Poem_Naturally

trauma is a scary thing

You think it’s gone,

but then you find it lingering

where the nails meet skin

the sharp things live

where the speedometer runs high

when the loud sounds ring.

Complement with this reading: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D.

Reflecting on My Life with Christina Baker Kline’s a piece of the world and Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World

I was inspired to read this poem by Emily Dickinson after finishing a piece of the world by Christina Baker Kline:

Learning From The Homes Of Famous Writers

“This is my letter to the World that never wrote to me”

“This is My Letter to the World”, goes like this:

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,–
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

Kline’s a piece of the world revolves around the life of Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s most renowned masterpiece, Christina’s World (you can find it at the Museum of Modern Art, 5th fl). Margaret Steiger, a fellow peer and art lover, also my supervisor at MoMA!, recommended me this book as she knew how much I loved Christina’s World.

Christina suffered from a life long illness (initially thought as having polio, modern day neurologists believe she actually suffered from Charcot-Marie Tooth (CMT) disease, which causes progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation) that started to render the nerves in her arms and legs pretty much kaput as she entered adulthood.

In this novel, the character Christina (will now move forward referring to novel’s character as ‘Christina’ and the real Christina as ‘Christina Olson’), coming into her teenage years, and with a body severely limited in movement from the effects of a mysterious illness’ onset at toddler-hood, begins to develop a curiosity and ferocity of mind, and this coincides with her discovery and subsequent exploration of Emily Dickinson’s words at school.

Excerpts

“I agree. Rest is stupid. I am tired of this narrow bed, the slice of window above it. I want to be outside, running through the grass, climbing up and down the stairs. When I fall asleep, I am careering down the hill, my arms outstretched and my strong legs pumping, grasses whipping against my calves, steady on toward the sea, closing my eyes and tilting my chin toward the sun, moving with ease, without pain, without falling. I wake in my bed to find the sheet damp with sweat.”


“MRS. CROWLEY TOLD me once—the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me—that I’m one of the brightest students she’s ever taught. Long before the others, I have finished my reading and arithmetic. She’s always giving me extra work to do and books to read. I appreciate the compliment, but maybe if I could run and play like the other kids, I would be as impatient and distracted as they are. The truth is, when I’m immersed in a book I’m less aware of the pain in my unpredictable arms and legs.”


“I’m so tired of this mutinous body that doesn’t move the way it should. Or the low thrumming ache that’s never entirely absent. Of having to concentrate on my steps so I don’t fall, of my ever-present scabs and bruises. I’m tired of pretending that I’m the same as everyone else. But to admit what it’s really like to live in this skin would mean giving up, and I’m not ready to do that.”


“’Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” Maybe so, I think. Maybe my memories of sweeter times are vivid enough, and present enough, to overcome the disappointments that followed. And to sustain me through the rest.'”


“My chin drips blood, my wrists throb, I am facedown in the wet, soiled dress it took me weeks to sew. The skirt is bunched up round my hips, my bloomers and misshapen legs exposed. Lifting myself slowly on my elbows, I survey my torn bodice. All at once I am so tired of this—of the constant threat of humiliation and pain, the fear of exposure, of trying to act like I’m normal when I’m not—that I burst into tears. No, I am not all right, I want to say. I am fouled, degraded, ashamed. A burden and an embarrassment.”

On Christina’s first experience with love:

“It feels as if my life is moving forward at two separate speeds, one at the usual pace, with its predictable rhythms and familiar inhabitants, and the other rushing ahead, a blur off color and sound and sensation.”


Reflecting on Christina’s World

I have felt a deep connection with Christina’s World, ever since I first encountered Christina’s World as a university student.

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The work is an incredible sight and experience; numerous people from all over the world will tell you so as well: painted is a young, youthful girl, in stark contrast against the muted landscape of a field and barn/farmhouse. Your eyes settle intensely on the seemingly feeble, yet remarkably dignified, stoic, and bold girl in pink dress.cri_000000165457

Personal Reflections

I was very sick when I was 13 and in my teenage years. The utter prison I felt like I was in, of not being able to wield my body at will, not being able to do things other kids do nor be carefree was a formative experience in my youth.

Thinking about my future was scary.

The picture my mind drew of my life was monstrous; It was only filled with more ifs, doubts and and despondence from wondering whether I’d ever be able to live the life I wish I had instead of living through it with a body I abhorred.

The memories do not go away easily //

Having to stay a couple nights in the St. Judes hospital deprived of sleep and watching Shakespeare in Love and The Man in the Iron Mask with my mother who bravely tried to stay awake with me and laid on a cot bed by me.

Stubbornly demanding and begging I get my license like all my other high school friends and be allowed to drive with my parents in car, and my father finally relenting, only to find myself losing control of the wheel, with my foot off the pedal and my hands fallen to their sides [and off the wheel] one day driving my family.

Crossing the road, beginning to feel time slow, seeing my dad not far behind me running to catch me before I blacked out.


I was engaged with this painting before I had learned of its background story and the life of Christina Olson.

Looking at her was as if I were seeing myself. Or seeing what I’d have liked to see in myself back then: a portrait of strength, boldness, and ferocity– dignified living.

I stood staring at her for a very long time.

And I’d come back to it again, and again, and again. As if I was drinking from a well.

Fast forward to 2020, having finished this book, which was a light and lovely spin-off and depiction of Christina Olson’s life, I find myself glad to be seeing Christina again, anew.

More Excerpts

“The House of the Seven Gables. ‘So much of mankind’s varied experience had passed there that the very timbers were oozy, as with the moisture of a heart.’”


Andrew Wyeth & Christina Olson:

“‘ I wanted to show the contrast with your skin. To highlight you sitting there.’

Now that we’re having this conversation, I realize that I am a little angry. ‘I look like I’m in a coffin with a lid half shut.’

He laughs a little, as he can’t believe I might be upset.

I stare at him evenly.

Running his hand through his hair, he says, ‘I was trying too show your…’ He hesitates. ‘Dignity. Solemnity.’

‘Well, I guess that’s the problem. I don’t think of myself as solemn. I didn’t think you did, either.’

‘I don’t. Not really. It’s just a moment. And it’s not really ‘you.’ Or ‘me.’ Despite what you think.’ His voice trails off. Seeing me struggle with the heavy oven door, he comes over and opens its for me, then slides the baking tray of biscuits in. ‘I think it’s about the house. The mood of it.’ He shuts the oven door. ‘Do you know what I mean?’

‘You make its seem so…’ I cast about for the right word. ‘I don’t know Lonely.’

He sighs. ‘Isn’t it, sometimes?’

For a moment there’s silence between us.

I reach for a dishrag and wipe my floury hands.

‘So how do you think of yourself?’ he asks.

‘What?’

‘You said you don’t think of yourself as solemn. So how do you think of yourself?’

It’s a good question. How do I think of myself?

The answer surprises us both.

‘I think of myself as a girl,’ I say.”


“EVERY WEEK OR ten days a thick letter in a white envelope with a two-cent stamp arrives in the mail. He writes from the library, from the dining hall, from the narrow wooden desk in his dormitory room, by the light of a gas lamp after his rugby-playing, gin-guzzling roommate has gone to sleep. Each envelope, a package of words to feed my word-hungry soul, provides a portal into a world where students linger in wood-paneled classrooms to talk to professors, where entire days can be spent in a library, where what you write and how you write it are all you need to worry about. I imagine myself in his place: strolling across campus, peering up at thick-paned, glowing windows at dusk, going to expensive dinners with friends in Harvard Square, where the waiters wear tuxedos and look down their noses at the unkempt students, and the students don’t care.”

5 Habits I Picked Up in 2019

2019 has been a year: My first brand, ATEM, turned 1 year old, our cosmetics R&D startup is going into our 3rd year, and I turned 27.

In this time and despite my work taking most of my attention on my days (excluding Sabbath, Sundays!), I developed some new habits that have supported my betterment.

1. I started exercising regularly: 3 to 5 times a week!

Result: Exponentially increased physical health, increased mental fortitude (ie. focus), and emotional wellbeing

2. I started flossing daily, after setting up my daily habit tracker in July, 2019: I now floss every day without needing a reminder or a checklist to tell me I have to!

Result: Increased self-control: A developed appreciation for discipline and keeping to some “orders” of the day

3. I started regularly writing down things I am grateful for, or allocating a protected time to visually go down the the things I am grateful for.

Result: Increased mental and emotional wellbeing – rewiring the “space” for automatic negative thoughts to come in to a space for positive, gratitude filled thoughts.

4. I started making my bed more regularly: This is a habit to solidify in 2020 as I still do not keep to the habit.

Result: Increased self-control: A developed appreciation for discipline and keeping to some “orders” of the day

5. I started being more careful and controlled about the things I utter about myself or my life: Saying less “I can’t,” or “I’m not,” and more “I hope,” “I can,” and “I believe.” I hope to continue this habit into this year, and applying this principle as I speak of and to others as well.

Result: Increased mental and emotional wellbeing – rewiring the “space” for automatic negative thoughts to come in to a space for positive, gratitude filled thoughts. As Carl Lentz one said, “change your mind, change your life.”

A habit I would like to change completely in 2020 is not letting my moods dictate my actions as much, particularly in the physical with my waking and sleeping times. I had experienced a season of mild depression, and because of this, it was difficult to get out of bed at times I wanted to on a daily basis over a span of 2 some months. I felt like I was chained to my bed, and sometime woke up feeling like 2 tons of cement were lying atop me and I’d go to sleep again because it felt like too much of a struggle to try to fight it.  During this time, what I lost in time/productivity, I made up for, but this was not great for my overall health. This year, for my wellbeing, I would like to commit to regularly sleeping a number of hours per day, and waking up consistently at an earlier hour of the day. I write these down, as writing my intentions down will incentivize me to action.

 

 

 

 

2019: Mental Health Awareness Month

Let me tell you a bit of my story.
I had some scary things happen to me in my life: I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder in the 7th grade, was sexually assaulted by a family relative in the 10th grade, had my parents divorce after a traumatic narrative that spanned years, and was raped  my first year out of college.

This in tandem with my naturally emotions driven self brought forth a very unbalanced, and very unhappy Susan for a lot of my adolescence and into my early twenties. I could be happy and “on,” yes, but I was also severely unhappy.


I turned to a quick phase of substance abuse in the last year of high school into my first year of college, to control the control I did not feel I had.

There were certain years, when I did not want to live.
There were seasons I’d stand at the platform of a subway station in NYC and despite having just come out of a splendid date with a friend from NYU or with someone I was dating, I’d dissolve inside, trying to hold back the anxiety attack that was coming, only to barely control it or succumb to it and when the train finally pulled in, I’d enter the train heaving for air, so so relieved I was a bit of a pussycat and scared of jumping. There were also more times that I’d just cry in the train ride home, head down.
In 2013-2014, I was suicidal.
I remember thinking simply out of sheer despair:
I’m so scared of dying.
I’m so scared of dying.
But I feel so much pain.
I was also thinking
I don’t want to just live.
I want to LIVE.
God met me in this dark, dark place back then, in the latter half of 2014.
I then with all the courage I could muster, began to open up to some friends and to my family.

In 2015 I made a promise to myself, that I would not live this way, and 2015 was the beginning of my recovery and fight against the depressive thoughts and feelings I felt and heard in my head every single day.
In 2019, I am living and working to fulfill that promise to myself to live life at its fullest.
And now I am happy as a clam 🙂 (is that the right American phrase?)
For the past 4 years I’ve worked really hard to get a semblance of the joy others feel, and I’ve gotten there, even farther than I’d ever hoped.
I made a lot of mistakes in the process, but no one is perfect, and I was really trying.
(for example, falling in love with someone in early 2016, and not being able to handle the intimacy, or 2) not having been able to appreciate pleasure of touch earlier – I’m still working on that now, but feel like I’m on the tail end of it! I enjoy my romances now, thank goodness :)When I was younger, I’d feel tons of fear when a man touched me and would freeze inside and panic).
The healing is slow, and there are a lot more stories I want to share [and some justice I want to see in the world, if God wills it and it’s wise], but I will share them when I am ready to share those stories. All in their own time. One day, I’m going to be strong enough to call my perpetrators by name. For now, I’m going to work on continually healing and helping others lift themselves up too.
I don’t share this story with you because I’m over it, or because I’m stronger than you. Revisiting things like this make me quite sad. But I feel convicted enough and strong enough at this moment to share in order to encourage and stand with anyone reading this. It’s not easy, and for those who’ve had illnesses for a long time, I understand the hardened nature of the heart that comes with.
I believe that the world would be a better place if we all began to share and stand with each other more and hide, covet, and cover a little less. The world will not crumble down and your conservative family or community might gasp and make you feel shame, but who cares. That shame they make you feel is a lie.
It is your life one “wild, and precious life”, as Mary Oliver says.
On an overarching note, for anyone dealing with any present or past trauma, I want to tell you earnestly that there are ways out and you really won’t have to go back, that there are people all around you here to stand with you if you only extend a hand.
I’m with you.
So here’s to mental health awareness month.

Little Practices That Improve My Mental Health

  1. Take the time to tie my shoelaces before slipping my feet into my shoes, instead of slipping them or cramming them in using my thumbs to open up the foot hole.
  2. Manually uninstall Instagram for a couple hours to a full day. I do this regularly to encourage a keeping of healthy, controlled Instagram use. Because I love Instagram! And it’s very apparent to me that I can become addicted to it. It’s like other medias, and I worry that there are others don’t see it as such. Imagine if you were in your 20s watching 4 hours + TV a day and also not sleeping from it. This is a value based opinion, so I’m not suggesting someone is wrong by doing that (and maybe you’re the kind of person who can do everything in 24h and still feel really good with little sleep, etc!). I’m just saying I personally don’t want to watch 4 hours of TV a day as a working woman who has limited leisure time, when I can be using that time to do something like being present with people I love or reading or taking my sleep or what have you.
  3. Like homework, and regardless of how awesome I’m feeling, look up at the sky once after work to remind myself in good AND bad circumstances just how vast, strange, and beautiful the world is and just how small, I, my circumstances, my colleagues and my businesses and all the things like that are in contrast. It gives me added perspective when I don’t need it ( who will complain about that), and that way I have perspective when I do. Perspective that’s built into me like a layer of mental armor.
  4. Go to the gym even when I feel like THE LAST THING I WANT TO DO IS GO TO THE GYM and time is just ticking away and it’s approaching 11pm (the closing time for my gym, I go to Equinox) and even when there’s less than an hour left for me to take my bum off my bed because I literally had rather-ed killing time on my bed scrolling on my phone for an hour instead of going. And somehow, I finally just go. Even it’s for clocking in’s sake and I really can’t handle lifting a weight (because I’m lazy or moody or whatever). I go.
  5. Verbally or mentally ask myself how I am feeling every day to check in on myself. Really check in on my self. Meta, I know. But we’re always pressured to be productive, go zoom zoom zoom, and think while we move etc etc,– I mean how can that encourage positive, smart, reflective thinking in many people? It doesn’t for me. I also started asking this of people I care about instead of saying “how was your day?” when I inquire after them. I find I can get to the source of the things I ultimately care about by asking “how are you,” or “how are you doing,” or “how are you feeling”, instead of asking how was your day? Because with how was your day, someone can just list everything that happened without mentioning once that they’re not doing okay emotionally.
  6. Pray. I pray diligently for all the great things in my life, and am also honest in prayer with the things that are not going in my life, internally or externally. By facing those truths every day and during it as frequently and regularly as I can, I stay away from the threat of encouraging and welcoming untruths or narratives that will contaminate the thoughts of my head and the understandings of my heart.
  7. Reflect, often, often, often. Particularly in regards to my interpersonal relationships. While I do know I have a disposition for thinking in excess, I do think _THINKING_ done in moderation is healthy; I revisit [a little too often perhaps, I don’t know] whether I have any rotten branches (people or things) currently chilling out in my life– this I do very often, like weekly homework. Particular emphasis on people evaluation for me. I am fortunately aware of myself, and I know I immediately engage at a deep emotional level with literally anyone who enters my life and as a conversation with me by even 1 degree. I kind of just open-door myself once I let a new acquaintance in (which can be good, and also bad). I don’t do that “let’s leave the door slightly ajar and stay emotionally aloof internally and then open it 90 degrees” thing. So, when someone negative enters my life, it does make an impact somewhere in my life and my overall wellbeing, even if it doesn’t reflect immediately in the mental compartment.
  8. I eat with intention, which visually manifests itself with me eating more slowly than I naturally would prefer.
  9. I also practice sharing with individuals I trust or have identified have a certain level of authority in wisdom over me on x, y, or z. Sharing is a way to share in my pain and joy with others, but it also helps me 1. measure my life and my thoughts more accurately because there are people that are not experiencing whatever is going on in my head or my heart, which means they can give objective feedback on what I am feeling or experiencing, and also act as mirrors when/if I ever reach the point when I can not perceive things clearly and I am skewing experiences, messages, everything.. and it 2) holds me accountable in the healthy desire to always want to be working on getting to that “the better place”.
  10. Self care, mental health self-care, emotional self-care never stops. There is no ceiling, or at least I haven’t found it and I am a pretty! happy person right now. 🙂

Take care yourself. So you can give proper love to others, so you can give proper love to yourself. How can you love thy neighbor as yourself if you don’t know how to do it yourself? Is the question I ask myself.

 

xSoo

My 2016 Book List: Let my Year in Books Inspire You as Well!

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Here is my 2016 book list of books I’ve carried through completion and thoroughly enjoyed, with random, rambling annotations:

Books with * = well read, well worn, well kept

Books with ** = SUPERSTAR

  1. *The Unpublished David Ogilvy by David Ogilvy, Joel Raphaelson
  2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  3. Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann: Recommended by my friend Nick McClish; Hans Castorps take on life in a sanitorium is hilarious and may I say, morbidly magical.
  4. *Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  5. *How Proust Can Change Your Life by Marcel Proust: I bought this at the Strand bookstore for $2 and it opened me up to the world of Proust. Guys, $2 + tax can indeed change your life for the better.
  6. *In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust: This book changed my life, but if you are a grammar N*** or someone who considers brevity a virtue, then this is not that life-changing book for you.
  7. *Bible (NIV): For my spiritual and moral feeding – I hold this very close to my heart, always, for the truth of the Lord breeds the purest of love, knowledge, kindness, goodness, forbearance, joy, and peace.
  8. ** Leonardo’s Notebooks edited by Anna Suh: my eyes were burning from the amount of manuscript notes I had to read that he created; can you believe that someone with a non-classical education has over 20,000 notes in total of mind-blowing studies and findings found through sheer observation and experimentation? Wowzers.
  9. Chaos Monkeys by Antonia Garcia Martinez: hilariously scathing, and very tell-all by nature, a book on the going ons of the SV tech world from the eye of one man who managed to get acquired by or work for some top companies. A peer and Director of Salesforce who I recently met told me this is much like the HBO series: Silicon Valley, so for those who liked watching that, you ought to take a chance on this.
  10. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli: I never got to read this in school, but all of a sudden I had the urge to read this now and on Machiavelli’s thoughts on acquiring, conquering, managing, and losing principalities/power/people. Pretty relevant, I’d say.
  11. The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller: talks a lot about the moralistic brothers of the church vs. brothers who’ve gone wild and then returned to the folds of God – really cool and enlightening read on the hypocrisy of institutions like religion and even more importantly, why it’s even more necessary to stay steadfast in your faith in God.
  12. **Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan: I had been exposed to surfing this year through a man I loved, and naturally became curious as to the intensity of adoration felt for this specific hobby by him and by many other friends. Finnegan explains the surfing life perfectly, and I am totally hooked – theoretically speaking.
  13. *Blood, Brains, and Beer: Autobiography by David Ogilvy
  14. **Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: recommended by my friend David Kong. I enjoyed it and as a Jane Austen fan, really glad I got to read another stellar work of hers!
  15. Ein Mein Manifesto by Eric Jarosinski
  16. **Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
  17. Algorithms to Live By by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths: My older sister had this on her Audible.
  18. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport: because I enjoy reading Cal Newport’s blog and was deeply changed by his book Deep Work. This is an earlier book of his, and I have noticed that his prose here is not so pithy, but still to the point. It serves its purpose.
  19. **Team Genius: The New Science of High-Performing Organizations by Michael Malone and Rich Karlgaard: because I wanted to make the company I worked in at the time better.
  20. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington
  21. The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Recommended by my dear friend, Victoria Wong! It’s one of her favorite books. Funny story: There was a time when I was quoting this book, and a friend had asked me who the author was, when I replied, “Mila Kunis” with the sureness of a cock. I was deservedly embarrassed.
  22. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
  23. Who Needs the Fed by John Tamny: I picked this book up because my younger sister works at the Fed, and I am always down to read a book that will enlighten me more on the activities of loved ones.
  24. Virtual Billions: The Genius, the Drug Lord, and the Ivy League Twins Behind the Rise of Bitcoin by Eric Geissinger: The book in its entirety wasn’t engaging, but the first couple chapters were amazing in detailing the foundations of Bitcoin & its network, and the influencers * all the the ants involved in this crypto currency ecosystem.
  25. The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane: written for the layman, it reinforces wise mental hacks that are necessary to live both in optimism and be successful.
  26. Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security by Laurence J. Kotlikoff: A book picked up in an effort to aid my parents when they become of age.

Things I’ve started or am looking to read in 2017!:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: I’m reading this one to get to know my younger sister better. She is a big fan of Tolkien.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: I’ve only read the first few chapters, and so far the story lines of the characters introduced and families are absolutely ACE! The complexity! The depth! The scandal! Recommended by my good friends: Sewon Yang and Max Heering.

Leonardo da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man by Martin Kemp

I wish the world the biggest growth it’s seen yet this 2017.

Bises,

Soo