Book Review: Euphoria by Lily King

This year I set myself a goal to read more. It’s not the first year I do this, but it’s the year of Me. I think I’ve set a challenge three years now and I’ve only met one. PATHETIC. Netflix and Chillin’ is just too good to pass up.

Follow me on GoodReads… you know what? Don’t. I update as I go along, but that’s about it. If I take time to write about a book it will be here and GoodReads is just a tracking tool. But, if you choose to here is my profile information:¬†Monica’s GoodReads.

One of my “things” this year is to read books I’ve had in my library for some time. Euphoria was bought in 2014 and as evidenced by this post, read in 2018. #GOALS. What I like about it is that it has a book club readers guide to discussing the book. I will take a couple of questions and discuss among the voices in my head. There are 13 questions and I’m going to respond to question 1 and question 7. I haven’t read them so it’ll be a surprise for us all…

#1¬†Set against the lush tropical landscape of 1930s New Guinea, this novel charts British anthropologist Andrew Bankson’s fascination for colleagues¬†Nell Stone and her husband, Fen, a fascination that turns deadly. How far does the setting play a role in shaping events? Is there a sense that the three have created their own small universe on the banks of the Sepik River, far removed from the Western world? If so, by whole rules are they playing?

Oh, boy! First of all, I didn’t even realize it was in the 1930s. OK, seriously. Firstly, I’d like to point out that I really enjoyed the setting and the time of the novel. I think it gives it that sense of so much unknown and mystery and at the same time how far the anthropological sciences have come. Since the novel is based on Bankson’s POV I will write as “he” “him” “his” instead of referring to the author’s pronouns (I’m assuming so don’t @ me) of “she” “her” “hers”. ¬†Secondly, I liked that it was written as a recollection of memories and the novel ends in the “present”. It allows for retrospect on his accounts and experiences and feelings. I enjoyed reading how nostalgic he was and how he saw himself change and seemingly grow when Nell was around him. Thirdly, I read this with a POC lens so there were parts in which I scoffed and even felt disdain toward this trio. Not so much against Bankson, more on Nell and Fen. Some of the interactions were rude, presumptuous, disrespectful – gross! Fen and Nell had “work for reward” systems for the young of the tribe. She had commands and expectations for them and that was very intrusive for me. Bankson observed this of them and felt as if maybe he was doing his job wrong the whole time. Each had their way of approach to yield the results of their personal agendas or thesis or whatever they felt their purpose.

Fen is not my favorite, I don’t even think I like him at all. He embodies that endless thirst for the unknown but in a very destructive, and ultimately deadly way. He’s jealous of Nell’s success and hates that he’s toeing behind her. He is self-righteous and in some instances intolerable. But somehow, he brings out something in each Nell and Bankson’s work, so I guess in some ways his assholeness served to further their convictions and understand what they individually loved about the field and the work. He’s in search of a sacred flute that is believed to be the first writing system among the tribes along the Sepik River. He wants it, guess for what? MONEY! What a surprise. He convinces Xambun, a young should-be-king male that was taken to work as a slave mine worker who returned a changed man, to join him on the expedition to this secret place he mentally recorded the route to. But when they return, Xambun is dead with a perfectly placed gunshot wound to the head. Fen claims they were chased by a rival tribe and that his use of a magic spell to be invisible worked and that’s why he wasn’t targeted (major side-eye).

Bankson is in love with Nell but Nell is married to Fen. Fen knows Bankson has feelings for Nell. Eventually Nell and Bankson bang it out. Bankson is like a balance between Fen and Nell. Nell works and functions by writing, thinking, talking; a true ethnographer. Fen is a doer. He likes being among the tribe, building, experiencing. He is very observant, but he tends to assume reason and custom to fit his narrative and rarely writes anything down. Bankson is a true romantic for the science. He was supposed to be a biologist by family trade, but anthropology stole him. He’s very self-doubting and questions the reason for his being among the tribes and has trouble in knowing exactly what he’s observing, what he should write down, what matters and what doesn’t. There is journal Bankson is given by Nell’s former lover, Helen, in which he gets to read her personal thoughts and feelings outside of her work related writing. In this journal Nell writes that she believes both Fen and her are in love with Bankson for that balance he creates between them. He reads her last entry. She’s going to leave Fen and go to Bankson. Bankson was actually going to meet her in New York when he got the news that she was dead and that Fen quickly did a ceremony in which she ended up in the ocean (yo, what? suspicious as hell!).

The setting is perfect for a man like Fen to turn his passions into a deadly and money driven endeavor. He’s a white man among tribesmen/woman trying to solve the human puzzle of being and sees himself as superior. He can do no wrong because he’s in the right. Toward the end of the novel its revealed/confirmed that he beats on Nell. Bankson of course hates himself for not noticing the red flags. Because Bankson is so in love with Nell and Nell is so used to Fen’s antics, everyone is playing by Fen’s rules. Yes, Fen was upset that they left their last location, but I think, NOW, that it was because Nell needed to get out of that environment. She was ill, sickly, gaunt when Bankson reunited with them. So this leads me to believe that Nell hid their problems really well and because of her love for her work, put up with Fen. Fen does say how they are on her grant money and she’s the reason they are where they are, so to some extent, he has to abide by SOME of her requests – like leaving!

— should I stop here? Has your attention span left this place?

#7¬†Take your discussion of the previous question a step further by considering whether it is ever possible to truly know another person. Apply your observations to Bankson’s view of Nell and Fen.

Read the response to question 1. LULZ! Question 6 is asking to discuss ways in which Bankson’s attitude toward his work changes as he gets to know Nell and her research methods and to consider his acknowledgement of the limitations of an anthropologists work and to discuss how far it is possible to ever get to know another’s culture; taking into account Bankson’s interest in the objectivity of the observer.

I guess I did all of that in my response to question 1 tee-hee! But I will add… I don’t think it’s ever possible to truly know a person. Can you imagine walking around speaking every thought, opinion, or expressing every feeling or emotion or lack thereof. I believe all of that shapes us in a way and our minds filter all of that and what does come to the surface is that final sift. A few corrections or amendments, but yea I would rather not know someone fully because I wouldn’t want them to know ME fully. There is a beauty in someone’s mystery. To wonder what thoughts they have and then to engage in that moment of discussion is profound – not always, but when it happens you end up knowing someone “at a deeper level”. The problem with that thinking is that we end up making our assumptions of a person. I have so many conversations in my head with other people and it’s all what I THINK they will say, how I THINK they will respond, etc.

Bankson was so lonely. He lost a brother to war and another to suicide. He lost his father too and is left only with his annoying ass mom. Nell and Fen subscribed to the notion that the Sepik territories belonged to Bankson and he didn’t like that. It made him lonely. The fact that so many anthropologists stayed away and deprived him of company because they thought that was HIS area. So when Nell and Fen came along, not only had his previous feelings for Nell surfaced, but both of them brought something out in him. New ways of thinking and approach, a new thirst for his work. He was enamored with both of them and they in some ways, were in love with him.

Do I recommend this book? YAS!

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I’m Almost A Full Adult

The government places the legal adult age of 18. I mean, is that even legal? My apologies for that joke. Pos ya que? I started working at the tender age of 17 doing seasonal gigs. I worked at Six Flags in California, at Things Remembered in Northridge Mall, at a Deli in La Gigante (best coworker ladies), as a TA for second graders, at the Student Store while I was in college, and as a cashier at Home Depot. May 29, 2017 marked my 10 year anniversary at my current gig. I never thought I would be able to commit for this long.

For a long time I thought of myself as being independent but in reality I was only semi-independent. Even though I had a job and was buying my own shit I was never really living off of my own income. When I realized that in my early 20s I felt like I was failing. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had my mom’s help, my sister’s help, my friend’s help. I mean we were all splitting costs at one point or another. I don’t know why I thought that wasn’t enough. What I’m trying to say is that I placed a lot of weight on being one and only. Looking back at it I wish I valued the sharing of goods, space, and those relationships a lot more. But I was young. I wanted the “American” life.

I’ve come to a point in my life where I know independence is good, but damn does it feel¬†better when you have someone to share your wealth. I don’t mean monetary wealth. I’m talking about bonding and spending time and learning and living together. I don’t know why I wanted out of such living arrangements. There is so much we can learn from each other when we’re living together. It can be extended family, a home of friends, multiple family home, etc., but it’s valuable. My Chico Fresco and I talk about this often. And I admit that I used to feel the same way about older children still living with their parents. Grown folks still in a room in their Mami and Papi’s house. Pero, why? What’s that saying that goes something like you get bothered by the people and things that scare you of yourself? of things within yourself? I can’t remember but I hope you catch my drift.

When I moved to Oregon I did it on my own. I took¬†a little bit of money from my retirement, had it offset by a little sign-on bonus and off I went living the life I wanted. I loved being on my own. I can arrange my things how I want, get home and no one to tell me anything, eat what I want, where I want – all those things that a parent told you not to do. The thing is that I can be alone. I don’t feel alone, but I can manage myself. I miss family and BBQs and get-togethers and outings but I also enjoy being in a place friends and¬†family can get away to.¬†My main squeeze moved up here¬†a year ago and it’s¬†been a rollercoaster. I’ve had to readjust¬†some of my ways and accept that my space is now our space. And that’s part of growing up. Like¬†my MTBF says … you can grow¬†old but you don’t have to grow up. For a lot things that makes funny¬†sense, but when it comes to maturity of the mind, and the actions that you take I believe change is warranted because like Epictetus Enchiridion says our ultimate goal is happiness. But how do we achieve happiness? It’s all about controlling how you react to things around you. Who said “be the change you wish to see”? Something like that…

My mentor has taught me so much. The advice and guidance he’s given me has allowed me to view my life through¬†different lenses. I used to want things to happen to me because I guess I grew up kind of spoiled. But at the same time, through his analysis and my own, I realized I was just always afraid. I was filled with so much self-doubt that I never really went for it. He put it to me this way, there are things you can’t control so just let them be (this can be events, people, situations). Then there are things in which you have some control (how you react, what you choose to be involved in, what you can walk away from, what you¬†pursue, etc.). And then there are things that you have full control over (yourself). I wrote about this some time ago when I read the book he recommended about the Stoics. But think about that. Think of the things you have some control over and what you have full control over. This way of thinking has changed my life for the better and for that I’m indebted to him. To some this way of thinking can be obvious, but for me a person that is afraid of stepping in and standing out advice like that is invaluable.

I’m pursing my happiness. It’s not through¬†material things but at the same time material things shape us in a way that sometimes we don’t want them to, but accept. For instance, I just got approved for a home loan (like WHOA… that is so adult, hence the title of my post). The reason I’m getting my home is because I want something that my money pays for that is mine. Not someone else’s home, but mine. I want to be able to leave something for my kid(s) if I ever choose to have any. I want to be able to pay that bitch off and relax when I retire. I want to be able to paint this room blue and that one egg yolk yellow. You feel me?

My point to all of this is, take advantage of not having to be one and only to everything. Invite people in and welcome yourself when you’ve been invited. Accept that family and friends are there to help because they love you and at the end of the day.. it’s our culture. You know all those jokes and memes about Mexicans and their large families? Would you give any of that up? I wouldn’t and right now I’m so happy that my family is growing. I’m elated that my first cousins and sisters have or are popping their babies out. The kicker is it’s up to us to keep that connection going and not lose those relationships.

Here’s another point. Don’t feel guilty when you step away from all of that. We are all expected to grow. And on that same coin… don’t guilt others for not leaving. Sometimes that’s what works. Just don’t overstep, overstay, or not pay. Pay it forward. No one does it alone.

Controlling Emotions

It’s always been easy to not take complete ownership of how I react to situations. And you know what makes it easy? That I can relegate it to astrology. I’m a Cancer; actually, more of a hybrid of a Cancer and¬†a Leo. My birthday is July 22 and it’s the last day of the Cancer calendar so, technically a Cancerian, but have many attributes and characteristics of a Leo.

My family has always called me moody and I blame it on the Moon. I say I’m like the tide; ebbing. I don’t ignore the fact that sometimes I’m out of line or that I could have handled things differently. I’m actually working on it and giving credit to one of my mentors guiding me and pointing me towards Stoicism. It’s so amazing, you guys. I really recommend reading into it. I didn’t have a perception of Stoicism before, but philosophy has always interested me and this has been a wonderful experience.

So what have I been doing? I’m still a huge work in progress, but I’ve learned to do better reflection of the self. I’m learning to accept this as they are, to accept that I don’t have control over the actions of others. And going through this process I’ve been working on challenging myself to take control over the things I do have influence on. And this applies to all aspects of my life – personal, professional, and recreational.

In my reflections I have come to understand that my reactions have an impact. That I am creating a perception of myself to other individuals. And with these perceptions I can either be casted¬†off or be welcomed. Stoic philosophers are of the idea that we are not to banish emotion from life but to banish the negative ones. They are also of the belief that our ultimate goal is to reach tranquility and constantly work for it while¬†acknowledging and recognizing the forces that work against attaining that goal. For me, I have to work on controlling these reactionary emotions and practice negative visualization to better prepare for situations in the future. Has this been working for me? Sometimes. There are times I’m in the middle of my negative emotion and reacting – sometimes and most of the time – unjustly, but I let pride get in the way and keep trudging forward fully knowing I’m headed in the wrong direction. Other times I react and stop myself. I take a deep breath and let it all play out, staying silent and truly think of my words, my body language, and my thoughts. At this point, I go back and reflect. I literally sit down and do a play by play to pin point where I lost it, where I stopped myself, and how I could make¬†a similar experience different in the future.

In all, practicing Stoicism has been rewarding.

– M

Fork in the Road

fork-in-the-road2I’m standing at the tip of the road trying to figure out which path to take. Both roads have a certain predictability to them but I would say an equal amount of uncertainty as well. I keep saying I will do a pros and cons list but I haven’t because I’m afraid. I’m not even sure what I’m afraid of, but it’s been the reason I have delayed this exercise. Because the probability of me actually doing this is very unlikely I will just¬†write it out here in a very informal manner.

Situation: I submitted my application to go back home without being certain I was ready to actually move back to LA. I have a second interview this evening and the likelihood of me getting the job offer is HIGH!

Self: Why would you do that if you were not 100% sure that you were ready to make the decision to move back?

Me: Well, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to move back when the chance presented itself. I thought that the process would be longer and I didn’t think I would be so hesitant. Maybe I should tank this second interview and then … end to worry! But what about when I’m actually ready (the way life works no opportunity will be available). *shakes fists to the heavens*

Who/what has weight/impact on my decision? My boyfriend and our long distance relationship. My mom. The fact that I care about what I’m doing where I actually am. That I still feel I haven’t done everything – or close to half the things –¬†I thought I’d do while away from my home city and family. That being where I am feels right. But I miss being around my family; I feel I’m missing out on them.

What if I go:

What if I stay:

What does this mean?

Fears:

To be continued …

An Analysis of My Recent Situation

A couple of posts ago I wrote about how I was told I create my own problems. I was really hurt by that conversation and I have been thinking a lot about it lately. Am I creating my own problems? Am I being irrational and illogical?

I have a friend that I go to for everything. She’s been my rock for as long as I can remember. She’s been through my fails, my falls, my victories and everything in between. It’s beautiful to know that I have someone like her in my life. I spoke to her about what I’m going through and this funk that I desperately want to get rid of but can’t seem to shrug off. I told her about the okay-ness I feel with not talking to my mom, or my sisters as often (which wasn’t frequent to begin with), and the sense that I am losing what I thought I had with my BF. I was so glad she called me. She listened.

Today I spoke to someone else about it. He is a very unlikely person for this type of insight into my life but very much approachable and I’m happy that he was there and offered to be here for me if I need him to. In no way am I diminishing my dear old friend, but it kind of makes a difference speaking to someone about what’s going on in person. In different words but similar lenses and voices, they told me the same thing. It seems as if I’m going through a change. This change is one that is bound to happen to a person my situation-away from family and the usual friends, a new job and career path, a new state, a greater sense of self realization due to living on my own (again), etc. But there is something I am not letting go of… allusions of past, present, and future. These allusions have instilled a fear in me creating guilt and resentment of myself.

Yea, I guess that can be it. In one my favorite episodes from That’s Deep Bro, Christina Pazsitzky talks about letting go. That episode has been resonating for a while and it deserves another listen. And then here he is, my unlikely confidant, talking about letting go of these allusions and accepting the metamorphosis that is happening to me. And here she is, my guardian angel in the flesh (well, over the phone) telling me it’s OK to feel alright with myself for not wanting to talk to my family. I guess the guilt I feel is because they haven’t done anything wrong for me to want to feel like I need distance from them (which to be fair, sometimes there doesn’t need to be a reason other than this how I feel). I have to remind myself that my feelings are valid and no one should feel entitled enough to denigrate them.

Now, for the feelings about the BF. It’s so painful to write these thoughts out, but it helps. I had a dream last night and I love dreams. I’m a believer in the sense that they are subconscious thoughts and feelings making themselves known in order for us to deal with them. Anyway, I had a dream in which I decided to stop waiting for him. As he angrily accepted me walking away from him he decided to leave himself- I mean, that is what I was implying right, for him to be gone? As he rode off in his bike with his hiking backpack on and a blue-green mullet I wanted to chase him. But like in most dreams I couldn’t move. As much as I wanted to I couldn’t run after him so I thought that maybe running backwards would help (go ahead, laugh). Then I woke up! In my Five Years From Now post I speak briefly about where I see myself with him. It goes much deeper than that, but I don’t want to get into it. So what does it mean?

I’m afraid that I am becoming more and more OK with the distance between us. I am also angry with him for … for … things I cannot bring myself to write out. It hurts me to think he’s not meant for me, or worse that I am not meant for him. I don’t usually have set timelines in my life, but I want to do something about this distance and I am expecting to hear the worst come this next month. There goes the allusion of the future- of what I want it to be and what I fear it can be and what it will be. The present? Well, I’d like for it to be better between us, but like I said in another post “as the worst saying in the world goes… it is what it is.” The past? Well, the past has shaped notions of what the future can be and mean.

I suppose I am maturing and I just haven’t come to grips with my new self. This maturity process that I am going through means that I have become a new person willing and able to lead a different life than what I originally thought. So what’s my life line? How do I manage to put aside all these emotions and continue to be a capable person? The brain¬†is tricky that way. I suppose this is how compartmentalization works. It’s work. My job is what I feel I have control over right now and I’d like to keep it that way because if I lose that control I fear it will be the end of it. There is stupid Fear again. But it’s the honest truth. I’m going to write “I know” in my next sentence even though I really don’t. I know that if I let go of going to work in order to deal with all of this I will go down that spiral I was in six/seven years ago. I don’t want to, but I also don’t know how to deal with this metamorphosis if this what it is because it feels like depression.

When You Create Your Own Problems

Maybe I should title this post “When I’m Told I Create My Own Problems”. In a twisted way this is a solid thing to hear during an episode of mild hysteria. But, on the other hand, it’s also the shittiest thing to be told. This goes back to the whole thing of talking to someone just for the simple fact of knowing (sometimes wrongfully expecting) that the other person is there for you. Most of the time during these venting sessions I’m not looking for a solution, or for a diagnosis. I’m just looking for a bit of validation, a little sympathy, or maybe just the opportunity to say the crazy shit that runs through my head out loud.

I didn’t get that today so I’m writing it out as I enjoy a cigarette. Yeah, a fucken cigarette. I’m not proud but it’s been relaxing me this last month and a half. I said today that I am not in a good place and it’s the truest statement I’ve made about myself in a while. These last couple of months I have not been eating well- no food in my fridge, not eating at all, eating fast food, smoking, and not working out. That is the perfect combination for someone to not be in a good place mentally. I put on a pretty good act for people not to notice. The last time I went through something similar was about six years ago. That was straight up depression.

Going through depression sucks fucken balls. I knew I was in it and as much as I told myself that I could get up and do things I couldn’t. It’s a mental fatigue I would not wish on my worst enemies. I fear that’s what’s happening to me again. I wish I knew what was bringing this on so that I can do something about it. Is it my relationship and my SO? Is it that I feel horrible for being OK with not being physically active and eating healthily? Is it that I am ashamed of how much I am OK with not talking to my family? Could it possibly be the stresses of my job but dealing with them all because I really love it? Is it my financial situation? Everyone and everything annoys me and has been for some time. All of the above?

Well, like I said, I put on a pretty good act.

Feeling Joy

It may just be me reading way too much into the last serious conversation I had with the BF a few days ago, but I’ve been tense, anxious, and trepidatious in our interactions following it. I tell you, those feelings are definitely heightened by long distance. But today… All those feelings went away.

It was getting late into the night and I thought he might just decide not to G-chat so I just conceded and kept reading. Minutes later my Google Hangout ringtone played and I was instantly happy.

We caught up on the mundane- not on a whole lot since we had briefly spoken earlier. And then something funny and beautiful happened. He made a funny face and I told him he looked like a frog. He said I looked like a toad. If you don’t know Frog and Toad I feel bad for you.You see, we have a running joke on Frog and Toad and how we’re total fatties (see image below). Anyway, we laughed like a pair of silly kids. I asked if he knew the difference between a frog and a toad and before he could answer I said I’d take to Google. We researched the difference- well, I did, the difference between a frog and a toad. We laughed even more.

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As I read the word “Antarctica” out loud and stumbled on the pronunciation we went into another moment of hysterical laughter. We went back and forth making sure we were pronouncing it correctly and it was all hilarious to us. Remembering how much I correct his pronunciation he randomly says “picksa” and I automatically reply, “No. It’s peetsa”. For about 10 minutes we laughed at his pronunciation of this word. We went Mike Tyson with it, we went Italian accent with it, and even questioned how to pronounce it in Spanish. I tell you, it was all a very frenzied 15 minutes.

Then I told him about a funny part on Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, my current read.¬†I read him a piece of a chapter I found particularly interesting. Shortly after he said he was tired and wanted to go to bed. I asked if I could read to him just until the chapter finished and that if I heard him snore I’ll hang up. He said he doesn’t snore. (oookay).

I finished the chapter I had already started… all 30+ pages and after I was done I creepily stared at him for a bit before I hung up.

He looks so cute while he sleeps. I wished him a goodnight that I’m sure he didn’t hear and ended the hangout.