January 29, 2023

Recommendations for Repair


I asked Instagram for recommendationsstories, in any form, about repair. Suggestions could be very broad dealing with any and all kinds of reparations: in communities, structures, systems, relationships, self. Stories about broken dreams & changed patterns. Stories about items that have been repaired, healed or reconstructed in a dazzling or revelatory way. Stories about repairing a way of thinking, of being. Repair from an injury or an experience. Stories with levity and positivity. Stories about healing. 

My friends delivered. 
  • Finding Me by Viola Davis 
  • The Wreckage of My Presence by Casey Wilson 
  • The Old Place by Bobby Finger
  • Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian
  • One Night on the Island by Josie Silver
  • Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner 
  • Heartbreak: A Personal and Scientific Journey by Florence Williams
  • Intimations by Zadie Smith 
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Happy to be Here Podcast by Vivian Nuñez
  • How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon 
  • You Made a Fool of Death with your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi 
  • Dream Out Loud: The Sneakerhead’s Path to Redemption by Rikki Mendias and Wendy Adamson
  • Mango & Peppercorns: A Memoir of Food, an Unlikely Family and the American Dream by Tung Nguyen, Katherine Manning and Lyn Nguyen
  • Pan de limón con semillas de amapola by Cristina Campos
  • Due sirene in un bicchiere by Federica Brunini
  • The Banshees of Inisherin
  • Spiderman: No Way Home
  • Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ecclesiastes, the Dao de Jing, and the Mandukya Upanishad (together)
My recommendation (and current read) -> Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. 

January 15, 2023

She has been unearthed.

Beautiful Country
By Qian Julie Wang

As determined as I feel to read 50 new books this year, I keep thinking about the books I listened to and loved last year. I'd like to revisit them, this time as hard copies with a pencil in hand to underline all of my favorite sentences. 

"Beautiful Country" is one; "Olga Dies Dreaming" and "Ghosts" are two others.

I started "Beautiful Country," read by the author, just before my trip to Thailand last April and I took it with me. I listened to the final chapter on our road trip to the island of Koh Chang and got teary while identifying with the emotion of Qian reaching out to her younger self. Many of us still walk with our littler selves within hoping to be acknowledged and freed.

As waves of peace washed over me on Koh Chang, I could feel I was at a turning point. That everything would soon change. I felt confident I'd leave my job within the year but I didn't yet know how. I only knew what awaited me would allow my current self to unfurl and help younger me—bright, joyful, fearless—rise above the heavier parts I carry. More on that some other time, but for now, I am so thankful to Qian and the permission slip her words formed.

"From then on, the little girl makes her home in my shadows, even as I make the move back to New York City to work in a top law firm. I know she is there, watching as I play my assigned role in my gilded American Dream, living my empty Manhattan life full of all the food and clothes and things I could ever want. You cannot know that some things are not enough until you have them. 
At first, I act like she doesn't exist. I try to kick dirt over her in my mind again. But it is too late: she has been unearthed. 
It comes to me clearest in the first seconds of every morning. Upon opening my eyes, I forget who I am and how I've come to chase this life. And then I see her in the corner of my bedroom, still scared, still starving. I look past her and out the window, my mind roaming beyond the Hudson River and into Jersey City, through the door of the condominium unit where Ma Ma and Ba Ba now live, apparently free and safe, but really behind bars wrought from trauma. And then I slide forward in time and see myself many decades older, hair gray and skin loose, behind those same bars myself, the little girl still cowering next to me.
I repeat the judge's words. It has become a daily morning practice, but this time, after almost a year, I feel the lies slip away through the weave of my mantra. My muscles lose a tightness I did not know they have been carrying, and against the backdrop of my truths I am at long last free to admit: I am tired. I am so very tired of running and hiding, but I have done it for so long, I don't know how to stop. I don't know how to do anything else. It is all I am: defining myself against illegality while stitching it into my veins. The judge's words are my blanket nest, and in its snug embrace I rediscover a safety I knew once, long, long ago.
I turn back to the window and see for the first time the little girl cast aglow against the light of the waking sun. And then I try something new. I look that wise little girl in the eyes and reach my hand out for hers."(pp. 296-7)

January 01, 2023

On giving in to the enchanting promise and possibility of a new year.

photos by Carol Guerrero

I admit to giving in to the enchanting promise and possibility of a new year. Today, I will gift myself flowers.

On the day after my 33rd birthday, I did a photoshoot themed to "Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches," to commemorate reaching a period in my life I've been dreaming about for years. It wasn't a perfect experience but it still felt momentous. We ended, serendipitously, near Strawberry Fields.

I'm reflecting on another year of learning, growing, loving, hurting, messing up, excelling, of good and bad and big decisions. Appreciative for it all. I never pick a theme for the new year but I thought this time I might, and the first word that kept surfacing from my mind's depths was Repair. I didn't like it because it inherently indicates some brokenness and it doesn't sound sparkly or profound, but it is persistent and it's stuck. As it marinates, the more it feels a reflection of some thrilling deep work ahead and a fitting conduit to the expansive and exploratory 2023 I've been working towards. I am a little nervous, but also confident and hopeful. And ready as hell.

I didn't reach my goal of reading 25 books in 2022, but I doubled the goal for 2023 anyway. I think I can do it. And even if I don't, the win is that I'll be reading more robustly and intentionally this year.