2 of Pentacles · 2 of Swords · 2 of Wands · 4 of Swords · 9 of Pentacles · Cycle of Healing · Hermit · Introspection · Knight of Pentacles · Moon · Queen of Pentacles · Queen of Swords

my life is magic

So many thoughts and feelings…. and so I will start somewhere, anywhere, and circle through as many of them that I can.

Actually I just realized that this will be a series of posts, and that’s okay. Might even be better.

I’ve been sick for a while. Another super strong cold that just won’t leave me (I’ve been coughing for about 1.5 weeks now). And also really busy — with a series of job interviews and other big life necessities that really cut into my sleep schedule. I didn’t sleep enough, and that meant I didn’t heal.

And on Saturday, I got really sad. I had a Wondering Time. Wondering if this was the next wave in my release, part of how I need to go deeper into Buddhist faith.

I”m not sure if I do or not… but I was definitely sad. Feeling lonely.

Going back to that old wound of…. counting up the people who might care about me, “deciding” that there wasn’t anyone who cared about me… feeling alone and unloved.

I know part of this was the full moon coming to hit me hard. And also me beginning to stress about money and income and job stuff (generally a point of pride with me — that I am self-sufficient). And also that Grandfather left me in the last new moon and so he was not with me. Also around the same time (Saturday)… my other ancestor and spirits left me too. They just removed themselves from me, and I felt very alone.

If you’d asked me a year ago how I’d feel if my ancestors and helping spirits left me… I wouldn’t have even known what you were talking about. But they have been so close and so present with me for the last 9 months… and I don’t know how I lived without them before. And living with even their temporary absence (they all reassured me it was temporary and I believed them) was hard.

I knew I was cycling downward when I didn’t want to study Korean.
I knew I was cycling downward when I didn’t want to reach out to people I know care about me.
I knew I was cycling downward, I just knew.

And I am happy about a few main things:
1. Even though I was so unhappy and lonely, I did not turn to drinking my sorrow away. I continued to drink water and iced tea in the evenings.
2. I knew that silly computer games would take my mind off of it, so I bought one and then distracted myself for most of Sunday.
3. I did self-care in letting myself sleep like my body needed to after the busy-ness of the week before.
4. I did self-care in making myself eat. Not enough food, but I ate. More importantly, I ate instead of drinking alcohol.
5. I did not make myself do a full moon ritual on Sunday night. I was too desolate. I just went to sleep.

And all of these self-soothing and also self-correcting behaviors helped. And when I woke up on Monday morning, I felt better. Not back to 100% but better.

And on Monday night, I did some magical things and when I woke up today (Tuesday), I felt even better.

A lot of this is reminding myself — in a Buddhist way — that these moments are transient. They do not last. I can just observe my feelings and accept my feelings and valid and do what I can to make myself feel better… and I usually will. Time is on my side. Time heals me.

PS I find it funny that I tried to make a short post and it still turned out to be very long. Hahahahahaha.

PPS I still have the post about the magical rituals from last night… but maybe this is a sign to not post about them? Not sure. Maybe I will sleep on it and see how I feel when I wake up. Maybe these things shouldn’t be said.

2 of Swords · 3 of Pentacles · 8 of Swords · Activism · culture shock · Emperor · Hanged Man · Hermit · Hierophant · Introspection · Justice · Roots · Strength · Temperance

Government employees as defenders of tradition because… 우물안 개구리 (frog inside a well)

I volunteered last week at a senior citizens center. They need warm bodies to help feed the senior citizens who cannot feed themselves (many have dementia or Parkinsons disease, some are bed-ridden). Someone there to help her mother eat asked if I would return, and I immediately said no.

Part of is that the center was funded by the government and in a very ritzy area of town. The bigger part of it was the people who worked there, their small-mindedness, their snideness stemming from ignorance. (And of course I realize that this is Dunning-Kruger effect in effect… but I don’t want to go back. Not when the center does not need my help as desperately as other smaller organizations, especially those who do boots on the ground grassroots outreach and support. More on this later.*)

Korean has many wonderful and quirky idioms, of which a very frequently used one is “우물안 개구리” or “frog inside a well.” The origins, from a Chinese story, developed into an idiom or fable in China, Korea, and Japan. I think because Koreans recognize that their country is small and comparatively weaker (Korea has no natural resources to form the basis of trade), the saying comes up a lot when talking about Koreans as people. And I think it has double impact for those who are employees of the Korean government.

A bit of background: the odds of landing a government job are 300:1. For every 300 people who take the civil entrance examination (yes, just like in old Confucian times, although to be fair the U.S. also has a Foreign Service Exam for certain governmental employees), only one person actually makes it. As a hangover from that old Confucian tradition, working for the government is considered extremely prestigious.

The practical benefits: a work schedule that allows people to live (9-6, with an hour for lunch, whereas most other company employees usually have to work until 7 on an early night and more often until 9 or 10; plus weekends off, when most other employees are expected to participate in company outings on the weekends too); all holidays off.

But mostly what people want from these jobs is all that plus the prestige and safety. In fact, the prestige comes in large part from the safety. The safety in turn flows from how civil service could raise up an entire family during olden times in Korea.

And so I understand that.

But also I am the child of immigrants who were double-plus-good (1984 speak) ambitious and bridge-burning over their immigrant-peers… I cannot understand placing safety on such a pedestal.

The prestige comes from the safety, and there’s a historical reason for that. The prestige also comes from the competitiveness… which is caused by the clamor for such safety.

PRESTIGE — SAFETY — PRESTIGE

Looping, it’s a mobius strip, a self-sustaining perpetual machine.

And so now, today, the people who work for the government are supremely sheltered. Government employees in any culture tend to attract those who crave security over all else. Hand-in-hand with that safety? Upholding whatever are the traditional or conformative mores, whatever are the social codes and social order. Government is not where you go if you are radical, unless you want to create a world in which you want to shoot yourself.** It’s like The Law in a way — inherently about preserving the existing power structure.

And if I had known I would be at a government facility before I got there, I would have been more emotionally prepared. As it was, I was surprised and had a bit more of that “THIS IS KOREA AND YOU WILL NEVER FIT IN HERE” blowback.

Which is fine. I was probably overdue for it, since I hadn’t had the lesson hammered home since February. I had done fine with the small bumps along the road that happened since February, but it hadn’t been shoved in my face until this volunteering effort.

So, I showed up, signed in, registered, listened to the volunteer coordinator explain the duties. (He’d asked me over the phone if I was going to come regularly and I said I would see; and I’m glad I did because then I wasn’t locked in to volunteering at a place that I didn’t like.) We had an entire conversation all in Korean.

Then he mentioned that sometimes it takes a bit longer because there is paperwork to fill out after the volunteering. I said I probably wouldn’t be able to help with that since my Korean reading ability isn’t great. (I mean, it’s fine; but government forms usually use the most formal of terms and I haven’t learned those yet.) He said the forms are no big deal, just basic stuff, so I smiled and said okay. He asks if I’m Korean and I say no, I’m gyopo. He tells me to wait and rest for a while and then he’ll take me upstairs.

Flash to upstairs where I’m waiting to help feed the seniors. I help with a few tasks. I have a quick conversation with one of the nurses. Then she stops and we have this exchange, ALL IN KOREAN:

“The volunteer coordinator said you can’t speak Korean.”
“I can speak Korean. Just if you use the easier words, then it will be fine.”
“The volunteer coordinator said you can’t speak Korean at all. Is the communication between us going to work?” she asks.
“I can speak Korean; I’m just not fluent. It will be fine if you use easier words is all,” I repeat.
She walks away and I just go back to waiting until it’s time to feed the seniors. Then I feed the seniors, with a couple of other verbal exchanges with the nurses. When I’m done and everything has been put away, I go downstairs to check out and then I leave.

And I’m annoyed. Thankfully, not seething like I would have been before meditation and comfort and healing, but annoyed. And I thought to how before I would have wanted that acceptance but now I accept that that acceptance will never be mine and so it rolled off of me, mostly. Not entirely, or else I wouldn’t be posting about it now 😛

My theory is that it is the worst of “frog inside a well.” Like “frog in a bubble, inside a well.” Korean society is pretty internalized and limiting as it is, but for those who have hit the pinnacle of working for the government, they have their own tiny world and no reason to go outside of that world. So they stay in their bubble floating on a well’s water-surface, and they think that they know all that they need to know.

Because:
1. Bitch, I told you, volunteer coordinator, that my Korean wasn’t fluent. I didn’t say that I couldn’t speak Korean. AND WE HAD AN ENTIRE CONVERSATION IN KOREAN BEFORE WE EVEN GOT TO THAT POINT. So for you to transmit the information that I “couldn’t speak Korean at all” is incredibly disingenuous at best and plain wrong at worst. (Actually worst is if you said it maliciously but I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt — from frog inside a well, because you don’t know what you don’t know, a la Dunning-Kruger effect — that you did not say it maliciously.)
2. Whattttt, nurse, we had exchanges ALL IN KOREAN before you decided to bring up that I couldn’t speak Korean. Why can’t you reconcile the idea in your head that a person can speak a language but not be fluent?

Actually that last is exactly why I think this is a “frog inside a well” problem. For a society that is incredibly insular and where the majority of the citizens do not have to interact with people different from themselves… it is “normal” to think that a person can be unable to speak a language despite learning it for 10+ years. This is sadly how many Koreans are with English (there’s a conflagration of reasons for this, which I won’t address here — I do understand much of the difficulty though; it’s largely the flawed educational system).

There are levels of fluency in any language. I can communicate and get my ideas across in Korean with no problem. It may take a bit longer since I don’t know all of the advanced words in the same way that I know them in English… but I can communicate.

Most other people I talk with — granted, people who want to learn English or people who seek out non-Koreans in some way; this relates to a later point — are impressed by my level of Korean, especially after they learn I was born in the States; they offer compliments (I never ask about my Korean because that opens the doors to people (mostly men) correcting me, which I hate — I acknowledge it’s a character flaw). I say that my Korean is not 100% fluent and I’m studying to become fluent and they inevitably say either “it’s so wonderful that you can communicate in Korean” or “I wish I could speak English as well as you can speak Korean.”

And I know, now, why I’m so upset. Because these two clueless governmental employees reducing my Korean to “inability” OR “lack” made me feel like all of the Korean language study I’ve been doing lately… was worthless.

But I remind myself that they are big fish in a small-tiny-teeny-tiny pond. Frogs inside a well, thinking they have everything they need — and maybe they do, from my Buddhist side — but their lack of empathy made me feel like my studying Korean was pointless.

And I won’t succumb! The fault of poor communication lies not with me (for example, I was not the one who “translated” lack of fluency into complete inability) but with you and your tiny bubbles inside tiny wells.

And that’s the other side of it, too. The Koreans who call Koreans “frogs inside wells” are those who have traveled outside of Korea, who have felt what it’s like to not be the majority, who have faced difficulty in communicating, who have faced racism, who have been challenged in their behaviors. But government employees from the US rarely travel and so I understand if government employees from Korea also rarely travel.

My parents would say it’s because the naysayers are uneducated, but I think it’s because they are ignorant and lacking in empathy or the ability to imagine a world different from the one they grew up in. They haven’t been challenged. It’s not about education, because 93% of Koreans nowadays graduate from college. It’s about being pushed to consider ways of existing that are outside your society’s norms. And Korea is cruel to that (I mean, in general, Korea is cruel to Koreans so it’s just an additional layer).

So to those two government employees, I wish you well… and I never want to see you again.

* My main area of volunteer focus in Korea is the elderly poor. There are many news articles on how the system has failed them and many believe that they will work until they die. Here are two articles:
https://koreaexpose.com/no-country-for-old-people/: also has links to further articles; they all made me tear up
http://says.com/my/news/granny-prostitutes-in-south-korea-elderly-live-in-poverty: please no sex-shaming; sometimes all that is left to sell in super-capitalist Korea is the body

In fact, the last (super awkward) dude I went on a date with — he told me that he wasn’t close with his family, that his mother and father live apart, and that his mother depends on what he and his siblings can send to her to support her. I asked why he didn’t bring her to live with him, and his excuse was that then he’d have to get an apartment with two bedrooms and that that was too expensive. And I thought, “You’re being so selfish. You work for fucking LG in Seoul.”

And maybe — since my Buddhist self wants to see the other side, the potential good in people — he sends a lot to his mother to compensate. But it didn’t feel like it. The way he said it, it felt like he and his siblings send small amounts after they take care of themselves in the manner/status that they want and that they say it’s because they don’t want their father to find out they’re helping their mother (he used the term 살짝).

Anyway, volunteering in Korea I want to help the elderly poor, the ones who have been forsaken and forgotten by their children, who the existing social and governmental structure does not help enough. This bright and clean senior citizens’ center, in the middle of a rich neighborhood, did not hit the parts that ache in my heart. So I wouldn’t have gone back; it’s just that the behavior of the government employees made that decision even more firm. (I should probably say that in the hierarchy of government jobs, theirs ranks towards the bottom. And this two-faced-ness in Korea drives me crazy. But it’s not for me to resolve — it’s not my lane, so all I can do is help where I want to help.)

Also, in case you are curious, I volunteer to distribute food to the homeless too. My reason for seeking out other volunteer opportunities is twofold:
1.Distributing food to the homeless requires a lot of walking and sometimes my knee isn’t up to it if I have gone running that same day (I go to a running meetup sometimes and they are always on the same day).
2.More importantly, I want to help people before they become homeless. There is a minimal social safety net here (most of it runs on family which can be great but then can be awful if your children are selfish like my super-awkward date)… so once you are homeless, climbing out of that situation is almost impossible. There’s a reason why the elderly poor hold on to their W50,000 per month tiny rooms (more like hovels) for as long as they can. Sometimes they can pay for those rooms by selling cardboard recycling but that too is fraught with turf scuffles and also it’s incredibly awful physical labor for seniors who are weaker and slower (omg about to cry).

** For one summer, I was a Law Clerk for the U.S. government. I hated it. I especially did not like how the force of The System made me become racist and see vulnerable people as exploiting the system. I didn’t like how I started to see that behavior as “wrong.” But that’s what The System does — it actively works to strip you of your humanity by slicing your empathy away, away, away.

I hated it and I use this story a lot when talking with people who are thinking of going to law school because they “want to change the system from within.” NO. The System changes YOU; The System has the weight and pressure of generations and the force of all of the people through those generations. Sure, maybe you are the special one who can change it from within. But that too is a trope and statistically you are so much more likely to end up someone you despise. I certainly did and that is why I will never work for a government again.

2 of Swords · 2 of Wands · 4 of Pentacles · 4 of Swords · Introspection

up and up and out… and then back down

The title describes it all.  I was up and feeling good and I got a lot of stuff done and then.. when it cme time to go back to writing fiction.. I got sad again.

So i’m sad now.  Still sad.

To divert away, which is one of my coping mechanisms, I’ll say the things that have happened lately:

  • dead bird, killed by a street cat, on the first day that my ancestors insisted I had to sleep in the altar room instead of my bedroom.  the dead bird turned up on my rooftop balcony on my bedroom side, right alongside my bed itself
  • doggaebi left a few days ago.  he’ll be back in a week but he’s gone
  • I was told that tokki will stay with me always, yay — she’s not just temporary
  • when I read cards when tipsy I attact low level spirits.  not surprising and good for me to know
  • I made kimchi here (you can see a picture on fb)
  • finally finished the release vision board.  [i]I release my script of needing to walk my journey alone[/i]
  • oh and I remember my dreams a lot more lately

Oh lawd psyching myself up to writing or even editing is hard.  I will try again though.

2 of Swords · 5 of Pentacles · 8 of Swords · 9 of Swords · culture shock · Introspection · Moon · Queen of Swords

the things that give me feeeeeeeelings

Super feelings-y post ahead as an FYI.

Here are the main situations and circumstances that make me sad.

I feel sad and hopeless because I do not feel equipped to help in any way.

Like, as a comparison, my race trigger is super strong… but in NYC, I could go outward in that; I could use my anger to fuel others and protect others.  I could get in the faces of racist cops and scream and push and shove.  I could use my body as a shield, me between those racist cops and the bodies of more vulnerable oppressed peoples (because I am privileged in able-bodiedness, class, education, race, and seeming heteronormativity).  I could use my charisma and noticeability to divert attention away from those who needed more hiddenness.

One of the great things about Korea is that my race trigger isn’t … well,*triggered* … not every day as it was in NYC.  Other things rise to the surface in that absence (I’ll blog on them later, I promise), but the race trigger is not a flare.

I don’t need to take antacids and antihistamines daily, as I did in NYC.  In fact, I think I’ve taken those meds only 1-2 times in the last 5 months of living in Korea.

But in the US, I had *ways* of being able to express my anger.  And to use my anger for good.  I have not yet found a way to use my anger for good here.  Which is a shame, since I have so much of it.  LOL except I’m *not* kidding.

This is important, because I tend to turn my sadness into anger.

And so instead, lately, here in Korea, I get really really sad.  And I feel helpless, because I feel helpless to transform my anger into a driving force (of anger, yes, not the healthiest, I recognize but it is my coping mechanism).  I feel helpless in my desire to use my anger for good, because I cannot see ways that I can.

Here, you can imagine me as a demon who needs targets to attack.  One of those good-hearted demons LOL.

So then, here are the two life-situations that make me feel sad and mad and helpless and just plain stymied by life:

  • the elderly poor (eung eung eung I tear up seeing them and reading about them and everything about this ahh ahhh ahhhh I cry and cry and cry)
  • abandoned and ignored dogs and cats (please excuse me while I cry some more)

For these two, I feel particularly helpless, because being around them makes me feel so sad and I feel worthless because my sadness keeps me from doing anything to actually HELP them.  Like, I cannot work/volunteer rescue.  And I don’t know what to do to help the elderly poor here.  It’s not my place to speak since it’s not my culture and so I just cry cry cry.

I realize the seeming centering that’s happening here.  I don’t want for you to make me feel better about my feelings, because it’s not right that I get prioritized over the ones who suffer.  I’m just sharing my feelings about feeling helpless.  And honestly hoping that someone out there can tell me what I can do.  But that too is not a requirement.  This is my expression post, where I share my feelings; I’ll find a resolution.  If you have the capacity, then please use that capacity to help the elderly poor or the animals, as I cannot.  I am asking you to divert here.

So ordinarily I’d want some form of resolution here, because distraction away is one of my coping mechanisms.  But I am working on JUST FUCKING WRITING.  And so this post ends here.  This post ends here, with me simply saying what I wanted to say.