Author Archive | yazminh

The Eff, You Say?


(Stock photo found online; photographer unknown.)

So I thought about this topic today after having had a friend come over with his associate to share a business venture with me.  Towards the end of the meeting, we started talking about a business partnership that I had that went sour, and naturally, my olden days corporate straitjacket stray threads completely unraveled, and I threw out the F-word.  I didn’t think about it until after they’d left, but the conversation replayed in my head, and I realized that yes, I plopped the bomb, all rich-and-buttery-fingered-like, and rolled on.

So, most of my circles of friends don’t know this, but I am a recovering cursaholic. I had to clean up my act before my children became preteens—just in the nick of time—but I still dabble in the habit.  I’m not going to lie, it feels great when I can freestyle expletives.  It’s like, “Home sweet home, muthafuckas!”  It really is.

I never really felt the badness of it.  To me, it’s always been like making hand gestures (though not necessarily that one) while speaking – you’re shaping your ideas, punctuating your points, expressing your splashes of emotion.

“Are you fucking shitting me?!”

“No fucking way!”

“What. the fuck. are you doing, damn Asian driver?!”  (What can I say – my mom’s a terrible driver…)

Still, it’s not generally desirable, I know, because when I hear someone cuss in public, I can’t help but think, “You are one vulgar bastard.”  So, I try not to do it either, because I don’t want to be a vulgar bastardette, but at the same time, I don’t mean any harm – I just get excited sometimes, and when I do, my excitement flings out from every pore and crevice (and by the way, one doesn’t need curse words to be vulgar).

To me, cursing is just exclaiming.  Sometimes, you can’t exclaim quietly.  I personally don’t believe in quiet exclamations, except if you’re in danger and hiding.  Or in church or the library  (and who’s exclaiming in the library, no matter how good the book is?), but that’s it.

Curse words are just sounds representing an emotion from a plethora of unutterable thoughts.  Like in this scene from “The Wire”:

ImageScene from “The Wire”

See? No harm no foul (except for the murder they were investigating).

I don’t even think that calling someone an “asshole” is necessarily offensive.  First of all, it’s clearly figurative, because a person can’t literally be an anus – it’s ridiculous to even try to imagine it. Secondly, such a name is usually earned by the dubbed person having done (or perceived to have done) something bad to someone else.  It’s mud-slinging but not blood-drawing.

I think what is more offensive is the use of socially accepted words that are, in context, meant to be judgmental and/or degrading.  I know someone who had a girlfriend who would call him a loser because he didn’t finish college.  This really cut into his self-esteem, and that seems to have been the goal.  (Such use of non-curse words surely earns the utterer to be dubbed the B- or A-word, yes?)  And this is one of many non-curse words that can be used with meaning and motive to hurt in ways sticks and stones could never reach.

If expletives were no longer sensationalized, insults might be much more creative and eloquent:

“He had delusions of adequacy.” — Walter Kerr

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.” — Forrest Tucker

“Way down deep, he’s shallow.” — Various

(I chose these, by the way, because they are still usable today.)

Nonetheless, certain modern situations require more:

You’ve been tailgated in traffic for the past few lights. The car behind you is honking and flashing his lights, and you are already driving 15 above the limit.  Suddenly, your tailgater swerves around your car, gives you the finger as he screams expletives (and you are not my mother, by the way), then speeds up to cut you off. 

Clearly, a “fuck you, asshole!” is in order here – quick, explosive (goes perfectly with shouting, as is required in fleeting exchanges through opened—and sometimes closed—windows), and no fillers. (By the way, I prefer “motherfucker” in this instance – much sharper and more appropriately aggressive in such a situation; using “asshole” here sounds like your feelings are hurt – weakness is unfitting in road rage battles.)

It is not for everyone, I know.  But for those with particularly burstful emotions, cursing is almost a necessary evil.  In fact, for such individuals, cursing saves money and curbs physical violence.  I don’t know how many things in my “yoot” didn’t get broken because I could fuckity-fuck it out of my system.  I wasn’t a mean or crazy person – I just happened to feel and think in light speed and vivid colors, and I was very physical = I’m just glad I had the sense to find the buffering grace of violent verbiage.

Still, I have evolved to cut back.  Everything is softer with me now because I have children, and I don’t want to inadvertently hurt them with my sharpness.  Besides, society is not kosher with public cursing, and it is more important to me to not offend others in everyday interactions with something that might be mistaken for vulgar bastardness.  It’s nice, actually.  Nobody bastardizing everywhere you go.  I suppose it is like making out:  people do it, but nobody wants to see it out in the open.  I can eff with that.


“Eat, Drink, and Be Merry”

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry


“Therefore, cease your agonizing and rejoice. There is nothing better for you than this:

Eat and enjoy what you eat; drink and enjoy what you drink. Do this and tranquility will accompany you throughout your trials and through all the days of your life under the sun.” ~Ecclesiastes

( Originally posted by Susan Cain, author and TED speaker)


“The Secret” is Out


A few years ago, I stumbled across this book, which promised some awesome rewards for the price of committed blind faith.  It was a very seductive offer, and I was in a compromised place in life, a place familiar to the majority population.  The book was sexy and an easy read while I stood in Target, waiting for my daughter to get out of her martial arts class, and I was tempted to buy it right away.  But it was so easy to get through, in fact, that I managed to skim through the whole thing within that 30 minute time and find holes in the general message, “Ask. Believe. Receive.”

The power of positive thinking is no news, first of all.  Your brain is a conductor, and whatever instructions you give it, it will follow, more than less.  The negative thought will have you gravitating towards actions, people, circumstances, that match your external realities to your internal ones.  People suffering from depression are often drowning in the sense of hopelessness, which colors what they think and feel, regardless of what they do externally to mask it.  The shift from this thought process to one of sudden hope and promise of a better tomorrow, of dreams to come true, all within access of your thoughts alone, can inspire a complete change in direction for the person from the inside out.  So positive thinking is real and valid in the value it has for changing one’s life for the better.

But “The Secret” goes too far.  It states that such thoughts also cause one’s misfortunes.  When I read that, I immediately unlatched, because I knew it to be untrue.

When my brother was hit by a car and killed when I was 16, my family was probably among the happiest, most positive, excitable, carefree, fortunate-feeling family in the world.  Nobody foresaw anything bad happening.  I didn’t even know the term “dysfunctional family” until much later in life, and thought that sad families were rare exceptions, usually found in “extreme” cases (parents fought, kids didn’t listen to them) that ended up in talk shows.

Another reason that easily disproves the thought-blame game is in an area that has always impassioned me: children who are victims of heinous crimes.  I can find no logical explanation that the child victim’s tragic fate was caused by faulty thinking.  Was this due to their predators having had stronger thoughts of evil than the child had of innocence and goodness?  Ridiculous and offensive.

Nonetheless, “The Secret” blew up everywhere, and I would get excited shares about it from well-meaning family members.  I love them for their good intentions, and I hope the book triggered a chain of needed positive thinking to propel their lives in the most joyful, productive ways.   They would have to gloss over the severely flawed and potentially harmful viewpoints from the book, though.

There is a huge trend on “positive thinking” nowadays, which is great; maybe the profitability of “The Secret” inspired the resurgence from individuals and marketers alike.  But it doesn’t guarantee a genuine person or way of being.  More on this to come.


Forgiveness is Overrated (Why It’s Not for Everyone)


This topic has been in my queue since I started this blog; it is not an easy one to approach.  But I think it’s about time to address it, and necessary for those struggling with this “obligation.”

I have wrestled with this subject for a few decades now, mainly because everywhere I looked, I would read or hear about the virtues and necessity of forgiveness, and it would make me reflect on my stance on it.  I want to do the right thing.  I want to be a good person.  I’ve finally come to the conclusion that this place of unyielding is fine.

Let me be clear: I’m not against forgiveness.  I just feel comfortable not dishing it out like Halloween candy: not everyone gets a forgiveness nugget, because I truly don’t think that everyone deserves it.  Besides, too many undeserving individuals get it regardless of their lack of remorse or compassion for the recipients of their transgressions, and they continue to offend because the good people of the world (understandably) insist on avoiding  due confrontation – the victims are too weak and tired and the witnesses find it much easier to tell them that they should have done things differently, should have tried to prevent it, or should just let it go, leaving the transgressors to continue their business of feeding off the well intentions of others and enjoying the suffering of the same.

I’m not being dramatic; I have had first hand experience dealing with such individuals.  It was my very naive, positively positive, recklessly trusting of humanity’s equality and best intentions,  indiscriminately kind and generous nature that situated me as a juicy sitting duck.  A sheltered and highly structured religious upbringing helped mold me as such, and had me accepting forgiveness as law for the longest time. If anything, it enabled the situation.

So let’s define “forgiveness,” or rather, what it means to not forgive.  Not forgiving, to me, means that if I were to see the subject offender on the street, I would not tsk tsk my head in compassion.  I would not, if the opportunity arose, allow them a free card from proper justice, and by that, I mean that they must be made to experience exactly what they put their victims through – see, feel as their victims saw and felt; anything less may stop the bleeding, but it doesn’t solve the problem.  I believe that only through such an alignment of understanding can a perpetrator have any chance for compassion and transformation.

I am not saying that I hold on to negativity or that I fester from anger.  Quite the opposite.  I have merely allowed myself the right to believe that some people are just truly bad to the marrow of their bones, and that unless an ultimate higher being of good (we will call God for simplicity’s sake) directly tells me to do so, I live my life happily and comfortably not forgiving such individuals.

Once upon a time, I was a person who believed that everyone had viable potential for goodness, and given the chance to experience it, they would blossom, change for the better.  I have learned that to cling onto this belief, towards some, is a disservice, and potentially an endangerment, to one’s own well-being.

I have seen how such individuals play the justice system and flip the tables to put their victims on the stand.  I’ve seen how many good people have been broken by these individuals, good people who could have contributed so much to society, their friends, their family, including their own children, but struggle to all but breathe every day.  I have a good friend who is a single parent to two beautiful children, blessings in disguise from rapes from the biological father, who continues to terrorize her to this day, and hides behind the legal entitlement of “father,” to stay connected to her, like keeping a mouse in a cat’s cage to toy with indefinitely.  Unforgivable.

I don’t feel sorry for them, for they are given far more credit and leeway than they deserve.  For these Unforgivables, there are the Ghandis who respond to their gleefully executed acts of terror to the innocent, with peace and compassion and understanding and forgiveness.  But truth be told, I am not one of them.  I don’t believe that the world is quite at a place where there is no need for people who see the Unforgivables for what they are and would deal with them accordingly, not equally to people who are lost, confused, mentally impaired.  The key characteristics that separate the Unforgivables from the rest of the human population are that they are fully mentally aware of what they are doing, enjoy causing suffering, and most of all, are unaffected and uninspired by kindness and goodness, but rather, target it to abuse and devastate.

I’m sorry, but not everyone is equal.  They’re just not.  Everyone may deserve the opportunity to be given compassion, love, kindness, forgiveness, but not everyone should be granted the right when proven to consistently and purposefully abuse such things.  You don’t get to keep a job if your track record proves you’re not a good employee.  You don’t get the same remedy if your illness is different from someone else’s.  And you shouldn’t get forgiveness if you know what you’re doing, you enjoy another’s suffering, and you target those you can make suffer the most; this is unlike people who make honest, even sometimes terrible, mistakes.

This is a very fine line, to forgive or not, and I want to say that, for the most part, forgiveness is a grace to embrace.  If not forgiving is taking too much real estate in your mind or spirit, if it colors how you treat the world, if in any way holds you down from feeling happy and at peace, and the subject isn’t as I’ve describe above, then it may fall into the forgiveness that is a necessity.  Most do, truly.

I was raised in a religion where I was lectured to forgive constantly.  Even after I escaped my situation, after a decade and a half of being traumatized, I was told that the burden of forgiveness was on my head.   I would spend several more years dealing with other people who grossly took advantage of my nature to help and give.  Again, the burden to forgive was on me.  I started to question everything.  I started to get angry, and I needed that anger to dissipate the guilt that kept me linked to the Sitting Duck Syndrome.

Years later, after all toxic people have been cut out, after I slipped back into my skin, unworn for several decades, I found it a little tougher, but still fitting very comfortably.  I listen more to my intuition and less to the the outside noise of people who haven’t walked a day in my shoes—nor cared to even hear me describe them—and yet are self-implied experts on what I should do.

I’m happier than I’ve been in decades.  I can reflect on my past as an introspective case study now, and I share my insights with an unemotionally muddled perspective.  Don’t get me wrong, emotions are still involved – our life experiences cannot be properly examined without emotional connection.  But the emotions are focused on compassion now, for the person I was back then, for the people who are humans having made human mistakes, and for every forgivable human being.


Compassion for the Broken Mold

Image(Photo Credit: Ariel Camilo)

I’ve often wondered if we are all actually made from the same exact mold.  It is unsettling to imagine that something could inspire me to do things that the most offensive of society would do to others, particularly the most innocent; I am convinced that I would not, because it is not only not in my nature, but contradictory to everything that I care most about – the protection of the innocent, the fortification of the human spirit.

But then again, I started off with extremely loving parents. My mother, before she went awry, was a very compassionate human being.  My father, mind and spirit intact, is still very kind and compassionate.  I wasn’t raised lacking love or connection, kindness or provision.  I don’t know how severe deficiency in any of those needs may alter our brain, the center of control for our overall well-being, including our perceptions of the world and judgment when we are called to action.

Today marks the 12th anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001.  I think of how the terrorists that were involved lived, thought, were forced to live, were taught to think.  Our universal molds deviated from each other’s; thus, we formed differently, grew in different directions.

What if we were born and raised there, with their values and belief systems?

What if we were born and raised within the Westboro Baptist Church’s doctrines?  In our own free country, shut off from free will and free thinking, the advocacy of oppression and condemnation to others is practiced.

And even if one is not in an extremely reclusive environment, the torch of negativity can often be passed down from one’s own parental figures.  After all, our parents, by nature, are supposed to be THE model for our future selves.  Some of us take that to heart, for good or bad.

When I see movies or footage of “terrorists,” or even communists, the oppressors of my country of origin, who have taken over my parents’ mother land and destroyed the lives of so many soldiers of this great country I call home, I see ordinary people.  Some are small, clearly not well off, and many or most with family and children whom they love and want to protect.

I think of the ignorance of so many in our own country, fearful, and angry, to mask their fears and justify their harmful acts towards another innocent person, and prideful to validate their sense of worth and perpetuate the cycle.

Within the culturally diverse DC metro area, I hear stories from my daughter of kids who preach disdain and disgust against the gay community.  I find it hard to believe that such hatred in these kids comes from nowhere.

Can you imagine?  A new generation of intolerance for what is different, but not harming anyone, is sprung, even in our day and age, even with our technology and information, even with our open media.  What chance does a socioeconomically disadvantaged terrorist within an oppressive organization with a hate-promoting campaign have?  Their molds are broken, as are those of all around them.  This is normal. This is the way to be.  This is what they think, believe, and thus “know.”  This could be me. Any of us.

So universal compassion, I advocate, yes.

Forgiveness, however, is a personal matter.  Stay tuned.


Opportunity of Conflict



I have always been very near-sighted, so when I was younger, school was difficult because I could never see the board, and somehow, my parents never realized I needed glasses (maybe I didn’t mention it to them?  who knows – as a kid, I was too hyperactive and imaginative to let something as trivial as legal blindness bother me).  This went on until high school, when I finally got contacts so I wouldn’t have to feel along the hallways to find my locker.

Meanwhile, at around 12 years of age, I started taking piano lessons (because every proper Asian kid has to have either piano or violin skills under his/her belt).  I dreaded class with Mrs. Quyen Diao (pronounced “gwin yow”) every week, not because she was a terrible teacher or anything, but because I struggled with the lessons due to my inability to see a single note on the music book just a foot from my face.  (It should be noted here that my nearsightedness required that I hold any given book literally an inch or so from my face in order to read the characters. Which means, I would have had to hold it close enough to almost cross my eyes, and then only see a few words at a time. I know, how sexy is that?)

So Mrs. Quyen Diao would tap her pencil (at least my ears thought it was a pencil) as a metronome, as I leaned forward and squinted with all my savvy might to play notes I couldn’t see…  I must have been the most untalented student she had ever had.  But I solved the problem within the first few lessons.

I started (painstakingly) learning the assignment in advance, memorizing where each note should be and every place in the song that required a page turn, so when the following week’s lesson rolled around, I was ready.  Mrs. Quyen Diao must have thought I was the quickest learner.  I saved my family’s honor, AND I developed a good memory and a very good ear for music. 

As a preteen to teenager, I would write down the sounds of the sung words from Chinese (which is not my native language) songs, with my own system of markings, so that I could sing the songs later for myself (I just liked Chinese music and I liked to sing, so I made it happen).  It wasn’t until college that I learned that I was transcribing phonetically (this realization was why I went into linguistics for my MA).

One could argue that because my native language, Vietnamese, was already a tonal language, I could better hear and thus imitate Chinese, another tonal language.  Perhaps to a degree, but the tones are different (even if we look alike–in good fun, I jest–you may find distinctions in the musicality of our spoken languages to be quite different).  Even within the same language, the dialectal differences are markedly distinguishing and not necessarily easy to mimic among fellow patriots.  I will have to credit my very poor vision for my very rich hearing abilities.

But it was not only my poor vision that catalyzed a good ear.  Quite frankly, it was my resolve to make something happen using what I did have.  It was the opportunity of conflict, in which its overcoming tapped into and developed greater skills and assets.  I can look back now and see a stream of opportunities, some incredibly challenging and creating demon-facing beyond a necessary lifetime’s worth, but my being here today, speaking to you about adversity as opportunity, should tell you how those turned out.  🙂

By the way, piano lessons ended after about a year, when my fidgety, unstructured nature wanted to get off the bench and start doing martial arts instead.  As a fighter, being unable to see sharpened my ninja-spidey senses in interesting ways.  That’s a whole other story.   😉


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