An unaffordable Lesson

We were visiting LA this October and my daughter was suffering from earache and fever. As foreigners, we fell into a panic because we were out of town. We called her doctor, who suggested us to take her to a walk-in urgent center since she might need antibiotics for the infection.

We didn’t worry much about the fee, given that we pay  every month a big amount of money for the medical insurance. It was later that we realized that we had committed a huge mistake by going to the children’s hospital emergency room. But it was a mistake that we could not avoid. Who would have time to google the difference between an urgent care center and the emergency center?

We were not happy in the waiting room but surprised by the three hours that passed by before being checked up. Claire had ear infection and needed antibiotics. 5 minutes later, we were ready to go.

Then, the story began. At the door, we were asked to pay 150 dollars for the co-pay. I paid although the fee did surprise me. Then, one week later, we got another bill which said that the treatment cost 166 dollars and that besides the insurance, we still should pay 114 dollars by ourselves. I accepted and paid.  Another week later, we got a second bill which listed 695 dollars for the hospital charges. It is said that our insurance covered 184 and we still owe 360 dollars to the hospital. I was shocked.

I never expected to pay in total 861 dollars for an ear infection treatment which lasted 5 minutes. Even with a good insurance coverage, we still should pay 624 dollars by ourselves. That was crazy.

So I asked my friends for advice. All I got was the same anger against the medical service and the suggestion to avoid any contact with hospitals and doctors. They told me that I mad a huge mistake to go to the emergency room, that gave me the only reason to accept the situation.

I don’t know how people can handle such situation if they are not familiar with the system and have no courage to fight back. An individual will never win the battle against a huge and complicated system. It’s all-consuming.

Why are we so afraid of divorce?

I was back to Shanghai for two weeks and had serval gatherings with my friends and colleagues. The major topic of our talk around a cup of coffee or a table full of varied dishes is to complain our miserable marriage life. “What’s new about our other classmates? Has anyone already got divorced?” this question, although with negative response, did trigger some compulsive comments on the sustainability of our own marriage.

For our partners and our parents, gossip, whether it relates to ourselves or others, was just a killing-time leisure for women. For us, it was also an effective remedy of our depression. One began to talk about the neglect of her husband in all fields, not only the chores, but also the education of the child, the concern of her feelings, the abusive absence at home. Another followed, adding that her child’s daddy was even worse. Then, it turned out a competition of describing the most miserable life that we have endured.

However, nobody mentioned the possibility of divorce. This unwillingness to reach such a solution is not a sign to undermine the validity of all complaints but an indicator of another bigger problem : we are so afraid of divorce, at least women, at least in China. Our parents already told us to endure the common disappointment of marriage life and have cited numerous examples witch ended deplorable. The devaluation of a divorced woman is especially huge and unworthy, affecting even the woman’s job and social relationship. Besides and after all,  we all give too much privilege to our children, whom we could never imagine suffering the mock of peers.

Then, after indulging ourselves into a storm of accusation, as if letting out all harmful energy, we began offering strategies to handle with a namely miserable life. Some showed their knowledge about make-ups, believing that a refreshing image of oneself can cheer up. Some asserted the importance of career performance, holding that having a respectable income is the basic guarantee of their independence. Some even swore to take vacation alone to gain more hope and optimism. All affirmed our need to have more friends and more hand-out.

Nobody suggested a talk with her husband nor a try to reshape the life style. We all don’t want a divorce, neither another chance to meet a better man, neither to negotiate a better way to handle the current indifference in family. Why? After nearly ten years being together, we all know so much about the other person lying on the same bad. We are all frightened by our potential power to declare the war.

But still, it’s so complicated to explain the fear of divorce which is torturing and tempting. In spite of our education background which emphasized  women’s freedom and self-sufficiency, even with a decent job and social position, we are ultimately determined by our own original family.  We grew up listening our mothers complain about our fathers. Sometimes, we would rather prefer their divorce in stead of suffering the constant stress in family. Nevertheless, we clearly remembered how many nights we refused to sleep because sacred by the idea of our parents’ divorce.

Now,  when we have reached such a period where the disappointment of our partner becomes daily, our mothers’ pessimism automatically activated us. Their fear of divorce was so deeply and dramatically rooted in our mind that we repeat unconsciously their stroy.

Being busy is great!

I had a busy September. First, getting a new car means taking more responsibilities in family work. Second, preparing GRE and taking the test were stressful and my brain kept complaining. Third, I finally got a part-time job as a French teacher.  To well begin my new professional life, I should dedicate more time and  energy.

Thus, I had no time to read newspapers, to aliment my blogs, to stay online in social media, neither to hike nor to swim.

However I felt so good. I didn’t mind any annoying comments from my husband which, generally, would make us argue. I didn’t stick to some weird reactions from my friends, which normally made me upset. Especially, I had no time to worry about my future.

Being busy is great. I like to make my agenda full. Although as my husband said, you could not concentrate on everything in order to make sure of your success. He was right and predicted well the frustrating result of my GRE. But I still loved September, because I was hopeful and energetic.

The most regrettable thing is that I didn’t write much, neither for practicing nor for recording my thoughts. If it’s good to be busy, it’s not good to use it as an excuse to give up thinking. I hesitated many times before resisting a writing impulse.

I will embrace a very busy October and I hope to do better everyday.

Would you like to have a walk to the trash can?

The community’s recycle trash can is about 200 meters away from our condo, which makes me unwilling to get out immediately our daily waste. Since bottles and papers can wait, I indulge myself in accumulating garbage at home while my husband sometimes cannot overlook my negligence.

It was another tropical day. He was eating his breakfast and would stay at home for work. I quickly rushed out with two bags of bottles, directing to the trash can. There were two more left in the corner of an unoccupied room, so I needed to repeat the journey.

“Where were you?” He was surprised to notice my morning disappearance.

“To throw away recyclable trash.”

“Why didn’t you ask me to go with you? You went there twice?”

This question stunned me. Why? Apparently, there was no need, because I’m not a baby and that’s just a common daily chore.

But why not? Because it’s kind of weird to be seen walking together to the trash can. A middle-aged couple, on a working day morning. Would our neighbors think that we were going to move out? Would they guess wrong about our intimacy or dependence?

This can be a common moment of everyone’s daily life. But why don’t we walk together, to check the mail box, to throw garbage, or just to have a walk.? Young couples feel happy to show their intimacy and stay eager to accompany each other. Old couples generally do things together, as their daily program tend to be the same. While middle-aged couples unconsciously diminish opportunities to be seen together, except for some special reasons.

We divide family chores. We go to grocery shop alone. We walk children or dogs alone. We do workout alone. Maybe we are so busy to lose time for a meaningless help. However, after the dinner, when it’s cooled down outside and we all have time to waste, we are still reluctant to go for a walk together. Maybe we think that we are not old enough.

However, if we walked together to the trash can, what would be different? We may talk? We may enjoy together the morning sunshine that was not yet killing? We may stay silent but feel a little cheered with the presence of another in doing such a mundane affaire?

If so, later, when I see the piles of trash at home, I would not foresee the angry face of my husband criticizing my laziness and incompetence. In stead, I would remember his warm suggestion to walk together these 200 meters.

Exhibit your joy at the risk of gaining hatred

It’s summer. Every social media is flooded by pictures showing magnificent landscapes, stunning discoveries and huge smiles. Judging only by this array of beauty, we might believe that the whole world is on vacation. What’s more? The whole world is happy.

The nature is generous, but we seldom are.

“It’s enough! Don’t post pictures any more. Didn’t you notice that less and less friends had voted ‘like’? You are making them miserable.”

That’s a reasonable comment.

Who would remain calm seeing others enjoy their vacation without a bit of envy? Who would share others’ joy without dreaming that one day he could experience the same? For diverse reasons, many people cannot afford nature’s grandeur in summer. The daily routine appears extremely unbearable when others’ happiness confirms that the world is unfair.

However, I still love posting beautiful pictures in social media.  They have recorded ephemeral moments of our life but magnify good feelings: the bouquet of flowers that I bought from the supermarket, a free ballon offered to my daughter,  a funny drawing that the safeguard made on our receipt, the puddle that reflects my smiling face…

I love appreciating others’ pictures and their joyful discoveries: the green plants on their office desk, their resolution of daily workout, the first steps of their babies, delicious home-made dishes, some interesting graffiti that they passed by…Even we are not on vacation, we still have so many amazing things to admire and to cherish.

When we are happy, we naturally eager to shout out our joy to the world. When we share the beauty of life, we seldom care wether it would gain a consensus of “like” or accumulate “dislike” even “hatred”.

Everyday, we spend too much time on line. Unfortunately most of the news makes us pessimist and uneasy. So why refuse to diverse our eyes and mindset?  In stead of spreading heart-braking news, let’s embrace beauty and happiness in social media.

Exhibit our joy and appreciate others’.

Love notes

The new school year started and Claire was excited to discover her new class and become one of the Super Stars. Ms Terry, her new teacher, had cut hundreds of heart-formed notes in summer, using various kinds of papers. It would be a terrific idea: Every day, each child brings one heart note written by his parent and Ms Terry has a fixed time to read them all before exhibiting them on the classroom wall.

I quickly embraced this idea although as many parents, I wondered what to write on these notes today or two weeks later. At the Open House Evening, parents were amazed by so many colorful love notes perching on the yellow wall like small butterflies. “So much love !” “So beautiful!”We were curious to reread our own notes and to discover others. Definitely, all kids love this daily activity: reading love notes from parents.

For those new students, who has begun their school life but still have stress in being separated from parents, the love note is a bridge, a connection and an encouragement. I imagine that the little girl must feel better with a little heart in hand when her mom says Goodbye. The moment of sharing everyone’s love note would also be fun, since kinds are proud of being loved and curious towards others’ stories.

I’m right. Claire loves this idea so much! She even draws some nice things between the lines of our message. One day, she told me that her love note had made all class laugh, because I was praising her of washing her underwear by herself. I didn’t mean to make things funny, but I do prefer detailed praise. “Have a good day! Love You !” This was the first note I wrote, as other parents did. Our kids would never feel bored by this kind of daily platitude, but I was unsatisfied with the repetition the day later. I begun to write down some concrete praises and even tried to share some wisdom, although I wasn’t sure she could understand all.

One morning, she insisted to wear a long dress to be a princess, while I disagreed because she would have gym class in the morning. A 4 year-old girl can easily get capricious and stubborn. “I can still do gym in dress.” she was mad at breakfast.I picked up the heart note and wrote:”My dear princess Claire, what ever you wear, you are so beautiful! You can shine by dressing up or at the gym class.” She left with the love note, which I expected would revive our dialogue.

Ms Terry was generous, assuring us that it was OK to forget the love note. Teachers will check and make everyone have one. Even our morning schedule is not tight, sometimes, I wrote the note in a hurry.  So I suggested to share the mission with Claire’s daddy, who accepted it with pleasure. The first time, he wrote down some commonplace before adding several drawings to make the note more charming. The second time, he passed 15 minutes on it without catching an idea.

“Write some details. Describe one situation. Imagine one activity…” I was just suggesting.

Suddenly, so many joyful pictures hopped out and Daddy wrote:”It was so fun to play the ballon with you!” “Even when I was angry, I still love you!””You are so cooperative !””There is no fire, I will protect you.” He could even finished one week’s notes.

Writing love notes can be a routine, but if you put some love in it, it can be a wonderful thing. Sometimes, I copied several beautiful phrase that we read together at bed time. Sometimes, I reminded Claire of her baby stories. Sometimes, I just asked a funny question. Every time I was working on that small love note, even it took me only one minute, I felt so concentrated, so happy and so hopeful, as if my day was lightened up, as if we all could begin a meaningful and joyful day with enough energy.

When we are old…

When queuing after an old couple in the supermarket,  I turned to my husband and said, “you’d better keep your shape, otherwise I will have problem to carry you when you are old.” It was a spontaneous reaction, as other remarks I made in our daily life. I even didn’t reason before saying it out, but I’m sure it was not a joke, neither of the old couple or of my husband.

In fact, since we always meet lots of old couples doing things together, in the supermarket or on the street, I couldn’t help myself imagine my life at their age. Most of time, beside an empathy towards these old couples, I admire their companionship. It’s rare to see young family handing out together in supermarket, since shopping is considered as a boring routine, a chore that one can handle with alone. However, when people become very old, shopping together in the grocery may turn out to be an essential part of their daily life. Compared with the images where single old women or men push their wheels and pick items with their trembling hands, old couples and their cooperative gestures always convey a joy of deep and long love. This kind of scene warms my heart.

“Even now, you barely can carry me!!” My husband seemed irritated by my words, “I have no hope in depending on you.”

What he said was true but hurting. I held my tongue and we passed to the cashier with a forced smile. At that moment, the picture of our future life appeared miserable.

Such conversation undermines our marriage life, due to the mutual misinterpretations. We definitely have different perspectives. When I foresee our retired life, I depict a companionship whose details are overwhelmed by the harmony tone. When I said “don’t be too heavy”, I just could not fit an over-weighted couple into our own  future’s imaginary. However, my husband is used to focus on realistic details. The picture in his mind underlines all the difficulties that old people may encounter.

We were both mad. I was disappointed that he had belittled my ability as a partner and caregiver, while he was frustrated by the fear of being old and dependent. We’d better avoid this kind of topic.

However, we do share a common perspective which allow us to imagine being together when we are old. We will be together, like this couple in front of us, who may have many problems in life but still or more in love.