Posts tagged with "mother"

backstory

It’s taken me a gen­er­ous dis­tance, as well as a healthy break from the pain, to real­ize I don’t under­stand what my mom thought of me. In my ear­li­est years, I believed she loved me, cause none of her demands were unrea­son­able. After all, chil­dren are often help­less and don’t even know what’s best for them­selves. Then I grew up, and devel­oped an iden­tity of my own. That meant I had dis­tinc­tive needs sep­a­rate from hers, and she would deny every one of them unless they were in line with what she wanted. It was impos­si­ble for me to believe there was any love at all when she was the cause of so much of my pain. I’ve since come to real­ize that rela­tion­ships are full of nuances, and that it’s pos­si­ble to love some­one whole­heart­edly and be ter­ri­ble for them at the same time.

Continue read­ing “backstory”…

mother dearest

The last time I saw my mom was on a trip she took to see me in Ottawa, along with a few other fam­ily mem­bers vis­it­ing from out of the coun­try. I had table ten­nis prac­tice one night, and instead of drop­ping me off, they decided to come watch. So five of us piled into her van, and halfway through the drive, my vision started grow­ing blurry. I’d been work­ing full shifts, then enter­tain­ing the guests every night, and my body decided it didn’t want to con­tinue coop­er­at­ing. With the aches get­ting sharper in my head, I told her I couldn’t play. She sharply asked why. I explained.

My mother has always been an emo­tional dri­ver, and on top of that an “emo­tional” per­son when she doesn’t get her way. With me rid­ing shot­gun, she decided to make a U-turn into oncom­ing traf­fic. It was an attempt to go home in a huff, except there are things to con­sider when doing this in a vehi­cle, like the fact that every­one around you is also mov­ing in their own giant metal sledge­ham­mer. When we crossed over the median, I saw an SUV head­ing towards me at full speed, and in that moment, there was only the dis­tinct real­iza­tion that this is how I died. It was some­thing I’d always won­dered, and the sat­is­fac­tion of my curios­ity was greater than any sense of fear of what was about to hap­pen1.

But we were saved by the grace and reflexes of the per­son dri­ving the SUV, who slammed on his/her brakes, and there was no col­li­sion. My mom con­tin­ued speed­ing back home in her mood, like she hadn’t nearly maimed us all. I knew in that moment she didn’t care about me or my well being; all she cared about was how she couldn’t show off her son in front of the fam­ily, and how that made her look.

I never looked her in the eyes after that. And when she left, I never saw her again. It was already her last chance. Proof that I still didn’t mean any­thing to her as a per­son, that I was just an orna­ment to her my entire life.

Fast for­ward many years later. A phase where I find myself learn­ing about hate and for­give­ness, how to let go of one and prac­tice the other. I decide to con­tact her again, let­ting her know that I’m not ready to for­give her yet, but I’m open to talk­ing. She asked what there was to for­give, as if she had no idea what she did wrong. I thought it was an odd thing to say; after all, how did she explain why we hadn’t spo­ken in years? I made no assump­tions though, and brought up a few things to refresh her mem­ory, the inci­dent above being one example.

All she could say was that she was going through a dif­fi­cult mar­riage, so I should under­stand why she acted the way she did. Then she meekly tried to mask her guilt with excuses about mak­ing sac­ri­fices for me, as if a child’s accep­tance or for­give­ness is some­thing that can be bought and this is why she owes me noth­ing. Through it all, she refused to apol­o­gize, or even acknowl­edge that she ever hurt me. Perhaps say­ing sorry would mean admit­ting to her­self that she’s done these hor­ri­ble things to her only child, her fault things got so bad he cut off all ties, and that real­ity would be too dif­fi­cult for her to deal with. To this day, she’s in com­plete denial about her role in any of my suf­fer­ing, and she doesn’t even care enough about me to feel bad about it.

I’m learn­ing to accept that my mom would rather give up the chance at rec­on­cil­ing than do some­thing as sim­ple as apol­o­gize, cause it means her sense of pride is more impor­tant to her than her only child. This is exactly what makes her a bad par­ent. Separating myself from her so many years later was just as easy as the first time.

If only I wasn’t still deal­ing with the after-effects of her influ­ence; I’m only now learn­ing not to judge myself the way she did the entire time we were in con­tact, how not to hate myself for being less than per­fect, how not to feel worth­less when I don’t have con­stant val­i­da­tion. So many of my demons can be traced back to her. Parents are sup­posed to nur­ture, instill­ing strength and con­fi­dence and sta­bil­ity, while help­ing their chil­dren explore a sense of iden­tity. Instead, she dan­gled love and favour and reward in front of me only if I met some ridicu­lous stan­dard in school or played the piano or did exactly as she bid. Otherwise, I was a bad per­son, the child she didn’t want.

It’s been some­what trau­ma­tiz­ing to re-experience these trig­gers again when try­ing to resolve issues I’m deal­ing with now. Sometimes I hate myself for being so bro­ken, but it’s eas­ier to for­give my mis­takes and accept myself when I real­ize such a toxic per­son has had so much influ­ence on my life.

  1. Although maybe that was also cause I knew it was a sit­u­a­tion com­pletely out of my con­trol. []

Damaged Goods

I have to write this so I can admit it to myself.

I have to write this because I can’t think of any­thing else nowa­days, except for how hard it is to get out of bed in the morning.

I’ve been read­ing a book my ther­a­pist rec­om­mended to me a long time ago, the one that deals with life­traps. In one of the first chap­ters, it goes through each life­trap by first explain­ing a “core need”, which is some­thing a child should have in order to thrive. It goes through exam­ples on how we should have been raised, and how a healthy mind will grow from that. Then it explains how the life­trap may develop if that core need isn’t met, by giv­ing exam­ples of destruc­tive child­hood environments.

And for almost every life­trap in the book, I saw my own child­hood in those exam­ples of destruc­tive envi­ron­ments, such as the one about “Self-esteem”:

Self-esteem is the feel­ing that we are worth­while in our per­sonal, social, and work lives. It comes from feel­ing loved and respected as a child in our fam­ily, by friends, and at school.

Ideally we would all have had child­hoods that sup­port our self-esteem. We would have felt loved and appre­ci­ated by our fam­ily, accepted by peers, and suc­cess­ful at school. We would have received praise and encour­age­ment with­out exces­sive crit­i­cism or rejection.

But this may not have hap­pened to you. Perhaps you had a par­ent or sib­ling who con­stantly crit­i­cized you, so that noth­ing you did was accept­able. You felt unlov­able.

As an adult, you may feel inse­cure about cer­tain aspects of your life.

When I was read­ing that, all I could think of was one spe­cific inci­dent from my child­hood. I was young enough that my mom would bathe me, and she would do it in the en suite bath­room of the mas­ter bed­room. One day, she came to dry me off with a towel, and both the bath­room door and the bed­room cur­tains were open. I told her to close the door, because I was self-conscious about being seen naked by the neigh­bours across the street. I was really upset about it, and instead of walk­ing two feet to close the door, she laughed and said, “You’re no Tom Cruise”, and left it open. From that point, I’ve had this irre­press­ible feel­ing that I’m never attrac­tive enough for some­one to even be inter­ested in see­ing me naked.

And that was just one exam­ple. My child­hood was filled with so many such mem­o­ries, each one branch­ing into other lifetraps.

I’ve never won­dered why I have self-esteem issues. I fuck­ing hate how self-conscious I am, because I know the extent of that self-consciousness isn’t nor­mal. I’ve strug­gled with issues like that my entire life, and I can trace every­thing back to my par­ents. It fills me with rage to know that they dam­aged me to the point where I feel so over­whelmed by my flaws that some­times I’d rather be dead.

If I were ever to com­mit sui­cide — and at this point I feel like I can’t rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of this any­more — I’d say that my par­ents would be 55% respon­si­ble1, with my mom shar­ing more of that blame than my dad.

I hope she reads this one day. I hope my entire fam­ily reads this. I hope all my cousin’s moms read this, because they usu­ally try to defend her. I want every­one to know that if I die by my own hand one day, I blame my mom more than any­thing else in the world. I want par­ents to know that they have a respon­si­bil­ity to their kids because they’re peo­ple too, that they have to treat them prop­erly, and that I was an exam­ple of what hap­pens when you don’t.

This is start­ing to sound like a sui­cide note, and it’s scar­ing me. Good thing I’ve always been a ratio­nal per­son, and I still rec­og­nize that sui­cide is an irra­tional deci­sion for me at this moment. Sometimes, I watch sui­cide videos just to shock myself into real­iz­ing how final, irre­versible, and hor­ri­ble that deci­sion is.

I’m at a lot bet­ter than where I was two years ago, before I went to ther­apy, but I’m still far from being fixed. I can admit that to myself now.

  1. The other 45% being my own inabil­ity to deal with these things, but I attribute that to tem­pera­ment, which is inborn and hence not their fault. []

Surviving Mooncake

A few weeks ago, I received a pack­age wrapped in brown paper at work. It took me a few moments before I rec­og­nized the return address; from the woman who birthed me (I pre­fer not to use the term “mom” any­more). I didn’t want to open it, because my first sus­pi­cion was that it was a box of ears. Why ears? Well, I’ve seen Oldboy, and let’s just say that in the movie, the main char­ac­ter does some­thing sim­i­lar as an act of penance to some­one he wronged.

This woman can also have a twisted sense of logic, and it wouldn’t me sur­prised if she cut off her ears, along with some­one else’s, to show that she was try­ing to make up for the way she treated me by pun­ish­ing her­self, along with another poor, unfor­tu­nate soul who donated their ears to the cause. But it was heavy, and curios­ity fre­quently gets the best of me, so I opened it, and dis­cov­ered it was a box of moon­cakes. Four moon­cakes, to be pre­cise, and the expen­sive kind with the dou­ble yolk. Then I real­ized it was the Mid-Autumn Festival, so this kind of del­i­cacy wasn’t so out-of-the-ordinary.

My next thought was that they were laced with arsenic. Who knows what this woman is think­ing; every now and then she goes fuck­ing crazy. I told my office-mate, who said, “They aren’t poi­soned! Your mom’s just try­ing to reach out to you.” I didn’t believe her, so she said she’d take one home and feed it to her fam­ily to prove it to me.

Unfortunately, my co-worker is only in the office once a week. So there I was at home on the week­end, with these deli­cious, though poten­tially poi­soned, moon­cakes on my counter, wait­ing to see my co-worker in six days so she could tell me if she started devel­op­ing any signs renal failure.

Part of me was also think­ing I should just throw them out. By eat­ing them, I was accept­ing the ges­ture by this woman — in other words, for­giv­ing her — which was def­i­nitely not the case.

The thing is, I’ve always had a weak­ness for moon­cake. Those heavy, deli­cious lit­tle pas­tries that are only made more spe­cial by the fact that they’re only avail­able twice a year (the other time being Chinese New Year).

So I told myself she was just repay­ing part of the debt she caused from men­tal anguish, and there went my pride. I ate just eat a lit­tle piece — an eighth of one cake — and waited a few hours to see if I started expe­ri­enc­ing vom­it­ing, nau­sea, or seizures. Then one piece led to another, and by the time I knew it, half a cake was gone.

Mooncake

This was sup­posed to be a pic­ture of a box of moon­cakes, but this is all I have left now.

I’m still alive.

Kar-Ma

If you beat a dog, don’t be sur­prised if he runs away.

—let­ter to my uncle, March 2008

When I was a child my mom would always ask me if I’d let her live in a nurs­ing home. She would do this as a form of reas­sur­ance, a way of address­ing her inse­cu­rity about dying alone. To Chinese peo­ple, this is a fate worse than death. I under­stand that there may be med­ical con­di­tions or other cir­cum­stances that make it imprac­ti­cal for a fam­ily mem­ber to live in your house, but that doesn’t change the fact that being put in a nurs­ing home is like wait­ing to die.

At the time, I was too young to under­stand the grav­ity of such a ques­tion, so I would always reas­sure her, no. Maybe I even loved her at that point, and meant it. But I’ve since cut off all ties with her, and after the divorce, she has no one left. Her rel­a­tives lead their own lives, and she’s never had enough of a per­son­al­ity to make any friends. I’ve lived with her long enough to under­stand what a hol­low, empty exis­tence she has.

Now I’m old enough to know that she’ll die alone.

And that it’ll be exactly what she deserves.