Tonight, I’m going to allow myself to be swallowed by my sadness.
I find there’s productivity in feeling sadness. For the last couple of weeks, as one event after another unfolded itself around me, I’ve been almost too busy to process the recent changes and losses in my life. I’ve shed tears very sparingly, not allowing myself to sit in the sadness for too long before moving on to the next activity that necessitated my attention.
Isn’t it silly how we tend to associate tears with weakness? Why is distracting ourselves from feeling considered the brave thing to do? Why can’t tears also be an act of bravery? An outward indication that instead of running from our sadness, instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist, we are allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable, and are mustering the courage to share this vulnerability with others?
I’m not a vulnerable person. I’m controlled and calculated almost 100% of the time. I am the rock my friends turn to in times of distress, I am the voice of reason to almost everyone I talk to, even strangers in passing who engage me in brief bouts of conversation. I find the experience of emotional extremes exhausting, which is why I’m largely an apathetic person; whether happiness, sadness, anger, excitement, or otherwise, I don’t venture far and wide across the emotional spectrum.
But now that I’m here, alone in my room, I’ve decided to allow myself this rare opportunity to process the melancholy that has sit quietly yet persistently in the back of my thoughts for weeks. I’m just tired of dreaming every night about conversations that have never happened, only to wake up every morning with the annoying reminder that my situation remains unchanged, that the words we exchanged were only inventions of my subconscious.
So tonight, here, in this empty apartment, I’m just going to lie in bed and write and reflect and think about you, wherever you are, and wonder if you are also lying and reflecting and thinking about me.
I went to the Urgent Care and the ER last night.
I’m writing this in between broken fevers and codeine cough syrup, so you’ll have to excuse any flashes of incoherence.
Two nights ago I had a terrible sleep, punctuated by dry coughing fits and the distinct pain of an oncoming sore throat. I’m prone to throat infections, so it was nothing out of the ordinary at first. I took a sick day from work, bought a humidifier and had it shipped to my apartment within a mere 3 hours using Google Shopping Express (since I assumed the dryness in California air might have had something to do with the dryness accumulating in my throat), ate some soup and self-medicated with a cocktail of Cheratussin, ibuprofen, Mucinex and Advil Cold & Sinus.
Around 3pm yesterday I fell asleep and woke up around 7pm feeling acutely aware of the tightness in my throat and how it was laboring my breathing. I could feel every inhale expand my chest with some difficulty, and I discovered that if any amount of nasal congestion came on, it would be extremely difficult to breathe through my mouth. Maybe it was the fact that I was coming off of several different drugs or the fact that I was about to enter another fevered state, but I started to panic, afraid that my throat would constrict further in my sleep and I would wake up in the middle of the night suffocating and unable to communicate. I didn’t want to end up like that woman in Texas, discovered alone and unconscious and eventually declared brain dead from a lack of oxygen. And I didn’t want to become a cautionary tale of yet another otherwise healthy young person in the Bay Area who succumbed to the flu.
So I called my mom and she told me to go the Urgent Care. With most Urgent Care facilities closed or fully booked for the night, the anxiety that my throat was going to suddenly close up began to intensify. I eventually found an Urgent Care facility that would take me and arrived just 15 minutes before they closed.
Both the nurse who took my vitals and the doctor who eventually saw me seemed alarmed by my racing heart rate. I could see the nervousness in my young doctor’s eyes as he told me that what I had could either be as simple as an infection or as worse as another diagnosis he was reluctant to say just yet. He asked me if I had a medical background, to which I responded no. He finally said that based on my symptoms, I could have a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lungs, which would be rare but not uncommon in females of my age.
I sat there calmly, because I’m a calm mother fucking person. He asked me if I understood what he was saying. He asked me if I was ok. He asked me if I had any questions. He recommended that I go to the Emergency Room, where they would be able to give me a CT scan if they agreed with his prognosis. He said that if I was one of his family members, he would strongly recommend that I go. He said that, legally, he had to recommend that I take an ambulance ride over to the ER. I had to formally turn down a ride in an ambulance over to the ER so he could check some box on his form or some shit.
I met my friend in the lobby and told her she needed to take me to the ER. My doctor came out with directions to the facility, the fear and concern still in his eyes, and I’m pretty sure he said good luck to me as we walked out the door.
I arrived at the ER, where another nurse took my vitals again and again commented on my racing heart rate. He took a swab to test me for strep throat and then had me lie down on a gurney while he gave me an EKG test to check on my heart. He then took me to another room where I had to strip from the waist up and put on a hospital gown that was completely open in the back. I remember sitting there and thinking over and over, “Today is not the day I’m going to die.”
My sister and my friend eventually arrived and waited with me in this room as another nurse and my doctor filed in and out to take my vitals and ask me questions. Eventually, my second doctor explained that my first doctor probably thought I might have a pulmonary embolism because my heart rate was extremely high but I didn’t have as much of a fever at the Urgent Care. Once I arrived at the ER, I had an “impressive” fever, which could have accounted for my heart rate. I don’t have strep throat, I might have some iteration of the flu, she didn’t know, she couldn’t confirm, but she sent me off with the recommendation to drink lots of fluids, continue to take ibuprofen to break my fevers, and to come back if I continue to have difficulty breathing or develop any new symptoms.
I haven’t left my bed at all for the last 12 hours, since I got home from my 3-hour journey to the Urgent Care and the ER. As someone who rarely (if ever) asks for help, it’s a harrowing experience to be told by a medical professional that you could have a medical condition that could be fatal.
I didn’t die yesterday, but for a couple hours there I thought I might.
Something to believe in.
When I was in LA a few weeks ago, I met up with a close friend from college who is now a devout Falun Gong practitioner. In between sharing anecdotes of our lives and marveling at how much we’ve both changed since we first met during a study abroad program in Spain, we talked about our belief systems, which prompted him to ask me what exactly do I believe in.
It’s not an uncommon question for me to receive, as someone who went to Catholic school for 12 years, majored in Religious Studies, and frequently wears crosses (I’m actually getting a cross tattooed on one of my knuckles this week).
Truth be told, I don’t believe in any form of organized religion or doctrine, and I’m not one who needs something to believe in; I don’t need a higher authority to give reason and meaning to the events that transpire in life.
Over the years, however, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my interactions with others, and the legacy that I’d like to one day leave behind. While I don’t believe I’ll leave this world known as the “friendliest” or “kindest” person, I’d like to think that I’ve shared some level of warmth with everyone I’ve crossed paths with.
I once read somewhere that to live a happy life you should give gifts to people everyday, and not necessarily gifts of the physical variety. These gifts could include the exchange of smiles, greetings, some small form of acknowledgment that you and this other person have shared a slice, a moment of life together, and it was good. Warmth isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I do believe in showing respect to everyone who walks in and out of my life, and to be generous with my smiles, especially to those who seem to need it most.
I believe in treating others with a sense of dignity and mutual respect, that no one should feel as if the course of his/her life is trivial or meaningless compared with others who may be more affluent or more attractive or more successful. I resent any implication of a “lesser” person or persons.
As trite as it is to admit, I believe in karmic retribution, and the idea that what you put out into the world gets returned back to you. I don’t consider myself a particularly virtuous person, and I’m no big philanthropist. My life philosophy can be summed up simply as, “Don’t be an asshole.”
And honestly, the world has enough assholes. I think not being one of them is something to believe in.
There’s something about writing, about calling oneself a “writer,” that instills deep feelings of self-consciousness and doubt within me. I’ve never been bold enough to consider myself a “writer,” not truly, despite the fact that I’ve been journaling since I was 9 and do indeed write things that people read from time to time.
Even now, in writing just this short bit of text, I’ve already edited and rewritten and erased three other paragraphs.
There’s an insecurity that hovers over you as you write something for public consumption - a fear that readers will misinterpret you, or worse, that they’ll give absolutely no fucks about what you have to say.
When writing, you wonder to yourself, “Will anyone care about this beside me?” “Is this completely banal?” “Do I sound like an asshole and/or a narcissist?” These are real fears, because writing about yourself with any amount of frequency necessitates a certain level of self-importance and narcissism, and it can be difficult to step outside of yourself long enough to predict how others will perceive you.
Despite any praise or recognition I’ve received for my writing, I still approach the task of writing with fear and uncertainty. Some of this fear most likely stems from my history of sex/relationship writing, and all of the scrutiny and criticism that came with it.
However, I’d like to get back into the habit of writing more frequently around a wider range of topics, beyond the activities that take place (or don’t take place) within my bedroom. I feel like I’ve been discrediting myself and have been avoiding writing about a number of things, out of a fear that I have nothing new or intelligent to add to life’s discussions.
But I’d like to tell you everything. I’d like to tell you about my life and all of its random coincidences and insanities, about my observations as a 25-year old working in the tech industry in beautiful San Francisco. I’d like to tell you everything about me, unfold all of myself before you, and eliminate the fear that’s settled deeply in my chest that you won’t give a shit about me, because that’s no way write, and that’s no way to live.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m taking a walk outside of my skin. I peel back layers of flesh and muscle and nerves and tendons, I release my bones to let them breathe. Sometimes I feel like such a stranger, here, in a body that doesn’t belong to me, in a body that I’m borrowing.
In the last few weeks I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with heat pouring out of me, my scalp slicked with sweat, as if my soul has been running and I’m awaking just as it’s returning to lie down again. I have felt restless and unsatisfied, imagining several different and incomplete iterations of myself, in which I am a writer or a yogi or an artist or a freelancer.
Sometimes I just want to shed this body and leave it behind, to live momentarily unbounded and free, and to pick it back up again like an old hobby. I just want to spend a few hours feeling like myself again, to not feel all of the obligations and responsibilities that weigh on this body, the alarms and the deadlines that mark its days, the meetings and the gatherings that necessitate its presence. I want to no longer feel like a captive in this skin, a prisoner to its schedule.
I want to crawl out of this life and into another, and spend a few precious moments beholden to nothing, nothing at all, but myself.
My first visit to the optometrist (and a lesson on avoiding assholes)
My vision has been steadily on the decline for the last few years, but it’s only been in the past 6 months when the world ten feet in front of me started to become fuzzy around the edges, a light blur of shapes and colors, that I finally felt the impetus to go to an optometrist.
I didn’t know what to expect when I walked the three blocks to my new optometrist’s office, but from the moment we shook hands, my optometrist proved himself to be a wonderful, gentle person. Another Cal grad who attended Berkeley exactly 40 years before me, whose eyes almost glistened as he recalled the days when he lived right in the thick of the anti-war movement that had overtaken the city, the tear gas from People’s Park that would waft into his dorm room.
The appointment itself went normal enough - he put dye in my eyes, asked me to identify letters, shone light into my pupils, and told me I was doing a great job, as if to validate that yes! That is the letter ‘E,’ and yes, that second ‘E’ was definitely fuzzier than the first ‘E,’ my semi-blurry eyes are such champs, running on all cylinders despite their near-sightedness.
By the end of the appointment it was no surprise when he said I needed glasses. He directed me downstairs to his secretary, an older woman with a superficial smile that sat like a plastic attachment on her face, one that you could peel right off like a Mrs. Potato Head.
She quickly told me how much my insurance would cover for new frames and then immediately directed me to the cases, and I, being new to the optometrist, was confused and told her that I hadn’t planned on buying frames today and that I was planning on buying glasses from Warby Parker. She then looked at me with the most condescending stare, as if I was an idiot who had just told her something completely ridiculous, like, “Actually, I’m going to pass on glasses, I’m just going to go home and squeeze some peach juice into my eyes because I hear the natural acidity is supposed to clear near-sightedness right up!” As if I had wasted my time even coming to the optometrist if I wasn’t going to get glasses, and wasn’t that obvious, you plebeian fool.
Eventually I caved to her condescension, because, again, optometrist virgin here, and I let her half-heartedly present me with 5 or 6 frames, eventually selecting some cheap pair that looked like something I could have bought at Claire’s 10 years ago for about 1/20th of the cost. I paid, I left, and then I immediately called my sister and my mom, both of whom are seasoned glasses-wearing optometrist pros, and had them confirm what I already knew - this woman had fucked me and had tricked me into thinking that I’d asked her to do it.
I went back about 15 minutes later armed with my sister, and I spoke to a different, younger woman who reversed the charge without question, set up a new appointment so I could get contacts, and spoke to me in such a soft, soothing manner that it almost seemed as if diffusing this type of situation was already familiar to her - I imagine it happens a lot with the other woman I spoke with first.
Reflecting back on my interaction with the first woman, I find myself rattled and discomforted by the whole event. While I, admittedly, am somewhat of a manipulative person, the boundaries of my manipulation only extend as far as convincing my friends that they want to get dinner where I want to get dinner. There’s no malice in it, it’s never at the expense of another person’s comfort (and please, when it comes down to it, my friends know that they are well-fed people because of me). So I find it difficult to digest when others don’t seem to follow the simple philosophy of ‘Not Being an Asshole.’
This woman took advantage of me knowing that it was my first visit to the optometrist and despite my explicit declaration that I wasn’t interested in buying frames today. She took advantage of my knowledge gap, wedged herself inside, and played me like a puppet with her hand up my ass.
While I resent her for the experience, I do appreciate that because of her, I will never be fucked at an optometrist again. I know to stand my ground and to say an enthusiastic, “Fuck no, and fuck you!” to the next person who tries to peddle some shitty, marked up Walgreens frames to me.
So to the woman who treated me like an idiot today: fuck no to your shitty ass glasses, and fuck you, thanks for nothing!
How to survive a long-distance relationship.
As of this month, I have officially been in a long-distance relationship for 2 years. I have spent, over the past 2 years, the past 730 days, about 1/8th of this time with my boyfriend. The other 7/8ths of the time I’ve fought loneliness, I’ve woken up in other men’s beds, I’ve discovered yoga and other new interests, I’ve pursued personal goals, I’ve made new friendships while reinforcing old ones, and I’ve learned to live an entire life outside of him, parallel to him, with him.
I can’t claim to have mastered the secret to living in a long-distance relationship, because there is no secret. It’s just work. As a student you study to learn, as an employee you train to advance, and as a significant other in a long-distance relationship you communicate, you focus, you persevere to stay in love. Hint: it’s easier when you’re already in love.
For those in or considering getting into a long-distance relationship, some advice:
Communicate everyday. A common fear when it comes to long-distance relationships is the fear of growing apart - of acquiring a whole new set of life experiences that exclude your significant other. This fear is real. People adapt. They move on. The passing of time ensures this inevitability. The trick is to communicate as much as possible, whether for seconds or hours at a time - via text, via IM, via phone calls, via Skype, via any of the numerous communication mediums that exist today - and to talk about everything, from events as significant as a promotion or raise at work, to the mundane, like deciding between apple varieties at the grocery store or seeing a new hairdresser.
Distance inherently excludes you from each other’s lives. Communication bridges the gap.
Be reasonable. You deserve a life. Your significant other does too. You both deserve friends and happy hours and raucous nights out and spontaneous daytime excursions and fun and laughter and more. People tend to do funny things when they’re lonely - they get jealous of experiences that don’t involve them, and resentful of memories that don’t include them. Don’t be that person. Go out and make your own memories. They’ll become great conversation fodder when you’re digging for new things to talk about.
On that note, sometimes, when you’re in a long-distance relationship, you’re lonely and you probably haven’t had sex in a while and a cute stranger will brush past and make eye contact with you at a bar and you’ll interpret that as an invitation to make out and, basically, sometimes shit happens. Not for everyone, but consider a safety clause (and communicate the conditions of which VERY explicitly). Sometimes, and no couple is exempt from this whether long-distance or not, you’re attracted to other people. It happens. There are millions of beautiful, interesting people in the world, and sometimes, by chance, one of these people will be in a room with you while your significant other is not.
Being attracted to another person doesn’t make you a bad person. However, acting on this attraction without the express, explicit approval of your significant other can make you an asshole. If you think you can handle it, talk about this type of situation in advance and lay out specific ground rules. For example, third-party guests must be objectively uglier. Or they must be a visiting student from a foreign country with a Visa that’s about to expire. Or they must have an uncommon physical quirk, like a lisp or a missing hand.
Finally, be honest, be in love. Being in love makes being in a long-distance relationship easy. If your love is effortless, if it branches and grows like ivy across a brownstone, reaching and settling into every nook and crevice, being in a long-distance relationship will be a breeze.
So be honest with yourself and your significant other. Be in love. And if you’re not in love, then end it. This is how you survive a long-distance relationship.