My Chinese grandmother tells it like it is, but when it comes to our ideas about love, loneliness, and ADHD, we don't speak the same language.
by Jane D.
Family gatherings are usually a painful affair for the single girl. Here in this busy hustle-bustle moshpit of an Asian city, we had a long weekend to celebrate what I call Mooncake Festival. The grandmother and I went to the aunt's home and ate with the cousins who are all married. Everyone is married or a couple (except for the Dennis the Menace-like 5-year-old nephew), and it's hard not to feel left out, or that there's something wrong with me. I just don't get it. I'm a good person. too. I deserve someone, too.
But I fool myself by thinking I'm coming to terms with flying solo. I'd rather fly solo than deal with a second class guy. In order to stave off loneliness, I try to keep super-busy to forget singledom. I've signed up for more and more activities, taken on more projects; I try to juggle the early morning swims, a class in communication theories, and teaching. I tell myself that I can "have it all." I went to a swimming competition extremely nervous, came home with two gold medals, and felt as lonely as ever. I went to church on Sunday and felt emptier than ever. I called up the father from afar and had a long chat with him, but felt pretty lonely after that, too. I took on a few extra projects at work and then regretted that afterwards. I wonder if I am getting bored. What am I chasing? What exactly is the root of the problem? How do I keep getting busier and lonelier?
I've been back to the counselor (a pseudo-shrink) every two weeks. She specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy, and she keeps feeding me the same lines. "You need to ask yourself what's important to you, what makes Jane happy." And she keeps giving me the same worksheet, "The Signs of Black and White Thinking." Okay, I feel a little more grounded after our sessions, but overall the visits feel like a Band-Aid solution.
The grandmother is a more reliable reality check, as she tells it like it is. On one of her better days— the days when her mind is sharp and spunky — she tells me what is wrong:
I expect others to meet my needs and go with my flow, and rarely do I reciprocate.
It's difficult for others to get to know me and make me happy because it's not clear what makes me happy.
I can be a real stress-ball and pretty horrible to deal with when I'm in a tizzy.
I'm not feminine enough and can be really blunt. And then finally, "Can't you just change your attitude? Good things would happen if you just made a few changes."
The grandmother on the whole is right, but little does she understand that maybe the fact that I am wired differently prevents me from a total transformation and makeover.
How do you translate, "I am wired differently" from English into Chinese? I bet if I tried it would just get lost in translation.