My aunts and uncles are well aware of the conflict I have with my parents. They’ve since become a surrogate family; the ones I call on Mother’s and Father’s Day, the people I visit when I go to Toronto.
With every cheque they send, my thank yous feel less and less meaningful. It’s difficult to show how much I appreciate their love and acceptance and support when they’re well off and tend to have everything they could ever want or need.
One of them mentioned Teresa Teng as a favourite singer during a conversation last year, and I realized a cover of one of her songs would be a befitting gesture. The arts were tightly controlled by the Chinese government for 30 years and any song heard on the radio was either patriotic or political, until The Moon Represents My Heart was released in the late 1970s. It marked an important cultural shift when emotions were considered puerile or bourgeois, and became a favourite among many generations.
This song in particular is well-known by people from all three China’s (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan), as Teresa Teng’s popularity extended beyond both borders and dialects. She became a comforting familiarity when I was growing up, as I would catch her voice floating in the background no matter where I went or who I visited.
Continue reading “the moon represents my heart”…
The world still turns, even when it’s in lockdown, and there’s been much to say.
If only writing came as easily as it used to. The bulk of my entries have been a compulsion, a way to sort out thoughts and feelings when I had no one to talk to.
Then I started dating Heather — my first time cohabitating with a romantic partner — and suddenly had an outlet that was both accessible and validating. It became easier to turn to her than find the words for a screen that never spoke back.
My time in therapy has also given me better emotional moderation; a skill to deal with the distress that comes from depression and trauma. Instead of spiraling into panic or rage, I’ve learned to embrace difficult feelings and let them pass through me. Scary thoughts and painful memories don’t control me the way they used to. A healthy trade for the loss of inspiration.
In that sense, I hold an evolving style and subject matter to be positive developments. After all, I began this blog almost 20 years ago. If I was filling the space with the same things as I was back then it would be an embarrassing sign I hadn’t grown at all. I imagine I’ll always have more things to say as long as I continue learning, even if the impetus is lacking.
It makes me wonder why others stopped blogging (or why they started in the first place). Checking my RSS feed is still a habit, but nowadays I’m left invariably disappointed and feeling more disconnected than ever. Social media has become too shallow for my tastes. Medium too impersonal. YouTube too obnoxious and ostentatious and increasingly commercial, with Twitch being even worse on all those counts.
And yet there’s relief to be found in the fact that no one knows I’m writing anymore. This space is no longer sacred when I feel obliged to or inhibited by an audience. Self-imposed exile became an important step towards reclaiming the sense of control I’d lost. My story isn’t finished, and perhaps enough time away has given me the distance I need to be comfortable sharing myself again.
Loneliness, or the fear of abandonment whenever I was dating someone, have been reoccurring themes since my childhood.
I’ve never regretted the decision to cut out my parents for the sake of my mental health, but that still means I lost the only people who had a responsibility to help and accept me (as terrible as they were at living up to that). It was a necessary but traumatic choice. Then I had a falling out with my ex-bestie, which came about after I realized he wasn’t the type of person I needed or wanted in my life, and further robbed me of stability. ____ became my best friend after that (even though I was extremely reluctant to label her as such after my experiences), until I finally stood up for myself and she decided she didn’t want to be held accountable for her actions. Heather and I compared notes afterwards to discover she was avoiding me every time I was in a crisis. I’ve had a lifetime of significant relationships with emotionally ignorant people who would never apologize or admit that they’ve ever hurt me.
Then there’s Pat, who acknowledged he was a being a poor friend for not staying in contact the last time I spoke with him. Maybe it was the fact that I was crying that pressured him into promising to call me more often. That was about seven years ago, and I haven’t heard from him since. I’m still mourning my relationship with Shawn for the same reason; a person who literally saved my life who no longer has time for me in his. Relationships with positive people whom I loved and looked up to, that withered when I stopped initiating contact, leaving me with more questions than answers. Relationships where I’ve done nothing wrong and still suffer a loss. Part of me can’t help but feel confused, and scared that anyone in my life may disappear simply cause they’ve lost interest.
Surviving the fallout of each experience meant I came out with really messed up expectations whenever it comes to other people. Even now, it’s hard for me to feel safe, no matter how close I am to someone.
My first truly secure relationship — one where I could express difficult thoughts and feelings without being blamed or abandoned or invalidated — started in my mid-30s with Heather. When my depression and colitis kept me isolated the last few years, I was particularly worried about being overly dependent on her. At the slightest hint of trouble, it felt like my world was coming down because she was my world. When I turned to other people for help during my lost weekend, I soon realized I have a wonderful network of friends and family.
Continue reading “no man an island”…
With bones weary, a lion shuffles along the bank of a narrow stream, seeking a gap to cross without getting wet. His gait is unsteady and laboured. A lopsided clump of hair frames his face, edges darkening along the mane. The gamut of scars he wears — from light scratches that have faded in the sunlight to deeper wounds that are still healing — add depth to his coat, and speak of the battles he’s survived.
He doesn’t make the jump. His back paws dip in the water but he walks on without shaking a leg. With a pensive nose raised high, he explores the boundary of his territory.
Sets of eyes watch him as he trots. They keep their distance at first, then more pairs join the further out he goes. Before realizing it, he finds himself amongst a clan of hyenas, scattered and curious and very alert. They gradually circle and close in.
Continue reading “reprieve”…
I’m sorry she never replied, but I’m also glad you figured out that she doesn’t owe you an answer. I think that says a lot about how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come as a person.
It was no small step to reach out after all this time and the things you’ve been through together. I think you did the right thing cause of the way things ended. Offering to make amends by putting your feelings out there was more generous than I’d expect of anyone.
After all, you never deserved to be led on like that. I wish I could explain why she didn’t give you the space you needed at first. I’m sorry you weren’t strong enough at the time to stand up for yourself, but it doesn’t mean you deserved it. It wasn’t fair. You were lonely and vulnerable and it was the last thing your heart needed to heal. I don’t blame you for having a hard time getting over her after that.
That’s why you had every right to ask for another break. Needing it was never a reflection or judgment on who she was. Just because she didn’t like it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. In fact, she should have respected you and your request instead of getting upset or taking it as a valuation on her as a person.
I’m sorry she never acknowledged your pain or her role in it. I’m sorry part of you still feels so badly messed up. I’m sorry you never had a chance to tell her.
The fact that you haven’t heard back is likely a sign of how much she truly cares about you. That doesn’t mean you have to stop loving her. Your feelings are completely valid. It’s okay to love someone from a distance. It doesn’t make you a bad partner or person.
So take as much time as you need. There’s no right or wrong way to mourn the end of a relationship.