Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Year of Being Misunderstood

The Year of Being Misunderstood

The other day, I was reflecting on how this past year has gone. For the most part, I rate myself a 7 out of 10 but in the last four days, since returning to Taiwan, I’ve dipped to a 5 or 6. The thing I’ve come to realize is this: there are few things worse than being misunderstood. And boy has this year been chock full of people misunderstanding me.

It’s been another rough year for John and me. Feels like it’s probably been a rough COUPLE of years, actually. At some point in the last several months, we even considered a trial separation. We somehow managed to dodge that bullet, and we started therapy again. And what I learned from therapy turned out to be so disappointing. All this time, as I have scrambled desperately for ways to help him out of depression, he has only come to see me as someone who is judgmental and who enjoys tearing him down by highlighting his shortcomings.

For months, maybe even years, I tried to hide my frustrations with his inability to cope with the stresses and pressures of his work; I tried to be patient as he tried to figure out a way out of the darkness. I tried method A, method B, method C. I felt like I had tried everything, even if it meant re-training myself or even denying my own person… When the internalization grew so overwhelming, I found myself voicing my displeasure to him. I found myself verbalizing what I saw as inconsistencies between what he said and what he did. Instead of him acknowledging my pain, instead of him appreciating my concern, instead of him apologizing for anything, he only reacted defensively, and our distance and disconnect grew larger. When we returned to therapy a few months ago, all kinds of disturbing secrets surfaced. He accused me of name calling; he said I was a bully. I suppose he was only being honest about his perspective, but words matter to me. I only say what I mean and mean what I say. His words hurt me. How was it that all my good intentions and heartfelt efforts had been received in this manner? I had done so much out of love, and in the moments when the frustration finally made me crack, I was criticized for being unsupportive and unloving.

I had been trying to explain my loneliness and sadness at feeling neglected and un-treasured. And suddenly, all of this had been misinterpreted. This drama has since passed, but I still feel sad just thinking about being misunderstood by the one person in the world whom I had thought knew me best.

Every time I see my mother, we get into some kind of fight or argument. She presses my buttons by trying to guilt trip me about this whole child-free choice. I then try to explain that witnessing the situation between my brother and my parents is a large reason why I don’t want the baggage of raising kids. She then turns it into some fucked up interpretation of me being jealous that he’s the first born and that they are still spoiling him and supporting his ridiculous lifestyle and not doing the same for me. Seriously, how many times do I have to explain that I don’t care about material things. I don’t need or want their financial support; it’s not about feeling financially cheated as the other child. I really don’t give a fuck. But she always twists it into some version of that. And it drives me insane.

The thing is, if he were a considerate person, if he actually demonstrated some selflessness and sincerity in loving my parents, I couldn’t give a shit if they spent their entire savings on him. But he’s a selfish, self-absorbed asshole, and they want me to stand by and support this obscene scenario where they just keep giving without receiving anything in return? I won’t do it. I won’t be quiet about the matter. So this bullshit just goes on and on unchanged. Ten years ago, I had to cut him from my life. At the time, he had been living with us in Virginia. The hubs and I were slated to move overseas to Shanghai in three months. My brother went on “vacation” in Taiwan and then never fucking came back. Who had to move all his crap out of our house on top of handling our own overseas move? Yes, exactly. And that is just one example of his long history of inconsiderate behavior. After that, I had to extract him from my life, because I was done with all the fits of rage and blowouts this person caused. So we are estranged, and you know what? I have not had any more fits of rage since. This is what I had to do to obtain some peace of mind. And instead of understanding and recognizing that, my parents and relatives to this day still say that I have a hard heart, that I don’t understand the concept of “blood is thicker than water.” Somehow, I’m now the┬ávillain.

It’s all a pretty frustrating state of affairs. The thing is, I spend a tremendous amount of time cultivating relationships– friendships, my marriage, my parents… I do a lot of thinking, planning, communicating… it is downright exhausting, but I do it because I actually give a shit. So when all this effort and thought gets warped into some fucked up misinterpretation, it’s really upsetting. It makes me want to just become a hermit. It makes me sad that I take classes and read books and watch lectures on communications and social intelligence and somewhere, somehow, people just think the worst. If my spouse and parents– people who have known me forever can’t see the good intentions, what’s the point? Is it really that difficult to “get” me?

Old Habits Die Hard

Old Habits Die Hard

So I’m back in Taiwan this week… I have to say, the entire week prior to my trip, I always feel a sense of dread. Friends and people at work never seem to get it: they always say, “Oh, that’s so wonderful you get to see your family. You’ll have a great time!” How weird it is for other people to just assume that family relationships are awesome. (This is why you can’t support abortion legislation that requires parental notification: you just can’t assume every daughter has a functional relationship with her parents!! I digress.) Anyway, I always feel anxious before I’m about to see my family, because the whole meet up just triggers a ton of bad habits.

I’m traveling solo again this trip– same as last year. I scored some flyer points and managed a freebie round trip ticket. But cost isn’t the reason I’m here solo. Bubs is still swamped at work, and he has only two weeks of vacay per year, so he gets pretty stingy with it. Anyway, I traveled for almost 24 hrs. via Seoul, arrived in TPE, and then took a bus/metro to finally arrive at my parents’ house late Sunday night. On Monday morning, my parents and I hopped on the high speed rail and headed south for my grandfather’s house. Seriously, just like clockwork, less than 24 hrs. after landing, my relatives began their usual harassment campaign. It didn’t help that my cousin, who just had a son 18 months ago also popped out a second one two weeks ago. Look, I’m not opposed to other people choosing to become parents; I just don’t want to be one myself. Blah, blah, three aunts later, I’m still getting a talking to. Details in a bit.

So on Sunday, my brother gave me a book: The Power of Habit. I’m reading about the habit loop– and how there’s a cue, a routine, and a reward; and I’m realizing that my interactions with my family are part of this habit loop. Every visit involves some kind of discussion surrounding expectation, potential, happiness, and disappointment. Yeah, I spoke with Bubs this morning via Skype, and I was relaying my conversation I had with my eldest aunt last night. He agreed that shit always gets heavy when I see my family. So my body and mind just can’t help but feel stressed from these visits. And yet, I HAVE to visit. Grandfather is 91; my parents and aunts are getting older… I want to see them while I can, and yet I don’t. Do you see the conflict? Every time, John just tries to chock it up to different cultures and different generations. All of that is true, but do you know how hard it is to be asked:

Do you know how happy your parents would be to have a grandchild? How can you deny your parents’ happiness? Do you know that in Taiwan, if a child were told how important this is to the parents, she would never deny them this opportunity?

And apparently, my grandfather is beside himself over just how American my brother and I are. I mean, there’s my father– Mr. Perfect Son– and in just one generation, there are two freak kids: one doesn’t believe in marriage (committing to one person the rest of his life) and the other one doesn’t want kids.

Sure, it’s easy to say I adopt the “American” ideal of living my own, independent life. But at the end of the day, I’m grateful for all that my parents have done for me and I want them to be proud and happy with who I am. Already, I have issues about where I am on the “life success” scale, so to just feel like they don’t understand or respect or honor my choice to nix parenthood and furthermore, they hinge their happiness supposedly on this one thing alone, it’s a tremendous amount of pressure and stress.

I constantly grapple with feeling inadequate and feeling not good enough. I try to live my life with principle; I try to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good wife, a good citizen. But there are demons that I can never seem to escape– when I travel alone, I suddenly grow overwhelmed thinking of all the dreams I had for myself to become a certain person. And then sadly, I realize that I still haven’t become that hope for myself; I still have so many places where I am lacking and now, I’m 36.

Life doesn’t stop for anyone, and what am I doing? I swear, this is like some self-destructive crisis I go through over and over again. And it certainly gets triggered every time I see my family.

I feel unsettled and anxious. And I just keep chasing something with a sense of urgency… I don’t know exactly what it is that I’m chasing, but I just feel like I still haven’t found it yet.

Weekend Meetup in Austin

Weekend Meetup in Austin

Austin was a blast! 48 hrs in and out. My college bud J, whom I hadn’t seen in like 4 years, looked exactly the same… just like he did in college, except for the new eyeglasses!! The three of us partied it up on Sixth St., caught some live music (Ben Cina??), played lots of pinball (I suck, but he’s a master), played monster Jenga, witnessed some crazy raunchy shit at the Trophy Room (where they have a mechanical bull…), scouted out Lady Bird Lake (why’s it called a lake when it’s a river?), and ate TONS of BBQ.