Trials and frustrations to start 2017

Over the years, I’d made numerous attempts at sustaining a something similar to a blog, even before I’d actually set one up online 3 years ago. I seemed to have more and more trouble staying in touch with friends and acquaintances as I grew older, and thought that a blog would be an ideal way to stay in touch with others. I could then I take more time to piece together some meaning from daily existence.

That was before I realized that recalling and keeping track of recent activities as each day passes is a struggle in itself! The same with keeping track of plans that I intend, but have yet to carry out.

Keeping in mind that I learn best by trial-and-error, I had created a folder on my PC at work some time between 2011 and 2012, simply titled “Work Completed by Date” – breaking down all tasks that various colleagues assigned to me, typing them up in a list, and organizing them by year, month, and date.

That way, when colleagues ask me for some piece of information, explanation, document, etc., I could locate it much more easily.

In July of 2014, I started a similar document at home, which I titled “Daily Info Dump”.
As time progressed, I modified this list by jotting down what I’d managed to accomplish each day in black text, and reminders of tasks I’d yet to do in red. At the end of each day, I would review all of my activities, switch newly completed tasks to black, and leave uncompleted ones in red to come back to for the near future. Tasks that became unnecessary would be left intact, but crossed out (so I could recall them later, if needed).

The next coloring doesn’t show up below, but here are a couple of recent entries:

Daily Info Dump

Thurs. Jan. 12

Worked at U.S. Jaclean
Letter from Dr. Lin forwarded to colleagues at office
Write “Thank you” card to drop off for Dr. Lin some time next week
Pumped gas on the way home, but forgot to buy milk
Prepared for Dr. Yeh’s appt. tomorrow with Mom; unable to locate frame from broken sunglasses to use for new extra eyeglasses! 🙁
Watched on TV: “Great American Baking Show” finals, then “White House History”

Fri. Jan. 13

Appointments with Dr. Yeh (Mom + me) 11 a.m.
Driven to his office by Jason
Lengthy wait + eyes dilated
Did not arrive home for lunch until nearly 4 p.m.
Work on my blog post – plan to post on SUNDAY
Latest draft saved as Word document saved in READING folder; yet to go over
Catch up on CYLL online course!!


I’d long since been aware of, and frustrated by, the trouble I have organizing my daily tasks and keeping track of passing time. Only recently was I able to pin down that my struggles have to do with the permanent damage my short-term memory.

So I developed another procedure:

After every few minutes of new incoming information – to step away, perform other tasks that don’t require much thinking at all.

(This allows my mind to filter the information, make sense of it, and find the right words to pin it down.)

Then, take time to organize these words into writing before they evaporated from memory.

However, this process is far from perfect. Even during the process of “stepping away”, bits and pieces of thoughts become mixed up, or disintegrate altogether. The ones that I manage to retain still tend to slip and slide within my mind; various details frequently get lost, to give me trouble making sense of the whole picture that they fit into.

Jotting reminders down on paper only works up to a point.  Unless I take time to immediately figure out the right places to store and file them away, papers pile up so that I get all of the information on them mixed up.  While typing them up on my PC, other thoughts interrupt and disturb my recollections.  Such interruptions coming from family members and phone calls, distractions from weather conditions — all can wreak havoc on my memory storage process.

Then, RETRIEVING the appropriate memories at the right times involves constant preparation: going over all the recent information I’d put into words, figuring out how they fit into past contexts already in my memory, and finding ways to link together relevant portions so that they will surface when needed.

All of this takes time and effort.

Hence these tracking documents I’ve created – otherwise, I would never be able to recall what I’d accomplished and what I’ve yet to do!

Even then, finding meaning in my daily existence involves another process that I continue to experiment with.



My plan for 2017 is to take my daily record-keeping one step further by producing a blog post (such as this one) twice a month: draw meaning from weekly experiences by pairing them with past insights.

As soon as my alarm went off at 6 a.m. on January 1st of this year, I immediately got out of bed, showered, dressed, and headed to the living room with ample time, I thought, to watch the start of the Rose Parade broadcast on TV.

But Mom was already up, and spewed her usual contempt. “You fool! Today is Sunday. Don’t you remember? The Rose Parade has been moved to tomorrow!”
I gave myself a proverbial kick in the pants. I’d only reminded myself of this circumstance several times throughout the past week. But still… Did Mom have to be so condescending on the first day of a new year?

So I refrained from making any response. Instead, I busied myself tidying my bedroom and doing a fresh batch of laundry, while speaking to no one, so that words could surface within my mind.

A few hours later, I came upon the possible cause behind Mom’s mood. My brother Jason, who hadn’t stepped foot in the house for a couple of days, had flown out of town again without a mention to anyone in the family. Dad stood peering at the kitchen calendar, on which Jason had circled several dates and written:

“Dec. 29 ~ Jan. 4: San Francisco to visit friend”

Then came their loud complaints (approximately translated from Chinese):

What kind of son was this? He lived at home free of charge, but balked at helping out when his own parents needed assistance. He ate all of his meals out – God knows what he’s filling his stomach with. When he needed money, we had generously provided it without hesitation. All we hoped for was a little respect, and consideration, from him. Instead, he continues to betray us…

In all of my interactions, my first instinct is to take whatever action necessary to dispel this kind of negativity, and replace it with approval. Over the years, however, such actions have only encouraged numerous people to trample over me!

So this time, I firmly reminded myself:

I need my memory to work, first.

And to do that: I have to withdraw. Gain distance from others. Identify CAUSES behind the effects. Form words to pin them down. And make sense of how these causes and effects work together.

In other words, create a narrative, and liken it to the FICTION that’s familiar to my long-term memory.

Then, channel everything into writing.

After a good night’s sleep, I rose early once again on Jan. 2nd with my full optimism. Before heading into the living room to catch the Rose parade on TV, I strolled into Mom’s bedroom to wish her a cheerful “Happy Birthday”.

Mom immediately snapped at me for even mentioning it, and continued to be grumpy the rest of the day. As she did with every birthday, she insisted that we tell no one, and that there be no celebration whatsoever.

While I was inclined to follow her wishes (it was her birthday, after all), Dad wouldn’t listen. A few hours later, after Mom had retreated to her bedroom, Dad pestered me to drive him out for lunch, then bring home a cake (which I knew that Mom wouldn’t touch).

Dad and I dined at a Marie Callendar’s restaurant not too far from home. There, I managed to convince him to forgo a regular cake (all of whose icing Mom would no doubt scrape off and discard) and try bringing home a pie, instead. We had a good meal and I selected my favorite custard pie – whose flavor, not too sweet, I hoped Mom just might find agreeable.


It was fortunate that I kept my caution intact.  Mom refused to even touch the pie.  She further chewed out both Dad and me for wasting money on something so fattening and unhealthy.

I focused on tuning out both her words and her attitude as I placed the pie into our refrigerator.

Keeping in mind the calories, I enjoyed a very thin slice that pie for dessert after dinner that evening, while Dad helped himself to a big chunk.

When I checked again before going to bed that night, half of the pie was gone – gobbled up by Dad while the rest of us weren’t looking.  The following morning, the rest of the pie had disappeared – even before I had a chance convince Mom to sample it!

Although I wanted to grind my teeth in frustration, and yell accusations at Dad, this situation did not surprise me in the least. In my family – it’s the female members who possess any self-control, while the male members are utterly lacking!

Rather than risk another spike in my frustration level, I immediately decided to do the smarter thing — and channel all of this into my writing.

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