Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Location!

I have decided to move my blog to WordPress, so for future posts, please go to  Thank you so much for reading!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Livin' on a Wing and a Prayer

Ricky Gervais tweeted, "I'll pray for you = I want some credit for caring, without actually having to do anything that takes any effort or that actually works."  One thing I like about following him are the reminders to question what I believe and assess whether it still serves me.

I started really praying about 12 years ago when an acquaintance's 25-year-old son died in a car accident.  He had fallen asleep while driving to a new job.  He'd had a longer drive that day because he was taking care of his father, who had recently had a heart attack.  I'm not sure why, but I told his mother, "You and your family are in my prayers."  I hadn't been praying at the time, but to make what I said true, I started praying.

When I pray now, I mostly express gratitude.  I give thanks:
  • for the wonderful and challenging things that happened that day
  • for healing those who are sick (I picture people I know who are ill and visualize them whole, healthy, and happy)
  • for comfort coming to those who are suffering (especially people who have recently lost a loved one)
  • for being able to embody certain qualities I admire (being authentic, loving, courageous, etc.)

I finish with a Heart Meditation where I think of something that makes me smile, this is usually something silly my children have done recently.  Then keeping that image in my mind, I breathe deeply into my solar plexus and say, "Heart Focus," (take a breath), "Heart Breathing," (take a breath), "Heart Appreciation."

I don't pray to anyone in particular.  I believe there's an energy that flows through all things.  I believe that since everything is made of atoms that are simply vibrating at different frequencies, at some level, everything and everyone is connected, and we all influence each other.  I understand very little about quantum mechanics or "unified field theory," but clearly, I'm not the only person who thinks this.

In "Eat, Pray, Love" Elizabeth Gilbert quotes her friend Iva, 'Where do you get the idea you aren't allowed to petition the universe with prayer?  You are part of this universe, Liz.  You're a constituent - you have every entitlement to participate in the actions of the universe, and to let your feelings be known.'

Do I really believe that praying for my friend who has cancer will directly shrink her cancer cells?  No, but I think by telling her that I'm praying for her, bringing meals to her family, and checking in with her to keep her mood up, she remembers that she's part of a larger group of people who care a whole lot about her, and her immune system hopefully steps up and helps her respond to the surgery and chemotherapy that do directly kill the cancer cells.

Ricky Gervais got a lot of flak for criticizing celebrities who were tweeting about sending prayers to the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes.  He tweeted, "I feel like an idiot now … I only sent money."  I think it's possible to both pray and to help directly, (by donating money, food, time, etc.)  They're not mutually exclusive.  Nor is prayer right for every person.  It's just another tool to bring the possibility of good into our lives.

Please write in the comments whether you think prayer is helpful and/or how else you cope with being unable to help others directly.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Lawson Family Camping Curse

It is like me to be paranoid, but I may actually have brought a curse onto two of my friends.  The Rimbaud family and the Byron family have camped together multiple times without incident.  The only two times my family has joined them, people have developed pneumonia, had a recurrence of a stomach bug, sprained an ankle, and one poor boy who's only two years old has scraped his chin and cut open the side of his head.

Now, I didn't intend any ill-will or directly cause any of these incidents, but I feel like I'm gambling with their health and personal safety if I go camping with them again.  I like these people an awful lot, and they really don't deserve this kind of bad luck.

Why do I think it's my fault?   Probably because I'm self-centered and a perfectionist.  Plus, I like to delude myself into thinking I can control things in my life.  It's easy to chalk it up to coincidence, but it feels pretty spooky.

One friend said she plans to get some four-leaf clovers and a rabbit's foot next time, but I doubt that's going to be enough.  I think we're going to need to sacrifice an animal or one of the children, probably the most badly-behaved one.  Hands down that's going to be my three-year-old daughter.  Too bad, she was pretty cute.

What do you think I can do to appease the angry camping gods?  Am I really being paranoid or could I be inadvertently jinxing my friends?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Show Me How Big Your Brave Is

I wrote "My Miracle Child" because a blogger I follow, DJ Paris of "Thoughts from Paris," asked for stories about mental health.  He was planning to post every hour for 24 hours as a fundraiser for  When he first asked for submissions, I thought, "Oh, I'm not good enough to submit anything for that."  But a few weeks later, when I saw that he was still looking for a few more submissions, I thought, "Well, hell, my blog is supposed to be about being vulnerable and taking risks, I have to suck it up and submit something."

I watched his BlogAThon all day, hoping he would post my story.  He posted a video log saying that he would post all 29 submissions he received.  Alas, he didn't post my story.  I didn't even receive a reply thanking me for submitting something.  (Maybe that's too much to ask of an individual person, but I'm the kind of girl who appreciates getting auto-reply messages, just to know my email didn't get lost in the "series of tubes" that is the Internet.)

I'll admit it, I started feeling sorry for myself, throwing a little pity party in my head.  I felt like an ass for even sending it, let alone expecting him to post it.  I kept thinking, "Maybe he just couldn't fit it in for some reason," or "Maybe he somehow didn't see the email."  You know, instead of "He thinks you suck!"

Luckily, my friend Miss Bookish Girl sent me a link to the video for "Brave," the new single by Sara Bareilles.  It's all about speaking up for yourself, saying what you really think, and letting your creativity shine.

I suddenly had the impulse to tweet a bunch of people I follow on Twitter.  I sent a link to my blog post to about 10 people, including Anne Wheaton, who's married to Wil Wheaton (an actor famous for "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Stand By Me," among many other projects).  She has over 50,000 Twitter followers and is witty, inspiring, and wickedly funny.  She retweeted the link to my blog and replied to my tweet.  I thanked her, and she replied to that too.  It was like the movie "Frequency," I felt like I was communicating with someone from the future or another dimension or something.  I feel silly admitting this, but I'm totally starstruck by her.

Anyway, I watched the page views for "My Miracle Child" literally go from 7 to over 200.  There have now been over 1,200 page views, and since I imagine most people don't look at it over and over, I assume that means close to 1,200 people at least skimmed if not read that blog post.

Not everyone might think it brave to tweet a celebrity, but I felt incredibly vulnerable sending my writing to these people whom I admire, at the very least opening myself up to be ignored, at the worst, possibly being ridiculed by these people or their followers.  Instead, complete strangers thanked me and shared how they've gotten help for their depression or anxiety.

I'm starting to pester everyone I know to write and publish, because I believe that each of us has wisdom and experience to share.  Please put in the comments, how are you going to be brave today? this week? this year?

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Miracle Child

My second child, my daughter, is kind of a miracle child.  While I was pregnant with her, my uterus got trapped in my pelvis, making it almost impossible to pee for a few days, I had chronic constipation (3.5 years later, I still thank God I can poop normally now), and I was exhausted and depressed.

I told my midwife that I was starting to have suicidal thoughts, and she referred me to the department at the hospital that specifically treated mothers with depression.  I had group and individual therapy and sessions with a psychiatrist.

I learned there that 10-20% of women experience postpartum depression, but if a woman has had a depressive episode in her past, she is 40-60% likely to experience it.  I had been severely depressed in my early 20s.

I spent a lot of time crying and explaining that I felt like I wasn’t “good enough” for my son, who was 2.5 years old, my husband, or my daughter.  I remember quite clearly the therapist saying to me, “Consider that you’re not meant to be 'enough'.  It really does take a village to raise a child.”  I had this crazy idea that being a “good mom” meant doing everything (cooking, sewing, cleaning, and educating) with infinite patience.  I started trying to accept that I could be a mom instead of trying to be a “super mom”.

The psychiatrist prescribed Zoloft.  I had known before that I was depressed, but I never wanted to take medication because I thought I should be able to handle my emotions without meds.  I could control my thoughts and feelings.  Couldn’t I?

The therapists explained that taking medication for depression is no different than taking medication if you have diabetes or a heart condition.  I realize many people still disapprove of anti-depressants, as I once did, but I’m a convert now.  I don’t believe that medication alone can treat depression, but my anti-depressant helps me stay clear-minded enough to use the coping skills I’ve learned.  Of course, the trick is to find the right medication.

Zoloft made me even more nauseated than my pregnancy.  So sick that a few days after I’d started taking it, I started making plans to commit suicide, and I told my husband I wanted to terminate my pregnancy.  Thankfully we saw the psychiatrist right away, and she got me admitted to the psych ward at the hospital.  I tried another two doses of Zoloft before accepting that it just wasn’t the right medication for me.

The doctor prescribed Celexa, which ironically, lists nausea as one of its side effects.  Thankfully, it didn’t make me hurl.  I spent a week in the psych ward gradually finding the right dose of Celexa for me and attending group therapy to learn healthy coping skills.

Being hospitalized made it necessary for my husband and me to tell our friends what was happening and ask for help.  I had held people at bay for fear they would discover I was “messed up”, but I couldn’t hide it any more, and it was incredibly liberating.  Quite a few of my friends suddenly told me that they had also experienced depression.  All of my relationships got deeper and stronger after that.

My daughter just turned three years old.  She is an extremely cheerful child.  I even have an ultrasound of her smiling in utero.  Even though her pregnancy felt like it took two years, I’m grateful for all that happened.  I finally got my depression treated, I learned how to ask for and accept help, and I got to experience love for myself and all of the people in my life in a much deeper, more fulfilling way.  Yep, she’s my miracle child, some days it’s a miracle I don’t sell her on eBay.  Hey, she’s a typical 3-year old, we all have those days.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Giving What I've Got

In my last post, I wrote about being ambitious, taking risks, and pushing boundaries.  This week I remembered how important it is to also respect those boundaries.

My son's school is asking parents to serve on the PTA Board.  I'd ignored the emails asking for volunteers, but then I went to a meeting for parents of incoming 1st and 2nd graders.  Their plea was compelling.  The school does rely heavily on parents to raise money for school materials, field trips, and even some staff.  Still, I felt okay deciding to wait another year.  Both of my children would be older and need less of my time and attention.

Then I stopped to talk to two moms I know.  One of them may be moving away, but she said if she decided to stay in the area she would definitely serve on the PTA.  The other mom expressed confidence that I would do well, going so far as to call me "leadership material".  I felt both moved and embarrassed by their encouragement and their commitment.

I thought about how much I should volunteer.  Part of me felt that if I were going to volunteer, I shouldn't do it half-assed by doing the easiest job.  This is from my inner Perfectionist.  If I really want to help and make a difference, I should do the most challenging, time-consuming, and beneficial job, right?  And then I would get accolades from other parents about how selfless I am, and I would practically be a hero (cue the confetti and me doing the princess wave while wearing a tiara).

I had half-convinced myself to volunteer for the Fundraising position, which is the biggest, hardest job.  Then I wondered what my husband would say.  He's my sounding board for a lot of things, and even though I resent when he tells me not to do something, he's usually right.  I pictured  how tired, frustrated, and terrified I would be, trying to organize and motivate people I didn't know to give their time and money.  I remembered how badly I treat my husband and children when I am tired, frustrated, and afraid.

I realized I'm simply not capable of giving that much time and energy.  I looked through the open positions and chose to volunteer for the Hospitality position, which involves buying stuff and setting up for PTA meetings and events.  It was in fact the easiest position available.

I wrote an email to the two moms I had spoken to earlier, explaining my choice.  I confessed that part of my decision was based on the fact that only 3.5 years ago, I was hospitalized for planning suicide.  I had not attempted it, but I had made a mental shopping list and chosen a location.  At the time, I was pregnant, exhausted, and had totally unrealistic expectations of how to be a "good mom".  But I still have the passing thought that life would be better without me.  I know that that isn't true, and that it would devastate my family and friends, so I let the thought pass and accept that I just feel overwhelmed sometimes.

Still, after I sent the email, I cried.  That really hard, ugly cry.  I cried because I'm sad that I can't give more to my son and the other kids at school.  I cried because I felt again that fundamentally "I'm broken" or "damaged" somehow.  That I'm less than emotionally stable, mentally balanced people.

The two moms wrote back really compassionate, understanding, and kind responses.  I felt relieved.  I still worry that some people who read this will think I'm just being a crybaby and a slacker.  I heard or read a quote that I can't quite recall, but it was something about understanding and accepting that each of us has a different container that holds our capacity to give.  Some of us have a gallon container, some of us only have a cup.  I'll still give more than I think I can, but not as much as I think I should.

Please note in the comments your thoughts and experience about how much you give to your neighbors, your church, your kids' schools, etc.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Makin' and Keepin' It Real

I'm not very good at Wushu, but I competed once last year, and I've registered to compete again in a few weeks.  Why do I do this?  It's certainly okay at my school for adults not to compete, but I'm inspired by the adults who do.  They're gutsy, and I want to be gutsy too, even if I'm still just pretending to be.

One reason I compete is because I am a total slacker when it comes to practicing.  I can easily come up with excuses not to train: I'm reading a good book that I can't put down, I'm cooking dinner for my hubby, or feeling like, "I'm so bad at it, I shouldn't waste the teachers' time."  So, I figure signing up for competitions forces me to put all that aside and just get to work, doing my best and being okay with whatever that looks like.

I just found out that in competition the form I'm working on is only supposed to take 45 seconds to perform.  My teacher timed me, and I did it in about a minute.  Doing it that quickly with that kind of pressure makes all of my movements, especially the punches and kicks, more powerful and I think, more realistic.  I move more like I am punching and kicking "someone," not just thin air.

I recently read this quote by Ira Glass on Buzzfeed: " a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap and your work will be as good as your ambitions. It's gonna take awhile. It's normal to take awhile. You've just gotta fight your way through."

I think that's what I've already been doing with Wushu, and now I need to do that with the rest of my life.

I'm writing a short story, and I was thinking, "Well, I can use it as just an exercise, just practice for the 'real writing' I'll do some day when I'm a good writer."  Then I realized that in order to get better at writing, I have to make it count.  I'm not planning on publishing a novel yet, but I think I could work on this short story enough to submit it for publication in a literary journal or something.  It doesn't have to be an insurmountable goal to start, just something that's real and tangible.  "Risk nothing, get nothing," right?

I think to really excel at anything, you have take risks and be ambitious, more than you think you deserve to be.  I love this quote from Marianne Williamson: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?"

I'm going to continue competing in Wushu, I'm going to keep bringing drafts of my short story to my writers' group meetings each week, and I'm going to keep posting to my blog once per week.  Please post in the comments something you can do in your life to make a practice more real, more risky and more rewarding.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Friending in Real Life

I’ve started joking with my friends that I’m becoming my own social network because I've collected various fabulous friends along the way, and I'm starting to introduce them to each other.

One of my friends jokes that I have a “posse”.  I do belong to a mommy group that has been active for over five years, but I doubt any of them would consider themselves part of “my” posse.  We’ve just really been there for each other while we've learned through trial and many errors how to raise our kids.  We’re still asking each other for advice and suggestions as the kids grow older and become slightly different challenges to our sanity.

We realized we shared a love of books, so we started a book club a few years ago, and recently a few of us started a writers’ group.

I really liked one of the moms I met at my son’s elementary school so I invited her to join our book club, and ended up redefining and renaming our group so we could start inviting people who weren’t part of our original mommy group.

Then I reconnected with a friend I had lost touch with and invited her to join the book club and the writers’ group.  She doesn’t live in the same city as the rest of us, and she doesn’t have any kids yet, but she fits in great, and I’m hoping this is another step in making our groups even more diverse and fun.

This is such a complete reversal of what I was like growing up.  I'd always lived far away from my classmates so I never had anyone to play with on the weekends or after school.  I didn’t really have a social life until I was 16 and got my driver’s license, and even then I was still very socially awkward and inept.

I was so insecure I didn’t even really know how to be friends with anyone.  I alternated between being shy and not saying anything with being a know-it-all and arrogant, trying to prove I wasn't as worthless as I felt.  I was so ashamed that my father had been in jail and was in the U.S. illegally when most of my friends’ fathers were lawyers, doctors, or diplomats.

Thanks to some self-help workshops (The Landmark Forum and North Star Life Coach Training), a few years of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and learning from some really awesome, supportive, and inspiring friends, I am still insecure but much more comfortable in my skin.  I’ve made it a habit to thank people often and let them know how much I appreciate them.  I’ve forced myself to admit when I’m wrong and apologize, even though I’m terrified people will reject and condemn me for making a mistake.  Almost every person has graciously accepted the apology and continued the friendship.

I’ve made a commitment to be vulnerable and let people get to know me, warts and all.  And to show that I honestly want to get to know them.  I’m trying to let the people I interact with know how much I value them.

I think we can all be a little more inclusive.  Maybe it’s no accident that we run into the same people at the supermarket, at the coffee shop, at the playground.

Are you already part of a group that meets regularly?  Think about the other people you interact with, is there anyone else you can invite to join that group?

If you’re not in a group that meets regularly, ask the people in your life if they’re part of a group you can join or if you can start a group together.  There are so many interests that people can meet and talk about: books, gardening, movies, restaurants, music, theater.  Make time to revel in something you love and surround yourself with people who accept you and encourage you to be yourself.

Friday, May 10, 2013

There's Something About Gnomes

I started reading online about suicide running in families and got depressed after two web pages.  I started a blog post about how I experience depression as rage, and realized it's going to take a long time and many drafts to describe it well.  And to make it worth reading.

So now, for something completely different and not depressing, I'm going to confess a deep, dark, well, not particularly deep or dark secret.  I have a thing for gnomes.  Garden gnomes actually.  "Fetish" sounds creepy, "fascination" isn't quite it, and neither is "obsession".  So it's just a "thing" I have.  I love garden gnomes.  They make me happy.  They are the embodiment of "idyllic" (extremely happy, peaceful, or picturesque).

My favorite gnomes look slightly drunk, like they've just had a few pints of Guinness or butterbeer.  They remind me that there are still moments in life that can be carefree, innocent, or just plain silly.

They also speak to the part of me that wants to believe in magic.  I studied Scandinavian folklore at UCLA, and I remember my professor talking about "nisse," household spirits who help take care of farmers' homes and families.  It's not like I believe my garden gnomes will brush our cat or keep away the raccoons (if they're supposed to, they're clearly doing a crap job), but I'd rather have a garden gnome as a lucky charm than a rabbit's foot any day.

Garden gnomes are usually older folks, and I suppose I romanticize what it'll be like when I'm 80 years old.  That I'll have lived through so much I'll finally stop worrying and just accept life as it comes.  I'll feel more gratitude than regret.  I'll know with certainty that in the end, everything is going to be okay.

I like turtle statues and Buddha statues (the smiling dancing ones anyway), and the sleeping kitty statues, but there's just something about garden gnomes that makes me feel welcome and at home.

If you want to see irreverent garden gnome photos, follow me on Twitter (@prtndurgonodatit).


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hugging my Waistline to a Baseline

I've come to the realization (again) that I need to eat healthier.  I'm 5'2" and Asian, and most of my body is pretty slender, which makes me even more self-conscious about my waist (blush), which is to say the least "prominent".  I swear I think I must look like a snake that's swallowed a watermelon.  Every few months someone will congratulate me and ask, "When are you due?" even though I'm not pregnant.

The "ideal" weight for my height and frame is 9 lbs. less than what I actually weigh, which makes me think I probably only really need to lose 4-5 lbs.  I recently calculated my waist-to-hip ratio though, and realized my waist is almost the same width as my hips, which apparently puts me at greater risk of developing coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease.  To get to a healthier ratio, I need to lose about 2-3 in. off my waist.

When I've thought about losing 4-5 lbs., I've thought, "Gosh, am I just being a perfectionist?  Shouldn't I just accept my body the way it is?  Other people probably have more weight to lose or worse health problems, am I just complaining about nothing?"  I've felt guilty about thinking I should eat healthier.  Does that sound as crazy as I think it does?

When I think about losing 2-3 in. off my waist, it sounds harder, but also much more worthwhile.  Diabetes runs in my family so I've known for some time that I need to take care of my health, but I didn't have specific data to really give me the kick in the butt that I've needed.  I'm hoping this goal will.

I recently spent 2.5 years in therapy, and we made great strides in controlling my temper, accepting and experiencing painful emotions, and challenging self-destructive beliefs.  One thing we could never make headway with was eating healthfully.  I did the South Beach Diet, and it worked for the two weeks I was on it.  Then I went back to my indulging in empty calories throughout the day.  For example, one day this week I ate a chocolate croissant, frozen yogurt with Oreo bits and peanuts, ice cream, a couple of chicken wings, and a slice of pizza as SNACKS, in addition to three full meals.

I know the benefits of eating healthfully.  It doesn't help.  I know that I tend to get cravings around 9 am and 4 pm.  I know that I eat when I feel anxious or angry.  I know that I use food as rewards for not yelling at my kids (even though of course I still yell at them, just not as often or maybe as loudly) or doing a ridiculous number of errands in a short period of time.  I know that I get more moody when I eat empty calories because I end up on the sugar high and low roller coaster.  Knowing all this has not helped me start nor maintain healthy eating habits.

BUT, this is my first attempt at eating healthier since I started this blog.  I'm going to let all the past attempts stay in the past and not treat them as predictors of a future failure.  I'm going to practice what a fellow blogger suggests, asking, "What else can I be thinking about instead of eating cookies/scones/mochas?"  I'm going to order iced tea instead of mochas if I go to a coffee shop (I'm a mom, there's no way to avoid coffee shops between kids' story hour, book club, and writers' group).  I'm going to remind myself that I'm not eating pastries or mochas until I've lost those 2-3 in. off my waist.  I'm not actually going to measure my waist until I can feel a significant difference in the tightness of my pants.  I'm not going to worry about anyone judging me for my weight loss if it's smaller than anyone else's.  It's my journey to a healthier, happier me, and it's totally valid.  I'm going to remember I'm not alone in this endeavor.  My fellow blogger Miss Bookish Girl recently wrote about her struggle to be a foodie while on Weight Watchers.

I'm going to accept that I'm okay the way I am now, and I'm still going to be okay when my waist is a little smaller, and maybe a little smaller still.  I'm going to remember that "treating" myself is more about giving myself a break, sometimes by leaving chores to be done later or by forgiving myself for making mistakes.  I am going to DO THIS.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Best is Yet to Come? Nope, it's Now

“I’m doing the best I can,” I told my son the other day.  I was surprised how quickly he accepted that and cut me some slack.  I wish I were as quick to give myself the benefit of the doubt.

“Doing my best” sometimes seems like a cop-out, especially to the Perfectionist in my head (Remember her?  She’s that loud know-it-all who tells me all the ways I’m wrong).

I think that all of us really are doing the best we can, in the circumstances we’re in, with the current set of skills we have.  It’s easy to feel we can do better, but striving to improve is something best done in moderation.  I haven't always felt this way.

I recently found the only short story I have ever finished, and it was written at a time when I unequivocally felt that my dad’s best was worthless.  The story is like a diatribe against my last boss, my mother, my father, and my aunt.

It was written seven years ago, and my oh my, how much has changed.  My dad is dead now, and I forgive him everything because I really understand now that he did do the best he could.  He never learned the skills to dig himself out of the really dark place his depression and anxiety always brought him back to.  He never built the amazing support network that I've been extremely lucky to find.  Who I am is very much because of my relationship with him, and I'm grateful that I knew him.

My aunt in the story is the aunt I recently reconnected with.  She criticized my mother, but it was almost 15 years ago, and she was going through a rough time with her own kids.  She did apologize at the time.  The fact that my mom and my aunt are able to pick up right where they left off is so satisfying to me.

The depiction of my mother in the story is rather more a caricature of her quirks.  But the thing about my father telling me that she tried to abort me twice is true.  I've never spoken to her about it.  I don't feel the need or desire to.  It's immaterial whether it's true.  I know that she loves me now, and she's very proud of me.  I appreciate her so much more now than I did when I was growing up, or even just a few years ago.

I still find it hard when someone does something that irritates me, especially if I'm driving.  I'm so quick to tell myself that they should have done something different, been more courteous, not been an idiot.  Then I remember that that's just my ego or my Perfectionist.

The truth is that we're all doing the best we can, but just like our kids, sometimes we get tired, or hungry, or grumpy, or afraid, or all four simultaneously, and our best looks kind of messy and not particularly good.

Dog shows have many, many categories for judging, and then the final category is Best in Show.  I'd like to think now that we are each in our own category, and we're doing our best in the show that is our lives.  Cheesy, I know, but I'm going to "try it on" and see if it helps me be more accepting of myself and everyone around me.  I want that so bad, it's worth experimenting with lots of different things, cheesy, idiotic, or what not.  So much of my frustration in life is refusing to accept things as they are.

Here is the short story I wrote in June 2006.  My husband likes to say that I am an "award-winning" writer since I won third prize and $10 for this piece at the community college where I was taking a creative writing course.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Facing Fear: Giving It the Finger, and Letting It Give Me a Hand

I'm really good at being afraid: of heights, of being a "bad mother", that everything is just going to go wrong today, and so on, and so forth.

Then there are times when I do just the thing I'm afraid of.  In the late '90s I noticed that when I went hiking, I took FOREVER to walk downhill because I was terrified of falling and getting hurt.  So I started to study aikido, a Japanese martial art similar to judo which involves a lot of rolling around and falling down.  I figured I might as well learn how to fall properly so it wouldn't be as scary.  (I did aikido for 8 years, and it was scary every time I fell down or got thrown, but I learned that I could force myself past that fear, at least for a little while at a time.  Plus I got to meet some really great people, which was a greater reward than I could have hoped for.)

For me, it's hard to face physical fears, and it's even harder to face emotional fears.  I'm afraid to be vulnerable, to share my opinion with other people, knowing that at any moment I might sound like an idiot.  I'm afraid to ask for help because what if people think I'm weak?  I'm afraid that people will figure out I really have no idea what I'm doing.

Fear can be a hindrance at times, but it can also be a tool.  Its job is to motivate us to protect ourselves.  It reminds us that we're worth protecting.

So, writing this blog is scary for me.  I'm afraid that people will read it and think it's crap or that I'm arrogant for thinking I have something to say.  One part of fear tells me not to make myself vulnerable to criticism, but another fear tells me that if I don't do the things I really want to do, I'll be wasting opportunities to really be myself.

It's scary being myself.  If I pretend to be someone, and people don't like me, that's okay because it's just a facade or a role I'm playing.  But if I'm being myself and people don't like me, then I think that there must be something wrong with me.  What I'm finding in practice is that the more real I am about what I think, how I feel, and who I am, the more comfortable I feel being with other people, and they in turn seem more comfortable around me.

I don't expect every person I interact with to like me.  We're all on our various paths, and we're going to resonate with some people more than others.  But being myself, as scary as it is, makes me more likely to surround myself with people who "get" me and appreciate me.  It's meant a lot to me the people who have taken the time to read my blog and comment on it.

So, fear: friend or foe?  I say friend as long as you follow the fears that lead you to a bigger, fuller life.  If the fear urges you to shrink your comfort zone, hide your real feelings, or pretend to be someone you're not, acknowledge its attempt to protect you, then let it go.  When fear comes along with a sense of excitement and possibility, let it stretch you to become even more the person you really are.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Seeing My Aunt and Friending More Relatives

As I wrote in an earlier post, I went to visit my aunt, my dad's sister, recently.  I hadn't seen her for almost 15 years, and I wasn't sure what to expect.  I realize now of course that I needn't have worried because it was like there had never been any hostility or separation between us.  I hugged her as soon as I got out of the car, and she hugged me right back.

My mom came along, as well as my two kids.  My mom and aunt had talked on the phone once already, so they just gabbed along in Cantonese as though there hadn't been any lapse in their friendship all these years.

I thought my aunt would be alone, but her husband and her grandson were already there.  Her husband accidentally called me my mother's Chinese name when he first saw me because I look so much like her, then laughed when he realized his mistake.

I had thought their grandson, my cousin's son, would be in school, but he was apparently on Spring Break, as my kids were.  He was the best surprise of the whole experience.  He's 14 now and an only child, and I think he immediately fell in love with my kids, especially my daughter.  He went out of his way to try to take care of them.  He offered them something to drink, asked my son if he wanted to watch cartoons, and tried to make my daughter laugh as often as possible.  When we went for a walk, he raced my son and made sure my son got safely across the street.  He kept asking how long we were going to stay and seemed very sad when we were leaving.

I'm so grateful to be able to reconnect with this part of my dad's family.  One day I'll be able to just write "my family", but I feel a little like I still have to earn it a bit.  It's unfortunate that we live almost two hours apart so it's unlikely we'll see each other often.  Thankfully, it seems that most of my dad's family is on Facebook.  I added my aunt and was able to see a bunch of my other relatives, including two cousins who live only half an hour away that I forgot I had.

It turns out one of those cousins went to the same college I did.  I sent her an Add Friend request and wrote her a message explaining who I was.  She wrote back immediately, and we ended up chatting online for a little while.  She seemed genuinely interested in meeting me and my kids.  I confessed that I worried that her dad, my dad's only remaining brother, might still be mad at me for not keeping in touch with my dad, and she wrote, "No no, everyone understands."  That made my eyes tear up because I wouldn't blame any of them for blaming me at least a little for my dad's suicide.  He felt he had no one in his life and no reason to live.  If I could have known that he wasn't angry at me anymore and wouldn't make unreasonable demands on me, I would have liked to be able to write him letters and send him photos of the kids.  I hope that whatever energy was the essence of him can still feel that I love him and that I'm doing my best to make some good come from his death.

So, I have plans to meet my other aunt, uncle, and their two daughters in a little less than two weeks.  I hope my mom can come again.  Even though my parents divorced when I was very young, I think she would like to be friends with my dad's family.  All of her relatives are still in Hong Kong.  She made a comment about how Thanksgiving could be really nice this year, with so many more relatives.  The thought honestly hadn't occurred to me, but now that it does, I'm really eager for more time with my (dad's) family.  It's like that line in "When Harry Met Sally": "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible!"

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why This Isn't "Fake It 'Til You Make It"

I was really inspired when The Bloggess told the crowd at the bookstore about Neil Gaiman giving her the advice: "Pretend you're good at it."  It sounds so simple, but it requires shutting off that annoying voice in my head, the one I call The Perfectionist (other people name the voices in their heads, right?  That's not just me, is it?).

The Perfectionist tends to shout things like:
Who the hell do you think you are?
Nobody cares what you think!
You can't write for shit.

So "Pretend you're good at it" is really very different from the phrase "Fake it 'til you make it."  As soon as I hear the word "fake" I immediately feel The Perfectionist saying, "Look at you, trying to be somebody special, trying to pretend you're good at something, but you're just a fraud.  Do the world a favor, shut the fuck up."  Faking it just reinforces your belief that you can't do something whereas pretending allows you to be whatever you want and has no attachment to who you are.  You can pretend you're just acting, playing a character.  No harm, no foul.  You're not trying to change the world, or even change who you are, although maybe after awhile, you might end up changing a little, maybe it won't be pretending as much after awhile.

Right now I'm pretending that I'm a blogger.  I'm pretending that I have something to say and maybe a handful of people might want to read it.  I'm pretending that all of the pain and suffering I've gone through and all the lessons I've learned have been to prepare me for this.

I've read many articles asking, "How would you finish the sentence 'If I weren't afraid, I would...'"  If I weren't terrified, I would write.  I'm still terrified, but I'm pretending it's all going to be okay.

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Terms of Estrangement

On Monday I'm going to see my aunt on my dad's side, who I haven't seen for almost 15 years.  My father and I didn't get along for most of my life, and his siblings had a habit of trying to coerce me into re-establishing contact with him, which I did not appreciate.  I felt like they were imposing this culture of "respect your parents no matter what", which they grew up with, but I did not.

Anyway, my father committed suicide 4 months ago, and I'm very sorry that it happened, but at the same time, I'm glad he isn't suffering anymore.  That's what you say about cancer patients, right?  But people with anxiety and depression suffer too, although I think much more in silence.  I think my father had untreated anxiety and depression his whole life, some of it due to being extremely poor as a child and being abandoned by his father, and probably a lot of it due to biochemistry.  My uncle (my dad's younger brother) committed suicide sometime in the early '90s so this wasn't a huge surprise, even though it was kind of a shock.

So, I'm going to visit my aunt.  When I talked to her on the phone after I found out my dad died and how he died, she was incredibly compassionate.  She didn't tell me that it was my fault because I wouldn't reach out to him.  She was almost kind of apologizing for him, that he didn't have a good role model for how to be a good person.  And I agree with her.  He did the best he could with what he had, he just didn't have a lot.  I think of all the wonderful people in my life that I trust, who accept me for who I am, and he didn't have that.

I'm bringing my kids to meet my aunt.  My kids know almost nothing about my dad or his family.  When I found out my dad died, I showed them his picture, but I didn't mention how he'd been in prison or that I used to be afraid that he would hurt me or my mom.

I'm bringing my kids because I really do want them to meet their aunt and for her to get to meet them.  I've sent her a few photos over the last few months, but my kids are really super cute and funny, and I figure if there's any residual resentment from my aunt, she'll bend over backwards to hide it so she can see my kids again.  I've heard of people being really non-accepting of their daughter or son-in-law until a grandkid appears and they suddenly become much more flexible and amicable.  I'm counting on this being a similar situation.

My mother is also coming with us.  She seems as eager as I am to reconnect with my aunt.  It's interesting to see how one person can be the focal point for many, many other relationships, and how they can make those relationships stronger or tear them apart.  My father's death created space and an opportunity for healing.  I'm really grateful for that, and I'm going to allow myself to be vulnerable, take the risk that I may be judged or condemned.  I grew up feeling so alone, I want my kids to have as big of a family as I can create for them.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Inaugural Post

This is my first post on this blog.  If you read the title of this post, you're probably thinking, "Well, yeah, DUH."  So, I'm probably going to write a bunch of things that are really obvious to other people, but are brand-spanking new to me.

My heart is racing while I type this.  I'm pretty sure this is stuff I should edit out later, but I know I'll be too lazy to.  I imagine I sound a bit like I've been drinking, but it was only coffee, and I'm quite sure I asked for decaf.

So, this new blog.  I freely admit, I totally stole the title of the blog from Neil Gaiman, told to me by The Bloggess herself.  Well, she didn't just tell me personally, she told a bunch of people sitting and standing around in a Barnes & Noble.  But anyway, she said she was doing a crappy job of recording an audiobook version of her book "Let's Pretend This Never Happened", and she sent an email to Neil Gaiman asking him for advice, and he wrote back, "Pretend that you're good at it."

So, I start writing a diary entry in my computer, which is really a Microsoft Word file, because I can't write by hand, it's too slow, and my hand starts to cramp, and I get that indent in my index finger.  But I hate to think of writing in a "diary" or what I used to snootily refer to as "my journal".  It feels too much like mental masturbation, although I'm sure other people write really interesting things in their diaries or journals, I just don't feel that I do.

So, this blog.  What am I going to write about?  I have no idea.  Or at least, I only have one idea so far, and I could stick to it or change it, or forget about it, or whatever.  Yeah, I'm stalling.  My little idea is to write about my acts of courage, about taking risks, being vulnerable, making a fool of myself, whatever I would be tempted to hide, I'm going to publish.  Not stuff that's private to other people or might upset them, just stuff about me and that includes stuff that other people are okay with sharing.

I've already admitted to plagiarizing words from Neil Gaiman, I think it's obvious I'm probably also plagiarizing The Bloggess' way of writing although I haven't read her blog, just her book, and I think most people with anxiety write and talk this way, so I'm probably plagiarizing lots of other people, but hey this blog is free, so you can't sue me, (I think).

Anyway, this is my new blog.  Um, a little about me, I suffer from anxiety and depression, which means everyone around me suffers with my anxiety and depression, but I'm really lucky that most of those people are frankly awesome.  I'm a mom with two kids.  Lots of fun stuff runs in my family like depression, suicide, and diabetes.  These will likely be topics of future posts, so if you're not into that kind of stuff, you probably won't want to come back here.  But if you are still reading this far, and you do decide to come back, Welcome! and thank you.  Please share with me your own acts of courage and taking risks.  All too often we try to protect ourselves from getting hurt or getting judged, and I'm inspired by The Bloggess to live my life out loud and proud of my freakishness.  It's what makes me me.  Unique/freaky, it's really all the same thing to me.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where you want to do something but then think, "Oh, I couldn't do that" (because of so and so, whatever), do it anyway, and Pretend You're Good at It.