Underneath my yellow skin

Life lessons I’ve learned

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.

Related to that was a time when I bought something on eBay that the buyer had labeled an authentic copy of an Alan Rickman play. Which I took to me was a legitimate company-produced VHS tape (yes, it was that long ago). When I got the tape, though, it was not official–just something the seller had recorder. I wrote back, politely asking for a refund because it was ilegal. The copy that they had, I mean.

The seller was belligerent and said she had been telling the truth. It wwas authentic or not pirated because her husband had recorded it himself. Um. I tried to explain to her taht it did not matter–it was still illegal. I just wanted my money back. I would have sent the tape back to her I said that I was going to report her if she didn’t refund my money. Instead, SHE reported ME to eBay, which smacked my gob.

eBay investigated and ruled in my favor. I mean, duh. She openly admitted that her husband had done the videotaping. It was on a VHS you can buy at Best Buy (or could back when you could acutally buy VHS tapes). There was no way she could claim that it was ‘real’ or legit. I left her a factual review, and she left me a nasty one in return.

I brought it up to my therapist, who explained it to me this way. She brought up Maslow’s Hierrchy of Needs (Maslow’s Triangle) and how if you don’t have the base ones fulfilled (physiological including sleep, housing, and food, for example is the lowest one with safety being the next step up), then you can’t even think about the ones that are higher up, including cognitive and emotional.

She said that people have a similar level of ability to think, so my seller and I were talking at cross-levels. I talked at a level six or seven, while she was on a levvel one or two. My therapist said, “Minna, she literally could not understand what you were saying–she wasn’t  deliberately misunderstanding you.”

It made a light switch on in my brain. Much like when she told me as a very crude comparison that if there were 100 senators. then fifty percent of them would be smarter than I was and fifty percent would be not as smart (because of bell curve and my inability to see that some people were not nearly as smart as I was).

It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect that is less-known, which she also said  to me at one point: people who are really smart severely underestimate how much better they are at something else than other people are. Like, they know they’re better at it, but they think others can do it almost as well as they can. I find this in the gaming community a lot, and it’s frustrating when you’re the person who is not nearly as good.

I shared both those sentiments with my brother, and it really helped him. He is probably the samrtest person I know–like off-the-charts smart. Like, Mensa smart. He actually signed up for Mensa and then complained that he had nothing in common with the people who went to the meetings besides being smart. I laughed becuase being smart did not necessarily mean being interested in the same things–also, many super-smart people are assholes. The two were not mutually-exclusive.

Anyway. Back to the eBay seller. My therapist said that she probably actually felt that she was telling the truth. She really believed that her husband videotaping the play in person made it an authentic VHS recording of the play. Which, in a way, it did, but it was still 100% illegal. She did not have permission to record, and I am sure that the theater would not have approved had they known she was making a profit off it.

It blew my mind because how could she not know? But it made sense. If her whole premise was wrong, then, yeah, she was going to think I was the obstreperous (and/or stupid) one. If she actually thought that was how copyright laws worked, well, I could not help her there. My therapist’s point was that I was arguing above the seller’s head and there was no way I could WILL her to understand what I was saying.

Once again, this is getting long. I’ll end it here and pick it up again tomorrow.


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