Melancholy Expressed

I have been wrapped in melancholy today.  It’s not the weather because I enjoy cool, rainy, drizzly days.   In fact, they warm my soul, as contradictory as that sounds.

It’s partly political.  I have been avoiding the story about the woman who worked for Halliburton/KBR and was gang-raped by her coworkers while they were in the Middle East.  I mean, I know the basics.  They locked her in a container for twenty-four hours afterwards, and the military lost her rape kit somehow.  There is a clause that only allows these kinds of ‘disputes’ to be settled by arbitration.  My kick-ass senator, Al Franken, introduced an amendment that would allow cases like this to go to court (which seems like a no-brainer).  It easily passed in the Senate, with thirty No votes.  Care to guess to which party all those No votes belonged?  No points for guessing Republican.  In addition, all the female Republican senators broke rank and voted Yes for the amendment.  Here is a look at the roll call for the vote.

It passed.  Good.  But, today, I read this post over at Balloon Juice.  Apparently, several sources say that Senator Daniel Inouye, (HI-D) is preparing to water down the amendment or remove it completely after being vigorously lobbied by defense contractors who are adamant it be removed.

I shouldn’t have read the post at all.  I shouldn’t have read the comments.  I have difficulty dealing with news about rape in general, and this was a particularly horrifying and egregious story that, I fear, was all-too-emblematic of the attitude towards sexual assault by the mercenaries–er, contractors–we hired to work for us in the Middle East.   We got one of the usual trolls bleating about the injustice of going around arbitration.  We got another well-meaning soul saying that arbitration isn’t necessarily biased.

Doesn’t fucking matter.  Because of some stupid law, the woman cannot press criminal charges.  Or rather, the feds won’t touch the case.  The woman was gang-raped and locked in a container for twenty-four hours afterwards, and she has no legal recourse?

I felt like puking.  I still do when I think of it.  This is not sexual harassment.  This is not a pinch on the ass or a suggestive comment.  This isn’t even, “Sleep with me or lose your job.”  This is a felony, and it can’t be prosecuted.  And yet, congress can go after ACORN?

I despair.  I really do.  No matter how far we come on gender issues, we still have so much further to go.

Thinking about this reinforced how worthless I felt as I was growing up.  No, I didn’t remember the abuse, but I remember very clearly how poorly my father treated my mother.  He would stay out until all hours, never bothering to call home to tell her when he’d be home.  She would cater to his every whim when he was home, and he just accepted it as his due.  He never told her he appreciated her for–well, anything.

In addition, she worked full-time and raised my brother and me while he worked full-time and got his Ph.D. in economics at the U.  Once he got his degree, he considered himself above her, even though she had her MA in psychology and put her own career on hold to raise the kids and allow him to get his Ph.D.

It was well-known my father had affairs.  It was never talked about in my family, but we all knew.  He beat my brother until my mom made him stop, and then he (my dad) ceded all discipline to my mother.  Yes, if he couldn’t hit my brother, then he wouldn’t do anything.   As I have said before, he was the only one allowed to show anger in the house.  He was the only one who could yell.

When I was a teenager, I was an outsider.  No boys were interested in me except as a friend.  This was before Asian women became exotic and sexy.  Back then, if you didn’t fit in the cultural norm, then you were invisible.  So, my dad gave me this helpful bit of advice, “If you want a boyfriend, you have to raise your voice in pitch, never beat a guy at any sports, and let him help you with something.”  I looked at him and told him that if that’s what it took to have a boyfriend, I didn’t want one.

He taught me to play ping-pong when I was six.  When I hit my late twenties, I started beating him on a constant basis.  Once I beat him two out of three games, he quit playing with me.   He offered to buy my brother a sports car if he (my bro) married a Taiwanese woman.  At a cousin’s wedding, my dad turned to me and said, “I don’t think I could give you away.”  I replied, “You won’t.”  One, because I wasn’t getting married, and two, because I wouldn’t have that in my wedding if I ever did get married (which I wasn’t), anyway.

He travels all over the world for his job, and one of his stops was in Banff, Canada.  He visited a hotel there that was actually a castle converted into a hotel.  He showed me a brochure.  “They do weddings there,” he said proudly.  “I’ll pay for the whole thing if you want to have your wedding there.”  I looked at him as if he’d lost his mind.   Besides the fact that I had no interest in getting married, I was most certainly not the castle type.  I was no fucking fairy princess, and I certainly wasn’t looking for my Prince Charming.

Now, my parents live in Taiwan.  They live in the same house, but they still live completely separate lives.  My mom can’t call my dad at work or he’ll get mad.  If she buys him some short-sleeved shirts that are really nice after he says he doesn’t wear short-sleeved shirts, he yells at her.  When they both came to visit, he was in the bathroom taking an epic bath (all his baths are epic), and both my mom and I needed to use that bathroom.  She tapped on the door to ask when he’d be out.  He came out and started shouting about how inconsiderate it was to interrupt him when he was taking a bath.  He went on in that vein for at least fifteen minutes before lapsing into a sullen silence.

I got told I was fat by both my parents.  Still do.  Probably will when I’m in Taiwan.

I became my mom’s confidant when I was a teenager.  She would tell me her woes with my father (excluding the marital affairs), and she was deeply depressed.  I didn’t want to hear about it because I lived with the man, but I didn’t know how to tell her that what she was doing was inappropriate.  She still tells me things about him I would rather not know.  I still don’t know how to tell her I’m uncomfortable with her revelations.

My point is that when I was a kid, I observed how shitty it was to be female.  So, even though I grew up to be a feminist, I still bought into some of those ideas, subconsciously.  I began to make a mental list of things not to do.  No giggling.  No cooking or cleaning (ok, the last one is more a matter of laziness, but still).  No makeup, no high heels, no push up bras, nothing.

To be fair, some of that was truly because I didn’t believe in doing it–such as makeup and shaving my legs/armpits, but for the most part, I equated being a woman with being weak–and I was so fucking done with being weak.   I didn’t want to be a man because they came with their own set of problems, but I most definitely did not want to be a woman.

It was another way I desperately tried to make myself safe.  If I eradicated my femininity, then I wouldn’t be vulnerable.  I learned to stride instead of mincing.  I developed a hard stare and a rigid body posture that said, “Don’t fuck with me.”  For the most part, it worked.  People were properly intimidated, and I was able to fool them into thinking I would kick their ass if I need be.

Inside, though, it was a different story altogether.  I still didn’t have a core.  I still didn’t believe I had worth.  I still couldn’t say no.  The hardness was to stop people in their tracks so they couldn’t see how empty I was on the inside.

People have said they admire me because I’m assertive and speak my mind.  I don’t give a shit about what people think–or so it seems.  Quite to the contrary, I would worry about everything I said or wrote.  If someone expressed the mildest rebuke for something I’d said or done, I would castigate myself harshly, scolding myself for ever saying anything in the first place.  One of the reasons I stated my opinions so firmly was because deep down, I didn’t think I had the right to say anything at all.

It was exhausting, monitoring everything I said or did.  It also felt like such a sham.  I looked so confident, when inside, I hated myself.

So, now I’m struggling with letting all of that go.  The old belief system; the old thoughts and ideas; the old way of being.  What’s more, I’m struggling with not hating myself for being so weak all these past years, for wasting nearly my whole life up until now.

I endured.  I didn’t live or thrive or even survive.  I endured.  I hunkered down in my shell, tucked my head under my arms, and I froze.

Now, my heart is aching inside my chest.  It is filled, almost to the point of bursting, with tears of regret.  There is a sliver of anger under the pain–anger at how thoroughly I gave up and gave in, but mostly, there is sadness and pain.  I am crying once again as I type.  The sorrow is overwhelming.  This time, though, the sorrow is for the current me.  The one who is caught betwixt and between and is scared out of her mind as to how to proceed.  The one who feels parts of her crumbling at her touch and turning into dust.  The one who is lost and doesn’t know if she’ll ever find.  The one who still doesn’t have a core.

I am almost howling as I weep.  I grab my hair near the scalp with my hands, and I squeeze.  Hard.  Guttural moans escape my lips as I listen to Say Goodbye by Girlyman (see above video) and feel as if they are tearing out my soul.  The pain inhabits my body, taking over every inch from my head to my little toes.  It floods through me, nearly bringing me to my knees.  Please, make it stop.  I will do anything to make it stop.   The agony is more than I can bear.  I am not that fucking strong.  I know I have to say goodbye to the old me.  I know I have to let her go.  I know I have to grieve and move on.   It fucking hurts too much.

7 Responses to Melancholy Expressed

  1. I’m sorry you had done to you, things that have left you going through a river of shit now.
    I honestly know how much it hurts. I can’t really say anything to fix it because I know you’re the one who has to do the work.
    I know you think you’re weak, but there will come a day when you see your weakness for what it is.
    Once you get through the rawness of the feeling, then it’s time to rewire your thought process and recognize the demons call weak, strong and they call strong, weak.
    I’ve been rewiring my brain since 2002. Once I realized some of the people who helped program it did it ass backwards, I had to “change the tapes” that play in my head and recognize someone scrambled my motherboard and I had to fix it.
    I wish I could cook you a meal and make you a few drinks and just sit and have a girls night talking the night away.
    Hug yourself for me and know I would hug you if I were there.

  2. I’m right with the Whabster, Minna. I would cook for you and wrap you up in a nice warm quilt if I could. It’s kinda what I do. =)

    You see yourself as weak because you are now vulnerable, scared, and openly attempting to de-tox your soul. That which you perceive as weakness, though, is actually the strength that you don’t think you have. That strength is what is standing up and saying, “HEY. What was done to me was wrong, goddammit. It was cruel, it was life-altering, and it was corrosive to my soul.” If you weren’t strong, you would still be hiding. Instead of wrenching those sobs from your throat while you type, you would be crawled under the covers, not discussing this with us. Instead of railing at the injustices that were laid on you, and recognizing them for the abuses that they were and are, you would be meekly accepting whatever you were told.

    This process hurts like a motherfucker in the short term, but in the long run, that weakness and hiding would hurt so, so much worse.

  3. You say “[you are] not that fucking strong.” I would disagree vehemently. I am humbled by your strength. The strength shown in beginning this journey to yourself. The strength to share it here, with your friends as well as we strangers who wander through your public life.

    You know that this journey is not, and will not be pleasant, nor simple. But you also know that you must take it, and that you will come out of the far side. You may never feel entirely “whole” (but who among us truly ever is) but you will be more at peace with yourself. That alone makes the journey worth the struggle.

    Your writings at B-J have shown a woman of great passions, tremendous wit and intelligence. Those facets of yourself that you share in that venue, as well as the deeper ones you are displaying here reinforce my belief, echoed much more deeply by those here who know you, that you will endure this and emerge even stronger than you are today.

  4. I just happened to drop by here today, and agree with your commenters above. I’d also add that as a person who has spent a long time involved in rewiring, it can be a difficult and sometimes unpleasant process. And, like some kinds of therapy, it can require us to look at (and feel) things we would rather avoid. In the long run, it is better, though, for one reason. After a time, you stop being a purely reactive creature and you find yourself, whoever that may be. I’m not religious, but I suspect the process is similar to what people mean when they discuss religious experiences–it’s the authenticity of the soul laid bare. Scary, but there’s really no alternative if you want to be yourself.

  5. whabs, wait a minute, you mean I have to do MORE after I go through all this pain? No fair! Seriously, though, I know I have to experience it; I just don’t want to do it. I know you can relate, and while I would not wish that on anyone, it is comforting to know I am not alone in my journey. Thank you.

    Kel, I know I can always count on you to come at me with the tough love (tough in this case because I de-value myself, and you won’t let me). Intellectually, I know it’s not weakness to cry and hurt and feel pain, but I equate the former with the latter, most likely because of my past. I count on you to remind me time and time again that retreat is not an option (unless it’s a retreat to Antarctica).

    Gravenstone, welcome to my blog. It’s always great to see another BJ member over here. Thank you for holding a mirror up and letting me know that how I see myself is not how others see me. I am not there yet, but it helps to have people who know me from various venues to speak up and say, “Hey, here’s a different perspective.” I enjoy your commentary over at BJ, and feel free to comment here any time. Thanks again for your lovely words of support.

    sparky, another BJ member! Welcome to my blog! I saw your other posts and responded to them as well. It’s neat to go back and revisit archived posts.

    Thank you for sharing your journey through the world of re-wiring the brain. I was raised religious, and I can see the parallels. I am no longer religious, but I am spiritual, and yes, you are correct that to truly find myself, I have to do this hard work. Avoidance is no longer an option. Nor is hiding, running, or freezing.

    Feel free to comment any time, and I’ll see ya back over at BJ, too.

  6. I agree with Gravenstone, you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. Facing all the crap and horror is a first, brave step and does take a lot of courage. You look at yourself, into yourself and know that it must be fixed. Many of us have demons to face and to shake off and facing it is the first brave step. Now you just need to keep moving forward. And don’t be afraid to lean on your friends when only that will help. That, too, is corageous. We feel your pain with you and feel each and every success, no matter how tiny. We love you, but then you know that. And the strength that you do have in being who you are has been helping us (me) through what I have been going through.

  7. Jamie, my friend, thank you for your gentle words of support. You have such a giving and caring heart. I truly appreciate that. It helps to know I have people like you in my corner.