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A Story From My Mom
Episode 7
A Story From My Mom
Episode 7: Megan Tan's mom Susan gives us three mantras that help her face and overcome obstacles.Snooze fans- go to and use code snooze16 for up to 16 free meals AND 3 free gifts!Feals: become a member and get 50% automatically taken off your first order with free shipping. for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford, who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Megan Tan 0:01

And now a story from my mother.

Susan Tan 0:03

[music begins] There was this young man. His name was Sessen Doji, and Sessen Doji was seeking the other half of a riddle. [sounds of man running] He knew the front part of the riddle, but he didn't know the last part of the riddle. So, he was seeking for it [monster sound] and he came across a monster. And this monster like had great big, huge teeth, [people screaming and running away from the monster] was foaming at the mouth, really looking ugly. [monster growls and people scream] A very disgusting looking monster. Hairy, because all monsters are kind of hairy and have warts or bad skin. [music stops] Pump up the visual of being like really nasty monster. [music plays again] But the monster said to Sessen Doji, [monster growls] I know the other half of the parable. I will tell you what it is. [music changes-celebratory] And Sessen Doji was delighted. He finally found the answer he was looking for.

Susan Tan 1:24

[music changes back] But the monster looked at Sessen Doji, and he licked his chops. And he said, but I love fresh meat. And Sessen Doji was like, Oh, yeah. Okay. But Sessen Doji also was very brave. [sound of man fighting: Ya!] So he said, Okay. The monster told him, [monster growls] this is the deal. I'll tell you the second half of the parable. And then you have to jump into my mouth off a cliff. [music stops] And of course, I'm going to consume you. Is that good? [music changes] And Sessen Doji was like, Yes, I will do it.

Susan Tan 2:23

[writing, scribbling sounds] The monster told him the other half of the parable and Sessen Doji went all over writing it down on trees, on rocks. He just like proliferated his space with writing down both halves of the parable.

Susan Tan 2:45

[music with wind chimes] And then when he was ready, he came to the edge of the cliff. And he said, Okay, I'm ready. [sound of him running and yelling] And so he jumped off the cliff into the foaming ugly, bad breath mouth of the monster. And as he was going down, the monster turned into Tai Shaku, a Buddhist god [music changes- birds chirp] and captured him in its arms and set him upright. [pause]

Susan Tan 3:37

And so the meaning of this parable is about taking on that which is very frightening, scary, difficult. But you get set up by circumstances, because a lot of our fears are really not actualizations. They're all in our head.

Megan Tan 3:53

[theme music] You're listening to Snooze, a show about things people put off, how they conquer them, but most importantly, how they conquer themselves. And I'm Megan Tan. Let's go! [music out]

Megan Tan 4:37

When I heard the Sessen Doji story that my mom just told, I was a kid. Not really sure what age, maybe five or six. At the time, it was just a story. I didn't really know how my mom took this story and applied it to her life.

Susan Tan 4:53

I've always taken this parable as a reminder to push myself towards something that I feel a lot of anxiety about. The first time I did this [original music] was feeling extremely anxious about going back to school. I was substitute teaching.

Megan Tan 5:20

I was in middle school at the time. My sister, Crystal, was in college, and my mom wanted to fulfill an unfulfilled dream of hers.

Susan Tan 5:30

Right, and my purpose for wanting my master's degree- I wanted to get accreditation, because we needed more money, and I needed a better job, a full-time teaching position, so that I could pay for Crystal's schooling. [music out]

Megan Tan 5:59

It had been about 15 years since my mom stepped foot in a classroom.

Susan Tan 6:02

I didn't, I didn't feel confident. So I used this parable, [audio from earlier: He came to the edge of the cliff, and he jumped. Sessen Doji screams] to push myself to sign up and to take this class.

Megan Tan 6:19

My mom is the type of woman who at the age of 72, jumped off the cliff again. She moved to Maine, bought her first house on her own, reinvented herself as an artist in a new place. She is the queen of unsnoozing, but she doesn't do it alone. She does it with the stories in her pocket.

Kyle Chang 6:41

[theme music] Snooze will be back after the break.

Kyle Chang 6:55

[theme music] Now back to the show.

Megan Tan 7:10

Oh, we have to put the placemats down. Here, Dad. 1,2,3,4,5.

Megan Tan 7:19

It's 2021, around Thanksgiving, and I'm home for the Holidays, sitting across the table from my mother, my father, my sister and my niece. And I'm thinking about the phrases that exist within all of us. That exists within me, that have helped me make this show. They're all stories my parents have told me. Stories we tell each other when we sit around the table.

Megan Tan 7:49

All right. Sounds of family eating. [people laugh] Act natural! [people laughing and pretending to eat]

Susan Tan 8:00

Have we ever acted natural? [little girl laughs]

Megan Tan 8:05

[laughs] Yeah. Does anybody want the salmon?

Megan Tan 8:08

My mom is one of my favorite storytellers.

Megan Tan 8:12

Interviewing Mom, November 26th, 2021.

Susan Tan 8:18

All right. What's the topic of the interview?

Megan Tan 8:21

I'm gonna let you know.

Susan Tan 8:23


Megan Tan 8:23

Also relax. Relax, it's chill.

Susan Tan 8:26

Okay. Well, I am chill. I mean, but I did take a walk and it's freezing cold out there. So...

Megan Tan 8:32

Like, chilly? You want a blanket?

Susan Tan 8:36

No. I'm good. I'm good.

Megan Tan 8:38

So we're interviewing people about phrases in their lives that they use whenever they're facing a challenge. So what's a phrase you use?

Susan Tan 8:46

Recently, it came to my attention, and I really like this one- is fear. The actual acronym fear, F E A R, is false evidence appearing to be real.

Megan Tan 9:06

[writing sounds] [original music] Fear, F. E. A. R.- False Evidence Appearing to be Real- FEAR. When I hear her say this, I think about the people we've had on the show- like Abby: That inner voice that's freaking out about potentially maybe not being able to have a biological child, Austin: It's like, who are you trying to be? You're not that guy anymore. Jessica: I'm not confident that I'm going to pass the permit test- and how we're always on the border line of allowing our fears to take over our realities. Sometimes fear creates a world that isn't even grounded in anything real. [music swells, out]

Megan Tan 10:03

And the tendency for this happens everywhere. Fear can be hanging out with us when we're applying for a job, trying to buy our first house, or even when we're outside, raking the leaves. So what's the story behind the acronym FEAR? What were you going through at the time?

Susan Tan 10:22

Oh, it was a month ago, and I had pulled out my back. And I'd never really done that, as painful as it was. And um, I was raking leaves, and I was mulching with the lawn mower, and, and it was all physical work. And so I became very intimidated about doing that kind of work in my yard. But I still had lots more leaves to rake, I had to lift these big bags of leaves after bending over and pushing them down in the damn bags. [laughs] And there wasn't really anybody else to do it. So I had to depend on myself. But I, I was intimidated by my temporary disability. So I'm like, this is my fear that I'm running into, false evidence appearing to be real. And then what do you have, you've got a stack of leaves out there for the rest of the winter, because, you know, then Thanksgiving came, and it's gonna be snow on the ground. That was the call. So it was me, bringing out my inner core strength to say, you can do this. You know, just be careful. Just take your time. Just be conscious of what your body is doing. And you'll be fine.

Megan Tan 12:08

Yeah, as somebody who's in their thirties, ripe age of [makes choking sounds as a joke] [laughs with Susan] thirties, thirties. I don't feel those limitations yet. But it is interesting to hear about what to anticipate as you get older.

Susan Tan 12:23

As my good friend Donna says, we're not spring chickens anymore. When a person falls as they're getting older, you lose your sense of security. It's a physical sense of security, but it's also psychological and it's also emotional. It becomes another thing that you have to be fully conscious of, in order to move through life. Then what you really have to be able to discern, that which is a real limitation and that which is just a limitation based on experiences that you've had.

Megan Tan 13:09

[writing sounds] You have to be able to discern what is a real limitation and what is a limitation based on experiences you've had. Yo, this is why I love my mom, because she always just be taking things to the next level. You know? You have to discern what is a real limitation and what is a limitation based on the experiences you've had. [music begins] The one thing I can think of is back in 2019. I was walking across the street with a coworker of mine, and there was an older woman literally two feet in front of us. [people talking in background] We were all crossing the crosswalk when all of a sudden, [car driving fast] a car came out of nowhere and headed straight [honking and screeching] toward us. I ran left my coworker ran right, and she found herself between two cars. The older woman was underneath the car. [sirens] I was okay. But everyone else was rushed to the hospital. [music swells, out]

Megan Tan 14:58

It's taken me a while to get that moment out of my body.

Megan Tan 15:02

[sounds of car door opening] Sometimes when I'm in a car, just driving on the highway, I get a vision of getting into an accident. [music begins] And I hate it. Now, I have no limitations when it comes to driving. I am a perfectly able-bodied person who can get behind the wheel and go someplace. But when fear creeps in, based on this past experience, my body tells my brain, I can't do it. I don't want to do it. Because I don't want to repeat the feeling of an experience I've had before. [music out]

Megan Tan 15:59

Driving has become an everyday fear for me. But then there are these fears that happen only a few times in your life.

Susan Tan 16:10

When I moved to Maine, it was like, don't freak out, Mom.

Megan Tan 16:14

That's what I said to her.

Susan Tan 16:16

Which I didn't freak out until I actually got to Maine, and I was all by myself, and then I kind of freaked out. This was in 2017, when your father and I, our divorce was finalized. And I started to get depressed. I was at this point of feeling like I was going into a dark sinkhole. And I looked up meetup groups. I thought, well, I'll go for a beer and meet new people. And I literally had to push myself out the door. [original music] And it's like there's a force that y- you're pushing against that, that doesn't want you to go.

Megan Tan 17:03

[writing sounds] Push yourself out the door.

Susan Tan 17:05

And so, I pushed myself out the door, [car door opening sound] drove the car. I can still remember getting to this place where we were supposed to meet, [crying] and I was like thinking, but I won't know anybody, you know, and I'm gonna feel so stupid.

Susan Tan 17:22

Those kind of things, but I got there and I parked the car and I walked in. And you know, there's all these people around. Then naturally, you just start talking. [sounds of people mingling] I mean, that's what people do when they get together. They don't know each other, but you connect, you talk. And then the next thing I know this guy's like, well, I'm the vice president. And it turned out that this was ski club. Now mind you, I think I'm gonna go have a few beers and go home. He says to me, there's one more spot to go skiing in Red Mountain. Where's Red Mountain? [British Columbia, Canada anthem] Red Mountain is in British Columbia, Canada! [anthem song plays, duck under]

Megan Tan 17:50

My mother, the woman who sometimes has a hard time raking leaves, is using one of the phrases she keeps in her pocket to go skiing in a foreign country, alone.

Kyle Chang 18:39

Snooze will be back after the break. [anthem plays, out]

Kyle Chang 18:43

[theme music] Now back to the show.

Susan Tan 18:59

[original music] He says to me, there's one more spot to go skiing in Red Mountain. Where's Red Mountain? Red Mountain is in British Columbia, Canada. I thought [music out] what the heck, you know, what do I have to lose? Sure. Let's just see if this works. [music resumes] So long story short, in a week and two days, I'm on an airplane. [airplane sounds] Then I transferred to a bus [bus sounds] and I'm going across the border into Canada to go ski after not having skied for seven years. And in order to ski with my old equipment, I had to go to Sam's. I remember the guy holding up my ski boot and dropping it. And it hit the floor. It didn't explode into 1000 pieces, and he says, yeah, yeah, these are good. These are still good. Get my skis waxed. [music out] And I go up there. I am scared shitless. [footsteps] I haven't skied for seven years, and my knees aren't working so good anymore, and I'm thinking, I cannot fall. You know, there we go bad, you know, you can't fall. Yep. This is, this is a real, perpetual fear for older people. [music begins] And I'm on skis. [laughs with Megan] So, I'm like, I'm like, please don't let me, don't let me crash, don't let me die, don't let me... [laughs] [sounds of skiing]

Susan Tan 20:55

I made it down the hill. I did good. I mean, I felt good. I was, I was- Dang! I was boss. I was bomb. This made me feel so good that when I came back, everybody else in my family was going through depression. Guess who wasn't? Me. I came back home and I said, dang. You know, like, I'm on a roll. [music swells] [music out]

Susan Tan 21:41

And that, to me, is like a real testimony of what is important, to challenge yourself, to push yourself out.

Megan Tan 21:52

The thing I love about my mother is her spirit. She's ageless, really. She's constantly pushing herself, reinventing herself, exploring herself, doing things she's never done before. When I get older, I want to be like that. Because of her, I naturally have had the courage to do the same. I've gone to Mongolia and travelled there for a month. I've lived in Ecuador for six months, I moved out to Los Angeles with no family and very few friends on a whim. But fear never really goes away. Whatever time it may be. Whatever age we may be. It's always there. Like a shadow.

Megan Tan 22:46

[water running] And Jillian doing the dishes.

Jillian Sherwood 22:50

Yup. Hi. [starts singing along with a song: ...The fever it's just bringing me Africa.]

Megan Tan 23:01

But luckily, the phrases we hear around the dinner table, around the kitchen sink, those are always with us too. Can you introduce yourself?

Jillian Sherwood 23:11

Um, hi. My name's Jillian Sherwood and it's my auntie, Megan. Yeah. I don't really know what else to say. [conversation continues, duck under]

Megan Tan 23:22

This is my niece, Jillian. She's 12 years old. And even though we don't really look the same, when she smiles, she wrinkles up her nose just like me. Last time I saw her she was 10, much shorter, and she wore pink polka dot shirts. But now she's a preteen. And she wears hoop earrings and sometimes heels. She's also an artist, an incredible sketch and anime artist, and a writer. She's currently working on a project called The Path to Your Destiny, which is about 50 chapters long.

Jillian Sherwood 24:05


Megan Tan 24:06

Okay. [laughing] So you have a book that's 56 chapters long and you have an editor.

Jillian Sherwood 24:11

Yeah, I do.

Megan Tan 24:13

When I ask her about her phrases, she tells me about a wise magician from her book.

Jillian Sherwood 24:19

Oh yeah, the magician from my book. He said to the girl, that time is like a river. You can't go back into the past. So you have to look into the present and look on your future to move forward.

Megan Tan 24:35

[writing sounds] Time is like a river. You can't go back into the past. So you have to look into the present and look on your future to move forward. Going forward like a river, is kinda like a new rendition of Sessen Doji taking a leap off a cliff. But what if Sessen Doji wore hoop earrings and was in middle school.

Jillian Sherwood 25:03

Actually, at my school, I had a problem with my friends. Um, Merriam, Bella, and Audrey. And there were a bunch of rumors going around about Audrey, and Bella hated Audrey, like, despised Audrey and we kind of avoided the problem.

Megan Tan 25:22

How did you avoid the problem?

Jillian Sherwood 25:24

We just started talking separately to each other like, Oh, it's this person's fault, oh, it's this person's fault. But we ended up solving the problem by confronting Bella, who didn't really like Audrey, and now they're really good friends.

Megan Tan 25:40


Jillian Sherwood 25:42

So it was kind of confusing because Bella was saying rumors about Audrey, and Audrey or Bella kind of... [duck under]

Megan Tan 25:50

As I'm listening to Jillian, I can hear my mom in her voice. Jillian's young, but she's wise. And I wonder if that's something that's been passed down from my grandmother to my mother, to me and my sister, and then to Jillian. I wonder if the stories and phrases we keep in our pockets and bring out during difficult times have been there since before we were born.

Jillian Sherwood 26:24

Okay, ready? [sounds of activity and talking]

Megan Tan 26:28

As I watch Jillian play Guess Who with my father-

Jillian Sherwood 26:33

Um Baba, do you have facial hair? [Baba: No.]

Megan Tan 26:38

I realized that even though I don't live in the same time zone as the people who look like me, who raised me, who know me more than I sometimes know myself, parts of them already exist inside of me. They exist in how I view problems, how I get through difficulties. They exist in the conversations I have with people on this show. And that all started with the conversations we would have at the table.

Megan Tan 27:16

[sounds of the family talking, laughing, and enjoying each other] All right. Okay, come on, Mom. [laughs] [music plays] Wow, that was fast. [music swells] [music out]

Erick Galindo 28:11

[theme music] If you have something that you've been putting off, call us. 323-591-8159. That's 323-591-8159. Leave us a message. And you could be on an episode of Snooze. Don't put it off. I'm talking to you.

Megan Tan 28:32

Before I give you scenes from the next episode of Snooze, I want to give a shout-out to everyone who helped make this episode possible. This episode was written by Kyle Chang and me. Kyle produced and sound-designed this episode. He also composed some original music. I helped with editing. It was mixed and engineered by Donald Paz. Jessica Pilot is our talent producer. Erick Galindo is our showrunner. Our producers are Marina Pena and Emma Alabaster. Our associate producer is Kyle Chang, and I'm your host, Megan Tan. Antonia Cereijido and Leo G are the executive producers. Our theme song is by Wayan Dopeman. Andrew Eapen wrote and composed the original music for the show. The original artwork for Snooze was created by Seonna Hong. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram @meganleetan and the show @snoozepodcast. Our website on is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital marketing team, who also created our branding. Snooze is a production of LAist Studios. Thanks to the team over there, including Taylor Coffman, Sabir Brara, Kristen Hayford, Kristen Muller, Andy Orozco, Michael Cosentino and Leo G.

Erick Galindo 29:44

Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford, who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Megan Tan 30:00

If you like Snooze, rate and review us on Apple podcasts. Trust me, it really helps us out. And we would love to know what you think. And if you love Snooze and you want to shower us with appreciation, become a sustaining member of KPCC and LAist Studios by going to Support the place that supports this work that supports people like me. [music out]

Megan Tan 30:31

[original music] On the next episode of Snooze, we help Mark find a sex therapist.

Mark 30:40

I want to change the way I view my body and the way that I view sex because up until this point, sex was always a chore for me and something I needed to perform at and just be perfect at. Look perfect, act perfect, be perfect.

Megan Tan 30:58

I'm Megan Tan, and thanks for listening. [music out]

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