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The "Wu Word" Blog

May 2016

Checkmate

“Do you know how to play chess?”
 
I had to be around 9 or 10-years-old.  I was wary.  This question was from my first and closest childhood friends who always pulled me on some new adventure and to some mystical land that ignited fear, excitement, and curiosity.  With her, I tried buttered lobster for the first time, drank chalky bright pink Pepto Bismol after overeating junk food, rode in a bright fire engine red convertible with hands up and then had to stumble out of the car to puke, and sunk in the water after she shoved me in because she said: “The only way to learn how to swim is if I push you in.  You sink.  Or, you swim.”   

I sunk.  Nearly drowned.  Her stepfather had to drag me out of the pool sopping wet, shaking, and sobbing. 
 
She was a mean-spirited bully, but I clung on to her because she treated me like I was just like everyone else and not ‘different’ because of my health challenges that hung over me.  She brought out a rush and risky rebel in me to see if I could survive and be the best in the worst circumstances she threw at me.  It was always dares rather than truths with her.  
 
She protectively cradled a deep and rich brown board with squares.  Gingerly, she laid it on the table and placed the intricately carved pieces on each square.  The pieces were beautiful works of art.   The only piece that was recognizable was what looked like a horse.
 
“No,” I responded, “How do you play?”
 
“I’m not really sure, but my stepfather says it is the game of the minds.  This is his chess set.”
 
I paused and looked around her parents’ room.  Her parents were often nowhere to be found and her grandfather seemed to be the one to take care of everyone and everything.  “Are we allowed to be in here?”
 
She stared at me like I was stupid, and then taunted me, “We are just learning a new game.  What are you scared of? ” 
 
I met her gaze and simply said, “Nothing.  I’m not scared of anything.”  
 
That day, I never learned how to play chess. But, I was hooked.  I wanted to learn.  What was this game?  How could one game that my friend introduced me to enthrall me so? How could 64 squares and 16 pieces pose such a challenge with the desire to be conquered for hours on end?
 
Fast forward to the last couple of years to new and real ‘friends’ in fulfillment and not only title who finally taught me the basic moves of chess.  I was grateful and hopeful that I would finally win one game.  Just one game. That’s all I asked for.  Time and time again, they beat me.  “Checkmate!” was crowd with exuberance.  Out of all the board and card games that I had learned and eventually won, I could not win a chess match.  I did not even know why I wanted so badly to win.  I was not a competitive person, but I certainly liked to be challenged and especially challenge myself. 
 
Well, this past week, I finally resorted to a chess club that I happened to discover at one of the local libraries.  Four gentlemen that ranged from ages 30-70 looked at me with intrigue when I walked in and sat down to watch with intent and intrigue at them playing chess.  They were playing “blitz chess,” meaning that they only had 10 minutes to make a move. The pressure was on.  Their eyes, hands, fingers, and, most of all, minds zipped at lightning speed as each perfectly and beautifully carved chess piece was moved.
 
Barely looking at me, each gentleman told me their views on chess: 
 
§  “Chess is like life.  In a battle or when threatened, you are forced to make a move to defend, protect, offend, retreat, or, most of all, sacrifice, for the greater good.” 
 
§  “Chess is like a dance.  The board is the dance floor.  The pieces are the people.  Make sure all your pieces of moving.  Make sure all your pieces or active and dancing.” 
 
§  “The most important pieces that we do not give credit to are the pawns.  They mean EVERYTHING at the endgame.” 
 
I was exhilarated, curious, and scared to even try to play chess with one of these gentlemen.  They were clearly highly advanced.  An 8-year-old girl who had competed in tournaments ended up playing a match again me.   Her nails were a midnight sparkly blue and she chewed loudly on pink wads of bubble gum.  She ended up letting me win.
 
I heard my childhood ‘friend’ taunt me in my mind as I silently observed these gentleman in their chess dance and ensued in my chess match with this 8-year-old girl:  “What are you scared of?” 
 
Thinking of her made me think of other people in my life who had hurt or challenged me and, most of all, how I had responded.   This goes for all of us.  There are people who come into our lives who challenge, dare, and even hurt us, forcing a response.  People and their words and actions will make you cry, feel like you are less than and as though you will break, question, and maybe even believe all the belittling.  We crave and learn from the kindness of others, but we learn just as much and more from the ‘bad’ role models and about ourselves with how we respond.  There are the people in life who test us with the worst to find a way to be the best.   Who has hurt you to have to rise above and play the game of life just like the game of chess of ongoing learning, defending, moving, retreating, or fighting?  How have you responded/reacted? Do you retreat and hide?  Do you confront to conquer? 
 
Life is a game.  Make your move.  Checkmate.
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
  

Mary ;-) 

Stuff

In about June 1995 and about two months shy of my official 13-year-old official crowning teenage milestone, I had a rejection of my second kidney transplant. Just when I had hoped and believed that everything in my life was maybe back on track, all came crashing down.  Leading up to my second kidney transplant, everything seemed to have gone wrong.  My health problems were at its worst with me on crutches and using a wheelchair as needed and I was on the roller coaster ride of ready to confront my fear of living my life on a machine that my first kidney transplant could no longer live up to.  My family had fallen apart: my mom had left by then, my sister was at college and a complete stranger to me, my Dad was juggling the single parent role, and the introduction of a new woman that my Dad was befriending was slowly coming into our lives (this lady would later be my Stepmom).  The rejection was the final straw that broke the camel’s back, and I was too self-centered and self-absorbed to even find the beauty and blessings in receiving the gift of life of my second kidney transplant that I was sure I was on the brink of losing.  So, I did what any prepubescent puberty-induced preteen did. 
 
I completely and utterly lost it. 
 
Not in the way that you would probably think.  Rather than scream, cry, and go hysterical with explosive angsty teenage anger, I went numb.  I had nothing left in me.  I hit complete rock bottom.  Fury brewed and boiled furiously inside me on the edge of explosion because all I could hear in this dark abyss of a place that thumped mentally torturously at me was: “Why me?”
 
I think all of us, at some point or another (and multiple points at that), reach the very end of our rope, wander lost, and even enter a dark places in our life where we fight and struggle to dig our way out and be free again.  Anger is one letter short of danger.  Despair and depression are drowning.  The mind and the depths of you can be your best friend, worst enemy, and pulverizing bully.  I was convinced that I had all the problems in the world.  No one cared.  No one’s problems could compare. 

After a week of heavy steroids and infusions, my second kidney transplant had survived and has thrived for 21 years and counting.   In all these years that I’ve been blessed to have these baby beanies, I’ve seen how life appears for the majority:  the marriage, the children, the well-paid job, the grandchildren, retirement, a house, and what seems to be the rather routine daily monotonies. The health problems typically come for the later and the older instead of for the younger and even youngest as it was for me.  There have been many times that I have wistfully stood on the sidelines as the minority I know I am, feeling that the grass was greener on the other side and wishing for the surfaced simplicity of the majority.  The simple things that people take for granted and seem to have so effortlessly, I have always somewhere deep inside wanted.  Like learning to ride a bike.  Like falling in love.  Like belonging and even getting in a little bit of trouble when I was a teenager.  I will never have a baby shower.  All these majority milestones, I will not have.  I’ve accepted and welcomed that there is a different calling, plan, and purpose for me and that, somewhere along these 21 years, I’ve realized that underneath the surface, people have stuff.  Lots of stuff.  Heavy baggage.  Multiple matching sets of baggage.  Perhaps even owning all the conveyer belts of the entire baggage claim department in an airport.  Yes, there will always be those who SEEM to have it better.  Then, there is always someone who has it bad.  Finally, there is always someone who has it even worse. 
 
I was given a great gift upon this realization: Gratitude.  Gratitude for everything and everyone I was blessed with that can be gone.  Life is like that, you know.  Life can be going as smooth sailing as ever when, suddenly, there will be brutal storms only to turn everything upside down.  Just like that.  Blink of an eye.  Drop of a hat.  Life is a journey and it takes those wicked storms and darkest of times to climb out of to be free and happy that is found within and not from anyone or anything. 
 
People would never guess about the miserable, negative, and selfish person I was.  People would never guess about the wistful wishes I have to be like the majority every now and then.  People see me as the positive and perky with a bright smile on my face.  This is because people do not really know my ‘stuff’ until they get to know me and how all that ‘stuff’ brought me to who I am now and will be.  That is because we never really reveal our ‘stuff’ until we are at a place of complete trust and comfort with another.  Everyone seems ‘normal’ until you really get to know someone and their ‘stuff.’ 
 
Everyone has crosses to bear, battles to fight, and experiences encountered and endured that it is not our place to judge, blame, or assume the worst.  While it may always look on the surface that someone has it better and that we may even want and wish for what this someone has, we never know what lies beneath.   We all have ‘stuff.’  We all go through ‘stuff.’ We do not see the stuff on the outside, nor will we ever feel what the other is going through on the inside.  Maybe we will never see them.  Life is not and never for the weak. What on the surface have you seen in others that you perhaps wanted because that ‘stuff’ seemed simple?  What is YOUR ‘stuff’?  
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
 
  

Mary ;-) 

Truth

In the last few months, the majority of my dreams are about houses, rooms, opulent and ornate home decorations, and, most of all, furniture that I am rearranging only for the furniture to return to the placement that I was dissatisfied with in the beginning.  Anyone who knows me even the slightest knows how intrigued and enamored I am with the sleeping time dream world left for interpretation when awake as well as making the literal dreams and goals I have in my mind a reality. 
 
Well, last night, I had yet another dream about houses and furniture and, in particular, a pale blue soft sofa with faded pink and white lily prints.   This was a real couch from when I was a little girl.  I remember my tiny feet sinking into the sofa when I tried to stand up tall and without falling to sing into my yellow toy microphone when I was a little girl.  I woke up remembering that couch and then thinking of my mother. 
 
That simple pale blue sofa was the first out of many household items that my mother had removed and took with her when she walked out the door on our family.  I still remember walking into a nearly empty home with all the familiar furniture that I grew up with all gone.   
 
I cried to my dad: “Why did she have to take everything when she was leaving everything and everyone?” 
 
Of course, my dad did not have an answer.  Of course, my mother was gone.  The thing is that furniture can be replaced.  People cannot.  Especially your own mother. 
 
A couple years after my mother left, I finally bluntly asked my mother these three burning questions: “Why did you take everything like the furniture with you?  Why did you leave?  Why did you have an affair?”
 
Without missing a beat, she gave me one answer to three questions, “The devil made me do it.”
 
It was right then and there I made an internal decision and promise about truth versus lies: “I would tell and receive truth no matter how much it may hurt, because I rather the real that contains hurt and pain than the false to feel good and only be lied to.”
 
Fast forward to over twenty years later when my half-sister gazed at me with her big brown eyes and asked me: “What happened with mom and you?  I want to know the truth someday.  I have a right to know.” 
 
Truth?   Where would I start?  Where could I possibly begin?  Did she really have the right to know, and was it me that had to tell her?   I could have told her every single truth that came from lies.  I could have told her everything.  And, I do mean EVERYTHING.  But, when I looked at her so vulnerable and innocent, I saw myself when I was a little girl asking my parents about truth from their mistakes and from lies, and felt this strange sense of a protective pull in me.  I did not have the right nor was it my responsibility to crush her and, even worse, her relationship with our mother.  It would not be right of me to hurt her, no matter how much I had been hurt by our mother.  It was not my place to tell her the truth.
 
So, I told her that and then concluded, “If a truth is meant to come out then it will.” 
 
Who I was when I was 10-years-old about telling the truth no matter how much it hurt to the people I loved the most is now who I am becoming through what I am learning about truth and lies.  Over the years, I have had a roller coaster ride of experiences that have put me in places of unasked and unwanted truths and lies to myself as well as to the people I love and care about.   Reactions to my honest opinions have been that I am a human frying pan or blunt thumbtack, resulting in my own understanding that people usually want to hear what they want to hear and not listen to the truth because it hurts too much.  I’ve learned in life with people to not to share your ‘truthful’ opinion until you are asked and most wish for a sounding board and to be listened to without judgment and with an open mind and ears.  I also think that people most often know the truth but it is too hard to face it, say it, digest it, and, especially, accept it and be true to yourself.
 
Over twenty years later and my determination about truth versus lies is that it is more important to be kind than to be right—even if that means withholding the truth for the greater good.  If nothing good is to come out from the truth and there will only be hurt and harm, then what is the point to telling the truth?  Have you ever been in this situation of the weight of the world on you and keeping quiet to try to be the better and bigger person for that greater good? 
 
‘Truth’ possess many different perceptions and angles.   What is your truth may not necessarily be the truth of another.  Do we see our truth as we want it?  Or do we see truth as it really is?  When do we actually tell the ‘truth’?  Do we tell ONLY when asked for it?   What truths have you had to face and tell others, or, even harder, perhaps keep to yourself for the greater good?  Is NOT telling the truth the same as lying?  Are lies ever OK?   

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
 
  

Mary ;-) 
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