Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Family

Not in This Lifetime

I saw my last therapist for close to fifteen years. Around the ten-year mark, I said something about regretting that I was still working on some of the same issues that I had been when I first started seeing her. She said something to the effect that if I didn’t work on them then, I would be saying the the same thing in ten more years, except it’d be, “I can’t believe I’ve been working twenty years on this,” instead of ten.

I balked at what she was saying at the time (that’s just how I roll. My first instinct is always to counter what’s being said to me. I’m working on it), and I thought it was trite (which it was, but many tropes have at least a grain of truth), but she’s right. It’s fine to be sad that I haven’t fixed x, y, or z, but unless I work on it, it still won’t get fixed, and I’ll just have wasted more years. Take for example learning a new language. Chinese would be really useful for me to learn, but I would feel weird if I learned it before I learn Taiwanese which is my family’s native language. It would be harder for me to learn it, and I haven’t. I also haven’t learned Chinese. If I had started with that, I would know it by now.

Sigh.

In the past week, I’ve been thinking of my mortality. I’m probably past the half point of my life, and it’s all downhill from here. I jest, but not really. I have a thing that I hate the second half of things because it means the end is nearer than the beginning, and I’m feeling that way about my life right now. There are many things that are probably not going to happen in this lifetime, some for better and some for worse. Let’s start with some of the better ones.

  1. Have kids. WHEW!!! Enough said. Ha! Just kidding. About enough said, not about putting kids on this list. I can’t help but be smug when I remember an argument with a friend twenty years ago about having kids. There were three of us, all in our mid-to-late twenties, and one friend was insisting that I’d be the first of us to have kids. I don’t know why she thought that, but it really pissed the fuck out of me. I’ve known since I was twenty that I didn’t want kids. It’s the only constant in my life. To have someone who didn’t even know me that well tell me that I was going to have kids, aw, hell no. At the time, I thought to myself that I would send her postcard after she had a kid to gloat about it. She has a kid now and so does my other friend (my BFF), and me? Gloriously child-free.
  2. Get married. This is another that I assumed would just happen because isn’t it what every girl dreams of? Not me. I never made my Barbies get married–just have sex. I didn’t dream of my wedding because it seemed more like a nightmare to me. When I got older, I had political problems with it as well. The sexist origins of marriage, the taking of the dude’s last name, etc. Add to that the fact that marriage equality was but a dream when I was a young bi lady, and it was a big fat nope for me. Still, there was a tiny corner of my mind that wanted it for…reasons! I couldn’t articulate why, but I began to see it was to normalize my freak-ass self. I was such a weirdo and had no place in polite society. I had shed vestiges of an acceptable persona all throughout my twenties. I gave up religion, the idea of being a mother, and I had a hard time letting go of walking down the aisle in wedded bliss. What changed my mind? Over time, I realized I didn’t want to be with someone 24/7. I like living alone. I don’t like compromise. I like sleeping by myself. Well, maybe with my cat, but dassit. Any time I thought of marriage, it just seemed like a millstone around the neck. By the time I was thirty, I was done with the idea of marriage.
  3. A romantic relationship. This is in a gray area, but I’m leaning towards the idea that I’d prefer not to have a monogamous, primary romantic relationship. I’ve written about this before, but I’m not good girlfriend material. In addition, I don’t want to commit so deeply to one person. I have great friends that fulfill many of my emotional needs, and all I really am missing is sex. I’ve said it many times, but my ideal sex buddy would be someone with whom I could laugh, talk, eat, watch a sportsball game, then fuck for hours. Then, I’d kick them out and sleep the way I sleep best–alone. I wouldn’t mind having a few of these relationships. The idea makes me smile. When I think of a romantic relationship, there’s a constriction in my chest, and I have a hard time breathing. It feels smothering, which is what I tend to do in relationships.

Those are the ones I’m comfortable with. There are others that I’m less happy about. Let’s start that list now.


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Fake It Until You Make It, Part II

Hi. I wrote the first part of this post here. I have more things to say about it, so this is part two.

Another part of my problem is that my father has the inability to look at things from a viewpoint other than his own. He brought up an example that has been a sore point between us for many years. Rather, it was a sore point, but then it kind of got glossed over, and I eventually shrugged it off. He’s brought it up the last two times he’s visited, so obviously, it stuck with him. When I was a kid, he had a firm belief that having wet hair meant you’d catch cold. In addition, he has a lower set point for coldness than do I. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it a time or a million, he’s a narcissist. When I was a kid, I used to go outside after taking a shower. Or I would go outside without a coat on in the winter. He would say, “Put on a coat; I’m cold.” To hear him tell it, I rebelled because he didn’t ask me nicely such as, “Please put on a coat; it’s cold outside.” He’s framing it as a question of etiquette and culture. (Taiwanese culture it’s more acceptable to order your child around.) My issue isn’t because of the politeness, however. I still would have resisted because I wasn’t cold. I don’t care if he’s cold–that won’t change by me putting on a coat.

Now, I’ve come to realize that this coat thing is a power struggle between parents and children of different cultures, so it’s not strictly a Taiwanese thing, but the difference is, he told me to put on a coat because HE was cold (looking at me). Or, as he explained it, he would have been cold in that situation, so he just assumed I would be, too. Now, once, OK, I can see that. But, if the person in question tells you repeatedly that she isn’t cold, then wouldn’t you eventually believe her? The fact that I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease years later (hyperthyroidism) validated my point of view. One of the symptoms is never feeling cold, grossly simplified, and it’s one thing I can point to now when I question whether I’m right to feel a certain way. I shouldn’t *need* outside validation, but when you grow up with two parents denying the way you feel, it can be helpful. I still hate the heat to this day, though I’m now hypothyroid, and I still don’t wear a coat in the winter except on the chilliest days.


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Crouching Hackles, Hidden Buttons

I forget it was Wednesday (as I write this) and checked my social media before realizing this is supposed to be a social media-free day. I quickly backed out, but it’s just a reminder that I have to be mindful all the time.

I also got into it with my mom last night, which is another reminder. She wanted to talk about a few things before she goes back to Taiwan (tomorrow), and while these talks are never ‘hell yeah! what a great talk’, I wasn’t dreading it this time. We sat down in our usual places across from each other, and she said, “Hey, come here and see this funny thing!” I just sat down, and something in me was like, “No.” So, I said no, let’s just talk. She pushed it by saying, “Would you just come and see this funny thing?” I said no again, and it suddenly became A Thing. After a few rounds of this, I said to turn the computer around, and I’ll look at it this way. She started rambling how hard it’d be, and I knew she wouldn’t let it go, so I turned the computer around. Sure enough, it wasn’t funny (which I told her I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be to me), and that set a bad tone for the conversation. It made me feel like this:

via GIPHY

Then, she said something that crossed a huge boundary and pressed my ‘she cares more about my brother’s time/opinions/thoughts than mine’ button, and I snapped at her. That devolved into an argument about the Asian way of relating versus the American way of relating along with other things, and it wasn’t pretty. When I tried to explain about the joke thing, she said, “I thought it was such a small thing, but I apologize.” Can you guess why my hackles went up? She’s a psychologist, and I was a psych major, so I tried to explain it in a way she would understand–flipping the script back at her. “If it was such a small thing, why couldn’t you let it drop?”

Probing a bit more, she said she thought sharing a joke would be a nice way to start the conversation that wasn’t going to be pleasant in the first place. Then, I understood that she had one of her scripts running in her mind, and she was determined I’d follow it. That actually was made clear when she asked me a question at the beginning of the conversation, then as I tried to answer, talked over me several times. She hadn’t designated a ‘response’ time to her question (it was rhetorical at that point), so she simply didn’t hear my response. This is her MO in general: I have a firm idea of how this interaction should go, and I will not let reality stand in the way. I almost admire her because who among us doesn’t wish we could shape reality to our liking?

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Being OK With Letting Go

Yesterday, I came home from taiji and my mom informed me that my brother and the boys (his sons) wouldn’t be able to make it here for dinner. He suggested we go there. I immediately said no, and my mother said she knew I’d say that. She suggested we meet somewhere like Culver’s for dessert, but he decided to come here after dinner. Then, they came over, and my brother and I were discussing something while my mom and the boys were playing ping-pong. One of my nephews came up to say that my mom wanted to talk to my brother about something. He said OK, then we continued talking. I was marveling over that because I would have immediately gone done and probably resented it slightly. My mom can be very persistent when she has her mind on something, and it’s often easier just to give in than to defer. However, she also is more pushy with me than she is with my brother, probably in part because he’s very firm about his limits.

Anyway, after they were done playing ping-pong, they came back up. My brother, my nephews, and I were chatting about something when my mother said to my brother in a faux-whisper, “Can we go to Culver’s for ice cream?” A beat, “Or, we have bananas.” I started laughing, and my brother said with a big smile, “Can we go eat all the ice cream or stay here and have a banana?” He was making it clear that he realized there was really only one answer to that, which is something he wouldn’t have recognized before. We all started laughing and joking about it, and then agreed we would go, but in separate cars so they could go straight home. Then, my mom said, “Minna will have to drive.” She twisted her knee a week ago, and it’s still giving her problems. So, I said in a deadpan voice (because I mentioned it earlier, too), “Minna can drive to the place where she can’t eat anything!”* We all joked about that for several minutes, and then my mom said, “We should go now.” So of course, that got wrapped up into the joke (that my mom was making a suggestion she knew couldn’t be turned down, then adding layers of conditions to it), and it was a fun family moment.

To be clear, I was fine with driving even if I couldn’t eat anything. It was a moment of family teasing and bonding, and it felt great. I can’t help but compare it to how that shit would have gone down a few years ago.

Me getting home from taiji, quietly resenting that I don’t have space to myself.**

Mom (the second I step in the door which I still don’t like, but doesn’t send me up. the. fucking. wall the way it used to): Your brother wants us to go there instead of coming here for dinner.

Me (a bundle of resentment in part because I know that means me driving because my mom doesn’t like to drive at night, never mind that I don’t either, and my brother lives forty minutes away): NO I DON’T WANT TO GO JUST FUCKING GO YOURSELF GET AWAY FROM ME YOU EVIL COW ARRRRGH!

Obviously, I don’t say that, but it’s what I’m feeling. What I would say would be some variant of a huffy, “I’m not going there” in a very aggrieved tone.  I would feel I didn’t have a choice, which would make me really resentful, even if I did end up going. Also, my mom doesn’t believe she has the right to ask for anything (for many reasons), so she would never just come out and say, “I would like it if you drive us to your brother’s place.” It would be, “Your brother can’t come, but he said we could go there”, and I’m supposed to infer the rest. It’s actually part of what happened in the amusing family scenario above.


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Break From the Ordinary

I had another post planned for today, but sometimes, reality takes precedence. My mom fell this afternoon, twisting her knee. She tried to tough it out by icing it, but it was really hurting. I took her to the Twin Cities Orthopedics (Coon Rapids) because they have Urgent Care that is open until 8 p.m., and I’m relieved that nothing is broken or torn.

However, because of it, my whole schedule is in shambles, and I’m not up to writing the post I was originally working on. Therefore, today, you get Shironeko (white cat with orange markings in the background) and his buddy just chilling.

I could do with a little serenity, and Shironeko helps me get there.

Odlly enough, however, for all my PTSD worst-case scenario catastrophizing, I’m actually pretty good in a real crisis. Instead of overreacting as I normally do, I’m calm, focused, and relaxed. I concentrate on what needs to be done, and I’m not upset or flustered by what is happening. I think it’s because I’ve practiced in my mind for a disaster so many times, actual terrible things are easier to handle.

It’s also taiji. I’m always going to give credit to taiji for making me calmer and more able to deal with stressors.

The doctor told my mother that all she needed was ice and Tylenol. She (the doctor) did give my mother crutches, which she’s using to hobble around. The doctor looks twelve, by the way, but she was terrific, as was the technician and the front desk person. All in all, it was an easy and smooth experience, and I would recommend them to anyone who needs orthopedic work.

Here’s an extra video of Maru relaxing in a hammock plus various other activities, including laying flat on his back with his tail lazily swishing back and forth. Bonus appearances by his sister, Hana. I can’t with the cuteness!

Meet Me at the Crossroads

I’m having a midlife crisis of sorts, and I need to talk it out. I’m dissatisfied with my life, specifically, well everything, but right now, I’m focusing on my lack of a career. I don’t want to be a freelance editor any longer, and I’m struggling as a writer. It’s not easy as a writer out there, what what? I knew it wouldn’t be because anything creative is gonna be a hard row to hoe, but writing in this day and age is capricious and whimsical. The great thing about the internet is that anyone can write. The bad thing about the internet is that anyone can write. I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a lot of shit on the webs. A LOT.

Let me hasten to say this isn’t new, the shit, I mean. 90% of pop culture is pure shit. Music, books, TV shows, video games, whatever–it’s mostly shit. It always has been, and it probably always will be. It’s just that the proliferation of shit is easier online. Any yahoo (see what I did there) can start a blog (ahem) and rant away. Yes, pot meet kettle.

The other problem is that because of the sheer volume, it’s harder to get noticed in this day and age. I can wade through twenty posts and maybe find one nugget of truth. I have up to fifty tabs open at a time, but I read maybe a fifth of the tabs I have open. I’ve been blogging on a daily basis (weekdays only) for nearly a year, and while it’s been beneficial to my writing chops, it’s not really gone anywhere professionally. I have a very small faithful band of readers, and I appreciate every one of them. Seriously. Learning that someone reads almost everything I write is humbling and gratifying. Hearing that someone remembers something I wrote years ago is amazing as well.

My problem is that I’m terrible at self-promoting. There are several reasons for it. One, in Taiwanese culture, you’re not supposed to brag about your achievements. There’s a superstitious reason for it–if you brag about something, the gods will be offended and punish you for it. In my family, it’s even worse. My father thinks mentioning anything you’ve done is bragging, even though he inside, he’s very prideful about his work, and it’s a complicated mess. In addition, women in American society get called bitches on the daily if they’re deemed as getting too big for their britches. This is the short answer as to why I have difficulty promoting myself.

In addition, I don’t like to intrude, and I don’t like to be a pest. Endlessly promoting my own work feels like both, but I know that’s something I have to get over. It’s also hard because it feels like my child  has been rejected every time I circulate a post and it gets little to no love. I already have a low self-esteem, and that doesn’t help. It’s also frustrating when I read a lot of the shit being passed around as wisdom on social media.

Anyway.


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The Art of Peace

“It was so much nicer this time. When you smile, you’re much….cuter? Is that the word?”

My father to me on the phone yesterday about why his trip home was more pleasant this time around. I started laughing as did my mother. I was talking to him through LINE, which mean she could hear him as well. He said, “Is that not the right word? Attractive? Is that better?”

By now, I’m flat-out laughing, but I tell him  I know what he means. He keeps pursing it, and my mom says the Taiwanese equivalent–kuh-ai. I say, “Yes, cuter, but that’s not exactly the right word.” I kept telling him I understood what he meant, and more importantly, I didn’t get pissed as I would have a few years ago or even last year, even though what he was trying to say is a literal meme about one of the most condescending things you can say to a woman.

Last year, I would have lashed out and told him angrily how condescending he was being, blah, blah, blah. He would not have understood what I was saying at all, and it would have gotten ugly. I would have felt pissed off and insulted, whereas he would have felt confused and affronted. It would have gotten uglier and uglier until one or both of us exploded in anger. We both have terrible tempers and are very bristly, so we’re like oil and water.

Or we were, anyway.

I marvel at how effortless it was to keep my temper most of the time during this visit. The thing is, I’ve changed. He has as well, though he’s still more himself. One of my father’s biggest flaws is that he cannot imagine someone else not feeling the same way he does, but for whatever reason, I didn’t take it personally this time. I was able to see that’s just him. His narcissism. His prickly skin. His shaky sense of self and pride.

The thing is, I didn’t have any plan. I mean, I told myself to be chill about it, but I’ve told myself that in the past and failed miserably. He would say something incendiary, and I would explode without even thinking about it. This time, he could say the same thing, and it didn’t push my buttons. I was able to not react to the words and see the intent instead. I was also able to remember his limitations and firmly delineate his issues from my issues.

I know I sound like a broken record, but I credit taiji for the ability to deal more effectively with my father. It’s given me a sense of self that I didn’t have before, and, more importantly, it’s taught me how to relax.

I will admit there are still a few things that have made me snap or that have me on edge. One has to do with my mother. I’ve said before how she has a habit of narrating events from her life as if she’s Morgan Freeman. It’s fucking annoying especially if I’m trying to do something else. Another is her laser-like focus on my father’s ailments. It’s a tricky line because he’s failing in many ways, so it’s understandable that she’s concerned. However, she focuses almost all her energy on him, and I think it’s one way for her to not have to look at how lopsided their relationship is.


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Acting Like an Adult For Once

mantra mantra mantra
Going to my happy place.

It’s hard to see progress sometimes because it’s not something that happens in huge leaps and bounds (usually). It’s slow and incremental, and it takes a lot of time to accumulate into something tangible. It’s the same with anything that increases over time, and it’s only easy to see in retrospect if you live with it every day. I’ve talked about this before, and I have a great anti-example. I only see my parents once a year at the most, and it’s easy to see how they’ve aged from year to year with such a gap in between. However, when I dare look in the mirror, which is probably once a month or so, I’m astounded anew at how old I am because I feel like a twenty year old inside. I know that’s trite, but it’s true. How the hell did I become this middle-aged woman staring back at me? I look at my age spots, wrinkles, and faded skin, and I wonder where the time has gone. But, since I live with myself, I don’t notice it on a daily basis.

I’ve written about my fraught relationship with my parents, and I’ve also written about how it’s improved in the last few years. I really noticed it when my parents and I sat down to have a talk about my future last night, something I was dreading. It happens every year, and it usually ends in recriminations and tears. There’s shouting and hurt feelings on both sides, and it twists my insides for weeks. This time, my mom informed me the night before that my father and she wanted to have the talk before my father went back to Taiwan, and I was expecting it to go much the same.

I resolved just to nod my head and agree with whatever they said in order to make it go more smoothly. There was no point in arguing, and it wouldn’t be an affront to my core just to say whatever to get it over. The problem is, my parents know how to push my buttons. Of course they do because they’re the ones who installed them. My father, especially. He makes baseless assumptions about me, well, his basis is, “I feel this way, therefore you must, too.” He even brought up the classic fight we used to have throughout my childhood, something we’ve argued about since.

I used to wash my hair in the morning, and then go outside with wet hair. He would say, “Put on a coat; I feel cold”, and it still bothers him that I would refuse. He said I said it was because he didn’t ask nicely, but that wasn’t all of it. I wasn’t cold, so why should I put on a coat? He said he felt cold for me, and I retorted that he could put on two coats and feel warmer. I added that I was right in that I had hyperthyroidism when I was a child, which meant I was never cold. I’m hypothyroid now, but I still rarely get cold–though my threshold isn’t the same as it was when I was younger. Anyway, to him, it’s an example of how I was a recalcitrant youngster not minding my elder. To me, it’s an example of how he’s a narcissist and can’t imagine someone feels differently than he does.

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I Hate Change

I hate change.

I don’t think I can overstate how resistant I am to change, and, yes, I know it’s not a good trait.

I’m a creature of habit, and living alone, I can usually do what I want when I want where I want. All of this has been thrown out the window by having my parents here. I get up a few hours after they do, and by the time I’m up, they have a list of things a mile long they want to talk to me about. As I’ve said before, I’m barely coherent before my first swig of Coke Zero, and my brain refuses to comprehend what is being jabbered at it in the wee hours of the morning*.

Yesterday, Saturday, I was so discombobulated, I checked my social media without even thinking about it. One of the reasons I set myself a rigorous schedule is because it helps me cope with the vagaries of life. I only looked at my mentions and my notifications, and once I realized what I was doing, I stopped. I didn’t check the rest of the day, but I felt bad about it, anyway. I’ve been doing it long enough that it should be a habit by now, but because everything else is topsy-turvy, I slipped back to my old habits.

It’s hard to watch your parents decline mentally and physically. It’s even harder when I only see them once a year at the most so the changes are stark. My mom is holding up pretty well because she takes really good care of herself, but my father is going downhill fast. He’s been having a lot of physical problems, and worse, he doesn’t do what he should to rectify them. It’s difficult to be completely sympathetic because he’s been a hypochondriac all his life. He sees doctors constantly, and there’s always something wrong with him. When we went to the doctor this time, he had a litany of complaints. The doctor was great, but he also said, “You are in good physical shape for your age.” In other words, the litany of complaints are quality of life questions rather than actual crises.

It’s not to say there aren’t actual problems and that he’s not in actual pain. I’m sure he is. However, it’s hard to know how much of it is real and how much is exaggeration.

Anyway, my parents have a rhythm they’ve perfected over the years, and as dysfunctional as it is, it works for them. To an outsider, it looks bizarre–and it is–but if they’re both happy in it, there’s not much anyone can do about it. My mom isn’t as happy as she pretends to be, but that’s not the point of this post.

My childhood was chaos littered with unreliable narrators. I never knew what was real and what wasn’t, and as a result, I have an excruciating need for the truth. Not only do I need the truth, I need to verify it five or six times before I’ll ultimately accept it. It’s also why I need my routines. It’s part of my OCD traits, and it’s comforting to me to know I’m going to do the same things in the same order until the end of time.


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