“Permission to Fail”

I’m making good progress reading the book Permission to Come Home by Jenny T. Wang. Right now, I’m on the section called “Permission to Fail,” which is exactly what it sounds like it’s about. In life, through big and small events, we’re constantly learning, and in learning, it’s inevitable that we will make mistakes, but that’s part of the process of living. When babies are learning to walk, they will stumble and fall — it’s not a mistake! It’s all work in progress! They learn from their fall, and then they persevere and try again and again until they can pull themselves up, stand up and stay there, then take one step, two steps, multiple steps. The tiny steps that are built into that process are around using arm, core, and leg strength. They are learning little by little how much of each to use to do what movements at which time.

I thought about the process of babies learning to walk when I was thinking about this section of the book. And I thought about the very damaging advice that my mom used to constantly give Ed and me: “One step wrong, and everything in your life goes wrong!” It was such a fixed (anti growth) mindset, a narrow way of looking at the world, putting ourselves in a situation where we’d basically have zero hope… unless we followed everything exactly as our parents wanted, and then, our lives would be perfect! And then, I comically thought of Kaia learning how to walk, stumbling and falling, and my mom yelling at her, “One step wrong, and everything in your life goes wrong!”

Everything, regardless of whether it was rooted in reality or not, was either a major success or failure growing up. If it was a failure, it resulted in my and my family having “no face.” When I got laid off at my first job out of college just nine months after I started (and during the worst financial crisis to date of my lifetime), my mom got angry at me. She said, “You have no face! No one respects you! No one will want to look at you to your face!” She advised me to immediately move home and start looking for jobs there. In the next month, my cousin was getting married in Las Vegas, and she tried to prevent me from going to the wedding. “The wedding isn’t important!” she yelled. “Why are you going to spend money to go to a wedding where no one will care about you because you lost your job? You have no income, so why are you spending money on travel? You have no face at this wedding! Don’t bother coming!”

It was such an awful, demoralizing, terrorizing thing to say to a 23-year-old who hadn’t even been in full-time employment for a year: because I got laid off and had no job, I was not worth seeing. I had no self worth. I was not worth socializing with. It’s never anyone’s “fault” when they get laid off, especially during a financial crisis where everyone, left and right, is losing their job, the economy is unstable, and companies are cutting costs left and right. But she tried to make it seem like it was my fault, as though I did something wrong. That’s why she kept on saying I had “no face.” To my parents, if you were working, you were a “worthy” person. If you didn’t work, if you had a low-paying job, or if you were unemployed/stay-at-home parent/partner, you were “nothing.” That’s how my parents measure value in an adult.

I’ve lost my job a couple times since that first layoff. It was never easy, but I’ve grown a lot along the way. It was never my “fault.” I never saw them as “mistakes,” but as situations to learn from — because that’s what all of life is ideally: continual learning, growth, and personal evolution. But one thing I did learn from that period? I would never, ever tell my parents if I ever got laid off or fired — ever again. They would never provide a safe space for me. They would never be supportive of me in my down moments and instead, would just push me further down. I didn’t need the constant criticism or judgment. I was already such a harsh critic of myself already, so why did I need two other people judging me?

It’s sad to remember these times, especially since these types of interactions were not isolated. But I think the biggest thing here, as the title of the chapter indicates, is giving yourself permission to fail, even if those who are supposed to be closest to you won’t. Who cares what other people think? You have to give yourself permission to fail, to grow, to move forward. C’est la vie — or at least, that’s the life worth living.

High-end candles: a sign of being in my 30s

On Saturday, I was supposed to take my friend on a food crawl around Jackson Heights as a day out during her visit. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for us. I didn’t want to deal with the stroller in pouring rain, nor did I want to risk experiencing any subway flooding, so I suggested to my friend that we have lunch at the Singporean Urban Hawker center instead, and then figure things out from there. The MoMa, which was our original after-lunch plan, was immediately x-ed out: the line wrapped around TWO BLOCKS, even with the pouring rain. So instead, we went window shopping at Nordstrom and in Time Warner Center instead. We spent at least 15 minutes inhaling every Voluspa candle on display in the home wares section; the Saijo Persimmon and Mokara were definitely my favorites. I told my friend about how I’ve been burning a scented soy or coconut wax candle every night the last few months while I’m reading before bed. Everyone likes the mood and ambiance that real lit candles bring, and the scent is always soothing at bedtime.

My friend laughed. “This is such a sign you are in your 30s; only people in their 30s-plus can appreciate high-end, fancy candles!” she said. She agreed, though, and said that she also started appreciating them in the last few years.

Okay, so maybe it is true. In my twenties, I never thought anything of candles and didn’t understand how they could be so expensive. I didn’t understand how Diptyque could have multiple boutiques across New York City, JUST selling one item (candles!). It always evaded my comprehension. Then, I didn’t understand the difference between paraffin and soy/coconut wax. The idea of spending $50-75 on a candle was insane to me. Now, while I still think that price point is high, I do appreciate them so much more. A high quality, perfumed candle is not just a thing, an object to display in your home; it’s also an experience, a somewhat sensual one at that. The one candle I own now that I did buy before I turned 30 was a lavender soy candle purchased at a Tasmanian lavender farm in December 2015. I still burn it occasionally and am obsessed with the scent, though I am sad I’m reaching its end. What was also remarkable about this candle was that despite it being very high quality and having a good “throw” (that is candle speak for “the scent travels through the room it’s in and isn’t weak”), it was actually quite inexpensive in U.S. dollars after the conversion from AUD. Now, I may end up seeking high quality, scented candles elsewhere where I can get them cheaper. 🙂

Doll houses – for children and for adults

Today, I was texting with some friends about my friend’s daughter’s birthday. My friend shared that her three-year-old daughter was gifted a dollhouse, which you can custom design down to the WALLPAPER in each room. Given this, my friend would be taking this on as a mini project for her daughter to fully enjoy playing with this dollhouse. I thought it was really sweet — my friend wants her child to play with the dollhouse, and she’s willing to invest time in making sure the dollhouse looks just like what her daughter wants.

It reminded me that I still have a Greenleaf dollhouse that “Santa Claus” (aka my dad) gifted me when I was five years old, still unbuilt and in its original box down in my parents’ basement. I told my friend that if she wanted, she could have the dollhouse if she was willing to invest time in building and painting it. Otherwise, eventually soon, I’d want to sell it to make sure someone out there can actually enjoy it. I reminded her, though, that it’s not a dollhouse for playing; it’s actually meant to be a collector’s dollhouse for adults. My other friend didn’t understand what this meant, so I explained it to her; there’s an entire industry of dollhouses for adult builders and collectors, and this was one of them.

My friends were super confused: why did my dad gift me an adult collector’s dollhouse? Why wasn’t it ever built? And who was expected to build it and when? Was I expected, as a five-year-old child, to build it?

I’m no longer triggered by the memories of that dollhouse, as I’ve moved on. But for me, that unbuilt dollhouse is just representative of all the broken promises my dad made. He always said he’d build it. He never did. He always made excuses and said he was too busy. Finally when I was a teen, I asked one last time if he was ever planning to build it. He got mad, snapping back, “YOU can go ahead and build it yourself!” When an ex-boyfriend went up to him to ask if he could have it to build, my dad responded and said he was still planning to build it (no, never happened). So it just sits in its box, unbuilt, to be enjoyed by no one.

As an adult now with my own child, I get it: my dad WAS super busy. He was working a day job for most of my childhood along with managing and repairing three different apartment buildings and two rental homes. He rarely rested and was just constantly working to ensure we had financial stability. But part of me thinks he also did all that because he didn’t really want to spend time with us. He never played with my brother or me. We never had any real conversations. He was frequently irritable when we attempted to engage with him. My brother eventually gave up, feeling ignored, and decided to ignore him back…. that continued until the day my brother died. Our dad was usually doing his own thing when he was home. I don’t fault him for wanting a break from life while at home, but his negative attitude towards us as children, not to mention always saying he’d do things for us that he never actually did, informs how I want to parent my own child and how I want to set expectations to never let my child think my words are meaningless. I don’t want to become my mom or my dad with my own child. I want to be and do better… a lot better, so that when Kaia is an adult, she actually wants to willingly spend time with me and enjoy time with me, and she doesn’t do it out of obligation or guilt.

I want Kaia to know every moment of her life how much I love her and how much she is wanted. I want her to know I’m always trying to be better to her and provide her with the best, but not at the expense of quality time together. I want her to hear me say I will do something, and for her to expect that yes, I will follow through on it. I don’t want her to harbor resentment against me or think I’m just pushing her away from me. I want to be an example to her of how to be, both in attitude toward the world as well as actions. That’s my takeaway from my sad dollhouse memories.

The most conflict-driven dream I’ve had in the last 3.5 months

Since I became more regular about daily meditation since end of December, my dreams, in Chris’s words, have become “boring.” Nothing exciting or even remotely annoying seems to happen in them. They are a far cry from the dreams I used to have, where I was usually yelling at or beating someone who was frustrating me.

However, a couple days ago, I had the most conflict-driven dream I’ve had since mid-December. I was at the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California, getting bored and wanting to go home. I had arrived by a charter bus that had set times it would take me back to San Francisco, and I realized that the next bus going back was just in 15 minutes, so I picked up my bag and started walking over to the bus. However, on my way there, I passed by a bakery store front with a familiar name: Bushwick Hot Bread. It’s actually the name of an Aussie-run home-delivery baked goods side gig that an Australian chef at Eleven Madison Park started during the pandemic when she could no longer work in the restaurant. Chris found out about her and started ordering her baked goods, ranging from lamingtons to sausage rolls, late last year, and we have both been loving her stuff. In addition to that, we also interact with her regularly on Instagram, and we follow each other.

Anyway, so I knew I had to run in to buy some baked goodies. I ran in to pick up a few things, and instead of ringing me up, the Aussie workers there just wanted to chat me up. I insisted I had to leave because I had a bus to catch, but they totally ignored what I said, instead carrying on conversation as though I had not expressed any urgency in leaving. I was left debating whether I should wait to get my items totaled up or just leave without the baked goods…. but I REALLY wanted the baked goods….

Well, that’s my subconscious “conflict” now – to have or not to have Aussie treats.

Chris’s “stress” rate

For his birthday a few months ago, Chris’s brother got him a new Garmin device, so Chris has been using it daily, wearing it during his swims, and keeping it on pretty much day and night. He was looking at the Garmin app and noticing that for the most part, his stress level, as recorded by Garmin, seems to go up throughout the workday, and as soon as work starts winding down, it goes down gradually. Yet, on Thursday, it was a bit of an anomaly. The stress level pretty much stayed steady from about 9am through the time he went to bed. Why would that be the case?

Oh, that was easy, I said to him. We had our family chat that night! And thus, that added to Chris’s debate with me that Zoom/Google hangout/video chats do NOT relax him, and thus he doesn’t really look forward to them as he would socializing in person with people he cares about.

I’ve stopped wearing my Garmin regularly, but I wonder what my stress level is like when I do virtual hangouts with friends given what he said.

Progesterone in oil (PIO) shots vs. vaginal suppositories

Before starting the IVF process, what I feared most were the injections. Little did I know that the daily stimulation injections leading up to egg retrieval were actually done with small, manageable needles administered on your abdomen, meaning, well, there’s a decent amount of fat on your stomach, so they won’t hurt very much beyond a tiny sting.

The “scary” injection is actually the progesterone in oil (PIO) shot, which is done to prepare your body (endometrium/uterus) to accept the embryo during an embryo transfer. The PIO is particularly ‘unpleasant’ as my doctor says because the liquid you are injecting yourself with is very very thick (hey, it’s called “oil” for a reason), which means you need to use a higher gauge needle, which… is not only thick, but it’s long… like SUPER LONG, 3-4 inches. And, as the added bonus, this needs to be administered on your butt. Yep, on your butt cheek.

You’re also expected to continue taking progesterone in various forms through the 9th to 12th week of pregnancy, assuming your transfer was successful. I asked my doctor about this during the IVF consult, and he said that this clinic actually had stopped using PIO because vaginal suppositories of progesterone were just as effective, if not more, than PIO (this is, of course, assuming that you as an individual do not have any known problems with an embryo “sticking,” so definitely take this statement with a grain of salt depending on your individual case and reason for going down the IVF route to try having a baby). So, I would not need to mentally prepare for PIO while at this clinic.

That was honestly like music to my ears. No butt shots. No big, fat, long needle. No butt icing. No butt heat applications. Phew.

But vaginal suppositories, at least the ones I am taking, are like vagina pills. Really. They come with an applicator similar to a tampon applicator, and you insert it through your vagina as far as it goes.Then pushing on the applicator, the pill pops out. That pill is then supposed to dissolve and be your body’s added progesterone to support your pregnancy. So lucky me, for this mock cycle, I get to insert this three times a day, as soon as I wake up, right before bed, and at some point in the middle of the day. As you can probably imagine, the middle of the day insert is not super convenient and would be even worse if it weren’t for this work-from-home/global pandemic situation.

No one told me this would be messy. I had quite a mess with some of the progesterone leaking out and had to clean my underwear twice. It really feels like a dissolved pill, mushy, white, and pasty. And so, I’ve learned my lesson and am wearing a panty liner from now on. Oh, the joys of IVF.

A Series of Uneventful Dreams in the Last Week

I think that my boring, mundane, “I have no idea what the meaning of this is, but I’m at least happy that nothing awful or terrifying or violent is happening” dreams seem to be continuing. If I had to try to identify when these vanilla dreams started, I’d say that it’s likely when I became more deliberate about my daily meditation time. Here are some dreams I’ve had in the last week:

Our friend and handyman was in Chris’s parents’ formal living room in Melbourne, delivering a lecture on dry rot, how to identify it, and how to solve it as a homeowner. He had a pointer and a big white board with all kinds of drawings and diagrams on it. I was sitting at the entrance of the living room watching. 

I opened one of our apartment closets to realize that there was actually a doorway into ANOTHER hidden compartment for storage. And in that storage area, I had a lot of beautiful carbon steel and cast iron pans waiting for me to use them. Oooooh, this was an amazing find.

I was at a banquet hall with my parents and my aunt. My aunt accompanies me to the bathroom, and as I’m entering a stall and closing it, she asks, “when are you going to have a baby?” Ughhhhhh.

My mom is sitting at some random table with me, and she asks if she can borrow my orchid porcelain tea pot because she is planning to host a tea tasting with my dad at their house for some friends. This is obviously a dream because a) my mom hates hosting anything or having anyone over at the house and b) my mom could truly care less about the nuances in flavor of one green or oolong tea to another.  

Bingo with a food twist

The strange but uneventful dreams seem to be continuing. Last night, I dreamt that I was playing a game of Bingo, but instead of letters being on each of the boards, instead, there were pictures of food on each. Apparently, each of the food photographs was taken by a different food photographer that was in the room, self included. Well, with that said, I don’t even know how the Bingo game would even work!

This is actually a reminder to myself that I need to take more food photography courses online with my company perk. I need to do this before the weekend ends as I told myself I would. I need to be productive as always, right?


Since mid-December, I’ve been carving out about 10-15 minutes every day to meditate. I’m not 100 percent sure it is helping me, but I do feel pretty good after I am done, so I suppose for now, that is enough. It’s nice to spend a deliberate 10 minutes every day to clear my mind and just think about the moment itself.

The theme of the current meditation program I am on is about “acceptance.” And, frankly, I am not sure I totally believe in what it is trying to tell me. The narrator of the meditation is saying that oftentimes, when we get annoyed or aggravated by another person’s actions or behavior, it should shed a light on what we dislike about ourselves and need to change about ourselves. I strongly, strongly disagree with this for many reasons. So, let me get this straight: if I get incensed by how overtly racist someone is being, that should reveal that I should take a deeper look… at my own racism? Or if I get upset because someone is being really resentful, then that means.. I am actually the resentful one? I hardly think any of this is true. This is the kind of “therapy” that really needs to be reexamined and corrected. Maybe, just maybe, we get mad at someone else’s behavior because they’re just plainly being an asshole?

Psychotherapist visit

I decided to start seeing a therapist again to navigate through my feelings around this seemingly endless fertility journey we have been on. My support network is decent, but I figured I could use an impartial third party to talk to who doesn’t actually know me. Lucky for me, my company actually offers 10 covered therapy sessions through a program/app called Modern Health, so I don’t have to worry about any out of pocket costs until then.

We spoke for an hour today for the first session, and I knew she was going to be a good fit for me when she distilled down the things she thinks I am grappling with at a high level:

  1. Lack of control: it frustrates me when I feel like I have ZERO control over a situation and I start spiraling downward. This is also why I hate confrontation (despite what my passive friends say); in confrontation, you have no idea (and no control) over how the person you are confronting will respond.
  2. “All or nothing” mentality: You are either going to be completely successful or a total failure. Hence… you have five mature eggs… who knows if they will all make it or all die by Day 5?
  3. Negative thoughts tend to overtake any potential positive thoughts, and I always immediately jump to the worst case scenario: why does this keep happening, and how can we combat it to find more balance? I know at a high level why I do this; it’s like a defense mechanism. But why is it my ‘default’?

I love talking to therapists. I feel like I have even more respect for them after having read Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.