On my way to the gym last night I saw some Asian people doing the GANGNAM STYLE dance down the street, like, that’s a thing, If you’re thinking of visiting…
At the gym I learned that they have a legit Strip dance class, all the moves of a strip dance, but none of the striping. I also caught a young dude video recording me walking down the hallway toward the weight room which is next to the room where the strip dance class is held. He was sitting on the bench recording my reflection in the mirror, so the screen was facing me as I walked down the hallway. My knee-jerk reaction was to get in his face and say “NO” very clearly and very loudly which I did. I don’t have the language to tell the staff at the gym that it happened, but I hope I made the guy think twice about what he is doing and my only regret is not flipping him off in the recording. I am not concerned with my image having been recorded on some random’s camera. I am covered up at the gym, but some of those girls, jeez, you’d think they were going stripping…oh, they kind of were. The gym is sweltering and there is no sanitizer available to wipe down the machines. If I acquire some sort of communicable disease, it was at this gym. Speaking of disease, i’ve been sick more than usual since coming to China, I tend to have a clean bill of health, but that was not the case last week. I started off my Fall Festival vacation basically peeing out of my butt for 24 hours straight with a fever. That was miserable. It did not ruin my vacation though, so that is a plus and my roommates were very caring during that time. It is horrible to be sick when you are far away from home.
I had fun on my vacation!! I traveled by plane to Shanghai, then by train to Hanzhou where there is a very popular and beautiful lake. It was very busy with Chinese tourists, who are worse than other tourists because these people are PUSHY! Pushy in the worst way. I was standing at a window to pay for a ticket, money out and actually communicating with the cashier and 3 Chinese people tried to push in front of me. This is NOT uncommon, I have read this in trip guides and seen it first hand multiple times. If you’re standing in a line in China you have to be assertive or people are going to jump in front of you and you’ll never get to the front. Despite some annoyances, it was worth the trip! We also got bumped from a lower grade hotel to a 5 star hotel at no extra cost!! Here are some photos from the adventure:
The trip was great and my friend from Minnesota made it even better!! She has been in Shanghai, China for almost three years. It was about time I met up with her here! I am now feeling like Minnesota is home more than ever and that feels very good, I have kind of been trying to find my place in the world for a very long time, I feel that coming to China and exploring new places and the culture here has lead me to a deeper understanding of myself in healing ways. There is something about actually exploring the world, rather than just daydreaming about it, that allows your heart to recognize where home is.
Let me expound:
While on the trip to Shanghai, I found someone who has the same tattoo as me. He has it on his forearm, mine is on my neck. I asked him about it, because, why not? I’ve traveled across the world and found someone with the SAME TATTOO AS ME! That’s wild, so I inquired. He and I seemed to be about the same age, he shared that it had been his first tattoo and I shared that it had been mine as well. Our reasoning was similar, it was something we had chosen out of random book of clip art at a random tattoo shop (in Denver for me, when I was 18, I also got the spiders on my ear at this time, both of which I paid for with spare change form people I would ask on the street). We both settled on a Chinese character that held the meaning of ‘one’s self or one’s own path’ and it held a somewhat spiritual meaning for each of us. I was studying about Taoism (living in harmony with the path) at the time. Our interaction was brief and I still wonder if he has ever been questioned about the tattoo by someone who has mistaken it for a swastika, because I have, many times and some have given me a really hard time over it.
I remember when I was doing a traveling magazine sales job, soon after getting this tattoo, which was soon after living homeless in Denver. I was knocking on people’s doors to solicit these magazines in cities from the midwest to the east coast. I took this job because It provided ‘housing’ which was one crappy rundown hotel room after another. One friendly lady, on a rainy day in Michigan, opened her home and invited me in for tea, she was so nice. I had this whole spiel and her kind reception made me start to feel a little bad that most of it was a lie. On this sales crew we went around telling people we were students trying to win a trip. I wasn’t a student and to be honest and I was only a high school graduate because I managed to bring my GPA up from an F to a D-. I never really gave a shit about school because I never really felt like anyone there gave a shit about me. This perception formed after many years of being treated like I was in the way or not worth loving by a parent figure who really never should have been given the job. He was a prominent figure in our small town and behind our closed doors at home I am sure people would never have suspected that he was terribly emotionally and physically abusive. Despite my attempts to tell people, they wouldn’t do anything, hence my feeling that people didn’t give a shit about me. So, needless to say this was a kind gesture on the woman’s part. I didn’t view myself as a young person who anyone listened to nor was I someone an adult would want in their home let alone someone to sit down and have a conversation with. Feeling very special for a moment that someone was so kind, I got settled in. As I was warming my hands over my tea and feeling some bit of elation that an adult cared to share time with me, she spotted my tattoo. She asked if it was a SWASTIKA! At first the question gave me a flash of memory from when I was much younger; I had been staying at this Catholic Hospital where my step-dad had to complete something for his practice as a doctor. There was a nun at this hospital who came upon my sister and I playing in the hallway and as she hovered over top of us she observed that we had lipstick on, some kind of lip smackers or something; her face contorted as she spoke and her voice conveyed condemnations when she made a questioning type statement, “You’re wearing lipstick?!” rhetorical as it was I was near tears in having to respond, “yyyy-es”. That was a creepy moment, I remember it vividly and that nuns voice became the voice of every condescending and self-critical attitude going forward. Her voice as well as my step-father’s. I have gone through many years of life with this underlying feeling that there was something wrong with me as a person and I have never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I had these messages built into my subconscious from a very young age; “I’m not worth the time, I make it hard for people to love me, I am frustrating and I don’t deserve to enjoy anything because I am such a terrible kid/person.” This really became engrained when my step-dad would lock my sister and I up in our rooms for days. We would get up for Saturday morning cartoons and laugh too loudly and the man would send us to bed for the rest of the day which would turn into us being in bed for the whole weekend and eventually there was a lock on the outside of our bedroom doors. We were locked away from the world given the message that we were too bad to enjoy it. My mother was working a lot when this was going on so she didn’t know how bad it was and for a few years when he would punish us excessively she would just sneak behind his back and give us a break; like when he would ground me from showering because I had gotten water on the floor, she would let me shower when he wasn’t home, or sometimes when he would ground us to our rooms, she would let us out, but there was always this fear of getting caught, so it was never really enjoyable, I learned to prefer staying in my room just to avoid the terror of being caught outside of it or the consequence of being sent there for nothing. It was my way of controlling the situation, staying out of sight and out of mind.
So, anyway, back to the lady who accused me of having a SWASTIKA on my neck; it was the first time I had been asked that and I said “no, of course not” and she clearly wasn’t listening to my response because she immediately lost her shit, her face contorted and she shoved me back outside of her house so quickly I could hardly tell what happened. Her screaming out the door that I should be ashamed of myself and some other mutterings could have made me realize that the lady was bat-shit-crazy! Maaaaaybe she was Jewish, maaaaaybe she has a very dark family history related to this symbol or is really passionate about WWII history, I mean, it is a very horrendous part of our history, but moooostly, she was just CRAY-CRAY or drunk. I can look back and know now that I didn’t bring that on, but at that time I had a pretty low self-esteem and it sort of broke me to be pushed like that. Rejection for something she mistook brought up the world I had left that treated me this same way, the world that I felt mistook me and treated me like some nobody, like someone who could only produce an F or a D, like somebody who didn’t deserve to laugh or enjoy life, like someone who should be locked away. That world was dark. So I stood there in nowhere Michigan , in the rain, wishing I had a different life, again. I had no other options though, at 19 I had sort of lost contact with my family due to this abusive step-father asserting some very unbelievable boundaries with me right after I had turned 18. He had decided that I wasn’t allowed at the house where my mother, 2 young bothers and little sister lived, again, for no good reason, just because he could and I think he enjoyed taking away all that I enjoyed. My mom stayed because she feared she would lose custody of my brothers. I understand this now, but at the time, I was hurt and angry, anger that I mostly took out on myself. I had to make a change, I was stuck in a cycle of self-destruction because there was nothing in that small town for me other than reminders that I was a nobody and what I had to say didn’t matter. All I had were these false comforts from the pain like alcohol, drugs and parties, but somehow I wanted more for my life. It was a blessing in disguise that I was pushed out of town in this way. I can’t even imagine who I would be if I had stayed, living in the shadow of the graphic abuse by a man that was undeservedly respected in this town, just because of his title, “Doctor.” I had left because it was so devastating to have been limited in my ability to see my own family unless we met up at a store or something, in secret, behind his back. It was no surprise though, that it came to that, because this man spent his time trying to make me feel like I wasn’t worth loving, like I was in the way and like some nobody. It was an abusive environment that I left. Now I look back and having grown in my ability to love myself and also having a masters degree in counseling I can find the nun and the swastika lady situations distinctly amusing, but I am still sorting out why my step-dad acted like that. China has been eye opening for me and healing in some ways too because when I arrived here I found myself stuck back in the subconscious cycle of beating myself up for enjoying something and God helped me tune into the fact that I certainly don’t need to beat myself up for enjoying my life, that was something engrained by an abuser and he isn’t in my life anymore, so I get to move past it. I get to move past what was and with new vision I see the sadness of it all, that these people were so short sighted. They missed an opportunity to have tea with, to be a father to or to get to know a totally great person and It doesn’t even look like a swastika, damn it!!
Aside from some obviously ignorant attributions, I like this tattoo. I like it because it really is a symbol of my spiritual journey. A journey from self-hate wrapped up in a deep belief that I was a mistake to now someone who knows that I am here for a reason, a beautiful reason and I am ever growing in my ability to love the being that I am.
I will continue this in another blog, it has been quite a journey!!