Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: death

Life is like

I’m almost two years old. Not literally, of course, but figuratively. Nearly two years ago, I died twice and came back twice. It’s my re-birthday and is more important to me than my actual birthday.

That’s not saying much, really, because I hated my birthday for most my life. I was a depressed kid–deeply depressed–who was also filled with anxiety. My mother had such rigid ideas of what a girl could and couldn’t be, and I broke every one of them. She constantly told me that I was failing, even if she did not use that specific word. She put me on a diet when I was seven and told me I would have a beautiful face if only I wasn’t so fat. Yes, she said that to me.

I was seven when I realized I was going to die. It both terrified me and drew me to it. I was miserable being alive, and I wanted to die. I was just too chicken to do it myself. For many years in my early twenties, I passively courted death. Quite simply, I didn’t see the point to life.

Was this my mother’s fault? Not entirely. She was a product of her time and culture, too. But, she didn’t have to pass it down, and she didn’t have to be so unrelenting in her gender rigidity. Or rather, she could have tried to recognize that she was–nah. That’s asking too much. My mother has no personal insight. Or rather, she knows some of her flaws, but not others.

She knows she’s anxious, for example. She knows that she’s somewhat compulsive. But she does not know or cannot see that she has such toxic ideas about gender and relationships. She’s a Christian, which is a minority religion in Taiwan. She’s a fundamentalist to boot, which makes it worse. More to the point, none of her beliefs have evolved in the fifty-plus years I’ve known her. She still believes that the worth of a woman is what she does for her man. The man is the be-all, end-all, and anything he wants is of utmost importance.

I’ve mentioned that when my brother got divorced, my mother asked me if I was going over to cook and clean for him because he was ‘so busy’. First of all, he’s not that busy. Second of all, he’s the one who did most of the cooking and cleaning for much of his marriage. Third of all, his sons who are at home are 16 and 18. They can cook and clean themselves.

That reminds me. My father asked if my brother’s ex-wife went over to his house to cook and clean for the kids. I said, “Why would she do that? They’re divorced!” in an admittedly snotty tone. He said they did that in Taiwan, and I barely refrained from saying that it was because Taiwan was a very sexist country.

I refrained first of all because I didn’t know if that was still true. Secondly, it’s not as if America was a shining star in that department, either. Third, I wasn’t even sure that was true given how skewed my father’s opinions were in general. He is a thoroughly sexist person who only views things threw that lens, so I have no idea if what he said was actually true. I just told him that the boys were old enough to take care of themselves and left it at that.

Back to my mom. When I asked why I would do that? She had no real answer. I said I didn’t even do it for myself, so why would I do it for him? My brother, I mean. She had nothing to say to that, either. When I said that our relationship was different than that, that’s what made her snap. She asked in an ugly tone what kind of relationship was that.

I fully admit I should have just said it was none of her business, but she caught me off-guard. I told her that I was his therapist (which, true, but none of her business), and I refused to talk about it any more.

There is no way she would have said that if he was my sister or I was a dude. It’s only because he was a guy and I was female-shaped. We could have been interchangeable with any other male and female-shaped siblings.

It’s dehumnaizing. Realizing over and over that my mother and father don’t view me as an indivual person. They know nothing about me. And the very little they do know, they don’t like. At all. Can I list three things my parents like about me? No. My father likes my cat, but that’s about it. Here are the things they don’t like or know about me: taiji especially weapons, video games, writing, weight, lack of femininity, etc. I don’t think they could even name five things about me that wasn’t generic, well, that person exists.

They have a firm idea of w hat a daughter should be. Period. I realized this embarassingly late in my life–like in my thirties. I thought for decades that there was somethnig wrong with me because I simply did not fit what they expected/wanted/thought I should be.

Now, in my second life, I don’t care. I also know they are not going to change. They haven’t in fifty years, so they are not going to do it now. Finally, I can set aside any desire to please them. Not that I had much of it by the time I hit my forties, but even then, there was a voice in the back of my head saying, “Why can’t my parents see me?”

It took dying twice and coming abkc twice to truly clarify that this is never, ever, ever going to happen. And I’m fine with that. I’m not happy about it. I’m not thinking it’s a good thing. But it isn’t going to change, and I accept that. My parents are going to die the way they have lived–rigid, unhappy, codependent, and alienated.

Death becomes me

I’ve been talking about rules and why I don’t give a shit about them. When I was a kid, I was indoctrinated as to how things should be. My father, a narcissist with no sense of norms, had a highly-idiosyncratic idea of how people should act. In general, it was mostly that he should always be the center of attention and no one should dare contradict him. I remember once when I was a teenager, we got in an argument. I don’t remember about what, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for a teen and a father.

I ran to my room and slammed the door shut. Seconds later, it went flying open and my father ran in with his face livid. He shouted at me that it was his house and that I was not allowed to slam the door like that. He looked like he wanted to hit me, and I was gobsmacked. Should I have slammed the door? No. Was it THAT out of line? Also no.

My parents did not tolerate me showing any negative emotion. Only my father could be angry and only my mother could be sad. I learned to keep my face completely still without showing a whiff of emotion. I also learned to not feel any pain. I mean literally.

When I first started Taiji, well, a few years after, my teacher showed us joint manipulations (chin na techniques). She taught us how to tap out if the pain ever got to be too much. Except, I could not feel the pain so I never tapped out. At some point, she decreed that I could only practice with her because it was too dangerous for me otherwise. I wasn’t trying to be recalcitrant in that case; I literally could not feel any pain.

My teacher’s teacher taught me a trick–to stand on my tiptoes as the other person does the chin na techneique. The problem was that I was muscling up and sort of gritting my teeth through the pain. By being on my toes, I couldn’t tense up. It worked like a charm. He had me stand on my toes and then did a wrist chin na technique. I flinched immediately.

Back to my family. I was a hot mess as a kid, but I managed to mask it well. I inhaled all the messages that I was worth nothing other than what I had to offer other people, be it sexually or emotionally. I used to crudely say that I was only worth what was between my legs because that’s how I felt. I was a terrible partner because I didn’t value myself–or the other person, really. It was more about being a martyr and desperately trynig to be the perfect girlfriend. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what my mother has done for fifty-five plus years.

I look back at little me, and I just want to gather her gently in my arms. I want to shelter her from the immense pain she was going through and whisper in her ear that she’ll get htrough it to the other side. I would tell her that she would shed a lot of herself along the way, both positive and negative (but mostly negative), and that she would be stronger for the experience.

I would let her know that she couldn’t dream how peaceful it was on the other side. How she could just let her burdens go and…not care any longer. Not care about being the freak and the one that never fits in. Not having friends and being teased all the time. Being the weirdo who read all the time and didn’t watch TV. How she was perfect the way she was and did not need to care about sewing or cooking, getting married, or having children.

Continue Reading

New life, who dis?

I love myself.

I had to start with that because it’s a revolutionary statement for me. I have spent most of my life hating myself. I was told both explicitly and implicitly that I was… just…wrong. This was suburban MN in the seventies. I was fat, Asian, brainy, and probably neurodivergent. I did not watch TV, never went to the movies, and didn’t listen to pop music. I wore dresses that my mother made, and I had the typical bowl cut that Asian kids had back in the day.

In other words, I was a hot mess. I had no idea how I was supposed to act or how to fit in. I didn’t know any cultural references, and I felt like an alien.

I feel a lot of compassion for that confused, withdrawn, depressed, anxious, and deeply suicidal child. I hated myself, and I hated life. I wanted to die. I woke up every day disapointed that I was not dead. This is not hyperbole. This went on for many years.  I was a confused child along with being emotionally abused and just dumped on in general.

I hated that little girl for so long. I sneered at her and looked down at her, treating her (in my mind) with contempt and anger. If I could, I would go back in time and cuddle her to my breast. I would whisper in her ear that she was perfect just the way she was. I’m not saying she didn’t have flaws–of course she did. But she was a precious human being who should have been treasured for who she was.

Instead, she got put on a diet at age seven and told she was too fat. On the regular. Her mother had body issues because SHE came from a deeply msogynistic society who really hated fat women. A lot. Plus, Taiwane genes mean smaller in general, so there’s that as well.

Continue Reading

Not a practical solution

In yesterday’s post, I was writing about how dying (twice) is the best thing that has happened to me. Bar none. Yes, I will state it that baldly because it’s true. It has taught me so many things, the main one being appreciation. I have dubbed every day I’m alive a bonus day, and I am deeply appreciative of it.

I have said this several times. I should be dead. For real dead, I mean. Not temporary dead. Permanent dead. I should not be here. I should not be breathing air. I should be in the ground. Or rather, scatteered to the win. I would like to be cremated when I die, but in order for that to happen, I need to write a will. My mother and I had this discussion several years ago. I said I wnated to be cremated. Much to my surprise, my mother  vigorously protested. I thought because she was a Christian, she would be all for it. Christians are about the soul and not the body. But no. She said that she needed a body to visit, which freaked me out.

I am not gawping at the world every moment of every day. You can’t live life like that because, well, you just can’t. I was talking to my brother about a woman he had dated (read, had sex with) for a month. He was waxing poetic about her because the sex was so good. He has mentioned it more than once that he wanted someone else with a matching libido. Which, fine, but I tried to gently tell him that it probably would have tailed off over time because that’s life. You can’t keep anything at a high level of intensity for many years. Emotion-wise, I mean. It’s just not sustainable.

He didn’t want to hear it, so I let it go after making my point (three or four times. I’m fucking stubborn). You can’t make someone hear something to which they are closing their ears.

It’s true, though. I’m sitting on my couch and looking out the window. It’s a gray day, but there are streaks of blue in the sky. My conifers are green and the trees are budding. It’s 57 degrees after wildly swinging weather. It feels nice. I like anything up to 60 degrees. I’m wearing shorts and a Batman t-shirt. Life is, as they say, good.

I was talking to K the other night. I said that while I was the same person, I had gained perspective from dying. I said I thought I was a much more positive person (but not in a Pollyanna way), and K agreed with me. I’m much more likely to tell my friends that I love them. I’m much more likely to express what I like.

Continue Reading

What would it take?

In continuing the discussion from yesterday, my brother called last night. My mother had called him to talk about my father. Of  course. She mentioned hospice, but she thought it would hasten my father’s demise if she did that. To which my brother said, ‘Good’. Not to her, I assume, but to me–though not uite so bluntly. He’s in agreement with me that my father is deteriorating rapidly and that my mother needs help. he suggested getting people in to help her.

Here’s the problem with that. The way to do it in Taiwan is to have people rom other countries come in to help. Undocumented workers, which means the situation is ripe for abuse by the employer to the workers. I’m not saying my mother would exploit the workers, but she does have some very classist ideas of when it comes to domestic help.

Here’s the other thing. I’ve been reading stories of people who have watched loved ones waste away from dementia. To a person, they said that putting the person in a hospice earlier rather than later was the key. It allowed them to adjust before the inevitable end, and it was easier in the long run.

My brother couldn’t understand why my mother wouldn’t do it or get help in some way. I had to explain the intricacies of abuse (which is what my father has done to her for fifty years, emotional abuse, at any rate) and why even though she had complete power in this situation, she didn’t feel like she did. That wasn’t going to change just because my father was losing his faculties.

My mother was saying to me that she felt so lost because my father took care of everything (I think she meant financially), but I seriously doubt that was the case in the last five years or so. She has a financial advisor there and here, so she could lean on them if needed.

My brother asked what it would take for me to feel comfortable going there. Apparently, she brought it up. At Christmas, which he thinks is too late. He’s convinced that my father will die by then, but he’s been convinced of that for several years. His body is fine besides the common ailment of older people, and his parents lived to their late nineties. Counterpoint–all his siblings died in their seventies/eighties. He’s the youngest of five and the only one left.

My brother said I could wear an N95, but that’s not the point. Well, it’s kind of the point. I am not wearing a mask for 24 hours. I am not getting on a plane with recycled forced air and people who may or may not be vaxxed, and, more to the point, people who don’t believe COVID was real.

I don’t even got to Taiji class in person any longer. I probably will at some point, but maybe not. It’s not the classes themselves but the fact that I’d have to drive. My peripheral vision is shot, and I don’t think that’s something that will get better with time.

Continue Reading

I’m past saying goodbye

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned James Blunt’s song, Monsters, about saying goodbye to his dying father (who is still alive, thanks to a miracle kidney transpalnt). The song is powerful and makes me bawl like a baby–but not for the reasons that most people would cite. Many of the reactors I watched talked about how hard it is to lose a parent and how this song brought all that back. Almost every reactor was taking it from the perspective of someone who lost a parent they loved. Only one man mentioned that he had a very difficult relationship with his father, but he didn’t get into it.

Jay from Rob Squad glancingly mentioned (or rather Amber did) that his father wasn’t around when he was young, but he mentioned his grandfather’s death and how mcuh that affected him. Amber talked about how her father was her safe place and got really emotional.

I want my father to die.

Some of ithe reasons are are compassionate (he is clearly suffering and he’s rapidyl getting worse. My mother is suffering as well, and she shouldn’t have to deal with this at age eigthty). But, if I am going to be brutally honest–some of it is for me as well.

I died myself a year-and-a-half ago. Twice. It wasn’t a bad experience and it wasn’t drawn-out like this. It was one night–a week unconscious, and then another week to recover. Two weeks. That’s not completely true. By recover, I just mean get enough strength to walk out of the hospital. I was weak and pumped full of drugs, but I had all my faculties. By the time my parents left two months later, I would have said I was as close to 100% as I was going to get.

That was one of the best things to happen to me in terms of changing my point of view on life. And it was the worst when it came to my family because it showed me clearly how little I meant as a person to my parents.

My father has had dementia for at least five years. Probably more. It’s become really obvious in the last few years. When we talk on the phone, it’s clear that he can’t track what we’re talking about. He can’t understand that he’s in Taiwan and I’m in Minnesota.
I try to go with whatever he’s saying, but sometimes, I can’t make that leap.

I don’t mourn him. I did that decades ago. The minute he asked why should he love me was when the last dredges of hope that he might actually give a shit about me were stamped out. He has never been a  father to me, and it only got worse as the years went on. He’s selfish, narcissistic, quick-to-anger, thin-skinned, sexist, a nationalist, and a womanizer. But only of Taiwanese women because he has standards, damn it!

It’s funny. Roughly twenty years ago, I gave up on him. He’s never going to be the father I want or need. He was never going to love me as a person, and I was fine with it. If I had never talked to him again, I would have been fine with that, too.

Around the same time, I became aware that it was my mother who was more my problem. Why? Because I expected more from her. I didn’t expect anytihng from my father. But she was my mother, damn it! She was supposed to love me. ME, Minna. Not her ‘daughter’ whoever that might be, but me as a person.

Continue Reading

Reach out and touch Grace

My father is getting worse. His dementia, I mean. My mother called last night, and she wanted to complain about him–per usual. I do not blame her because it’s tough to deal with someone with dementia, especially when that person was highly unpleasant in the first place.

That’s not something we talk about when we discuss dementia. I mean, we don’t talk much about dementia in general, but we definitely don’t acknowledge that it doesn’t just happen to good people. My dad is and always has been a petulant narcissist. He’s thin-skinned and judges everything by how it makes him look. He believes women are only there for fucking and men ar ethreats to his masculinity. Oh, I should say this is just Taiwanese people–he doesn’t put any stock in any other people.

My mother is worn-out. She’s taking an anti-anxiety medication because of him, and she has no one to rely on. It’s partly because Taiwan is shitty when it comes to dementia (they consider it a moral failing rather than an actual disease), but it’s also because she has drank the Kool-Aid that she had to keep his secrets. I mean, there’s no need to blab his business to everyone (which she has done in the past), but at the same time, his dementia is not missable.

That’s the thing that he doesn’t get. He accuses her of telling people about it, but it’s very clear that he’s not all there. When I talk to him, I have a hard time following what he’s saying. I want to be fair. English is his third language (fourth, really, but he doesn’t remember his Japanese), and he doesn’t speak it any more execpt to me and my brother.

But his thoughts don’t follow. We were talking about the weather yesterday, and I mentioned that we got snow. Yes, snow in mid-April. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Prince sang about it, and he ain’t never lied.

Then, I mentioned that my mother had said it was really hot there. He thought I meant here and no matter how many times or ways I said I meant it was hot in Taiwan, he did not get it. Another time, we were talking about technology and he kept saying tablet when he meant cellphone. I can usually tell what he’s trying to say, but it’s not a conversation.

It’s so weird. It doesn’t really bother me or I don’t let it ruffle me because…well, to be brutally honest, my father has never made much sense. He has really weird ideas and he has no idea that they are very different than the norm. Or rather, they are very old-fashioned. For example, when it comes to women, he has said to me the following:

Continue Reading

Meaningful markers

The Game Awards nominations were announced yesterday. For GOTY, it’s pretty much agreed that it’s going to be Elden Ring (FromSoft) or God of War Ragnarok (Sony Santa Monica Studios). The later only came out last week, just making it under the wire for when games have to be released to be considered for that year’s awards. Which I’m sure was on purpose.

I’ve been freaking out over this to Ian, and every time, he tells me to CTFD. “Minna. Come on.” That’s usually all he messages, but I can hear the “Don’t be ridiculous!” underneath it. He is reasonable when he points out that GOWR is an exclusive and of limited appeal, anyway.

But. And let me remind you. This happened in 2018 with the first game. Same limitations and it was still accorded GOTY. Ian argued that there was not another clear front runner that year, though Red Dead Redemption 2 came out that year. Still. RDR2 did not have the hype that Elden Ring did. It has sold 46 million copies worldwide, though. RDR2, I mean. Elden Ring has sold 17.5 million copies in less than a year. That’s fucking amazing for them.

Normally, I don’t care about these awards at all. I was pleasantly surprised that Sekiro won in 2019, but I wasn’t expecting it to. And, if I’m going to be painfully honest, it’s my least-favorite of the From games even while I admit the brilliance, so I wasn’t plumping for it. Hell, I don’t stan for games in general. I love From games, yes, but I understand why other people would not like them.

First of all, no game is for everyone. That’s just a fact. Even a game as universally beloved as, say, the Zelda series, may not be for everyone–especially since they only exist on very few platforms. *cough* bullshit exclusivity *cough cough*.

Minecraft (Mojang Studios) has sold nearly 300.000.000 copies. It’s the highest-selling video game of all time. That’s a hell of a lot of copies, but there are nearly 8 billion people in the world. Even if you assume that all those copies sold are independent sales (not),  that’s still 1/26th of the world population if my calculator math is correct. That’s a ton of copies, don’t get me wrong, but there are still way more people not playing Minecraft than those who are.

Continue Reading

Living a charmed life

I was reading the weekend thread on Ask A Manager. Someone asked for the happiest memory you have. It was an interesting question and my mind went immediately to dying. Not because it was a happy memory, per se, but because it’s my strongest memory. Not the dying part because I don’t remember that. And I probably never will, sadly.

Side Note (is this the quickest detour I’ve taken in a post?): It’s the oddest thing–having a week and a few days missing from my  memory, I mean. My brother has told me everything he knows; K and Ian have filled in the blanks as best as possible. My Taiji teacher has added what she knows, and there are still gaps.

I remember sending an email to my Taiji teacher the Tuesday before I collapsed, saying I was exhausted and would not be in class. I remember messaging Ian the Thursday before about the Nioh 2 (Team Ninja) boss we had both just beaten. I do not remember the Wednesday between.

Then, I was unconscious for the week after I collapsed. I remember waking up, scared, angry, and ready to fight whomever needed fighting. I had a breathing tube in my nose and was pumped full of drugs.

I remember one minute not being and then the next moment, being. That was a shock to my system, I can tell you that much. That will be my most memorable memory for the rest of my life, I’m sure. But. Until reading this thread, I had forgotten about another time I had almost died.

I was in Taiwan with a group from my college–we were studying Buddhism in the Far East. About four of us women (how I identified at the time), decided to swim in the Hualien River. The current was strong, and I was not a good swimmer (still am not). The tide caught me and started carrying me away. One of the other women grabbed me and pulled me to safety. I was shaken because I knew that if she hadn’t grabbed me, I’d be dead.

Continue Reading

The solution that I can never suggest

TW: Mention of suicide.

In reading my stories, I came across a letter to Ask A Manager about mentioning depression at work. It generated a lot of responses, varying in terms of what the OP (Original Poster) should do, but most of the answers were in agreement that their mention of suicide was beyond the pale. Even though they said that they weren’t actively suicidal, the mere mention of suicide was going to make most people panic.

And I get it. Suicide is serious stuff. It’s not something to take lightly. But, for those of us who have struggled with not wanting to be alive, there are levels to it.  There is actively suicidal–people who want to die and are working on it. There is passively suicidal–which is wanting to die, but not doing anything about it. Maybe not necessarily avoiding death, but not seeking it, either. Then there is what I was for a long time–not wanting to be alive, but not doing anything about it.

Antidepression meds helped–until they didn’t. Therapy helped–until it didn’t. Taiji helped, but it was very much help in small steps rather than a big boost. My depression (and anxiety, but more the former than the latter) steadily lifted, and I’m one of few people who did not go into a deep funk during the early days of the pandemic. Probably because my brain catastrophized everything on the regular, anyway, so why not throw a pandemic into the mix?

I want to stress that I don’t think the coworker did anything wrong in the AAM letter. It’s rough to have someone dump that on you, especially if you don’t have a close relationship. And when you’re chronically depressed, it’s easy to underestimate the effect it has on other people. It’s just something you live with, so it’s really not that big a deal to you. Hm. I’m not saying it right. It’s still a big deal, but it’s normal to you because you’re living it.

Continue Reading