40 is the new 40

I have spent the past decade of my life being a stay-at-home mom and an occasionally employed writer/photographer, while also being an immigrant. These are my defining "identities." I have matured a lot in terms of my worldview. That is, my politics is much more clear to me now -- all the things my dad used to talk to me about, regarding capitalism and socialism, and all the things I learned in college and graduate school about feminism and post-colonialism, things that I tried to teach my students when I was a teacher in my twenties. They make more sense and are more relevant to me now in ways that they never were when I was younger. Except that all these years of domestic work and child care and isolation have filled my brain with millions of mundane details that muddle my thoughts. Which makes me a worse writer, and communicator in general: for, although I understand better, I am less able to articulate what I understand. The language with which to express these things, I am out of practice in. Still, I do not regret the time I have spent (am spending) at home, growing up my children, and learning to be a really good cook. Sometimes when I feel ashamed of what I have become (or rather, what I have not become) now at 40 years old, I catch myself in the act of devaluing the work that I do, which goes against what I know better as a feminist and a socialist. And yet, I struggle with the feeling, the knowledge, that this is not enough, that I haven't really tried harder to do more, and be more.

Forty is legitimately middle age, I believe. My dad passed away at 80. And Imo and I have been married for almost the same number of years before my parents' own marriage started to really fall apart. (I say "really fall apart" because, now that I think about it, their marriage was always slowly crumbling.) Imo and I, we are legitimately in the middle of life, although, being immigrants, it feels like we are always starting over. I have been thinking a lot about Imo and me and our relationship and how it's changed. Our kids are no longer little. And with that, we no longer feel so young -- even though we are much younger than most of our kids' parents. Also, less established (read: poorer).

Obviously, I have class hangups. And it pains me to be this old and not own anything or make a significant amount of money. Even though I know that this is a completely fucked up way to measure one's life or self. Every day, I try to reconcile these conflicting tendencies: resisting an oppressive system in my day-to-day life, but at the same time, trying to keep up the appearances of material comfortable-ness and raising my own children to succeed in this kind of society. I simultaneously feel pride and discomfort in my children's success within the youth sports industrial complex, for instance. In the same way that I feel both pride and discomfort in my carefully framed/filtered/curated collection of domestic photographs and Instagram posts. The same way I feel from time to time about this blog too.


debbie downer dispatches

This is the month and the year that I turn 40. I wish that I can write something uplifting about that, something about getting older and wiser, and tie it up somehow with a note of hope about the world right now, but I am coming up with nothing. I am sorry. I know better than to write when I am sad. But sometimes writing is the only thing that clears the fog.


I have been looking a lot over my pictures -- on this blog, Flickr, Instagram. And I realize again and again that pictures help me to distance myself from my own life and help me see what is beautiful. I can "crop out all the unhappiness," as Fred (or Carrie) once said in Portlandia.

patio at dusk


DST has started again. And it has exacerbated my DSPD.


These days, Imo and I don't see much of each other. He leaves for work in the morning while I am still sleeping; then, after he comes home (not without first picking up one of the kids from gym or soccer), and a little after dinner, when I am still needing to tidy up and make sure the kids are in bed, he falls asleep. We have been married for sixteen years. If you'd said to me back then that the business of raising a family (while being immigrants in this America) would weary us this way, I never would have believed you. These lines from The Hours (by Michael Cunningham) keep coming back to me:
It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later, to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk, the anticipation of dinner and a book.... There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.