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The "Wu Word" Blog

May 2017

Unknown

I admit it.  I can be a know-it-all.  I am guilty of my walking fortune cookie or an open Hallmark card ways with a sentiment, a phrase, or words of wisdom to give out to anyone who may take the time to listen to me. I am always staring upwards in amazement and awe of how really small we are in such a wide world, weird lives we live and lead, and magic all around us that is so incredibly awe-inspiring.  I ramble because of the many differing perspectives with the understanding that there is really never any concrete answer with my nearly concluding, “Well…it depends…”      
 
So, imagine my surprise when he threw me off.  One of my good friends and I indulge in talking every couple of months about all the hard-hitting questions and quandaries : Life, Love, World, Travel, Experiences, and the list can go on and on until you are blue in the face.  There are very few people in my life that I can have a mutual meaningful conversation with as well as be my completely wacky self.   ‘Mutual’ and ‘Meaningful’ are the keywords here.  Many usually talk about themselves or others.  Hey, I’m even guilty of being that ‘many.’
 
His questions caught me off guard, “Would you want to know when you die?  Would you want to know all the answers in life?  Do you think all our lives are pre-written? ” 
 
Without any hesitation, I said, “No way would I want to know when I die.  That is like knowing the ending of a great movie, book, or story without the intrigue of the beginning and the growing interest in the plot and storyline.  I think God or some high being may know everything we are going to do and all the people we are going to meet and their purposes in our lives.  I do not believe in pre-written because of our own free will to make choices.  I think there is a lot we do not know.  And that’s okay.  We are not born knowing.  We are born to learn as we go along in life.”
 
“Why wouldn’t you want to know?  Wouldn’t that make life so much easier?” he asked me.
 
“Maybe, but that would be boring and meaningless.  If we knew everything, we would not learn and appreciate the experience.  Especially when we look back.  If I knew everything, my faith would also falter or maybe even fall to pieces.   I hold fast to faith that even when it is hard or hurts as hell in life that everything will work out.    I do not ever want to lose my sense of faith and wonder.” 
 
I paused and continued on (my rambling self coming out):  “You know that phrase if I had known now what I had known then that I wouldn’t have done it?  Do you know how people would want to warn their child version of their future selves and what is going to happen?  Well, I would not want to do that.  I would not give a warning.  I would like to think I would give a sort of blessing.  I would tell the child version of myself to go with life as it unfolds, do not fear the mistakes that will inevitably come from the choices you make when you are put to the test at times, and let time tell and God or the higher power reveal. I would say it is okay not to know and that we often live with more questions than answers in life struggling to find when we need to go with the flows of life.  I would just tell my child version that everything always has their magical and mysterious ways of working out as it is meant to as so much and maybe everything in life is timing.” 
 
My friend paused pensively, digesting my views.  Slowly, he said, “I think our lives are pre-written by God.  He knows everything we are going to do, everything we are going to experience, and all the people we are going to meet. I would want to know what is written.  If I knew what was written then I could prepare for how I am going to handle what’s coming up.
 
I was truly shocked by such a response.  Completely thrown for a loop. 
 
“Control is an illusion,” I spouted off bluntly, “You can only prepare and plan so much in life, and I think there needs to be peace made with that.  We can't know everything.  It's not good to know everything.  If we knew everything, what would happen to our sense of humility and being humble and compassionate rather than arrogant?  We are flawed humans that constantly make mistakes-- and it's OK to make mistakes so we can keep on learning and going.” 
 
I continued with even more reasons why I did not agree with his viewpoint to know everything.  At the end of our conversation, he admitted, “Well, you may be changing my opinion now.” 
 
There are many lost and even dark times we ask in our lives ‘why me?’ or ‘why is this happening?’  While I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and every single person who we cross path in our lives holds a purpose, I also believe there are experiences that happen in life that may not have a rhyme or reason at all—these are the ‘unknown’ for us not being able to figure out why they happened as well as the ‘unknown’ that lies ahead.   We need to make peace with the unknown and with the questions that surround it.  Maybe even embrace them all in a big bear hug.
 
Do you believe our lives are pre-written or predestined by God or some higher power?  Do you think everything really happens for a reason and that there are no coincidences in life?  Would you really want to know everything, like when you die and what is going to happen in your life going forward?  How do you feel about ‘ignorance is bliss’?  Would you want to warn your child self of what happened in the future and, if so, what would you reveal?  What have you experienced that you can’t find or understand the reason or the knowing behind it all? 

Maybe I am not as much of a know-it-all as I thought and appeared to be after all.  
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

The Onion

I was crying again.  I could not help it.  It was the onion.  It got me again. 
 
All because of that sharp and stinging scent that shot straight through my nostrils, tears filled my eyes and trickled down my face.  Through blurred vision, my knife clattered on the bamboo cutting board and I rushed for tissues to wipe my wet face.  I tried all the tricks of the trade with the onion to drench it in water before the cut of the knife sliced into it.  I tried a candle for the flame to extinguish the scent.  I even tried goggles.  No luck.  The teardrops always came with a vengeance. 
 
Out of all of the many delicious and delectable foods in the world that I thoroughly enjoy, the onion had the most profound effect on me.  It was the only vegetable that brought me literally to tears.  It was the only vegetable that had a stinging bite to my taste buds when I bit into it raw, and, thus, needed to be paired and even grouped with other foods to bring out the greatest flavors.  It was the only vegetable that contained many layers.  Most of all, it was the only vegetable that people have compared me to.
 
“Mary,” this person who shall remain anonymous said, “You are like an onion.  You have many layers.” 
 
“I can’t figure you out,” I’ve been told by others. 
 
In addition to being told that I was like an onion, I was also told that I am a mystery, complex, complicated, and, my favorite, an enigma all resulting in an invisible and unspoken wall to others.  I took reluctant pride in this for I wanted to be difficult to read in certain situations that required my protection, but then I wanted to be open and easy to read so people could feel welcomed and want to get to know me and develop the deep relationships that I am all about.   I contemplated myself as ‘the onion,’ and thought that we are all like onions.  We are all not as what we appear as an innocent-looking onion that can actually evoke deep emotions like tears.  We are also the most real when we are raw and alone, and our greatest, deepest, and most surprising of flavors are revealed when coupled and grouped with others.  We are all full of layers that increase and yet reveal as we get older depending on who we are with and where we are. 
 
Recently, a very good childhood friend said, “I do not know what happened to you, but you are changing.  Maybe it is since your hysterectomy. Your emotions are much easier to read now.  When you are pissed off, you show it and say it.  You’ve gotten feistier.”   I responded, “I think the older you get, the more realize that you do not have time and energy to waste on stupid stuff and so you just show it and say it.” 
 
Yes, I am changing.  We are all changing.  Life and the world we live in are fast-paced, always moving, always changing.   Our layers are multiplying and changing and, even maybe, being peeled away slowly in certain circumstances with only the most special of people who can literally peel and even ‘cut’ right through us with their blades.  We need to try to take people as they come and need to be and try to work together even more now than ever before with all our many layers. 
 
The first impressions we have of others is just that-- a first impression.  It is the very first layer.  There is more than meets the eyes with people.   What appears on the surface is not what is in our substance.  There is much that goes on inside than what is often facades on the outside.  Social situations deeply and greatly affect how we appear and adjust. 

What are some of your layers?  When have these layers been exposed on their own or through the prodding or even ‘cutting’ of others?  When have the first impressions you had of others been wrong or even right after you got to know the layers of someone?  

If you were a vegetable, what would you be? 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-)
 

 

The Foreigner

"Do you speak English?” I asked full of trepidation and desperation. 
 
The response was laughter.  Loud laughter all around me from the woman at the hotel concierge, my close buddy, and the tour guide driver.  This question was not meant to be a joke.  This was a dead serious question. 
 
The woman said, “Of course I speak English!  This is America—we have to speak English!” 
 
Guess again.  Here I was in Hawaii.  Mind you, a U.S.A. state.  The 50 state.  Everyone who has been to Hawaii has raved and showered the state with happy sighs and verbal accolades as “Paradise,” “Heaven on Earth,” “Beautiful,” and “Gorgeous.”  4 months in advance of planning and booking.  10 hour flight of where I gorged on airplane food to keep my overactive mind at bay with a full belly. 
 
I expected a sweet scented circle of flowers placed around my neck as the typical Hawaiian greeting breathed with the lilting word of “Aloha.”  Instead, the tour guide driver in a light green and white-flowered Hawaiian shirt greeted me speaking only in Chinese, “This is a Chinese-speaking only tour.  Do you speak Chinese?”
 
My English response, “Are you kidding me?  You do not speak ANY English?  You only speak Chinese?”
 
Apparently, he understood English as much as I understood Chinese—Barely.  Before I knew it, he was on the cell phone telling his supervisor that a major mistake had been made that my friend and I had been inadvertently placed on a Chinese-speaking only tour.  He ended the conversation with saying in Chinese: “Her and her friend are foreigners.  She is Chinese, but she doesn’t speak Chinese.  She is ABC-American-Born Chinese.  She is a foreigner.”
 
My face suddenly got very, very hot.  Waves of anger, humor, humiliation, and stupidity washed over me.  I felt like I was a kid all over again when my father and his relatives would speak Cantonese and I was left so bored out of my skull that I would observe carpet patterns as my entertainment.  I thought about my many failed attempts to learn Chinese, chalking it up to me lacking complete talent in linguistics.  I reasoned that I learned hospital and healthcare language before Chinese because my exposure was that healthcare world over my Chinese roots.  I felt like I was in school where I was the unpopular weird nerd buried with my head in the book, not belonging anywhere.  I felt like I was in China.  I was a stranger in a strange land.  I was a foreigner.  Have you ever felt like that?  Not belonging anywhere even with people who appear and seem just like you on the surface, yet never feeling so different in the very core of you? 
 
My Stepmom knew how I felt about being left out from my Dad and his relatives who spoke Cantonese because she spoke Mandarin and did not know any Cantonese.  She said, “Well, you have to try to accommodate by learning their language.”
 
I sputtered, “Why do I have to learn their language when we are in America and speak English?”
 
Her response: “You are just putting yourself in a position where you are going to feel left out and not belong.” 
 
My response, “Well, I hate to break to you, but I do not really belong anywhere.”   
 
Growing up in a household of family members speaking Cantonese and Mandarin and then only English at school, I understood that hearing, languages, and communication could be the greatest barriers or the greatest bridges. Throughout my life, I felt like I never belonged anywhere.  I’ve been called an “Abnormal Asian” and more “American” than “Chinese” because I am loud, inquisitive, and bold rather than the stereotypical timid, reserved, and quiet.  My father has labeled us the “Weird Wus.”  Growing up, I craved that sense of belonging.  Somewhere.  Someone.  Some group. 
Somewhere along the way in life when I sought out places to belong to and people to belong with, I understood that humans craved connections and would unknowingly undergo shifts in demeanor for the sake of just belonging and connecting with others.  I also slowly concluded that you can’t care and you just have to be you to adjust and acclimate with different people and situations as they arise.   

Identity, belonging, and connecting with others go beyond and deeper than my Asian features.  My identity is NOT ONLY about and determined by my exterior surface features of Female, Asian-American, short stature, for these are all outer that change so much easier than the interior.  For me, my identity is about my interior of substance, life experiences, personality, and character.   There is so much more to each and every one of us on the inside more than the outside. 

I suppose I am the foreigner—outside observer looking inside, just creating and loving my own little world full of versatility and varieties,  not identifying with anything or anyone and just being me.  Hail the foreigner!
 
Have you ever felt like you do not belong anywhere?  Did you then seek outlets and people to belong?  Did you ever think that belonging in one group can actually cause divisions with others?  Have you ever lost your sense of who you actually are just for that euphoric and comforting feeling to belong somewhere and to connect with others?   
 
For those who identify themselves as weird and not belonging anywhere end up creating their own world that is full of the unexpected, unforeseen, and most intriguing.  Weird is Good.  Normal is Boring. 
 
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-)
 
 

 
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