Joie de Vivre (BM Apr 27 2016)

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It’s that time of the month when my daughter and I share three books we enjoy reading. It also coincides with the month that made me realize how diverse and all-present the French phrase joie de vivre (joy of life) means.

My daughter’s picks:

  1. Cupcake Diaries Series by Coco Simon. My daughter likes this because it is about her favorite hobby, baking and friendship.
  2. The School For Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. She likes this because it is about magic, mystery, friendship and, according to her, “life.”
  3. Stephen Curry: The Incredible Story of One of Basketball’s Sharpest Shooters by Clayton Geoffreys. She asked me to get this for her IN February. She told me last week that Stephen Curry is very close to beating Michael Jordan’s record and she was very excited for that.
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For me, my top picks this month are:

  1. The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman And Ross Campbell. This book was recommended by someone I used to work with, and one I truly admire. At that time, I was finding a way to connect more with my son. When my son was one, our whole company dynamics changed and I had to take on more responsibilities in the company. I didn’t have as much time for him as I had with my daughter. This book has helped me a lot to understand him better.
  2. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, PhD. This book is great for people who are a bit obsessive-compulsive. After reading about “turn-around” business leaders, like Lou Gerstner of IBM and Anne Mulcahy of Xerox, I learned more to see problems as opportunities, and change as a positive message for what lies ahead.
  3. Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding four Joie de Vivre by Jamie Cat Callan. Sometime in 2014, I was privileged to attend a women’s conference in Singapore. I was in the middle of reading this novel during that trip. For the next two days, I heard from powerful women in business from Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore. They shared their success stories in their respective industries. More than this, they were candid in sharing the challenges they faced in their family life. I found the honesty refreshing, and the women were different from each other. Among the women, it was Dr. Kanwaljit Soin from Singapore who left me with the deepest impression. Dr Soin was a Nominated Member of the Parliament of Singapore from 1992 to 1996. In 1992 she was nominated “Woman of the Year” in Singapore. In 2000 she was presented the Women Who Make a Difference Award by the International Women’s Forum, Washington, D.C. Dr. Soin has held numerous positions in welfare, advocacy and professional organizations.  In her speech, she never mentioned any of these accolades. She spoke more about her challenges, especially in her own family. When I requested to have a photograph, she hugged me first. It is refreshing to meet a great woman with so many achievements but with immense humility and warmth.  The few days I had of learning from “real” leaders and meeting new people made me see the essence of what the French mean about joie de vivre. The French always put an art on everything.

The book says the “Joy of Life” is about loving life, loving people, loving to be alive and trusting that nothing happens without a reason. It is about accepting what’s in your life in the moment and feeling contented inside.

I ended this trip my own set of verses:

The price of untimely good-byes…

is the wholeness of one’s vision.

Is it a sacrifice?

or is it a gift?

Live only the moment

when the moment allows to live.

Joie De Vivre stays

when Joie De Vivre is chosen to stay.

Let the feeling flutter

So you remember…

Remember the date

Remember who saved.

Today we know what we know

And chose what we chose.

No regrets…Only faith in tomorrow

and faith in ourselves.

This book bears even more meaning after recently visiting a friend from law school who suffered cancer and had complications from a rare disease. He was in a coma for two months and woke up last year. His wife was telling us how he started from just being able to say yes or no by blinking his eyes, to using his fingers and, now, trying to speak. When I arrived, it was time for his speech therapy. I entered the room, and though he physically looked very different from before, I spoke to him like how I would when were still in class more than 10 years ago.

I asked him if he remembered me and he tried his best to say, “Maye” and a few seconds later “Yao.” I joked with him about scotch and bourbon. When other friends arrived, he even started giving his thoughts on the presidential race, and joked with us about his wife. It’s still him—the same humor, the same spirit.

It made me think of how our “will” truly drives our joie de vivre. Some people have “everything” and choose to love nothing, while some people have lost much of their capacity to “live” but manage to humor life. The dichotomy is worth pondering, with people like my friend serving as solid inspiration—that happiness is a choice and not a fatal destiny.

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