Friday, November 18, 2016

Unexpected Ways the 2016 Election Results Have Made Me a Better Parent

We've all heard it, spoken it, thought about it, macerated it before digesting it so really it's nothing new: Social Media make people unhappy. And this past week made this reality even more pronounced than ever for most of us (roughly 62M Americans at least) as we struggle to make sense of the 2016 elections. 

I have found myself in a sort of deep stupor, feeling simultaneously numb and enraged, and in the process, unable to be fully productive save for the usual mindless tasks I can do on autopilot. Every time I tried to sit down and write, all I'd been able express is anger and a sense of hopelessness and I know this is unquestionably unhealthy for me and my family. I know that I have to consciously will every fiber in my being to break this state of negativity and genuinely move on. 

That said, it has become clear that the first step for inspiration has to be an effort to look at the positives. So I humbly offer this list to you and hope that you can hold on to every bit of light you can find around you these days, nurture it and eventually make it grow brighter. 

The process wasn't easy but it was necessary for me to dig deep and not take anything for granted. What I've realized is that there have at least been five ways this past election has made me into a better parent:

I have become less uptight about my rules...with cussing. In other words, I guess you could say I have become more 'real' with my parenting. Of course I still tell my son that cussing is not acceptable, or at the very least, highly discouraged. He is absolutely not allowed to utter profanity at this time and for many, many years to come. However, since the election results, I have now clarified certain stipulations given that I have inadvertently uttered very colorful words in the past week. Let's just say that where extreme frustration and pain are involved, caused by social injustices and cultural ailments such as bigotry, misogyny or racism, such verbal incontinence or potty-'mouthedness' becomes acceptable as long as you are 20 years old and above.

Speaking of such cultural ailments, I have also been spending more quality time with my child trying to widen his vocabulary. After all, he now needs to know the meaning of words such as xenophobia, 'whitelash', or safe-space, to name a few. More than ever, I now take my role as my child's primary teacher much more seriously. 

The election results gave me a real opportunity to teach my son about sportsmanship. Parties have campaigned, people voted and the results are out. We may not always like how things turn out, not always agree with who wins a competition or how the game played out, but the results have to be accepted especially if you know the game was not rigged. You cannot undermine the process. What you can do is change or improve the process for the next round if you think something about it is not working well, evaluate where you might have gone wrong and do your best to show up as your best next time around. Most of all, don't attack the other group (although you can converse and discuss politely), be civil and try to move on as graciously as possible. 

I learned that cultivating a sense of gratitude means being able to appreciate even the smallest, unexpected sources of joy and comfort. Parenting has efficiently trained me to look at the bigger picture that somehow it's gotten easy to ignore the smaller pieces along the way. I had to recalibrate a bit for my sanity's and child's sake and appreciate that sometimes the seemingly insignificant are all you need to help you just plow through.

Enter the #BROTUS memes. If I must mention one positive from scrolling through my social media feeds, this has got to be the one. I was laughing so hard that truly these memes took my mind off of the heaviness surrounding us. Even my nine-year-old son got so curious that I just had to show him some of them. He loved it so much that he was able to memorize one in particular and recited to me the entire meme the next day before I dropped him off at school. I guess this means I've also been able to elevate my son's sense of humor! Two birds with one stone...Parenting score!


Unfortunately, for all my pronouncements of being quite liberal and respecting diversity, I have to set certain boundaries in our own home. I would have to ban certain things and by things I mean anything, pictures, movies, t.v. shows. I am not prepared to take the risk of inadvertently unleashing my psychosis at the sight of these wide-eyed creatures with fuzzy hair standing up, ESPECIALLY if they happen to be wheat-orangey in color. This would actually save our family some money since my son now needs to be more discriminating with his choice of toys or shows to watch. So far, he's not into it so I consider that another bonus!

Hopefully, I will see more blessings as the months go by. For now, I am willing to live on crumbs as I find healing in all this. I am optimistic. I need to be. Maybe if I repeat that often enough, my brain and heart will eventually catch up. One can only hope.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Our Divided States of America: What Now?

I don't particularly like getting political on this space but there is nothing else for me to say today or for the rest of the week other than #*&^$$%^(^()_:>>?<)*^$###!! Expletives in every version imaginable.

To say that I'm saddened and frightened by all this is an understatement. It was unexpected. And to read that HRC won the popular vote and yet DT still won the presidency, thanks to the Electoral College, is rubbing salt into the wound. However, one still can't deny that millions voted for the unqualified, hateful, misogynist. I am certain those who did so have varying reasons. 

Maybe they saw him as the perfect anti-establishment candidate. 

Maybe they think he's the perfect person who can advocate for their concerns after feeling so powerless and disenfranchised for so long. 

Maybe they just want to vote for their party regardless of who it is because they feel their conservative values are threatened. 

Maybe they are racist and want to protest against every progress made by our first black President. 

Maybe they just hate women. 

We can rack our brains for days to figure all this out and agree on an elegant theory but one thing is for sure. This is a truly divided nation and there is immeasurable work to be done as we all do our best to move forward. 

Moving forward...I will admit it is not easy for me. I can't even stand to hear Trump's voice and look at his face, so to imagine being exposed to this for four years is asking a lot from me. But I know it must be done. For the sake of our children, we all need to show respect for each other. Whether we like it or not, we are in this together and change never had any power when it didn't come from the ground up. 

With every impulse to be angry, we need to choose humility.

With every impulse to look for blame and cause division, we need to choose acceptance and wisdom to see the undeniable likeness we share beneath our clothes, and skin and ideologies. 

After all is said and done, the truth is we all want a good life for us and our children. We all want a better economy that works for everyone and not just the 1%. We all want a sustainable planet that we can live in and pass on to generations to come. We want world peace, as cliche as that sounds. We want equality and respect for all lives regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status. 

Those are my desires and the fight continues. The protection of these rights and dreams depend on each person's vigilance. We are our institutions. Don't ever forget your agency, your power to effect change no matter how small. The power to heal does not lie in one leader alone. It's up to each citizen to either choose division or unity. 


F*ck all that! I am angry as hell and worried beyond words that every bit of progress we've achieved these past eight years will be obliterated by the racist Republicans in power (maybe not all) who have made it very clear that their only agenda is to destroy Barack Obama. In the process, they will destroy a lot of rights and privileges now enjoyed by Americans, especially the marginalized. This makes me enraged! And I pray to God this rage only powers us more to fight harder for social justice!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I'm an Introvert and I'm Done Apologizing for It

Ever since I read this HuffPost Parenting blog a few months ago, I've been trying to be consistent with my son in asking him how he's been kind, brave, or how he thinks he failed during the day. The answers don't always come very easy and that's where its value lies. I find myself encouraging him to think hard and not take anything for granted. I tell him little things count. I remind him not to be afraid of failure and that when he knows better, he can do better and tomorrow is another day for redemption. Failure doesn't define him, but little acts of kindness and bravery always matter, both to him and the others he has helped. 

Today I find myself applying the same principle, reminding myself that acts of bravery, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, always count. 

I am an introvert. 

To those who don't know me intimately, that may come as a surprise given that you might have seen me 'step up' in certain social situations. People say I'm friendly, I smile a lot and am very pleasant, I seem capable of chit-chat and seem really nice over all. What you probably don't know is that all of those things take so much energy out of me. Sure, those things come really naturally to me when I am around close friends and family, people I have known for a long time and feel really comfortable with. Other than that small circle, it becomes a huge undertaking for me and one that almost always requires a significant amount of planning and psychological preparation.

Yes, I overthink and am always processing things in my head. Even the shortest, most insignificant telephone conversations with strangers, sales representatives, medical staff or insurance adjusters need some form of rehearsal in my head. I can't just randomly pick up the phone and fire away. I need to be clear with a purpose and where I need the conversation to end. Sometimes, it's as if I have an outline in my head (yes, sometimes written out too!) and any deviation from my 'script' can leave me panicked and, God-forbid, stuttering. In other words, I hate surprises and last minute things. I'm all about careful thought and planning. Something 'new' or 'unexpected' and potentially stress-inducing situations (a.k.a. huge social gatherings where I won't know majority of the people) need to simmer and stew in my introverted brain for a while before I can go forth and conquer. 

If we're not close friends, have nothing much in common and obviously don't know enough about each other to sincerely like each other, and my life didn't absolutely depend on it, approaching you to just say 'hello, how are you' won't come naturally to me. It's not that I'm a snob or am being mean. It's just that it takes so much energy out of me and feel the weight of a possible awkwardness too anxiety-inducing. This tendency of mine has gotten worse as I got older because now, I have learned to sift through my social circle and know when to simply not give a damn. Again, I'm not rude, so if you say 'hello' first, I will sincerely smile at you and say 'hello' back. 

This is me. This has always been me and I now stand in a space where I refuse to be made to feel bad or 'less than' about it. That's why when I ask myself now how I've been brave, I consider the little things, the little steps. They may be steps I took to overcome my introversion when it was necessary, or little steps I took to stand firm in it and not apologize for who I am. 

Recently, my husband wanted me to attend a party with him. It wasn't necessary for me to go, it was far, and I knew I would only see a few acquaintances there. No friends, no one I really genuinely liked. To make matters worse, my husband has been so busy and so preoccupied with other things that he only remembered to tell me about the invitation the morning of said social gathering. I agonized for hours. I knew in my heart I did not want to go. I had been so busy myself the previous days and felt like I had reached my quota for the week for being social. I simply felt exhausted. 

Normally, I would give in to him. He would prod me, we would argue and I would feel bad about being called anti-social. But this time, I stood my ground. It wasn't about establishing who had more power over whom. It was about me having the courage to defend my preference. It wasn't simply about being intransigent. It was about heeding my authentic self and respecting my boundaries. It wasn't easy. I still felt tortured in the beginning and found myself making excuses to justify my decision. In the end, I realized I need no excuses. Politely declining an invitation should be enough and no elaborate explanations are necessary. 

I felt free. It felt amazing and empowering to simply have the courage to honor my introverted self instead of allowing it to be depleted. It's a small step but one I could definitely get used to. After all, the reward of having a relaxed time at home, in bed, while overanalyzing a cerebral show on t.v. is priceless and beats endless small talk with strangers any given day. Nothing about any of that requires any apologies.