Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: boundaries

When I’m done, I’m done

I am pretty patient in general. With people, I mean. Wait. That’s not true. I am impatient in my brain, but outwardly, I’m patient. I understand people’s foibles because I know the reasoning behind it. I’m not an empath for no reason.

Side note: There was someone at Ask A Manager (a commenter) who wrote, “Of course, there is no such thing as an empath.” She dropped it in like everyone knew this to be a fact.” I did not say but should have, “Just because YOU don’t believe in them, it doesn’t mean it’s not true.” But I didn’t because I know what people think of empaths. I don’t even really like the word, but I accept it’s the common nomeclature. I can understand why she did not want it to be true.

I have known since I was in college that people don’t like being told about themselves. I mean, I knew it before that, but it was when I was studying psychology that I realized that most people don’t know themselves and more to the point, don’t want to know themselves. Jung was spot on when he said that people didn’t want to see their shadow sides.

It’s funny to me because I’m all about my shadow side. For most of my life, I have freely admitted my flaws. I’m a slob and a procrastinator. I am quick to take offense being very thin-skinned and quicker to anger. I am sarcastic and I see the negative in people much more easily than I see the positive. I’m sarcastic, snide, and will always find the fault in everything.

For decades, I refused to look at any of my positives. I liked to joke that my shadow side comprised my positive aspects. This was collateral damage from a childhood in which I could not do anything right. I got it in my head that I would be punished if I said anything at all positive about myself. This was my Taiwanese culture at work, but it was also my parents being overwhelmingly negative people.

Other people, though, cannot bear to face their own flaws. In fact, many of them will go to any lengths not to acknowledge them. And then act up because they’re so ashamed of them. It’s fascinating as a student of psych to watch the defense mechanisms people use. There’s a saying in psychology. You don’t take away someone’s defense mechanism without giving them something to replace it with.

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Sharing is not always caring

I’m obsessed with the idea of boundaries because my parents don’t have any. None. Nada. Zip. They don’t believe their children should have individual personalities. We are reflections of them and therefore must replicate their ideology identically. My brother is the favored child because he is a boy and the oldest. he also followed more of what my parents espouse, but he has come afoul across their beliefs more than once. The way they hold up their ideals makes it impossible to meet them. For example. my mom pushed my brother to have kids for years. Him and his wife. They didn’t have children until 6 years into marriage, which was unheard of in Taiwanese culture. They had three kids with a big gap between one and two, and during that time, my mom pushed me to have kids of my own.

At one point, she was talking to my brother on the phone about being upset that I wasn’t having children. Yes, she did it where I could hear her, probably unconsciously on purpose. She was saying there was a bond between mother and daughter when the daughter had a child. And, there was a saying in Taiwanese about the difference between a son having a child and a daughter having a child, and she was so sad that she wouldn’t get to have that. My brother joked that he could have more children, to which my mother quickly said that he had done enough.

See? You can’t win with her. She was upset that I didn’t have children and upset that my brother had too many.

Side note: my mother has a disconnect between what she thinks she wants and what she actually wants. She has said repeatedly that she always wanted children and being a mother was the most important thing to her from since she was young. She extended that to having grandchildren. It was so important to her, she had to nag me about it for fifteen years (and my brother for the first six of his marriage).

Here’s the rub. She never liked me as a person. She certainly did not like me as a child. I was fat, gawky, awkward, deeply depressed, and a bookworm. She made dresses for me to wear, which I hated. I liked to run around and climb trees, but that was looked down upon by her and the other women in our (Taiwanese) church. I was too boyish, which was not acceptable. Except for playing sports. For some reason, that was fine for women/girls to do, but only in strictly circumscribed circumstances. But I wasn’t supposed to run around, laughing, shouting, and climbing trees. I was supposed to be quiet, sit with my legs shut, and be small. Both physically and mentally.

I spent most of my childhood, miserable for so many reasons. I was fat. Well, I wasn’t really, but my mom was convinced I was. I was chubby. I was solid. I was thicc, yes. But when I look at pictures of me as a kid, I wasn’t grotesquely fat as my mother constantly made me feel I was. She put me on my first diet when I was seven and told me that I would be so pretty if only I lost weight. When I was seven.

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The meaning of life?

Before I landed in the hospital, I was living a staid and probably boring to many people life. This was during the pandemic, which meant I was pretty much a shut-in. I went out once a month to the pharmacy to get my meds. I had been opening up a little bit because I was fully vaxxed, but that meant going to Cubs twice and to pick up lunch with my brother once. In other words, I wasn’t going wild, by any means, but I was taking baby steps.

Then I ended up in the hospital and I suddenly didn’t care about the pandemic any longer. Or rather, I should say, it was no longer at the top of my list of things to worry about. Understandably, I had other things on my mind. Also, while I was in the hospital, I was constantly around people and I was not wearing a mask. Everyone else was, of course, but I was not. I had a breathing tube shoved up my nose for the first week and a half and then an oxygen tube for the next few days. I had to wear a mask when I was taken from room to room, but other than that, the pandemic was not visible in any way.

It also made me realize that I was…not overreacting, but focusing too much on the pandemic in my daily life. I spent a year-and-a-half shut in my house, fearing to talk to or see anyone. I’m not saying that was the wrong reaction because it was a fucking pandemic. But now that I’m vaxxed and about to get my booster, I’m being more realistic about the endemic. It’s not going anywhere. We’re going to have to live with it. If I get it, it probably won’t be life-threatening. It’ll be like the flu–getting a shot every year with a couple thousand people dying and the rest just being miserable.

Side note: It’s funny how the same question asked by different people can get a vastly different response. It makes sense, really, as the relationship with different people are, well, different. So something that is innocuous from one person is invasive from another. It’s just difficult to explain. I was trying to elaborate on this on Twitter about my father, using the example of him asking if I’m cold. I painstakingly laid out all the reasons it’s not just an innocuous question from him and there was still someone who was dismissive of my experience.

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Mental health and boundaries

no trespassing!

In American psychology, they talk about healthy boundaries and how to delineate them. In theory, it all sounds good. In reality, it’s not as clear cut as it appears. Maybe it’s because I have immigrant parents (Taiwanese), but it’s not as easy as it’s portrayed. I mentioned  in the last post how Asian boundaries are much softer than American ones are. It’s difficult for me because I’m at least 90% American, but the 10% that is Taiwanese is really, really, really persistent. In addition, my family is…dysfunctional at best when it comes to boundary. A small example.

I am not a morning person. At all. I used to go to bed at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. and get up at noon or 1 p.m. I’ve been trying to push it back to a more normal type because, well, I’m not exactly sure why. I think maybe because I’m a such a freak, and it’s a way of being more ‘normal’. In addition, I was sick a few months ago, and I could not stay up past midnight. I vowed to stick to it, but I have not. I haven’t gone all the way back to six in the morning, but it’s definitely not on the bright side of midnight. It’s been one or two before my parents came for their yearly visit–and now it’s creeping back again. Two, three, and sometimes four.

The worst part is that my father’s sleep schedule is all over the place, and I am not happy about it. He goes to bed around nine or ten, then he wakes up at three or four in the morning, which means he’s awake when I’m awake. I know that part of the reason I’m going to bed later is because I need my personal time. I need time when I don’t have to brace myself for someone talking to me at any moment of the day. It’s Skinner all over again. Briefly, if something happens consistently, then you expect it. So, if they were to talk to me, say, at the top of every hour, I would know when it was going to happen. Of course, on the converse side, if they never talked to me (my dream), then I wouldn’t have to be tense at all. But, the worst is that I never know when it’s going to come. It could be ten times an hour, or it might be at the end of the third hour.

I had to tell my mom yesterday that I needed a half hour in the morning to do my routine before she and my father dove straight into pelting me with questions or telling me irrelevant information that was of no interest to me. I’ve told her before, but she has selective memory. To be fair, she has a bad memory. To be unfair, it’s worse when she doesn’t care to remember something. I mean, we all have that problem, really.

Side note: She was complaining the other night about how she was saying something to my father about a a headache* she was having, and he jumped into say something about his headache, and she told him to keep the attention on her. he got mad (of course) and said he was going to say what worked for him. She then said with a straight face that he always turned everything back to himself. I pointed out that she did that as well. She’d ask how I was, and I’d say I had, say, a cold. She would then veered off that she had had a bad cold for weeks and in detail for fifteen minutes. She argued, but then carefully thanked me for pointing it out. And I’m sure she promptly forgot it.

Where was I? Oh, yes, boundaries. I was in the bathroom yesterday morning going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth, and doing my leg lifts. My mom knocked to ask me…I can’t even remember because it was so unimportant. Oh, right. She wanted to know where my cousin whom we met up with a few days ago taught. Which college. Seriously? That couldn’t wait fifteen minutes? Of course it couldn’t because it was my father who wanted to know, and when he wanted something, she hurries to do his bidding. I know why she does it. It’s because he’s extremely unpleasant when he doesn’t get his way. As in shouting at her or giving her the silent treatment for hours, and I clearly remember him doing that in my childhood. We could not tell my father this, that, or the other thing because it might upset him.

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Political Fatigue

zip it, goddamn it!
Enough already!

I’ve reached my limits as to how much political bullshit I can deal with. Actually, I reached my limit during the election campaigns with all the mudslinging back and forth between Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters. As I’ve said many times, I was a Sanders supporter in the primaries, and then I voted for Clinton in the general election. I’m ideologically a progressive but I’m a pragmatist at heart. When this president became the Republican candidate, my mentality became, “Anyone but him.” More specifically, any Democrat but him. I think Jill Stein would have been arguably worse, but that’s not the point of this post.

Once this president won, I naively hoped Democrats would present a united front against him. I knew better, of course, but still, I hoped. Democrats are our own worst enemies, and we’d rather punch each other in the face than compromise with each other. It’s so funny that we preach tolerance and open tent, but we don’t practice it. As someone who wasn’t enamored with either Democratic candidate, I feel as if I’m stuck in the middle. I can see the positives and negatives of each candidate, and it’s frustrating to see both sides (truly both sides in this case) hunkering down in their respective bunkers. I know both sides feel attacked because I’ve heard it from both Sanders supporters and Clinton supporters. “They started it!” each side cries, pointing their fingers vigorously. I got into it (mildly) with a FB friend who was a Clinton supporter, and he said Clinton supporters only started attacking in response to attacks by ‘BernieBros’.

Side note: I loathe that nickname because it’s dismissive and reductive. I know several people who were Sanders supporters, and only two of them were white dudes. The majority are women, and there are more than one PoC I know who supported him. Also, people who are not straight. Yes, I fall in three of those categories, but I’m not the only one. It was infuriating to see Clinton supporters sneer about only white dudes supporting Sanders when it wasn’t true. Then, anyone who was a minority who supported Sanders was similarly dismissed, though not quite as easily. It follows the liberal pattern in general of trumpeting the voices of the oppressed–until said voices disagree with their own opinions. Then, it’s internalized blah, blah, blah, not just a matter of different perspectives.

In addition, it was amazing to watch Clinton supporters attack Sanders for being tone-deaf about race, for example, then shrug off instances of Clinton’s own racial problems. I know it’s human nature to indulge in confirmation bias, but it’s still disheartening to see by people who claim to be open-minded. By the end of the campaign, I pretty much kept my mouth shut as a bisexual, Taiwanese American woman who supported Sanders because I felt so alienated by the Clinton supporters who didn’t want to acknowledge I existed. Any time I mentioned this on Twitter, I had other minorities DM me to tell me they felt the same way. It was really unpleasant, and it jaded me even further on politics.

Anyway, back to the FB friend who argued that Sanders supporters started it. I said he felt that way because he’s a Clinton supporter, so of course he’s going to hone in on examples of Sanders supporters acting badly. I said I saw way more Clinton supporters acting like asses, but that’s because I supported Sanders. The truth is, it probably was equal, but it just depended on what you were looking for. Plus, more people I followed were Clinton supporters than Sanders supporters, so there’s that, too.

I tried to make HillaryHunks happen, but it didn’t catch on. I felt there were Clinton fans who were just as dismissive of Sanders and his supporters as vice-versa. I lost respect for several people during the elections because they showed their asses by being rude and gross to and about Sanders supporters. It reached the point where anything Sanders did was considered defective or wrong in the eyes of Clinton supporters. Vice-versa, too, but I’m speaking from the perspective of a Sanders supporter.

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Crouching Hackles, Hidden Buttons

I forget it was Wednesday (as I write this) and checked my social media before realizing this is supposed to be a social media-free day. I quickly backed out, but it’s just a reminder that I have to be mindful all the time.

I also got into it with my mom last night, which is another reminder. She wanted to talk about a few things before she goes back to Taiwan (tomorrow), and while these talks are never ‘hell yeah! what a great talk’, I wasn’t dreading it this time. We sat down in our usual places across from each other, and she said, “Hey, come here and see this funny thing!” I just sat down, and something in me was like, “No.” So, I said no, let’s just talk. She pushed it by saying, “Would you just come and see this funny thing?” I said no again, and it suddenly became A Thing. After a few rounds of this, I said to turn the computer around, and I’ll look at it this way. She started rambling how hard it’d be, and I knew she wouldn’t let it go, so I turned the computer around. Sure enough, it wasn’t funny (which I told her I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be to me), and that set a bad tone for the conversation. It made me feel like this:


Then, she said something that crossed a huge boundary and pressed my ‘she cares more about my brother’s time/opinions/thoughts than mine’ button, and I snapped at her. That devolved into an argument about the Asian way of relating versus the American way of relating along with other things, and it wasn’t pretty. When I tried to explain about the joke thing, she said, “I thought it was such a small thing, but I apologize.” Can you guess why my hackles went up? She’s a psychologist, and I was a psych major, so I tried to explain it in a way she would understand–flipping the script back at her. “If it was such a small thing, why couldn’t you let it drop?”

Probing a bit more, she said she thought sharing a joke would be a nice way to start the conversation that wasn’t going to be pleasant in the first place. Then, I understood that she had one of her scripts running in her mind, and she was determined I’d follow it. That actually was made clear when she asked me a question at the beginning of the conversation, then as I tried to answer, talked over me several times. She hadn’t designated a ‘response’ time to her question (it was rhetorical at that point), so she simply didn’t hear my response. This is her MO in general: I have a firm idea of how this interaction should go, and I will not let reality stand in the way. I almost admire her because who among us doesn’t wish we could shape reality to our liking?

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Being OK With Letting Go

Yesterday, I came home from taiji and my mom informed me that my brother and the boys (his sons) wouldn’t be able to make it here for dinner. He suggested we go there. I immediately said no, and my mother said she knew I’d say that. She suggested we meet somewhere like Culver’s for dessert, but he decided to come here after dinner. Then, they came over, and my brother and I were discussing something while my mom and the boys were playing ping-pong. One of my nephews came up to say that my mom wanted to talk to my brother about something. He said OK, then we continued talking. I was marveling over that because I would have immediately gone done and probably resented it slightly. My mom can be very persistent when she has her mind on something, and it’s often easier just to give in than to defer. However, she also is more pushy with me than she is with my brother, probably in part because he’s very firm about his limits.

Anyway, after they were done playing ping-pong, they came back up. My brother, my nephews, and I were chatting about something when my mother said to my brother in a faux-whisper, “Can we go to Culver’s for ice cream?” A beat, “Or, we have bananas.” I started laughing, and my brother said with a big smile, “Can we go eat all the ice cream or stay here and have a banana?” He was making it clear that he realized there was really only one answer to that, which is something he wouldn’t have recognized before. We all started laughing and joking about it, and then agreed we would go, but in separate cars so they could go straight home. Then, my mom said, “Minna will have to drive.” She twisted her knee a week ago, and it’s still giving her problems. So, I said in a deadpan voice (because I mentioned it earlier, too), “Minna can drive to the place where she can’t eat anything!”* We all joked about that for several minutes, and then my mom said, “We should go now.” So of course, that got wrapped up into the joke (that my mom was making a suggestion she knew couldn’t be turned down, then adding layers of conditions to it), and it was a fun family moment.

To be clear, I was fine with driving even if I couldn’t eat anything. It was a moment of family teasing and bonding, and it felt great. I can’t help but compare it to how that shit would have gone down a few years ago.

Me getting home from taiji, quietly resenting that I don’t have space to myself.**

Mom (the second I step in the door which I still don’t like, but doesn’t send me up. the. fucking. wall the way it used to): Your brother wants us to go there instead of coming here for dinner.

Me (a bundle of resentment in part because I know that means me driving because my mom doesn’t like to drive at night, never mind that I don’t either, and my brother lives forty minutes away): NO I DON’T WANT TO GO JUST FUCKING GO YOURSELF GET AWAY FROM ME YOU EVIL COW ARRRRGH!

Obviously, I don’t say that, but it’s what I’m feeling. What I would say would be some variant of a huffy, “I’m not going there” in a very aggrieved tone.  I would feel I didn’t have a choice, which would make me really resentful, even if I did end up going. Also, my mom doesn’t believe she has the right to ask for anything (for many reasons), so she would never just come out and say, “I would like it if you drive us to your brother’s place.” It would be, “Your brother can’t come, but he said we could go there”, and I’m supposed to infer the rest. It’s actually part of what happened in the amusing family scenario above.

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Intolerant, My Flat Yellow Ass

love comes in all colors.
Flying every color of the rainbow.

I used to say that I was tolerant* of everything but the intolerant, and I thought I was so clever at the time. I still feel the same way, but I don’t say it any longer because, as with so many things, too many people have twisted it into something unholy. When W. was president, the Republicans started taunting Democrats any time they spoke up against the W. regime. “I thought you were supposed to be the party of tolerance!” was their rallying cry, and it pissed me the fuck off every time, though I couldn’t quite articulate why. I’ve thought about it often throughout the next eight years because it’s the same thing they’d say when they’d encounter push back for any of their discriminatory beliefs. For example. When marriage equality was the hot topic across the land, conservatives would get butt-hurt because some queers would get in their faces when they spouted their hatred. “Why can’t you be civil as we have this disagreement?” was their unspoken (and sometimes, spoken) injured question. It’s disingenuous because this is not a bloodless disagreement in which neither side will suffer if the outcome doesn’t go their way. One side would have been harmed by the laws being passed, and it wasn’t the anti-marriage equality folks.

It’s about boundaries, you see. Everybody has their limit of what they can–and should–accept from other people, and it’s not intolerant to state your boundaries and to adhere to them. This is why I strongly believe that love SHOULD be conditional; otherwise, you become a doormat and anyone can walk all over you. But, back to tolerance and politics. For the last eight years, conservative have decried progress as being intolerant to their beliefs. The hope was that by going on the offensive, Democrats would back down. Sadly, that worked more times than I care to remember as Dems are frustratingly spineless when it comes to standing up to the opposition. I know we’re part of the big tent party, but there are limits to what we should accept in our party.

I will now freely say that I’m intolerant of a shitload of things. First, though, I want to reiterate that I’m tolerant of most lifestyle choices as long as they don’t hurt anyone. I have to be, given that I’m on the fridge of society on many issues. I’m a forty-five year old bisexual single Taiwanese American woman with no children who is not religious and does not work in an office. I don’t care about traditions for the most part except for the ones I create on my own. I don’t drink at all, which is another thing that makes me weird, and I don’t care for most of pop culture. I practice taiji, and I love weapons the most. Given all this, I have to tolerate people with different lifestyles out of self-preservation. If I were to disdain everyone not like me, I would just be sitting around my house staring at my walls. Granted, that’s what I mostly do, anyway, but it’d be even more intense if I decided I couldn’t stand anyone not like me.

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