July 15, 2010

Let the Sh*t fly. How does that relate to Mencius?

I get annoyed with myself when I get too philosophical sometimes.

And sometimes I’m sure that my less “philosophical” friends, family, significant others get annoyed with me for being too “philosophical” as well.  Having the knack for being disturbingly sensitive to others and my environment, I can see when I’m engaging people and I’m fully aware when I begin to lose people with my spurts of banter and “philosophical” discourse.

You’ll notice that I started to put ” ” around the word “philosophical” for fear that I’m running the risk of sounding like a philosophy elitist.  Please, allow me to clarify.

My mother’s maiden name is Meng.  This Meng hails from the same lineage as Mencius, an itinerant Chinese philosopher and sage, and one of the principal interpreters of Confucianism.  My mother was born into the 77th generation of the Mencian lineage, which inevitably makes me the 78th.  While I spent most of my life growing up in a non-philosophical, entrepreneur, logic-based family and spent most of my time exploring performing arts in school, it wasn’t until college that I became conscious of how much my brain takes flight, often engrossed in credos and ideologies about everything and nothing.  The small set of folk who would come together to enjoy and nourish what I thought was silly repartee was quite often a conduit for further mental forays into “philosophy”.

I blame my (fascinating) lineage for my overactive mind and appetite to write.

By the word “philosophy”, I don’t mean the (non)standard Socrates, Fromm, Jung, Dalai Lama, insert your choice here, and here.  My definition of philosophy embraces anything and everything that incorporates Life and all the stuff that comes out of Life deemed interesting to talk about.  Come to think of it, maybe I am migrating away from this word typically used as a noun and am actually referring to it as a verb.

To philosophize: (v) theorize, speculate; pontificate, preach, sermonize, moralize.  Or for me, it’s simply having the curiosity to explore mentally, emotionally, spiritually – and having the need to chinwag about it.

So how did I arrive here this morning, having just gone through a finger exercise, typing out what you just read above?

Dylan Barmmer, a fellow EJ writer posted his piece on Truth and I couldn’t help but reach for my trusty macbook to start laying down some thoughts which you are reading in semi real-time here.

One of my best childhood friends who resides down in San Diego checked in online with me yesterday over gchat as we always do most mornings and asked how things were going.  I’ve gotten to a space with her where she’s becoming my sounding board for things that pop up in my life – me having to learn to share what is going on in my head and in my heart, knowing that she’s there supporting me no matter what cyber barf she sees spilling into that little gchat box on the lower right corner of the screen.  For 13 years, we lost touch…I don’t think I have to delve into specificities of what a blessing it is to have her back in my life, especially after 13 years.   You get it.  For the sake of this story, we’ll call her Meredith.

Meredith and I got into a discussion over gchat about truth and honesty.  2 schools of thought collided.

Her school:  You let all the shit fly, be as candid and honest about everything as you can upfront, and if it doesn’t work out, cut your losses and move on.  If you don’t have the foundation of trust up front, then don’t waste your time.  Test the trust was her motto.  This scenario applies both in relationships and friendships.

2nd school of thought.

My school:  Trust takes time to build.  You can’t dump all the shit out because how can you do so without having that foundation of trust first?   While I am 100% the real me with everyone all of the time, I don’t have the balls to be quite the open book that she is when approaching new friendships and even new relationships.  Easier so with friendships obviously…but man, to be open, honest and candid so early up front in a relationship takes courage!

She proceeded to state her case.  (She’s a DA…haha, get it?)

“Grace, you will never know unless you just throw it out there and see what sticks.  If you can’t share what’s actually on your mind without being scared, then it’s a waste of your time.  It’s not real.  If you don’t know that the trust is there, test it.  If it isn’t, then there’s no point, is there?”

I started to get annoyed.

I get her point.  I agree with her case.  Wholeheartedly.  In fact, I sometimes preach it to others as well.  I have reasons obvious to myself for why I choose to go about things the way I do, and I was getting annoyed that I was being forced to have to share it with her just so she stops riding my ass(ana).  (Thank you Dylan B.)

Thanks to the Mencian influence in my geneology, I’ve spent countless hours, minutes, seconds doing (what I think is my responsibility to do) to fully comprehend all the components of me, so I can understand and embrace the why’s and how’s of why I relate to the world around me in the way I do.  I used to think I was slightly impaired, now I think I’m just darn special.

(There’s always two ways to see things, aren’t there?)  It’s kind of like how I feel about my inability to do math.  I used to think I was stupid because I seemed to be the only Asian who couldn’t get off on numbers.  Now, I think I’m super special.

Alright.  You want me to share the complete truth and nothing but the truth (so help you God), Meredith?   Here we go.

Fact:  I love both my parents to death. Let me state that up front. My mother is the mother of all mothers.  She’s amazing.  My father is the father of all fathers…supported the family financially, gave my brother and I a great education and…I run out of things to say.  Dad was the financial supporter of the family, but that was about it.  Dad was and is still an angry Dad, an angry person, although with age, his anger has tempered a slight bit.  And Mom?  Well, Mom is still great!  No “I Love you’s” flooded the house, no hugs, rarely smiles, lots of expectations to fulfill.  There rarely existed a pat on the back or a, “Hey, great job!” and “I’m proud of you!”  In fact, as I recall, probably nil.

Somehow that (up there) manifested into very interesting ways of how I interact with people, how I show love (or don’t show love) with different people in my life and definitely explains the journey of how I’m still learning to love and prioritize myself amongst it all.

In friendships, I give freely, I love freely.  My friends can do no wrong.  We’ve been through the good times and the worst times and nothing replaces history, experiences and quite frankly, time.  There’s always an overabundance of love and hugs and touch (which stems from an obvious lack of as a child).  I’m quite pleased I didn’t tip the other way and become physically stingy.  With newer folk in my life though, I’m learning the art of discernment.  As adults, meeting potential new friends becomes more of a selection process, a conscious approach where you (almost) date.  Is there a give and receive pattern happening, or do they simply take and suck your energy dry? Do they inquire about your well-being as you inquire about theirs?   Does the goodwill get lobbied back and forth, are conversations becoming genuine, and ultimately, do they truly have the friendship substance that is worth your time investment?  (Mark these Q’s as ingredients for another upcoming article.)

While learning the art of discernment is a process for me, it certainly doesn’t explain how and why my heart aches for total strangers, and it certainly doesn’t explain my need to hug everyone.  Experiencing the joy and warmth that emanate when someone feels a genuine hug and know that someone actually cares is priceless.   I’ve experienced it and it only makes sense for me to keep paying it forward.  I love to love…and yes, I do realize that it may very well be an overcompensation of the lack of while growing up.

In relationships, it’s a whole other story.  Love doesn’t flow as freely…candidness doesn’t flow as easily.  I worry about speaking the truth and hurting the other person’s feelings, worry about what they’ll think of me and somehow, all the criteria that I expect from building a friendship suddenly shifts.  Things that should be shared gets brushed under the carpet.  I’d rather think that every issue which comes up is because of a fundamental deficiency stemming from the way I grew up, rather than it being something with them.  Every little hiccup becomes a larger problem that makes me question and doubt a significant other’s love for me because I’ve grown up in an household where I felt like love was conditional.  My parent’s love, specifically my father’s love, was perceived by me as a conditional commodity.  Love existed when the ocean was calm.  The moment the ripples and waves started to roll in, the love disappeared.  Love was based on performance, on doing the “right” thing.  Love disappeared whenever there was any sentiment of anger.  I hid in my room pretty often.

Through all the studies done in school, all the psychology courses and books I’ve read which resulted in a degree in Psychology, I fully understand in my adult brain why I process things the way I do.  Much of it comes from working it out myself after being armed with information and knowledge.  Being able to logically understand things help. I’m lucky enough to have had supportive, nurturing significant others in my life (minus a few crazies) and amazing friends in my life who continue to love and laugh with me, keeping me in check.  I’m big on awareness and taking the time to figure shit out.  It’s worked for me.  There are obvious issues that still exist, there are breakthroughs waiting to happen and in the meantime, the icing on the cake is ending up as a person who I actually like.  Issues and all.  Issues, shmissues…everyone’s got ’em.  I ain’t nothin’ special.

My heart sings when I see care floating between people, even random strangers towards each other and to this day, if someone genuinely asks me how I am, I can’t help but tear and feel touched emotionally because it was so scarce – hell, sometimes it’s even scarce now.  How many of us are able to stop staring and admiring our reflections in the mirror long enough to ask someone else how they are doing…and actually care about the answer they might get back?

Accepting care and love, while having an uncanny ability to give it has been damn hard.  Knowing and being reminded that I’m worthy of care, I’m worthy of love is a work in progress.

Meredith, thank you for riding my ass(ana) and keeping me honest with myself, honest with those I care about, and thank you for pushing me to work and break habits which has been holding me back.  How’s this for honesty?

Now go give a hug and let someone know you care about them.


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