Lotus in the mud
Posted by cho wan yau
If ever I wrote an autobiography I would use that title except Goldie Hawn has stolen it already and she isn’t even Chinese. That was what Mama tried to do and failed miserably, insulate me against the ‘corrupt’ influences of the West while maintaining my Chinese purity and traditional values. To give her credit she tried damn hard to mould me into the quintessential Good Chinese Daughter who like the Victorians would go from father to husband and transform seamlessly into the Perfect Wife and Devoted Mother, the bearer of many sons who would become doctors, lawyers and accountants in that descending order.
Alas she died a very disappointed woman; despite not allowing us to socialise with the natives and only giving the papal dispensation to attend single sex birthday parties, I turned out the black sheep, rebel and the thorn in her side. She kept telling me I was found under a tree. I could well believe it because I don’t seem to think like the rest of the clan, sticking out like a sore thumb.
I loved being different. And different to Mama is bad, very bad. She didn’t like the way I wore my hair, though I’d never dyed it a shocking pink like my daughter has. She didn’t approve the clothes I wore though I never dressed obscenely. I never seemed to do anything right, not in her eyes, maybe because I can never be the boy she so needed to hold her head up high in Dad’s ancestral home. Dad is the fourth of five sons and there is one girl. All the sons have been blessed with marrying the right women who have bore them many sons to carry on the all important family name. Except Dad. First a useless daughter, then another one, me!
Useless because you feed and clothe them but ultimately they will marry and belong to another family. Their sons will not continue the family line. It is a waste of investment. They will be obligated to look after their elderly in laws not you. You can live with your sons in your old age and be waited on hand and foot by doting daughters in laws. So the fantasy goes …
But I digress. What I really wanted to say in this post is sometimes I do things like feed the dogs with expensive dog food while I am hunting down reduced items in the supermarket or recycling like crazy not because of the environment but out of sheer necessity. No doubt my neighbours think I am crazy. Of course you must look after Number One. It is the Law. The First Rule of Survival. Darwin would be proud.
When I first moved in the landlady had already bought some furniture for me since I came from abroad and got reimbursed. I didn’t need two Ikea white tables, in fact they took up precious room so I offered one to downstairs who had two small children. I thought it might come in handy as a dining table or for the older kid to do homework. I never received a thank you.
Today I left them a small Christmas present, actually two standard size Toblerones, which would be special to them. I doubt I would get a thank you from the parents but what the hell. I have learnt not to do things if I am going to be disappointed if the recipient doesn’t respond gushing with gratitude and singing your praises as a saint. Do it if you want to and think it is a good thing to do but don’t expect anything in return. Nine times out of ten you will be disappointed. It will make the kids happy and that is all that matters.
In my down moments feeling disillusioned with the world, my life, I think sod it, why bother to be kind, good, do the right thing? Most people are just sweeping the snow from their doorstep, nobody cares a damn about you. They think you are stupid, gullible, naive, an easy target to get ripped off and very vulnerable. That you don’t know how things work here, you are a dreamer, a fool.
I am probably all those things and more. But like the lotus in the mud, I refuse to allow others’ insensitivity, rudeness, self-centredness, unkindness to dilute my own goodness, purity, compassion and integrity. I won’t permit them to alter how I would like to behave and be.
I could be bitter, very angry, I think I have good reason to. But that will only harm my own well being and what good will it do, to rant and rave about the injustice of it all and woe am I. Newsflash: Nobody cares! They are too busy shuffling their own shit. And what to you is a Greek tragedy, the end of the world is actually very insignificant in the whole scheme of things. We don’t even register as a speck in the vast universe. This thought I find strangely comforting.
Once upon a time I thought everybody was like me, kind, honest, trusting … until experience and some people very close to me taught me otherwise. It was a rude awakening and a brutal one which propelled me from ‘fantasyland’ into the real world, and trust me, it is not such a nice place, sometimes. I am more realistic, I arm myself for cruel words, the truth twisted, for betrayals, for people throwing your kind acts back in your face, throwing away the dog bowls you feed their starving dogs with but I will take a deep breath and rise above it all.
Refuse to be contaminated, become sub-human by others’ pettiness, ignorance and bullying. Lotus in the mud.
Hey Mama who is in Heaven you did succeed in the end!