Daddy Issues (aka: Girl, Why You So Typical)

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One of my most…no, my #1 MOST FAVORITE activity is to devote large blocks of time making up complicated hypothetical dilemmas and then challenging myself to find an efficient solution that still has a little bit of panache. I don’t like it when people walk around with their chest puffed out because they performed an act of kindness. Questions form. Did they do it for the accolades? Is he going to write a Facebook status update about his bravery and pray for at least 15 likes? But I also don’t like it when heroes act like it’s NBD. I tread a fine line. I never ask for a parade or anything extravagant at the end of my make-believe dramas, but will I turn down an edible fruit bouquet? That’s just stupid. Fruit is a wonderful source of vitamins.

Once in a while, I allow myself a happy scenario. A place or a situation that could never actually exist in real life but I can’t help wanting anyway. My father is in most of these moments. Sometimes I pretend that he stayed for my entire high school graduation. I erase all the shame I used to feel when my friends saw my father in his industrial coveralls and Volt sneakers from Wal-Mart.

I don’t talk about my father a lot, but it’s not because I dislike him or because there aren’t any stories about him. He’s been absent for so long that I just don’t think about him that much anymore. At least I think I don’t. But my behavior seems to indicate that I have daddy issues.

I never wanted my badness to be the result of anyone else. I refused to accept that other people influenced my choices and my outlook on life. I didn’t want it to be about other people because I can’t control other people. I can only control me. And I’m not even good at that. Ask me about the entire bag of wasabi peas I just ate. Lord Jesus, my esophagus is on fire.

My father was rarely at home as I was growing up. He worked odd hours as a government employee, and on his free days, he spent most of his time in the garage, tinkering with cars in various stages of crisis. I only went out to the garage once before I left home permanently at the age of 17. He preferred solitude, but he let me stay just this one time.

As I sat on the hood of his car, he showed me pictures of tools that he wanted. They were some brand called Snap-on. He said those tools were serious business and very, very expensive. One day when I grow up, I thought, I’m going to be a millionaire and then I’ll buy my dad the whole entire set of Snap-on tools. Even the little accessory parts and a red Craftsmen chest to store them. The rolling kind.

To this day, every time I see a Snap-on company truck drive by, I think about my father and my unfulfilled promise.

But maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong. Maybe he’s the one that was supposed to give me tools. Tools so that I could navigate adulthood. Tools for me to repair the cracks in my relationships and seal the leaks in my friendships and tighten up those loose ends that happen when you focus on one area of your life for too long and let everything else slide. 

I spent four months locating my father in 2012. We hadn’t seen each other since he divorced my mother in 2000. When I found him, I flew to Texas and we met for lunch. I didn’t have anything in particular that I wanted to say. I just wanted to see my father. And I thought he might want to see me all grown up.

I told him that I turned out okay. You know, in case he was worried about me. I always feel better when I know Cal is safe. That doesn’t mean I coddle her or anything though. She’s on spring break right now and when she asked about the activities I had planned, I told her that she would be building me some Ikea furniture. Nothing crazy. Just a bookcase and a rolling cart. Some people are really sensitive when it comes to child labor, but I’m not one of those people.

Ironically, on the day that I was in Texas having lunch with him, this Huffington Post piece about the absence of my father came out. We exchanged phone numbers after lunch. He wanted to plan a get-together for the summer with my aunts and uncles. He said he would call me. I don’t know why I believed him because he made that exact same statement years before.

I haven’t heard from him since. I think my father needs to work on follow-through.

Sometimes I think about what that phone call would be like. You know how you talk to someone on the phone and there’s not one awkward or dull moment? And in that giant expanse of all those words, there isn’t one tiny moment of stupid? And then you want to talk to that person again?

It would be just like that.

“This is what I know: People’s hopes go on forever.” -Junot Diaz
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Holler at me: Flourish in Progress on Facebook (I post a lot of quotes and thug shit here. Pretty decent way to waste time.) Instagram @flourishinprogress (evidence of child labor, that lap dance I gave a panda at SXSW, me and some rappers) Twitter @ElizabethJLiu (I complain a lot here.)

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Give No Fucks and Waste No Time

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This is really, really important and if you never read anything else here again, please let these two thoughts linger in your head for a minute before you move on to something urgent (!!) that needs your attention right now (!!): If something is important to you, don’t give a fuck what others think as you pursue it. Also, try not to waste time on stupid shit that doesn’t matter.

For the past four days, I’ve been cleaning and rearranging my office. I walked in one day last week and slipped on a spray of greetings cards I haphazardly threw on the floor the night before (like, I literally tossed a dozen cards into my office from the doorway because I was tired and cranky and pissed about something I can’t even remember now). I didn’t immediately bend down to pick them up so I wouldn’t slip on them again because I don’t like being reasonable, and also, I was busy assessing my office with fresh eyes. Sometimes, when we look at the same thing over and over again, no matter how beloved it is to us, we just become immune to its wonder and worth.

Unlike the rest of our home, my office is bursting with knick-knacks and sparkle and pink. Every surface is covered with found treasures, and for years, these objects made me feel rich and full and whole.

There have been periods in my life when I had nothing. When I was 18 and couch-surfing, I had to remember to wash my underwear every night because they were the only pair I had. During that time, I had to eat what was available to me because I didn’t have money or a job and it was hard to come across either because I was constantly on the move from couch to couch and city to city.

I like to come into my office just to touch all of my cool shit from time to time because it’s there and I bought it and it’s miiiiiiiiiiine. I have been known to buy two of the same sticker packs at my favorite craft store. That way, I can say, “Go ahead, Cal. Use that shimmery sun sticker. I got another one just like it.” If you’ve ever purchased a duplicate item just for the sake of owning it, you’ll understand how incredible my life is today.

The more I acquired, the better I felt about myself. When I started going down self-pitying roads like “I wish my father had wanted a daughter as much as I had wanted a father,” I would buy an assortment of multicolored grommets, and all the stars aligned. My world was perfect and good again.

Then I slipped on some greeting cards. I suddenly felt suffocated and my treasures seemed more like worthless junk. When I finally convinced myself that I didn’t need to keep all of my possessions in plain view to signify that I BELONG HERE, I purchased a dozen small moving boxes and started packing. Once those first twelve boxes filled up, I bought twelve more.

I walked to the bank between my first and second dozen boxes, and as I filled out a deposit slip (I ain’t about that ATM life), I overheard a man asking a teller if he could take one of the helium balloons on display. The teller then asked another teller who asked the supervisor (The ratio of employees to patrons at my bank is, like, 7 to 1. Also, they give you a bottle of water if you come in, and that’s why I don’t use the ATM, cuz….free water.)

Not that I would ever ask for a bank balloon in the first place, but if my request had to go up the chain of command, I most certainly would run the fuck out of there because that shit is kind of embarrassing and who the fuck asks for a bank balloon? Come on, bro.

But he stayed. And he waited. And the manager went into the kitchen to get him a balloon because the ones on display were part of a larger arrangement they were not allowed to touch. I know because I eavesdropped in rapt fascination. I finally looked up as the Bank Balloon Man thanked the manager, “My son loves balloons and this is going to make his day.” It was simultaneously the coolest and most weirdest, cheapskatiest shit I have ever seen in my life. It blew me away.

This Bank Balloon Man gave no fucks about what anyone thought. When life gives you a potential free balloon, you just gotta hold on and never let go I guess.

I thought about Bank Balloon Man as I packed the second set of boxes. I imagined what his son’s face might look upon receiving his gift. That was the beautiful image I had in my head as I peeled a handmade red envelope from between two books and coaxed the index card out. The ensemble was a gift from Cal many, many years ago, and this very perfect present had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of so much shit that really meant nothing to me.

In Cal’s newly-learned cursive: What you need is closer than you think.

This process of packing and purging has forced me to reevaluate the clutter I keep in my life. Now that I’ve let go of so much, I do not feel empty and untethered. I feel free.

ccskate
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Welp, you’ve made it this far. Congrats on your amazing attention span and sorry about the excessive length today. This is probably not the right time to ask you to subscribe via Feedly or Bloglovin for more of this shit, but I give no fucks.

I’m not as longwinded on the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress). Probably.

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

kurtcobain

Sometimes it is too hard to write about love- the density of its emotions, the significance of its role, the fear of its absence, the silence after its exit.

I have tried many times to tell my daughter how much I love her. I wish I knew enough words.

When Cal was born, I made a promise to us that I would stay alive until she turned 30. I was 19 then, and 30 more years of living seemed like a heavy commitment, but I wanted to wait until my daughter was a real grown-up before I left her to fend for herself. I don’t know why I picked 30, but that age seemed so old and unknowable to my teen mind.

I know now that 30 isn’t old at all. When I reached that milestone age a few years ago, I certainly didn’t feel very grown-up, and I still wasn’t ready to fend for myself. I mean, yes, I avoid my mother’s phone calls occasionally because how many times can one person remind you to eat the entire box of oranges she bought on sale at the Korean market to keep scurvy at bay. But even now, if my mother dropped dead, there would still be a deep and unfillable void. And even if I felt like a real adult, I think it’s still okay for an adult to want to be someone’s child too.

On Saturday, Cal turned 14. None of her birthdays have ever been complicated productions. I lacked funds before I got married. I got funds now, but I’m lazy as fuck. This year, I decided to use the last three ounces of Give A Fuck I had stowed away “just in case” to plan a surprise Golden Birthday Snack Time. If you think about it, no one ever expects a celebration during afternoon snacks. As you can see, I really understand the concept of “surprise.”

I spent weeks scouring the devil’s playground (also known as Pinterest) for ideas and tutorials. After attempting some of the crafts, I figured out that DIY is bullshit. I’m into DISE. Do It Someone Else.

I ordered the ombre birthday cake. I helped Harv make the tea sandwiches. I covered the entire dining room floor in glitter wrapping paper. I finally used the Cricut I bought six years ago to make a “Happy Birthday Homegirl” banner. I fought with four very large and unruly balloons and lost. I set out trays of specially-ordered desserts.  I waited for her to come home. I wondered which detail would thrill her the most.

The next morning, as she was getting ready to leave the house, she came into my bedroom and gave me a hug. “Mommy, thank you for yesterday. That rock candy was so awesome.”

Despite all of the privileges in her life, Cal still loves the small and simple pleasures. Maybe that’s why she’s so happy all of the time. I don’t take time to appreciate everyday miracles. I wait for big moments. I try to create big moments.

She’s my daily reminder that happiness only comes when we allow it into our lives. That I don’t have to be perfect to be good. That big gestures aren’t the only ones that count.

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

glitterfloor

14on14(flourishinprogress on Instagram)

P.S. This will be my last post for 2013. I’ve never allowed myself an “official” break, and I’ve always been riddled with guilt when I go for too many days without hollering at y’all. Maybe if I make this break official, it will give me some peace of mind while I play catch-up for the next few weeks. There are so many half-finished items on my checklist. I’m looking forward to a fresh new year. Although these past 12 months have been ridiculous, I know so much more about myself and life and happiness because I lost small bits and then big chunks of all three this year.

I’ll still be working the Facebook and Instagram grind. “Like” the Flourish in Progress Facebook page and follow along on Instagram (username: flourishinprogress) for (t)hug life thoughts, not-seen-on-this-blog pictures, and other mildly entertaining but useless shit.

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Take good care.