Monthly Archives: June 2013

People watching from Omotesando

Working does help (oddly enough considering how much I procrastinate lately). So does getting out of the apartment, which is a space I mostly associate with crying until I pass out. I had an appointment today in Omotesando, so I just stayed here. I caught a glimpse of myself in a bathroom mirror, and my face looked drawn and grey, with deep bags under my eyes. My appearance startled me so much that I took a photo and Line-ed it to J… I think I wanted him to see the physical toll that all of this is taking on me.

My parents are the only reason I was able to extend my research stay another 60 days… annoyingly, had I known when I applied for this grant that I’d need to be here 15 months this time around the Grant Agency would have funded me… but I didn’t anticipate it, and when I was poised to run out of money on June 15, my parents wired me the money to cover my continued stay. I feel really guilty, actually… at 34 I wish I was supporting them. Until recently I wasn’t broke, and I didn’t know that I would be, so I didn’t plan for this. I genuinely don’t know how I am going to cover my bills come December. I might have to see if someone wants to rent a room in my house. (I wonder if $400/month is fair for full use of my furnished house. It’s in Houston, and a 15 minute drive from campus in the uncool direction…)

I so much prefer Omotesando to Harajuku, proving, I think, that I am indeed a giant yuppie.

Monday I do a presentation about my research in Japanese. Oh my… am going to see if I can run it by T on Sunday evening. To distract everyone from my incoherent babbling I am using lots of photos. This is contrary to the usual English-language anthro conference approach of reading an essay out loud to a room full of people whose power of concentration must be better than mine.

I kind of want to get Japanese fancy manicure-nails done before I leave, just to do it, but I wonder how long they last… miss my cheap American pedicures.

Right, anyway, parents sent me money, and they actually sent extra to help with my medical expenses of late (woah, baby carriage filled with 5 Chihuahuas just passed my cafe… distracting).. so today I was wearing a pair of shoes that has somehow, recently become way too small for me. My feet aching as I walked, I leapt at the chance to nab a cute pair of strappy sandals for $30 (3000 yen). Ironically the shop only had size 25, and I’m a 26, but I tried the LLs on and they fit well enough. So I bought my first luxury item (tattoo and eating out aside- which are not to be downplayed) in months.

I tried to leave my old shoes with the shop owner and not take the box, but she was having none of that. Not that I blame her. I’ll put them up for free on craigslist and see what happens. (There go those dogs again!)

I keep wondering how American tourists end up here. Considering how few vacations I’ve taken in my adult life, I am often startled to realize that other people… do that. I wish while I am in the “neighborhood” I could see Korea (North, of course) or China or Australia… but I don’t know how I’m going to financially pull off the mandatory conferences next academic year, let alone gallivanting around East Asia!

Also confused lately about which name to use. I am legally still LM, but I already think of myself and am trying to get people to refer to me as LR… I have to go back and forth depending on the situation. And I think I’m confusing a lot of people. Never. Never changing my name again… and I suppose someday I do want to meet someone and fall in lurve again…

(see, I still do have hope despite the depression)

Wow, I meant to take a 2 minute break from working and went on this ramble…

I never wanted to get a divorce (does anyone?) … my anxiety makes me rather conservative about how I live my life, so… yeah, despite appearances I’m just a homebody who wants to feel safe. I feel like I am surrounded by babies and pregnant women right now…. and cruelly, as I am 34, I know it’s the wrong time for me to be pregnant/have a child, but seeing infants reminds me of how alone I am.

I think I’m going to pick up this book soon: Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, although Eric K can suck it for having a family of his own.

So maybe this fluffy one too: “Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled and Independent”

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We Need to Talk

When I started this blog, I thought I’d be funny. I thought I’d be my usual snide self, and create a running commentary on the craziness of my daily life, just to make myself laugh. But I wound up timing this thing with my falling into one of the darkest periods of my life, and certainly the one I’ve had to face in the loneliest fashion.

I feel so often that depression and anxiety have robbed me of the ability to really live so many chapters of my life, to be present for them in any meaningful way at all.. my time at the University of Chicago was one- I nearly had a breakdown there because I was putting -so- much pressure on myself, and things weren’t right with J… my time at Middlebury was the same because I stopped sleeping and quickly reached the limits of my capacity to cope. Here, it’s hard to blame myself, because of all of the genuinely bad things that have happened to me. I suppose in none of these cases should I blame myself per se… that line of thought isn’t very useful, is it?

It is really hard for me to talk to J. I almost always become hysterical these days, asking why he doesn’t want me anymore. When I learned that he wasn’t coming with me to Tokyo, I remember how horrified I was… on my own I almost always fall apart. How am I supposed to live on my own in the future then? I’ve had the support of this one person my entire adult life…

When you’re waiting for people to reach out to you, I’ve learned, you can wait forever… the more depressed I get, the more I withdraw. And my own family isn’t really writing to me.. my mailbox seems mostly to be spam these days. I load it from the train and look sadly down at my phone… feeling like a ghost. I often these days feel as though I’ve died and don’t know it.

I was in the hospital this week, and am still recovering… on strong antibiotics and other assorted pain medications that made me groggy.

While walking today (slowly, as I am still not well), I was listening to This American Life and thinking how much I loathe stories a) about animals and especially b) from the perspective of animals. To me it’s all shitty art, and TAL is best when it’s doing a kind of anthropological life-storytelling… not using content from “Planet Money” or letting fiction authors read their moose stories. Another kind of writing I loathe- “origin of mankind/evolution of the world” fiction pieces… so yeah, that’s for you Radiolab. Someday I’ll write more fiction. That’s what I had intended to do before I got distracted by academia and non-fiction writing, big egos, and endless unproductive competition.

God, I want so badly to talk to people, especially J, but I don’t feel like I have the words right now.

A tangent: In case you were curious, scrunchies and fanny packs are both still totally acceptable in Tokyo. This city gets a rep for being so very fashionable, and indeed people are generally immaculate in their dress… buuuuut the scrunchies run rampant and so do the packs de los fannies (I don’t know what language that was) in prices ranging from cheapo to designer.

I got a haircut to make myself feel better, but my haircuts do nothing but confirm everyone’s impressions of me as a lesbian- not necessarily a problem, except someday I suppose I’ll want to start attracting men again?? If I’m ever less traumatized and manage to get home without offing myself (not being flippant there).

I feel like the loneliest person in the world most of the time, and really have on and off since I came here. Why I thought anthropology was the field for me is occasionally a mystery, although I’m sure other anthropologists hate fieldwork too.

Haven’t even finished the big arm tattoo and already am fantasizing about a forearm tattoo… except I told myself I wouldn’t get anything that I couldn’t easily conceal during the summer in Tokyo without dying of heatstroke (i.e. short sleeves)

9 Steps to Happy or… A Festival of Links

After a harrowing few days I decided I should really be taking my mental health as seriously as my work, and devoting the same energy, pigheaded stubbornness, and drive to improving it that I do to Getting Work Done (apart from lately). So I made a list, and starting yesterday I tried to act on it.

Step 1: Go get a bagel.
Specifically, I wanted a “volcano” bagel tomato-basil tofu burger sandwich. They had these in Bagel & Bagel’s lovely Ikebukuro location, but apparently not in the Shinjuku shop– I’d have known that if I’d read the site more carefully. Really, once I saw the afore-linked sandwich was still on the menu, and hadn’t been killed like all of the veggie burger options at that emporium of bastardry Freshness Burger, I was already out the door.

Step 2: American magazines. These have always been my “turn off my brain” fodder, but I cancelled my subscriptions before moving to Japan and declined to go digital because I thought magazines were making me lust after things I can’t afford, and generally keeping me from being a content grad student. All well and good, but when under this much stress their fluffiness also feels soothing to my nervous system. So I resubbed to BUST, discovered that Whole Living had gone under, and am thinking I’ll nab an issue or two of Natural Health, even if they’re not actually hippie enough for me… Yoga Journal is still blacklisted for serving more to inspire my discontentment (expensive yoga clothes! Expensive yoga retreats!) than to enhance my yoga practice.

Step 3: Go somewhere that makes me happy….. I had to think about this one, which I have plenty of time to do these days because I cannot sleep. Typically I am up until after the sun has lit up my room around 4:30 (never thought I’d miss daylight savings time), and generally I don’t conk out until 7– at which point I am so comatose that I sleep through any alarm I try to set. This is one of the outcomes of tinkering with my medication…

But I digress…

I hit on my first ever Tokyo neighborhood, Azabu Juban, and my favorite restaurant in the whole city: Eat More Greens. I hope every vegan and vegetarian who visits Tokyo ends up here. I found this place early on during my first summer in the city, and spent a lot of time working from its patio, eating vegetarian taco rice. I am writing this post from their shop right now, and I was dead right about coming back to this neighborhood. It having not changed in 2 years is one of the most reassuring things I have experienced recently. It’s also not as overwhelming as the major hubs of Tokyo, but has many, many cute little shops to poke around in.

Next up is going back to my second former neighborhood, Ikebukuro, because I have a list of great restaurants in that area at which I must eat before I leave Tokyo this time.

Step 4: Foods that cheer me up…. Visiting Kats the other day reminded me that I can get comfort foods here, and that I should. He made me Amy’s soup and crunchy bread. Off to National Azabu supermarket soon.

Step 5: Movies. I have a monthly subscription to Tsutaya, but their mail service alone is not going to get me through this tough period. I’m going there and renting some crap films. That’s right, it’s time to see Hunger Games.

Step 6: (I think I was supposed to make a joke about “profit” somewhere in here.)
Read things like this: 25 Quick and Easy Smoothie Recipies Right now copying down smoothie recipes means focusing on a future where I can go home and use my Blendtec. Also, I adore making smoothies. It’s a hobby.

Step 7: J, who is actually my principle support because I keep fearfully and depressively cutting people off, is treating me to a massage at the LUSH spa. Kind of a dream fulfilled for me.

Step 8: Yoga and meditation. These tools have gotten me through more crises than I can count, and I need them now. It annoys me that I could have easily taken classes in Ikebukuro, had I not moved. I was honestly temporarily insane when I moved in with T, and if I could afford it, and hadn’t paid him the rent for July and August already, would move into an extended stay hotel in a heartbeat. Due to my current state of mind, I need space..

Step 9: The only reason I could even write this entry…. Get back on the meds that work. Having my meds changed turned out to be not only dangerous at this high stress period in my life, but physically grueling. The daily brain zaps, heart palpitations, and dizziness… the insomnia, the lack of control over my emotions…. I haven’t talked to my American doctor yet, but simply made the executive decision to go back on my old medication. I know what I’m doing with this stuff, and I trust my instincts. I’ve had 18 years (gah!) of trial and error to quickly recognize when I’m in trouble, and need to immediately correct it.

Well, this got long and I’m sure the Eat More Greens staff are wondering what I’m doing here on my iPad, so I’ll stop one-finger typing and finish my damned iced coffee.

This one isn’t even interesting

You know what I hate the smell of? Tobacco. Good pipe tobacco in hand rolled cigarettes is one thing, but mainstream convenience store tobacco is another. It didn’t used to bother me quite as much, but now the faintest whiff of it is enough to hurt my head.

Then again, everything is annoying me lately. I am on an absolute hair trigger, and either respond with tears or rage to everything. I know I’ve got to get out of here (meaning Japan, though if I could get out of this apartment I would be much saner), but I’ve also got to finish my research. And I definitely need these last few pieces.

I was totally wrong to get into a new relationship while still deeply grieving my old one. I thought I was okay, but my doubts have simply grown and grown to the point where I know I need to break it off with T when I go back to the U.S., and get myself together. My realization of this has made it impossible for me to be emotionally intimate in the meantime, and really I’ve shut down completely. Actually, I’m turning to J quite a bit, actually, because he knows me the best, and he is the only one who I think really understands the trouble I’m in right now.

I have really, really tried to convey to T how bad my mental health is, and he -sees- it in action, but he truly doesn’t understand it. And I think that also created a rift between us. But the major problem is just me, the way I retreat and withdraw when this tense. I am about 50% more cheerful when not around him, to tell the truth.

His not letting me get any sleep isn’t helping… last night I rolled over (sleepless as usual), to see him sitting upright, staring at the wall. Maybe I’ve seen too many Japanese horror movies, because I -jumped-. He was fast asleep, as always. In general his antics in bed are so extreme that I want to film them.. but it’s not worth the trouble. He did the usual full 360 rotation last night and kicked me in the head a few times… I am so over this. In the rest of my life, this kind of sleeping behavior is going to be a deal-breaker. Either go see a sleep specialist, or get out of my bed.

I think wistfully of how when I lived in Chicago and was going through a spell of insomnia, J’s soft occasional snores were unbearable to me. In contrast, with earplugs in and a pillow over my head and a white noise machine going, T is still loud.

So yeah, gotta get out of here, and in less than 2 months I will. But 2 months is a long time to try to carry on in this state, so if I can bail sooner that would be best…

T has two days off this week and I had been planning to go to a coffee shop and work, but now I’ll feel pressure to hang out… and I don’t really want to be around him at the moment. I want to be hugged tightly and for a long, long time, by J… who is leaving me. And I want my dogs… the same old refrain.

It’s a good thing I’m writing these mostly for my own stress relief, because I’m incapable of being entertaining at the moment.

Thanks to a wonderful care package I was able to make good mac n’ cheese last night, and awesome bean tacos tonight. The tacos were bliss. I will never take for granted the sheer variety of international foods available to me in the U.S. And the bagels.

Where did my sense of humor go?

Still not genki. The train stopped abruptly today, and in my steel-toed Harley boots (not stylin’, but I thought it was going to pour all day today and my rain boots are too hot for the muggy rainy season) I fell and stepped on an older woman. She was really upset with me, and as I shrank into the train seat, I suddenly found myself crying in public again, closing my eyes to try to trap the tears. I thought about getting off at the next stop, but I was paralyzed. Finally, I fled from the train at Akasaka Mitsuke station, and into a bathroom where I sat adjacent a Japanese-style toilet (on the nimotsu shelf) and cried as quietly as I could for 5-10 minutes. Emerging, I had to don my giant sunglasses to hide the tears that still wouldn’t stop, and as it was night and indoors I’m sure I looked extra batty. I looked at my feet until I was safely in my apartment.

But i haven’t had much luck in public places lately in Japan… my body feels too big and awkward, I don’t physically seem to fit anywhere. I have been so broke that as my clothes wear out, I can’t get new ones, and so I look mismatched and ragged, a sharp contrast from the polished, controlled and petite Japanese women that surround me.

I’d love to afford a trip to the Lush spa, or an Ayurvedic salon for some sort of treatment that might help with the current estrangement from and loathing of my body that I have…. but again, no money.

The other day in Chiba, a man walked up to me in the train station and punched me hard in the arm before continuing on his way. It was so odd I stood in place for a good five minutes, looking after him. My tattoos were all concealed, so it was perhaps my foreignness? My lack of femininity? His face was just so… angry as he bore down on me. I’d had a terrible day of getting lost on the train/riding too far, and this incident just… well, I didn’t have the energy to do anything other than acknowledge it numbly. Random nut, I’m sure, but when you’re as fragile as I am right now random nuts are a real health risk.

I hope I can get to a place where I am happy about the accomplishments of others again. That capacity to cheer my friends on says to me that -I- am happy in my own life. I wish I could tell this blog everything that has happened to me in 2013, but some of it is too dark and too traumatic. Suffice it today, the divorce actually wasn’t (ongoing, so I guess.. isn’t?) the worst thing that has happened. I am still reeling from the effects of some other major life traumas.

Granted, I went a bit crazy after December, and a lot of what has happened to me is the result of self-destructive behavior in the guise of me trying to regain a sense of safety and support.

I feel like if I can’t write about it openly I shouldn’t be writing about it though…  so I’ve been rather quiet here.

As I was getting tattooed today I noticed I was bleeding an awful lot. Lately it’s been bleeding/bruising central as my tattoo artist works.

Anyway, we got to some parts that really really hurt, such as where she’s trying to cover over my old tattoo and basically has to ink very deeply over my chest bone. The pain is so intense that I have to breathe very carefully to even tolerate it. I was asking myself as I did this whether or not the pain in my body was worse than the mental pain I feel lately. I tried to approximate how it feels in my chest emotionally, with the buzzing needle working away there… and of course, I failed. The tattoo is also already over (this time), but my mental torture continues.

When did this become the least fun blog on the planet? Er, I tried Nigerian food for the first time last night, and that was awesome. Black-eyed-peas in a delicious sauce, plantains, etc. I do so love eating.

it’s not good when a shrink is seriously worried about you, is it? No, sir. I am apparently the one that keeps her up at night. I told her if it helps, I still can’t sleep either…

***

Ok, so I don’t end on a sad note- Takashi saw my socks poking out from the bed sheets last night. (I normally don’t like socks to sleep in, but I’d just put lovely Lush foot cream on.) He went to tug one off and I said:

“Don’t pull off my sock!” (in English)

He looked at me blankly and went to pull it again.

“I will cut you.” I told him

He cocked his head and asked “What? Pikachu?”

“No…. not Pikachu,” I shook my head. “Never Pikachu.”

He smiled. Then he leaned close “Pikapika” he whispered.

Oh my god.

As he was falling asleep I heard him mumble it a few more times too. I almost put a pillow over his head (lightly of course, I’m not -that- off my rocker yet).

Fluffy purple flying centipedes

Lately I want to be alone, but I don’t want to be alone. Mostly, I think, I want to be with my dogs and stare at walls, but the dogs are so far away…. this week T had two days off, and he spent the first one trying to cheer me by vigorously cleaning the apartment. As he was dusting the windowsill, he let out a cry of surprise.

I turned to look.

He was staring at the plastic end of a feather-duster, its magnificent purple plumage missing. We both glanced at the open, screenless window.

And then I lost it, laughing until my sides hurt. He pouted, grumbling that he didn’t understand my mirth, that it was even a NEW feather duster. But his indignant tone just sent me into further hysterics. We both leaned out the window and looked down. No sight of the thing. But it was a windy day. I imagined it blowing down the streets of our Tokyo neighborhood like a magic little anime tumbleweed, and lost it again.

T, still not sure what was so funny, regarded me with concern.

This being Japan, I told him, maybe Totoro would appear, wielding it, and benevolently hand T his lost new/ish feather duster plume. T looked at me for a long moment, and almost started
laughing. He smiled. Then he went outside to search for his missing duster. (I think he could probably still hear me laughing from 6 stories up). I wonder where “Fluffy” is now. I’m kind of jealous of the thing- I wish I could float away like that.

***

We also switched the bed to summer linens that day, and part of this involved the gentle placing of what I thought was a giant towel on the bed. “Why do you want to sleep with a towel?” I asked him. He replied “It’s not a towel, it’s a ‘towel-ket’.

“Seriously?” I asked. “A… towel-ket?… What kind of marketing God thought that up?”

T, very seriously replied to me: “It’s a towel that’s also a blanket.”

I imagined myself in a conference room, listening to an earnest young man deliver a PowerPoint:

“You see, it’s a towel, but it’s big, so it’s like a blanket. We, um….”
(he clears his throat, nervous here)
“We, um… we in PR were thinking… Well, we were thinking that we could combine the word for towel and the word for blanket. LIke, um, towel-ket?”
(The room nods, considering it.)
Senior VP: “Well, son, that seems like a good, sensible name. Keeps people from getting confused. It’s a towel that’s a blanket. Anyone can understand that.”
Young flunkie (relieved): “Thank you, sir.”

My hysterical laughter returned. Me: “But it’s just a big towel.”
T (defensively): “No, it’s a towelket.”
Me: (laughing like crazy)
T, chagrined, grabbed his phone and began googling “towelket”. He waved the links in my face.

“Oh, I don’t doubt that it’s a thing,” I laughed.

He harumphed and pulled up the Wikipedia page in Japanese. “In the U.S. it’s called a ‘bath sheet'” he told me.

I corrected him: “No, the black towel I have in the other room is a U.S. ‘bath sheet’. Your, um, towelket isn’t the same thing. Yours is more like a beach towel.”

He was appalled: “A towelket is not the same thing as a beach towel.”

To try to make him feel better, I reminded him that I am from the country that unleashed the Snuggie, that we love finding ways to change something just enough that we can slap a new name on it and market the hell out of it.

Giving me the stink eye, he proceeded to read out loud to me from the towelket wikipedia page. This caused me to start crying with laughter. “Are you really reading me the towelket wiki page?” I asked him.

“Yes.” he replied, pouting.


I told him this was going in the blog, along with a rant about how I can’t sleep because he really needs his own padded cell to sleep in. He snores, thrashes, rotates 360 degrees, sits up, falls over, kicks, punches, etc.

Oh my god… I have been laying awake until I pass out in the early morning, and then getting in my sleep when he’s left for work. This is not good. We’re only in a double bed, which doesn’t help.

***

I’m still in my own personal emotional/mental hell. Don’t get me wrong with all the laughing (mostly at poor T) this week. I am only still in Tokyo because I need to finish some research stuff.. but today I have failed to do anything work-related. I am too depressed to even put away my laundry. Gonna try yoga soon, after I digest the late pasta lunch I made myself.

I had an epic hysterical (crying) fit last night and considered going to an emergency clinic because I was so inconsolable. But T and I had a pretty good talk after I calmed down enough to just lie on the bed and stare into space. It’s really hard for me to look at FB right now. Everyone seems happily married with healthy children and robust finances, and I can’t imagine that being me right now. I guess that could have been me a year ago… (if J was willing to have children, that is), but now I’ve lost all of that.

Last night on the news here was a long piece on Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris Jackson, and her suicide attempt… rather than give into my cynical impulses to chalk the incident up to 15-year old melodrama, I felt like I understood. I wondered if she only wanted the “cry for help” part to work, not to actually die. I should spend less time wondering about the mental health of celebrity offspring, and more about getting some work done, I imagine.

I like making lists

Apparently, Takashi seriously thought that all Americans walk around with guns. I told him, fudging a little, that I don’t know anyone with a gun. That’s not true. I know a few people who have one. My uncle has many, used for hunting alone (ugh, but I have a lot more respect for someone who can kill and prepare their own meat than someone who eats meat, but could never handle that. Ahem.)

Said uncle also built his house himself and lived in the mountains of Colorado until last year’s Colorado fires took his house. He used to keep fainting goats, and he likes smoking pot, and Lou Reed.

But I digress.

My parents offered to buy my house in Houston so I can return to it and live there. And make smoothies, and cook, and lie on my couch, and sit in the backyard with my dogs. (And swat away man-sized mosquitoes.) Granted, this solves one problem, but not everything… I still have mere peanuts to live on, pay the utilities with, etc. I’m pretty worried about basic survival, and embarrassed that my parents have to bail me out like this (and this really is the first time this has happened… I was financially independent, even doing well in my 20s).

I tend to write down anything of any importance that I need to communicate with someone. I never felt with J like I had control over my words when I spoke, and I am simply more accustomed to organizing my thoughts by typing them out than telling them to someone. Last night I grumpily told T that I didn’t want to watch anything in Japanese, and he had an Al Pacino-Robert deNiro film on DVR (Japanese subtitles), so we were watching that when he conked out midway through.

I couldn’t sleep, so I composed him one of my epic numbered-list emails- always a treat for someone to wake up to. It basically outlined that I was going back to the US and possibly never, ever coming back to Japan (ok, didn’t really write that and it isn’t true). But my advisor did offer me a really cool opportunity for the next academic year, and I need to be in Houston to take advantage of it.

Still, I have been cheery all day at the idea of going back to my house, and have only cried the one time in the last 24 hours.

Shrink told me that she wanted me to jot down what I do that helps these days. It’s a short list:

-Going to Lush (going to a Lush store always helps, though I wish the staff would leave me alone.. I know more about the products than do 95%)

-Yoga (but I don’t get to do it every day)

-American food (right now I have this super obsession with cheese and crackers) and eating things in general. Mmmm food. Lately I have loved it more than I ever have.

-English-language media

-Academic settings that stimulate me intellectually (that needed to be qualified)

What else?