Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: family dysfunction

Family dysfunction is not a good function

Family dysfunction has been on my mind lately because it’s the one thing that has gotten worse since my medical trauma. Well. Let me restate that, but in a minute. The only lasting injury I’ve suffered from my medical trauma is a slight issue with short-term memory. It’s not a big deal as I can take notes to shore up the gaps. When I first got out of the hospital, I had marked short-term memory issues, but they’ve dissipated in the following months.

But with my parents, well, that’s another story. Part of the issue is that I’m not willing to shine them on as I once was. I shouldn’t say not willing because it’s more not able than not willing. I open my mouth to say the platitude, but I just can’t force it out. All the anger I have built up inside surges into my throat and I have to work hard not to let it out. There is always a thin edge to my voice when I’m talking to them (or thick, depending on how well I can hide it).

Here’s the issue. My father is getting worse. I think it’s partly because of his fear about COVID (which is rising rapidly in Taiwan). They went from no cases in 10 months to nearly 7,000 cases in one day. And if one of them gets it, the one who has it has to be isolated in the hospital or a hotel by themselves. Which would be terrible because my father cannot live on his own.

Side Note: That is one of my frustrations with his pontifications. He likes to talk all this big shit when he can’t live on his own. He used to be the president of a research company, so it’s not that weird that he has an overinflated opinion of himself. Plus, he had a secretary who did everything for him while he was president, including printing out his emails and putting them on his desk for him to read. And my mom does everything for him at home. He’s a paper tiger who thinks he’s a lion.

In addition, when he dumps this shit on me, he doesn’t actually start the conversation. He just assumes I know what he’s been thinking about and continues a train of thought. So, for example, last night, he started talking about these two people he knew who were doing some kind of business. They may or may not needed an editor, but he couldn’t say for sure because he never asked them, but they did do things in English, but he wasn’t sure how they did it, but one of them, it might have been private, so he didn’t know how to approach them about it because they might consider it privileged information…then he started looping with the same information. Mind you, he never once mentioned why he had brought all this up in the first place. Yes, I could intuit it, but still. He never once said clearly that he was suggesting I edit for them–and again, he hadn’t even talked to them about it, yet!

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First do no harm

Mother’s Day brings up many complex feelings for me. I try to find the most anodyne and bland card I can find, one that is filled with platitudes. One that has flowers or animals or something equally generic. I pick out some Muzak, scribble a nice note in it, then email it to my mother. I do the same on Father’s Day for my father before calling it a day. I dread picking out a card and I try to do it as quickly as possible.

I know it’s just a meaningless card on a made-up day. I know that there’s no reason to put much energy into it or emotion around it. But, it just reminds me of the fractured family I exist in and how exceptionally dysfunctional we are. I Zoomed with my parents and my brother earlier tonight. My brother has decided that the best way to deal with my parents is to feed them a steady stream of trivial tidbits. This time, he showed them a bunch of pictures he had taken on his previous two trips to Taiwan (I went on one of them) , and I got bored about ten minutes in. Ten more minutes later, he mentioned that I looked really interested (sarcastically, but it’s surprising that he noticed), which made me snap that there were so many pictures. I get what he’s trying to do, but he was dragging it out for far too long. I should have just used my words and said something, but I revert to a petulant child when I’m around my parents.

I can’t forget what I discovered about our family during my health crisis–and how deep the dysfunction runs. Everything that we had all shoved to the very back of the closet came bursting out during my medical trauma, and I can’t unknow that.

Before the Zoom call, my mother called me to thank me for the card. My father mentioned something about a German study saying you should gargle with warm salt water to prevent COVID. Which, I mean….I didn’t even have to Google it to know that wasn’t true. I Googled it, anyway, and, yeah, that’s a lie. You will not be surprised to find out that there is no such study that says any such thing.

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Hard truths about ‘but faaaaaaamily!’

In my last post, I talked some more about the dysfunction within my family. I mentioned at the end of the post that I wanted to talk about how being constantly abused changes you as a person–and not in a good way. I have been reading several posts on Ask A Manager about abusive behavior (in a relationship that spills over into work life) and a few on Captain Awkward as well. In one of them, someone said they hated their mother for not leaving their abusive father (the commenter’s  father). I think it was Captain Awkward because that is more the ethos of that site than of Ask A Manager, but other people quickly chimed in to agree. Each of them recounted the damage they had suffered in their childhood because their mothers rationalized staying by saying it was for the children.

To give my mother credit, she never used that as an excuse. In her case, it was religion (fundie Christianity) and culture (Taiwanese) that made divorce verboten for her. I started begging her to divorce my father when I was eleven (when she forced me into a confidante role), but that was just unthinkable. I gave up at some point, but it was still what I truly believed in my heart.

I learned how to tiptoe around my father when he was home and in a mood. Meaning, when he was angry at someone (usually my mother, but not always) and refused to talk to anyone. It wasn’t just that he would sit quietly. Oh, no. He made it VERY clear that he was UPSET by pointedly being silent AT everyone around him. You know how when a cat is mad at you, it will sit a few feet away from you with its back to you? An if its really mad at you, it will deliberately point its ear back towards you? At least, my cat does that to clearly express his displeasure. That’s my father when he’s mad. He’s scrupulously silent AT you. If you try to talk to him, he will pointedly ignore you and not say anything.

Here’s the thing. I’ve done it myself. The silent treatment, I mean. When I’m furious enough, I can’t say anything nice so I keep my mouth shut. And I go as still as a stone. I know I look like a statue. It’s not something I’m proud of; it’s what
I do, though.  I learned it from my father and I still do it, but only around them. Because abuse is a gift that keeps on giving.

While they were here, there were a few really bad fights that started with my father being angry at my mother for some reason or another. He is a narcissist who is edging into dementia and is exhibiting paranoid behavior (he thinks my mother, my brother, and I are trying to steal all his money). He has called me by my niece’s name and has forgotten who I am. Same with my brother (thinking he was my mother’s brother). It doesn’t help that my mother indulges his paranoia and tries to rope me in as well. Such as trying to find a document he swears he put in a certain place, but it wasn’t there. My mother spent hours looking for it because he would be unpleasant to her if she didn’t. But, I contended that he was equally unpleasant when she gave in and it only fed his delusions.

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We are *sigh* family

I’m back with more on that family dysfunction tip. I left off the last post with the amusing anecdote about how my father had told me after my return from the hospital that I didn’t know how hard it had been for him and my mother. As I said in that post, it surely was difficult for them; I’m not disputing that. But, I will 100% guarantee that as difficult as it was for them it was that much more difficult for me. I have said that I felt for my friends because they had to deal with everything while I just laid in bed, unconscious, but that doesn’t negate the physical carnage the trauma inflicted upon me. I can tell you with absolute certainty that it was harder on me than it was on my father. He got mad when I pointed out that I had been there and that what he went through did not compare to what I went through. He got upset at that, but it’s fucking true. More to the point, do not emote at the person who went through the experience and expect them to be sympathetic to you. That’s asking too much.

So I’ve outlined all the ways in which life has been better since the medical trauma. Better body image (better self-esteem in general), a better appreciation of life, less depression and anxiety, etc. I have less time for bullshit and am more ‘get to the point’ in general. I can affirm the good decisions I’ve made in my life (such as choosing not to have children) and be happy that I’m in a fairly comfortable place. I am tender towards my body after all it’s done for me, and I no longer hate my looks with a passion. In fact, I’m downright cocky in feeling that I am cute AF.

But when it comes to family, that’s the sticking point. I love my brother and appreciate him taking charge while I was in the hospital. He did what needed to be done without complaint or question. He met with doctors, wrote daily entries on the Caring Bridge website, connected an unconscious me with my family and friends, and saw me twice nearly every day while simultaneously taking care of his family and his business. He was the one who had to make the decisions concerning what to do with me, medically. He talked to my medical team every day, and he was the one who had to absorb what was happening to me. He was the one who had to watch me lie in a hospital bed, unconscious, with tubes hooked up to me (including a ventilator).

The story that  I will never forget (that he told me) is that he had a talk with my medical team about pulling the plug. He was thinking it over, taking into account what my parents wanted to do (my father: keep me alive at all costs. My mother: waffling because she knew I would not want that), what he knew I would want him to do (pull the plug if there was no chance of me coming back intact), and what he felt about it himself (not sure). As he was thinking about it and fumbling with what to do, the hospital called him to tell him that I had woken up.

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More lessons I’ve learned

There are many lessons I’ve learned from my medical trauma. I mentioned some of them in my previous post and I want to expand on the topic in this one. When I started that post, my intent was to talk about my family dysfunction, but I got caught up in other things.

I would never wish what happened to me on anyone. It was terrifying, confusing, and messed with me on many levels. However, ultimately, I believe it was a net positive for me. Why? Let me count the ways. One, it cleared up the is there an afterlife question for me (no). Two, it made all my body issues disappear. Three, it helped me see that life is short and that we really do only have one life. Er, maybe not so much that as I did die twice. Four, I’m cute AF! Five, I don’t have the patience for nitpicky bullshit. Six, I have a point of view that is unique and worth expressing. There are some other ones, but they’re similar to the ones I’ve stated.

I used to have low self-esteem. I thought I had to earn the right to live. I was disgusting, toxic, and bad for the planet. Yes, that’s what I earnestly believed for decades. I thought that it would be better if I was dead, but I didn’t have the courage to kill myself.  I’m not saying this was sane or logical, but it was the way my brain worked at the time. Therapy couldn’t shake the belief that I had to earn the right to live.

Taiji helped me start inching my way to a healthier outlook. I could go into a crowd without flinching, even if I still didn’t like it. I was more at ease with my body, even if  I still avoided looking in the mirror. I didn’t like the way I looked, but I didn’t hate it, either. I had reached a detente  with my body (and my face), which was the most I could hope.

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The lessons I’ve learned

It’s been almost eight months since that night. It’s something t hat is always in the back of my mind, if not the front. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s there. I was reading Ask A Manager (one of my stories) and there was a question about what to answer when someone asked why they were still wearing a mask. Ask A Manager’s response was to educate people because there’s still a goddamn pandemic going on. My immediate snap response in my head was, “I died twice last year–I would prefer not to due it a third time.” I have always had a morbid sense of humor; it’s only gotten more so since the medical trauma.

I am pleased that many of my lifelong issues have disappeared since then. First of all, how freaked out I was by the pandemic. Granted, this was before there was a vax and reasonable. I did not want to get COVID because I have a weak immune system with the tendency towards bronchial issues. I got bronchitis quite often and every winter, I had some kind of cough for several months. I was terrified of getting COVID and rarely went out because of that fear. I went to get my meds once a month and that was it. I had my Taiji classes online three times a week and had my groceries delivered to me.

When I woke up in the hospital, I did not have to wear a mask, obviously. Except when I was being transferred from room to room, which wasn’t that often. Everyone around me had a mask on, but I did not. I was tested for COVID when I was first admitted and did not have it. I DID have walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, which started the whole mess. This may sound weird, but having something that terrible and traumatic happen to me freed me from my pandemic-related anxiety. I hasten to say that I was vaxxed by that time (twice) so that did help in my assessment of my situation. But, my point is that I realized there was more to life (and death) than the pandemic.

Would I have wanted to go through what I did? Meaning walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke? Hell, no. It’s why I have some difficulty talking about it with people who struggle with, say, body image issues. I had those all my life. I hated my body for many reasons and spent most of my life studiously ignoring that I had a body. I hated it and would prefer to think that it didn’t exist. Taiji helped me become neutral about it, but that was the best I could do. And it was a conscious choice to deliberately work on not hating it. However, I still didn’t look in the mirror and I still didn’t like my body. I put up with it, like a long-term partner whom you did not love any longer, but were mostly comfortable with.

Then, the medical trauma happened as I mentioned above. A week of unconsciousness, followed by a week in the hospital while I was awake. One minute I wasn’t, and then the next minute, I was. I was scared, upset, and mad as hell when I woke up. I was angry and ready to fight. I didn’t know who needed fighting; I was just sure that someone did. I had a conversation with Ian the second day I was awake in which I rambled about being like the Dark Souls III ’80s video (staying true to my fandom even when I was drugged to the gills). “When you pick a fight with the devil, you better be stronger than hell.” I told him that I did it–twice–and I won twice!

I apologized to him later once I had myself under control for rambling on and on like that for hours. He laughed and said it was only two minutes and that he would have listened to me talk about anything because he was so grateful I was alive. Which, you know, I was, too. Profoundly so. I was grateful for the ice water in the hospital–repeatedly. Every day, I was thankful for the best goddamn ice water I’ve ever had.

My hospital stay was also when I completely got over my body issues. I had a team of 2-4 people watching me 24/7. No, they weren’t there every minute, but they could be there in five seconds with one press of a button. They took my vitals every four hours or so, which was the opposite of fun. But, understandable. I was hooked up to several monitors at all times. I had a shit tube literally hooked up to my ass. When I could totter off to the bathroom, I had aides literally wiping the shit from my ass.

I cannot tell you what a vulnerable position this is to be in. Being weak on my legs, shaking, as I walked to the bathroom. Having to press a button to have someone come in to wipe me. It could have been deeply humiliating, but it wasn’t. There was one guy who treated it like one of his chores that he wasn’t particularly fond of, but he was still fast and efficient about it. He wasn’t rude or disrespectful–just completely divorced from the process. He didn’t make me feel like a non-human, though, which is all I cared about. And I appreciated that he was really good at it.

All the rest of my aides were fantastic at taking care of me and making me feel like a human being. They were respectful and cheerful, warm and efficient. They kept my humanity in the forefront of their duties, which was much appreciated. I had no control over anything for the week I was in the hospital awake (and the week before, but I was unconscious then and didn’t care). They could have been nasty about it or even just disinterested, but no. They were engaged and respectful, warm and caring. Did they care about me, the person? Probably not. Did they care about me as their patient? Yes, they did.

Imagine waking up from a void, being scared and angry, not knowing where you are. Also, being drugged to the gills. Surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t know. That was my reality and having a bunch of professional, warm people doing a top-notch job of taking care of me ameliorated much of my discomfort.

Side Note: One of my favorite stories from that time is still talking to my heart doc three months after I was out of the hospital (for the second time). He mentioned for the second time that I had been funny when we met in the hospital (which I didn’t remember). I finally asked what I said that was so funny. He said that he had introduced himself and went through what happened to me as he always does because his patients don’t always remember. I interrupted him to ask if that meant I had died. He said, yes, and I said, “That’s so fucking cool!” which sounds exactly like me. He said it was hilarious, which relieved me because I’d rather be funny than offensive. But I can see how that might not be a reaction he was expecting.

That’s me, though. Morbid sense of humor that has only gotten more so since that incident. I died twice and came back twice. That’s bound to change my view on many things. I’m thrilled that I no longer have body issues. In fact, I have nothing but love for my body because of what it saw me through. My body took all that shit and acted like it was nothing. I now have nothing but mad respect for my body.

Damn. I was going to talk about family dysfunction, but I didn’t make it there. Oh well. Next post!


The fog has lifted

One thing about my medical experience is that it really separated the wheat from the chaff. What I mean is that many of the things I was anxious about in the Before (hospital) Times, simply do not matter any longer. It’s hard to talk about it without seeming condescending or as if I’m glossing over legitimate problems. Body issues are real. They are serious. I struggled with them for decades and they have deeply affected me. And I no longer have them.  They completely disappeared during my medical trauma.

Same with any desire to smoke. I smoked two to three cigarettes a day before I landed in the hospital. I did it in quarter to half a cigarette at a time. I never smoked outside the home, meaning I never took my cigarettes out with me. I couldn’t smoke when I was in the hospital, obviously, and I had no desire once I got out. It was as if I had never smoked, and I’ve been a light smoker for decades. I never cared much that I smoked a few cigs a day, nor do I miss it at all.

Then, there are other issues such as family dysfunction that have been exacerbated by the experience to the point of near breaking. I had to realize some hard truths about my family during that time–really sit with them because things are not going to change. All the things I knew about my family but kind of pushed to the back of my mind came roaring to the forefront and refused to be ignored any longer. It smacked me in the face and said that it wasn’t going anywhere so I better learn to deal with it.

First, the rage. Oh, the rage. I’m furious that I was the one who went through a life-changing event (life-threatening!) and my father managed to make it all about him. I’m not surprised by it, mind you, but I just could not deal with it while also dealing with the actual medical trauma itself.  My brain really couldn’t process the thought that he was making it all about him when I had died twice and came back twice. That really underlined that he was incapable of thinking about anyone other than himself. Again, I knew that before I ended up in the hospital, but my medical trauma just emphasized the point and made it impossible for me to ignore it or sweep it under the rug.

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Family dysfunction is getting old

I talked in my last post about two letters I’d read in Care & Feeding (Slate), one right after the other. They had to do with highly sensitive people and how parents/grandparents reacted to them. The third and fourth letters were about gender identity and closely related.

The third letter is from a mom grieving as her daughter transitions from M-to-F. She was happy to embrace her daughter, but sad to see the son she took care of leave. She was honestly struggling, which was better than my mother when I came out as bi to her. I don’t know why I did given what I know about her, but I thought because she was a psychologist and because she was supportive of my cousin coming out as gay, she would be at least neutral about it. I should have known better; I really should have. When I came out to her, she said, “But you used to like boys so much!” At the time, I told her that I still did, but I liked girls as well. Now, I’d say that gender wasn’t important to me when choosing a partner or that I welcomed partners of all or no genders. My mother also made the tired old ‘next you’ll be wanting to have sex with animals’–I don’t know WHY sex with animals is always next–comment. In other words, she was not understanding at all. I dropped it because it was clear she did not want to talk about it. Years later, I mentioned something again about liking women and she said in a dismissive tone, “Oh, I thought you were over that.”

I introduced my first serious boyfriend in college to them. It was dinner. My father could not have cared less about meeting my boyfriend and I could tell my mother didn’t care for him. She wasn’t wrong, but they could have at least made an effort at the time. After that dinner,  I vowed  I would never introduce a partner to my parents again, and I haven’t. They are also a big reason I never wanted to get married and have children. Not only because they were a very bad example on both fronts, but also because I did not want to subject a loved one to their venom. I knew if I had kids, my parents would warp them the way they did me. My mom was so desperate for me to have kids (which was a mindfuck all by itself), she said she’d move back here to take care of them. As if that would be an incentive for me to have kids! Even if we were close, having kids to make her happy would be a stupid idea. In addition, it’s not even true. She likes the idea of being a grandmother more than she actually likes being a grandmother. She moved away after my niece and nephews were born and only comes back once a year (before the pandemic, of course. It was twice a year for some years, but then tapered off to a month in the summer–even though it was supposed to be six weeks–and all of this before the pandemic. And when she’s around the grandchildren, all she does is ask them stilted questions and basically ignore them. She complains about them every time she sees them, which again, remember, was maybe two or three times during the four weeks they were here. This time, my father said he was embarrassed that they had been here two weeks and not seen my sister-in-law and my brother’s kids. When they had been here for two months. And they could have seen my brother’s family; they chose not to. When they went on a cruise with my brother’s family a few years ago (I put my foot down for once and refused to go because I knew I’d be miserable. I hate being confined; I hate groups of people; I hate being with my family. Yeah, that would have been a recipe for disaster). I asked them how it went when they came home. They complained for a half hour about the boys (my nephews) misbehaving. The same thing happened when my brother took his family to Taiwan many years ago (again, I refused to go). I got to hear all about how one of my nephews misbehaved.

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Hard lessons to learn

I’ve learned several things from my medical trauma, much of it positive. I learned to enjoy every moment I have because you really don’t know when it might be your last. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned, honestly. You can die at any second. I mean, of course I knew that intellectually, but most people don’t go around thinking they’re going to die. I didn’t. My mom asked me what I saw while I was unconscious. Nothing. I saw nothing. No lights. No angels. No demons, for that matter. One minute I wasn’t and then the next minute, I was. I came to, scared, angry, and ready to fight whomever needed fighting. I was unconscious for a week and remember none of it. In fact, I don’t remember most of the week leading up to it.

My heart doc said this is common in his patients–retroactive amnesia. He had one patient who went on vacation, had a heart attack, then couldn’t remember the vacation afterwards. It’s comforting to know that it’s a common thing and not just my brain being weird.  I don’t remember emailing my Taiji teacher on Tuesday, telling her that I’m was exceptionally tired, but my sent emails tell me I did that. I remember my brother coming over the Monday before (I was admitted to the hospital Thursday night/Friday morning) and messaging with Ian about Nioh 2 on Thursday. Other than that , I don’t remember the rest of the week.

The first lesson I learned was to be grateful for being alive. Life can be snuffed out in a second, and I am very lucky that I was brought back to life twice. I have mentioned that people have asked me if I questioned why all this happened to me. Nope. I’m not in great shape so there’s no reason it shouldn’t happen to me. The fact that I’ve studied Taiji for fifteen years is a plus, but it’s not a get-out-of-jail free card. Plus, while I eat plenty of veggies and fruit, I also eat a lot of junk that’s not good for me. And I have bronchial issues that I deal with all the time. Except, funnily enough, during the pandemic. Well, not that funny, really. I barely left the house for the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic, so my chances of getting bronchitis were  lessened. That’s one reason it’s so weird that I got non-COVID-related pneumonia–I wasn’t going anywhere. I did ease up a bit after getting doubly-vaxxed, but that meant going to Cubs twice in a month and picking up lunch from the Thai restaurant with my brother once. I wasn’t going crazy, partying every night, and doing shots off the bodies of unvaxxed people. I honestly don’t know how I got it. Maybe at the pharmacy or Cubs. But it’s not something I can prevent by being careful because I’m very careful in general.

When my parents were here ,they were obsessed with the idea that they could prevent me from getting pneumonia. Or rather, obsessed with making me do something to avoid it. My father got it into his head that cold caused my pneumonia. I can’t even type that without rolling my eyeballs. This has been a lifelong argument between us–my lack of feeling cold. For the most part, I just grit my teeth and ignore. But this time around, he had another angle to his nonsense. He couldn’t just tell me, obviously, because that would be too easy.

He got the look on his face that he always gets when he says something incredibly ignorant. It’s a cross between taking a massive shit and a sneer. He said, “I’m not a scientist, but–” and I thought, “Oh, here we go.” I was interested to see how ridiculous he could get, even though I was not having any of it. He went into this long and boring rambling about how it’s just his opinion, but the cold opens up pores and makes them bigger. Then, it makes it easier for germs to enter the pores because they are bigger.

I mean, what do you say in the face of such sheer idiocy? This is provable untrue and I do have science to back me up on it. It’s well-known that cold shrinks your pores and heat opens them. That’s why you steam yourself when you have  a stuffed nose! This isn’t rocket science. This is pretty basic. There is just so much wrong with that opinion, anyway. That’s not how germs work. That’s not how any of this works! When I pointed out that he got it exactly backwards, he got a mulish look on his face and said it was just his opinion in a really snide voice. But his opinion is wrong! This isn’t a question of maybe he might have a point–he was just flat-out  wrong.

But, and here’s what I’m trying to learn, there’s no point in arguing with him. This is the hardest thing to absorb, but it’s true. He believes what he believes and nothing will change his mind, not even facts. If he feels something to be true, then it’s true. Oh, and the whole reason he brought up the bigger pores thing is because he wanted to prove his point that the cold is what caused my pneumonia. Later on, my mother got into this thing where every day after our walk, she would say, “I bet you’re cold now!” Which really irritated me because she knows I don’t get cold. I had a hunch she was bringing it up because my father was bugging her about it, honestly. One day I finally told her off and said she needed to stop saying that and she said somewhat martyrishly that she didn’t know how to talk to me. Well, telling me repeatedly that I’m cold is not the way to go, especially because she knows I don’t get cold. That’s the thing. She know she irritates me with the things she says, but she says them, anyway.

She said we didn’t know what caused the pneumonia so that’s why she was pressing on the cold thing. But we know it wasn’t that! I didn’t go for walks before they came here. I hate walking and it’s not my exercise of choice. So before I collapsed, I rarely went out of the house thanks to the pandemic. I did not get pneumonia from going on daily walks, I’ll tell you that much. I didn’t go on daily walks until they came here. So that was patently false–the implication that me walking in the cold gave me pneumonia.

More to the point, there’s only so much I can do to protect myself. I AM going to die one day. That’s a fact. And I don’t want to live my life being afraid to die–I’ve lived that way for too long. Another thing I learned from being in the hospital is to put things into perspective. We’re going to have to live with COVID and it’s going to be like the flu. I let it make me afraid for a year and a half, but that fear dissipated in the hospital. Why? Because one, I was already fully vaxxed. I want to get my booster, but that’s a whole nother issue that I don’t want to talk about right now. So even if I get COVID, it probably won’t be too bad. In addition, I died. Twice. I literally died twice. And came back twice. That does make me look at other things differently.

For example, my mother trying to manipulate my emotions for my father by pointing out that he’s close to death. Here’s a general rule I can give to you–do not talk about death with someone who actually died. I have very little sympathy for my father being on the cusp of death (which he is not, in general, I mean. He has nothing wrong with his body that isn’t just old age). Both of them moaning about him being near death to the person WHO LITERALLY DIED made it really difficult for me to keep my mouth shut.

I heard through my mother that my father said repeatedly that he might as well die because no one cared if he lived or died. He’s not wrong about that, but again, shut the fuck up. I know everyone has a different relationship with their mortality, but I am not the audience for that kind of talk. If he wants to die (which he doesn’t), that’s on him.

The other big thing I learned was that I’m going to enjoy every day that I have left because they’re all bonus days. I should be dead and I never forget it; I’m grateful to be alive.

Making like Elsa and letting go

So. More on my family because it’s heavy on my mind. I wrote about it at length in the last post and I want to continue with it now. I’ve written at length about what a jerk my father is. I’ve written less, however, about the betrayal of my mother, probably because it hurts more. I expect my father to be a selfish asshole. That’s his brand. He’s been that way my whole life. He only cares about me because I’m his daughter, heavy emphasis on ‘his’. I’m a female-shaped girl child in his mind–my actual personality doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s just a hindrance in his mind. He has very set ideas an what a woman is and he’ll cram me into that rigidity, come hell or high water. Now, while in general, it wasn’t directed at me, in some ways, it was worse because he expected me to agree with him. Or at the very least, he had no compunction about saying it to my face.

The one that is burned into my brain happened a day or two after my brother took them to Costco. I didn’t go because this was a month or so after I left the hospital and I knew I wasn’t ready to brave a Costco run yet. My parents were tired when they got home, which I had expected. Costco is huge and can be overwhelming. A day or two later, my father mentioned going to Costco.

Side note: Here’s the thing you have to know about my father. He’s a shithead. But I’ve been very clear about that. It’s that he gets this look on his face when he’s about to say something offensive. It’s hard to explain, but it’s a cross between a smirk and a cold stare. I’m sure he thinks of it as his thoughtful face, but that isn’t what it is. At all. It’s more a “I’m better than you are in every way even though I’m a sack of shit” face than anything else.

Side note II: The recent visit from my parents really allowed me to see my mother for exactly who she is–an enabler and a martyr. I realized about a decade-and-a-half ago that she was a narcissist, too ,but not to the degree that she really is. It’s been very hard on me to accept that she’s just as damaged and cruel as my father. More so in some ways because she knows that my father is full of shit and protects him, nonetheless. It took me dying for me to realize that my mother would shove me under the bus to preserve the fiction that my father is not what he is.

I told K a month or so after I returned home that my mother would choose my father over me if she could only save one. My brother and I have known since we were little that my father always came first in my mother’s life. And, while I have never wanted children just because I never did, a large part why I never had them was because of how fucked up my mother was as a mother. There was no way I was putting any child of mine into the position of being anywhere near my parents, and even when I was twenty and fucked up, I knew that the best thing I could do for my nonexistent children was to not let them be born. Again, I never wanted children, so it was all theoretical, but my desire to stop the abuse was a big reason I was able to stand firm against my mother’s manipulations and cajoling (for me to have a kid) for fifteen years.

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