Losses and Gains

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Shock. Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Sadness. Acceptance?

I have been working hard to work through my grief and the stages of grief, which is more of a cycle then stages.

I have a new client at work, who has experienced a lot of loss. Grief work. I have minimal experience, but good supervision, yet still having doubts. How do I stay with my client and their grief when I have a hard time staying with mine?

Sigh. I will get through it, I will because I work really hard at being a good therapist. But sometimes I get so tired of how hard I have to work. I have to work through my emotional stuff, which makes it harder when I am going through difficult stuff.S

So what am I grieving? 

For quite some time now (over a year), I have come to recognize that my parents, although they do love me, and try to do their best, which I sincerely do believe they do, are none the less, toxic parents to me in many ways (as this too is a spectrum).

This has been really difficult for me to accept. I have now been able to accept that yes, my parents are dysfunctional/toxic but they too came from very dysfunctional families and quite honestly, the south asian culture (maybe like other cultures), encourages an unhealthy enmeshment with your parents. We are not encouraged to grow up, be independent. We are not seen as individuals with our own identities, we are often seen as extensions of our parents. That is the difference between growing up in a culture that is individualistic versus cultures that are community oriented – it impacts how you develop your sense of self and later on in adulthood, how you individuate from your parents ….. or rather don’t individuate from your parents.

So what does all this psychological mumbo jumbo mean???

It means that ….. my whole life, I have always prioritized what my parents feel over what I feel (if I was even aware of my feelings), I have worried more about how my decisions/choices would impact them (i.e. would they be uncomfortable, disappointed etc), than how I would be impacted by not being my true self. I have let myself be small so that my parents wouldn’t be uncomfortable. I have allowed them to believe that I am more ‘indian’ in terms of values etc. and hidden my more north american values/side of me – with the intention to not make them uncomfortable. And that is really just the tip of the ice burg.

I have now been embracing my true self, as a whole – both my north american and south asian sides of me. The smart, educated, out of the box thinker side of me as well as the one that still fits in the box of what an acceptable indian girl is. This has resulted in a lot of discomfort, shock, anger, grief. I have seen sides of my mom that I never thought could be there. I never thought I would experience so much pressure to stay in the box as I have.

But there is hope. I have recently come to truly understand my parents, their limitations, the potential reasons about the way they are, the limitations of my culture. I have also come to realize that I can set boundaries, I can move away from unnecessary guilt, and move towards acceptance.

I accept who I really am now and I accept who my parents can be and who they cannot be. I don’t like it, but I accept what I cannot change. I also feel motivated to make changes/raise awareness re: the cultural barriers and how it impacts our emotional development.

 

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.