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The Last Stroke


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The "Wu Word" Blog


One of my very good and dearest friends just moved away to California.  She had been methodically planning this move since I met her at least five years ago.  I still remember when she told me that her goal was to move to California.  The words became a process and plodding pace of actions and executions.  I still remember saying to her in the wicked New York winters, “I’m right behind you!  I’ll see you there in sunny California!” 
Over the last few months, I’ve seen my friend had to decide what was worth keeping and what was worthless and needed to be given up and given away.  Through her and throughout my life, I’ve seen the value of things and that things are really just things until there is are sentimental memories and moments attached to them.  Invigorated and inspired by my friend and her move, I started to dig through my messy closets and cabinets as to what were just things to me and were more than things.  The mass majority of things were, indeed, things.  However, hidden in the darkest of places were ‘things’ I could not part with: my yearbooks, my over 50 journals that I started writing in when I was 8 or 9-years-old, pictures of friends and family, my research into a hip replacement surgery, my kidney advocacy work, and, most of all, multiple pieces of paper written in 2013 when my book was about to get published.  The papers contained my goals, plans, and preparations in the years to come in my life.  My handwriting was clean, crisp, and confident.  I had many expectations.  I was and am my own worst critic and enemy. 
The years have gone by.  Here I am in the now.   Many people may think that I am ambitious, but I do not have a desire to ‘succeed’ in the sense of ‘climbing up the ladder’ or ‘going to the top of the mountain’ where it is lonely and lonesome.  I am, however, determined.  Determined to meet the goals I made for and of myself.  However, it is the anticipation and aftermath that will change you and your life and never the goal itself.  It is never a singular or solo moment, but a build up to that moment and then everything thereafter.
When I re-read my goals that I had met and faced with, I realized that there were so many obstacles that had come my way that the goals being met were a slow-moving and a painstaking process.  I had fallen more times than I could count.  I had failed and risked more times than I could tell you.  To win, you have to lose.  To succeed, you have to fail.   Life interrupts and throws more curveballs of the unexpected, unplanned, and unforeseen that we are NEVER really ready for what is to come.  I had never really been ready for the results or how I felt after a goal I made was met.  You can plan and prepare and have all the goals you want, but to actually be ready for meeting and accomplishing them is a whole other ballgame.  I think about my friend who had met her goal to move to California.  I think about if she is ready for what is to come for her.  I think about if we are ever really ready for what is to come for all of us.  And, the answer is “NO.”   Life is always, always happening, moving, and living on as we are planning and preparing that I’ve reached a point to just try to be ready for the unplanned. The main goal I have for myself now is to be OK and to be OK with everyone and everything else.  We are never really ready for the reality until we are forced to get real. 
Are you goal-oriented?  What goals have you made for yourself?  Do you prepare and plan ?  When you met or supposedly accomplished what you set out to, were you ever really ready for the aftermath of meeting those goals?    
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,



I had a dream yet again about houses. 
In this dream, I lived in a house that was dilapidated and in a poor area by the train tracks.  Inside the house was absolutely immaculate and gorgeous with plush and exorbitant furniture and rooms that looked like something out of Buckingham Palace.  In the rooms, there were different scenarios playing out.  One room had a young girl all in white rocking back and forth on a bed crying hysterically.  I kept asking her what was wrong, but she would never show me her face and just kept wailing hysterically like she was suffering and dying a slow and painful death.  Another room had a dog and cat playing tug of war with a chew toy.  Another room had a group of people I did not even know laughing and chattering. 
I wake up completely confused and asking aloud: “Where am I?”
I dream so often about houses that you would think I am meant to be in real estate.  My dreams about houses are so vivid and real that I wake up truly believing that I am in that house and no longer in my home.  These house dreams always vary slightly, but they do revolve around certain themes.  I am rearranging furniture.  I am overwhelmed by too much stuff and want to throw everything and anything out to start anew.  I am overlooking a gorgeous balcony view of a sky full of stars and a bright blinding moon that I am wishing upon.  I have a huge and massive kitchen that looks like something out of “Better Homes & Garden” magazines with all the food in the world for me to chop, cook, sauté, and bake.  The houses have been falling apart, manicured mansions, a cozy bungalow, or a picturesque two floor house in the center of suburbia.   I never dream about an apartment, a farm house, or a place in the hustle and bustle of a city. The houses have many different rooms and in the rooms are people or pets laughing, fighting, or crying. 
 I asked my good friend who is the ultimate dream lover and analyzer what this means and she says: “A house represents your sense of self.   Everything going on in the houses is everything you are experiencing or trying to rearrange.” 
I thought about my sense of self.  I thought about ‘house’ in the literal sense that I had been living on my own and in my one bedroom apartment for nearly a decade.  It was only when I lived alone that I was forced to learn to handle household and handy troubles (i.e. electrical and plumbing issues), developing dynamics and relations and dependency on the kindness and care of neighbors with an emphasis on community, and the logistics and mechanics of devices that I never even thought about (i.e. the air conditioner, the heating, window screens, etc.).  I recently realized that it has taken me almost a decade later and still counting about how my sense of self has and is always changing, moving, developing, progressing, and rearranging.   It also dawned on me that as the years have gone by that I invite less and less people into my home.  When I first moved in, I wanted to and did invite everyone and anyone to my place.  Over time, I have become more protective, selective, reclusive, and even isolated with just wanting and wishing to enjoy and savor the simple, the peace and quiet of being in my home and place.  It reaches a point that a house is no longer a house, but a house becomes your home and is the becoming of you. 
Our experiences put us in a constantly moving, changing, developing, and rearranging ourselves.  How has your sense of self changed and developed? How have you had to rearrange yourself and others?   Do you often invite people to your house, or vice versa?  At what point (if any) did it dawn on you that your house is the becoming of your home and of you? 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,



It was only a 45 minute train ride from Grand Central Station back to where I live.  I just about never go into Manhattan on a weeknight, but I mustered up as much energy and enthusiasm as I could to go into the city this night to root on my sister who was having her documentary screening.  I was extremely wired tired with replaying probably one of the worst weeks I had in awhile that left me exhausted, stressed, anxious, and extremely mistrustful of many when those I came to depend on couldn't come through--no one's fault, but left me disappointed.  Strangely, I was actually able to muster up a heavy dosage of almost euphoric enthusiasm for an event that showcased my sister’s talents.  I was/am so proud of her. 
Truth be told, a lot was playing and replaying in my mind on that train ride—mainly  revolved around the past few weeks where certain people from my past who I thought I would never see again and that had ended through no fault of his/her or my own were slowly making their way and presence into my life again.  This was not a bad or good thing.  It was just a thing that had me thinking about how I never purposefully cut off ties with anyone because I have this strong belief that fate, God, destiny, faith (whatever you want to call it) will play its hand and make its magic if certain people are meant for a certain season and/or reason or to stay, leave, or come back when you least expect it.  
Most people I know seem to do one of two things when it comes to dealing with people or a relationship that is on the brink of toxicity: (1) Terminate or (2) Tolerate, with ‘tolerating’ meaning to ignore and/or accept one’s ways as long as they are not full out toxic to you. For me, I try to find and live the middle ground of letting whatever happens, happens and take people as they come.   I am no saint.  Neither is anyone else.  People are prone to make mistakes, and even making the same mistakes with the same people.  Everything, everyone is changing, and yet there is a kind of core same to all of us that we hold on to or have as life puts us in a place of change.   Though I will never bluntly say to someone “Hey, we are over,” I do have a strong sense when someone/something is over and I silently and quietly sort of let go—not for the other person, but for me.   I am just thrown off when someone I let go of inside me revisits me again, because this puts me in a  place of total confusion that what I was convinced was an ending will suddenly be a new beginning when I never even imagined that there could be a new beginning ever again.   I kept asking and wondering: “Why do certain people come into our lives again just when you are convinced and made your own certain peace in you that it was over?”  I pride myself on an answer, but this, time, I was left with continuing questions over answers. 
I was trying my best to quiet my mind by falling asleep on the train when an ad caught my attention.  I had no clue what the ad was about, but through my half-closed eyes, all I saw was the word “Do-Over.”  I suddenly perked up with the wheels in my mind churning at lightning speed that maybe the reason certain people come back in our lives is so you get the chance to ‘do-over’ what you believed was over and done with.   And, how often do we really get to experience ‘do-overs’?  How often do we get to experience the beauty of making rights from wrongs, re-living our mistakes to learn and make it better again, and the ultimate beauty of second chances? 
So, I think I am learning and maybe even getting this.  Nothing and no one is really over and done with.  Nothing and no one is ever permanent.  The purpose of people from the past or anything from the past coming back is the gift of second chances.  It gives you a chance to say what you couldn’t say and do what you couldn’t do.  It makes you confront yourself and others.  If ever you are given the gift of a ‘do-over’ with the someone or something that you believed was over and done with then take it to make it better, to make yourself better, to make life better. 
Here is to second chances.   How often do we get to do-over what we believed to be over and done with?  How often do we get to re-write and re-do what was believed to be done?   How often do we get to make something right to someone that we originally made wrong and made a mistake that was certain could not be taken back? When we you revisited by the past so you could go forward in your future?  When were you given second chances in life with certain people or life experiences? 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,



On a sweltering summer day in 2017, I was sitting in the passenger side of a Tonka truck of a car with a guy that I had originally met at a meet-up event.  It was my third time meeting up with him. This was not a ‘date’ or anything romantic.  In fact, this his guy proceeded to berate me for how nice and naïve I was.
“Mary,” he said frustrated like I was a stupid child, “you cannot be so naïve to think that meet-up is a place where people just want to make friends!  It is a cover up for lonely souls who are looking for that soulmate!  It is a façade of a dating website like Match.com or EHarmony!” 
I bluntly said to him, “I do not believe in dating websites.  Dating websites feed off of people’s emotions that if you are single or alone then you are lonely and need to find someone because of this stupid societal thought that a single person is incomplete.  Also, think about this—if you are getting a list of people then that person and all the other people are getting lists of people.  but I do not list people.  I have a shopping list of eggs, milk, and cheese, but I do not have a human people list of Billy, Bob, and Ben.” 
“Well, now you make me feel bad for going on dating websites.  I once dated eight women at the same time,” he said sheepishly.
“I do not think that is anything to be proud of,” I said. 
Then, I felt bad because he had all shades of shame colored on his face.  So, I said to him, “I can’t tell you how to live your life.  It’s not my place.  If that’s your thing to go on dating websites, then go on dating websites.  But, that’s not my thing.  And, yeah, maybe I am naïve and nice.  I just want to get to know people and then whatever happens is whatever happens. It takes a long time to get to know people.   Relationships and people are not instantaneous and are not supposed to be treated like garbage.” 
He said, “Well, that’s a nice and naïve thought this day in age.” 
I rebutted, “What a sad society we live in where nice is seen as weak. What a sad society we live in where people are treated like ‘test runs’ and then tossed aside like yesterday’s news and thrown away like garbage if you do not meet unrealistic expectations.”
Before he dropped me off at my place, his words echoed many people who have said to me:  “Single opposite sex individuals cannot be friends with one another.  There will always be an attraction or a question wafting in the back of the mind of the potential of being with that person.   Singles versus couples with children or couples around the same age who do not have children cannot really be friends because they lack common ground in a society that praises having a family over being single.”
My response: “This is all bullshit.  You cannot categorize and box in people and relationships.  You cannot put yourself in places like dating websites where you can be thrown away like garbage.  Just take people and relationships and relations as they come.” 
I decided long ago that I would be treated like a priority and not an option, and vice versa.  It feels like we live in times when people are just options and objects rather than priorities and people.  I am not a saint—I surely am guilty of having thrown out garbage when it was toxic and rotting to me, and I have been treated like garbage.  It is a very vicious cycle.  The bottom line is to always realize and stay true to your worth and respect yourself because no one else is going to be your worth or give you respect otherwise. 
We live in times where we treat people like garbage.  It seems like people are treated more disposed off, disregarded, and are discarded than ever before.  We even treat objects better than people and people like objects. When have you been tossed aside, thrown away, or just a back burner and option rather than a priority?  When have you taken out the garbage, and is it difficult for you to do so?  Do you think singles of the opposite six can be friends?  Do you think singles and couples with and without children can be friends?  What is your worth? 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-)

The Last Stroke

About 2 to 4 years ago, I learned the backstroke.  Mind you that I am a late swimmer that learned at roughly 10-years-old.  I was petrified and had two nearly drowned episodes before 10-years-old.  I never learned the ‘right’ way to swim.  As long as I was not sinking and staying above water then I was OK. 
I developed a huge fascination with the backstroke.  It was the only stroke to breathe above water while hearing the soothing and rhythmic breaths in our plugged ears.  It was the only stroke to swim backwards without seeing anything or anyone forwards, only to look up and above at the moving images that we were in motion with.  Finally, it was the only stroke where we had to develop an intuition and dependency on counting to not smack right into the wall.  The backstroke was the last stroke for me to learn, but it was the first stroke that I had a serious kinship with.  It was the stroke that had me throw caution to the wind and do it in a team relay for the very first time at the Transplant Games of America 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  P.S.  We won a bronze for that team relay! 
Without fail, every two years, I reunite with my swim coach, Coach K, to train me once again for the Transplant Games of America. This year, it will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah.  As usual, I was all about improving my comfort zone freestyle when Coach K surprised me when she asked: “How’s your backstroke?”
As a part of my swim routine, I do roughly 100 meters of back stroke in between my freestyle and breaststroke.  I never thought much about the backstroke. Therefore, I did not think twice when Coach K had me on my back and requested that I do almost 200 meters of backstroke in a row. 
She completely shocked me when she boomed, “Your back stroke form is excellent!  Have you signed up for it at the games this year?”
I removed my ear plugs and spouted, “No.  I never thought about it.”
“Well, you gotta think about and you gotta sign up for backstroke!”
My long-lost last back stroke was now suddenly front and first up with Coach K teaching me to try to sprint upwards and out backwards from the wall without seeing anything in front of me. Session after session, pool water shot up my nose.  I sputtered and coughed up chlorinated water.  My lungs felt like they were burning. I kept trying to keep my head above water when I sprinted backwards off the wall, but as Coach K said, “No, when you sprint back, you are going underwater and you have to breathe out of your nose!”
I was utterly confused.  Here I had believed backstroke was all about being above water and me not having to depend on breathing under water and now I was being coached differently.  I was starting to seriously doubt back stroke.    I went to my other swim guru: My sister.  If there is anyone who knows swimming, it is my sister.  She has swum in open water swims in Hudson River and under the Brooklyn Bridge.  She has gotten stung by jelly fish and lived to tell about it after surviving rough and choppy waters.   When I told her that I kept inhaling water up my nose from backstroke, she said to me: “You are supposed to go ‘hmmm’ or ‘mmmm’ when you do backstroke.  Synchronized swimmers who are underwater and upside down do it all the time.  Your body naturally reacts to exhale and blow bubbles out of your nose when you go in meditative mode of ‘mmmm.’  You should hum, too.  It reminds you to breathe.”
“No way!”   I tested out her tip, and it worked!  I couldn’t believe it!  She was right!  I am still getting water up my nose, but a whole lot less! 
The backstroke is my last stroke that has turned out to be my most favorite stroke and first understanding of many factors of breathing, our bodies, and of being.  The backstroke and all involved has shown me the power of breathing and being and of inhaling and exhaling in a way that comes down to the strength and nature of our bodies capabilities and abilities.  I made such simplicity into difficulty.  Yet, it often feels like doing the simple is the most difficult of all to do.  When did your last resort turn out to be your first and favorite?  When have you made simplicity into difficulty?  When has practicing simple been so difficult and complicated for you?    When are you are in a place of being and breathing and in awe of your body and all its natural strength and abilities?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-)
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