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.
Anyway, it makes discussions with him difficult. To his credit, he didn’t immediately come at me this time. I think he and my mom must have had several discussions about the best way to approach the subject. On my part, I was aware that they have legitimate reasons to be concerned, and vowed to not rise up in indignation if my father chose less than ideal words to express his concern. In other words, we’ve both grown up since the last time we’ve had this conversation.
How did it go? Surprisingly well. We all talked like adults, but there were still a few stumbling points. One thing that stuck with me was when I was talking about two paths I might take in the near future. One is to continue blogging (with a few twists), but I acknowledged that I wasn’t good at promoting myself. My father asked why not. I said there were several reasons. One, culturally, they taught me never to brag or be too proud. Two, my other culture, America, teaches women to be modest and not to be too bitchy. I didn’t say bitchy to my parents, of course, but I conveyed the same meaning. I thought I explained myself quite well, but my father kept returning to it, doggedly saying I had said I wasn’t good at promoting myself. I didn’t know why he was stuck on it, and I was becoming impatient. He asked how I would get better at it, and I said there were classes I could take, plus I could ask friends who had to do quite a lot of it.
It was as if I hadn’t said anything as he kept hammering at it. He said he wasn’t good in tech, and while it would have been helpful if he had been, he knew he never could learn it. I asked what that had to do with anything, and he said it was like what I said about not being good at promoting myself. I said the difference is that I could learn how to be better at it. It’s not as if it was something I literally could not learn. Then, he brought up a few instances from the past, including when he set up a teaching gig for me in Taiwan. He had a theory why I refused to do it, and you have to understand how infuriating it is to hear him pontificate on something he doesn’t know anything about. It’s such a man thing, but it’s also a narcissist thing.
Anyway, he said he thought it was because I was a prideful person and that I was afraid someone would confront my dignity. It was such not the reason I had refused the job, I was momentarily speechless. It’s a reason HE would refuse to do something as he’s all about pride, face, and dignity. He even mentioned something about me losing face as a reason I chose not to do it. That’s so not me. It was about pride to a certain extent, but not in the way he was insinuating. I’m not afraid someone will confront me because it’s an insult to my pride but because I have low self-esteem and think I’m wrong about everything, anyway. Which is a kind of pride, but again, not in the way he was thinking.
The real reason I didn’t take the job is because at the time, there was no way in hell I could be that close to my parents. Physically, I mean. I was deeply depressed, and being around them made me suicidal, as I mentioned before. They were such negative influences on me, especially my father, and if I lived in Taiwan, I would have had to see them way more than I would have been able to survive. But, I didn’t see any reason to tell him that now because it’s water under the bridge, and it wouldn’t have been productive.
He wouldn’t stop bringing it up, though, and it’s another of his irritating habits–once an idea lodges in his head, he’s very resistant to changing it. No matter how much information I provide him, he stubbornly clings to what he thinks he knows. We all do it to a certain extent, but he does it to the extreme. He wears a CPAP mask to sleep, and I was with him and my mother when he got a new one. I listened as the guy carefully explained how to wear it, and later, when my father asked about it, I repeated what the man said. The bottom of the mask completely encases the mouth. He looked at me disbelievingly and said, “Shouldn’t my mouth be outside of it?” I told him several times, every night in a row for four or five nights, actually, that his mouth was supposed to be inside the mask. When we went to a follow-up appointment, my dad repeated the exact same question to the consultant.
It’s the same with his vertigo. He believes it’s caused by his ulcer, no matter how many doctors have told him otherwise. He asked his doctor here about it (I was there), and the doctor emphatically said it wasn’t the case. Later, in the car, he repeated that the ulcer had something to do with his vertigo. I will admit I’ve gotten short with him when he’s repeated something I’ve debunked for the umpteenth time.
Back to the discussion. He wanted me to go down the more traditional path–going back to school and getting my MA in psychology. I understand why, but we also got sidetracked because he believes college is the mainstream way to do things. I told him several times that more people do not have a college degree (in America) than do, but it just whizzed by him. I even Googled it, but it didn’t matter to him. I let it go after the third or fourth time with difficulty.
The bottom line is that we all walked out of the conversation with no blood being shed, and voices barely being raised. It was about as painless as one of these discussions can be, and I didn’t even have to lie to them. I stretched the truth a bit, but out-and-out lie? No. I am thinking about going back to school to get my degree in psychology. I’m good at therapy, even if I’m not getting paid for it.
The other branch is continuing with my writing while learning how to promote myself better. There may be a way to do both, but I can’t see it. My mother mentioned that there are therapists who are also authors, but they write about their clients or the lessons they’ve learned from their practice. I do know of a writer/psychologist, Jonathan Kellerman. I really enjoyed his Alex Delaware series, and while I still read them, I think the quality has gone downhill. That’s my hobby horse, though, so I’m not going to bang on about it again. Needless to say, I think series should end after seven novels. Period. Moving on.
I see my writing and my interest in psychology as disparate things. I do use my psychology knowledge when I write my fiction, but it’s not a direct correlation. It’s hard for me to imagine a situation in which I can be a successful psychologist and a successful writer while being fully committed to both. In addition, I’d like to get my PhD or PsyD, but I’m trying to think practically. I can get my MA in two or three years, whereas a doctorate degree would take at least twice that. In addition, which psychology would I specialize in? Industrial/Organizational is very lucrative, but I have little interest in it. Marriage and Family Therapy will always be needed, which means security, but do I really want to be constantly entangled in people’s romantic/familial woes? If I’m to be honest, Clinical Psychology is nearest and dearest to my heart, but you can’t practice as a private psychologist in MN with an MA any longer.
At any rate, I credit taiji with keeping me cool while having a potentially heated discussion with my parents. It helped keep me relaxed and not as defensive. It’s given me confidence in myself that I’ve never had before. It’s not something I think about on a conscious level, but it shows up during times like these.