Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
Upscale Shopping as a Bag Lady

Upscale Shopping as a Bag Lady

I’ve been struggling with the design of this website. I wanted something different from my usual style, but getting outside of that particular box has challenged me more than I expected. Last week, I wanted to add a new entry here, but I spent an hour working on the design again. Even though I’m generally too lazy to make regular changes to it, I like the idea of having a website that reflects the current season (that’s why I added the Christmas decorations).

Note: If you follow me through wordpress and you had email notifications turned on, wordpress turned them off, and you need to turn them on again.

My writing life has been a little weird, lately. I’m used to working on my book, but I stopped around the end of October. It feels like it’s been much longer than that. Since then, I read Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide by Gotham Writer’s Workshop and did the exercises. I’ve owned the book for years, but I never actually did it from beginning to end.

I read a Hemingway short story collection, which is another thing that I’d been meaning to do for a while. After I slogged through that self-punishment, I moved on to some other authors. Actually, to be fair, the Hemingway short stories weren’t all bad. There just wasn’t a whole lot of variation in theme or style, and some stories were more successful than others. As for the other authors, I read a few from  The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, and I was really impressed by his work.

A couple of weeks ago, I started working on the first short story I’ve tried to write in a long time. I have no idea how it’s going.

I recently signed up for the Shut Up & Write December writing challenge. I haven’t done many online challenges. I join critique forums and websites with good intentions, but I never stick to them. It makes me wonder if it’s just too difficult to form bonds with other writers without some sort of personal connection. For example, I have my local writer’s group. Hardly anyone has genre, style, or reading taste in common, but we all share a geographic location. That small personal connection is enough to keep the community together.

A couple of weekends ago, Adam and I celebrated Thanksgiving in our usual way. It’s typical for us to do our holidays alone, so there’s nothing unusual about this year’s holiday season for us. We made our usual little feast and then went for our traditional Thanksgiving hike the next day. We also visited the upscale shopping district to check out the window displays and Christmas lights. My favorite window display was made entirely of white and gold cut paper and lights. We saw a watch that retails for $250,000 and spent the train ride home talking about all of the stuff we’d rather buy if we had that much money–mostly food and medicine for people in need.

This past weekend was much more subdued. We watched a couple of movies–The Pursuit of Happyness and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. We did some absolutely necessary clothes shopping. (If you were my friend in real life, you’d be ashamed to be seen with me because I’ve been looking like a bag lady–the why’s of that are for another entry). We both took long hot baths (separately) and had Indian food delivered.

Now you’re probably wondering how a woman dressed like a bag lady ended up looking at a $250,000 watch. Yes, in the US, I would definitely be followed around the store, but in Japan, I’m a foreigner. They think we all dress funny and act funny, so pretty much anything goes. Plus, many people also assume (quite wrongly) that all half-Japanese, half-white people are from extremely wealthy jet-setting families.

I’m enjoying the holiday season this year. I usually get a lot of pleasure out of the holiday decorations; the lights, the garlands, the special treats in the windows of bakeries, even cheesy mall store displays. I love seeing people dressed up for parties and that most people take some time off from work. I appreciate the people who take the time to decorate the outside of their homes, even if it’s a simple wreath on the door. I even like some Christmas music (in moderation). I’ve grown to love the holiday season even more since moving to Japan (another thing for another entry).

Last year, I felt none of that. I looked at it, and I may as well had been looking at a cactus for all my pleasure centers lit up (that is, not at all). I thought that maybe the spell had finally broken, and I’d never enjoy those things again. It was late fall last year when our cat was diagnosed with cancer. It was mid-December when we found out that it was inoperable. So, after weeks of panic over how we’d move forward and afford his treatment, we found out that he would not get better and moving forward meant leaning palliative care for a dying family member.

He lived longer than anyone expected, his life was surprisingly pleasant up until his last few days, and we found peace with his passing. He hasn’t been gone that long, just a few months, but having the option to get on with life has been a huge luxury.

This was meant to be an uplifting entry, not a sad one. The good part is that I feel better this year. I haven’t lost the ability to get pleasure out of simple things. I’m experiencing life with a little bit more perspective now, which happens every time we’re affected by grief, and that only makes me appreciate it more.

So, anyway, how are the holidays going for all of you?

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