Underneath my yellow skin

Patience, Grasshopper

I forgot I was taking Wednesday off social media and immediately checked my mentions and notifications when I woke up. When I remembered, I stopped. I hadn’t looked at my FB feed or Twitter TL, and I don’t plan on doing that today. I feel bad about it, but in my defense, I’m discombobulated by my parents’ visit.

Speaking of which, one of my biggest pet peeves is being talked at the second I wake up. This is an ongoing issue with my parents. They’ve been up for hours (usually) by the time I get up, and they have a list of things they NEED to discuss with me the SECOND I wake up. As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my favorite things about living alone is that I don’t actually have to talk to people most of the time. I work at home, so I don’t have coworkers, either. I don’t sleep well, either, so I’m usually groggy when I wake up. I feed Shadow his breakfast (which he didn’t care for this morning. Probably because it’s a day old and had been in the fridge. This is a new pet peeve of his); I smoke half a cigarette; I do my taiji routine. After that, I start on my big vat of Coke Zero (sob, we didn’t have enough time together), and I slowly start feeling like a human being.

After an hour or so, I can do any communications I need to do as long as they’re electronic. To actually talk to people in real life, I need at least two hours of silence. I’m not saying this is a good thing, nor am I saying it’s optimal. I realize I’m privileged because I can set this schedule for myself on a regular basis. That said, I hate having questions pelted at me the second I walk in the vicinity of my parents. Not only haven’t I had the time to wake up yet, my brain isn’t yet functioning. It’s yawning and grumbling and slowly stretching its metaphorical arms.

I’ve given up coffee for several reasons, one being that as I get older, it’s harder on my stomach. The downside is that I don’t get the boost drinking coffee gives you. I love my Coke Zero (noooooo don’t gooooooooooo), but it’s just not the same. I’m sure there’s nearly an equivalent amount of caffeine, but it doesn’t kick in the same way. I want a punch to the gut, which coffee delivers. Coke Zero (why, Coca-Cola, why???) is more like an ivy drip with its steady stream of caffeine.

I’m going to need all the caffeine I can get to struggle through this visit. I’m trying to mind my Ps and Qs, but my brain overrides my good intentions. Speaking of coffee, I am drinking some right now. My mom brought some Kona from her trip to Hawaii, and I shocked it cold. It’s not half-bad, but it’s strange to taste coffee again after not drinking it for so long. Anyway, I vow not to be pissy with my parents, and then I snap at them, my voice taut and stretched.

I’m resentful about any intrusion on my time, and I know that’s selfish of me. I’m trying to separate between reasonable requests and unreasonable ones, but it’s hard. I’ve been taught that anything I want is secondary to anything my parents want, especially my father. As a rebellion, I act as if what I want is of utmost importance and what my parents want is utterly trivial. I know this isn’t right, either, and I’m trying to find a medium ground.

The problem is, I swing from one extreme to another all the goddamn time. Example: I used to be a doormat. I would allow anyone to walk all over me. In college, I knew a Taiwanese guy who started calling me mom. Now, that was annoying in and of itself, but he was a hot mess and came to me with his problems at three in the morning. I didn’t particularly like him, but I felt obliged to listen to him for hours on end. My boyfriend at the time told me, “Minna, you can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself first.” Yeah, it’s trite, but he was right. I was running myself ragged with helping everyone else, there was almost nothing left of me. I was already dealing with an eating disorder (two, really. Anorexia and bulimia), and making a martyr out of myself wasn’t helping.

Part of being a doormat meant not expressing my opinion, ever. I was one of those ciphers that liked whatever you liked and hated whatever you hated. Not inside, of course, but to your face, anyway. Several years ago, I decided to be more conscious about voicing my opinion–in part because of my heavy use of social media–and I had something to say about everything. I’ve written before how I’m the ‘well actually’ guy in real life because I’m a stickler for the truth. It’s partly because of the secrets and lies of my childhood, and my brain feels weird when it hears something it knows isn’t true, especially if it’s being confidently stated as true.

Recently, though, I’ve realized that I don’t need to correct everybody about everything, and I don’t always have to voice my opinion. Again, it’s a difficult balance to maintain because I don’t want to just be yes ma’am’ing all over the place, but I also don’t want to be the annoying person who corrects every little nitpicky thing.  In casual conversation, I don’t have to show off my knowledge unless it’s actually pertinent to what’s being discussed. I also don’t have to give my opinion all the time, though I don’t want to revert to mindlessly agreeing again, either. I think the key is to really listen to what the other person is saying and see if I can find a nugget with which I can agree.

I don’t always need to be right, even if I feel that way inside. It’s tricky because I don’t think it’s bad to voice an opposite opinion, but I do wonder if I’m needlessly contrarian sometimes. It’s because I’m wary of groupthink and the mob mentality. I also like to look at the nuance of an issue, and I find that’s often overlooked in discussions. What I have to decide on a case to case basis is if I really need to add a counterpoint or not, and if it’s something I passionately believe in.

I’m just a grump, basically. Yesterday. I had to talk to two people on the phone (for business reasons), plus my brother–and I also had to talk to him, my parents, a salesperson, and a restaurant host in real life. Plus a cashier at Cubs. That’s way too many people for me, and it actually stresses me out. Today, I’ve already had a lengthy discussion with my father about death–which, by the way, old people? It’s not fun to talk about all the time. I know it’s difficult with your friends dying one by one, but it’s depressing to have it brought up all the time. I know  it’s probably more depressing to experience, though–several questions asked by my parents, and it’s not even noon. I haven’t been up for three hours yet!

The problem is one that many people face when dealing with their dysfunctional family as an adult: I feel like I’m ten years old again. It’s not a good feeling at all because I was so powerless, depressed, and unhappy back then. Our family was a hot mess, and while it’s improved greatly–though not necessarily for the best reasons–it’s still a mess. I know, what family isn’t a mess? But, this is my family, so it’s the one I’m worried about. Last night, I had to mediate a two-week long fight between my parents at the behest of my mother, and let me tell you, that was uncomfortable as hell. It’s not a good idea to get between spouses no matter what, and especially not when they’re your parents.

In addition, it’s really not a good idea to try to reason with a narcissist, which is what my father is. When he feels attacked, and it can be for the dumbest reason, he either becomes actively hostile, or he completely shuts down. Nothing is his fault, and his aim is to make everyone  else feel as miserable as he is. There is no reasoning with him, which my mother should know because she’s a psychologist, but love makes you forget everything you know. I was 90% on my mother’s side, but I was also pissed that she asked me to mediate. I’m not surprised, however, as she’s always used me as a confidante. I know she wanted me to back her up, even though she claimed she wanted me to be objective. The few times I agreed with my father, she wasn’t pleased at all.

I have a BA in psychology, and I’ve studied it all my life. When I took Psych of Counseling in college, we had to do an exercise in which partnered off. One of us would be the psychologist, and one would be the client. After I did my stint as the psychologist, my prof had nothing negative to say about my performance–only positive comments, which surprised the hell out of me. I have the tendency to want to mediate, but I definitely did not want to be placed between my parents.

I didn’t feel I did much good, but they’re at least talking to each other today. My mom told me last night that I was good at counseling because I was firm, but also fair, and I said it’s because I’ve learned that coddling someone isn’t really helping them. I’ve been considering getting either a Masters or a PhD/PsyD in psychology, and my mom is really urging me to go down that path. I know I’m good at it, but it’s a demanding job. I wasn’t ready for it twenty years ago because I was too empathetic and too enabling. It would have eaten me up alive. Now, however, I’m older, somewhat wiser, and definitely harder. I think I would do a better job, but the question is, what kind of psychology?

Clinical psychology is my favorite, but it’s also the most difficult to complete. You have to get a PhD/PsyD, which means several more years of school. At this point, I’m more concerned with practicality than self-enrichment. I could get a Masters in two years, then make a decent salary as, say, a marriage and family therapist. Hell, I could make a shit-ton as an industrial/organizational psychologist, if I’m willing to work with private corporations. I could go for the generic counseling degree, but that doesn’t interest me, honestly. I’m also not a big fan of marriage and family therapy, but it would be a steady income.

I’m at a transitional period of my life, which is probably another reason I’m having such a hard time with my parents’ annual visit. Everything is changing, which is both a good and a bad thing.

Finally, it’s strange to be asked to be the interpreter for my parents (specifically my father) by people. It’s happened twice already, and the reason it’s strange is because I don’t speak Taiwanese or Chinese. I understand some Taiwanese (more than my parents realize), but I don’t speak either. So, in essence, I’m translating English into English. I do understand, however, as my parents don’t speak English regularly any longer. So, their English is very rusty when they come visit, and it’s not easy to communicate with them. It still makes me uncomfortable, though, as if I’m the parent and they are the children. I know we all have to experience that as our parents age, but it’s hard getting used to.

In the end, I’ll get through the visit as I have all the other visits. It’s just as what cost to my serenity. I guess that’s up to me.


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