Underneath my yellow skin

Category Archives: Relationships

Fool me a hundred times

My heart is heavy, and I’m grieving the loss of a relationship I never had. Or rather, two relationships. Or one relationship with two people. My parents. My relationship with my father has ranged from nonexistent to frosty to cordially distant. Right now, I would classify it as parent-child–with me being the parent. His faculties have diminished to what I suspect is early onset dementia, but it’s hard to say because he refuses most testing in that area. Funny because he’s a hypochondriac who goes to the doctor at a moment’s notice, but like most hypochondriacs, if there is a potential serious issue, then he refuses to go. And if it’s something that has a negative connotation about his brain, well, forget about even mentioning it.

To be fair, my mother told me that Alzheimer’s is looked upon as a personal failing and weakness in Taiwan, so I can understand not wanting to open yourself up to that. I suggested he get tested here, but his English is nowhere near as good as it used to be, and it wouldn’t be fair to use a test he took in English as a barometer. On the other hand, the longer he goes without treating it, the worse it’s going to get.

Do you notice how I immediately started talking about my father? I meant to talk about my mother as a starter, but my father is such the focal point of the family, it’s hard to avoid, even here. Why am I grieving my relationship with my mother? Sit back with your favorite cup of tea because this is going to take some explaining.

If you asked my mother, she would say we are really close. She made me her confidante when I was eleven, pouring out all her woes about my father and her marriage into my very unwilling ears. She would cry about how he treated her (very badly), and I would listen until I couldn’t take it any longer before telling her she should divorce him. Then, she would shift to how he wasn’t that bad. I would feel like a dupe, and I would vow never to say anything again. She also told me how depressed she was and how much she hated her life. Not in those exact terms, but that was what she meant.


Continue Reading

Thoughts during a lovely wedding

My niece got married Friday night. I’m still digesting the fact that she’s no longer running around the lawn, screaming, giggling in glee as she babbled incoherently about whatever. She was such a happy, energetic child, and I marveled at how perfect she was. I know it’s trite, but I couldn’t believe that she had grown up enough to actually get married (just as a matter of time) even though I had seen it happen over the years. I mean, she had been living with Nick for several years, first in his parents’ house during the week, then in their own apartment, and then a house. They adopted their dog, Obi, who was their ring bearer with a pouch tied to his collar (and the groomsman using a spoonful of peanut butter to lead him down the aisle), and they both had full-time jobs–at the same place! I’ve seen her during all these stages, so it’s not as if she went from two to twenty-one without me noticing it. She told me about the wedding nearly two years ago, so it’s not like it got sprung on me.

The whole event was surreal. My brother called me up at 4:20 p.m. (bro) and asked me if we could be there by 5 p.m. My parents were sleeping, and that wasn’t doable, anyway. Apparently, they were doing family photos beforehand, and I told him we would be there as soon as possible. I woke up my parents, and sure enough, my mother freaked out. She’s an anxious type to begin with, and throwing a monkey in the wrench (heh) made it even worse. We managed to leave by 5:10 p.m., and we made it to the venue (the groom’s parents’ backyard) by 5:30 p.m.

There was only one picture taken (my mom for the grandmothers and niece pic), so it was kind of silly for us to be there so early. It was nice to snag a parking spot right across the street, though. Funny story before we left. I was wearing a sleeveless shirt with spaghetti straps (black) and a floral teardrop skirt (also black) that reached my knees. I had my hair down because I wanted to look nicer than normal. I had no idea what I was supposed to wear because I missed ‘church casual’ on the invite (which wouldn’t have helped me, anyway. I haven’t attended church in thirty years), so I decided to just do the best with what I had. It wasn’t a problem because people were dressed in everything from jeans to long dresses and everything in between.

Anyway, my dad looked at me and asked if I were going to bring a coat. I looked at him if he had lost his goddamn mind. It’s fucking summer. Who the hell wears a coat in the summer? Granted, it was going to be outside at night and the temperature was predicted to hit a low of 59, but that would be at like three in the morning–and I still wouldn’t wear a coat. I said as calmly as I could that I’d be fine–this is a long-running issue between us. Ever since I was a small child, he has been haranguing me to wear a fucking coat because he felt cold. This time, he said that seeing me without a coat made him feel cold for me. I said with a laugh that he could wear two coats and feel warm for me. He wisely let it drop, but it shouldn’t have come up at all. Later in the night after the sun went down, he asked if I was cold, and I said I was still hot. He refused to believe me, but I was.

It’s one of the most frustrating things about him–if he doesn’t feel/think/believe something, than he can’t fathom someone else could possible be different, especially his spawn. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it’s still frustrating.


Continue Reading

Grasping for a reason

The countdown to enforced family time is ticking, and as a result, my health is taking a nosedive. Oh, I can’t say for sure it’s related (see what I did there?), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were. Let me amend. I know my mental health takes a hit during family time, but I can’t say for sure my physical decline is a direct correlation. I would not be surprised if it were, given that stress is really bad for health, but I can’t say it’s 100% true. I do know, however, that my brain starts thinking darker thoughts that get worse every day. I know that my sleep issues, which are problematic at the best of times, become even worse. The chattering in my brain that I can usually keep to a bare minimum grows louder, and it’s harder to block it out.

Side note: I’ve been grappling with the idea that I may have ADHD/ADD or at least some of the traits. I’ve never thought about it in the past because the stereotype is the hyperactive young boy who can’t sit still for five minutes, talks a mile a minute, and careening into things at a high velocity. None of that is me except on occasion the middle one, and I tend towards inertia whenever possible. In addition, I already know I have OCD tendencies, and to my mind, these two disorders are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Also, I’m a woman, and ADD is notoriously overlooked in people of my gender in part because of the aforementioned stereotype. Here are the symptoms as they may present in women, and I match many of them. I also have four of the five comorbidities, which doesn’t make me feel any better. The only reason I hesitate with the label is because I have a good memory and don’t forget things. Other than that, though, everything else fits.

What really opened my eyes to the fact that I may have ADD (no H here) is when someone who has it explained that the ‘look, squirrel’ syndrome was followed by hyper-focus when he was really interested in something. That’s what tripped me up. I can do several things at one time, but if I’m really into something, I lose sight of everything else. I cannot be distracted once I latch onto one thing (or, worse, one person), and once I learned that was part of ADHD, things started clicking. Reading the list above, I’m struck by how I was just thinking this week how I couldn’t work in an office because so much of the social bullshit was such an anathema to me. I felt that way when I was in an office, and even though I can fake it because I’m really good at small talk (even though I hate it), I don’t understand the reasons behind much of it. I feel that way in general with social interactions and especially with the office. There was a letter at Ask A Manager this week in which the letter writer said she didn’t answer every time her coworker said hi in the morning, and he would confront her about it. Sometimes, it was because she had her headphones on, but also because she didn’t feel like it once in a while. She asked how she could push back on the confrontation and why he NEEDED her to say hi every day, and I wished she hadn’t added the part about not feeling like it once in a while because I knew the commentariat would focus on that–and they did.

Continue Reading

Hating everything…including myself

I hate the summer. I hate everything about it. I hate it with the intensity of *irony alert* a thousand burning suns. I’ve tried to describe how much I hate summer, but it’s hard to find the words to do my feelings justice. If I were to try to use my words without filters, it would just be a stream of curse words whenever I think of summer. I know I bitch the most about the heat because I am a delicate fucking flower who wilts in anything above 70.

Side Note: On Friday, one of my taiji classmates said that we could go to the lovely park on Saturday for class. Quick context: we had been going to her condo and using the rec room for the last few Saturdays, but it had already been booked for this week. That’s when she said we could go to the park (my teacher offered her house, which was where we met on Friday as well), and I said with a laugh, “You can, but I won’t be there.” It was supposed to be ‘feels like’ 95 on Saturday, and while it ended up more like ‘feels like’ 89 or so, no way in hell I was going to do anything remotely physical in the heat. Right now, the ‘real feel’ is 81, and it’s not even 11 a.m. yet. I know I sound like I’m whining when I bitch about the heat, and I am. It has such a great effect on me, however, that I can’t even think after a minute or two of being in the heat. On the way back from taiji Friday, I stopped at the gas station to buy some snacks. That’s another post for another day. I step out of the car, and–by the way. The A/C on the driver side is broken. Only the driver side. That’s how I know there is no god.

Anyhoooo. Two minutes in the heat, and I’m a wreck for the next hour. Not only am I exhausted and sweating profusely, I am angry. Not just irritated, but actually angry. I’m enough of a bitch as it is; I do not need the hotness to shorten my temper. When I’m in the heat, I’m acutely aware of how miserable I am. It’s all I can think of, and my whole world has narrowed to how fucking hot it is. Earlier, I said that anything over 70 starts that miserable feeling, but if I were going to be real with you, I’d say 65 is really the upper limit of my comfort zone. It makes it interesting for me to read debates on hot vs. cold because even the cold people are more like ’65’ is perfect. I have my heat set for 62 during the day and 60 at night (in the winter). Some of the cold people were saying that 68 was good. That’s considered cold? That’s me shorts and a tank top if I have to be civilized.


Continue Reading

How I want to play the dating game

i'm on the edge.
On the edge of a broken heart.

I was reading my stories yesterday (Ask A Manager weekend thread), and there was someone asking for some outside perspective on her relationship and whether she should leave. The issue was that her common-law husband would never admit he was wrong, and it came to a head when she was out of town for a wedding, and he went out with friends. That wasn’t the issue. What was the issue was that he had a flirty friend (FF) he’s known forever, and she and another friend spent the night with hubby. FF wore his boxers and slept in the spare room. Hubby didn’t tell his wife, and she found out from someone else.

The OP (original poster) kept stressing that she wasn’t the jealous type and how fine she would have been if he had just told her–though maybe not about the boxers part. It was interesting to see the responses. Some took her at face value at her not being the jealous type, some questioned her on that. Some didn’t see the boxers as a big deal, but most did. Some gently told her she didn’t need to have a reason to get out, and others mused that by focusing so much on how the message was delivered (by a third party), she might be not owning her hurt feelings. Still others pointed out how her husband brushing away her feelings is the real issue and how he probably won’t change. One person suggested he might be trying to push her to leave (because the behaviors have been escalating, and they’d already tried couples counseling for a few sessions until he quit).

By the time I finished reading the post, I was exhausted, and I was on the side of leave him. Not because of the incident itself, necessarily (though I am on the side of wearing someone’s boxers being too intimate. You couldn’t give her shorts or sweats? And not telling your wife isn’t good either), but because the OP sounded done with the relationship, but not sure she had a good enough reason to walk away.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading advice columns, it’s that you can end a relationship at any time. You don’t need what other people would consider a good reason–but because our society is so invested in the narrative of coupledom and that you’re not a complete person without someone attached to your hip (especially as a het woman, even in 2019), and you still here how a bird in the hand, etc., etc., etc., it’s no wonder that people hold onto relationships for way past their expiration date. Not to mention sunken cost fallacy, and it’s understandable.

Continue Reading

What is ‘normal’ isn’t universal

run, run away.
Just looking at her makes me tired.

It’s wearing to always be the weird one. I have to get that out there before I start blathering about whatever is on my mind. Fair warning: I woke up feeling as if I was hit by a dump truck (not as bad as a Mack truck, but still), and I’m slightly dizzy and nauseated. So, I’m going to write until my brain gives out, which could be in five minutes or it could be in an hour.

One common wisdom people give about depression is to write about your feelings as a way of tracking them. It makes sense, but I refuse to do it. Why? Because I write a lot on a regular basis, and I don’t want to make it a chore, rather than something I enjoy doing. Telling myself that I have to jot down every feeling I feel is a sure way to make me not want to write. I do it, anyway, in these posts, so making myself journal seems excessive to me.

Another common wisdom to counter depression is to get some sun and to exercise. I’ve heard the latter so much, it’s embedded in my brain. My experience with exercise, however, begs to differ.

Side Note: I have SAD in the summer instead of winter, which is yet another way in which I am not normal. I love winter. I roll down the windows in my car until it’s zero degrees. I used to do it sub-zero, but I’m more sensitive to cold now that I’m an Old. My thermostat is set at 62º during the day and 60º during the night. I did not wear a coat all of last winter, but I also didn’t go out during the coldest days. I think we reached something like  -50º including the windchill, which is cold, even for me. I do appreciate the sun, but in small doses. I like it better than gloomy weather, but it has to be paired with cold.

Back to exercise. I’ve heard it all my life, and I’m sure you have, too. “Exercise drives away the depression!” Well, no. That’s not true. I found that it didn’t make my mood worse, but it didn’t help, either. No endorphin boost for me, except when I did dancing as exercise. Fast walking (and I used to do four miles a day) just made me actively angry, in part because I was getting hot and sweaty while doing it. I sweat. A lot. More than most people. I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s not fun to be bathing in it. Also, being in the heat makes me actively angry. Anything over seventy is not my happy place. I read about the office temperature wars, and I have to shake my head. Most people seem to think 70º to 75º is the comfort zone. In fact, women in general prefer a higher temp than men do. Me, I would cuss everybody out if I had to be that hot every day.

People who like it warmer complain that they have to cater to people who like colder temps, but it’s because at some point, we can’t take off any more clothing. One person on this temp war thread said their dad started a new job at a place where a woman kept the thermometer cranked to 85+º. Eighty-fucking-five. PLUS. The commenter said their dad almost fainted, and I would have fainted. The dad also kept his thermostat at 62º during the winter, so he’s my kind of people.

Continue Reading

Becoming what I feared

When I was in my twenties, I used to joke that I was attracted to the exact wrong person for me. Gay men, straight women, anyone who was taken, or someone who was simply not interested in me*. If I walked into a room with 100 people and 99 were eligible dating partners, I would inevitably beeline towards the one who wasn’t.

In my late 20s/early 30s, I declared stridently that I didn’t want to be in a relationship. I was an independent woman, damn it! I didn’t need no (wo)man to make me complete. Of course, underneath it was my terrifying hunger to be in a relationship. I was told all my life it was the only thing that mattered, well, along with squirting out children, of course. It was confusing because I was also told I WOULD go to college, but at the end of the day, I better be married and have children.

Side note: When I turned 26, my mother started pushing me to have children. It reached the point where I began dreading talking to her because she would bring it up. Once summer when she visited, she mentioned it every goddamn fucking day. Her comment when I turned 26 was that she had my brother at that age. My immediate (internal) response was, “I’m not you, thank god.” I have been fortunate that I realized fairly early (21 or 22) that I did not want children. It was such a relief when I finally truly realized I did not have to spawn, I nearly cried. My mother did not stop trying to get me knocked up for the next fifteen years. I only relate this to underscore how much pressure I felt to marry (implicit in the preggers convos) and have children. The only time I ever had an impulse to have children was after my mom had been nagging me for days about it, and I thought, “I should have a kid just to shut her up.” Fortunately, I came to my senses and realized that having a child to please my mom would be a recipe for disaster.

I want to be clear. I was not a great girlfriend back in the day. I was too clingy and too eager to merge into one being. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of social support for a woman offering endless emotional support without receiving any in return, especially twenty years ago. In addition, there is the idea that you’re supposed to be the ‘cool girlfriend’ who is ‘chill’ and doesn’t get upset about, well, anything. It’s a neat way of keeping a woman firmly in her place (in a het relationship). Still. I fell into many of the traps of het relationships of that time, and I was not my best self in those relationships.

Many times, I was just desperate to be in a relationship, any relationship, because my self-worth hung on what my partner thought of me. I put up with a lot of shit that I shouldn’t have because I thought I didn’t deserve better. It was a vicious cycle, and I didn’t know how to get out of it. Hell, I wasn’t even aware of the problems for a long time. Once I became aware of my own issues, it was hard not to see it in myself all the damn time. I worked hard on it through a lot of therapy, but some of the issues are so deep.


Continue Reading

If only I could see what others saw

a soup of negative emotions.
A peek into my brain.

Recently, I received two compliments from two women I admire and respect (my BFF and my taiji teacher), and I was really taken aback. For some background, I grew up believing that I was a toxic presence who had to earn my right to live on a daily basis. I believed that every day, I started with a negative number (never could ascertain what that number meant, exactly, but it wasn’t good), and I had to do good enough to get to zero and have no effect on the world around me. Then, I would go to sleep, and the counter would reset. Why? Well, that’s a story in and of itself.

Part of it was childhood trauma. Part of it was being Asian in a very white world. Part of it was family dysfunction, and part of it was culture expectations taken to the extreme. In Taiwanese culture, it was heavily frowned upon to say anything even remotely positive about yourself lest you look as if you were bragging. In the white cultural, I was ugly, weird, and a freak. I’m still a freak, but that’s beside the point. In my family, I was taught that my only worth was what I could do for others, and I had no intrinsic value in and of myself. Add to that a deep depression and an impressionable brain that twists everything into a negative, and it’s not surprising that I ended up firmly believing I had to earn my right to live.

In addition, I had all these elaborate rules as to what counted as a positive, and it was extremely hard for me to make it to neutral. I don’t think I ever did, actually, because I rigged the game in such a way that I was bound to fail. When I talk about it in the past tense, it’s clear to see how ridiculous it is, but at the time, it felt as real as the sun on my face. I was miserable because I was constantly failing, and I just wanted to die. I spent much of my childhood well into my thirties wishing I had the courage to kill myself.

I hated myself. I couldn’t find anything about myself that I liked except my hair and my intellect (though I saw the latter as a curse oftentimes). I couldn’t believe that anyone would like me for any reason when it was obvious that I was pure toxicity. I’m not saying it was reasonable or rational, but it governed my thinking for longer than I care to admit. I truly thought I was a worthless human being (while at the same time having an exaggerated sense of the impact I had on others around me, which is common with people who have low self-esteem), and I was miserable every day of my life.

Then, sometime in my thirties, I slowly started shedding this idea. I’m not sure how or why (probably because of taiji and therapy. I attribute most of the positives in my life to taiji with a shout-out to therapy), but a few years ago, I realized that I no longer had that mindset. I didn’t think I had to earn the right to live, but I wouldn’t say I had a healthy self-esteem, either. I still didn’t like myself, and I still didn’t like what I saw in the mirror (literally and figuratively), but at least I wasn’t actively thinking of ways I could passively allow myself to die.

Continue Reading

More things to ponder in the new year

As the year draws to a close, I’ve become more pensive than I usually am. Which is pretty pensive to begin with. This has been a rough year for me emotionally, and I have no  idea why. It started roughly six months ago, and it’s only gotten worse as the months have passed. I know what the answer is. Therapy. The thought of it makes me sigh and recoil inside myself. Not because of therapy itself. I am a big proponent of therapy, and it is one of the main reasons I’m still alive. My last therapist helped me with some really serious and dark shit, and I’m eternally grateful to her. So why my resistance to finding a new therapist? There are several reasons. One, I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was fourteen. That’s thirty years (quit my last therapist a few years ago), and I’m tired of it. Two, finding a therapist is hard. Before my last therapist (and she was a recommendation), most of my other therapist were crap for various reasons. The biggest was that I could run rings around them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I need someone who is smart and savvy enough not to let me get away with shit. The fact that I have a psych background and am VERY good at speaking the jargon makes this a tall order.

In addition, I thought I’d get over it. Or rather, I could wait it out. Since I pulled out of my last chronic crippling depressive episode (lasting decades), I’ve had low-level depression with short periods of more intense depression. The latter have always been relatively short (a few weeks) before returning to my norm of low-key depressed. This time, it’s been months, and it’s only getting worse. I’m still able to recognize that it’s not a part of me and that it’s irrational, but it doesn’t help. My brain tells me that I might as well be dead, and even though it’s manageable most of the time, there are flashes of ‘do it now’ that are harder to  ignore.

I know the depression is bad because things that are hard for me to do in the best of times (set up an appointment to have my tire looked at) are now nearly impossible. On Saturday, I had to talk myself into going to taiji. I wanted to go, but I really did not want to leave the house and drive somewhere. To be fair to me, I had been dealing with a migraine, and was still shaky from it. It’s been years since I’ve had a full-blown migraine because I can usually catch it in time, and I had forgotten how debilitating it can be. If I catch it at the very first signs of a migraine and pop a couple Excedrin Migraine pills, it subsides into a low-key throbbing headache for a couple of hours. This time, however, I was already at the gritting-my-teeth phase when I noticed it. I popped two Excedrin Migraine pills, but it didn’t do a damn thing this time.

You’d think a headache would only cause your head to hurt. Nope. My whole body was drained, and I spent two full days just lying on the couch with the lights off, curtains drawn, and moving as little as possible. I managed to do my work, but it was slow-going. I could watch videos as long as the sound was very low, but I consider myself fortunate. I know that many people are immobilized by a migraine; I could at least move.


Continue Reading

You’re a lonely one, Mr. Grinch

We’ve all heard the song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”–especially at this time of the year. We know the story (How the Grinch Stole Christmas!), and I think Grinch has gotten a bad rap. It’s been a while since I’ve seen, but I have to admit I have much sympathy in my heart for him. He’s just going about his business trying to keep himself to himself. Then, the whole town is all LISTEN TO OUR LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS CHRISTMAS MUSIC MR. GRINCH LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LISTEN TO US SING LOUDLY MR. GRINCH MR. GRINCH MR. GRINCH!!!!

He’s all, “I can’t see you, you’re not there, lallallalalallallala,” which would be my tactic.

Underneath it, though, I’m sure he was hurting. He saw all these happy families and was only reminded of the emptiness in his own life. I can relate. Not because I don’t have friends and family–I do, but because of the relentless reminder of how you’re supposed to be soaked in the festive atmosphere. Even as isolated as I am from society in general, I can’t escape it. If it’s not the fucking insipid Christmas songs that are playing when I go into the grocery store, it’s the incessant posts on FC and Twitter and the websites I visit about the holly and the jolly.

I wrote about how I was trying to be more chill about it, but my hackles are automatically raised when I hear yet another Christmas carol or see yet another picture of a decorated tree. I know my reaction is out of proportion to what’s actually happening (people are not Christmasing AT me), but it’s still intensely irritating. It’s like any other popular media that I can’t escape–it’s alienating not to be in on the good cheer. Actually, it’s worse because you’re expected to be into Christmas. There are exceptions, of course, if you’re from other religions, but if you’re areligious such as I am and raised Christian, you’re expected to love Christmas as much as everyone else does. Or if not love it, then at least be neutral about it (read, shut up with your negativity). I’ve seen people complain about people who put anti-Christmas posts on their FB walls (which I’ve done), saying, “Why can’t we just enjoy this?” implying that those of us who don’t like Christmas are not-Christmasing at THEM.

That’s the problem with being in the minority–everything you do is put under a microscope. When you’re the majority, your behavior is considered the norm, so it’s not questioned. It’s similar to, say, when NFL players protest police brutality, and fans say something like, “Don’t bring politics into my sportsball enjoyment!” There are already politics in your goddamn football game, but because they align with your values, you don’t recognize them. Pointing out the sexism or the racism or queerphobia in something isn’t bringing politics into the picture because they’re already there. It’s the same with Christmas. Me pointing out that it’s become a crass commercialized money grab isn’t me bringing politics into Christmas–it’s me pointing out what’s already there.

To get more personal with it, I’ve always had a problem with how we’re all supposed to be filled with good cheer and goodwill towards our fellow human during this specific time because we should be doing that all year round. It’s feels way too performative to me, and that’s how I feel about the holiday in general. There are also way too many expectations of how the holidays *should* be (which is evident from all the threads in advice columns dealing with family expectations), which ends up with hurt feelings. People put way too much pressure on the holidays to make up for childhood disappointments (and don’t even realize what they’re doing), and the real thing can never live up to the ideal.

Continue Reading