It’s Over

I got an email from my mother today.   After imparting news, she informs me that after the ‘fun memories’ of my visit to Taiwan have faded, she and my father have gotten around to talking about me and my life.  This is never a good thing.  Never, ever, ever.  She attached two letters to the email, one from her and one from my father.  So, she wanted me to read her letter first, and then my father’s (because she’s a control freak like me, she has to direct the order in which I read the letters).  With a sense of foreboding, I opened her letter.

In a nutshell, she talks about me becoming self-reliant, how I am grotesquely fat and negative in my outlook, and that while she is perfectly happy to continue our arrangement concerning the house, she would like to include as a stipulation that I spend an hour a day (or something like that) reading ‘life-affirming’ material, preferably the Bible.  She closed with a Bible verse that she and my father particularly like.  I will confess that I did not read the verse.  I would also like to say that I don’t find the Bible to be particularly life-affirming, but that is neither here nor there.

Then, I opened my father’s letter.  If I had a sense of foreboding before opening my mom’s letter, it’s nothing compared to what was going through me as I opened my father’s.  His talked about our responsibility to society and the environment.  Then, he basically called me a leech on society.  He ended with, “We spent _______ money on your trip to Taiwan.  A family in Taiwan could live ______ time off that amount.  We were happy to do it, but are you happy?”

My immediate response was to get physically ill and go straight for that dark place that is deep within me.  I have been struggling since returning to the States as to not giving into the darkness, and the letters from my parents may very well have pushed me over the edge.  I already think I’m a fat, ugly, worthless piece of shit (though I have had moments where I’ve transcended that), and my parents reinforced every belief.  As Alex likes to say, the reason our parents are so good at pushing our buttons is because they fucking installed them.  OK, he might not have said fucking, but I’m sure he meant it.  And boy, did my parents push every single goddamn button I have.  Every one.

I cried.  I am still crying.  My second reaction was to hurt myself.  I did.  I burned myself.  And damn it, yes, it felt good.  And it felt like what I deserved.  And it took away the mental anguish for a minute.  And it soothed and comforted me.  I know it’s not healthy, but at the moment, I don’t fucking care.

I want to die.  I have to say it plainly.  I want to die to stop the mental agony that I am experiencing.  I want to die because I am in hell (in part of my own making), and I don’t know how to get the fuck out.  I want to die because I am enmeshed with my family (a very particularly Asian thing), and I don’t have much hope that I can extract myself.  I want to die because I still feel, under it all, that I should not have been born.  Before I went to Taiwan, I felt it less and less, but with the advent of the flashbacks and all the family shit, I feel it more and more.   I want to die because I am tired of trying to convince myself on a daily basis that I should live.

I have many friends for whom I am eternally grateful.  Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have made it this far without you.  Many days, I have held on simply because when I imagine my brother finding my body, I can’t stand it.  Or Kiki.  Or Natasha.  And, when I think of my boys not getting fed for days, well, I can’t let that happen, either.

My parents have one valid point:  I need to become self-reliant.  My reasons for it, though, differ from theirs, I think.  I need to do it so I can cut myself off from my parents.  We are truly enmeshed in a way that is not healthy (though, pretty common for Asian people), especially not healthy for me.  The problem is, as much as they say they want me to be self-reliant, they still find ways to undercut that.  When I was in my mid-twenties, I thought about doing the waitressing/writer/actor routine.  They came up with a million different reasons why I shouldn’t do it, but it basically came down to class issues.

It’s very Asian to put your children down.  As I was growing up, I got to hear about so-and-so’s children who were doing such-and-such.  I know this is common in general society, but it is exquisitely Asian in nature as well.   As my Asian friend in SF, I’ll call her Josie,  just commented to me, “It’s like they think they can guilt-trip their wayward children into being the productive, upstanding members of society that they want them to be.”

Like I said, they had exactly one valid point:  I need to become self-reliant.  Well, I am grotesquely fat, too.  I will have to concede that point as well.  Granted, I have asked my mom not to comment on my weight, but hey, you know.  Whatever.   Still, the longer I go without supporting myself, the more I doubt I’m able to do it.  As I wrote about yesterday, for fifteen years, I systematically shrunk my world to the point where I could put it in my pocket.  Now, I have to find a way to expand it again in a way that will get me the fuck on my own?  How the fuck am I supposed to do that in five months?  That’s when my mom is coming back for her annual visit.   I had already planned on winnowing out things from my life (books, mostly), but now I have to completely change everything at one time.  I don’t think I can do it.

The rest of the letters, no matter what the intent, completely wrecked me.  I am in a very shaky place as it is.  The little girl inside me is curling up again in the fetal position.  The pain is reaching a point where I can’t tolerate it much longer.  And, deep down, I have a hard time arguing the underlying premise of their letters:  I am worthless.  The little girl thinks I’m worth something, but like I said, the little girl is very battered right now.

I can list all the reasons I’m not worthless.  Yes, I can intellectually grasp that I do add some value to certain people in my life.  I just can’t emotionally access that knowledge right now.  I was listening to diva songs all day long trying to summon my inner diva, and now, she seems like a figment of my imagination.

I have a therapy appointment on Wednesday.  I am bringing the letters so my therapist and I can work through them, if that’s possible.   Tears are again streaming down my face as I conclude this blog entry.  I am fast losing the last remnants of hope that I can make it through this alive.

20 Responses to It’s Over

  1. Minna… yes you can. You’ve got friends who love you and support you, you’ve got a therapist, you’ve got brains and chutzpa and imagination, you are passionate, you have skills. Yes you can make it through this alive. It’s the wanting where you’re hung up. If you read your own posts a good while back, there’s one with your goals. I bet they haven’t changed. What if you have a good cry and then look over those goals again and make up your mind that this is the kick in the butt that’s going to get you well on the road to meet your goals?

    I don’t think that shock treatment like those letters from your parents (which, btw, I find outrageously cruel) is an acceptable way to overcome inertia, but if you have to make the best of what comes your way, you may as well disregard the “message” and just take the whole thing as a stepping stone on your way up.

    You have so much going for you, girlfriend… so much talent, so much goodness in you, skills and abilities. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to throw that away on account of what your parents say to you, ESPECIALLY when you know that putting down kids is an Asian thing to do. A tool for some people to make other people do something. Like marketing ploys. Or like the department of labor in Germany used to tell people that they were well qualified for “this” and unqualified for “that”, “this” being something that the country needed more of and “that” of which there were too many, but of course they didn’t tell you that – I mean, don’t make your decisions about your life based on which way someone else tries to manipulate you OR on your reaction to that!


  2. My parents have one valid point: I need to become self-reliant.

    And that’s the only valid point they have. But it’s a tactical error on their part — instead of using the concept of self reliance as a way of maintaining your guilt while they do, after all, support you (and, as you point out, actually undercutting your self reliance), you’ll become self reliant and then be able to define your relationship with them on your terms, not theirs.

    And there’s nothing grotesque about you, so no, it’s only one valid point they have and no more.

    And forgive me for talking smack about your family, but I agree with Iratwo that the letters from your parents was outrageously cruel. They deserve your anger, not you. Just for starters, they have no right to chide you for your reliance on them when they’ve been encouraging it all along, and for their own reasons. I hope your therapist is able to help you with your feelings, but the fact remains that you will be what you choose to be. And what you’ve chosen for yourself has made you beloved of many. I know it’s tough, but hang in there and, as Iratwo suggests, use these awful letters as something to push against, and hard. When you do, you’ll push in the direction you want to go.

  3. Well, my Twin, I emailed you most of this, but I’ll reiterate one thing — you need a vasectomy from your parents. Snip, tie, cauterize, DONE.

    And you got the title of you post wrong, Snowgirl. It isn’t over. This is the Beginning. This is where you gather the strength from the people who love you, let them stand with you while you make the steps you need to make to start again. You will be self-reliant, and you will get healthy, and that includes the emotional as well as the physical.

    But like I said…time to cut out the cancer before it takes over. It’s not worth letting cancer win just to avoid the scar.

  4. Kel is right — time to cut out the cancer that is your parents.

    (Although spending an hour a day reading about toxic, dysfunctional parents might be helpful and inspirational for you.)

    I send you peace, serenity, and good thoughts (if only because I’ve lived in California too long).

  5. It’s the wanting where you’re hung up

    Iratwo, you are right about this. It’s very much in the wanting. Right now, I am not so sure I want to make the effort. And I know, intellectually that what you say is right. I know that this is a very Asian way of trying to make your kids do what you want them to do. I never thought of it as a marketing ploy, but that is a very apt way of describing it. And while I can intellectually agree with every word you’ve written, I can’t quite embrace it emotionally. I don’t feel like I can do it. That, in a nutshell, is the whole fucking problem.

    Gregory, I have to be fair and say that my mom did not say I was grotesquely fat. That was my interpretation of her comment on my weight. We have had many rounds over my weight, and I have said to her that mentioning it was verboten. So, I took her comment to mean that it was on, so to speak.

    You are right that if I finally do as they purport that they want me to do (become self-sufficient), I can finally end the domination they have over my life. I don’t think they quite see it that way or realize it, but that would be the end result. And, as you know, it’s much easier for me to hurt myself than to get angry at my parents. I’m working on it, but it’s also slow in coming.

    I like your and Iratwo’s idea of using this as something to push against. I just wish I knew how the fuck to do that.

    Kel, I want to believe you. I so do. I just do not at the moment believe that I have the wherewithal necessary to make the changes I need to make. I so desperately want to believe I can do it; I can’t make that leap.

    I know, at a minimum, I have to move out of the house and severely curtail my communication with my parents. I just feel pretty fucking hopeless as to how to do that, practically-speaking.

    Alex, heh. You made me laugh. Twice. Thank you.

  6. I have to be fair and say that my mom did not say I was grotesquely fat. That was my interpretation of her comment on my weight. We have had many rounds over my weight, and I have said to her that mentioning it was verboten.

    Exactly — but does she respect that? Nooooooooooo! [/Bill Murray] So who cares if she didn’t use those exact words? As a psychologist, she should know — you told her, after all — that talk of it bothers you, but there she is, in your face. So it doesn’t matter at all how she expressed it — the fact that she brought it up at all is grotesquely, outrageously cruel — the more so because she’s deliberately going against your stated wishes into the bargain.

    The only think I can say about using this outrage to push against is to take what seems to me to be the obvious and natural course and respond to this cruelty by geting angry at them. I don’t know how to tell you how to do that, but I think you’ve more than earned an exemption from the Godfather rule of “never go against the family.” In fact, they already have, and while I would definitely not take the Godfather metaphor so far as to shoot them while out fishing (as Michael Corleone has done to his dimwit brother Fredo after the latter betrays the family), I don’t think any of your readers would disagree that they’ve more than earned your anger. And for my own part, I’d add that focusing that anger on yourself is the last thing you should do. You don’t deserve it, and they don’t have the right to treat you like this. You are an adult, and they’re going to see you act like one, all right, and it’ll mean they can’t play these stupid games any more.

  7. Gregory, exactly. It doesn’t really matter what my mother said about my weight (and believe me, it wasn’t complimentary) because she knows it’s a very sore subject for me. However, I did want to be scrupulously fair and note that she did not use the word grotesquely–I did.

    Leave it to you to come up with a movie correlation. No, there will be no shooting involved. I am neither a Corleone nor a Cheney.

    I am more in despair right now. And, I don’t feel much like an adult, either. I know I have to do something different; I am just not sure what. Thank you for believing in me, Gregory. I can use all the faith I can get right now.

  8. I’m so pissed off at your parents that I don’t even know what to type.
    Fucking Gobsmacked doesn’t even touch it.

    Fuck their cruelty, and don’t fucking listen to it chica. Those of us who go through life trying to defeat our old ghosts and not let them rule our life need to practice saying this more often; FUCK OFF!

    Don’t pick up their garbage as yours Minna. Please.

    I miss you and love you and have been so caught up in my (not so rosy, at the moment life) that I haven’t looked much beyond my own nose.

    Fuck them, and I don’t care if they are your family. Some families need to learn what Love actually means and stop tying it in with guilt and destruction.

  9. whabs, oh, how I’ve missed your passion and fire. It’s so hard, girlfriend, not to absorb it when it’s been taught to me all my life. At this point, especially after the trip, I just take it as my due.

    I miss and love you, too, girl. I am sorry life is treating you cruelly right now. And, I am here to listen as well, if you need an ear.

  10. If I had your parents’ e-mail address right now, I would verbally kick some ass! How dare they hurt you this way? You appease them and “do the right thing” for your family, for Emma and they hurt you in this way? This is WRONG WRONG WRONG and somebody needs to tell them this! My beloved, Asian Rhoda…hope to see you Saturday.

  11. Kat, (also known as Kiki in this post), thanks for always having my back. You have been one constant in my life that has kept me going. I am so fucking grateful to have you as my best friend. See you Saturday.

  12. You are NOT grotesquely fat. Period. In fact, the last time I saw you in person, you looked fucking gorgeous.

    You can escape this. Their letters may have temporarily ‘worked’ by making you feel so bad about yourself you wanted to believe they will always control you. But their powers over you are weakening. I’ve already witnessed you standing up to them. And I’ve witnessed you bouncing back, too. GO, MINNA!

  13. Choolie, it’s so hard for me not to think of myself as grotesquely fat. I mean, even when I was at my skinniest, I thought I was fat. Now that I am quite possibly the heaviest I’ve ever been, it’s nearly impossible.

    I want to believe what you say, but I am just not there. Like I have said before, I am pretty much worn out right now.

  14. Geez Louise! I picked a bad day to stop by… or maybe not. Listen gurl, this situation ain’t rare, and damn sure ain’t exclusively an Asian thing either. I have a daughter who is 36, and a control freak ex-wife who feels it’s her right to issue an emotional flogging periodically. I don’t know why, but that’s not the point, the point is (and this is what I tell my daughter), you are a beautiful, wonderful, smart, funny, vivacious, caring, human being. If you have a shortcoming (besides being too sensitive for your own good)it’s that you are too steeped in your expectations of your parents. Much in the way that they are too steeped in their expectations of you. Sadly, they’re not too likely to change. They are, how they are. So that pretty much only leaves one alternative. You have to learn to change YOUR perception. You have to see yourself as an adult entity, with all the rights and privileges that go along with it, and that won’t be achieved by issuing manifestos, or moving out of the home, or isolating yourself from your parents. What you are seeking is not a location, it’s a state of mind, and flexibility is the key. Don’t let yourself be boxed in by reactionary thoughts and behaviors (Including hurting yourself! Knock that shit off!). Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Just sit still and let the turmoil go around you. You are under no obligation to embrace hurt just because someone throws something hurtful in your path. In fact, somethings you just have to let lay where they fall. This might be one of the those times. Chin up there, Minna! Better days are just around the corner. You’re going to do just fine!

  15. 2th&nayle, hey, another BJer! Welcome to my blog, and yeah, you picked a downer time to drop in. Thank you for commenting, though.

    I know the situation isn’t exclusively Asian–it’s just that we Asians have family enmeshment as our base, and we build on that. You are right in that I cannot change my parents. The only one I can change–is me.

    A running theme through this thread and others, from the commenters, is that I am an adult. I don’t much feel like one, and I am not exactly sure how to be one. I do know it’s time to let the three-year old rest, though. She’s damned tired of being in control.

    I like having different perspectives, so thanks again for dropping in. You are welcome to my blog any time.

  16. What can I say…Are you surprised at the letter? I think this is the springboard from you which cut, cut, cut them off. Taking the letters is a good idea to your therapist. This is the door through which you can step to get away from your parents unbelievable cruelty.
    My parents have been the same to me physically, mentally, and emotionally. But I do not rely on them for much of anything anymore. When I was in my 20’s, I spent a year not speaking to them while I lived in New York. It was very difficult, but from there I built my life physically, emotionally, and mentally. You can do it, Minna. Now is the time! x Sarah

  17. One thing that occurs to me as I read this posting: would you judge someone else as harshly as you judge yourself? I have the impression that you would not. If my impression is right, perhaps it would be worth trying some distancing next time you judge yourself. In other words, judge the person you are looking at as if you had met them as a stranger. The results might be surprising.
    On your parents’ letters – I think we often take out our own sense of failure on others by trying to organize them or lecture to them. In a way, it’s a mechanism for asserting some control over our personal narratives, but it’s easier because someone else has to pay the price. From what I have read here, it seems that your parents are trying to do this to you, and in so doing are evading their own issues.
    Finally, before I fade into the cyber-darkness, from my own observation, you write with talent and passion. I hope you’ll spend more time showing the world that you have much to offer.

  18. Sarah, I am surprised, and I am not surprised at the same time. I should have seen it coming, but I have been so punch-drunk since returning from Taiwan that I wasn’t prepared.

    You are correct that the time has come. It truly is now or never. I cannot live like this any more.

    morzer, another commenter from BJ (I’m assuming you’re the same morzer)! Woot woot. Welcome to my blog, and thank you for commenting.

    You are right that I would never judge anyone else as harshly as I judge myself. I fully acknowledge this. As for your suggestion, I am intrigued. I don’t know if I’d be able to distance myself enough to be so objective, but it can’t hurt to try.

    You make an important point on the letters. In fact, I will be touching on this in my next blog entry. My mother has two compulsions that she has to push on me no matter how often I ask her to refrain from commenting: Religion and weight. She can’t help but comment on the two. They are her issues, and she has to make them mine, too.

    Thank you for your encouraging words. They are much appreciated. Drop by my blog any time.