I’m thrilled to share that I have a poem in The Atlantic today! Truly over the moon to have such a great home for this poem that is so dear to me.
Tag Archives: family
god of beginnings
My dad, who has been hosting on Airbnb for several months, asked me to make some paper cranes as gifts for honeymooning guests. Miraculously, I didn’t feel weird about it, despite the strong connection between these cranes and my mother. I placed a pink crane (her favorite color) in front of her photo and burned some incense, and I carried on without resentment. This feels like the beginning of the nebulous future I was waiting for.
I keep thinking of the phrase “god of beginnings” as I pat the little ears of a Ganesha figurine, the favor from my cousin’s recent wedding in San Rafael and now one of my most prized possessions. It’s perfect.
The wedding was a glorious mishmash of Chinese and Indian culture (and square dancing), and the poet in me can’t get over how momentous the occasion felt. Continue reading “god of beginnings”
Immortality, lost and not quite found
Yesterday, I spent over two hours injecting cancer cells into mice, looking through a glass barrier in full, identity-erasing protective gear. As I did this, I listened to a Longform interview with Wesley Yang, of “Paper Tigers” fame. When the Longform hosts introduced him, they noted how unique he is among their interviewees in his convoluted path through journalism and writing in general.
As Yang describes it, when he initially became a journalist, he was not super set on that path or particularly ambitious. He just wasn’t good at anything else. What lingers with me most is the few minutes when he said that he was just always lost, still is lost.
Today, I went to the Asian Art Museum for its 50th anniversary celebration. There was an exhibit on the use and symbolism of gold throughout the ages. The placards noted its association with prosperity, divinity, and immortality. As I read this, I thought what strange creatures we humans are, to desire immortality with such fervor. What drives us to construct tombs containing thousands of warriors, to build pyramids on the bones of the unfortunates, to create and collect records of civilizations? Continue reading “Immortality, lost and not quite found”
Five years and counting
I am remembering for some bizarre reason the last time my boyfriend cooked rice. “You rinse it first, right? Until the water turns clear?”
I’d forgotten I ever told him to do that. My mother used to nag at me to rinse the rice before cooking it, and I never did because it seemed like an unnecessary extra step. What’s the point when the heat will destroy whatever needs to be destroyed?
I only started doing it after she died. I suppose it’s another weird ritual I made up, like the cranes and the notes in simple Chinese and the incense, the obsessive idea that if I burned these things she would get them or, better yet, the flames would open up a tiny portal into the parallel world in which she is living a new life without me and can see me continue to live mine even if I can’t see her. I’m reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, and what a pleasant way of referring to these delusions of the grieving.
Yesterday marked exactly five years since she died. I’ve lived a little over 20% of my life without her, and every second that passes is another second away from when we last coexisted. Tonight, I feel acutely alone.
I know a guy who lost his mother in high school, and he is so even-keeled and unflappable and successful, I don’t understand it. Every day, I see him in lab, and I want to ask him, “How are you so normal and functional? Do you ever dream about her? How can you live without acknowledging that she was alive and without forcing everyone else to acknowledge it too? Why have you been able to carry on as if life were normal?” It’s been about a decade for him, but I’m over four years out, and I don’t think another six will change my constant urgent need to make sure she is remembered or my sense that nothing will ever be okay again, not really. Maybe it’s just that men and women grieve differently. Maybe it’s just us, because he has always been even-keeled and unflappable, and I’ve always been the opposite.
But then I think of Derek Thompson’s article in the Atlantic after he lost his mother, when he wrote about how surprisingly easy it was to move on and be normal, with scientific studies to back up that trend of resilience, and I want to scream because why are all these people able to be normal and functional? What is wrong with me that I still have such intense spasms of grief, four years out, and I have to struggle so hard just to put one foot in front of the other?Continue reading “grief spasms”