Bah Humbug

The holidays are always a difficult time for me. For one, my family has never been very festive. It’s hard to explain with specificity, so I recently started telling people my parents are JW. They don’t celebrate anything. I mean, the truth is, they are just a clan of pessimists. Rather than celebrate all the good things that are going for us, my people like to obsess over every damn thing that’s wrong in our lives. It’s an awful habit, which I’m glad I’ve slowly broken since flying the coop and establishing life on my own.

But man, during the holiday season when I’m spending time with my family, all the old habits just come back. I was stunned the other day to learn that there is actually a term for this phenomenon of acting like a child again despite being a middle-aged woman: it’s called “regression” and it’s a coping mechanism. Say what???

For many of us, reuniting with loved ones during the holidays can feel like psychological time travel. There’s a reason why these visits trigger old memories and regressive behaviors.

Psychological defenses are like emotional armor, protecting us from feeling more profound pain and anxiety, which explains why overwhelming emotions like anger, fear, or sadness can cause us to fall back on less mature expressions of emotion like passive aggression and, yes, eye-rolling. No matter how far away from home we travel, most of us can’t escape our family history — and the memories that come with it. New conversations remind us of old ones, even if we’re no longer living under our parents’ roofs.

Sure, I like to think that at the ripe old age of 42, I’ve developed enough awareness and self-control to override the dysfunction, stress, and anxiety that crops up, but no. Regression happens. I feel validated by the simple labeling of these feelings.

Up until my late 30s, I had a very tumultuous relationship with my parents. The shortest explanation is that they are Chinese immigrant parents. I know, people think I just use that as an excuse for EVERYthing, but I’m telling you: among nearly ALL Chinese-Americans I have encountered who are around my age, this condition is real. The nagging. The expectations. The perfectionism. The insistence on doing things their way. The black/white right or wrong mentality. Tiger parenting, y’all. It’s not just some Oprah Book Club recommendation. It’s my life.

Miraculously, in recent years, our family engagements have calmed the fuck down. The secret? We learned to avoid certain topics. I suppose this practice is nothing profound: after all, people always say to avoid talking politics, religion, etc… right? Well, it took us decades to figure this out and after we adopted this unspoken rule, our gatherings thankfully became less volcanic.

Still, I’ve been estranged from my brother for about 15 years. I stopped understanding him a long time ago, and his troubled relationship with my parents only soured my relationship with them. It’s complicated, but basically, while they were parenting in a manner that I disagreed with, they were simultaneously asking me to serve as a surrogate parent to my brother. This whole convoluted arrangement ultimately let me to choose a child-free path… And eventually, he became a topic as toxic and inflammatory as politics. We stopped talking about him to preserve our own relationship.

The other day, my brother called. Once again, his conversation with my father turned sour. He was urging my father to divest himself of Johnson & Johnson, esp following the recent reports about known toxic components in their baby powder. My father is not one to be bullied. He disagreed on divesting and then the argument escalated from there. I heard the drama and stomped upstairs. Something similar had happened the last time I was home where the call deteriorated into accusations and chaos. Launching into protective mode, I grabbed the phone from my father and the venom just started spewing. For people (like Bubbey) who come from very non-confrontational families, witnessing this kind of interaction is horrifying. For me, I grew up on this shit. When I hit my 30s, I determined that this level of engagement was not good for my psyche or my heart, so I stopped communicating with my brother altogether. BUT the muscle memory remains, and I proceeded to go full blast like a fucking feral animal. He hung up on me. Not ready to call off the fight, I buzzed him back, ready to rip him a new one.

The weird thing is, somewhere in the chaos, he stopped to listen. I was heated and full of rage and yet somehow amidst the cussing, my words came across. Two things about me: when I feel hurt, I respond with anger. And that anger rises to a very extreme level of rage fast. Seriously. My temper goes 0-100 mph in seconds. It has always been this way.

I know I hit rage status on the call, bc my heart was pounding and I was physically shaking. And once I engage in some argument over who’s right or wrong, I do not back down. There is no one who gets angrier than I do. It shouldn’t be a point of pride, but I’m kinda bragging about it right now. What can I say, it’s probably my least redeeming quality: I fly off the handle faster than ANYone. But the main point is this: the conversation shifted and we actually talked. I shared that I have been thinking about him recently. Last month, I thought back to how we were as kids. What happened? Where did things go wrong? Why can’t we understand one another?

And I acknowledged that my parents are a pain in the ass. Partly, it’s the Chinese tiger parent thing. I’ve realized this in talking with Chinese-American peers: we share a lot of the same frustrations. So even though our parents can be annoying as fuck, some of it is cultural and not necessarily specific to them. For what that’s worth.

I also shared the insights I have learned from John, aka the world class EQ extraordinaire. For example, what’s your purpose in arguing about Johnson & Johnson with dad? Let’s say dad divests in the stock. Then what? Then are you happy and is your relationship better? And frankly, if the money is so dirty, why do you ask for it and use it? He admitted that he didn’t know why he got so worked up about J&J.

Here’s what I learned from my days at the political advocacy organization. I was in 20s at the time, living and working outside of DC. Every time I visited my parents, I brought up politics, specifically abortion laws, funding for women’s health, birth control access, etc. My dad was a practicing OB/GYN and I know he shared my views about women having control over their bodies. Yet, he always voted Republican– and Republicans are traditionally anti-abortion. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy and every single visit, we’d argue about it. It was as if I picked fights with him to convince him. But he wouldn’t be convinced and so we just went around in circles. Ultimately, I realized that look, in every industry, company, family, whatever, there are bad seeds. Bad shit is happening on all sides in one arena or the other. We are all hypocrites, bc hello, welcome to life and the world.

Also, we are all adults. We should be able to to disagree on many things. That doesn’t make one side good and one side bad. My parents are not bad people. I mean, I’m not gonna lie: Trump supporters do have me feeling like the good/bad designation applies in that case, but in general, the world isn’t black and white like that. On top of that, J and my friends have made me realize that life is short. Your parents are not political opponents. They are family. And time with them is running out. Do you want to just keep fighting over old issues, or do you want to spend what limited time remains creating new, happy memories?

I mean, holy crap. Maturity is some next level shit. I have often considered myself precocious and yet, I can point to so many pivotal moments where, despite my confidence and self-righteousness at the time, I really was quite wrong and short-sighted:

Moment 1. Marital counseling: Many years ago, J and I were recounting to the counselor a recent fight we’d had. Our accounts of what happened and who said what differed greatly. We accused each other of lying and of not having the facts straight. After much back and forth, the therapist interrupted and said: People can share the same experience and have different perceptions of what happened. Both sides are correct bc they are sharing their own read/interpretation of what went down. Regardless, marriage isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. You may each have different perceptions of what actually happened. It’s doesn’t matter who’s story is more accurate. You’re on the same team. How do you want to move forward? Well, shit. Yeah, we were getting tangled in the weeds.

Moment 2. Two years ago, I came home to Maryland and started cleaning out my parents’ house bc seeing all their stuff cluttering the house stressed me out. Their lack of preparation re: downsizing gave me anxiety, so I started throwing shit out, posting stuff on freecycle, having strangers come to get things out of the garage. I did this all without even really asking them what they wanted to do with their stuff. I just went into Type A mode and aimed to get shit done. Well, after a few days, things came to a head, and we had a huge blowout. That was when J sat me down and said: how do you want to spend your remaining time with them? Do you want to keep arguing over what things to clear out, or do you want to create good memories? When they move away, you will likely have complete autonomy to clear shit out the way you want. But while they are living here, respect their space and focus on other things. Well, shit. Touche.

In talking with my brother, I acknowledged: our parents did some fucked up things. They didn’t always make the best choices. But we all make mistakes, bc at the end of the day, no one really knows what the hell s/he’s doing. We’re all just trying our best. Whatever mistakes were made, they were not done with malice. There was good intentions behind it. Their execution was just misguided. Let’s try to create good memories from here on out…

Afterwards, my brother admitted that he didn’t know why he was picking fights with my dad. He didn’t know why it was so important to him that dad divest from Johnson & Johnson. After we finished talking, he spoke to my mom and dad. And how did my father react to the apology? Ok, you just learn to manage yourself. Go spend the time to think about it on your own.

See? That’s what’s so annoying about my dad. His response is essentially: Ok, you were wrong. Yes, I accept your apology. Now go work on yourself and fix yourself.

There’s no acknowledgement that his parental expectations and demands are ridiculous. That he has made mistakes as a parent. After he got off the phone with my brother, dad says to me: he needs to have a goal.

Huh? What are you talking about: my brother got a full ride to Duke. He kept his scholarship and graduated. He earned a graduate degree in teaching from Columbia. He now works a decent, respectable job teaching at the university. The students love him and the administration wants to keep him on staff. He told me he stopped participating the religious group. Where’s the fucking acknowledgement for all those “goals” that were achieved? Nothing. Dad says he’s still taking those deer placenta tablets and doing regular colonics. I mean, yeah, step by step, one thing at a time, ok?

According to perfectionist dad, Johnny still has no goals. So finally, I’m like, what are these “goals” he should have?

Dad’s reply: You have kids to finish the goals you don’t get done.

Yeah, dad. Those are YOUR goals. Not his goals. And so now we’re back to that bullshit. It really pisses me off. Like I have said before: It’s NEVER fucking enough.

I alluded to the mistakes he and mom made as parents. And he was all surprised like, what did we do wrong? Um hello: the expectations, the perfectionism, this idea that what we do/achieve is NEVER enough, never quite right. We don’t receive acknowledgment unless all “goals” are met at the same time. The fact that your life is ruined bc you don’t have grandchildren. And why must grandchildren be the representation of hope for the future?

Hello, I’m not even dead yet. I still have things I’m going to do. But clearly, you’ve given up on both of your kids achieving the goals you’ve set for them. And the message is that your kids are failures, but grandchildren will offer you another chance to save the day. Am I overreacting here?

Well, hey, here’s some food for thought: We may be disappointments to you, but you’re also a disappointment to us. And by the way, throwing money at someone or something is NOT the same as truly believing in them and supporting them and loving them. Again, where is the conversation of: Let’s all try to do better. How can I help our relationship grow? It’s pretty much. Yeah, I’m right, you’re wrong. I accept your apology. Now, go take time to fix yourself.

I’m telling you: this is why I don’t have kids.

On one hand, my parents are old. Can they be expected to further develop their emotional skills to the point of really being able to offer support? Is it fair or even reasonable to expect that level of support? Second, my dad’s dad is still alive, and he’s still always bitching about not having a legacy. Look dude, give it up. You’re not royalty. Also, maybe you don’t deserve to have the family line continue on…

I told my dad today that part of the reason why Johnny and I hate(d) going back to Taiwan is bc we always get harassed for all the things we’re not doing right. There could be a bunch of things we have going on that’s good, and yet the first thing out of grandpa’s mouth is complaints about me not having kids and Johnny not being married. Leave us the hell alone!

John pointed out to me today: the good thing is, your parents have learned to avoid talking about contentious topics, but that doesn’t mean they will change their values. Their values are the same. So this legacy idea will always bother them.

True. But that’s on them. Learn the Circle of Control. You can’t control what others do or say or think.

Doing our best

Well, surprise, surprise. Every time I go back to Maryland, I fall into an abyss of overthinking and paralysis. Invariably, at some point during my visit, my brother calls to do three things: feign concern for my parents, proselytize the merits of his quack science and quack religion, and ask for more money. Mind you, homeboy lives in one of the most expensive cities in Asia rent- and utilities- free, and he STILL can’t manage his fucking budget. My brother is just so damn off kilter that I can’t help but cull through our entire history to figure out what the hell went wrong and where.

It’s so weird bc you know all those studies about child development and how people say character/personality is some combination of genetics and environment? Man, with so many friends and acquaintances now with kids, I hear so many thoughts on parenting styles and tactics and in creating the right environment for kids. Honestly, it only reaffirms my own child-free stance: the juice just ain’t worth the squeeze!

A few years ago, I remember one coworker was on like her third year waking up in the middle of the night for her crying child. When I mentioned the Ferber method (where you train the child to cry it out and self soothe), she was convinced that the technique would create trust issues and irreparable psychological damage. Really? Something as basic as letting them cry it out?

Thinking about my own parents, their methods were definitely stress inducing. I mean, dad had a temper, he was impatient, and they were both obsessed with school and achievement. When my brother couldn’t solve a homework problem and he didn’t get it after dad tried to explain a few times, dad would lose his shit and call my brother “stupid.” All while growing up, we were constantly compared to their friends’ kids. I suppose the intention was to motivate us to step up but…

And whenever people praised us, my love-withholding parents would tell us people were just sweet-talking us and pulling our chains. We weren’t really that good, they’d insist. I’m telling you, it was exhausting trying to meet their high standards while also dealing with their moving goal posts. During our entire academic careers, they just harped and harped. When my brother struggled with his grades at Duke, my dad would just keep freaking out: “You can’t lose your scholarship; otherwise, what will people think?” Um, I mean, my brother was one of ten students in the entire class of 1,300 people who was awarded the merit scholarship. If he were to lose it, he’d be like the rest of the students at the #4 college in the country. I mean, how about “What can we do to help you feel more motivated and focused? Don’t worry: just try your best. We still love you.” Goddamn. I feel so anxious just recalling those memories.

My senior year in college, I wanted to get out to the work force and join an environmental engineering firm. The thought of me not going straight into grad school was so unacceptable to my father that he cut off communication with me. Jesus Christ. My mom talked to me and tried to be more encouraging: “He just thinks you have so much potential. He doesn’t want you to waste it.” Yup bc if I just join the work force, I’m all washed up. Wtf.

In the end, I conceded and applied to grad school to have the possible option. Of course, that only meant I had to start the program right away after my acceptance and graduation. After two years working in the solid waste lab and out in the field, I was exhausted and then immediately, I had to get a job and keep going. And then all this crap about why wasn’t I going to get a PhD? A master’s degree is nothing. Everyone has a master’s degree these days. Nevermind that I just graduated from the top landfill research program and managed to get my tuition paid for. Nevermind that I scored a decent job right out. As it turned out, after two years in the real world, solid waste engineering wasn’t what I had thought it would be. Honestly, had I been allowed to work right after undergrad, I would have discovered this and not suffered through two years of grad school. Of course all of this is water under the bridge, but goddamn, my parents just pushed and pushed and pushed. And everything was so all or nothing. Either we excelled or we were failures. There was nothing in between.

And on this last trip home for dad’s surgery, he twice mentioned the importance of AI for the future. Maybe I can learn that field– it’ll be so relevant going forward. Yeah, while I’m trying to build my real estate business and live my life with all this dysfunction and baggage, let me learn another career!! Even mom suggested that I go back to school to study AI. The fucking buzzword of the year, I tell you. I mean, whatever though. Parents make mistakes. It’s not like Bubbey grew up in the most encouraging or supportive environment either. He’s not all messed up like my brother and I are. But sheesh, when dad makes those comments, I just think to myself: You know what? Dad, why don’t you learn to use your computer. Like print shit, email me an attachment, and send me a picture from your phone. Maybe learn how to text message. And mom, why don’t you try to create a new habit. You know what I mean?

I sometimes think about my college roommate. She’s a physician, and her brother stocks shelves at Staples. For years, she and her parents tried to encourage her brother with his academics but in the end, they realized, not every kid is going to go to a top ten school and become a doctor. And they let it go and let him be. And they have a decent relationship with him. Their parent-child relationship isn’t defined by his achievements. Whoa, what a concept!

These days though I just bite my tongue. It’s fucking hard as hell for me, but I just resist losing my shit with my parents. John keeps reminding me that aging rots their brains. Still though. How are other people parenting and doing this? I mean seriously, how the hell do people know what to do and how to respond?

On Thanksgiving morning, I awoke full of anxiety. The first thought that popped into my head was memories of my brother and me riding our bikes through our old neighborhood. If I go back far enough, we shared good times together as kids. But now, here we are… we could not be at greater odds.

I feel sad and sorry for the times when I was such a mean little sister. I would snoop around in his shit and then threaten to destroy his comic books or artwork later when we were fighting about something. Where did I learn to hold things hostage like that?

I know it wasn’t easy being the firstborn of the firstborn. My brother was only 6 or 7, and he was very artistic early on. Dad would come home and find him drawing intricate pictures and then flip the hell out. Bc why was he spending all his time and energy on “useless” stuff? Art has no practical value. You can’t have a career in art. Again, we were only six or seven years old. I know that as kids, we could never fathom the difficulty and stress of being an immigrant in a new country with no support, no friends, and a family back home in tremendous debt. But shit, we were just innocent kids trying to do happy things. Our souls were crushed repeatedly with criticisms and expectations to do more and do better.

So many times, I remember people complimenting my brother or me for something. Rather than allow us to bask in the glow, dad would just tell us not to believe those people and their lies. I would argue back: they’re not lying. If they have nothing nice to say, they’ll just stay quiet. There’s no reason for them to lie. He said we were being naive. Whatever. I dunno why he behaved like that. But like I said before, my parents were love withholders. Maybe they never wanted it to get to our heads. Maybe they were secretly competitive and didn’t want us to be better than them. Who the hell knows. Chinese parents, SMH.

It’s all moot now and yet I still cry thinking about it. My brother used to be a very sweet and loving child. Somewhere his spirit got broken. Or maybe he was always destined for this path. I don’t know, but I still mourn the loss. How did it all come to this…

Interestingly, I had a recent revelation. My dad’s family idolizes him. I’ve always noticed that pretty much everything dad says or does is deemed right and perfect. No one ever criticizes him. No one ever questions his judgement. Already, his personality is very decisive and self righteous. He’s always been confident and clear with his compass. But that doesn’t mean he’s infallible. Yet his people never call him out on any flaws and mistakes.

Was it always like this or just in his adulthood? It’s a very weird culture. For someone who is always so picky and so critical, he only receives encouragement and support from his parents and siblings. Isn’t that interesting? Dad was telling me one time how he bumped into an underclassman from medical school, and the guy just kept going on and on singing my father praises, telling him how much he looked up to him when they were in school together. Hmm that’s interesting. Anytime someone else receives that level of praise, you tell them people are just being polite showering them with exaggerated compliments. But when you’re the recipient, suddenly the people are so genuine and sincere.

I have different expectations now for all of us. I’m currently the age my parents were when they were trying to navigate all of this career and parenting shit. My parents now are elderly. Their capacities have slowed and weakened. And my 43-y/o brother continues to act like a goddamn entitled asshole.

He doesn’t love them and he has his reasons. That fine. So then why not just leave my parents the hell alone. Why bother calling to trash talk western medicine, tout the deer placenta pills, colonics, and keto diets, and then ask for money? Why? Just go live your life with free housing!

I started writing my brother a letter while I was in Maryland, but it just meandered. I haven’t really known my brother for many many years. And on top of that, he is brainwashed. Is there any point in trying to get him out of the cult? Is it worth a try? I will say, my drafts always start off calmly with slight feelings of nostalgia and sadness, but then somewhere they take a dramatic turn and I lose my shit all over again. My friend N pointed out the last time I saw her that I convert my pain into anger. And it’s so true. When you hurt me, I get totally pissed off. Which makes me think: Maybe I just don’t have the constitution to take this on. I mean, my brother is 43 y/o. Between dealing with my business (which is a people business) and my parents and my relatives, this is still an uphill battle. Can anything good come out of this letter or any letter?

Needless to say, I got zero rest while in Maryland. Not only was I mentally weighed down by this bullshit, my parents didn’t even have decent sheets for my bed. And they used to have high quality sheets and comforters! Where did all the nice stuff go??? I have no idea, but seriously, it’s all cheap, scratchy scraps now. Like random fabrics that don’t even fit western mattresses. Omfg. I was so annoyed. I’ve already ordered my own flannel sheets and duvet cover for next month when I’ll be back there again for the other eye surgery and for Christmas. God help me.

Anyway, I know in the grand scheme of things, my parents were good parents with good intentions. Without question, they really worked hard to provide us with so many resources and opportunities. The past is painful, but we have no choice but to look ahead.

I have a friend: his parents are staunch Trump supporters. I remember when I was working in the early 2000s at the political advocacy organization outside DC, I could not stand that my parents voted Republican and every chance I had, I would jump down their throats about it. Now that I’m older, I’ve become less insistent about my parents aligning with my politics. Still, I was curious how my friend handled his relationship with his extreme parents. “Were your parents good parents?” I asked. After a brief pause, he said, “They did the best they could with what they knew and with what they had.” At first, I thought this was some bullshit PC/diplomatic response. But later, I came to realize that this is the way to move forward. What’s the point in holding grudges and having resentment? They did the best they could, just as I did the best I could. In all candidness, we disappointed each other. So I try very hard to hang less on their past mistakes and misaligned words (like the AI thing) and just focus on my own mindset. Whatever factors may have contributed to shaping my brother into the person he is today, none of those incidents can be reversed or retracted. In life, sometimes there are no second chances. Regardless, we continue forward doing our best with what we know and what we have.

Time Warp

Some days, I really feel like I’m in some bizarre time warp. Not so much like I’m traveling back or forward in time, but I just feel super disoriented. I mean sure, we got back from a very exhausting overseas trip. Technically, that was already last month. And I did pick up an eye issue which screwed up my vision and in turn, my balance. And of course, last Sunday was daylight savings. Yes, all those things are true, and YET it still seems like I should have more energy for a 40-something at this point in the game.

At home, it was great to be back in our own bed. And in the company of sweet Bentley. We had guests over for lunch last Saturday, so I cleaned the house like a fricking maniac– removing the couch covers, removing the slip rugs, mopping, cleaning the windows, wiping all the surfaces, replanting things in the yard, etc. Everything. It was one of the biggest cleaning jobs I’ve done in a long while. And shit, the Houseboat looked good.

But despite my manic cleaning mode, my sleep is all back to being messed up again. In my multiple trips to the doctor, I also complained to my primary physician that the spironolactone, which I had started before Taiwan, was doing nil to improve my skin. So she had me do some tests and double the dose. Next thing I know, I’m feeling restless at night, getting strange numbness with my appendages, etc. I dunno. It just feels like too much is going on. And YET I realize we have no kids, and we’re both on “flexible” work schedules so… is this a real problem?

Ugh. Overthinking it all again. I reached out to my doc again following a few days on the double dose. She advised me to stick with the program. On a second follow up with the eye doc, she told me to continue with the gel tears and nighttime ointment. Still no contact lenses for me. I’m getting better with the glasses, but damn, they still give me a freaking headache. I know, I’m all banged up and broken, apparently.

The good news is, after another a week on the higher spiro dose, I am finally seeing some improvement in my skin. Next week I’ll get a follow up blood test and hopefully, things will continue to improve from there. This Saturday, my eye doc says I can try wearing my contact lenses, but I have to be super careful about keeping the wear time brief and if there’s any stinging or burning, back to the antibiotics. Ugh. Fingers crossed for judgement day this Saturday.

Meanwhile, work is slow-going. I’ve been making calls again… that’s always hit or miss, and I dunno: when it’s a miss, I sometimes let it fuck with my mindset. In the last year, I’ve had a few unfortunate incidents with people… I replay that shit over and over again in my head. At the end of the day, what can I say: the mismatch and personality clash is real. I try to keep my chin up and adopt these as important learning moments… I have definitely used them as building blocks and have modified the way I react in challenging situations moving forward (yes, there continue to be occasional challenges) but man, that shit is hard for me. In some ways, they remind me of all the issues I had growing up and communicating with my parents… With some personalities, you end up in circles arguing mostly about who’s right and wrong.

Turns out, the “adult” way of dealing with all this is to first and foremost, remain calm. Second, don’t take it personally even if the client becomes accusatory and disrespectful. My sensitivity to it all stems largely from being bullied as a child and teen, plus I really don’t like letting people “get away” with shit behavior. But sometimes, the best approach really is to not waste any more time on people who insist on behaving immaturely. Having been on both sides of that coin in my life, I understand the efficiency of cutting bait and moving on. I’m getting better at identifying situations where it applies. Ok, well obviously, my mind is still somewhat muddled. I’ll aim for more clarity tomorrow.

Half Blind

OMG, I forgot to tell you. So as you know, I travel to Taiwan on the regular, meaning yearly. And invariably, I get sick every time I get back Stateside. I mean, I suppose it’s no surprise really, bc there have been numerous instances where clearly, my body demonstrates an especially poor constitution. My body is known around these circles for abruptly crashing into flames. Needless to say, this time was no different, though I did feel like we were even more on the move than usual (if that is even possible). Maybe too, it was the exposure to my sick mom (she had the flu) or the many trips to the hospital or being stuck on a plane for 12-14 hrs with germy people.

Anyway, while I was in Taiwan, I noticed my eyes feeling strained. I figured it was just the long hours in my contacts, fatigue, whatever. So after I got home, that night, my left eye was like twitching kinda crazy. I just chocked it up to the gross recycled air on the flight back. The next morning, I woke up and ok now the vision in my left eye was clearly cloudy. This imbalance of clarity had actually been going on for days, but this particular morning, I realized that I couldn’t pin it to dry or dirty contacts. It felt like something was in my eye, but I rolled my eyeball around and nothing was in there. I was supposed to attend a real estate conference and meet up with my coach, so I popped in my contacts and decided to proceed. But the blurry vision was really throwing me off. I imagine it’s similar to if you have ear pain– it just fucks up your balance and orientation. And my left eye started watering and stinging. I took out the contact again. WTF is happening? John told me to go to the doctor.

Thank goodness for the nurse advice line, bc hell, I use that service all the damn time to determine if an office visit is really necessary. Well, in this case, they wanted me to come in. Like today. Now, I was getting worried. Per usual, Bubs was back behind the wheel shuttling around Miss Daisy. I swear, he’s already done it a bunch of times– that beeline to Kaiser.

So they dilate my eyes and then begin a series of tests. Puffs of air, reading texts, bright lights, flipping the eyelid. The verdict? One of three possibilities. Best case? Corneal inflammation caused by dryness and irritation from poor eye care. Admittedly, when I travel, I leave the contacts in for the long haul flight. The thing is, when I wear glasses, they give me a headache after ten minutes and plus, I like to see to read signs and watch movies and do shit on the plane. Second case is an eye infection, which can be a real problem for lens wearers. Third possibilities is a parasitic amoeba. OMFG. In cases 2 and 3, permanent eye damage can happen FAST. Great.

Cutting to the chase now, I’ve been on antibiotic eye drops and ointment since last Friday. On Sunday, shit felt worse and I was a little worried bc the cloudiness was not subsiding. The nurse line told me the eye was adjusting to the meds. Stay the course. On Monday, I finally noticed some improvement. I had a check up on Tuesday. No scarring or permanent damage, so it looks like I was just Case 1. Thank the lord, baby Jesus! One of these days, I’m going to outrun this lucky streak.

My vision was totally back as of yesterday. I am wearing my glasses, so putting up with headaches, but it’s fine. I’m just glad to have my vision back. I mean, you know me: I was already planning out how to get ahold of a guide dog!

In other health news, the spironolactone for my acne isn’t doing squat. Yeah, in the last week, I’ve gone to the hospital three times. My doc wanted a bp check and blood work before upping my dose. Everything checked out ok, so fingers crossed this shit is going to work some magic. Incidentally, the spiro path was triggered (and I’m sure the docs are gonna love this) by a hair blogger I follow, who had really bad cystic acne. Her final solution after trying EVERYTHING, was new skin products, supplements, and 200 mg of spiro. My doc is only keen on upping me to 50 mg, so I just hope that’s enough. I’m sure it’s super annoying to have your patients come in and self-diagnose. I try to be as respectful and pleasant to my docs as possible. I’m not insisting on anything, just sharing what I read and asking how they think I should proceed. Fortunately, my primary care is amenable. Blood/BP check in two weeks to make sure body is handling it ok. After all, you never know with this body of mine!

Oblivious

Every day, Bentley goes for a walk at the school/park next door. Lately, J has been on morning duty and then I usually join in the evenings. Of course, we did this daily routine back in the day when we had Remy and Martin with us. And through this schedule, we started meeting many of the other dog owners in the hood, as everyone generally walked their pooches before and after work. I met several Chinese American ladies this way: one was the lady who always appeared frazzled/exhausted and complained about having kids ALL THE TIME. The other Chinese-American woman was like the exact opposite: super chill and low key. In all cases, we shared that special bond talking about our crazy Chinese parents. The dredging of memories and commiseration served an endless source of conversation.

Long story short, there was some period of time, about six months when suddenly, we stopped seeing the low-key lady. Occasionally, I saw her from a distance with her doggie: she always seemed bundled up in some baggy gym clothes. But that was kind of her m.o.– sporty clothing. Fast forward half a year and I finally spotted her again at the park in late summer. She’s standing over a stroller. WTF? I go over, thinking surely she is babysitting or something. Inside, it’s an Asian baby. I start asking totally retarded questions, bc I’m convinced there is no way the baby is hers.

Hey, what you doing? Are you babysitting for a friend? No.
Confused, I start thinking maybe she adopted a baby… Is this your baby? Yes.
But the baby is Asian, so maybe she’s NOT adopted. Like a total gauche dumbass, I continue…
Were you pregnant? Yes.
Totally shocked, I repeat the same questions but in other ways. You had a baby?!?! This is your child?!?!
Seeing the absolute shock in my face, she said, Sorry, I thought I told you.
Thinking to myself: Oh hell no, you didn’t tell me. I had no fucking idea.
I mean, for realz. I saw her in the winter, here and there in the spring, and bam! Now she’s pushing a stroller. Holy fuck.

So I was retelling this encounter to Bubs, and he was just as shocked as I was. Of course, when it comes to noticing women, he’s sometimes super clueless but still. How did we miss a preggers person? After some discussion, we concluded that we are so fricking averse to having a child ourselves that for any couple that is around our age (who doesn’t currently have kids), we assume they have the same exact intention. I figured she and her hubby were just childfree by choice. Nosiree. Most people actually want to have kids. Duh.

Same thing happened with our next-door neighbor. A few months ago, we’re over there for wine and cheese. Then bam! I’m taking out the trash one night as the wife pulls into the driveway. She emerges with a bulging belly. Due at the end of this year. WTF? When did THIS happen? You wanted to have kids? Mind blown all over again.

That’s the thing. I feel so damn strongly about our stance, that I can’t even understand or remotely fathom a different choice for other people. So then when pregnancy happens, I’m always caught off guard, immediately assume it’s a mistake, and am pretty much oblivious. Sigh. Live and learn.

Back to the Charging Station

Despite my feelings of fatigue in late September, I continued to plug away for work: more open houses, more new approaches. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out ways to build my business. Sure, it’s frustrating and slow-going, but I enjoy having the autonomy and control over my work. I’m still working on cracking the open house code… you’d think after 58 different homes, I’d be a pro by now, but I’m still learning and still working hard to tweak interactions here and there to better connect with the personalities that come through. Of course, my flow got disrupted again with my trip to Taiwan… And to keep me even more on my toes, my dog sitter called the DAY BEFORE our trip to cancel our booking. Family emergency. Yup, pretty dang stressful scrambling around for Bentley care with less than 24 hours. Miraculously, we got it handled and he’s been in good hands. I’m telling you though: that dog care shit is nearly impossible. Sitters cancel or if you find a good one, she’s not available when you need her: At any given time, I have to have a roster of like five different options. SMH.

And then Taiwan. I mean, what can I say. It’s always an exhausting time… even without the drama of the past. This trip? Nine nights. Eight different beds. Thankfully, only one bedfellow. 🙂 Every year, I try to think of ways to make this trip easier, and I dunno: we have yet to crack the puzzle. Of course, it doesn’t help that the flight is a total beotch: 13 hours out, 11 hours back. Once we arrive in Taipei, it’s still not over: immigration takes time, then metro, then high speed train. It’s another three hours AFTER the flight to get to my parents’ house. Then we pretty much live out of a suitcase for the entire time. One night at my parents’ house. The next night at my grandparents’ house. They are all older and slower now but still kicking and doing well. Then, we went on the road trip (5 hours in a very comfy private shuttle to the north part of the island), so two nights at two different hotels. After that, a night at my grandparents’ again. Then my mother had her heart condition situation, which required the night before at my aunt’s house followed by two nights at the hospital accompanying my mom. The medical system in Taiwan, while modern, remains very inefficient. My mother was feeling heart/chest pains, so she went in for a procedure to inject a dye and see what was happening with her heart. In the US, this is a same-day procedure, but in Taiwan, they needed to admit her the night before. Then, she had the procedure on Tuesday morning. Thankfully, the conclusion was not a stent. She should have been discharged later that day, but they wanted to keep her another night. The good news is that she had a private room with a futon and a sofa, so John and I had some space. Overnight, the hospital was also very quiet (unlike the one my grandfather was in when he fell a few years ago in Maryland). But the doctor was pretty laconic and curt. Whatever though. Hopefully, the medicine will help her feel better. After she got discharged on Wednesday, John and I took the train north towards Taipei. Rather than rush from the south of the island to the airport the morning of our flight, we just decided to book a hotel by the airport and spend the last night there. As it turned out, the airport was mobbed with Chinese tour groups and getting to the gate took longer than we had anticipated, so it was a good call to get that hotel for the night before. In the future, I think we will book the same hotel for the first night after we fly in. It’s just too much to make the long trip after an already very long flight..

Reflections on Parenting

This one’s a long one… written on my flight back, so brace yourself.

I have to say, for someone who is childfree, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about parenting and child-rearing. Oddly enough, there is some explanation for this. You see, from a very young age, I’ve struggled with lots of familial strife. Not the usual tiff or disagreement here and there. Rather, full-on, war time, volcanic eruption familial fighting. The constant sparring can probably be attributed to a number of things: my parents being immigrants (I know, I’m a broken record, but this factor cannot be overstated!), my father having a strong, dominant personality, and me having a strong, dominant, judgey, defiant personality.

In my childhood, I observed favoritism from a very young age. This is probably nothing unusual… in fact, I would expect it to be a common thing for families with multiple kids. In my case, my mother and grandmother always coddled my brother. After all, the Chinese phrase “Little Emperor” didn’t just come out of thin air. Their obsession with him extended into adolescence and adulthood with them cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry pretty much on demand at any and all hours of the day. When he moved to Taiwan in his 30s, my aunts continued this ridiculous babying– staying up late, waiting for him to come home so they could cook him hot meals.

Admittedly, I also benefited from this lifestyle as a kid: I never really had chores. My dad always explained that my job was to do well in school, and my family would handle all other things– cooking, cleaning, laundry, expenses, etc. But even at six years of age, I was already annoyed with the level of their involvement. I didn’t like having other people do things ALL THE DAMN TIME. If they helped me get dressed or cut up my food or did other things I was perfectly capable of doing, I would say, in a cocky, know-it-all kind of way, “I can do it myself!” By the time I was a preteen, I already felt suffocated by the Asian tiger parenting: I would say in Chinese, “Stop managing me. Leave me alone.” By the time I was 16 and definitely by the time I was 18, going away to live just could not come soon enough.

It wasn’t just the incessant coddling though. It was everything. The preachiness, the lessons, the constant comparisons to other kids and their achievements. I was fighting with my parents CONSTANTLY for years before finally fleeing the roost. Despite the security and stability they provided, I just couldn’t stand being told what to do all the damn time. Looking back, I suspect that more than anything, these tensions were cultural than generational in nature. Chinese parents, I tell you. They can be really insufferable.

I mean, all the fucking nagging from my parents PLUS my grandmother and then shitty parenting with my brother…. I probably didn’t know enough to put two and two together back then, but their parenting style towards me and my brother definitely irked the crap out of me.

My mother always thought my rage and frustration stemmed from me being jealous of the apparent favoritism of her and grandmother towards my brother but honestly, that shit only bugged me in the very beginning. Once I started feeling more independent, I didn’t want to deal with the constant coddling. And in retrospect, having a favorite child actually seems quite natural to me. As my friend M has said, “The heart wants what the heart wants.” I think this is true in romantic love as well as parental love. I mean, the concept of fairness is really just bullshit anyway. And not just with parenting but with anything in life. And I’ll even go a step further in saying that trying to instill a sense of fairness only serves to misguide people later on in life. Life isn’t fair so why should we insist that it be that way? I mean, I was born in the USA. Immediately, I have a different kind of freedom and privilege than my cousins born in Taiwan, right? Is that fair? Or, say one child has abusive parents/alcoholic parents. Where’s the fairness in that? It’s just a bullshit construct, really.

I understand that parents want to be equally good to their kids. They want to give them opportunities to grow and thrive and flourish, but does that mean they have to connect and love them equally? I don’t think so, and children should develop the fortitude to deal with the reality that people will treat you differently and you will treat others differently due to whatever subtle factors/preferences..

I came across an article recently, labeling various parenting approaches: helicopter, tiger, lawn mower, free-range… Sometimes it’s an interesting academic exercise to give these things some thought. Ultimately, I always come to the same conclusion: I’m so glad I’m not a parent, bc even though I am strongly opinionated about the subject, I can see how challenging it can be. There are just so many damn moving parts. I mean, cultural influences, societal influences, peer pressure, trends and norms… Then on top of that, what is your child’s personality? gender? birth order? etc. See? Too many damn factors.

Obviously, I have a shit ton of feedback on how my parents raised my brother and me. I’ve already written about it numerous times over the years. You’d think I’d be totally talked out about it after four long decades. Yet every time the topic of my family comes up, my friends and relatives make comments like, “I just can’t believe how different you and your brother are, coming from the same parents.” It’s true: Johnny and I ARE dramatically different in many ways. For example: I move fast; he moves slow. I like to take action; he likes to think deeply and proceed cautiously. I hate anything abstract or philosophical. He can spend days debating things for the sake of mental exercise… But really what complicates things is that he’s not someone who you can immediately accuse of being off his rocker. In fact, every time I hear him speak in person, I’m always struck by his intelligence and articulation of various topics. He’s always been extremely well-read and scholarly. When he talks about teaching at the university, the passion for his work and for his students is apparent. And most things he says related to these topics makes sense, so how can you not get on board with that?

And yet, he’s also so far-fetched in other regards. It’s a bit of a conundrum, to be honest. He sounds so normal and yet, he is so freaking off the wall. Like the whole religious cult thing… he continues to be a part of that bullshit scam. I mean, any program where there’s one dominant force (aka “the master”), I am immediately distrustful and turned off… Think David Koresh or Bagwan or whatever that new LA cult was where people at the top raped young girls. Any kind of funnel/pyramid setup like that is super sketch… Yet, he’s a part of that cult where he talks trustingly about his master like the dude is infallible and omniscient. It’s super annoying. And the hypocrisy just drives me up the wall. All this bogus talk about loving one another “bc we are all human”. Meanwhile, my brother is a total disrespectful ass to my parents.

This time in Taiwan, my dad took eight of us on a private shuttle tour in northern Taiwan. My mother was supposed to go but she caught a cold and had to bail the the day before. Anyway, my brother was of course invited to join. My aunts tried to contact and coordinate with him many days in advance. No one could get a hold of him bc he doesn’t answer calls and messages. So he shows up and every time there’s a meeting time for the group, he’s the last one to show. If we met for breakfast or a group walk to the beach, he slept in instead. Also. he’s currently on some ketogenic diet or whatever: all he can eat is eggs and cheese. No carbs. I mean, WTF is wrong with you? And his whole argument is that on this diet, he has way more energy and no more lethargy. He claims that giving in to cravings and immediate pleasures is not worth the toll on his health. Wow, how disciplined of you. Um, ok. Kudos to you for demonstrating such self control. I mean, I was vegetarian for 7-8 years. If you have some reason to change your diet, fine. Go ahead. But if you now supposedly have all this energy, why are you sleeping in and not participating with the rest of the group?

And then, the weather was super shitty– pouring rain and windy. We went to a bunch of landmarks and tourist spots up in the mountains where there were a lot of steps and we had to use umbrellas to shield us from the wind and rain. While my cousin was holding his father’s hand to help him up the incline, my aunt asked my brother to do the same and help my dad. My brother’s reply? “Everyone should walk their own path.” Is that the kind of compassion the Master teaches you? You do nothing except show up for the trip and then you don’t even engage or participate. Well, fuck you. We could all do without your hypocritical proclamations. And for the record, you aren’t doing us any favors by showering us with your presence. Ugh.

At the start of this trip, I vowed to be civil to my brother. I’m sure no one is surprised that I CANNOT STAND my brother. Even though I can acknowledge his special kind of intelligence, everything about his person irks the living shit out of me– the fact that he’s so easily swayed by con men, the insistence that what he believes/claims is legit or real, the selfishness, the lack of responsiveness, punctuality, responsibility… but my family always gives me crap about not being nicer to him, not being sisterly. They have some stupid idea or wish that somehow I will be able to serve as a positive influence who will help him change his ways. I know, their wishful thinking is so damn unrealistic..

“You only have one brother,” they always say. Yeah, well I wish I had none. I know this sounds heartless and crass, but it is what it is. Let’s stop playing charades. Sure, we had some good times as kids. But pretty much from college and onward, he’s been a self-centered, unhelpful, immature shithead. It might not be kosher for parents to admit regret for having kids, but I sure as hell feel regret for myself AND my family about my brother. He’s really quite useless, and I have argued with my family for an entire lifetime about him. Seriously, it should be no fucking surprise that I am childfree precisely bc of what I have witnessed regarding my brother. So many arguments and fights with my parents.

And in true Chinese fashion, there is always someone and something to blame. Yes, my parents put a lot of pressure on him. He is the eldest son of the eldest son. That comes with a lot of baggage. My dad also worked a lot and wasn’t around much. His job was super stressful and he had anger issues that at times, he displaced onto us. My parents enabled my brother by coddling him to the point that he never needed to be responsible for anything. It’s a gigantic mess and at some point, even if we identify all the culprits, what then? I dunno really. But that is the Chinese way. And that is my family’s way. In my later adult years, I’ve tried to let it go: sourcing the blame doesn’t change the end result.

Before this trip to Taiwan, I told John that every time I see my brother, I can’t help but feel anger towards my parents for this predicament. I mean, yes, he’s a working, white-collar, 40-something professional. He’s great at teaching. But he’s still a total moron. He cannot be relied on for anything. He just lives for himself and his cult cronies. And whenever my family complains about him not getting married or not having kids, I just get so fucking irritated. Hello, open your goddamn eyes! Just bc you want a legacy doesn’t mean some woman should suffer by marrying a man-child or a child should suffer by having a lame, unreliable, irresponsible father. You know? Why are you hoping for the demise of two other people just so you can claim an heir to the family line? Whatever, I’m getting heated about all this shit all over again.

The point is, ahead of this trip, I was lamenting to John about how I still feel so much rage towards my parents about what my brother has become. And now, mom has Alzhimer’s. So what’s the point in feeling anger about this? Zippy. I dunno. I’ve said this before: I’m a flawed person. My propensity for accountability means that I blame people and things, and then I just don’t let go.

I admitted to this: I just keep punishing my parents for their parenting mistakes. And John replied, “But you’re not just punishing them: you’re punishing everyone, including yourself. And for how long?” So I vowed this trip to be civil towards my brother. Just bite my tongue and don’t start any fights. For whom? I don’t even know. Maybe just for my parents to save face. So other people don’t have to see our family drama. I dunno. As John explains, as adults we do all sorts of things we don’t want to do. You behave bc that is what your parents want– for their two kids to get along. Fine.

I don’t think anyone had any high hopes for my intent to stay calm. As you know, I’m a radical honesty kind of person. It’s not my natural way to keep quiet and to be non-confrontational, esp over things that really get under my skin. But I am also a person of control. And I am an adult in my 40s now. So I got it done. With the help of Bubbey the buffer, of course. Thankfully, my brother didn’t get into his pro-Trump MAGA bullshit that he so often posts on social media. And in the end, even if my interactions with him were forced and insincere, I suppose my family appreciated that the road trip was free of blowups. That was the best I could do… that’s right: Service withOUT a smile… VG style.

Moving forward, I don’t have any expectations for my brother. He will continue to be a brain-washed, self-absorbed person. For example, I went to see my grandmother. I fly back to Taiwan every year to see my grandparents. About two sentences in, she asks if I have seen my brother. He lives in Taipei– a few hours away by train. She hasn’t seen him in a long while. Then, my mother caught a cold and wasn’t able to go no the road trip. Did he call to see how she was doing? Nope. Didn’t care one iota that she couldn’t make the trip. She was the whole reason he was even invited!

She was also recently diagnosed with a heart problem. She was slated for a procedure at the hospital this week. It required her to stay in the hospital for two days. Where was my brother? No where. Just doing his own damn thing: no call, nothing. Meanwhile, my cousins, aunts, extended family, all went to the hospital to see her. That’s what I’m talking about.

I admit, the Chinese def go overboard with their whole Confucian concept of filial piety. It’s a term you hear a ton in Chinese families– I’ve been hearing this since I was a very young child. In essence, it translates as love/respect for your parents and elders. And in the pratical sense, it means not talking back, not raising your voice, not losing your temper, being thoughtful and considerate and in service, including bringing your dad slippers after a long day of work (my cousin used to do this for her father and my aunt advised me to do the same— I never did). I mean, Confucius is a bit cray. He takes it to an extreme where the hierarchy is also very sexist, but it’s a very very strong cultural force. It explains too why there is so much pressure in my family to have my brother marry. By not continuing the family line, this is seen as a failure on my father’s part to his own father (my grandfather), so the pressure and disappointment is definitely Level 10.

Anyway, I don’t want to drone on and on, but I do feel like expectations is the bane to all Chinese families. By many measures, I am a failure to my parents. I never became a physician despite the privilege and opportunity provided by my family. I didn’t have kids. I talk back. I cuss. I lose my temper. I raise my voice. I don’t connect with my parents that often. The irony is that John, despite being white, so much more effectively embodies this Confucian concept of filial piety– not in the outdated sexist sense but certainly in the modern sense. He keeps his cool. He is patient, caring, and kind. He does what is right– not out of obligation, but out of genuine respect and love. What can I say: I am limited and I have my weaknesses. Thankfully, Bubbey shows me the way, guiding by example and love.

Travel Fatigue

Some days, I can really feel my introverted side coming on strong. John and I have been doing a lot of traveling lately: he def has the travel bug and well, I promised to travel with him if I hit some goals. So in September, we headed to London with two of his sisters and brother-in-law. The trip went pretty seamlessly: J and his older sister did most of the planning– finding a conveniently located AirBnb and drafting up a rough itinerary for the week. London is a lot of fun, bc it’s a vibrant city with a lot of offer: art, music, food, shopping, plus a variety of tourist options. J always gets energized in a big city. He’s so great with directions and orientations and once you decide on a destination, he leads the way. But I travel in a manner where I like to go out and come back to the apartment throughout the day. After growing up with my father who always leads a jam packed itinerary, I enjoy sleeping in and lounging around the hotel in addition to checking out the sites. I like to rest when I’m on vacation bc I never feel rested at home. It was nice hanging out with his family in a setting different from the usual holidays and family dinners. And bc we had different interests, I actually got to see and do things I wouldn’t normally do– like scout out the Shakespeare Globe Theater and go on tours of the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. But at the end, I was pretty pooped being in the company of people.

It was nothing about them– they didn’t irk me or anything. I just needed time later to re-energize, bc I’m an introvert. The last day, John and I branched off and checked out some cool spots– Regents Garden was beautiful: a grand, lush and colorful oasis in the city. We rented bikes and had fun zipping around. We got tickets to Lion King– a play I last saw probably 20 years ago in NYC. The story is kinda simplistic and not that compelling, but the music and costumes were as amazing as I remembered. Overall, a great time in a place that’s easily navigable and lots of fun to explore.

Two weeks later, I was on the plane again. Incidentally, my friend N needed a break/getaway from the East Coast. This was right around the time another hurricane barreled through. Thankfully, the trip was still on afterwards, and we met in Denver for a few days. Again, we had a nice time exploring the city. John actually found us a great hotel downtown, so she and I were able to walk everywhere. She is so much more active and mobile now than when she visited us in the Bay Area a few years ago. One day, we rented a car and drove out to Red Rocks Amphitheater and then farther out to Breckenridge– a lovely ski town. N’s had a pretty rough last couple of years, so it was nice to see her get some fresh air and to have a change of scenery.

She’s lived in Wilmington, NC now for a very long while: she went there for undergrad, went overseas and away for grad school, and then eventually settled back. But I think she’s outgrown Wilmington, so we’ll see if somewhere farther west will draw her as a next destination. We had a good time hanging out and exploring. Even though I’ve been to Denver many times, I still saw some new things. My fav attraction? The Denver Botanic Gardens. We also tried out the Lyft scooters for the first time: those were a TON of fun. I’m a huge fan and can’t wait to take Bubbey to ride them in San Jose. Overall, N and I had some good bonding time. It’s helpful to have a friend who goes way back– who knows the whole history and drama of the past. That said, the historical context also brings up a lot of baggage– not between her and me but you know, just discussions about our families and our mothers. That drama is never easy to talk or think about, and sometimes, I find that we get ourselves stuck with belaboring the past. But the good thing is, in the end, we always strive to help one another process the pains of our histories and move towards the future. Sometimes I wonder if the old wounds will ever heal. Is there a way to acknowledge the past without letting it hold us hostage?

After all the traveling, I sure am tired. You see, at my core, I am a person of habit. I like to be home where I have a schedule, a routine, and I know what I need to do. While I love traveling, my patience for it seems to grow more limited as I get older. I’m very good at researching and booking flights, cars, hotels, etc. I like laying out a rough idea of things to do. But beyond that, all the logistics and explorations once there requires a lot of energy for me. Unlike Bubs who grows more energized exploring a new city, the experience wears on me. I like new experiences and adventures just as I usually like meeting new people and making new friends, but those activities drain me… it’s like the explanation people give for extroverts vs. introverts. The difference lies in how they re-energize. If they gain energy from being with people, they are extroverts. If they need me time to recuperate, they are introverts. I’m a social and traveling introvert. I need the downtime to rest. That’s partly why we never travel for longer than ten days. I begin to fatigue by day 5 and then I need to get home to recharge.

Back from Hiatus

Geez, I have not posted to the blog in more than two months!?!? This is one of the longest stretches of silence ever! Why? I dunno. In part, I’ve shifted my energies (more) to work. Also, I’ve been using other platforms, e.g. Instagram and Marco Polo. The other truth is, once I go for a long while without blogging, I kind of fall out of sync and like any habit that loses steam, it takes more energy to get back into the groove. I can’t tell you how many times in the last month I’ve been meaning to update, but just knowing my writing/storytelling is rusty after the respite makes me even more hesitant. It’s that perfectionism streak in me I guess. Sometimes I’d rather not do something if it’s not going to be good, you know?

Ultimately though, I do catch myself. And certainly, witnessing my father’s perfectionism always lights a fire under my ass to avoid a similar approach to life. And after reflecting some about my blog, and I’ve decided to redirect some of my energies away from general social media (FB and Insta are such time sinks) and back to writing on Asian American Hustle. I would like this to be a higher priority than just scouring generic feeds and such. I want to keep this outlet going (since 2003!) for as long as I can…

So what’s been occupying my time? Well, August was a great month, namely bc I completed two deals. Yes, I can’t lie: my happiness is directly tied to my work. One set of clients continued to reach out well after the transaction closed (and honestly, I like functioning as a problem solver/resource for my clients), so there was a lot of time-consuming research/negotiation in that arena…. A lot of random things, including ventless dryers, electrical outlets, sprinkler malfunctions, appliance repair, etc. While some agents thought I was going way too far above and beyond my duties, in some sense, I saw this as 1) a way to distinguish myself from other agents who may not be as thorough and as resourceful and 2) an opportunity to continue building rapport bc in a business like this, the ultimate goal is to create what agents call a “raging fan”– someone who is so happy with you and your service that s/he will remain loyal AND recommend you wholeheartedly to others. These clients wrote me my first review on Zillow, and they’ve always expressed gratitude for my work and help.

My other set of clients have been pretty quiet– they’re happy too but pretty busy at work and they have yet to get going full blast on home renovations, much less moving into their new home. It’s not a point of stress though: I worked with the hubby for many years at my govvie job, and we’re friends. They’re excited, and I’m told their review is coming…

I also started testing out some new marketing initiatives. I revisited an old realtor site I’d discovered last year, and they’ve really bulked up their content with a nice selection of marketing materials. I created some door hangers (and got a bite!) and then also created a brochure. Yep, I FINALLY got around to a brochure introducing myself and laying out my “unique value proposition.” We’ll see if it helps me drum up more business.

Meanwhile, I’m still doing open houses and still trying to gain insights from my colleagues at this new office. In September, I was feeling a little frustrated with my open house conversion stats, so I attended an open house training to see what I might be doing wrong. Interestingly, it was helpful talking to the other attendees to get their feedback. You see, a lot of the traditional training says that the goal of open houses is to set appointments. It’s not to gather names and numbers. It’s to set meetings to build rapport and convince buyers to work together. So I asked how many attendees had actually scored appointments. Zero! Why does this matter? Bc I’ve been beating myself up about not setting meetings but no one is. I think it’s still a worthy goal, but it’s not the ONLY goal. And in the end, following up and showing homes is still a method that can yield success. Anyway, it was helpful getting some feedback from other heavy hitters. I feel freshly energized and re-motivated. Gotta wrap the year up strong!