Food to Fuel Writing

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This is just about literal food, not a metaphor for books or other writing inspiration. I am doing a photo gallery because it's been five weeks of being a rash zombie who can't sleep. (But I think things are turning around! I managed to fall asleep at 1:30 last night.) 

There are only four ingredients in the salad pictured above. I assembled it at work: cauliflower, sardines, parsley, and pine nuts. 

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This shake has no sugar. I made walnut and cinnamon milk, then followed a Moon Juice recipe to add chocolate, maca, avocado, and stevia. 

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A simple kale salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds. Gotta massage those leaves with oil!

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Lentils, pine nuts, artichokes, sweet potato, and broccoli. 

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Lentils, daikon, wakame, carrots, and pumpkin seeds.

I hope you are eating delicious things when you are taking a break from work. It makes such a difference to have a home cooked meal rather than take out. 

Sugar Withdrawal

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I made this really delicious bean stew last week. Since then, my eating plan has taken a turn for the super strict because I figured out that the only way my skin is going to improve (and therefore my sleep and general sanity) is to cut out all forms of sugar, including things like brown rice, carrots, and lentils. (I watched a vlog where a guy cleared his psorasis by doing this. His skin was perfectly clear. Yes, I've hit rock bottom and I'm open to anything at this point.) This is a Hail Mary play; if I lose another night's sleep I am going to lose my mind.

Diet stories can be really boring, but if you're here and suffering from eczema, I went on a plant-based eating plan for nine days. During that time, my digestion improved a lot. (TMI: The combination of blended green vegetables and good fats has paved the way for smooth bowel movements; I know some of you are struggling with gastrointestinal issues so I figured I'd share. Two tablespoons of soaked flax seeds in your smoothie will make a huge difference.)

Yesterday, I cut out all sugar, fruits, starches, and grains for the next three months. By evening, I was in so much pain from sugar withdrawal, I imagine it was like coming off heroin. I was lying on the couch watching How to Get Away with Murder and shaking while trying not to vomit.  Plus I was so hungry I thought I was going to pass out in the shower. When I got into bed my body felt like a burlap sack of rocks. So today I added meat back into my diet. (No eggs and dairy due to allergies.) The red patch on my neck has already started to clear up overnight. I'm still suffering from brain fog though and I woke up at four a.m. because my legs were so itchy.

Still, I believe that I'm on the verge of being well enough to start writing again. I'm making space to make it happen. 

A Delicious Turmeric Latte Recipe

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I know it is summer, but I can't get enough of caffeine-free turmeric lattes at the moment. It may be due to the Arctic tundra A/C conditions in Hong Kong or the fact that the rain is relentless or that the beverage provides just the right amount of energy without a terrible crash. Yesterday I had a cup of turmeric latte before a yin yoga class and came out feeling so relaxed.

Ingredients 

1 cup milk of your choice (I used homemade almond milk) 

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 cinnamon stick or 1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 inch fresh ginger

sweeten to taste (I used a bit of stevia) 

Instructions

There are several ways you can make this. If you don't have a blender, combine all ingredients except for sweetener, warm on stove for a few minutes, and whisk until foamy.  Strain, pour into a mug, and add sweetener.

I used a blender, so I combined all the ingredients except for the stevia, blended them, then warmed up on the stove. Then I strained into a mug and added the stevia.

Here are links to some of my recent writing.

"Wonder Woman, Work, and White Feminism," The Unpublishables

"Ho Tzu Nyen,"  Ideas

"In Living Color," Open Space

Yoga Nidra for Insomnia and Relaxation

There's a typhoon 8 in Hong Kong and I'm on the verge of passing out after a weekend of writing and very little sleep.

A friend asked me for tips for fighting insomnia. When I have more time and energy, I'll round up everything I've learned about getting a good night's rest. For now, I'd like to share Jennifer Piercy's Yoga Nidra for Sleep track, which usually puts me into a deep and restorative sleep. All you have to do is lie down, don't move, and listen. If you can do it in bed, you can just drift off to sleep afterwards.

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I wanted to share some recent writing I've published.

Learn How to Keep It One Hundred by Reading Toni Morrison's New Yorker Essay

I was talking to a friend about writing and keeping it one hundred. She said, "Did you read Toni Morrison's New Yorker essay about work? Talk about keeping it one hundred."

So when I left the office and got on the train, I pulled my phone out and settled down to read. I was exhausted because we were launching a huge project. My right wrist hurt and my brain was in shutdown mode.

Morrison's words are so uplifting. In the essay, she recounts a job cleaning a woman's house and the misery she was feeling. Then her father sets her right about how to frame one's mindset about work. It boils down to this:

"1. Whatever the work is, do it well—not for the boss but for yourself.

2. You make the job; it doesn’t make you.

3. Your real life is with us, your family.

4. You are not the work you do; you are the person you are."

"You are the person you are." I love this. We are people, separate from our work, even if that work is writing.

Five Things to Do When You Have a Cold or Flu

I've just recovered from being sick for more than two weeks. It started with sore throat and escalated to a cough, congestion, and a three-day fever. At one point I wondered if I should have gone to the emergency room, but my body burned off whatever infection was plaguing me.

Here are a few things I did that made being sick and foregoing medication more bearable.

1. Gargle with salt water: Gotta kill those germs

2. Drink tons of hot liquids: I had soup, congee, hot water, and herbal tea. Even though I'm trying not to have sugar, I bought a bottle of raw honey to put in my hot water because my throat felt like I'd swallowed a pin cushion. During this time I went without my morning green smoothie.

3. Dry brush your skin: keep the fluid in your lymphatic system moving, especially if you're too sick to take gentle walks. I found this video useful.

4. Up your intake of vitamin C: I was taking 3,000mg a day.

5. Garlic between the toes: Place sliced garlic between your toes, wrap your feet with plastic wrap, and cover with two pairs of old socks. (You really don't want the garlic getting on everything.) For best results, do this overnight. I forgot to do this during this long illness, which may be why I was sick for so long.

I hope you're able to avoid this seasonal change cold or flu. I'm itching to get back to writing after weeks of sleeping.

Self Care is Acknowledging that Structural Racism Exists

1. You are not crazy.

2. Being a person of colour is not a pathology, even if you're told otherwise every single waking moment of your life.

3. History is against you. The institutions are against you even though they espouse the language of inclusion and diversity.

4. When someone commits an act of violence against you, you are not sensitive if you call them out. You are stating a fact: "Please remove your hockey stick from my ass. Now."

5. This being said, there is nothing wrong with being sensitive. As Winona Ryder said, "I'm so sick of people shaming women for being sensitive or vulnerable. It's so bizarre to me." The same can be said for people of colour.

6. As your bruise blooms, know that the pain is real. Someone fucked you up. It is not in your head. You did not invent this for attention.

7. When someone commits an act of violence against you, they are responsible for their mistake. They may make it about your reaction, rather than about their transgression because they are evading responsibility. They are in the wrong.

8. When you call someone out on their violence, and their response is "I'm sorry you were offended" it is as if they never apologized. You may continue to be angry. You are not being petty or emotional.

9. The right response to being called out on fuckery is, "I am sorry. I made a mistake."

10. When someone doubles down with a racist response when being called out for acting in a racist fashion, it's not you, it's them. 

11. You may respond to "Can't you take a joke?" with "Dude, you're not fucking funny. You're no Aziz Ansari or Ali Wong."

12. There are people who will wield the words "free speech" to cut you down when you critique them because they believe they have the right to say anything they want without consequence. You are not afforded this same privilege.

13. If you object to anything they say or do, they will tell you that you're the thought police. They will accuse you of doing all the things that they are doing. They will accuse you of being a victim while calling you a bully.

14. They think they are good people. In their minds, this makes you the villain.

15. If you stay silent or say the words they want to hear, you will be told that you're articulate.

16. When they want you to know that they still have power over you even after you have pwned them so hard on national television, they will praise you for being gracious.

17. They believe that you are measuring yourself against their approval, their person, without knowing that the sun has set on that bloody empire. You are woke.

18. The reason why everything feels so heavy is that structural racism exists. It colours every interaction that you have, no matter what you do. It is why you feel powerless. You know that you cannot trust the law or the state to stand behind you even if you're in the right.

19. In conclusion, they are always telling you that two plus two equals five. You are good at math so they can just fuck off.

 

How to Conquer Procrastination

I began my recovery from procrastination in 2011. The book that set me on the right path was The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Dr. Neil Fiore. Before I identified this as a serious issue, I would leave writing until the last minute because I believed that the pressure helped me produce my best and most brilliant work. Instead of working steadily, I would watch TV or play online board games (I got really good at Knights and Cities of Catan in grad school), but I didn't enjoy any of this leisure time. I felt incredible guilt when I wasn't writing or studying, which was most of the time.

At that time, my default setting was stressed out. In my mind I was lazy, but I didn't know how to move past the anxiety, pain, despair I felt in the lead up to getting the writing done. There was also the sick need to leave room to explain away failure: oh well, it's okay, I left it until the last minute so of course things did not turn out well.

The Now Habit freed me from all of this. Lifehacker has a great overview of the book:

Instead of treating procrastination like a lazy man's disease that can be cured by a stiff shot of Puritan Work Ethic, Fiore redefined procrastination and the subsequent treatment:
Procrastination is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision.

One of Fiore's suggestions to is do an Unschedule and block out rest and relaxation time and other commitments. Yes, you put in the time for play like a champion, then you only put writing on the schedule after you've done it. I had a spreadsheet where I recorded every minute of my day when I was recovering. Since I have OCD tendencies I felt very pleased with this routine. It made my sick brain so happy. 

Later I bought Fiore's hypnosis series Productivity Engineering and woke up on day twenty-one of the program feeling happier than I had in years. 

I can now watch Riverdale without feeling any guilt. It's on my mental Unschedule.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Tips for Keeping Your Wrists Healthy

In my fourth year of university, I made the mistake of getting permission to take six classes while editing a literary magazine, hosting a radio show, being on the executive committee of the college radio station, and tutoring. Yes, I have hoarder mentality of more is more; this is at the core of many of the problems I've suffered over the years. Instead of doing one project I'll try to do four at once at the expense of my physical and mental health. Over the past few years I've really worked to reduce clutter in all areas of my life, so things are more under control. 

So what happened when I tried to take on this amount of work? I developed repetitive stress injury in my wrists. At one point it hurt so much to drive that I mostly stayed home, played Scrabble, drank gin, and consumed the most random movies of our time. (The other day I was watching 13 Reasons Why with my friend J and Gregg Araki's name came up as a director and I said HE DIRECTED GENERATION DOOM AND DISCOVERED ROSE MCGOWAN SMOKING OUTSIDE A GYM. J had never heard of the film, probably because she was nine when it was released. Also, I noticed that Jessica Yu, director of Ping Pong Playa directed a few episodes. I digress.)

It took me many years to get my wrist pain under control, but I learned so much along the way. If you're experiencing issues with your wrists, go to a doctor immediately. 

1. BALANCE

Work in twenty-five-minute segments and always take a five-minute break where you get up and walk away from the computer. Every two hours you need to take a twenty-minute break.

2. MOVE

If you're able to, schedule in a thirty-minute walk every single day. When my wrist pain was at its worst I did a lot of yoga, but it was ashtanga, so I was putting a lot of weight on my wrists and didn't help that much. The walk will let you rest while getting the blood flowing through your body.

3. STRETCH

Do wrist stretches. Your physiotherapist will show you the correct ones for your specific injury.

If you're finding the pain extends through your elbow or that your fingers are falling asleep, you may need to stretch the muscles in your chest. You can roll up a blanket into a long tube and lie with it along your spine and open up your arms face up to the ceiling.  Lie like this for as long as you can, increasing the time until you can do it for ten to fifteen minutes to relax the muscle. This is where podcasts come in really handy. 

4. DISRUPT

Reset how your wrists are communicating with your mind with contrast baths. Buy two dish tubs. Fill one with really hot water (top it up with some boiling water if needed) and one with cold water. Submerge your forearms into the warm tub for three minutes, then switch to the cold tub for one minute. Alternate: do warm four times and cold three times. You'll want to end on the warm one to ensure you don't injure yourself.

5. COMMUNE

Ask for help beyond medical advice. It helps to know that other people in your life have gone through this. They will be able to show you ways to manage your pain and to heal. 

Also, don't be afraid to let your workplace or school know if your injury. When I was at university, I registered with the Disability Resource Centre and it changed my life. I was no longer alone and I was given access to resources to complete my courses without making my wrists worse. Also, since my scholastic performance had suffered, by reporting the problem when it started academic advisors were much more forgiving and ensured that I was able to apply for grad school without any issues.

Webinar on How to Keep Your Writing Life Alive

So I had either food poisoning or an allergy attack that led to 4.5 hours of vomiting on the weekend, so I'm delaying on my post on wrist care for another week. Apologies!

In the meantime, please sign up for Rachel Thompson's webinar! She's hosting me and we'll be talking about not giving up on writing. It's on Thursday, April 13 at noon EST. If you sign up, you'll have access to the recording, so you'll be able to watch it later if you can't do it live.

How to Stretch Your Wrists

I feel like I'm getting a cold, so I'm not posting a long essay about my battle with wrist pain this week. Instead, I'll share a stretching video. It's not quite the routine that I do from my physiotherapist, but it seems like a good start. If you have wrist pain, go see your doctor immediately and get a referral to a physio therapist.

Next week I'll share my personal experience with dealing with wrist pain in greater detail.

Fifty Days of Meditation

I'm more than fifty days into a daily meditation practice thanks to the free app Insight. This is the longest I've ever been able to keep this up.  Yesterday I overslept so I only did a single minute, but that was what I could manage and it was enough to just breathe. I am still much calmer than usual, so meditation is really working for me.

There are many versions of yoga nidra available on the app, which is perfect to put on as you're going to sleep for maximum relaxation.

I have to admit that I'm kind of tired at the moment after a week of Art Basel, so I'm going to stop here. Next week I'm going to put together a guide for dealing with wrist pain because I know that this plagues a lot of writers. 

 

Fifty Days of Meditation

I'm more than fifty days into a daily meditation practice thanks to the free app Insight. This is the longest I've ever been able to keep this up.  Yesterday I overslept so I only did a single minute, but that was what I could manage and it was enough to just breathe. I am still much calmer than usual, so meditation is really working for me.

There are many versions of yoga nidra available on the app, which is perfect to put on as you're going to sleep for maximum relaxation.

I have to admit that I'm kind of tired at the moment after a week of Art Basel, so I'm going to stop here. Next week I'm going to put together a guide for dealing with wrist pain because I know that this plagues a lot of writers. 

 

Therapy is the Shit

Back when I was a trashmonster who thought I could just white knuckle my way through life, I was wary of therapy. The thing is, I really had no idea what it was and I'd internalized the idea that anyone who needed help was somehow shameful, terrible at life, and indulgent. I put a lot of pressure on my writing as the place where I worked out my darkness. No wonder I used to loathe writing so much. Then I got ten free therapy sessions and it changed my life. I went from thinking that therapy was shit to knowing that is it the good shit. Now I look back and think it's so silly that I didn't think my mind was worth the time, money, and, care.

 This essay by Danielle Butler for Very Smart Brothas made me think yes yes yes! It really spoke to me. Butler raises many good points, including: "I’ve since had a few more sessions with my therapist  and I’m getting more and more comfortable with the idea of both needing and accepting help, and my needing therapy and help not being an admission of my own inadequacy."

So if you are finding yourself looping around the same issues over and over again, perhaps it's time to consider trying therapy.  

PS: If you're a person of colour, I recommend finding a therapist who believes that racism exists.

 

 

Goodbye, Hiram To

Last week I forgot to post because I flew into Vancouver and I had to balance my regular office hours and jet lag. This morning I was still processing the death of my friend Hiram To. So this week, I offer you the story of an amazing person who has left us too soon.

I first met Hiram when I was working for Time Out Hong Kong. He was the only artist I interviewed over three months who offered friendship, mentorship, and kindness without asking for anything in return. As my friend JK puts it, Hiram was the voice of reason. He always pushed me to think more critically, to find beauty, to cut the bullshit, to be curious, to rock a good outfit, to get on a plane with three days notice to fly to LA to interview James Franco. He was always able to deal with my rage with a witty comment.

In coming days you'll read obituaries that tell you all about his impressive resume, so I'm not going to list his many accomplishments. At core he was the sort of friend who would make sure you had all the magazines and books you needed while you were serving jail time while coordinating your visiting hours so that you never found yourself neglected or alone. (No, this isn't a rhetorical statement, he really did this for one of his friends while working full time and making art.) Hiram was loyal. He put the same care into friendship as he did his work.

Rest in peace, Hiram. You were our Cassandra, our Queen H.

Life After Twenty-Five Days of Meditation

Ever since I started mindfulness classes at work, I've meditated every single day. I use the free app Insight, and according to the stats I've done it every morning for the last twenty-five days. (I really like measuring things.) In the past I've used Headspace, but I prefer Insight because I like the idea of starting the practice at five minutes and building on that.  Sometimes I use a timer, and other times guided meditation. (Sa Ta Na Ma is a great one.) There isn't a day that's so busy that I can't take five minutes to sit still and breathe. For someone recovering from procrastination, breaking this down to a small step creates the conditions for success.

Most articles about morning routines recommend meditation. Now that I've been able to get into the rhythm of the practice, I'd say that it is a necessary action if you want your life to be great. My mind is calmer and I have less anxiety than before. Also during the day I now sometimes catch myself holding my breath, while before I just wasn't aware.

The best part is knowing that over the past month, I've taken more than two hours to sit with myself, breathe, and to let go. I'm feeling stronger and soon I think I can also make writing a part of my morning practice.