Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
 
I Put Every Piece In Place

I Put Every Piece In Place

I’m frustrated. Why? It’s everything. It’s nothing. I woke up feeling this way. Actually, I’m a little better now than I was when I first woke up. I made my way to a cafe, and I’m sitting in a secluded corner. The photo above is of a decaf soy ginger latte that I ordered thinking that it was made with ginger tea, not ginger-flavored coffee. I absolutely hate the taste of coffee. Luckily, Adam is with me, and he loves it. He’s letting me drink some of his soy hot cocoa.

A woman sitting across from me had a small dog, and another woman appeared with another small dog and sat down near her. Dog #1 wanted to play and make friends, Dog #2 growled at Dog #1. At first, Dog #1 whined because he was so upset that Dog #2 was unfriendly and acted mad at him. Then, he got down and submitted to Dog #2, which made Dog #2 infinitely happy, so they sniffed each other and wagged tails and then settled down, happy to be friends. Then, Dog #1’s owners decided it was time to go. As soon as Dog #2 saw them packing up, he started whining and wanted another last sniff, so, the owners allowed them to say goodbye. Now, Dog #2 is looking towards the door where Dog #1 disappeared, whining in a forlorn way, so sad to have lost his friend. The whole drama took ten minutes. Are humans also like this?

Yesterday was my writer’s group. I didn’t submit anything, and I had a hard time feeling invested in the pieces that were submitted. This has been happening to me for the last few months. I wonder if it has to do with doing the meeting over Zoom? I’m sure that doesn’t help. The nice thing about the Zoom meetings is that I don’t have to plan ahead, catch three crowded trains, and then get tired and hungry while discussing writing for hours. I can now RSVP at the last minute, sit at my desk, snack when I want, and get tired because I’m so bored.

I think my malaise might be about more than just the Zoom meetings, though, and related to the reason I’m so frustrated this morning. I submitted my manuscript to a place, and I haven’t heard back. They said they would respond within 45 business days. They still have time, so I have no reason to be bothered, really. A friend of mine, who works in the publishing industry, said he’d look over my manuscript and give me some feedback, but I haven’t heard back from him, yet, either. It was infinitely generous of him to say he’d look over my writing, I am so, so grateful for this opportunity that most people don’t get, and it’s reasonable for him to take some time. Everyone responds slowly this time of year–the holidays themselves can be like a part-time job. For some reason, these waits are niggling at me, though. No, not niggling. What’s a word for an intense form of niggling that feels more like getting stabbed by hundreds of needles at once?

I’ve spent many hours reading and studying writing and listening to so many different perspectives and opinions about writing that I don’t know what I think, anymore. Everything is so subjective and can be viewed through a variety of lenses. My confidence in my own opinion is in the toilet. Is this a case of, “the more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know?” Or is it merely a case of, “I’m too untalented to ever be good at this?”

Even if I did eventually manage to become a decent writer, would that even matter? A person in my writer’s group submitted a query letter for a novel he’d workshopped with us for a long time. His book is pretty good. I really enjoyed reading each installment every month. I’m not saying that it’s perfect, but there’s nothing wrong with it that a half-way decent editor couldn’t fix. He wasn’t getting any bites, and discussing his query letter reminded me of the shittiness of the whole system.

I’ve long been in a state of exertion, but I don’t feel like I’m making any progress. I know that being a writer means delayed gratification, if there’s any gratification, at all, and writing has a well-established reputation for driving people absolutely insane. Moreover, it’s thankless and disrespected work because anyone who has ever written an email, tapped out a text, or listened to their internal monologue thinks they could type up a manuscript if they “only had the time,” because it’s not like it’s hard or anything. I’m tired. I’m weary of being on the same old hamster wheel for so long.

So, next week, I’m taking some vacation time. I think maybe I need it.

Well, maybe there’s more. The isolation has really been getting to me. I’m not just talking about the pandemic isolation–although, that isn’t helping–the pandemic didn’t really change my lifestyle much. I wasn’t living a healthy, well-connected life before it hit.

Lately, Adam and I have been talking a lot about moving to London. Things are still up in the air about that, but we know that we want to move. We’re making efforts in that direction. Well, Adam is making efforts in that direction. Anyway, because of that, I’m not motivated to build connections here, and I need a lot of motivation because of the culture and language barriers. On top of everything else, there’s a pandemic. Because the infection and death rates are comparatively low here, no one seems to be in a huge hurry to ship us any vaccines.

So, every once in a while, it occurs to me to realize how terribly lonely I am. That realization usually causes me to recall that I put every piece of my life in place. If I have a problem with it, there’s only one person who can rearrange the pieces.

10 Comments

  1. Wow, London would be amazing. Imagine the only communication problems being American v British outlook and vocab. Chris and Sharla on YouTube have done a good job of explaining how Japanese language is parsed or set up, whatevs, it must be terribly difficult to move from one to the other. I’m horribly lonely too, yet the longer quarantine goes on the less able I am to reach out. And I sure as hell have nothing new to talk about. I hope you get some quick responses from the writing world. Happy Solstice, dear one.

    1. Amy

      Even if you have nothing new to talk about, I’d be happy to hear you talk about old things. Even if its two sentences.

      I could go into all of the reasons that Japanese is difficult. Of course, it’s not impossible, people learn it all the time. I studied Japanese every day, sometimes up to two hours per day, my first two years here. I took a free Japanese class that was offered by my city district, and I enjoyed speaking to my teachers and the other foreign students learning Japanese. I had the head start of having grown up hearing Japanese and speaking some as a child. After all of that study, I don’t feel like my Japanese is any better than it was when I got off the plane four years ago. I can communicate in basic ways, but my perfectionism gets in the way. I have terrible performance anxiety. I’m not even confident in my ability to speak English. It’s outside of my comfort zone, and it takes motivation, but a lot of my goals are outside of my comfort zone and take motivation. I only have so much energy, and I prioritized other things, like my health and my writing.

  2. I’ve never commented on a post and pretty much gave up on blogging myself, but I felt like I had to say something after relating so much to what you wrote. There are many things you talked about that I feel could’ve been taken straight from my journals, especially: “…the pandemic didn’t really change my lifestyle much. I wasn’t living a healthy, well-connected life before it hit.”
    I’m curious about your writing and would love to discover some of your work. In the meantime I hope you’re able to enjoy your vacation.
    Btw, if I may ask, do you really think you’ll feel better in London or is it just that you feel like you need a change of environment?

    1. Amy

      Thank you for commenting. I’m glad to hear that you found my post relatable. None of my writing is out in the world, so there’s no opportunity to read it, yet. Regarding London, well, I’ve moved multiple times. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, rural Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and now Tokyo. So, I’ve taken on a, “wherever you go, there you are,” perspective on location. I’m not looking for a change for the sake of change and moving to London will be another big adjustment. It won’t be easy, but in the long run, I’ll be more fulfilled living in a place where I’m fluent in the language and culture. Also, it’s not so much about that, but that my husband and I don’t plan to settle down in Tokyo. Because we know it’s not permanent, we’re less motivated to invest in the lives we have here (we’ve been here about four years now). We want to start building lives in a place where we know we’ll be living long-term. My husband is much more eager to move than I am, but I’m happy to go along with it. How about you? Are you happy with where you live? Do you want to move?

      1. Well I guess I’ll wait until your first release then, whenever you feel that it’s the right time.
        I really like your “wherever you go, there you are” approach to life and I think it would suit me a lot as well. At the moment I live in Tokyo as well, which is how I found your blog in the first place, and after having been here for over a year now I don’t feel the need to move. I love Japan, but I can relate to feeling isolated because of the language barrier at times. It’s only the first time I’ve lived in another place and I hope to be able to experience more different cultures in the future in a similar way that you have.
        All the places you’ve lived sound amazing to me (I’d love to at least visit the U.S. in my lifetime). Do you draw inspiration from those times for your writing or do you not really think about it when you write?

        1. Amy

          I write memoir, so I write about my past sometimes, but when I write fiction, I never write about my literal experiences. I might take a little piece of something for inspiration, but nothing recognizable. However, all of our experiences add up to an individual perspective and that perspective is going to make it into our writing whether we acknowledge it or not. I think that it’s great that you want to experience other cultures, and I hope you get to do everything you want to do. Your natural curiosity will help you a lot with developing an interesting point of view. Where are you from, originally?

          1. Memoir and fiction happen to be what I’m really into right now as I’m reading Obama’s latest memoir and a fiction book called Never Let Me Go.
            The way you talk about all of our experiences adding up to an individual perspective sounds really inspiring and makes me want to try writing myself, if it wasn’t for my crippling anxiety towards any creative work. I’ll never want to give up on it all together, but at the moment I’m having a lot of trouble staying consistent with anything.
            And I’m from western Europe. I’m usually hesitant to mention where exactly as I feel like I put people off with my negative view. Most of western Europe is similar anyway, so even thinking of London my give you a good idea.
            Have you been to Europe before or do you have certain expectations?

            1. Amy

              I think that on some level, everyone has anxiety about creative work. May I suggest that you read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert? If you don’t want to read the book, she has a podcast called Magic Lessons where she helps people who are in creative ruts. She hasn’t done the podcast in years, but the old episodes are good. There are also several youtube videos where she talks about creativity, including two TED talks. It seems like there might be a limit on the number of replies allowed in the comments, but come back to my blog and let me know how it goes. I’ve been to London, and I’ve traveled around England a little bit. I don’t have a ton of expectations, except I’ve had a few British friends. Also, my brother is married to a Brit and lives in London.

              1. Thank you for the recommendations. I’ve added the book to my wish list and I’ll definitely check out the podcast.
                I hope I’ll be able to tell you that I’ve somehow gotten closer to my creative goals next time. And whether you stay in Tokyo or move to London, I hope you keep sharing your views and experiences with the rest of us.
                Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

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