Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. In this episode, you will hear about a moment of adversity called Frozen in my Tracks, a moment of an encounter called Sounds from the Throat, and a moment of a perspective called Homes and Happiness.
Hello and welcome to Episode #42 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Frozen in my Tracks, Sounds From the Throat, and Homes and Happiness.
A moment of adversity called: Frozen In My Tracks
There were thirty dollars in my purse; I thought it was a lot of money for some reason. For the fourteen-year-old me, it was since I was not yet working but somehow accumulated that much from the kindness of others. Delighted to have that much, I folded the three ten-dollar bills in my maroon-colored clutch purse and zipped them up in the inner pocket of my purse.
Mom said she would be taking my older sister and me out to lunch, and perhaps we’d go shopping. Excited that I had money to spend, my purse, which was full of money, was ready to go!
The three of us went to a restaurant away from our suburban neighborhood. Mom said it was a place with the tastiest steak sandwiches in the city. We went, and indeed we each enjoyed a juicy steak sandwich, fries, and a Coke. After filling our tummies in satisfaction, we began walking back to the car.
As I was walking with my maroon clutch purse, suddenly, a child dashed over and grabbed my purse from behind me and ran away at lightning speed. I watched him run away so fast; the little kid looked like a marathon runner. He was so fast! I was shocked, with my heart pounding in fear. In the next moment, Mom yelled in a reprimanding way: “Why don’t you go chase after him?” I quickly realized I was frozen in my tracks. I couldn’t move; it was as if my shoes were glued to the cement beneath me. “Go!” screamed Mom. Still frozen, I could not move. Then Mom and my sister started walking, and seconds later, I seemed to snap out of it as I followed them towards the car.
I could only feel like I had done something horrible because Mom yelled at me for not chasing after the thief. No one seemed to care that I lost the thirty dollars that took me so long to save as no one mentioned anything about it. No one seemed to realize that I was frozen in shock to move. I felt even worse with Mom yelling at me in public while there were a couple of spectators on the sidewalk passing by.
I guess I ruined Mom’s day because we didn’t go shopping afterward. She just drove back home in silence. I had nothing to say about my immovable feet. All I could think of was that a horrible thing had happened to me. And it was made worse by a feeling that I did the most terrible thing because Mom seemed to yell at me for being so stupid.
Whatever happened after that incident, I don’t remember. But from that day forward, my relationship with purses changed forever.
If I could help it, I wouldn’t carry a purse. I would have jackets or pants with pockets to hold money and keys. If I had to take a bag, it would be a backpack, fanny pack, or a crossbody bag.
Though the incident occurred many years ago, I still have the steady and consistent habit of wearing crossbody bags or backpacks most of the time. If I didn’t, I would tightly take hold of the straps of my purse. I have long since gotten rid of all my clutch purses and would never carry another one.
It’s incredible how an incident that occurred for only a few moments could forever alter your behavior. As I have heard, we are a product of our experiences.
As horrifying as the experience was for teenage me, more heartbreaking was to know that my family was once more not there to help me or comfort me in times of adversity. However, because of the absence of family support throughout my life, I have learned to be the survivor I am. I will stand up for myself, help myself, and continue to practice being the bamboo that sways and bends but always stands back up. I persevere and refuse to fall; I am the bamboo that came into being because I have no loving family.
A moment of an encounter called: Sounds From the Throat
Directed to sit down, I sat down on a chair covered with royal-looking upholstery of maroon and gold-colored designs with tassels hanging down from the bottom edges. Arranged were only about twenty chairs, and each chair sat a quiet person. My tour guide told me I was about to hear something that most people in the world did not get to hear.
As everyone waited in silence, I wondered what I would hear that would be so unique that only a few people heard. With only a small group as an audience in this remote area, I felt warm and cozy in the dim light sitting among them. From my guide’s comment and the environment that surrounded me, I felt like I was about to witness something that most people did not get to experience. I was honored and thankful for the chance bestowed upon me.
Soon I saw musicians quietly walk in and sit down in the front with their instruments. They didn’t say a word or smile. Their faces looked like they were up to serious business. I wondered what kind of music I would hear. Surely it would be new to me as I was in a foreign country.
I was somewhere in the mountains. I was in a land where there were more animals than humans. During my tour, I did see more animals than people. One day when we stopped for a restroom break in the shallow bushes, I asked my tour guide if he were to abandon me how long it would be before I saw another human being. He said probably two years. I was shocked; I thought he was serious and I was frightened! Then I asked him how long it would be for him if I dropped him off! He said maybe two hours. “How could that be?” I said. He said he would follow some animals to find their way back to their owners. Indeed I would see some animals before I would see some humans!
I digress, but I felt so far from civilization as I waited for the performers to begin. They were four middle-aged men who looked solemn. Finally, they started playing the instruments softly. Then sounds came out of their throats. Frankly, it didn’t sound good, but it did sound different. I experienced something unique and appreciated the grandeur. My ears heard a group of renowned Mongolian throat singers for the first time.
I sat tall as if four wise men were seated before me and allowing me to listen in on their private party. I was curious to know if their throats hurt from throat singing. I wanted to inquire if they had any sheet music to learn or practice from and how did they signal each other to take turns singing?
I couldn’t say I enjoyed listening to the singing. But I did notice that my mind was full of questions about this throat singing I never knew existed. I wouldn’t say I liked hearing the singing, but I would report that I enjoyed having this rare experience and encounter with four men of nobility. Though it was not music to my ears, the encounters left an imprint in my memory because it was incredibly uncommon.
As I search for value or meaning in this life of mine, I tickle with joy to discover that each unique encounter or experience adds something special to a life that I thought was not so special. And each extraordinary happenstance makes for a fascinating life filled with value and wonder.
A moment of a perspective called: Homes and Happiness
For ten years, I owned my own home. It had three bedrooms and two full baths upstairs, a den, a living room with a fireplace, a nook, a kitchen, another full bath, a backyard, and two-car garage downstairs. Upstairs, the master bedroom with a walk-in closet was a decent size. A big dresser, a big bureau, and a pier closet on each side of my queen bed all fit nicely in my bedroom. A large office desk with three large filing cabinets was in my home office room, and a third bedroom was for any guests. They would also have a bathroom to themselves as there was a bathroom in the master bedroom for me.
Downstairs in the den, bookcases filled one side of the wall. On the second wall was a sizeable three-seater couch so comfortable that I often fell asleep on it. Against the third wall was the entertainment center, and the last wall was my working desk. I spent most of my time in this room. I could nap there, read books, watch TV, work on projects, or use my computer on the desk.
My garage, I was proud to show off. The previous owner was very handy; he had built a sturdy storage shelf across the top above my cars. He had a handyman's table at one corner, a cabinet at another corner, a washer and dryer in the middle of the back wall, and shoe racks right next to the door entering the house. I could store so many things in this garage, do my laundry there, and take off my shoes before entering the house. This house had good storage space, and the neighborhood was tranquil.
When I bought the house, others wondered why I bought such a big house for just one of me, but I had plans in mind. The plan was that it would be my very own house, and no one could kick me out. No one could say I didn't belong in it. When I would get remarried, he would have to move in. That way, I could not be kicked out. If something went wrong, he would have to move out, and I would still have my very own home. Why did I have such thoughts?
It probably stemmed from when I was five years old. Mom sent me to live with my grandparents in another state because my young mom had difficulty raising three kids, and Grandma wanted to help. The five-year-old me decided that Mom sent me away because I wasn't wanted or loved. So, I felt kicked out of the home. Living with my grandparents, my uncles would every so often remind me that I didn't belong. Uncle Holden said, "You don't belong here; you are only here because your parents don't want you." Uncle Ray said, "You are not a part of this family; you shouldn't put so many things here." They were teenagers, and I was a child; I wondered if it ever occurred to them how hurtful their words were to me. Probably not.
When I graduated from college and got my first apartment, I said to myself, "At last! I have a home of my own. No one can say I don't belong in it; no one can kick me out!" It felt like my very first home; it was such a warm feeling. It was a small two-bedroom apartment. I had a roommate for a year and then decided I enjoyed the place by myself and could afford it, so why not!
The linoleum flooring was yellow and tan. The kitchen counter was a yellow-tan butcher block color, and the cabinets were dark brown. I'd say it was an ugly kitchen. It was no fancy apartment, but it was cozy. The sunny yellow painted walls added to the warm feeling it emitted. My Goodwill store furniture was Formica yellow and white. I thought it matched so well with my sunny yellow walls. My fabric three-seater couch was full of yellow flowers. It might sound like too much yellow, but it wasn't. It was a warm and cozy apartment.
It was also conveniently located in the heart of San Francisco in the North Beach District near Fisherman's Wharf, Crookedest Street, and Chinatown. You could easily get a good workout walking up and down the hills or sidewalks nearby. You could also walk to Chinatown for some good old Chinese food or walk to Fisherman's Wharf for some good old sourdough bread and seafood or have some Italian pastries or spaghetti very nearby. I thought I'd live in it a few years until I married someone, but I ended up living in it until I married someone else nine years later.
I was sad to leave my apartment. My husband could not understand why I was sad because I would move into a house he owned, a place that looked much nicer than my apartment. Not long after getting married, friends inquired about my new home, and one by one, I invited them over.
One time, I invited my friend, Bessie, to come over after work, and she only visited for a short while. But when my husband discovered that I had invited a friend over without first telling him, he was infuriated. He said, "Why didn't you ask me for permission before you did that? This house is mine; you need to ask for permission!" He continued to scream at me. Fortunately, his father was coming by to visit and asked what the matter was. "Your son," I said, "says that this is his house, and I didn't ask permission for a friend to visit." Now my nightmare came back to me.
Here I was, a newlywed, my husband had bought the house before we were married, and I did not belong in it because I didn't purchase it, so to him, I was a guest of it. I felt like running home to my apartment, the apartment that belonged to me, that I rented before I got married, but it was no longer mine. I had no other home to go to; I didn't belong in a home again.
Five years later, we moved into a new home. I wised up this time. We bought the house in both our names. It was a beautiful house; in fact, I chose it, and he agreed to it. There were five bedrooms and three bathrooms, a kitchen, a nook, a living room, a family room, a dining room, a three-car garage, a backyard, and a front lawn.
My favorite place was the bathroom and closet in the master bedroom. The closet was a walk-in closet the size of a small bedroom. It could fit all my clothes, coats, and shoes in it and I had a lot. Next to the closet was the bathroom that was the size of a medium-sized bedroom. It had a bathtub and a separate shower with a bench to sit down if you so wished. It had a two-sink counter with a long drawer in between to serve as the make-up area. The bathroom was so big that sometimes I'd play music in there and dance around. Best of all, I had the bathroom and closet all to myself. Hubby had his bathroom upstairs too. He had his own home office where he'd put his clothes in there. I had my home office room too. The last bedroom upstairs was supposed to be for a future baby or two.
Downstairs, the kitchen had more than enough cabinets to store all the kitchen dishes and appliances. One cabinet was always full of snacks because skinny hubby ate many snacks and never got fat; unbelievable. Though we had a three-car garage, hubby had two cars parked outside, which we usually used, and one inside. The one inside was his "baby." It was just a regular Toyota Camry, but he just seemed to love it more than the other cars. Anyway, his tools for fixing cars and other things filled the spaces in the garage. My bathroom was my favorite place, and the garage was his kingdom.
As big and beautiful as this house was, the day came when we got a divorce. He assumed and led me to believe that the house was his because he made more money than me to buy me out. The house, material things were more important to him. My freedom from him was more important to me, so we each got what we wanted most.
Still, fortunately, I could buy a house of my own. As mentioned earlier, having a home of my own was very important because it meant that no one could kick me out or say I didn't belong in it. I thought I would stay in it forever, but fate wouldn't have it.
I had quit my stable job, went into business, and failed miserably. I sold my house on a short sale and had to empty its contents that accumulated many years of things. Since I had decided to move out of the country, I needed to get rid of many things. The process of getting rid of things was heart-wrenching. I had accumulated so many things over the years. I didn't throw out anything unless it was broken, torn, stained, or irreparable. Knowing how difficult it would be for me, I asked a friend to help me decide which clothes to donate and which to keep. I asked another friend to help me decide what to do with my other things. It was painful; it was sad because it felt like throwing money away in the garbage can.
I had worked hard; I had worked for years to be able to buy all the possessions I had. It was also like throwing away my accomplishments. It seemed like it took so long to rid things because it was so unenjoyable. Then there were the pictures, the memorabilia, what was I supposed to do with them? I did not need them abroad, but they were meaningful treasures. I kept some things in storage, and perhaps money was wasted by paying for storage to keep them.
With some stuff in storage, I left the USA with two suitcases and one carry-on luggage as that was all that was allowed for free when traveling. I didn't know how anyone's life possessions could just fit in two and a half suitcases, but I had to do it.
Upon arriving in another country, I quickly began work and was engrossed in hectic work and social life. I soon discovered that I could live without most of the material possessions I had. I didn't even miss them. I had a hard time letting go and felt sad about letting go of them just months before.
Looking at the studio room I lived in, I could see my whole place sitting in one spot. That means it was a small place, but it didn't need to be any larger because I had everything I needed there. And I didn't need all the things I had before. Life was a lot simpler with fewer things.
Interestingly, I enjoyed a happy existence in the tiny studio room for the most part. Everything I needed was within reach in a matter of seconds. Everything that was there was needed; there was no wasted space. It was a square room. There was a rug at the center of the room, and on one side was a couch. In front of my sofa and rug was my big desktop that served to be like a TV. To the upper left corner of all this was my bed. To the bottom left of all this was my closet. There's even space to prance around, so it wasn't cramped or anything. I so loved this design and even miss it now. What I loved most was the wall next to the bed. It was all windows so that natural sunlight would fill the room with warmth during the day. That was all I needed in this one-room place I called home.
I lived with relatives who told me I didn't belong. I lived with a husband in a house, and he told me I was a guest. I lived in my own big house, a small apartment, and a studio room alone. Whether a home is big, medium, or small, didn't matter. What mattered was if I belonged in them. The house that was all mine, the apartment I rented, and the studio room I rented were mine, and I was happy where I belonged, where I felt at home.
Key Takeaways: Though a small kid snatched my purse from me, it created a safety habit for me to carry crossbody bags or backpacks. Though Mom's unsupportive reaction traumatized me, it helped me to become the "bamboo" that may sway and fall but always get back up when faced with adversity.
Though I didn't enjoy listening to throat singing, I was in awe of having a unique experience.
Though I have lived in small, medium, and large size homes, the best homes were the ones where I felt like I belonged.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called Never Go to Sri Lanka, Using a Child as a Broom, and Unclutter the Cluttered.
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