Finn

Everytime I look at my son, I am amazed at how much one can possibly love a person.

When I think of having another child, I think that I couldn't possibly love another as much as I love Finn.

But I suppose it would be different, wouldn't it? Much like how you couldn't really compare your love for a sibling with your love for a spouse. I wonder if it is always the first born that is most loved or if it is the last.

I am a middle child.

Easy Conversation

Listening to the women of this household chat with each other and they really don’t miss a beat. The last time I was that in tune with someone other than Jamie was probably when I was working at subway.

I miss it. It also makes me a little sad that probably won’t get to enjoy the same thing again, not unless I get to live with my brother again.

Family

For a very long time, “family” was something that I feared. Family was a group of people who despised each other but had no other choice but to stick together. I grew up watching our family fracture and I even participated in some of the friction. I was my mother’s daughter, and my father’s.

Mother had a long list of issues. She was unable to empathize with people and incredibly selfish. My father is in denial. He continued hanging onto an idea of a wife that was more of a dream than reality, and he kicked himself constantly for it.

There were random happinesses in our childhood. Sunday dinners at grandpa’s house. Trips to amusement parks with our father. Chinese New Year fireworks. These happy memories were very rare, but they served their purpose; they kept me relatively sane.

Before Jamie, family meant people I lived with and didn’t necessarily like. Of course my brother was the exception. I would call my brother my best friend even if he wasn’t my brother.

Now family means something entirely new. When I met Jamie, I didn’t expect to end up where we are. I had just been in downward spiral and I was aimless, just floating. Months before we met, I had been fired from my job, went on academic probation, and ended an engagement. I had admitted defeat, moved back home, and I was working a lowly job while trying to bring my GPA back up. I was lost.

Having been in a long distance relationship that kept me out of the dating pool for four years, I jumped back in with an abandon. The first was a man I met in training, and who knows how it even started. Then there was a string of first dates that never panned out. There were also a couple of boys I actually started to like, but just never really that much.

And then there was Jamie. When we first started talking, I thought he was going to be another one of the same. The more we talked, the more I noticed the difference. When we were talking, even just online, I felt that he was really interested in what I had to say. I felt interesting, unlike all the other times when I simply felt like just another online date.

Everything with Jamie was new. It was really the first time I was in a proper relationship. I had a lot to learn. There were things that I didn’t know about in regards to how to properly love another person because my parents were poor models of romantic love. I made many mistakes, and somehow Jamie forgave them all. He would shocked and upset at my lack of experience and human understanding, but still he forgave me and worked with me.

And I’m glad he did. Otherwise I wouldn’t have ended up here–on a remote farm in Western Australia amongst a group of the most wonderful people I have ever known.

I have sisters. One of them repeatedly spoils me with treats. She’s the one current wearing my baby while she cooks dinner for us. She is amazing.

I have a mother. She spoils me even more. She works tirelessly to keep the household going and still she finds time to do special things for all of us, including me.

I am not used to this–this selfless kind of love. I constantly question whether there is something they want back from me. I want to voice my gratitude, but I don’t have the proper words.

Because of them, family means something different now. Family means giving without expectation. Family means unconditional love. Family means disagreeing with each other without attacking each other.

Never in my wildest fantasies would I have imagined this future for myself. But I am happy to be here. I am happy my son has such a family, and I hope I can live up to the legacy.

It’s Been A Few Months

There is so much to say, yet I am not quite sure where to begin.

So I have a son. Finley Tsai Macdougall. We meant to use his Chinese first name as his Anglo middle name, but we didn’t like how the Chinese names translated to English. So we used my Chinese last name instead. This is our contribution to keeping a part of my Chinese heritage. Finn is also part of the Tsai family now.

But what is the Tsai family, really? Our family is now at its most fractured. Physical distance was really the only thing that held us together. Love? Companionship? Turns out distance took away all those things for us. Whose fault was it? Which parent was responsible? I guess it’s never a single person’s fault. I know that now. A marriage works only if all parties involved work at it. A marriage fails as well because all parties involved have given up.

Off on a tangent. I have to get all this out before Finn wakes up again. That’s my life now–my days revolve around Finn. Feeding Finn. Soothing Finn. Changing Finn. Bathing Finn. Staring at Finn. I have so much love for this little boy–more love than I ever thought humanly possible. I can’t stand to watch movies or read books in which a parent loses a child. It hurts too much.

Life on the farm is good. It’s wonderful, really. I have to dedicate another entry entirely to it later.

This entry today is about the use of this site. I pay an annual fee for this domain, yet I barely get any use out of it. It’s my own fault. I neglect this place. I have too many places for my thoughts and feelings. I keep a written journal; I have an on-going “letter to my offspring” thing happening. I talk to Jamie. I talk to my family. I talk to Michelle. There are too many places for me to deposit my thoughts.

Thoughts, once off-loaded, are no longer trapped in my head and there is no longer the need to discard them here.

It is now a couple of hours later. Finn woke up and needed to be changed, then fed, and then put back down again. Rohan adjusted my lower back so now it feels much better.

I have a plan. I plan to write here more often, but starting with at least once a week.

So… until next week!

Job Hunt

Even though I know I’ll have a job in Sydney, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there.

So I start job hunting for the first time in 4 years. I can’t fathom why it’s much more stressful than I remember.

I mean–if anything, it should feel easier, shouldn’t it? I’m older, I have more work experience, and I know what I want.

But that’s just it. Knowing exactly what type of job I want and knowing what I’m worth are the exactly why job hunting is more stressful than I remember.

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When I was younger, I believed in my own skills less. I felt young and hopeless and I was willing to believe anyone else’s estimations of me. Job hunting in my twenties felt just like Halloween–I’m going from job to job, dressed up like an adult when I feel like a kid. I’m holding out my empty bag of hopes and dreams and just asking random strangers to give me something I normally don’t deserve.

Yet another aspect of why job hunting now is more stressful: I am more of a realist now. Four years ago, I was looking for ANY job. I didn’t care what job I had, because in my mind, I was a writer. I was going to be a writer on my own and whatever job I got to pay the bills really didn’t matter, because I didn’t have to care about enjoying it. I blindly believed I could do both; I could work in a professional field for a living and still accomplish the personal writing goals I set out to do.

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But… four years later, I haven’t made much progress, writing-wise. I do my daily word limits like a good little self-starter. I’ve created some interesting short stories in this time. Overall though, my big writing projects haven’t gone very far. There are a million excuses when you work a day job.

  • I’m too tired thinking about my work that I actually get paid for.
  • My brain is frazzled from my paid work.
  • I need down time from my paid work.

The excuses for not having completed personal writing goals are endless when you actually care about your day job.

It’s depressing, because now that I’m (kind of) an adult, I know better. I know that caring about one’s day job is impossible to avoid. Being a kid, even a young adult, you really have no accurate understanding of what might happened to you if you quit your day job. You have no one counting on you to put food on the table at the end of the day.

So here is where I admit: it’s not possible to care less about my day job. I have to care. Caring means more stress. And that’s okay. Being an adult means I have to stress. Maybe having all these things to stress about will make me a better writer.

Caring about my day job doesn’t have to mean that I just throw in the towel on what I want to achieve with writing; it just means that it’ll be more difficult for me to do, but it’s not impossible. I just have to push myself harder.

Perhaps this is why J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan–to help him (or others) deal with the realities of adulthood.

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A Great Holiday

I have had one of the best Christmas holidays in a long time.

I usually like being around family, but our options for “family” have been pretty limited since we’ve both been living in the United States.

We spent this Christmas eve with a couple of really awesome people. Then we spent Christmas morning exchanging small stocking gifts for each other (after 6 years together, we ran out of “big” gifts to give each other).

And Boxing Day ? I did laundry and cleaning–which are actually amongst my favorite things to do. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I enjoy housework. TubHubs and I have a running joke; he sometimes wonders out loud how angry he could make me… just so he could get me to go on a cleaning rampage (I clean to calm down).

Then tonight, we watched two movies in a row–Loopers and Inglorious Basterds–with a bottle of wine. Now we’re both browsing the intermets because we’re drunk. And yes, TubHubs combed his mustache the whole time.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

I, ____

I have two hometowns. I identify with 2 cultures, and I’m married into to a third. I hold two–soon to be three–citizenships.

I have two names.

This is how my next writing project begins. I plan for it to be the most truthful account of my experiences. By truthful, I mean to say it will be written without any attempt to make anything sound more interesting than it actually is; it will be written without any intention to make myself more likable.

I’ve been writing for roughly 18 years now. I made up stories about fictional characters, and I wrote about my life and experiences in various blogs.

But this is something I’ve never tried: writing something without worrying about what the eventual reader will think.

Sure, I’ve kept personal (hand-written) diaries. I have 6 notebooks of it so far, the oldest entry dating back to 1999. When I go back and read these diary entries, I realised something: even when I write in paper notebooks that I assume no one will ever read, I’ve actually been writing to impress my future self.

So the new writing project, I, ____, is my attempt at writing about myself, my past, my beliefs, without bias, or expectation.

I’m only a few pages in, and already I am afraid. Here is some of what I wrote on the first page:

I worry that by putting all of this down on paper and one day actually publishing this, I will lose everyone. My family will disown me, my husband will divorce me, and our future children would never speak to me again.

Whether this thing will ever see the light of day, I have no idea. It’s something I really should try at least once, though–writing a piece of work with complete honesty.

Perhaps that’s why some writers only write fiction; they put their horrid thoughts and feelings and pin them on some innocent fictional character, just so they can get their thoughts out there somewhere without being directly associated with having those thoughts.

And really, I tried that. I started the story of my family many times, in fictional format. Over the years, I shed my childhood fears and sorrows all over the pages as if they were happening to someone else. There are many versions of my story in the shorts and poems I’ve generated, but none of them were actually me.

What I found? Invariably the characters themselves grew their own sense of independence. They end up entirely different than I am, and forcing my own thoughts and beliefs upon them would no longer feel right. I let them veer off in the directions they wanted to go, and that’s usually when I end up with a story I like. A story about an actually fictional character with a completely different life than mine.

That reminds me of a quote from another great writer:

“This is the beauty of fiction. Giving your characters what you never had, which then comes around and is a vicarious gift to yourself.”

— David Wong Louie.

But I’ve had enough of “vicarious gifts”. Instead I think it’s time to write about the things I’ve been afraid to put down on paper. Maybe by committing past atrocities and childhood memories to paper will make them smaller and more bearable.

There’s a Chinese expression that I was taught to adopt; swallow bitterness. It’s something Chinese girls have always been encouraged to do in order to keep our families happy. Today I’m deciding to do the opposite of that. I’ll spit out all the things that poisoned me in one place, and move on.