Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Do You Want?

“What do you want in life? You don’t know what you want!” Jody screamed into the phone. “No,” I responded sharply, “I know exactly what I want!” I have always known specifics of what I wanted, places I wanted to visit, things I wanted to accomplish, relationships I wanted to create. But now as I look back on my past pursuits and look ahead into the field of unknown, one thing I do know for certain is that I want to experience all that life has to offer. I have long loathed the prevalent belief in that life is nothing but a constant pursuit of happiness or contentment. For me that notion irrespectively reduces an otherwise expansive and multifaceted life into a two dimensional black and white concept.

What do I want? I want it all. I want the highest of highs and lowest of lows. I don’t care to be happy nor am I addicted to sadness. I don’t care for an easy life nor do I want pointless turmoil. I want to feel everything in its most raw state. I want shed every piece of clothing, callus, pretense, stigma and expectation in order to experience and connect to things, people and events in a visceral way. I want to be a jellyfish without an exoskeleton, a nerve net ready to detect every stimulus. 

I’m proud of the life I have lived. I’ve experienced highs and lows. I have pursued and accomplished things with conviction. I learned about myself and created meaningful relationships along the way. The world can be full of despair. Think of the waste, pollution, poverty, inequality, injustice, famine, disease, conflict and war. It’s barely a place you’d want to bring a new life to. Yet at the same time the world can be a miraculous and full of resilience. Picture joyful reunions, the birth of a new baby, first green in the spring and sunrise over ancient ruins. What will be will be. I can’t make a swiping judgment on the world but I do believe in the strength and kindness of individual human spirit. Each one of us has tremendous capacity to love and be loved. I’m not here to change the world or leave a lasting legacy. I’m here to experience life, all that it has to offer.

And now, more so than ever, I want to share and pass on those experiences to my children. I want to introduce them to their first orchestra concert, musical, opera, play, etc. I want them to see the beauty in nature and appreciate the vastness of all that is knowable. I want to have the wisdom to install in them the deep desire to explore the world and I want to have the strength to let them go on their own to satisfy that desire. And above all, I want them to experience the love and trust we have for each other.

When I first started teach guitar lessons to young children I felt an indescribable sense of satisfaction knowing that they are going to grow up knowing certain things, however small or insignificant, in music and in life because of me. It made me want to be a better teacher. It made me want to be a better person. It was comforting to think that someday, years from now, they may even remember me with fondness. I felt like a butterfly that had flapped its wings.

Twice I had conceived and twice I had aborted. The decisions were made without emotional attachment or regrets as I clearly knew I wasn’t mentally or financially ready at the time. Still, I remember very well what it was like to see those two blue lines appear on a stick. In the midst of uncertainty there was also undeniable excitement. For a brief moment I was filled with a secret sense of joy. But I'm at a different place now. I can always do better financially but physically and mentally I’m ready.

On the last visit to China my grandmother said something I will never forget. This is a woman who has experienced unimaginable transformation, evolution, hardship and love in her lifetime. Yet at nearly ninety years old she said, “I’m old but I don’t feel like I have lived enough.” I wanted to hold her hands, hug her and tell her that she has lived an extraordinary life and that it was enough. Just look at the family she has created. I am a testament to the turbulent yet fruitful life she has lived.

When I mention kids, people never fail to inject how difficult it is to raise them, especially alone. What they don’t know is that I come from a long lineage of fiercely resilient women. When my grandmother was in her early teens she witnessed her own father being executed at gun point in their own home. When she met resistance for schooling because she was a girl, she changed her name to a boy’s name on the college admissions exam. When my mother was in her early teens, my grandparents were sent to jail so she had to not only take care of herself but also her four younger siblings, barely surviving on the measly amount of food they received from the neighbors. By the time she reached high school years she was sent to a remote farming community as part of the culture revolution. When policies shifted she was the first generation of students to be admitted to college by passing the admission exam with brute force of self-studying. And surely greater women before them have achieved far greater things than what they were expected to so I can be here. I do have good genes but more than that I have a strong spirit built on all those who came before me. Hardship is relative. I am in no place to complain or feel bad for my circumstances. I know deep down that anything I want I can accomplish. 

Monday, November 19, 2012


It was a particularly sunny Sunday morning in mid-November. I called Brett as I pull the car around for him to bring down my things, a gym bag with running gears and an overnight change of clothing, an insulated bag with a crockpot half full of the leftover chili I had made the previous day, which he thought for sure was spoiled because it had sat out for more than 3 hours unrefrigerated. An assortment of emotions and thoughts cycled through my mind like a merry-go-around. I wanted to hide in a cozy cocoon and not think or feel anything. Instead I took a deep breath and blanketed it under every bit of gratitude I could gather inside of me.

The sunlight felt warm on my black leather jacket as I waited for him outside. I was calm and composed. I didn’t know what to say but what did it matter? Words were never my forte. Despite a lifetime of experiences, saying goodbye is just one of those things I’ll never learn. I loaded the bags into the trunk, turned to him and did the only thing that probably felt natural to both of us. We kissed and hugged each other. He felt unbearably good, which only made me sadder. He thanked me for the chili and I wished him a good trip. Just like that we parted, for the last time, like two very civilized and grateful people.

Our paths had crossed rather serendipitously. It was sweet in the beginning but it has thoroughly run its course. By now I had clearly overextended my stay. This is it, I told myself, no more visits. I know I said that five visits ago but this time it’s for real. I pulled up his contact in my phone and pressed delete like it’s going to save my neurotic self from a total elapse. People who say I have good self-control don’t know how often I fail. 

Rose had always said that what is more hurtful than breaking up with someone is the loss of a dream, a future of togetherness you had built in your mind. In my case, I wasn’t in a relationship. I had created a fantasy in my head. I had sculpted a perfect individual who was successful, smart, handsome, active, charismatic, cultured, sensitive and funny.  Surely some of these could be justified, such as the fact that he was well traveled (soon to be 28 countries), well read (always had books around), fit (always worked out) and adored children (volunteered as a big brother). But then everything is justifiable if you looked hard enough. We see what we want to see. At end of the day I am guilty of plastering all the traits I’d like all over someone I had barely known. It was a disappointment waiting to happen.

There are things that I’ve done in my life that could be considered shameful by the general population but I feel no shame. Up until now I had no idea what exactly made me feel shameful. But now I know. Shame is when I catch myself willingly and knowingly let someone treat me less than I what I deserve. I can count the times I have let this happen to me on one hand. It runs counter to everything I believe in. I’ve always been proud of the people I’ve dated and associated myself with. They respected me because I respected myself. But every now and then I fail regardless how confident and secure I build myself up to be. It’s so embarrassing I want to pull the sheets over my face and imagine myself disappearing from this world.

It wasn’t anything he did that was upsetting. In fact, he had done nothing at all. I had let myself be the victim of disengagement. Why didn’t he have the courtesy to uninvited me had he been so disinterested? Why did I come here for someone who is obviously oblivious to my presence? I hit myself over the head with these questions over and over again. Was it more polite in his mind to give someone the silent treatment or perhaps he was just in it for the convenience of someone showing up at the door for sex? I’ll never find out what his thought process was. It’s hard for me to admit that there are things I so desperately want that I’d let down my principles for. I was looking for affection, intimacy and something new and exciting. All the things I’ve always looked for, probably and hopefully will never stop looking for. For a moment I wanted to live out that fantasy even if it wasn't real. It would have had been a perfect story to tell the grand kids. Still, fantasies only belong in storybooks. Adults need to go to work and deal with real life and contemplate questions such as: have I always traded sex for affection?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Single Mother List

J Just a few things I thought I'd need to get together before kids:

      Make Money
·         Save money by setting fixed monthly savings account, cut eating out and personal purchases. 
·         Be Healthy
o   Exercise 3-5 times per week (>3 hours cardio)
o   Nutrition: eat healthy, take vitamins and supplements, cycle off coffee
o   Mental health: practice meditation and time out to reduce stress
·         Job with:
o   Stable income, good health insurance, consistent schedule, minimum travel
o   4 weeks of vacation with school holidays
o   Male supervisor; progressive, open minded and younger employees
o   Mentally engaging
o   Bonus: onsite daycare, gym and proximity to amenities
·         Move to a place I want to live that is
o   Safe: low crime /unemployment rate, mild climate, stable community, away from major highways/truck stops/rail road and high traffic areas
o   Convenient: within 30min commute from work/daycare/hospital; within 15min from 24-hour store.
o   Affordable: housing < a third of income; cost of living/daycare
o   Diverse: multicultural/multiracial
o   Geographically interesting: bodies of water, woods, running/hiking trails, parks/reserves
o   Open minded, metropolitan, well educated population
·         Build support:
o   Join CM community, online groups
o   Connect with five moms with kids under 15
o   Identify and secure three immediate backups within 30min radius, who are able and willing to babysit, shop, cook and drive and to be on-call 24/7.
o   Identify two additional backups.
o   Identify three male role models within 30min radius, who are willing to meet at least once per month for positive influence.
o   Identify two legal guardians
o   One handyman/woman and one backup for home repairs.
o   Identify two potential babysitters
o   Identify three potential daycares
·         Legal
o   Donor contract
o   Life Insurance
o   Revocable Living Trust
o   Estate Planning: Will, POA, Health Care POA and Living Will

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Years ago I remember watching a TV interview with David Kohan, the writer for Will and Grace, as he explained the origin for the names of the leading characters on the show with a quotation from Marin Buber, “You need the will to purse a relationship with God, and the grace to receive it.”

Something in that quotation captured my attention even though I’m wasn’t a religious person, nor did I subscribe to the concept of God in Christian-Judeo theology. Every now and then the quotation would resurface in my mind, conjuring up a poignant sentiment of transcendence. To me, beyond its religious connotation, the quotation perfectly captured a delicate duality between courage and humility.

For as long as I can remember I was brought up with the dogma that if it’s your business you did it yourself. There is no question that I prided myself for growing up into a fiercely independent individual, even though sometimes it was to my own detriment. I didn’t refuse help, I just never ask for it. I didn’t know how ask for anything even if I wanted to. Five years of raw sales experience did little to correct that deficiency.

I live authentically. What you see is what you get. I am strong. I had little fear and I was not afraid to show my vulnerabilities. My mother always said that she saw the most profound understanding in my eyes long before I learned how to talk. I feel empathetic even though I might not always know the right things to say. I never learnt how to enunciate pedantic phrases like, “oh poor you!” or mastered the art of telling white lies like, “don’t worry, things will get better.” Words are inadequate. I often find myself resorting back to my nonverbal days as an infant, hoping that people would be able to pick up what my mom saw through my eyes.

Something must have worked. Even people who are much older and wiser than me reached out to me at times of need. They made me want to love more, give more and in turn feel even more inadequate. The saddest thing in life is not loss but our inability to express love. Overtime I learnt to reach out to others when I’m down and share with them my success and joy. I learnt to ask for other people’s opinions and even rely on their expertise on decisions I would have had made solely on my own not long ago. I want to continue to evolve because I want to live wholeheartedly.

In The Gift of Imperfection, Brene Brown write, “Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”

I think the next step for me to close the loop is to allow myself to receive love and to be comforted by the compassion others have for me, or to have the grace to receive it. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

It first started with a couple trickles, like drops leaking through hairline cracks on the side of a dam. The next thing I know I was bawling uncontrollably. A trip down my own memory lane of growing up outside of a conventional family made me think of everyone else around me. Either I have a niche for attracting people with family issues or the stats are worse than they are. Just about everyone I know is either a child of a broken family or has been removed from a child's life because of a divorce or separation. I thought about each of them as tears rolled down my cheeks. Why am I crying? I demanded answers. I feel sorrow but not for myself. I want to reach out and hug someone but not to be comforted. A vast amount of love is trapped inside of me like a knot. I can call or email but nothing remotely conveys the amount of empathy I feel inside.

Once I allowed myself the freedom to explore the subject I instinctively came up with justifications for the most obvious arguments. I even stayed on the phone with Jody for two hours successfully defending a position I have yet to commit to. Why kids? Why alone? Why now? If it's not advisable to shop on an empty stomach then I shouldn't be deciding on a kid with overpowering hormonal interference. The only way to prevent a last minute rash decision is to start deciding now while I'm still in a reasonable sound state of mind before the final countdown.

A quick first go-around of logical reasoning brought the decision closer to reality. I can feel an intention growing deep inside of me, a distant voice becoming more articulate. It is both empowering and startling to think that I could actually make this happen. I woke up this morning feeling as if I'm making my way through the five stages of grief, except these were minuscule shifts in my mental progression to moving closer to the choice of becoming a single mother. There was the initial logical exploration, mental decoupling of children and marriage, grievance for the loss of a childhood dream, emotional acceptance of an unconventional path and then the inevitable concern over denying my child of a father. Would my child be ok growing up without a father? Would my love be enough? Would it forever haunt both me and my child to never know the man behind donor number 114560?

For a brief moment I was completely paralyzed by these thoughts. Then out of nowhere my voice came through, if I could do it so can my child. I held onto the thought as I stood in the kitchen in complete stillness as if I was afraid that it would dissipate with even the faintest movement. Slowly I took a few deep breaths and loosened my grips. Instead of childhood memories flashing through my mind, they cane into focus in slow motion, appearing and fading like one of those PowerPoint slides.

I had grew up mostly without my father. He moved to West Berlin the summer before I turned five. After that I saw him on my ninth birthday and then ran into him completely by coincidence two years ago while visiting my grandfather at the hospital in HengYang. Even though I've spent very limited time with him I have very distinct memories of my father. I feel that deep down that I truly understood and loved him irregardless of what had happened in our lives.

I had a turbulent childhood. By the time I was in fifth grade I had attended five different schools, lived in different cities and with different households. I had lived a rich childhood. Rather than a child of a conventional family, I was a child of a large extended family. I grew up with my cousins and stayed with my grand parents and aunts and uncles. I had lived an happy childhood. I made friends everywhere I went and was loved by every adult around me. The fact that I never had a stable two-parent family shielded me from other ill-effects of divorce and separation. After all you can't miss what you've never had. When someone asked how I felt about my parents' divorce when I was nine I told them if my parents weren't happy together they shouldn't be together. Besides, it didn't make a slightest difference to me as the three of us lived on three different continents at the time.

Surely, my childhood wasn't ideal but I made it through, even in stride. Not for a single second have I ever felt sorry for myself. I hold no resentment for either of my parents. Whatever friction I do have with my mother now stem more from total disagreement on my choice of career.While a Freudian psychologist won't have a hard time coming up with mommy and daddy issues for me, I am for the most part well adjusted. If I can do it so can my child, not only because he/she will have the strength to persevere but also the fact that I will there every step of the way. And with that thought I gathered a new found faith for myself and a child who has yet to be conceived.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

To Have or Not to Have

After a lot of thinking and talking, I have finally arrived at a point of divergence. It’s taken over five years of office work at four different companies to prove to myself what I knew all along. Everyone gets one precious life. I’m spending mine dying a slow suffocating death. Corporate environment runs counter to every molecule in my being. Failing to adapt and unwilling to settle, realizing that I’m not cut out for this is easy; the hard part is finding an alternative. What I do next is largely hinged upon one factor: whether or not I decide to have a child alone by choice. Continuing on with a life on my own does not have to be capital intensive. I can afford to get out of this rat race, take chances and get by on a reduced income if I have to. All that changes if/when I bring another life onto this planet. Priority shifts and for the sake of financial stability, I’d most likely have to endure a corporate life. The scenario is not ideal but it’s a subject I must explore to its fullest extent in order to have a remote chance of leading a fulfilled life.

The idea of whether or not I want to have children altered overtime as I became more mature and experienced. When my peers were kids and everyone belonged to a two-parent family, growing up, getting a job, getting married and having kids seemed as normal as eating and breathing. That sense of normality transformed into hopefulness in my late teens as I entered into the dating pool. I thought I’d meet my perfect mate and someday start a family. I then spent the next ten years bouncing from one relationship to another and somehow still managed to squeeze in substantial traveling on my own. Nothing worked even though I've dated some wonderful people, most of who remain to be close friends until this day. At the same time I started to realize the difficulty of forming and maintaining a loving and committed relationship as well as a how much more difficult when kids are added to the equation. I was convinced that raising kids required two fully dedicated parents, not because of my personal experience of growing up in a less-than-ideal family situation but rather the amount of work, resource and emotional support needed in the process. When people asked if I wanted to have kids, I’d tell them it’s a question I can’t entertain without a mate because I would never attempt the task of having children on my own. Knowing my odds of meeting that perfect mate is diminishing overtime, I sometimes downplayed the importance of children in my life. I told myself that it’s a nice to have but I’d certainly be able to live a life just as fulfilled on my own.

A recent mental breakdown led into a full blown midlife crisis. After all the studying, traveling, working and falling in love the things that are left to do started to dwindle down. The urge to travel that was once the driving force behind my actions has now halted to a near standstill. The first page of my coloring book is complete. The next page seemed dauntingly empty and unguided. Friends started to throw out some rather outrageous suggestions, of which none seemed appealing or plausible. Rose brought up the possibility of children multiple times and I dismissed it each time, holding onto my staunch belief in a conventional two-parent system.

I knew very well that having a kid would change everything for me, even providing a sense of purpose that I’m seeking so desperately. I also knew that if I allowed myself the opportunity I would be a capable and loving mother. Was I too quick in denying myself the single most quintessential life experience as a woman? But having a child for my own fulfillment seems like selfishness to the n-th degree. After all I’m not one of those needy and insecure teenage girls who want to have babies so they can feel loved. As I struggled with the guilt of becoming a self-serving single mom, I realized that it is hardly an unexplored subject. Mikki Morrissette, a Choice Mom of two children, showed just how unfounded this feeling is by pointing out that no married couple ever has to justify why they decide to have kids and the fact that they are no more likely to come up with a better answer if asked to. I have witnessed custody battles. I had been the subject of one while growing up. There is no way I would allow my kids the same fate if I can help it. Considering the rate of successful and lasting marriage these days, is it any worse to consciously bring a child to this world on your own than to jeopardize it with the uncertainty of marriage? Perhaps the only thing that is important is to be committed to parenthood and to be willing and able to provide love and care for another human being who completely depends on you. Life is full of uncertainties. One thing I do know is that I have a lot of love to give and that is not going to change.

People ask why I don’t want to have a partner involved in the process. I might have very little patience for people at times but I am not a man hater. I have commitment issues but I have no intention to be alone for the rest of my life. The truth is that I would very much prefer to have a life partner. However, settling is skill I never cared to develop. As an independent and self-sufficient person, I feel whole even at my lowest moment. I don’t have a checklist of qualities nor artificially high standards. The fact that I don’t need a partner out of necessity liberates me from the need to compromise. Rather than two pieces of complementary jigsaw puzzle pieces, I’m complete and I won’t settle for anything less than another complete individual who choose to be with me out of free will instead of fulfilling a deficiency. I strongly oppose to the idea of being with someone for the sake of conceiving a child or bring a child into an unhappy marriage. Even though past performance does not predict future results, the possibility of me finding and committing to that mate before my clock runs out is low at best. I’m not being pessimistic nor am I giving up hope on anything. It’s only a reality I have to come to terms with. And if having children is important to me then I need to plan within my sphere of influence to make it happen. A more fitting outlook for now is probably to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. 

The only logical thing to do now is to explore my options and decide on a path. I became a follower on the Choice Mom website and started to read Mikki Morrissette’s Choosing Single Motherhood: the Thinking Woman’s Guide. I need to create a gap analysis on having kids. I need to continue to explore alternatives to a corporate life. I need to develop a supportive social network. I have some time but none I want to spare. Besides, what if I want to have more than one kid with some time apart? I will lay out plans to a certain extent but I won’t let that blind me from the real intention of becoming a mother. Most people, single or not, would not be able to have children at all if they had to plan out everything in advance. Ultimately whether or not and when to have kids are questions I must answer on my own. There will always be people who support and oppose to my decisions. However, there is only one person I need to satisfy when I lay my head down at night. Two, when I have a child. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Bucket List

Someone recently asked me what is on my bucket list. I didn't know what to say. I'm familiar the concept of such list but it always seemed to me more as a device to set aside things we want to do. When I feel strongly about something I can't help but to feel a sense of immediacy, a feeling that if something was to happen it was either now or never. To put that on a list would simply be a waste of time.

A burning desire is like an obsession. The adjective that goes with such compulsion is fixation, not forgetfulness in such way that it must be inventoried onto a list.

So here my lukewarm desire list:

  • ·         Join a running group (Now)
  • ·         Achieve 15% body fat
  • ·         Be able to do 3 pull ups
  • ·         Have a six-pack abs
  • ·         Run a half marathon (April 2013)
  • ·         Run a full marathon (Sept 2013)
  • ·         Learn to swim (June 2013)
  • ·         Take a trapeze class (Summer 2013)
  • ·         Go skydiving (Summer 2013)
  • ·         Take horseback riding lessons (Summer 2013)
  • ·         Go zip lining (Summer 2013)
  • ·         Play paintball (Summer 2013)
  • ·         Camp out in the wild (Summer 2013)
  • ·         Get hypnotized
  • ·         Get a henna tattoo
  • ·         Go horseback riding on the beach
  • ·         See an opera at the Met
  • ·         Learn salsa
  • ·         Climb Mt. Whitney
  • ·         Hike Inca Trail
  • ·         Hike to EBC
  • ·         Be a vegetarian for 6 months
  • ·         Ride a unicycle
  • ·         Ride a tandem bike
  • ·         Learn to joggle
  • ·         Take a self-defense class
  • ·         See penguins in Cape Town
  • ·         See Kremlin in Russia
  • ·         See the Coliseum in Rome
  • ·         Visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia
  • ·         Visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
  • ·         Stay at a B&B in Vermont
  • ·         Vote in a presidential election (2016)
  • ·         Travel to a foreign country with a lover
  • ·         Move to a place I actually like (Fall 2013)
  • ·         Have kids (<2018 span="">
  • ·         Write a book
  • ·         Own a waterfront residence (40th birthday?)