How I Met My Mother (At A Dumpster She Said)

In one Spanish class, our teacher Alejandra posed a question: How did you meet that someone important in your life? For those who have kids at home, you must have been bombarded by soul searching questions like this.  What a way to relive your childhood.  As for me, attending a Spanish class is as close to reflecting on my childhood education as I can get.

My mother often said: I found you in a dumpster. Looking back, that must be one of the most profound things I have come across at that very young age of mine.  A simple statement that encapsulates so many concepts.  I found you in a dumpster creates a disassociation, a resignation, and a diversion to the million possible emotions that went through my mother’s head when I was hopelessly naughty, when life seemed unbearable.  Often, I saw my mother silently staring out of the window in tears for hours.  And all I could say was I am sorry.  I guess back then it was hard for my mother to explain to her son how disappointed she was, how heartbroken she was.  Hence, I found you in a dumpster is a good proxy to sum up all her emotions.

Besides, I as a small kid would probably understand that statement better than her trying to tell me what she was going through.  Looking back, I guess it was also her way to teach me the notion of a two-way love.  Not just from her to me, but also I to her.  When I first conceptualized I found you in a dumpster, I thought it was a cool thing.  Monkey God (from a Chinese legend) came from a piece of worthless stone.  And I, from a dumpster.  But thinking deeper, I realized that the conveyed message was: You are not like me and hence you are not my son. Even as a very small kid, that blew.

I cannot recall how exactly my thinking process went.  I suppose my optimism has imbued in me since young.  All of a sudden, I have a mission in life.  I vowed to prove to my mother that I am indeed her son and I am going to make her proud.  What a long journey that became.  Over the years, my mother has subtly taught me that love is a two-way highway.  I too have to reach out to her.

Now that I am older and a little bit wiser, I am more and more convinced that she could well be saying I found you in a dumpster to herself, especially when the going got rough.  A reminder of how close she was to lose me in a hospital when the doctors and nurses informed her that my chance of survival was slim.  And that it turned out to be a blessing for her even if she has to accept me in whatever condition I was, so long as I live.  In another word, I was indeed lost and found, not in the most glamorous way.

I am not as articulated in Spanish.  The Spanish version of the story is as follows.  Thanks to Alejandra who corrected my grammar.  I think the Spanish tenses are intense.

La persona más importante en mi vida es mi madre.  Sin ella, yo no existo.  Sé que parece una tontería.  Cuando era joven, mi madre me decía de dónde venía, sobre todo cuando estaba enfadada conmigo.  Ella me decía que me encontró en el contenedor de la basura.   Cada vez que era travieso, me contaba la misma historia.   En el fondo, sé que ella me ama.  La metáfora de que me encontró en un contenedor de basura puede ser cruda.  Pero es un recuerdo constante del dolor que perdura para hacerme lo que soy hoy.

This entry has prompted me to work on a set of photos taken in my 2009 trip to Hong Kong.  My parents, Cynthia, and I have visited this garden.  If I remember correctly, the fossil stones and trees come from China.  My dad used to visit the garden often and he knows where the good spots are for photo taking.  Unfortunately, my photography skill was inadequate (I just bought my dSLR).  And I wish I had the white balancing card with me.  Nevertheless, for memory’s sake, below is a set of photos of the garden.

And another set for my family.

I Blog Because …

My blogger buddy Walter has written an excellent post on why he blogs regularly.  I have been wanting to write a similar topic for ages.  So why not do it now?

I blog because … I am highly imaginative?

  1. I have this special ability to look pass the pathetic statistics and number of comments in my website and visualize millions of fans waiting eagerly for what I am going to post next.  You hear right!  I do it for the people.  In fact, I am so psyched by my vision that I manage to psych those who are around me.  Some think that I am a celebrity blogger.  Erm.
  2. I have this vision that one day in the very distant future, when our planet would be populated by another species that replace homo sapiens, in one of the dig sites, they would discover a hard disk that would date back to our present era.  Inside, they would find my website.  And I would have become legendary.  Pretty much like the dinosaur bones now displayed in the museums.  Note: This inspires my doodle above titled “Original Disk”.
  3. I love to do voluntary work.  In the old days, people were happy to pay for things that they consumed.  Nowadays, from music albums to books, from recent movie blockbusters to daily news, people want to consume things for free – legally or illegally.  Most bloggers write for free.  Because we love what we do.  In fact, I have this vision that at the pinnacle of our civilization, none of us would work for money.  Money would vaporize.  How nice?

I blog because … I am a dreamer?

  1. I have this dream.  One day I will be a writer.  Like a real writer who writes books that people read and critic.  I have no idea how to get there although I do have millions of ideas in my head.  I reckon if I keep writing, every other day, if I keep on practicing, by the power of some cosmic random events, I might have my dream comes true.  And then I can quit my day job, do my writing in some exotic locations sponsored by my publisher.  Wouldn’t life be lovely?
  2. I see my website as the incubator for my budding hobbies, my decades old hobbies.  Publishing my work online forces me to keep doing it and doing it better.  Sure, some hobbies may take a nosedive.  Like the gazillion number of fans and friends who recently ask: What happens to your band?  Do you still jam? Sure, it feels crap every time when I have to explain why our band is in hiatus.  But in the long run, this invisible support, my commitments made public, all crystallized into an invisible cane that keep me going.
  3. Oh yes.  If my writing career does not work out, may be I could be a musician?  A professional doodler?  A Spanish video blogger?  Well …

For all practical reasons and beyond …

  1. I keep a website to keep track on what I do over the years.  I would feel empty if decades pass by and I have no recollection on what I have done, what I have tried to do.  Sure, we should live in the present.  But the past is just as important.  That is why there is a degree called History.  Uh huh?
  2. The difference between an offline diary and an online diary, to me, is vast.  Because I have an online diary, I strive to live an interesting and inspiring life each and every day.  Otherwise, I would have nothing interesting and potentially inspiring to write online.  Yes?

How To Quiet The Prancing Horses Inside Your Head?!

This is a pretty heavy topic.  But I am sure some of you can handle.

Once in a while, some trusted friends of mine would confide in me the situations they faced – at work, in relationship, or life in general – and hope to hear my perspective.  I love listening to stories and answering questions.  In this particular situation, which for obvious reason I am unable to share the details, I could sense that at any point, anxiety would overwhelm my friend, eating up her sleep, and affecting her ability to make the right decisions.  So I offered, “None of these what-if are real.”  “What do you mean?” she asked.  “All these scenarios [you have imagined] are like the prancing horses inside your head, they make you feeling worried.  You have to quiet the noise down.  Take a deep breath!”  “But how do you quiet what goes on in your mind?” she asked.

Good question.  How to quiet the prancing horses inside your head?  How to rid your worries and attain tranquility in the face of an imminent and potentially desperate situation?  To be frank, it is an art that I am still trying to master.

While I am not a big fan of self-help books, there are a few that are life changing to me.  It is an open secret that “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey has changed the way I divide my time between work and life.  Begin with an end in mind is a concept that prompts us to reflect upon what we want to be remembered of, by our loved ones.  Since then, for one decade, while working hard during the working hours, I put in an equal amount of effort to live life as purposeful as I can outside these hours.  Once in a while, I have friends coming up to me and asked how do I find time to do this and that.  In this instance, I think the question of why is more important than how.  And now you know why.

The late Randy Pausch is an inspiration and his book “The Last Lecture” has touched my heart.  There are two concepts that stick to my mind like that one single habit from the above-mentioned book.  One is don’t complain and work harder.  I find that extremely useful especially at work.  It works equally well in relationships too.  Another one is to lead life the right way and do the right thing.  My day is full of decision points (and so do yours too I suppose).  It is so much easier to pick the right thing to do when in doubt.  The outcome may not be the most favorable, in the short run.  At least the process is robust.

Back to the topic of prancing horses inside our heads, I borrow the concept from “Happiness At Work” by Dr. Srikumar Rao.  This book has so many good stuffs but like the other two books, I can only internalize a few concepts that stick.  If you take a deeper look at the root of anxiety, it is not hard to realize that the thoughts that create anxiety are purely our imagination.  Not thinking about the what-if does not make the problem goes away, I agree.  But feeling worried does not help in crafting the next course of action, even if the best action is to wait.  Here are my stories to share.

When I was holidaying in France, the workers had initiated a strike.  What if no train will be working tomorrow and how are we going to get to the airport?  What if the airport shuts down?  What if the flight to Nice is canceled?  When my home server that houses my personal data crashed, what if I am unable to bring it back up?  What if the support line is not able to help?  What if more than one hard disks are crashed and all my data is lost?  When new team members are mysteriously added into the team or when there is another round of re-organization, what if my role becomes redundant?

How to quiet these thoughts down?

I agree with some readers that good concepts like the above are easy to understand but hard to execute.  That is why we need time to practice (the first concept has taken me 10 years to work on and I am still working on it).  I admit that while I am asking my friend to quiet her thoughts and stop worrying, I too am not immune to anxiety.  I guess the first step is to recognize and acknowledge that none of those prancing horses inside my head are real.  They are my creation.  And there is no point keep thinking about the what-if.  More often than not, once I will the horses away, immediately I return to my modus operandi of doing the right thing, don’t complain and work harder, and time travel to the end game.  Crisis in life often looks diminished viewing from a faraway time horizon – to me that is.

Summer Blog Episode 3 – My Table In My Primary School

My memory of my primary school life has been fuzzy.  Of the few fragments that I remember, there were those wooden tables that we used at school, unlike perhaps the fine furniture students use today.  The surface though smooth, was uneven.  You could trace the texture of the wood and you could see the little holes of various sizes scattered over the tabletop.  If you had a wide imagination like I did, you would picture the surface of the table as the terrain of an unknown planet.  You could even draw a map and name the craters.

In my primary school days, we used pencils and rubbers often.  Instead of brushing the residue of the rubber onto the floor like I suppose every student did, I had developed this craze to bury it into the little craters on the tabletop.  I would press the residue hard using the end of a pencil or my bare fingers.  Soon, I was busy producing residue for the sake of filling up the holes.  It took a long time to fill up all the holes, large and small.  When I was done with the job, I would start to dig out the residue from one random crater and fill it up with fresh residue.  And the job never ended.

Unfortunately, there is no morale to this story.  I think I should have studied to become a dentist instead.

“When I Was 18” – A Spanish Homework

“When I Was 18” – that was the topic of our Spanish homework.  In fact, our teacher Natalia left the age to be open.  It could well be when I was 16, when I was 24, when I was 30, when I was … OK, let’s stop here.  I mean, when I was 16, my life was not that exciting.  Maybe observing the gorgeous girls going in and out of the nightclub at the ground floor of my apartment in Hong Kong was one of the highlights of my being 16.  What about that romantic relationship with a girl a couple of years younger than me?  OK, that – was complicated.  Really complicated.

18 was – looking back – the turning point of my life.  One of those moments that was tantamount to a multi-facet metamorphosis – physically, mentally, and spiritually.  5,995 miles away from home, I was studying in UK.  The age of experimentation, the age of inquisition, and the age of doing just the opposite for the sake of because-I-can.  Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not.  To experience at all cost.  When you are that young, I guess empathy may not be high in your list.  Neither is self-preservation.  It is a time of having to face the consequences and to bear the scars, a time of learning and moving on.

When I was 18, I was used to walk afar, alone or with my friends.  We would walk miles to another town, to visit the pubs, get chased by the dogs.  A few years later, in another city of the same country, I would walk miles to visit Toy “R” Us, to check out the latest console game titles.  I would spend hours walking, in the cold or in the rain, day or night.  We would climb a crane and stand high up above the ground in order to embrace the chilly wind, feel the thrill down our spines.  One evening, my friends and I ventured into a privately owned woodland.  Occasionally we found shotgun shells on the ground, under a bright moonlight.  Flying creatures would suddenly pop out of nowhere and got us scared.  Or did we scare them with our trespass?  When you are that young, you do not think.  You act with your heart.  At the end of our night trekking, we would see a peaceful lake with swans.  Flying ducks would make a gentle landing onto the surface creating beautiful lines on the otherwise serene pliable gigantic mirror.  In the middle of the lake, there was a castle decorated with modern interior.  How nice if I could live in such a surreal surrounding.  Looking back, I sincerely cannot recall how many times I have visited that lake.  I think about those moments from time to time; I dream about those moments from time to time.  When hallucination mixes with memory and dream, what is real, what is created by my mind consciously and subconsciously?

When I was 18, I seldom slept at night.  My friends would drop by my room to chat, to listen to music, to do homework together, or to play guitar.  My English friends would teach me the culture of tea drinking, the English way.  I would teach them my culture of having toasted bread with butter and sugar.  They were surprised when I sprinkled sugar on top of my buttered toast.  I was surprised when some preferred to drink English tea with only milk and no sugar.  I suppose when you are young, you are eager to try almost anything.  And we would chat the entire night.  Do you remember the days when you and your friends suddenly have this revelation that the world is so screwed up by the grown-ups?  That we have millions and one ways to make this world a better place?  Do you remember the days when you and your friends started to question the core of our existence?  The future of our existence if there is one; the doom of our existence if there are none?  Questions, questions, and questions.  And we debated.  The entire night.

That spirit of being 18, that spirit of endless adventure and no topic is a taboo.  That carelessness, that care free attitude of life.  Young is the one that plunges in the future and never looks back – so said Milan Kundera.

Now, I wish I could write that in Spanish.  The result of my homework is a lot simplified.  I am going to post it here because first it takes great effort to compose anything in Spanish and I may as well post it here for my personal future reference.  And second, it is rare that I could get someone to correct my Spanish writing (thanks Natalia!) so here we go.

Cuando tenía 18 años, era un joven estudiaba que en Inglaterra.  Me gustaba caminar largas distancias, gran altura.  Mis amigos y yo caminábamos por el bosque bajo la luz de la luna.  O entrábamos a otra ciudad a pie.  Cuando veíamos una grúa, la subíamos.  Era peligroso.  Pero era joven, sin pensar mucho.

Cuando tenía 18 años, era un hombre tranquilo.  Me gustaba escuchar música clásica o melodía de ayer todo el tiempo.  Visitaba a menudo la habitación de mi amigo y escuchábamos la música pop.  Otra amigo me introdujo la música rock.  Y tocábamos las guitarras en la noche.

Cuando tenía 18 años, mis amigos y yo hablábamos durante toda la noche.  Hablábamos sobre chicas, sobre extraterrestres y ballenas, sobre política y los problemas de mundo.  Los problemas que pensábamos que podíamos resolver.  ¡Qué ingenuos éramos!

Cuando tenía 18 años, veía la vida como una aventura.  Ahora la veo como la rutina diaria.  Prefiero quedarme en donde estoy.