Thought Severing



“Thought severing. When you go into a loop a repeat loop — it’s just bam. Stop it.”

There’s a weird phenomenon that happens when people feel sorry for you. You get a lot of advice. Friends, family, colleagues, bartenders, editors. This was from an editor.

On chat, I agreed with her wholeheartedly. In my mind, I had no idea what she was talking about.


We were sitting in a cafe inside the ancient city of Shuhe in Lijiang. A man was strumming on his guitar, belting out ballads. My mom ordered a cup of Yunnan coffee for the three of us and a cheesecake to share. I didn’t talk much. Everything reminded me of the past. The cutesy coffee shops of Lijiang was eerily similar to the ones I spent my summer with him in at Gulangyu.

The winding cobblestone streets and shops, the exotic food vendors. These were all too familiar.

Like in Thailand, I dragged myself through the experiences. We toured the mountain range via ponies, sat through a Naxi tea ceremony and ate fried fish off of a river boat. There was even a museum of food-shaped stones, which, in normal circumstances would have delighted me. But in actuality, I snapped a couple of photos and was done with it.

Okay, I was a LITTLE scared of my pony.

Okay, I was a LITTLE scared of my pony.

naxi Collage

Banquet of Stones

Banquet of Stones

The thoughts replayed in my head over and over again. The conversations, the last time I saw him, the emails he never responded to. The begging, the crying, the screaming. (Unfortunately, it was all very dramatic.) I got headaches because of the continuous loops. At my worst, I’d wake up in the middle of the night screaming. After a while, the only time I had relief from it all was in my dreams. Even my subconscious was getting sick of thinking of my ex. I had glimpses of relief, moments where I was actually happy and not pretending, but it would all crumble by the end of the day.

My parents would sigh in annoyance when they saw me tear up. And though she didn’t say it, I could tell my best friend of 19 years was getting tired of me.

Where had I gone?

One cold night in a freezing hotel at Lugu Lake, instead of playing victim to my consuming thoughts, I started looking at job openings. I forced myself to think of the future, something I had stopped doing. The extremely clichè tidbits advice I had tossed in the back of my mind came flooding back:

“Take it one week at a day.” “Focus on yourself.” “You’re so young.” “There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”

And the most painful of them all:

“Move on.”

Lugu Lake

Lugu Lake

And then something happened. I didn’t know how to move on. But I knew how to move. That concept broke the exhausting mental pattern of obsessing over the past.

So I did what I could: I packed my bags, started pitching more stories and cut my trip short. It wasn’t much, but it marked the beginning of the healing process. For the first time in months, I stopped crying. However minimally, I had shifted the focus to myself.

“You need to stop picking at the wound for it to heal.”

Alright cliches, I get the point.


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