When I was a little
girl, I had a love for index cards.
Questions on one blank side.
Answers on the other lined side. Forget
about side-swiping, finger-punching, and button-pushing technological gadgets.
No. Nothing beat index cards. Hand held.
Easy to carry. Totally
user-friendly. Made me completely happy
These index cards
became my best friends when my first kidney transplant began to fail by
11-years-old. Almost all the adults
spoke around me or behind me as though I was not in the room. I, in turn, got loud and obnoxious by
whipping out my index cards to fire out all my questions and with a know-it-all
attitude to give me the answers and tell me the truth. Even now, I will go into a doctor’s
appointment with a list of questions expecting answers. However, I learned at a young age that there
many in ‘authority’ who see ‘questions’ as non-compliance or
troublemaking. Good thing I like to make
trouble. ;-) And, just so you know now,
one of my major intolerable pet peeves is when people are talking about me in
the third person when I am right in the room.
Have you experienced that? The
truth never really hurt me. Reality did
not hurt. It was people and lies and
bubble wrapping me that was the ultimate hurt and betrayal to me.
I still remember when
my dad was on the phone with my sister and said, “Well, she needs a second
kidney transplant. If she does not get
My mind tuned out my
dad by then, because I had known the truth even before my Dad knew when my
first kidney transplant was failing. I
was the one in my body. I surely knew my
body was failing and betraying me. I
just did not know what was to come. Do
any of us ever really know what is to come when our lives are turned upside
down, though? It was just a matter of
time until I had to be truthful and honest with myself. That is the hardest part: Being honest with
yourself—about your limitations, about what you are about to face and fight, about
trying to trust the process, and about your vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Oh, and trust me, life will rear its ugly
head and force you to face the truth no matter how much you do not want to face
it. Suffice to say, my life and I have never been
bubble wrapped. The intent of bubble
wrap is protection from breaking, but perhaps we are all meant to crack and
break at some point to put our pieces together again and better than ever. Shelter and protection from the truth can
only last for so long. The truth always
has a way of coming out. Being as un-bubbled as ever builds for strong
character and strength that is immeasurable.
So, let’s be truthful
here. There are moments in your life
that you remember as clear as day and like it was yesterday. These moments will replay over and over in
your mind like a movie that you are watching on the outside looking
inside. And when you watch the movie,
you may wish there was something or anything that you could change, but you can’t. It is like an outer body experience. These moments are filled with truths that are
biting and frightening, testing and challenging us if we can fall to get back
up again or just stay fallen. When I
think about it, no one had ever really blatantly and bluntly told me the truth
about anything in my life that was about to change my life. I somehow always knew. I knew when my life was about to
significantly change. I knew when there
was an ending on the near horizon to make room for a new, scary, and
frightening beginning. Call it a gut
feeling. Call it intuition and
instinct. I somehow always knew truths
before it was even told me. And, when I
knew, I could only lie for so long until I stepped up up to dig deeper and find
out more about the truth to face and endure what was to come.
ourselves or being ‘bubble wrapped’ by others comes with consequences that can
hurt us in the long run. Would you
rather know the truth no matter how much it may hurt? Is honesty really the best policy? Is it harder to be honest with ourselves than
with others? Is it sometimes better NOT
to know for the sake of kindness and gentleness? Would you tell the truth knowing it would
hurt someone? Have you ever been bubble wrapped or bubble
Keep smilin’ until we
Before the age of 10-years-old, I ran away from home twice. When I did not get my way as a child or when I got into fights and arguments, I ran away from home and escaped only feeling miniscule guilt when I peeked out from my hiding places at my parents worrying and searching for me. I chose to run away and hide rather than stay and fight and face off with problems and people who rubbed me the wrong way, but problems always have a way of finding you when they are not resolved. I was a trickster and mischievous child with throwing water in my uncle’s face when he played dead. I picked the lock of my sister’s bedroom door to read her diary. I was a badass brat when I was a little girl.
By the time I was in my pre-teens and faced with my first kidney transplant failing and my mother leaving, I was a bitter and angry prepubescent constantly questioning “Why Me?” or “What did I ever do to deserve this?” I played and was the angry victim. I was NOT happy. It was when I faced losing life and dealing with suffering and death that I understood how life is this precious gift wrapped up with this shiny bow called ‘gratitude’ AND that laughter is the best and free medicine in the world—especially belly laughs that make you laugh so hard that you start crying. It is always the case in life that you never know what you have until you are about to lose it or it is completely gone.
People do not believe me when I tell them how bitter, angry, and dark I was. People still do not believe me when I step up to share about my fears, stresses, anxieties, and vulnerabilities with select few people. People know me for who I am now with the biggest smile on my face and loudest laugh. And, do not get me wrong—there is so much larger than life joy that wraps me up and lights me up and I am so immensely grateful, but there are days and times when it is REALLY hard and tough that you are forced to step back, put the pause button, and literally stop to start up again. I think we all have this void that begs and beckons to be filled and we are all trying our very best day in and day out. It is hard to be human.
I am not proud of who I was, but I am intrigued and fascinated with how and who I have become and am becoming. I often think I would not have even been friends with my ‘then’ selves. People never really know who we were and our histories. People never really know who we are. Heck, I do not think we even really know who we are. People’s only reference point is from the moment they meet us and going forward from there—never knowing our histories, but make history happen with memories and moments. I was once and am still guilty at times of being very judgmental and critical of people, but then I get a pinched reminder as to how I have never been perfect and am filled with imperfections. We know logically and people cannot and should not be judged on who they were and on the mistakes they made, but we tend to hone in on flaws and mistakes of others AND of ourselves because we are our own worst critic with hearing and saying: “If I knew then what I know now then I would not have done ((FILL IN THE BLANK)).” Well, thank goodness we make mistakes and we have “tomorrows” and “future” to have the gift of chances to try to redeem and better ourselves and not make the same mistakes.
I have heard time and
time again that people do not change.
Hey, I have even said this myself.
But, now I am wondering and thinking that we do change, evolve, grow,
and transform in small ways that come from big moments that have the power to
change us and our lives in literally a split second or in big gaping gaps of
time. I know this much is true that we
cannot change anyone and we can only change ourselves, but we can only change
ourselves when we are aware and patient enough in small ways.
Who we are now and
who we will become or are becoming is very different from how we were then. It is so easy for people to pass judgment and
give unwarranted and unwanted thoughts and advice on the outside without a clue
of how you are feeling and what you are really going through on the
inside. What were your most profound transformative
points in your life that have changed you?
How have you changed now from then?
Do you think you have changed for the better? Would you have befriend your ‘then’ self with
your ‘now’ self? What mistakes from your
past are you NOT proud of, but that you have certainly learned from AND have
not repeated them? Do people
Keep smilin’ until we
A few years ago, one
of my very good and closest friends was heavily contemplating about a move to
California. All her living family was
there in sunny and warm California. She
was the last living family member remaining in New York. I could tell how difficult of a decision this
was for her. I also knew it was not a
decision that I could make for her. I
just told her, “Well, I am here if you need me to listen or to help with
She surprised me by
giving me a copy of her key and with a request for a favor, “Can you check on
my cat when I am gone and water my plants and bring in my mail when I am away
I felt so
honored! No one had ever given me a copy
of a key to their home before! No one
had ever given me such responsibility! I
thought that she must really trust me.
Trust always takes time to build, but it will be one thing that can make
it fall apart. I did not take her trust
in me lightly. I held her trust in the
highest importance, and knew that my actions would need to speak louder than my
words that I would come through for her.
I dutifully and
meticulously checked in on and befriended her cat, watered the plants, and
brought in my friend’s mail. She had a
persnickety alarm that I did not shut off the first time fast enough, causing the
police to race over to her home and make sure that I was not an intruder. My friend and I laughed and laughed so hard
about this with me as the ultimate badass suspected criminal! On the last day before my friend was to
return, I came up with an idea to surprise her with her favorite treats! The only problem was I did not know where to
put the plethora of treats in. A plastic
bag seemed too boring. Paper bags were
too big. Then, I remembered. My sister had mailed me a cuddly bear, bright
balloons, and food in a red box as a birthday surprise. I had kept the red box with the utmost
feeling that it would come to good use! Now, it would come to great use! In the red
box, I filled it with my friend’s favorite snacks and a carefully chosen card
that I decorated with stickers welcoming her back and explaining that this red
box would be our way of sharing and caring to fill with goodies to welcome each
other back from long trips. I ended with
writing: “Keep this red box safe until it is your turn to surprise me! Missed you!
You are loved!” My hope was that
the red box filled with all she loved would bring a smile to her face as my
sister had brought a smile to my face, remember that she was cared for and
loved during this difficult time of making a decision, and, best of all,
surprise her! Surprises are the
best—well, most of the time, of course!
She was so pleasantly
surprised and happy with this red box idea that it did not take her long to
fill it up with my favorite snacks, treats, and gifts that she purchased in
California for me. Over the years, we
exchanged many handwritten cards and notes covered in stick figure drawings and
smiley faces, favorite foodie snacks, tart sugary jams, flavored teas, and
small notebooks. Each and every item was
carefully placed in our red box. There
was only pure joy on our faces when opening up and discovering what was in our
In the last couple of
years, my friend traveled more frequently and for longer durations in
California. In the last couple of years, I felt like she
was the only person I could turn to in the event of an emergency. She actually had come through for me when I
had emergencies—going so far as to travel late at night to check on me when I
was in the emergency room. She watched
over my place and helped to take care of my kitty cat Ricky. Living all alone, I trusted VERY few people
to come and take care of my place AND Ricky when I was gone. Always, always, when I returned home from a
long trip or even from an exhausting emergency situation or emergency visit,
the red box was there on the counter waiting for me. And a big smile took over my face.
About a year ago when
she last visited California, she came to me with our red box that was tattered
and had a torn handle. She gently and
softly said, “I think our red box is done.”
She had also told me that it was finalized that she was moving to
California. Before she left for
California, I gave the red box to her all taped up with clear packaging
tape. It looked like I had performed
surgery. Inside was a gift for her
sister AND her. After all, the red box
had originally come from my sister to me and now it was us Wu sisters giving it
to these two sisters. I grinned at both
of them and said, “There is nothing a little tape cannot fix. Good as news—or maybe even better. To new beginnings for you—for both of
I do not know what
happened to our red box. I am guessing
it was thrown out somewhere in California.
You can throw away items, but you cannot just throw away the memories—no
matter how you may want to OR may not want to.
I think of this red box and all that was shared and all the memories
made that the box held over these years and our lives changing. . I
think about what my Dad says that you always need to find and focus on commonalities
and share with people to build up trust and the relationship, but be open to
differences to learn from each other. We
all have our burdens and troubles that can weigh on us heavily and wear us down,
and they are lifted in small ways that make us smile when we share with each
other. Not always, but maybe a little
bit AND with selected people. We all
want to be remembered, loved, cared for, and welcomed when we are at our worst
that have the power to bring out our best.
My friend and I shared with each
other through and with this red box at our worst and made us remember and bring
out our best. Our red box was also like
our little time capsule of our changing and evolving lives.
Sharing with each
other is a gift. Who alleviates your
burdens and troubles and makes you feel remembered, cared for, and loved with
and in the power of sharing? Who do you
share ‘inside secrets and jokes’ with, and maybe even finish each other’s
sentences? Who gets you even better than
you get yourself with a mere side glance?
Who do you share with?
I think about this
red box that had patiently sat, awaited, and welcomed each of us at our
counters after long trips. And, a big
smile takes over my face.
Keep smilin’ until we