Vote for Kindness

Like most Canadians, I have been following the upcoming US election with equal parts incredulity and hopelessness. I can’t vote but I can’t stop watching the endless barrage of news, satirical commentaries, and memes about both candidates. This election seems to be more like a streetfight, where one of the candidates refuses to bar any holds. But it’s the feverish quality evident at the Trump rallies that scares me the most, and it seems that fever might be contagious. While Karry Vernon Corbett’s racist tirade was actually caught on tape, it makes you wonder what happens when the tape is not running.

A few months ago, I was in the car with my twelve-year-old son, driving along Bellevue Avenue to pick up his friend and take them to basketball camp. It was a beautiful morning, a dazzling sunshiney day that makes good moods mandatory. I have picked up and dropped off this friend about 200 times so far and have always stopped my car at the top of the driveway before it plummets toward the below grade garage. As I’ve never been comfortable reversing up that steep driveway and there’s never any street parking available, I chose to momentarily block the sidewalk as his friend enters or exits the car. Per usual, there was no traffic this morning, so there were no witnesses to what happened next.

While my son went to get his friend, I was fiddling with my car’s Bluetooth, having found an 80’s Slacker Radio station on my iPhone. I didn’t notice a middle-aged man and his bulldog go around my car but I did notice my son looking back at me from his friend’s front doorstep with an incredulous look on his face. When the boys got back to the car, my son asked, “Did you hear what that guy said?”
“No.” I responded, “What did he say?”
“He said, ‘That’s a sidewalk, you f***ing Chinaman!’ ”

My jaw dropped. “Oh wow.” My immediate response was to lash out at this stranger, but I realized these boys were watching me, and my hurt bloomed into anger as I replayed all the little slights I’d endured over my 47 years as a Korean-Canadian.

A jogger went around my car, as I pondered what to do. Sorry! I yelled, but she couldn’t hear me for her headphones. I reversed out of the driveway/sidewalk and drove towards camp. The man and his dog were just 100 feet ahead, and before I could think about what I was going to say, I slowed the car beside him, rolled down the passenger window and called out, “Excuse me, sir?”

He turned to look at me and I continued, my voice wavering slightly, “What you said back there was very….” I paused, trying to choose my next word carefully – was he racist or ignorant – but settled on, “Unkind,” as it was the truth.

His eyes widened, as if shocked I could speak English. With his leathery skin and shock of platinum blond hair, he looked like an angry Guy Fieri. Apoplectic, he shouted, “I don’t care, it’s against the law to stop on the sidewalk!” and yanked on his bulldog’s leash to stop him from pooping on the lawn they were standing in front of.

“I’m sorry, I was just there for a minute,” I stammered.

“I don’t f***ing care! You should know the bylaws of this city!” he screamed, spittle flying from his mouth.

Aware of the two bi-racial tweens in the car, I simply restated, “Well, what you said was VERY unkind,” and drove off, heart pounding in my chest, wholly unsatisfied with my Flight over Fight response.

I was born in Vancouver nearly five decades ago, and I can count the number of times I’ve experienced abject racism on one hand, which is a good, but unfortunate statistic. But racism also presents itself in other, more subtle ways. An eight-year-old once asked me, “Can you see up here?” stretching her arm up to around the height of my forehead. She was referring to my almond-shaped eyes, innocently wondering if I saw the world in widescreen format. And last summer, a friend joked about posing as me to claim a prize I’d won and mimicked me by pulling up on the corners of her eyes. Honestly, most days I don’t even notice my race, I have a beautiful life filled with meaningful work and beautiful friendships that don’t notice my race either, but there are other days when unkindness can feel like another paper cut. And believe me, it guts me to know that my paper cuts are nothing compared to what others have endured in their lifetimes.

It’s shocking how one person can justify making the leap from observing an innocuous traffic violation to slurring the offender’s ethnicity, but one only has to watch a Donald Trump rally to know that kindness has ceased to matter for some. While it’s possible that I’d encountered a curmudgeon having a bad day, I wonder if there’s something larger afoot. A movement where a petulant, racist, misogynist can make a legitimate run for the White House by saying all sorts of unkind things and emboldening others to do the same.

We’ve all endured unkindness based on our gender, ethnicity, age, religious beliefs, where we live and how we look. But for every slight, we must remember that we’ve also given and received a thousand kindnesses. Smiles, held doors, Facebook likes and other courtesies are the threads that knit our diverse communities together and make them thrive.

I grew up thinking America was Canada’s big brother – bossy at times but respected and watched out for everyone’s safety. The America on the news this past year is definitely not the one I remember. Trump spewing (and then denying) hateful arguments pitting Us against Them have no place anywhere, least of all the White House.

Dear America, please vote for kindness. The world needs a Kind America, we all do.

Advertisements

Crazy is as Crazy does

I was 10 years old when I brought home my first C+. Convinced that The Fonz and Vinnie Barbarino had snuck into his house and shrivelled his daughter’s once enormous brain to the size of a pea, my father shouted (among other things), “That’s it! I’m going to break the TV!” (this is loosely translated from Korean). Once cooler heads (Mom’s) prevailed, he realized that “no more TV for you!” could accomplish much the same, with less pain. And thus, I was banished from the TV room, keeping their beloved Zenith Chromavision 23″ color TV safely encased in its solid oak console, and Mom would still get to watch her Korean videos.

My father was positive that TV (and in particular, that distractingly good looking Bo Duke) was to blame for my terrible grades, possibly even jeopardizing my chances at getting into a top-tier medical school. However, my mother the softie, could be convinced to let me watch Marcus Welby, MD on occasion. I think she thought that Dr. Welby gave good insight to the medical profession which might help make up for the lack of having a doctor as a relative when it came time to apply to medical school.

After a few riveting episodes of the good doctor, I became a doctor-in-training and a full-fledged hypochondriac. My diagnoses were usually dire. Persistent fatigue and weakness? Sounds like Leukemia. Difficulty with balance? Egads, that could be brain cancer. None of my diagnoses ever hit the mark thank goodness, but my husband says I still tend towards the paranoid, fussing unnecessarily over our sons’ bleeding noses, countless bruises and headaches.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well wish me luck as I have just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. This is a heart-breakingly beautiful story of a accomplished woman/lovely mother/devoted wife/Harvard professor who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the peak of her career. Unlike most stories written on Alzheimer’s or dementia, the Ms. Genova wrote the book from the perspective of the patient, allowing the reader to experience firsthand the unfair and uneven erosion of her brain. As I sobbed my way through the book, I couldn’t help but notice all the times I had forgotten commitments or lost my train of thought mid-sentence, and it gave me pause. But when I shared my worries with my husband, he just rolled his eyes at me.

Last weekend, we decided to go skiing on Blackcomb Mountain. It was a bluebird day, a perfect day to test my new poppy-colored SunIce GORE-TEX Performance Shell’s wind defying properties. While we were on the Excalibur Gondola, I texted my sister our apres-ski plans to catch Marianas Trench playing in the village square for the Telus’ Ski & Snowboard Festival. Plans were confirmed and I put my iPhone away. Once we got to mid-mountain, we disembarked the gondola, popped on our skis and skied into the lineup for the Excelerator Chair when I noticed that my pockets were open and my iPhone4 was not in them! As I frantically patted myself down, I yelled at my husband and kids that I’d lost my phone and that I’d meet them at the top of the mountain in 30 minutes. I zipped back to the gondola, my eyes darting around looking for my phone in the snow, perhaps sitting lost under the wave of skis heading to the lift. I asked the Operator if he’d seen it. Nope. He offered to radio to the mid-station below so that the guys could check the gondolas heading back down the hill. I then skied down to mid-station to see if they found it. Nothing. I asked the guys there what I should do and they recommended skiing down to the base to file a report with Guest Relations. I decided I should check in with my family before doing so as my 30 minutes were up and I had no way of communicating with them, and slumped dejectedly into the nearest gondola going back up the hill. I sat, frustrated with my own stupidity and carelessness. I took off my helmet to give my head a shake, when my inner arm brushed up against something that didn’t feel like my jacket. My phone. Sitting safely in the SunIce patented welded zip chest pocket. In my defense, I’ve never had a chest pocket before. I unzipped the pocket in disbelief. There my phone showed 3 missed calls from my husband. My phone wasn’t on vibrate mode, it was just too quiet for me to hear over my pounding heart and swooshing skis.

So now, I’m deaf too.

Love Lucie

I love Tina Fey

I feel that if Tina Fey lived my neighbourhood we’d be great friends – swapping play dates, great shoes, sexy pose ideas(!) and witty sarcasm like nobody’s business.

As reported on People.com (it’s like CNN, only more interesting), the mother/wife/actress/producer/comedienne/writer/multi-tasker Fey admits, “(As a mother) you need a lot of help, and you need not to be afraid to ask for help.” She credits a great nanny and husband Jeff Richmond, musician and 30 Rock co-producer, who is also “a full participant” at home. I too have a great nanny and fully-involved husband (see Tina, so many similarities!)

“But even still,” she says, “every 12 weeks or so, you just kind of lose it. Then you gather it back up.

I love that line. This perky mom who also happens to be the King of the Castle in Hollywood, just normalized the ups and downs of being human for us regular folks. She’s saying that not everything in real life can have a happy Hollywood ending like the Season Finale on this year’s Bachelor. A life that good simply cannot be sustained, it would be exhausting to try. And even if we worked so that 100% pure happiness was possible all the time, it would automatically feel less good by virtue of it being the new normal. Life usually fluctuates somewhere in between “oh my god, I just made the New York Times Bestseller list!” and “You’re the worst mother that ever lived, I hate you!” Instead of chasing those highs with singular focus and/or rushing to your therapist (and forsaking all others) when you’re losing it, it sounds like my girlfriend Tina just takes the good stuff as it comes, acknowledging the inevitability of “losing it” and then “gathering it back up again” happy in knowing that she’ll be on lather, rinse, repeat cycle for some time to come.

I’m on Facebook Tina, poke me!

Love Lucie

Buckets, Deadlines and Other Stuff

I am a first born, the first of five daughters in a family that was looking for sons. My birthright is a lifetime of firsts – the first in my family to go to school, the first to have to explain Halloween and marijuana (among many, many other things) to my immigrant parents, the first to kiss, the first to marry, the first to conceive, the first to have a cesarean to deliver the first grandchild, and I imagine, the first of my siblings to die.

At 42, I have 39.58 years left to live, according to the life expectancy tables actuaries use when calculating how much to charge you for life insurance. So if my life was a week, this would be Wednesday! Forgive me if I sound panicked, it’s because I am. I’m cursing myself for checking the actuarial tables, because I had thought, albeit ignorantly, that at 42, I had another 42 years to go, since I seem to be having a mid-life crisis of late. But by checking these tables, I’ve lost nearly 2.5 years of time to do very important stuff! I’m not ready to go yet! I’m too young to die!

OK deep breath. Let’s not be the first in my family to have a nervous breakdown!

If my life were a year, this would be July. One of my favorite months, second only to August! So, I think I’ll take that to mean that many, many, many good times lie ahead and I can while away the days sun-tanning if I want to or I can write out my bucket list and tackle them one by one.

My Bucket List:
– Write a fabulous book that I’m proud of
– ??
– ??

Hmm, I’ll add to the list as more things strike me, but it’s amazing the clarity a deadline gives you 🙂

Love Lucie

Come On Get Higher

I’ve heard that there is fairly high correlation between creativity and mental illness (source). Specifically, scientists refer to the prevalence of bipolar disorder in creative types, where the highs, by juxtaposition, serve to amplify the lows of daily life. Consider Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, and Kurt Cobain to name a few alums. Some would even include the “bi-winning” Charlie Sheen, but I just think he’s a self-absorbed jerk and drug addict.

As a writer, thoughts swirl around my head constantly, not unlike a snow globe. Sometimes my thoughts dance around gently and are mesmerizing, philosophical and even, epiphantic. At other times, it can feel like a toddler has found my head and is shaking up a blizzard. The thoughts scream by my ears, too fast to decipher and connect, and sometimes the thoughts take on my mother’s voice. Not my sweet, loving mother’s voice, but her scary, screeching, threatening voice. Its hard to quieten these thoughts, much less push them out of my head. After a few sleepless nights tormented by raging thoughts, I have to start to wonder if this is what it’s like to go crazy.

To me, depression feels like living with one of those lead aprons the dentist puts on you while he’s taking x-rays of your teeth. It packs serious weight and renders me immobile. I haven’t felt like this since the birth of my first son, but I recognize that the beast is back and it scares me, so I write, searching for clues as to where it began to unravel.

I was never encouraged to write, not as a profession anyways. My parents pushed me towards medical school, but I rebelled and ended up in business school. In any case, I am well versed in science and logic, and let me tell you this – Depression is completely illogical. It makes no sense that a healthy woman in a nurturing, loving relationship, with healthy kids and healthy parents, living in a beautiful home with organic food in her fridge, and busy with an active social life, should feel unfulfilled. And then I feel terrible that I’m feeling unfulfilled, and worry that God will strike me down for being ungrateful. But I’m not ungrateful and I know that God is a loving God. And yet, I can’t seem to get this lead apron off of me.

I wish I knew what triggers it for me – maybe the past 4 months of gray skies and Vancouver rain, rain, rain and not going somewhere sunny for Spring Break have something to do with it – there is much in the press linking Vitamin D deficiency and depression. My friend did commit suicide a few months ago, so maybe that has been affecting me subconsciously. Maybe I’m stressed out because my youngest starts school full-time in the fall and my raison d’être is no longer. Maybe it’s merely an ebb in my nearly 20 year relationship? Maybe it’s PMS or egads, menopause? Maybe I’m lacking endorphins from hanging out with my kids for 17 days straight instead of being able to sweat it out at the gym while they’re at school?

All logical possibilities, but I wonder if it’s something altogether different. Am I alone in feeling this way or are there other 40 years-ish stay-at-home moms out there that feel there must be something more to life than cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring and PTA meetings?

I think I need something to look forward to and work towards. It’s not Spring Break in Hawaii, and it’s not a smaller dress size. It’s something big, epic even, something all my own. My Kilimanjaro. Now I just have to figure out what/where my Kilimanjaro is.

Thanks as always for reading.
Love Lucie

Is Suicide Painless?

If you’re in your 40’s, I’m pretty sure you grew up watching M*A*S*H, a medical dramedy about a medical surgical unit situated in the middle of the Korean war. It wasn’t a life-altering experience for me, just part of the background noise of my growing up. 28(!) years after the series finale, I can only remember a few things – Hot Lips Houlihan and her boob of a boyfriend, feeling indignant at the non-Korean actors portraying Koreans and embarrassed at their laughable attempts at speaking Korean, among other things. But mostly I recall the show’s opening theme song, a hauntingly beautiful instrumental version of “Suicide is Painless.” I once knew all the grim words to this song (as a moody teenager with strict parents, I’m horrified to admit that I had given some thought to how miserable I could make my parents by killing myself), but the only words that still stick in my mind today are it’s provocative title.

I share this because a friend of mine committed suicide a few weeks ago. A beautiful, generous, caring woman, who had been battling depression for a number of years. I’ve been out of touch with her since our university days, but occasionally our circles would intercept and we would reconnect for an event with mutual friends. We’d hug and talk about how “we must get together!” for coffee or lunch, but neither of us ever took the time to make anything happen.

Back in university, she was smart, beautiful and drove a Volkswagen Cabriolet. Navy with a white top. She had an older boyfriend who took her to fancy dinners while I was struggling with acne and midterm exams. If I’m being honest, I probably envied her more than befriended her, and that makes me hang my head in shame now. So what the fuck happened? Her life now was not all that different from mine – a daughter, a job, family, friends – except she was saddled with a disease that people don’t really talk about much. Since hearing about her lonely death, I’ve been struggling with my emotions – shock, sorrow, guilt and anger among them and that sad melody floated back into my consciousness.

At her funeral, the guilt in the room was palpable. Suicide is not painless, and most definitely not painless for those you leave behind. I don’t profess to know anything about mental illness, except to say that it really frightens me. Mental illness robbed my friend of her capacity to think logically and act accordingly. Despite all external appearances, she felt powerless and alone. Sadly I heard she reached out to several people from her life in the week before she died, quite probably to say goodbye, but no one clued in until it was too late.

Someone once told me, with every interaction you have the opportunity to start/grow or diminish/end a relationship.

May you grow some friendships today and everyday.

Rest in peace sweet friend.

Love Lucie

PS. With every comment on this post, I will make a $20 donation to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC. Thanks for reading and call an old friend today xo

In sickness and in health

I’m sick.  I have sweat pooling in my bra and goosebumps decorating my arm.  I’ve been lying on the heated bathroom floor under a quilt for the past 2 hours and now smell like a locker room, part Mr. Clean, part sweat and body oils.  I wince when I have to swallow my own saliva and am feeling utterly unlovable. 

Why did this happen to me?  A birthday party at the local giant jungle gym brought on the initial runny nose and ticklish throat, despite repeated dousing in hand-sanitizer, which snowballed into my present state on the bathroom floor.  My husband and kids are avoiding me (sure, save yourselves) and my self-pitying mind screams whatever happened to “for better or for worse?  In sickness and in health?”

Two Advil Cold and Sinus later, I’m in a much better state of mind.  The hyperhydrosis has subsided, goosebumps again flattened and my thoughts are softer, gentler and even look with promise towards the future.

Must buy more Advil!

Love Lucie