When I was young, I believed that love was pure and sacred. All those love stories where sacrifice was glorified had been touching me, shaping my own view of a perfect partner and guiding my behavior of being a lover.

Later, when it came to marriage, my mom reminded me that sacrifice was the most important quality as to maintain a long relationship. It is so common in our tradition that most women are proud of having put foreword the interest of their family or their children. For all kinds of reasons, we gave up our own dreams or ambitions. Unfortunately, the society takes it for granted.

Marriage is a long journey and love is a bewildering feeling. We need sacrifices and concessions to coordinate daily life and the long term family project. However, if we keep thinking that our motivation is selfless and that our action is a purely sacrifice, we will  soon or later encounter a stronger compulsive power, which rises from inside calling for justice. Of course, sacrifice can be rewarded. The problem is that we expect rewards so much while the moment of rewards is always delayed. Not mention that most of time there will be no sign of such expected rewards. The calculating of sacrifice from each partner, although in favor of the family’s future, undermines love, marriage, self-esteem, trust, intimacy and relationship with our children.

Now I hate this word”sacrifice”, delusive and poisonous. In every decision, I tell myself that what I will do is not a sacrifice waiting to be glorified and rewarded. What I will do is to give me another chance to impower myself, whether it is to increase my tolerance and patience or to boost my effectiveness and creativity.

A healthy love journey is not to direct a wonderful film where the main characters gain happiness and wealth while you are waiting years later to get the frame in the podium. As a family number, we should thrive with the other members, sharing the daily energy and joy.

So at the 8th anniversary of my marriage, I looked back all the important up and down moments and more detailed trifles in my life.

Congratulations! The success of this love journey is not represented by a positive answer from my husband to such naive questions : Do you still love me? Do you love me more? Do you remember and reward all my sacrifices?

I’m happy because my marriage has enabled me to meet a “better” Me.

Faster, higher, stronger

kids love sports, instinctively. But not all of them. They easily stick to some while abandon others. It usually depends on the sport’s difficulty and one’s confidence. Claire gives up quickly some activity when she has found herself not good at it.

One day, at the local Children’s museum, several volunteers were encouraging kids to do sports. They invited the small ones to sit on a board with wheels and to move foreword by their legs. A 2 year-old can already do this. The lady set the small boy at the start point. After the sign”go”, she turned on a stopwatch, which, for me, was a too serious object that usually doesn’t belong to a children’s playground. The path was only one meter and the little boy arrived easily. After the congratulation words, the lady showed the stopwatch to the boy, in a very surprised and serious manner, “wow, you did great job, only 15 seconds!” The boy thrilled.

It was the stopwatch that attracted Claire’s attention, who wanted to give a shot herself. She was excited to learn that her performance was better. This game was no longer an attractive activity for her age but she insisted to try again. “You can do better,” the lady generously gave her permission.

On the other side of the room, an other lady was animating a game, which is supposed to test the balance ability. Children were asked to hold a wooden spoon with a plastic egg on it and to move foreword. They held in the other hand a measure tap while the lady kept the main part of the measure tap at the start point. Concentrated and staring at the egg, Claire stepped out. “You have walked for 10 feet! Congratulations!” these words cheered her up and made her day. Even at home, she wanted to do it again and asked me to measure up the distance.

I was amazed by these professional tools, which turned to make kids more motivated to try and to practice some sports. We always say, “you can do it! you can do it better!” However, sometimes, these words are so common that thy don’t have a effective impact on kids.

When Claire turns the Hula hoop, she easily gets frustrated and even refuses to do it again. One day, I proposed to write down the number of turns she had achieved. The next day, I suddenly praised her former performance by emphasizing the number:” You did 9 yesterday, great job! You want to try again?” She picked up the hoop. Even she failed to do better, she didn’t appear to be annoyed. Maybe she was impressed by her formal performance that was written down. With some nearly “official count”, kids may imagine that they were acting professionally.

Learning to swim still frighten Claire. “I will always wear my jacket, even I’m thirty years old, one hundred years old, one thousand years old.”swore she. I needed to begin in the bath tub. “Can you put your heard one second under the water?” I suggested. “Too long!” refuted she. “Zero point one second?” I tried another day. “What does it mean?” she seemed interested. “A very very short time,” then I put her mouth under the water and cheered,” wow, you did it.” It was a false one but that made the thing become interesting. I will try another day the “on second” and made it a huge success. If the one second is passed, then two seconds, three seconds…

I’m not an exigent mom and I do believe that achievements should not shadow the joy. Maybe it’s too early to be competitive. Nevertheless, if kids are sensitive with numbers and progress, I will encourage them to do better and be as proud as themselves.

You can do it! You can do it better!

Diligence and solitude

Recently, a Chinese ordinary migrant worker, YU Jianchun, has found a solution to a complex math problem. His interview by CNN attracted my intention and struck me, as he revealed a very simple truth, which is forgotten by many of us.

“He attributed his talent to diligence and solitude. He’s also modest.” reported CNN. That’s it ! No one is easily talented. Diligence and solitude are two keys for very big success. Unfortunately, we can make ourself diligent, but we have lost the solitude.

Although a migrant work’s day ought to be very busy to keep him survive in a big city like Beijing, I suppose that he is less busy than most of us, who have a smart phone at hand or a computer in front of us.

We are so busy in caring about everything, global news, local news, social media updates.  When we are not reading comments, we are writing our comments. We are not addicted to one certain thing, but indulge ourself to enlarge our focus even we have no special reason to do it.

We did have reason. Our parents and our educators  told us that world is changing and becoming a family, that we should know others to know better ourselves, that opportunities and fortunes are hiding in the social network…

I always admire Gustave Flaubert, a nigh-teen century’s French writer, who passed the major part of his  life in a small town, in a silent house, at night, lonely and desperate, writing his perfect novels. 5 years on Madame Bovary, 5 years  on The sentimental Education, 5 years on Bouvard and Pecuchet. What supported him?  Stubbornness? Arrogance? Anger? Or Passion? Nowadays, we abuse this word “Passion”.

To fight with solitude, Flaubert wrote letters, many and long letters, sometimes only to console himself and upset others. For me, in most of his letters, he was trying to justify himself while no one needed such justification and no one took it seriously. It’s difficult and painful to be obstinate all the time. He was an ordinary man, even an idiot according to Jean-Paul Sartre. Diligence and Solitude saved him and made him one of the greatest writers.

Recently, Sari Botton has suggested to read Proust, which may cure smartphone induced attention deficit. The problem is if we really want to end our addiction to the smartphone. Without willingness, every new subject may only create a new topic, on which we kill off time. I admire Proust since long long ago, but only began to read him when I was pregnant and asked to lay down in bed for days and days to keep the baby from natural abortion. Yet, I had no smartphone.

We all have big project and small immediate missions. Sometimes, we really need solitude, the very pure solitude.


To change life, change mind first

Recently, there was a widespread article in the most popular Chinese social media Wechat, in which a middle-aged dad released the reasons why he chose to immigrate to the U.S. He was planning to buy an apartment near a good school district in Beijing, which would cost him 3 millions Yuans. But the day he was going to pay the guarantee deposit, the house owner raised the price by 300 000 Yuans. Disappointed with this change, the father decided to use the money on an investment program, which allowed him to get the green card of USA. He thought that life in Beijing was so stressful, including job, housing and education, but life in the U.S means good education, cheaper housing and quality of free time.

Soon, this article triggered different opinions, including those expressed by some American-Chinese people. Another father wrote a long response to this man, having gone through himself the similar experience. He now found that the reality was not as good as expected. Just talking about kids, the Asian children suffer a lot in study. So many suicides occurred in Asian family in California because of pressure. He provided many photos, which show that children spend so much time on math or other competition preparation after school, just as what children do in China. To be accepted by good universities, they should demonstrate more abilities and excellence in special fields. So Chinese parents anxiously look for good school and prepare their kids to artistic performance. If one wants to live nearby a good school, he should afford the high-priced housing.

I didn’t agree with the first father who dropped all just to follow his illusions of U.S. He believed naively all the advantages he could get in the new country. I didn’t agree neither with the second father who still sticks to the single-side definition of success. In many American cities, Asian people still believe that competition is the only way to make people stand out and that children must cherish every minute to prepare for their future.

One day, when dinning with our neighbors, my husband expressed his dream: send Claire to an excellent university, such as Harvard. Since our daughter wants to be a doctor, we should put aside a big amount of money and assure her proficiency in different materials.

“But if she turns out to be an artist?” suggested one old lady.

We didn’t answer. Indeed, Claire loves drawing and she made amazing pictures. But we never imagined an artist career for her, because it was portrayed with pain and misery.  But we cannot control a child’s future, neither their path. We always impose our own dream on our kids and make them accept our definition of success. That’s very stressful for them.

Now we are living in a new country, embracing a very different culture.  The fist thing to learn is to open our mind. If not, we are imprisoned in some biased thoughts. For example, for all Chinese, the optimal success of a child is being a student of Harvard. However, university is just a step of one’s life while life is long, very long.