Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lessons Learned

Wow, it has been a while since I published a blog. I know I'm supposed to be blogging every day for 100 days. Oh well, all I can say is thank goodness for grace....

I recently traveled to California for work. To celebrate the five-hour trip to the other side of the country, I reread a book set in The Golden State -- Amy Tan's The Kitchen God's Wife.

My favorite thing about literature is that it is a doorway into new cultures and traditions, and it is a fun way of learning life lessons.

The title of this book is odd (you have to the read the book to get it), but this book is rich in its complexity and depth of emotion and wisdom. Trust me, I know - this is my fourth time reading this book about an Chinese immigrant haunted by her past life.

While my belief system differs from the main character Jiang Weili "Winnie" Louie,  I have learned a lot from her fictional story:

Compassion- It is so easy to be judgmental when we are distanced from pain. In those judgmental moments, we give cold-hearted advice without stopping to consider what the other is truly experiencing and feeling.

Winnie was trapped in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Her friends saw his anger and heard her screams. Yet their advice often lacked empathy for her struggles. However these struggles turned Winnie into a very soft-hearted person who could even empathize with her husband's mistresses! She considered their feelings and actions, and showed compassion in the form of reading lessons, food and gifts.

Winnie's compassion made me question my own. I like to think of myself as a pragmatic person: Having a problem? Simply find a fix!  If someone told their me he or she is going through a tough time, I might say pray about it. If another person confided they are filled worried, I might chide him/her to be anxious for nothing!

Later I would have walked away patting myself on the back and feeling like I've done something good. I gave them advise, good for me! But did I really listen to what's tearing him/her up on the inside? Did I give real thought to his/her personal pain and suffering? Ouch! Maybe I didn't do such a great thing after all.

What's worse is when I do this my husband -  the bone of bones and the flesh of my own flesh. When my day was good but his was bad, do I give empty advice or or do listen wholeheartedly seeking to empathize with his experience?

Endurance - In the book, an admirer marveled at Winnie's strength as she planned her escape from her husband and her hard life in China. But as the readers follow her life, we learn that most days Winnie's will was weak. Most days, she could not keep her husband from physically and emotionally abusing her.

 However this character shows that strength does not mean we never fall, lose or make a mistake. Strength is about pushing through hard times. Strength is endurance.

If you apply faith and endurance to life's rough patches, you'll find that strength is perfected in weakness.

Mother- Daughter Relationship - In the end, Winnie's hardships become the glue that binds her and her daughter Pearl together.

I think when we grow up as women, we discover just how much our parents really do know about things. Moms especially are a trove of valuable womanhood, relationship and parenting advice, and marriage presents an opportunity to get close to them.

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