for est. gumption

ansheeng ansheeng

for gohn

I think we should start over. I guess starting over isn’t really what I mean. Do a little Spring cleaning. Open the windows and let the fresh air in. I’ve neglected the dark corners for too long and you’ve become something you’re not. You’re shelter, not imprisonment. Like the difference between using a gallon storage ziplock to protect your valuables from rain while camping and putting it over your head and suffocating yourself. Misused tools turn into weapons. It’s all about the connotation. Words on words. Daggers or blankets. I’ve been wielding my feelings haphazardly and I feel like you’ve lost so much blood. You must be tired babe. You must be so exhausted. I feel like I’ve abused you. I’m so sorry.

You and I aren’t from the same place. We’ve forever been so different and forever will be. You’ve stood on your planet and me on mine. Our gazes were in opposite directions, which must be how our eyes came to rest on one another. Infinite space exists between us, halving and re-halving itself so it never reaches the destination. We can’t ever really be one thing. We can’t ever totally know. And in the process of trying to unite and speak a common language we’ve buffed out all of the other’s special surfaces. Like two magnets that repel each other we keep pushing onward and little by little we shift what we are made of in the name of love. And we’re losing it. 

Our love is being morphed from a life-giving and powerful force into a muted clusterfuck of boundaries and limitations and training. Why are we being bonsais when we could be redwoods? Our love is big enough. We don’t have to fix it. We don’t have to make rules. We don’t have to nail into each other these boards we think are strengthening us. We were fine from the start. We just didn’t know it. And we’re getting further from it. With the realizations of each others’ true natures we’ve started deconstructing our own foundations to make room. Maybe that’s what’s expected. Maybe that’s what people think “compromise” looks like. Maybe that’s ok for a while. But it’s ok to have two planets we live on. We don’t have to try to meet in the middle and fall into the abyss. Let’s get better at visiting. Let’s be truthful and stay centered in ourselves. We don’t have to let that go to be together. Finding OUR center is not meant to come at the price of losing each of our own. It doesn’t have to work like that. It doesn’t have to work like anything ever has. It doesn’t have to become so cliche. We don’t have to wear these uniforms. We can homeschool.

I’m sorry. I love you. I’m sorry I turned you into a potted plant when really you were a wildflower. There’s so much I feel and think. Look up and out and remember none of this matters. Because all of it always does. Our manifesto should start out something like that. I’ve become so gnarled and twisted trying to protect this sodden soul that I drench with my own tears. I am just a leaf that’s falling from a tree and will sooner or later hit the earth and be absorbed. I get that now. Let’s let go together. Let’s enjoy this falling. Over and over. In this life and the next. I’ll find you again. I’ve found you again. I’m finding you right now.



to infinity and beyond. just like the swings said.



a week ago I wrote this

I’m trying not to break the spell. We’ve just returned from my fourth annual trip to the west coast. I’m still tingling. The transfer of body hasn’t effected my mind. I’m still at Abbott’s Lagoon, Albany Bulb, Armstrong Creek State Park. I’m still floating a bit between sea and mountain while in reality my feet hit hard pavement and there aren’t many trees in sight. 

I’ve been walking around making art in my head the past couple of days since I’ve been back. The hot springs. The hills. The treehouse. Arthur. Eliot. John. Twiggy. Auras. Wet paint bleeding into water. Green fronds hanging from wires hanging from ceilings. Words and paper and ink and watercolor collaged together. Colors. Just colors. Words. Just words. It all swims around my mind and I have it and then I don’t. I have it and then I remember something else I need to do and I push it down further and further, where all the past intentions to let my soul take physical form have been pushed and lay at rest. Rotting. No, not rotting. Just creating pressure. I’ve pressure cooked all of my feelings and they’ve turned to mush. It’s ok- it’s salvageable.

Something has changed due to this trip, as something is always bound to. Was it the puzzle? The seemingly un-doable puzzle that miraculously came together with the help of four other patient souls? Or was it the stars we saw that night on the vista point overlooking the most picturesque hills I’ve ever laid eyes on in my life. Could it have been the last night of camping when I was sick to my stomach and found that I was not afraid at all to venture to the dark bathrooms alone with nothing but a fading headlamp? Was that when I realized I was okay?

More likely it was the last night huddled around the table in Arthur’s living room- Gohn sitting across from me, Eliot next to him, Twiggy at the end of the table on my side and Arthur in between us. He made the observation that it seemed I had pulled the emergency brake on my life and maybe forgotten to take it off before trying to drive again. The tense and jagged motions of my heart that past 6 months seemed to find solace in that statement because someone had finally correctly diagnosed all these aches and pains. Whatever the cause of the recent change, I’m trying not to break the spell but a part of me knows that it’s in the not trying that I’ll find the staying power of this transformation.

My auras were stated as the following:
Twiggy- Light green in the center of a leaf flowing outward to a dark green rimmed with a red.
Arthur- Cherry blossom flowers in Okaido- metallic and shimmery white tinged with pink and metallic in texture as well.
Eliot- red purple
Gohn- Orange and green sunset rippling in the wind (maybe..we were quite drunk)

As I type this it sounds as if a thunderstorm is starting outside and I can’t think of anything I want to hear more at the moment. While flying back to Philly I was reading John Steinbeck’s book “Travels with Charley” and he was talking about the redwoods and the west coast and San Francisco in particular. I dog-eared the chapter because it was so beautifully written and so true. There’s a reverence I feel when in the presence of nature like that. Such large and historic nature. It made everything fall into its place. Into perspective. Or out of it. I don’t feel trapped by my perception of my life anymore. My life is life. And life is life. And it’s not really all that important the little things that bother me about work, or how my pride gets dented and dinged because of the perceived hierarchical structure that puts me below and others on top. None of that matters. I don’t want power. I don’t need wealth. I just needed to be reminded. And like always, the trees and the souls born of trees and stars and sun and moon brought me back to my rightful place. To the center of it all. Home. Back here.

I wonder how far I’ll wander again before I’m brought back home. 



There’s one night that sticks out in my mind. It was a summer night. We were walking back from dinner, I think, to hang out on the platform we had built together earlier that summer. It was as dark as it would get, and the streets were glowing orange under the streetlights. We had been talking about your New Zealand friends, and the mention of your “incredible” friend Jessica came up. I remember feeling a pang then, of jealousy. I wondered how you described me to your other friends. I hoped it was with as much care and love as you had put into the few paragraphs you used to describe Jess. But if not, I couldn’t blame you. I had never traveled to far off lands to work, I couldn’t identify birds just by their song and all the bushes and trees around the forest by their fruit. I think that was the first sign.

The next time I can remember feeling my gut trying to tell me something was in San Francisco. It was the last day we were to spend there. I woke up in Arthur’s aparment, Eliot still asleep on the couch and Arthur in his room. You were gone. You’d gone down to the beach to spend a quiet morning. Alone. I felt crushed. Not only had we gone during my birthday, but I had started to have this creeping feeling that you were annoyed with me. Maybe I had made too much of a fuss about taking care of the poison ivy on your face. Maybe I was trying too hard to act like we were a couple. I don’t know. But this was a time I distinctly remember realizing we were not as “we” as I had thought.

Later that same day, we shucked fresh oysters at Tomales Bay. You shucked one for each person, except me. I tried and tried not to be a child about it. But I held back tears as Eliot hurried to shuck me an oyster and gave me one before he gave anyone else one. I remember feeling indebted to him, and undeserving of his thought. It was such a beautiful place. With beautiful people. The oysters were the most delicious I had ever had. And yet it was ruined for me.

Then I flash back to that time in Brooklyn. Bar hopping with Eliot and Sae. We played skeeball together at a bar and broke some score together and you embraced me. The rest of the night I felt timid and as if I had a secret. I’m sure it was nothing to you, but I had felt something there. You probably don’t remember.

Or that time you you held my hand trying to light the torch at Carmana, the night we had hung out on the roof with friends. The tree in Glenside. The cemetery near your house, the lightning bugs, the blanket. The movies, riding bikes through the city. The beginnings of my first unexpected and uncalculated love. Was I alone? I was alone, romanticizing. All those times I left south philly at 3am and drove back home and would wish you would’ve kept me company on the phone, or texted me to see if I’d gotten back safely. That sinking feeling I would get whenever you did something that made it obvious that I was just another dating experience to you. I always shook it off and made excuses. But why? Why did I think I was so special. This is not the world we live in. This isn’t a movie and I’m not a movie star. That has been made abundantly clear.

I think what I am so hurt by, is this feeling that I tricked myself into thinking more of reality than was actually there to protect myself. I concocted this story in my head, this amazing story about love letters and passionate discovery between friends because for once I finally felt like the person I wanted to be. The poem you wrote about me, I still remember you had spoken about tucking the hair behind my ear like it was almost a religious experience. I felt so beautiful. So treasured and discovered and appreciated. A lot of women feel like this in the beginnings. When the chase is still there, the challenge still present. One of the first times we made love I remember you looking down at me and just straight out saying “Gina, you are so beautiful”. I was on cloud nine. I was a bit broken later when I saw a movie and some male character did the same exact thing just to get into a girl’s pants.

I guess the feeling is comparable to how I felt when I saw the box of  love letters my mom had in the basement from my dad. Maybe I never really thought they were a couple to emulate, because of all the fighting I heard growing up, or the general landscape of their relationship which was never appealing to me in the least, but seeing this enormous box stuffed to the corners with beautifully handwritten notes made me sad. Every time I had received a letter from you I thought it was the first of its kind. Which it was, to me. I had never received such lovely letters before, delivered by bike or by hand or whatever. I thought only a certain type of love-true love-could inspire a man to take to pen and paper and scrawl a letter so long and so full of loving observations. But I think my dad’s cheated on my mom in the past. And he isn’t always very respectful of her. But those notes…And they lived on different continents. And he went back to Korea to propose. That love seems even stronger than what I’m realizing our little fling was to you. Things change a lot over time, don’t they. I guess I’m just struggling with how to cope in a world where all the feelings people have and all the love people feel are so misguided and misused and unrequited and fickle and impermanent. I’m so scared. I feel like a piece of me dies everytime I realize something I thought was much more meaningful than it actually was, wasn’t. How will I survive if I come face to face with real betrayal? A book like The Maytrees wouldn’t have been written if it weren’t relatable, right?

I know I’m not the leading lady of anyone else’s life. But I’m going to make sure I am the leading lady of mine at least. I’ll make my own way from now on, and love myself the way I want to be loved and cared for.

I’m alone in my apartment. In our apartment. It’s comforting. I opened the fridge yesterday to eat lunch and realized Gohn had lovingly labeled all the food he had prepared for me to just heat up in his absence. His extremely deserved absence. I know I’m hard on myself. But I’m hard on Gohn, too. I guiltily looked through his google drive photos last night while waiting for Brittany to arrive. I realized how much I had been trying to box him up. Just to feel close to him. To “understand” him. To feel like he was mine and I was his. I tried to contain a spirit that I fell in love with for its freedom and boundless imagination of the potential of life. I’ve missed the point. I’ve been trying to FIGURE a PERSON OUT. Instead of just taking him in. Like trying to contain air in a bag by tying it up and realizing the only outcome will be deflation. I do the same thing to myself but it’s harder to forgive when I see myself doing it to someone I love so much. (I know I should love myself equally.) I feared that his imagining, his overflowing potential, and his desire for movement and growth would force us apart. Fear. Not faith. I had no faith in him, I had no faith in us. I have no faith in myself. I’m disgusted by this realization and the knowledge that I’ll continue to struggle with this fear. Why am I so afraid? Because I know we are separate universes but I thought we had to be one. But I’m coming to realize more and more through reading, through talking, through being drenched and drowned in his patience that I need to learn to appreciate him for him. From afar, from close up, from every angle. His strengths do not equal my weaknesses. His strengths become my strengths. It’s not a competition. He doesn’t make me whole. He makes me more than that. He doesn’t complete me. We’re 4d.

I wanted to be involved. I wanted my hand and his hand in all of the same jars, the same dirt. I’ve been holding on too tightly. My intentions were “love”, but they  have not been good. I have been selfish under the guise of being considerate. I have been greedy and scared. He’s been trying to tell me this in the least offensive and hurtful ways possible and he hasn’t been able to do it. Because there is no nice way to say to someone, “Your love is suffocating me. Your love is demoralizing. Your love makes me feel like my wings have been clipped. Your love is a prison.” I treasure these “ah-ha” moments-I feel like I’ve just discovered a beautiful enclosure with a stone bench, with an overhanging flowering tree at dusk. My secret garden. My favorite time of day. I have a secret garden inside of me. I need to take more frequent walks through it.

I hope you can forgive me. I’m still learning. So much. This wasn’t your idea. You’ve been good to me. You’ve been you. And I’ve been trying to be you, too. I owe it to you but mostly to myself to just be me now. This isn’t supposed to be easy. That’s comforting.




verse 22

Today is Day 22. I wasn’t very descriptive in my last post about my injury because no one reads this blog who doesn’t already know in full detail the extent of what happened. But just for future’s sake- I fell from a rock climbing wall at PRG in Glenside about 15 ft and missed the mat. I fractured my left ankle in six different places-which I wasn’t told at the emergency room. I went home the same night and a week later I had surgery. A “left ankle/tibia open reduction and internal fixation”. My sister luckily used her position at Rothman to get me in with Dr. Steven Raikin, one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the area. Surgery was terrifying. I don’t think anyone knows this but I was convinced there was a 50% chance that I would die on the table. I don’t know why but I just felt so small, so fragile, so scared because I don’t know any of these people and to them, I’m not important. It’s scary to feel like your entire life from here on out could be affected by people who don’t care about you personally. But everyone was great, surgery went perfectly and I went home the same day with two pain pump catheters in my leg. The next day the block wore off my leg and I was in the most pain I’ve ever been in in my life. I cried constantly (a side effect of this injury that has stuck with me from beginning to present) and gobbled all my painkillers greedily. My fiance took care of me the entire time, helping me get to the toilet, helping me get to the shower, seeing me at my most vulnerable and pathetic moments. I know there’s no unseeing some of the moments of struggle I’ve had, I just hope it hasn’t done too much irreversible damage.

Fastforward: Day 27.
I didn’t finish writing on Day 22. John came home and we got to talking. In the past five days my ankle has gotten stronger yet more painful at the same time. This boot that they fitted me for this past Monday is heavy, uncomfortable, and extremely hot. I attended John’s cousin Bethany’s wedding yesterday. I didn’t handle it well in the beginning- it was almost 90 degrees, we sat in full sun, the entire place was thick grass or loose gravel and the bathroom was an upscale port-a-potty that was three rickety metal steps high off the ground. I was overwhelmed with discomfort and pain and felt so isolated by everyone’s trying to cater to me in my wheelchair. Refusing food and drink without seeming ungrateful or grumpy was exhausting; explaining how I got my injury to complete strangers over and over again got to be a drag. But as the night wore on it got a little better and I was glad I went.

Tomorrow I start back at Printfresh full-time. It hasn’t even been a full three weeks since my surgery but hey-this is real life. I need the money, I need the time to pass more quickly and I need to be out of the apartment more often. I’ve definitely felt a rift between John and I in the past week or two. His understanding can only go so far-understandably. No one can understand the mental toll that a physical disability, even if it is temporary, can have on a person unless they’ve experienced it firsthand. It would make me so happy to just sit and talk with someone who has been here, who understands, who can tell me it’ll all be okay because they’ve lived through it already. I’m so tired of feeling constant pain and pretending like it doesn’t hurt because people will be uncomfortable or feel awkward and not know what to say. Or think I’m exaggerating. I know I need patience. I know this is an opportunity for me to count my lucky stars and my blessings but today I honestly just wanted to give the finger to my life. Life is such pointless pain sometimes. We can get mushy and sentimental and say there’s a reason for everything and blah blah but sometimes a point in your life is just random accident, or lonely beyond all reason. Sometimes life hurts. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t feel that. I give you permission to feel the way you feel. Just don’t let it eat you up and spit you out like today did for me.

No, no, there is no going back. And thank God for that.





Days like today bring me closer to prayer. I recall when that was my way of coping-basically laying in bed, staring at the dark ceiling, tears streaming into my ears, and asking God to change me. “Dear God, make me a better daughter. Dear God, make me more patient. Dear God, make me able to understand my friends. Dear God, help me feel happy. Dear God, make me less selfish. Dear god. Please make the pain go away.” It’s 2:34 am. It’s day 15 since I badly fractured my left leg and today is the lowest I’ve felt since this happened. It’s not the day I’ve felt the most physical pain, it’s not the day I was the least comfortable or least productive, but today is the day that brought me to prayer while rolling myself into the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face at 1:45am. I’m a pity. I’m feeling so sorry for myself that I cried simply for wanting to cry because of how uncomfortable I am, how forgotten I feel, how much of an inconvenience I’ve become to myself and to everyone around me. Day 15 is past the point where you’re worried about. Day 15 seems to be the exact point where the need/desire to rally and be tough and start to take matters into my own hands intersects with the need to be comforted-for real-because it’s now officially been a substantial amount of time being completely “useless” in a lot of ways and the lack of movement/sunlight/physical intimacy/privacy has started to wear at my nerves and my subconscious. I am surrounded by blessings and answers to prayer every which way I turn and yet I still feel sad and frustrated and the fact that I don’t feel properly justified (in my eyes and assumably yours) to be upset makes me angrier still.

It’s hard not to navel-gaze when you’re propped up on pillows all day. Just a little more than a week and I’ll hope to be free of these restrictions and get to living the exact life I was trying to leave behind.  It’s my mission now to not see it that way.


Today I felt like so much ivy
climbing a wall to nowhere.
No end in sight, no real point.

I look at my reflection and think
I hate my face.
I hate my body.
I hate being trapped inside of this family.
I hate being angry
when I am healthy.

But I’m not healthy,
but since you can’t see it
Or measure it in my blood
and I have all my arms and legs and
fingers and toes
I’m supposed to be an angel.
A petite, dainty, sweet girl.

I want to rebel
against no one.
I want to shake it all off
violently like a dog out of water.
I want to punch my sister in the face
and I want to scream that I want more space-
not less.

I want to drink because it helps.
I want to cry because it’s out-not in.
I want to be alone.
I want to erase myself
like chalk
or a moth.
Slight friction turns to sudden death.
That’s how today feels.
Slight friction.
Sudden death.

Today I can feel how everything is still nothing.

is this depressed?

of course not.


Brain Furniture

We covered a lot of ground recently. We’ve circumnavigated the world of love and union and acceptance in the past month and where we’ve arrived is a good place to rest. You’ve had your suspicions about me, and I you. But here we are. So far in this relationship we’ve depended on each other and not much else to get to where we are. Marriage is different. Even the prospect of marriage has changed our relationship from being the two dimensional me+you into the totality of things it will encompass. This wedding planning has really brought to light the balancing act that two thoughtful and caring people like us will have to perform (and hopefully perfect) throughout the course of our lives.

We’ll have to get better at being less judgmental. We are both harsh critics of ourselves and this inevitably trickles into all corners of our lives. We hold people to standards that they never asked to be held to, and in this way flatten and file our families away and keep them at arms’ length. Descriptive words will never equal people. Just as a stream stops being a stream the moment you collect it into a cup, a person cannot be explained and summed up the way I’ve been trying to. I want to accept all currencies of love. I think we should, and I think we can learn to do this. As opinionated as we and our families are, we are the bridge between two places now. Let’s be a strong and dependable one.

We’ll also have to stop assuming so much of the other person. You assume I’m looking down on frugality and penny-pinching, I think you’re looking down on lax spending and dinners amounting to hundreds of dollars. We need to realize that both of these lifestyles are approached with love and thoughtfulness as well as tradition and culture. The intentions behind these lifestyles are the same, and we are free to inherit these practices if we wish. I feel that with our combined efforts we can, as you said, “turn them in the right way” to be representative of us.

We’ll need to trust and believe in the other person’s core values. I feel like we already do this in theory, but we haven’t had much time for it to be put into practice just yet. I understand now much more deeply that the things you like to do in your spare time are things that make you feel good in your own skin and soul. I am so used to doing things because I think I ‘should’, that I project this notion onto your decisions and feel forced into doing things that I know I should enjoy but rebel against because the thought didn’t originate within me. It’s crazy. I know. I don’t give you credit for being the person that I know you are deep down because I’m not there yet at your level in those regards. Maybe I shouldn’t describe it in such a way that puts your love of certain activities above my understanding, but just lateral to-different from. I am, still, guilty of attributing my incomprehension for your being unnecessarily concerned with who you seem to be.

It’s so hard to focus, I don’t like writing in this way-where I am summarizing something I already felt out with you. I usually use my writing to feel out different situations and this feels somewhat like a stiff book report. But I think this is the gist of what we talked about over the table tonight.

And I’m not going to prepare that package of dried seaweed for Tyler and Marybeth. 🙂




My anxiety is

A need to be alone paired with the fear of being forgotten.
A sensitivity and aversion to any sound that another human might make
coupled with the need for constant background noise.
A bubbling over of emptiness followed by
the realization that what’s empty can’t overflow.
A bad smell keeping me up at night
because I can’t find the source.

My anxiety is a silent scream while rushing downhill on a razor scooter soaked in rain on slick pavement on a steep and winding road while it downpours.


If you don’t know anxiety

you don’t know me.