National Poetry Month

April is, among other things, National Poetry Month, a time to recognize and celebrate poetry.

NPM_2020_poster.jpg
From poets.org: The official April 2020 National Poetry Month poster features the artwork of Samantha Aikman, winner of this year’s National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students. Aikman’s design was selected by judges Alison Bechdel, renowned cartoonist, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. It features the following line from the poem “Remember” by current U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo: “Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.”

I have always wanted to be a lover of poetry, but I’ve begun to acknowledge that I might not like poetry even if it is “good” (as with any art or medium), or that poetry can be good simply because I (and I alone) like it. That a single line of a poem is my main takeaway. That what I love most about a poem is its rhythm.

As longtime followers of my blog might know, I dabbled in the indulgently “emo” and self-proclaimed “deep” practice of writing poetry as a middle-schooler. It was embarrassing stuff but, even then, revealed my love for meter and and words that paint a specific image in the mind. I recall trying to write a free verse poem that more or less ended as a limerick, so dearly did I cling to rhyme and meter.

For many people, critical reading of poetry in a high school English class really turned them off of poetry, if not most leisure reading. I was fortunate enough to have connected enough with my English teachers and their teaching that reading poetry through this lens really enhanced my enjoyment of poetry. I’ll never forget reading Sylvia Plath, the poet that “emo” girls love to morbidly think on, and learning about the precise kind of emotion and imagery she was evoking in “Sheep in Fog”:

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the color of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells–
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.

To close, as quarantine stretches out before us, I’d like to share a poem by Adam Zagajewski, translated from Polish by Claire Cavanagh, that a friend on Instagram shared yesterday.

“Try to Praise the Mutilated World”

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

I hope that in this unprecedented time, you are able to find a poem that brings you comfort. Songs absolutely count as poetry (who among us has not posted a beautiful song lyric somewhere), but I challenge you to take the time to read the lyrics without listening to the song and even speak them aloud without music. Let the words themselves bring you comfort. We all deserve a song like that.

 

BEDA 2020…?

It’s been difficult for me to figure out how to jump back into blogging at all, let alone “regularly” or “on schedule”. Even milestones that I usually will write something to publish came and went: Lunar New Year… Lent

Suddenly, it’s April.
And, of course, we’re all aware of the circumstances regarding COVID-19.

woman standing in front of window
Photo: JR Korpa

So… we’ll attempt a Blog Every Day April.

I haven’t attempted one of these since… 2015, and the last BEDA posts I published were when Karen and Christine visited me in DC wow what a throwback. (I recall Christine having posts ready for all 30 days of April, including posts scheduled to go up while she was visiting! Goals…)

I’ve considered doing another BEDA for a long while now, but this isn’t really how I planned to do it. There is no plan for how I’ll do it, in fact. I don’t have any idea what I will post tomorrow, or the day after, or the 27 days after. I have a ton of drafts on this blog but with coronavirus happening, it doesn’t feel as appropriate to post many of them. (For example, all the travel blogs I started and never finished…)

But we’ll see. I have been very withdrawn from my blog and the online public space since I experienced burnout and a subsequent depressive episode 2 years ago, because I feel like I no longer know what I want to blog about. It used to be really clear to me, that if I experienced something fun or interesting or even bad, I wanted to share that. I don’t want to share things as much as I used to, but I miss writing and I miss blogging. A lot of my blog friends have also stopped blogging, and, who knows, maybe attempting BEDA is just a nostalgic exercise to bring back the feeling of 2015 again.

If you have any suggestions on things you would like me to share, please please do share. In the meantime, I update 2 pages on this blog somewhat regularly: the Media Log, where I record the various forms of media I am consuming this year, and New Foods, where I try to make good on my resolution to either cook a new recipe or try a new restaurant every week.

Today is Day 1 of 30.

2020 Resolutions

We made it to a new decade! Send me your discount codes and deals for laser eye surgery, I am prepared for 2020 jokes for the next 366 days.

This also means it’s that time again! As December winds down, I actually start feeling a bit of pressure to be intentional with my annual goals, but I also really look forward to it. I think it’s because I am taking the time to think about what kind of person I want to be and what specific ways I can become that person, even if some of the changes are harder to quantify. While I don’t have a great track record of accomplishing many of my resolutions, I like setting them at the beginning of the year as a way to guide my intentions for the rest of the year, to gently nudge myself towards who I want to be.

Image result for 2020 resolutions"

I really liked my resolutions from last year, even though I wasn’t great about keeping them, so a lot of them will carry over this year. I was also really inspired by Rachel Miller‘s Q4 resolutions and will be incorporating many of those as goals for the year as well.

2019 was such a big year for me, but with so much in transition, I am ready for take on 2020 with a lot more intention. There are a few big themes for my resolutions this year:

Improve my relationships. 2019 was a big year for my relationship with my significant other, and I want to continue working on that relationship as we come up on one year of marriage. Being very focused on that relationship did come at the expense of many of my other relationships, especially because I moved away from my friends and family that I was spending time with. I’d like to shift some of my relational energy back to my network. I also want to be able to let go of grudges and people who have drifted out of my life for one reason or another.

Let myself feel at home in New York. Partly because I was so busy with the wedding and maybe partly because I unconsciously was afraid to put down roots in case something happened and I would have to leave, I haven’t really felt like I have become a New York resident. I still have boxes! My dressers are still in the state they were when I hurriedly threw clothing into them so that I could try to reduce the number of  boxes. We have yet to replace the furniture that was damaged during our move. And I haven’t done most of the things I was so excited to do upon moving here. Even little things like not scheduling doctor’s appointments here yet (which is something I often advise people to do, so I’m a hypocrite for not doing so as well). That changes this year, and it will require a lot of energy and effort but it changes this year.

Of course, improving myself is the big theme of all resolutions and goals, isn’t it? I am going to work on things that will make me healthier physically but also mentally. Not get in my way so much. Not be so afraid of failing… or of succeeding? Not letting my need for control be a facet of my personality.

So enough prattling, here we go!

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Lent 2019

Happy Shrove Tuesday / Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras / Pancake Day / Paczki Day / celebrate indulgence with your Catholic friends day!

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Behold: paczki (pączki), full of goodness and served by your local Polish baker

My Lenten tradition of quitting a bad habit has a lot to do with how I build habits. Even though I abstained from a formal Lent challenge last year, I described why and how I started observing Lent as a tradition in my 2017 post:

Although I am not Catholic, I have been observing Lent in my own way for the past few years. Lent is the third time at the beginning of the year that I check in on how I am doing with my self-improvement (with my New Year’s resolutions and Chinese New Year reflections being the first two). I take a look at a bad habit that I really want to address and abstain from it. Completely.

What started as a show of solidarity with my Catholic friends has become an honest admission of a bad habit I have and a commitment to doing something about it in a way that works for how I motivate myself.

This year, I am giving up mindless social media scrolling. While I wish I could give up social media altogether, like I did back in 2011, the main reason I’m not doing so this year is that many of my friendships are sustained via touches on social media. Sending memes and animal videos is a big part of maintaining friendships in this day and age, and more so now that I’ve moved to New York and am unable to see most of my close friends in person anymore. I also find a lot of my conversations with friends happening in Direct Messages in a social media application that I’m extremely hesitant to ghost on.

The problem with how I use social media isn’t that I have conversation threads with people across multiple apps. The biggest problem isn’t even my likes-chasing when I post content. (But that is a problem.)

It’s the zombified state I fall into when I’m scrolling my feed just to scroll. It feels almost like I’m dissociating; I am numb and barely thinking when I scroll Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I am just grazing on information, registering it the minimum amount, and still draining myself a bit mentally. I don’t feel good when I do this, and my partner actually has to physically separate me from my phone when I get in the zone scrolling. (To attempt to put a positive spin on this: I no longer have to have my laptop shut on my dissociative Tumblr-scrolling days anymore…)

My rules for using social media during Lent will be:

  1. No scrolling at all if/when I open a social media site: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram in particular, and includes autoplaying Instagram Stories
  2. No searching for content to discover, in particular Twitter Moments and Instagram Explore
  3. I am still permitted to post original content myself: posts, stories, tweets
  4. I am still permitted to interact with friends in Direct Messages
  5. I am still allowed to interact with friends’ content, but I can only discover that content intentionally
    • E.g. I wonder how my friend X is doing with their new cat, let me check their Instagram to see!
    • If, when I go to X’s profile, I see that they have also posted a Story, I can check that out

The big rule is NO SCROLLING. And if I keep posting content myself (like for the March Disneybound Challenge, which I’m barely doing, or my arbitrarily started March Mask Challenge), NO CHECKING for digital approval. The big goal is to use social media with intention, to close the app not feeling like a shell of a person but more connected with my friends, both my IRL friends and the Internet friends I only have because of these apps.

TL;DR This year, I am giving up mindless social media scrolling for Lent.

Many of my friends also like to incorporate an additive practice to Lent, taking this time to not just abstain from a bad habit but also to embrace a good habit they would like to practice more. One of my co-workers even does “Reverse Lent”, which is based on this concept and culminates with him and his friends sharing what they have added to their lives at the end: many pies baked, a long-neglected room finally painted, a blanket that was knitted over the course of the Lenten period.

So, in that vein, I will attempt to do some additive practices this year as well. My goal-setting may be getting a bit ambitious here, but I am much better at rising to a challenge for a finite amount of time than I am with keeping my resolutions, so it’s worth a try! I will be trying to work out every day of Lent. (Whether I will use those Sundays that Catholics typically do not include in the Lenten period as rest days remains to be seen…) As a backup goal, I will also be committing to doing my skincare every day of Lent. I tend to fall into a lazy routine of just splashing water on my face and slapping on SPF in the morning or moisturizer at night, but I want my skin to look great on my wedding day and I know I have the tools to make that happen. Plus, it’s good for me to take some time and do a routine, to step out of my thoughts and pat my face and do something for the sake of being kind to myself.

Are you observing Lent?
Is there anything you think you could cut back on, and if so, would you do better with moderation or abstinence?
How are you doing with any goals/intentions you’ve set for yourself for this year?

2019 Resolutions

Where would this blog be without my ambitious annual resolutions posts? As much pressure as I put on myself with both publishing them and trying to keep them, I truly do look forward to writing them and love looking back on them.

With the setbacks I dealt with this year, it was very disheartening to realize I was not keeping my resolutions that I was so excited about at the beginning of the year. Still, in light of all the good that happened, despite all the bad, I have to just dust myself off and try again.

Here’s the short and simple list of resolutions I will be keeping in 2019, with my long-winded explanations to come in a follow-up post later this month. I’ll try update this list at the end of year to see how I did with these resolutions, too!

(Note: I would like to add a little more polish to this post as well, so stay tuned for some spiffing up here and there.)Read More »