Shortly after I moved in with my dad and stepmother, I called out my stepmom's traverse of a boundary. I was 16. My father raised me to speak my mind, encouraged my sisters and me to say it like it is. Well! Then he brought in his young wife, and the tables not just turned but outright dissolved. When I said to her that she probably got together with my father when my parents were still married, my dad came up behind me and literally pulled my physical body out of the room with an emphatic, "No, Meiling!" So, I learned: the father man wanted me to speak my mind only when it suited him and his desires. Only, I didn't think about it this way when it happened. I felt great confusion. He appeared to cater to her and her emotions in ways he didn't cater to me and mine. All that time that I spent thinking he saw me for who I was, that he would be there for me when I needed him, that time shrunk in meaning when he scolded me for being what he raised me to be.
Since that time, I've thought and felt a lot of things. I went to many extremes to try and get the same kind of empathy that I perceived my father gave to my stepmother. The self-harm, the drunken stupors. I wanted someone to care about me! I wanted to be the apple of someone's eye, to be special, to be worth fighting for. And you know what, yeah. I wanted to be that motherfucking princess, the starlet, the success story. It was hard to realize that I wasn't, at 25, rich with financial excess like that of those portrayed in The Rich and Famous. I'd worked so hard, put in so much time with school, so much focus. And then there I was -- nothing like I wanted to be.
This holiday season, I remember where I came from: hurt and pain with dabbles of connection. I recognize that I worked really hard and that sometimes things really sucked. My gratitude is for this life experience, in all its confusion and dismay, in all its abundance and joy. I send this gratitude to you, reader person, whoever you may be. Thank you that you are, that I am, that we are.
The other day, I stood alone among Christmas trees in an early hour before a store opened. The parking lot was mostly still, the air quiet. I smelled the pine and noted that many of the trees towered above my frame. Inhale, exhale... and then recognition of a slow swell in my chest right before my eyes started to tear up.
The holiday season often brings up emotion patterns. Some of us are aware of our histories, our struggles. We care for them as we would a tiny human: with gentle loving kindness. Others push away the holidays as if gatherings and feces are one and the same. There are those whose anger and defiance reach a point of complete disconnection. My understanding is that a few of the people I used to call friends are currently in this place of disconnect.
Since I come from a background of hurt, I know how to interact in the language of pain. My family practiced with closed communication skills. You don't like it? Screw you! And that type of thing. It was fun and funny, for a while. I aspired to reach a point where I could verbally slaughter people in the ways of my eldest sister. She was so on it! Like lightening with her words. She learned from two masters of the trade, my parents. What my dad said in English, my mom could convey in Mandarin Chinese. It was chaotic to grow up with people who treated others and themselves in this manner. I learned many things. As it turns out, one of my biggest challenges to-date has been to learn to love my family as a whole -- closed communication, anger and defiance, bad choices and all the good stuff, too.
Well hello there.