Underneath my yellow skin

Turn that frown upside down

One of the persistent issues in my life has been a low self-esteem. It stems from being told implicitly and explicitly that my opinions don’t matter. More than that, I was made to feel like I had to keep everything to myself. The only person allowed to be angry in my family was my father. And, since my mother made me her confidant when I was eleven (or earlier, but that’s when I first remember it happening), I learned that my feelings were secondary to hers. It got better when I was in my thirties, but it’s reverted now that my parents are elderly and my father isn’t in the best of health. And is still the same narcissistic, yet insecure person he’s always been. Some of the things she complains about are things he’s done their entire marriage, which is nearly fifty-one years in length. It’s frustrating as hell because I can remember her complaining about the same things thirty-five years ago, and I don’t have a better answer now than I did then. Or rather, my answer is the same. Divorce him. I know she won’t do that, however, so all I can do is–nothing.

I hate that she only calls me to complain about him. She might ask me about myself (or not), and she might even listen for a few minutes, but then it’s time to talk ad nauseam about him. I wouldn’t want to hear that much about him if he was a good person and they had a great relationship. The fact that he’s not and they don’t just makes it even more painful. I know that on my end, I should just give a couple nondescript answers and end the call as soon as I can. I don’t, however, because I feel guilty that she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to. I shouldn’t, I know, but it’s my programming. I’m only here to manage the feelings of others. I thought I had it under control, but the fact that my parents are in the last stage of their lives has made me soft. It’s ironic that I’m better able to deal with my father because I just accept he is who he is. I know that he’ll never change, so it’s easier to gray rock him into oblivion. I just nod and agree with whatever he says or state my case once and then move on. I can do that because I don’t expect anything better from him. From my mom, it’s another story. I know she’s better than what she’s displaying right now. She’s a badass woman who single-handedly brought sandplay therapy to Taiwan. She has a waiting list for clients that is over a year long. She’s the foremost expert on the subject in Taiwan. She’s highly respected in her field. And, yet, in her personal life, she’s reduced to being the helpmeet of my father.

I’ve said before that one of the reasons I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship is because I can see myself in her. I could easily be that person, and it scares the fuck out of me. She couldn’t call him at work because it would make him lose face (yeah, I don’t get it, either); he would get angry if she asked him to let her know when he wasn’t coming home for dinner (because he was fucking around); and his way of punishing her would be to angrily yell at her until she backed down or give her the icy silent treatment.

Side Note: Most people say there is no reason for the silent treatment, but I know from experience that I pull it sometimes when I feel cornered. If someone is angrily demanding me to talk, but won’t be happy with my answer or won’t let me answer, I go silent. All the things I want to say get stuck in my throat, and I literally can’t say anything. It’s not a healthy nor effective way to deal with a situation, but let’s not pretend that there isn’t at least an understandable reason why the silent treatment gets used sometimes. I agree that usually, it’s a power move, but for me, it came from a place of powerlessness.

Anyway, that could be part of the reason my father gave the silent treatment because my mother can be relentless when she’s in high dudgeon, but it was also his response to any time he thought anyone wronged him. His eyes would ice over, and he would stare through you as if you weren’t even there. He could keep this up for hours, and you’d never know what would snap him out of it. I realized much later that growing up with him was like growing up with an alcoholic–always tiptoeing around his anger and rages, never knowing what will provoke him. My mother used to tell my brother and me not to tell my father something or the other because it would upset him. He was simultaneously the Man of the House and a fragile baby. I remember when I got my first tattoo I never told him about it. I didn’t tell him about me being bisexual, either. I did tell my mother, and it went over surprisingly badly considering that she’s a psychologist and had been supportive about my cousin coming out as gay.

This is all backstory to why I feel as if my life don’t mean shit. My mother has always been focused on my father and making sure his life is as easy as possible. My brother and I are a distinct second to him, and I felt as if I were lower on the hierarchy than my brother because he had more outward difficulties growing up than I did. He probably was dyslexic and on the spectrum, though not diagnosed for either–it really wasn’t a thing at that time. Testing kids for learning disabilities/neurodivergence. I was the good kid on the outside who was severely depressed on the inside. I made the deliberate decision to fail my classes my junior year in high school just to get any kind of attention from my mother. They were dark, dark days. I was passively suicidal, which started when I was eleven. I say passively because I wasn’t going to actively kill myself, but I did not want to be alive. At all. Not only did I want to die, I thought my presence on earth was an overall negative. The only two reasons I didn’t kill myself was because I was a coward who knew it would hurt and because I was certain whatever was on the other side was even worse. I like to joke that the only reason I’m alive is because of my negativity.

I had an experience while I was visiting Ian that made me pause. He and his fiancee belong to a bowling league made up of…I’m not exactly sure. People T (fiancee) knows, and I think they’re work-related? At any rate, we went on Friday night, but I wasn’t going to bowl. I was just going to cheer on everyone else as I said to anyone who asked. Most of the people were older and white. I say this because normally, that wouldn’t be a situation in which I felt comfortable, especially as there were at least three doctors in the mix. There was one Asian woman who made a beeline to me and introduced herself with bright eyes.

Side Note II: At one of the restaurants we went to, we were served by an Asian woman. She really took a shine to me as well, and I joked to Ian later that I might move to Binghamton because apparently I was a rock star among the Asian women.

Near the end of the first game, one of the bowlers asked if I’d mind keeping score. Well, more like ordered but in a friendly way, and I took over with some reluctance. I hadn’t bowled in decades, and while I knew how to do the scoring, I didn’t know there was going to be maths that night. And, since it was a league, that meant the scores mattered beyond that night. I didn’t need that knid of pressure! In addition, no one was really paying attention for the second game, which meant I felt as if I were trying to herd cats. It was hilarious to me that the bowler would ask which lane, and I’d be like, “Fuck if I know!” I was drafted to be the scorekeeper, and I didn’t understand the nuances. I did figure out by the end that they were switching lanes so if they bowled in Lane 3 once, they were in Lane 4 the next time. They were also one woman down because her wrist was hurting, so I was not great about making sure everyone was on the same frame. It was a very weird experience, but I didn’t hate it.

Here’s the interesting part. There was one woman, let’s call her D. For whatever reason, we had a connection, and I have no idea why. Whenever she was up to bowl, we had a little moment of cheer and convivial bonhomie. We’d joke and jape each time, and it was pretty cool. I’m not the type to have instant connection with other people, even if I can fake it when needed. The fact that she was so different than someone I would normally interact with. At the end of the night, she asked if I was going to be there to keep score the next week, and I said I was from out of town and only there to visit, so no. She said with disappointment that it was too bad because it was such fun.

I felt the same, but it was strange to hear her say it. I’m used to thinking that I’m at best a neutral influence on the world and that if I were gone, it wouldn’t really matter. I tend to be surprised when people speak positively of me or remember me. I mean, I shouldn’t as from a strictly looks point of view, I’m a tatted up fat Asian woman with big tits in a still very white world. I go to the same places over and over, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that people remember me. But in my brain, I’m just this ephemeral presence that floats around, not making an impact on anything, and then floats away. When Ian told me that T was really excited about meeting me, I said, “Why? I’m such a boring person.” He didn’t agree, obviously, but in my mind, there isn’t anything that really stands out about me. I have a very staid life, and while, yes, my brain is constantly thinking weird things, most of them are things I wouldn’t share with others. In other words, they are negative in my brain, not positives.

The bowling incident stuck with me because again, it was a situation that I normally would avoid with a passion. It’s not my scene at all, and it’s not my kind of people. If I’m going to hang out, I’d rather it be with artistic people in artistic spaces, so I was more than a little hesitant when Ian brought it up. I had fun, though–actual fun. I wasn’t the me I would be while attending a play, for example, but it was certainly me. A more vibrant and lively me than the me that sits at my computer and types out this drivel. Er, content. Not drivel. Definitely not drivel. I’ve also had a few incidents in my personal life that has reminded me that there are people who care if I live or die and that my actions actually do have consequences.

It’s a strange feeling, and I’m not sure I welcome it. It’s not great feeling as if I don’t matter, obviously, but in a way, it excuses me from having to take responsibility of my life. If I don’t matter, if nothing I did matter, then I don’t have to make any substantive changes. It’s one of the perks of depression (said with tongue firmly in cheek)–you can wallow. I’m not saying it’s a conscious decision or something to beat yourself up about because depressed people do enough of that, but it can be a crutch in order not to deal with your life in a productive fashion. Again, I want to emphasize that it’s not conscious and it’s not something that should be used against a depressed person. It’s just that I’m uncomfortably aware that being depressed is often my excuse for not doing anything–including working on the depression.

I need to do that. Work on the depression, I mean. I’ve acknowledged that I’m actually depressed and not just feeling a bit blue. I have things I want to do, but I just feel so weighed down. Sometimes, I think about how my life would have been if I hadn’t suffered from severe and chronic depression, but I try not to dwell on it. I can’t change the past, so all I can do is try to change my future.

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