Sunday, December 7, 2014

Where do I fit in this world?

How does an introvert, somewhat ADD girl who works too slowly, gets distracted easily, has terrible social skills/communication skills, who tends to dislike most people fit in this world?

My contract is ending again. I feel like I'm perpetually worried about where to go next. In trying to understand myself, I have learn that I am disorganized, too idealistic and therefore not very good at putting ideas into concrete results. Hence I'm terrible at writing project proposals as well as making a manuscript. I am terrible at dealing with people. Seems like I don't get along with 90% of whoever I encounter. The 10% I do get along with are probably the most easy going and socially intelligent people in the world, which means they get along with 99.9% of the world's population.

I took up a technical job because I thought I could just hide behind my desk and just churn out good work + make a living out of it. But it turns out I am too inefficient. So far I haven't had a position where I am really good at what I do. Now I don't think I am stupid (low on EQ and Social Intelligence, but not IQ), but I probably aimed too high in terms of the type of job I think I can do.

I still think science is the right type of job for me. Unfortunately the current system does not allow people with my kind personality to stay in the field. Grad schools keep pumping out PhDs, who are eager to work for peanuts for a few years under professors as postdocs. Because of this, there is no reason to keep experienced scientist in your lab, because the salary goes up. Also, because of the funding structure, every job is temporary. I'm at an age where I want to settle down but I have no idea which country will allow me to stay for long term.

In addition, to survive in the research field, every professor is making their lab members work on 5 projects at once. I know the logical thing to do is to focus on one project at a time, but since I spent 6 years working on only one project, right now I have no idea how to juggle 5 at once. I am constantly stressed out, have no time to cook and exercise. This is really a terrible situation.

I really think I could use a retreat, but right now I'm using my vacation to visit family, which is more stressful than relaxing. My mother still doesn't get that I don't like her planning my life. It's her thing to force her offerings (presents, food, money, planning activities) on other people, regardless of whether they want it or not. You might think that, what's wrong with free things? Why would anyone decline free stuff? Well, nothing in life is ever free, even if it's offered by your own mom. Basically she wants you to be her slave if you dare to accept her presents. She would tell everybody how much she has given you. She would expect you to do favors for her at a time that's totally inconvenient for you. Sometimes she offers you something that is more a burden for you than a present. But she still counts it as that you owe her a favour. I'd much rather have my freedom than take her offerings.

Anyways, I need to find myself another job that would not make me want to pull out all my hair and cry about not being able to deliver. And I'm tired of moving around. Question is where should I go next. I'm too busy to do any serious job hunting. Perhaps over Christmas time.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Regrets and non-regrets

I don't regret moving to Sweden... I've learned so much about cultural diversity, human nature, and about myself while I have been here.

I don't regret doing a PhD, although I do regret doing it at the lab I was at (missed out on so much technical knowledge + breadth of the field, plus it was too long of non-productivity that made me sink into depression).

I don't regret meeting my ex-bf / current fwb, although I need a lot of strength + courage to move on to the next guy. There's a high probability I may never find anyone who is kind, honest, loyal, intelligent, comes from a healthy/loving family, and who wants to grow old with me.

I regret not being brave enough to start to date earlier (too cowardly to put myself out there and make myself vulnerable).

I deeply regret not leaving home sooner. I regret not figuring out sooner my family + extended family  are totally dysfunctional and have no sympathy for other people.

I regret not going away for college... I stuck with my acquaintances from high school out of comfort and barely made any new friends during undergrad.

I don't regret learning martial arts + yoga, and having encountered a lot of brilliantly smart and disciplined people during the journeys.

I regret being too cautious / chicken in general for so long. This has to do with how I was raised though.

I don't regret not having children, even as my friends and colleagues are popping out babies left, right and center. It was my own conscious choice rather than life circumstances. I do regret being single for so long. That was not a choice, but a consequence of being so scared of the world.

I regret having invested most of my life efforts and attention on homework assignment / studying for tests and not nearly enough efforts on building relationship / observing how society behaves.

I don't regret not becoming a medical doctor. I prefer doing research (ie. detective and investigative work).

I regret allowing my mom decide how my life should be.

I regret purposely dressing down and making myself as plain as possible for so many years, due to my mother's fear that there are rapists everywhere. It's not just about the superficial aspect of looking good. It's about building self-confidence, developing a sense of self-worth, feeling safe while residing in safe countries, and carrying an air of dignity to gain respect and trust from others.

I don't regret taking a taichi class, although I'm still not certain if I want to continue it next year.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New apartment, new job... feeling unsettled

I have moved to a new apartment, finished the last travels of this year (at least until Christmas), so I'm hoping to settle down soon. Except my contract only lasts until March.

Taking a hard look at at my life,  it seems like my tendency is to force myself to do something difficult and miserable, hoping to have, in exchange, a better life with better choices down the road. The problem is, if I pick a wrong approach to deal with people or to do a task, then it doesn't matter how hard I push myself, how much time I spend on a project, at the end of the journey, I for sure won't end up where I want to be.

So now I no longer have a roommate. I kind of miss the social interaction, but actually I can only stand socializing with her for about 10 minutes, then her negativity starts to get to me. My fwb can stand me for about 24-36 hours, then I become too chatty/annoying for him.

I think like my roommate, I may never find someone who doesn't get sick of me after hanging out with me for extended periods of time. But I still have to try to look for one. It's difficult though, as fwb behaves like a superb bf when we get together, helping me move, cooking me breakfast, etc. One day I'll be strong enough to leave him and not cry every single day. But that day is not today.

The contract deadline looming, I need to apply for more jobs. Except I seem to end up applying for jobs I don't want that badly, and then I don't know what I should to do at the interview. All will work out in the end I guess.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Drifter mentality

So on my second last working day, I got a short term contract extension with another professor. For now I don't need to leave Sweden, which is good news. But at the same time, I do not know what is my next step. I applied for another job in Canada, and got positive initial response from the potential supervisor, but it's again a short term employment.

I hang out with the boy again on the weekend (I guess it's not considered as an ex-... more like a friend with benefits). It's always great fun hanging out with him, but at the end of every get together I feel a sense of profound sadness, because there is no future between us. He is sad I will leave, but has no intention of keeping me either. I actually made an attempt to see other people, but I have trouble getting excited about starting a new relationship with someone else.

The 2014 Nobel prizes were announced recently. I was very excited about the physiology and medicine prize going to neuroscience. I had the fortune to listen to Dr. Edvard Moser talk about his research last year... it was very computationally complex (him and his wife study grid cells -- cells in our brains that help us navigate around this world), to the point I had trouble understanding it. I think he is very deserving of his award, but I don't know how to get excited about my own work.

I spent an hour listening to Dr. Robert Sapolsky's Stanford lecture on depression on Youtube. It was very educational. I have no doubt I have the gene variant where repeated stressors in life increases my chances of developing depression by 30 fold. My life experience has also subjected me to "learned helpless" as mentioned in the lecture.

What can I do about my situation? I did not like not being left hanging, uncertain if I would have a job or not until the last minute, but I do like this new lab I'm in, at least for now. At the same time, if my contract does not get extended again, I feel like I want to go on a retreat or a volunteer mission rather than straight into the next job, where I have to over-stress myself learning 10 million new things again. The thing is, would a yoga retreat or volunteer trip help me? The last time I went on one I got even more depressed. It's hard to know if I should try more aggressively to control my life, or to go with the flow (my previous boss called me a "drifter"). The former approach is difficult, since I don't know exactly what I want right now. Well, I want a supportive social network (and a partner in life), but those things can't exactly be forced. I have an okay chance with finding myself a job with a longer contract, but I have not decided where I want to move to next.

Just gotta stay brave and keep trying new things I guess.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Unwanted at work

Right now I'm being passed around like a hot potato. My direct supervisor is trying to pimp me to his "buddies", ie. big bosses with money, but no one really wants to take me on for short term contract extension. I should have acted like good old conventional postdocs: instead of working hard to finish what I've been working on, I should have slowed down on my work and focused on job hunting instead, because bosses only get excited about starting projects; they don't give a rat's ass about seeing the projects get completed. Or maybe they do up to a certain time period but I have been too slow and they have lost interest.

Anyways, I'm in a pretty shitty situation right now. I recently attended a big boss's talk, which outlines grand plans for the next 3-4 years, with lots of things I can work on, but sorry, he does not want me to work on any of the tasks. I am completely disposable. Somebody else can totally do those action items.

I guess this is what mom wanted to "protect" me from all of my life. That's why she tried to find a job for me because she felt I wouldn't be able to find myself a job or to be able to to keep it. In all honesty, I feel like shit. Like I am under-educated, completely incompetent, inferior to all my colleagues, like I do not make enough contribution to "the team". I have never felt so useless in my life.. Oh wait a minute, that's how I felt during grad school too. In the long run though I think I will survive. I have some savings so I could last a few months being unemployed. I need a break anyways... sick of all the politics and schmoozing and strange priorities and random science projects that do not make sense, just because they could get support based on their reputation.

With all the crazy stuff going on in the world: wars in Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, Iraq, beheadings, Ebola in Africa, complete disregard for other people's health just to make a few bucks in Taiwan... all these just make me want to escape to somewhere with few human beings, like some remote mountain or something. People are so selfish it makes me really depressed. I don't know how to feel hopeful where people around me only care about their own families and loved ones. Everyone else can die for all they care.

I really need to go somewhere with a bit of a community sense, where people actually care a little bit about each other, even the ones who are not related to them by blood.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Feeling vibes

The vibe two weekends ago (ie. previous post) was super high, it is very hard to beat. That was a bunch of really friendly and fun loving girls. 

The vibe at work is not so good. I have one friendly colleague who has gone on parental leave, so I will feel very alienated from work from now on. At my other office with the other group, I also feel like an outsider, especially with this one colleague who always looks like she has an angry face when she's around me. We haven't spoke for almost two years. Yah, it's ridiculously bad. I notice my new colleague has a way of neutralizing whatever negativity she gives out, while I become easily angered / defensive / hurt whenever I get a splash of it. Have to say I am terribly unskilled at dealing with this type of people, but I'll know to be extremely careful not to offend ppl like this next time. Trick is to not take anything he/she says personally and do some verbal taichi (light jokes, switch topics, ignore what he/she just said) in order to not get on that person's black list. Keep a polite distance to this person. But it's too late with her, as we seem to have become arch nemesis due to some fundamental value differences. This constant negative vibe towards me Is quite unhealthy for me and I should really look for a new job the moment I finish my projects. 

I have been meeting the ex again. It really feels fantastic to spend the weekend with him, as long as I leave early enough so he can spend at least 12 hours on his own to wind down. He told me he recently met up with a friend he hasn't seen for decades, who used to be his best buddy when they were kids. They had a great time together drinking and chatting when they met up after all these years. However, he was surprised when the friend asked to stay overnight. He reluctantly agreed, but proceed to try to hint for him to leave first thing in the morning. When the friend tried to stay longer, he proceeded to actually kick him out. I guess that means I'm not alone in becoming unwelcome after x hours of hanging out with the guy, that he does not want to spend an extended period of time with 99.9% of the population, including former best buddies. however, on the down side, it means this guy has serious trouble connecting deeply with anyone. So, the sooner I end it with him and go look for a more suitable partner, the better for me, as I'm not getting any  younger. That's the logical brain speaking. The emotional brain is still deeply attached to him, wishes to take care of him and to try to "fix" him; though I highly doubt he's interested in being fixed. He seems to be quite content with the way he is. 

Which brings me to online dating. I downloaded a dating app out of curiously. i won't say which one because i don't want this blog to be linked to it. Anyways, within like 48 hours I have generated 10s of matches, which simply means we "liked" each other's photos. As I am not looking for hook ups, which is exactly what this app seems to be built for, I treat it more like a social experiment, to see what's out there and how guys who are not hermits behave these days. Surprisingly all the guys sound very polite, well educated and respectful. No "ur hot, wanna hook up?" Or "send me a photo of your boobies" types of messages so far. However, I did encounter profiles of a few guys whom I have met at other social settings, and I got recognized by some stranger's friend (you can forward the match up pictures to your buddies for approval / gossip / background check). A few ppl have asked to meet up.

I should be very excited about this (not an expired, unwanted old lady yet!) , but I am also incredibly nervous as well. In a way it feels like "cheating", even though technically I have broken up with the ex. Also, I think if the guy asks for a hook up, I could just say no. But if the guy wants an actual relationship, which is what I want as well in principle, I feel I am a bit too messed up at this point to say yes, which would be sad.

I think I may be a bit ahead of myself though. I should just agree to meet up. Chances are I won't get along with most strangers anyways, so I won't have to worry about the next step. On the off chance that someone does sweep me off my feet, it would be healthy for me to fully detach myself from the ex. It's just that I fear I will reinforce his thinking that he should never become close with anyone, which would be really terrible. I feel very conflicted.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Friendship boost

This has been one of the best weekends in a long while. I've been doing some activities with expats and met some really nice people the past couple of days. We bonded by sharing our personal experience of how difficult it has been to emotionally connect with the locals. This morning I woke up feeling nurtured and content. I have not felt like this in quite awhile, which makes me realize that 1) I've been deprived of friendship rapport for far too long, and 2) how crazy it is that my body chemicals respond so strongly to social validation. 

I have been going to expat events since I first arrived here, but it's mostly been casual socializing at pubs, restaurants, clubs, or even hikes, with only small talks and no real connections. This time I lucked out and was able to make some connections with some people by sharing how isolating we have all felt while living in this beautiful city.

I think if I had never moved here, I would have taken for granted the positive effects of friendship support that I get regularly back home. It is when this aspect is absent from my life that I notice how deprived I feel. 

I have been paying attention to feelings more recently, and I notice that I often make people feel uncomfortable. I think I talk a bit too fast, being afraid that people will stop listening to me before I finish expressing what I want to say. Sometimes I'm a bit insensitive to what might offend people or what topics are a bit too grim for small talks. Sometimes I'm so keen on getting out what I want to say I interrupt other people, or I fail to acknowledge the main point that they are trying to get across in their speaking.   

By hanging out with more non-science people, who seem to be a lot better at communication in general and at making people feel at ease, I hope to learn from them, become a better listener and communicator.

I think if/when I move again, it will the top priority that I move somewhere where it is easier to establish a social circle with friendship support. It's almost as important the soul as food and water to the body.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Never ending journey of personal growth

I made an excuse that I wanted to pick up my bike, which was still at the ex's place, to which he heartily agreed. I then mentioned that I had no idea how to ride it back to my place (truth), and he agreed to guide me back. The journey was an hour long and the route was quite confusing, so I was very grateful that he was kind enough to guide me the whole way. We ended up hanging out at a local beach, a short boat ride, and then going for delicious dinner at a nearby hip Asian restaurant. It was such a fantastic day that I felt like I was a total idiot for breaking up with him.

Except the next day it was radio silence from him again. Oh yes of course,  now I remember: this behavior is the reason that I have been feeling crazy the past year.

I think I have a better understanding of why babies + toddlers cry so often. Every new experience in the world can be so uncomfortable and stirs up so much emotions! I think if I have met a few guys like the ex earlier in my life, his behavior wouldn't be such a big deal to me. I would be able to walk away very easily. However this is brand new experience for me. Someone is super nice to me and doesn't ask for anything in return: he must be interested in having a relationship with me, right? If I return the kindness he would like me better for sure? No, sadly that's not always true.

I think I have a tendency to sink very deep into my emotions over any major or trivial incident that triggers a deep reaction/emotion in me. Today I was quite depressed for a few hours, feeling very alone and lost. Somehow I managed to snap out of it a bit later. Compared to stuff happening in the world (Israel/Gaza conflict, Ebola outbreak, Russia/Ukraine conflict, ISIS in Iraq, etc. etc.), what's happening to me is very trivial. The thing is I am alone most of the time, so all I have are my emotions and my thoughts, which can hold me down by keeping me in my bed for an entire day, or chaining me to my desks for hours while not able to complete any productive work. It is very important for me to realize this tendency so I can find ways to try to snap out of it.

The same thing is true for all the big conflicts in the world though. A few sociopathic beings want to be in control of a group of people/a particular region/an entire nation. This thought leads them to acquire influence, money and resources to achieve what they want. They achieve influence by evoking people's strong emotions such that they can't think rationally.... hence they can get these people to give up their lives for some "holy" cause.

Guess what I'm trying to understand and to express is that thoughts and emotions are two huge forces that drive human behaviors and decisions. If I lived in a jungle or on the African plain, then my mind would be occupied by how to stay away from predators and how to acquire food. If I lived in a warzone then I would be preoccupied with survival strategies and maybe how to take revenge on those who are killing my loved ones. Since I live in a peaceful part of the world, I become obsessed with relationships and securing a good job. If I didn't need to work for a living and already have a loving husband, I'd probably still find something to obsess about, like how to make the perfect cupcakes or how to dress like the Stepford wife or something.

Some people think this is sad (the ex felt that way about me). I guess it's how I was raised (must strive for career and marriage). I've been trying hard to reprogram myself, but I don't know exactly what I am supposed to reprogram into. When I was really into yoga, I was a bit turned off by how obsessed people were with achieving that next asana. The whole diet and life style change, which are meant to improve health and maintain sustainable living, became more like expensive fads only rich yogis with a lot of free time could afford. Not everyone is like this, but I've certainly met a few yogis who felt they were better than other people because they have switched to a vegetarian diet and they chant regularly for peace.

I think perhaps the external conflicts in the world in some way reflects the inner disturbances in all of us. I don't know what are the solutions, but I must keep working towards calming my inner emotional storms, by examining all my mental habits and making changes when needed. It is extremely difficult. I would say my battles with my inner daemons, while not as significant or consequential as the wars in the world right now, are just as difficult to resolve.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Realization of the day: I actually love drama!

The weather has been absolutely fantastic. 30 degrees celsius, with cool breeze, dry air but not uncomfortably dry. Almost perfect weather, really, I try to enjoy it but have only been partially successful.

I tried but couldn't work at all the past week. Every day I had my computer scripts open in front of me, but I either jump to play sudoku, 2048, or I read up on articles after articles about relationships. How to handle break ups. Rocky relationships: should I save it or end it? Pursuer-distancer relationships. On-again-off-again relationships... Are they healthy? How to choose a romantic partner. How to let go. When Enough is Enough. X way to practice self care. N signs you are dating someone emotionally unavailable. When I felt like I had absorbed adequate information from reading, I went to Youtube and found a gazillion videos on relationship issues with even more info. How to behave to not push your guy away, to make them feel safe to commit in a relationship. Why are guys typically the distancer and women the pursuer, etc.

I've been reading Zee's blogs and in this one post the description of the girlfriend sounds pretty much like me, except I am 100 times more psycho than that. I wanted more time with my ex-bf and I wanted him to say he wanted to see me asap. In Zee's case he broke up with his girl friend because he felt his freedom was being threatened. In my case my ex mentioned he had become more mentally prepared with the idea of seeing me more often, but I broke it off anyways, because he didn't express that he missed me badly.

To be honest I am an intense person and subconsciously I actually enjoy the big drama that I ultimately created during the break up. Except I wanted to do these when I was in my 20s, not now. The videos kept saying, you shouldn't waste time on emotionally unavailable men and should instead date a lot until you find the right guy, and then be super patient and employ techniques ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP on him to lure him in, make him want to settle down with you without making him scared of commitment. F*** that! Dating the wrong guys is NOT a waste of time!  I totally wanted to serially date guys who are totally not suitable for long term relationship, to experience the soul-embracing passion, followed by earth-shattering heart breaks. Learn from my own experience and mistakes which characteristics makes a guy suitable or unsuitable for long term relationship rather than being lectured by some completely rational, wisdom-filled online relationship advice videos!

Unfortunately, my mom made it her primary mission to prevent me from experiencing that by constantly lecturing me that studying is a lot more important than dating, frequently advising me how to deal with rape situations (If you ever encounter a rapist, don't struggle and just endure it. It will all be over in a few minutes and you will still be alive). I seriously had the impression that my virginity would be taken by a rapist before I got the chance to meet and get to know someone I liked. Because the world is full of rapists! Your dad could be a rapist; your uncles could be rapists. Every man has the potential of being a rapist. In my 20s she switched her propaganda to "Forget job hunting and career development. You need to to find a husband NOW and get married or you'll be single and unwanted forever after you turn 30".

Since her teachings completely clashed with what I wanted in my life, I froze with panic at the prospect of dating anyone, because I did NOT want a husband at that point. I had no idea how complicated relationships could be, and that dating someone did NOT mean the relationship would advance to the stage where both parties would want to get married (mom always bragged about how every guy who courted her wanted to marry her at the 6 month stage). Oh and, every guy could be a potential rapist!

The drama relationship I've always wanted got postponed until my mid-30s instead, at the point when I am soaked with anxiety that if this particular relationship does not work out, I am on my way to becoming an old wrinkly spinster lady who eventually dies by being eaten up by her 100 cats.

I have no idea how my mad research on relationship skills led to this blog entry. I was going to talk about our communication problems, but of course communication issues are the root cause of pretty much every break up (duh!!!).  I guess while I have been analyzing what I did wrong, what my ex did wrong, whether or not I was more wrong, etc., I realized, while formulating this blog entry, that the universe had sent me the right person for this trial run (maybe 15 years too late, but better late than never, right?). This is because I am horribly lacking in terms of relationship skills, so that if I had been dating a guy who'd make the PERFECT husband for me, I for SURE would have messed up just as badly as I did this time, and would be crying for months or maybe years, doing everything I can to try to get him back, fail miserably, and slump into severe depression.

In this case, my ex and I had lots of chemistry, but we weren't really right for each other, but I treated him as Silly Putty and tried super hard to mold him into my ideal partner. He kept pushing back and putting up resistance until I got so frustrated that I had to drop him. I have been struggling so badly because I really did a ton of things wrong in this relationship (as I learned from the articles and videos), but hey, he's not the right guy anyway. But then I really miss him because of course if I didn't like him that much I wouldn't have bothered trying so hard for so long.

The drama has been a fun ride. I just need to end my emotional turmoil now so I can fully enjoy the last week of hot summer here (I don't know for sure but I'm treating it as such), before it becomes cold and miserable again. The days are already becoming shorter and I better treasure the rest of summer. Winter is coming (Game of Thrones quote)!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seeing an ugly side of myself I've never witnessed before

So.. the break up finally happened. It was like I planted a landmine for the bf to step on. I gave a suggestion that I didn't want him to take (and didn't expect him to agree to), but surprisingly he did, although not without making some derogatory comment first. That became the straw that broke the camel's back. So I blew up and it was all over.

Never in my life have I ever expected myself to perform this kind of unacceptable manipulative behavior. If anyone ever pulled one of these stunts on me, I would totally break up the relationship or friendship and stay as far away from that crazy asshole as possible. Now I know that crazy bitch secretly lives inside of me and so there's NO escaping ever for me.

They say that one of the red signs that a relationship is not good for you is that it brings out your worst behaviors, that you don't like how you act around that person. I always took it to mean that I can't express myself fully, that I feel like I'm walking on eggshells around that person, that I lower myself by acting like I'm always trying to please that person, which was what was happening during the relationship. I was NOT expecting to become manipulative and put someone in a lose-lose situation. I didn't even know I pull such a move until after the whole situation blew up. I never thought I was capable of that, but I proved myself wrong!

The final act was a truly terrible one. Unacceptable and totally surprising. I really didn't mean for that to happen. I realize I so desperately wanted him to behave a certain way that conforms to my ideal of a good boyfriend (say he misses me and that he wants to see me very soon) that I kept dangling carrots, candies and toys at him, even ones that I didn't actually mean to show him. When he refused to behave like I wished he would, I became frustrated, humiliated,  rejected, depressed, angry, furious, I went insane, I threw it all out at him, showing him the ugliest and craziest side of me. Somehow, insanely, I still secretly wished he would ask me not to end the relationship!

He's been very uncommunicative for a long time, and finally he told me what his deal-breaker was. It totally came out of the blue and made me scratch my head in total confusion. Like... this trait is the deal breaker? Not my manipulation, my bossyness, my insecurity, my clinging, my craziness, my indecisiveness, my unpredictability, ie. the long list of weaknesses I really hate about myself? I mean, obviously he doesn't like any of those traits either, but those somehow were not the deal breakers? It really showed how little I understood him, how utterly incompatible we actually are, but also explained why we stayed together for so long. Basically, his complaint was something that I really didn't think was important. I mean, I tried to work on it a little bit, but now I hear it, seems like I could not nearly achieve the level he wants me to be at. Basically I'm fundamentally not the kind of girl friend he wishes to have. But then again if he had communicated it better earlier I would have tried a lot harder. Don't know if it would have made a difference though. In my head I felt like my requests were totally legit (spend more time together, for him to express more that he loves me and misses me), but to him these demands are probably just as foreign. He does not have any friends who act like that and never in his life has he ever wished to become that kind of guy.

It's been a crazy ride. I don't for one minute regret this relationship, but the ending was so weird (we actually both agreed we still want to remain as friends). If I hadn't ended it, I don't think he would ever initiate the break up. In my head, the relationship should keep on progressing, or it should be cut off. Either you like me and you agree to work with me to make our relation function nicely, or let me go. It wasn't until the final talk where I finally began to understand his logic.  He would have been okay with all my craziness as long he kept our meetings relatively short, with enough alone time spaced in between the meetings. It totally made no sense to me this entire time we were together, because he never communicated what he's been thinking. I guess it wasn't necessary, since he had full control of how often we met. He had the upper hand in the power struggle. I was in the dark and put up with it because I was completely being controlled by my oxytocin (the desire to attach myself to him, spatially/physically and emotionally). But of course he also hasn't been happy either, and was relieved about the break up.

Very luckily, I have a group of girl friends who behaved exactly as I wish my ideal best friends would behave - completely supportive, non-judgemental of me, not asking any harsh questions (eg. "Did you do anything wrong on your part"), and totally on my side, saying all the kind words I wish to hear. I love these ladies to death. I don't know what I did to deserve these friends, and not sure how I could have survived the traumatic emotional roller coaster ride without them.

On the other hand, it also makes me wonder: am I just a total control freak, subconsciously aiming to build a social network of friends, family, lover and work colleagues who would behave as close as possible to a certain ideal I wish them to be? Is this what everybody else does as well, only accepting new people who think and behave the way they expect into their social circles, and try to keep out the ones who behave too far from expectations?

I'd like to think I'm more open minded than that, but I guess when it comes to really close partners/friendship, we would all like them to share some common fundamental values with us, along with some superficial expected behaviors. That's an important lesson I learned from this experience.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Choices and Distraction

I get very easily distracted. I had a goal in my mind to finish a particular task on a work day, but I ended up obsessing about the Malaysian airplane tragedy. I felt really affected, because there were about 100 scientists on board heading to a conference. One stupid mistake (mistaking the commercial aircraft as a military aircraft), and their lives are over. It doesn't matter if they were the most talented, hardworking, humble, productive scientists ever existed, or if they were one of those superficial people who are all about playing politics and marketing themselves to make them sound better than they really are, or if they were struggling PhD students/postdocs hoping to do some networking at the conference and secure a job, they all came to the same fate.  It really puts life into perspective for me. Heck, I could have been on that plane if I were offered to study HIV for my postdoc and were given funding to go to this conference in Australia.

Is this really worse than the deaths of the Palestinians in Gaza or Syria? I wouldn't say so. Being killed unexpectedly by a bomb or a missile is just crappy. Does the number of deaths matter? 10s of people dying + hundreds injured and thousands forced to leave their homes are not "better" than ~300 international people dead all at once. It's just that the boundary that made people felt safe (ie. particular nationalities, not living in a warzone) was shattered, all because the pilots wanted to (were ordered to?) save some fuel by flying over a warzone.

I recently came across two TED talks about choices: Our unhealthy obsessions with choice, and How to make hard choices. The first one talks about how many personal choices we get nowadays, and we seem to be paralyzed with too many personal choices that we ignore the big pictures about social issues. That is very true.. every day I obsess about what to wear to make a good impression, but not seem overdone; how much makeup should I put on? Should I go work out or clean my room first? What should I eat? Japanese or Thai food? Should I be reading scientific papers or a good fiction novel? Etc. etc. Sometimes I am so indecisive I can take hours to decide, or I end up doing nothing for the day. The first talk warns about this. Avoid taking these choices so seriously. Just pick one thing to do and go with it. Realize what kind of choices are actually important enough that they require deep pondering.

The second talk is about hard choices, which is also what I am facing. Should I stay in this country or should I go somewhere else? Should I stay in Europe or should I go to another continent? I love how beautiful Europe looks, but hate the difficulty in forging friendships. I miss the familiarity of home (amazing food! Yoga friends!) I know exactly where I can sign up for volunteering, and I miss the multitude of local communities that are sorely lacking here. But I know that I will still have trouble finding romantic partners, and have to deal with the local politics. Should I dump my boyfriend now or later? Right now I feel like I'm in a friends with benefits relationship, and that's not what I signed up for. But I do enjoy the times where I do get to hang out with him. Should I forget about my science career (too much politics, not enough authenticity and collaboration) and just go spend a few months in Nepal or Peru? Ruth Chang suggests that making the hard decisions and how we justify for our choices help reveal who we are. I guess I'm having so much trouble because I don't really know who I am or who I want to become. I'm too afraid of making bad choices. That in itself is pretty revealing of my character.

In the end, if I get hit by a car, or struck by lightning, or suffer a plane crash, or if Russia, US, or China starts a third world war, none of those choices will matter. But in the mean time, since I am fortunate enough live in a peaceful place where accident/disaster rates are low, I should keep on making choices, but not think so hard that I get paralyzed about actually making the decisions. I've made that mistake many times and it's time to cut that out and start being more decisive.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Even more confused than ever

I came back from a vacation, and everything has changed. There were long periods of time during the vacation where the bf avoided talking to me. The two of us buried our heads in our smart phones. I think my bf is getting sick and tired of me.

When I came back to work, the grad students found friends and alliances, and I feel like an island in my lab. New people have joined our lab, but I feel distant to everybody. Boss had a talk with me and while on the surface he acted like he wanted to help me, but really he's saying he pities me because he doesn't think so highly of me.

It was so good to see my friends back home though. The city was so green, so gorgeous. I felt like I could go back there today. Unfortunately neither job opportunities nor boyfriend potentials are abundant there.

The indecisive me has been activated. I am comfortable here, but the relationship is going cold. I want to find a good lab, but don't know if I am talented enough to make it into one. Does it make sense to take up some permanent job or to make another crazy move in some other exotic country or continent in hopes of finding a fantastic boss? Should I go home? Should I focus on my career or should I focus on finding true love?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Recent ramblings about opportunities, uncertainties, and social media

I attended a career building workshop recently. I must say that I do not remember ever being in the same room among such vast majority of individuals with so much self-doubt, self-criticism, skepticism towards alternative ideas, and fear of making mistakes.

If you wonder who are these people: these are a group of PhD students. Sometimes I think the purpose of graduate school is to strip students free of all shreds of self-confidence, instill hyper-tunnel-vision into students, and make them forget they are actually highly intelligent individuals capable of doing so many things.

For me, it was very refreshing to hear so many alternative perspectives from people who are not in traditional careers (kudos to the organizers). A lot of the ideas that I took for granted from observing how yoga teachers make a living (using Twitter/Instagram/Facebook marketing to get clients and to sell merchandise) were unheard of for most people in the classroom, who likely had been following nothing but scientific literatures and news websites, and maybe their own personal interests that did not involve social media marketing. Many were highly against/scared of the idea of "branding" themselves on internet. I guess I already went through that mental struggle myself back when Kino first started posting daily selfies in short shorts and yoga instruction Youtube videos online. It's been a few years now and she's been hugely successful, in terms of increasing visibility among the public worldwide, promoting her reputation, as well as pushing her merchandises (books, clothing, jewelry, yoga mats, retreats, workshops). Without a doubt, social media marketing is ridiculously effective if used in the right way.

To be honest, what I took from the workshop for me wasn't to learn how to use Twitter, but how different I felt from everyone else in the room. I guess my own grad school experience, however negative it was, still gave me space to pull myself away from my project mentally and pay attention to what's out there, while many others have been so focused on getting their experiments to work without having any mental space left to ponder about alternatives. Ironically, I am the one who is currently more interested in continuing research while >50% of the room have had enough and are ready to quit academia.

Life is full of ironies. I've been thinking about ending it with my bf for quite some time now. However, because of my emotional detachment from him, he feels less pressure from me and seems happier about the current status of our relationship.  However he still plans his life separately from mine. I'm not entirely sure what to do. I guess I will have to plan my life independently of him too.

It's good to know I have a lot of opportunities but at the same time it is also quite unsettling that I have not established a good support network nor have I convinced someone to go through the journey of life together.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Forge meaning, build identity

Instead of working on my paper, I do my usual procrastination and watch TED talks instead. And then I feel the urgent need to blog about my thoughts instead of working on my paper.

Today I came across Andrew Solomon's talks: How the worst moments in our lives make us who we are, and Love, no matter what. I highly recommend the talks.

Solomon built a career interviewing people who have been through very traumatic events, and learns how they make meaning of lives. He also interviewed those who has children who are not "typical", for example, parents of mass murderer, deaf children, autistic children, Down Syndrome, dwarfs, etc. He also talked about his personal experience of growing up being bullied for being gay.

The major theme identity - personal acceptance, parental acceptance, acceptance by close friends and family, and social acceptance. He learned that many people who have been through adverse situations should to accept the experience as part of their identity, building character and furthering their knowledge of the diversity of humanity. Some parents mentioned given the choice, they want to eliminate the "abnormal" conditions so the kids could have an easier life, but they wouldn't change the experience because they themselves have learnt so much and gained so much compassion. Solomon himself decided to have children after interviewing many of these parents, as he felt that the message he got from these people (and from his own mother) was that the experience of parenthood brings more reward in terms of personal growth, love, and joy that is worth all the worries and anxieties and possibility of loss and kids being pain in the butt.

In more liberal societies in the West, society have come to accept more and more the diversity of humanity, be it homosexual, transgendered,  mentally or physically disabled, as long as one is not causing harm to others. However, in the East, where the group coherence (in the unit of family, clan, ethnicity, country etc.) matters more than the individual, being different -- whether genetic or by choice, is looked down upon. So in that sense, I'm extremely "lucky" that I was not born gay or disabled, not because I think there' anything wrong with them, but that my mother would first blame herself for giving birth to an "abnormal" child and then make sure that I feel like I'm a horribly flawed being better off never been born to this Earth, because I would shame her deeply for not being typical.

So I turned out to be super-typical in the academic sense for an Asian kid (straight As with a postgraduate degree).  Then I run into this strange situation -- I became a scientist instead of a doctor or lawyer, professions that people are more familiar with, so instead of being proud of me, my family don't know what to make of me.. I can't tell if it's because I'm not married with kids yet, or because I'm not making a sh*tload of money, or that instead of living next door to parents, taking care of them for the remainder of my life, I moved to a country that nobody ever thought of ever visiting in their life times, I was met with ambivalence when I went home. I couldn't tell if they were jealous of me, or think lowly of me because I'm being selfish for abandoning my parents to go to a foreign country, or an idiot (for not making money and not getting a husband), or if they just don't give a rat's ass if I get hit by a train or eaten by a shark tomorrow.

Every human being has many identities. I'm (not in any particular order) a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, heterosexual, animal lover, spiritual, atheist, yogi, martial artist, rock climber, snowboarder, academic, scientist, Chinese-Canadian, citizen of the world, Liberal, postdoc, confused soul, dispensable employee, a failed-vegetarian, cheap foreign labour, etc, etc, but we all have our own prioritization in term of our self-identities. We tend to become friends with those who respect and accept our foremost treasured identities and distance from those who refuse to acknowledge what we see ourselves to be.

I don't think I am the most angry/sad about whether my extended family cares about me or not. I've come to realize I am most hurt by the fact that my extended family pointedly chose to not acknowledge my researcher identity at all - it's what I've been working on the longest and hardest my entire life -- I admit at the expense of not neglecting my other roles as a caring niece, cousin, daughter or aunt.

I guess they purposely chose not to acknowledge my primary identity because they're fearful they won't be able to understand anything that comes out of my mouth, but I feel the hurt nevertheless. I also feel that I can't change this distance between me and my family (and even some friends) if I choose to quit my profession today and pick up a more regular job, like teaching English or becoming a secretary. So it's better if I just carry on with forging my own meaning and building my own identity than to try to please them somehow.

This scientist career is not going so well though. As some big named young successful professors have pointed out, the 21st century is a great time to do science (because of all the emerging novel technologies which are enabling us to make incredible advances and findings), but a terrible time to become a scientist (the system allows very few people to succeed and the rest can bite the dust). It's what I chose for myself so I don't regret it. What I feel bad is the terrible relationship I have today with family, due to my tunnel vision and neglect. Also, the lack of experience in the romantic department also makes the current dating situation difficult.

I went to see a career coach and she told me that I seem to have a lot of difficulties making decisions,  so I avoid making them, which then keeps me stuck in unhappy situations. So I think I need to work on building more identities as contingency plans, and simultaneously take my identities less seriously, since others don't see me with the same ID as I do anyways.



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Updates on taichi practice.

My beginner taichi class ends for the summer. I learned a grand total of 5 forms. Some classes I just feel bored because we don't learn very much per class, but today we did more warm up movements and I feel really great afterwards, kind of like the feeling after yoga practice. I feel really confused right now. The movements of yoga are so different from taichi; why would they both provide similar types of feelings of euphoria after practice?

It's really hard to understand the "chi", so I will venture to guess that making movements from the core, working the joints, and making slow, synchronized movements while breathing naturally with e movements activate the release of feel-good hormones, like endorphins, and releases tensions in the body. It's just what I need since I've been insanely stressed out lately. 

However, yoga has the added benefit of working the muscles, while taichi... Not so much. So while it is possible to distress and feel bliss from taichi, I still need to pick up some sort of cardio and strength training.

What's the most surprising is that with all my martial arts training, yoga and anatomy, the simple movements of taichi still surprise me. The movements feel totally novel. Just when I thought I figured out the secrets to Ashtanga and Bikram yoga asana sequencing magic, I am completely stumped by taichi sequencing. Guess I have to keep taking courses until I figure it out.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blogging - trying to improve my writing

I have discussed several times (here, here and here) in the past about why I blog. I blog to practice writing, to procrastinate instead of doing real work, to vent, to talk about my passions, which are often topics that people around me in real life are sick of hearing. In the beginning my posts were mostly about yoga. I had lots to reflect on after most of my yoga classes. Now that I have slacked off on my yoga practice, my blogs have turned into this bottomless pit of self-victimization and self-pity.

I think being negative and playing victim allows the thoughts in my head to flow freely. As depressing as it may be for my readers, spelling out my ruminations helps me form sentences that make grammatical sense and flow from one phrase to the next, a feature which is lacking with my manuscript writing right now. I also think that I can't stop ruminating because nobody ever took the time to listen to me vent when I was younger, so these same thoughts just ran themselves in circles in my head and carved deep, deep tracks in my brain. I'm trying to release my daemons, but more of similar thoughts just keep coming up.

I had never had any inkling of desire to become a writer. I have always wanted to wear a lab coat and play with test tubes. It's ironic I ended up being a double-writer - must write computational scripts and manuscripts for a living. I can't complain though, since test tube playing turns out to be 1000 times more frustrating than writing. Experiments fail and most of the time you have no idea why. Recently I watched the talks by J.K. Rowling and Elizabeth Gilbert, who both mentioned how much they wrote every day and how many times they had to be rejected to get to their superb writing level today. I don't think I can ever catch up to them, especially since I only blog once a week. All I want is for my paragraphs to be understandable enough to get accepted (stylistic requirements for scientific papers are a lot lower than for-profit books written for the public).

In addition, Gilbert mentioned that you must find something you love more than yourself and keep working on that. I think I love cool discoveries more than I love myself. So that's what I will keep doing and home I find center/home through what I love, despite all the politics, bureaucracy and power struggles. If I need to become a better writer in order to achieve what I want, then I will keep practicing.

I will try to blog less negativity from now on because those are too easy for me to blab on and on for ever. Will try to come up with more challenging (and interesting to read) topics.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Connecting the dots -- diagnosing my dad with Asperger's Syndrome

Today I watched this video about what scientists know and don't know about autism. My first thought was that though you may think her way of communicating is dry, if I could explain things the way she does, then I would totally have a successful career in science. I mean, if given the opportunity, I am fully capable of analyzing the genetics data that she works on, but my problem is that I suck at communication, therefore I cannot convince people to give me such a job.

My second thought was that even though I had heard the fact before -- that children conceived by old dads are more likely to develop autism (My dad was 52 when I was born) -- I never considered myself that I may have autistic tendencies. I went on to a website and took an Aspergers' quiz, and found myself to have mild Asperger tendencies.

Thirdly, one idea that never crossed my mind is that my dad totally has Asperger's! He's extremely socially awkward. If what you are discussing doesn't interest him, he will never join the conversation. If he talks, it'll be on a topic he's interested in (politics and lately his own health), even if the rest of the group has been talking about something else the whole time. He will repeat the few statements he wants to make over and over again. He has no hobbies besides reading the newspaper and books about recent Chinese history and politicians' mistresses. He has impeccable memory. He remembers the name of his elementary school principal (He's over 80). He is amazing with dates, historical and geographical trivia. He is obsessive about his routines and doesn't change them even if his inappropriate insistence during special occasions seriously upsets my mother or I.

This is insane that I've known my dad for 30+ years and had never considered he has a disorder! I always found him to be awkward and weird. He's not capable of talking about his feelings at all. He never interfered with my mother's child rearing policies. It's also weird that my mother very rarely complains about the fact she married someone who's incapable of expressing feelings directly. I always thought he was just suppressing his emotions because of his upbringing (it's common for old Asian men to be brought up to think they should never show emotions), but now it's crystal clear that he is actually incapable of experiencing feelings at a deep level!

When I first started dating my bf I really liked to touch him and hug him, but I always expected him to push my hands away, because that's what my dad always did. I was constantly surprised when he didn't even flinch. My mother always said that my dad actually loves that I hug him but he's just shy. So for decades she always makes me hug my favorite man in the world, who struggles 100% of the time I make the attempt. And it was ingrained in my mind that that's what men do, because they think they should do it. I cannot believe I still did not make the connection when I read the book "The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time", that people with Asperger's do NOT like to be hugged. I mean my dad is not as severe as this boy, and I think he learned to accept the hugs because he knows we like it, but as of today I am convinced the flinch from my hugs is a biological reaction rather than a learned response.

Of course it's not my father's fault that he has Asperger's, but I think that being told by my mother that my dad is the greatest dad in the world (nobody I know has ever suggested to me that he might have some problems) has actually had a negative impact on me. I have poor communication skills because my dad has poor communication skills (I learn a lot from observing people... I interacted with my father a lot growing up). I had no role models on how to behave as a communicative, loving person. I understand that my father does a lot for me, and does love me from the bottom of his heart, but being told by my mother that nobody will ever love me more than my father, who never says he loves me or hugs me on his own, or even expresses any opinions on my upbringing (except that I should get married), is probably why I had so much fear for dating all these years. I was told that the best love I could ever have, is an Asperger type of love.... of course that makes me feel pretty unlovable, that no guy would ever voluntarily want to take me in his arms. Why would a stranger want to do it if my own father had never tried?

So I managed to solve a puzzle today (why I have been single all these years even though I've wanted to have a boyfriend since I was 13 years old). Yay for me I guess. It's extremely painful for me to live in a family in so much denial. I'm not blaming my mother any more. I think she also holds this strong belief that she does not deserve anyone better than my dad. Don't get me wrong, my father is a wonderful person, but as someone who has this obsessive need to understand why things in the world behave the way they do, not putting a logical explanation to my father's way of being has been a source of my trauma, without me even knowing it. I think I would have felt much better if someone, ANYONE had told me when I was younger that my dad has some issues and isn't 100% normal. I would have still loved him just as much as ever, and I would have accepted the fact that because of his disorder, he will never be able to express his feelings the way other people's parents do.

I don't think my (extended) family is the most dysfunctional one in the world, but I gotta say it's still pretty fucking dysfunctional at a subtle level. It's not obvious like alcoholism, drug or gambling addiction, domestic violence, physical/sexual abuse, but it traumatizes the second generation just as much. The worst part is to this day, everyone still pretends nothing is wrong with the family. No one talks about anyone's psychological issues or addiction issues. We just sweep our problems under the rug and allow them to keep piling up, because in our family, the worst thing in the world is to admit we have problems. Trying to fix and/or solve them is just not an option, for some reason still unclear to me.

One day I will recover from all this fucking crap. One day.

Refrence: Growing up in an Asperger Family

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Finally a pleasant weekend

I finally took an entire weekend off. Still worrying about my paper (occupies 80% of my mind lately) but decided I also need to take sometime to enjoy life. The weather was beautifully sunny all weekend and I was able to check out a bit of my gorgeous city of inhabitance. I went to dinner with a bunch of expats which were very fun company, and I really enjoyed myself even with a developing cold (very embarrassing as I as sneezing every 30 minutes). I went shopping for presents as next weekend I go on one of my 3 planned trips abroad. Very exciting! I badly need to hang out with some good friends, get some moral support and new perspectives. Finally found a restaurant with good quality authentic Indian food, and also enjoyed a "Middle Ages" dinner with bf at a tavern (which basically served gamey meats).

Taichi is going well, although I'm starting to not be able to memorize the last moves, since they get progressively more complicated. Classmates are really nice, and I might get the chance to practice with them outside of class next week.

It would be ideal if this coming week my colleague does not try to say something inappropriately criticizing which totally pushes my buttons, and if the boss provides some useful feedback rather just pestering me if I'm done with my paper yet. What's inappropriately criticizing? That's when you mean to be nice by offering to assist someone, but what you say comes off as attacking the person you're trying to help as an incompetent person and may be mentally unstable, or suggest that the person's incompetence could cause mental issues in someone else. I really don't know why she does that but it's bloody annoying. Sigh.... only a few months left at this job, and then I'm home free! (and possibly unemployed).

Savoring the pleasantness of this weekend for as long as I could... Monday morning doesn't happen for another 13 hours.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Absurdity of life

In my previous post, a reader pointed out that my emotional mood swings sounds like the definition of 'Borderline'. I have observed other people to be of borderline personality, but never consider myself to have borderline tendencies. In my "defense", I blame my education to cause me to become this way.

The thing is, after realizing the world has always been a hugely unfair place, that hard work does not always get rewarded, that people who are the most eager to give you advice on life lessons tend to know less than the people who keep their silence, that successful people seem to possess a truckload of tricks and strategies that I have never come across in my life before (since these skills are not taught in school or written in textbooks), that it's my own fault that I buried my head in books for decades and didn't bother to lift my head and take a good look at the rest of the world, I am still buried under my strict expectations my minimal definition of how life should be for a hardworking woman in her 30s.

At this point I should just admit that I got the rules of the game of life all wrong. I wagered all my attention, brain resources, and youth on studying; I put little effort into interpersonal relationships, not with friends, family, or the opposite sex. This blinder approach got me tremendously off track.

So now that I am completely off the expected track (due to a lifetime of hardcore studying and many weekends put to unpaid work and a good amount of volunteer work): mid-30s, no marriageable partner, no stable job, shitty career path, few friends in the city where I live, no family around, pretty much nothing to show for my hard work because none of my friends and family understand or care about what it is I work on, of course I am feeling quite desperate and borderline.

The alternative, which I hadn't considered lately, as mentioned in Zee's blog, is that life is empty and meaningless anyways. I should stop taking myself so seriously and just laugh at the whole absurdity of it all. Look at the situation in Crimea. Look at climate change. Economic booms and busts. Entertainment, processed food, and pharmaceutical industries being super dominant in the world. Hedge funds. Banking crisis. Anusara yoga (lol). WhatsApp worth 19 billion US dollars. Priorities all f***ed up. Yet we teach our children to be honest, moral, diligent and they shall succeed?

I should just be happy I have enough money to feed myself today. Marriage? Forget about it. Friends? Most are not dependable anyways (as I have learned over the years). Family? Their absurdities make funny party stories I guess.

Maybe I should stop worrying about how to get back on track (I'm too far off the mainstream path to get back on it anyways) and just appreciate the funny parts of life more from now on.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tracking my state of mind - part 2

2 months ago, I wrote about tracking my state of mind with a Reporter phone app. Basically the phone prompts me at random times of the day to answer simple questions like how do I feel and what am I doing, etc. Here are the results so far:

- I think about negative thoughts roughly half of the time I'm awake.

- I'm mostly grateful about my job, sunny days, and being with my boyfriend (so yeah, I ended up panicking and apologizing to him for going crazy, so now we're back to square one ).

- About a month ago I was workign about 30% of the time, but now it has gone up to 38% (working til late in the evening and on weekends).

- I spend most of my time working on my paper and commuting to and from work.

- I'm mostly alone or with my colleagues.

- My top three moods are "Ruminating", "Bleh", and "Content".

None of these results are terribly surprising to me. The biggest surprise from this exercise that I did not realize before, is how quickly I change my opinions and mood about a topic that runs continuously in my head. In the morning on my subway ride to work, I would, say, feel very anxious about my relationship with my boyfriend. Right after lunch, even though nothing has changed in reality, I would feel that maybe my relationship is going fine after all, that I have nothing to worry about. And in the evening again I would come up with some scenario or nick-pick on problems and decide that this relationship sucks and I deserve better. Same with my opinions about work. One moment I would feel extremely grateful about this super interesting and flexible job, and the next moment I would think my job sucks and I want to move to another country.

That's just how my mind works I guess. It makes up story after story, anticipating before anything new in real life changes, trying to protect my feelings and my dignity. It is extremely difficult for me to focus on "now". I am constantly worried about the future and wish I made fewer mistakes in my past.

I would love to go on a meditation retreat, but since I don't have the time right now, this moment tracking thing is the next best thing I can do. One thing I really need to change about my current life: find some friends or even strangers to hang out with, since my colleagues aren't interested in being friends outside of work.

It's how life works I guess. My life is pretty fabulous and lacks a million things at the same time. There are things I'm doing that are kinda fun but I'd rather be doing something even more exciting, so I don't appreciate the good moments every day. The second question I ask myself, after "Am I having negative thoughts", is: "What am I grateful about?" Usually it helps made me step back from my shitty mood and examine what's good in life, even if it's as simple as a shining sun.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Communication gone completely awry

I've been unhappy with the lack of communication I had with the bf. We barely interacted besides funny cat pictures he occasionally sent me, so last week I decided to tell him that either we see each other more often, or he calls more often, or I wouldn't see him this weekend.

Worst. strategy. ever. He got furious, started listing everything that I have ever done wrong, how I stress him out, and now it's zero communication.

I realized we probably already interact more than he's comfortable with, which is ridiculously little by any normal standards (we might as well be in a long-distance relationship even though we live in the same city). I started browsing through a thousand articles about men and why they stonewall women and how to get them to communicate more and stuff. I already tried to mentally prepare myself for the worst case scenario - our break up, but it was still very painful.

My dad also has  a style of rarely talking or discussing things, but it suited my mom because she likes to have complete control over the family and he lets her shove him. She treats him like a small child: she tells him when he needs to put on more clothes; she decided that he should retire early and we should move to North America; she signed me up for all sorts of extracurricular activities without ever discussing with me or even informing me beforehand and made him drive me to these classes while I was young. He put up with all this and never complained much.

As I said in a previous post, I recently asked my dad what would he want to do if he were 30 years old today, and he said he would want to "get married". My mother says I should marry someone like my dad. First of all, nobody plus or minus 10 years my age behave like my dad any more. Secondly, I have been around my dad for 30+ years. I am 120% certain I don't want a silent yet compliant life partner. I'm not the type who enjoys ordering people around and having them obey my every little demand.

So now I am at a loss of how normal guys are supposed to be like and how much I should put up with things. I really enjoy spending weekends with him, but I don't like my partner to feel resentful just because I would like to be outside for walks/hikes/some sort of activity on the weekends.

Couldn't have picked a worse timing. The weather is now super nice but I don't have a companion to do stuff with on the weekend any more. Woe is me for daring to ask to interact more than on weekends.

Frees up more time for me to do work on weekends I guess. How lovely.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Trying to understand taichi

A reader made a comment in my previous post about taichi/taiji chuan, asking how much of it is legit. I have to say I know extremely little about taichi to be qualified to answer fully. Historically, it is one of the Chinese martial arts styles. With the wish to spread the art to more people, some of the lineages started downplaying the martial arts aspects and started emphasizing developing the "chi" and the health aspects, and now the art is known as an activity for seniors and for non-fit people, or at least that was how I saw taichi before I started it :)

So the lineages of taichi are much easier to trace than yoga, since yoga was developed by a lot of lone swamis and cave yogis (the most systematized lineage would be from Sri. T. Krishnamacharya). Taichi started with the chen family, and then developed into several main styles: Chen style, Yang style, Wu (Hao) style, Wu style, Sun style, and combo styles. Some styles emphasized the martial arts (eg. Chen), some became more focused on the meditative and health aspects (eg. Wu style).

I thought it would be really complicated to research taichi, but I got what I was looking for after only a bit of googling. It's interesting that after typing in "Tai chi is" I get an autocomplete of "tai chi is bullshit". Here's an interview with a martial arts masters, who studied taiji chuan along with a ton of other Chinese martial art styles. From a martial arts aspect, I think studying taiji helps, but one needs to practice it a ton and drill the principles as well as the actual movements into one's body until one can perform those martial arts techniques with minimal thinking.

From a health aspect, what I get so far (from very few classes, mind you, so don't take my word as an expert's explanation) is that this long form of movements works many parts of the body, emphasizes the grounding of the body weight and changing of balance/center of gravity, moves the body in a way that maximizes chi flow (I still don't know exactly what chi is but I'm going to guess it has something to do with minimizing blockage in the body. My guess is that the forms place the body parts in ergonomic angles to optimize smooth flowing of air into the lungs, as well as for blood, lymphatic and other fluids to circulate more comprehensively, and perhaps even improve the nerve signaling in some way).

Here's one explanation of taichi, where the teacher found a focus on a muscle in the inner thigh which seems to trigger the whole body. Here's a list of 10 essentials of taiji chuan, which to me sounds like learning to relax, find your center of gravity, connect your upper and lower body to allow the delivery of synchronized signals from your pelvic region (power center) to the rest of the body to maximize power. I think most people move their bodies in an inefficient way. We are tense in the neck and shoulder region; we carry heavy stuff using our arms + lower back too much and not enough legs, pelvis, and the whole back. If some of our muscles are already partially contracted, it probably traps some waste materials from the cells, dead tissues, stagnant blood flow, etc. If we can learn to fully relax and then contract our muscles, we can improve fluid and cellular renewal in our bodies and also to improve muscle power generation. There are few other activities that emphasize so much on relaxation.

By comparison, yoga achieves relaxation through holding a pose for a relatively long period of time (5-20 breaths). When you contract your muscles for that long (most yang yoga poses require isotonic contraction of muscles), once you come out of the pose, your muscles inevitably relax, because they are exhausted :) Same goal achieved through different means.

There's undoubtedly more to taichi than what I've mentioned in this post. Please do not leave me angry comments saying how I explained it all wrong and how the chi is more than just bodily fluids. We yogis have a word for chi too -- it's called prana in Sanskrit. Yoga practice also has the purpose of increasing prana and improve its flow in the body. The purpose of this post is to try to demystify taichi. Whether or not the elusive "chi" exists, if the body is properly grounded, the joints and organs are in non-compromising positions, and the muscles relaxed (or not more tense than needed to hold the body upright), this is generally good for the body because it reduces unnecessary tension and improves circulation. For me, I just think the moves look cool and wanted to learn them. If you check out the wikipedia pages for the different taichi styles, you'll see the ages of various taichi masters. You'll notice that many of them didn't live that long (there are people who barely exercised and have lived longer). So I would say that taichi isn't something totally mystical. It does have its benefits (relaxation feels good). You should learn it because you just want to learn it, not because it gives you magical powers or will add 10 years to your life.

I sound like a horrible spokesperson. Nobody will ever ask me to sell anything for them now, LOL.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Cheating on yoga with taichi classes

I started taking taichi classes. I've always wanted to learn it so finally brought myself to sign up for a class. This is supposed to be a yoga blog and I'm supposed to be a yoga fanatic. However, it really difficult to be excited about a hobby on my own, with no one else around me caring about the topic at all. I've tried attending classes at yoga studios (both Bikram and Ashtanga, but not at the same time :P ). The enthusiasm of the students here can freeze the whole room. I guess it's the Scandinavian culture.

I've only taken very few classes so far, but happy to report that I really enjoy it. I can see why it's an art that's nowhere nearly as popular as yoga: the traditional way of teaching it is to be so strict about the placement of every body part that it makes traditional Iyengar yoga class seem like free-style classes. I'm exaggerating, but my point is that without a revolution/upgrade in the teaching style, this activity will never become popular in the world. I should note that I accidentally signed up for one of the less popular styles of taichi (because I didn't know anything about the different lineages before I started), but it's kind of like ashtanga, one of the "original" styles, which is harder to learn but "more aesthetically pleasing and more popular for younger students", so hey, works out for me :)

So the reason why I am practicing yoga less now is that my ligaments are so lax that I have a bad tendency to over-stretch, even when I'm practicing alone rather than in a class settings. This means that unless I become more mindful immediately, too much yoga practice is actually bad for my health. I think if I have a good yoga teacher who can check my alignment during chaturanga or something it would be really helpful, but right now I don't have any, so I'm switching to a milder activity in a small class setting, to learn something new, especially about this elusive "chi".

It's good to start a traditional course after being armed with yoga teachings from teachers with all sorts of backgrounds. One of the most surprising corrections I get is that apparently my shoulders still pop up a lot during a lot of my arm raising movements. I thought that got corrected out of my yoga classes, but I guess hearing the teacher verbally say "lower your shoulders" 1000 times doesn't mean I've actually achieved it. However, the taichi teacher is incorrect in saying the solution to my shoulder raising problem is just to "relax more" to lower the shoulders. It's actually a muscle pattern built in and I actually need to actively employ my lats to pull my shoulders back down. So until the new pattern becomes built in, the correct instruction should be "actively engage the lat muscles" rather than "relax".

For the past few weeks I've been trying to read up on information of taichi, and there's a ton of woo-woo, bullshit, and purposeful mystification filling up the internet about this activity (not much different from yoga I guess). I was lucky I had a lot of great yoga teachers with scientific knowledge who could demystify various aspects of yoga and show the benefits in the physical, spiritual, social aspects of yoga for what they are.  I think taichi teachings could a revolution like yoga, with dance teachers, kinesiologists,  massage therapists, athletes, scholars, modern martial artists, physiotherapists,  medical doctors, osteopaths, personal trainers all learning the activity and then provide their personal expertise and interpretations of the 'sport'. Then we can cut through the BS and identify why it is such a great activity. I must say that the scientific way of studying yoga and taichi (eg. patients with rheumatoid arthritis who did taichi 3 times a week, 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks showed better improvements than patients who took 30 minute walks 3 times a week for 8 weeks), while practical, is a very naïve way of studying such sophisticated arts. I would much prefer a dancer's (or 100 dancers, to be less biased) take on how he or she feels after 1 year of yoga vs. 1 year of taichi in terms of flow and other feelings/thoughts.

But until taichi becomes half as popular as yoga, we have Doug Swenson as one of the few people who do both I guess. However he positions himself as a yoga teacher. I wonder if anyone would position themselves as primarily a taichi practitioner with some level of proficiency in Ashtanga or Iyengar yoga. That would be pretty awesome.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Relationship kerfuffle

I was chatting with a friend today online and I was complaining about my bf's bad behaviors recently. I was expecting some consolations or advice on how to deal with it, but instead she said, "He's not treating you very well. Why do you put up with this?"

I was quite shocked when I heard this (or saw the words on my screen). Coming from a family of aunts, female cousins and mom, who sometimes act like total bitches towards their significant others, I went from naïvely thinking that's how women are supposed to/entitled to act, to vowing not to act like them when I'm in a relationship. Now it's becoming really difficult to judge myself if I've gone too far in the other direction or if my friend is over-exaggerating (She has a very strong personality).

I know I have a general tendency to rant about the problems rather than the positive aspects of my relationships and my work life with my friends and family. So, knowing that they get a biased picture of my life, I cannot totally trust their advice. On the other hand, I also know that the bf has serious commitment phobia, complain directly to me about the smallest bad habits that I have, and cannot seem to make future plans with me more than 1 month ahead (hello vacations?)

If I were a super charming, popular girl with a flock of pursuers, I wouldn't think twice about instantly dumping any guy who dares to show a single sign of inattentiveness towards me. However, the reality is that I'm a neurotic, somewhat emotionally unstable, disagreeable, eccentric nerd who's spent more time living in her own head and burying her face in books/scientific papers than interacting with people her entire life.  99.9% of my male friends (and I had a lot of male acquaintances) over the years have expressed mostly sympathy towards me rather than romantic admirations. I don't feel like I can afford to be super choosy. Even though I know he won't relocate with me should I get a job in another country, I enjoy the times that we do spend together, however long (or short) remaining time that would be.

However, my friend's words kind of shook my thinking quite a bit. Perhaps I can afford to stand up for myself a bit more and then see what happens. I can't really worsen a relationship that has no long term potential anyways.

Monday, February 24, 2014

A world ruled by money

I watched the Olympic Gold medal men's hockey game on Sunday -- Sweden vs. Canada (Canada won the gold). I cheered for Canada but the way Sweden played it really seemed like they gave up half way through the game. As my Canadian friends all cheered all over Facebook at 5:30am Pacific time, and the Swedes sulked in disappointment (not a single bad word or criticism mind you), I couldn't help but feel something was off.

The broadcast of this hockey game in Sweden would be equivalent to the Superbowl in the US... 70% of the entire nation probably had their eyes glued to the TV.  I was therefore interested in the types of commercials they would play. I was expecting usual brands like Coca-Cola, McDonald's, maybe something Swedish like Volvo or IKEA or H&M commercials? Nope. Instead, there were endless commercials from online betting websites.. I counted at least four of them in total, shown repeatedly at almost every commercial break. I think it says something about today's sports.

Next, I found out one of Sweden's major players was disallowed from playing the gold medal game a few hours before the game started because he was tested positive for pseudoephedrine usage. Um, that's what I used when I have a stuffy nose. I think losing a key player right before a game can certainly significantly affect morale. I was chatting with a friend about it and she said the IOC, FIFA and all the major sports organization committees have always been corrupt, so what else is new?

I think what's new is how much MORE money is involved in the sports games compared to before. With online gambling, new riches in Russia, China and Latin America, there are even more cash at stake associated with the outcome of each game.

I guess many people just accept the fact that the big players in the world shove money around and control almost all aspects of our lives -- our food choice availabilities, our entertainment options, the news shown to us (and the biased angles), our shopping habits, our relationships. I guess most of my life I've been kind of avoiding the entertainment giants.  I barely purchase any music; I rarely watch Hollywood blockbuster movies (I prefer artsy indies); I don't often watch much sports, nor do I play video games (an industry that is surpassing movie industry in terms of size and amount of money to be made as I've been told).  In other words, I've been a total loner for most of my life. With my new relationships (friendship and romance), I learned that most people demand entertainment to be as available as tap water, heating system and electricity. They want it cheap, they want lots and lots of it, they want high quality, and no-hassle total convenience. These as-a-matter-of-fact desires fill the pockets of corporations with billions and billions of dollars, at the expense and negligence of so many other things in the world that I think are more important.

People think rich is rich, doesn't matter if you are a millionaire or a billionaire, since most people cannot imagine themselves ever to be in that position, having so much cash lying around. I've even heard people say that they wish they could become a millionaire so they can give most of the money away, because being a philanthropist makes them feel good. Um, if you give most of your money away, you can do it once and then you're back to where you started, ie. not rich any more. As to the difference between a millionaire and a billionaire, well, if you are a millionaire, you can live comfortably and have nice things around in your house (or, if you live in Vancouver, you can't even afford a house, LOL). If you are a billionaire, you can start influencing the stock market, business deals, the media, and politicians. So there IS a huge difference in terms of how much money you have at the super rich level. Money = Power  = Influence when you have enough of it.

Sometimes I think I was born into the wrong time period or I just don't belong in this world. I'm sure there are similar minded people out there but they sure are hard to find since they are such minorities. If they weren't, then this world would look very different from what it is right now.

I act like such a mouse most of the time because most people dismiss my opinions so easily, which makes me think I'm always wrong, or at least my opinions do not matter. It's tough to have the whole world against you every single day. My mother would say I should just stop having opinions and agree with everyone else all the time. That should make people like me better. But it's the worst advice to give to your child. Then people say you're a push-over and have no personality. The only way to survive being the oddball is to be quirky and charismatic I guess, so that at least you're somewhat entertaining and fun to have around even if people never agree with you.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bachelor's degree = marriage material?

The other day I read on Facebook a problem statement from a relative, describing her friend who asked her for advice: Given her daughter has failed grades in almost every course, with the lowest scores in English and math, which university she should attend. The friend mentioned that her daughter wants to study management.  Given the current education system in Taiwan, many crappy universities in Taiwan will still accept her daughter. The obvious thing is that the daughter will probably have trouble finding anything but minimum wage jobs after getting her degree.

Another relative commented that instead of going to university, this girl should probably learn a trade instead. However, if she wants a university degree for the purpose of increasing her chance of finding a suitable husband, then the problem of career prospect does not exist and she should just attend any university that she thinks is suitable for her.

I can't begin to describe how many problems I see with the above statement. It is precisely because of the above mentality (University degree = a better person/more suitable marriage), that the Taiwan government approved the conversion of hundreds of trade schools into universities. I can't blame them though as Canada does the same thing with many of its colleges, NOT for the reason of producing more marriageable people though, but for being able to claim that Canada has more college grads than any other countries in the world. Is that a better reason for creating more universities? Probably not, but at least the reasoning is less convoluted. How the hell does a B.A. make you better marriage material anyways, unless the school offers cooking courses and relationship guidance? (which are probably good ideas by the way)

The above conversation helped me understand something about my mom's logic. Because I didn't pursue a medical degree, then my education was garbage in terms of career building. The main function of a Bachelors degree, as far as she was concerned, was to signal to other Chinese parents with sons that I am a piece of suitable marriage material. This explains a lot of the strange actions that she performed over the past decade that were extremely puzzling to me for the longest time.

As for that girl and her parents, somehow I would say that at that age, "management" just sounds like a good career. Who knows what it actually involves? I can only say that before asking around, they really should have an honest conversation with her daughter first, gently informing her that people in management positions often have to outcompete other people in some way, either in terms of grades at school, performance at the work place, work/life experience, or exceptional skills at convincing the boss they are somehow the best candidate for management. I mean, I think she can pursue the path if she really wants to, but maybe, she should pay more attention in classes, and start working summer jobs to observe how managers do their jobs. But I am not surprised or upbeat about her situation, because my parents also prefer to discuss with anybody and everybody in the world except with me about my personal future. Go figure.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Negative thoughts tracking with smart phone app

I recently pay $4 to purchase an iPhone app called "Reporter", written by the creator of Facebook timeline -- Nicholas Felton. It nudges you at random times of the day, asking to report some information about yourself that you would like to track. I'm using the app to track the frequency of negative thoughts and approximately how long they last (as in, am I still pissed/sad/frustrated/paranoid at the next reporting session?). It could be useful to help me combat my overall anger and depression.

Perhaps this can help me avoid blogging while feeling random anger and help me see how my mind works in an extended period. Yesterday while watching the second Hunger Games movies a nagging thought came up and I started crying. I manage to hide it from the bf. Being who he is, he was able to comfort me anyways without knowing I was crying. Today I suddenly got really angry at my whole family. These random anger pop up, making me feel like I'm a total nutcase.

Extended time away from family helps; having a job helps; having a sweet bf helps (though sometimes I get mad at him too as he can be difficult too occasionally); I just need to exercise more regularly and find a social activity that will help me make more friends and I'm all set on healing. Work is kind of driving me mad though... I've been working late almost every day but my project is not going as fast as I would like. I am hoping to set up a meditation/nature vacation once I get to some sort of project finishing point.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Struggling with authenticity

I realize this is supposed to be a yoga blog, but the past year's obsession has been blogging about how I feel about my life and my family instead. The thing is, many people start to do yoga for exercise benefits, and then fall in love the spiritual aspects of yoga. You will commonly hear that people say yoga helps them uncover their "authentic self".

For the first year I started yoga asana classes, I indeed felt like I was re-discovering myself, becoming aware of my tendency to hold my breath, various tensions within the body, my weak lower back, my samskaras, my ruminating thoughts, my tendency towards negative thinking, and so many more details about myself that I had never been aware of. I felt like I was in paradise practicing yoga among friendly, supportive, authentic teachers and students, learning how to be a better person, all while being pampered in a fancy studio, complete with saunas, massage rooms, yummy herbal teas, and gorgeous heated classrooms smelling of calming, healing essential oils.

I took it all for granted, thinking people are nice everywhere, and moved myself to Europe for my career. On the plus side, I landed in a much larger institute and am exposed to much bigger scale of scientific research; I found a bf I really get along with and who seems to enjoy hanging out with me occasionally. On the down side,  I'm finding it quite difficult to make friends here. Lately, the inauthentic boss and colleague are really getting to me. It seems like the boss and the toxic colleague are all about pleasing people by the means of pretending to know more than they actually do. I feel like I'm being alienated in my lab because I am too uncomfortable to go along with it.

The struggle with family and with work colleagues are about the same thing: being ask to behave in a way that makes me feel extremely inauthentic and uncomfortable. At home, my bossy and insecure mother wants me to shower her with praises and obey her every request (she orders people around non-stop all day long).  At work, my boss wants me to say yes to everything he asks and to suck up to him, even if I don't actually know how to do the things he asks me to do.

My mother has tried to shape me into a people pleaser my entire life. She "buys" friendships by showering people with gifts and praises. She was still trying to hint at me how my cousin is so well brought up because she knows how to say the appropriate phrases at the right situations to please people. Seems like the single most important value in this world, for my mother, is the ability to please people, which is a complete clash with what I view to be the most fundamental value that I can't compromise: being authentic and not tell lies. This fundamental clash of values seems to be what causes so much misery between my mother and I.

This article "Dare to be yourself"discusses exactly what I've been struggling with the past years. Whether I like it or not, some of my mother's teachings have rubbed off on me after living at home for almost 30 years. While I tend not to bribe people with presents and praises, I do try to follow people's suggestions and have a tendency to not voice my own opinions. This behavior, also known as being Miss "Goody-two-shoes", seems to piss a people off, achieving the opposite of desired effect.

At the moment, asana practice isn't helping me discover my authentic self, which is why I've greatly reduced my practice and instead blog about my life, trying to understand what I am doing wrong. I'm trying to examine my darkest sides, and experimenting with behavioral and thought changes, to see if I can be more at peace with myself. Right now I feel like I'm digging into the bottom of the pit, discovering the worst aspects of myself (selfishness, self-centeredness, lack of compassion, fear of confrontation, the list goes on). I hope I will climb out of the pit soon. Until then, I apologize for this dark period of sh*t digging.