Trying to Make Myself Better

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chairdesklamp

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Part of the reason I haven't been doing much of anything is being unsure how to and unused to doing things for myself that "aren't necessary." The thing is self-care is necessary, but I never really understood that concept.

The other day, Toad made a post about why our health as trauma survivors tends to be so poor. He mentioned oily fish/fish oil, and back when my life was good, my granpa, an avid fisherman in his retirement, supplemented our diet with plenty of low-on-the-food-chain rich-in-fish-oil (not that we knew the benefits then) fish that are plentiful around the Eastern side of Honshu. We were also poor, which coincidentally meant LESS fancy, processed American food and more traditional, cheaper stuff that happens to be very healthy.

And, when I read Toad's post, something CLICKED.

I've started a 30 minute workout routine. Today (Friday, 30 March) I needed to hurry to my first therapy appointment in over a year, but I still squeezed in about 15 minutes.

This is on the heels of a Sudden Stress Vomiting attack and my back locking up for seemingly no reason.

I realised I had to do something.

Within hours of relieving the back pain with a heating pad and Ben-Gay (which is almost my cologne, haha), I headed down to the Long Beach Japanese Cultural Centre (first time. A non-Japanese friend heard about it and told me) for a karate class.

I used to do it as a kid, entirely different school, very out of practise. In no small part because I mostly ran into white teachers who thought knowing and mispronouncing counting to five in Japanese made them superior to me, a filthy Asian.

The teacher's Japanese-American. So that was good. Most of the class is brown belts, and the teacher has an assistant. The assistant was the one working me through basics, some my body didn't remember at all from when I was a kid. The assistant is not Asian, but he still respected me--in fact, he mispronounced a Japanese word to the point I didn't recognise it, and when he explained what he meant, and I said"oh! (word)!" he didn't degrade me.

The after-class locker room intimidates me, not being cis or straight aside, the other students (except for the other Japanese-American, but he's probably 14) are pretty into displays of machoism, and I was always bullied by people like that. I'm not the shortest and I'm no longer a skinny runt, but I'm the new guy starting from zero, and I'm fat, slow, and my body hates me, so I think I'm gonna stay changing in the bathroom.

The unfortunate thing is it's 75$ a year for the class ON TOP OF 30$/MO for the centre. The teacher said they might try to work with someone on a fixed income, though. I hope they do. Otherwise, there's not a snowball's chance in Hell I can afford it.

So, Wednesday evening was good.

Thursday, I'd been up late Wednesday because I was kinda psyched, and I slept midnight to 1PM, which is kinda ridiculous, but with all the stress sick of the last three days, then doing the most intense workout I have in four years, I probably needed it.

So, I stayed in my neighborhood.

In one store, this drunk guy kept leaning over me on the phone, saying into it things like"gonna get that f#$#@er," and yeah, I left the store shaken, but I'd been at the counter trying to buy something kept behind it. (Couldn't spit my order out because of the terrifying drunk, and the salesgirl had to be 19, tops, but she was really patient with me sputtering for what had to be two minutes before he went away--she also tested the phone cables I wanted for me)

I went next to the store that's only good for meat and produce, and I got some lean beef, slightly overpriced tofu (it has no business being over a dollar. I'm from Asia, trust me), some whitefish, cabbage, broccoli.

Came home, cooked a bit of everything save the beef.

Now, comforting foods aside, I also have languages that are comforting. Obviously Japanese, the Japanese side of my family being the loving one (and not being able to go to them themselves for over 20 years).

When I lived in Oakland, most Asians and Asian-Americans hung out in Chinatown. If nothing else, China was kinda the biggest society and the biggest inventor of stuff from medicine to written language systems through the end of the first millennium AD, so there's some familiarity there.

Exactly one abuser in my life was also Asian-American, my Pinoy ex-boyfriend. Sometimes we went together, but usually we went separately, by coincidence. None of my other abusers really liked it much. It wasn't showboat touristy; it was where actual Asians worked, lived, and owned businesses and ran clinics.

(If you live out there, it's gone now. Rich gentrifying 20-somethings have turned it into"place to cosplay because Asian something is magical cartoon elf land!" and the business there now is "Chase Bank but we put some random kanji on our sign, so we're, like, Chinese now!")

The principal languages spoken in that neighbourhood were Cantonese first, and Vietnamese second, with the older people from China speaking another Chinese language I don't know the English name of.

So, where does this lead to my comfort and self-care?

It means even if my Cantonese is awful and just confuses people and I don't know one word of Vietnamese, hearing these languages is comforting. It sounds like a place that was a safe place for me.

I live alone and leave the TV on. I don't have many tapes in Japanese. They axed the local Japanese channel to replace it with one of seven new Korean subchannels which are as much for the Koreans as the Japanese channel was for us (they bragged about being mostly viewed by Americans, and that NEVER means Asian-American) because Koreans are the new recipient of the Asian submission fantasy for the young. Getting a Japanese channel would be a 50$/mo cable bill. Once again, poor minorities lose.

There is no Cantonese channel on broadcast TV--most of the LA metro area people from China are Mandarin speakers.

But there are a TONNE of Vietnamese channels.

I found out, this works almost as well as Cantonese for comforting background noise.

Today, I saw my therapist for the first time in over a year. I only saw him once before because his availability was bad for me, so he had little to go on.

I directed him to my Survivor Story on here to put in my file, and talked about the stuff I've been facing the past couple years. He could really only say stuff like"that's so sad," but there's not much else TO say. And pity still means you feel FOR me instead of hating me, so I'll take it.

I went to Little Tokyo afterward.

THERE IS A STORE THAT HAS OLD CLEARANCE STOCK OF TAPES I USED TO HAVE!! THEY EVEN HAVE JAPANESE 8TRACKS!! (And laserdisc, but those never got cheap and I still have yet to own a player). I spent 22 dollars for 44 tapes, but these are big name artists, tapes of them are impossible to get, and so on. The whole staff--three women in their sixties and a guy my age (so he knew the artists I was pulling out even if they don't actually have record of what they have there--all 80s; Japan is an early adopter, and had Sony's mini-disc and CD take over in the early 90s, as out of price range for us as they were)

The ladies were also happy to have a Japanese speaking customer; they get more touristy business nowadays, and they were probably happy as clams that someone was buying the tapes. A lot of what they have is enka, which is Japan's logical equivalent of American Country/Western or Norteno/Banda in Mexico, and I'm not into any of those much, but they have some real gems and now that I'm habitually going nearby again...

Then, I went grocery shopping. I got some good noodles, mackerel filets, seaweed (wakame), etc.

I didn't want to leave. Even when I wasn't talking to anyone, people around me were speaking the language of my happy time of my life. I got some spicy octupus and listened to a street musician I've seen and talked to before.

I went to the store that sells models and model glue, apparently that's NOT gonna work on my stuff. This is stuff like a broken excersise bike...casing(?) but apparently the glue isn't gonna work on what feels like PVC plastic.

I went to the bookstore. I made a discovery about myself.

For a long time, if/when I've been allowed to buy myself a book, I've defaulted to murder mysteries. I liked those and poetry, but my ex-boyfriend mocked my poetry fondness so badly, hearing his mocking voice still keeps me from it.

But I think I'm all mysteried out. I still wanna see the new season of Aibou, but as for reading, I think I need to figure out something else I like to read. I'm not sure what or how to go about finding that out. I think it's best to do that in my native language, but I don't know if they'll get upset if I start reading random books (they're not sorted in a way conducive to that either) I think this is kinda interesting. My taste has changed. That hasn't happened all that often in my life. I made a discovery about myself.

On the platform of the train going home, I had to pass two LAPD officaers armed to the teeth. I had to lean next to one of them to scan my ticket.

I didn't make eye contact or anything, BUT I WASN'T EVEN SHAKING. THIS IS INCREDIBLE.

On the train, I was stuck in full view of what really looked like a white guy displaying ownership of a Southeast Asianness woman. He would talk, wouldn't let her talk, was pushing her between him and the wall... I really wanted to ask if she was okay and I didn't. If he'd gotten up or something, I might have tried, but in my defense, it's unpopular, to say the least, to speak out against this, and he was about a foot taller than me and looked younger and healthier. It made me really angry, and it was physically hard to look away unless I stared at the woman next to me, and you can't switch cars easily on Metro trains, so I just really focused on the radio (battery in Walkman too low for tape), and how on Friday night, they run some songs they usually don't (so the playlist is longer than ten songs, haha).

And I also thought about coming home and posting this, coming home and telling all of you. I realise this won't go up right away, but the way I worded it in my head, I dunno. Made me feel a little less lonely. Made my life feel a little less empty.
 
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