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Missing You

August 14, 2011

Those who know me and read my blog already know how I revel in being alone. Growing up without brothers and sisters, I learned how to entertain myself, and how to be alone without being lonely. The truth is, if I spend too much time around people, without some time for myself, I get exhausted. This even extends to the person with whom I am most myself, my husband.

Because we are an international couple, not much of our lives overlaps. We don’t really have friends as a couple. There are my friends and his – and while we have spent time with both – we don’t really socialize together. Our work can take us away from each other all day – me with early morning classes and him with evening gigs. We are rarely both home at 5:00 for dinner. Even when we are spending a lazy day at home, vegging out in front of the tv, he is in the living room watching Korean tv and I will be in the bedroom watching something on the computer.

Truly, this type of relationship suits me fine. I don’t think I could be married to someone who would demand a lot of togetherness. I suffocate easily, and not everyone gets that. I love Bong because he does, and because he is built the same way.

Still, for all our separateness, there is a connection that makes us feel like we are always together. It never feels like it has disappeared even when we are fighting about something stupid, when we are catching up, lost in a conversation over a bottle of soju, or when we are physically apart.

Right now, Bong is in Nepal. He is graduating next semester, and I decided to give him a trip there as a gift. The gift was also for myself. Two weeks of being totally alone in the apartment, with no other commitments, was my idea of bliss – pure and total freedom. All I had to do was keep the cat alive and blog – and I have pretty much spent the two weeks as I planned, keeping myself company like I used to do as a kid, lost in my thoughts, sometimes going the whole day without speaking to anyone. It was just what I needed.

Bong was due to come home tomorrow, but for weather reasons, has been delayed a couple of days. I know that I am starting to really miss him when the aloneness takes on a shade of sadness, when I take to the tv to fill my thoughts. I am ready for him to come home now. Still, how lucky I am to have married someone who knows how to keep me company while letting me be as alone as I need to be.

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Out of Gas (Interview with a procrastinating blogger)

August 13, 2011

Q: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit with us today, Shelley.
S: You are most welcome, but there’s another episode of “Say Yes to The Dress: Atlanta” coming on soon, so let’s try to get this done quickly, ok?

Q: So, what have you done today that’s worth writing about Shelley?
A: Well, I made a fantastic pot of coffee for myself this morning. After that, I ….. When I was a teacher of Korean kids, there was a joke that the students would sometimes play on me. I would ask what they did on vacation, where they had been. Some little wisearse would answer “Bangkok”, and I would begin to ask detailed, feigning-interest questions about the trip, while all the other little wisearses would start to giggle and giggle until they burst out into side-splitting fits of hilarity. Apparently, in Korean “Bangkok” sounds a lot like a word that means “rolling around my room.” The kid hadn’t gone anywhere. He had just done nothing all day, spacing out and rolling around the room. So, that’s what I did after coffee today. I went to freaking Bangkok.

Q: You sound a little testy today, Shelley. Anything wrong? Aren’t you happy to be on vacation with absolutely nothing to do but write this blog?
A: I just spent an hour and half reading through a million blog prompt ideas. I started to write about my favorite 80’s songs. I started to write about why I don’t want children. I started to write about things I’m grateful for, inspired by the best thing I’ve read today, Ms. Paulette’s Blog. I even decided to do my version of a popular blog idea, “Wordless Wednesday” and call it “Shut Up Saturday”, where all I would have to do would be to post a photo, and let it do the speaking for me. Then, I spent 15 minutes wondering if I could pretend that I forgot to blog today. Then you appeared. So, yeah, I’m not drunk, yet I am interviewing myself. That, among other things, is pissing me off.

Q: What are the other things that are contributing to your bad mood? Let’s see how bad things really are.
A: My neighbors have no sense of noise control. It is raining yet again. The cat is shedding enough fur to knit ten sweaters. I can’t knit. I’m 41 years old. That’s about it.

Q: Not so bad, Shelley. Do you have your health?
A: Surprisingly, despite years of being much bigger than nature intended, I am a really healthy girl.

Q: Is your marriage happy?
A: It is a beautiful work in progress, with 95% contentment and 5% rip-roaring drama, to keep things interesting. We are cosmically destined to be together.

Q: Do you enjoy your regular job?
A: Absolutely. There is nothing more thrilling than a really in-the-zone, making-a-difference class. And just when the classes start to get tedious, I get 10 weeks of vacation. With pay. Twice a year.

Q: So, it sounds like you actually have a lot to be happy about?
A: Well, look at that. You tricked me into doing a gratitude post, after all.

Q: You seemed like you needed a little help. Anything you would like to say to our readers before we head back to watch Southern brides spend way too much on wedding dresses?
A: I’m so grateful that you are still reading, and didn’t press the “back” button when you got to the bit about the cat fur. Seriously.

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Blue -“Flash Fiction”

August 12, 2011

Flash fiction is a genre in which a complete story is told in 1000 words or less . I am not sure if this qualifies, as it is not so much a story as a sketch. It is pulled from my journal in the early 2000’s. While my fiction of course, has roots in reality, and I did in fact, write this while sitting alone in a bar, it is still fiction. So, there’s your disclaimer. 🙂

Blue

In a bar, somewhere South of the Han river, there’s a girl who sits alone drinking, shortening her life, cigarette by cigarette – five minutes of life knocked off at a time, so she’s been told. She wonders about the possiblity of the five minutes she’s smoking away right now.

Maybe she looks sad. Certainly, the music is sad – something in German. Imagine how this girl is, sitting in a Korean bar, listening to German music, drinking Cuervo Gold and smoking American cigarettes. Maybe she isn’t sad at all. Maybe she’s confused.

Everything feels sad though, when she’s smoking, because there’s something else she’d rather be doing with her fingers and her mouth – confused fingers, sad mouth.

She imagines a life spent kissing every sad mouth she can find. A life well spent, she imagines, and she’s already done her share. Her fingers have touched so much skin, of course she’s confused. Three bodies, she remembers, though.

She regrets the cigarette because she understands the importance of five minutes. She’s memorized those three bodies five minutes at a time. These bodies’ names are written in her fingertips. The touch of her fingertips to her lips makes her mouth sad.

Once, in another bar, an American soldier guessed her age by looking at her hands. She thought him sexy for his wisdom, his clever bar trick. He thought her sad and confused. “You seem sad,” he said, looking at her hands. ” I think you’re confused,” she answered, and he left the bar, leaving her fingerprints, for the time, unchanged. She guessed his mouth was married… too full of complaint to be properly, genuinely sad.

The girl in the bar is a little drunk right now. Tequila, being what it is, should be shared in an elaborate ritual of salt and lemon, licking and laughing. She tries out a laugh.

She thinks about the walk home from the bar, in the end-of-rainy-season drizzle, and how she’ll get home and wait for a phone call from one of the three bodies whose names are written into her fingertips. She imagines what she’ll be thinking as she waits, imagines the corners of her mouth being pressed down as she passes each minute, listening.

Imagining the possibility of five minutes, she lights another cigarette.

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Lessons My Father’s Photos Have Taught Me

August 11, 2011

We get more beautiful as we get older.

Not everything needs to be perfect to be breathtaking.

The shadows and darker parts of life are what make you interesting.

Everthing will pass in time, anyway.

In the meantime, remember that we are all in this together.

Don’t judge anyone too harshly as there is so much more going on beneath the surface than we can see.

Carve out a special place that is just for you.

You can love without losing yourself,

, but you should always be willing to open the door.

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Three Simple Questions

August 10, 2011

Three simple questions about reading courtesy of the Should Be Reading blog, of which I’m a fan:

What are you currently reading?

The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – a tragic story of love and caste written with a sense of humor and gorgeous wordplay. This was Roy’s first novel, which inspires me to no end.

What did you recently finish reading?

Dracula by Bram Stoker. I don’t know how I made it through an English Lit degree without ever having read this. It was so different than what I was expecting, and I loved the way the story unfolded through letters and journal entries.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Six Wives of Henry the Eighth by Alison Weir. I’ve already read this book once. It is a historical biography of the six wives, but Weir writes with a sense of fiction, in that she is able to pull us into the story of these people as she gives us the facts. I’m a huge fan of the tv show “The Tudors”, in spite of any historical inaccuracies, and I want to re-watch the show from the beginning, reading along with the concurrent chapters of Weir’s book – a little geeky, I admit, but what a fun thing to be obsessed with – doomed women and the interplay of politics and religion! 🙂

Would love to hear your answers to the three questions in the comments! Please share.

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Excuse

August 9, 2011

Dear Sir(s) and/or Madam(s);

Please excuse Shelley from blogging today. She has gone off to look for Summer, as it hasn’t come home for weeks now, and we are starting to get worried. We think that Summer may be holed up in a Goshiwan near Hongdae, depressed and drinking heavily. Shelley left home this morning with a backpack full of dry crackers and flat ginger ale, determined to track Summer down and coax it back to health. She probably won’t be back until sundown, as Summer can be a cranky, unwilling thing when it feels its party has been rained on. And rained on. And rained on.

I am sure Shelley will be back to blogging tomorrow, hopefully with Summer back at work, doing its job of brightening all this grey concrete. Summer probably won’t be at its best, but at this point, we’re willing to put up with a little hangover grumpiness, as long as it comes back home.

Thank you for excusing Shelley from the blog today.

Love,

The Cat

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Blocked

August 8, 2011

All the reading I have ever done about creativity insists that it is a habit. In order for the flashes of brilliance to come, you have to set up a routine and practice. My reason for taking on this August post-a-day challenge was to try and put some discipline into my writing and blogging. I run so hot and cold when it comes to creativity, as any of my regular readers will already know.

Today, I have nothing that needs to be said, or needs to be written. There’s a small typhoon happening outside, making this a dark, reflective and quiet day. I am a little skeptical of the value of taking to my blog to announce that I have nothing to blog about. Still, I’ve committed to the habit, and I hope there is some value in that.

And now, I’m heading back to watching reality tv, with a cup of tea and cat in my lap, content to spend the rest of this grey day in silence.

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“Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl…”

August 7, 2011

Have you ever been watching TV or a movie and realized the scene playing out in front of you mirrored your life a little too closely? I was recently watching an old rerun of Sex and the City, when a particular scene played out like my diary entry circa 1995. In the episode for which this blog post is named, Carrie is on a date with her new boyfriend. They have the “conversation ” – which most couples have when things start to get serious – in which they tell each other about their most recent romances. As Sean lists his three most recent affairs, he starts with two girls’ names and ends with a guy’s. The episode goes on to explore bisexuality culminating in a game of spin-the-bottle where Carrie makes out with Alanis Morisette, decides she tastes like chicken, and then goes out for cigarettes never to come back.

So, what part of my life was reflected in this episode? I certainly never made out with Alanis, and as a non-smoker, I cannot use “going out to get cigarettes” as my excuse to ditch someone. My last game of spin-the-bottle was, regrettably, played in grade 6.

It was ’94 or ’95. I was at the Great Taste coffee shop in Halifax on my second date with a professional clown (yes, you read that right), who I”ll call Robin. We were having the conversation. I told him all about the great heartbreak that led me to come to Halifax, and the few guys I had dated since I had come. He told me about his most recent ex, a woman with whom he had been kind of serious. Then he said, “And before her was Lisa, and before Lisa was Paul.” I paused, trying to look cool, before I asked, ” Sooo, are you bisexual, then?” Robin replied,” I don’t really know. I just know that if I like someone, I’m interested in touching them.” I was a little in awe of that answer. Could it really be that simple? Can I be honest and say that Robin’s openess and sexual sophistication made him more attractive to me? He had figured something out, I thought. Plus, he was an amazing kisser. His sort-of-serious ex came back into the picture before we could move beyond kissing, though, and while I didn’t mind sharing Robin with a past male lover, I was not open-minded enough to share him with another woman.

A dear friend of mine who is gay, has said bisexuality is just a stepping stone on the way to gay – that there is no real thing as the true bisexual. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I don’t agree with being forced to identify with anything that is not real for you in any given moment.

I read with interest some recent drama which played out in my hometown of Corner Brook. A pride parade had been cancelled, with the organizers citing discrimination and lack of support. As the story unfolded , it became obvious that the small group of organizers had perhaps reacted too quickly, and the pride parade happened on a last-minute basis, organized by the university students and a local website, cornerbrooker.com . I was proud that my hometown believed “Pride” was too important to ignore. My hometown had such a strong artistic scene, that it was surprisingly tolerant, if not friendly, to alternative lifestyles. However, on the local websites, many people said that they were ok with “gay” people, but that sexuality was a private thing. After all, straight people didn’t march through the streets proclaiming their sexuality. These commenters didn’t seem to realize that every marginalized group of people has had to make large gestures just to make the mainstream recognize them, let alone accept them. Newfoundlanders themselves, such a demonstratively proud people, often unfairly criticized and ridiculed, should be the most understanding of this.

I know from watching several gay and bisexual people in my life that it is the greatest act of bravery to to tell the truth about yourself.I am so proud of those in my family and among my friends who are open about the way they love. I am proud of all three of my parents, who may have struggled a little with the moral makeup of their generations, but still pushed through to accept the truth of those people who loved differently than they did.

I still think about what Robin said to me that day, am still impressed by its beautiful truth. I have been tempted to google him, to see which “side” he ended up taking. I stop myself, though, because that would play into the inflexible lines society often draws for us. I prefer to think of him, and all of us, living a life that is true, lovely and free – without labels.

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Bookish ( not quite part two )

August 6, 2011

“When you have a dream, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. If you wake up, the dream is gone. You can’t see the sequel. But I can do that, because I am a writer.” – Haruki Murakami

Early in my relationship with my husband, he gave me this book to read by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Since then, I have spent most of my time in Korea reading something by him. In many ways, it is a parallel for being a caucasian who has permanently expatriated to a country like Korea.

Though Murakami’s novels and stories all have different plots, many elements are repeated throughout his work. There is almost always a jazz bar, a talking cat, a beautiful woman more ghost than human who disappears. Most importantly, Murakami’s main characters are ordinary men who find themselves slipping in and out of reality and the fantasy that lies so closely beneath.

That is my Korea, sometimes. The sophistication of Seoul blankets the strangeness most of the time. This is a very old country, though, full of ghosts, stubborn traditions, messy explosions of color and a special kind of logic. At least once a day, I slip down underneath the normalcy and experience that other dimension.

It’s actually kind of pleasant. If anyone were going to write my life, I would, without hesitation, pick Murakami.

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Muddied

August 5, 2011

Here’s a strange little snippet of a story I started writing ages ago. Not sure if I want to revisit and try to finish it. I dug it up because it suits my mood today, when I feel like I’ve been messing things up in spite of my best intentions.

________________________

“Dirt sticks to me,” she thought, her 8 year-old brain summing things up more simply than she ever would again. Looking at her feet, she saw patterns made by the ground-in mud, and didn’t think the dirt was so bad if she could make clear the pictures she was carrying in her feet. She had her grandmothers’ feet – Both her Nans, different in every other way, walked around their worlds on feet that rolled in, leaving every pair of shoes looking like they’d been worn by a drunk. Laura knew she didn’t stand a chance agains the rolling foot gene, but she thought her arches were pretty and high, like a ballerina’s. Her arches always stayed clean. Laura twisted around in the bathtub, and picked up her leg, much heavier out of the water than in, and looked at the story pictures the mud had made. In her heel, she saw an elephant rearing up on its hind legs, apparently made frightened by the exploding sunburst on her big toe. She sat in the tub and giggled, not wanting to wash them away. Years later, staring at a clean arch not her own, she would wonder how many other stories, how many beasts and angels she had conjured from what had only been a mess.