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The "Wu Word" Blog

January 2017

Decisions

This past week, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life.  I knew the consequences of my decision would have profound long-term affects with my health, my livelihood, and even the people I love and care about.  
 
For me, the decision-making process has always been the most challenging, stressful, and anxiety-driven.  So painful is the process that I will try to rush it just to make a damn decision so I do not have to think anymore.  As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve realized that rushing leads to dire consequences that cannot be undone.  I’ve tried to go through the motions of the decision-making by reaching out to the logical rather than the emotional side to me.  Logical side kicks in with me making a pro and con list, weighing out the quality rather than the quantity of the positives and negatives, and taking all the details I’ve given to create and find the big picture.  All along as I am trying to make my decision, I hear my Dad’s sage advice: “Do not make long-term decisions on short-term emotions.” 
 
I can now count on only one hand the number of people I turn to during the decision-making process.  I know these select people have my best interest as they listen carefully and quietly, assess what I am facing and what I may endure based on my decision, and even help me with the facts and to make sure my logical side stays intact.  I surely still do turn to my parents when I am faced with these adult decisions, but I no longer ask them: “What do you think I should do?”  Rather, I present the facts to them and they respond with concurrence of the facts and add to them only to conclude, “Well, Mary, you always are going to do what you want to do.  It is your life.  You are a grown adult.  You make the decision.”  Yet, there is one hefty and strong side that I can never ignore and discount that gets even louder and bigger when I must make a decision: My intuition.  I rely heavily on my intuition to balance out with my logical side.
 
Gosh, do you ever feel like it was just so easy when we were kids?  We had the adults making decisions for us!   I did not have to think!  Yet, did these adults and especially parents know how their decisions would affect MY life or YOUR life?  Yes, isn’t that a thought about how the decisions we sometimes must make for others have such a significant affect?  When I reflect more, I do not want anyone making decisions for my life while I am of sound mind.  It is frightening and trapping to have others constantly make decisions for us when we must grow up into capable adults to support ourselves.  After all, we cannot rely on our parents forever.   As we grow up, they grow old. 
 
It is very difficult growing up and then growing old.  Growing up, life gets more difficult and so the decisions become more difficult.  Decisions also hold a different and much more intense meaning because we realize the consequences and their impact.   Did you ever wish there was a crystal ball or some kind of screen that could show you if you had made a different decision how your life would have played out?  I think the scariest thing about decisions is that we will never know if the decision was definitely right or wrong, but it was the best we could do at the time and for what the situation called for. 
 
The thing about me, though, is once I make a decision, I do not look back, regret, or dwell.  I make peace with my decision and propel forward that I made the best decision and did the best I could at the time.   I brace myself for whatever consequences play out from the decision I made.  Sure, I do wonder about the ‘alternate’ realities that I’ve mentioned before of how my life would have played out differently if I had made a different decision.  Do you ever look back even after you made a final decision? 
 
There is no doubt about it that the decisions we make affect our lives and others.  There are consequences to every decision.  There is a fine line of making and fulfilling a decision and not doing anything to see how everything will play out.  I do believe the consequences will speak volumes as to if the decision we made was the best as could be at the time.  
 
What was the first difficult decision you had to make on your own as an ‘adult’ and without turning to adult to tell you what to do? Have you ever had to make decisions for others?  How have the consequences played out and affected your life and others with the decisions you made? Was there ever a decision you made that you wish you could take back?  What is the most difficult decision you have had to make? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
 

Mary ;-) 

Freedom

I remember that it was always in 2nd homeroom period in high school when the crackle of the speaker perked up our ears and we immediately stood up with hand over heart, eyes tilted to the American flag, and we began to recite “The Pledge of the Allegiance.”  Not one person/student stumbled over the words.  Sure, we may have been tired and grumbled about school work and the teachers, but for that time that we stood up to salute the American flag and our country and say “The Pledge of Allegiance”, we were together.  We were united.  We were not divided. 
 
Recently, someone told me that “The Pledge of Allegiance” is no longer recited in schools.  Teachers out there, I implore if this is true and, if so, why is it the case that your school no longer has students recite “The Pledge of Allegiance”?  Do you remember saying the “Pledge of Allegiance” when you were growing up? 
 
I was completely shocked, and, especially, saddened when someone told me that the “Pledge of Allegiance” is no longer said in schools.  For, I was and am immensely proud to be ABC-American-Born Chinese.  The stories and experiences of China and Taiwan that my parents experienced are minimally shared and massively scattered.  All my father will say is, “I always think of ‘The American Dream’ where you reap the rewards and results from your hard work and efforts.  We are lucky to live in the United States of America.  You would probably be dead by now if we were still in China.  All those things you write about, Mary…you would probably be imprisoned.  In America, you think anything is possible. In America, you think of freedom.” 
 
I’ve been to mainland China one time in my life thus far.  That mainland China was the tourist area, and, yet, it was an eye-opening experience to me how lucky and blessed that I am that I was born in the U.S.A. and how much my parents sacrificed and had fought for freedom.  My parents did EVERYTHING on their own legally and without the help of family and friends.  They had to and did actually learn brand new languages, customs, cultures, and way of living and life.  All for freedom. 
 
Yes, freedom.  Freedom is a beautiful thing.  Freedom is also a scary thing.  There is a balance of freedom—too much freedom is not good as it teeters on entitlement to “I am free to have anything and everything I want” and too little freedom is not good as it teeters on suppression and oppression.  Freedom comes with a lot of responsibility, excitement, fear, and, most of all, prices.  Heavy prices, mind you.   There are heavy prices and weights of freedom that has even cost lives. 
Lately, I’ve been contemplating the prices of freedom and if people really are free and realize their freedom and how lucky they are to have it,
 
To me, freedom is NOT free.  There is a price to everything and anything.  There are sacrifices we do not see publicly but suffer privately for freedom.  We must work hard to reap benefits of what we earn rather than take free rides or free favors for what we perceive we are entitled to.  

What do you think entitlement is?  Do you think entitlement is an expectation?  What is the price of freedom?  Are you proud of the country you live in?  Do you think anyone is ever really free?
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
 
Mary ;-) 

Good Lies

My paternal grandmother is in her 90’s and counting.  She has her good days and bad days that mostly revolve around her mind as muddled as mud or as clear as day.  She has ‘lost’ two of her children.  One she knew about and was there to bury.  The other one is her youngest son that she does not know about. 
 
I think one of the worst devastations in life is when a parent loses a child.   Sometimes, I will think about this in reference to my second organ donor as a 4-year-old girl and how her parents ‘lost’ her.  ‘Loses’ and ‘Lost’ are used loosely to try to ward off the truth of buries or death of a child.   We think life should be a certain way that children should be spared suffering and sadness, that the death of a child supersedes in tragedy over a death of the old, and that parents naturally die before their children.  Life beats to its own beat. 
 
On the eve of my grandmother’s youngest son’s death, her mind was an odd combination of clear and muddled with a demand of knowing from all her children about her youngest son: “He hasn’t called me to wish me a ‘Merry Christmas.’  Where is he?”    
 
The questions and comments erupted: Do we tell her the truth about his death? What do we say?  How do we say it? 
 
I vocalized my thoughts, “She isn’t stupid.  Clearly, she knows something isn’t right.  The truth is going to come out and when it does, it is going to be bad.  Very bad.  It is going to be more of a betrayal pain along with the pain of her child’s death than solely the pain of her child’s death if she isn’t told the truth.” 
 
Someone said, “If I were in my 90’s and could not attend my child’s funeral, then maybe it is best for me to not know the truth.  I think it is okay to lie to spare people’s feelings, especially at grandma’s age.   If there isn’t any good to come out of saying something, then why say it?  There are good lies that people say all the time or truths that people do not even say for the greater good of the person and their feelings.” 
 
I asked out of curiosity: “What makes a lie good then?  Who decides and determines a lie is good if the person was never told the truth and lied to from the beginning?” 
 
No one could answer me.  As a child, I was always told that ‘honesty is the best policy.’  However, as I’m getting older, I see that the lines between truth and lies and fact and fiction can be very blurred when it comes to perceptions and preservation of certain people and of certain relationships with people.    As a child, I was a very bad liar.  The worst liar, in fact.  Everyone could see through me.  As relationships among family and outside of family has formed and grew in my life, I can honestly tell you that I am the ultimate secret keeper and will tell good lies for the sake of spared feelings, in the act and treatment of kindness over righteousness, and to preserve a person and a relationship.   I find that most people want to be told what they want to hear rather than told truth that could potentially enhance or shatter.  It all depends on the situation and the person AND especially how whatever truth is presented. 
 
As far as the determination of my grandmother being told the truth about her youngest son’s death, it will be told to her in the surrounding care, love, support, and gentleness of all of her children.   To be put in the position and place to present or keep truth holds a great responsibility and is daunting, challenging, and difficult with no concrete right or wrong or black and white.  ‘Good lies’ are sometimes what keep our spirits and strength above to go forward and far until the truth does come out and is spoken and shared. 
 
Is keeping a secret the same as subtly telling a lie?  Is telling a lie to make another feel good or to try to prevent pain a ‘bad’ thing?  Is not telling the truth or revealing or sharing the same as lying?  Is it ever ‘ok’ to lie?  Is there, indeed, good to ‘good lies’? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
  

Mary ;-) 

The Meaning of Death

“Would you want to live forever?”
 
This was the question that made its way into my mind when I was around 10 or 11-years-old upon reading the book “Tuck Everlasting.”  The book was about this family who drank certain water and ended up living forever and staying at their same physical exterior as the clock continued to tick tock.  Never growing old.  Never aging.   Forever fountain of youth.  Not a wrinkle.  Not a silver strand to pluck.  Never dying. 
 
That question caused ‘death’ to seep into my brain.  Not in a morbid way, mind you, but in a very curious way.  How could it be that we would be living, breathing, doing, and moving one day and then no longer here another day? What exactly was death?  What happens when we die?  Would you want to know when you will die, or when the people you love will die? 
 
The question of “Would I want to live forever?” and the asks and thoughts I had about life and death increased significantly when my first kidney transplant was failing and I waited for my second kidney transplant.  The understanding that someone’s death and decision to give a precious piece of their living and pumping kidney organ to be placed into my body was astounding to me.  Full of every emotion a human could ever experience.  A death.  A life. A miracle in the making. A gift of life that I treasure every single day that I am still alive above ground. 
 
My understanding of death has changed significantly from that prepubescent girl during those days of “Tuck Everlasting” and waiting for my second kidney transplant.  As we grow older, we end up attending more funerals than birthdays.  As we age, death holds a very different meaning and significance that makes us reflect on the mortality of ourselves and those we love.  Death does not discriminate.  Death can happen any time.  It can be a long suffering and road.  It can be sudden and shocking, shaking and rattling us.  There are sudden and unexpected death where loved ones did not have to see suffering, yet also did not have the chance to say “Good-Bye” and “I Love Yous” versus exposure to a long and suffering death where loved ones do get the chance to say “Good-Bye” and “I Love You”—which is better?  I have experienced both and all I can say is that the greatness of suffering is it illicit and draws out the deepest compassion and kindness that lies in the core of us.   
 
2016 ended with the suffering and sudden death of a dear family member and 2017 has already kicked off with the shocking death of a friend.  We have all experienced death of loved ones and exposed to sudden deaths and suffering deaths.  We have all been told: “Life is short.  Live it like it is your last day.”  We have all questioned what death exactly is and, I honestly think the majority of people fear death as this is the great unknown that each of us must encounter and endure alone.  For me, I know if I were to die tomorrow, I would be happy with how I have lived my life.  Maybe these are the greatest meanings of death and the end—to make your own beginnings in the limited time we are here on earth, say and show people you love them, enjoy the gift of aging to gain great wisdom and insight, and embrace and live life for EVERY life is extremely precious, and that just because someone is not physically here with us does not mean they are any less not here in our hearts and spirits that we hold so dear to us.  Would you be happy with how you have lived your life if you died tomorrow?  What do you think is the meaning of death? 
 
How did you find out about death?  How old were you when you learned about death?  Have you ever thought about what this world would have been like if you had never been born or existed and is this same as death?  Would you want to live forever? 

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
  
Mary ;-)  
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