Reluctant Realizations

I am an adult.

I wanted to start out with that because I don’t often feel like an adult, and I don’t always act like one, either.   In addition, I don’t get treated like one in my family, especially when the whole family is together.  Once the baby, always the baby, I guess.

Secondly, I am punch-drunk stupid exhausted, so I apologize ahead of time if my words are less coherent than usual.  My sleep, quite frankly, sucks.  This is purely due to the stress.  I have taken to napping on the couch with my boys rather than sleeping in my bed, and I snatch a few hours here and there whenever I can.  They, of course, are delighted to be able to snooze with me.  It comforts me to have them snuggle with me, but then I wake up with sore eyes (I’m allergic, which is why they are not allowed in my bedroom).

I had my therapy session yesterday.  It was tough, but needed.  I realized some hard truths that I have been reluctant to put into words before now.   I brought print-outs of the letters from my parents to my session–the first time I’ve ever brought any communique to a session.  My therapist read the letters, and then we talked about them.  It tickled me to hear her say, “There’s a lot of shit in these letters” because she doesn’t swear very often.  True to her profession, after reading the letters, she wanted to know about what I wanted to talk.

We talked about my father’s letter first.  She called it predictable, and it really was.  All the stuff about responsibility to society was typical, but missing the point.  And, I realized that even though his letter was meaner in a way, it didn’t bother me as much.  Why?  Because I expect nothing less from him.  I was surprised he tossed the monetary figure in there because he’s not usually one to talk about how much things cost, but the rest of the letter was pretty standard for him.

Now, for the hard truths about my father.   I don’t even know if I can write them.  Deep breath.  Here we go.  If my father was not still married to my mother, I would have nothing to do with him.  He doesn’t matter to me in a personal or relevant way.  He doesn’t feel like my father or any other kin.  I don’t like him as a person.  I would never choose to be around him based on his personality.  I can deeply respect some of the things he’s done in his life (working for an independent Taiwan and for a better environment), and I can deeply disrespect other things he’s done (beat my brother until my mom made him stop, most likely molested me, had multiple affairs).   I love him in that vague, “Hey, you gave me life.  Thanks, I guess” kind of way.  Or rather, I feel obligated to him for that reason.   But, do I love him as a person?  No.  I don’t know him as a person, if, indeed, there is even a person in there to know.

It’s very hard for me to acknowledge this without being flooded with all kinds of guilt.  Since I was a kid, it was impressed upon me that nothing was more important than the family.  Nothing.  Yet, what looked so idyllic on the outside (firmly middle-class, highly-educated parents, going to church every Sunday) was so fucking dysfunctional inside the closed doors of the rambler house.

I am so incredibly sad right now.  I see the dysfunctional patterns continuing in my brother’s family.  I see that so much of what I was raised to believe is a crock of shit.   I see that my family is pretty much crumbling, and there isn’t much I can do about it.

I am an adult.  I wrote that at the top, but it’s hard for me to truly believe.  As I have mentioned several times, I believe the molestation started when I was seven.  I have since had a few flashbacks that have suggested it might have been a bit earlier with the more…um…not innocuous…lighter (for lack of a better word) stuff–like six.  However, in my last few therapy sessions, I alluded to the three-year old in me because many of my ways of coping with life were formed at that age.  I was told to be a good girl, and that, essentially, was what I was (despite how I look on the outside).

Some of my other coping skills (like the self-abuse) are from my late teen/early twenty years.  My therapist said I’m in adolescence now in regards to my parents.  I have to separate from them and ideate, which is most often started in the teen years.  However, my mother and I made a pact when I was around eleven that I would be her emotional buffer and confidante, and it’s a pact that I have a hard time giving up now.

My mother.  I have many much more complicated feelings when it comes to my mother than I do for my father.

First of all, I realized that she has two compulsions that she has to push on me no matter how many times I request she not say anything.  One is weight.  The other is religion.  As to the former, I have told her countless times that my weight is off-limits.  As someone who struggles with eating disorders, I don’t need someone else making critical comments about my weight.  Besides, I know she has her own issues with weight (she’s obsessed with the last five pounds and has tried all kinds of crazy diets), and while she’s quick to comment when I am fat (she said I was way over a weight that would be healthy), she never says anything about how unhealthy I am when I am underweight and fainting all the time.  So, we know it’s not about heath.  It’s about looks and what she perceives to be acceptable.  And, yes, I have told her several times that my weight is not to be discussed, but as I may have mentioned before, my mom is not exactly good with boundaries.

As to religion…well, it’s a thorny subject at the best of times.  Which these are not, by a long shot.  She knows I’m agnostic, but that doesn’t stop her from praying for my soul and sharing Bible verses.  I actually don’t care if she prays for my soul.  Have at it.  Whatever.  But the Bible verses?  Please.  I will confess that I did not read the verse she sent me other than it started with, “Trust in the Lord”.  However, the bit about reading life-affirming material, preferably the Bible, was laughable because I don’t find the Bible life-affirming at all.  And, I do read things that are life-affirming, to me.  This includes one of my all-time favorite graphic novels, Midnight Nation by J. Michael Straczynski.  It’s dark and twisted and bleak, and it’s life-affirming.

Here’s the thing.  I believe my mother meant well when she wrote here letter.  I also believe that she doesn’t quite grasp that if I become truly self-reliant, it isn’t going to resemble what she thinks it should look like.  I spent part of my therapy session talking about all the people I know who have made viable lives for themselves that look nothing like the ones she and my father have.

I am not going to get married and have kids.  I am not going back to grad school and getting my Ph.D.  I am not going to become born again and attend church every Sunday.  I am not going to be a size two again (although I would like to be a size two again).  The thing is, if I did all that, then my parents would just find something else to worry about/bitch about concerning my life.  I’m a slob; I don’t cook; I write naughty things.   My family does not watch me perform (except when I was in actual theater, and then, only my mom came to see me), and they do not read my writings.  I gave a short story to my mother to read once, and I made sure it had no violence or sex in it.  Well, very little sex in it.  Her first comment?  “There’s so much swearing in it.”  I never showed her another piece again.

Another thing I don’t think my mother realizes is that once I become self-sufficient, that means she is on her own.  I am not going to abandon her, of course, but I do not want to be her confidante.  I do not want to hear about her troubles with my father or other relatives.  I do not want to have to be her emotional support because she has no friends she feels comfort unloading upon.  Like I said, I am not going to cut her off completely, but I am going to approach it from more equal footing.

In addition, the part in which she wrote that I was unhappy was only half-right.  As my therapist pointed out, I am not happy in my family.  When I went to Taiwan, it was the first time I was seeing my father after I had the flashbacks.  It was not, needless to say, comfortable for me.  Plus, my family’s idea of fun is very different than mine, and my therapist pointed that out, too.  She said when I write back to my mother, I can say, “Mom, it is hard for me to be happy in our family because of all the tensions.”  My immediate response was, “That’s cruel.”

My therapist said that because I had been forced to hold out a picture of the ideal family to the world (and to internalize it to a great extent), anything I say that differentiates in the slightest feels cruel.  She added that I would have to trust her and my friends to tell me what is and isn’t cruel.

Anyway, back to my mother’s letter.  She also said something about interpersonal relationships bringing happiness.  I confess that I skimmed most of the letter, so I am relying on my memory and the snippets that my therapist read out loud.  In that area, I am much luckier than either of my parents.  I have always had friends who truly love me for me, and I know I can call them up at three in the morning in case of an emergency.  I don’t think either of my parents could say that about their friends.

My friends bring me much happiness, as do my cats, my writing, performing when I do it, watching Alan Rickman do just about anything, sex, flirting, interacting with like-minded people, and, in rare moments, just being at peace with myself.  My version of happiness doesn’t look like either of my parent’s version of happiness, which is kind of the whole point of individuating.

For too long, I have been focused on what would make them happy (assuming they even know) or the appearance of happiness rather than what would make me happy.  I would get depressed because I could never live up to their expectations, often times forgetting that even if I did what would make them happy, I would be pretty damn miserable.   And, let’s face it, like I said, they would always find something at fault with me.  I said at one point that my skinny missionary cousin who likes to shop is the daughter that my mother should have had.  Choolie said, “If she had been your mother’s daughter, she wouldn’t have turned out that way.”  Which is very true.

So.  Today, I got together with Natasha.  We had Thai food.  Then, we went to pick up a painting her hubby bought for her for her birthday (she picked it out).  The studio called The Casket Company had open studio night the first Thursday of every month, so we wandered around before heading up to the right studio.  I was immediately drawn to a series of small paintings with a small, big-headed guy doing different things.  I really liked one called Fog, but then I was called by one in which the figure was weeping.  I talked to the artist a bit.  Linnea Maas Doyle.  Natasha got one of the robot figures, and he had a cowboy hat on his head.   I left my little guy, but we went back up to ask the name of Natasha’s painting, and I had to buy my little guy.  The older series is Ballguy.  The series from which my little guy came is called Ballbaby.  She doesn’t have any pics on her website, but imagine the Zoloft cloud head on a rag doll’s body.  The piece is called, Why So Sad on the Ponte Santa Trinita?.  The Ponte Santa Trinita is a bridge in Florence.

I am not someone who decorates.  I only put rock posters on my walls when I was a kid.  I never decorated a dorm room (except for putting a copy of The Scream, my favorite painting, over my bed one year in college.  My roommate and I had bunk beds, and I had the lower bed).  I never decorated any of my work space, and I have no decorations in this house.  I have never bought a painting before, and I decided that I would buy my little guy as my first purchase for my own space as an adult.  It was reasonably-priced, and I really liked him.  I already know that I am going to hang him in my computer room when I get my own space.  Right now, he is in my bedroom, away from my curious boys.

I am so very tired and so very sad.  It’s time for the three-year old to rest.  She no longer has to do the heavy lifting around here.  It’s time for the grown-up, the adult Minna to take charge.  As soon as I get a decent night’s sleep.

9 Responses to Reluctant Realizations

  1. Someone much wiser than me once told me that people are reluctant to change bad situations because “they prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.” But the uncertainty leads to new skills and mastery… and that’s the road to happiness.


  2. Ooooo! I like Linnea’s stuff. And isn’t it awesome – you can drive a nail into YOUR wall. You can put up something you like, something that speaks to and about you? Congratulations!

  3. Just stopped in to see if you had posted today. Glad to see it, but it looks like it was a struggle. That’s OK, the throes of metamorphosis are always difficult! Keep up the hard work Minna. Things will smooth out for you after you establish a firmer foothold. Looking forward to seeing you over in Juicerville soon! In the meantime, get some rest!

  4. Her first comment? ”There’s so much swearing in it.” I never showed her another piece again.

    Good Ford. This woman is a PhD and an academic? Then she must know that even if you plan to be critical of something, it helps to find something to compliment first. How cruel. I’d never, I hope, piss on something one of my own daughters created like that.

    It’s like I and several others said before regarding her refusal to respect your boundaries on the issues of weight and religion — for all that you do for her under the pact, she refuses to treat you with the same respect she probably would accord a stranger.

    My therapist said that because I had been forced to hold out a picture of the ideal family to the world (and to internalize it to a great extent), anything I say that differentiates in the slightest feels cruel.

    Which means you’re carrying the burden of pretending everything’s ideal in your family all by yourself, with no help from your parents. Now, that’s cruel, and it enables them to get away with all kinds of bad behavior. I don’t believe any family is ideal, but for the ones that work, everyone has to work at it. Your parents couldn’t be plainer that they aren’t going to budge.

    Well, boink that. Family is a two-way street, and if she, no less so than your father, won’t treat you as family is due, then you have no obligations. Easier said than done, I know, but I still think these letters ought to be the push-off point. They’re really beyond the pale.

    I know it’s going to be hard for you, Minna, but know that you have lots of support from people who love you and, what’s more, are happy to show it.

  5. Good for you! I’m happy that you are to some extent able to throw off your father’s negativity. And while I understand family attachment, I also think distancing yourself from your mother would be healthy for both of you.

    Definitely get some sleep, but I’m happy for you and your ability to work towards your happiness.

  6. Alex, I agree with that wise person. I also know that to continue doing what I’m doing leads to certain misery that I no longer can endure. Thus, change is a necessity, not a choice at this point.

    Choolie, yeah. I already know, in my mind, where the picture will go when I have my own place. In the computer room, on the wall behind my desktop so I can look at my little guy whenever I need a reminder that I am doing things my way now.

    2th&nayle, yeah, I’ve not been over at BJ much in the last few weeks for many reasons. I like to stick to the night crowd for the most part, and I’ve been sleeping during the time I usually post. Thank you for your confidence. I need all the damn support I can get!

  7. Gregory, my mom is the only one in my family to support me at all in my artistic endeavors. I give her credit for that. Yet, like most things in my life, she shies away from the darker aspects of my personality, of which there are many. I pretty much gave up showing any of my creative work to anyone in my family. As I have said, starting this blog was difficult for me because of the content. Not just about my family, but about the darkness and the sexuality and religion, and oh my god, the fucking swearing.

    As to your point about me being the one who has to do the heavy lifting, you are right. My mother blithely ignores the boundaries I set, and my father…well, he does whatever he wants. Therefore, the pact is an uneven one because I am the one who is supposed to respect them and what they want without any reciprocation. It’s hard for me to accept that, but it’s true. And, it’s also hard for me to admit that the more I give in, the more they encroach.

    And, thank you for your continual unwavering support. I truly appreciate it.

    Kali, thanks, babe. With my father, it just…is. I have no feelings for him, except the occasional surge of rage and loathing. For the most part, though, nothing. It makes me incredibly sad, but there it is.

    As for my mother, yes, separation is the key. And my relationship with her is by far the trickier one.

    Meeting your mother and your whole family has added a richness to my life for which I am thankful.

    Sleep. I hate it. It can fuck off.

  8. Just wait til you spend a whole weekend with The Scientist, the Kellions, and me. You’ll realize that a chosen family is so much better than the biological ones sometimes.