Contemplations and Ruminations of a “Middle Aged” Woman

24 Nov

Hmmm…how to start.  It’s hard to write this since I am still in the middle of it but maybe writing it down will help in some way.

Well, I guess, it started soon after we came back from North America.  Maybe it was because my Chinese teachers (more than one!) were telling us about the age divisions in China.  20 – 35 is “young” and 35-55 is considered “young middle age”.  (Btw, notice 35 belongs to both groups but still…) Middle age?!  Am I middle aged?  Scary thought.  Seriously, I NEVER thought of my age before. It’s not so much the age but looking at all the things I want to do and and when to do them and … well, it also made me think about babies.  35 is the age everyone considers when thinking about kids.  It is ideal to have them before 35.  So I started thinking – do I want any more kids? When I thought about it, the pregnancy, the holding a new sweet baby, I know I was just being completely idealistic and irrational.  But I let myself go there. I thought about when I could do it (and even discussed it with Roya 🙂 – can’t do it now since I am the breadwinner in a country with no maternity leave (at least for foreigners)).  So perhaps in a couple of years in Canada…anyway, won’t bore you with the details of calculations but it really seemed unrealistic.  So after a few weeks I realized that I am not prepared at all to have another child and am content with the family I have…at least at this point :).

I also thought about if I wanted to really do my PhD and my job options with the education I have now.  In China, I could always find work – but it is not challenging work – teaching oral English, no content courses really, esp. in the area I’d like to teach – and unstable.  I hate moving all the time and making the kids change schools.  Milad always says to me, “When we move to our new house…” – the child has lived in four homes in his first 4 years and three in the last 2.  He thinks it’s normal.  That’s not all bad but now that Roya is in primary school (which I had to pay tons of money to get her into since anyone who is not a “resident” of a place, ie. does not own property (and other things but it’s a little complicated) has to pay to enroll their child in any school and if they change schools, they get “some” of it back and have to pay it again), I really don’t want to move.  I want her to make friends and keep them instead of leaving them – last year was the first time she made a really good friend that now goes to another school and that we never see.  As my Chinese improves, we could keep in touch with the families of the friends but still, it’s not the same as seeing them at school every day.

If we live in a “Western” country, I could maybe get a college job…maybe.  And I do NOT want to go back to teaching high school there.  I have been completely spoiled by my wonderful Chinese students.  I’ll give you an example, one of my students left an orange for me with a note that said, “For you, dear Ru (my Chinese last name)” on my teacher desk.  Later, when I tried to peal this orange and was rather hopeless at it, another student offered to peal the orange for me (she used a kleenex and was very efficient at it).  Sweet 🙂 … I have had a couple of nightmares about teaching in private schools (not sure which country it was set in but the students were white) – in both, the students were rude and obnoxious, critical and tried to get me in trouble with the administration.  It was disturbing.  I am not saying teaching in N. America is all bad but high school is definitely a challenge. It’s not something I think I want to do again… With a PhD, I can work in university, which I love, BUT I probably won’t be living in China.  The pay for professors is SO LOW and the work is still unstable.  I don’t want to slave away for my degree just to end up in a similar situation to the one I am in now.  I would still get to be in China for my research so would roughly a decade be enough time here?  There are still places I want to go to (live in) – Australia/New Zealand, Pacific Islands (Vanuatu or Samoa), Latin America (Brazil or Chile or Costa Rica perhaps).  Well at the end of my contemplation of this particular issue, I decided that only Baha’u’llah knows what is best for us and that I would let Him guide me.  He has guided me very well so far so I will put my trust in Him (it saves a lot of completely useless thinking/worrying and time).

So to the last thing – I have been feeling tested a lot lately.  Not big tests, just constantly never-ending little problems.  Actually, I think it’s the first time, I have tangibly felt that I am lacking in spirituality and have been sitting down to pray and read the Writings (the obligation to do this every day is something I have struggled with since I became a Baha’i almost 15 years ago).  Yesterday, I had the most bizarre, disturbing, profound day and then I read some amazing Writings. Last week, I got an email from my work that I should let them know this week which days I want to work next semester. (As an aside, this is unheard of in China and something I am very grateful for in my new job since this way I have actually been able to work and attend most of my Chinese classes).  Well, of course, my school did not begin to organize our next semester’s schedule.  So I talked to ALL my Chinese teachers and the scheduling person in the office and got the run around. I had basically been asking them if they would teach at the same time, so I could work as I am working now, and only miss one or two classes. Then yesterday, I realized, for the first time, that if one teacher moved her class, I could make a schedule where I could attend all my classes.  It’s because the classes are scattered and sometimes I only have one in a morning or an afternoon but since my classes and my work are far apart, I cannot go to both in succession.  But if they were better grouped in blocks, ie. two in the morning and/or two in the afternoon, it would free another morning or afternoon for me to work.  So I asked the teacher and she said she could move her class.  Then I went to the office.  The scheduling person was not there but the head teacher/administrator was.  This woman right away set about trying to solve my problem and she got what I was saying (I have to discuss all these issues in Chinese) and basically said she would try her best to arrange this.  This woman is one of those rare people who act, not talk, and she has a soft spot for me because she knows how hard I work and how I do it for the kids (in our placement interview she asked me what aspects of Chinese I want to learn and I told her all, she then said that many North American students don’t work hard to learn Chinese characters but I told her that is my goal since I want to read my daughter’s text messages from school and be able to communicate with her teachers – this really seemed to make an impression on her and whenever I have a problem, she really tries to help me out).  I think of her as my guardian angel at that school.  So I was all happy and went to lunch.

OMG, an unbelievable thing happened.  A guy walking with his lunch tray fell to the ground and was having a seizure.  Everyone gathered around him but no one knew what to do.  One person pressed some pressure point in his hand and another did something to his mouth but I don’t think they knew what they were doing because later they just left.  After a few minutes he finished seizing and was just lying there.  It was hard to tell if he was breathing but then we could see he was.  He looked like he was sleeping but once in a while would slightly move his head.  After a while people moved on.  He was lying there all alone and everyone was just eating as if nothing was happening. How could they?  I had never seen any kind of medical emergency before and I was completely disturbed, scared and feeling utterly helpless. What happened to any of the knowledge from all those mini-first aid classes I attended at the health unit when my kids were babies? There was nothing I could do… or was there…I went to him and first took a leafy vegetable off his mouth which one kitchen worker put there.  She got mad at me but I told her angrily it was nonsense and she backed off.  Then I said a healing prayer for him with tears in my eyes and then stayed squatting beside him, holding his cold and clammy hand until he himself let go it after waking up, about 10 or 15 minutes later. As he woke up, people gathered once more and one guy came by to help him up.  I didn’t think he should be getting up but it must’ve felt weird for him to be lying there, in the middle of the floor, with everyone starring down at him.  So he helped him to a chair and a little later a doctor FINALLY came.  It took 20 minutes!  Later I found out he had walked over from the university hospital which was a five minute walk away so I am not sure why it took so long.  I managed to scarf down a little more of my food and then left as I didn’t want to embarrass him by standing around and starring now that he was in the doctor’s care.  About half an hour later, I was biking by the cafeteria again and saw the doctor leaving.  When I asked him, he told me the guy was taken to a hospital.  I couldn’t really ask any more because of my poor Chinese.  Anyway, this event really shocked me.  Made me realize how trivial my problems were.  Made me realize how fragile life and our bodies are and how easily they could perish.

In the evening, I read from ‘Abdu’l-Baha in London, “There is but one power which heals – that is God. The state or condition through which the healing takes place is the confidence of the heart. By some this state is reached through pills, powders, and physicians. By others through hygiene, fasting, and prayer. By others through direct perception.” Of course, there are other Writings which encourage us to seek the guidance of competent physicians, etc. so do not read this quote in a vacuum, but I find it very interesting.  If we have a strong faith, a confidence, we can be healed and help others heal as well.

That was my day yesterday. In the evening, I got a sore throat and this morning it was still there and Peiman encouraged me to take the day off (ie. not atttend my Chinese classes which I NEVER miss) so I could be better able to work tomorrow and the next day, all day (8 classes both times). Normally I hate missing my grammar class because the teacher just gives us notes all class (which I barely understand as it is but which I wouldn’t understand at all if I had to copy one of my classmate’s).  But today, I knew we were working on some textbook multiple choice questions which I could do on my own and then ask my tutor (my former student whose major is teaching Chinese to foreigners tutors me occasionally) and she could explain it better than my teacher (who speaks very little English and is too inexperienced to explain things in easy Chinese. So I stayed home, slept most of the morning and then hung out in the afternoon with the kids and with myself, watching “Eat, pray and love” online (btw I found this movie by accident but totally recommend it, esp. for “middle aged” women contemplating their life – not to mention that Javier Bardem is one handsome dude) and writing this.  It was a nice rest that I definitely needed (I NEVER have more than several hours of rest at a time all week, not even on the weekend) although it did not make my cold go away. I guess the body asks for the rest it needs by getting sick.  Well, tomorrow, I’m back on as I was told I would be observed (I get observed once a month at this job) and have no choice since it is the last days of the month. So good thing I got to rest today.

Stopping to smell the flowers in Hangzhou.

Well, I think writing all this really helped me. For one thing, I realized I had resolved a lot of the problems I had been thinking about and had not realized I had resolved till I wrote this.  Also, I was able to think through what I am still working on. And you know, it’s not so bad to be “middle aged” – it means I’ve lived and learned a lot, which I have and which I am proud of.  And really, I don’t think I’ll be middle aged until at least 40 since I plan to live until at least 80 :).

Thank you for reading these thoughts (I know my posts are LONG so congratulations for making it to the end :)). Until next time – missing my wonderful friends in far away places ♥.

P.S. I would love to paint something inspirational like Erika does but I’ll have to settle for a picture which I think shows me in a state of strength, contentment and contemplation.

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One Response to “Contemplations and Ruminations of a “Middle Aged” Woman”

  1. mudspice December 6, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    Oh wow. What a great process you’ve been going through. It’s funny, you know, I’ve been thinking about the very same things lately. Really feeling like, Hey, I’m an adult! I’m not young anymore. And starting to accept that and enjoy it, rather than wish I still looked young and gray hair and wrinkle free. I’d much rather be the older, wiser person I am now.

    Love you!!! Erika

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