Going Home Again

Posted by Xiaojuan Shu on Nov 3, 2016
5592 reads  
A little over a month ago, I decided to live in China for five months to help my mother take care of my father who suffers from late-stage Parkinson's Disease. Several days ago, I flew out from San Francisco and landed in Shanghai, where I rested for one day before I headed home.

As I walked in narrow alleys in Shanghai, or crossed busy streets, or interacted with breakfast vendors, my heart desired to jump out to connect with all the seemingly indifferent faces that I saw. I wanted to see beyond the masks of indifference, distrust, or even rudeness because I know the human hearts beneath those masks are lonely, wounded, and longing to connect.



I boarded the subway train with heavy luggage and sat down in an empty seat. A man with a severely burned face walked by with a begging bowl, followed by a blind man who played the harmonica with one hand and held on to the burned-faced man’s shirt with the other. They seemed invisible to most of the people on the train. When I realized that I had a few coins to share, they had already walked through the crowd and sat down in the distance. I got off at the next stop to transfer, but still regretted that I missed the opportunity to connect with that burned-faced man. The train lingered at the transfer station. I walked on the platform to the next door of the train. Through the open door, I saw the burned-faced man sitting facing the door, facedown. I stood on the platform, waiting for him to look up. A minute went by, he looked up. Our eyes met. I extended my hand toward him with the coins. He wasn't sure for a minute, then stood up and walked toward me and took the coins. We nodded at each other without a word before he went back to his seat. The brief eye contact with that burned-faced man brightened my day.

Later at the subway station, some advertised messages caught my interest. They conveyed a sense of feeling of emptiness from the younger generation living in the contemporary Business-As-Usual world.


(Translation)
My life goes like this:
Every day, I spend half an hour getting out of bed,
half an hour brushing and washing, and
one hour commuting to work;
then, spend the rest of the day waiting to get off work.


(Translation)
My life goes like this:
Every day, I spend four hours socializing,
one hour going home, and
half an hour looking for keys;
then, spend the rest of the day waiting to wake up from being drunk.


(Translation)
My life goes like this:
Every day, I spend two hours dressing up,
half an hour putting makeup on, and
one hour doing selfies;
then, spend the rest of the day waiting for “likes.”

These messages gave me joy. How wonderful it is to name such shared pain in public! (added info: The messages are advertisements for an online fiction reading site, encouraging people to read more)

Sitting on the long-distance bus home, I again reminded myself the intention I set before this trip: To integrate all different parts in me on both sides of the Pacific and to see with New Eyes my very own blood family and the real truth in my roots.

I remember vividly how painful it was two years ago when I visited my family in the part of the planet that’s called China. It was as if I were drowning at dinner/lunch table listening to my relatives, desperately grasping for air of life that could bring any meaning into my very own existence in their business-as-usual world.

This time, I want to fully show up for my blood family, truly respect the reality they know and the stories they hold, and be thankful for their support and love that they gave me as I grew up. In other words, love them, instead of busily defending myself. And understand them for not being able to understand my journey of seeking the unknown as the unknown keeps unfolding...

Living with my family for two weeks is enough to test my level of enlightenment; five months... Home is coming nearer and nearer. Can I be a bigger boat this time home?       

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Comments (4)

  • laure wrote ...

    Beautiful detail. I feel as if I'm there with you, seeing what you're seeing, finding the courage to connect in meaningful ways.

  • Martin wrote ...

    How beautiful, Xiao. Thank you for this. I'm curious: were the messages you translated advertising a product? What was their purpose?

  • Becky wrote ...

    thank you for sharing these moments and reflections. angels are beside (and inside) of you.xo

  • Micky O'Toole wrote ...

    Oh Xiao this is so beautiful! Wow. I am sending hugs across the miles. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with your heart open. Everything about what you wrote, all of it, touched my heart. Thank you. ♥.