Fall Update from the Trenches: Running, Feeling Down, and Everything Else

Screenshot 2014-09-25 at 10.22.56 PM

My mom mentioned that I hadn’t posted on my blog in a while (and I hate it when she’s right), so here we go.

I was talking to her about my half marathon, and how it was slightly unreal that it was a mere month away. I’ve been training for four months, folks! A third of a year! Are you kidding me? Time flies!

She wished me well, then reminded me to be careful. “Oh, I’m careful with my training, I’ll try to avoid injury, especially with all the hills” I was thinking of the epic wipeouts that I’d seen at the Chase Corporate Challenge the previous week. There was a straight up ambulance loading someone up at the finish line. What could possibly happen in 3.35 miles??????


Pre-race glamour shot

“No, no, Tracy! You need to be careful! There are crazy people out there! You heard about the guy at the White House? He climbed the fence and just went into the White House! Watch out!!!”

Oh mom, you are adorable. Don’t worry, nobody is going to try to bomb the Columbia Gorge. The more I look at those course photos, the more excited I am for the race. It was listed in’s “10 Must Do Marathons” for its killer views and waterfalls. Although I think the Great Wall of China Marathon probably wins for epic-ness.

Listen to me, I sound like a runner. It’s weird. While it’s true that last Sunday I ran 10.28 miles, and I’ve been running with my work run club somewhat regularly, it’s also true that every single run is tough. It doesn’t really get easier, folks. 10 miles or 3 miles. Inertia is still a pain in the ass.

The toughness of running aside, overall training for the last four months has been actually pretty easy to maintain. When I choose to do something, I just… do it? Unfortunately it has required quite a bit of structure around my life, and I found myself a bit more isolated than usual, turning down happy hour drinks in favor of being sober for my weight lifting, or getting up extra early to bust out a 3-5 mile run. When I could I packed in happy hours and important social events.  At night I fell asleep easily as I collapsed in exhaustion.

At the same time, my boyfriend and my housemates fell deeper down the workout rabbit hole, and our conversations became all about workouts and nutrition. We called each other “brah” and shared protein powder. We were watching each other on MyFitnessPal, “encouraging” each other’s weightloss, with a bit of envy thrown into the mix. I contracted a mysterious illness which I brushed off as allergies. I WAS DOING PILATES AT 7AM VIA YOUTUBE VIDEOS. Who was I becoming?

My days became a blur of activity, but when I tried to write an “End of Summer” wrapup for this blog, I felt so empty looking at my calendar. There on my GCal was a list of endless fun activities: pool parties and operas, festivals and movies, Kanye even! And yet I felt nothing.


Yeezy what is life all about???

It occurred to me that I had fallen into a bit of a rut and had become slightly depressed. This happens every now and then,but for some reason my summer blues were pervasive. It got worse before it got better.

Mood disorders are  a mystery. I’m honestly not sure how I got through it. I just did what I always do, I persevered. Threw myself into my work. Made choices, made plans for the future even though that seemed so far away. I learned new things and tried to push forward. Surrounded myself with good people. Saw my family. Oh, and saw my doctor! It turned out that I had a chronic nasal infection which had burst my eardrum!! WTH 🙁

Time passed, the feelings passed. I can safely say that I’ve made it through another round of feeling crappy. Thanks to everybody who put with me- you are all true friends. As we go into autumn, a dark time that can trigger so many insecurities, I hope you all take it easy on yourselves. Keep on fighting the good fight.



Life, Travel

Asia, Again/ The Happy Place

It’s hard to believe, but in less than 48 hours, I’ll be headed off to Southeast Asia again.

This is my third time over there, and while I’m visiting a few new spots, I am mostly trodding well loved territory, although this time not with my family, or alone. Ryan is coming, which should be a treat. More for him, I think.

The pragmatist in me thinks “Why are you going back there? Shouldn’t you spend your money on new experiences? What about India? What about Burma? What about Nepal?”

For a while I didn’t know how to explain it, but it occurred to me the other night as I was doing a test pack: Southeast Asia is my happy place.  I’ve worked through major breakups, death and a number of other issues there. It’s a place of intense healing for me. It’s just something about the tone of life. You can’t help but be moved by being there. I may have mentioned it before, but when I meditate or do thought exercises in therapy, the Mekong River in Luang Prabang is the #1 thing I think about to calm myself down. I mean, come on, look at this shit.



This trip was precipitated because last year I didn’t go to Vietnam, and I felt like I had made a mistake. For a year I’ve told myself that I have to get back to Vietnam.


When I visited Vietnam seven years ago I met my family that was left behind in Saigon. I learned more about life and war by looking into their hard worn faces than I’d gathered from 22 years of books and stories.

Most notably, I’d been Chinese all my life, but once I went to Vietnam, I started feeling Vietnamese as well.  (Unfortunately, this “Vietnamese feeling” does not qualify you for a visa discount at the SF Consulate). I left Vietnam changed, with two little sunspots on either side of my cheeks to prove it. I was there, it really happened. See, here’s the sun damage to prove it.


So anyways, on the housekeeping front this longwinded, winding  and maudlin post is all to say that I’m going back to Asia again for a couple weeks. We’ll be hitting Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam (oh, and South Korea too, sort of). I’m pretty excited, and hope to post a little bit here and there.

Since we’re talking about it anyways, I guess I want to mention that if you don’t already have a happy place in your heart, you need one. Think about it. Sit still for a second, and conjure up the last place where you truly felt free and happy. Think about what it felt like to be there. Try to think of a specific moment that actually happened to you. Maybe you were riding motorcycles somewhere 3,000 miles away, or maybe you were on the couch with the cat, drinking chocolate milk and basking in the late afternoon sunlight. Think about all the little details, like the burn of the sunscreen in your eyes, or the grit of the rocks in your shoes. Even if this place doesn’t exist anymore, hold on to this feeling. The more you practice remembering the moment the easier it is to conjure up in times of stress and pain.

If you do try this, tell me where your happy place is. I’m curious.


All My Fault


Yesterday was kind of a crap day. I’ve been feeling a bit muddled and isolated, despite the clear weather and the fact that I just got back from a fun camping trip with friends. I wasn’t looking forward to biking home in a foggy state, and the traffic home didn’t look inviting. As I exited my office on First street, I noticed that there was a lineup of Muni buses all the way down to the Ferry Building! Nuts.

I hopped on my bike and plodded down Market Street. Around Kearny or so I misjudged the light and ended up cutting through a crosswalk seconds after the light had definitely changed for pedestrians. I tried not to run into anybody, but one 20 something woman was running across and we almost ran into each other. “JESUS CHRIST” she grumbled. Then she made it across to the other side of the street, and unsuccessfully chased after a 5 bus that was pulling away. She turned to me as I biked past her and yelled “This is all your fault!”

I didn’t react immediately like I wish I could have. I’m the type of person who can overreact like crazy to racism/sexism/any sort of ism but I’m slow to respond to any other situation, especially a confrontation. All I could think was “Did she really just say that? What the hell?” Oh and of course my second thought was that she should get a bike if she’s so unsatisfied with Muni :).

I used to get very upset when total strangers got angry with me. For some reason I thought that if someone I didn’t even know got angry at all then I must have actually done something terrible or acted like a bitch (bitchy resting face!!). Then I learned that people are complex, and people are assholes. But most likely  that angry woman just got caught up in her own story. She can tell herself that it was my fault for running the light that she missed her bus. I can tell myself that she was acting crazy and not paying attention to oncoming traffic. What’s true? Who cares? Life (and even reality) is the stories we tell ourselves. It’s a lesson I keep trying to learn.


What Does Depression Feel Like?

I go in and out of waves of low level depression. Not suicidal style, but just general humphiness and a flatline of emotion, accompanied by the usual “what’s the point of life” questions.  Over the years I’ve gotten my coping strategies together, and mostly just soldier through when the “dog days” arrive, but it’s cyclical and it sucks.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to describe it, but I think “melancholy” is the simplest. I’ve heard of “dysthymia” but I don’t know if it helps much to self diagnose. Explaining it to friends can be tricky, since there’s such a range of mood disorders. I don’t want to worry people, but I do want to explain what I feel.

Thankfully I’ve run into some really insightful blog posts about depression lately. I’ve been meaning to post about Hyperbole and a Half’s recent posts (part 1 and part 2), but haven’t been able to get around to it. Today The Bloggess wrote a sort of inspirational “Keep on trucking” type of post about depression. It’s pretty great too, so I thought I’d make this one a twofer. You don’t have to read the Bloggess one, but the Hyperbole and a Half ones are SO GOOD. My favorite is part 2. They’re long, so grab a beer and sit back. And if you don’t have time now, here’s a teaser…


She explains how difficult it can be to make casual chitchat with friends when you’re feeling depressed.



I’ve heard that my face is pretty emotionless/hard to read, so I often think about what my face looks like. Totally get it. Along the same lines, ran into this today on The Hairpin and love it. I totally have bitchface.


Acceptance and Letting Go of Expectations


Over Memorial Day I took a trip down to Los Angeles to visit my mother. It was a belated Mother’s Day celebration visit, yet I felt dread.

Ever since my mom opened her Vietnamese restaurant in 2010, she’s been very unavailable, even when I come down from San Francisco. Her eyes are on the prize, she works every day, even when she has pneumonia. TRUTH. The last few times that I’ve visited, I’ve gotten my feelings hurt terribly. I would come out for a multi-day visit yet only see my mom for a few hours. It was just weird, and it hurt a lot.

My therapist had me total out the amount of time that I spend with my mom over the course of a year and all I could think was total, maybe a 6-12 hours? A day or two? Who knows. After a few years of these trips I started feeling abandoned. Over time I accepted that my mom is a workaholic. There’s really nothing that can be done. And even though I know this, my mom’s utter dedication to her work stings every time.

While I was preparing myself emotionally for this visit, I thought… what if I do things differently this time?What if instead of bemoaning the fact that my mom can’t spend as much time with me as I would like I simply accept that it’s not going to change and focus on enjoying the time that we do spend together?

I can’t say that I didn’t make it through the trip without feeling a bit exasperated, but the shift in thinking helped a lot. Instead of going “oh, here we go again” when my mom was late or had to go back to work I just let it be. I had plans, I lived my life. She popped in for a little bit and we had fun. It was so much… easier. I accepted that my mom would be busy at work and I let go of the expectation that she would take massive amounts of time off to hang out with me.  This sounds simple, but it was a revelation.

Today I was upset and angry about being let down in the same ways time and time again by those close to me. I was thinking to myself, if they would just stop doing this one stupid thing that hurts my feelings, if they could make an honest effort to change maybe we could get along better… Then I stopped myself, thinking of my nice trip to LA. Reason intervened. The truth is that maybe they will change, maybe they won’t, or maybe they can’t- but it’s really not up to me. I’ve already voiced my feelings and desires.

What I can do however is work on accepting them as they are and changing my expectations and my reaction.

So a friend keeps letting me down in the same way every time we get together? What if I just decide that it’s not my problem and I won’t let it bother me anymore? What if I let go of wanting this one thing? Would I stop being disappointed and hurt? I don’t know, but I hope so.