Denial Is A River

Lately, I’ve been trying out (again) Julia Cameron’s suggestion to write three pages a day first thing upon waking. The idea is to just write and brain dump everything out of your head and that will kickstart creativity. Even if you have nothing to say, you write, “I have nothing to say” (or something similar) for three pages.

It’s been less than a week.

Who knew my brain would freeze so early on in this daily process? I feel as if my thoughts are chugging through molasses. I didn’t think I’d have to resort to, “I have nothing to say,” over and over again for at least a few more weeks. I suppose constant interruption by Glow Worm isn’t helping but that can’t be helped. Otherwise, when would I get anything done?

I have to get used to this new reality. Which is hard because I insist on eating uninterrupted or reading or writing or cleaning or whatever. Of course, when I try to do these things during the day, I am interrupted constantly.

I hate that.

No, seriously. I truly despise it. So I try to cram in a whole day’s worth of stuff from 9pm-6am. No wonder I get nothing done because by 9pm, I just want to do fun things – certainly not write or do work or anything remotely resembling productivity.

Dr. T has repeatedly told me that I just have to get used to doing things in small ten minute increments during the day. Hapa Papa, too. But it is frustrating and I don’t care that I am in complete denial. LET ME JUST DO SHIT IN BLESSED PEACE AND QUIET ALREADY!

However, the other day, I was reading a recent Christianity Today article and the writer talked about how she was no longer able to have quiet times now that she is a mother. And that’s Ok. And her relationship with God still grew.

I can’t believe that was a crazy thought to me. OF COURSE her relationship with God could still grow. And yet the article was freeing. In fact, I DO think a relationship with God has to look a certain way – you know, like a college student with a moleskin journal, some hipster glasses, sitting in a cafe drinking tea leisurely or staring at a beach or something.

Not only that, I expect mealtimes or errands or cleaning or writing to look a certain way, too. In relative ease and silence. On a laptop in a cafe. Or in blocks of uninterrupted time. Which is crazy because that is no longer a reality. Or a remote possibility. Unless Hapa Papa doesn’t work and stays at home with the kids. (But then, we’d have no money or food so either way, these situations would not resemble my fantasies.) But even if he were at home, he wouldn’t particularly care for it if I left the kids to him the whole day (which I have done) all the time just so I could eat, run errands, clean, or write. He really is a saint.

I think a lot of times, I am so angry or frustrated because what I’m experiencing in a given moment is not what I had hoped or expected or wanted. Which is so crazy because how long have I been a parent? 5+ years now? HOW CAN I STILL BE SURPRISED THAT THIS IS MY LIFE?

But perhaps I’ve lived in denial so long (eg: lying about my father, to my father, to my family, lying about work to myself re: financial advising, lying to myself about my major or WHATEVER) that I’ve lost the ability to correctly see reality – especially as it pertains to me and what I want or desire.

OMG.

I just realized that I am rather inflexible a person. I am not as I previously prided myself in being – an easy-going person.

I have turned into my mother.

I am reminded of the high/low maintenance concept. (I always thought I was a low maintenance woman. But really, I am – according to Hapa Papa – the worst kind of high maintenance. I’m high maintenance but pretend I’m low maintenance.) It’s an alternative version of the Madonna/whore complex. Just another way to control women. To keep them in their place. To make us want to please men by having us compete and compare with one another.

But I digress. (And one day, I will write my overdue rant about high/low maintenance and how that is all just a crock of shit. But again, I digress.)

It’s like how I am with the kids. Easy going until I’m not. And you never really know when that threshold will be crossed. How are my kids ever to know when Mommy is going to be ok with something or not? Talk about walking on eggshells.

It reminds me of my father forcing me to listen to classical music and saying when he comes back, he should be able to stop a piece anywhere and I should be able to sing the next few bars accurately. Otherwise there would be consequences. Not sure what they would have been, but whatever. I would panic and right before my father came back to visit, I would play the tape over and over again (especially while I slept) so that I wouldn’t get in trouble. It didn’t matter. My father never remembered. (But what a way to kill enjoyment of a thing, yeah?)

My father really was a dick.

Where was I going with this? Oh, yes. Denial.

I think I would be much happier if I saw things as they really were: messy, chaotic, and full of frustration. Then, when my children didn’t miraculously eat everything quickly and silently, or when I inevitably ran late for school, or whatever, I wouldn’t go insane with fury.

I have more to say about Reality and Denial and perfectionism and how I often perceive people making truthful observations as judgmental and personally insulting, but it’s late and this post is meandering enough. I will expound upon that in some future post. Until then, we’ll see if calibrating my expectations to align more with reality makes a difference. Hopefully, that isn’t just another, subtler form of denial.

Wish me luck, friends! And give me some tips. How do you deal with your reality when it is not what you hoped?

Baby, I’m Back!

The hardest part about taking a hiatus from writing is getting back into it. I keep postponing writing and updating my blog, not because I have nothing to say, but because I’ve been a bit tired from the holidays and traveling.

But now that I’m forcing myself to start up again because, hey, new year, it may be a few posts before I get my writing legs back.

So… what has the Mandarin Mama Family been up to? Here are some recent highlights:

1) We went to Taiwan for two weeks with my brother’s family and my mother. Lots of visiting family, eating yummy food, and taking the kiddos to do fun things. (More on this in another post.)

2) Of course, because I was in Taiwan, I broke down and bought a few more “educational” items. But thankfully, since I was just there in July, I didn’t have too much more to purchase.

3) I hired an organizer and Jenn from Jenn’s Pretty Organized transformed my house. Every time I walk into my garage and my front room, I am super happy. I still have some work to do (nothing like the holidays and traveling to make a house insane again), but I will definitely talk more about my experience in a later post.

Just know that if you have organizational issues with your house and life, Jenn will change your life. She will make you sane. She is fantastic.

4) For the first time in several years, I failed to meet my GoodReads Book Challenge. I am somewhat bummed until I remember that I still managed to read over a hundred books in 2014. Yes, this is a humble brag.

5) I only managed to get a few things crossed off my “Get Done By Year End” list. I worry that now since my artificial deadline is over, I won’t do anything until the end of THIS year. Key things that don’t seem important but I want to get done anyway: 2014 Family Yearbook and Glow Worm’s Baby Book.

6) Finally made appointments for my three kids’ well-baby checkups. (They’re a few months overdue.) Nothing like a measles outbreak to spur me into action.

7) There was a lower than usual turnout for my annual New Year’s Eve party. I was pretty disappointed, but then, I realized that the party itself was a little more enjoyable for me because the flow was a lot more reasonable and I actually got to talk to a lot more people.

8) I was so happy that my nephew got along well with my kids. They were so cute together.

9) Since we just got back from Taiwan on Wednesday, jetlag is still kicking our butts. My older two kids are mostly switched over, but poor Glow Worm! He’s all time-shifted. He slept until 1pm this afternoon and screamed his brains out for several hours last night. (The past few nights, actually. And tonight as well.) I will be better about waking him up tomorrow (it helps that I have to take the other two kids to school and have a playgroup at my house) and hopefully, I won’t give into the temptation of letting him nap excessively.

10) I have finally unpacked from our trip as well as put away lots of things that needed to be put away in their proper spaces (eg: putting clothes in my new closet!). Also, I sold several items that we no longer use (due to the reorg) and I’m pretty pleased about that. It doesn’t exactly recoup the money we spent, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

Ok. That is all my frazzled brain and hungry tummy can handle tonight. I missed you guys. Talk to you all soon.

Despicable Me

My thoughts are slippery, refusing to be pinned down. Every time I try to peer into myself head on, I catch my real feelings in my peripheral vision, already slinking back into the recesses of my secret, dark heart. When I still myself, a rising panic sits heavy in my chest; overwhelming.

I twitch.

It’s that feeling you get when you want to wail and gnash your teeth and weep but you are afraid to start. Or maybe, you do let some tears gasp out because they can no longer be contained, spillover water in a lock and key, but you don’t dare to really let it out. Even while sobbing into your hands in the nursery and your baby boy is toddling around, somewhat confused at what his mommy is doing, you don’t dare let yourself go.

What if you can’t stop? What if you cry yourself hollow? What if you cry so much that your insides are sucked out and then what are you going to do with yourself now that your insides are on the outside and your outside is stretched and gaping and loose and no longer tightly wrapped and ill-fitting and totally useless?

What are you going to do now if you are completely undone?

So you stop.

You stuff everything back into your too small chest and you wait it out. You breathe. You think of something else. You look at your baby boy and smile through the burning in your lungs. You check your phone. Facebook will rescue you. It always does.

That thick, dense boulder is no longer laying siege to your chest.

You get up and close the door.

There is a reason I keep dithering while writing this post. It’s been brewing in my psyche for months now, and coming to the forefront especially this past week.

It is an ugly thing to see your own sin laid bare.

Every so often, when we are discussing my father and my paternal grandmother, my mother mentions that my grandmother acted as if other people weren’t “people” (人家不是人). That in my grandmother’s eyes, only she and my father were “people” and everyone else was contemptible and stupid and worthy only of their disregard. And that is the reason my father never accepts responsibility for his actions, always blaming other people for “forcing” him to act in reprehensible ways. The reason why my father is always seething when other people, even his friends, succeed and surpass him. How could it be possible that people, who are so much stupider and less talented than he, have a better business/career/house/bank account/family when he is clearly far more deserving?

There is a Chinese phrase, “看不起 (kan bu qi)” which means “despise.” Literally, “can’t look upon.” Personally, I think the literal translation is far better at capturing its contempt and scorn.

“You have no idea how you sound, do you? The way you speak to me. To your mother. To your grand aunt. To my mother. To everybody. How you make everyone feel like they’re so unbelievably fucking stupid. Do you think so little of us that we can’t tell? That it isn’t obvious with every word out of your mouth? How dare you? How dare you?

I drown in shame.

When Cookie Monster was first starting to walk, he would often stumble and fall. I remember one of the first times he fell, I ran to his side and I hit the floor with my hand saying, “Bad floor! Bad floor!”

I froze.

A memory popped into my mind, crystal clear, of my grandmother doing the exact same thing when I was a child.

I never did that again.

This past week, a thought has been floating in and out of my mind. Occasionally, I catch a full glimpse of it before I banish it to the nether regions of my soul. Sometimes, I chase the thought down, trying to grasp it before it wisps out like smoke through my closing fist. Usually, I just change the song on the radio.

But it whispers back, sleek and seductive.

Other people aren’t ‘people’ to me until I hurt them.

The thought terrifies me. But it is not a surprise.

“Why are you being so mean to her? Can’t you try to imagine how she must be feeling? To meet you and Mom for the first time? As if meeting Mom weren’t intimidating enough, you’re being an asshole. Stop it. I care about her a lot. And if you’re going to be this way, I won’t want to come home anymore. So stop. Give her a chance. Be nice.”

Until that moment, I had only seen her as someone who wasn’t good enough for my brother (whatever that means and incidentally, is not true) and not as a person. Until my brother pulled me aside to rip me a new one, she wasn’t real. Only when I realized that I hurt her did I consider her a person in her own right.

This was not an isolated occurrence. To her or to other people.

Well here it is then. My not-so-secret confession: I believe that other people aren’t “people.” Only I am human. Only am a person.

At times, if I am feeling generous, I see my friends and family as extensions of myself so they are lent “person” status. Their injuries are my injuries. Their joys my joys.

But left to my default state, other people are obstacles. Roadblocks to getting what I want. If people aren’t interfering with my objectives, then I am easy going and pleasant. But as soon as we are in conflict, I suit up. And I play to win.

I get mine.

And then, if I hurt someone (as is inevitable), I am never quite sure if I feel bad because I hurt someone or because I don’t want to be seen as the type of person who hurts others.

You would think that I would at least consider my immediate family “people.” But alas, no. In true fact, I am worst to my family. After all, there are social consequences if I am a complete asshole to my friends and other people. That, at least, keeps me in check. Who, except those who have no choice, would put up with that shit from me?

It is hard to be my children. My husband. My mother. I am a hard person to be with.

I am a fucking two year old.

When I look back on my childhood memories, I have few of my mother. I’m not sure if it was because she wasn’t there, or if my father’s presence was so large, so looming, so hard, that he squeezed her out. I adored my father. His betrayal broke me. It isn’t until this past decade that I feel as if my mother has slowly, ever so slowly, emerged as a person in my mind.

The thought of this makes me weep.

I have no soft memories of my mother. No memories of her love, of her kindness. I mostly just see her, slightly out of focus, hovering in the background. Weak, unable to protect herself – let alone me. Steamrolled by my father.

You would think that now that I am a mother, I would be able to understand or empathize with my own mother better. That I would somehow grasp how my mother feels about me. How she must love me. I mean, if she loves me even a fraction of how I love my children, her love must be vast and unending. She has thirty-six years of loving me compared to my five of loving Cookie Monster. How much more must she love me.

And yet, when we fight, she is my enemy. I cannot fathom her coming at me from a place of love and concern. That she says things out of love and not as an attack.

I remember once, when I was particularly vicious, her pleading with me. Begging. Why did I think she was always attacking me? How could I even think that of her? That she only ever wanted to love me and would never dream of saying things to hurt me.

It is healing to watch her adore my children. Every now and then, it occurs to me that she must have loved me in the same way. Or at least, wanted to.

I don’t know. I can’t remember.

After witnessing years of my father crushing my mother, beating her down, I vowed to myself that I would never let anyone treat me this way. Ever.

And so, instead of turning into my mother, I am become my father.

My therapist says I do this because this was how I protected myself from my father when I was a child. That it is appropriate Hapa Papa says I “suit up” or “gear up for battle” (often with my children) because that’s what I am doing. I am putting on a suit of armor, this inability to see other people as human, in order to protect myself because no one protected me when I was small. And that this defense mechanism has worked for awhile, but now no longer fits. That I now see everyone as an enemy – even my children. That it is time to let some parts of this armor go.

I am terrified.

Jesus, have mercy.