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.
I will say that taiji has helped me be a bit less uptight and a bit more flexible. I have a terrible temper, but I’m learning to rein it in. I still have angry thoughts and snappy retorts running through my brain most of the time, but I manage to bite down on most of them.
Another problem with having my parents around is that I feel like I’m ten again. I revert back to my juvenile self, and it’s not a pretty sight. More importantly, it’s not a good feeling. I felt fat, unloved, unwanted, and like a complete outsider when I was a kid. I felt like a third or fourth wheel in my own house, and I was miserable all the time. The same patterns are emerging now. I feel like a third wheel around my parents because they are such a complete unit on their own. In addition, they always put my brother’s wishes ahead of mine, and while I understand it’s because he’s busier with a family and a demanding job, it’s still grating. More annoyingly, I can tell them something, and they treat it with skepticism. My brother says it and they accept it without question.
Also, my brother is like my dad in that time is of no matter to either of them. They’re spontaneous and change their schedules with ease. My mother and I, on the other hand, are both more stick-in-the-mud about our schedules. As I’ve explained, having a rigid schedule helps me deal with the chaos of the world, and having to constantly change my plans makes me feel unstable. I’m unmoored, and I don’t like it. I also don’t like that as the more compliant person in the family (which means at all flexible because we’re a stubborn lot), I’m the one giving in all the time.
My brother and I have a great relationship, much better than it was when we were growing up or in our twenties. However, one thing that I know about him is that if he doesn’t care about something or want to do something, he simply won’t. Same as my father. I think it’s also more of a man trait as they are taught that what they want is of utmost important. Therefore, if I’m trying to negotiate with my brother, I’m aware that I’m already at a disadvantage because he has a hard no. I want to stress that he’s flexible about a lot of things so it’s not as if it’s constantly me giving in, but on important issues, I know that I’m the one who’ll cave.
Side note: In taiji, my teacher’s teacher is changing a lot of things, including the sequence of the Solo Form. He’s making it easier for new people to master taiji in a shorter period of time. While I can intellectually understand why he’s doing it, my primitive brain is not liking it at all. It’s not having to learn what is essentially a new form because I have a good memory, and I’m getting better at taking notes. It’s just that I feel as if it was a waste of time to learn the Long Form if he’s making it obsolete, and again, I know intellectually that once I learn something, I can build on it so it’s not wasted. However, I can’t stop thinking it’s a waste of time.
It’s the same with my family. I spent Friday night setting up plans with my niece for her and her boyfriend and my parents (and me). Then, our (my parents and I) plans for Saturday fell through, and Saturday morning, we were scrambling them all around. We canceled the plans with my niece, and I felt like it had been a waste of my time. That’s also when I felt as if my brother’s time was more important than my own, and I had it out with my mother. I will say I’m proud of myself for not just shouting at her as I would have in the past. I was surly as I explained my dissatisfaction, but that’s still a big step forward.
Back to taiji: I do understand that things aren’t written in stone, but we did things a certain way for eight years. Now, in the span of six months or so, my teacher’s teacher is changing what seems like everything, and a lot of it is to make things easier on noobs. At what point, though, do you lose the essence of taiji if you keep dumbing it down? Taiji isn’t meant to be easy (conceptually), and I’m concerned about making it too mainstream. Obviously, I’m not a master, but I’m also not old-school Asian in that I unthinkingly accept what elders tell me–even masters. I’m trying to keep most of my concerns to myself because my teacher is OK with what’s happening, but I can’t stop thinking my concerns.
In addition, some of the changes that were made so the form would be easier for noobs actually make things harder for me. I have feet that turn out past the 180 degree point, so I can do the steps that call for a ninety-plus degree turnout. Adding an extra step is just busy work to me, and I resent it.
It’s too much thrown at me at once. My teacher talks about the masters and how they used to change things all the time. Again, I can understand that with my brain, but my heart is like, “Aw hell the fuck no!” I already don’t like the Solo Form, and this is making me like it even less. There are no major changes to the Sword Form so far, but I would have serious problems if that happens.
I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something, which is human nature, I think, and I don’t when things that I’ve learned get taken away or changed. Again, I know that learning it the old way is a good basis for absorbing the changes, but it’s cold comfort when I’m feeling as if I’m losing ground rather than gaining it.
Back to my family.
I have accepted that I’m the parent in some ways, especially with my father, but it’s galling because while I have to do parental things like explain how a new CPAP mask works to my father (several times. In excruciating detail. Over and over), I’m still treated like a child in other ways. I’m expected to be my mother’s confidante and help her with her marital woes (which, ew. No thanks), and yet, she still tells me to eat my vegetables. That I know is common in many families, but I have the additional problem that English is not my parents’ first language or even second, but it’s the only language I speak. I can’t help thinking so much gets lost in translation and that maybe we would have better communication if we spoke the same language.
I’m not sure about that, though, because many of the problems we have cross all cultural/language barriers. It’s also discouraging that this is the best my relationship with my parents have been in, well, ever. Does that give me hope that things can improve further? Not really because I’m a pessimist at heart. We shall see.
*Meaning any time before noon.