of sirens—a short notice
call to brunch.
Know to be worried
because you know them enough
even when they know nothing
at all about the direction
the wind is blowing or the way
this car is going.
It's the distress
signal that matters.
The first aid response.
Then, going through the motions
of not speaking over eggs and Americanos:
we both know
there is no easy solution
but I'm here now so
maybe the caffeine helps
make the nerves feel better. Maybe
tomorrow will help your prospects look brighter.
and think: well, I’ve
done it this time.
Head down to the
pillow, maybe I don’t wake up
to an alien life tomorrow. Maybe
a gear clicks in place, and
these years feel mine.
Sinner, one of those
that’ll be excommunicated
if religion still did it: how can
God not bring you peace?
Maybe He gives
me an Atlas
piece of the world.
How else would a lover make you
see how much worry is worth?
And this idea of
plummeting into some other’s
here comes the fall
again, blame Eve
again, but this time she loses
everything: doesn’t get her
Adam and doesn’t get her
Eden. Just the naked shame.
If only it was that fundamental:
bite into all the ways I can
tell you I love you.
on my door and offer me a cocktail
sedative. Put me to sleep.
Heretics have more courage:
I still have everything to lose.
The main point of this entire entry: podcasts are the bomb and you cannot convince me otherwise. A couple of months ago, I forfeited my Spotify premium subscription for multiple reasons (mostly financial). I loathe listening to badly made advertisements, so my Spotify streaming has probably been reduced to 25% of its full capacity. In its place is a gaping void of background noise.
I love silence. the quiet lets me think. I wish I could live in a quiet world, but because of multiple circumstances I live in a city filled with white noise. The cars irk me when I take my morning commute. There's construction. People talk very loud. Elevators are the worst. So, I got back into podcasts.
Over the summer, I found out that Spotify lets you download podcasts without cajoling you to get premium subscription–great! The better part is how surprisingly extensive their podcast list is. I should note that this is not a Spotify advertisement. I'm just genuinely impressed by their podcast section.
There is something to say about listening to people talk in a society that's very keen on broadcasting yourself into the world (like what I'm doing right now with this blog entry). The art of listening to people and finding middle ground is something that needs some boosting. It's so easy to be angry in 120 characters, but to substantiate that anger takes a little more effort and a lot more eloquence. I think podcasts (even ones that are geared towards controversy like The Angry Asian Man) do that very well. These stories back up the front of anger with real conversation and context. I think it's so important to understand where a lot of anger in society is coming from.
Tangentially, podcasts are also a gateway of re-framing world views. Three podcasts that really help me grow as a person this past month are the following (get ready for rambling):
(1) Lea Thau's Strangers is a journalistic podcast. It's heavy on interviews, and getting people to talk about what they've done and not done in the name of some bigger idea. The podcast touches on a lot of themes bordering "existentialism." One episode can be about love, and the other about race, or faith. Ultimately, it's about how we connect with strangers and how those strangers become part of our journey as human beings. The real question is: how can I not enjoy this? and why did it take me so long to find it?
(2) The Gathering Place Valley's Practical Theology deals with modern questions I have had about Christianity, and deals with it quite well. I've had questions on divorce and feminism (just to name a few things) and think this is a great resource for people who do think about these things and want answers that make sense. (A side note: I think the most interesting thing in some pockets of any religious community is this unwillingness to talk about concerns and doubts.) The podcast assumes an intelligent audience, and is in the moderate side of the spectrum. I enjoy how it convicts me of my prejudices, and how it challenges me to become a more compassionate and reasonable Christian.
(3) Welcome to Night Vale is a cult favorite: anyone into podcasts must have heard of this at one point. It's set in this fantastic community with weather reports, and local announcements, and news. I don't use fantastic as a grand adjective. It's fantasy. That's it's genre. But it melds fantasy with a very real structure we have which is radio. I think this mix is why its take on socio-political commentary seems so casual, as if we were just talking about what we had for breakfast. The format is used so well that it comes across as effortless. It very much meets every hype I've encountered about it–it's dry, witty, fantastic humor really cuts through a dull day.
All this to say: podcasts are bomb. As much as I crave silence, I can't get that with my current set up. So, this is the next best thing.
Before immersing myself in my generation's pop culture icons, I grew up listening to James Taylor. And Madonna. Among other things. Anyway, I digress–my dad would put on these old albums and all us kids would get on the couch and dance.
I'm not a kid anymore, and I don't remember ever dancing like I did way back when, but the songs pop into my head from time to time. It's not just songs, it's memories–of grade school and Sunday school, of old friends who probably won't recognize my face, of what people have said to me when I was eight.
These things especially get to me when I get into my slumps. It's as if my brain tries to escape the present-tense by going anywhere else. It can't think about the future because that gets me worked up and I dig a deeper hole for myself, so it goes back. Surely, I have a skewed view of my own childhood: I've forgotten a lot, and maybe that's what makes hindsight so pleasant.
Today, Carole King is really getting to me. "When you're down and troubled..." ah! That song makes it so easy to wallow. Here I am feeling down for no reason whatsoever, and this song goes on validating me.
Before my youth pastor went on to get his seminary degree, he said (almost as words of parting) that I ought to preach to myself. Especially when I didn't want to. He said that God has told us everything we need to hear. Sometimes, life just gets a little loud. So, we have to actively repeat these promises to ourselves as a reminder of what we should already know–because we're a forgetful species.
I don't do it enough, but I really should follow my pastor's advice. So many times, I go through days and weeks and months in this fog that I almost resign myself to it. But a little preaching can go a long way. I mean, it's good to remind yourself that you've got hope, right?
but cut throat
words blurted out when
they think you're out
so, let the scars gleam
white–here, asshole, have some
history: all the ones who don't put out are
college prudes, shriveled up
spinsters are fuckable but
too emotionally unavailable so
looper repeat it
over and over–this
body is not broken.
finally, standing up
for yourself isn't
so take it and plunge
the dagger deep down the breastbone.
reek of injustice:
I am not the
sinner, but I'm still the
one who bleeds.
There's a thing that happened back when I was a young girl that I never really talk about. It was traumatic; it was dark; it was covered up for so long. And honestly, I don't remember it very well. I'm not going to dwell on it.
I was with dear friends today, and I touched on how this thing happened to me–and now, laying in bed, I'm realizing that I still have no idea how to talk about these very uncomfortable shadows. They exist. They're in the past. I'm over it, but they haunt me. Are they supposed to? Or am I just weak?
For the past two weeks, we've been working at a grade school clinic. I forget how small it is to be in grade school. They are so precious and so innocent. And maybe, the older I get, the more I understand how repulsive what happened to me was.
But I don't know how to talk about that. Maybe I never will.
There are people who are very much in touch with their emotions. They are able to gracefully navigate their feelings and express exactly what they felt and why they felt it. I applaud you, fantastic human, how do you do it?
I'm not one of you.
Instead of being a normal human being who understands what feelings are, a poem:
you’re breaking your heart again
the both of us. we know
how this ends: pick your poison—I know yours
is ethanol coursing down your hoarse throat, and
comfort in warm arms except the ones you long for.
to regroup, then
dive back in
to prickly cold water.
forget about them, these
red triangular sign posts.
they’re for fools and
we’re the exceptions
(or the illiterate).
the routes are
simple, but we
call it youth, or
not learning from
fumble through pockets, then
dial the phone number. sorry,
the line is busy, or dead
eight years in the making.
to resurrect Lazarus,
he isn’t coming back.
Or is it just because I’ve been
Breathing life into Galatea after the
Sun bows out and gives me my stage—here, I am
Loved the way I like:
I’m confident my lover likes me so
I don’t worry about the way my hair must seem:
Bird’s-nest soup, the memory of
A child again. I promise I’m not too far
Grown up yet.
We just exist
In negative space,
Absorbing the quiet.
Then, sun takes its turn and
Clocks in to run
His shift. We get along
Except in the moments before my
Eyelids pry open, and I wake
To a bed without my lover: it is all
Melted butter, running
Down the counter but let me
Watch it for a moment longer
Before swiping the remnants up,
Leaving no trace again.
"It's close to midnight," I say, before Kitty and I burst into insatiable laughter. This goes on for another 30 minutes. We spent the last two hours comparing summer adventures and exchanging half-mad glances over all the things we have to get done within our last school year (hopefully ever).
You need these moments, and you need these people. Most importantly, you need someone who can understand why you have the urge to ugly cry when you're at the near summit of your potential career–and you need someone who will understand why you summit anyway. We say this often in medicine–to the average outsider, what we do makes absolutely no sense. To the insider, it makes even less sense. Still, we grit our teeth and trudge through. We bank on light at the end of the tunnel.
In the midst of all the work, however, I've learned that the moments I treasure are 2 AM emergency phone calls coming from and going out to friends who really should've been sleeping peacefully. I remember heading back from a cafe at 4 AM, having played card games through an exam night, as if to say: it is enough that we are whole. It is enough that we haven't broken.
I tell Kitty I have to finish my report, but we catch up on everything and nothing instead. It's past midnight, and past both our bedtimes. Everything and nothing has changed, and we don't say how much we'll miss tonight after the year is over.
I'm tired, and I feel bad about feeling tired–it's insanely messed up to think this statement through. Still, it's how the past few months have been going for me. The idea that I have no right to complain has popped into my head too often–it's what you hear people say: you don't have it as bad as we do. When did life become a competition of whose lot is worse?
Ah, well. A poem:
Name Me Ghost
Not quite alive, and
not quite dead—gone
through both, but the afterlife
is bullheaded, and
won’t accept it.
photo reel of all the Saturdays, the
laughter stored in our throat. Replay
loop all the stupid things I’ve said.
Migratory patterns leave
shadows for those left behind--
sometimes, it’s the fragrance
of missing me. Maybe they do.
Still, this is goodbye: it’s
the natural swing of things
to move along when the
cold begins to bite.
I've finally done it.
I've printed out my poems.
There is an order form.
I was told coming into my clinical year of medical school that I ought to find a way to keep myself human. So, I did. Over the past six months, I wrote these poems between surgeries, nap breaks, and seeing patients. I wrote about heartache, time, late mornings, fights, work. They are life poems(!) and they have become my lifeline. These poems are meant for the commute. the snack break. the morning coffee run. They are meant to read like a pick me up when don't have time.
I'm rambling. The point: there are days that do not feel like good days, and maybe writing these poems have helped me pull through. Reading them again, I am humbled at who I was a couple of months ago. It's a reminder not to take myself too seriously. And to keep writing.
another ping in the
pocket. then, a
pause. unseen message, or
when should we bother, or
be bothered about
becoming a bother? and
when should we
ivy branch reach out to
magnet attractive suns?
when do we get to call
strangers, and not think
about the way we might be
buzzing up their phones
these sort of things:
I turn to sleep on my
left side after a month
on the right. maybe the
uneasy chest feeling will
dislodge itself if I just
get through tonight.
I get back to work tomorrow after a long week off (during which I went through minor surgery and major introspection). Do I dread it? A little. Do I look forward to it? Not as much as I should, but I like the work.
At the beginning of medical school, I had a thought that has stayed with me: I am learning to suffer. Not something you really want to hear coming from an age that feeds on hedonism, but I had the thought and I've been carrying it with me, trying to figure out what it means.
What does it mean to endure life, for example? CS Lewis proposed in The Screwtape Letters that a long, peaceful, otherwise mundane life poses a greater threat to faith than a sudden instance of crisis. The more time I have to live, the more I understand this: at times the sheer weight of living makes me question whether God is real when I cannot see him, cannot feel him. It seems easier to believe in Him when I have a problem and need saving from it, and so difficult to see how equally I need him when life rolls ever on without obvious need for divine intervention. Thus, the necessary virtue of faith. And the necessary virtue of introspection.
In the same breath, the end of my medical training seems so far away. The current reality of my situation is bleak. There is little sleeping and little contact with the outside world. The suffering wears you down because you wonder: is this all there is? And everyone tells you it gets worse. Does it? Will I make it out in one piece?
There is no guarantee that anything gets better, but to endure is to take the daily burden of suffering and allow it to chip away at your character until you come out the sort of person you'd like to be. Will suffering properly mould me into the kind of person I wish I was? I certainly hope so.
I think of you
Here's a thought: there's an old riddle (arguably by George Berkeley) about a tree in the forest. If no one hears it fall, does it still make a sound? The short explanation: sound is, by definition, a perceived effect. If no one is around to perceive, then it doesn't matter if the tree objectively made noise. There is no sound. The argument seems ridiculous and too legalistic to take seriously, but I use it as a jumping point for my own tangential thought: we exist separately from how others see us, but we also exist to other people as certain versions of ourselves. Does that matter? Or is it, like the tree argument, something that sounds good legalistically, but doesn't do anyone any good in what we call "real life"?
I've been stuck on this poem by Jack Mueller for weeks–so, maybe it will stay with me for the rest of the year.
I resolve to update this blog a little more often. However often that may be!