I was on vacation and this is me being a tad lazy and uninspired. It’s my version of my favorite Norm MacDonald material. Life is super sad. It can be tragic. But we can still smile, fake it, and move on.
I was on vacation and this is me being a tad lazy and uninspired. It’s my version of my favorite Norm MacDonald material. Life is super sad. It can be tragic. But we can still smile, fake it, and move on.
Christmas is my favorite holiday. I have become bitter, old, and cynical, but it is still my favorite holiday. It’s my favorite holiday when it’s good. Otherwise, it’s one of the most depressing days of the year. If it’s bad, it becomes a barometer of how messed up your life has been. What the hell have you been up to that you can’t even get a Christmas that is joyful?
The thing with Christmas is that it always brings me to a time when my family and I were still living together. My mother was still around, everyone got presents, and we even shared the evening with our cousins and extended family. There were tons of food and something Christmas-related was on the television to further amp up the mood. It was close as I could ever be to experiencing a Norman Rockwell painting. And yes, I do realize that nothing could ever replicate the holidays of my childhood, especially with rose-tinted glasses, but every year, I just want a decent meal and an evening that doesn’t end with me sleeping depressed.
Joyful is the last word I would use to describe Christmas this year.
There was one Christmas when my family, after having celebrated and opened all of our presents, was subjected to the sounds spousal abuse happening over at our neighbor’s house. It was pretty bad. To this day, I could still remember the sound of that poor woman being choked, as well as the knocking of her husband’s mother saying, “that’s enough… please stop it.” I don’t remember how the whole thing ended, but I do remember that no police officers were called to the scene.
There was another Christmas when I spent the holidays all by myself. I was in midst of the lowest depression. Nothing was working out in my life and I found myself wandering the city all by myself while people around me laughed, cackled, held hands with their loved ones, and made me all the more depressed. I remember one of the good things about that year was that it was actually snowing. It reminded me of being back home. See, when everything is bad, it’s the smallest things that count. What surprised me that year was that I got messages from two people I long discounted from my life. One from an old student and another from a friend whom I like to think I once helped out through her depression. It was good to be remembered. And at that time, I like to think I did something good to be remembered during the holidays. My life was messed up, but at least I did a bit of good for some people. I wonder what they’re up to now?
I’ve never been seriously bullied in my childhood, but I do remember being ostracized or being called names at one point or another. It was nothing serious, and I used to brush them off, but I do remember its sting and the cold lump it built on my throat, slowly making breathing a little bit harder. I’m sure everyone knows this feeling. I never thought about those feelings much before, but on Christmas, that’s the exact sensation that I felt. I’m a grown man, but I felt insecure, ugly, inept, unloved, not normal, and in a word “weird.” It was one of those few instances when I truly felt I didn’t belong… that something was truly wrong with me. That cold lump on my throat was making it harder for me to breath, and as I type these words, the sensation is still so fresh that I can still feel its sting. It’s like I am that neighbor lady being metaphorically choked.
I actually sometimes wonder if that actual benign lump in my thyroid is a manifestation of insecurities, Christian guilt, actual guilt, depression, and anxiety, and that it will someday grow and choke the life out of me.
Ugh… what am I writing? It’s December 26! It’s a low bar. I had a shitty Christmas. I hope everyone had a better Christmas than me.
On Monday, I suddenly fell terribly ill. I got up early in the morning, worked out, then BOOM, my health just suddenly turned and I couldn’t go to work. My stomach turned upside down, my chest started hurting, I felt terribly nauseous, I got a fever, and my head felt like it was going to explode for the better part of the day.
I had an especially terrible weekend. I’ve been quietly dealing with depression and anxiety for weeks now, but it just came to a boil a couple of days ago. During my mother-in-law’s birthday, my wife ended up embarrassing me during dinner. She started complaining about me and my lack of Korean skills, and much to my surprise, my brother-in-law and my mother-in-law rose up to my defense. I really don’t mind people talking about me, especially since my Korean is indeed quite poor. But my wife talked about me as if I wasn’t even in the room. And by the time I wanted to talk, by the time I was about to do the one thing she wanted me to do (speak Korean), she stopped me and said that the conversation has moved on to another topic. How terribly, terribly condescending. I felt like I was trapped in a Cat Stevens song. And really, is complaining about spouses just another interesting topic to talk about and later dismiss on a whim? What should we talk about next? BTS?
When I was young, my father picked on me a lot. He picked on all of his children a lot. I was particularly annoyed at the injustice of him picking on my intelligence when I couldn’t recall him achieving any great heights in life due to his mental brilliance. One particular instance I couldn’t forget was when I was having trouble memorizing the multiplication tables at a young age. As my sisters and I were sharing a snack, it was a can of shredded potatoes called Pik-Nik, he stopped me from eating and told me to go upstairs and memorize the multiplication tables. I don’t get to snack unless I memorize from 1 to 12. It was unnecessarily cruel. What bothered me most about the incident was how jarring it was. It was late in the afternoon, we were having a snack, then he comes home and suddenly tells me to go upstairs and that I don’t deserve anything until I learned my multiplication tables. It sounds quite minor, but as a child, I felt like the biggest idiot in the world. I started thinking that there might have been something wrong with me. And to this day, even though I have long been on good terms with my father, past incidents like that will always remind me that he was not the best person to grow up with. He might have been a good husband, a good friend, or a good leader, but he was never good with children.
That feeling of being inadequate, that feeling of maybe there is something wrong with me, I felt that during dinner with my mother-in-law. Worse, it was casually brought up by my wife who was supposed to be on my side. It made me love my in-laws more and love her less. God bless those good people! But like a good Catholic, I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. Why spoil the whole weekend for everyone when it was just me who was hurt?
We spent the night at my in-laws and I tried to be a good son-in-law. Thank goodness it snowed heavily. As lame as it may sound, the cold snow actually brightens my mood a bit. In any case, I kept everything bottled up inside. Then Monday comes, I get ill and the doctors couldn’t give a cause to my downturn other than stress. Stress. This is the first time keeping my depression bottled up inside has made me physically ill.
Worthington Industries, an American metals manufacturing and distribution company announced two years ago that all of its portable helium tanks will only contain 80% helium. If you’re going to get a helium tank, make sure you get 100% helium.
God bless Pink! I’ve never been a big fan of her music, but it’s really good for her to speak out and be realistic about the challenges and problems with monogamy. There have been many articles and people talking about it before. Dan Savage, someone I’ve been listening to for years now, has said that the fantasy of monogamy which has been perpetuated by culture and media is basically just that, a fantasy. It is not a happily ever after. It is the beginning of a long and challenging path should you ever be foolish enough to commit to it. And that’s why I admire Pink for basically coming out and saying the same thing. It’s not so often that someone fairly attractive is out there with their sexuality basically come out and say, yes, despite how she looks, and despite how glamorous we imagine her life would be, she struggles living with monogamy sometimes, to the point that she’ll find herself sexless for a year.
Romance is not forever. A person’s spouse will eventually become their roommate, and they will no longer be amused with each other. Of course there will still be a bond there, but becoming romantic or being into someone will often become something they’ll need to work at. And so the best one can hope for is that their relationship turns into waves, where sometimes they’re into the other person, and sometimes they can’t stand them. It’s okay to not be into sex. It’s okay not to have sex. As important as it is, it is not the goal of most couples in the real world. Just getting along with each other is sometimes hard enough. And that hard, unsexy truth is quite difficult to admit for fear of being relegated into the Married with Children, Al Bundy archetype.
This reminds me of Bojack Horseman’s recent representation of asexual people. Sometimes people are really just not into sex. That doesn’t mean they’re devoid of feeling towards other people. They’re just not interested in being intimate with others in a physical manner. Nico at the Mary Sue does a better job of explaining it more than me, but being asexual, just like being monogamous and sexless, seem to be one of those things that people need to come out of in the midst of the culture of being into happily monogamous and enjoying sex. I mean, just look at most characters on television and movies. They’re all having sex. They’re either married, dating, single and having sex, or struggling to have sex. Same goes for most musicians, political figures, athletes, etc. I don’t even need to know about people’s sex lives and I get needlessly informed about it. Just recently, my wife and I were watching Justin Turner hit a homerun and win the game for the Dodgers. She suddenly goes and says, “you know his wife is a model, check out her Instagram.” Is that supposed to make me like him more? I already assumed most athletes are dating models. How is that little factoid supposed to help me enjoy the sport I’m currently struggling to keep interest in? We can’t seem to divorce ourselves from people’s sex lives so we feel pressure to be enjoying sex more.
So yeah, God bless the people talking about the myth of monogamy and the reality of wanting/having sex. It is quite refreshing to see some honest voices talk about these things in a world where sex and the pressure to have sex are ubiquitous.
There is such a thing as too much vacation, too much spare time that your mind gets bored and frustrated that you start seeing all the negativity and unhappiness that you usually block from your mind with work. The things that you’ve drown out with bits and pieces of your soul start to resurface again. You start creating small dramas to entertain yourself. Maybe you set small fires here and there just to test the waters and see that you’re still alive. It’s not to be mean or anything, but the mind just needs a bit of stimulus for no other reason that it needs it. Unfortunately, you end up going too far and that small fire has burst into a barn fire, then to a raging conflagration. Then you’re no longer bored but exponentially more miserable and unhappy, and you still have a few vacation days left, a few more days to make things worse.
God bless work. God bless keeping busy.
And speaking of keeping busy, God bless Inktober. I recently saw an NHK video on Hayao Miyazaki struggling to make his last film, ‘Boro the Caterpillar.’ He was obsessing with animating a furry caterpillar using traditional hand-drawn techniques. Though people were constantly pushing to him new computerized ways of streamlining the process, even showing him an AI that would make its own animations, he insisted that CGI removes the human element, and many things that the artist and the audience sees in nature in terms of light, motion, and life itself, are lost in the computerized environment, and totally missing the signature look of what makes Ghibli films what they are. Things got so heated at one point, that he almost saw it as an insult to have AIs animate what amounted to monstrous figures.
In many ways, I agree with Miyazaki. There’s just something about hand-drawn work that makes it more compelling than ones generated with the aid of computers. The viewer can feel the hand of the artist, the effort. We can see with the artist’s eyes and there is evidence to where his attention lingered. Now these can also be true with CGI images, but they’re often crisp to the point that it feels cold and alien. It can easily be mistaken that I am seeing an interesting image made by a computer instead of me seeing an interesting image made in an interesting manner by an artist. An artist. The art in the process is more apparent with hand-drawn works.
This is why, despite me not being active with Inktober, I appreciate that it celebrates and encourages hand-drawn works. It is very tempting to do things via the computer, with drawing tablets getting cheaper and more ubiquitous, and web comics and digital paintings being more popular. But in my opinion, the computer filters out the human touch in creating images. Perhaps it’s the ease in the process of cleaning images up, but it could also be the process of making images on the PC itself.
Coincidentally, the 10th item on the Inktober prompt list is gigantic. This is my interpretation of the Greek giant Typhon.
It’s hard enough trying to make one person happy. Try making two people happy. Or how about three? If you are good at making people happy, then by all means, go ahead, have kids. If you’re having enough trouble trying to make one person happy, then don’t do it. Kids won’t strengthen your relationship with your significant other. If anything, a child would add more responsibility and could potentially make you feel more trapped in an already claustrophobic relationship.
Take a friend of mine for example. I’ve known him since high school. I’ve never heard anyone ever speak an ill word about him. He’s always been very friendly, knows almost everyone, and is always ready with a joke or two, trying to make people smile. He was good that way. It was easy to be friends with him, and he’s one of the few people from my childhood I still occasionally keep in touch with. Anyway, it is no surprise to me to learn that he now has a second child… a second child with a woman who has a child of her own as well, making it three children under his care.
My first thought was that the whole situation is quite the undertaking, especially in this economy. Who can afford to raise three children? Not only that. People these days are now more focused on themselves after years of doctors, experts, and the media extolling the benefits of introspection and self-love. I believe we are not as selfless as out parents and our grandparents’ generations. Who has time to care for children? When can a person fit child-rearing between work, hobbies, exercise, social life, Netflix, social media, self-improvement, self-fulfillment, etc.? I focused more about his time, his own personal needs. I forgot to think about his partner’s needs, his children’s needs. And maybe all the other things I focus more on when thinking about his situation is truly secondary to everything else. It makes me feel small to think that way, like I’m a proper selfish dirt bag.
This is why I admire that friend, and all of my sisters for that matter. They have more of themselves to give that just making their spouse happy just wouldn’t be enough. Not only are they better with managing time and money that I could ever be. They are much more generous and better in dealing with other people and making them happy than I am. As I said, it’s very difficult for me to keep one person happy. I’m not that smart, or perhaps I’m just built with so many failings and weaknesses. I can’t imagine being good enough, responsible enough, to bring a child into this world, much less two or three. I’m just not that big of a person.
Today is my wedding anniversary. Today is also my parents’ wedding anniversary. As content as I am with my marriage, I can’t really recommend marriage for everyone.
I’m not saying that my marriage is better than most. I can’t even say that I’m particularly good or content at being a husband. I’m just more realistic about it. It’s challenging, and the good days are coupled with the bad. The problem is, instead of being objective at viewing the bad days, you either blame your spouse and drive a wedge between the two of you, or blame yourself which drives you to depression. And as hard as it is not to do either, sometimes the thoughts just linger there at the back of my head, like a tiny cancerous cell.
So why the negative? Well, as content as I am with my marriage. It is the marriage I think that I deserve. It is the relationship that a person like me, with all of my talents and failings, am worthy of, or perhaps even extremely lucky to have (depending on how much of a scumbag low life I think I am at the moment). I think people come in to marriage with visions of roses and a path paved with rainbows. And that’s when it starts falling apart. Nothing in life is that sweet. No prince charming will sweep you off your feet and take care of everything and make you happy. You can’t marry a sex doll who will also appreciate your personality, feed your intellect, and help support you financially. You get married if you finally find someone who can put up with you, someone that’ll make you happy now and then, someone that will put up with your inadequacies, a roommate that you won’t totally hate. That sounds like a low standard for marriage, but it’s actually quite a tall order if you look at it realistically. Just looking at the roommate standard, I’ve had roommates before, and many of them I liked, but there’s a tipping point to some of the things I won’t put up with and vice versa.
So what’s my advice regarding marriage? Don’t do it to make yourself happy. This applies especially to Korean women my age. Marriage won’t make you happy. You get married, because deep in your soul, for whatever reason, you have to wake up with that person next to you every day, until one of you dies and leaves the other person broken hearted until they pass away as well. It has nothing to do with happiness. It’s about filling a place in your life that is both joyous and miserable. You do it, because you have to do it. I guess that’s my roundabout way of describing a soulmate. A soulmate fills a void in your life; they don’t necessarily make you happy. Find happiness somewhere else. Then let marriage complement or complicate that happiness. Don’t confuse marriage and happiness for the same thing. Otherwise, the minute you start being unhappy, you start blaming your spouse. Going back to the roommate analogy, I never blamed my roommate for my unhappiness. My unhappiness was all because of me.
Of course this is just me talking about marriage without taking children into consideration. I don’t have kids, so I wouldn’t know how that factors in. I love children, but I couldn’t imagine having them myself. I think I’d make a good uncle but a terrible parent. Perhaps having children would make marriage more fulfilling, but I’ve seen marriages not survive despite couple having several children. Perhaps children help marriages, perhaps they don’t. But I wouldn’t want to risk having children in an unhappy household. And if the statistics are accurate, despite what your Facebook feed might tell you, more than fifty percent of marriages end up in divorce. Out of the other half that survives, how many of that are unhappy? How many of that has children. The stakes are just too damned high.
And before there’s any confusion regarding my own happiness with my marriage, let me answer that question. Today, I am happy with my marriage.
I’ve written about dealing with racism and prejudice now and then. It’s something I deal with occasionally here in South Korea, from either Koreans or fellow expats, and it’s something that I haven’t quite gotten used to. I try to remind myself that Canada also has its own racial issues, and that I would probably face a different set of racist incidents and attitudes even if I never left Winnipeg. I believe as Canadians, due to our history and multi-cultural background, we are better when it comes to racial relations, but we’re not THAT much better. After all, as I mentioned, I do encounter bigoted expats now and then, even Canadians.
Now while the occasional sting of prejudice is something that I have come to expect, especially as a mixed couple here in South Korea, it’s always more painful when I hear about my better half dealing with racism because of me. Last night, I learned that my wife was defending me from a rather racist American who was making crude remarks and somewhat racial innuendos about me. I have met this person once; I thought he was decent enough. We had dinner and drinks once, and he was fine. I didn’t think about him much afterwards. I just wish he was decent enough to make comments to my face when I met him rather than wait until I’m not around and offend my wife. And although none of this is my fault, I can’t help but feel demeaned by such comments and attitude, and sorry for my wife for having to deal with such things.
The racist barbs are meant for me. I’ve taken it before. I’ll never get used to it, but it’s something that I can deal with.
And so let’s talk about Donald Trump. While there are many things that I find abhorrent with Donald Trump and his followers, there’s one thing I can appreciate about the whole thing. Among the racists in his group, they belong in two camps of bigoted attitude: there are the ones who truly embrace their own racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and there are the ones who try to hide their bigoted nature, the alt-right or the anti-PC crusaders who trumpet freedom of speech or whatever cause they claim to care about. God bless the first group. We all see them for what they are. Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” And God bless them for it. They have the courtesy to tell you what they are, to tell you to put your guard up, don’t cross this line and hide your children.
The second group is more insidious. They are the ones that claim that they are not bigoted, they are just principled. They are not sexist, but just friendly. They are not racist, but just curious. So many buts… “buts” that don’t matter to the receiving end of bigotry. And what gets me with this second group is that now and then, they would surface when the person they are being bigoted about is not around. They peddle their “soft” bigotry when the person who would most likely correct them and give them an honest dialogue is not in the room. “I didn’t realize your friend was gay.” “Did you know she’s dating a black guy?” “I don’t think your Korean girlfriend would understand.” It is more insidious, because these people are never honest about their biases, you let them in in your life, and then they do their damage. Of course, a person can be forgiven for an innocent dumb comment now and then, but as a person who’s been on the receiving end of several racial barbs, I know a bigoted statement when I hear one.
Here’s an example. A few years ago, a woman I met in Seoul assumed I didn’t have an office job because I was brown. She was concerned about this, and inquired about it when I wasn’t around. I would’ve preferred she be upfront about it, and saved me the time I spent being pleasant with her. In her mind, she wasn’t being racist; she was just concerned that I might be misleading people regarding my employment. But what pains me is that other people had to confront her about bigotry and be offended and frustrated for my sake. Westerners are no better of course. I’ve heard friends answer for me the question, “is he really Canadian? Where is he REALLY from?” when I’m not around. This is a question a person would almost never ask about a white Canadian.
So thank you, openly bigoted people. Thank you for showing your colors for those people who choose not to willingly associate with you. Just like nature puts bright colors on its poisonous vermin, you flash your warnings for all other creatures to see. I worry more about the soft racism that hides itself. It is too cowardly to face you up front. It deals its damage when you’re not looking and when you least expect it. Unfortunately, last night, my wife had to deal with it.
On a more positive note, Canada is dominating the World Cup of Hockey this year. Carey Price is a wall. The competition is a bit limited, but it’s still good hockey. It’s a good primer for the NHL season.
The beauty of being married is not being alone when you die. The thing is, if you don’t have children, that scenario is only possible for either you or your partner. Otherwise, one of you will spend a few years alone, missing your spouse, wondering if you’ll ever see each other again. Depression sets in, it reflects on your health. And if you don’t recover, life becomes a nightmare, and death, once feared, becomes the ultimate cure to your melancholy. This is why it is all too common that when half of an elderly couple passes, the other one soon follows. The years missing a beloved spouse can be a long, existential torture.
But worse still is the possibility that you’ll spend many years longer wondering why you got married in the first place, hating the familiar stranger you’re sharing your bedroom with.
As Hunter S. Thompson put it, “We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”*
So I say to my beloved single friends, don’t give in to the pressures of marriage. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. If you want someone to be there and witness you die, as morbid (and strangely primitive) a desire that may be, I will be there for you. Just don’t get married for fear of facing death in a room by yourself. Know that I will watch you pass away for the right reason. I will do it because I love you.
*It is worth noting that despite Hunter S. Thompson’s thoughts on finding happiness, he got married twice. It is also worth noting that he ended up committing suicide, while on the phone with his second wife.