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The "Wu Word" Blog

November 2014

In my Pockets

It was a bitterly, cold day.  It was the kind of cold where the wicked wind and fierce frostiness cut right into you and was felt in the deepest of your core.  I was teetering on anxiety that my car would just stop dead on the road because my gas tank was running so low and inching past the “E” for empty. The timing of the gas station coming into my view was impeccable. 

As soon as I killed the engine of my car and got out to fill my car with gas, a woman in a feather-down brown jacket that reached her ankles suddenly appeared before me.  Her long, dark hair hung limply down to her waist.  Her eyes were wide with desperation and anguish.  In a heavy accent that I could not make out in the slightest, she said to me softly and with deep urgency, “Please, help me.  I’m sure that you are my angel.  My mother and I need money to get back home.  She is suffering from kidney failure.  Can you give us any money at all?  Any at all?  Please?  God will bless you.” 

At first, I was convinced that this had to be some kind of sick or weird joke.  How crazy and unfathomably coincidental that this woman was talking about her mother having kidney failure when pretty much my whole life had revolved around my chronic kidney failure?  Every feeling and thought in me was suspicion rather than sympathy.  Was it the New Yorker in me that was so suspicious?  Was it how I was raised to ‘Never Talk to Strangers’ and that my safety came first to not give out the money that I worked so hard for to those that could hurt or harm me?  Was it the assumption that perhaps people who begged and pleaded for money were just ‘lazy’? 

I had never been in this kind of situation before. It was as though my life was staring at me and challenging me with my response.  I always thought death was the worst fear, but I realized that the look of life and how was I was living it was, by far, the absolute worst.  My teeth were now chattering from nerves rather than the icy cold wind clawing at me. 

I stuttered and muttered incomprehensibly, “Did you try to go into the store in there for some money?”

The woman was probably a couple years younger than me.  She wrapped her jacket tighter around her, shifting her dark hair to slightly cover her face.  There were half moon crescent shadows under her eyes.  She looked physically exhausted from the day, but mentally exhausted from life. 

She said, “I tried.  They wouldn’t help me.”

My stomach tied up in knots.  I felt terribly bad for this woman, but I didn’t know if she was telling the truth.  I caught a glimpse of her beat up car and a woman who seemed to be on the passenger side of the car, hugging herself for a morsel of warmth. 

One of my gloved hands was on the gas pump.  My other gloved hand was in my pocket for warmth and where my money was supposedly safe and sound.  I kept my hand in my pocket.   Suspicion won out over sympathy. 

“I’m sorry,” I said to the woman, “I don’t know what to say.  Maybe someone else can help you.”

I turned away from her to fill gas into my car.  I had never turned my back from someone so drastically and sharply.  The knots in my stomach tightened, and I winced in pain.  I’m not sure if the pain was because I still had abdominal pangs from my hysterectomy surgery or because it was the situation at hand.  Probably a combination of both.    Either way, the sixth sense of sympathy was creeping in and starting to make a home in my gut.  Either way, the Jiminy Cricket conscience came into my head and began to speak rapidly, “What are you doing?  What if her mother really does have kidney failure and they are stranded without a way to get home?  Your whole life has been revolved around your chronic kidney failure and promoting the ‘giving of life’ and ‘donating life.’  How can you turn your back from them and not show and give some compassion and kindness that our world is significantly lacking and in need of?  Even if the woman is lying so severely about kidney failure of her mother, she will be the one to live with that on her conscience and the consequences—not you.” 

The voice seemed to tug incessantly at me to visually see the situation unfolding before me.  I turned around.  The woman knocked on the windows of two other cars.  Windows were quickly rolled up.  Another person slammed the car door in her face.   Kindness was disintegrating in front of me.  A cocktail concoction of guilt and sympathy were now invading my entire body, making my insides feel hot heat surpass the outside frigid surroundings. 

I decided that I would go to the woman and give her money after I finished pumping my gas, but she beat me to the punch when she shuffled her way towards me again. 

She was nearly in tears and choked out again, “Please.  Any money at all.  I’ll take anything.  We just need to get back home.  Please, help.  God will bless you.  God will bless you.” 

I looked into her despondent and lightless eyes.  She met my gaze with defiant desperation.  That is when it dawned on me: On the surface, she was asking me to give her paper money, but, in actuality, she was asking me to give her compassion, time, and love for her and her mother.  My money that I worked hard for would be quickly spent and used once I gave to her, but for I suddenly had to believe to be a great good for mother and daughter. 

I reached into my pocket and gave money.  Our hands briefly touched. 

The woman's eyes filled with joy and thankfulness.  She clamored over and over, “Thank you, thank you, thank you….God will bless you…”

I wanted to say to the woman, “God has already blessed me with so much…”

But, I didn’t have the chance. 

Just as quickly as the woman appeared, she had suddenly disappeared.  Many may think that I was naïve in believing the best in this woman and somehow seeing a greater good.  Many may say that I placed myself in an ‘unsafe’ situation.  However, I was humbled that this situation had happened to remind me that the greatest gifts we can give are not bought, but are given from our soul in forms of time, love, compassion, and presence.

I am thankful for each and every single waking day.  However, this Thanksgiving, I am even more thankful in ways that can never be fully expressed for the seen reason that I have come out and above yet another health bump as well as the unseen reasons that are personal and profound to only me.  When you are that blessed in life with the greatest riches of health, love, and time, there is a realization that you only want to bless and give to others—even unfamiliar strangers who may become your most familiar friends.  Everyone who comes into our path has a divine purpose. 

My hands were still in my pockets.  Although it was still freezing outside, my hands suddenly felt warmer.  That is when one of my hands wrapped around the few extra paper dollars in my pocket.  Yes, I had a few extra dollras.  How lucky I was! 

I wrapped my hand around the crinkled dollar bills, stuffing my hands deeper and cozier into my pockets.  I still had and have so much more to give forward and further.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! ;-)

With love, hugs, & gratitude,
Mary ;-)

Keeping my Keys

Five years ago when I moved into my apartment, one of the first people I met was the woman with the black, silken hair and piercing blue eyes.  Her features and her presence were striking and teetered on a famous actress roaming around Hollywood.  But, rather than any diva attitude, she was the warm and cozy mother who loved to garden, walk her dog, and talk about her endearing husband and strapping sons who were each close to my age and already married.  And, yes, she got along just fine with her daughter-in-laws.  She had the simple and perfect life on the surface.  She was perfect—like a woman that you would maybe see from the 1950’s TV shows who stayed at home to build the perfect family for her perfect life.  I already was blessed with an incomparably extraordinary Stepmother, but maybe, just maybe, this woman could be like a mother in my new apartment surroundings. 

In many ways, when I first moved into my apartment, she began to fit a slight motherly role to me as I embarked on my new “flying solo” lifestyle in my brand new apartment.  We would have talks while she walked her dog.  She brought me to “Home Depot” to buy potted plants and flowers to bloom and grow on my brand new patio and surrounding gardens and areas.  She gave me a lemon balm plant and handed me a leaf of it in her perfectly manicured hand, saying to me: “Try it.  It is delicious!”  Of course, she was right!  She even suggested red gardening clogs and tools to get my knees and hands in the earth.  She helped me file a police report when I naively gave my money to a strange man in the middle of the night—long story!  Five years ago and as each year passed by, she always said to me: “Mary, if you need anything, just let me know.”

Well, I needed her and any other neighbors who could help me as I returned back and all alone to my apartment.  Although I was in the ‘now’, I felt like I was in the ‘then’ when I has first moved in to my apartment and was at one of my low points of not knowing what I was doing or what was going on because I was so wrapped up in this fear of living and being all alone.

Recently, she knew that something was wrong when she glimpsed my Dad bringing out my garbage and when I gave a weak wave upon her calling out my name to greet me.  Again, she said to me while I was forcing myself to walk around my apartment complex, “Mary, if you need anything, please do let me know.  I’m here.  I’m available.  I’ll help.”

So, I took her up on her offer.  My dad always said to me that if someone offers their help to take it.  One of my closest friends said to me that people want to help, but they just do not know how to—so you tell them, let them help you, and you help others again when that time comes.    

On an unusually warm weekday for the often blustery autumn season, the woman with the black hair and blue eyes showed up at my doorstep in sweats and a Lucille Ball travel mug in her hand.  She immediately got to work without me asking or explaining too much with cleaning my bathroom and doing my laundry.  Then, she zonked out on my plush, red couch and kept eagle eyes on me while I tried to vacuum at a very slow and steady pace.  Believe it or not, vacuuming is one of my favorite household chores.  Especially since I purchased a new “Shark” vacuum that was one lightweight and feisty sucker that nearly took up and in my carpet along with any tiny dust particle.  I love the whirring sound of the vacuum; It could probably lull me into a sweet baby sleep. 

When I flicked off the vacuum, the sun streamed through and a serene silence permeated throughout the room.  In the stillness, she suddenly began to share her stories with me.  A bitter divorce.  A physical assault at work that led to nearly irreversible damages to her back that then led to multiple surgeries.  Everything in her life boiling down to her three sons and the new husband that she had devoted the rest of her life to.  It is always a startling blessing to me that it is when we are doing the simple and routine tasks that complications are revealed. 

Our conversations of life carried over to when we were working on the bedsheets.  Our time was going to come to an end.  I was almost sad about it.  When she was about to leave, she said to me, “Did you know that my father is still alive?  92-years-old.  He has some wise things to say every now and then.  Have you heard about the ‘Keeping Your Keys’ story?”

I shook my head. 

“He said that if we in a room all together and placed our keys at the very center of a coffee table to let our guards down and fully share our lives that he could bet you would want to leave the room with your own set of keys.  You would never want anyone else’s set of keys.  You would only want yours.”

With that, she gave me a warm, tight, and long hug.  She was suddenly gone.

I thought about what she said.  If someone (most likely God or the ‘higher being’ that I always believe and speak about) descended down to me with an open palm said asked, “Would you like to give me your keys?  I could give them to someone else so you can live their life, and they could live your life.  They would and could know about the surgeries you have had to have, the absence of your mother, the health struggles you have had to overcome…your life all the way.  Perhaps you would want the keys of a woman who had found her true love and he returned her love and they were married and had children?  You know, the seemingly simple life that you always wanted?   Perhaps you give me your keys and you will be free of the fear of the future of anymore health problems, or memories of what you have had to endure physically with your health and emotionally and mentally with everything revolved around them?” 

I probably would have happily and without any reservations at all handed my keys then, but not now. 

Throughout my life and especially in my teens when I was dealing with the return of kidney failure and the absence of my mother at the same time, I wanted to trade off and give up my life to someone (really anyone) else.   I do not think that I have ever been alone in the wishes and images of leaving my life even just temporarily for someone else’s life.  Haven’t you wanted to trade your life for someone else who appeared so perfect and free from any problems?  Hasn’t life been more than you could bear at times, so you wanted another person’s life?  Do you think you would actually live another person’s life and not your own? 

My dad and many people have said to me that it is wrong and unfair that someone my age has had to go through what I have had to go through.  I used to feel this way.  I used to be encased in bitterness and anger that made me ask time and time again: “Why Me?  This shouldn’t be happening to me, because I’m a good person. Life is wrong and unfair.  God is to blame for letting all of this happen to such a good person as me.”  But, now, I no longer feel like my life has been any less fair than others.  I feel like everyone’s life somehow balances out in the end.  If it is not physical ailments, it is emotional and mental anguish—and vice versa.  We all have our problems, issues, and struggles to encounter and endure.  We all have imperfect lives and are imperfect beings because we are human and just trying to go through our each and every day and overcome obstacles to be all the better.   These problems, pain, and suffering (whether they be concrete like the physical aspect or illusive like emotional and mental), make us all the more rather than less.  For everything that I had to deal with, I took away greater life lessons revolved around the people I love, strength, courage, gratitude, love, soul, and so much more that could never be fully captured in words. For everything that has been bitter, unfair, or ignited anger, I find the peace, happiness, and sweetness in the love and goodness surrounding me.  For everything that I have lost, I have gained all the more. 

Yes, I’ll be ‘Keeping my Keys.’  I’ll continue living my very own life, in spite of everything that has happened and will happen.  I continue to live my life with purpose and passion that I’m not sure others could live this way if they had my life.  I only want my own life. 

Will you keep your own set of keys?  Perhaps you will not know the value of your keys until you no longer have them.

Until we meet again.

Keep smilin’,

Miss Mary ;-)  

Borrowed Time

From the distance of me walking into the tiny town’s post office, there was this familiar postal woman clerk who I remembered and chit chatted with from ten years ago.  She is standing in her familiar behind-the-counter spot.

Time is a funny and fascinating thing. The minutes only keep ticking forward, but it is as though some things and people never change.  Like this woman.  She looked exactly the same.  Not a change since ten years ago.  Same long blonde hair.  Same gold glasses perched on the end of her nose. Same hands that were hidden in blue latex gloves to handle the mail with care.

Time must have been so kind to her in these last ten years for her to look the same and have the same routine and steady job.

Or, so I thought.

However, when I walk up to the counter to hand her the light purple, I immediately noticed a great and grave difference.  The brightness in her blue-gray eyes is gone. Her smile that could warm up the coldest of winters is replaced with a hard straight line. Time had not been kind to her. Life has hurt her. When she confessed to me that her son had died early this year and was now resting in peace with her other son who died years ago, I wanted to knock down the counter in between us and envelope her in a big hug.

Then she said, “No more time left with them.  I wish I could have the time back with them.”

I was quite stunned by her openness in revealing the death of her sons and deep grief that had now seemed to made a home in her.  I wondered what would make this woman feel so comfortable to share with me.  It was probably because I shared with her that I was at my most vulnerable of recovering from this hysterectomy procedure that had took me by surprise and taken on a life of its own in these last couple of months of my own life. When we are at our most weakest, the greatest strength of sharing comes into play.

Most people who are told of such a tragedy as death immediately say, “I’m so sorry.” Then there is the silence that hangs awkwardly in the air and the struggle to change the subject begins.

Rather, I asked the woman, “You do not have to tell me about your son, but how did he die?”

The words came out of me. I wished I could take time back to take the words back.  What if I had made the grief that was clearly swimming in her ready to drown her?

She did not look shocked that I asked. In fact, there was a flicker of a light in her eyes when I inquired.  I call that light hope.  She said that it was a heart attack.  He was in his early 50’s.  It was completely unexpected. 

I told her that I wanted to give her a hug.  I wanted to tell her that, if I could, I would give her the time back.  Her firmly lined lips went into a small smile.

One of my other neighbors had also recently shared with me the value and preciousness of time. She is a mother of two young children.  She gave up her high-powered and full-time nurse managerial position for part-time and less pay just to be with her children.

She said to me while she was so generously vacuuming my floors that I could not do, “I can’t get this time back with them, Mary.
Pay me less money and give me more and all the time in the world and with my children and all the people I love.”

Many of my neighbors who were unfamiliar to me have suddenly jumped in so graciously to help me out with light household chores, cleaning, and grocery shopping that I’ve been struggling with.
They have been my saving graces as I try to readjust to my living alone and independent status that I’ve always taken pride in.
But, one of the struggles that no one is able to help me out with is my struggle with time.

I keep thinking of how I was physically stronger before the surgery, and when fatigue, abdominal pangs, and weakness were not even in my thought process. Sure, I know and believe that all of this will go away and that the worst parts and weeks are behind me and that I will be even stronger, because, as the saying goes “Time Heals All Wounds.” But, time keeps on ticking by with me contemplating to who I was, who I am becoming, and how all of these past days will lead to who I will eventually be.

I am in the 7th week of my surgical recovery.  The seven weeks have gone by in a blur.  In my mind, I was in the operating room yesterday, blinked my eyes, and here I am now over a month later.
How does time do that?  Within these seven weeks, I’ve gone back in time in the sanctuary of my parents’ home and reuniting with people I had not seen in years.  Yet, the minutes and moments have also just marched forward into the future to new people that I have met, new stories I have heard, and new people that I have forged a small friendship with.

To all my people from the past and all these unexpected people that were in my future who have played their special roles, I am now seeing that we are all just living on borrowed time. We wish to rewind and get back time or to stop time. Our time revolves around the people we love the most. Our time is money. Our time is precious.  We only give our time forward with what we choose to do with our time and who we choose to be with. We only give our time forward with every intent and hope to make the moments with ourselves and those we love magical and memorable. And, to me, the saddest thing is to keep planning and trying to fast forward time and to keep thinking of the future time that is only an unexplainable question mark. It is one thing to look forward to the future time, but it is another thing to keep calculating, planning, and trying to control the future.  Borrowed time is making the most of the time you have for the here and now.

How often have you felt when time stood still?  How often have you wanted to stop time to savor what or who changes or is there in our life? Or rewind time to make things right when everything went wrong? What if we were all just to live by the borrowed time that we have been given?  Wouldn’t we simply treasure this borrowed time all the more?

I’ve been counting the weeks since my surgery and discovery of the mass. I’ve been projecting into what will lie ahead after my surgery, such as returning to work and the logistics involved with this. I’ve been contemplating who I was. I’ve been thinking of all the people who have come across my way during this time. But, I haven’t been fulfilling or living my borrowed time. Perhaps the time to even try to start that is now.

Until we meet again.

Keep smilin’,
Miss Mary ;-)

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