I sometimes find it incredibly hard/difficult/challenging to acknowledge that I am enough. Just me. All by myself. I am enough. I am smart enough, kind enough, successful enough, generous enough, pretty enough, rich enough. I have enough – money, time, education, resources, friendships, opportunities, things, ideas, food, work, love. I do enough: volunteering, reading, resting, appreciating, cooking, talking, sharing, listening, thinking, cleaning, shopping, crying, laughing, learning. So why do I keep trying so damn much to prove this to – of all people – myself??? It’s time to give myself a break; even I know that. So….
This past August I welcomed into my home a young Chinese woman who is here to work on her doctoral program at the local college.
Yawei is of the generation in China in which couples were only permitted to have one child, meaning she has lead the life of an only and somewhat spoiled girl in her small family. She had never been to the United States before she came for school a few months ago. I have occasionally thought I was brave, but this woman is something else. Already I have learned much from her that I almost feel bad accepting the rent money!
Having her here has stopped me in my tracks to think about what I take for granted every day. I try to express gratitude daily, ever since I read somewhere this question: What if you woke up tomorrow and all you had was what you gave thanks for yesterday? So anyway, I even had a gratitude challenge of sorts going on with my daughter for the past few months. Every day, we text each other 3 things we are grateful for. I try to stay away from just the material things, which isn’t always easy. Sometimes we mix it up and come up with one thing we did well that day. That’s one way to remind ourselves that we are enough. It’s similar to something else I read about recently called “praise work.” It has to do with when we seek approval outside ourselves, from others, which can border on neediness or co-dependency in the extreme. If you Google “Praise work” it’s likely you’ll get results about praising others (especially employees), so why I haven’t heard of this or thought of it like this is just one more thing I am behind the times on, apparently.
Anyway, I am constantly reminded of how many things are great about my life, my house, my friends, my dogs, my community, my family, my country. Yawei is like a child in some ways, full of questions and unfiltered comments. She is an industrious woman. She cooks all of her meals and takes them with her to school, meaning sometimes it’s late at night or early in the morning when she is clanging pots or the microwave is beeping. She is wide open to trying vegetables she has not seen before and can’t pronounce the names of. She has been to every grocery store around to check out what each has to offer. She goes to the Outlet Mall several times a week. And she is diligent about her classes and homework, spending longs days at the college and signing up for tutors and taking recommended (but not required) English classes.
And she is learning about living with me, too. I recently had the opportunity to show her how I want the stove cleaned when she is done. Have you ever thought of how you explain something that seems so routine to you? Explaining why a shower needs to be cleaned when she says she only uses clean water to wash with, or that scented aerosol spray doesn’t sanitize the toilet bowl, or that rugs can be “cleaned” by shaking them out or washing them. These are just some of the things I have talked to her about. Showing her what she does that is “teasing” to the dogs is another example of something I struggled with at first. Luckily, I didn’t have to teach her to drive but I have had to ask her to move her car that is parked too far into the road or in the middle of the driveway.
I am still at the laughing stage, as in “really?!??” Sometimes it feels like I’m playing Scrabble and can’t come up with the right word because a letter is missing. I know she has good intentions and simply has not had to do these things before now. I love how open she is to learning, though, and it reminds me that I don’t know everything either. I imagine I would be in the same position if I were going to school in China and living with someone whose habits I did not understand.
About the time I wonder if I’m being played by her, I will hear her shout from upstairs, thanking me because the house looks so new and clean, and exclaiming how lucky she is to live here, and that she loves me…. I stop right in my thought and give thanks for her innocence and this chance for a do-over of sorts. A chance for me to let go of feelings of inadequacy, or of loneliness, or being taken advantage of. I am reminded that I have been given a place of honor to teach her what life is like in the USA that is not what you see on F-R-I-E-N-D-S on tv (which is where she learned her American “slanguage”). Whatever she tells her friends back in China will largely depend on what I have represented to her.
She has taught me to use chopsticks (I need more lessons), and to eat more vegetables, and to limit my sugar intake. She is a lesson in counting my blessings. She is an example of how joyful life is, and it’s not just limited to youth. She is curious, quirky, and competent at 27, a time when I was already a mother of 3 and acting all responsible all the time. It’s pretty cool that she is here to help me remember to be curious, quirky and competent today as well. We have a lot in common being two women on our own. Her life has changed dramatically in the past few months, as has mine in the past couple of years, and I daresay she is ahead of me in a few ways in accepting the changes and courting a positive future.
It’s is freeing to open myself up as much as I have opened my home up, to let the love in, to share my day, to give of my blessings. I am so grateful for this opportunity, this detour from the plateau I had found myself on. I have this sign on my desk, and it’s so spot on!