The "Wu Word" Blog
“Where does it hurt?”
I sighed with defeat.
My naked back faced one
of my closest friends. I stared straight
ahead at pictures of my family and friends laughing with mouths wide open,
closed eyes, blowfish cheeks, and crinkled happy lines on their faces. I could not help but smile at all these
photos that captured such joy. The
familiar, pungent scent of IcyHot and BenGay wafted to my nostrils. Slowly and methodically, she gently laid her
hand on my back that immediately tensed and then fell into relief once her
fingers rubbed the minty menthol cold heat cream into my skin. The only people I allowed to touch my
revealed back were a masseuse, my father, my sister, and healthcare
professionals. I had always been able rub in the numbing
cream myself, but now I could not because of how stubborn my body was in
hindering me in this simple act that would provide the most relief. I rarely ever ask for help. It was a lot for me to finally ask my friends
for this small pain relieving gesture that meant to most to me—not only in the
action of rubbing the cream into my aching and painful body, but mostly in me
showing and sharing my weak and vulnerable sides to say this: “I cannot do it
all. I need help.”
My friends happily agreed. My family would volunteer before I could
ask. Their touch soothed me. Their hands comforted me. Their care for me warmed me to the very
core. It is a very intimate and close
feeling to have someone you trust reach out as contact on and to your skin to
let you know that although you feel all alone, you really are not alone. The relief is instant. The connection is immediate. My gratitude is immense and immeasurable—it is
always the littlest things that move us the most. Pain is undefined and consists of synonyms:
prickly, burning, achy, sore, electrical shocks, etc. For many people, they can pop in pain pills. For me, I can’t. So, I have come to depend on the hands of mainly
my family, my osteopath, and few friends. For the past 2 weeks, my body had convulsed into muscle spasms and 'stuck' and pressing pain. I had never had spasms or strain last this long and they seem to last all the longer when all you experience is pain. I breathed a sigh of relief at
the temporarily dissipating pain from the ointment. My body was happy
I often have
conversations with my body. Not that my
body can talk back or speak the roots of what ails it. So, I talk aloud and loudly to my body with
only my body speaking in volumes with how highly sensitive it is. 34 years of being in my body and I’ve concluded: I have a body of probably someone in their 60’s,
mentality even older, and spirit the youngest of all.
If I were to talk to
my body, I would say: “What are you trying to tell me?? You’re really pissing me off! Please chill out and keep up with me enjoying
and partying up life!”
If my body were to
talk to me, it would seriously snap back to me: “You are the craziest chick
that I have to house! Listen to me and
My body, senses, and
skin were always extremely sensitive that has mostly revolved around pain. Definitely more sensitive than the average
person. My father says my body is always
on extra high alert as a means to protect me after so many traumas and changes from
surgeries, recovery, and rehabilitation. Pain can only be felt with strange
sensations in what lies underneath the skin.
Our bodies and the skin are only a protective outer shell that is
mysterious, mystifying, and miraculous.
My body and the skin I’ve been in has definitely reminded me time and
time again that I am only human, full of limitations turned to strengths and of
impatience requiring patience. I need to be slow and steady rather than unnecessarily
speedy. As I have chronologically aged and thankful
to being another day older above my ground, my body has become increasingly
hyper sensitive to my zest for life and me being the overly active participant
in my life. Yet, isn’t it more than
interesting that we are born into one body as a protective and outer shell that
naturally, eventually, and biologically ages and with increasing life
experiences that can bring us down and lift us up? Isn’t it even more interesting that we develop
a thicker skin and end up with more layers of ourselves from life than we could
have ever imagined?
The bodies we are
born into and the skin we are in becomes stronger and thicker when we push the
boundaries of our bodies, but it is critical to carefully listen to the
limitations. What physical aches and
pains and obstacles and hurdles have you had to overcome? Are you like me that your cautious physical
body can’t keep up with your racing mind?
If your body and you could have a conversation, what would you say? What would your body say to you?
Keep smilin’ until we meet
“I think I was meant
to meet you,” she declared.
A curled American
red, white, and blue flag in the corner and a large crucifix in the backdrop framed her face of
clarity and certainty. She said it with
such conviction that I felt humbled, startled, and bewildered with a slight chill
that went up my spine and made the hairs on my arms stand up.
No one had ever said
this to me. I did not know what to say.
I had just finished playing
on “Hardy” (my beloved nickname for the abandoned piano I have escaped to and
practice on in the last 4 months) at the Parish hall at one of the local
churches. No one had heard me strike or
play a key until now when this woman and her husband walked in on me practicing
“Ode to Joy” by Beethoven and complimenting me on my extremely novice musical
skills. I felt revealed, invaded, and
suddenly very bashful that strangers had heard me playing the piano.
She seemed to not
take notice on my shyness and continued, “God put us here in this room and this
time for us to meet."
"Okay," I said slowly, eyeing the EXIT sign.
"Let me explain. My husband and I
are here just checking on the layout of this Parish hall because we are going to
be hosting a weekly seminar on ‘The Meaning of Life’.”
Without missing a
beat, I said, “Well, I think I know the meaning of life.”
She looked at me
intrigued and as though she was trying to make sense of me, “What?”
“To Live it,” I said
Her eyes glittered
and she broke into a warm and wide smile.
“You would be perfect for this!”
I wanted to say to
her that the meaning and priceless value of life that we come to appreciate is when
we experience life in all its sharpest and darkest of points alongside its most
beautiful and finest of plateaus that create a mosaic of us from all our
shattered shards. But, I didn’t say anything.
She exclaimed, “This
will all be about faith, Christ, and discussions on the meaning of life. And,” she paused for a dramatic flair, ”There
will be a free dinner.”
I was sold.
On a quiet and calm
Sunday evening, I traipsed to the very first session on “The Meaning of Life.” After a hearty and filling dinner of lasagna
drenched in sauce and a small salad, a DVD was popped in where random strangers
in the New York City streets were asked: “What do you think is the meaning of
life?” Most responses were stumped and
speechless. Some were full of clarity
and certainty. All responses were varied
and prompted a discussion I had with bunch of strangers I met that night on the
meaning to life AND if there really is a purpose and meaning to everything and
everyone we encounter and endure. I left
that night with one sure thing: We, as humans, are flawed, struggle, forever
works in progress, and end up living with more questions than answers as “What
is the purpose of MY life in world of billions of people? What is the meaning of MY life?”
The first time I
asked “What is the purpose in MY life?” was when I recovered from my second
kidney transplant rejection at 12-years-old.
It was the death of my second donor who was only 4-years-old who made
me question this. I was convinced that I
had to be given this second chance for a reason. I was certain that my purpose was to help
others, be as a good of a person as possible, and life my life to the fullest
every single day because me living my life was being and living the legacy of
both of my donors.
At the seminar, one
of the participants said: “I think your meaning of life and the views on the
meaning of life change at different stages and ages of your life.”
I could not agree
more with this. Who I am now in my 30’s is
very different from who I was when I was a 12-years-old, but the very cores of
me have remained true to live my life by doing good for others and being
good. Being and doing good daily is
difficult when there are so many temptations from the outside material world
and the inside turmoil demons that are great obstacles. It’s funny how life can be so routine and
simple every day, but then laced with so many little things that end up being
big moments that make up our lives and who we are. I believe there is a reason for everything we
endure and everyone we encounter from all those little pieces that make up the
greater picture. I do not think anything
that happens or anyone we meet is an accident or a coincidence.
My Dad recently said
to me that sometimes there isn’t a reason for things that happen in life. More often than not, I can find a hidden
meaning, reason, and lesson behind everything in life, but, sometimes, I am
simply stumped with more questions than answers. Maybe the answer and reason to these
unanswered experiences is to be at peace with these experiences that do not
have anything solid to make us more fluid beings.
Sometimes when I am
down and really struggling with the fact that there are no shortcuts, I think
back to all the times the dots in my life seemed so disconnected and realize
how they all somehow connected to who I am and where I am now and going
forward. Do you ever look back on your life to all the
dots that seemed so disconnected to learn without any shortcuts how they
somehow all connected to where you are right here and now in this very moment
Do you think
everything and everyone has a purpose in their own lives as well as in our
lives? Do you there may be absolutely no
reason at all and there are just accidents or coincidences in life? What about fate and destiny? What do you
think the meaning of life is?
For now, I hold true
to my definition on the meaning of life: LIVE IT.
Keep smilin’ until we
“OK, this is what you
do,” my Stepmom instructed.
We stood side by side
over the increasingly hot stove. On the
stove was one single pot. In one hand
was Canola oil that she carefully poured oil into the pot until it coated the
bottom. She took the bag of tiny popcorn
kernels and sprinkled just enough to sink lazily into the oil. Over the covered pot, we watched the oil
hiss, fizz, and bubble until the kernels began to slowly and then rapidly pop
magically into crunchy and crisp popcorn kernels.
Pop, Pop, Pop went the innocent
kernels now transformed into actual popcorn.
To finish it off, she
sprinkled some salt over a bowl of the most fresh and tastiest popcorn I ever
had. Magic! Fresh and homemade popcorn right off the
I was over the moon
thrilled and excited. “I can’t believe
you can make your own popcorn! Forget
Orville Redenbacher!!” I exclaimed gleefully.
Over the years and
all thanks to my Stepmom as the ultimate popcorn instructor, I have perfected
my popcorn with ghee, sunflower seed oil, parmesan cheese, and Himalayan pink
sea salt. My family and friends clamor
for my signature popcorn. My sister
claims in between mouthfuls of popcorn: “You gotta sell this stuff!” One Christmas, I even received two popcorn
makers because of my transparent love affair with popcorn!
Popcorn has always been
my ultimate favorite snack. Particularly
when I was on the road to recovery and had to endure pain, procedures, and,
especially, prodding from needles.
I know my needles
well. Not because I’m some drug addict (some
may beg to differ with the amount of pills I pop in my mouth daily to keep the
kidney beanie babies going), but, because, needles have always been in my
life. I can tell you all the types, sizes,
shapes, vials, and can immediately recognize a good straight shooter and even the
amount of experience the blood drawer has had with blood extraction or IV
input. I love butterfly needles with
green wings and am rather indifferent about the longer in length needles
attached to syringes.
I know my veins even
better. I can brag to you about my best
veins, show you the kind of pumped up winning fist you need to make for the
veins to pop out, and advise the amount of days you need to wait before your
next blood draw or IV input if that’s possible.
I’ve had my blood splatter over and shoot out. I’ve had nurses and lab techs stab and jab
the needle so far in that I start to squirm and curse. Big welts and bruises as a result of veins that
blew from those that did not know any better.
I’ve had healthcare professionals blame my veins spouting: “Oh, so you
have bad veins…” I retort rather passive
aggressively, “No, no one has had problems before.” I have even refused a phlebotomist to draw my
blood before because he did not wear gloves or cleanse my arm with an alcohol
pad, resulting in a needle with direct contact and without any sterilization to
Needles that pricked my
fingers and injected in my back are not fun, but I hate the needles in my belly
the absolute most. You would think with such good cushioning and
padding that I possess that the needles would not bother, but they hurt like
hell for me. After my hip replacement
surgery, I had to get needles in my belly to prevent possible blood clots. My Dad knew how much I hated them and made a
deal with me like I was a little girl again: “After you get your needle in your
belly, you get a stack of Pringles potato chips.”
My eyes lit up with
joy. Oooh…a stack of Pringles potato
chips! My fave! As the number of needles went into my belly
and the number of bruises increased to the point that the nurses were not sure
where to stick the next needle, I focused on my stack of Pringles potato
chips. I could not help but smile at the
memories of when I was a little girl receiving saccharine crystal clear
rainbow-colored lollipops that I sucked on jovially and lifted my band-aid arm
in a warrior Wu pose. I was such a
spoiled brat, conditioned to receive a little goodie after the needle punctured
my vein and withdrew my crimson blood and on my road to recovery.
However, it is
popcorn that I have the ultimate love affair with as my reward and all around
snack. I have a special place for it
because it was the snack that bonded and brought my Stepmom and me close
together. The crunch, the crisp, and the almost alien head contortions….yes, It
is the ONLY snack I think about as my reward when I am on my road to recovery and
for all the pain from needles, tests, procedures, and whatever else that is
endured because of this one reason: Popcorn fascinates me that when under hot
oil and flames and fire, the tiny and innocent looking kernels burst into
something so tasty and yummy. What has
been your ‘reward’ on the road to recovery?
Have you ever eventually burst so much from pain and pressure that it
made you full of clarity and understanding?
That it made you better than rather bitter?
I think we all need a
little bit of heat, pain, pressure, and even fire to fuel us to be better and
to stronger. It is only from pain that
we learn about strength, character, faith, and about savoring the good and
enjoyment in that certain time and place.
I always say to people and I stay true to this that I am immensely
grateful for pain for telling us our limitations while teaching us to push
boundaries. We all experience places of severe pain that it is up to us to bloom
with the better or blame with the bitter. We all have to be at a certain place at a
certain time and we all need to be kind, gentle, and patient to ourselves
during these times that are filled with more asks than answers.
Do you think pain and
pressure are actually necessary in life to grow and even remove ourselves out
of our comfort zone? When you are under
extreme heat, do you fly and form from a kernel into a crispy and crunchy
Keep on poppin' and let the tiny become mighty! :-)
Keep smilin’ until we meet
“You have a lot of
stuff going on,” the emergency room doctor announced to my father and me.
He was rather
good-looking in a gruff, sarcastic, and dry way with slicked back dishwater
blonde hair that was losing its hair gel glue so strands of his hair fell to
the side to his side burns. He could maybe, just maybe, pass for a doctor
actor on some soap opera, I thought to myself.
It was just another
Friday night. I just happened to be in
the emergency room. I must admit this was
not my usual Friday excursion. My usual
was gallivanting with friends for a delicious dinner (it always comes down to
food for me) or lounging in my apartment munching on popcorn and watching
movies. I had been in the emergency room
for over 8 hours—more hours of sleep that I get in a day. I had intense nausea, every urge to puke my
guts out, and flaring and screaming back pain.
I had IV fluids going in the crook of my left arm and had undergone the
drawing of vials of blood, a CT scan, and an x-ray. All in all, a probably most memorable and
party-filled Friday in comparison to all my other Fridays.
I looked at the
emergency room doctor without a hint of surprise. There was nothing he could say to shock me.
grade fever, compression fractures, abdominal free fluid, and urinary tract
infection,” he proclaimed.
He did not even take
a breath when he spouted all of those out.
As for me, in the midst of my fog, I could not help but think what
It started with a
The headset for work was
to arrive over a month ago. Two weeks
after the headset was ordered, my body began gnawing at me with discomfort. I’m
accustomed to daily bodily aches and soreness and have come to appreciate these
to tell me that I’m still alive and kicking, for not feeling any hurt or pain
means that I am dead. I dutifully continued
to follow-up with only little to no regard as a response as my body slowly
began to turn on me and rebel from gnawing to then talking to then shouting to
finally screaming and throwing a massive temper tantrum for me to end up in the
Out of all the findings
that good-looking emergency room doctor announced, I was shocked about the
spinal compression fractures and urinary tract infection. The abdominal free fluid was a bit
disconcerting, but not too terribly surprising since I was monitoring cysts
since the hysterectomy. It had been ages
since I had a urinary tract infection.
What the heck were these compression fractures? The
irony of this all was just weeks ago, my aunt just had surgery for compression
fractures. Out of every single person in
my family, my aunt and I were the most eerily body similar when it came to our
disjointed joints, rebellious and finicky bodies, and high tolerance for pain.
When the body is in
distress, the fight or flight is ignited.
For me, the fighter in me rises up over the flight. Suddenly, all the stress about work and a
stupid headset meant little to nothing to me.
Abruptly, the mantra I hold strongly to that “there is nothing more
important than health” was shoved to the very forefront. Therefore, this past week was one doctor
appointment after another, another vein punctured after another to draw vials
of blood, multiple radiology scans, dealing with continued nausea and a poor
appetite (completely unlike the foodie in me), struggling to walk, feeling
lethargic and run down, and clutching my burning and aching back and abdominal
areas in a natural inclination to protect my angry body.
How could something as
simple and small as a silly headset turn so complicated and colossal? How is it that the littlest things can be
blown out of proportion starting in our mind to then fallen pieces like dominos
that clash and collide into one another?
When has this happened to you?
In the midst of exhaustion,
frustration, and trepidation, I am feeling something that probably scares and
startles me more than anything else: Infuriation.
Infuriation at me for
not taking care of myself sooner.
Infuriation at people who made broken promises and do not acknowledge
(aka: Do not care). Infuriation at the amount of paperwork that creates increasing
barriers and broken bridges. Infuriation
at my overly persnickety body.
Infuriation at systems that are full of bureaucracy and are becoming
exceedingly cumbersome and even corrupt.
Healthcare is massively different now than years ago with it becoming
more and more corporate than care.
For the first time,
my idealism is being punctured and perhaps even a bit pulverized. I always believed in seeing the good in
people and situations. I always believed
that what goes around comes around. I
always believed in good. I had believed
that a silly and stupid headset was going to be delivered and that the
managerial staff cared just as much about my health as all my past managers had
when I underwent my hip replacement surgery and then hysterectomy.
For as long as I
could remember, my Dad said that I was an idealist: “You believe in fair,
justice, and that things and people should be a certain way, but life and the
world does not work out this way. No
perfect world. No perfect person.”
My friends say to me:
“Look, you can’t expect anything from anyone.
When you start to expect, you start to think you are entitled. You can only hope from people. It’s sad, but the good that comes out of it
is that when you do not expect anything from anyone then you are surprised when
they deliver and do more than you could ever imagine. There are evil people in this world. There are people who do not care. You have to accept that they do not care,
care about yourself, and move on.”
It is very easy for
me to play the blame game and point fingers at others at work and even more for
not acting upon their spoken words, but where does blaming actually get
anyone? Where does anger actually take
us that can be anywhere good and only in the bad and even danger zones? It is easy for me to rewind in my mind to
when I was younger and people gave me lots of passes and went out of their way
to take care of me professionally and personally. It would be easy for me to feel entitled and say
that I’m disabled and not work and give in and become all my health challenges
rather than rise above them. It is easy
for me to believe and say that I deserve good results when I work hard to earn
my keep. It is very hard for me to look
at myself and now question my positive perspectives that I always held on to that
if you do good and are good then everything will be okay and good. It is even harder for me to ingest and digest
this latest wake up call of my health to a loud and booming wake up call of flickering
and changing colors of new perspectives that kindness can actually be seen as a
weakness, good does not always overcome the bad, and what we believe should happen does not
happen. I also cannot help but ask
unanswerable questions as why certain people seem to live an un-ordinary and unpredictably
unique life of ongoing challenges while other seemingly live a much more quiet
and predictable life of marriage, children, and work. It is hard to deal with the real without
becoming jaded, suspicious, angry, and mistrustful of others and of life. It is hard to balance this all.
As I sit here with a
burning and aching back that is now forcing me to get up more frequently than
ever, I cannot help but ask such even more burning questions from this wake up
call as: What is the difference between expectation and hope? How can we hold on to the balance of idealism
and realism without giving in to cynicism of people, situations, and the world
we live in?
I tried to explain to
one of my friends that expectation is measurable while such beauty as hope and faith
are not but felt in the depths of us to not give up on ourselves and on people
no matter how ugly and easy it is to give up on idealism rather than stay up
when realism hits. I drank in the words
of my friends that everyone wants everything to be free now and feels that they
are entitled rather than earning their keep, but freedom comes at a heavy
price. Essentially, nothing is for
free. Most of all, I’m thinking the
answer to all of my questions is gratitude.
Great gratitude when the good happens and even greater gratitude when
the bad happens to put in new perspectives and lessons learned. We learn much more and appreciate much more from
the bad, the mistakes, the chaos, the hurt, and the pain. We recognizing and appreciate the select few
earth angels that remind us of the kind and the strength of kindness over the
weakness of meanness. We work to embrace
our wake up calls that are filled with life experiences, questions, and new
Are you an idealist
or realist? Can realism and questioning
idealism cause cynicism? Have you become
more jaded and cynical of people? What
is the difference between expectations and hope? When have your perspectives and values been
questioned to not necessarily negativity but to realism? When was and what was your wake up call?
Keep smilin’ until we meet