For every new job or new mission, we are well prepared and we tell ourselves and others that we can do it and succeed. We have the ability and we are eager to demonstrate it. But there is an important step before we lauch ourselves and go fight for the promissed success, that is to open the door and get that permission to try.

The world is not made of logic niether with pure fairness. There are so many factors that contribute to the success of your own life and career: competitition, relationship and chance. Even if you have the strength and the confidence, the good result is not guaranteed. That’s why we feel frustrated.

When I use this world, I feel hopeless because I have done all that I could but the situation depended on external factors.I do believe that life will compensate those who work hard and keep optimist, but sometimes a pessimist opinion will allow us to consider more realistic obstacles. The New York Times has republished an article that illustrates the same philisophie: The power of negative thinking.

Feeling frustrated is a normal life experience, through which we learn how to see the world from more different perspectives. Yes, nobaby can control us but we neither can control everything.

How did the election divide my friends

In the parking lot, I heard such greetings between two old ladies and an old man. The man asked them how was their day. They had just attended a gathering to support Hillary and hopefully declared their favor of the candidate. “While I’m a Trump guy.” followed the man. “Then, we are not friends any more.” The two women entered in their car and drove away.

This dialogue amazed me, yet I still doubted about the irony or the joke in such a daily communication. I had never taken the political opinion into consideration when I make friends. First, it’s not easy to know others’ real opinion about a delicate issue. Second, in China we hardly debated on politics, which turned out to be pure chatting. Third, it’s easy to reach a consensus when we all complain about the government but not in support of a certain leader.

The new age comes where we are all connected in the social web, which makes the expression of our own beliefs easy and the others’ opinion transparent. By reading others’ comments and declarations, we constantly redefine the profile that they project in our mind. “I never know that she was so stupid!” “How extreme you are!””That’s a great deal of hatred!” “Never could I discuss with him any more.”

Although the recent presidential election didn’t concern directly me neither most of my friends, which was also a main reason that we discussed much more than an average U.S citizen in his surroundings, we all had the impression that many walls were being built up between us as our discussion went on with more and more disagreement. Some dialogue even became an accusation, a deception of trust, and a reason to end the friendship.

“Let’s hope another victory in France, with a true empowered woman!” declared one of my friend this morning. This made me so angry that I instantly block our communication. Another friend also cheered up by sharing some dirty jokes, which made me sick all morning. How could I believe that they are all actual teachers in university. They accused me of my elitism and my blindness of the reality, while I felt so humiliated by their arrogance and discrimination.

I don’t know whether our friendship will survive after this turmoil. To ensure the longevity of any relationship, we should never stand too close, because each individual has a natural defense of his basic needs including safety and self-esteem.



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.

Should I tip?

When it comes to tip, my husband and I are easily in disagreement. In China, we only thought of bargain and never have been bothered with this idea. When traveling in Europe, we were asked to pay a certain sum to the local guide. Since it’s an obligation due to the local manners, we accepted without any complaint. In restaurant, the bill would come with a notice on it, informing us that the tip was already counted into the total price. When we went to the theater, we followed others to give the seat-guide one coin.

In U.S, many situations confused and even embarrassed us. We spent our first days in a well-known global hotel. To our big surprise, after three days, the room was not cleaned up in time. “How could it be?” My husband insisted that it was our own problems, such as too many toys on floor…It was later that one of my friend reminded me of the tipping question. “Maybe we didn’t tip the room service!” concluded my husband, “that was a lesson.”

Since then, we became more aware of such subtle question and learned how to tip in restaurant. Yet, the question affects our meals. If the waiter is especially solicitous, we tend to wonder how much should we pay as tip,15% or 20%. “Hard working always deserves more,”we all agree. Even we prefer not to be interrupted by the waiter, we should show a friendly smile back from time to time. When the food is not good and the service is banal, we still tip the “called minimum 15%”. As my husband says, “Avoid mistakes!” Until now, I was a little nervous when picking up a take-away pizza without writing the tip sum.

The question became inevitable and controversial when we were traveling this summer. In our fist hotel’s shuttle bus, I noticed a band saying that “Gratuity is not necessary but appreciated”. My French tricked me, because in French, “gratuit” means “free”. We understood quickly that it refers to tip. For our 4 rides on the shuttle bus, we paid the first go and back. After noticing that others didn’t pay, we followed naturally but still felt embarrassed when passing by the driver.

The first day, we left one dollar in the room for the cleaning service. The next day morning, when I was busy preparing to check out, my husband was seeking all pockets and purses for a coin. “No need! we are leaving!” I was direct. “Be polite! We stayed two nights and only paid one time!” he refuted.”What? but it’s a new day and the cleaning is beneficial for the next guest!” I continued my reasoning, which got an other unfriendly comment,”You are so mean!”

The same kind of quarrel occurred when we checked in a hotel which has a valet-parking. It was in a crowded tourist area, near the beach and the commercial center. The hotel was expensive and we never expected to pay an even unacceptable fee for the parking-30 dollars per day. It was our first time to encounter the valet-parking, which made us bewildered. We quickly searched the internet for a proper decision, and only got vagus answers: “Tips are very personal,””It’s nice but not necessary,””There is no rule”… For me, the parking fee was already huge, while for my husband, tip or not tip doesn’t need other arguments than the custom. “Why did you pick such a hotel!” finally, we threw our anger to some other further issues.”You know what is called racism? Don’t give up your deserved respect,” my husband went serious.

We were ravenous after the check-in and quickly found a restaurant near the beach. It turned out that the bill nearly passed 100 dollars. “What? that means another 15 dollars for tip?”I grumbled, especially because I was not satisfied with my fish, ” besides,we waited too long!” My husband didn’t want to talk any more and wrote down his signature. To save our holiday, I kept the silence.

I’m not mean and it’s not a question of thrifty. But is it a question of culture?

If you are married to the wrong person

Alain de Botton‘s article Why you will marry the wrong person has been the most popular article of New York times for several weeks. I read it with admiration. Nobody is perfect. As time goes by, we tend to be more picky with our partner and cannot bear his or her magnified flaws.”I deserve a better man,” we comfort ourselves by imagining a person who surely understand us better, just as Emma Bovary, the famous heroine of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary. “It’s the fault of fatality,”concluded her boring but sincere husband.

Emma was indulged herself in romantic novels. She tried to love her family but never gave up her dream. We are not as foolish as Emma who confused reality and imagination. Moreover, we think our partner will be much more charming and smarter than the poor Charles, her husband and her other hypocritical lovers. However, we encounter constantly surprising but disappointing discoveries in our marriage. We even doubt about the existence of love. Let’s read again Madame Bovary, a novel of 1856.

“Before marriage she thought herself in love; but the happiness that should have followed this love not having come, she must, she thought, have been mistaken. And Emma tried to find out what one meant exactly in life by the words felicity, passion, rapture, that had seemed to her so beautiful in books.”                                                                                     Chapiter 5, Part I, Madame Bovary

We are all, at a certain time, Emma Bovary. And then, if after each quarrel with your partner, you think  you are married to the wrong person, what do you do?

Most of my friends have family problems. Me too. Most of us chose silence to affront the disagreement. Cold violence turns out to be more harmful, because we unconsciously accumulate our anger and the explosion will be more violent. In the silence, we get time to justify ourselves, to prepare the attack, to peer or seek other proofs and to compare the past and the present. Once we compare the past and the present, the present seems always horrible, because the past, especially the beginning of our love and the first days of our marriage were embellished in our memory. Naturally, we are more or less egocentric.”The marriage was wrong,” we accuse our partner to ruin our expectation. We rarely use “I” to form the sentence, as “I was wrong”.

It happened that in yesterday’s college entrance exam in Shanghai, the writing subject was to express one’s opinion on “comments on others”. Making comments on others becomes our busy activity, especially in social medias. Comments and judgments fill also our family life. We don’t want to be mean, but sometimes, we are so mean without awareness.”Your haircut is awful,””you are always impatient,””How stubborn your are,”… Gradually, we focus more on someone’s quality than on the issue itself, trying to figure out the origin fault of our problem. “I never thought you were so selfish,” we shouted out.

If you are married to the wrong person, I mean, if you think that you are married to the wrong person, stop highlighting the word “wrong”. In marriage, there is no right no wrong. Stop commenting or judging your partner. Stop making sentences with “you” as subject. Try to buy her or him a present, as what you did on the first day of your date. Make him or her a coffee or just hand over the coffer mug. There is a Chinese expression which describes the good marriage life, even it’s not in line with our ideal of best love: “Be polite as guests !”

If you are married to the wrong person, the first thing to do is to stop thinking that you are married to the wrong person. Try to think that all marriage are not easy. As Alain de Botton reveals, “you will still marry the wrong person”.

Children’s day

Yesterday was Children’s day in China. Schools organized various activities to celebrate and kids had one day’s break.

In my memory, Children’s day was very important but not cheerful. When I was in kindergarten and elementary school, the celebration seemed similar from year to year: every class or every school prepared a group dance and performed on stage in downtown. Fortunately, I was always in the dance team.

Besides, the dance was also a competition between schools, thus was very important to teachers. We needed to practice very hard, like in the army, every morning, every noon, even after class. We should stump correctly on the rhythm. If somebody did wrong by waving the wrong arm, he or she certainly got criticized by teachers and classmates, sometimes very fiercely. But still we all loved the performance, in spite of the tiring practice. Being on stage was our unanimous dream, our dignity and success. We wished desperately the upcoming of Children’s day.

Then, finally, we got up early and let teachers do the make-up: Red bow, Red face and Red lips. The Children’s day meant the exciting 5 minutes on stage, after what we got relaxed. How proud we were! There were several teachers’ shows, which made teachers also very busy and anxious. But I didn’t remember anything, as I didn’t remember my successful dance.

Worse experiences always got clearer memories. Two Children’s days marked my life. I was in my last year of kindergarten, which was located in a small village. The celebration was in 2 miles away and we walked one hour. The big cinema (it was in fact a cinema) was totally dark and I was lining up, excited to move onto the stage. Suddenly, one teacher came to me and asked me to get out of the line. She pulled another little girl out of the team and put us together. “You stayed here, no need to dance,” she ordered without an explanation.

It was several days later that I understood the reason: the stage was too small and teachers thought that two many kids would make mistakes. All teachers were too busy to comfort me and the other girl at that moment.

But for me, it was an explosion of bomb. I stood behind the stage and saw nothing. When the dance finished, all dancers ran behind the stage and demonstrated their merit with a big smile on their face. They were giggling all the way back to school.

That day, my dad had gave me five yuan (less than one dollar) for the lunch, which was a big amount at that period, in 1980s.”You can buy some candies,” said my father. It was my first time to discover the small town, and I spent all the money buying candies and little toys. I even forgot my frustration. When I came home, I was asked if my dance was successful. But I just said yes. Then he asked me about the money. “You have spent all?” shouted him, turning blue. I hadn’t realized that he didn’t want to give me the five yuans bill but only planned to give me one yuan. He just had no coins at his hand when I asked.

I got beaten on the fess. It was the only one time family violence that I suffered in my childhood, while in the 1980s, violence was the most popular way to teach children in the countryside. My dad aimed to tell me not to waste money. I couldn’t remember if I provoked his anger by defensing myself. It happened on that day which was supposed to be the happiest day for a child. I cried a lot, noting for being beaten, but for my lost absence in the dance performance.

There was another summer and I also danced for the school on Children’s day. I was in 3 or 4 grades. Our dance had received a prize in another occasion and we practiced a lot to show it on Children’s day. I still remember that the subject was a fashionable: a dance of astronauts. We had spent all the weekends learning postures from the DVD, which registered the original dance performed in a big city. We even got a special costume and a helmet. That day, I was on stage, but I did an awful mistake. By accident, I hit the helmet of one classmate, which fell off her head. She had no time to pick it and put it back. All the audience noticed it. The dance continued and I was about to cry. She didn’t talked to me and the others neither. I wished to say sorry but I didn’t make it. Every one was busy since it was Children’s day.

And now I’m a mother of a child who has passed five children’s day. Each year, she got presents from me and other family members. She knew that it was a happy day for kids but couldn’t tell the difference from other festivals on which she got presents too. She likes dance and I wish she could fine her freedom and her confidence in her own dance.

An imaginary friend

I was skimming the suggested blog posts and caught by this title #for all the lonely children with imaginary friends, from Kiprop Kimutai’s blog.  I remembered writing a post about the same subject, but in French, several months ago. (My blog in French)

I read again my article and was always moved. So I translate myself and rewrite it.

To our surprise, Claire didn’t cry the first day she went to school. With little knowledge of English, she was the only one Chinese girl in her preschool. “Children learn fast!”teachers there seemed confident in her. But we still worried a lot, not only about language difficulties, but also about the different culture she would encounter. In Claire’s former Chinese preschool, children were well disciplined. There was even a fixed time for bathroom. If the teacher was speaking, no one dared to talk. At lunch time, all kids ate the same things prepared by school.

In the first weeks, Claire remained silent, which was normal. Feeling so lonely,  she just stayed still in her chair, when other kids were listening to the story. She even refused to drink water since she didn’t know what was the time to go bathroom or didn’t dare to go there by herself when the others played outside. Sometimes, she took others’ kindness for defiance. “I didn’t cry today.” It was the first sentence we heard when picking her up in the afternoon. She knew what made us happy and proud. But in the meantime, she asked us to pick her earlier.

One day, her dad was delighted to see a Chinese woman at the parking of Claire’s preschool, who was talking with a little child in our language. We thought that a new student might be enrolled recently and Claire might make friends with this guy. Later, our conversation was all about this discovery.

Claire was excited to learn the new coming. Being asked for several times, she confirmed the news and told us that Yiha happened to be in her class.

“What a strange name! Is she Chinese?” we turned also excited.

“Her mom is Chinese and her dad speaks Spanish. She can speak English too.” It could be true, as we live near the border and I saw already several mixed couples.

Every day, we knew a little more about this Yiha. Sometimes, we asked questions about her. Sometimes, Claire spontaneously told us her story. This girl was born in America and never knew China. But she spokes so well English and help Claire to explain teachers’ instructions.

“What does she eat for lunch?” I was especially curious about this point, which was also my daily concern.

“Like me, cooked rice with shrimp.” cheered Claire, what made me relaxed. There was finally another child who was familiar with warm lunch.

One month later, all parents were invited to attend a festival at school. We discovered with astonishment the beautiful art works made by children. They were all hung up on several murals. “Claire was an artiste and she drew amazing pictures,” told us her main teacher. Indeed, our daughter spent a lot of time in drawing. She even draw pictures for each classmate as a present of valentine’s day. She drew a lot at school and took several pictures to home.

We were eager to meet Yiha and her family. But she was not there and there was no art work signed with this name. “Maybe she was sick,” Claire explained.

One week later, it was a parade day at school and I went there to help. I stayed even at lunch time. “What a pity, Yiha wasn’t here today.” I signed. At theses words, Claire’s teachers were surprised. I turned to them to ask information about this Chinese girl. “Really? But we don’t have her in our class.” One of her teacher tried to figure out if she was in another class, because the school was small and that all kids played together in the afternoon.

Claire’s face turned rad and she left the table with the lunch unfinished. She asked the other teacher to play with her. Watching her leaving the table, I suddenly realize that there was no Yiha anywhere. One teacher had gone to the next room to look for this Yiha and came back confused. I walked to her and explained that it might be just imaginary. “Oh!”, she opened her eyes and then pet my shoulder, “let it go.”

My eyes were wet. What my daughter had gone through all the last month? Why did she need to lie to us? Staring at her back, I felt so sorry and guilty. Did we put so much pressure on her? Did she make all theses stories just to reduce our anxious? How could I talk to her with this discovery.

The lie was always considered as a sin in our family. When her dad got the point, he was extremely angry,”it was impossible. Do you mean that she has some psychological problem?” Even we knew that it was hurting to her, we talked about the issue at diner.

“That’s awful, I lied. ” Claire cried,”that’s awful.” I thought that she might be chocked by herself and could not believe that she was a liar. Perfect liar.

Then, I remembered what said her teacher, “let it go”. So we stopped mentioning it.

One night, Claire suddenly recalled this story and with tears, she asked me to forgive her.

“But why?”

“Because I just want to have a friend, my friend.” she whispered.

It was my turn to wipe my tears.

“You will, very soon.” I hugged her.

It is true that children can get used to a new life quickly. But still not so quickly.  We can hardly imagine in what a solitary and scary world they fight and move on. How brave should thy make themselves to face the new life, which means attractive discoveries and intermittent fears.