So. I’ve been big into D&D lately–trying to find good groups to watch. It started with the Oxventure crew with Johnny Chiodini as their DM, and it’s expanded since then. I have at least two issues with this, and I’ll start with the more general problem and then go to the more specific one.
There are not enough women of color in these groups. And there are definitely not enough women DM’ing.
Side Note: This is a problem in general with gaming, but especially in the UK. They are really good with having women on their teams, but people of color, especially women? Not so much. It’s really annoying and discouraging because I prefer their style in general, but it’s started to bug me more and more.
I found one group that is all women and more than one woman of color, but unfortunately, I could not gel with the group. The DMs are also players, which made it very confusing, and one of the other women played a lecherous man who was really fucking annoying. Like, I wanted to punch him (the character) in the face annoying. So I fell off that pretty quickly. I gave it another shot, but I just couldn’t with the asshole character.
Which leads me to my problem with the D&D groups in general. I tried to watch the Dicebreaker one, but I absolutely loathed one of the characters. It didn’t help that I don’t care for the person in general, but his character is such a relenting asshole and a big bully. The way he was browbeating a woman (NPC) was really uncomfortable to me, and even though it also has one of the most adorable characters ever (Tim the Gobbo), I won’t be watching again. Not only because of this one character, but because of how the group treated the ‘animals’ (dinosaurs) in the two episodes. Especially the character I hate.
This actually ties into my issues with the Oxventure group, which I’ve started to dread more and more. Why? Because they seem to take more and more glee in being cruel to animals. Merilwen is an elf druid who specifically loves the animals. The others have treated it as a pain in their collective behinds since the beginning, but it was ok because it seemed like an inside joke. In the last four or five adventures, however, it seems much more malicious. Like they take glee in it. And while they’re always ribbing each other, it seems meaner than the way they treat the other members.
In the last adventure, Merilwen’s beloved (and passed) wild cat friend, Simon, showed up again as a hat on a hunter who used dark magic to make the animals go to him rather than have to go collect them. It was really disturbing, and while it was awesome to see Merilwen get scary mad, it really turned me off. In the comments, several people issued similar sentiments. One person even asked if Ellen (the person) had pissed off Johnny (the DM). Someone else noted that in the year, Dob found his sister; Corazon got some closure with his father and got the family mansion; Prudence got Frisky and The Darkness, pet grimoires; and Eggbert got a measure of atonement. Granted, he also lost a kidney, but still. What did Merilwen get? Her dearest friend being disrespected in such a horribly cruel way.
Let me repeat. I’m turning 50 in a year and a few months.
Sorry, but my brain won’t get past that.
Where the hell did my late thirties and forties go? I know it’s trite to say that time flies and bemoan the loss of years, but it’s hard to believe that I’ve been on this earth for nearly half a century.
Honestly, I thought I would be dead by this age. I didn’t think I would make it out of my thirties, and for a while, I was fixated on the idea that I would die at age 55. My mom was 55 at the time, and it just seemed like that would be my time to go. I was…26 at the time? I think that’s right. Anyway, 55 seemed like a lifetime away, and now, of course, it seems disturbingly close.
I rarely look in the mirror, and when I do, I’m like, “Who the hell is this?” I’ve already had one person ask me with great trepidation if I were a senior (at a co-op on the day they gave senior discounts), but I’ve also had someone who thought I was at least ten years younger than I was. And, with my hair reversing the gray, maybe I’m a weird version of Benjamin Button.
It’s weird when I look back on my life and what I thought it would be like. Well, to be honest, I didn’t think it’d be like anything because I could not imagine a future. When I was a teen, I assumed I’d get married and have kids because that’s what you were supposed to do. I also assumed I’d have some kind of office job because that, too, was what I was supposed to do. Furthermore, I would go to church every Sunday even though I didn’t believe, and I would live a quiet and desperate life.
I have difficulties letting go of how I see myself. I think of myself in terms of absolutes such as, “I am a negative person”, and “I am lazy”. Once I get an idea about myself, I can’t move past it. It’s fine with such things as, “My favorite color is black” because it doesn’t really matter if I change that or not. It’s not so fine when it impedes me, such as, “I hate people.” I mean, it’s ok that I hate people, but it’s not realistic to think I’m going to go through my life never talking to people at all. Also, it’s not completely true. I don’t hate all people or even most people. Just certain ones, and if I have to be around lots and lots of people, then I hate the idea of it and not necessarily the people themselves.
I keep thinking about how I didn’t care about Christmas this year, in a positive way. Short explanation: I hate Christmas. Or rather, I did. For many reasons, I became grumpy about it right after Thanksgiving, and it lasted until New Year’s Day. I would notice all the Christmas bullshit around me, and I would gnash my teeth at my hatred of all things Saint Nick. This year, I didn’t even really notice it was Christmas until a few days before when my brother invited me over for dinner Christmas Eve. I wasn’t going to go, but then, to my surprise, I thought, “Why not?” I went and had a good time, and that was the end of Christmas for me.
I know it doesn’t sound thrilling, and in some ways, it scans as a subtle neg. “I didn’t even realize it was Christmas until it was over–that’s how little it means to me!” But, you have to take me at my word when I say it really is a positive thing because it freed up so much of my mind and heart in the months leading up to Christmas. I say it started the day after Thanksgiving, but oftentimes, it was earlier than that because Christmas commercials start earlier and earlier every year. I don’t watch any TV and rarely listen to the radio, but that doesn’t mean the collective unconsciousness doesn’t seep into my brain as well.
My point is that I didn’t force myself to be chipper and cheerful and to pretend that I love Christmas while internally seething. I didn’t grit my teeth and endure it while resenting it with every fiber of my being–which I’ve done in the past–I just didn’t care about it. It was so freeing, and it wasn’t something I could make myself do it. Which is one of my issues with how obsessed with positivity this country is. Don’t worry. That isn’t the main point of this post, but I had to throw it out there.
It was strange for me not to choke with burning resentment against Christmas this year, and I was at a lost as to what to do with it. I mean, being anti-Christmas had been a part of me for such a long time, I felt as if I lost a part of myself. It’s not a bad thing, but it is an adjustment. An absence of a negative is still an absence, and I still think about it from time to time. Fortunately, it’s not something I have to replace with something else, but it’s still something I have to adjust to.
I’ve been thinking about the demo for the past week because I love weapons. There I’m just going to say it. I. Love. Weapons. I love them with a passion that is probably unseemly, but I don’t care. I don’t talk about it much because I recognize that it’s not interesting to many people. Fun fact: whenever I mention weapons on Twitter, I get women freaking out and men drooling. It’s an interesting dynamic, and a commentary on societal expectations. I’d read that female cops had a problem with men when they found out that the women were cops. There were usually two reactions. One was, “Oh, hey, now, that’s too intimidating for me.” The article I was reading said that was a disheartening response, but the other was even worse. The guys who found it hot and made assumptions about how the women would be in bed.
In my case, the women who tweeted me were appalled that I was into weapons. How could I be attracted to something so violent? There was an undercurrent of me being a bad feminist, and that’s something I strongly denounce. I started learning taiji as a matter of self-defense, and now, ten years later, I feel like I could actually use what I’ve learned to defend myself. I see weapons as an extension of that, even though I probably won’t be carrying them with me on the regular. I am currently learning the Cane Form, and a cane is something I could use in my daily life. Even better, a sword within a cane!
When my teacher taught me the 8 Palms of bagua and walking the circles, I had a flash of ‘that is my opponent, and I am going to kill them’ while doing it. I t shook me because I considered myself a pacifist at the time. The idea that I would even think something like that made me question myself, and I brought it up to my teacher afterwards. She assured me it was natural and that it didn’t mean I was going to become a homicidal maniac. In fact, she believed that having a safe place to express your anger and aggression was healthy, and I’ve come to agree with her.
At some point, I also had to examine what I meant by self-defense. or rather, how far I would go to defend myself. I realized that i would go all the way, meaning if it came down to someone else or me, I would choose me. This was a big breakthrough for me because I was so used to thinking my life didn’t matter and that everyone else’s life was worth more than mine. I don’t want to get into the whys and the wherefores, but needless to say, this was a heavy mindset to grow up with. When I first thought, “I will defend myself by any means necessary,” something shifted inside me. I could no longer claim that my life was worthless because my natural instinct was to do defend myself. It should be everyone’s natural instinct, but so many people get it beat out of them–especially women. We are taught to put ourselves last in every situation and to demur that we need more than what we are given.
One of my flaws is that I have a fairly rigid way of looking at myself. I tend to think of myself in terms of absolutes, which does not allow for any change. I’m grumpy, cynical, depressed, fat, and introverted. That’s who I am. Taiji, video games, writing, and reading. That’s what I do. More specifically, blades, Souls, mysteries, and mysteries (respectively). It’s a weird tension because when I ignore what I know about myself, it doesn’t usually go well. Some small examples–going to see Pulp Fiction with a boyfriend (many years after it was released). It was his favorite movie, and he really wanted me to see it. I warned him that I was not going to like it. I knew I wouldn’t, but he was convinced that either I would like it or he would be ok with me not liking it.
Reader, I didn’t like it, and he wasn’t ok with it. Not only did I not like it, I fucking hated it. I loathed it with every pore of my being. I thought it was shallow, grotesque, and painfully hipster. I hated everything about it. When my boyfriend asked me what I thought about it afterwards, I made the mistake of telling him. Not in the terms above, but more as what I saw about it that was problematic. After I was done, there were several seconds of silence. Then he said he couldn’t be with someone with that kind of worldview and dumped me on the spot. He wanted to be ‘just friends’*, and we saw two other movies together. Both that he loved and insisted I’d love (we are both slow learners), and I hated both.
Here’s the weird thing about me. I don’t always know what I’ll like, but I know what I don’t like. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go. When I hate something, I hate it hard. If I hate something from the start, I do not change my mind. The biggest glaring exemption to this is Dark Souls, the original. I hated it as I was playing it, and now, it’s one of my favorite games of all time. You know what? That’s not entirely correct. When I first started playing it, I was instantly hooked even though I was so bad at it. That is unusual in and of itself because I normally refuse to do things I’m not good at. For some reason, however, I kept playing Dark Souls. I nearly quit once (Bell Gargs), quit for months once (Gaping Dragon), and came thisclose to quitting for good (Biggie & Small), but I overcame all those hurdles and felt like a goddess. Then, the second half, which I hated every minute. I was sick and tired by the end, but I made it through the whole game, including DLC. I remember saying in my brain once I was done, “I never have to play this game again.” Ah, how young and naive I was back then.
I actually held to it–until Dark Souls II was announced. For whatever reason, my lizard brain said I had to play that game. In order to prepare for it, I decided to play the first game again. Why? I don’t know. That’s how my brain works. Also, I wasn’t going to buy the second game on release, so I had time to play the first game at my leisure. Considering it took me nearly 150 hours to play it the first time, I needed as much time as I could to play it again. Playing it a second time made me a complete 180 on the game, and it’s now the game to which I compare every other game. I’ve played it probably a dozen times, and I’ve played the third one twice that.
In reading Ask A Manager, I have come to realize how truly weird I am for a variety of reason. In this post, I’m going to focus on gift-giving. In the case of AAM, it’s work related, of course, but I can extrapolate in general. Or, conversely, ponder it as yet another reason I wouldn’t be a good fit for a 9-to-5 job. There are always questions about giving gifts, sometimes about to whom you should give them, but also often about what to give. Obviously, nothing personal, and most people said stick to consumables or flowers or some such.
Um. No. I can’t consume most of the popular holiday consumables–cheese and chocolate. I also don’t drink so wine is right out. As for flowers, well, I’m allergic to almost everything known to womankind. I still remember working for the county and every Christmas, the administrative assistants got poinsettias. That’s when I learned that I was really allergic to poinsettias–to the point where I had difficulty breathing. There were four administrative assistants in the area I was in, so the scent of the poinsettias was very overwhelming. I put mine as far from me as possible, but I couldn’t escape it. When I mentioned it to my boss, she shrugged and got me one the next year as well.
I’d like to point out that this isn’t just me being difficult. It’s not me saying, “I don’t like this thing. Please don’t give it to me.” Well, ok, in the case of wine, it half is. Yes, I don’t like drinking, but I’m also allergic to it. I understand that a work gift isn’t the same as a personal gift, but it made me feel very unimportant to keep getting poinsettias after I pointed out that I was allergic to them. And, yes, it’s different than food because I’m not allergic to any food–just intolerant/sensitive. I’m not going to go into anaphylactic shock, and I won’t have to be rushed to the hospital. My throat isn’t going to swell shut, and I’m not going to die from any of it. I’m just going to be miserable as I sit on the toilet for hours, shitting until I’m dehydrated, sore, and exhausted.
Side Note: It’s strange that in the floral world, being allergic to something means itchiness, stuffed nose, watery eyes, etc. It doesn’t have to mean a need to be rushed to the hospital. The same with animal allergies. But in the food world, that’s a sensitivity or an intolerance. No greater point to be made about this–just an observation.
This is an issue with other aspects of my life, albeit in a more subjective way. I am a weirdo in so many ways, and I’m careful about letting it show on the regular. I know how to pass as normal, and I can do it for shorts bursts of time. For example, when I go to the grocery store, I can pass as one of the locals. I know how to speak the language, and I have a mantra that nobody needs to know the real me. So, yeah, I can nod and smile when someone groans about winter or snow. I can talk about the Vikes to a superficial degree. I can say I’m doing fine with the best of them, and I can nod sympathetically if someone else complains about something.
Months ago, I read an article about living with chronic depression and suicidal ideation. More to the point, the article was about how it’s difficult to talk about it without people freaking out. I’m not saying it’s not understandable–mentioning suicide or not wanting to live is deeply uncomfortable to hear. The impulse is to rush in and placate the person, say it’s not so bad, or give them a half-dozen reasons why they should want to live. Especially in America, we are not comfortable with death, and my theory is because we are so removed from it.
The piece really resonated with me because I can’t remember a day when I woke up thinking, “I’m glad to be alive.” There were long periods of my life when I actively wanted to be not alive. Note that I did not say I wanted to die because I’m afraid of death, but I most certainly did not want to be alive. I liked to joke that my negativity is the only reason I’m alive–I had more fear of dying, convinced that whatever was on the other side was worse than what was in this one. I hated life, though, and everything about it. I hated me most of all, and I would go over every day in my mind what I hated about myself. The list was long and seemingly never-ending.
It’s weird for me to think about those days because I was a completely different person back then. It’s as if it weren’t me, and I feel that way about most of my earlier incantations. I don’t have any connection to them, and I don’t know if it’s normal or not. I feel some sympathy for the younger mes, but I don’t feel as if they were me. It could be dissociation or it could just be normal growth. It’s hard for me to say.
Recently, I had a bout of wanting to die, and it was really strange. It wasn’t me. I mean, I wasn’t consciously thinking it–it was an external pressure. Back in the day, it was me wanting to not live. This most recent bout, it wasn’t that at all. I mean, to get a bit more nuanced, I go through most of my days not wanting to be alive. Or rather, I’m indifferent to it. I don’t see the point, and I don’t know what I’m adding to the world by being here. I will say it’s a huge step up from I used to think I was actively toxic. I had the mindset that I started each day with a negative amount of points, and I had to claw my way to zero in order not to be a sum negative to the world. I don’t know why I had this mindset, though I’m sure it had something to do with my very critical childhood, but it persisted through my thirties.
It was a trap, of course, because I started every day at a negative (indeterminate) number. Even if I managed to make my way to zero (in my brain, which I never did), any good points would be wiped out overnight. I can say that now and see it with such clarity, but while I was in the middle of it, it seemed like the way it should be.
Side Note: For years, I had a voice in my head that I dubbed The Dictator. He (and it was a he) would order me about, saying what I should and shouldn’t do. He was capricious in that what he deemed appropriate was, well, pretty much the same as my family, but hardened into a rigidity that was dangerous. I felt helpless to stop it, and it took many years of therapy and taiji to quiet the voice. I don’t know when I stopped hearing it, but it’s been gone for some time. I’m glad about that, but what’s replaced it is more insidious. It’s not a voice, but just a feeling of general malaise. You would think it’s better, and it is in general, but it’s also harder to combat. It sounds so reasonable when it’s saying unreasonable things.
Last weekend, my taiji teacher invited me to her place this Saturday (last night) because her husband was on a retreat so she was baching it for the week. When she asked, my brain immediately came up with a million reasons not to go (even though we are friends and I like hanging out with her), so I did the Minnesotan response* (which I then explained to her in another context ten minutes later) of saying I would have to see how I felt that day. Then, after I went home, I thought about it more and realized that I had a habit of naysaying because I had such a difficult time leaving the house. I had to convince myself that there was a good reason to leave, then talk myself through the actual leaving. I hate driving so that’s part of it, but it’s also just that I am not able to control things outside my house to the extent that I can inside my house. Except my cat. There’s no controlling him.
I emailed my teacher and told her I’d be going (betraying my MN roots) and if I could bring anything. All was well until Friday rolled around. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed as the saying goes, and I was in the worst depression I’d had in at least a decade. It wasn’t my usual general malaise; it was a serious I hate everything about the world feeling. Plus, I was physically drained to the point where I could barely keep my eyes open. I had no idea why I felt that way or what caused it, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Everything I tried to do was made impossible by the heaviness of my eyelids and my body. I would try to write, and my eyes would close.
I wanted to go to taiji, but I knew I would be putting myself and others at risk if I tried to drive. I emailed my teacher telling her I wouldn’t be in class, and then I immediately started worrying about whether I would be able to go to her place the next night. My brain told me I should just cancel (even though I told her I was still aiming to go) and promise to take her out for lunch later. I didn’t want to disappoint her, plus I knew that my depression made me catastrophize everything. I decided to wait and see because I might be better by the next morning. There was no reason to call it off with plenty of time to see if I’d get better. But, that’s how my brain rolls. It says everything is terrible and I might as well just give up because it’s no use. What is no use? Everything is no use.
The rest of the day was me struggling to get shit done. I did manage to do it, but it took about four times the effort, and the results were…not great. But I got them done. I went to bed or rather passed out against my will (I hate falling asleep sometimes), and when I got up, I felt much better. Still like shit, but at least it didn’t feel as if I were swimming in molasses. I decided I was going to taiji and my teacher’s place later, even though my brain was screaming at me not to go. Why? Because it hates me.
Side Note: I have a lot of anxiety, obviously. It makes me sympathetic to others with anxiety, but it also makes it difficult for me to be around others with a high level of anxiety. My mother also has a lot of anxiety, and while she used to keep it somewhat under control, now she just lets it run amok. Her constant stream of anxiety is the way the voices in my head sound, and I don’t need an outwardly manifestation of said anxiety.
I went to taiji, and it was productive. I will talk more about that later because it’s worthy of a post in and of itself. Afterwards, my teacher and I chatted for a few minutes before we went our separate ways *cue Journey*. I went home to relax a bit, but in the back of my mind, there was a little voice worrying about the evening. That’s the way my mind works. There’s always a little voice saying something negative. Over the years, I’ve been able to tame it to a great extent, but I can’t get rid of it completely. In the past, I would give in to the voices just to shut them up, but it was folly. It only stopped them for a second, and sometimes, not even then. It used to be a shout, but now it’s more a dull murmur.
At least I knew what I was going to wear. I have a new favorite pair of paints that I bought from Target. AVA And Viv. Burnt Orange. Pockets. Comfy waist. Wide legs. In other words, fucking perfect. Plus a black button down from Taiwan. The drive was terrific because I was able to take the freeway that is currently NOT under construction rather than the one that is a fucking nightmare right now. There was one other woman there, someone I had met before who is really kindhearted with a fey outlook on life that I found both fascinating and at times bewildering.
I bought two tubs of hummus, two packets of pitas, and one bag of gluten-free bagels. I also bought some dark chocolate hummus to try for myself, and it’s…ok. It’s bland and too gritty, though. I also currently have a dark chocolate vegan spread that is…ok. It’s too gummy, though. The best is from Peanut Butter & Co., but it’s a tad too gritty. They also have a dark chocolate hazelnut spread, but the shipping fee on a five dollar jar is ten bucks. Uh, no. I could get six for thirty from Amazon, but that’s too much for one person.
We listened to music, chatted, and had tasty food. The other woman brought corn chips, and my teacher made a great guac to go with them. She also had a tasty flavored drink made with cane sugar. I think it was cherry? I can’t quite remember. In addition, she provided dark chocolate-covered almonds and dark chocolate-covered nuts and Majula dates. For a second, I was concerned about the chocolate until I remembered that she was allergic to dairy herself so she would not buy anything that would trigger a reaction.
My teacher’s husbands has an impressive array of insects and lizards, and my teacher has an adorable cat. It was so cool to check them all out. There is a lizard, um, gecko, um, not sure exactly what species she is, but I told her she was me in lizard form. She’s stealthy and likes to hang out in the shadows, being more of an observer than a participant. The boy lizard, on the other hand, is gregarious, outgoing, and likes to show you his big testicles. I didn’t get to see them, but I cackled at my teacher’s description of him manspreading on the glass.
At the end of the night, I marveled to myself that I had gone through so much anxiety over the event because it turned out to be lovely and very low-key. That’s the way my brain works, though, and I doubt I will ever be able to get it to stop completely.
*Anything other than a yes is a no. “I have to check my calendar” is a no. “That sounds interesting” is a no. “I’ll talk it over with my husband/wife/spouse/dog” is a no. “I’d love to if I can ____” is a no. If you don’t hear an explicit, “Yes! I’m there!”, it’s a no.
One thing I hate when my parents are around is how I’m relegated to being baby once again. My brother is three years older, and he gets treated as if he were the font of wisdom whereas I’m…well, it’s complicated, and I’ll get to it in a second. One thing that everyone in my family has in common is that we all have Strong Opinions on things and will not let it go. It manifests in different ways with each of us. My father simply refuses to acknowledge points other than his own and hammers his own opinion over and over again. Over the decades, he has perfected the art of the blank look followed by simply repeating what he already said. He does not argue in good faith, and he’s not really looking for other opinions. My mother will acknowledge the other position, but then immediately want to drop the subject if it gets at all uncomfortable. In a way, it’s more frustrating because she’s vent for a half hour; I’ll give my opinion for five minutes; then she wants to change the topic if I don’t simply agree with her.
My brother states his opinions confidently, and while he’s willing to hear other opinions, it’s often hard to face his confidence with equanimity. Even when I know I’m right, I hesitate in the face of his certainty. One example that always stands out in my mind is Daylight Savings Time. For whatever reason, I had looked up whether the farmers were for or against it (I think we talked about it in taiji or something), and then it came up in a conversation with my brother and parents. This was a few summers ago, and I don’t remember the details. I do remember my brother stating the urban myth reason of farmers pushing for DST, which was what I believed before looking it up. Even though I knew he was wrong because I had just looked it up, he said it with no doubt in his voice, and I started thinking I had misremembered what I Googled. I looked it up again on, and I was right. Also, he does not get emotional reasoning at all (or thinks he doesn’t. He does it himself, but rationalizes it as logical), so he can’t understand why someone doesn’t just listen to all the facts he’s presenting and see the reasonableness of his position.
Me, I do one of two things. Either I say nothing at all or I forcefully state my opinion. There is no in-between for me, and I feel bad regardless of which route I choose. Nobody in my family can argue/debate without pushing it to the limits, and it gets really annoying when we’re all together. I’m working on my own issues around this, but it’s slow-going. I have a bad temper, which I try to keep under control. For the most part it works, but when my buttons are pushed, I blurt shit out without thinking about it because I’m pissed. Or at least deeply irritated. I get this from my father, and it’s not pretty. For many years, I just stuffed it down deep inside because I wasn’t allowed to show anger. Only my father was, and, oh, did he show it. Then, I was angry all the time and popping off about everything. I’ve managed to temper the rage somewhat with the help of therapy and taiji, but it’s still something I struggle with on a daily basis.
The parental visit is finally over*. After I dropped them off yesterday, I did a few things, and then, I just vegged out for the rest of the day. I mean, I did the things I had to do, but I did them MY way. Shirtless, to be more specific. With my parents in the house, I couldn’t be as stripped down as I normally am. My usual wear in the summer is boxer shorts and a tank top or no shirt. When my parents were here, I wore gym shorts** and a t-shirt. It may not sound like much more clothing, but for me, it is. I have both sensory issues and heat issues, and I felt as if I were dying much of the time. I had a personal fan blowing 24/7, and it still wasn’t enough.
By the way, the single indication of my father’s narcissism that stands out the most for me is how he keeps asking me if I’m cold/will be cold/might get cold. No matter how many times I’ve explained to him that I don’t get cold (for the most part, but he doesn’t do nuances), he can’t let go of the idea that if he’s cold, other people must be cold, too–especially someone whom he views as an extension of himself. On one of his many rambles, he opined on how he couldn’t understand people in India being able to tolerate living there. I admit I got impatient with him because he lives in fucking Taiwan! I don’t know how the hell people live there! (I mean, I do, but it’s a valid comparison.) I pointed out that people say the same thing about Minnesota and cold. He said you can put on more clothes when you’re cold (yes, you can, Dad. Which is my argument when he says 78 is too low for the AC), but you can only take off so many layers. I said only to a point. When’s it’s -35, there really isn’t much you can do other than go some place heated.
The point is, he can’t see anything outside his own purview, and it’s fucking irritating because it seems so basic to me. But, then again, that’s one of the characteristics of a narcissist–they literally can’t understand how anyone can be other than they are in any way. Also, a man. Too. As well. I try to tell myself not to get drawn in, but when he says something as egregiously ignorant as, “I don’t understand how anyone can live in India”, well, all my patience goes out the window.
I digress as is my wont, though.
This visit wasn’t the worst by far. Does that sound like damning with faint praise? Well, it is, but it’s worthy to note how much better than the worst it was and how I still passively felt like killing myself almost every day. In the past, I’ve actively wanted to kill myself during visits with my parents, and I’ve felt physically uncomfortable being in the same room with my father, so this is definitely progress. I’m not being flippant even though it sounds as if I am. Several years ago, when I was coerced into going to Taiwan on a ‘family’ trip, I had to stop myself from killing myself more than once. We’d be looking at the ocean–my spiritual home, the Pacific Ocean–and I had to restrain myself from walking into it until I could walk no more. When we walked across a bridge over the Taroko Gorge,*** the impulse to throw myself off it was so strong, it made me nauseated. Then, I thought, maybe I was supposed to have died there when I almost drowned in my early twenties, and I couldn’t shake that thought from my brain for the rest of the trip.
I was, to put it mildly, a hot mess for the entire trip, and the worst part was that I did it to myself. I knew it would be horrible for many reasons, but my mother wore me down. Every time we talked, she nagged me about it and guilt-tripped me about it until I gave in. That’s her M.O., by the way, talk and talk and talk until you agree just to shut her the fuck up. She did that to me about having children for fifteen years (going on and on about it every time we talked), and if I hadn’t been so deadset against having them, I might have given in. As it was, I once thought, “Maybe I should have a kid so she will shut the fuck up about it.” Fortunately, I realized that was a terrible reason to have children, but it just shows how much pressure I felt from my mother to even reach that moment.
By the way, my brother said on the way back from the airport, “Mom just won’t stop talking.” It was something I’d noticed over the past few years, and it was a tremendous relief to have it validated that it wasn’t just in my head. My parents are masters at the unconscious gaslighting (they don’t do it intentionally, but they are willful creators of their own reality), and if left to my own devices, I would question many of the observations I’ve made about our family. Then again, my brother can also do this to a certain extent, so it’s a double-edged sword. Everyone in my family, including me, is very invested in his/her own version of what our family looks like.
I asked my brother if it had gotten worse over the past few years. He agreed that it had. My mom has always talked a lot, but as he said, at least she would listen in the past. Now, she just goes on and on and on. And on. And on. It’s especially frustrating when she asks a question, but then will not pause to actually hear a response. My brother cuts in telling her she needs to listen. I cut in and tell her to stop for a second. Both of us say it in exasperated tones, which isn’t ideal, but understandable.
Here’s my theory. My father was forced to retire three or four years ago. That’s around the same time that my mom’s chattiness has gotten worse. My theory is that she’s gotten used to talking compulsively around my father because of their unhealthy dynamics. She’s always trying to please him, and he extends his approval and snatches it back at random. Well, not random exactly, but according to his byzantine inner rules about when someone has slighted him (which is more often than not). In addition, he’s probably in early onset dementia, which means he has no memory of anything said to him.**** So she has to tell him time and time again the most basic of information. In addition, his critical nature jabs at her anxieties, and that’s what the chatter is–her anxieties outwardly manifesting.
On the way to the airport the second time, I realized that she did not take a breath for the entire forty-five minute drive. There were stretches when I didn’t say anything at all, and there were other times when all I said was, ‘uh huh’ and maybe, ‘right’. I will admit at that point, I was doing a bit of a scientific experiment to see how long she would go without any encouragement, but it was mostly because I was exhausted and did not feel like talking. Also, she wasn’t looking for a dialogue. She just wanted to monologue about whatever it was that was in her mind at that moment.
I will say in that way, she and my father are alike. Neither of them cares about their audience–only in the reflection. What I mean is, with my father, he just wants to pontificate, and he wants you to reflect back what he wants to hear. You can tell by the way he crafts his questions that he is aiming for a certain response. That’s when he has a strong opinion on something (which is almost everything. Another thing all of us in the family have in common.) If he’s truly asking a question about, say, why squirrels go down the tree head first, then it’s a straightforward question. It’s still annoying because I don’t know and I don’t care, but it’s easy enough to ignore or to utter a platitude. It’s when he has an opinion such as America is so great and Taiwan sucks that I have a hard time just biting my tongue.
My mother, on the other hand, just wants what she calls a sounding board but I call a dumping ground for her woes. It leaves me feeling battered and worn, especially when I know that she will not do what it takes to change the situation. What’s more infuriating, she rewrites history so she ‘forgets’ what she was complaining about (or what I actually saw with my own eyes) happened. That’s what I mean about gaslighting, and that’s why I’m very particular about the truth. It’s hard for me to witness my father emotionally abuse my mother, and it’s even harder to listen to her deny it happened. Or ‘forget’ it happened.
I have much more to say, but this is running long as usual. I will save the meat of my musing for the next post.
*A day later than planned. My brother and I dropped my parents off at the airport Sunday at around 5:30 p.m. This was after having a tea at Starbucks for about an hour. I went with my brother to run an errand, and I made it home by 8:00 p.m. He called me ten minutes later to tell me that my parents’ first flight had been delayed to the point where they wouldn’t catch the transfer (2 hour delay), so they needed to come back home. I almost cried because I was so looking forward to having the place to myself and because driving back to get them–and then back home–was too much to bear. There is so much fucking construction that getting there and back nearly doubled the trip, and I hate driving in general. Fortunately, my brother was able to pick them up and bring them back here, but I was still irrationally pissed off at having to push off Freedom Day by fourteen hours or so.
**Both the boxers and the gym shorts I found in the men’s department. It’s hard to find women’s gym shorts that are baggy and have pockets (what the fuck is it with women’s clothing and pockets in the year of our lord, 2019????), and there is no such animal as women’s boxers. Unfortunately, men’s boxers seem to be dying out as well, sadly. Sigh.
***Where I almost died in my early twenties. I was in Taiwan during my semester abroad, and me and a bunch of the other women were swimming in the Gorge. Not a smart idea because I’m not a good swimmer. The rapids swept me away, and if one of the other women hadn’t grabbed me and pulled me out, I would have died.
****This is complicated because he’s always ignored anything that doesn’t interest him. So, part of his current not remembering things is hard to parse. Is he not remembering because he doesn’t care to remember or because he truly can’t remember? I think it’s mostly the latter because it happens even when he asks a question, but there’s also some of the former, especially if the answer is not what he wants to hear.