How Collin Saved My Life
Posted on September 20, 2017
This is probably one of the more personal writings also and one of my first posts on “Diary of a Baba,” my new blog on being a baba, parenting and politics.
First, I want to say happy birthday to my son, Collin. He turned 3 TODAY! He has been one of the greatest joys in my life. And more than anything, Collin has transformed me and has saved my life.
What does this mean? I hear a lot of people say that parenting is transformative, which is true but for me it is not just having less time or being exhausted, which forces me to prioritize better. It is so much deeper. To me, it is how I’ve become more mindful and how I’ve navigated pretty big changes in life and in general. Parenting, at its core, is the most dialectic and transformative process I’ve ever gone through — and it is still just beginning for me.
In the midst of everything going on in the world with the current and impending wars, neo-fascism, white supremacy, misogyny, and the climate crisis, to name a few, Collin has saved me from losing myself. It is easy to get dug into the “resistance” work. It is also easy to over-commit, over-give, and be “strong” for others in the moment. It is also easy to become isolated, grow resentful and angry at others. How do you do the work and AND not lose yourself? Having Collin in our lives has softened my stance and opened my heart to embrace change in a more mindful and centered way.
As a cis-gender man and the oldest son of a relatively large Chinese family, I come from a history and legacy of Chinese patriarchy and masculinity. I was born in the year of the dragon (1976 not 1988, I’m 41 not 29 years old). My parents named me after “Alexander the Great” (the only English name my father knew) and they named me BIG MONEY in Chinese, literally 大元. I know, no pressure, right? As you can imagine, growing up and training me on how to be a (good) Chinese patriarch and then spending decades trying to unlearn culture, practices, and habits has not been easy. Though I’m an introvert at heart, I’ve been trained to always be on my “A game,” be the “better” one, be the caretaker, be the mediator, be there for everyone — except for myself. I was told, “Don’t cry, don’t feel, or it is okay to feel but have no emotions.” How do you unlearn all this? How do you unlearn not feeling??
As a new parent, I know every child is different and you can’t really “prepare” for what is to come. Instead of trying to do more (like reading books, reflecting or talking to other parents), I just needed to learn to be me, learn to let go of things I couldn’t control, and learn to “empty my mind” to create space for new changes in my life. Collin disarmed me and broke through the many layers of Chinese patriarchy and masculinity that has been built up through the decades. He allowed me how to access my feelings and enabled me to open my heart.
This is especially true after we discovered he was an autistic last year. As we were going through the stages of grief, I was already suppressing my feelings, being there for my partner and family, and creating plans on what we needed to do to “fix things.” That is how I tend to cope but it was not real. Inside, I was an emotional wreck and falling apart but didn’t know how to feel it. Then, in random moments, I would breakdown in meetings. It took me some time (and some deep work) to fully embrace this change as a gift to us and the world. Autism didn’t change Collin. He was still the same happy, goofy and spunky kid. It was more about us and how we embrace him and our new life conditions. If it is not obvious already, much of this has been realized through my somatic practice (and some Bruce Lee, I can’t lie). Through this practice, I’ve realized that it is not about “unlearning” my past or pushing myself to accept things but more about embracing who I am and how to be me in a more mindful and centered way. It is less about what I do and more how I do things. Many think that life choices are about choosing between this or that (either/or) but things are much more fluid and connected. The ying and yang, for example, are actually not separate, they are of the same body. Contradictions, at best, are 2 sides of the same coin, versus 2 separate coins. Finally, I realize that the gift Collin gave me is the ability to feel joy and pain so deeply. He has allowed me to tap into my full power.
This can be applied in many ways in life, the movement, and politics, and there is so much more to say. That is why I started this blog! For me, my commitment is to be a BOLD, PRESENT, BABA in all parts of my life. Being a better baba makes me stronger in movement and community. Collin created this tiny opening for me and is helping me each and everyday stretch that muscle of feeling deeply and building a better world at the same time. As he celebrates his 3 years on this planet and brings us joy and the gifts of love, humor, and creative stories — I can’t wait to see what is to come. I just know that as he grows, my heart and strength will keep growing. This is what saves me each and everyday. This is just my truth. Who or what is saving you? How do you stay centered in this moment? How do you keep coming back to your purpose in these times?
NOTE: For a future post, I want to share how grateful I am for the disability justice community for their cutting edge culture change, advocacy and organizing on the frontlines which has allowed Collin and our family to receive the support we need. Until next time!
(Video of me and Collin at the Tilden Farm. I’m SO amazed at how verbal and creative he has become. He can laugh at his own jokes, tell stories and befriend animals.)
(First image is of me and Collin on the front porch on the first day of pre-school this July.)