During a text messaging conversation the day after Christmas, a friend sent, “the madness is over. Yay!!!” I confess I’ve become quite a “bah humbug” about the holidays. I responded, “Next up, pay exorbitant cover fees for a drunken night of debauchery followed by hangovers and resolutions to do things you should be doing anyway and probably will do for a month or two before you slip back into the un-woke comatose mindfuckery of consumerism in the days approaching February 14.”
Yeah, I sound pretty bitter about “special days” huh? Truth be told, I’m just fed up with the rat race of consumerism and pressured gifting of material crap that ends up in landfills someday anyway, ravaging the Earth’s capacity for us to live a non-toxic existence. I decided this past Christmas I would not buy anyone gifts. Not even the little people. I know my parents and siblings would understand, but I wondered how my niece and nephews would respond. Would they think, “Auntie Thao didn’t buy me anything!” and cry in sadness and disappointment? Their ages are 7, 5, 5, 3, 3, and 18 months. On Christmas eve, they opened their mounds of gifts from their parents, grandparents, their other Aunties and their Uncles. The piles of wrapping paper, gift bags, and gift boxes had my mind spinning. I imagined this pile multiplied by several million other families. I got irritated. Not at my family, just at the thought of all this paper waste. Then the kids’ toys were made of what seemed like a gazillion plastic parts. So I imagined those parts multiplied by several million other families. And that is where the “material crap ending up in landfills anyway” thought came to mind. I took a few breaths and centered myself. I looked at the faces of the little people in my life and their smiles made me happy. So I decided to just play with them. For the rest of my stay, I played with them, with or without toys. A defining moment was when I was alone with all of them on the first day of 2018. With their parents gone, I suggested we have a dance party! In the parents’ bedroom! With lights off, strobe light app on, and my Spotify playlist jamming to their 3 favorite songs on repeat – Sia’s “The Greatest”, Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando”, and Maroon Five’s “Moves Like Jagger”. I then suggested a dance contest! Watching them copy each other and try to out-dance each other gave me deep tummy laughs, the kind that kinda hurt after a while. They loved it when I cheered their moves, screaming “oooh” and “ahhh” and “wow that is amazing!” I’m giggling as I write this. What brought me the deepest joy was to hear my niece shout at the top of her lungs over the music, “Di Hai (“eldest auntie” in Vietnamese), you’re the funnest adult in the world!” My heart still rings with joy when I think of this moment. I’ll keep it with me always. And it didn’t cost a thing.
The day before I went back to Cali, I got to spend an afternoon alone with my 3 year old nephew who is also my God son. My sister was at work, and my brother-in-law had a work meeting. His little brother was with the nanny. I had him all to myself. So I decided to take him out and about. I wish I had another day to spend an afternoon with him. It was the kind of afternoon that made me want to adopt a child of my own. Yeah, it was that good. The next day I was getting ready to head to the airport. His mom asked him, “Are you going to miss Di Hai?” He nodded yes. She asked if he wanted to go with me. He said in his toddler pronunciation, “Yeah, I want to go bisch. Ca-ta-on-ya!” Translation, “I want to go to the beach in California!” Another moment of pure joy. And it didn’t cost a thing. But when the day comes that he really can go to California, I will buy that plane ticket and take him to the beach and get him surf lessons and buy him snow cones and a California burrito and any other experience his heart desires. I can’t wait to spend my money on him and my other nephews and niece in those ways.
I landed on San Diego soil on a Friday night. I had a very meaningful conversation on the ride home from the airport with someone who trusted me enough to share something very personal. I felt it deepened our friendship as it took a lot of courage to share and not fear being judged. Before I went to bed, I took a hot bath in silence. I slept like a rock. My first full day back home in Oceanside was an exemplary day of the beautiful life I am blessed to live. On my morning walk to the beach with Pork Chop, we took a pit stop at the local mom and pop coffee shop to say hello to the owners., Roger and Vilai. I got a coffee and Roger gave Pork Chop a slice of cheese (spoiled, I know). I was really happy to see them. During the walk, I ran into my neighbor 3 doors down, Megan, with her dog Toby (he and Pork Chop are buddies). She and her husband, Al, came back recently from a trip to Asia. I was really happy to see her. On the way back, I ran into one of my volleyball buddies, Brody, and his 3 rescue dogs (they and Pork Chop are buddies). He came back recently from visiting his family in Utah. I was really happy to see him. All through the walk, my soul was happy – bumping into my neighbors, strangers saying hello, some petted Porky, and one couple wanted to take him home. The palm trees, the ocean, the good looking surfer guys and gals in their wet suits and boards in tow, the smiles from strangers, the waves from drivers at stop signs, all of it gave me joy. We were home at 8:55 am so I could get on my bike and cruise down to the volleyball courts by 9:00 am. I got to play with some of my crew – Gwen, Bridget, Tom, and Brody – for a few hours, and this made me so happy. After volleyball, Tom, Brody, and I had brunch at Petite Madeline. I got my favorite pastry – the all day bun. This made me very happy. On the way out the door, I saw my friend, Arthur, who just moved into a condo a few blocks away. I was so happy to see him and his son. What a cool surprise to catch them right when I was leaving and as they were coming in. When I got back to my building, I decided to stop by my neighbors, Phil and Paula (a retired sociologist from Arizona who worked for the United Nations in Africa, wow) who were in Montana for Christmas. Seeing them made me so happy. When I left, I saw 2 more neighbors, Lori and Krista, in the corridor, and we chatted for a bit. They’re both cancer survivors who were on their way to Petite Madeline to share their stories to each other, to find comfort in knowing they had a shared trauma from which they are both recovering, and from what I saw, they’re recovering beautifully. I was so happy to see them recovering with glowing faces and bright smiles. I finally went home, cleaned up, and took a 2 hour nap on the couch with Porky. Damn, it felt great and I was so happy. For dinner, I had Italian with a friend, Nady, from the old neighborhood where I lived before moving into the condo. Before he picked me up, I walked Porky, and I was reflecting on what a great day I had seeing all the wonderful people in my community. I thought it would be perfect if I saw my neighbors and co-workers, Chad and Erin, who live one block west of me. As I turned the corner of the street where they live, low and behold… there they are with their dog Bella!!! Bella and Pork Chop are not buddies lol. They came back recently from a visit to Seattle. I was so happy to see them! Dinner with Nady was delicious and we had a great conversation catching up because we hadn’t seen each other for several months. We’re not neighbors anymore, but we’re still friends. And this makes me really happy.
When I came home tonight, I couldn’t help but feel that I had to share all these very happy moments.
The start of this reflection was coming from a feeling of Bah Humbug, presented as a negative. I don’t like having negative feelings. The way I felt led me to a rejection of convention and tradition. I decided that it was ok to feel this way. But I needed to turn my frown upside down. I don’t need to feel bad nor sad nor mad about not buying gifts for Christmas. I can define my life in ways that are not conventional nor traditional. I’m a rebel girl. I’ll create a revolution of my own life. I had fun and love and joy with my niece and nephews, and I didn’t buy them any gifts for Christmas. They still love me. Today I had a day full of joy that didn’t require any gifts nor consumerism (except we gotta eat, right? so that’s ok! in fact, I love spending money on dining with or hosting meals for people). So I redefine my feelings and sense of self. Bah Humbug? Nah, Hummingbird – floating and zipping around all day, in search of, and when found, savoring, the sweet nectar of life: the sweetness of friendships, of community, of experiences, of good health, of play, of laughter, of pets, of sharing, and of caring. #RebelGirl #Revolution How will you define your 2018 to find the sweet nectar of life?