What matters most to you?

Jimei, Xiamen

Why do people feel the need to be always doing something exciting or at least perceived by other people as interesting? They put undue pressure on themselves to be perceived as an interesting person themselves. This sounds exhausting to me.

I can understand young people being under this kind of pressure because it is a normal phase of every person’s development. If you are past your 20’s , you still can’t be as obsessed with being the first one to discover a new bar or restaurant, to be the first one among your friends to have seen the latest Marvel movie, or to have climbed Mt. Everest. As an adult, you need to be out of that playground mentality. Though competition can be healthy in that it encourages you to better yourself, it ceases to be when you constantly compare yourself to others in every aspect of life and put yourself down for not reaching the standard you, yourself, have unnecessarily set to achieve.

Some lives are indeed more exciting than others given the nature of their occupations or their personalities. My life as a wife, mother, and teacher may not be as exciting as that of an artist or a single woman who is a paragliding instructor or a UN volunteer in a war-torn country, but who says there’s an ongoing competition as to who has the most exciting life? Given my personality, I don’t think I’ll find satisfaction doing what they do. We all have different personalities, talents. Hence we create our own stories about our lives. It’s not a competition.

This sense of competition is so obvious to me in daily life. For instance, I have been living away from home for almost 2 decades, and most of my friends have left the country. The ones who are still around I seldom see because when I’m home I spend most of my time with my son. When I go on Facebook I see photos of new places of interest in my city, and it makes me happy. When people ask me if I’ve been to such and such a place, and I say “No,” they have this incredulous look on their face as if I had just come out of a cave!

If I were still in my 20’s I would have gone to the place right away just to prove to them that first, I could afford to go. Second, that I was one of the “in” crowd. Third, that I will not be the last to know.

But I am in my 40’s, and knowing the latest gossip about celebrities or the newest restaurant in town, or what is currently “lit” is the least of my priorities.

I would rather know what my teenage nephew is learning at school; what new sentences my autistic son has learned to say; how my husband solved the problem at work; what my sisters are busy with; how my friend is coping with the big change in his life. These are more important to me than Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk calling it quits (though as a Bradley Cooper fan, that truly made me sad!)

I would rather go out for a quiet walk with my husband, read or sing to my son, read Dostoevsky, have coffee with my friend as I listen to him complain about life, or have a noisy meal at home with my sisters and nephews than go out with a group doing things that do not really interest me.

But then again each one of us is different. Some are more extroverted than others and prefer the company of more people in a variety of settings. Some of us, introverts, though are pressured into socializing — we are told we have to go out more often; it’s healthy for us to socialize; we have to widen our circle of friends. Is socialization always healthy though?

I force myself to socialize with a group once in a while, and most of the time I only get stress from it — it is too much of an effort. I prefer socializing with a friend one-on-one, but then again I have a very small circle of friends.

My point is: my life may not be as exciting as most people, to most people. But it is MY life, and I choose to live this way.

Something my friend said to me the other day made me think — that being away from home “so much has gone on you.”

Though it may be true that so much has changed in my home city or country in the last 17 years, that my cousins now have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I have not even met; that my home city has more restaurants in an area I did not even know has been developed; that there’s a new TV series that everybody is talking about; that this or that celebrity has finally come out of the closet and I know nothing about these things — I am fine with it. It is life. There is so much going on every second in every corner of my small city. I cannot possibly make myself care about every thing that is going on in it. I am not bothered by the fact that I am the last to know.

I know myself and I know what matters to me. For as long as I know that the people who mean most to me are happy, healthy and safe — I’m good.

Everything else is for another time or others to care.

What matters most to you?

Have a lovely weekend! ♥️

T.

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Week 9 Prompt: Insatiable

Insatiable

I met a man who lives in a cozy home

And doesn’t have to work

Because his family has enough money.

He’s lonely. And unhappy.

I met a woman who lives in a 3-story villa

With her two beautiful and smart children

And a moneyed husband who adores her.

But she says her life has no meaning

And she wants something more

Than just being mother and wife.

So she’s unhappy.

And the ones who labor day and night,

Careful not to waste a morsel of what’s on the table,

Can only think they’d be content and happy

If they had what these two have.

But…will they really?

Insatiable.

———-

In my life I have met so many unhappy people. Although I believe some of these people have no control over this feeling of unhappiness, most of them just choose not to be happy or content with what they have.

“’Yet let him keep the rest,

But keep them with repining restlessness;

Let him be rich and weary, that at least,

If goodness lead him not, yet weariness

May toss him to my breast.'”

— from The Pulley by George Herbert

It is perhaps human nature to be restless and to always want something more. But I think we CAN choose to be content and be grateful for what we have.

Hope you find something to be grateful for today!💕

T.

The Egret on Campus II

Alone but not lonely

Alone but not lonely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Chinese person I know feels uncomfortable being alone. I still have to meet one who is happy at being able to spend one day alone. Even my monk friend is very sociable and enjoys being with people all the time.

At first I thought it was just the young Chinese who feel this way, until one day my husband asked his mom if, when she was young, she had ever spent one day alone not talking with anybody, and she said never and that it would be terrible not to have anybody to talk with for a day!

From the conversations I had with most people, young and old alike, I get the feeling they think of introversion as some kind of disorder, and that people have to be outgoing. If a person is a quiet type or prefer to be alone, then they think that person is strange.

Today, Christmas Eve, I saw the egret on campus again. It seems it survived the (relatively) cold winter alone. Of course there’s no way of knowing if egrets can feel happiness or not, but it did look content to me as it searched for food in the shallow water. Seeing the egret again (if it is the same one) reminded me of my conversations with people about being alone. It seems hard for many to accept that one can be solitary but not lonely. Especially in China where people swear they cannot survive spending a day without anybody to talk with, or where you can hardly meet an unmarried person over 30 because if they are 25 and still single, their parents would panic and set them up on blind dates, the idea of solitude is as unimaginable as dying without having contributed to the population of the race.

But I think of the single people I know (not Chinese), and the ones who always find time to be quiet,  and I see them more content with their lives than the ones who are more sociable and go out often. They certainly have fewer worries than those who are married or those who have several circles of friends. For one, single people who do not have children do not have to worry about their children and the children’s  tuition and their future. For another, they enjoy the freedom that most married people or parents can only look back to with a sigh. They have more time to devote themselves to developing their talents and focus their energy on their interests.

As a wife (to a man who has a different cultural background), mother (to an autistic toddler) and a teacher (who faces a class of 35 students 14 hours a week), I insist on having as much time alone as I can. I go out for walks and have lunch or coffee alone. I get stressed when I am CONSTANTLY with people, be they family or friends or acquaintances. I guess being Asian and living in a country such as China where people are so eager to give you their two cents and feel guilty if they have no advice to give even when you do not really need one (they mean well, of course) , it can be overwhelming to be in the company of people.

So I can truly understand people who want to be alone and are content to be alone. One can be alone and still find contentment. In fact like I said in another post, we all need to experience alone-ness. We all need to be solitary sometimes and to experience solitude. As Thomas Merton once said: “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love others. The more solitary I am, the more affection I have for them.” May you find time for solitude and consequently find love and contentment in your life.

Merry Christmas!