Underneath my yellow skin

Time to Practice Some Mental Taiji

It has started. My parents are here for their annual visit, and I just snapped for the first time, but most definitely not the last. It was a soft snap, but a snap nonetheless. My brain said, “Don’t say it,” but my mouth opened before I could stop it.  This actually started the night before last when my mom called me at 12:30 a.m. just to chat before she left. Then, she called me a half hour later because she had a problem with her computer. She said maybe she should call my brother. I said, “Mom, it’s 1:30 in the morning.” We’ve had discussions about her calling me so late–just because I’m up, it doesn’t mean I want to talk on the phone–but she tends to focus on something to the point of disregarding everything else. She wanted to talk to me, so she did. My brother would not have been pleased had she called him at that time, but he turns his phone off at night, so it probably wouldn’t have woken him up.

My relationship with my parents is the best it’s been in–well, ever. Before you get too excited about that, however, I have to put it in context. My childhood was terrible for many reasons, one being that my family was severely dysfunctional. Add to that the insistence by my father on secrecy, and it’s no wonder that my chance of having a healthy romantic relationship is slim to none–and that’s with twenty-plus years of therapy under my belt.

I used to dread their visits because they would lead to epic arguments that lasted the entire visit. We are diametrically different in almost every way, not the least being culturally. They are American citizens, but they are Taiwanese first and foremost. I have Taiwanese ancestry, but I’m American, whether I like it or not–and I don’t. The difference leads to a clash of culture that is difficult to explain, but is easy to feel.

In addition, I live alone other than my cat, and I like it that way. I’ve never lived with a partner, and it’s not something I have any desire to do. I like my space and lots of it. I like not having to answer to anyone, and I like not having to talk to people every day. Talking to people in person makes me tired. I’d rather email or message in some other way, but not text–I hate texting. I go to bed around three or four in the morning and get up when I get up. I feed Shadow his breakfast, smoke half a cigarette, then do my taiji routine. Then, I write my blog post for the day if it’s a weekday, and that’s my early afternoon done.

With my parents here, I have to be aware of them all the damn time. I can’t blast my music when I want, and I have to play nice when I’d rather just wrap myself in a blanket and stare blankly at the wall. I have to be aware of their schedule, and I have to do things with them. I wouldn’t mind so much if I could get away from them, but I can’t. So, I go from being alone to having two people (or one after my father goes back. My mom stays for longer) around me all the time. I never feel as if I can truly relax, not even when they go to sleep.

Another thing is that there are a lot of secrets in my family. There are things we keep from each other, which means there’s probably something I don’t know and the other three members of my family do. Currently, I am sitting on a pretty big secret that I’m not supposed to know, and I’m at a loss as to what to do with it. If I tell this secret, someone in my family is going to get hurt. If I don’t tell the secret, this person might get hurt, anyway, but in a different and more insidious way. I’ve known the secret for a year, but I’m still hesitant to do anything about it.

This is my family. Secrets that go on for years. I have another secret that I don’t know if I should talk about, and this is the legacy of my family’s secretiveness. My impulse when learning information I’m not supposed to know is to pretend I don’t know  it. I think it’s good that I’m able to keep a secret in general, but there are times when it’s better to tell the secret than to keep it. I don’t know how to tell when that is, however, and I feel totally at sea as to how to discern a good secret to keep from a bad one.

I also didn’t sleep well last night because I slept on a bed for the first time in a year. I sleep on the couch because that’s what I’ve learned is the best way for me to sleep. Obviously, I can’t do that with my parents around, so I reluctantly slept in a bed last night. Shadow, my cat, was totally freaked out by this and had to make his feelings loudly known. He meowed at me as I tried to sleep, sweaty and grumpy. I had done a bunch of cleaning yesterday, and my AC is busted, which does not make me a happy camper. So, I was lying in bed, sweating profusely, and Shadow thunked down next to my back. He’s a fluffy cat, and his little body was radiating heat directly into mine. I was not happy, but I didn’t want to pull away from him, either. Throughout the night, he came in, meowed, and nibbled on my exposed flesh. I did not want to cover myself with a blanket, so I’d put a pillow between him and me, which only made him move to another exposed piece of flesh.

I probably got a total of four hours of sleep when it’s all said and done. That’s not enough for me, not any longer. I can’t believe I used to get this amount of sleep on the regular. How did I survive? Poorly, I’d hasten to add. I’m so tired. But I’m so hot. It’s gross out. The AC guy is supposed to come between noon and six today (Tuesday), and I’m hoping it’ll be an easy fix. I hate heat so much. I’d rather have hypothermia and freeze my toes off than deal with the heat.

This is my long-winded way of saying that I’m already short-tempered. Add to that having my parents around, and it’s a test of my patience. Who was it that said your parents know how to push your buttons because they’re the ones who installed them? That’s how I’m feeling right now. Ironically, though, my relationship with my parents improved once I realized that they will never understand me. For years, I beat myself up for not being the daughter they wanted me to be. There’s nothing about my life that they can understand, and the feeling is mostly mutual. I’ve always been the black sheep of the family, and that’s never going to change. You’d think once I realized that, it would have made the situation worse, but it didn’t. I think it’s because I could let go of any expectation that they’d change, that one day they’d embrace me to their bosom. That wish was futile, and clinging to it only made me worse every time I saw them.

Instead, I accept that they love me as best they can, even if it’s not the way I want to be loved. It may seem like I’m settling, but it’s for my own peace of mind. In the old days, I’d be tense and upset before their visit because I knew I’d disappoint them in some way, hell, probably in every way. I interpreted everything they said as critical, even when it wasn’t, because I was keenly aware of being a loser in their eyes. Wanting what I couldn’t have–their acceptance and unconditional love–was eating away at me. Once I adjusted my expectations to be more in line with reality, I was able to deal with the situation better.

I will say, though, that the old familiar annoyances are popping up their ugly heads again. My mom is a germophobe, and I’m an unrepentant slob. I did clean before they came, but not that much because I knew nothing would be enough. Plus, they’re getting on in years, so it’s like having toddlers around sometimes. I have to remind myself that they can’t do the things they used to do, and I should be more patient with my requests. The problem is, again, I’m used to doing things on my own time, whereas they expect if they want me to do something, I’ll do it RIGHTNOW.

It’s difficult. I don’t feel like anything I do is enough. They have established their rhythm for working together, and I don’t fit in it at all. It takes a toll on me to have to interact with other people for such an extended period of time. And, as I said earlier, just having them around is a drain on me. In addition, my earbuds are busted; I need to buy another pair so I can block them out. Or rather, I can watch things without worrying they’re going to overhear.

It’s only been one day, and I’m already deeply tired. I have to bite my tongue so hard not to say anything untoward. I have a short temper in the first place, and it’s almost nonexistent with them around. It’s going to be a long visit; I can tell already.


Leave a reply