✨Ch 22: This and that (or not)

going beyond the dichotomy of emotions

“Everything has its "that," everything has its "this." From the point of view of "that" you cannot see it, but through understanding you can know it. So I say, "that" comes out of "this" and "this" depends on "that" - which is to say that "this" and "that" give birth to each other.”

Sky and Water I by M.C. Escher
Sky and Water I by M.C. Escher, 1938

Hello to quite a few new faces around here! It's been a little bit since my last letter...oops. My excuses are that I've been busy finishing the final manuscript of my book as well as settling into a new environment across the U.S. for the summer.

To be honest, I haven't felt emotionally great for the last couple of months (surprise, surprise! Who else is with me here lol). Each week, I find myself saying that I've been up and down, so much so that the consistency of the ups and downs have been quite anticipated. I've learned to ride the waves and not beat myself up for feeling any sort of way.

I'm actually pretty content that I haven't been feeling great. Anyone who is feeling super positive right now is probably slightly (or not-so-slightly) toxic and problematic. I think my feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration are quite appropriate and even necessary due to personal and collective context.

In this regard, the "negative" feelings haven't been that bad, because I haven't been judging myself for them. I simply let them be and they come and go, just like any other feeling, "negative" or "positive" (I'm putting "negative" and "positive" in quotation marks because I believe that emotions are non-dualistic, but we as society have labeled them as such).

Over time, humans have been conditioned to accept a dichotomy of negative and positive emotions. Feelings such as happiness, gratitude, courage, and contentment are labeled as good. Feelings such as envy, greed, sadness, and anger are labeled as bad. When these "negative" feelings arise, most people try to distance themselves immediately, getting caught in a spiral of avoidance and shame.

Similar to what I wrote about giving feelings the attention and space they need, what if we could learn to embrace any emotion that occurs? What if we could listen and hold them all, recognizing and understanding that they are there for a reason?

This applies to personal, interpersonal, and collective reactions:

  • At a personal level, maybe your body is pushing you to rest, maybe it's pushing you to act.

  • At an interpersonal level, maybe we can attempt to understand the thoughts and actions of others through listening to their emotions and lived experiences...even if they're different from ours (read: especially if they're different from ours).

  • At a collective level, maybe we should consider giving space to those that have time and time again been emotionally/physically/mentally ignored and marginalized.

Maybe you can take a moment, right now, to listen and give attention to whatever needs some tending.

Take care,


et cetera

📣Over the last several months, I've started working with people 1-1 on their own well-being journeys. If you're interested in applying the topics I write about (mindfulness / emotions / burnout / etc) in your own life in a personalized yet systematic way, reply to this email and let me know ☺️.

📚 reading

  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong. Finally got around to this book that's been on my list since its release in February! You can read an excerpt here.

    • As a halfie / 1.5 generation Asian American (that's my best attempt at labeling myself lol), I'd say this is one of the most nuanced works I've read around Asian American culture. Hong describes the concept of "minor feelings" as:

      the racialized range of emotions that are negative, dysphoric, and therefore untelegenic, built from the sediments of everyday racial experience and the irritant of having one’s perception of reality constantly questioned or dismissed. Minor feelings arise, for instance, upon hearing a slight, knowing it’s racial, and being told, Oh, that’s all in your head.

  • The Garden of Forking Memes: How Digital Media Distorts Our Sense of Time by Aaron Z. Lewis. A couple of thought-provoking highlights:

    • Digital media has done away with the very thing that created our sense of history: imperfect memory. The process of creating a historical narrative — or any story, for that matter — involves discarding an enormous amount of information. It’s like chipping away at a big block of marble until you’re left with a captivating statue. Forgetting is a feature, not a bug. It makes us feel like we’re moving forward through time, rather than standing still or running in circles.

    • How might a more ecological awareness of the internet help us adapt to our disorienting digital time machines?

      • Digital memory is material. The Cloud is made of rare earth. Lamps in video games use real electricity. In cyberspace, we’re constantly swimming in simulations, abstractions, and pseudo-events that make it all too easy to forget about the geological “stack” that undergirds our virtual hall of mirrors. We forget that the garden of forking memes is rooted in the earth — in the underwater fiber-optic cables and server farms and infrastructure that connect us all together.

    • I've personally been thinking and writing about time/memory/reality in digital vs irl spaces for a while now, so it was really cool to read Aaron's take on this. More to come on my thoughts around these topics, especially through the lens of mindfulness (what does it mean to be in the present?) and ecological awareness.

🖊 writing

Background for the newcomers— I’m writing a book titled Reclaiming Control: Looking Inward to Recalibrate Your Life slated for publication in July 2020 (wow I've been telling myself this for almost a year now and here we are, in July 2020!!).

  • Book updates: I turned in my final manuscript last month and in the meantime have been preparing it for layout as well as finalizing my cover design. I gave my final approval for layout today, so officially no more changes can be made 😱. I have to say, seeing my words in layout was the first time that this whole thing became somewhat real. I'm sure it won't truly hit me until I have the paperback in my hands (if even, then).

  • While I'm proud of my work, there is a LOT I wish I could have expanded on / given more nuance / included more of in the book. The final version is at 32,979 words (170 pages), with at least 40,000+ words that didn't make the cut. During the last couple of weeks of editing, I had to ruthlessly remove over half of what I thought was going to be in the book. I'm planning on writing a more in-depth reflection of my process, so let me know if you have any questions around any of it.

🎧 listening

On Being with Krista Tippett - this podcast episode with Resmaa Menakem, trauma specialist, therapist, and author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. Some really powerful insights here on intergenerational trauma, multicultural identity, and learning how to shut up, pause, and check our impulses.

I got this recommendation from the Wellness Wisdom newsletter (hi Patricia 🥰)

That's all, thanks for reading 💛

If any of this resonated with you, feel free to share or subscribe below to keep up with more musings. You can read past letters here. If you want to chat about anything, anything at all, feel free to reply to this email or schedule a time here.

// 🎶 written to: Shelter (Ghibli Orchestra Edition) by Seycara Orchestral

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