The "Wu Word" Blog
I have never been your typical “girly girl”
who loves to shop endlessly at shoe stores, clothing spots, or make-up shops. Rather, out of all the places that I
absolutely love to shop at, walk endlessly up and down aisles in, price
compare, and truly stay hours on end and end up leaving with a cart full of
goodies is the grocery store. Oh, yes,
there is nothing that makes me happier than to go food shopping. All the beautiful boxes so well packaged for
advertising, cans stacked up, colorful array of fruit and veggies to greet me, and
the smooth and gentle roll of the wheels of the cart as I slide and maneuver my
cart in and out. I suppose that my love for
grocery shopping shouldn’t be a surprise coming from a foodie such as I.
However, lately, my utmost love and joy of
shopping at food stores has been replaced with a kind of trepidation and
uncertainty during these times. It does
not help that many of my family members, closest friends, and even neighbors
are reminding me that I am immunosuppressed and should NOT even be going out to
this dangerous outside world. But, who
is going to buy and deliver groceries for me? Oh, yes, perhaps Peapod, but I have
stubbornly refused this option because I feel like it would be caving in to a
growing fear of food shopping when it has always been my love? Who is going to feed me, myself, and I with
living solo? Only me, I must say. So, at the insistence of Papa Wu to make sure
that I have enough food to feed solo me, I went to the supermarket to get in
and out of basic items and necessities.
I tell you that you NEVER really realize the
difference between NEED and WANT until you are thrusted in uncertain times. I can also tell you what you already know
with all the starkingly empty aisles, the need to ration now, the conundrum to
try to figure out what to buy and when and how much, the tension that just
permeates the food markets now, and the hand sanitizer that now greets me as
the first point item rather than a human being, but, instead, I will tell you
my latest food shopping story about the girl at the cashier.
After taking pictures of the empty aisles in
shock and awe to dear friends and family and trying to figure how much to buy
for solo me, but then also having my parents and sister in the back of my mind
in case they run out of necessities and then maybe any other peeps that may
need something extra, I headed out to check out all my food items. As expected, there was a line. And, yes, not going to lie that the line was
longer than previous times I had shopped AND the line was continuing to grow
because the number of items for each customer had grown exponentially. Me? I
had nowhere to go, but I had to confess that I wanted more so to leave than to
stay for the first time ever in a grocery store. There was no choice but to wait. When it finally got to me, I looked at this
girl at the cashier who had to be in her 20’s.
She had chin-length light brown hair and, I believe, brown eyes, but
they were hard to see with her bright red-framed plastic glasses. Her eyes were closed and she was muttering to
herself. At first, I thought she was maybe
praying. She opened her eyes slowly.
“Are you ok?” I asked her.
She gave me a lopsided, tired smile and said, “I’m
just tired. It’s been a long day.”
I paused and replied, “Yes, it has been.”
“I was just telling myself it’s a job. It’s just a job, right?” she asked me rhetorically,
giving me another one of her tired half-smiles.
I looked behind me at a line of irritated,
blank-faced, and sleepy customers.
We were all so tired. We were all so exhausted. Then, it struck
me how severely exhausted this cashier, all the grocery staffers, cleaning
people, garbage collectors, and so many other people were AND, perhaps, how
underappreciated they were. These were
all people who had stayed later hours with maybe not the best of pay. Had anyone ever said ‘thank you’ to them to
make them feel like it was more than ‘just a job’? Had they ever felt appreciated? This made me sad.
When I had paid and was about to leave, I looked
at the girl at the cashier and said, “I hope your shift ends soon. Thank you very much for everything.”
I’ve always been told that I say “THANK YOU”
too much, but, perhaps, I need to amp it up now. I’ve been trying to do that more "Thank Yous" now to the
unlikely and underappreciated. I said
it the other day to the cleaning lady in the locker room of my gym who was mopping the floor. I said it to the hunched over guy at another
place I was at who was wiping everything down with Clorox wipes. “Thank You” is the greatest and smallest way
to express gratitude to someone else that can mean the most and lift someone on
their hardest of days. So, “thank you”
for and to the girl at the cashier for reminding me this AND that no job is too little
or less than anyone else’s, for we all play a part and have an impact that can
be in the best of ways or the worst of ways from what we do or do not do in our daily lives of work.
If we can do it in the best of ways, then it does not get any better
The most unlikely, unseen, and
underappreciated may just be the ones who are the hidden heroes that do the
most and maybe even deserve the most recognition. Have you ever felt underappreciated? Or, maybe, was in a thankless position that
you did not want to do, but that you had to do to survive? When have you paused to maybe show appreciation
and kindness for the least likely that are, maybe, likely to do the very most
in their own small and seemingly menial ways that are actually the most heroic?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Approximately a week ago, I timidly stepped into CVS in minimal hopes that there would be some (or really any) cleaning solutions available as my products of protection from the Budlight Virus….oh, wait, I mean the C-virus. Surely you know even if you live under a sheltered, sturdy rock about the Corona Virus, or what I am calling the C-Virus. I hated to admit that I was starting to get the surges of anxiety and nerves with the C-Virus and felt it was my utmost duty to try and safeguard my second kidney transplant and weakened immune system with whatever tools I could find.
I hesitated going up to one of the staff members as it seemed that we were all at a weird time and place of trying to steer clear of people who have the dread G-word of “Germs,” but I truly had no idea which aisle were the following: Clorax wipes, Gloves, Antibacterial sanitzer, and Masks.
The guy shrugged in complete defeat said, “Out of everything,”
I wondered how many times he had to say this today and when that line of “out of everything” started. I wondered how many pharmacists and staff members were handling ordering supplies only to come to the dawning realization that there simply were not enough supplies for the demand from the mass.
“Nothing?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he confirmed.
I sighed. No ammunition. No protection against the abundance of caution. I wandered forlorn to the cleaning products in hope that maybe there was a stray rolling Clorax container in the aisle. And, then, the Hallelujah chorus seemed to boom when my eyes zoned in to the very top shelf of disinfectant sprays. Yes! Disinfectant sprays! Of course, they had to be located where it was the most difficult for me to retrieve. Victory would be mine!
Without anyone in sight, I started to try to climb up the shelves. Then, all of a sudden, the disinfect spray was gone. I was so focused on trying to climb the shelves that this woman who well had the height, arm lengths, and leverage over my not even 5 foot height had snatched up the very last canister of Lysol disinfectant. She held the very last Lysol canister as though it was a gleaming trophy. I stared at her. I was shocked. I was speechless.
Suddenly, the memories began flooding at me when I was brought back in time to May 1995 when I was recovering at home from my second kidney transplant. Since I was little, germs, kidneys, and immune system were introduced into my world and language, but at 12-years-old in 1995, I really began to understand just how very bad germs, bacteria, and viruses (GBV) were because they could come at my pre-owned and what was deemed as “foreign” kidney from my donor to attack and conquer to the point that my second kidney transplant would reject and I would lose this gift of life. To try to stop GBV from coming at me and attach my gift of life second transplant, I was told to stay at home and take my fistfuls of color-coded immunosuppressed medications. The adults said to me that there was no way I should go back to school that was a bedrock of bad from the cluster and crowds of kids. This made me sad. All I wanted was to be like the other kids, but I was in indoors bubbled isolation watching the Spring season bloom before my eyes and yet I could not really go out to enjoy the scent of flowers, the warmth of sunshine, the cool cuts and blades of grass under my bare feet, and, most of all, the contact with other kids that I craved. I could not really be a kid. It was like I was an adult trapped in a child’s body.
I think my circle of adults knew how much I wanted to be with other children because at the end of June and less than two months after receiving my second kidney transplant, my wish to just be with the outside world to touch, taste, see, hear, smell, and really feel everything was granted by going to school on just about the last day known as “Field Day.” It was the day that ALL (and I do mean ALL) the children were there in color-coded teams playing different sports. I had never felt like I belonged among my classmates, but for that one day, I felt like I belonged. Sure, I was in a wheelchair and did not say much, but just being with everyone in this living, breathing, and wonderful world had never made me happier and more carefree. It was one of the best times in my life just to live and be a kid.
Shortly after my visit and contact with all the children, I got sick. Horribly sick. Sick as in news that my second kidney transplant was going into rejection. It was probably one of the worst and more depressing points in my life. The fear to lose a gift from a complete stranger who died only to save my life. The horror that my one wish granted would be my downfall to me being sick again and that the girl who saved my life would have to suffer another ‘death’ in the sense of her life-saving organ. Yet, in spite of all the fear and horror, I had no regrets. I had the best time in my life just being in this breathing world after being bubbled for what I saw as much too long. I had been around other kids who had shown me kindness and like I did not have ‘cooties.’ They did not fear me or shelter and shield me like the adults just so I could be myself and be a kid. I did not and could never let fear control and stop me from living my life to the fullest. I could not live or be in isolation.
And, I got
better. And, my second kidney transplant
thrived and survived at going 25 years this year and counting. This is the thing: When it is bad and at the very bottom, we
think it can never get better. We think
we can never get through what we see as the worst and darkest of places. And, yes, it often has to get very bad and at
the bottom before it can even try to get better. Fear, Anxiety, Panic, and the Power of our minds
rear their ugly heads to take over and twist us in ways that we never thought
we were capable of behaving, acting, and treating ourselves and others. I was brought back in the present to this
woman who had triumphantly succeeded and grabbing the last Lysol Disinfectant. She then glanced down at me maybe, just
maybe, realizing that she had taken the last Lysol disinfect. She then asked me: “Did you want the Lavender
Lysol disinfectant sprays? I can help you reach them!”
I wrinkled my nose
knowing that permeating my apartment with Lavender would not over well with my
kitty cat Ricky and me. With a substantial
space between us, we started chatting and even chuckling about the
C-virus. We were connecting and coming
together over a looming crisis. That’s another thing: Crisis can either unite
or divide and show the utmost ugly or beauty in people. I have ever hope in me in unite and the good
in people. I never got this Lysol lady’s
name, but I knew that neither of us and none of us can ever really be in
isolation. After chatting with her, I
was empty handed of any cleaning solutions, but then I knew what I had accidentally
purposefully did: I let her have the very last Lysol can.
We are not meant to
live or be in isolation. Do you find
with everything going on that you are getting more fearful and panicked to the
point of isolation? What are your views
and hopes about unite and good vs. divide and bad? When were you at your very worst with the
belief that it would never get better only to someday realize that it had gotten
better? Were you ever in isolation?
Keep smilin’ until we
The first time I got
the flu shot over 10 years ago, I got horribly sick. It was the worst sick I could remember being,
excluding my hospital days due to kidney issues. I was homebound for a week inhaling Vicks
vapor rub, getting high on humidifiers, popping in menthol cough drops, and
lazily and sleepily dragging myself in loose pajamas and my Hello Kitty
I had refused the flu
shot for as long as I could, until my work made it mandatory to get it. Their threat: “If you do not get your flu
shot then you have to wear a mask the whole time that the flu season is active.” Then, my transplant center made it mandatory
that I get the flu shot. Their logic: “You
are immunosuppressed. Get it to protect
yourself and prevent that nasty flu coming at you.”
I begrudgingly and edgily
got the flu shot. To my surprise, after
that very first boxing match with the flu shot that had me knocked out with the
actual flu, I had not gotten the flu since.
I would feel a little funny after the initial stab in the muscle from
the flu shot, but, overall, I started to appreciate the fact that my workplace
offered the flu shot for free. Prevention
is a cure. Protection is the way to
go. You can, indeed, stop the worst
before it can even possibly get a chance to start. You can, indeed, be proactive rather than reactive.
Then, about three
weeks ago, I got the flu. Mind you, I
had gotten the flu shot sometime in winter 2019. I was so sick three weeks ago that I spiked a
102 fever and managed to and was actually mandated to go the closest emergency
room. I was so sick where the medical
staff could not get my fevers under control that it was advised that I stay in
the hospital overnight. As much as I
basked in the free flat screen TV that provided endless channels and the
gourmet meals at the hospital (that isn’t sarcasm…the food was actually good,
but I just about had no appetite and you know there is a problem with Mary Wu
when she does not have an appetite), I felt horrible going from hot to cold,
cold to hot, and then, the topper, my IV broke in the middle of the night. This resorted to at least 7 pricks in my vein-less
skin due to dehydration. This resulted
in a final IV stabbed right in my index finger.
And, yes, that really did hurt.
The cure for the flu?
Absolutely nothing. Rest at home. Plenty of fluids. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep. All I could do was wait to get better. All I could do was wait and see. All I could do was nothing. The art of doing nothing.
For me, I flunk astronomically
at ‘doing nothing,’ which, we must realize, is an oxymoron. But,
is ‘doing nothing’ really an oxymoron?
That week that I was quarantined at home, I mentally and physically struggled
with doing nothing. The minutes went
by. The moments slipped through my
fingers. I felt like I was wasting my
time. I was getting cabin fever. It frustrated me that I had tried to stop the
flu by getting the flu shot and now I was battling with doing nothing to get
better from the flu. In my mind and I
think just among all of us, our immediate response is to react. Do something.
Answer the question. Solution to
the problem. Prevention is the
cure. As long as we prevent and do something
then we are being proactive to take care of ourselves. But, is prevention really a cure? Is
proactive really taking care of ourselves?
Could prevention and proactive
possibly be a bit anxiety-inducing and control freakish?
A couple day after I
was diagnosed with the flu, I went to my transplant center. I was pretty much hacking up a lung and felt
so drained and tired that I could have fallen asleep sitting up trying to talk
to my transplant doctor. I asked my
transplant doctor this: “What’s the point of the flu shot? I got the flu shot to prevent the flu, but I
ended up getting it.”
He sounded like a
textbook when he explained: “Well, it is supposed to protect you 80%, but it
can’t protect you at 100%. Nothing can
really protect you at 100%.”
This is when another realization
hit me: Prevention is NOT a cure. Prevention
can be a catalyst for anxiety. We can
try and do all these ‘proactive’ things to maintain our health and our lives
and to maybe even stop bad before it can start and be worst than ever, but if
something is going to happen then it is going to happen. It can be good. It can be bad. Most of all, it is life. This is life.
There are never any guarantees in life.
There are also times that there are never concrete solutions, answers,
and abilities to really ‘fix’ or stop anything that is meant to happen. There is never 100%.
In general, humans
immediate response is to react and to try to ‘fix’ or provide a solution to a
problem. I must confess that I have
spent the mass majority of my life believing that proactive is better than
reactive, but now I wonder if proactive is a ‘control thing’ when there really is
no control over things that happen in our lives. Our only ‘control’ is how we react to it and,
maybe just sometimes, the best reaction is nothing. The ‘wait and see’ factor. Is doing nothing actually doing
something? Is NOT reacting a solution or
answer to a problem? Is prevention a
kind of ongoing solution or is it just anxiety-inducing? Can we really ‘fix’ something by doing