Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The first death anniversary and the confessions of an ex-mechanical object.

Today is the first death anniversary of my mom.

One year later, I am sitting at a Starbucks cafe, suspended five stories in the air in the middle of Causeway Bay in Hong Kong. I am enjoying a chicken mushroom pie and a nice cup of hot coffee.

Exactly one year ago at exactly this time, I was in a stuffy hospital room suspended 11 stories in the air in the middle of downtown Vancouver, staring at the body of my mother who had just passed a few hours before.

I don't have anything profound to say, nor did I spend the past year searching for the purpose of life though I do wonder about it everyday--then again, I always have. No, I just kept on living. I know that for some people, to just keep on living requires a huge amount of effort everyday and it is a struggle for them to decide whether to live or die today. But I don't feel that way at all. It requires nothing for me to keep on living; I just do, and I feel okay with that.

Originally, I was going to go to the mountain peak today and stay there for the entire day, trying to find some solitude in the colder mountain air. I thought, if I felt like bursting into tears at anytime today, at least on the mountain I could always run and sob while hiding in a bush or something. But I ended up getting up at three in the afternoon, getting dressed and riding the train in a daze. And of course I would end up at a Starbucks. I still hate capitalism and all that stuff I preach about everyday, but I really like how Starbucks looks practically the same in every country. I just need some kind of regularity in my life, you know? It's soothing. I'm grateful even if the coffee is watery and horrible.

I have never really talked with anybody about my experiences during the week at the hospital with my mom, or even about how I had been feeling over the following months. For the friends that saw me at my mother's funeral or at her cremation, I'm glad you were able to think of me as a strong person for not crying during my long speech at the funeral, or my lack of hesitation in pressing the button on the cremation furnace. But most of the time, I don't think it was because I'm particularly strong or anything like that.

I was relieved more than anything else.

No one can understand the agonizing half year that had passed before my mom died. Getting off work everyday in the summer to visit the hospital, and then crying behind my sunglasses on the bus ride home. Having nothing to say to my mom after she was transferred home since she could rarely use her voice anymore, then going upstairs at night and leaving her downstairs in her bed in the family room, only to sob into my covers about her in another room. Watching her sleep when she could manage to despite the pain, and then seeing her cry out even in her dreams. Seeing her stare at the same white wall of our house everyday.

Then, I went back to school in September because she had expressed that I should go. She was supposed to have a year more to live, the doctor had said so. I will graduate, and spend all my time with her after. I swore I would do that. But time was so painfully, painfully slow.

I remember writing a horribly corny yet also my most emotional letter to my mom on my last night in Vancouver.  I remember tearing my eyes away from her to step out the door to head to the airport. Feeling like screaming and jumping off the plane 'cause I was still wondering if this was the right thing to do. Sitting in silence at my apartment in Montreal and knowing that my mom was hurting with every tick of the clock. Stepping out into the hall away from my birthday party to call my mom, and then after hanging up, wanting to just run away because no one should really be laughing right now.

Receiving the call on the last day of November about my mom while I was doing my homework, and then sitting on the floor, unmoving, for a long time. Being angry at the five hour flight back to Vancouver for being so slow and expensive. Seeing my mom at the brink of death yet smiling, while I couldn't bring myself to smile right away. Feeling the presence of death hover over everybody I met the following few days, seeing both men and women cry. The fear of stepping out of the hospital room when I didn't know if that would be the last time I would ever see her alive. Sobbing, sobbing, sobbing outside the room.

Then she passed away six days after I returned to Vancouver. I was back at home to get some sleep for the night, when the phone rang and it was confirmed that my mom has passed away. And it was over. Her pain was over. And that was what mattered most to me.

Compared to that, the time after my mom's death was so, so much easier to pass.

That is my explanation for why I seemed "okay" to everyone. I was more than okay, I was much better than before my mom passed away. There, I said it.

I don't think it's disrespectful of me at all to say it, and I think my mom would understand. To me, her death was the start of something, my time finally starting to move again. Still painful, but at least each tick didn't echo in my ears with impending doom anymore.

And then came the post-death business. In my honest opinion, funerals and other ceremonial processions are purely for the living. I didn't care as much as most people think I should have because, honestly, this does nothing for my mom. She is dead. And hopefully much happier.

No, it's for the people still living. To remember her, to put things to a close in the minds of friends and family. So why hesitate in pressing the button to cremate her when her body (that was so beautiful while still alive) was just getting uglier by the hour? They applied make-up to her face horribly anyway; that lip gloss they put on her was appalling, and she would have never used that colour of blush. And they refrigerated her, for goodness' sakes, how could they do that to my mom who was so full of warmth and laughter? The clothes I picked out for her body would have looked better if she was standing and moving, but she wasn't, so they were of no use. Just burn them already. During the funeral, I said what would put people's minds to ease, of memories of my mom and to calm their worries for me. Clearly I was faring better than the people who attended, so I could at least reassure my mom's friends. Why would I put all the tear-filled things I wanted to say in my speech, when the only person who I really wanted to talk to then was my mom?

So those are my thoughts. I am often told even by my closest friends that I very rarely talk about my feelings, that they want to help and would "if only I opened up more". But it's hard to do, you know? I will talk to you when I have something to say to you. Otherwise, what I want to say is probably not for your ears. That is my personality.

I should add that I love my friends very much and I am grateful for all the people around me who constantly show me kindness. That is a different matter. I am only saying all this in regards to why I am so bad at "sharing my feelings".

But I think that, one year later, I do want to share something today.

I write an e-diary separate from this blog, and I wrote a few entries a year ago when all of this was happening. I think I'd like to share them today in hopes that you, dear reader, will forgive me for not being able to express myself during the times that people do expect me to. And to reassure you that I do, indeed, have feelings. Thank goodness you're not reading the blog of a mechanical object, right? Congratulations.

I am half-saying that to myself.


November 30, 2010 at 19:17

I just got a call from my dad. He said my mom was just hospitalized and may have only a day or two left. He told me to get on the soonest flight back to Vancouver.

I don't know what to do. I mean, I just booked my flight for 8am tomorrow (fastest route already), but yeah. I don't know.

I just finished a music assignment, it's due tomorrow. I have a Japanese essay due on Thursday. I have a research project due Friday. I have exams in the next two weeks.

My mom is going to die.

And I'm just sitting here.

Anyway I have to pack.

December 05, 2010 at 20:38

I've been spending my days at the hospital whenever I'm not sleeping at home.

It's been tough. But my mom's condition varies drastically from day to day, and going to the hospital early in the morning, staying in her room for hours and coming back at night has become a routine for me already.

The first day was a miracle; the day I came back, she was so awake and our family gathered in the room and we talked about funerary proceedings and all that business. Everything was sorted out, and I think everyone said what they wanted to say to her. She couldn't talk much as usual, her voice hoarse like a whisper and every word sounded laboured (and probably was), but she talked for hours until late into the evening, which was amazing.

The next day, she was in so much pain. It's become a rule now that you can't be sad in front of my mom... no crying. We also don't allow visitors anymore; my mom has a lot of friends, but, you know how seeing a patient sometimes is more for the not-sick rather than the patient themself? Having my mom see other people sad just makes her sad, and she already has enough physical pain to deal with. But sometimes, tears would just stream from my eyes, out of my control, because her pain was so great that we couldn't move her, her fingers and feet rotting black from no circulation, her rear end also starting to deteriorate so it hurt no matter how she sat or laid down... I'm sure that if she could and had a voice, she would have been screaming her lungs out. It broke my heart over and over again to see her like that. She was receiving painkiller needles in her arm every hour or two, it was insane.

The third day, she slept almost all day, She finally opened her eyes in the evening, but didn't respond, her eyelids hanging half closed and unfocused.

The fourth day, yesterday, she responded even less and was often moody and ill tempered, which is completely understandable if you're in pain. She slept half the time, but she ate something. I fed her soup at lunch time and plain congee at night.

Today, she recognized me in the morning as usual, and I know because when I came in, I said, "Hi Mommy!" and kissed her, and she had weakly moved her lips against my cheek which I assume is a kiss. Then she went back to sleep. But in the afternoon, she woke up again... and at first my dad would talk to her as usual. She's become less and less comprehensible throughout the week because of her voice and because she's been so heavily medicated... but this afternoon, she started talking to herself.

She talked to herself in hoarse, whispery gibberish for four hours or so. I left earlier this evening, but I called my dad after and he said they injected something so her nerves would stop jumping (her body's been twitching from the meds for the past two days) and she's finally stopped talking to invisible people and sleeping. I don't think she recognized me anymore, I was completely ignored when I said goodbye to her today.

But I am so proud of my mom. They stopped dialysis because this was the best way for her to spend the last of her days, which would be the most painless way possible (even though it's still incredibly painful). The doctor, seeing her condition, had said she would last maybe two days. Today was Day 6. She is such a fighter, and back when her mind was still aware, she was already ready to leave this world.

She said a lot of things that hurt me inside. She told me I was a good girl, but she kept telling me I was spending so much, and that even though I called her this semester, I never called her before and she said that there was a time when I was rude and she was so unhappy that I didn't call and talk to her more often. Everything she told me... I had already been torturing myself with these past few months. The big question: why didn't I talk to my mom more when I could? I was such a terrible daughter. I loved her so much but I never bothered to show it, hiding behind the excuse that "I'm not the type to show affection". Isn't that just a weakness?

I don't know if I've ever repeated "I'm sorry" in my head so many times while being with someone. I'm sorry Mom, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't do all those things in the past. I'm sorry you have to be like this. I'm sorry I can't do anything for you right now. I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

But I've also never repeated "I love you" so many times to anyone before. The day she was knocked out the entire day, I whispered in her ear some of the things I probably wouldn't have said if she was awake. The next day, she mouthed to me that she knew I was beside her all day the day before, so I wonder if some of the things I said got across. The times I told her that I loved her a lot when she was awake, she always whispered back when she could, I love you too.

There are many doctors that see her from different departments. One of the main doctors had checked on her while she was sleeping, and I believe he was the one who had suggested stopping dialysis so we can let her pass away in the least painful way. And after looking at my mom, he told me, "This is the right thing to do." Even though that may be true, in my opinion too, I wonder. Does a doctor have the right to say that about anything, to anyone?

Another doctor talked to my mom briefly on the first day when my mom could still talk somewhat, and during the conversation, she turned to me and said, "Your mom is so beautiful." I think that was the most passionate moment of my life where I wanted to scream, Yes!
YES, she is!

There is so much that happened, so many brief moments, so many fleeting feelings as well as ones that will linger for the rest of my life. I can't possibly describe the experience these few days, and I will never be able to. But I think we've been really blessed that we were given that one day when she was awake and could talk, and most of the things that were hanging heavy in everyone's hearts were resolved and put to a closure. As painful as it is, it's a rare opportunity that we can have this time to say goodbye.

It's not over yet, but there's already so much that I've learned. There were many nights where when I left the hospital, I would burst into tears in the hallway. Also one of my first times crying in front of anybody--but I found that, at that point when i did cry in front of people, that I didn't care anymore. There are more important things in life than keeping one's dignity during a hard time.

Oh yes, and I had announced that I wanted to be the one to press the button when my mom gets cremated. It will be traumatizing, I have absolutely no doubt about that, but you know... I rather myself suffer than anyone else. This isn't an act of bravery or selflessness or anything, it's for myself. Seeing others suffer is ten times, a hundred times worse than having to deal with your own pain. It's for myself. I don't want to see anyone else suffer anymore.

December 08, 2010 at 13:25

General gist of things at the moment.

My mom passed away at around 2:30am on Monday morning. We stayed at her bedside for a couple of hours after that. The one thing I learned: bodies grow cold very, very fast.

We went out for dinner that night, it was quite a feast.

We did miscellaneous funeral preparations over the past few days. Yesterday, I picked out a flower arrangement at the florist to lay over the casket. It'll be wrapped with a ribbon that has "To be reunited in heaven, from Vinci" on it.

My mom will be cremated on Friday morning, and I will be pressing the button.

Her funeral will be on Saturday morning at our church; I'll be doing a short speech there. Assuming I'll be able to. Then we will be putting her urn and everything else at the cemetery in the afternoon.

And then things will finally progress. Maybe.

But everything is a maybe at this point in time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Daughter's Lament in the Summertime.

It has been 9 months since my mother passed away.
The sun shines bright, and the world is as noisy as ever.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sir, are you an idiot?

Image borrowed and modified from Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images AsiaPac

Governor Ishihara advocates nuclear simulation

At a press conference on August 5th, as a measure in raising Japan's presence in the midst of surrounding nuclear states, Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro expressed his ideas on the need for nuclear simulations.

Upon referencing the running of subcritical nuclear tests after America's President Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize while insisting on a "nuclear-free world", Governor Ishihara expressed his ideas saying, "Japan, too, should do something like that. If we wanted to possess [nuclear weapons] we could do it whenever. We have a mountain of plutonium anyway."

Furthermore, he emphasized, "If Japan does not become a strong military state, our presence will certainly be lost." A need for the development of missiles using aerospace engineering was brought up.

Moreover, he stressed that "North Korea and China and Russia have stolen Japanese territory; countries with an intent to steal and countries possessing nuclear weapons with evident hostility, Japan is the only country in the world surrounded so closely by them." He stated, "We must consider countering these. It is no longer an age where just economic power is enough."

(August 05, 2011 - 17:39)


Sunday, July 24, 2011

I can't hear you, you can't hear me, we're in different worlds.

Today has been an extremely hot day. The weather network had said that yesterday was supposed to be the hottest day of the week, but I think yesterday was relatively cool compared to today's weather. Of course, I can only talk about this like it's a mere observation when I'm back at home and enjoying the wonders of air conditioning, whereas my mind was muddled like the air in Hong Kong when I was outside just an hour ago. I got up this morning intending to go to church, but on my way there, incidentally I stepped off of the subway on a whim and eventually ended up at a Starbucks reading Murakami Haruki's After Dark. I stayed there reading for about two hours before I decided to do some shopping and head home.

As I was heading home a few hours later in the afternoon, it occurred to me that I walk extremely fast for someone who doesn't actually have any plans for the day. I think this is a habit of mine: I get up and I pick out a nice outfit for the day despite there not being any special occasion. I then wear the pair of shoes that most matches the outfit I picked, whether it is a comfortable pair of flats or a pair of four inch heels. Then I put a book in my bag "just in case I feel like taking a break", and head out the door like I have business to attend to. I walk very straight and very fast, looking ahead and rarely at other people that I pass by. If I was someone else passing by myself, I would probably think that this fast-paced person (me) had an appointment waiting, when in reality, I might be just heading out to a cafe by myself to read a book or write a letter. Nothing that is especially pressing for time. I just enjoy this sense of "point A to point B" that I make for myself; the exact process of getting to point B is not the subject, I just need to get there and enjoy myself along the way as I walk to the allegrissimo tempo of a good song.

I guess this can apply to almost all aspects for me, that I'm more interested in showing people the result rather than the process. That is not to say that I think the process is insignificant; rather, I think that the process is so complicated and personal that I'm reluctant for other people to see how exactly I manage to get myself from one place to another, literally and figuratively speaking. I want other people to admire the result after I am done crafting it into something I'm satisfied with, but anything that has yet to reach my personal standards must not be seen by anyone else (this is also true for my writing). I prefer not to interact with anyone during this process… maybe because it's embarrassing for me to show any signs of struggle. And 'process' is basically synonymous to 'struggle'.

But I was also thinking yesterday that I should smile more at other people on the streets, give them some form of acknowledgment as co-existences on this planet. I do try to at least look a little friendly despite my feigned busyness. Especially in cities and crowded places, I find that the urban solitude is so apparent in the subway and on the streets that it's almost oppressive to the individual, like you can't be anything but busy and within your own space. It's very discouraging and unnecessary. But a smile costs nothing to give, not even time. You can pass by someone and give them a smile on your way, it doesn't interrupt anything for you or for them. So I thought to myself yesterday, well, if I can't even afford to smile at someone then I'd really be conceitedly worthless as a human being!

In any case, breaking down the invisible wall of urban solitude is going to be a hard task, but I'll make it a personal goal to do my part in taking down my own wall.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Of coming back to an exotic home.

It has been a while! Since my updates have been sparse, I had assumed that the number of visitors to my blog has also dropped significantly. But it seems there have still been quite a few poor souls who had the misfortune of coming across this mass of dark matter that I had left adrift in cyberspace. I apologize for it raining on anybody's sunny day. I intend to blog more often from here on, and hopefully on happier matters as to not upset any more innocent readers.

Just kidding, like I would do that for anyone. I really will try to blog more often though.

In any case, having officially graduated from university since June, I moved out of Montreal in May and paid a short visit back to Vancouver before leaving for where I am currently residing: Hong Kong. I suppose I've never given a proper overview of my personal history, but generally, I was born in Hong Kong but moved to Vancouver at the age of 4, having lived there ever since. I came to Hong Kong every few years for "vacation" (also known as "visiting the relatives and showing that you remember their existence as by Chinese tradition"), but I don't think I've ever stayed here for over 3 weeks at a time. I am now close to having lived here in Hong Kong for two months. It's definitely a record!

Having said that though, I also have to say that I've been terribly homesick for Canada. Hong Kong is a very vibrant and urban place to be; but of course, those are just euphemisms for "noisy", "overcrowded", "artificial". Certainly the number of shopping centers and food options is incredible, perfect for the typical, materialistic tourist looking to replenish their closet. But having lived here for more than a few weeks, I think what I've been craving for a lot lately is just open space, some fresh air, and a more natural landscape. I want a place where I don't have to push through crowds, hear bits of conversation from people I don't know, or feel like I need to pay so I can buy some time to sit at a place that's not my own home (through a cup of coffee)--and even then, they want to get you out of your spot ASAP since you're a hindrance to them profiting from more business. Of course, the heat and humidity during the ridiculously hot summer here doesn't do much to improve my mood.

The urban solitude here drives me insane. The infinite masses of people, the tall buildings, the concrete, the gray, the dullness--it's so stifling, I feel so suffocated on some days. What I would give to lie in a huge, grassy field on a refreshing day with a book in my hand.

And of course, there are cultural differences as well that make me feel incredibly out of place. I've been meeting up with friends that are visiting Hong Kong for vacation or for the summer, but to talk to someone who grew up in Hong Kong and actually lives here, it's a real challenge for me. I don't think I can have an honest conversation with them all that often on topics that I actually care about. Topics not about television shows, brand names, new shops that have opened, movies out this summer… that is not to say that those aren't fun to talk about once in a while, but conversations that consist only of this kind of superficiality really depress me. Of course, even if there are people who like to talk about music and literature, it would be in Chinese and wouldn't extend as far as English literature.

But these are cultural differences; interests vary depending on what kind of environment one grows up in or what kind of people one interacts with. I don't think I'd mind superficiality if I could actually enjoy it without feeling depressed. I think it would be kind of nice to be entertained by simple things and feed off of society like I'm supposed to. This might not entirely be an issue of experiencing culture shock even, just that all these social mechanics that I don't agree with in general manifest themselves more in Hong Kong, where I see things with more critical eyes since I'm in an unfamiliar setting yet people interact with me like I'm one of them. Again, it's that feeling where I know I'm supposed to belong since I'm from Hong Kong; I've been here many times and I speak the language, yet I'm just not quite there. Quite far, actually. That kind of awkward distance is uncomfortable.

But despite having voiced all this negativity, I think I really want to understand Hong Kong--not as a tourist but as a member of it, as temporary as that may turn out to be. There are so many people here, so dense in such a small space, that I wonder how people can actually have a desire to stay here for the rest of their lives. I'm not only talking about people who grew up here; I have seen foreigners here that have willingly decided to move and live in Hong Kong. From seeing that, I want to believe that Hong Kong is not an empty shell of concrete but that there is something profound in this kind of busy lifestyle, something behind the mechanicalness that I have yet to learn to appreciate.

I guess I am just especially bad at adapting. Change has always been one of my biggest fears, but usually my curiosity and constant restlessness overpowers my fear for change. Maybe I'm fortunate in that sense, but it creates another mass of confusion in my thoughts. I say I want to try but I complain all the while trying--I suppose that's yet another aspect that I need to improve on. But since I'm here already, I want to make experiences that will eventually turn into memories I can look back on and say, "Ah, I was so stupid but I'm glad I was given that kind of opportunity to get over myself." After all, not being able to understand and accept differences is a kind of conceit, and I seriously need to rid myself of it.

What was it that I said a few entries ago, that I wanted to truly love the world? I really do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Salt and spice.

I wasn't sure how to describe it before. I'm sure most people have experienced, at least once, a sort of physical pain when one is so sad to the point where you've cried and thought so much that you don't know what you're crying about anymore, and you just want to shrivel up against the aching inside. The feeling when it's as if your heart is being squeezed, that you want to double over and wrap your arms around yourself. Well, I think all of that is normal to an extent, whether people talk about it often or not.

I feel the same way when someone is being kind to me.

It's not a "I'm so happy from this act of kindness that I want to cry," it's more that I don't feel I deserve this sort of kindness, and I can't imagine why anyone would offer something to me in return for nothing. It just blows my mind, every time. I feel a mix of gratitude, happiness, sadness, and shame that I'm receiving more than I've given. I want the other person to know how grateful I am so he or she can at least be glad that they did the deed, yet I'm so terrible at expressing my gratitude that I feel it just makes me deserve the act of kindness even less.

I began to think that there was something fundamentally wrong with how I think, or maybe not 'wrong' per se, but definitely illogical compared to the standard definitions for basic emotions. At first, it was just a twinge inside whenever someone offered me their extra attention, but then it grew to something bigger, and I found myself crying when I got back home a lot of the time. There is definitely something strange about wanting to cry after spending time with a friend, or while being surrounded by people who willingly give me not only their company but their care and concern, or just simply having had a rare good day where I didn't spend as much time dwelling on my usual cares. Receiving something good in general just eventually made something inside me hurt, more and more often.

Then I think to myself, maybe it's me that has forgotten what it means to truly be kind. Maybe it's because I've been so angry at society for having enforced so many social obligations onto me (especially after recent events) that I don't understand anything that's not a system, but just spontaneous acts from the heart. Maybe that's why I get a little scared when someone is too kind to me. It kind of topples my bitter understanding of the world.

But last week, someone told me that she thinks we cry whenever we feel extreme emotion. And I thought about it. Of course, there are the extremes like 'happy' and 'sad', but what if being thankful could be just as strong of a feeling? Deep gratitude is definitely a mix of both happy and sad for me. Perhaps it's because society and how it's structured today don't give much space for people to show kindness, such that the rare acts of sincerity that are seen appear all the more unworldly to me.

This past year has really tested my mental capacities, and I admit, I cry a lot more often these days for various reasons. I've become really confused about my emotions and how to distinguish between them, and indeed, it makes it even harder for me to describe to people how exactly I 'feel'. Sometimes I wonder if I feel at all.

Various people's kindness have touched me in different ways this year. The best description I can give is that I was able to taste so many new flavours I didn't know could even exist; from this, so many beautiful moments were created. Yet when I think about that, there's the painful twinge from inside again. And then I find myself sometimes, sitting on my bed and crying from the ephemerality of it all.

But, I think it's safe to say that what I've really learned this year is how to feel gratitude from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Maybe you should have just named me Cordelia. But I'm glad you didn't.

April 25th.

Today would have been my mother's birthday. She would have turned 47.

April 25 was one of the first dates I ever learned to remember. I remember when I was little, I asked my mom one year how old she was, but I had already forgotten when her birthday came around again the following year and she had refused to tell me her age again. Of course, eventually I just remembered her year of birth and calculated from that whenever I lost count. I teased her when she hit 40. And then I stopped writing or mentioning her age, even though I would secretly tell my friends because then they would be impressed at how young my mom was.

I also made her a card every year, and she would stick them on the wall, just above her bedpost, or on her bedroom door. I had a phase during my early teenage years when I really liked to do amateur graphic design, so I would make tacky graphics on Adobe Photoshop and print them out for her... she liked those too. After I went to university, her birthday would always fall in between my final exam period, but I would still go shopping for her birthday present without fail.

It's a special feeling, shopping for your mother. There really are limited ways you can give back to your mother for all that she's done. Shopping for her gift always served as a kind of activity in which I could reflect on how thankful I was to her, and how I really can't give back anything that would be enough to match what she's given me all these years. That is, life itself, and unconditional love.

Facebook decided to remind me that it was my mother's birthday today, too. Seeing her name on the side bar after midnight, I clicked on it. I was one of those kids that kind of enjoyed having their parent on Facebook--I thought having a mom that knew how to use the computer and even had Facebook was pretty cool. Even though she never really used it. Her profile today is the same as always, void of activity except for me and my aunt wishing her a happy birthday every year. In 2009, I sent her "lots of love". In 2010, I asked her if she was using the bag I gave her--ah, that's right, I sent her a handbag by mail for her birthday last year.

I don't know why I do this to myself, looking to breaking my own heart over and over again, doing stuff like looking at her Facebook page, at our past messages to each other, our emails... it's a shame we don't really have pictures together. It's probably my fault. I was a rebel child until the end, reluctant to even say "I love you" most of the time. Even though I did love her so very much... I just couldn't put it into words. Why is it always so hard to say what you mean?

When she lay in bed at the hospital during the last few days of her life... I kept telling her, I love you, I love you, I love you. As if I could make up for all those times that I didn't say it to her. For all those times she wanted to hear it, but I had foolishly valued my own pride over a few very simple but powerful words. If perchance she had been happy to hear those words from me towards the end of her life... why had I not given her many more days of happiness before that, when I could have easily done so?

Only my mother would ever forgive someone as twisted and ugly as I am. And so she did, many, many times.

But this kind of unconditional relationship doesn't exist anymore for me, not in this world. I am only left with memories of such an incomparable love, and all I can do now is to keep these memories close. It breaks my heart every time I think of it and regret continues to tear at me (as it should), but I don't ever want to forget. I mustn't forget. I can only remember.

April 25, in remembrance of my beloved mother. Happy Birthday, Mommy.

I love you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is perhaps the most incoherent entry I have ever written.

I recently came to realize that I've become a rather serious person. This sounds ridiculous, but I was sipping on my cup of tea at a tea salon this past Saturday, when the thought suddenly came to me: I think I'm someone who prefers to communicate in something more abstract and indirect than speech.

I was with a friend at the tea salon, and we were on the topic of how we interact with strangers and how acquaintances progress to being friends. Not that I'm selective when it comes to friends; I'm not so egotistic that I have a checklist--I actually think it's quite easy to be counted as one of my friends. Having said that though, I have very clear definitions in my mind of who is a friend and what that means to me. Maybe this is an example of my overly serious personality, but I always feel that there are responsibilities in being someone's friend.

At the tea salon, my friend was saying how she is the type of person who would be quiet on first impression, but the more she gets to know someone, the more she talks to them--which, I think, is perfectly normal. But it occurred to me as she said that, that I was the complete opposite. The less I know someone, the more I feel obliged to talk, to be entertaining, to seem pleasant. Not that I'm too unpleasant otherwise (or am I?), but in complete honestly, I'm also often a depressing existentialist who has trouble seeing things in life as anything but mundane and futile. But despite being so, nevertheless I do try hard to appreciate life in the world that I was born in and to be thankful, and the closest of my friends understand this. So it's like lighting a candle to conserve energy instead of having to turn on all the lights; the candle may cast shadows, but the important thing is, there is still light amidst the dark and that's all I really need for now.

Basically, my realization is that, by nature, I am a person of few spoken words who constantly drifts between being deep in thought to focusing back on the real world. Writing is different because it's a private sphere; they are my thoughts and they don't have to connect if I don't want them to (versus a conversation where one topic usually leads logically into the next). There are many things I feel and think about that I will never be able to put into words, much less within the constrictions of speech and conversation. Perhaps this is another reason why I like literature, because it is one of the only ways, in my opinion, in which another person's thoughts can infiltrate into mine, and an exchange of thought can take place but only privately within my own mind, where I'm free to go at whatever pace I like and turn certain thoughts over again and again.

Being of few words doesn't mean I don't enjoy company, however; I value friendship immensely and am always, always grateful for having people with me. I just feel especially comfortable around people who respect the abstract side of me, friends that I can be with and not have to spend extra effort in entertaining them with meaningless chatter. I enjoy days of lying in the sun on a grassy field, reading a book at a cafe for hours, sitting on a bench and watching people pass by--quiet activities, time spent in silence. I also enjoy a slow conversation while sipping on tea on a cold Saturday afternoon, taking a walk around town with a friend, going on a hike in the mountains and having a picnic, listening to stories and to other people's thoughts if they're willing to share them with me.

I guess there isn't really a point to this entry. I was simply reflecting on the energetic child I used to be, but now that time has molded me into someone else, I guess I have just been feeling a deep sense of loss for that in addition to the loss of my mother. In regards to losing my mom, the pain is still fresh and comes in waves, sometimes overwhelming and other times subtle enough to ignore. It just so happens that there were a few things I encountered over the past couple of days that reminded me so much of my mom and of my childhood. I silently grieve for those in my mind, and walk on.

I am trying to remember why I decided to blog about friendship and memories of my mom and how they were connected (see what I mean?). I think it was because I always think that I should keep my unhappiness to myself, because it would be a burden to other people around me. Personally, I feel especially distressed whenever someone else is sad, so I most definitely don't want the reverse to happen. It's very tiring to worry for someone else, and I don't feel that anyone else should ever have to do that on my behalf. I want to share other people's distress, but I don't want to share mine. While this sounds awfully selfless of me, I can assure you that it isn't. Basically, I like all negative feelings to be under my control, and the only way I can do that is if they're contained within myself. I feel the most secure this way.

I have no idea where I'm going with this. But let's just say that, in the end, I'm glad that there are people who continue to uphold my faith in humanity with their goodness and kindness towards me. And I want to pass that on. Having grown up a bit more, I want to love the world not blindly as I did when I was a child, but from having experienced more ugly sides of life, love the world and its people in their flawed states.

I want to be able to take a deep breath every morning, and embrace the world.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

They say there is a time for everything, but now is just not the time.

Words cannot express my feelings about the 9.0 Tohoku earthquake last Friday. I myself have been obsessively following the news since, but still I can't even begin to imagine what it is like to be there, living the horror. Everything is so surreal when change hits you at such a speed that you have no idea how to react. The many lives lost, the many lives left, the many lives yet to come--how all of these will differ from one another in experience and perception of the world. We are, once again, at a loss in the face of nature and what it can bring upon us, and no doubt, we were fools to think that we had conquered it and its power over human society.

But no one needs me to tell them these things, and already, a week has passed. The ongoing struggle continues as many people affected by the disaster wrestle with the numerous consequences. What I do want to mention briefly, though, is what has been apparent since the disaster as a means to cope with it: nationalism.

Of course, there are good and bad things that have been said both to and by the people living in Japan. There are many people living in Japan that I follow on Twitter (which has been playing an amazing role in this ordeal) and common phrases that have come up are「頑張って日本」(Keep going, Japan), 「日本人だから」(Because we're Japanese), 「日本人のみんな」(Everyone Japanese). I have no problem with referring to Japan as a nation, but as author Hoshino Tomoyuki mentioned on his Twitter recently, 「日本人」 or "Japanese" has become a sensitive term to use simply because it's come to have an implication of exclusivity, forgetting about the many people who are not necessarily Japanese by blood, but live in and love the country and are part of it all the same. Getting off track from what is really important, the earthquake disaster has been used as a means to promote Japan and the Japanese people, that because they are and only because they are "Japanese" that they can pull through this. Simple encouragement has become a nationalistic pride.

There are instances like the article written by author Murakami Ryu, and has even been translated into English for the New York Times; if you haven't read it, you can access it here. Praising the concept of the "Japanese group" and promoting loyalty within. Then of course, there are other instances on the opposite end like Ishihara Shintaro, governor of Tokyo, who talks about "the Japanese people" as if they were all complicit in some kind of national thought crime. In an interview a few days ago, he said:

"It's shown in politics bound by selfishness and populism. Those are washed away all at once effectively using the tsunami; there is the need to wash off the selfishness in one go, the dirt collected in the hearts of Japanese people for years. This, I think, must really be divine punishment. Those who are victims of the disaster, poor them."

Needless to say, it was a horrible statement but not surprising for Ishihara, infamous for his heartless comments; the man doesn't even identify with humanity. In any case, the "Japanese" have been grouped together for both good and bad accusations and though it may not be the most obvious thing, I believe that it can potentially create additional, unwanted havoc over time. Nationalism is not important at a time like this; what is important is what anybody--not even limited to Japanese people--can do with what they have at hand to help those in need now.

Two days ago, there was a teach-in hosted by a professor at my university in response to the earthquake and its effects. A friend of mine and another instructor were having a conversation on the 日の丸 (hinomaru), now used as the flag of Japan, and how many people have been putting it on places like their Facebook profile pictures or their avatars and creating this wave of the hinomaru symbol. I have no doubt that this is done obviously to show support for Japan and all those living there or are affected by it in some way. However, it's unfortunate that most people are putting these up without a second thought on what the hinomaru actually is and the role it has played in history; that it could, on the contrary, hurt people.

I would think that most people think of the flag only as a picture of "the rising sun", which is fair enough. But this flag has so much history behind it, and the contexts that it was used in before has turned the image of the hinomaru into something that is controversial, as subtle as this controversy may be. The hinomaru was mostly for militaristic use in the past, and was frequently used as propaganda for imperialism and nationalism in and around Japan. Despite it being a symbol of pride for the Japanese at the time (or for some in the present day), it has been used in many cases as a form of oppression in schools, in cities, in colonies in Korea and other places.

Nowadays, there are many Koreans living in Japan (many of which are second, third generation) who may embrace the country as a huge part of themselves, yet the hinomaru seems to represent only those who are purely Japanese. And so, when the hinomaru is used to show support for Japan, I personally feel like people are forgetting the many other residents in Japan who are not of Japanese descent, whose heritage might be of a people that were oppressed by symbols like the hinomaru. Not only can the hinomaru be a sensitive matter for people who are not Japanese by blood, but even Japanese people may find it difficult to look upon the hinomaru, something that reminds them so much of World War II, the bombings and the occupation of the United States that followed. I cannot even imagine how it must feel to be reminded of such, many years later, in yet another time of disaster for the country.

My point is, throw that nationalistic pride out the window and just help those in need. Be a support for anyone and everyone affected by the disaster, be them Japanese or not, living in Japan or not. Discern what is really important from what is only a cover-up for egotistic, ethnocentric pride. Disaster, sadness, loss, love, support--there are no boundaries for these. They are shared feelings. There are many people who love Japan very, very much, and I think that anybody who truly cares should look deeper and come to a fuller understanding, so that they can effectively support everyone in a time of need such as this.

P.S. If anyone is wondering, the picture is of a tag they gave me to put on my shirt when I visited the Consulate General of Japan (
I went there very early that day, thus Visitor No.1.)--but I forgot to give it back on my way out, so now it's become part of the decor on my desk.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Time, what can I do to understand you better?

Today was my mom's two month death anniversary.

I woke up this morning to pretty nice weather (considering there was a snowstorm last night); the sun was shining and everything looked really bright. But I had been thinking about today since a few days ago, and I guess I was subconsciously waiting for this day because in my dream last night, I was burying someone I loved whom I assume to have been my mom. There were dandelions, whatever that means.

It's like how they say "age is only a number"--dates, too, are merely numbers. But I found myself rather depressed all day today, crying in intervals or moping about otherwise, heaving long sighs every other minute. I was trying to catch up with a lot of reading for school today, but my mind kept wandering and eventually it just broke my concentration and I gave up trying to read.

I'm really not good with telling people my feelings in person. I don't think I've ever cried in front of anyone save the night when I received the phone call a little over two months ago, telling me I had to go home to see my mom before it was too late. I'm not sure if it's because I feel embarrassed crying in front of other people, or that I've always seen crying as something really private so I just automatically save it till I'm alone. It may have caused skepticism from some people when I didn't cry at my mother's funeral.

In any case, I've become more grateful for my poker face as my emotions have been going all over the place lately... makes it easier to function everyday. Yes, I've been feeling rather mechanical these days.

The reason I have a picture of IKEA above is because I went there last Tuesday to do some furniture shopping for the study space in our EAS department building. I was supposed to go with one more person, but she couldn't make it so I went with my friend who generously agreed to accompany me and drive me there. It was my second time at the IKEA in Montreal, my first time being when I arrived in Montreal to move in for school in the summer of 2007.

The first time I came here was with my mom. I didn't know anyone, and my mom and I shopped for quite some time at this IKEA trying to decide what I would need to spend my next 4 years here in Montreal. So this place, in a way, served as a very significant marking stone at the beginning of my journey in becoming more independent. But I never thought that the next time I went to this IKEA, the person who had come with me the first time would already be gone forever.

I guess nobody would have ever suspected IKEA to be such a painful place for anyone. I still enjoyed the trip last week nevertheless, it was just the exterior that reminded me so much of that summer day when my mom and I walked in through the doors together.

It's not just the store though, a lot of the furniture from IKEA in my apartment, we had assembled together. The bed that my mom spent hours twisting in all the screws, the table and chairs set we had debated over, the blanket over the couch she had picked, the bookshelf we had an argument over while putting it together... everything I look at, everyday, has my mom in it.

I can't believe it's been only two months since she passed away, while time still seems to fly by so fast everyday. I can't explain the feeling of thinking something to be an event from a long time ago because you've thought so much about it and relived it over and over again in your head... but in reality, it's only been a short while since then and the pain from it all is still here.

I miss her so much I don't know what to do. Meanwhile, life goes on and the futility of it only throws me deeper into despair.

I suppose it doesn't help that I've been reading poetry like this over the weekend:


J'ai plus de souvenirs que si j'avais mille ans.

Un gros meuble à tiroirs encombré de bilans,

De vers, de billets doux, de procès, de romances,

Avec de lourds cheveux roulés dans des quittances,

Cache moins de secrets que mon triste cerveau.

C'est une pyramide, un immense caveau,

Qui contient plus de morts que la fosse commune.

— Je suis un cimetière abhorré de la lune,

Où comme des remords se traînent de longs vers

Qui s'acharnent toujours sur mes morts les plus chers.

Je suis un vieux boudoir plein de roses fanées,

Où gît tout un fouillis de modes surannées,

Où les pastels plaintifs et les pâles Boucher

Seuls, respirent l'odeur d'un flacon débouché.

Rien n'égale en longueur les boiteuses journées,

Quand sous les lourds flocons des neigeuses années

L'ennui, fruit de la morne incuriosité,

Prend les proportions de l'immortalité.

— Désormais tu n'es plus, ô matière vivante!

Qu'un granit entouré d'une vague épouvante,

Assoupi dans le fond d'un Sahara brumeux;

Un vieux sphinx ignoré du monde insoucieux,

Oublié sur la carte, et dont l'humeur farouche

Ne chante qu'aux rayons du soleil qui se couche.

— Charles Baudelaire


I have more memories than if I'd lived a thousand years.

A heavy chest of drawers cluttered with balance-sheets,

Processes, love-letters, verses, ballads,

And heavy locks of hair enveloped in receipts,

Hides fewer secrets than my gloomy brain.

It is a pyramid, a vast burial vault

Which contains more corpses than potter's field.

— I am a cemetery abhorred by the moon,

In which long worms crawl like remorse

And constantly harass my dearest dead.

I am an old boudoir full of withered roses,

Where lies a whole litter of old-fashioned dresses,

Where the plaintive pastels and the pale Bouchers,

Alone, breathe in the fragrance from an opened phial.

Nothing is so long as those limping days,

When under the heavy flakes of snowy years

Ennui, the fruit of dismal apathy,

Becomes as large as immortality.

— Henceforth you are no more, O living matter!

Than a block of granite surrounded by vague terrors,

Dozing in the depths of a hazy Sahara

An old sphinx ignored by a heedless world,

Omitted from the map, whose savage nature

Sings only in the rays of a setting sun.

(Translation taken from

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's two sides of the same coin and only one person gets to have it.

I haven't written any entries in a while, so I thought I should update. I hadn't been writing anything new in the past month (well, I don't think to anyone's surprise) since I didn't really have much I wanted to say aloud after December 6th, or rather, maybe so much to say that I already gave up on trying the moment I thought of it. So I guess the one thing that I can really say as of late is this: I've come to have an increasing dislike for society.

Not that this dislike for society is new or anything. I think anybody who decides to write or study literature must have some kind of dissatisfaction for human society to varying degrees--why else would one be so keen about ink on paper instead of enjoying life as it is now? I don't remember exactly when I began to realize that the world was not as bright and dazzling as it may have seemed when I was fighting to get out of my mother's womb. But I know it was at a very young age because I was born different from other people, and it was only a very short matter of time for me to realize the obvious: that any kind of worldly society can be a curse. I like individuals very much, there are people I love in this world. But people are so bad at functioning in a community, and what we call "society" these days corrupts and changes so many of these perfectly fine individuals, molding them to fit into a system only a fraction of people can benefit from, and at the cost of others. Society is diseased with luxury, selfishness, ignorance, gossip, falsity, self-justification, competition.

I've loved reading all my life, but in my high school days especially, I had a passion for film production. Being able to document things audio-visually was fantastic, I thought, and just the process of doing so was such an exciting idea. I was able to enroll in two short, one-week programs for high school students at the Art Institute of Vancouver, where I learned and experienced a bit of visual effects editing in film one year, and post-production audio editing another year. I mean, this applies to literature too, but I think it's easier for most people to see that it takes a lot of time, effort and revision to produce one perfected moment that's finally to be documented onto film and distributed for the world to see.

But that last part is the problem, and is what makes me unable to bring myself to pursue this industry. Of course, there are small film companies that produce independent films, but they're all overshadowed by the horrible, self-indulgent, elitist group called Hollywood. So much money, media coverage, marketing, et caetera are devoted to an hour or two of being able to sit in front of a screen. Why are actors getting paid so much? There are many regular people who work regular jobs but are exposed to so much more work, risk, and labour, but get paid only a fraction... or if you want to think about child labour, some don't even really get paid at all. I'm sure actors are very busy people and have a ton of work, and I'm sure they work hard at what they do and (some) are really good at it; I have no doubt that acting is a talent. But there are people in this world that, no matter how hard they work, will never be recognized, and their jobs are so much less glamorous even though they are so much more necessary than, say, roles in the entertainment industry. Why are budgets for movies--entertainment for the upper middle class and above--talking tens of millions of dollars when a regular person on the streets of Bangladesh can barely even think beyond when he'll receive another dollar?

Movies are great, I love films. But if Hollywood could make only five less films per year, everyone in the world would at least have something to eat everyday for that year. That's about nine, ten less hours of entertainment for us, but really, can that even be made into a comparison? It's too bad that we wouldn't be able to see some fun stuff on screen, but I think that's okay if it can save more lives than we can even imagine.

I'm not saying that because there are people in poverty, everyone should live in poverty. I just can't stand the idea that such extremes can even exist. That someone only has to have a few pictures taken and put on a billboard to receive hundreds of thousands, when someone else would go as far as committing murder or selling themselves for a completely different purpose just to put bread on the table the next day. That something can be so obviously, ethically wrong, but accepted and allowed in our world today as if it was just another common fact in life. It's our society's lack of conscience that is so horrifying. "Are we humans or are we animals"... I don't know which is the insult. At least some animals aren't actually capable of a conscience whereas we are and have the means to act on it, but instead, choose to ignore it.

Of course everyone would like to live in luxury, if it's not at the cost of someone else. Of course everyone would like to live a comfortable life, if they could without feeling guilt. But unless everyone in the world is able to live an equally luxurious life or at least a good one in today's standards, I don't think anyone should live in luxury at all. Not when there are people on the other side of the spectrum from you, and not when that could easily be prevented if only fine dining had to be sacrificed. I don't know if I'm going to expand on this since 1) I don't know if I can justify myself completely and 2) this is just my personal idea of how our world could be anything close to utopia, but every time I try to think of the many different lives that many different people live, yet at the same time and on the same planet... it makes me so incredibly sad.

Human beings are so easily influenced by their pride, and their relation to other people's standards of life. If carrying brand name bags is the trend, we get ourselves a Louis Vuitton. If driving a car is the trend, we drive around a Mercedes. If not driving becomes the trend, we get ourselves a chauffeur or take a taxi. If being educated is the trend, we go to Harvard. If being environmentally friendly is the trend, we wear lingerie made of bamboo and soy. If acknowledging poverty is the trend, we go adopt a few African children.

Aren't we pathetic?

I often hear the words (and indeed, sometimes saying it myself) "life is so hard", when we don't even have anything to compare it to. It's not like we've ever experienced anything else other than life, so in comparison to what can life be considered "hard"? If we were comparing ourselves to fellow human beings, then we should feel all the more ashamed. Can you really say that life is hard when some people would give anything just to be able to say those words instead of living in fear and silence? Are we, people living in higher society, mocking the people who at least have the most right out of all of us to say that? We are so conceitedly lazy, and anything that requires even the least bit of effort to do needs to be fixed, according to our society today. We constantly produce new technology, things that make our daily life easier so we can, instead, do nothing, because apparently we'd much rather do nothing than anything at all.

We don't need technology to let us do nothing, we're already not doing much at all. It's the idea of doing even less than nothing that motivates us to do something now so we can do nothing later. This whole world is so ridiculous. And I can't imagine how much more ridiculous it would seem to someone who doesn't identify with humankind like I do.

I am so ashamed to be a human being sometimes.