Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
Life Is Both Heartbreakingly Tragic And Hilarious At The Same Time

Life Is Both Heartbreakingly Tragic And Hilarious At The Same Time

Today, I decided that I’d look up one of the Japanese vloggers that I used to watch before I moved to Japan. You know, just to catch up and see what’s going on in their lives these days. I looked up the channel and was shocked to discover that it was in Japanese. How did I forget that this whole channel was in Japanese?

I muddled along through some of it, and then I put on the closed captioning. The vlogger is kind enough to add English translations. Then, I thought, you know, if I’d studied Japanese more, I wouldn’t need these translations.

I usually justify my lack of Japanese ability by reminding myself that I spent that time writing, but now I don’t feel so good about that.

For the past week or so, I’ve felt like there’s a massive boulder inside my chest that has kept me from moving forward with my writing. After years of experience with this boulder, I know that it is fear. It’s even stopping me from doing much meditation. I don’t want to rattle around inside of my mind and learn the specifics of my fears, even if that is the only way to remove the boulder.

Fears like:

What if the contents of my memoir are just too weird to ever be published?

I know what you’re thinking: How weird can your life have possibly been? Weird. Ok? Weird.


If I still haven’t figured out how to write after years and years of trying, does that mean I never will? Am I a lost cause?

I was briefly afraid that I might stop writing altogether, but throughout my life, I’ve had more trouble stopping myself from writing than making myself write, so that’s probably a baseless fear.

When I was 12 or 13, my grandmother bought me a really nice 5 subject notebook with a hard plastic cover (do they even still make those?) as a gift. I’d been writing stuff and showing it to her, and she wanted to encourage me. Once I had the extra paper, I started drawing in it, too.

The next time we visited Grandma, my brother said to her in a tattling tone, “Amy’s not writing in her notebook. She’s using it to draw!”

That makes me wonder if she’d gotten him a gift too, or if she left him out. It’s not her style to leave someone out so she probably got him something, but if that’s the case, what was his problem?

Grandma said, “It’s her notebook. She can do whatever she wants with it.”

I didn’t really start writing regularly until I was around fifteen—just after she died. She never got to see that I filled that notebook and several others. At the time, I didn’t know why I wrote so much, but I was pretty compulsive about it.

Yesterday, I read Allie Brosh’s new book Solutions and Other Problems. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I’ll say that it’s about how the world doesn’t make any sense. A person can approach that observation in one of two ways: Comedy or Philosophy. In typical Allie Brosh fashion, she takes it both ways.

If you haven’t read her books, you must. Read them in order because they are graphic memoirs drawn seven years apart.

By the end, I was laugh-crying so hard that I could barely breathe. I don’t mean that I was laughing so hard that my eyes were tearing (although, I did that, too). I mean, I was both laughing and legitimately crying at the same time. She somehow effectively communicates that life is both heartbreakingly tragic and hysterical at the same time.

A week or so ago, when I was watching that Brene Brown and Tim Ferris conversation that I mentioned a few entries ago, she said something that really stuck with me, “narcissism is the shame-based fear of being ordinary.”

In the HSP (highly sensitive people) group on FB, it’s popular to accuse people of narcissism. Anytime anyone suffers a bad break-up or has trouble with a coworker, the comments are filled with people insisting that the ex or the coworker are narcissistic. You know, because based on one five-sentence story about how they forgot to thank our HSP friend for a gift or something, that person is obviously a narcissist.

I used to think of narcissism as a mix of selfishness and grandiosity, but I suppose those are just the symptoms. I was taught from a very young age that it’s good to be extraordinary. We all probably were. Maybe narcissism happens when a person can’t feel their own worth except through extraordinary achievement. Ouch, that cuts pretty close to the bone.

So, the cure must be unconditional acceptance. It’s hard to expect that from other people, but I can at least offer that to myself. I can offer to others whenever I can.

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