So This Is Midlife

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So, this is how it feels like to be 45 years old. 

Never in a million years would I predict that I’d perform on stage again.  In college, I danced with our campus Modern Dance Company; even won a scholarship to dance with the fiercely talented Murray Louis in his intensive summer workshop in SoHo after sophomore year.  After graduation, medical school, Howard Hughes research fellowship with a Science publication which propelled me to add on another six years of graduate school, residency, marriage, family, and career.  At no point in time did I fancy myself to deviate from the “normal” path carved out by thousands of physician scientists before me, including their fitness routine.  I ran 5k, 10k half marathons, marathons.  I tried several gym, hoping to shed a few post partum pounds and stay fit.  I tried to eat mostly healthy, though I did develop a taste for fine wine and cheese.  I got into mixed martial arts and thought I’d grow to become an old female Yoda one day: a tiny Asian fighter who speak fragmented English (I still might!). 

Life apparently has other plans for me.  A thump!  A thumb.  And there I was, nearly broken. I took a look in horror, watching my thumb dangling outward held only by the skin at the martial art school.  I took a deep breath and set my own thumb.  There after, I entered into an unfamiliar realm.  It was dark, insufferably sad, needing courage and perseverance in every turn, especially when the pain was severe.  I became a child for my 9 year-old daughter to care for.  My sweet child washed my hair, bathed me, tied my shoe laces.  My saintly husband took up almost all of the house chores and child transportation.  We subscribed to meal and grocery delivery service.  I became Uber’s daily customer so that I could keep going to work. 

Orthopedic hand surgery, occupational therapy, acupuncture, daily at-home therapy.  It took six months, and I finally felt stronger.  I sat there in silent tears the first time my thumb was able to wrap around the steering wheel (triumph!  freedom from Uber!).  This thumb rotation quickly advanced to being able to work the wine cork screw (another triumph!).  The first time my hand could feel temperature, and touch, I cried out loud this time, and just kept the warm water running over my hand.  All these milestones felt major to me, and are now forever etched in my mind. 

But what to do about exercise?  Going from working out five days a week to none was a dramatic blow to a physically active person.  We talked about partially returning to martial art where I don’t punch, don’t fall, don’t do partner work.  Yeah, what kind of martial art could that be I have no idea.  MK said to me, “What makes you happy?  You always seem happy when you get a chance to take a dance class.”  I was euphoric, actually, whenever I got to dance.  I started with Hip Hop and later added Dancehall.  I joined a Dancehall team with the goal of stage performance, and met several incredible ladies.  We rehearsed in excruciating detail-oriented repetitions (again!  again!), committing our muscles to remember and respond to music.       

When we walked onto the darkened stage, knelt down, with our heads bent, there was a collective intake of our breaths.  It was quick, and we held it there.  I felt suspended in time.  All those years ago, dancing with Murray Louis, with his drumming and his cat, now coming to a full circle. 

Stage light on.  This is 45.             

 

 

 

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Make Tiger Mom Weep


On our six-hour car ride to Mammoth, I busied myself searching for fun songs that we could all enjoy on the radio.  Plum; no not that one.

Me: how about this one.

Plum: how about you don’t play any song so that I can concentrate on my math homework?

Whose child is this?!! Oh yeah, mine. Definitely mine 😂 

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Sisterhood in Cacophony

Happy International Women’s Day!  To celebrate this day, I am planning on helping out as many women friends as I can today.

I will go over some clinic pearls with my residents, coincidentally both female this month.

I will ask after the front desk clerks, the nurses and the therapists to see how they are doing.  Today I will actually stop and listen.

I will email my co-editor on the textbook we’ve been working on, and see if she needs help on finishing up that very last chapter.

Most of my beneficiaries so far are mothers of Plum’s friends.  We are all mothers who work full time jobs, juggling different hats in cacophony.  One of Plum’s science fair partner has scheduling conflicts and can not finish her assigned part of the project.  Her dad is coming home from an oversea business trip.  The project is due tomorrow.  “No problem, just bring the poster board over.  Plum and I will finish it tonight.  Enjoy your family time!” I texted her back early this morning before walking in to my clinic.  Plum’s other science project partner will be coming over after school to work on the project.  “If you want to have happy hour with your co-workers, I can feed your kid.”  I emailed the second mother during my lunch break.

I will edit the English version of a photography blog for my little cousin tonight, as soon as I am done helping with the poster.

I will work on the talk I am invited to give to an all-girls academy on how being a female immigrant shaped me to become who I am today.

I will talk to my daughter about the progress women have made, and how much more we need to accomplish.  Some of the women she admire are Maya Angelou, J K Rowling, Michelle Obama.  All strong, intelligent, compassionate, and talented female who are not afraid to speak their minds.

There is strength in sisterhood.  There is love in solidarity.  Being a modern career woman, I have become so efficient that I forget to pause.  During this morning’s tumor board, I sat down next to our medical oncologist, a female, and wished her Happy Women’s Day.  She looked at me wide-eyed and uttered, “so… what are we supposed to do with this day?”  You see, she is used to my customary greeting of, “hi how are you I have this patient I saw yesterday who really needs to get concurrent chemotherapy so can you see him tomorrow?” in a single breath.

By pausing to recognize this International Women’s Day, I discover that I am surrounded by  intelligent, hard-working women who are preoccupied with their work and families, just like me.  And I suspect, if I put in a little bit of time and effort to nurture our relationship, they could all blossom into friendship!  A beautiful, solid network of working women around me, that is what I would like to seed on this Women’s Day.

How about you?  How are you celebrating this day?

 

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I Am Sexy Like…

That moment in your Sexy Booty class when you realized that your instructor was not asking you to demonstrate you’ve reached the 9 months old toddler’s milestone when she asked you to crawl towards her.

Yeah, I am sexy like that.

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To Those You Love…

… show them:

Show them your appreciation.

Show them your adoration.

Show them your patience.

Show them your loyalty.

Show them your curiosity.

Show them your passion.

Show them your true self.

Be it your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, friend.

Show them, your love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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China Should Send Us Their Wall, Done!

Have you guys seen these new “executive orders” delivered by Jon Stewart?

My favorites were, “I thought a Presidency is supposed to age The President; not the public!” and “China should immediately and without hesitation, send us their Wall; done!”

Times like this, we all need a little humor.

All jokes aside, exactly what Mr Stewart said , “It is going to take relentless stamina, endurance, and every institutional checks and balance this great country can muster to keep me, Donald J Trump, from going full Palpatine. We have never faced this before: purposeful, vindictive chaos. But perhaps there lies the saving grace of my presidency. No one action will be adequate; and all actions will be necessary. And if we do not allow Donald Trump to exhaust our fight, and somehow come through this presidency calamity-less, and constitutionally partially intact, then I, Donald J Trump, would have demonstrated the greatness of America, just not the way I thought I was gonna.”

Wish everyone a more relaxing weekend compared to the last.

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Then They Came For Me

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Lately I haven’t been able to sleep.  After Women’s March, it seemed like things just kept on getting worse each day.

I immigrated to the US from Taiwan 30+ years ago; back when one couldn’t openly criticize the KMT government. We’ve all heard of stories of someone who knew someone who mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the night.  I remembered adults whispering in hushed tones when they were dissatisfied with certain policies.  Back in the early 80’s, Taiwan was basically a one party country under martial law.  The US was a beacon of light for the world.

I became a US citizen in college. I remembered being so proud that day during swearing in: to belong in a country where one feels safe to speak her mind; where anything is possible if one works hard enough.

I want my daughter to feel this freedom and pride about her, my, our, country to eternity.

Now 30+ years later,  Taiwan flourished under democracy.  People voted in their first Taiwanese female President.  People are open-minded and free to criticize the government, though sometimes perhaps too enthusiastically.  Citizens of Taiwan are working on legalizing gay marriage.  Progress!   

And what has become of my adopted motherland, the United States of America?  Executive power has grown over recent years, and no president highlights the risk of this increased power than President Trump.  We should take actions to maintain the balance of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches that is fundamental to our government.  Our Founding Fathers had put in the checks and balances system for a good reason.  And what has become of “building a wall of separation between Church & State”, as famously stated in a letter by Thomas Jefferson addressed to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802?  That is the kind of wall we need; not a wall between neighboring countries!  The First Emperior of China, Qin Shi Huang, had already built The Great Wall of China more than two thousand years ago.  Emperial China in isolation has already proven self-destructive.

We need to learn from history.  We need to speak out for one another.  With the dizzing array of presidential cabinet nominees, conflicts of interests, family ties, financial ties, we are playing whack-a-mole at a lightning speed.  It seems as though we are traveling and swapping roles back in time.  Whoosh, whoosh!

My Republican mother-in-law said to give The President a chance.  She was vehemently against Clinton because of Monica Lewinsky.  I did not point out to her that it was Ms. Clinton that was on the ballot; nor did I point out the obvious difference between consensual sex in an unfortunate adultery case versus flagrant sexual assault against innocent beauty contestants and women at large.  I let the communication drop, because my heart broke for her.  I really hope she will not regret her choice one day.  My Republican neighbor said The Donald is going to be able to balance America’s checkbook, “look at his wealth!  He’ll know how to fix America.”  I now park my car on the other side of the street.  For someone to only look at their pocketbook and their bottom line while turning a blind eye to racism, sexism, misogyny, bigotry, and exploitation, that shows me who they are as a family more than what they tell me who they are.

My relatives and friends living in the “Red States” told me how lucky I am that I live in California.  “Your senators and your representatives are already working for you!”  They are right!  I see Kamala Harris on the news, telling listeners her office number and whom to call to help them with the new immigration ban.  I see Elizabeth Warren on the news, closely examining the nominees and speaking her mind.  I see Bernie Sanders, Robert Reich, Ted Lieu, Tammy Duckworth.  I see the millions of women marching around the world just last month!  I am profoundly grateful for all those who marched, who protested, who cared.  Together we need to speak out for our fundamental human liberty and civil rights!

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