The "Wu Word" Blog
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
I fell in love with
games and gambling at around 10-years-old.
Card games: War, UNO,
Poker, and Spit. Board games: Monopoly
and Outburst. But, the game I loved the
absolute most was Mahjong. My
grandfather and cousin taught me how to play the game. We used to gamble with pennies and food. The clickety black of the shiny ivory blocks
as they smacked against each other and as we stacked them and then flipped each
block out to play our hand was adrenaline-rushing and thrilling. Bamboos.
Circles. Chinese numbers. Take up
a block. Give up a block. Someone could take or ignore your block. Poker faces.
Match. Strategize. Think hard.
Maybe a little luck if you are lucky enough. Until you got your way. Until you win. Win big.
In my immediate
family, I was the only one who like to gamble and play games. Outside of my immediate family and among all
my relatives, just about everyone loved and did play a good and rousing game of
mahjong except for my aunt. I thought
this was odd, though, because my aunt was somehow always gambling or bargaining
in life. I still remember us snaking our
way in the overly crowded and steamy streets of Hong Kong with my aunt and
another aunt (in Chinese, or maybe it is in my family, we call just about
everyone aunt) haggling with the store owners and store keepers to try to talk
down prices of items that they really wanted to buy. I’d watch my aunts completely mesmerized and
confused with this one question blinking brightly in my mind over and over: “If
they really want it, then why don’t they just buy it at the set price instead
of fight it?”
As I got older and
particularly on a trip to China, I turned red in the face with embarrassment
when my aunt was snapping at this storeowner to talk down a price on this pink
hat that I really wanted. She turned her
back. grabbed my arm to drag me away, and said in a clipped and no-nonsense
voice: “Now, we walk away.”
I hissed, “But why
are we walking away when I really want it?
Why is it always a fight and bargaining?
Why can’t you just accept it as the price it is?”
“Wanting it and meant
to have it are two separate things. You
have to be willing to walk away and lose. Wait and watch. Listen and learn,” she whispered back.
Moments later, the
store owner threw up his arms and spat off that he agreed to the price that my
aunt agreed to. I got my pretty pink hat
that people shower me with praise that I look that like a happy strawberry shortcake
when I wear it. I could not believe that
my aunt had talked down the price to that low.
I could not believe that she had gotten her way. I could not believe how much I loved this
pink swirled hat from China. I was curious
and utterly fascinated. I was speechless.
I opened my mouth to
ask my aunt how she did that. Her
painted red lips curled upwards in a smile.
Her eyes sparkled. She nodded. I paused.
Without her saying anything, I think I understood: “Wait and Watch. Listen and Learn.” I pondered about my family upbringing with
mahjong as a staple game that we played out of family fun and my aunts who did
not always accept what was told to them and they, instead, told others how it
is to be. In each of these ‘games,’ you
had to learn to lose AND be completely fearless to lose. You had to be unafraid to walk away and leave
if the terms that you put out there were unaccepted for what you deemed as
worthwhile. You had to put yourself out
there and make your terms known and clear without budging, but bend if
needed. Think carefully and strategize
without over analyzing. Trust in
yourself and in the wise risks and stakes and take ownership for the winning
and the losing. Walk away when it was at
the best peak and when timing was just right to be satisfied, but not and never
greedy, with the winnings rather than the losings. The
name of the game: To win AND win big, you had to be willing to lose AND lose
big. Maybe the key to winning is the
acceptance of losing that brings out our humility, humbleness, and abilities to
keep on trying and going without losing our tenacity.
Losing holds just as
importance than winning. When have you lost? Are you a risktaker? Do you bargain and try to negotiate to get
your way? Is what you deemed as losing
REALLY a loss?
Keep smilin’ until we
Years ago, I
befriended a young lady who was fresh out of college. She seemed timid, uncertain, and eager to please
anyone and everyone. In many ways, I felt like a big sister or
mentor to her more than anything else.
Around this time I befriended her, I told her about my newest and latest
project called “Live List.”
“Oh, bucket list?”
I paused. “Hmm…I guess you could call and consider it a
bucket list, but I do not like to think of myself doing these things because I
am afraid of death. I like to think I am
doing these things to embrace life and to be and live in all these great and
amazing moments in life.”
I then began to run
through the list with her: “Go on a hot air balloon ride. Go to an opera. Go to a baseball game. Travel the world. Learn to ride a bicycle. Fall in love.”
She paused and then
said, “I think you suffer from FOMO.”
I was intrigued. I never heard the acronym ‘FOMO.’ I was
usually the acronym creator, but here there was this young person (at least ten
years younger than me) giving me a lesson in acronyms.
“What’s FOMO?” I asked.
“Fear of Missing Out.”
I thought about this
acronym and then asked: “Is that a bad thing?”
She shrugged, “No, I
guess it isn’t. But, isn’t fear of
anything a bad thing?”
I thought about this ‘FOMO’
acronym. I thought about fear. I was all too familiar with fear. Probably my greatest fears being that I did
not do what I wanted to do and I did not live my life the way I was meant to
live it before I died. Yes, I
certainly do know it seems odd for someone of 37-years-old or even younger at
that time of creating my ‘Live List’ to think of ‘before I died,’ but the truth
is that the only way you come to appreciate the value and the gift of life is
when you are on the brink of death yourself or when everyone around you ends up
in the clutches of death. I know that sounds
dismal and depressing, but I like to think of knowing about the reality of
death forcing us to live life as light to the darkness and life and death being
in each other’s company kind of cool with each other. Over the years, I had
went on to fulfill as many of my ‘Live List’ items as possible. To fulfill
these items, I had often run myself ragged until I burnt out. Often, I would spend so much time planning and
preparing for one of my ‘Live List’ items that I ended up stressed. I also did not know my boundaries and
limitations because of FOMO. No matter
how many people would like to say that we are limitless and can do anything and
everything, I have to come to realize that this is NOT true as we get
older. We all have our boundaries and
limitations, and that is just as important as knowing to push the boundaries
and limitations without detriment to ourselves.
It is a fine line. I do not know
how to sit still. I do not know how to relax. I do not know how to do nothing.
Then, it dawned on me
that, yes, that young lady from so many years ago was right. There is a downfall to FOMO. There is a negative twist to FOMO. You will plot, plan, and do everything intended
for a single FOMO moment that you are living for or that you make out to take
your breath away that you are missing on all the seemingly simple ordinary minutes
and moments that can mean the most and bring the greatest treasures and
pleasures. Worst of all to FOMO is not being
present. I have now realized that there
are many moments that I may have missed out on all because I was hung up and
giving in to FOMO- Fear of Missing Out. This
realization is HUGE to me. I have spent
the vast majority of my life trying to “seize the day” and “live in the moment”
only to see a different side that maybe I have not been doing this. People have said to me time and time again
that I need to slow down, take it easy, pause, and be present. Heck, I have even said this to myself. But, now it is REALLY time to ‘break bad.’ I need to.
I have to. Or I will burn out and
run out as a result. This has then made
me contemplate about our ‘bad’ habits and ways, imperfections, resolutions, and
actively trying to change or tweak ourselves to be better.
January is almost
over with. We are well into the 2020
year. I have asked many people about
what their resolutions are. Many have
said to me that they do not make any because they cannot keep them. I think the greater question and quandary is
if people realize what their weaknesses and ‘bad’ are to try to overcome and ‘bread
bad.’ We are creatures of habits. We get so wrapped up in our days and ways that
it may reach a point that we break and have to, in turn, break these bad
habits. I cannot say that I am making a
resolution. I can say that I am trying
to be better and the only way for me to be better is awareness of my ‘bad’ to
then try to ‘break bad.’ I can say that I am now very well aware of my imperfections
and flaws that can be hurtful to me and to others that I have to try to change for
the better. It does not have to be in big ways.
If anything, what I have learned in life is it is always the little ways
and little things that lead to the most.
We are creatures of habit and flawed humans with bad habits that need to be
broken. What bad patterns, vicious
cycles, or bad habits do you have? Were
you aware of how debilitating they were so that you had to change? What did you do or are doing to make a
conscientious effort to change?
Keep smilin’ until we