ljlee: (muzi_um)
My husband's family feels so weird to me sometimes. Yesterday we had dinner with Mark's parents and then his dad suggested we drive to Ganghwa Island, about an hour away (it's also where one of my ancestors is buried), to see the sunset. He drove us, we chatted about stuff, we saw the sunset and Mark and I took pictures. We drove back in the dark, talking or just keeping companiable silence, came home, ate mangoes and bananas Mark's dad had bought for us, and Mark's parents watched television before they turned in while us kids did our own stuff.

Did you see that? The total lack of blowups, old grievances, strained silences, drama, or games? Just four people enjoying each others' company? Did I mention that Mark's parents are divorced and were perfectly comfortable having dinner and spending two hours in a car together just being good friends and their son's parents?

It still blows my mind sometimes that a family can just... enjoy each others' company without underlying unease or some hidden agenda, without navigating the minefield of old resentments and perceived slights, without inevitable fights and long Why You Suck speeches spoken into seething, miserable silence. It's even more foreign to my experience that Mark's divorced parents have a better relationship with each other than many married couples, including my own parents when Mom was alive.

I know intellectually that this is how emotionally mature and stable people behave, and that you get these lovely and peaceful times with family when the family members have no psychological trapdoors ready to be tripped by anything and everything, when they genuinely love and care for each other and can control themselves. I know all this, but experiencing it for real is still so weird sometimes. I also suspect Mark's parents are more stable and adjusted than most people, given how rare amicable divorces can be.

And the fact that I fit so neatly into these dynamics, that I'm not causing any cracks in these family times or dragging anyone down, helps me see that, hey, I'm actually pretty normal, too. That helps me get away, little by little, from the sense of wrongness and brokenness that was instilled in me from childhood on. My dad always said I, or my brother, or our mom, was the problem and he was fine. Well Dad, guess who fits right into a perfectly normal family evening? This bitch!

My father, of course, in his self-serving gaslit reality thinks Mark's family is somehow dysfunctional and oppressive. Yeah, if being at peace, surrounded by caring and stable people, constitutes oppression, then I'll take it. Maybe my senses are all out of whack or I'm lying as my dad constantly accuses me of doing, but I like this a whole lot better than what I had with my birth family.

Being part of a stable, caring family is actually a thing. I'm not messing up anything by being here, I get along with everyone and I'm a good, stable person myself. I'm really okay, despite a lifetime of being told I am a fundamentally flawed person who makes others unhappy. I'm going to bring my own child up in a happy and functional family, and my kid will have a super-loving and gentle dad who will model the supportive, secure family life that still seems so strange to me.

All this is overwhelming at times, even after three and a half years of a blissfully happy marriage. I could get used to this. Just give me time.
ljlee: bam bam (headdesk)
The last two weeks made ripples in water that had lain stagnant for years. It was mainly academic drama, but it got me thinking about my fiction writing as well.

You know those stories where you return exactly where you started but the choices made and growth experienced up to that point make all the difference? Planescape: Torment is a particularly epic example, but you can see it in a lot of "hero's journey" type stories. The hobbits' return to the Shire in The Lord of the Rings comes to mind. I'm sure you can come up with other examples.

That's sort of what happened to me over the past two weeks. I was trying my darnedest to graduate this semester while my advisor thought I wasn't ready yet. I poured everything into proving otherwise, working until 11 or 12 every night trying to put together a thesis that would pass muster.

In the end he decided I still wasn't ready, but he seemed genuinely moved by how hard I was trying and how determined I was. He sat down with me for an hour--on a day when he was teaching nine hours of classes--to give me extremely detailed feedback. I could tell how badly he wanted me to write a really good thesis, one that would make a difference.

Oh look! A giant teal deer! )

I was at a social occasion over the weekend with my professor, who told a colleague that I'm going to be graduating next semester. I like that idea. Maybe I'll make it and maybe I won't, but it sure is worth the effort. If I learned anything over the past two weeks, it's that my dreams are only as good as the sweat I'm willing to pour into them.
ljlee: (muzi_wave)
Yo, just wanted to say me and mine doing fine over here despite MERS. I see a few people wearing surgical masks on public transport, but most people go without. The worst of it is confined to hospitals, and we're told the only groups in serious danger are already-vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and patients. At least one patient--No. 35, a doctor--is said to be in serious condition despite being in his thirties and formerly healthy. Then again he's been heavily exposed as a health care worker, so I'm not panicked just yet.

I did have a close call last week. I was at a prosecutor's office where a client was being questioned. Because the client spoke little Korean we had an interpreter, who all of a sudden started coughing uncontrollably. She decided to go to the hospital immediately and promised to tell us the results. Thankfully she called with the news that she tested negative for MERS, and I took over translating duties for the rest of the interrogation. It was scary for a while there, though we all laughed about it.

So there's some apprehension, but we go about our lives for the most part. The government is denying the possibility of the virus being airborne, but since that's far from a foregone conclusion there may still be more shit to hit that fan. Thanks sohawkeward for asking after me. I'm trying to be careful and hoping this lucky streak will continue.
ljlee: (kira)
Today a guy who is not a client but discussed a few details of his case with me called from a break in his police interrogation, saying how he was being pressured to confess an incident he hardly remembered. I gave a bog-standard answer, that he shouldn't confess to anything without speaking to a lawyer. He went back and forth on this and I listened with half an ear while playing Candy Crush. Then he admitted he'd  called me to calm himself down and not for actual legal advice.

There was a time when that would have warmed my heart. I'd have been thrilled at being useful and appreciated. Instead I felt irritation that he's calling up a lawyer he never retained or paid as though I were a friend, like I'm just waiting around in the middle of the workday to soothe his fears and tell him everything's going to be all right.

I'm not sure why I no longer act like a beaten dog around perfect strangers. Maybe it's because I have better boundaries now that I've been freed from the idea that my value lies in serving and pleasing others. Maybe it's the experience of being similarly used for support and knowledge by people who don't reciprocate. Being in a stable relationship may have helped me gain actual self-respect, too. Maybe it's just a function of getting older and ornerier.

Whatever the reason or combination of reasons, I'm glad of this change. It doesn't mean I'll never be exploited again, but with these emotional signals in place I'm likelier to avoid exploitative situations or leave them.
ljlee: Queen... er, Lady Misil (misil)
Valentine's day was lazy and wonderful. I spent it with the spouse doing nothing productive or glamorous, sleeping in, playing the mobile game Princess Rush side by side (ironically it's a game about fairy-tale princesses beating up on Prince Charming), and eating homemade canafe for dinner while watching Deep Space Nine. As I once told a friend, marriage for me is like having a sleepover every night with the best friend I ever had. I am grateful every day that I have such a wonderful relationship with such a wonderful person.

The awesome that is our marriage is a direct result of my husband and I having feminist beliefs. I use "feminism" here in the primary dictionary sense of gender-egalitarian thought. It also works in the sense Mary Shear wrote, "the radical notion that women are people." I couldn't have married my husband, nor would our marriage be so happy, if it weren't for this idea. Let me count the ways:

Possibility, Flexibility, Freedom, and Humanity )

These are the gifts feminist thought gave us in our relationship: The possibility of a relationship starting int he first place, flexibility in assigning family roles, freedom to be ourselves, and the ability to relate to each other as human beings. Of all the reasons for me to be a feminist, this is the most selfish and the most fulfilling, that I was able to muster the courage to make a lifelong commitment to the love of my life, and to shape our lives in a way that brings us both joy. We are two imperfect people trying to build our lives in a way that works for us, and we are helped every day in that effort by the radical notion that we are both human beings.


ljlee: (candle)
Originally posted to the [community profile] write_away  community and copied here because I figured it might be relevant to some of my flist. Also because it's hard to find stuff there due to the lack of tags. Note to admins: If you don't allow users to create tags, create some yourself so the place is navigable.

Do you find that having a writer's temperament or talent affects your life in other areas, for better or for worse? Here are the ways it's affected me:

Good, bad, ugly )

It's not always easy to like this part of myself. I still have a suspicion of artistic types as shifty and untrustworthy, no doubt through the lens of parental disapproval. Surrendering to this strange possession was like relaxing for the first time in my life. I still do my day job, and try to be productive in my stunted way, but I'm better aware of how this writing disease stretches its tentacles into every corner of my life. I've also come to acknowledge that the pages of my own creation are where I truly live, whether I like it or not.

(Edited to correct the name of the community, lol.)

ljlee: (muzi_laugh)
terrified scream
This, basically.

A couple of weeks ago on YouTube I got into a debate with an MRA. (Or rather he replied to my post while calling me and other feminists names.) Seeing a chance for a real conversation, I tried to engage him by addressing his points in detail, citing links to support my position, and asking questions of my own.

So what do you think happened next?

a) He responded with like thoughtfulness and we had a nice chat.
b) He grew angry, called me names, and threatened violence.
c) Crickets; he ignored my post and did not answer.
d) He accused me of preaching icky feminist dogma, while also admitting he didn't read my post. Because he could TOTALLY TELL! Without reading a word! He's amazing!

And the answer is... )

So that's how my attempt to engage with an MRA with actual logic and facts went. Hey, at least no one threatened to rape and decapitate me, so it actually went rather well, all things considered.


ljlee: Queen... er, Lady Misil (misil)
I am not the first of my line to write about my heroine's times. The celebrated thirteenth-century writer Lee Gyubo (李奎報, 1168~1241) wrote the Lay of the King in the Eastern Light (東明王篇), an epic poem about the first king of Goguryeoh a.k.a. my heroine's second husband. Lee, also known as Master White Cloud (白雲居士) and Lord of Gentle Prose (文順公), is my distant ancestor and one of the founders of my house.*

Fully illustrated with amateur photography )

That's how I visited an ancestral grave to pay my respects and ask for help. Yes, I am that desperate. It was nice to reconnect with this part of my heritage, and I know whom to blame if this project doesn't pan out.

Postscript: Another ancestor, the 18th-century academic Lee Ik, came up in my research as a scholar on Yemaek groups and the origins of the Korean people. I appear to have a multi-generational obsession on my hands.
ljlee: (candle)
Today on the train I came across a scene that flooded my body with remembered grief. A mother was in the car with her young daughter of five or six, and the mom seemed very upset about something the daughter had done. She spoke roughly to the little girl to go stand next to a door holding a vertical bar, then proceeded to wipe down one skinny shin where there were some dark smudges on the skin, probably something the girl had gotten on her bare leg. The mother, voice raised and hands ungentle, said the girl was really going to get it from her father and told her how bad she was.

Okay, so the daughter had done something wrong, maybe she'd been careless. I thought the mother seemed disproportionately upset from what I could see, but I didn't know the whole story and being a parent is hard work. I turned my attention to my phone like a good little commuter, but a tendril of my awareness hovered around the two.

And then it got worse. )

Looking back I'm surprised by the force of my own memories. Here I thought I'd gotten over everything, just about--and then BOOM it all comes back and I'm a puddle of emotion on the train floor. It demonstrates the power of these experiences. What I really wanted to say to the mother was not some stilted line about appropriate behavior in public places, but a plea not to do this to her daughter because she's never really going to forget this, not in thirty years. I know I didn't.
ljlee: (nano)
I spent July writing the first draft of my Soseono novel via the Camp NaNo challenge. The default challenge is 50,000 words; I met that in the first week, spent four days in torpor hating what I'd written, found a new direction for the story, upped the goal to 100,000 words and met that, too. I ended up with 104,329 words, of which maybe half are salvageable after heavy editing and filling in all the gaps that remain. Let's just say it's more gap than otherwise at this point.

August will be spent on fanfic, to give myself a break from the orig project, plus research on the novel. I never expected that I'd need to concern myself with the Chinese colonies on the Korean peninsula, but that's where the draft took me. Luckily there are some great books on the subject, including the first volume of a full-color illustrated series on the military history of Korea. Squee!

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L.J. Lee

June 2016

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