I am slowly coming to the realization that much of what I believe about myself and my family is, well, for a lack of a better word, shit. Let me explain (what, you thought you could stop me?). My family mythos consisted of a perfect-looking family with highly-educated immigrant parents who work their asses off to give their kids a chance at a better life in a country renowned for its freedom, advantages, and dreams. Well, I knew that was horseshit awhile ago, but I still clung to the belief that family was everything, blood was thicker than water, that I owed my parents everything. Yeah, sure my relationship with my father was strained, and I hated it when he touched me at all, but doesn’t everyone go through that with their families? As for my mother, yes we fought. Yes, we didn’t agree on much of anything. Yes, she threw me out of the car (not literally) when I told her I didn’t give a fuck about her god, but again, doesn’t everyone daughter struggle with her mother? We were close under it all–or so she kept telling me. I never felt close to her, but I always attributed that to my lack of trying. Or something.
About three years ago, I saw my father for the first time in a long time, and I was shocked at how old and frail he was. The thought that flashed through my mind was, “He can’t hurt me any more.” This was as I started to have images of abuse resurface, and I wasn’t able to stuff them back into a corner of my mind any longer. It was then that I realized exactly what my father was, and I lost much of my anger towards him. What’s more, I lost any desire to have a real relationship with him, and I let go of the dream that I would ever have a father. Granted, he wasn’t much of a father for most of my life, so it wasn’t that difficult to let go of any hope that he would shape up into one, but it was still a loss.
My brother and I have a very odd, but satisfying relationship. I am his emotional support, and he is my techie/homes repair support. I love him, and I know he loves me. That’s enough for me.
Love. It’s a touchy subject. I know my father doesn’t love me because he’s not capable of love. My mother on the other hand, I never questioned her love for me nor mine for hers–until now. I wrote her a letter in response to her letter about everything I’m doing wrong, and I was shaking as I sent it because I thought she would stop loving me if I ever was that blunt with her. I was as gentle as I could be, but I still felt like I was being brutal and cruel. I told three people what the letter said, and they all said I wasn’t being either. However, it would feel brutal, my therapist said, because I’d never done anything like it before. In fact, I have spent most of my life actively perpetuating the myths of my family–so of course any dissent feels brutal to me. I do believe my mother loves me as best she can, and I love her in turn.
On a personal bent, I crafted a defense that has kept me alive for all these years, but stuck in a very small, cramped, fearful place. There are many things about myself that I thought were true (or convinced myself were true) because I needed them to be true in order to survive. I no longer need them any more, but it’s painful to admit that it’s time to let go of huge hunks of me. Things that were bedrocks of my being.My therapist said, “Stones are very useful for building, but they can drown you if you’re trying to swim.” I added, “Unless you step on them or skip them away.”
One example: I pooh-poohed the idea of being in a relationship. I convinced myself that I didn’t want to be in a relationship when the truth was, I was afraid no one could stand being with me in a day-to-day, long-term relationship. I am still afraid that’s true, but I have to acknowledge that I would like to try a relationship on for size.
In addition, all the OCD things I talked about in the last entry are pretty outmoded as well. I created these elaborate thought rituals and imbued them with superstitions. Some of these rituals are silly–such as my need to count to twenty-five as fast as I can if I catch the clock on any quarter hour. My therapist asked what would happen if I didn’t do that, and I couldn’t give her an answer. I just had to do it, because, shut up, that’s why. Some of my more problematic issues (such as having to schedule my life weeks in advance, only able to do one social thing a day, etc) are less amusing. In addition, I have a few ideas of what I want to do next in life (and no, you don’t get to hear about them yet), and my limitations are…well…limiting me.
Here is a big one: I hate crowds, noise, and people. Some of it is a sensory thing (bright lights hurt my eyes; I’m allergic to all scents; loud sounds hurt my ears), but that’s not all of it. I have a weird ability to know the negative emotions of people surrounding me. Choolie mentioned it might be because of how vigilant I had to be as a kid to my father’s mercurial moods, and that’s some of it, but not all. I can tell who is being beaten, who is an abuser/potential abuser, etc. I can tell when someone is suicidal, deeply enraged, checked out, in pain, etc. Never the happy emotions, though. And, since I am sensitive to all outer stimuli, that means I’m overwhelmed with strong, painful emotions when I am in a crowd.
Still. That’s not the entire reason, either. There are just too many factors to control in a big crowd. Yes, I know that we don’t really control anything at all, but in a big crowd (say, the State Fair), even the illusion is impossible.
Here are some other things that I need to let go of/are no longer true: I am Depressed. Right now, I am not a happy camper, but I am no longer Depressed with a capital D. As I said before, being depressed was hellish, but it was a handy excuse for not accomplishing more in life. I mean, I was just trying not to kill myself on a daily basis! That was my daily accomplishment. Now, I no longer have that excuse. What’s more, though, I no longer am that person, and I’m struggling with how to function differently. After emerging from my shell, I realize that I have dreams and desires I desperately tried to tamp down through the depression.
Another self-image I have to battle: I’m weak. I am the dysfunctional member of the family, and I have served the role admirably for so many years. As long as the focus of the family could be on fixing me, we wouldn’t have to look at just how dysfunctional the entire family is. My friends keep telling me I’m strong. Constantly. Over and over. What’s more, they give me examples that make it hard for me to refute them (but, oh, how I try). I am kicking and screaming against adjusting my image of myself yet again, but I have to in order to thrive and not merely survive. In the same way, I believed that it wouldn’t matter if I died. Indeed, I thought of myself as a toxic presence on this earth, and I thought the best thing I could do was to die. That has been a particularly deep-seated belief of mine for such a very long time. I have slowly been letting go of that belief, but it hasn’t been easy. Each belief I shed clings to me like a second skin–and the fact that the demons are a Greek chorus in my head shouting their agreement with the negative beliefs doesn’t help one iota.
The entire image I created of myself was laid on shaky grounds. Like I said, I did what I had to do to survive, but it’s unnerving for me now because I have to give up so many of my core beliefs.
Which brings me to my body. As you’ve no doubt noticed, I have posted more of the pics that Kel took of me when I visited her in April. These are the more revealing pics (except for the one before the cut). As I was scaling the pics before uploading them, I kept thinking, “I should have asked Kel to airbrush out my scars and the mark from the waistband of my boxers, to give me a boob lift, and to erase some of my fat. Look at that double chin and those thick thighs and that bulging waist. Ew!” I kept focusing in on my flaws, and even now, I am hesitant about posting them (well, for many reasons, but mainly because I don’t like the way I look). As I have blogged about many times before, I have serious body issues. I have struggled against my body for over thirty years now. I have not been very kind to it (and I’m still not to this very day), and I have wished countless times that it would just go away (literally). I have abused it so much, and really, what has it ever done to me? The things that happened in my childhood and Thailand are not its fault, and yet, I see it as my enemy. That has to change.
I was telling Kel that I am slowly starting to realize that even though I still don’t like my body, I am trying to call a truce with it. I have done so many nasty things to my body, and yet, it still functions really well. It’s sturdy and hardy and allows me to do things I like to do (and yes, sex is near the top of that list). No matter how much I abuse it, it still soldiers on, carrying me, my brain, and my baggage with it. The moments of pure bliss I’ve had have very little to do with my brain and much to do with my body (and my senses).
Of course, there is the complication of society’s skewed views on women’s bodies and what they should look like. Younger women are hot and sexy (if they are thin), and older women are suddenly neutered. And, sadly, there is still the double standard that if a guy sleeps around, it’s either accepted as normal or the guy is admired as some stud. If a woman sleeps around, though, she is still a slut–and not in a good way. There is a Republican woman in SC running for governor, Nikki Haley, and two guys have said she’s had affairs with them. She is married, and at least one of her assumed lovers is, too. She’s a Family Values Republican, of course, so the hypocrisy (if it’s true) is disgusting. However, there are a long list of family values male Republicans who have been caught (for example, Mark Sanford, the man she’s trying to replace), and none of them were called sluts for sleeping around. Even Tiger Woods was not called a slut, and as Yutsy from BJ pointed out to me, his mistresses were treated even more harshly than he was. By the way, the fact that a woman who sleeps with a married man is a mistress, but a man who sleeps with a married woman has no special name, just as a man whose wife has an affair is cuckolded, whereas a woman whose husband has an affair has no special name speaks volumes as to how our society views the issue of an affair from a gender perspective. Then again, the fact that a woman who’s forty and has sex with a twenty year old is now a cougar while a man who’s forty and has sex with a twenty year old is not called anything except lucky by his friends is also indicative as to where we as a society stand as to women’s sexuality versus men’s sexuality.
But I digress, as is my wont. My point is that my hatred for my body is bound up in some complicated gender beliefs that permeate our society. I can’t do anything about the societal beliefs, but I can try to change my own warped beliefs. I have mentioned a time or fifty that I don’t like looking in mirrors. Therefore, I don’t really have a good idea as to what I look like. When I saw the pics Kel took of me, I was struck by how warm my eyes were. I really like what she did to my face (yeah, yeah, yeah, Kel, I hear you), even if I wasn’t thrilled about my body. What’s more, the overwhelmingly positive feedback I got helped me see, even if it was only briefly, that I have some misconceptions about the way I look, too.
So. I am posting the more revealing pictures for many reasons (one being that my friends keep telling me I have a great rack), but the chief one is–this is me. This is who I am. I don’t believe the body should be something of which to be ashamed. I hate the fact that women’s bodies are used to sell everything in America, but the sight of a nude female body (and one that is not touched up in any way) that is not selling anything is shameful. That is fucked up and twisted, and I think the female body is one of the most beautiful things in the world. OK, yes, I still have problems with the way my body looks, but I can admire the curve of my breasts or the definition in my forearms. And, of course, I love my hair and my tats. This is the real me–nothing hidden, airbrushed, touched up, or faked.
And I have to say, I think I’m almost beautiful in the last picture.