Hair and Identity

Well, we have been in Japan for about a week and a half now. 

In some ways, I have been waiting my whole life for this.

Since I was about 10 years old I have had a life goal of living in Japan. To see and understand better the place Obaachan came from. I know better now, than when I was a teen, to wonder if I might fit in better here than where I grew up. I am American, and even if I look hafu, I will always be gaijin. Which leads me to my first dilemma; should I play up my American (white) heritage or try to blend in?

For years I wore my hair with straight bangs in the States. Most people assumed I was mixed right away when they met me. When I moved to California, I let my bangs grow out and ombred my dark hair. I figured the look fit more with the constant sunny lifestyle. Now it’s winter and I want to go back to my bangs and dark hair… but I’m in Japan.

My Japanese language and literacy is very rudimentary… I’m wondering if I could be mistaken for a hafu by changing my hair, and if this would create awkward expectations (knowing the right manners, speaking fluently, etc.)?

I suppose I’m over thinking this too. Probably, I will cut and color my hair back to it’s natural dark with bangs, and figure it out from there. Have any other mixed Japanese Americans experienced mismatched identity expectations in Japan?

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We Ruin Our Kids

The other night I counted back and realized my period is significantly late. I’m usually like a clock about these things, so the fact that I’m about two weeks late had me nervous.

“What if I’m pregnant?” I fretted to my husband while we laid in bed, listing off all the things that had to be done before the move.

“Are you kidding? I’d be so excited!” he enthused. I rolled my eyes in the dark and ticked off all the reasons why getting pregnant right now would be highly inconvenient.

But the truth is the inconvenience of the matter is a small thing to how terrified I am of being a mother. My anxiety about motherhood has reached a point to where I’m not sure if I can really morally justify bringing children into the world. How can people justify creating new lives to ruin when there are children out there who need homes? Probably I’d ruin an adopted kid’s life too, but at least I can live with myself knowing I lifted someone out of a bad situation and tried to improve their lot.

I know where my anxiety comes from. My own upbringing was about as toxic as you could imagine and still escape alive. At 19 I was diagnosed with PTSD. Yeah, like who gets PTSD from their own freaking parent? Me, apparently. This is the irony; my husband with two combat deployments doesn’t have it, but I do. 

My mother is a black hole–a dementor, if you will. I feel physically ill being in the same room as her. She had four of us, despite a fantastically failing marriage and would have tried for more had she not been older when she started. She frequently talked about wanting to be pregnant and have more kids. Why? Who in their right mind thinks to themselves, “Yeah my marriage is in the toilet and I lock myself in my room all day so I don’t have to take care of the three kids I already have–but you know what would improve this situation? ANOTHER BABY!”

My aunt theorizes that maybe pregnancies helped balance her hormones, but I think my mother was constantly looking for a new distraction. She “outgrew” her other children as soon as we started to display individual personalities and question her erratic behavior. She needed someone new to control.

I ended up mainly raising my youngest brother (nearly 10 years younger than me), and it was a hellish experience. He was born sensitive to begin with, and by 4 years old he was already displaying signs of depression. I’ve been there with the diaper changing, the potty training, the night time screaming, the tantrums, the sullen behavior, dressing him, washing him, making sure he gets to school, arranging hanging out with my friends over whether or not my dad would be home to watch him, packing him lunch, making sure he does his homework, etc, etc. 

I love my brother dearly. It is truly a miracle he isn’t some juvenile delinquent by now given all he’s been through. He has a heart of gold and is one of the most sincere teenage boys you will ever meet. But he struggles in school, and he struggles to make friends, and I can’t help but feel guilty about that to an extent. Part of his shortcomings are surely related to my parenting deficiencies.  

I feel like I’ve done the mother thing. I’m over it. It’s highly overrated. People think it’s like, this great amazing thing–so many women glorify the idea of physically having their own kid, then get depressed and angry and emotionally drained when it turns out they can’t conceive, and it makes me angry. What is the point? Listen friends, I’m sorry you don’t get what you want in life. I’m not saying this with snark. I am truly moved by how upset you are and wish I could ease your sorrow. This is true. But another side of me says, I’m so sorry you can’t birth out a human that doesn’t need to be here in the first place, just so you can harm your child and be estranged as adults. This is what I also want to say to them. But of course I don’t, because it isn’t polite and infertility is supposed to be this big deal. If I’m infertile, it will be sad for my husband because he wants his own kids. But after a moment of reflection, I will be relieved of the burden of admitting to my blood that I fucked them up, and I can’t say I’ll weep over it. 

My thought is this; how can someone like my mother look us in the eye and admit that we were unnecessary to bring forth, and she did so purely to torture us for her own selfish wants? If I were adopted, at least I could close that chapter of my life behind me and focus on finding my birth parents. I imagine it would be a relief to know that I’m not related to the person who tortured me for my entire childhood and teenage years. I reason if people truly want children for the right motivations, they’ll adopt. Seriously, just give them the gift of getting out of foster homes, and opting out of your fucked up family as adults. 

My husband tries to use the argument that “you’re not your mother” and “break the family cycle” and all that, and he means well, but isn’t that just what we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better? This is my fear. My mother was the product of a broken home, but I’m sure she smugly thought the same thing at first. It’s not clear to me that my Obachan ever really wanted kids, although she raised three. I can only speculate how bad Obachan’s home life must have been to escape to another country where she didn’t speak the language, and never have contact with her family again except for one sister. Breaking the cycle, huh? A few generations stacked against me it looks like. 

In the morning I took a pregnancy test. It was negative. I chalked up my late period to the multiple coast-to-coast trips we’ve been making in the last 6 weeks. I took a deep breath, grateful for the reprieve. This gives me time. More time to sort out my emotions about all this. I truly, truly want to be happy about having a baby when the time comes. Maybe, I should even hope that I’m sad if I can’t. 

 

Skipping Christmas…Again :(

So it’s been a minute since I posted last. I’m going to give you a quick rundown on No Christmas, OSC Drama, and Iwakuni Questions. The Mr. came home safely from Afghanistan about six weeks ago, and since then it’s been a non-stop whirlwind of travel and PCS prep. Did I mention we are moving to Iwakuni very soon? Well, we are and I’m looking forward to it. What I’m not looking forward to is a disgustingly long plane ride (travel total is some 24 hours with a 12 hour flight just from west coast to Tokyo) and skipping Christmas again. 

Last year we missed Christmas because we moved and went to Hawaii for our honeymoon. This year we’re also moving. Sigh. I love Christmastime! I always pictured in my mind that when I got married I would do up Christmas really big every year. Womp-womp! I’m embarrassed about the fact that we’ve never even had a tree to decorate! I did however, finally convinced hubs to let us host a Christmas SLASH Goodbye party, so I guess that will have to do.

Moving onto OSC drama… I’ve kept my nose out of it ever since I found out the president and vice were keeping a FILE of slanderous/negative behavior against them to “take to the general’s wife if need be”. The EFF?? Did these people never graduate high school? Granted, the “opposition” is just as childish–women twice my age posting facebook status’ throwing shade at former and existing spouses. This is what happens when the olds get their hands on technology and didn’t have the chance to grow out of their “posting selfies, inspirational quotes, and cryptic-but-not-really statuses” in college phase. Anyway, crazy thing is the president’s spouse got orders from the get-go so she stepped down early. And then the vice’s spouse also got orders so she’s leaving too! Kinda weird how that worked out. If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from all this it’s that I think when I go to Iwakuni I’m just going to be a casual member and join a club–but no more of this “involved” bullshit. Yikes!

Speaking of Iwakuni… so around the time of the government sequestration and shut down, we were receiving information that all families were required to live on base. I was disappointed because I had always wanted to live in Japan proper, but I talked myself into all the benefits and hassle-free parts of base living, and I was okay again. Then, about a week ago, we got an email saying that due to extensive renovations the average wait time for base housing was 12 months. Is this like 12 months for real, or Twentynine Palms 12 months (more like 3-4)?

There are a couple things I’m concerned about living in town now. One is the feeling of isolation. I felt isolated living out in Twentynine and I speak the same language as everyone else (mostly… still not fluent in meth-head), so I can only imagine how it will be magnified in Japan and once we decide to have a baby. Also, it’s virtually impossible to find a place that is pet friendly from what I hear, and getting a cat was high on my priority list. I’m less concerned with the drafty apartments as I can pretty much get along anywhere, but that still won’t be any fun.

On the other hand, if I find a place near restaurants and grocery shopping, I’d be excited about that. So much is up in the air right now that I really can’t speculate I guess. Just have to wait and see when I get there. Well, this may be my last post this year. The movers come in two weeks, and after that the adventure begins!  

 

Workout Fail!

I’ve never owned a scale and weigh myself infrequently. To me, the numbers can be subjective. I’m not going to lie though, when I went into the Navy hospital to initiate paperwork for my OCONUS PCS physical and they had me step on the scale, I was in mild shock as the numbers “128.5” blinked back at me. Over 128? Apparently since the last time I was weighed (112 almost 2 years ago) I zipped past the teens and dove straight for the 30s. Damn!

I shouldn’t really be that surprised; I’ve slothed my way through this deployment and gone up almost 2 pant sizes. How did I not think that was going to register on the scale? With the pressure of looking good for the Mr.’s homecoming in two months looming over my head, I went home and tried to figure out a way to trim down noticeably but reasonably.

I headed over to bodybuilding.com and got motivated. I looked at some beginner workout plans and took nutrition notes and thought to myself, I can do this! Armed with inspiration and a slip of paper with some easy weight routines, I went to the West Gym repeating my mantra in my head, I can do this!

I had never been to the West Gym before or seriously lifted, but so what? Gotta start somewhere! I signed in, took a look around, and as my eyes adjusted I felt panic rising in my throat. The West Gym, apparently, is solely an iron pumping love fest. No ellipticals or treadmills with perky women bouncing around, no TVs, no nothing. Just you and the sharp rubber smell of floor mats, the clank of metal, and the grunting of sweaty men–which could be hot in a 50 Shades kind of way, but I’m not here to get freaky like that.

I took a gulp and forced myself to walk to the middle of the room and at least pretend to check out the equipment. One of the drils required use of the bench-press contraption but you kind of use it as a poor man’s pullup.  All of the bench-presses had their benches underneath them but the video showed them with the benches removed. This means I’d have to attempt to move the bench. What if I couldn’t move it because it was too heavy? What if I tried moving it but the bench was actually bolted to the ground? I’d look like such an idiot! And what if one of them tries to help me out? I would feel so stupid and lame that I sucked so bad that someone had to come over and take pity on me. But on the other hand if I was struggling and no one offered to give me some direction, I would take it as some kind of West Gym cold shoulder.

I spotted the dumbell rack. Okay I needed those for the lunges. I took note of the dudes grunting in front of the mirror and started to freak out again. Yeah right, me and my 2 lbs weights are going to grunt alongside with them! Suddenly a woman rushed past me–the only one I saw since I stepped in the–oh shit she looks like a little gremlin!

I hightailed it out of there. I knew as soon as I jumped in my car that this was a new kind of rock bottom. But where do I go from here?

Fortunately when I got home and checked the mail some of my workout DVDs I ordered came in (I bought these just before I got the bright idea to start lifting). I’ll try them out so at least I’m doing something. I think my problem is I need a partner; someone who is semi-serious about being in the gym and can show me the ropes. The problem is that the amount of women who can do that and aren’t also weighed down by BABIES is pretty tough to find around here. 

Any of you ladies go from zero to lifting and how did you make that transition?

 

Orders to Iwakuni!

A couple weeks ago we found out that the Mr. got orders to Japan. At the time it was Okinawa. Still exciting, but not our first choice. Just found out a day or two ago his monitor was able to change the orders and send him to Iwakuni instead. In the words of an overly excited anime character;

YESSSSA!

Iwakuni was our top choice for a couple of reasons. For one, I’m not really a beachy, tropical island kind of person. For another, we hear it’s a pretty small base. This is good because he and I have had a lot of conversations about cutting down the workaholic-ness in his life and also because we would like to live off base and immerse ourselves in the culture without too many obviously jaded people who hate military personnel because they have to put up with their constant crap. Thirdly, it’s a helluva lot closer to Tokyo than Okinawa is. Since one of my main goals is to conduct as much family history research as possible, the closer to Tokyo the better.

I do have some concerns about making enough friends. Sometimes out here in the desert I feel rather isolated as it is, and I’m surrounded by English speakers. How am I going to fare with only a handful of English speakers and minimal Japanese? I mean, I would love to make some Japanese friends when I get there but how does one even go about doing that without coming across like a creeper?

I’m considering upping my usage on italki to maybe make some friends before I get there. At least improve my language skills, right?

Christmas?

It’s only just begun to get cold here. And by “cold” I mean, the cold that the middle of fall usually brings in places that are used to four seasons. It has been really hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year. For one thing, the church we have been attending hasn’t been singing any Christmas songs during their services even though it’s Advent (yes this bums me out!).

I have also realized how important the look of bare trees are to signaling winter/Christmas. Even in the South where I grew up, the weather didn’t get excessively cold but the trees were always bare and that seemed to be enough. Out here where there are so few trees and the sun shines down mercilessly bright, it just feels “off” to talk about holiday baking and decorating.

Not that I can decorate anyway.

The good news is that we finally got a house on base and are moving this week. The bad news is we are moving during Christmas season (making decorating obsolete) and the day before we leave for Hawaii (packing for a 2 week long vacation & a house!). I can’t wait to move though. I will have a DISHWASHER! And central HEATING AND COOLING!

Yes, ladies and gents, living in town can be cheaper but at what cost? Not to mention the history of break-ins military homes have had when the service member gets deployed or goes out in the field in this neck of the woods (or should I say, desert).

Alright enough procrastinating, I have some packing to do! It doesn’t feel like Christmas yet, but maybe it will in Hawaii. 🙂

2 Months Later

Life seems to be moving at breakneck speed despite moving to the middle of nowhere. All the paperwork and getting set up with DEERS took weeks longer than anticipated, mainly because the state of Massachusetts “lost” our marriage certificate, leaving us in limbo as to the actual legality of our marriage for most of October. Being unable to access dependent privileges was a huge pain in the ass and involved me being accompanied by my husband whenever I needed something on base, from shopping to attending unit meetings. Additionally, we did not realize that despite being allowed to put our name on a waiting list for base housing 30 days prior to getting married, our names were not activated until I enrolled in DEERS–putting several families ahead of us on the list who had not been waiting as long.

If I had to do it over again, I would have done a legal marriage first (as seems to be extremely common among military couples) and the ceremony later. That way there would have been no gap in my health insurance coverage, our base housing wait would have been activated weeks sooner, and most importantly, we would have had the time to have our marriage certificate in-hand and physically bring it with us to California. If you are moving to another state not within a day’s driving distance or out of country and debating about getting legally married ahead of time, just do it and save yourself the trouble.

Braving Tricare

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about finding a good primary care physician. Theoretically I’m a big believer in preventative medicine, but I’ve never really been serious about acting on it. I’ve been in “good” health most of my life, so I rarely took an occasion to consider much beyond the odd clinic visit for this or that minor ailment. However, after having some time to digest Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dillemma” (late to the party, I know), I’ve become more interested in a holistic approach to living.

It just makes so much sense. You can pay now (spending the money to eat well, taking preventative health measurements) or pay later (poor health, high medical bills), but either way you have to pay. Why not enjoy better tasting food and quality of life over the alternative?

Since I figured the best way to take charge of my health was to get some kind of physical and establish an up-to-date record, I decided to try and find out what I could about naturopathic doctors in the Coachella Valley area. I found two in Palm Desert and started comparing them only to discover that Tricare does not cover any expenses involving naturopathy including doctors. They are still licenced medical doctors as I understand it, so I don’t see why not.

This is all very discouraging. What’s the point of “great insurance” if you can’t get the care you’re interested in? Does anyone have any tips for finding a Tricare approved provider who also incorporates naturopathic practices?

 

In My Defense

I suppose I better start explaining myself now.

Where better to begin, then at the end? With the road littered with verbal indescretions and silent warning flags, it’s so easy to see how I ended up in a fix that could have been prevented if only I hadn’t started a blog/revealed my true feelings/criticized my husband’s command/maintained anonymity.

At least, that’s how I imagine it all ending.

The problem is when you’ve been journalling since you were 7 (when you got a small white hardback journal with an abstract giraffe on the cover, and gilded edges, and a real lock and key), writing turns out to be a pretty tough habit to kick.

It was there for me throughout my roughest years as a way to deal with angst, uncertainty, spiritual turmoil, unrequieted love, and countless other harrowing emotions. It’s a safe space for me to work out the knotty issues life throws at me. But maybe it was only safe because it wasn’t on the internet.

As the countdown ticks away into the double-digits of my future marriage, I’m forced to come to terms with many things regarding life, love, and family that I assumed I wouldn’t have to deal with until I was much older and wiser. I’m struggling to come to terms with my identity as a future Marine Corps Wife and the expectations of society and myself that I “do something” beyond being a Career Spouse. I wonder if I really have what it takes to raise kids. Never a sorority girl type, I fear being unable to fit into MilSpouse culture. If it wasn’t for my unshakable certainty of the loyalty and competency of my fiance, I know I wouldn’t be taking the plunge so soon.

I will miss my spiritual home, New York City, dearly. Moving to the desert in the middle of nowhere, with no job and few work prospects is not my idea of a good time… but a part of me is still excited. Something new to experience and write about.

And so Dear Reader, please forgive me whatever trouble I caused.

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