Optimism

I had a good meeting with my father and my boyfriend after one whole year. It felt amazing to be able to be myself and really enjoy his company and connect like we did when I still felt like his special daughter. Then, I completely put this meeting out of my mind for the most part.

Learning to heal from emotionally toxic parenting is a difficult process. But I made some progress. With a lot of support and coaching, I was able to set my expectations aside before the dinner and keep them aside after the dinner. I was able to enjoy the moment without allowing myself to fall into a cycle of worry or cycle of hope. Expectations that the next meeting would go as well or that this is the beginning of our reunification as a family would have happened very subtly in the past. But, I have been able to notice when I dream of a reconnected family. I bring myself back to reality and remind myself of my boyfriend’s very wise words: Optimism is not expecting positive results or outcomes in the future, Optimism is knowing that no matter what happens, you will be okay. And with these precious words, my healing continued without falling into the pitfalls of anxiety over rejection or the hopefulness of reconnection.

Many weeks later, I still feel balanced. YAY!!! I feel that I have been grateful for the moment, also minimized the punishing of my father and increased the empathy towards him more often in the last few weeks. It has been hard to not continue to be angry and punish, as that gives me a sense of control; there is someone to blame and hold accountable for my bad childhood. But holding my father accountable is not 100% accurate or fair as he was not the only sinner nor the only one who caused me harm.

As a child we need to know who is to blame. We need to know because we are helpless and need to know who to trust to take care of us. As an adult, that keeps us in the role of the victim, never developing the identity of a survivor in charge of our destiny. We as adults, have to trust ourselves, maybe God, maybe our partners, maybe just maybe, our ability to make good decisions. We have to meet and take care of our own needs. So there really isn’t need to blame, although it does give us the illusion of control and frees us from the anxiety we feel for being in charge of what happens to us. Sigh – can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I often want to blame others. I want to blame parents. I want to blame the world. Because this is a pretty shitty world we live in – all too often it is shitty shitty shitty. People, on a regular basis, make bad decisions, bring life into this world and are completely unprepared for it. And as a result, at least 50% of the adult population has serious issues – attachment plus trauma or abuse – at least  attachment issues. So of course, it is hard for me as a social worker – my heart breaks with every child that has their emotional needs neglected. I see the emotionally stunted adults everywhere – they are everywhere – usually unaware of the cause of their problems, weaknesses and even poor choices. Sigh. I wish I could yell at the top of my lungs and set people straight – but we live in a corrupt world that is only driven by short term goals, not long term consequences. Sigh again.

 

So, I am going to continue to let go and remind myself that it is not my problem. But at the end of the day, all I can do is my part. Once I have done that, there is nothing else to be done. I need to enjoy my life, the little good that does exist in life – I wish for more of this, and wish for God to save our children.

 

Chit Chat.

The parent anti-oxident

“They gave birth to you …”

“I’m sure they mean well….”

“They love you very much….”

“They will come around….”

Things people will say with very good intentions to help console those that are estranged from their parents. I have hoped and prayed that my parents would come around. I have tried my very best to let the fact that they gave me life, loved me and tried their best to wash away my negative feelings. I have let go and forgiven many times only to realize I haven’t really let go or forgiven completely. None of this has been half-assed. I have honestly been working my pretty little ass off.

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Yet, here I am. Again, at a crossroad, between a rock and a hard place, whatever you want to call it – its the hardest place, most painful place I have ever had to be. And I hate having to come back to this place again and again after I have done everything I know how to do to work through my feelings and move forward. Like seriously, how many fucking feelings do I have? Because they just keep coming, and each one is harder than the first.

The precursor was anxiety. I spent two years working through my anxiety disorder to discover other underlying emotions. The first layer I faced was guilt and shame. I worked through that and improved my self-esteem and self-worth. That was a lot of work over a lot of years –  but I did it!! And I am now a proud assertive woman. 🙂 Then, came the anger and rage. This was harder than guilt and shame. But again, I worked through it – in therapy, on the subway writing in my journal, meditating, taking breaks, talking to people, crying in the shower, talking in my sleep, sobbing in my sleep, exercising, self-soothing, taking supplements, eating healthy, praying, reading etc. Like I said, I really worked hard. Then, came some empathy and forgiveness. What a relief! I could reconnect a little and let go a little. Right until the disappointment from my parents present actions pushed me right back into anger, rage, and a new layer of emotion – grief.

So here we are. Grief and loss. No my parents are alive not dead. But apparently, my childhood sucked so bad that they might as well be dead – at least that is how my body is physically reacting. I don’t want that, but my body is grieving the loss of my healthy and alive parents! How messed up is that?

Then the criticism I experienced my whole life sets in. I must be a bad child. I must be over-sensitive. I mean they gave me life and loved me and did their best. How is it that I can logically get that, want to forgive them, but the forgiveness does not stick? Am I just a resentful, vindictive, parent punishing small person? I didn’t think I was, I mean, I give all the time to others, like literally majority of my life I am giving to others. So, seriously, what the fuck??

Then eventually all the work I have been doing begins to pay off. Its not me its them. Society is wrong on this one. We have a culture of silence about talking about how loving, caring, well meaning parents can screw up their children. How? Because of low or no emotional intelligence, inability to manage their own stress/life, own insecurities and unresolved issues, lack of resources, unwillingness to seek help, unwillingness to acknowledge that they could be wrong even with good intentions, unwillingness to give up the blame game or victim mentality. In other words, because they were never brave enough to face their own shadows or resolve their own baggage, and somehow thought they could raise another human being, without the shadow or baggage impacting their child. Well, I’ll be honest, either thats just really dumb, illogical, careless and/or selfish. Yes, having a child without being emotionally prepared for it, puts you at risk of being a toxic parent.

So now what? I go on the internet to google ‘how to work through your estrangement with your parents’ and many other similar searches. Almost all the links are for parents who’s children have cut them out. Poor parents, here is how to cope if your child doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. Really? Even google is telling me that the world thinks its the child’s fault. REALLY? So after another round of self-criticism, I finally come back to the realization that the internet is wrong – again only because now I have been working my very pretty little ass off. Seems like its gonna get really pretty before I find some resolution. 😛

But there is good news. YAY!! I love posts with a happy ending too (its the Bollywood, rom com lover in me ) I have done the hard work to find one book that looks promising and so far it has really been helping. The audio version is going to be my mantra to and from work. Its called “Toxic Parents” by Susan Forward. I hope Susan is forward thinking enough to help me detox out of this mess. But I am prepared for a disappointment like some other books I have read. But at least I have some hope again, and its going to be back to the workout of my life – working and working so damn hard, all because – lets face it – I had lazy, flabby assed parents!!

Chit Chat.

Gender-isms

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Gender-isms are the subtle comments, the caring messages, the seeming compliments that are often said time and time again until you are shaped and moulded to be the desired version of your gender. Also known as the ‘good little indian girl’ phenomenon.

I could list hundreds of disempowering comments my mother has made towards me that has let me know that as a woman, I am less than. And that my ambition to be an equal, is at times, an inconvenience to her.  The theme that remains is that education for a woman only serves one purpose – to catch a more educated (translation: rich) man. But pursuing a career, thinking about having other desires besides having children are only things men can consider. These are non-options for women, and if women pursue their non-options then it is justified to break them down by using emotional manipulations. Again, I could list hundreds of comments that reflect this attempt to control me and mould me back into what a woman should be.

The most ironic comment reflecting this was when I was much younger, my superstitious mother who believes in gurus being able to predict the future found out that as per her trusted guru, I would achieve what ever I wanted to achieve. Amazing news right? Nope. She came home, listened to these pre-recorded predictions and let me know that would not be me. That my brother would achieve what ever he wanted to achieve but my fate would have me working on and off and struggling with work. She determined that although this guru was someone she once trusted – he could not possibly be correct about my future because I was a woman, aka, weak, aka meant to stay home and raise babies while my husband ‘took care of me’.

Although it sounds endearing when my parents say that they just want to make sure ‘I am taken care of,’ the sad reality is that just again implies that I am weak. But of course, my brother does not receive this endearing response – because I guess penises must be magical objects that give humans strength. And silly me, all this time I thought strength was derived from will power, but I should have known that the real problem was that I just needed to get myself a dick. As our indian culture loves irony, ironically that would just result in even more discrimination.

So what to do? How do we ‘less than’ humans make it through this world? Do we convince ourselves that we are comfortable with what we have been shaped into? Or do we fight and then accept that we will feel incredible guilt, debilitating shame and disownment or at minimum, constant rejection of our choices and abilities to make our own choices?

Gender-isms are also known as no win no win situations fuelled by tradition and culture.

Chit Chat.

I am a girl

Today, I am feeling a lot of emotional pain. I am really struggling with my parents and their gender roles. I am very sad, I feel broken and I don’t know how to accept that my parents will never treat me equally because I am a girl.

I have been working very hard for 21 years to undo all the childhood drama that entered my life. I have become an admirable, respected woman in my profession and my personal life. But, my parents still can’t seem to fully understand that I am not the typical brown girl – and I don’t want to be – nor will I ever be. That just isn’t me and I love me, and I don’t have any intentions of changing that just to appease my parents.

Loving your parents in this culture comes with a lot of obedience, if you don’t do what your parents want, as unwanted as it may be, there is an immediate sense of guilt – that you have been raised to feel. It has served a purpose in our culture, the guilt/shame has successfully ensured that many remain within the confines of what is acceptable. Constantly, I battle this shame/guilt and then ask myself is this what I really want or am I trying to appease my parents, because somehow then they will accept me and I will feel loved again?

I truly do miss being loved by them – in what I thought was an unconditional manner. With age, I just can’t see my parents the same way anymore. I see more and more flaws, and I see less and less desire to try to be better. My mother may always make passive aggressive comments towards my amazing partner and she may always stare him down just because in their eyes he is not good enough for me. Why? Because he is short, dark and not earning a six figure income.

Every time I am around them, I realize more and more how superficial they are. In all the comments they make – that is how they have lived their life – I have NO idea how I somehow managed to have a mind of my own and actually decide to dedicate my life to helping others and living simply – not materialistically.

Maybe in the eyes of my parents, I am not a success – based on their definition of success. Maybe I am doomed to always be the black sheep because I will marry someone they don’t approve of. Maybe my brother will always have it easier, because he is a boy and now that he makes a lot of money, he must know what he is talking about. Maybe he will always be respected and given unconditional love because he found a way to find happiness that my parents can live with. Maybe, they can accept that he lives with his white girlfriend and treat her very well, while they will always be awkward at best with my down to earth boyfriend just because he doesn’t look the way they want him to or have the bank account they want him to have. Maybe, just maybe, there is a 1% chance that they will come around, that they will accept my boyfriend eventually. Maybe I will always be a black sheep and I have to accept that my choices are too overwhelming for them.

The emotional pain remains. It comes and goes in waves, but never did I realize how difficult it is to see the worst side of your parents and to see them to be the cause of your pain. After all the forgiving and accepting of their mistakes, all the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on therapy, after all the emotional work I have done to let go of most of my hardened anger and resentment, I find myself back in a place of a lot of pain and back in a place of intense anger. I wish I didn’t need to feel accepted by my parents. I wish they could be more respectful towards my boyfriend. I wish that they could truly understand who I am and why he is the one for me. But for now, I guess my wishes will remain unanswered and unfulfilled.

Indian Hypocrisies

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There comes a time in your life, where you meet someone so special that everyday feels like a dream. You wonder is this the honeymoon period, or can life really be so beautiful, and can I really be so happy? I’d love to say that after finding this type of happiness, I am in bliss and ecstatic about the future. I am. But I also feel an overwhelming source of grief and pain.

Somehow after all these years, I convinced myself that when my parents said they wanted me to be with a nice guy who treated me well, that they meant it.

Somehow I convinced myself that when they said that all they wanted was a South Asian guy who was well educated that they meant it.

Somehow I convinced myself that when they said that I could find my own partner and decide who I want to marry, that again, they would mean it.

Now that I have found a man that is South Asian, educated, and treats me better than anyone else, but somehow he isn’t good enough. And my parents think its ok to tell me that they don’t approve – for superficial reasons.

I feel betrayed again. I feel shocked again. I wonder why I trusted them – but then again aren’t you suppose to be able to trust your parents? I am so utterly hurt. I feel so much pain and grief. My parents think they are looking out for me, and want to convince themselves of that. But not once, have they asked me any questions about him that reflect any substance. He’s not good enough because he’s short. Really? Oh I get it, he’s not a tall doctor. If he was a doctor then White, Chinese or West Indian – would not matter. As long as he wasn’t Black or Muslim.

I am disgusted. I am ashamed to be the product of this type of superficiality and discrimination. But again, I am left wondering, why would my parents tell me that all that matters is my happiness and then, ironically, become the one obstacle that causes all of my pain and sorrow. I hate saying this, but most South Asian parents, only want their kids to be happy as long as it does not interfere with their happiness. You can have freedom, as long as you do what I say. You can find your own man, as long as I get the final verdict. You can take your time, but in the mean time I’ll make your daily life a living hell if you don’t get married on my timeline. And it goes without saying – how fair he is, tall he is and overall good looking he is, is WAY more important to me than anything else, because I as an Indian parent, care more about my social status than your happiness. After all, as my mother would say, don’t we all have to make sacrifices? But what that really means is if I couldn’t truly be free and happy, than neither can you.

Well guess what, I am proud to be white washed. At least that means I can think for myself and break out of this submissive culture that does not value love, and values women even less. I will get married in my thirties, to a man who is by your standards, too short, too unconventional and not indian enough. And I will travel instead of having children. I will practice social work instead of pursuing money. And I will be blissfully happy.