equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
30 Jul 08

Randomness and Disconnection

So much to say in my head, but when I sit down, it all dis­ap­pears. It’s as if being in front of a blank page, with the all the pos­si­bil­i­ties before me, is cathar­sis enough.

Many things to do has left me with lit­tle time to write. A trip to Toronto for the long week­end means I have to make sure all my bat­ter­ies are charged (one for the dig­i­tal cam­era, two for the HD cam­corder, three sets for the flashes), and my mem­ory cards (two for the dig­i­tal cam­era, two for the HD cam­corder) are cleared.

Thunder has inter­rupted this post. I opened up the blinds to see the rain­fall, and the light from the street lamps has come spilling into the room. This makes me real­ize that the hot choco­late can­dle Shirley gave me for Christmas, along with the glare of my Macbook Pro screen, weren’t doing a great job of illu­mi­nat­ing my writ­ing nook. I had Thrice play­ing, but have turned it down so I can hear the sheets of water pour­ing through the street.

Got a bunch of stuff done tonight. While pick­ing up some gro­ceries, I was served by a book­ish girl with braces. She had a dis­tinct lisp, but car­ried on ebul­liently as if she had the most beau­ti­ful voice in the world. Later on, as I walked through the mall, I caught this Katherine-with-a-K slouched back in a seat in the food court, eat­ing din­ner with one arm in her lap. It reminded me of an entry I wrote about a girl doing the same thing six years ago. How I wish for that kind of peace and seren­ity. How long ago that was (uni­ver­sity!). How dif­fer­ent I was back then.

Been feel­ing very aloof lately. Not sure if it’s me, or some­thing my mind is doing to pro­tect itself. Maybe it’s a way of dis­con­nect­ing myself from the world. I must need it right now. This after­noon I was read­ing from a book of Tai Chi clas­sics Louise bought me, and found one part par­tic­u­larly fit­ting1: “Do not be con­cerned with form. Do not be con­cerned with the ways in which form man­i­fests. It is best to for­get your own exis­tence”.

  1. Listed as the first of the Eight Truths of Tai Chi. []
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27 Jul 08

She Is The Water, I Am The Waves

Her waves

She is the light, I am the prism.

She is the words, I am the voice.

She is the viola string, I am the vibration.

She is the bud, I am the bloom.

She is the life, I am the living.

She is the heart, I am the pulse.

She is the medium, I am the message.

She is the water, I am the waves.

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25 Jul 08

Tired of the Comfortable Stagnancy

I’m going through another phase where I’m tired of the com­fort­able stag­nancy I’ve cre­ated for myself. I need to throw my life into a bit of dis­or­der so I can fix it again.

So amongst the projects that have been occu­py­ing most of my time lately, I’ve started mak­ing plans to see friends I haven’t seen in a while. It’s about time for another long drive out to Toronto, a trip to John’s cot­tage, or play­ing host for dinner-and-a-movie-night.

There’s a dif­fer­ent sort of com­fort to be found in other peo­ple. It’s a dif­fer­ent voice, instead of the one in my head. A way of gain­ing some objec­tiv­ity. The key is find­ing right peo­ple. Fortunately, my friends all fit this category.

Maybe I’m try­ing to occupy myself, as a way to stop think­ing so much. Maybe I’m just crav­ing a change, because I think it’ll fill a lit­tle part of me that’s empty inside.

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24 Jul 08

Restless Writer

I have 106 unpub­lished drafts in my database.

Things I don’t feel like say­ing. Parts of myself I’m not ready to reveal.

The writ­ten word has always been my medium of choice. Photography is only an exten­sion of that, when I need to express myself bet­ter than words can let me, and video goes one step further.

I used to be a ter­ri­ble writer. During a parent-teacher inter­view in grade 10, my his­tory teacher asked my par­ents when we came to Canada. They were quite embar­rassed to tell him that I was born here.

Aside from pick­ing up a use­ful word here and there, I’ve never made a con­scious effort to improve my writ­ing. The things I say are taken from my mem­o­ries, expe­ri­ences, and thoughts. How I say it is inspired by snip­pets of Nabokov (when I’m feel­ing lyri­cal or ver­bose), Cohen (when I’m feel­ing sad or roman­tic), Herbert (when I’m feel­ing dry), or Irving (when I’m feel­ing quirky or hon­est). The only way I’ve been able to gain any sem­blance of a writer is by mim­ic­k­ing to the best of my abil­ity the lyri­cal styles I enjoy the most.

Sometimes I won­der if I’ll ever stop. Writing is often a need, not a want. I do it when I’m feel­ing rest­less, when I have some­thing to say, when things are unset­tled, when I have things to fig­ure out. And the case most often is that life is filled with these moments. Perhaps if I ever find some sort of per­ma­nent seren­ity, I’ll be able to stop.

But I prob­a­bly wouldn’t want to.

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22 Jul 08

Blood Work

Vial of blood

This lit­tle vial, along with a few drops of anti-coagulant, is filled with blood. My blood. I needed some for a pho­tog­ra­phy project I’m work­ing on, so I got a friend of mine in the med­ical indus­try to take it from me.

Now I’ve both fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally bled for my work.

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20 Jul 08

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (In The Car)

When I was young, the only affec­tion my par­ents ever showed for each other was occa­sion­ally (maybe five times ever) hold­ing hands in the car. They never kissed, never hugged, never said “I love you”. Aside from sit­ting down to eat din­ner, their lives were com­pletely sep­a­rate. They wouldn’t even sleep in the same room.

Now that I have a car, hold­ing hands while dri­ving has come to define a rela­tion­ship for me. I leave my right hand on the shifter, tap­ping it to the beat of my music, but I always have this urge to hold someone’s hand, as if it’s some strange ideal I’ve never been able to experience.

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17 Jul 08

Questioning Happiness

Last class, Mike asked how I was doing, and as a some­what phatic response, I told him I was doing well.

He told me, with a chuckle, that if he didn’t know me any bet­ter and went only by my writ­ings, he would imag­ine me to be like Joe Btfsplk, with a per­pet­ual rain cloud above my head.

So I went home and read through the last cou­ple pages of my entries, and found that they painted a some­what lugubri­ous picture.

I’ve always con­tended that hap­pi­ness is too hard to write. When I feel like express­ing myself, it’s often because of a prob­lem of some sort, inter­nal or exter­nal, that I need to fig­ure out. Writing has always been a way for me to get my thoughts in line, and off my chest. Not much of a peace­ful, detached, care-free Taoist, am I?

Perhaps I’ll always lead a Cohen-esque life, where love, sex, phi­los­o­phy, and depres­sion are the dom­i­nant themes.

The funny thing is that my life has improved tremen­dously after ther­apy. I used to be a very dark per­son. After gain­ing the sta­bil­ity of a house and a career, along with sep­a­ra­tion from my mother, not much else has changed. I’ve come to real­ize that it’s not so much the things in my life that’s improved in the last few years (aside from the strug­gle with anx­i­ety), as my atti­tude. To be hon­est, I have noth­ing to com­plain about.

That doesn’t change the fact that my entries have been some­what depressing.

Perhaps I’m still not truly happy yet.

Or per­haps I’m still not look­ing at things the right way.

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16 Jul 08

Canada Day '08

Sarah looks up

Thumbnail: Cashew cookies
Thumbnail: Dog
Thumbnail: Peeling potatoes
Thumbnail: Orange juice in the grass
Thumbnail: Orange juice in the grass
 

For Canada’s 141st, Aaron had the reg­u­lar char­ac­ters over, along with some new faces, for the annual bar­be­cue. We stayed out­side this time, lawn chairs in a semi-circle while the burg­ers and dogs were being cooked, and took it easy while the sun bathed us.

It was a beau­ti­ful day; sunny, with a refresh­ing breeze blow­ing through the air.

I don’t get to do this often enough.

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15 Jul 08

Every Sadness is Unique

Which is why we can never truly pre­pare our­selves. We may see it com­ing, we may under­stand why, but that never makes it any easier.

Every tear is an entity. An expres­sion that swells to escape our bodies.

Every day is a chance to heal.

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14 Jul 08

Hello Neighbour

Nighttime condo

The blinds are open so I can see outside.

Secretly, I hope a face from one of the win­dows will appear and look out­side, some­one who’s think­ing the same thing, so that I may not be so alone. A way of com­fort­ing myself, when I’m by myself in this veneer of a house.

I’m not sure if it’s working.

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12 Jul 08

Protected: The Wedding Loser

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11 Jul 08

Kar-Ma

If you beat a dog, don’t be sur­prised if he runs away.

—let­ter to my uncle, March 2008

When I was a child my mom would always ask me if I’d let her live in a nurs­ing home. She would do this as a form of reas­sur­ance, a way of address­ing her inse­cu­rity about dying alone. To Chinese peo­ple, this is a fate worse than death. I under­stand that there may be med­ical con­di­tions or other cir­cum­stances that make it imprac­ti­cal for a fam­ily mem­ber to live in your house, but that doesn’t change the fact that being put in a nurs­ing home is like wait­ing to die.

At the time, I was too young to under­stand the grav­ity of such a ques­tion, so I would always reas­sure her, no. Maybe I even loved her at that point, and meant it. But I’ve since cut off all ties with her, and after the divorce, she has no one left. Her rel­a­tives lead their own lives, and she’s never had enough of a per­son­al­ity to make any friends. I’ve lived with her long enough to under­stand what a hol­low, empty exis­tence she has.

Now I’m old enough to know that she’ll die alone.

And that it’ll be exactly what she deserves.

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09 Jul 08

Be Still, My Heart

Muse side face

In the dark, our bod­ies fit like puz­zle pieces — face in neck, crest in val­ley, curve in curve. I’m com­pletely vul­ner­a­ble when she lets me love her like this. She brings my guard down.

It’s the way she makes me happy with­out try­ing. The way I’m filled with ten­der­ness every time I feel the warmth of her skin against mine. The way her exis­tence gives me hope for the rest of the world.

If I chose to fall back on old habits and kept my dis­tance to pro­tect myself, I wouldn’t know this inef­fa­ble feel­ing. I may get hurt, but it’s worth every moment I can be next to her.

Maybe she’s right, and I’ll feel dif­fer­ently by the time it’s nec­es­sary. Until then, there’s no use in fight­ing it.

Not that I let myself fall for her.

My heart never gave me a choice.

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07 Jul 08

The Importance of Importance

I should really be in bed, but whatever.

Tonight I dug up a let­ter John sent me a few months ago after he hurt me like never before:

I’ve been read­ing your blog and call­ing you all weekend…I know you need atten­tion and I’m sorry I’ve been so neglect­ful of you that it’s reminded you of the way your par­ents treated you. Please stop con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide as a real­is­tic course of action in order to rem­edy the prob­lem. I love you and would really miss you and at the end of the day in a self­ish way I’m scared that I’d hate you if you left me here by myself feel­ing as guilty as I’d feel if you did it. I think you have fun­da­men­tally mis­or­dered the pri­or­i­ties we all come hard­wired with. To rank the absence of sad­ness or the pres­ence of hap­pi­ness or what­ever sui­cide would gain you as goals higher than sur­vival is the first error and then to seek those first goals using the method­ol­ogy of sui­cide is the sec­ond. You’re a lit­tle Chinese man who drinks fruit shakes and is def­i­nitely intended to live longer than the genet­i­cally pre­dis­posed to die in his early 50’s Caucasoid over here. Lets keep it that way shall we, I haven’t got your eulogy pol­ished to nearly the degree you’d want it to be.

At the time, I couldn’t get past the first few sen­tences because the pain was too fresh. And his words too poignant. Whereas I’m very vocal with my feel­ings, John is the oppo­site, and for him to say these things made me feel like my heart would burst. I read it tonight because I wanted to be reminded that I’m impor­tant to some­one, the way I need to be.

It made me real­ize that a lit­tle part of me still defines myself through oth­ers. But I don’t care any­more. I have some­one who loves and needs me the way I love and need him. That’s what mat­ters. That’s what makes me feel impor­tant, like my life means something.

Knowing this brings me a great deal of comfort.

And that will be enough to get me through.

(I won­der what he’ll say at my eulogy.)

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06 Jul 08

Just a Spoke in the Wheel

Sometimes, life moves too fast for words.

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