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.