Epiphany, January 6th reflection

I spent the morning of January 6th, 2021 drinking tea, chatting about the news, as always. I was actually feeling happy, as today was Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany. It represents an incredible journey of perseverance and wonder, as Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar traveled the desert following the North Star to see the newborn messiah, Jesus.

I laughed at these people gathering with no cause and passion like these Magi. They are sore losers. I spoke with my therapist that afternoon about how ridiculous they are. But when our session was dismissed, it got worse. The mob breached the Capitol, and everyone had to hide.

Excerpted from my diary entry on January 11th, 2021

The diary entry above is somewhat incomplete, as it was done as part of a timed exercise at a work-based wellness zone. During the time I mentioned, not only was it the Epiphany, but John Osoff and Raphael Warnock had won their senate runoff races in Georgia. I was rooting for them not simply because they are Democrats, but also because the Republican party in America has become a perverted, reactionary heap who views lack of hygienic safety as a “personal liberty,” among multitudes of other problems. Both bring refreshing, faith-informed perspectives to our governmental system. Seeing them win, I thought this contempt for humanity had died, but alas.

In the morning, there were people outside the Capitol building. They were shouting, they had flags, signs, Trump-themed paraphernalia, some Revolutionary and Civil War paraphernalia, mostly those which signified sympathy towards reactionaries, and some megaphones. It was, in its formation, a protest. But protests have a movement, and keeping a tyrant who lost his reelection in office isn’t a movement. It’s just sore losership. I chided them. It was pathetic.

But the pathetic often becomes the disturbing. Seeing them breach the building, knowing lawmakers and their staff had to hide, watching rioters loot, vandalize, and defile is just disgraceful. Knowing a US Armywoman had been deluded by her president to attack fellow law enforcement and defense officers for his sake is disgusting. This veteran held a duty to defend the country and its electoral procedures, not to subterfuge them. While she survived her tours of military duty, she died after being brainwashed into believing fellow defense-men were her enemies. But even after seeing one of their own get killed, many rioters will still defend their perverse actions.

The Attack on the Capitol in 2021 was a journey. Caravans loaded up on buses, trains, cars, taxis, and bikes. Similarly, the first Epiphany approximately 2021 years prior to that day, there was another journey. Magi and shepherds came to visit a new miracle. It was a messiah that Jewish prophecy foretold about. He was a poor infant boy, living in a manger. Mangers tend to be dirty, and magi tend to be neat, but they overlooked the mess because they knew there was something awesome among them. There was a righteous ruler. Naive King Herod presumed this meant the child would usurp him one day. but the child never expressed such an interest, even in his adult life. The magi visited the infant Jesus in a tender, fleeting moment. Soon after, he and his family would have to return to Jerusalem to take the census, then to Nazareth to escape a draconian decree to have every infant boy killed.

I think about how arduous travel is. It takes hours. How could these rioters drive and ride, watching clouds and roads go by and think “yes, this is what I’m meant to do”? “Yes, this is my pilgrimage”? “Yes, this is a cause worth dying for”?

Donald Trump cheats tax collectors instead of befriending them. He denies knowing prostitutes and sex workers instead of outwardly acknowledging them. He snubs the paychecks of tradesmen like carpenters, such as Jesus’ adoptive father, despite the fact they had performed finished and satisfactory work for him. He had violently accused his late first wife Ivana of infidelity (despite his own wayward libido) and pressured her into sexual situations instead of telling adulterers to “sin no more.” In his continuance of presidential power, this is your epiphany? This is your pilgrimage, your hill to die on? Your revolution? Someone who, should he meet a carpenter’s apprentice-turned preacher in present day, would scoff?

This post has been almost a year in the making, so I’ve ruminated on this for a while. Point is, make sure your journey is meaningful and you chose battles that are worthy and have momentum. I am truly no one special. Just a former church youth choir girl and catechist’s pet at CCD. I’m also someone, who, in her adulthood, gained innate sense of justice and passion for persuasive diction. I may not be a clergy, pastoral associate, political aide, investigator, or lawyer, but nonetheless, I encourage you all to do everything with purpose.

Merry Little Christmas, Epiphany, Three Kings Day, Befana, or however you prefer to call it. Additionally bless the lives lost, tarnished, or periled in the events and aftermath of the Insurrection Attempt on the Capitol. Amen.

Remembering those lost in the World Trade Center attacks, 2001

It’s an appropriate time to reflect. Some sad occasions have happened in recent days for me, the death of a relative, a family friend, and a global public figure, though I will reflect on those experiences in a later post. The World Trade Center attacks were a formulative experience for me to witness. My memory is murky as the years go by, but each time the memory is revisited, I make more connections to those vignettes that still exist in my mind’s eye.

I was five years old, approaching six in four months. My parents were shopping for a new house in our city to make room for our new baby brother, who was then around nine months old. I had just started kindergarten, and my parents wanted to stay within the same school district. My sister was four, and she and I detested visiting open houses with them. Our brother could just sleep through them, but we had to walk around and try to admire stuff we didn’t understand. Our previous house had been sold before we’d picked a new one, so we stayed with my grandparents in the meantime.

There was this strange movie on television occasionally with burning buildings. My parents enjoyed action and detective stories, so I figured it was one of those. But my mother acted differently when this movie came on. She’d rush to turn it off or change the channel when she’d see it with us children in the room. My grandparents hosted visitors often, so sometimes my uncles, aunts, or adult cousins would come over and want to play this movie. I didn’t get the fuss. I’d sometimes watch Law and Order with my mom when I couldn’t sleep, but the violent parts were short and she’d cover my eyes. Why was this shot of burning buildings so long? Did this movie have any other scenes?

The day of the attacks was a Tuesday, which was a day off for kindergartners and a half day for the rest of my elementary school. My teacher briefly explained to us the following day that some bad people attacked our country with planes. I feel like I learned pretty early on some of these planes came from Boston, departing from Logan Airport, so several of the casualties were local to our metropolitan, but I can’t remember when exactly I learned this. But the day she informed us was otherwise an unremarkable day.

The repetition stuck with me. People said “never forget,” flew the American flag, and just generally exhibited nationalistic pride. But people did it outside of patriotic holidays like Veterans’ Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, or Independence Day. I didn’t understand it. Over time, I heard the phrase “9/11,” and I’d be shown pictures of those towers that got burned in that movie I saw in kindergarten. Overtime, I realized I’d seen it. That was the real news at the time, not the fictitious news in some doomsday movie.

People began talking about censoring things. The Simpsons, a cartoon that tempted me but was forbidden to watch because it was not for kids, had a nuclear power plant in it that blew up sometimes, and over the years networks wanted those episodes shelved because they thought it insensitive to victims and their families. Around 2003 or 2004, my mother finally allowed us to watch this highly-acclaimed show, SpongeBob Squarepants, despite the fact she found it obnoxious. In an episode titled “Just One Bite,” which I felt to be a remake to Dr. Suess’ Green Eggs and Ham, SpongeBob’s cynical colleague Squidward proclaims his dislike for Krabby Patties, despite his never eating one. The first half of the episode has SpongeBob channeling Sam I Am, coaxing Squidward into trying it in a multitude of different settings. Squidward finally caves, but…unlike Green Eggs’ protagonist, Squidward is too prideful to admit his fondness for it. He breaks into the Krusty Krab restaurant during off-hours and suffers two gasoline burns in each doorway in his pursuit. This is done in effort to avoid confronting SpongeBob about his desire for the sandwich.

Except…something was different in the episode around 2007 to 2010. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but it felt shorter and…maybe missing some kind of detail? I shrugged it off for several years, until I came across a Youtube video around 2015 titled “SpongeBob Just One Bite deleted scene”…it was the scene of Squidward getting injured by the gasoline bucket. It was strange. The episode premiered in 2001, during which time I was not allowed to watch it, but the offending scene remained in tact for approximately 10 years after the tragic events of 9/11. Nonetheless, its removal is still seen as aftermath for the occasion.

Similarly, music was scrutinized too. People were sensitive to certain metaphors like “you dropped a bomb on me,” “you light me on fire,” “you are electric,” etc. Lots of pieces in the hip-hop and rock genres were temporarily banned. Today, it seems some circles are warming back up to this kind of hyperbole and explicit displays, but others still seem to have a collective post-traumatic sensitivity of this aggression.

There’s a lot more thoughts I have on this occasion and may create followup posts, especially about the censorship and nationalistic escalations. Anyway, I will conclude to say never forget, and participate in the AmeriCorps day of service if you can to mark this occasion.

Back to fiction

As a new adult, I opted to transition into nonfiction writing because I saw it as more commonplace and utilitarian. I was pretty confident the world could find a place for me there. And I am there, sometimes.

But often nowadays, it’s hard to break into the 24/7 news cycle, coupled with so called pundits pontificating their own commentary and opinions. There are often too many aspects to a story to consider. I am not at the frontlines of the Roe v. Wade overturning, nor the Russian invasion of Ukraine, nor Shinzo Abe’s assassination. I don’t often have a lived experience or connection to events like these. I do feel terrible about them, but to make a statement or write an article about such events sometimes feels like preaching to the choir to me. Sometimes there’s a wealth of disaster to dissect. I cannot often pinpoint the one which aggravates me the most. I cannot always suggest solutions.

Fiction is full of allegories and allusions. Public figures, personal acquaintances, and even other fictional characters can come together in fiction. It can propose new ideas and solutions. It’s both escapism and realism, albeit in another plane. For some reason, fiction is where I’ve been getting more ideas lately. Maybe I’m hanging out with Elliott in Stardew Valley too much (although I couldn’t write a novel-length feature like he could; I’m going to start with stuff at a few thousand words before I get to the hundred-thousands).

Maybe it’s the summertime idleness that’s getting to me, but I often can’t talk about life without making a comparison to something that happened to SpongeBob, or what Fran Fine did once, or the way Hamlet manipulated someone, or how Phoebe Buffay got tricked, or how Arthur Read had this great idea…I know, I have a strange combination of fiction that resonates with me in my mundane world.

Point is, nowadays I really see the place fiction has.

Clouded perspectives

Prompt 106 of the Isolation Journals.

This analogy of a cloud that surrounds you during a volatile time reminds me of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The semi-autobiographical novel recounts Plath’s time being treated for a psychiatric mental collapse after an attempted overdose. Towards the end of the novel, the protagonist Esther is released from the hospital after a consultation with her psychiatrist. She likens her negative emotions to a bell jar trapped around her, a decorative accent for a mantle clock or other centerpieces. The jar traps her anxiety and depression, swirling it around her enclosure. Without the assistance of treatment and support of family and friends, she would remain imprisoned in the bell jar and lose her luster and function. The same can be said for the metaphorical clouds that prohibit us. Plath’s novel remains true today and is still insightful despite Plath’s own mental shortcomings at the end of her life.

But lord, the clouds have shifted since then. At the start of The Bell Jar, Esther is participating in a summer program in New York City as part of a fellowship for a young women’s magazine, where her poem was accepted. Esther is from Massachusetts, stays in Northampton at school and Winthrop with family, then admitted to Belmont during her hospital stay (note that some of these details are not given in the novel but inferred based on details and parallels to Plath’s own life). While much of the book is during the summer, and a typical summer would involve a lot of travel like this, this lifestyle is unachievable now. So many artist and writer residencies in elite locations like Manhattan have been cancelled, delayed, or attempted to be held remotely.

Unfortunately, the literary magazine where Plath interned, Mademoiselle, became defunct in 2001, so it’s impossible to know how they would have continued this fellowship program had they lived to see the peak of the novel coronavirus. Many Mademoiselle staff transferred to another Conde Nast imprint, Glamour, after the shutdown, but it is not as focused in literary arts like Mademoiselle was. Conde Nast hosts a few college programs, but none quite the same as Esther’s. I imagine some of their internships and fellowships are being done remotely, and it’s a good thing that a pandemic has happened at a time when remote work is more achievable. The Bell Jar is set in the 1950s, when computers, if they existed, were massive, unaffordable, and had to be shared between several business or intelligence agencies. What would the world have been like if a pandemic hit in the 1950s? I guess we could have conducted work through television, radio, newspapers, letters, phone conference calls, or fax messages (if they were around at the time). Today we have much more options.

Then there’s a buffet. Esther relishes these crabmeat stuffed avocado halves. Buffets are a great way to spread coronavirus, but I do miss them so. On vacation my family and I would eat at a few, often breakfast buffets but sometimes dinner. I can’t wait until we can attend a buffet again.

Then there is the romance. Esther goes to a bar and drinks vodka in New York, and assumes an alias of Betty Higginbotham from Chicago to annoying boys. The bars can’t operate the same way, nor can attempted flirtation.

Finally, maybe the most important aspect of the book, is the hospital stay. Plath stayed at McLean Hospital after her suicide attempt at twenty years old, but yet again, residential opportunities outside of the permanent house is risky for disease. The hospital however, does have several remote programs and research studies, but the question remains… Would they be suitable for patients in a severe collapse such as Esther’s? I guess provided clinicians check in frequently, but how would they monitor patients who may attempt to harm themselves? Esther watches an acquaintance relapse into poor psyche, and I worry for someone like that. I guess they could operate at reduced capacity since we are in Phase 3 in Massachusetts, but how can we be certain patients of the highest need are staying? Mental illness fluctuates intensely.

Evidently, the Covid-19 pandemic and the recession that has preceded it is the cloud that shrouds not just me, but the world. I pray and wish that we can have some sort of semblance of coming-of-age and reconciliation that happens in The Bell Jar. Lately, even the most mundane of vignettes in the book and others in the theme and genre of it seem like fantasies. It is very concerning that we are uncertain when they can become attainable again. How will we ever love romantically again? How will we ever progress our professional accomplishments again, and how will we celebrate them? How will we protect ourselves from our id? We can’t answer these right away. We must wait, and this is agonizing, or at least can be. We are fatigued, but we still must protect ourselves.

We must keep our minds busy and seek to find opportunities wherever and however they may appear. We must use whatever resources possible to stay connected. We must keep the faith.

With perseverance, we can fight and overcome. We will not stay clouded and jarred.

It’s automatic

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 31. Prompt by Suleika Jaouad. https://tinyurl.com/yanyg842

Bad title. Sorry. This prompt is interesting because there is pretty much no prompt… Hm. I guess it’s nice to have the freedom, but I really like structure. I’ve heard a little of automatic writing but am more familiar with stream of consciousness. Very similar.

The news is always so bleak lately. I saw protesters who wanted to go back to work and groaned because everything is still so uncertain. Massachusetts fortunately isn’t opening up ahead of itself. Coronavirus is still very widespread and the lack of activity in this state reflects it. Lately, every time I see a delivery truck going up the street, I get giddy. Then there will be a package on our doorstep if the truck is there for us. Boring things like toilet paper and soap are so exciting.

As I hear a dog bark, I’m reminded of how hard it is for our dog, Maggie. She is a Jack Russell Terrier who loves to play with other dogs. She usually attends a daycare weekly on Fridays to get her socializing with her species, but since the outbreak, she hasn’t gone. We take her for walks at an empty plaza and often see other dogs walking there. She and the other dogs look at each other excitedly, wanting to play, but they can’t. They transfer too many germs between each other, and they are pets, thus will be petted. We, her humans have even been avoiding petting other dogs, and other dogs can carry germs which we would give to each other. It’s very hard because we do really like other dogs, and we do want Maggie to have a social life, but it’s too risky right now.

I am really hoping this doesn’t ruin her psyche in the long run. I hope she will still be social with other dogs and other people. I’m worried about my brother too, who is finishing up his first year of college online. He liked being on campus and attending chapel hours for credit, but he can’t do any of that now. He was having a hard time transitioning, and he felt lonely often, as I did in college. We told him to be more proactive about socializing, and he was trying for a bit, but then the outbreak happened, and it was no longer as easy to stay in touch with his fellow students.

This post is taking a bleak turn, like a lot of my others, but instead of getting as destitute as I usually get at the conclusion, I’m just going to stop here.

The Isolation Time Capsule

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 30. Prompt by Suleika Jaouad. https://tinyurl.com/y8vsb98y

Easiest way to do this exercise seems to be a list, so here are the contents:

  • The cute face masks I bought from Etsy, one with cherries against a navy background and the other with lemons against a white background
  • The Lands’ End shorts with lemons against a white background that is a very close match in pattern with the mask. I may wear them together when the weather gets warmer
  • The face masks our neighbor sewed for us out of old striped neckties
  • The wheat sourdough bread another neighbor baked for us after she bought too much flour
  • The previously abandoned pizza stone my dad now uses weekly
  • A bottle of Freeman anti-stress dead sea minerals clay mask, not because it directly relates to current affairs but because when news broke out back in February that CVS was running out of face masks, this is the type of product I thought they meant
  • A flash drive with several of the video games where I progressed
  • The various bottles of hand sanitizer which my mom scoped kingdom come for
  • The various packs of toilet paper which my mom scoped kingdom come for
  • The herbal teas with immunity support, including ingredients like turmeric, lime, ginger, elderberry, and echinacea
  • The headbands that hold ear-supported face masks further down the face, giving ears a break
  • A tube of lip balm. Normally I wear lipstick daily along with color for my eyes, but often now all I wear is some balm.

My deepest desires

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 29. Prompt by Maggie Rogers. https://tinyurl.com/y7stdagp

Admittedly, I am an honest person, to an extent. I can be private and neglect to disclose some things, but I do believe I am nonetheless truthful. Still, my desires have shifted dramatically in the past month or so. At first, I wanted a job that would get me out of this boring house. While I still want that, I know it might not be attainable. My state is still at its peak in Covid 19, so more places are hiring remotely.

Further, I would really like a paying job in some editorial aspect. I did pitch this one story to several publications, one is interested, but they will not provide compensation, which I don’t always mind as long as my piece garners recognition. However, it has been difficult for me to focus on the topic which I proposed. Part of me is simply lackadaisical from dealing with a constant news cycle of mostly pandemic-related things, though another part of me does want to do it and might even be able to angle the story around our current affairs. I had written a few paragraphs and asked the editor for guidance, but surprisingly, while she writes very eloquent articles in her publication, her email correspondence is very brief and terse.

When considering how I feel today, I want this cloudy, numb mindset to seize. In some instances it had been helpful, as I’ve started to drop these pesky arguments with family much swifter, but often I feel like it’s negating my proactivity. I am behind on my unemployment claims, behind on my work search, behind on the novel I am reading, and behind on the classes I am taking through Coursera. They are two psychology classes I am taking for free to give me some feeling of progress. They are just for my own benefit really, as I am not on the certification track for either. The novel I am reading, by the way, is A Northern Light by Jennifer Connelly, an aspiring teenage journalist who assisted in uncovering a murder at the hotel where she works, based on a real-life crime in 1906.

I definitely wanted some routine, and I am grateful for the Isolation Journals for giving me that. The remainder of my wants will likely come in due time.

It starts with a push

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 28. Prompt by Ayodele Casel. https://tinyurl.com/ycnsbk2x

Too¬† often, I get overly comfortable. When I had training wheels on my bike, I was just that. For a while, I didn’t see the demand to get them removed. I enjoyed the extra cushion. Balance was hard for me, why did anyone have to do it?

But after a while, I would see other children on the playgrounds with their two-wheelers. Were they faster? Could they steer the bike at narrower angles? It seemed they could, but partly I thought it was their skill that did these things, not the amount of wheels. I did try to go faster on my training wheels, and I tried to do those itty-bitty twists and turns, but it seemed the frame of my vehicle just wasn’t narrow enough.

At around six years old, I finally got interested in having my training wheels removed. There was a bit of delay in accomplishing this. My parents thought of training me on their own, but instead they enrolled me in some lessons through a pediatric occupational, physical, and speech therapy place where I attended. The woman who ran the group was someone I knew, as I had taken a few OT lessons with her before. She taught us how to fall off the bike first, which my mother believed was a genius method.

I stood upright on the bike, with my legs touching the ground, lifted one leg off the ground, and then pushed it down once again, with a parent or guardian holding my handles if I needed. We’d do this for about ten intervals, then switch over to the other side. This gave me the thing I desired: comfort. In addition, we did the classic pedaling and having a parent or guardian hold your seat upward to assist balance.

After only around three of the four lessons at the practice, I had it figured out, as did a few of the other students. Our therapist was very impressed, and assigned us to swirl around the courtyard independently while she worked with the remaining students who needed some guidance. Before long, I could go just as fast as the other two-wheelers at the park, and could even make those itty-bitty squiggly paths, just like what you’d make while ice-skating.

I got a lot more enjoyment out of bicycling once my training wheels were removed. I covered more ground and went much longer distances. Soon, our parents started to go biking with us at some paths, and we would get our bikes upgraded every couple of years, adding speeds, brakes, and other gadgets. Regrettably, we haven’t been biking in a long while, and it’s a shame. It taught me a lot about the basics of courtesy, athleticism, and balance. Hopefully my family and I will pick up the habit again sometime in the near future.

The value of persimmon

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 25. Prompt by Dinah Lenny. https://tinyurl.com/yc62sccl

Professional prospects have been fickle for a long while for those with newly-earned bachelor’s degrees, and I was no different in 2018. I was employed throughout my education, of course, but my call center job only allowed their fundraisers to be students at the university, and my internship was at a small nonprofit with a sole employee and the remainder of its staff were volunteers and unpaid interns. I did apply to be a manager at the company that operates these call centers, and the steady hours would allow me time to sit on a nonprofit board or do anything else for enrichment, I thought.

While I did accept an interview for management, my candidacy was swiftly rejected. I applied elsewhere, as an admin assistant, an account executive, a copywriter, a sales development representative, and many others. An interview here, a rejection there, but I had been a bachelor for nearly a month and a half, and couldn’t land much anything. I decided to seek outside a daytime office job and applied to the Sears at my local mall for a role in the fine jewelry department. I recalled a few summers earlier interviewing at the same place for around twenty different roles in softlines, but was rejected after a handful of days. This time, I interviewed and got the job on the spot. Some drug testing and computer training for a few, but within a week’s time, I was on the sales floor.

Sears is notably a struggling company nowadays, but it didn’t phase me early on. After all, my university had been the runt of the litter of a network of five state-run university campuses late in my college years. They were faced with debt, uncertain funding, and lack of clear vision in a new 25-year development plan. Meanwhile, our flagship sister school acquired more attention and love from the university president and other higher administration actors, even acquiring the campus of a newly dissolved Christian liberal arts college, despite the fact it was in closer vicinity to my own school, though I digress.

Sears was different. They downsized from the two-and-half story place my family and I had known throughout our lives and reduced it to one-and-half, a ground floor and basement. The second floor was technically still Sears’ property, but it was leased out to another retailer (this has been done to several Sears stores as a means to make extra money, as our CEO/chairman, Eddie Lampert, is more versed in real estate and struggles in maximizing retail potential). But one thing remained the same, my meal breaks. A sold thirty-minute chunk usually placed in the middle of my shift was something I had nearly every day.

During these breaks, I noticed another routine: this strange fruit being toted in several of my coworkers’ lunch bags. It looks a little like a tomato outside, but the resemblance stops once you pierce its flesh. It’s juicier, veinier, and pitted. It’s more golden-orange in color, and it smells sweeter. Persimmon. I knew it. I’d only seen animated renderings of it in my favorite handheld game, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, where I could find it on an island separated from my town, then I’d plant them as trees on my town to maximize value and the appetite of my residents. My character in the game had eaten a persimmon, but I could not taste through her. So I asked about them through my coworkers.

A few bought them at Stop and Shop or Shaw’s/Star Market, where my family typically shopped, but I never remembered seeing persimmons there. A few mentioned they were cheaper at some local Chinese/Asian markets, which I kept in mind. One friend shared half hers with me, and I thought it tasted both peach and apple-like. I told my family about how crazy the “office” was for these things, and my dad surprised me with his remarks.

“I grew up eating them,” he said. “My grandmother gave them to us. Sometimes she made sugar cookies with little persimmon pieces inside. They were pretty good.” My dad’s grandmother was Sicilian. I knew persimmons were a foreign fruit, but still, them being foreign doesn’t necessarily make them uncommon. Pineapples, avocados, mangoes, kiwis, and kale all seem to get much more attention. But I hadn’t realized they touched down in Italy. My coworkers were a diverse bunch, and all the persimmon munchers especially so. Columbia, Philippines, Albania, Trinidad, Haiti, Cape Verde, Portugal, China…some had come of age in the US, partly or entirely, others hadn’t. Seems like persimmons were transcending the world and Americans were missing out. I envied both my dad and mom who had grandparents from “the old country,” though for my mom’s side, that country was Ireland. My own grandparents had done a decent job explaining my cultural origins to us, but a lot was lost with time, practicality, and preferences.

I once went out to eat at a diner and was confused as to what black pudding was, and the waitress informed me it was pork sausage composed not of meat, but blood. Yuck. I told my maternal grandfather about this, and he recalled his father enjoying it often. During a holiday I explained to my maternal grandmother how popular persimmons are at work meals, and she remembered the cookies her mother made, whose recipe somehow never transcended generations onward. But perhaps it will one day.

In December 2019, I received a new job offer at a telemedicine company, full-time, in an office, on a contract. I wrestled with the decision, but I decided to resign from Sears. I was getting weary working until 11pm so often, as hours were extended for Christmas, I didn’t want to work from 10am to 6pm Christmas Eve, and problems with care plans, web orders, inventory maintenance, poor equipment, and dwindling staff across nearly every department proved increasing difficulty in being an optimal saleslady. I thought of reducing my hours to solely weekends or simply as needed, but didn’t want to bother with the negotiation as to how, and feared this new job would make me too exhausted to do anything. I only provided around a week’s notice, but explained the contract’s timing as reason. Remarkably, my boss received the news well.

My birthday happened the following month and the dinner and dessert presented to us by my family were exquisite as always. My mom gifted me a new corduroy and denim coat, courtesy of both parents, of course, and my dad got me a persimmon, the one pictured here. The persimmon is more than its image because it is one of the few discussions I’d have about my recent job that wasn’t in varied frustration, but simple bewilderment. It was affirmation that my family listens to me. Certainly, it’s a symbol that there is sweetness even among uncertainty.

(Also, this was domestically grown but still¬† $4.99 per piece…)

Amazing grace and the power of breath

Part of the Isolation Journals, Day 24, Prompt by Colleen Farrell. https://tinyurl.comw/y9gwcqff

When we were in first grade, our teacher taught us yoga. It’s the earliest memory I have of optimizing our breath amid our surroundings. No doubt I’d been taught to inhale/exhale prior to first grade, but yoga was different because you were doing something alongside the deep breaths. Shaping your body like a tree, a donkey, a cat, a dog, a rag doll, a river… She sometimes played some nature sounds on a tape deck to lie down, relax, and visualize as meditation. Other times she would guide us into a serendipitous scene with a text she recited orally to us. Even then, I knew to cherish the air pumping through our lungs. I’d had bronchitis before. My siblings were asthmatic and I’d seen their attacks. They were scary, especially when it happened to our little brother. My sister and I were four and five years old when he was born, respectively. He was our baby, the first one we really knew.

My breath would change with my worries. I feared being lost, alone in a separate room. I was the oldest sibling, so finding someone marginally wiser to tease and challenge my fears out of me and generally keep close watch wasn’t easy. That could go to my parents, but they had jobs and other things to do. My quick wisps of anxiety began to form.

My guidance counselors and therapists have helped over the years. One suggested I hum or whistle a song when afraid. I don’t know the mechanics of how it works, but I guess the breath pattern of forming a melody is very dissimilar to the frightened panting I knew, so this allowed worries to dissipate.

I joined my church youth choir in part to give me other things to do besides worry. The subject in missal, hymnal music was actually pretty similar to some of my fears. I was very scared of ghosts, but the ghosts in Catholic doctrine are kind and powerful. They don’t make eerie noises in the public bathroom just for the thrill of it. They call upon their righteous and tell them to spread the Good News, and carry the Good Deeds.

Now in my twenties, my sleep pattern is sporadic after having previous employment and homework completed near midnight. While I’m not much of a formal singer any longer, I remember to do the diaphragmatic breathing to decrease my stressors and ease into relaxation.