I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned in my 51 years on this earth. First, there were some things that my last therapist told me that have stuck with me.
Before I was tthinking about moving to the East Bay in order to attend grad school, I was obsessing over all the negative things that might happen. My therapist listened to me patiently for roughly five minutes before cutting me off (she had to, otherwise I’d go on forever). “Minna,” she said. “Half of the things you imagine will never happen, and you can’t imagine half of the things that will.” Her point was that I was needlessly worrying. It was also that I was trying to frantically apply control where I had none.
The illusion of control is somethnig I think about often because me dying twice underlined my lack of control. Twice. (Both dying and underlying.) There is no use worrying about shit I cannot change–which is almost everything. Life is short. That’s a trope, but it’s true. And it can be over in a blink of the eye. So, yeah, plan for the future–but don’t forget to experience your present at the same time.
Another thing that really struck me was when my father and I had this huge fight over whether I was grateful or not to him for all he’d done fro me. When I said no (because I felt pushed into being performatively grateful), he asked why he should love me then. Which showed how nakedly transactional he was. I told him it was part of his job as a father. Like, did that need to be explained? To a raging narcissist, yes. My father did not do anything that did not have any apparent value to him, which included ‘loving’ someone. I put ‘loving’ in quotes because he’s not capable of actual love.
This argument was in the car as I drove him to the airport so he could fly back to Taiwan. He called me when he arrived in LA for his layover and hesitantly said he loved me before hanging up. I felt nothing at his announcement because if I had to force it ou of him (which I wasn’t trying to do! I was just answering his question) and because I was beyond caring at that time.
I brought this up to my therapist, and sh esaid, “This is a big thing to him and a small thing to you. Two things can be true at the same time.” That hit me hard because I thought that an experience had to be the same for everyone who experienced it. Which, I admit, was a naive and childish viewpoint, but one that many people had. I wasn’t even astonished that he viewed that moment differently than I did, necessarily, but that they both could be true at the same time.