Finding Purpose in Life

My dear sweet friend,

I wanted to let you know that my father is doing well. Not easy to find a purpose for living after having lost your best friend of 64 years. Yes, at first there were days when he would do nothing but sit in front of the television and watch Fox News over and over again with the volume on high, oh dear. We would try our best to get him out and busy, playing ping pong, swimming or taking a walk around the neighborhood, but it seemed he was losing interest in living.

A couple of months ago i encouraged him to follow through on a dream he had for walls outside his windows- his new project is giving him a desire to live, to leave a legacy for his children and grandchildren. I hired a wonderful young woman who loves to hang out with him on weekends, on days i can’t. Lexi’s helping paint the window wells outside his windows, and the project is transforming view and his life:)

He has a sunset, a sunrise and then a field of poppies. Instead of blank walls when he looks out, he now sees beautiful sceneries that remind us of our mom.

I have a feeling my mom is smiling from above ūüôā

Comparing my insides to your outsides feeds a sense of loneliness

My sweet friend,

Are there times when you can’t understand how you came to be? ¬†As a child I¬†felt so different from everyone else – that somehow I was the only one who didn’t fit in..? Being the only Chinese family in an all white community didn’t help any.

Last night I went to see the movie The Farewell – based on an actual lie. ¬†(I love that line.) ¬†How many white lies do we live? ¬†How many white lies sugar coat our existence so people don’t see our insides? ¬†The movie reminded me that the Chinese are so good at making themselves look good on the outside – that it’s better to lie than to let others know that you may be hurting on the inside. ¬†I think I understand my people better after having seen the movie. ¬†I thought it was just MY family that likes to cover the truth. ¬†When in fact it’s generations and generations of Chinese people believing that we are all a part of a whole. ¬†It is in being a part of a whole, that it becomes our responsibility to carry the emotional load of any one individual, and it is in this responsibility, we learn to be co-dependent and create white lies in order to maintain our sense of dignity, wholeness and perhaps pride.

We tend to compare our insides with others’ outsides. ¬†Therein lies the problem -everyone looks so good on the outside! ¬†when we feel confused and lost on the inside, we think ‘what’s wrong with me?” and then we feel not only alone, but lonely.

Alone and lonely are two very different things. ¬†In being alone, living one’s gift or purpose, there is no need to find someone or something on the outside to experience ¬†happiness and peace. ¬†We live the truth, without the need for lies. The individual seeking happiness through external sources experiences loneliness – in efforts to fit in, s/he create lies, or warps reality to feel better and to protect from the fear of imperfection and then feels confused, lost and aimless.

It is on our own personal journey of truth, when we no longer depend on others’ approval, fulfilling others’ expectations, that we unveil the happiness that lies within, our own personal freedom and connection to the universe or higher power.

Busy, productive and the gift of friends

My dear sweet friend,

It’s been way too long. ¬†I’ve missed you. ¬†There’s no real excuse for my neglect other than I’ve been busy. ¬†How many times do we hear that? ¬†‘I’ve been so busy!’ ¬†I’ve started to say that I’ve been ‘productive’ instead, as this word is closer to the truth.

My days have been filled with muun chi, my father, my garden and home. ¬†I love my life but there never seems to be enough time, and I guess that’s where ‘busy’ enters my mind. ¬†When I hear the word ‘busy’ I imagine the hamster running on his wheel, caged in and small. ¬†This is not me. ¬†On the contrary, I feel centered, liberated and very happy. ¬†So ‘busy’ is not the right word.

My muun chi is growing and I’ll be in a couple of shops this month. ¬†It’s not about the money, it’s about doing something I love, that I feel will help others and the earth. ¬†( ¬†I’m having a blast designing the logo, the packaging and finding ways to share it with the world.

I’m happy to report that my father is doing well. ¬†I hired a friend who is helping him with an art project that is giving him purpose. ¬†It’s so beautiful seeing him find meaning in life, without my mom – something he never thought would be possible. ¬†My garden has blessed me with tomatoes, massive amounts of swiss chard, peppers, cucumbers, mint and so many beautiful herbs. ¬†I plan my meals around my garden and her gifts. ¬†It’s a simple and fulfilling existence where I am in a constant state of awe and gratitude. ¬†Nature is amazing!

Touching base with friends and family, and trying my best to stay connected is always such a joy for me and yet in my efforts to learn to care for myself, it’s easy for me not to reach out and simply focus on my growth. ¬†I have so much to learn! Friends and family are the source of my health!, ¬†and yet it’s so easy for me to take them for granted.

When I hear from friends, I love it! ¬†I heard from my friend from high school last week, and we took the time to walk the strand and catch up. ¬†It was wonderful listening to his many accomplishments and to be reminded of the importance of ¬†blazing a trail that is your own because you believe in a truth that will ultimately have a positive impact on others’ lives. ¬†What an inspiration he is, and such a beautiful reminder!

In the quiet of the butterflies, I feel my mother

My dear sweet friend,

I have so much to be grateful for.  This past week was filled with butterflies.  Everywhere I looked I could see them flying north, like tiny stars twinkling in the middle of the day in the bright sun.  They were just beautiful and so quiet in their journey!  There was no noise, just the flitter of their wings, as they made their way to their new home.

And of course I thought about my mom.  How she loved caring for her flowers, listening to the birds, and watching for the quiet landing of a butterfly.

I thought about how quiet and peaceful she was during her final years with us as she made her way to her new home.

It’s moments like these – these unexpected reminders that she’s still with me, in all her beauty – that give me such joy and gratitude.

Sharing the personal loss of someone you love

Dear sweet friend,

I received a beautiful call from my son yesterday. ¬†He was calling to let me know he was thinking about me….that he had just realized that I had lost my mom. ¬†In his personal grief, he was immersed in missing his grandma, and thinking about how grandpa must be so sad…that he was making the effort to check in with grandpa but hadn’t zoomed into the fact that I must have been hurting too. ¬†So immersed in his emotion, he didn’t realize until two weeks had passed that I had lost my mom and how sad he would be if he had lost me.

I love how open and honest Tai is. ¬†He went on to share that he always associates me as the one who is there caring for his grandma and grandpa, and that my central role during this past month, has been to care for grandpa’s state of despair. ¬†Our defined roles in relation to our selves is how we often experience the world. ¬†It’s when we can step into the other person’s shoes that we have a true sense of the whole experience because their relation to the situation or the person is very different from your own.

As I sit here experiencing the waves of emotions, my feelings of sadness and gratitude weave in and out of me. ¬†There are many moments that I get so wrapped up in feeling the pain of my father, that I forget to acknowledge the pain of my loss too – the special relationship I had with my mom, just the two of us. ¬†Sometimes I feel like I’m underwater searching for air, and every time I come up for a peek, a wave hits me and I’m down on the bottom again thinking about the pain my father must be experiencing.

After I hung up with Tai, for the first time in a long time, I actually wanted to pick up the phone and talk to my mom about what’s been brewing inside me – something I never did, because the relationship I shared with my mom was that of successes shared, not of broken times.

She wouldn’t have been proud of me if I shared any failures, and I wanted her to be proud of me so I could be loved. ¬†And that’s a story for another time.


The Language of the Heart

Dear sweet friend,

There were so many incredible moments during the weeks we spent as a family while my mom transitioned.  These moments were filled with lessons from above that moved me and my siblings to a greater understanding of my mom and dad.

They grew up in China, and only knew people of Chinese background. ¬†They also had come to learn that America was a land of opportunity. ¬†When they arrived in America in 1949, both the Chinese and African Americans, along with other minority groups were not well regarded, nor treated with respect. ¬†They only knew what they had been exposed to and to fear the unknown. ¬†They wanted to more like the ‘successful’ Americans, and not like the ones who were being mistreated.

They had never been exposed to African Americans and so I can understand now how they had developed a mistrust and judgement of them as a people, but at the time I could not understand why my parents didn’t like blacks – Hay-zens, my parents would call them.

They tried to hide their prejudices by hiring our first and only babysitter – a thin, elderly black woman named Mary Washington. ¬†I loved her. ¬†She would listen to me practice my piano everyday at 4 pm. ¬†She’d stop all her work, and sit and listen. ¬†And when I was finished, she’d let me sit on her lap and she’d hold me. ¬†Looking back, I understand why my mom and dad had hired her. ¬†My mom was a chemist at a local hospital, and my father was just starting off at his first job as draftsman at a reputable local architecture firm. ¬†Money was tight, and they could afford to pay an elderly black woman. ¬†In their act of being frugal, they taught me as a little girl, to trust and love everyone, no matter their color.

But their prejudice against blacks became obvious when my niece chose to marry a black man and she was expecting a baby. ¬†My father cried, “I’m going to have a black grandchild…! ¬†What are we going to do?”

“you’re going to love her, dad,” ¬†I would tell him.

Our very first hospice nurse was a black woman named Diane. ¬†She was kind, quiet and loving. ¬†But my father would have nothing to do with her. ¬†He wouldn’t allow her to touch my mom. ¬†As much as we tried to reason with him, he refused her care. ¬†The next nurse they sent was another beautiful black woman. ¬†And our spiritual counselor sent from hospice was a tall, soft spoken, wise black man. ¬†My father had no choice. ¬†He listened and learned and over the course of just a few days, he changed. ¬†He began to see the beauty and love that he was to learn from people who only wanted the best for our family as my mom made her transition to another place.

And my mom got to feel the loving care her hospice team provided.  These angels were of all different colors, but of the same beautiful heart, and they all spoke the same language Рthe language of love and kindness.

Sunrise, Sunset

Dear sweet friend,

We made our weekly visit to my dad’s village in Northridge, where I teach meditation to a bunch of 90 some year olds. ¬†I love these friends of my father and mother. ¬†I treasure every moment I can with them. ¬†They are filled with wisdom, stories, and experiences and as I get to know each of them, I’ve come to understand why I like to read multiple books at a time. ¬†Each one of them is like a book. ¬†Each has a story s/he to share….they just want to share that story with someone – someone who will listen. ¬†And I love to listen.

The letter of the week was ‘S’ and my father chose to share about the word ‘sad’. ¬†He said he felt guilty that his wife was no longer with us. ¬†And that his children had made her leave the hospital without her feeding tube. ¬†This, of course, was not true, but this was his perspective. ¬†If he chooses to blame his children so he doesn’t have to believe that it was her decision to go home without the tube, so be it. ¬†The thought that he wants to blame his children hurts, but I can also choose not to let it hurt me. ¬†Instead I can try and understand his pain, and how it must feel to know that your wife chose not to keep on living. ¬†As much as she loved him, she chose to stop running the marathon – she chose to rest and stop pleasing him, she chose to no longer be in pain. ¬†Bless her heart.

The session closed with him playing ‘Sunrise, Sunset” on his harmonica- his way of expressing his emotions. ¬†We sat there drenched in tears listening to his pain, and his acceptance that life does go on with her spirit by our side.