Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about How to Turn Wounds Into Wisdom and Tangible vs. Intangible Gifts.
Comments or questions are welcomed on Twitter @emilykaytan OR on my website.
Hello and welcome to episode #51 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. 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 How to Turn Wounds into Wisdom and Tangible vs. Intangible Gifts.
How to Turn Wounds into Wisdom
My fourteen-year-old student asked me, “Teacher, what does it feel like to be old like you?” Instead of getting offended, I had to laugh at his innocence. But in the next moment, I whipped out an unexpected answer that came out of my mouth. I said, “Well, I would like to be young like you and have all the strength to do active sports, but I am glad to be old and have wisdom.” My response surprised him as he smiled and had no verbal response. More importantly, I was surprised at what came out of my mouth. As soon as I said it, I no longer felt sad to be old. I felt proud to have had many experiences in life which gave me wisdom. Once disturbed by becoming older and older, I now had an appreciation for the wisdom that comes with it.
Wounded by Mom, who sent me away at the age of five to live with Grandma Sandy, I carried the thick scar for the greater part of my life until I realized its impact. Though I felt unloved, unwanted, and unworthy for much of my life, I tried to do many things on my own to say that I didn’t need Mom or anyone. While that was the child in me acting rebellious, I mustered the strength to be independent. I walked eight minutes to the bus stop by myself at age eight. I learned to take the subway on my own to go to an after-school class when I was twelve. I found a way to pay for my college education when I was seventeen. That was my proudest accomplishment.
Through the struggles, I developed creative skills to solve many problems; I self-learned and searched for information or knowledge to help me. My survival instinct allowed me to do it all, but it also took a tenacious character. The determined me found my worthiness in myself rather than in a family that didn’t care for my existence.
Feeling tossed at age five, I fought my way to become self-sufficient. Though it was a traumatic experience, it developed me into a strong woman who is brave and independent. Of course, I could have taken a different path, like drugs, alcohol, or even murder, to deal with my pain, but I didn’t. Perhaps I wanted to prove myself worthy, so I did things to lead me to a better future. Maybe I thought my relatives never thought I would amount to anything, so I had to prove them wrong. I had to prove to the world that I was somebody. I wasn’t going to be a nobody because Mom tossed me away. I am a somebody with stories to tell, anecdotes to share, and experiences to touch others.
Devastated by a boyfriend who cheated on me, I ceased to love again until I learned to forgive. I considered myself observant and reasonably intelligent, but I got blind-sided by a cheating boyfriend. I believed myself to be strong as a bamboo that may fall and bend but would always swing back up, but the devastation of the breakup and the betrayal left me moving like a robot with no feelings. Shocked and numbed, my gears shifted to the neutral position. It was strange to be not happy and not sad about it all. I was a feelingless human being.
An escape to another country helped me forget the devastation. Though I lived far away in another country for years, the cheating boyfriend would occasionally show up in my dreams and let me know that I did not forget the trauma. With remnants of the shock still in existence, I decided to take a personal development course to resolve the issue. It helped me discover that I was punishing myself because I had not fully forgiven him or myself in the relationship. I was right, and he was wrong, so I couldn’t find a way to forgive. And because I didn’t forgive, I punished myself with a ten-year sentence. The aha moment came to me. Refusal to forgive is to punish and torture me. I was self-righteous, so that I couldn’t forgive, but I didn’t want to punish myself. I didn’t know I was torturing myself by being unforgiving. In a simple declaration spoken aloud, I forgave him and myself. Suddenly, after ten years of being in the jail of torture and self-induced punishment, I freed myself from the chains of unforgiveness. Freedom stepped forward, and the door to love opened; it was exhilarating! Wisdom healed the wounds.
Helpless by a worldwide pandemic that left me jobless and homeless, I was panic-stricken until I found my escape. Without a job for over a year, my savings quickly dwindled, and I was on the brink of being unable to pay the rent. Though I had some emergency funds, dipping into them led to their depletion, too. Luckily a friend allowed me to stay with her indefinitely, but I still needed to pay for food and other necessities. Each day was an attempt to figure out how to overcome the travel ban, preventing me from moving overseas, where I had a job waiting for me. Every day was like an attempt to climb Mount Everest; when I reached the top, I would be out of my misery, but how would I get through the climb?
Visualizing the existence of possibility, seeing ‘I am possible’ instead of ‘impossible,’ propelled me to press forward and pull out my creative problem-solving skills to help me. I read and reread news and travel restriction updates. I discussed the problem with my most gracious friend, who allowed me to stay in her home. By seeing possibility, we devised an idea within the restrictions that allowed me to travel where I needed to go. I took action to resolve the issue and relieve the pain and desperation. Sitting in a state of limbo was over when I finally boarded a plane to my new home and job.
With each challenge, the pain seemed hard to bear. Though my insides felt weaker and weaker, I fought harder and harder to overcome. I call it a matter of survival. It was life or death to me. With all the pain endured, I began to feel life was too hard to live. Maybe I was having a mid-life crisis, but I had several of them already! Then I shared some personal stories with others. I wrote some into books and spoke some into a podcast. Through sharing, writing, and speaking, eye-opening moments came to turn my wounds into wisdom.
I learned that my feelings and thoughts resonated with others to give them food for thought, move them, or inspire them! The unexpected responses were like a dream come true by accident! Most satisfying was hearing others cry because my stories of adversity inspired them. The tears gave me the strength to continue to express my experiences and feel contentment that I could make a difference for others. Looking for positive results out of negative situations helped lift the pain in the wounds. Wounds heal with lessons learned through writing or speaking them, and wisdom makes for a meaningful life.
Tangible vs. Intangible Gifts
Keith, my first love who stamped a permanent place in my heart, gave me two caterpillars on a leaf figurine that said, “Happiness is being together.” He also gave me a stuffed white unicorn with a golden horn that could clip on a rod, a triangular piece of dark green jade, small books about friendship with mice pictures, many bookmarks with a mouse saying sweet phrases, a set of stuffed mice hugging each other. Keith gave them to me many years ago, but I still have all of them and will never part with them. He was the love of my life; he remains to be the one person who understands me the most.
Evan, my most romantic platonic friend, gave me a silk scarf, a silk pillowcase with embroidered children on them, a gold-plated ring with two connected hearts, a Swarovski bracelet with pink and white gems, a watch with a brown leather band, a computerized photo of us together. I have kept everything he gave me; he has a unique place in my heart. Though I did not love him romantically, I consider him a special friend.
My ex-husband Anson gave me a mountain bike, a basket with an Easter bunny and egg-shaped chocolate wrapped in silver foil with pink lines, a stuffed panda, and many other things. I was touched when he bought me the expensive mountain bike when we had been dating for only a few months. However, many years later, I sold the mountain bike when I moved out of the country and sold or dumped everything else he gave me, including our wedding pictures. I haven’t found the right words, but I call it a relationship I just wanted to dump in the garbage can.
Auntie Tessa gave me my first stuffed animal: a snow-white bear and a dozen roses. I remember this because she gave me two things I had never received from anyone before she gave them to me. Auntie Tessa was like the big sister I never had. We lived in the same house with Grandma and shared many activities and fun like sisters.
Grandma Sandy gave me at least nine dresses; it was one dress for each birthday from age 5 to 13 when I first lived with her. She also gave me a silver ring with aqua-blue and green stone colors. My last precious gift from her was a jade ring when I got my graduate degree. She knew I loved jade, and she knew my accomplishment was no easy feat because I went to school and worked full-time. Grandma Sandy was the one who raised me, gave me specific values, and constantly lectured me to be a good girl and to study hard. I think I made her proud, and she deserves the credit for me turning out to be a decent human in the world.
Dad once gave me a watch; I remember because he rarely gave me anything. Mom gave me a blow dryer, a curling hair set, and a record player. I remember getting the blow dryer and curling set because I was not happy about something, and the purchase of those items was supposed to fix everything. I remember getting the record player because I played music in the living room, and my older sister didn’t like it. So, Mom got me a record player to use in the privacy of my bedroom when I lived with them for two years. She bought it so I would not annoy my older sister. The few things I got from her were practical or useful items. They are now long gone in some landfill. There was no sentiment in the gifts or the relationship with her.
All the tangible gifts could easily be discarded and forgotten after some time. We never toss out some presents, while we quickly toss out others. I can’t believe it has been decades since I first got the stuffed mice hugging each other from Keith. And it is currently still on my bedroom bureau! I keep the stuffed animals from my first love and dump my wedding album. Interesting. It is food for thought.
We also get intangible gifts from others. We don’t often think about the intangibles, but we get precious and priceless intangible gifts from others. They could last longer and affect us more than tangible gifts. They are more food for thought.
Everett, a language partner of mine, unknowingly gave me several invaluable gifts. Through our conversations, he helped me realize that all my adversities were a part of the spices in my life, and they were not necessarily bad to have. We all have dull, happy, exciting, and challenging moments. The variety all combines to make an abundant life. I never considered that I had an abundant life, but Everett helped me see that I do. The lessons learned, the new perspectives, and the insights gained all make for a meaningful life. What could be more precious than feeling that we have a meaningful life? Everett inspired me to write about my moments of adversity, encounters, & perspectives. I am tickled to be a published author and overjoyed to have found a passion for writing. Thank you, Everett.
Keith, my first love and best friend gave me encouragement and strength to move forward whenever I had a problem. His perceptive understanding of me gave me comfort. Though he is a part of my past, he continues to comfort me in my heart. Whenever I feel misunderstood, I am comforted knowing that someone in the world understands me, and it is Keith. Though he is no longer by my side to encourage me, in my mind, I can hear him whispering words of encouragement and giving me the strength I need. He is forever in my heart. Thank you for always being with me always and forever, Keith.
Selina, the most valuable friend you could have, is my friend. Her generosity and kindness are immeasurable. Her example always reminds me to be more giving, kind, and helpful to others. I know of no one else who would have done what she did for me. When my grandmother died, she flew from the west to the east coast to attend my grandmother’s funeral when I needed someone by my side.
When I lost my business and boyfriend at the same time and needed to get away, Selina arranged for me to stay with three sets of her relatives for free. It was at different locations in another country. When my belongings were shipped overseas, and there was a travel ban because of the pandemic, I couldn’t move abroad as scheduled and be present to sign the necessary documents. Customs said my possessions would be auctioned off if someone from the USA didn’t sign the papers. Luckily, Selina was a citizen and could fly over and sign the papers. She also had to go into quarantine for two weeks. What friend would do that for you? Thank you, Selina.
The intangibles remind me to appreciate what others give us and to show others we thank them for their contribution to enriching our lives. As Art Buchwald said, “The best things in life aren’t things.”
Tangible gifts could come and go. They could be easily bought and quickly dumped. Intangible gifts could come and go if you don’t take notice. We value the tangible presents we keep. We must also notice the importance of intangible presents others give to us. They add to our zest for life!
Though a number of adversities have deeply hurt me, I have learned lessons and gained much wisdom from them.
Though I have gotten many tangible gifts over the years, the most precious ones are the intangible gifts that impact lives positively.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called From Shameful to Shameless and An Unexpected Path Taken. If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!