I Wrote This for You (Notes on Beginning)

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“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.

What If My Favorite Thing to Do Is Nothing? (Notes on Slug Life)

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It’s hard for me to make blanket statements, especially to complicated questions like, “Do you condone violence?” Well, are we talking about someone I do or do not despise? This isn’t my admission that I go around hitting people. Cornered animals, including humans, will often fight back, and I have delicate bones, so I guess the short answer is no, I do not condone violence. I’m important to me and one of my top priorities is looking out for #1.

You would think that with such a bloated level of self-importance, I would use my time wisely and set big goals for myself. When you achieve big, you can brag big. I don’t fritter away precious energy humblebragging; I just brag.

But my favorite thing to do is nothing. It’s hard to brag about nothing. For so much of my life, I did shit I didn’t want to do. After careful thought, I realized that some of the things I didn’t want to do weren’t even things I actually agreed to do, just, somehow, I got dragged into another person’s mess, and eventually, it became my own burden to bear. When I made the commitment to stop saying “yes” to every request, freedom came immediately and the power of “no” was so delicious that it bled into every crevice of my waking hours.

When my zeal for “no” mixed with depression, I stopped doing anything. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had no goals. I would start a task and forego the satisfying rush of finishing it because, fuck that shit. At the end of each day, I couldn’t recall what I had done with my time. Doing nothing feels both long and brief. And doing nothing is really goddamn boring.

Since it’s hard to change your ways when you have no idea what your ways are, I decided to keep track of an entire day during my 102-day break to assess where I might be able to shift my behavior or focus. Reading over my notes at the end of the day was fucking horrifying. If I were a deity, I would most likely smite myself for my ridiculous and wasteful abuse of life.

A.M.

6:40 Wake up. Immediately shut my eyes again and pretend I am sleeping. Hope my body gets the hint.

6:42 Hear incessant chirping. Google “How do I find a bird I can hear but can’t see?” on my phone. Already Googled “Is it illegal to kill a bird in Los Angeles County?” when the bird moved into our neighborhood late spring but haven’t taken action. Mental note: purchase slingshot.

6:55 I need to pee.

7:05 I really need to pee.

7:13 Fuck it. Fine. I will get out of this fucking bed. Fuck my kidneys. Fuck my bladder.

Harv leaves with Cal to drop her off at school.

8:15 Harv is home again. He has a dentist appointment in an hour. I am still in bed. “Wow, you’re exactly as I left you.” Not true. I am now sitting up.

8:15-8:25 I spend 10 minutes of quality time with Harv even though I am in the middle of a Candy Crush level that I was probably going to beat but not anymore because disruptions break my flow. Show Harv a picture of Jay-Z’s murdered out Tesla because the look appeals to me. He immediately frowns and shakes his head.

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“Just because I’m married to you doesn’t mean I can’t be married to the streets,” I argue. He says it draws the wrong kind of attention. “You know I don’t fuck with felonies.” My upstanding behavior falls on deaf ears.

9:00 My Any.Do app reminds me that it is 9 a.m. and I need to plan my day. My day has not officially started yet, so I ignore the reminder. I’m really killing it in Candy Crush. Level 617 is my bitch. Wait. How did I go through 4 lives so fast? I switch the time on my phone to get more lives and promise myself that I will stop playing when these 5 lives are gone or if I beat this level, whichever comes first.

9:15 I’m so hungry that I’m starting to feel nauseous. Also, my eyes are getting tired because I have not yet put in my contacts and when I play Candy Crush with my bad eyes, I have to close one and only look out of the other to focus. It is causing both eye and facial muscle strain. I will get out of bed. As soon as I finish these 5 lives.

We have lots of delicious leftovers, but all of those require microwave action. Waiting 45 seconds for my meal isn’t really my style. It really chaps my hide that I bought regular Cap’n Crunch cereal instead of the Crunch Berries version. Colorful food supposedly has more vitamins.

9:52 Eat breakfast. Check Complex Magazine’s website. Repeatedly. Brush my teeth. Think about taking a shower. My feet are cold but I refuse to put on a pair of socks until I take a shower because, hell no, I will not waste two pairs of socks in one day. I’m not going to live like an animal who reuses socks that have previously been on unwashed feet.

I will turn off my phone and start writing at 10 a.m.

10:02 Fuck. Missed it. I will start at 11.

11:23 My feet are going numb because they are so cold. Turning purple even. I have bad circulation because I don’t move very much. Our family doctor says I need to get regular exercise, but fuck that, I do what I want.

I am feeling extremely tired even though I have not done any actual work yet.

11:23-12:18 Text with a friend about procrastination, low self-esteem, fear, feelings of worthlessness. Think about telling my friend I need to take a shower but the conversation has a rhythm, and I don’t want to be rude and cut her off. Attempt to multitask by making the bed and folding the laundry as I text. Spot a Werther’s Original underneath the dresser. It’s a little dusty but wrapped. Lick it a little to see if it tastes “off.” Decide to just eat my unexpected treat and not think about the possible consequences. I’m not trying to be reckless, but I have excellent health insurance, and that’s pretty much the same thing as being unbreakable.

P.M.

12:18 I wash my face instead of taking a shower so I have time to eat lunch. I can’t skip meals because hunger gives me excruciating headaches. Also, when my stomach is empty, my heart is full of rage, and I’m trying to care more about myself and other people.

1:30-2:30 Therapy. We mainly talk about procrastination and why that’s ruining my life. I mention to my therapist that I am on level 618 of Candy Crush so she knows I’m not just doing nothing with my time.

3:15 Pick up Cal. Except for that one year dismissal time overlapped with reruns of Cold Case, I try not to be late for pick-up. Feel like it shows my kid I got her back. I’m mostly doing this for myself so that when I get old, Cal will give me money to shop at Whole Foods.

3:45-6:30 Lie down. Allow myself a few minutes to grieve over never seeing Tupac rap live. Think about Biggie. Does God allow beef in heaven? I keep my Tupac on the west side of my bookshelf and Biggie on the east.

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6:30  My brother and his wife come over for dinner. They’re outdoorsy people and often leave the country for extended scuba diving or hiking trips. Harv went to Tibet and then to Everest base camp a few months before we got married, so my brother, Marshall, is asking Harv about his experience. Marshall hopes to summit at least one of the Seven Summits, the highest points of each continent. I bet I could climb a mountain. I climb the stairs in our house all day long, and I never even stop or anything halfway. They are talking about a mountain in the Himalayas called Annapurna. Maybe I will do that one. My brother says it has a 41% death rate. “No wait, I think it’s down to 38% now.”  I scratch that one off my list.

7:50-11:30 I watch multiple episodes of Everest: Beyond the Limit, a docu-series chronicling the two-month journey of Everest climbers. If I can climb a mountain with the same devotion and concentration that I have for watching this show, I will be unstoppable.

Questions about climbing Everest:
Is it okay to cry on Everest? Will my tears freeze?
Is wifi available?
Will I be able to maintain my skincare routine?

11:30 I am extremely spent after watching hours of Everest. It’s been emotionally draining and I’m physically maxed out after being in a sitting position for over 4 continuous hours. Get up and stretch. Call down to Harv and ask him to bring me a glass of water with a lemon wedge. I need to rehydrate, but I just can’t see myself going all the way downstairs right now.

11:40 Think about Neil deGrasse Tyson. I wanted to become an astrologer when I was 12 but made the mistake of saying “astronomer” instead of “astrologer” to my parents. For 3 years, my Christmas gift was a subscription to Astronomy magazine and monthly deliveries of Voyage Through the Universe, a Time Life series that cost my parents $20 for each book. I still have them today even though I’ve never cracked open a single volume. They can now be purchased for $1.99 online. If I meet Neil, should I mention my collection? I bet it would earn his respect. Those Time Life books ain’t nothing to fuck with.

11:50 Harv says I’m probably not going to meet Neil deGrasse Tyson in the near future so I need to stop rummaging through boxes looking for my books. He also suggested I “go to bed right now.” How am I married to such a pessimist? He’s really lucky to have me in his life.
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This was a powerful, eye-opening exercise, and it’s helped me understand what a profound impact depression had on my behavior when I allowed it to overtake my day. Well, if I’m being honest, depression, sheer laziness, and apathy. I’m embarrassed that this is who I can be sometimes, but now that I know what rock bottom looks like, I can be better. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
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Does this blog look jacked up today? Clearing your cache might help. My bad. Working on site changes with my development homegirl.

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