I knew I was pregnant the moment it happened. The pregnancy test was just a formality for me. Even still — when I saw those two pink lines, I could not believe it. I was going to be a mother. It is true that we had wanted a baby, that we had planned for this baby, but the fact that there was actually a baby growing inside my body was a concept that I could not wrap my brain around. Nothing and no one could have prepared me for the experience that is pregnancy.
In 2013, I flew to Chicago, Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with my mother over a long weekend. It would be my first time visiting and I was absolutely overcome with excitement. Chicago had been on my bucket list for quite some time primarily due to The Oprah Show. I had also just started dating Dan Kim who happened to be a big Chicago Bears fan.
For us California girls, it was a strikingly cold weekend despite the lack of snow (to my dismay). Despite the uncomfortable temperature, we tried to hit the major tourist destinations: The Chicago Bean, the Willis Tower and the Skydeck, and Millennium Park.
Here I am, in my entirety.
65 inches and 120 pounds of stardust taking the form of a fragile package made up of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. I occupy a tiny space, on a tiny blue rock, in an enormously wide and vast universe. A couple of hundred years from now, everyone I have ever known will be gone, and with them, the knowledge of me ever existing.
I am simply a drop of water in the cosmos. The universe blinks and my entire life will have been lived. All of my memories. My thoughts. My worries. My fears. My jokes. My adventures. My relationships. My children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Poof.
I am no more significant than a cow or a leaf or a pebble skipping across the surface of a lake. Like my buddy Eckhardt Tolle once said, I am just the Universe expressing itself as a human for a little while. And that is just fine with me.
Here is a little secret of mine:
I love to write, just like my mother. It allows me to express the emotions that would otherwise be buried within me, layer after layer.
But why create a blog?
Sometimes I think I am certifiably insane for sharing the embarrassing, self-deprecating, and vulnerable thoughts and experiences that I do on this platform. I might as well publish my 4th grade diary at this rate. I surprise myself — post after post — about how much I am willing to share. Because if you truly know me, you know that I am not share-er. That old lass Rose Dawson was right when she said a woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets. 9-year-old me took that shit pretty seriously! 💁🏽♀️
But all that has changed — I have a son now.
I am a work in progress and I hope to always be. Being content with my character would only mean I have become complacent. I genuinely enjoy self-improvement, even the hard parts!
In honor of a new year here are 3 things I would like to improve about myself:
1. Being Kind to Myself
I am really hard on myself — especially recently after becoming a mom and all the newfound *mom guilt*. Even the smallest and most insignificant mistake can set me off on a self-loathing tangent for hours. It is almost as if I expect myself to perfect at everything, everywhere, all the time. But this does not serve me in any way. I would never speak to Dan Kim, my son, or anyone I loved like that — so why is it okay to say these things to myself?
Telling myself I am stupid or untalented or ugly or worthless does not make me a better partner, mother, or friend.
I have decided to start small with a self-affirmation in the mirror each morning.
2. Exercise 4-5 Times A Week
When it comes to being active, I am either all or nothing. I have either not exercised for months at a time or am practicing martial arts and yoga or running religiously. Since giving birth and breastfeeding, I have not regained my normal energy levels. Never mind that raising a baby is exhausting! But no more excuses — exercise has always been a stress reliever for me and getting my mojo back has been long overdue. I may be the lightest I have ever been in terms of weight but I am the weakest I have ever been physically (except for my mom biceps — those are no joke!).
3. Be More Selfish
Don’t get me wrong — there are several aspects of my life that I need to be less selfish in but my time is not one of them. Because of the previously mentioned mom guilt and my endless responsibilities piling up on me, I have not taken enough time for myself to feel like me again. That includes alone time, girl time, and date night time, and just rest and relaxation overall.
Life is about balance. I am slowly accepting that being the best mom does not necessarily mean being a mom who is there every second of every day. That being the best partner does not mean having all the chores done, the meals cooked, or all of my relationship’s needs met before my own. I am working on giving to myself because the old adage is true: you can not pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.
She looks at me but she doesn’t see me. I can sense the wheels turning in her head. Her hippocampus scans itself for any type of clue — nothing. The cortex fails her as well. She doesn’t know me but she knows she is supposed to. I smile at her, with both sympathy and disappointment, and reassure her that it is okay. Not for a second longer can I bear witness to her frustration of trying to put together who I am. I turn my face away and pour her a glass of water in an attempt to conceal the frown deeply etched into my face. Who is this woman and what has she done with my grams?
My grandma’s favorite quote was, “life is what happens while you’re planning it.” She’d say it casually while peeling mangoes or teaching me how to wrap Christmas presents. An amused smile always rested on her face while she said it– as if she was bewildered by the trajectory of her life.
My grandparents took my father and I in when I was not even a year old. My mother had unexpectedly asked for a separation leaving my father heartbroken and faced with his new reality as a single parent. I slept in my grandma’s giant walk-in closet in a humble little house in the desert canyons of Southern California. She took care of me as if I were her own baby. I woke up in her home on Christmas mornings. She hid my Easter Eggs. She played ABBA and Smokey Robinson and danced with her two index fingers wagging in the air. I loved her.
My grandparents retired when I was 12. They were in their mid 50’s. My pop had saved, scrounged, and invested every penny they made to make this happen. His master plan included traveling across the U.S. in a modest RV with sporadic international trips. To make this financially possible, they were to retire to a town in Arizona notorious for its spring break culture and retirement community. This town was six hours away from my father and I. For my grandma, it might as well have been on the other side of the world.
Our family unanimously blames that move for being the catalyst of my grandma’s downfall. My grandma had little living family left, most of whom were estranged. My father and I were her everything. She wore us around her neck in a gold locket that she would subconsciously touch throughout the day. As if some small part of us lived within that locket. Being moved to Arizona made her feel robbed of her happiness — her greatest treasures, stolen. What was weekly dinners turned into (some) holidays and birthdays. The first Christmas I woke up without the aroma of my grandma’s orange rolls baking in the air was, and remains to be, one of the saddest days of my life.
Like so many who find themselves depressed, my grandma turned to the bottle. My grandparents had always been social drinkers so her indulgence went unnoticed for quite some time. Her drunken bouts were her just being “my crazy grandma”. Until, the phone calls started that is. Grandma’s fingers always seemed to find her cell phone and dial my father and I during her binges. She’d be drinking at home alone on a Tuesday. For hours, she would rant on how much she despised living in Arizona. How much she resented my pop. How much she hated life. Seeing her name pop up on my phone cued an eye roll and eventually inspired anxiety. I was just barely a teenager. My father eventually told me to stop answering her midnight calls. What I would do today for her to call me just one more time.
Our family was terrified when my grandma got a DUI. When she got her second, we were in disbelief. My tiny little grandma? My sweet and gentle grandma who couldn’t help herself from feeding baby quail and stray cats? My grandma was now going to be facing a jail sentence and time in a half-way house? She’d call me to tell me about her fellow inmates. We’d laugh at the absurdity of her predicament. Somehow my grandma and I could always found a way to laugh.
She would never drive again. In an instant, she had robbed herself of her a whole lot of independence and even more of her pride. Although the binges ended, the drinking didn’t. Having a couple of cold ones was the theme of my grandparent’s story. Of their identity. For them, sobriety was not the answer.
The first time we noticed something was off, we passed it off as being the effect of too much drinking. She’d mistake us for other family members. She’d forget long gone family pets. She’d tell the same story over and over again and lose every cell phone my pop bought bought her. Yet when the drinking binges ended, her confusion didn’t. The phone calls ceased. The birthday cards stopped arriving.