some TV show thoughts

This post is mostly for me to remember but also in case anyone else has thought of watching these or has watched and is curious about other people’s thoughts. I currently have a hulu trial subscription so I’m trying to watch a number of shows on there that aren’t elsewhere. Also, recently I was trying out new stuff on Netflix.

Here are some thoughts on some of the shows I’ve started watching or fully seen recently, in no particular order. btw, I’m pretty blunt in my hatred of one particular character in one of the shows I mention. As I say at the end of the post, if I don’t love something you love, my feelings on the matter shouldn’t affect your own. We all react to things in different ways for different reasons. Some things I adore are the same things other people hate or dismiss. It’s all about perspective and subjectivity, and that variation in feelings and thoughts is awesome imo because it makes the world a more diverse place 🙂 I just wanted to get my thoughts down on these after finishing them because I’ve found my memory sucks on this sort of stuff, and if I do write down my thoughts it helps me later if I pick the show back up or try to remember if I did or didn’t like something.

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Seriously considering doing an assessment or walk-in to a program that helps with eating disorders. I no longer need help getting anorexia under control in terms of starving myself, but now I’ve run into the problem of not knowing how to safely lose weight to feel healthier and happier, without resorting to the means I used before, and without letting myself go beyond an actually healthy level.

I’ve only gotten professional help one time, and even then it wasn’t actually about the ED. I was talking about other things but realized in that session that maybe I did have a problem. But that was a very brief experience in college, and after that I dealt with everything completely alone. Part of me thinks I would fail if I asked for help, but the larger part of me knows it shows more strength to know when you need help and ask for it than it does to isolate yourself unnecessarily.

This is the reason I post about things like this on and off, because publicly saying I might do a thing makes me more likely to do it or at least not just pass it off immediately in my mind. And there may be other people who read this who are going through the same thoughts, and seeing this may not feel alone.

To The Bone, and thoughts on anorexia

I just watched To The Bone… it’s a Netflix original movie about a group of people with eating disorders, especially anorexia because that’s what the main character has.

I remember hearing about this before it came out–people saying they thought it would be triggering and/or glamorize EDs, especially anorexia. For me, it wasn’t triggering at all. I didn’t think it glamorized it at all. It just told the story from a perspective rarely seen, in a snippet often glossed over in narratives.

For me, if I had any issues with it at all, it’s one part I can’t reference without a spoiler, but that is more of asexual me responding than anything, and the only other “issue” I would have is I wish it were longer. I would like to see a sequel to this, although I doubt they will make it.

Personally, I didn’t have any issues at all with the ED part of it. I thought overall the movie was quite funny in parts, sad in others, awkward where it was supposed to be awkward, hopeful in other aspects. Just like life. It wasn’t as tectonically moving as I expected it to be for me, but that isn’t because of a failure on the part of the movie.

Actually, I think it’s a good thing. I think this shows that I’ve come a long way since the last time I watched an anorexia-themed movie or show. I think the fact that it didn’t dig emotional claws into me deeper than would any other movie, shows I’ve learned to tell the voice to fuck off, as Dr Beckman says to do in the movie, and it shows that I’ve come far enough that I can watch something like this and see it as the story it is first and foremost, instead of everything bouncing all around my brain worrying about everything else.

I’m not sure if the way I explained that makes any sense…

But then, maybe a reason it doesn’t affect me as strongly is because I never went through therapy or got any sort of help for my issues. And the movie is set almost entirely during therapy. I liked the story a lot, though. I felt like they didn’t try to glamorize or dramatize anything, really. The main character’s story feels like something that could actually happen right now in real life, and I like that.

I still need to release the bits and pieces I’ve written so far about my own struggles with anorexia. I have some parts written. I keep thinking I’ll share some here on my blog, and then I keep not doing it. Not because I mind if people know everything that I cover in it, but because I don’t know the best way to release it without it being super random, or without potentially triggering anyone.

On the other hand, that’s what everyone feared about To The Bone, right? That it would trigger people with EDs. But it didn’t trigger me. Granted, I’m not as deep in anorexia as I used to be, but I don’t think those thoughts ever fully leave one’s mind. It’s all a matter of how you categorize them in your head; the weight you give the weight you have. Every day, I think at least 2-3 times that I would be “better” somehow if I were 30-40 pounds lighter. At least 20. And every day I ultimately dismiss or ignore that thought, or argue against the voice.

The thing is, if you have an ED, if you dealt with anorexia for any significant time, you can’t trust your own eyes, your own opinion. I look in the mirror and what I see may not be what everyone else sees. I think some people think I’m a lot smaller than I am, but maybe I also think I’m bigger than I am. That’s the point, isn’t it? Those numbers, they mean nothing. They’re numbers only, just some digits taken from a scale and set to mind. They’re as arbitrary and subjective as opinions and beauty are.

There is no equation that solves all one’s problems. The only equation is living, and the only solution is continuing to live even when you think you can’t. Because those feelings will ebb and flow over time, like the tide at sea. Sometimes the ocean will recede, back and back and back into the horizon, and it feels like a drought will take over everything we know, and there will never again be water, there will never again be life. But the ocean always returns. The water will always be there again. Sometimes there’s too much water; the tide comes in too fiercely, and it’s not a drought of emotions, now it’s drowning in them, suffocating from an overabundance of something so ubiquitous it becomes inimical to life and living; a silent, unassuming partner for death. But that water, too, will eventually be drawn back out for tide. That water, too, will ebb. And if it goes out too far, if it comes back as a tsunami, it will take much longer to recover. But always, always, it will recede. If only you have the willingness and patience to wait for it, or to run and find the place where the tide is out if you don’t.

What is perfect? What is beautiful, or right, or wrong? What is humor? What makes one view of any of these more legitimate than another’s? If there is variation in the way humans view these things, why can there not be variation in how we see ourselves? Internally, on our own; a variegated, carbon-dated archaeological dig into our own self-view, self-worth, self-confidence, self-pity, just Self.

We all have stories we want to tell, and other stories we don’t. The dark stories we may not hide for any reason other than because they are hidden even from us, even though we may still feel them. Sick and slick and a dark balm on the soul. Something that feels like it’s helping us, healing us, but is hurting us, harming us; the slow dance down to a self-prescribed -cide, the only question being which it is. Suicide, homicide, fratricide, and more.

But why does that have to be the only end? Stories only start and end where you say. Give your story a little longer, and the line you choose to end on may give an entirely different meaning than even the one before it. Or the one after. We can’t choose what happens to us, we can’t always even choose how we react to what happens. But we can choose how we see that story, or how we make the story see us.

This world is not here to be perfect for you, so you don’t have to be perfect for the world.

You know… I write posts like this, and then I think about posting them, and sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. Do the words make sense? Am I conveying what I meant, or saying something unintentional that I don’t mean? Do I mean it after all and just didn’t know or realize?

Now when I think about anorexia, it makes me philosophical. Because inevitably it leads me to thinking about subjectivity. There was a time I thought the world was much more divided than it really is, as strange as that may sound given how divisive the norm has become.

But I believed in extremities. I don’t mean I believed extremities exist–of course they do–I mean, I saw the world in either/or fashion more than mediation. Black or white, right or wrong, good or evil. It wasn’t always that cut and dry, it wasn’t always that dismissive, but it was there. I didn’t believe solely in those concepts, because I’d lived so much of my life outside the norm. But maybe what I thought was accepted was only those extremities. Maybe I thought that to the general world, the general population, I only existed when my natural flow overlapped one of those pools of thought. Everywhere else, I was an in-between, a nothingness that existed because it breathed, but did not exist because it didn’t live the way it was supposed to.

And that was part of it, wasn’t it? “Supposed to” — an expectation, inexorable, unspoken but unavoidable, a question in every breath and a thought in every mind. That which we are expected to do, that which we are required. Being born so different, maybe on some level I thought it was my duty to align in some ways whenever I could, to give meaning to my life, maybe, or maybe to give context for myself.

I get philosophical because I think about all the things I thought, and all the things I think now, and they aren’t so different, honestly; I’ve always been pretty similar in some ways. But the way I see those thoughts is what has changed. I think.

The question is this: whose voice do you listen to, when you can listen to only one?

Is it the voice that tells you over and over you aren’t enough, you have to be more or less or better or different?

Is it the voice of others, not understanding or not trying, an accidental dismissal of everything you own and know and are?

Is it the voice of those who do understand, who do try, but don’t know the words to fix it, because they think they have to do the fixing even when they don’t?

Is it the voice inside, perilous and quavering and oh so uncertain about everything?

Is it the voice even deeper inside, quiet and questioning, unwilling to accept the status quo, unwilling to accept this is it?

For me, it was that deeper voice that made me always stop just before it went too far. That deeper voice that, for years, led to nights I cried alone, hushing my voice so the tears tracked my cheeks but even my gasps were silenced so I wouldn’t disturb anyone else. That deeper voice that would not let me accept the louder voices. That deeper voice that refused to give up on me.

If you were to ask what any of this means, what any of this matters, I couldn’t tell you. It’s just the thoughts I have when I watch movies like To The Bone. The philosophy that emerges when that deeper voice rises to the surface, once more discontent with the silence, once more questioning all that I thought I knew, and everything I accepted since the last time we conversed.

The Equality of Differences (full text)

I had posted part of my Equality of Differences post here on my blog previously, but I wanted to post the full text here in case QRM ever needs to purge its old posts for space or something else happens that causes it to accidentally disappear.

While it’s still around, find it here: http://www.queerromancemonth.com/ais-lin-2015/

The Equality of Differences by Ais Lin

I have spent most of my life feeling like an alien on Earth. The main reason for this is because it has often felt like, at every step of the way, I was different than what society expected.

My earliest memory is of being at recess in elementary school and running up to a teacher to ask, “What’s a lesbian?” I know I asked that question because somebody called me one, but I don’t remember exactly what they said, nor what the teacher’s response was. All I know is whatever the teacher said gave me the impression it was something very bad, because I remember running back and yelling at the other kid that I wasn’t a lesbian at all.

I was too young back then to know I actually was a lesbian, and way too young to know I was asexual as well. Maybe if I’d known I wouldn’t have denied it to that kid, because later I would grow up to realize how important it is to be myself. Even when that means I feel like I don’t belong.

For anyone who’s interested, I wrote a blog post earlier this year called An Asexual’s View of Love which talks about how, to me, romance can seem like a fetishization of love. I don’t want to be repetitive so I focus on different topics in this post than I did in that one.

The topic of having romance be accessible to everyone is something very dear to me, as a woman who is definitely a romantic at heart but who also happens to be both asexual and a lesbian. I’ve often felt that the things that are expected of human beings, and especially female human beings in the US, are things that are utterly foreign to me.

There are different ways of feeling alienated or consistently “not normal.” For me, it’s always been a whole lot of little things that added up to me feeling like a freak of nature as far as mainstream is concerned. Stereotypes shouldn’t be expectations, but in aggregate they are.

Women are overtly sexualized in the US (which creeps me out as an asexual), with the expectation that men should get the most out of her and have some control of, or accessibility to, her beauty (which creeps me out as a lesbian), and with the further assumption that her end goal in life must be to have children, marry and settle down (which creeps me out as someone who didn’t like kids as a kid and doesn’t want to be around them any more as an adult).

In short, if you imagine what is assumed to be “normal,” I was almost always the opposite.

One of the most pervasive differences in my life has been related to what are expected to be basic experiences of all American youth. Unlike most people I knew growing up in high school, college, and beyond: I didn’t drink, smoke, use drugs, or party. To this day I’ve never smoked cigarettes nor tried anything even as low level as pot, and I have zero interest in doing so. I didn’t have my first full drink of alcohol until I was probably twenty-three, didn’t own a single wine glass until I was thirty, and generally could happily live my life without alcohol.

In a country that seems obsessed with religion, I was raised without religion but surrounded by various denominations of Christianity (some more hardcore than others). Yet, when I chose my own religion at age 14, I became Wiccan (Pagan) which, at the time, was very misunderstood and resulted in some religious persecution, mostly for my friend. Later, in college, the first time I found a group of people who understood the feeling of Otherness from not drinking/partying, was when I spoke to Sunni young Muslim women who struggled with the same issues. I came to have a lot of respect for Islam, and to day this naturally feel more comfortable around Muslims because they were the first group of people who both welcomed and understood that feeling.

At 14 I also became vegetarian, at a time and place when it was very uncommon to be so (and not entirely accepted). I became a Reiki Level I practitioner at 16, way before alternative healing was acknowledged in the US and I had to drive hours to find someone who could teach me. And when kids got in trouble for sneaking out, I got in trouble for staying up too late reading books.

There are more examples, but that’s a basic overview.

I was very fortunate to have a great family who told me to be myself, and a handful of close friends who didn’t question me being me. For that reason, I had some stability. But in the greater scheme of things, I always felt like I was damaged goods. Broken. In greater society, I felt a lot of pressure because I knew I was inherently wrong. I knew it would be easier if I conformed, but that was something I couldn’t do, even if I wanted to.

I’m proud of being different even though that also means I have often felt suffocated by it, and at times I wished to the depths of my soul that for once in my fucking life I could just be normal. For fucking once, I could fit in with mainstream.

Because a lot of stories are informed by mainstream expectations, I feel like it’s rare to find characters who represent me in any medium. The few times a character represents a piece of me, it often feels like their difference is dismissed or turned into a joke or sometimes even mocked.

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Editing (and writing) tips

I recently got a question asking about writing tips in general, and especially related to editing. For privacy reasons, as usual, I won’t name the person–but I’m writing a post here instead of replying directly because 1) I always ramble like fuuuuuuuck and 2) maybe someone else out there is curious about the same thing from my perspective.

First, as always, I’m obviously not a professional. You’ll definitely want to go with what professionals say, if anything goes against my thoughts. But for what it’s worth, I helped a family member edit her book and a professional who worked with her on the book was really impressed with my feedback. Which I am not saying to pat myself on the back; I say only to mention that maybe, hopefully, some of this is useful and not totally leading people down the wrong path lol

Writing

I have some posts on writing advice here: http://ais-n.tumblr.com/tagged/writing-advice — and there should be some that Santino and/or I wrote under “writing questions” here: https://aisness.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/icos-master-list-feb-2016-edition (Note that there may be some overlap between the two links, also I’m not sure if all those links still work–if you see any specifically that don’t, let me know).

I have lots of thoughts on writing, but they’re all pretty informed by my personal writing style which is very much aimed toward writing what makes sense for that story and those characters, and “rules” be damned. I don’t like the idea of confining oneself to expectations if it interferes with the natural, organic progression of a story. That does mean I tend to go pretty hardcore into stuff I write because if I’m writing a dark story, I’m not going to pull punches; and I tend to add a fair amount of darkness into my stories because it doesn’t feel realistic to me otherwise. But this also means my style doesn’t work for people who want to feel like they always know what’s coming or at least know the limits to which the story will go. After all, as we’ve seen, you cannot trust me to not totally fuck up a character because it feels like the right progression for me. And that’s not fun for some people to read, you know? But it’s super hard for me to write a more chill story because it’s not the kind of story I tend to read. I try to do it and then I get bored, but other people can do that same concept and story in a fantastically beautiful way and really excel at it.

What I mean by this aside is that I have maybe a bit odd of a viewpoint on writing stories compared to some more traditional or mainstream views, so that may make me a terrible person to ask for thoughts for you, or it may make me someone who vibes better with your personal style. I think it’s most important we’re all genuine to ourselves so whatever writing style works for you is the perfect style for your stories. There’s a story out there for every occasion, every voice, every idea, every feeling.

There is no right or wrong way to write; in my opinion, the only way you can do anything “wrong” is by not believing in your own personal voice, your own personal style; by silencing your individuality if it doesn’t fit the stronger, louder voice. If it does fit, that’s perfect and you should run with it. If it doesn’t, don’t change yourself or your world or characters or story into something it isn’t. That feeling of dissonance will be what is taken away from your story instead of the story itself, at least to readers like me. Because I do believe what Maya Angelou said is true: people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. In my personal opinion both as a reader and a writer, I think that applies to stories as well.

I also think research is really important but I guess that’s a whole other thing. I’m getting too much into writing tips right now so I’ll leave it at this and the linked posts above — but if anyone is curious about anything in particular, let me know. If you’d be curious about my personal thoughts on anything, I’m happy to answer 🙂

Editing:

Editing is a pain, but also kind of fun. I have a few thoughts on it– most of what I’m first talking about below is you editing your own work. I touch a little on editing someone else’s work afterward.

**Read or edit for the overall flow as much (or IMO more) than you do the specific grammatical nitpicking. I know that’s going to go against what a lot of people feel about editing, but here’s the thing: stories are translations of the heart, whether it’s the heart of the overall story, the heart of the writer, the heart of the characters, the heart of the reader, the heart of whatever it represents. To me, a story is poetry on a larger scale, or it’s a song, or it’s whatever artistic endeavor that represents something that, to you, feels moving or meaningful.

Yes, it’s important that we understand what you’re trying to say. For that, yes, having someone check the grammar is definitely useful.

But the rules of grammar are not the rules of language. That may sound like an odd thing to say because, yeah, technically it is– but think about when you’re learning a new language. If it’s anything like when I’ve taken classes in the multiple languages I’ve taken classes in, the teacher tells you all the specific grammatical rules so you’re speaking properly, politely, in complete sentences with all the correct intonation and all the right tenses. You can definitely get your thoughts across if you learn a language that way, in that people will understand the concept of what you’re saying because you are literally speaking textbook to them.

But then think about your native language. Do you speak or type grammatically correct all the time? Do you avoid contractions, run-on sentences, do you not indulge in hyperbole, do you not have fun dropping an Oxford comma or two? If you’re feeling an intense emotion, aren’t you even more likely to play the strings of the language you know best? Changing vocabulary to emphasize meaning or form, adding intensity in your tone or your chosen verbal attack, throwing in swear words or cutting your sentences in half then in half again and again until it’s just partial words because you’re too upset or excited or something else to properly form a complete sentence?

There may be people out there who don’t do this, I don’t know. But for me, this is how I function, and it seems to me how a lot of people around me function. We rarely speak perfectly politely, perfectly properly, in our native tongue 100% of the time. Even languages built very much on the concept of polite and proper, even cultures with a clear sense of in group vs out group, have variations set in place in their language to indicate intimacy, friendship, a sense of understanding. Those levels are there so we can share that connection with others in something as simple as the word we choose when we call them, or the name we use when they come close.

To me, stories are like levels of language. There are different ways of telling the stories based on the story that’s being told. If it’s a character who’s distant or cold, or a setting that requires a sense of detachment, writing in very proper, polite, grammatically perfect sentences makes sense because it provides that sense of out group you would get in your native tongue. If it’s a story that should feel visceral, cloying, catastrophically vulnerable, then it’s meaningful to write in an ebb and flow of emotion dependent on the feeling of the character or the feeling the writer wants to create within the reader. Words breathe life into the story they relay, so the chosen words matter. Most of the time, I think stories benefit from a variation in the telling of them; perfect in some places, very imperfect in others, a constant reflection of the tapestry of emotions and motion in the world or story itself, or a view into the mind of the character displayed.

So, although it’s important to have someone who can help with any egregious and unhelpful grammatical mistakes, or spelling errors or the like, I also don’t think that should be the primary focus. It’s the sort of thing that’s important to take into account so that no poor wording accidentally jolts the reader from the story, but it shouldn’t be the be all and end all because that could result in losing the more emotional flow needed for what the story is trying to get across.

I think of it like this: writers are the translators for a character’s life. How would the characters feel at different points in the story, and therefore how best can that be worded to make the reader feel the same way reading it? How can you make the reader feel like they are experiencing that same emotion the character is feeling? That’s the best way to bring alive a world or plot or character, in my mind: by making it real.

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