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The "Wu Word" Blog

April 2017

Charity Case

 ‘Work’ was always a centerpiece and basic value in the Wu household with the simple mantra of: “Work Hard to Reap the Benefits.” 
 
My father has worked pretty much his whole life ranging from a Chinese kitchen, a lumberyard, and, finally, a professor.  My father held down multiple jobs when raising my sister and me alone.  My sister started working and moved out of the country straight out of college with the appearance of working the glitzy wanderlust life of a journalist.  Me?  I never knew what I wanted to do with my life.  I always had a curious nature with so many interests.   I was easily fascinated and in awe with the little that meant the most.  All I knew was I had to be a Wu and work AND work hard.  I purposefully graduated a semester early to get a head start working as I was always one for the hands-on and outside class experiences rather than listening to lectures inside the classroom. 
 
When I was let go from my first full-time job and struggled to find work again, I learned that there was a possibility that I could NOT work at all and collect disability because of my chronic kidney failure and health issues.  It was tempting and I wondered: Well, life is hard and unfair because I have had to deal with all these health issues while most people my age have not, so why can’t I make my life a little easier by NOT working? 
 
My father asked me point blank: “What do you think the point of work is?”
 
“Uhh…make money?” I asked feebly. 
 
“No, the point of work is for you to contribute positively to society.  Yes, life is unfair, but you are NEVER entitled to anything.  You do not deserve anything.  You have to earn your keep.  Those who do not work end up feeling depressed and as though they are useless because they are not connecting with others or there are other people who become self-absorbed into entitlement.  Yes, life may be more difficult and challenging for you because of your lifelong health issues and, yes, you are going to have to fight more so than others, but that does not make you special or different from anyone else.  It is a privilege to work.  If you can work, then work, because others are not so lucky. Everyone needs a reason to get up every morning, to go somewhere every day…to feel like they are connecting with the outside world and to, most of all, have a purpose.  Everyone has been blessed with God-given gifts and talents and everyone has a purpose.  To waste these gifts and to not do anything with your life is a true detriment to you and this world. You are not a charity case.  Do you want people feeling sorry for you and to be known for all your health stuff rather than for you and what you can do with this world and in your life?”
  
My father has taught me many lessons.  Some were spoken and, unlike many prepubescent teens, I never saw my father as lecturing but as always teaching and sharing his stories with me.  Most were unspoken through his actions, behaviors, and, especially, treatment towards others.  Because of him, I strive for wisdom and not intelligence.   His words made me work.  Work hard to Enjoy and Live Life ever more. 
 
So, I worked.  Full-Time.  My father was right that I have had to fight—fight for my health at my jobs to always put my health and life first.  But I have always loved a good fight that brings out my feisty and my lifelong boxing gloves that are golden, shiny, and sparkly.  Always working, fighting, and living.  Never looking back.  I cannot imagine not working. 
 
Some people in the transplant community have said they feel bad for me that I do not have a significant other or the system to take care of me and that I have to work.  I have never done well with pity.  I have always done my part to be the living proof and prove others wrong if I must.  The only policy in life is this: “No Guarantee Policy” - great if you can be taken care of, but how long does that last and isn’t it more rewarding to stand tall on your own feet than to always staying on the ground?  Security is an illusion.  I never knew that the basic and honest value of working hard to reap benefits could be seen as a cry for help and sympathy, and as though I am a charity case.  Alas, I feel bad for them that they feel bad for me for I strive to be strong, independent, capable, and, most of all, fulfilling my purpose to help patients and work hard to enjoy and live life most. 
 
Work is important.  More so for mental than money to have some place to go to everyday and, indeed, contribute positively to society.  Why do we work?  Can you work?  How does it feel for you to work?  How does it feel NOT to work?  Do you feel comfortable for others to take care of you?  Can you imagine ever NOT working?  Have you ever experienced someone pitying you?  How do you feel when people feel sorry for you, as though you are a charity case?   
 
Don’t feel bad for me, my friends, for I am not a charity case but a case in point.
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

Clean Slate

My family has never been very musical.  It was my biological mother who had a knack for music, and even insisted my sister and I take piano lessons.  My sister and I dutifully complied with our share of piano lessons where my sister excelled and had a natural knack of those 88 keys while I was awful because I simply never practiced and was prepared for piano lessons.  I often remember my mother singing and plucking away at this Chinese instrument that made vibrating sounds like a tuning fork.  She sang in the Church choir.  She sang lullabies to me.  As for this mysterious instrument, I later learned that it is called a “Guzheng.”  She loved that “Guzheng” instrument so much that she volunteered her time to play it at the nursing home.
 
I was fascinated with this “Guzheng” instrument and the sounds that emanated from it, but, most of all, I was fascinated with how focused and present my mother was when she played it.  She loved that instrument.  One day when she was out and it was only my older sister and me (my older sister was upstairs) and I was all alone, I sat in front of the beautiful instrument lined with strings that were delicately cradled by what looked like chopstick holders to me.  My fingers gently brushed on the strings and a symphony of sounds perked my ears and curiosity.  I began to pluck more vigorously trying to mimic my mother.  One of the pieces that held one of the strings looked crooked or out of place to me.  I was intrigued with what this piece felt like.  Without even thinking, I went to touch and then squeezed the piece with my pudgy fingers and that is when I heard a snap.  I would like to tell you that the delicate instrument was strong enough to withstand my naughty childish ways, but it did not.  Frantic, I rushed to find Elmer’s glue and tried to glue the piece back together, but that just made the instrument even worse and damaged beyond repair.  I wish I could tell you what happened after in details, but my memories block it all out.  Of course, my mother was livid and furious and no matter how much I apologized, the words fell to deaf ears.  I could not undo the damage that I had done.  Now when I look back at that incident and many other incidents, I wish I thought before I acted. When have you wished that you had thought more carefully before you acted?  When have you wished that you could undo damage that you had done?  When have you acted carelessly and it has burnt you and the relationship more than build up? 
 
Years later, my father told me a story that also reminded me of what happened between my mother and me and her precious Guzheng that I pretty much destroyed.  In the story, the father made the son go out to hammer in all these nails into a blank and purely white picket fence.  The son complained how hard and arduous the work was and then his father ordered his son to unscrew and remove all the nails.  This was even more difficult and that son complained even louder and more, and then the son realized that that the final product was a fence with gaping holes.  Father said to the son: “You see how difficult it is to undo what you did and the damage that was done as a result with all those holes.  This is a lesson to you to be careful what you say and do in life with people you love.  It will be so easy for you to get so caught up in your emotions, the situation, and the drama, but it will be hard for you to step back and stop to say what you feel until it may be too late.  It is hard to build up relationships, but even harder to rebuild once trust is challenged and even gone.  We create many unintended ‘holes’ with people.  We never really have clean slates in life.  You will always see traces of dust even after and no matter how hard you have tried to erase.”      
 
This story spoke volumes to me.  The incident with my mother is always remembered.  There are so many times I have screwed up and still screw up with people that I could not unscrew and undo the damage.  It will take a long time to build a relationship but it will take one thing that can bring that relationship down.  Trying to mend and rebuild a relationship and even yourself yet again and especially when trust is shaken or even broken is probably one of the biggest challenges that we have all experienced.  Think carefully before acting and saying forcefully.  Our words and actions cannot be undone or taken back and can hurt immensely and even irreversibly.  Our words and actions hold great power to keep on building up ourselves and others and our relationships or the complete opposite of damage and even destruction.  Who has shaken or broken your trust?  Were you able to rebuild again, or not?  Are we ever able to have a clean slate of ourselves and others when the slate has been written on over and over again?  Can we ever repair what was broken?  Perhaps we can, but the repair and the revision will never be the original.    It will never be the same again.  It will never be a brand new clean slate.
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-)

 

Poker Face

I have always loved a good game.  

Card games.  Board games.  Computer games.  You name it and I would play it.  As a little girl, I sought out anyone to teach me how to play a game and then play it with me.   I did not play to win; I played to have fun.  It began with my sister as my first playmate with such card games she taught me as “War” and “Go Fish.”  My youngest cousin would play the card game “Spit” with me.  Friends played UNO, Scrabble, Monopoly, Chess, Trouble, Life, Outburst, Operation, Mastermind, Battleship, Backgammon, Scattergories, and Boggle at my beckoning.  It became clear how serious and how much I loved a good game and even gambling after my second kidney transplant when I was bored out of my skull to find someone to play a game with and get my mind off of my health recovery.  My older cousin stepped in and said, “I will teach you the Chinese games of all Chinese games:  Mahjong.”
 
Chinese “Mahjong” is an intense game of mind and not the matching of tiles.  Players have gambled hard and big with “Mahjong” and have even committed suicide when losing as big as they played their hand.  I was thrilled and gleeful when my cousin brought out a box of smooth and sleek ivory tiles with odd shapes on them that were explained as three different suits of Bamboo, Circles, and Chinese numbers.  I felt so privileged and special that I was learning and intended to master the “Chinese Games of Chinese Games.”  I quickly learned the shuffling rhythm and the stacking and placement of the ivory tiles.  I picked the game up fast that challenged my mental and probability skills, and wanted to start betting pennies and food when my cousin commented pensively: “You are hard to read.  You have a good poker face.” 
 
Throughout my life, I was told that I had a good poker face: I was difficult to read and even more so understand.  Life is actually the most challenging and every-changing ongoing game that I play and that we all continue to play.  We are all just students of life, and we are taught at a very young age all the different masks and especially poker faces we must put on as a protective mechanism from us getting hurt tor hurting others that is inevitable as we go through this game called life.  We are praised when we can hide our emotions and show our poker faces.  Can you recall your parents ever saying to you: “You’re a big girl/boy and big girl/boys don’t cry,” “Don’t air your dirty laundry,” “Don’t take things personally,” “Make sure you separate your personal you’re your professional otherwise the politics at work and in life will screw you over.”  What if we did not play poker faces? What if we were our REAL selves ALL the time?  Who are we really and are we required to put on poker faces and facades to get through life?  There is a fine balance for if we overly protect with our poker faces then our suspicions, fears, and walls grow to the point that we cannot let our guards done and be our REAL selves.  Being our true selves to others takes a whole lot of time that comes slowly and in the most unassuming of ways when we forge and form relationships.  The funny thing about life is I have become more of my REAL self because, as one of my good friends has said to me: “When you get older, you just do not have the time or energy to waste anymore so you say it and show it.”  At the same time, as we age, we are forced in unspoken societal ways to fake and play politics to not really say or share how we feel as people are less forgiving and understanding as we age.  We are becoming more like robots AND are commended for this.  However, with each passing and quickening year, I reflect that the poker face that I was praised to take pride in is starting to fall away to reveal the REAL me in a savvier and wittier sense to better handle the game of life. 
 
We are trained and told from a young age to show our Poker Faces and to, indeed, NOT share or show our emotions or feelings in the public out of being taken advantage of or being viewed as weak.  Have you always loved games?  Do you have a good poker face?  Have people told you that you are difficult to read and understand? Have you ever cried or made certain REAL and unpleasant emotions (anger, sadness, etc.) in a public setting only to be left feeling shame?  Do we actually become stronger when we can show, share, and say our weaknesses?  

While my poker faces remain when situations are called upon, always putting up a front becomes more and more difficult and eventually wears down.  For me, I continue to play hard and risk big in this game of life and even when the stakes are high, and for us to play and risk with every intention to keep on playing and ultimately winning in life, we grapple with our greatest friend and enemy to endure life: The Poker Face.   
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

Karma

On a rickety old and gnarled bench on the grounds of my apartment complex, one of my closest and dearest friends sat next to me in silence.  You know you have a good friend when you can enjoy each other’s company and companionship in complete silence, talk on and on about anything and everything, finish each other’s sentences, read each other’s thoughts just from a sideward glance, or when all the time passes by and it never felt like it went by.  Is your life lucked out with such a friend as this?  How lucky I was!  This friend came to visit me and walk patiently by my side after yet another health debacle.   In the midst of my friend as I soaking up the sun rays and enjoying the gentle breeze, we slipped into a conversation about karma. 
 
“I don’t believe in it,” she said bluntly, “Just about all the people I know who are bitchy or nasty have gotten ahead and I haven’t seen anything bad happen to them where they got their just desserts.  When you are nice, people walk all over you and take advantage of you.  When you are nasty and screw over others, you get ahead.”
 
“Yeah, but you get ahead out of people fearing you and not loving you. Do you want others to do something for you because they love and respect you or because they dislike and fear you?  At the end of the day, you have to face only you and all your demons.  I want to be a bitch, but I do not have it in me.  Treating others with respect and kindness and not screwing others is key in life because it is the right thing to do AND because bad can come to bite you in the butt later on in life.  Karma takes care of those who have hurt or harmed others when least expected and unseen.” I said.
 
“Well, I haven’t witnessed karma in action.  What goes around doesn’t necessarily come around.”
 
At a young age, I fully understood and accepted that life is unfair.  I never wished ill on anyone, but I often wondered if people could live my life and if I could live their life?  I often hear people’s problems and I think: “Dang, I would love those problems!” or “Well, there is always someone who has it worse.  Be thankful for what you got because it can get away at any given moment.” 
 
There have been times that I certainly wished for the seemingly the simple and society-filled life, though I understand and am content now not to fit in the majority and society mold and just make my own mold by living, leading, and enjoying my own world and life.  I never purposefully instigated hurt or harm on to anyone, though I have fully felt and experienced the wrath of others unto me that I like to think was unintentional.  Have you experienced the wrath and hurt of others unto you?  Did those who hurt you receive hurt back that you witnessed? 
 
Even when someone hurt me, I did not wish to mimic their wrath back to them or to others because I knew: 1) I was bigger and better than that and 2) What goes around comes around.  It is not my ‘job’ or place to judge others or seek or inflict revenge on to those who hurt me.  Frankly, I do not have the energy or time to waste on miserable and dramatic people who get joy out of inflicting misery on to others; I purposefully steer clear from these people if feasible.  It is my place to just try to be a good and the better person to help others—and, let me tell you, the older I get, the more I realize how difficult it really is to be and do good and to be honest with yourself and with others.  Being good is not easy; Being good takes efforts. Nothing easy is ever worthwhile. Do you find the same thing?   
 
What do you think about karma?  Do you believe in it and that, indeed, what goes around comes around?  Do you know any miserable and dramatic people who get joy out of inflicting misery drama on to others? Would you rather be feared or loved to get what you want?  Have you ever experienced Karma, or maybe it is the unexplainable that happens when we are not here on earth? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 
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