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Trade-offs and Triumphs 36 by @jennykim
Issue 36: Saying Good-bye, Resources for the Week, and Closing Thoughts
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Welcome to issue 36 of Trade-offs and Triumphs - a newsletter of resources and thoughts about how to balance trade-offs in life to find and celebrate the small triumph; every decision point requires thinking through trade-offs and not just immediately aiming for the “solution.”
How was your week? What were your trade-offs and triumphs?
This week we will hit on:
👉 Saying Good-bye
👉 Resources for the Week
👉 Closing Thoughts
For a quick oral summary of Issue 36, hit ▶️ below:
"Grief is the price we pay for love." - Queen Elizabeth II
As she listened and gazed around her during the funeral, what memories flickered through her mind and heart as she reflected upon seventy plus years of marriage? Despite her public composure, what did she remember as she listened to the hymns and stared at the coffin, draped with her late husband’s standard?
And after seventy plus years of marriage - of good, bad, and ugly - is good-bye even adequate, or is it actually, “until we meet again?”
Her sitting alone in the pew is symbolic - no matter how many family members you have around you, if you are blessed enough to experience a frustrating yet fulfilling marriage, no one can seem to replace your spouse.
And ultimately you are alone - alone in grieving and remembering.
When my paternal grandfather passed away more than twenty years ago, my paternal grandmother travelled from Korea to New York City to visit three of her nine children. I was a pre-teen back then, and I remembered how my parents, uncles, and aunts scurried around to get ready for her arrival. In hushed voices, they discussed how long she would stay at each home and what activities would be planned for her. Everyone seemed to be worried about her - she and my grandfather had been married for more than sixty years. She had remained resolutely stoic throughout the entire funeral and kept on moving on with life’s activities.
So when I met with my grandmother and peered at her, nothing seemed to have changed. Her stare could stop bad behavior immediately, and she still cleared her throat imperiously when she was displeased. She enjoyed walking around large shopping malls and peering at all the latest fashions, and eating an endless number of bananas. Bananas were one of her favorite foods, and they were too expensive in Korea for her to consume daily.
She seemed fine, until she heard a song.
That morning, my mother needed to prepare lunch for my grandmother at our small New York City apartment. She turned her eyes on me, and I knew that it was my job to keep my grandmother entertained. I looked through our meagre collection of Korean cassette tapes and turned to my mother. Her fingers flipped through a few cassette tapes, picked up one, inserted it into the player, and pressed play.
My mother half-bowed to her mother-in-law. “Mother, I will be cooking in the kitchen. Jenny will keep you company, and we also thought that you would enjoy listening to some older Korean music.”
My grandmother pursed her lips and nodded regally. She folded her hands over her middle and closed her eyes. The mournful wailing of Korean singer, Lee Mi Ja, drifted over the speakers as she sang about memories of being a young bride (rough English translation of the second set of lyrics):
A long time ago, on this road,
As a young bride,
I followed my husband,
No matter where or how,
From the beginning to the ends of the earth.
My grandmother’s eyes remained closed, but her cheeks were wet. My mother came out from the kitchen, wiped her hands on her apron, and opened her mouth until she noticed her mother-in-law’s wet cheeks. She glanced at me, then at the cassette tape player, and modulated her voice. “Mother. That song must have made you think of father.”
My grandmother wiped her wet cheeks, and opened her eyes. She looked up at my mother and nodded briefly. And then her eyes veered away and gazed at some indistinct point. My mother went over to the cassette tape player and turned it off. She turned to me and placed her finger over her lips. I blinked.
Funerals are where we believe we bid farewell to the deceased and bury them and our feelings and memories into the ground. But do feelings and memories ever die, or do they remain dormant until a place, phrase, a song, or a melody provokes an emotion?
Queen Elizabeth II is a public figure with several titles. But last Saturday, in that pew, by herself, she reminded me of my late grandmother - a wife, a widow, and a person who retains the joint memories and emotions of a long marriage all alone.
For my grandmother, it was this song, “Assi,” sung by Lee Mi Ja that provoked memories of her late husband: 👇👇👇👇👇
✊⚒️️🧰 Resources for the Week
✅ Musee de Louvre’s online collection database - while going to the museum is usually preferable, peering at incredible art collections online is a great second best. Check out how the Louvre has put more than 482,000 pieces of art for your perusal online.
Reviews are about the what
Customer Testimonials are about the who
Recommendations are about the why
Closing Thoughts: Intensity vs Consistency, Habits, Bridges
Please leave me your questions or thoughts in the Comments section below 👇👇👇
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Be conscious of your trade-offs. Before settling on any one “solution,” run your fingers through all the trade-offs and decide intentionally and specifically.
And then celebrate your triumphs, no matter how small.