Bad dreams

I’ve been having unpleasant dreams since I came back from San Francisco. In one dream, Chris and I were arguing about something, and he said he wanted to end our marriage (it’s great when someone asks to end your marriage and you haven’t even gotten married yet). In another dream, I’m fighting with my mom about the most ridiculous subject (which is usually the case in real life), and she starts sticking her finger in my face. There’s really nothing worse than someone yelling at you and sticking their pointer finger in your face. I yell at her to get her finger out of my face and to just stop being so difficult. That’s what I’m saying when I wake up, and Chris is trying to calm me down. In the next dream, Chris lets me know he made out with someone else, but he glosses over it as though it’s no big deal.

Then this morning, I woke up and remembered I was out to dinner with my friend, her boyfriend, another friend, and Chris, and when we got to the restaurant, Chris and the friend got their own table, my friend and her boyfriend got a table, and no one wanted to sit with me. We all went to dinner but apparently were not planning on eating together at the same restaurant, which made absolutely no sense. I woke up feeling disturbed and unloved.

Visits to San Francisco always seem to mess up my subconscious for a while once I’ve returned to New York. This will probably be a constant re-occurrence until… forever.

Chasing… nothing

Today, I discovered a witty blog written by Mark Manson, an author and “life enthusiast” who quit his finance job after only six weeks to start a dating business. He wrote a piece about “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” which really resonated with me. When you get past the fact that he uses the word “fuck: over 120 times in this 12-minute article, you realize how much truth there is in the words he says and how every single person on earth would probably benefit from taking his advice to heart.

He had another article I liked called “Why Some Dreams Should Not Be Pursued.” It’s counterintuitive because society and every single self-help book tell you to pursue your passions; pursue your dreams! What he identifies that is so true is that in attaining a dream, we all have an idealistic way of seeing that dream. We think that once that dream has been attained, everything in our lives will be perfect and we be fulfilled and achieve happiness. It’s pretty much crap, though.

What I thought about was going through school, taking those God-awful SAT standardized tests, getting A’s (and B’s) on exams and ultimately finishing high school and going to college. I always thought I’d feel calmer once I got into college. College would be easier! It wouldn’t be this grueling! Boy, was I wrong. It was a painful period of life academically and socially. We always think things will get better once we attain a certain level of something or get to a certain age or point in our lives. We just face new challenges and things to grapple with. As he so succinctly says:

“The truth is that pain, longing and frustration are just a fact of life. We believe that our dreams will solve all of our current problems without recognizing that they will simply create new variants of the same problems we experience now. Sure, these are often better problems to have. But sometimes they can be worse. And sometimes we’d be better off dealing with our shit in the present instead of pursuing some ideal in the future.”

A friend of mine has dealt with acne for most of her adolescent and now adult life. She used to tell me that she was excited to get past adolescence because then she would no longer have to worry about acne breakouts around her period. Well, she is an adult now, and she still has to deal with breakouts. In some ways, they are probably worse now then they were when she was a teenager. Oh, and to add to that problem, now she (like the rest of us) has wrinkle and aging concerns on top of that! Before, there was just acne problems. Now, there are acne and aging problems!

The older we get, the newer and crazier challenges we will face. Happiness isn’t something far and seemingly intangible we should be chasing. It’s just a state of being comfortable with what you have and the life choices you have made.

Optimism, pessimism, and realism

I got into a tiny squabble with a colleague yesterday where we were trying to resolve a billing issue with a client. This problem has been pretty stupid to say the least, and the only reason it’s been prolonged over the course of three-plus months is because neither side, us or our client, wants to just pick up the phone and resolve the issue. Lots of misunderstandings happen over e-mail, and just because the words stare at you in your face doesn’t mean you will completely get what the person who wrote this email is actually trying to convey. Picking up a phone in about ten out of ten cases in my experience always resolves the issue — that goes for personal or professional issues.

It’s not a unique issue to this colleague; it’s an issue with pretty much every single person at my company, and very likely at yours, too. Technology has made us lazy and given us an excuse to not have real phone conversations or face-to-face interactions with people. Why call someone when you could just email them and wait for a response? So I expressed this to my colleague and was insistent that he just call the client; get it done NOW. My colleague shakes his head at me and half jokingly says I’m being angry and pessimistic.

This isn’t about being pessimistic or optimistic; it’s ultimately about looking for the quickest way to solve this problem. It’s being realistic, moron. Do you want to solve your problem or not? If anything, it sounds like you rather just sit there and complain about it then take any actionable step. Since my brother’s death, and as I’ve gotten older, people who just complain and don’t do anything actionable to resolve their problems get zero sympathy from me.

When I think about the question of whether I am an optimistic person versus a pessimistic person, my knee-jerk response I want to give is that it depends on the situation, and actually, I’d prefer to say I’m just a realist. It could be perceived as a cop out, but I try to take the attitude that is most realistic in any given situation. As an example: will my mother ever accept the fact that I’m not moving home? What’s the optimistic vs. pessimistic response to that? I could sit here and be lame about it and think that she’ll just “suck it up” and grow to accept it, but anyone who knows her even the slightest bit knows this is crap. So, the realistic response is that she will never accept it and will always be angry about it.

I decided to text my therapist the question of how she’d characterize me, optimistic or pessimistic. After a bit of back and forth so she could see how I’d characterize myself, she responded and said that if she had to answer the question in black and white, she’d say that I’m a “disappointed optimist.” I guess if what she says is true, then the world really has failed me, but despite that, I keep believing in it.

Insistent traveling

I went to see my therapist this afternoon. We spent most of the time discussing my anger since I’ve come back from San Francisco, and we also touched upon the upcoming Vancouver trip that Chris and I are planning to take my parents on. It will be the second trip that we’ll be taking my parents on, the second trip we’ve taken altogether when Ed has not been around. It will be the second trip that we’ll be paying for.

My therapist said she thought it was extremely generous and thoughtful to want to take my parents on these trips, and she asked why I wanted to do it not just once, but a second time, particularly given we know how difficult these things can be and my differences with my parents in general in life. I thought about it for a second, and I responded that my mom always wanted to travel to see other places, but my dad, being a hermetic and antisocial and anti-change homebody, didn’t see a reason to. My mom’s lived a really hard life and has had to experience and witness things that no one should have had to go through, I said. She deserves to see at least a little bit of the world, and if I want that to happen, I need to do it myself. No one else will take her — not even my dad. “And frankly, I’m scared that my parents will die one day never having seen anything of the world,” I said.

What this is ultimately about is that I just want my parents to enjoy life and be happy. That’s all I really want. I want them to do things they’d like to do that they may think are frivolous, but things that they’d gain happy moments from. I don’t think this is a lofty or esoteric type of wish; it’s actually quite simple. But with my family, the simplest things always have the potential to get extremely complicated.

All families

A friend and I were chatting today about my visit home. I said it was okay… until it wasn’t at the end. He figured it wasn’t a big deal, that it was just some little tiff that happened that got me into a sour mood. I copied and pasted my blog entry regarding the sign on the gate at the house, and he was really shocked. He said he didn’t think it was a good idea and agreed it was hostile, but he also said, “Try to be good to your parents. They only know what they know.” He then shared that he hasn’t spoken to one of his two brothers who currently lives in Australia in over six years now, and as much as he’s tried to reach out to him, he won’t respond. He’s also estranged the rest of the family, as well. “We can’t control our family,” he said. “All families are dysfunctional in some way.”

It’s true. People only know what they know. They will only do what they want and what they see in their own restricted minds. It’s such a dismal thing to think, though. Are we even capable of changing ourselves and our own perceptions? How much power does it take for us to change, to prevent ourselves from becoming the qualities that we detest the most?

Remembering the past

I don’t know what it is about going back to San Francisco and the house I grew up in, but ever since Ed passed away, for at least a few days after I come back to New York, I tend to get flashbacks of the past when Ed was still here that make me angry. Most of the flashbacks are about terrible family situations we’ve had where Ed was getting yelled at, accused of something he never did, or intense screaming arguments that have happened in that house. The latest one that happened today while I was at work was the time when I was of a middle school age, and my parents accused Ed of stealing money from their bedroom. It was a massive shouting match that ensued for what seemed like hours, and I got involved by screaming at our parents, telling them that Ed would never steal from anyone, and how dare they even attempt to accuse him of something so awful. That really didn’t help anything because that just got me yelled at, but at that moment, I rather would have had myself get yelled at then Ed. He was just so weak and defenseless. It didn’t matter what he said. He was on the verge of tears, and it always pained me when he was either crying or on the brink of it. He didn’t deserve that type of treatment. In the end, when our parents found the money that they had misplaced about a month later, no apology was ever said to Ed. Parents never need to apologize, right? That’s what our parents think. Parents are never wrong… Even when they are.

Being there just reminds me of all the injustices he faced that he never deserved. He just wanted a little bit of peace, but he rarely got it. I get so angry thinking about it sometimes that everything around me blurs, and I stop hearing what is being told to me or seeing what is in front of me. I think of how powerless I was to help him, even when I tried. I could never have been enough. And it really hurts to know that.

I hate that house. That house destroyed my brother.


Wedding invitations are far more complicated than I thought they’d be. When I first started doing this research, I figured I would choose a template we liked from one of the major sites like Wedding Paper Divas or Minted, customize the wording choice, decide what type of printing we wanted (letterpress vs. thermography vs. engraving vs. digital), and then call it a day. Little did I know I had more choices to make: those printing options are not the only ones. There’s also laser cut, foil stamped and different edge cuts to consider, about five million fonts that can be customized for names of bride and groom vs. the rest of the text, colored and textured envelopes, and did I even consider a pocket folder? What about letterpress invitations but digitally printed enclosures? What types of customized images would I like, if any? Do I want the invitation company to print all the guests’ names and addresses? How heavy should this paper be? Is there such a thing as having too heavy of a piece of paper for an invitation? Have I considered a return address stamp, press, or even sticker with our names on it? And to add to this, every budgeting wedding site keeps reminding me that the only people who will likely save my wedding invitations will be me, my bridesmaids, my mother, and my mother-in-law. Everyone else will throw them away. So if this is the case, is an expensive print method like letterpress even going to be worth it? What about selectively doing letterpress for a handful of invites and doing the rest digital? This is really overwhelming.

Greeting sign

When I came home last week, the first thing to greet me as I rang my parents’ doorbell was a big sign duct-taped to the gate that said, “Please do not SLAM THE IRON GATE!!!!!” (Yes, those exclamation points are real; so is the capitalization). I thought to myself, that’s a really great way to scare people away from this house, and who knows… this may even scare away the mailman! I told my parents I didn’t think this was a good idea, and they just ignored me.

I brought it up again today with them, and my mother insisted that our neighbor upstairs, who rents a room from my aunt, has guests constantly coming in and out of the house, slamming the gate, the door, and even ringing our bell without realizing they are ringing the wrong one. The sign is not for our neighbor, she says, but it’s for her inconsiderate guests and family. I want to note that our neighbor is dying of cancer, and according to her doctor, she probably only has about two months left to live. She’s so frail that she can’t even make it to the toilet. She has to have a bed pan, which unfortunately goes into the garbage…. And my dad has to clean that. It wouldn’t be anyone’s favorite thing to do. Since my aunt is away in New York, she doesn’t have to take any responsibility for this.

I thought about how hostile and just rude the sign looked. Every day when she’d come back from one of her JW meetings or the doctor’s and would be in pain, she’d see that sign. Passersby would see this sign and think, what the hell is wrong with the people who live here? What kind of problem do they have? It just didn’t seem right to me to have such hostility and passive aggression stare at someone like that who’s dying. I told them that I think the sign should come down. My mom got angry and spent the entire airport ride being defensive and childish about it. “Stop saying things to hurt me,” she complained when I brought this up. “Just STOP IT.” She claims that the sign is not for the neighbor, that it’s for her bad guests. And I have no right to say anything because I don’t live there, so I have no idea about all the “suffering” that neighbor makes her and my dad go through. She even complained about the breathing machine making “all kinds of noise all night long” upstairs. Well, without that breathing machine, our neighbor would die, I said. Why are you complaining, and do you realize what would happen without the breathing machine?! She insisted they were right to keep the sign up, and my dad flatly refused to take it down. “They have no consideration,” my dad said.

This is probably why you shouldn’t have duplex or multiplex units housing multiple families. You have to deal with stupidity and passive aggression like this that is ultimately caused by both sides either not taking responsibility or choosing to be mature and reasonable. Some people just want to instigate and cause more misery and suffering without even realizing it, and they spend their entire lives depending their poor, thoughtless choices. They claim everyone else has done wrong to them and that they are constantly the victims. And these people are people I call my family.

Ongoing contempt

My mom hates it when we are at the dinner table and I pull out my phone to check the time or a text message on the lock screen. I’m not even really doing anything other than looking for less than 3 seconds, and she scolds me and tells me to put it away. She says that dinner time is family time. I agree with that, but I don’t object to checking a lock screen for a few seconds. Yet, despite that, when we are having dinner with my dad and uncle, she will happily pull out her phone (which is a dumb phone, so there’s really nothing on it to “browse” other than names in an address book, which is quite pathetic) and start tinkering around with it right in her face. I tell her to put it away, and she gives me a dirty look and says she’s just looking. It’s fun to discipline your mother as she disciplines you. She is clearly paying no attention to what is being said, nor does she care. She just wants dinner to be done with as soon as possible so she doesn’t have to see my uncle anymore. She claims that my uncle doesn’t respect her because she’s from Vietnam. What she doesn’t realize is that it’s for different reasons that are far more legitimate… and they are really about how she’s treated Ed and me growing up and how he doesn’t agree with it.

Why are there so many layers of disgust and contempt and grudges in this family? I’ve heard of some pretty terrible things, such as my dad’s best friend Bob who died last year, and how he was in an ongoing lawsuit with his own brother about their father’s inheritance that he had left behind. Because Bob took the most care of his father in his old age, his dad decided to leave his large inheritance just to Bob. So Bob’s brother wasn’t happy with this and sued him. It was never settled before Bob died, so I’m sure that Bob’s brother is still pursuing it against Bob’s wife and son now. Granted, nothing has gotten that out of control with my family, but I’d say that in some cases, it’s even worse. There are problems and grudges that have never been addressed or resolved, and no one wants to do anything about it. My uncle tried his best to reconnect with my dad during his heart surgery, but it fell completely flat because my dad is so socially inept and cannot see that his younger brother was trying to be there for him. He just gives short responses and goes into his own little world, tinkering with his pills and pill case and sorting out his medications as though no one else is there.

Changing home town

I remember back in March 2013, I came back to San Francisco for two weeks to spend time with my parents and Ed. I worked part of the time and also took off about four days. One day, for whatever reason, I had to stay late at the office in the financial district, and I didn’t get back to the Richmond until around 7:30pm. My mom and Ed panicked, and they insisted that they “pick me up” from the bus stop at 20th and Geary. I thought that they were both being ridiculous, but I figured I couldn’t stop them.

I remember my brother calling for updates to see where I was along the 38L line so that they’d know when to start walking down the block. When I got off the bus, they were both waiting for me at the bus stop across the street, and as soon as I approached them, Ed insisted that I shouldn’t be so trusting of taking the bus so late at night, and that there were lots of crazy people in San Francisco now. It wasn’t as safe as I remembered it, he said. “Don’t pull out your iPhone on the bus,” he warned. “You don’t know who’s going to just snatch it from you!” He also admonished me to stay away from the back of the bus and to stay closer to the front and middle as much as possible.

I thought about this tonight when I took the bus home, and after I spoke with a colleague who has lived in San Francisco for over 17 years now. He relocated here from New England, where he is originally from, and he was telling me that there’s about a murder every week in San Francisco now. “It’s unfortunately not getting safer here, Yvonne,” my colleague said to me as we walked out of the office together with his almost 2-year-old boy. “There’s more people living in this city than ever before, and the police force just isn’t keeping up with the increase. There are more crimes and murders here than as long as I can remember it.”

Having this conversation with my colleague made me wish I didn’t brush Ed off as much as I did when he was warning me about the diminishing safety of our home town. Maybe he wasn’t being as ridiculous as I thought, especially now as I walk the streets of this city and wonder why every time I come home, the homeless and druggie situation seems to be worse than the last time I came.