Learning to Trust

two hands being held with a field in the background

I am learning to trust myself, those I love, my community.

For a very long time, although so many people count on me, I have struggled with allowing myself to be fully seen, known and loved. I have struggled with trust that when I was in need, people would hear my cries, see my tears, hold my pain.

But there are moments in life when, without the support of others, there is little else that helps us endure.

These past two weeks have been among the hardest in my life (and I have had many, many hard weeks).

But these weeks have also been my teachers.

In these two weeks, I have strengthened the bonds I have with my community, with those I love deeply, even, to a degree, with complete strangers.

I have learned to trust my voice, my intuition, my feelings.

I have learned to listen to the wisdom that my body holds (thanks to my dear friend, Leigh, for the reminder that our bodies hold wisdom we may not understand) even when that wisdom is confusing and feels unbearable.

I have learned to speak the truth and trust that it will reach the right people.

I have learned to reach out, to be embraced, seen and loved.

I have learned to trust love, even when it is painful and feels unbearable.

I have learned to accept help (I’m still working on it), and to trust that even when I can only respond with a heart emoji or maybe not at all, that in the act of demonstrating love, the people who are showing their love will know that they are making a difference.

I have learned to listen to my community’s solidarity.

I have learned that so many people see me and will show up for me, privately and publicly.

I have learned that sometimes I cannot do anything “productive.” The feelings of helplessness are the most overwhelming.  But productivity is a construct, and survival is a necessity.

I am learning that in those moments, there is nothing to do, there is only being and trusting, and the next step will reveal itself.

I have learned that although I have made many mistakes, I am not the sum of my faults or my regrets. I do not need to make up for my imperfections. It is my imperfections that make me human.

And it is my humanity that touches the truth in others.

My friend, Ale, says that I am someone who makes lemonade from lemons. It is true, I suppose that I often try to turn the bitter into the sweet.

There is so much to be bitter about. There is still so much pain. There is still so much senseless violence.

But I will continue to draw from my humanity to try to connect with the humanity of others.

It is all I know.

And in a dehumanizing world, it is my greatest act of resistance.


Human Capacity

A droplet of water suspended above a full cup

Humanity is a strange thing.

Our humanness, in all too fragile bodies, seen by all too many as disposable, abused, mistreated, disrespected, exhausted.

Our humanness, in hearts that have always been asked to keep us alive, in spite of all of our suffering, physical and spiritual and mental and emotional.

I am at the limits of my human capacity.

I have been at the limits all week.

I have been trying so hard to hold on the life preservers, to reach out for them.

They have been keeping me afloat.

My closest community, literally holding me up, because at any moment, I am at the verge of completely drowning, of complete collapse.

They are sending me texts and messages, delivering food and water, praying for my survival and that of my family.

They are bringing me moments of joy and laughter that remind me that even in the fragility of humanity, there is also beauty.

But every morning, I awake nauseous and dizzy. I wonder how I will make it through the day.

When I feel a bit of hope, another new event comes to steal my tenuous equilibrium.

And yet, in the strangeness of humanity, particularly my own human existence, I am both completely visible and vulnerable and yet, completely invisible in my suffering.

Everyone knows, but no one knows.

I am great at putting up a show. I have done it for so long.

I keep going to meetings and answering e-mails.

I keep writing papers, coordinating panels, and helping with homework.

These are all good things. Some of them are even important.

But I am so tired.

I am at the limits of my human capacity.

Thank you for those of you that see me. That have taken the time to pray, to send messages, to text, to send lunch, to send love, to acknowledge. Thank you for those that have started e-mails or messages with, “I know this is such a hard time for you right now,” giving me permission I cannot give myself. I will always be grateful.

And some people have not reached out but are still holding me in their hearts. I am grateful for you as well.

And some people do not know, cannot see, or if they do, continue to move on as if I am not breaking. I’m not mad. But I am so tired.

I am at the limits of my human capacity.

We all have different capacity. Mine is pretty deep. But we also all have limits. And we can only operate at the bounds of our limitations for so long.

I urge you, dear ones, to hold space for those around you, if and when you have the capacity to do so. There are so many battles, seen and unseen, that we continue to fight.

To Grieve is To Be Human

To embrace my humanity, our humanity, humanity, in the face of a dehumanizing world is resistance.

I will be nothing if not authentic.

To be human as a woman of color in a world that is constantly pushing dehumanizing narratives, that is constantly trying to separate you from being deserving of love and grief and joy and the full range of human emotions that we are born into, is resistance.

To be human as a woman of color in a world that is constantly tearing you apart from those you love, either through physical violence at the hands of man-made weapons, warfare or “lone-wolves” in packs, through dehumanizing psychological violence that erases your contributions and silences your words, is resistance.

To be human as a woman of color in a world that tells you that you are alone and unsafe when in your heart, you know that safety is found in coalition and community, is resistance.

I am crying for myself.

I am crying for my family.

I am crying for my communities.

I am crying for all of us.

I am crying for our families.

I am crying for our communities.

I refuse to believe that I am only worth my contributions, if my contributions would cause me to deny my own humanity, my own grief, my own communities, the humanity of others, the grief of others, the communities I walk alongside.

Today I am so, so deeply sad. I grieve for the generations of women, present and past, who have been denied our humanity. I grieve for subsets of women who are told that they are not deserving enough to be grieved for, whose humanity is disregarded because of what they do or don’t do, because of what they look like or don’t look like, because of where they were born or how they were born or to whom they were born.

I am so sad.

I am so tired.

I am so human.

To grieve is to be human.

Hold on to humanity, even as you move through grief. It is our collectivity that connects us. We can only come through the fire more beautiful, if we pass through it together.

Hold on to those you love.

Hold on to yourself.

For though I may be drowning in grief, though we may be drowning in grief, we are alive.

Hold on to me.

I will hold on to you.

Together, we will keep moving to a far distant shore.

When There is Too Much in Your Heart

I cannot remember crying after my mother died. Not immediately, although I’m sure I did, because I remember thinking that if I did not, people would wonder what was wrong with me.

But it was so surreal.

My mother, who had dropped me off the night before at my friend’s house, died the next morning crossing the street from our house to the bus stop.

She was alive.

And then she was dead.

For weeks, I could not fully understand it. Maybe for months. I did not miss a day of school. There is a photo of a small smile at her funeral (where I did not speak).

I do not remember much, but these fleeting moments.

I have spent the subsequent 26 years crying on and off about the death of my mother.

Grief is strange that way.

And her survival instinct, passed down to me, is also strong.

In the months and years after her death, when I would grieve, I was called “dramatic.” No one could understand why, at that moment, I was so overcome with emotion.

I didn’t really understand it either.

I am so worried about my sister and her mother. I am so frightened for the people of Burma, who had their hope so cruelly taken from them and now must live in fear and hope for survival. I am so angry that there is no attention, no outrage, nothing I can do for them right now. But wait.

I am so deeply, deeply saddened by the killing of 8 people in Atlanta on Tuesday. I am so devastated for their families. I am so deeply moved by the first stories we are hearing from their children (Randy Park, HyunJung Kim’s son and Jami Webb, Xiaojie Tan’s daughter). I am more devastated to know that both these women were single mothers, that these children were so close to their mothers, who were there and then gone, taken from them so suddenly. I hate that these women, like so many other migrant Asian women who worked so hard to support their children, died in an act of hate-filled violence. These women who spent their lives serving others.

I have been scrolling Twitter during most of my waking hours since I heard about the shootings. Something about the community and the wisdom there brings me some comfort. Many people have had words that I do not have, shared resources that I could not share, responded with knowledge and connections that see the teachable moment in this tragedy.

I started to feel badly that I could not do more. I also cannot feel the grief, although my body is breaking down which means that, despite myself, it is making me grieve.

I am literally sick to my stomach.

My head hurts.

My heart hurts.

Tonight, there were many community gatherings. The one I chose to attend was put on by Red Canary Song. It centered the voices of massage parlor workers, sex workers, Asian migrant women, community members. It was not a “call to action,” it was a vigil to hold space for those lost, to honor their lives and their work, and their humanity. It was beautiful, and if anything, I thought that being in community at this vigil would bring forth my tears.

But they would not come, even then.

So many tears around me, even from my friends who do not usually cry.

Why not me?

I know that for some people, even for me in my past, my solution to grief was action, to do something productive, to do something to help others, to do something that reminded me that life must go on, to use my privilege to do better.

I feel all of the weight of all of my privilege. I am, while vulnerable, far less vulnerable than so many.  I feel the guilt of survival and of “relative safety” at this moment. I have been taught to decenter myself. Always. It is selfish to do otherwise.

And I have so much, why wouldn’t I give, while I am still here?

This is harming me.

I am literally sick to my stomach.

My head hurts.

My heart hurts.

And yet, I feel nothing. Because I am in survival mode, a mode I have carried so long and so well.

There are people who have shown up for me, who have asked what they can do, how they can help. I do not know. Because I am not fully feeling the things, I do not know what I need.

I have spent most of my life not present to what I need, but to the needs of others.

I have spent my life in service.

I am literally sick to my stomach.

My head hurts.

My heart hurts.

Because my body tells me what my brain cannot fully process. That life is so fragile. My life. Your life. Their lives. Our lives.

I am so tired.

I just want to be able to cry.

There was a time when I cried all the time. It was cathartic and healing. It was freeing.

It is strange to wish for such unrestrained sorrow, but it reminds me I am alive.

I keep writing in the hopes that I will be able to cry.

I keep writing because it reminds me that I am alive.

I keep writing so that maybe I can write myself to understanding.

But I am out of words.

I am sick to my stomach.

My head hurts.

My heart hurts.

I am too tired to issue statements…

My Asian American friends, writer & academic sisters are crying.

We are filled with rage and grief, long denied to us.

We have been denied our rights to grieve historically.

We have been cast as harlots.

As seductresses.

As dragon ladies.

As foreign invaders.


As submissive.

As hard-working.

As quiet.

As voiceless.

As powerless.

As silent.

As forgotten.

As disposable.

None of these castings were by our choice, or if some of us chose to engage with them, often it was a choice of survival.

Even if we were all these things that people see us as, if they see us at all, it shouldn’t actually matter because what justifies the robbing us of our humanity? Or any part of the fullness of our experiences? What justifies erasure? What justifies silencing?

Solidarity work requires us to amplify the need for attention for one another.

I try my best to amplify the need for structural change to address the needs of others: my Black siblings, my undocumented siblings, my Indigenous siblings, my Latinx siblings, my Muslim siblings, my disabled siblings, my LGBTQ+ siblings. I am imperfect in these efforts, but I am ever striving to amplify, to advocate, to walk alongside, to love, to humanize, to listen.

I am tired today. I am too tired to continue tweeting. I am too tired to author statements for the organizations that I serve. I may even be too tired to respond if you reach out (and I appreciate all of you who have reached out).

What I need most from you, in my exhaustion, personally, is to keep reaching out in love, but understand if I can’t articulate anything I need beyond that.

As a community member, I’d consider showing solidarity in one of the following ways:

  • Amplifying calls for action for supporting the Asian American community, specifically those that rely on investing in communities not on increased policing which has not been shown to deter anti-Asian hate crimes or promote community safety.
  • Donate to an organization that is focused on Asian American justice, or specifically in Atlanta, consider donating to Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta or Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective of transnational Asian migrant sex workers, who are largely targeted by violence. If you want to wear your support, consider buying an Asian American AF shirt, with proceeds going to AAAJ-ATL for the next 10 days.
  • Amplify the very sparse media coverage of Asian democracy movements, including the current humanitarian crisis in Burma.
  • Advocate for the teaching of hard histories of people of color, including the histories of Asian Americans in the US, who have both contributed to the building of this country, and been forcibly excluded and scapegoated in policy and practice, in this country, for the last 150+ years. Learn these histories yourself.
  • If you are on the board of an organization, use your voice to stand against anti-Asian hate, and then consider where you might be perpetrating subtle forms of reifying Asian American stereotypes of violence against Asian Americans. Consider how your silence may be unstated complicity or buy in to the idea that Asian Americans are no longer suffering in a white supremacist state because this is a more comfortable position to take.

Signing off for now, and sending love.

On Holding All the Heavy Truths

CW: Human rights violations, trauma, racial violence

My sister, my father’s youngest daughter, and her mother, live in Yangon, the capital of Burma.

My father and I have an extremely complicated relationship, but the complications of our relationship have never prevented me from loving my sister. As my father’s daughter, my only hope for my sister and her mother is that my father would be better to them than he was to my family.

Burma is burning at the hands of a military coup. Innocent lives are being lost in a huge humanitarian crisis that is getting little attention here in the US where I live.

When the coup began on February 1, I hesitated to reach out, worried for my sister and her mother’s safety (my father is not with them, but is in Thailand where he went to remain safe in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic and because of his failing health). I remember the last time the military was in power and how it was not safe to send letters — they would arrive late to my father, censored, although there was nothing remotely political. I did not want to e-mail. I was not sure if it was safe to reach out via e-mail.

Finally, I couldn’t bear it any longer and reached out to my sister. Seeing her post on social media gave me a hint that this might be the safest way to reach her. I looked for her posts every day. I searched each day for what I could find out from the media.

This last weekend, when I saw the rise in state violence throughout the city on March 14, I reached out again to her to see if she was safe. The shooting was just one street away from her. She promised me she would do what she could to stay safe and message me immediately if they were in imminent danger. I told her that we loved her. We were praying for her safety. We hoped to meet her in person soon. To let me know if there was anything we could do.

Her words and hearts on my post let me know, even though we have never met, and our lives are so vastly different, that she feels my heart.

I am so worried for her and her mother.

Even if they survive this violence, the trauma of this time will never leave her the same.

Tonight, as I waited for morning in Burma, and a possible social media post that lets me know my sister and her mother are still alive, I received a different social media message.

A news story.

About 8 people, 6 Asian American women killed across three spas in the metro Atlanta area.

It reminded me (as if I could forget) that I also am not safe.

I have not felt safe in over a year.

I have not gone on a run alone in several months.

I know anti-Asian violence, particularly that against women, is nothing new. But I also know it is on the rise.

While I have not (yet) experienced physical attack, I am always aware of how easily acts of verbal aggression turn to physical violence.

There has been much psychological trauma, almost unbearable psychological trauma externally, in this last year, adding layers to grief and trauma that is personal and internal.

I am so tired.

I worry about my sister and her mother. I worry about myself and my daughter.

And yes, I still get a lot of things done.

It doesn’t seem like I’m carrying this weight.

I have survived many acute and prolonged traumas. I will likely survive this too.

I hope we all will.

I hope to meet my sister and her mother.

I hope they feel my love from afar.

I wish there was more I could do.

We don’t know what people are carrying, how tired they feel, and how much energy it takes to keep going.

If you care or if my words resonate with you, fight alongside me, against the erasure of Asian and Asian American women’s suffering.

My individual suffering is at the hands of unjust systems that perpetuate the world turning a blind eye until and unless it fits the right narrative to move forward a political agenda.

It perpetuates violence against Black women, Indigenous women, Pacific Islander women, Latinx women, trans women, all women.

Do not wash your hands clean of the blood shed and lives lost. Fight for better.

This is a Vent Post

A cellphone screen with an angry face

Listen, I am an incredibly loving person.

I don’t think this is a secret.

I am someone who stands with and for people and who loves with my whole heart.

I am someone who believes in people’s humanity, and humanizes those who are unkind to me.

I am also someone who has always been strategic, and who is careful not to put others in danger.

As an Asian American woman, when to speak, stay silent, reach out, stay back, is always something I carefully consider. Safety is always something I am acutely aware of.

Today, I received a very hurtful e-mail from someone who clearly doesn’t know any of this. But someone who should know better, if the person bothered to spend any time getting to know who I really am. This person accused me of not caring (when I reached out to them) or of doing too little too late, which is the ULTIMATE of ironies given who this person is and their relationship to me.

[Sorry for the vague-posting even on my blog, but I will not name this person even though they have continually, throughout my life, not shown up for me]

I am super angry.

I will not be disrespected.

I said as much, directly, to this person, with no reservations.

I spoke the truth in love, as I have throughout every adult interaction I’ve had with this person.

But honestly, this gets old.

Today, it was this person, but it has happened to me by people, in my professional and personal lives, for YEARS.

So, do not mistake my gentleness and my love for meekness that gives you permission to treat me like I am not enough.

I make mistakes.

I own them.

I am imperfect.

But I am enough.

Literally, do not get it twisted.

I will keep fighting, standing, loving.

I will not be silenced or shamed.

That’s it. That’s the post. You can keep your attempts at guilt for someone else. I owe you nothing.

I am my mother’s daughter.

I am the wisdom of my ancestors.

I am the love of my community.

I am enough.