A note on minimalism

I went to the dentist the other day. He asked me if I spoke any Korean. I said no. He carried on the rest of the appointment in Korean. He gave me a mirror to witness how swollen the back of my gum was. It was his way of telling me it’s not a cavity. He went away and the hygienist draped this heavy, felt fabric over my entire face, except for the hole around the mouth. I didn’t know if I was about to get a tooth pulled or decapitated. Turns out neither. They gave me a salad of pills and something to gargle. It tasted like ethanol infused with cinnamon.

I sat on the floor to fold laundry. I love sitting on the floor. And at this moment, I loved folding my laundry. I could say hi to all my clothes. I KonMaried my living space again so everything has a soul. Now, I wear a button up every day to reduce decision fatigue. Button ups are androgynous and professional. I own exactly fourteen. They each have different fabrics and functions. My weekend button ups are short sleeved and patterned. They show off my tattoos and have a fun personality. The love for my button ups transpired through me and I realized I was kinda high off the extra strength acetaminophen.


20180817_163441-1.jpgThis is so much better –– minimalism. I expected an almost empty apartment would be quite. It’s noisy. I empty the contents of my lady backpack onto my coffee table/desk. Oh shit, now I am minimalist. I pick everything back up. Put it in its place. Clutter is the enemy. Some things are homeless, like my notebook. I use it so often, it’s a nomad. I put it back on my coffee table/desk. I make a bottle of soda water.  Flat water sucks ever since I have been sober. I greet the yoga mat that I initially ignored. It lives on the floor. Every day it invites me to practice and almost every day I refuse. My home buzzes with potential. I sit down, drink my soda water. I want to complain about the heat, but I hold it in. Winter is far, far worse.

My brother was always a minimalist. Now I get it. Efficiency. I just packed for my trip to Okinawa. It took me twelve minutes. I have extra time to blog.

Letting go has never been the issue for me. Once a year I would cut off my hair and rid of garbage bags full of stuff. But just like my hair would grow back, my room would accumulate more crap. Enough to where I would have to purge all over again.

Consumerism and addiction are married. It seems kind of silly to spend money on a dress that I would donate in a few months time. I shopped as a sport. To pass time, make myself feel pretty, or for the “free” centralized air conditioning. I used it to deal with boredom, as an escape. I see it. That little parasite of addiction. My definition of it is changing. It’s not getting the shakes. It’s using something to dissociate from your feelings –– whether it’s something small like internet shopping when you’re bored or getting wasted after a stressful day. Dissatisfaction runs deep and they don’t sell the antidote at Target. I’m glad I’m breaking the cycle.

A man called Alice

“I’m bored.”

For a second, I wasn’t present. I used to admire pictures of Gwangan when I was applying for EPIK. The illuminated bridge was not just the background of my laptop but a metaphor. Bridging my life to something more interesting, adventurous. Now I was there, chainsmoking, trying to forget the set I just bombed. I let the sea kiss my toes and take me to California. No matter where I am I’m dreaming of another place.

I saw him sit down during the tail end of the show. Was he bored by my hosting? I did my best. He didn’t think I was funny? I liked his cartilage piercing. Maybe he’s woke. His shirt had a lot of holes in it. It looked like an old towel my dad would use to protect an instruction manual from the seventies, but I knew its fashion.

“Should I stay here or should I go?”

A white guy started yodeling The Strokes but I didn’t care. Everything faded into the background. I focused with laser precision on the man with the holey shirt. Should I stay or should I go? He was asking me. He balled up his destiny and put it in my hand like an unwanted receipt. It made me feel beautiful.

I gave him my phone with a magic 8 ball loaded. He spoke to it with the same urgency as if he was asking Siri how to operate and AED.

‘Reply hazy, try again later.’

I reloaded the page. “Han bon doe.” It didn’t even phase him that I said ‘one more time’ in Korean.


“OH YEAH BABY! I like the sound of that V8!!” He wasn’t talking about vegetable juice. He was moaning at the sound of foreign cars.

I should have known from the way his nipple peaked out of his shirt — this boy was ready to reveal things. He was the ripe age of 21 and the black sheep of his family. He lived in Busan but swore his life would be better abroad. We pinky promised to dance together.

“I am a unique Korean.” He was vivacious enough and didn’t need to put it into words. He told the taxi driver where to go. It was my first time hearing him speak in his mother tongue. The tone of his voice was much quieter and deeper. I could feel that he was a different person. His Korean was intuitive but is his English let him be whoever he wanted. I was jealous. I wanted to feel like a different person too.

“I’m unique too.” I tried to convey some sort of conviction.

“Prove it.”

“Well, I wear a shark tooth necklace.” If nonconformity was a race, a shark tooth necklace would be the finish line. He ran his thumb around the serrations to test its legitimacy.

“Alright, that is pretty cool.”

“If a shark were a car, what kind of car would it be?”

“Hmm… well, a whale would definitely, definitely be a muscle car because of the size.” I kind of liked that he changed the question. “But I’m not sure about a shark.” I paid for the cab.

He went behind the bar to change the music. I felt like I was in that scene from Goodfellas when the protagonist takes his unknowing wife on a date. They skip the line and go through the kitchen of the restaurant. A not so subtle privilege. He pays off the staff as they welcome him with smiles. Similarly, everyone knew Mr. Holey Shirt. But his mobsters were drunk expats in heels. I made the conscious decision not to be insecure.

“What do you want?” He gave me his card to buy drinks while he made his rounds.

“A coke.” Was he in recovery too? Nah, alcoholics order club soda with lime.

We danced. I sipped my Seagrams. I waited around for a good time as if it was just around the corner. It never came. A black hole germinated in my stomach. I wanted to scratch to get out of my own skin.

I stepped outside to smoke. Smoking is the saving grace of my sobriety. I have an unhealthy relationship with them, beyond the fact that they are poison. Awkward silence? Cigarette. Punched in the face by a vagina during jiujitsu? Cigarette.  Trading discomfort for dependency and sitting back to watch it happen. Part of me doesn’t care. I was handed a bucket of emotions around day 20. Now I’m desperate to dump it out before it overflows. Cigarettes are the easiest and most opportune way. But my favorite is on stage. Performing is a release on its own. But adrenaline and nicotine make one handsome couple. After doing a set, I feel fucking cool power walking through a crowd with a cigarette dangling out of my mouth — no matter how good, bad, or ok it just went. But really, cigarettes gives me something to do at a bar that I shouldn’t be in.

What am I doing here?

I couldn’t answer. So, I left.

96 days sober today.

 

Pink clouds

Like the humidity in Korea, my optimism is rising about 5% each day.

I’ve had a great week. I taught my students the word for butt chin and I ate a pizza with avocado on it. It feels like I could stay in Korealand forever.

My life is starting to come together like paper mache. I’m putting in the work to make myself happy. It’s a lot of work. I’m perfecting my routine consisting of writing, studying, and learning jiujitsu. The class is completely in Korean and my body is covered in bruises. I love it.

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Welcoming the 외국인

It’s not being sober that feels good, it’s overcoming something every day. It’s the delayed gratification of changing my habits and rewiring my brain. This is the euphoric stage of sobriety. Everything is lofty and I’m floating through my sober life on a pink cloud. I am holding onto it with my newfound jiujitsu grip before it melts away like cotton candy.

I’m on guard for a hiccup. Last night I had a dream that I broke my sobriety.  Exercise and staying busy distracts my urge to drink but doesn’t take it away. There is still a shark in the water.

There is this saying, “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” But resistance offers nothing except tension and misery. To me, alcoholism is an impulse. This impulse is a huge part of my identity —  it’s not just an impulse to drink. It’s that unfiltered thing I say on stage doing stand-up comedy. Or booking that plane ticket to Okinawa (Japan, I am coming back for you!! xoxo). The yin and yang of spontaneity is regret and reward.

If you see a shark while scuba diving, you’re supposed to back up against a reef to reduce angles of attack. Always keep your eye on the shark and remain calm. It’s scary and seems like a threatening situation, but the shark isn’t an aggressor. It’s just a shark doing its job in its ecosystem. The diver should respect the shark by giving it space. In the same way, I am trying to respect my addiction. Coming from a place of observation instead of trying to harpoon it in the face.

Maybe this is just a hippy-dippy metaphor. I could be happy because of the rotation of men pinning me down almost every day. But if didn’t stop drinking, nothing would have changed. I wouldn’t be pushing myself to refine my sense of character.  I’m feeling more confident in myself and in my decision to be sober, but I’m keeping an eye on my shark.

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