swims through the heart

A couple of people close to me and who I love deeply tested positive for COVID. While my initial reaction was concern and a desire to be supportive, my concern pivoted to frustration and anger when I’d realized that they had been out and about in public during their COVID-positive state. I can’t remember the last time I’d been this furious, and not only that, but I felt a profound sense of betrayal, foolishness, and confusion.

I’m trying to find it in me to remember that concern I’d initially felt. I know it’s still there. I know we are all exhausted. I know the messaging from public health agencies have been confusing, not to mention the harm that public people have expressed over their disregard for taking COVID seriously. With monkeypox on the rise and the damaging and downright incorrect rhetoric that it’s a disease of gay people, I can’t help but feel a tremendous sense of disappointment and disillusionment.

Yet, I remain hopeful. I’m not by any means a religious person, but I don’t know what else to call it but faith. I can continue to do my part, and that’s all I can do.

The last couple of years for me has been a practice of control—i.e., letting it go, while harvesting and honing what is within my own personal power.

I don’t have a clean ending to this post. But because this feels good, here’s a cute photo I recently took of my cat George.

At this point, I’ll just keep swimming.

Food magic

I’m convinced more and more that food is magic. The way we select ingredients, the intention in preparing them, the connections we build—yes, food is magic.

Do you ever prepare food when you’re upset? You make something you’ve made countless times before. All of the ingredients are the same—you use the same proportions, cookware, the same procedures—but something is clearly off. It tastes different. And not only that, but it feels different. It’s why even though I followed my dad’s recipe to a tee, it still doesn’t taste quite the same. Yes, food is magic.

And when you prepare something with love, isn’t it noticeable? As soon as I have that first taste, a tingle of celebration and content sparkles in my taste buds. There’s also something unmistakably healing and soothing about food. Yes, food is magic.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it’s a privilege to be able to work with fresh ingredients. I was invited to pick lemons from my aunt’s backyard:

She is not my biological aunt, but in my culture, anyone in my parents’ generation would be considered an auntie.

Determined to celebrate these gifts, I decided to bake a lemon treat. I ran a Google search of all things lemon and stumbled upon this recipe for Meyer lemon pudding cake.

I had never known true labor in cooking until I whisked egg whites by hand! Is it time to invest in a copper bowl and hand mixer?

To be honest, I’d never baked a cake from scratch before, nor whipped egg whites. Growing up, the oven was used mostly for storing other cookware. But I was determined to bake my heart out, and the result was—yes—magical.

Fear Factor

I finally finished streaming Season 1 of Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. I’d avoided it for some time, knowing the premise and wondering if watching it would be too hard to bear.

The plot revolves around Arabella (Coel), whose drink was spiked while out with a good friend. As she becomes alert, she dips in and out of visions that seem so of place that she reckons them to be imaginary. Stumbling through an anesthetized haze of her own unconscious doing, she pieces together the occurrences of that night and realizes she was raped.

I first heard about this series almost a year ago through close girl friends. “You’ll love it, but it might be triggering. Watch it when you’re ready.” Similar sentiments were echoed in my women’s circles, where discussions around healing sexual trauma came up frequently. I wasn’t ready to watch it then either. With my relationship collapsing in a disastrous fire, my 2020 ending with someone following me home, which was then followed by a new phone stalker, the last thing I wanted to witness was someone else’s trauma, no matter how fictional. I filed a police report, changed my number, and called it a year.

I stayed off of social media for a few months. I was afraid of being found. I wasn’t sure who to trust. It wasn’t the first time I’d been stalked or followed, and the fear that simmered underneath my seemingly cool exterior scratched against suppressed memories of sexual assault. They itched to come out, those irritated, oozing memories. Years of therapy and still, they managed to hitch hike to my present. They were calling me to revisit the past, to soothe what was raw with a meticulous tenderness, rather than covering them with my usual hurried, frantic wrapping with heavy, opaque bandages.

I understood Bella. Numb the pain away. Sometimes the scariest person to confront is Self, that which holds the repository of emotions which span from bliss to apathy to the most ugly. And maybe the scariest part? These emotions have the ability to breathe life into our memories and shape our truth. These emotions give color to truth, and there are some colors that are simply unforgettable, no matter how forgettable we’d wish them to be.

I think about the title of this series: I May Destroy You. Who is “I?” Who is “you?” When we silo the words in between and the ends are all that’s left, do “I” and “you” become reflections of each other? What do we release when we let go of what’s keeping the ends apart?

Just like Bella, watching this series and the subsequent jogging of my own memories has left me feeling a bit unraveled. But unlike the Self of my past, my Self of today need not worry about the rush to composure. I’d rather that the pieces fall into place rather than forcing them to fit.

Make the time

As a latch key kid in a working class immigrant family, I grew up quite independently. I am the eldest of three (actually, eight, but that’s another story), having to learn how to cook for myself as early as 5 years old, then cooking for my younger brothers as well. Cooking and eating was always about what was convenient.

I started working while I was in high school, and I worked all throughout college. Time was always scarce. By the time I had my first job as a high school teacher, lunch break was rarely long enough for me to breathe. When I started training to become and then became a doctor, I mastered eating (and sleeping) standing up, inhaling my food in 5 minutes. By then, I’d accepted that food was not meant to be enjoyed. It was fuel, and the best I could hope for was that it tasted okay.

Life has changed significantly since then. Constantly on the run, I felt totally disconnected from my body and developed a number of health issues. My body was screaming at me to change my lifestyle, which meant that I needed to treat it like it was the treasure it is. For me, that started with exercising for joy and eating for pleasure, and slowing down and being more present and intentional in my day.

For me, presence and intention manifests in what I can make with my hands, and food is one of those things. Granted, cooking can be a luxury. Like many luxuries, it takes resources, whether that’s time, money, access, or experience. Coming from a country where canned meat is king, cooking with fresh ingredients truly feels like a blessing, and making the time to cook and eat with such presence has become a luxurious spiritual experience.

I was marinating mackerel in miso that I plan to broil in a couple of days. I thought I’d take a stab at concocting my own version of pork belly braised in miso-butter:

Pork belly braised in a miso-butter sauce, served with homemade pickles and white rice.

These days, especially because I like to develop my own recipes and am constantly tweaking them, I take the time to plate my food and savor what I’m eating. And more often than not, this experience is worth savoring.

The best $30 of my life

Six years ago, I spent $30 on adopting my cat George. And by $30, that includes his adoption fee, vaccinations, microchip, and neutering. It’s the best $30 I’ve ever spent, and George isn’t just my pet, but also a family member who has melted the hearts of even the most stoic of dads.

George at 8 months old.

I adopted George while I was going through a major transition in my life. I was two years into unpacking some heavy trauma, overmedicated, thinking about leaving medicine, and insecure about the future. When I think about that time, choosing to adopt a pet was a purely selfish one, but I also like to think that he chose me too.

George is almost 7 years old!

Now, if I could only get him to enjoy being picked up…

George and I sharing a tender moment.