Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Wise Not Withered Show! Starting this week, instead of calling it a Podcast, it will now just be the Wise Not Withered Show!
This week’s episode features one of the very most important wise women in my own life: my mother! Definitely the silliest interview, but also one of the most emotional ones as well. We got super side-tracked and went on a lot of tangents—I ended up cutting out over 30 minutes of our interview. Hope you enjoy the antics between my mom and me in this episode!
[I knew there was more to my life than] having babies. I think that was one thing that my parents instilled in me. You go to school, get a good job, and then you can think about having a boyfriend. I might have had a boyfriend in high school [to rebel against my mother]!
[My mom] was very hard-working, but also very social. She would organize parties: card parties, bus trips to Reno… She didn’t wait for someone else to organize it. So I got my organizational skills from her.
[My mom] got a stroke when she was 65. We were told there were four causes of her stroke: she was overweight, she had high blood pressure, hypertension, and diabetes. And didn’t exercise. … I don’t have high blood pressure at all, because I exercise. And the hypertension, and the diabetes, I don’t have either, because of the exercise and eating right.
[In my job,] I write online help with applications, I do video videos on how to use it, and I also like to play with the application! Make sure the labels are something that’s easy to understand. Labels or text on the screen, we try to make them very short. Short and easy to understand. Short and sweet. Like me!
[The reason why I broke up with my last boyfriend in high school] is because he didn’t have enough initiative!
[I didn’t date anyone for over 20 years, between your dad and Tian because] I was just focused on you guys, and I thought “Oh, I don’t need the heartache, it’s too much trouble…” … [One of my friends] used to always tell me “You should try an online dating service!” I said, “Oh, that’s so artificial! I’d rather meet someone doing something I like doing.”
[In the year I turned 40,] we moved in March, then my dad died in May, then the divorce was finalized in September, then I got laid off in October, then I got my black belt in December! Because suddenly I had time, I wasn’t working, and they were paying me until the end of the year. [Tae Kwon Do] was a good outlet.
I guess I used to like stationary, cause I would write to different people. And journals, too—I used to write in journals all the time. They were very good for my psyche. For peace of mind, sense of well-being, help think things through. When we first moved into this house, even before the divorce, [my father’s passing], and then my mom the next year… [Journaling] helped a lot. [And I wasn’t able to talk to you about it at the time.]
I remember being sad [about my mom’s uncle dying]. And I played the piano! I played all these piano pieces. I just kept playing and playing them, especially the ones in minor keys. I guess I was sad because for the last part of his life, I was kind of mean to him. I was becoming a teenager, and I guess I was a little mean to him… Hm… Lessons. Well, I guess if something gets you down, try not to… I guess you could focus on it, but don’t dwell on it. Do things that make you feel better, like music. Music helps a lot.
I guess I may felt like an adult when I was driving, and teaching these Filipino kids piano. And then I would hold recitals in my parents’ living room. And all their parents would come, and it would be a little party!
Don’t be afraid to try new things! Even if you fail, you learn from your failures. I guess I don’t really consider things failures—they’re learning experiences. Like at work all the time. I like getting all the feedback. People say, “Oh, we gotta fix a bug!” But I was thinking, “Oh, but that’s good!” … Oh! Actually, one thing that I always used to live by, my motto was “I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”
I already knew that my mom is and always has been a warrior, not a worrier. She’s direct, always forward-facing, and sharp, but also very compassionate, tolerant, and understanding. I just love the story of how in her 40th year, she went through a series of challenges (her father’s death, moving to a new house, divorce papers finalized, losing her job), but at the end of the year she triumphed through all of the pain and earned her BLACK BELT in Tae Kwon Do.
My mother has never been someone to take out her anger on other people. She has always found healthy ways of channeling challenging emotions, whether through journaling or heavy-exertion exercise. I have found that I am also at my best when I make time to journal frequently and get my HIIT workouts in a few times a week. I personally didn’t discover the joys and benefits of regular exercise until my last year in college five years ago. Having a powerhouse biker, race-walking marathoner as my mother really helped me solidify the healthy habits that she probably always wanted me to follow but never forced upon me.
One of the most emotional parts of this interview (which I actually cut out for personal reasons) was when we talked about my mom and dad’s divorce back when I was 2 years old. I had grown up knowing about particular events that happened that really damaged their marriage, and for most of my life I had actually believed that I had been an attempt at saving their marriage that did not work. I opened up to my mom about that feeling of guilt that I carried for so many years, and she at first was shocked that I even thought that, then assured me that she had always wanted a daughter: she figured she would have another child with my dad so that my brother and I would have the same parents.
It’s so fascinating to me that all this time, I had been shouldering an essentially imaginary burden, one that I had made up and had never spoken out loud. My mom had always wanted a daughter. And even though her marriage ended up in divorce, she still got what she wanted! It was a really life-affirming conversation we had, and I’m so glad that I told her about how I felt. I had already begun to do some deep work on myself previously, so I knew on a logical level that I was not responsible for the divorce. But talking with my mom about it helped relieve any residual pain and guilt that I was still holding.
I also knew about my grandmother’s strokes, but it was really alarming to hear that her first stroke was when she was 65, just one year older than my mom is now. I am so grateful that my mom does everything she can to stay healthy, since that directly affects the amount of time that I get to spend with her. I hope my own children someday will get to know their maternal grandmother in ways that I was unable to.
Something that wasn’t outright said but is abundantly clear through the way we interact, is that my mom has always allowed me to be exactly who I am. I have always been an eccentric person, using silly voices, and singing and dancing whenever I felt the urge. She never once made fun of me, never told me in words or implications to “stop being weird”, or “girls shouldn’t act like that”, and would only tell me to stop talking or singing if she was on the phone. I credit the blossoming of my creative and zany nature to my mother and her ability to let me be, in a safely contained space.
I am really happy that I was able to talk with my mom about all of the things we discussed, and I would encourage everyone else to talk with their own mother about her life, if you have the opportunity to do so. There were definitely lots of things that I already knew about her, but there was just something about putting it all together that lead to a new perspective on this amazing woman that gave me life.