I Wrote This for You (Notes on Beginning)

greatness

“The things that make us feel so abnormal are actually the things that make us all the same.”    -PostSecret

I worked at a dry cleaner before I married Harv. You know how sometimes you hate your job so much that poverty seems like a better alternative for you and your child, but years later, whenever you think back to that time, the corners of your mouth turn up as you appreciate the profound impact it’s made in your life, and you feel blessed and grateful for that opportunity?

LOLOL. I just like to make up best case scenarios sometimes. Imagination exercises keep my mind fresh and sharp.

Intake, inspection, and cash out were my rotation of duties at the dry cleaner. After customers dropped off their clothes, I tagged each piece and marked stains that might require extra care. The last step before an item went to processing was pocket check. I stuffed my bare hands into every pocket, pulled out the lining, emptied foreign objects, and brushed the inside seams to remove stray fibers and lint. Then, I inspected whatever I found. Anything of value went into a ziploc bag I stapled to the customer’s receipt. Used tissues, candy wrappers, confetti, and receipts with a total less than $5 went into the trash. After processing and finishing, I inspected, buttoned and zipped, lint-rollered, and then bagged each item.

I could go into detail about the unsanitary, alarming, embarrassing, possibly illegal shit that I touched, inspected, bagged or discarded, but I won’t. Not because that fee of 99 cents per laundered shirt bought a wash & iron and my silence, but because that look you gave me when I notified you that the item I found in your pocket was stapled to the receipt is a look I understand. I understand what it means to be painfully lonely. I understand what it is like to harbor secrets.

This blog has been my journal. Well, a journal minus the luxury of privacy. It’s forced me to examine and re-examine the truths I held for so long without question and to sift through a past I’ve tried my best to push away. The more I wrote about my journey, the more you shared your stories and insights in comments and emails. Your encouragement came when I needed it most.

So I wrote this for you. It’s clear that when I thought I was most alone in my struggles, you too were in the same place, or you had been there before me and left a trail of crumbs for me to follow. I wrote this for you because you are good and kind. You haven’t wasted too much time, and it isn’t too late.

I wrote this for you because you are not as bad as you think you are. No one told me that until I was already someone’s mother. I was overwhelmed with trying to raise a good person because I thought I was too broken and too bad for the job. It freed me to hear an outside voice tell me that I was not bad.

Those last few sentences are the reason I haven’t been able to finish writing this note to you since November. Every time I reached that point, I would wonder, “Wait just a goddamn minute. What about the people I don’t like? Are they not as bad as they think they are?” Obviously, them motherfuckers are worse-er than they realize, and none of this applies to them. I wasn’t comfortable writing about goodness and grace while admitting to such unbridled pettiness. But, that’s who I am. Today.

I’m afraid to face how much work still lays ahead of me. I now know that it’s not weird to be afraid of the truth. But you ain’t gon’ change what you can’t even admit.

I hope to be calm, thoughtful, and wise one day. Like Master Splinter. Not exactly like Splinter because that dude is a rat who lives in a sewer. That’s not the kind of life I want for myself. I’m trying to set boundaries and maintain baseline standards.

I wrote this for you because I wanted to share with you what you’ve helped me to realize as my real truths- what I know now that I didn’t know before and what I always knew but didn’t want to acknowledge.

1. Some people are broken beyond repair, and you should run far, far away. Not everyone has good in them. And the people who do possess goodness have varying amounts. I believe that people have a goodness limit. And it’s an immoveable boundary. Some people are capable of being great and some people are only capable of doing no harm. Which is still important. Allowing bad people to stay in your life will destroy you. It will happen slowly or quickly, but it will happen.

2. I know that the same kinds of people and the same kinds of situations will continue to present themselves over and over again until you have learned what you need to know. This isn’t something you can fool the Universe into believing. The Universe sees through bullshit, and no matter how deeply you hide the truth, it will reveal itself.

3. I know that you should do what makes you happy. There’s no point in being stuck in a job that brings you misery. Because when you are miserable, you inevitably make other people miserable. Misery is overwhelming and it’s hard to contain. Do the thing that makes you happy. But, and this is important, you have to figure out if you’re actually good at that thing you love.

4. I know that once you find yourself on a bad path, you often have to hit rock bottom many, many times before you can come up for air. If you’re a broken person with the capacity for change, then be mindful of the process. Don’t fight it. Becoming unbroken is not at all easy, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve said fuck this shit. You can wallow in the fuck this shit for a little while, but when misery no longer suits you, you have to dig yourself out and start again.

I know it’s hard to break free from what is familiar even when it is wrong and painful and scary.

5. I know that it’s hard to stop treating someone poorly after we’ve started. I think we lose respect for those who accept our bad behavior and abuse. And because we know they will take it and eventually come back…or maybe they never even leave, we just continue to act badly.

6. Some relationships can’t be fixed. I’m going to tell you this right now knowing that you’ll probably still go back for more pain, but it won’t change. If it was bad from the beginning, it will continue to be bad. If you want to work toward tolerable, it’s an immense amount of effort and upkeep and the end product will still never be a completely positive one. It will just be less worse than before. Do you want to live a life like that? A life, when distilled down to just a few words, is less worse than before? You deserve better.

7. And finally, I now realize that a lot can change in a year.

Throughout this next year, I’ll be chronicling the steps I’m taking to become the person I’d like to be. You can join me if you’d like. Anything is possible.

P.S. In the next few months, I’ll be redesigning some features- integrating Facebook comments, switching over to Mailchimp, etc. Let’s get connected: “Like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and follow along on Instagram (@flourishinprogress). Most of the pictures I never post anywhere else end up on Instagram. I don’t really give a fuck about Twitter (@ElizabethJLiu), but I’m there too.

Look at the Stars. Look How They Shine for You.

HBDCal15flourishinprogress on Instagram

One of my favorite pastimes is hanging out with young children. Not necessarily because I like children, but because I’m pretty much going to be the smartest person in the bunch. When I ask if anyone would like to challenge me in a one-on-one addition battle, I often hear excuses about how they’ve only mastered number recognition, but that’s not important to me. What’s important is winning.

Spending time with young people gives me a chance to remember small moments with Cal at that age. I thought I was going to pack away every childhood highlight in some mental box, each piece easily accessible whenever nostalgia strikes. It’s not that easy, but those memories are in there somewhere, albeit jumbled, and they surface whenever I see a familiar expression or hear an innocent question, like when someone asks, “What’s it like being old?”

Cal asked me that question when she was 4. I was 23. I felt old, so the question didn’t offend me, but I wanted to make sure I understood her. “Are you asking me what it’s like to be a grown-up?” When she nodded, I answered truthfully, “I’m still trying to figure it out. Maybe I’ll get good at it soon.”

I’m still trying to get good at being a grown-up.

Cal turned 15 yesterday. I have no idea how time moved so fast…yet, so slow. I feel like I’ve lived so many lifetimes since Cal was born.

When I got pregnant at 18, I kept it a secret from almost everyone. I didn’t know who else to talk to, so I started praying a lot. God and I had a pretty tenuous relationship until then, but I felt an overwhelming urge to seek out a Higher Power. I prayed that He would put forgiveness in my mother’s heart. I prayed that He would keep me safe when I ran away from home during my second trimester. And when it came to praying for Cal, I mostly just asked God for a baby with good-looking feet. It was really important to me that my child feel confident in open-toe sandals. I pleaded with Him to make my baby sort-of normal: sort-of normal looking and sort-of normal on the inside too. I didn’t need her to be especially pretty (except for the feet) or thoughtful or kind. I tried not to be greedy.

Sometimes, it seems like God doesn’t hear my prayers. Last Christmas, I asked God to help Santa put a bow-tied Lil Wayne under the tree, but I got a deluxe lap desk with a cup holder instead. I was upset at first, but now I can see how anyone could get those two confused, especially during the busy holiday season. I’m still not sure what the problem was when I prayed again for Lil Wayne on my birthday, which is in September, but maybe Jesus observes Labor Day, and the foam-filled reading pillow was just a stopgap gift.

At other times, I am awestruck by His grace and mercy. It still surprises me that my daughter did not come out broken. We only allow ourselves what we think we deserve. While I fervently prayed for sort-of normal, I was prepared for a malformed child, a slow child, an unhappy child, or a malicious child. But Cal is perfect.

When my mother realized that I intended to keep the baby, she pressured me to reconsider. She reminded me that a baby was not a toy I could put on a shelf when I grew tired of playing with it and wanted a newer and shinier diversion. A baby is forever. She repeated this Korean phrase to me over and over again:

pluckastar“Plucking a star from the sky”
She said that raising a baby as an unwed, uneducated teen with no money was like trying to pluck a star from the sky- impossible, futile, and disheartening.

The fear of transitioning from someone’s child to someone’s mother without the luxury of becoming a grown-up first made me feel small and flimsy. When I closed my eyes at night, I imagined my arms growing longer and longer, grasping for the closest star, each one bright and beautiful and seemingly within reach. I’d wrap my hand around the light, but each time I brought my fist close and peered in, there was nothing but dark space.

I asked God to help me become a grown-up. And I gave my daughter the Korean name “Seh Byul.”
newstarIts literal English translation is New Star. I couldn’t pluck a star from the sky, so I made a new one.

Happy Birthday, Cal. I’m not good at much, but I will be good to you.

#HolidayResponsibly

Several months ago, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) hollered at me about their “How to Have Tough Conversations” #HolidayResponsibly campaign. I’m always careful about what I pimp out because I respect this thing we got going on, but after speaking with FAAR and learning about their initiatives to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking, and the ways they promote responsible decision-making, I was totally “hell yeah” about participating. My video segment is about how Harv and I are doing date nights now and what we’re trying to teach Cal about drinking and driving. After watching it, you’ll prob understand why I ain’t about that vlog life. I didn’t know a face could twitch that much in less than a minute. Click here or on the picture below for the video. Check out Responsibility.org for additional resources and tips to keep teens safe.

ejlFAAR

Let’s be homies4life. Holler at me.
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