I’m 52 years old. That’s incredible to me. Not just becuase I should be dead, but because as people smarter than I have said, time just flies by. It makes sense. When you’re ten, a year is a tenth of your life. When you’re fifty, it’s a fiftieth. Yes, it’s the same amount of time, discretely, but it’s relatively a different amount of time.
I died twice when I was 50. That’s two years and a bit ago. I have called it my re-birthday. The first few months crept by, but that was because my parents were here. Once they were gone, life started to fly by again.
I have decided that 2024 is going to be my year. Or rather, it’s going to be a year in which I accomplish something. The first few months, I was just adjusting to the fact that I was still alive.
I did not have to do physical thearpy or rehab, thankfully, but I had to mentally adjust to the fact that I had died (twice) and was alive again. It was a bizarre thing, something that had not happened to anyone else. I cannot find anyone who had experience anything even similar. Two cardiac arrests and a stroke? On top of walking pneumonia? I am truly one of a time. Kind! One of a kind. Though one of a time works as well.
I have two main writing projects. One is my memoir. I thought this would be easy breezy because I have a cornerstone for it–my medical crisis. I don’t know how to write about it in a way that is relatable, but I am trying not to worry about that. Let’s be honest. There is nothing about what happened to me that others can relate to–the actual events, I mean. But how I reacted to it and how my medical team dealt with it? Maybe so! I think my conclusion that it’s one of the best things to happen to me overall is something that will be difficult to understand, but I’m hoping I can explain it satisfactorily.
Here’s the part that gets me. I need to explain my family dysfunction if I’m going to talk about my medical crisis. I can’t talk about how the experience affected me if I don’t talk about just how fucked up my family made me. And how for the first thirty-five years of my life, I felt like I was completely worthless because of it.
Side note: If there is one thing I regret the most, it’s that there wasn’t one adult in my life when I was a kid who told me that I was OK. This isn’t because the adults in my life were malicious, but because, well, there’s two reasons. The adults at school weren’t trained back then to look out for signs that kids had mental health issues. And in my personal life, the adults around me belonged to the same sexist fundie Evangelical Taiwanese church that my parents did. They believed the same things my parents did. Men were men. Women were women (and trash). Men were in charge and women were there to serve the men. Girls were less than nothing, which was a message I completely absorbed.
It took me until I was in my late thirties and studying Taiji to realize how toxic my parents were (and by extension, the Taiwanese church community they belonged to). I was in the process of detaching from the beliefs and my parents when I was hit with medical crisis.
That was a bright line in the sand for me. Before that, I knew that my parents had toxic ideas and should not have had kids. I’ve known that for decades. But it wasn’t until my medical crisis that I realized the extent of the dysfunction.
My mother has always put my father first. She would say that she put god first, but I disagree. She put my father first and made him her god. She would also say that my brother and I are the most important people in her life. Another hard disagree. When she told me that we were first in her heart, I stared at her in disbelief. I told her that wasn’t true. She did not even argue. She said, “Well, I want it to be that way.”
No. What she wanted was for others to believe that she put us first like a good mother would. It was all about looking like the perfect family and not actually being a good mother. A good mother would actually care about her children as people and not just as amorphous blobs who are shaped as her children.
I struggle to explain this to people who have parents who love them, no matter how imperfectly. When I flatly say that my parents don’t love me, it’s as if the computer in their brains says, “Does not compute.”
The words are simple, but the meaning is proposterous to so many poeple. I see it as a statement of fact. My parents don’t love me. Or more precisely, they don’t love me as a person. They vaguely love the daughter-shaped image they think I am, but even that is more about their beliefs as to what a family should be than any actual love.
I have maintained that you cannot love someone if you don’t know them/don’t like anything about them. That’s abuse in my eyes. “I love you, but here’s everything I hate about you. So you should feel bad about that. But I love you, anyway.” Nah, mate. That’s not love at all.
You know what my mother likes about me? That she can dump all her feelings on me, especially about her marriage/my father. And she’s the one who forced me to be her emotional support person/dumping ground.
You know what my father likes about me? Neither do I.
Think about that. My parents do not like one single thing about me. In fact, my mother has said several negative things about me when I’ve told her important facts. I no longer do that because of the negative reaction she’s had. My tats? Hated them. Me being bi? Asked me if animals were next. Why is it always animals? Me deciding not to get married or have children? Fifteen years of her pushing me to have kids and how it didn’t matter if I didn’t want them–it was my duty as a woman.
Leaving Christianity? I don’t want to talk about it. When I showed her a short story I had written–and I made sure to pick one with no sex and no violence–her only comment was how much swearing there was in it. When I told her I had decided to study Taiji (tai chi), she said that it would allow the devil to dance on my spine. Which sounds cool, but also, what?!
She liked that I edited her writing; I’ll give her that. But if you notice, that is something I did for her. And I’ve done a ton of it. I’ve also done some writing for her. Honestly, I don’t mind that, but it’s not something she liked about ME.
I was telling a friend that I was better able to deal with my parents now because I had given up all hope that they’ll change. They don’t love me. I’ve made my peace with it. It’s taken long enough.