Month TWO: Stop the Bitching Already/A Story About My Mother

Second month in Hong Kong!  How the time has flown, and I noticed that I’ve mostly been complaining of late, — whining, whinging, wishing, longing, crying, moaning… too much of that and not enough appreciating, smiling, laughing, exploring, wondering, investigating.  What’s wrong with me?  I knew this would happen too, and had warned and berated myself several times, yet it is just so damned hard.

Without the energy of my true loved ones, I find myself in such a weakened state, always giving myself a hard time. Gah!

OK now! I’m going to start to focus far more on the positive….

The other day, as I was whining to a friend, he responded with:
Remember helen keller…security is an illusion, life is but an adventure or it is nothing at all…

I nearly fell off my chair when I read that! Ok, not quite.  The thing is, not too many months earlier, when I was similarly wondering what I was doing with my life, I happened to be in D.C. wandering the Smithsonian when I walked into some exhibit on great American women…. There was Helen Keller, and while we all know her story, I had never realized just how much she’d accomplished in spite of having lost her sight and hearing at such an early age.  Not only did she learn to communicate, but she’s written several books, founded her own school, married, graduated from Radcliffe, the list goes on.  I remembered thinking then, god, if Helen Keller can do all that at such a handicap, I really can’t complain.  I am still so blessed with so many wonderful people in my life, and I’ve taken what Mom’s left me and gotten a chance to really cultivate it into something useful for me and my family – so really, what is there to cry about?

Same goes for the situation now, and when Zeyar sent me that simple quotation, I felt strangely lifted.  I don’t think it was just coincidence that Helen Keller showed up again when I was feeling afraid.

The full quote is actually:
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature…. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Helen Keller, The Open Door (1957)(found on

I’ve largely complained how all the uncertainty in my life has been the cause of my grief, but as Helen Keller puts it — anything opposite of this is not real either.  This is what life is — life is never certain, and it will always be challenging.

Why am I such a whiner?! I mean, look at me — I’m young, able-bodied, financially supported, and I’m in an amazing city, getting in touch with myself, my roots, my past, and looking for a future.

This past weekend I also met with an old childhood friend of my mother’s, who had gone to high school here in Hong Kong with her what must have been over 40 years ago.  Auntie Monica, as we call her, lives part-time in HK, but mostly in Toronto.  She looked absolutely fabulous for over 60, and tells me that she and her husband (who recently turned 81) still love to travel and see the many many friends she has made over the years — not unlike me.

Talking to her was easy.  I knew I could trust her.  Mom had very few friends, if any.  Really, she only regularly talked to her younger sister, who unfortunately pre-deceased her in 2000.  Monica would travel a lot for work, and whenever she was in town, she’d call up Mom and they’d meet up.  Monica seemed to think they met up some time in 2005 or 2006, but since Mom died in 2005, it must have been 2004 at the soonest.

Monica mentioned how she felt Mom was so miserable since  she and Dad split up.  It just tore me up to hear this, and the saddest thing is, she was probably right.  I know that Mom derived a lot of joy and love from raising the four of us, but ultimately she was a very lonely woman.  She was betrayed by the one person she promised her everything to, and the only person she ever confided her feelings to died too soon. Mom also rarely indulged in anything for herself, always thinking of us and what she could do with or for us.

I hate thinking that Mom felt this way.  I wish she had lived long enough to know me as an adult whom she could have shared her feelings with.  I always admired how strong she was to shield her children from all the sorrow and ire of her divorce, although that didn’t mean she didn’t inexplicably yell at us out of a particularly foul mood caused by the pain on occasion.  Yet no matter what, somehow I still believe she was fulfilled by the four of us.  I think on the whole she was happy because of us, but her life was most certainly not complete….

She’d always wished to travel, drive a Mercedes, invest in just one more building so that she could justify hiring a managing agent and enjoy all the fruits of her labor.

Maybe I’m here to make up for all this lost opportunity.  We can’t look back.

Onto month 3.


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