I haven’t blogged in a while. It’s a luxury I can’t seem to afford. I’ve been spending most of my time rewriting and editing my book, which absorbs loads of time. I also was very ill for over a month and nearly died.
I had an infection that went into my blood stream and didn’t realize it was killing me. So I was walking around half-dead, totally depleted, thinking I just had a fever and that I’d get over it. During this time I had the immune system of a 2 year old and I think I sort of lost my mind.
However, this was one of the best things that ever happened to me because it opened a great deal of love in my life and made me more receptive to things that I couldn’t pay attention to because of my busy lifestyle.
I have heard that when the Universe wants you to live, it does everything possible to keep you alive. So people sort of came out of the woodwork and expressed sincere concern and love for me that I didn’t realize they had. And me, not recognizing what it feels like to be loved—was deeply touched by this.
I also had to make myself get better because I planned a drive from LA to Denver to visit my parents after three years of not seeing them. In order to get enough energy to do so, I had to get Vitamin C and a cocktail of other immune supporting vitamins injected into my blood stream by IV.
Then the day before my journey, I went and got Vitamin D and B-Complex shots injected into my body.
I spent five days in New Mexico holed up and rewriting RED AS BLUE. You know you’re a writer when you travel with your printer. Mine is about 20 lbs. I am a hard copy writer. I believe in printing out everything you write so you can feel the flow of the words in a tactile way. This digital thing doesn’t cut it for me; it’s sloppy.
When I finally sat down in a space dedicated just for writing—I experienced an immediate high. The state I am in when I do nothing but write is an unexplainable feeling of immense joy and gratification despite the extremely difficult work of problem solving.
All good writing is problem solving.
RED AS BLUE is filled with scenarios of characters often getting stuck and having to squirm their way out. But the biggest problem solving for me is fixing continuity issues to the exacting degree similar to what sci-fi readers expect when they keep tabs on plausibility. Although my book is not sci-fi, it has to be exacting in its continuity and realism. Good writing to me is often defined by plausibility because it does not allow you to cheat. It makes you work very hard to solve the most impossible situations.
I normally write for 12 to 24 hours straight. If I didn’t have to sleep, I wouldn’t. But being that I was still fighting an infection that was estimated take about a month to recover, I had to be more disciplined. So I wrote for 23 hours :P
On my way to Denver, I stopped in Sedona, AZ, where I incidentally met a famous musician from Brazil (nominated for two Grammys). She is actually a healer and works with a particular healing stone that not only blocks out all EMF from interacting with the body, but also protects it from illnesses. She melted the resin and created beautiful paperweights with them, so I bought one. I did so mainly because she had created these with immense love injected into them.
Between the stone and the fresh mountain air, I started to get a little energy back. I was pounding my body with red meat and iron pills to overcome the drastic state of anemia I had fallen into. Along my road trip I drank tons of pure coconut water to hydrate my body through those long sweltering desert rides.
I took this ride alone as a healing journey.
Living in NY for 17 years really fucked me up. I had become agoraphobic and lost my love for being out in the wild. I would get panic attacks and never could again cross the desert, which I used to love as a teen.
I remember in college, my friends and I used to drive down to Pueblo and then into Taos and Santa Fe, NM all the time to de-stress. Those long open space rides were very freeing for my soul and creativity.
The reverse had happened after living in a congested city for too long. My adrenals were burnt out and open space made me anxious.
I took this road trip alone in order to overcome all of that. I just put myself back into the teenager I was and remembered all the thoughts and feelings of wonderment…all the daydreaming I used to do on long lone rides.
I am happy I did not go on this trip with anyone. I spent about six days in silence. I enjoyed not checking email and not talking to a soul. I got to be with me.
The illness really softened me for that, because it distracted me from the mind. I was relaxed mainly because I simply had no energy.
After a while, three hour stretches across desert valleys and mountains became child’s play. By the time I hit Denver, I felt that I needed seven more hours of tranquility.
I mustered enough energy and health to visit my Tai Chi master. Ironically, a lifelong martial arts teacher whom he shares a dojo with suddenly died this past January over something completely innocuous. His friend thought he was fighting the flu and wouldn’t go to the doctor. It turns out that he had caught some kind of plague because a condo he owned and left deserted was infested with rats and he was exposed too long to their poisons when he cleaned the place.
His death could have totally been avoided. The strange thing is that, similar to my illness: if my friends didn’t force me to go to the doctor over what I thought was just a fever—I would have died too, at least that’s what the doctor said. My Tai Chi teacher said that it was his friend’s macho attitude that killed him. For me, I thought I was having a spiritual experience—and I did. But I paid a huge price for it.
I lied when I said I never had a real mentor.
My Tai Chi teacher is one of the coolest mentors in my life. He sort of took me on as a surrogate daughter. I was sort of the teacher’s pet and that is always difficult to hide. Whenever a student would push him to teach them something to progress, my teacher would do the opposite by making them go back to the basics, to “wax on/wax off” so to speak; this is probably to sublimate their ego.
In any case, he would teach me anything and would never charge me. And my favorite form was the Baugua cane form; weapons using harmless household items. When I moved to LA, due to lack of time and space, I forgot all that he had taught me. Regrettable, because the art form is really exquisite and also very powerful; makes you strong in every way.
So this time around, I went back to class and started at the beginning level again. It was humbling. It was just good to see him. My teacher is one of those masters that can tap you in the chest without leaving a mark, and then 10 days later you are dying from internal bruising.
In martial arts, at least with really good masters, they are also healers. They break your face, then fix your nose. Fuck up your lungs and then have to rejuvenate you. They know how to heal with their hands.
He is such a healer, so I asked him to fix my wrist because I had taken a fall down some narrow steps a month ago and it still ached. So after class, he took care of it. It was very sweet of him. I think it took him less than five minutes to fix my wrist.
He took me all the way across the 1,000 square feet room and sat on a chair and massaged the fascia tissue in my arm. It was here that I could see all his loyal students clearly noticing that once again…there goes Ji, teacher’s pet, even having dropped out of class five years ago.
At home, it was nice to have hot cooked meals—four square meals a day. That’s one of the benefits of having a Vietnamese mother; at least from the older generation. My mother’s life revolves around cooking from scratch and with great care and love.
She made me a Vietnamese specialty one night, the next day, she made Pho, and then the next day, a “bun” dish. Today, she made Laotian food—the way we used to eat it before immigrating to the states ages ago.
She does my laundry, looks after me. Most of all my consideration for others is probably learned from my mother.
My mom makes these really hard to make specialty deserts that she sells to the Vietnamese and Laotian markets in the Denver suburbs. She’s cracking coconuts with a cleaver to render out their juice, shaving down the coconut meat. Wetting banana leaves and laboring over making these things with great love.
I asked her if she’s making a profit considering how much time she spends doing everything from scratch and not cutting corners.
She goes, “I don’t charge for my time.”
I asked her why and she says that it’s because she loves doing this.
I was sort of playing devil’s advocate but then I stopped. When we do something we love, we do it because time has lost us, and time doesn’t exist….How can you charge for something that doesn’t exist?
Her friends order deserts from her too, sometimes a 100 pieces or more. She has a waiting list. When she couldn’t cook for two weeks due to an injury, the stores were calling her every day because customers were on a schedule for her deserts. I think they can taste the love and the quality in her work. My mom would be very successful owning a restaurant but that was not in the cards.
So the poor woman was up almost ‘til midnight wrapping this coconut thing inside banana leaves. I think she was onto her 40th piece when I left the kitchen.
Me being me, I told her, “Don’t forget one for me!”
In the morning, she had left me two pieces on the counter.