Becoming Whole: Prologue

On a sunny day, as I was getting ready to go to work, I heard my first voice clearly. Later on, I affectionately called him Joe. It was not like dreaming or having thoughts in my mind. To me, it was having a conversation with a real person whom I couldn’t see. Exactly that. No different. He sounded gentle and kind. He even made me smile.

Joe entered my life when I was truly alone at age thirty. I had just broken up with my boyfriend. I’d gotten laid off from my first job and started a new job. While trying to live on my own again after the breakup, my apartment was broken into. Worried for my own safety, I moved into a house with housemates. I was emotionally isolated, but I didn’t know or analyze the situation I was in. For the first time in my life, I was determined to become a stronger person, living my life with only books, music, gym, and work, and did not reach out to any friends.

Joe noticed me. In my mind, Joe was a young man my age who hid himself from me but was always close by. I felt a strong presence through his voice and what I thought he did, but I never saw him in person. Joe started playing music for me by calling into different local radio stations and making song requests. When I turned on the radio, he’d have something ready for me. He loved the challenge of picking music I loved. He was able to tell I loved a song because I’d start singing along and smiling. Sometimes he surprised me with a song at home, at work, or at the grocery store. I felt he could read my mind by the way he responded to my feelings and thoughts through music.

Joe didn’t want to leave me alone even though I stuck to my routine every day. He started making life fun for me with elaborate hide-and-seek games in the city. When I explored and wandered around Boston, he’d guess where I was headed. I often didn’t have a destination in mind. He played right into my spontaneity. He left clues for me to figure out. One time I was on the T, and he convinced everyone to get off at a certain stop. When I saw the whole train emptied out, I thought, Where is everyone going? Should I follow and check it out too? I didn’t want to miss out.

No one had ever stopped me on the street until after Joe entered my life. I thought he might’ve sent his friends to interrupt me while I wandered the city. A guy showed me a map, asking for directions. Another person stopped me to take a picture of him and his friends. Another man even asked me to take a picture with him. I wondered why, all of a sudden, everyone was interested in talking to me.

At first Joe brought beautiful feelings to my life. One night, I was wandering on my own at Faneuil Hall. Under the dark night sky, there was a young man standing at a corner, a street performer. He was alone. I was alone. We saw each other, and he started playing his guitar and singing. He had a great voice. It was soft and sweet. After the song ended, I turned around to leave. Someone in the dark from another corner said, “Don’t go. Talk to him.” I was startled. I turned to where the voice was coming from and saw an older man. I didn’t realize there was another person there. I felt embarrassed by my own presence, that I had been discovered. I quickly ran away, back to the T, back home, but I had a big smile on my face because I’d loved the acoustic music. Isn’t it so lucky I ran into the singer all by myself even though it was interrupted by another stranger? Had Joe sent him?

Joe was with me at the movie theaters and gym. His friends were kicking my seat, coughing, laughing, trying to send me hints. What are they trying to tell me? I froze in my seat, slightly confused and startled. I couldn’t focus on the movie. Even though it seemed like something meaningful was being conveyed, I couldn’t figure out what it was. I had no guesses, either. In my mind, I just ended up with a bunch of disconnected observations. I would continue to puzzle over them for weeks! 

After a frustrating day at work, I went to the gym to run off some steam. In the running room, all the treadmills were being used except one, left just for me. So lucky! I was moved and encouraged by this room of strangers, all women, running. I almost cried, feeling the strong and positive energy in the room, especially after having a difficult day at work. How amazing that they were all there with me, for me, because I needed the support. Is this possible? Are they all friends of Joe’s?

I started getting curious about Joe. I wanted to meet him. I wanted to make him show up. One night, after he played several songs for me on the radio, I told him, “Let’s meet tonight!” I put on my jacket and went out. I listened to honking and other signals he gave me and ended up near Fenway Park. I waited and waited under the stars. It was past midnight, but I didn’t care. Joe didn’t show. On the walk home, I heard Joe say, “Go home.” That was the only thing he said to me that day.

Another night, I told him I wanted to go ice skating. I loved skating. “I’ll wait for you in the lobby,” I told him. I waited for him for about thirty minutes. No one showed up. I decided to go on my own anyway. Why spoil the good mood? I went to Frog Pond, rented a pair of white skates, and skated around the pond. A group of guys showed up and cheered loudly. They had signs, but I couldn’t make out what they were. They shouted, but I couldn’t hear clearly what they said. I was startled again. Why are they with me at the skating pond? What are they trying to say? Did Joe send them? This time, Joe did not speak to me at all.

As time went on, Joe seemed to be around even more, and he was able to do more. While I worked, he could see me and my laptop. While I was typing, he corrected my mistakes by moving my mouse to show me what he meant. Sometimes, when I was really focused on an email, he would interrupt me by typing an extra letter to distract me. I thought he wanted to let me know he was there with me.

One weekend morning, I woke up thinking about Joe. I might’ve dreamed about him. It was fuzzy. While in bed, I closed my eyes and started chanting: “Please let him be a real person. Please let him be a real person. Please let him be a real person.” I continued for about five minutes. I really, really wanted to meet him in person. I wanted to ask him about all he might be doing for me: playing music for me, going to places with me, sending me messages.

I believed he got in touch with my friends because I started to hear the voices of my friends in addition to Joe’s. They had parties while I was in my living room. A friend asked me to call her because she hadn’t heard from me in a while: “Call me! You have to call me!” “Let’s play a word game! Complete the sentence for me,” a different friend said. “Let’s listen to music.” They took turns spending time with me. I didn’t understand why my friends were getting in touch with me this way, through Joe, but I was happy to hear from them.

I took a vacation in Taipei. During the two-week trip, I thought of Joe twice. One day I woke up and heard birds talking outside. I thought, Is that him trying to get my attention? I didn’t think I would feel Joe’s presence when I was so far away from home. I almost cried. I didn’t want to think about him while visiting my relatives. I felt confused and interrupted.

As our relationship continued, Joe became less amazing. Sometimes he was even abusive. No matter what I asked him, I wouldn’t get a response. He just ignored my questions. At the same time, he wouldn’t stop talking to me either. He could talk to me any time he wanted. The talking just kept on coming. I couldn’t turn it off. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t focus at work. I tried different ways to talk sense into Joe. I am not anyone important,I said in my head. Tell me what you want! Are you not bored watching me all this time? I tried to listen very carefully to see what he really wanted. I tried to ignore him, hoping he would go away. Eventually, I stopped living my life and ended up reacting to Joe’s world as many voices talked, talked, and talked.

Eventually, I was locked up because of Joe.

Natural Deaths of Initial Encounters

  • Condition: Initial encounter with Daniel
  • Status: Die of a natural conversation
  • Cause of death: Harry Potter.
  • Notes: With the mention of Harry, our conversation turned sour then silence. Can he have a problem with reading? Really? So unfortunate!

  • Condition: Initial encounter with Josh
  • Status: Die of a natural texting
  • Cause of death: Slow texting about boring topics
  • Notes: He is very cute! High percentage of match-ness. That made texting extended from single digitals to double digital. But death was not avoidable regardless of how good looking he is.

  • Condition: First look at the profile of a Mark
  • Status: Happily married looking for more
  • Cause of death: Speechless
  • Notes: I know these things happen. But it’s still a surprise when I run into couples with different values and needs. Not my cup of tea!
  • Condition: Initial encounter with Stephen
  • Status: Quick natural death
  • Cause of death: Eagerness to meet immediately
  • Notes: I don’t like spend a long time texting someone without meeting. But I expect knowing a few basics before a first date. Can we meet now? Can we meet now? Ugh.

Becoming Whole: Sample Layout for the Printed Book

What made it all very real for me was seeing the cover of my memoir coming alive. Again, the theme of my life – having amazingly loving friends. My friend and artist Frederikke reached out to me after seeing a cover I created using some third-party tool. Nothing particularly exciting or original! “I can design one for you if you like!” She said. I love her eCards and paintings. I would never pass on such help! “That would be amazing!” I said. 

Frederikke Tu is a very good friend and a Danish American artist. We chatted about what the memoir means to me. She drew inspiration from my story and the Swedish artist Hilma of Klint. Frederikke combined the idea of the brain with scientific and mathematical, beautiful and calm images. A few weeks after we chatted, she told me she was ready to show me her design. 

When I saw her design, the cover immediately resonated with me. She did not explain the cover to me. She just asked me what I thought of it. I love that it’s a conceptual design. I love the colors. I love the tear of the paper. 

I am very fortunate to have such a talented artist friend to help realizing my dream. It’s a beautiful cover! I am thankful! 

Today, I had another moment when I received a sample of the interior layout for the first few pages of my memoir. It’s an amazing feeling to create a book being a book lover! Other than the page number being on different places on different pages, I like how it looks. 

A few more steps forward. That makes me happy! 

Annie, Ten Years Ago!

I was cleaning and consolidating my documents in the cloud and came across this little scribble I wrote ten some years ago. Very similar idea to my earlier post: The Main Character – Annie. No wonder they say people don’t change. This might just answer my question: will my novel idea stick around or not for the next year or two.

[Fiction: Begin]

Anna sits in front of her desk trying to code. The deadline is a week away. The whole team is stressed out. They are on the hook for building an ecommerce website for a major retailer. The client sponsor firmly believes that online shopping is the future. However she has enemies at her company. Her partners believe the opposite, that nothing can replace the in person touch that enables retail shopping.

Anna checks the requirements document to see what the business logic should be. She read through a couple of times to make sure that she understands it clearly. It seems simple enough, what they want. Her attention switches from the document to the application that she is coding. She finds the place that she thinks is the right place to insert this new piece of business logic. She types quickly and efficiently.

[Fiction: End]

My Living Room Is No Longer Neat

My friend Michelle (owner of For the Love of Jobe – Pet Services) and I were eager to get to the Gifford cat shelter. I was adding two fur babies to my life. I had met them a week ago and felt in love. When we arrived at the shelter, the young man who processed my adoption last week said cheerfully, “You are here to pick up Davos and Jorah! Great.” Michelle and I looked at each. Definitely changing their names. Our eye contact made an unspoken agreement. From today on, they were going to be my Bilbo and Frodo!

The ride home was quick. Bilbo protested all the way. “Where are we going?” “What’s going on?” ‘Let me out!” Frodo watched tentatively. Eventually, he also joined his brother and softly protested. “Almost there,” I said. “Almost!”

When we got home, Bilbo jumped out of the cat carrier first. He started walking in the living room liked he was drunk. He could not decide if he should look right or left. So he walked zig and zag in my living room. Frodo also did not take too long to come out of the carrier. Unlike Bilbo though, he went straight to the back of the apartment. I did not know which one I should follow. Yes, Mindy, you just adopted two, not one, cats! I was outnumbered!

Bilbo is the ultimate explorer. He is friendly and social. He thinks he is a puppy and rolls around on his tummy. If he is not by my side, he is running laps around the apartment. So far, he has been a great eater and pooper. He likes to play rough with his brother.

Frodo is smaller and sweet. He is often cuddled up somewhere. He likes the window, high places like top of the kitchen cabinets, and the sink. He often misses his wet food dinner because Bilbo gets to both dishes first. He often needs his own space like in a box, but loves being held by mommy and our visitors.

I had not been able to sleep through the last three nights since they came home. “Bildo” wrestled in bed. One night, Bilbo brought his favorite toy and started playing in bed in the middle of the night. I had to take it and put it in the fridge.

Putting food out was also a small challenge. “Bildo” seemed to be starving. As soon as I took out the food bag or can from the closet, they would be all over me. Hopefully, they will eventually understand that they will always have something to eat everyday from now on.

Because Frodo likes the window, I had to move my plants. There were also half bitten leaves around. I am not sure if the plants are going to survive with Bildo. Oh well. RIP plants!

This morning, I woke up to a roll of paper towels scratched all over my kitchen counter. RIP paper towels. I guess I won’t be keeping that out anymore.

My living room is a mess! A few toys scattered around. A couple of plants are on the floor not getting any sunlight. Sand from the litter box spilled out. My leather sofa has a few scratch marks from Bilbo playing with his toy on the sofa. Amazon shipping box is one corner while the open carrier is in another corner. Frodo might like one of those spaces, I thought. I need to get more towels for Frodo. I need to get mug covers. I put away my Yankee candles. I leave dry food out all the time. The living room no longer says minimalist.

I know there is no escaping the mess. I am glad I had Tuxedo and Tabby to not be a rookie mommy. Mess aside. The purring has been amazing. I am thankful that they let me into their lives and vise versa. There are so much life and energy at home with Bildo running up and down the hallway. I am glad they can play all day while they are safe and cared for.

Welcome home, boys!

A Night Cry

After I heard from Joe and learned my new language, on the outside I was doing okay, but deep inside signs of trouble started to show. I was most vulnerable when I tried to fall asleep. First, my conscious mind relaxed and let go. It stopped being in control after holding myself together so tightly during the day, at work, in the evening. My mind started to wander on its own through everything I had experienced. My fear and insecurity surfaced briefly, then I’d fall asleep.

Once I fell asleep, I lost control. I woke up in the middle of the night crying once. As soon as I gained consciousness, I realized there were tears streaming down my face. Confused, I tried not to make any sounds as not to wake anyone else in the house. While my body cried, my mind was a blank. I didn’t feel sadness nor was I upset. My body must have been expressing fear buried underneath my toughness without my conscious mind. I wiped my eyes and went back to sleep. I didn’t reach out to anyone because I didn’t recognize I needed help. I didn’t feel badly when I awoke. In my mind, I was still trying to live a productive life and become a stronger person.

My brain was not doing well at all, but I didn’t even remember I had cried in my sleep until many years later.

Get Online

I knew I did not have any experience with online dating and had limited experience with dating. I was pretty sure that if I was alone I would do something stupid or dangerous, so I created a dating group made up of around thirty five of my close friends, including single and married friends, both husbands and wifes, and friends from different stages of my life. My poor friends. I would write them before and after I had a date about all my ups and downs. Thank goodness for friends. Having them made me felt safe and grounded.

My friend recommended OkCupid since she met her husband there. I trusted her taste knowing that I liked the books she read, the restaurants she ate at, the clothing stores she shopped at, and most importantly, the friends she kept and how she cared for her families. Commercials and ads didn’t usually get my attention; however words from friends, priceless. So I signed up and OkCupid became the first dating website that I really used to look for my prince.

OkCupid asked questions and their importances, and based on my answers it did fancy calculations and matched me with men with similar answers and importances. Each profile I saw had a percentage prominently displayed on it. I spent a few hours answering questions feeling a bit silly, like I was taking a test in a social study class in high school. Some of these questions were serious, entertaining, silly, and some I didn’t want to answer and share with strangers. Some were easier to answer than others. My personality clearly showed on how I answered these questions. I knew my answer to “are you clean or messy?” I considered myself fairly neat. “How about him? Should he be clean or messy? And how important is this to you?” For my prince, was he required to be clean? It depended. I tended to see thing in a spectrum and not so simply black and white. Would I want to be unmatched with someone who honestly answered that he was a bit messy because he did not put his dirty socks in the hamper? I was not sure. As I went on answering hundreds of questions, I gave the opposite gender lots of latitude. I had a feeling that the OkCupid algorithm was not going to work for me that precisely. Another data point to show my personality was the my Myers Briggs.  I was right down the middle for all four areas and I took the test three times in college and at work. Let’s just say, I often see both black and white.

After I signed up with OkCupid and getting more comfortable with the idea of online dating, I was curious on how other dating websites worked. I went all out. I tried eHarmony, Tinder, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, and Happn. I learned about all of them. eHarmony gave curated matches based on a three-hour assessment during sign up. Tinder was based on first impression of photos and a short blurb. Matches were when both people liked each other. Bumble worked similar to Tinder expect that women had to message first after being matched. Coffee Meets Bagel also gave curated matches daily. Hinge found singles via my Facebook network. Happn showed singles near me as I moved around town. There were plenty of other online dating websites and apps that I did not try. But after all these, I thought I had a good idea of how online dating worked.

When I was in school, I had never cheated on any exams. In dating applications, I could pay for additional premium features. I could see more, like seeing who liked me. I tried hard to not pay for online dating. However, to understand if there was any benefits, I paid ten dollars on Bumble to see who swiped right on me for a short period of time. It was totally cheating as far as I was concerned but it was totally worth it. I looked through the list of people who liked me based on just my pictures. It was very educational and such a short cut.

Friend 1: Well, cheating or not, I call it curiosity. Why not. I’m sure you’ll find the guy to enjoy watching the clouds with you. If not, you still would enjoy a beautiful day.

Friend 2: LOL!  That doesn’t sound like cheating to me. Just data gathering!

For those of you who had visited my place know that I now take a minimalist approach in life. I approached online dating the same way. After having a bit of looking around, I deactivated my accounts on most of them. I saw some of the same men on multiple sites. I also stuck to not paying for additional premium features feeling that knowing who liked me did not change how I felt about them. More is not better.