, I never wore them after a period of time and they don’t really fit me.

I carted them around everywhere as an odd remembrance because it reminds me of a time when I was trying to define my interior self through clothing and all that is exterior. I don’t think about clothing like this anymore. But back then, one minute I would be dressed like X and the next minute like Y and clothing was pure costuming, fun, curiosity, rebellion, and celebration of self. I couldn’t bring myself to be something, so I wore the clothes that suggested I could be something. I am now rather utilitarian most days; I don’t think of clothing in that same way. I’m more in my body, but yet the body seems to occupy a more esoteric space. I recognize clothing as an avenue of expression, but don’t use it that much in this direction.

As I say often, this is all down to how we see death and self.

For me, the more I recognize my interior as an identity, the less I seem to get worried about the exterior. I realize that what we are in the exterior can be entirely artificial. As the membrane between the inner and outer becomes more fluid, soluble, porous, there is less to worry about. We are what we are. Life is rather short. We are temporal beings. Our body is simply our exterior shell.

Social media, avatars, the way we present can be entirely false or mystical and one can be always aware of the gap between what is seen and what is hidden. I think the easiest solution is to collapse the inner and outer. What you see is what you get. That patched jean self is carried within memory. Memory is one part of the inner self, but not necessarily a construct of the present. How I became who I am in the present, was influenced by the time I spent in these jeans, but yeah, but the cells have all regenerated. I am not that girl.

I hope this makes sense for people. For those who experience anxiety about outer appearance, know that the key is to bring the inner as close to the outer as possible. It’s a much easier way to live.

Categories
Belief and Philosophy Reading & Writing Self-help

Belief Systems: Context is Everything

Like many people, particularly during this COVID situation, I’ve been diving into reading and listening to podcasts that are labeled self-help.
For example, I can tell you how to declutter, although my own closet is a mess, because I have listened to 30 hours of decluttering podcasts while walking or doing chores. I can tell you the reasons you accumulate clutter. I could probably give a brief lecture on it myself! I am now purging and getting rid of stuff. Last PM I threw out the hospital bill receipts from my son’s birth. I had eaten some kind of shrimp salad. He’s 13. That kind of got me worn out and then ADD kicked in and I started reading a poetry book and then you know, the decluttering project got sidelined because I got bored. The goal remains!
This morning I was listening to Spiritual Thought Leader X (seems pretty cool, but sometimes, you know, a little out there, but nice and smart enough) give an interpretation of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tze and applying this wisdom to ideas of governance and leadership. Spiritual Leader X’s expertise is that he studied this work for a year. I found myself getting really annoyed about his absurd elitist, Western centric interpretation of this book! I am not an expert in Eastern philosophy, he’s studied it longer, but it was easy to see he lacked any basic knowledge of Asian culture because of his out of context interpretation. I also felt that it was highly dangerous for his audience (whom I am guessing, well, there are probably a fair number of Trump types self-actualizing and evolving and getting spiritual en masse).
He was speaking about the ideas of governance. The fewer laws created, the fewer lawbreakers there will be. True. So in his mind fewer laws is the answer to how people should govern. Uhm…well….
All I could think about was some whacked out people using this idea to vote against health care, gun control, Affirmative Action, citing this so-called spiritual leader and his interpretation of the Tao Te Ching and/or I Ching.
What NY Times bestselling Spiritual Leader X author failed to mention while gabbing carelessly about the benefits of fewer laws is the foundational structure of FAMILY and how this functions within Asian society.
Nuclear and extended family structures mean that a strong infrastructure of support is in place in these societies–in negative and positive ways. It breeds a sense of obligation and conformity to the group (STUDY AND GET GOOD GRADES OR WE WILL KICK YOU OUT OF THE FAMILY. DATE ANYONE NOT ASIAN (name specific ethnicity) AND YOU BETRAY FAMILY, YOU LOSER). You have to put up with a lot of (GRANDPA IS A PATRIARCHAL INTOLERANT ______–fill in the blank) etc.. this extended network may include cousins of cousins and close friendships cultivated over many years.
You must be obedient to this network.
This is what psychologists may call the In-Group. The In-Group obligation means that if you have an incompetent cousin twice removed through marriage who is unemployed, but was once nice to your great aunt you are related to through a second or third marriage, and you have a business and you have a job opening and this fellow who you know is a total loser needs a job, guess what. You have to give that guy a job. Because he is related to you.
Your Out-Group behavior (nation, community you are not directly related to) and dynamics are quite different. You are probably less loyal, don’t care as much, bend the law even, because you are overextended, often, with your In-Group.
When I lived in Korea I was once standing on a subway station platform during rush hour, my back to where the train door would open, not paying attention, and the train stopped, and the swarm of bodies when the train door opened nearlycarried me into the train when it stopped. After the tide of people slightly ebbed (I could neither go forward nor backward, nor sideways, I was floating) I dropped down to my hips between the train platform and the train. My feet were dangling above the tracks. Luckily I was wearing a huge down coat, but basically, I could have almost dropped down to the tracks, but my body was torqued in a way that saved me, and I was slightly bigger, my hips at a slight angle, so I didn’t fall all the way down. I was in shock. No one tried to help me up. In fact, people started jumping around me and nearly over my head in a rush to get on the train. I hoisted myself up and then got on the train.
The subway doors closed. I was traumatized. I then proceeded to shout and say OMFG I could have died YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU etc… and then I realized…uhm…yeah, I’m screaming in shock in English and looking like a freak show and everyone speaks Korean and they probably think I am insane.
Then I hear a young woman’s voice in a heavy French accent saying: Are you American?
I say: Uh, yeah (now feeling completely stupid, after all I was shouting like an Ugly American expatriate)
She says: You are very lucky. My friend fell onto the tracks a few weeks ago!
I was really upset by this and immediately dashed off an email to my close friend Dr. Andreas Bruech, about what a bunch of terrible people Koreans were. HOW could they do this to me? WHAT WAS WRONG? Why didn’t anyone help me? I could have DIED. I’m Korean. What is wrong with my ethnic group? SUBWAY KILLERS. Andi is a Korean speaking German, an expert in cross cultural studies between Korea, US, Canada, Germany and Japan within the context of corporate relations. And he kindly explained the idea of In Group and Out Groups. That if a society is formed on an In Group level, they are so overextended, that often, someone from the Out Group barely exists. It was nothing personal. It was a question of how society is structured and of course Koreans are perfectly normal but function a lot on the In Group construction.
Ideas of nation are formed in many ways within the context of an Out Group. We care for the larger public good. Our family structures are strong, but we also rely on community support and exist within different constructions of a nuclear family. This is in contrast to many countries in the world. The US is an Out Group type of nation.
So when spiritual expert X posits that the fewer laws are better and is citing the I Ching/Tao Te Ching as evidence of a great text on leadership he is failing to look at the formation of society and family structure. You can have fewer laws if there are a lot of informal family laws or rules in place to makes sure people stay in line.
Many years ago, my uncle told me a story about a young Samoan man accused of a serious crime. There was some discussion about admitting this crime. But what led the man to finally admit it was that he consulted with his elders and the extended network agreed to support him wholly during his time in prison and to be there for him. He then went into the “system” knowing that a large group of people fully were there for him and his own family. He was loyal to his In Group. The Out Group was not as important to him.
This is just to say that groups function differently. And when we interpret ideas, remember that our lens is this if we are in the US and have grown up wholly in this system:
WHITE
PATRIARCHAL
CHRISTIAN
BUILT ON SLAVERY AND STOLEN LAND
And there are many ways we can be and are. While we must surely borrow ideas and texts from different cultures, exchange and share, prioritizing the nature of exchange, but honoring origin, the random and often haphazard, although well intended method of applying ideas across cultures must always be accompanied by a knowledge of the society from which it came.
So when you listen to these Spiritual Leaders–please remember this.
All belief systems are constructed.
WHO writes them?
WHO speaks them?
HOW do you interpret them?
Aloha. Have a great Sunday!