Underneath my yellow skin

Taking People at Their Word

I ran across the video below last night as I was surfing YouTube. It was on my YouTube front page as a recommendation, and as my friend, Ian, has met and interviewed Dee Snider (which he, Ian, was in the army. he said Dee was a good dude), I clicked on it.

It hit me in the gut, and I cried while watching it at the rawness and the emotion. I shared it, then tweeted to Dee Snider my respect. He did it to help fund research for childhood cancer, and that’s an admirable thing.

Then I found out that Dee Snider was friends with this president, and I experienced a ‘what the fuck’ moment.  I Googled it and found out it was true. They became friends when Dee Snider was on The Celebrity Apprentice twice a few years back.  I  found out in the context of this president asking to use this song on the campaign trail, and Dee said sure. He said they were friends because they followed the adage to not talk about politics, religion, or sports (which, by the way, is not a luxury everyone has. Politics is not compartmentalized for many minorities, but another post, another day). When Dee started hearing this president on the campaign trail, he was confused because what the president was espousing wasn’t what he believed in, and more to the point, went against what the song is about. As he said, the first line is about the right to choose, which he elaborated meant a woman’s right to choose. So he asked this president to stop using the song because he didn’t want people thinking he (Dee) endorsed the hateful ideas he (the president) was spewing, and the president agreed. Dee talked about when Paul Ryan tried to use it and was flabbergasted the latter didn’t vet it. Dee:

I had to step up and say, ‘Wait a minute. Didn’t you vet the song? You’re singing the song, ‘We’ve got the right to choose’,’ and then railing against women’s right to choose. So I can’t endorse you using it.’ And that’s where I draw the line.

This was in June of last year, and Dee said he still liked this president, but couldn’t get behind him. Dee also sounded like he was struggling because he knew the president as pro-choice and a Democrat. That’s valid because this president has been all over the map, agreeing with the last person to present an argument he likes.

My point is, no matter how disappointed I am that Dee is friends with the asshole (although I would be curious to know if Dee’s changed his mind now), I applaud his ability to say, “Hey, I don’t like what you said. Don’t use my song.” No matter how conflicted Dee was about how what he was hearing didn’t match what he knew about his friend, he chose to take this president at face value rather than dismissing what he said. Dee had a line, and the president stepped over it. Dee didn’t dither. He just said, “Not cool, bro. Don’t do that.”

I mention this because one of the reasons I’ve had a better relationship with my parents in the last few years is because I’ve accepted them as they are (which doesn’t mean I don’t push back from time to time). A few years, I looked at them and thought, “This is who they are. They aren’t going to change.” With that, I could let go of the longing to have the mythical perfect parents. The father who actually cares about me as a person and not as his daughter. Who actually asks about my interests and shows interest in my response. Who actually reads my writing. Ever. Seriously, he’s never read one piece of mine. A mother who doesn’t see me as her confidante. Who can read my writing with an open mind and not be put off by the swearing. Yeah, that happened.

I would wish for parents who weren’t in a codependent relationship that works for them (to an extent), but is as depressing as hell to watch. Why didn’t they show love for me in the way I want them to? It would tear me up from the inside, and every visit took it out of me. It’s only when I realized they weren’t going to change that I accepted they did love me in their own way. It’s not the way I would have wanted, but it’s all I was going to get. It’s like the time my father and I had a huge argument. He ended up asking why he should love me then. I said with tears in my throat that it was his job as my father. This was as I was taking him to the airport so he could fly back to Taiwan. He later called and said he loved me, but it rang hollow. When I mentioned it to my therapist, she commented it was a big step for him and a little one for me. She was right.

I know it sounds defeatist to say, “They’re not going to change”, but it was liberating instead. I didn’t have to worry about disappointing them (I would) or trying to live up to their standards (I wouldn’t). I didn’t have to waste my time wishing for something better than what we had. In that way, I could appreciate (at the time) the limited relationship we did have. There was nothing I could do to change them, so changing my attitude was a better way to go. I want to emphasize that it wasn’t a conscious decision to give up on them changing; it just happened (after working to that point for many decades, I’ll hasten to add).

You know the irony here? They’ve changed. Are they the mythical perfect parents? Hell, no. Are they even close? Nope. But, they’ve both changed significantly, and more importantly, so have I. So has my brother. My brother has become more introspective and sensitive to others, though that’s still a weakness of his (as he will admit). He likes to say he’s 100% logic, and while that’s not completely true, it’s close. But, he’s starting to realize that emotions exist, and they’re not bad things. Let me rephrase. He’s always had emotions, but he just expresses them differently. Now, he’s doing more socially-appropriate things like asking how I am and actually caring. I’m not being patronizing. I’m astounded at how much he’s changing. Again, it’s not anything I MADE him do (although I do think our talks about psychology and social situations have helped), and I’m pleased at how much better our relationship is.

There are limits to taking people as they are, obviously. If someone is abusive or doing something that doesn’t align with your morals, for example, you don’t have to put up with it. Hm. You still can’t change them, but you can try to extricate yourself from a relationship with them if you’re able to. Still. Even in those situations, it’s better to see things as they are. When I was with a boyfriend who was emotionally abusive (and had we stayed together, I have no doubt he would have been physically abusive because I was too lippy for him), I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. Like, three or four months in. It wasn’t enough for me to break up with him, sadly, but it did have me seriously questioning what the fuck I was doing with him. There was a moment in which we were having a yelling match, and I thought, “He’s going to hit me.” I immediately backed off the argument and ended it as soon as possible.

I didn’t think I was overreacting. Not then and not after. I knew he was capable of hitting me, and I knew if I pushed him too far, he would. When he dumped me, I felt nothing but relief. My only regret was that I fell for his shit in the first place and that he dumped me before I could dump him. I was grateful it was a long distance relationship because I think it could have gotten messy otherwise. But me seeing him clearly for who he was helped me move on with relative ease.

In taiji, we’re taught to react to what is happening at the time. Not to anticipate. Not to strike first. But to react. I’ve found that I’ve incorporated that in my day-to-day life. The worst part of my anxiety is anticipating all the horrible things that might happen, and my body pumps me with stress juice* until I’m ready to burst. Now, being able to clear my mind of half of the what-ifs has helped tremendously. Again, I’d like to stress that I’m not doing it on purpose. I’m not saying, “Hong, it’s better when you think about the what-ifs, so don’t do it.” And, yes, I call myself by last name. I don’t know why; I just do. It’s just my nine-ish years of taiji practice that has allowed me to do this. Plus, my twenty-plus years of therapy on and off. And having really good friends who have my back.

Another reason I’m bringing this up is because I wish people could employ the same mentality in thinking about this president. He is who he is. Accept it. Accept that he will always choose the absolute worst option in any situation. I’m NOT saying do not push back on what he’s actually doing; I’m saying not to waste your time and emotions reacting to what he’s saying. Easier said than done, I know. I’ve got caught up in the, “How the hell did he just say that shit?” indignation, but it’s a fool’s errand at the end of the day. He’s not going to change, not in any significant way, anyway. We need to focus on minimizing the damage of what he’s (and the Republicans, frankly) done. It’s sad and disheartening, but also liberating. Think of all the emotional space you can free up by not getting worked up over everything he’s said or done. Then, imagine using that energy for a better purpose–like stopping this fucking asshole.



*Scientific term for it.


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