Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Of mothers and diamonds

It's my day off tomorrow, so I am going to blog blog blog to my heart's content! Whoopee! Well, maybe not that much. I still have a cold and I have an art class tomorrow.

I got into a fight with my mother today. Actually, she yelled at me for not picking up the house phone (while I was trying to eat and put on make-up at the same time). She was trying to get a hold of me, and I knew it, but just didn't want to pick up. On top of that, I was angry at her for some other things. So when I called her back after finally making it into the car (while continuing putting on make-up) she was understandably very upset and began yelling. I really couldn't stand it this morning, so after she said, "never mind, I don't want to talk to you any more," I simply hung up. I knew that she was going to hang up, but the thought of perhaps beating her to it was at least a little soothing to my ego. From the sounds of it, though, she wanted to share something with me, or had something good to tell me. I am a bad daughter. Recently, I haven't done much to be proud of. In fact, I have been quite selfish lately. Well, more than just lately, more like this entire year. I've been trying so hard to meet my career goals and oblivious to everything else around me. I've chosen to block out everything that takes a certain effort to manage. That's not good and should be changed, really.

My relationship with my parents, and especially my mother, is a bit complicated. Until this year, I've lived away from them. It's been six years, and even longer if you count my mother going back and forth between us kids and Father during my high school years, and my year away at boarding school when I was in the ninth grade.

I'm the oldest of three children, and was naturally expected to take much more responsibility than my brothers. Most of the time, I met those expectations, and they didn't worry about me. I've always felt like they were so confident that I would be OK that even less than worrying, they barely thought about me, what I wanted and how I felt. They bought me things, but what I really wanted was attention. They had two boys to deal with and raising three children in a foreign land was no easy task. To make things even more difficult, my father was, what felt like forever, constantly away on business. My mother was always stressed out. I only remember that I was always angry at my father for not being home to help with domestic matters and to be with us. I was always angry at my mother for being angry with us and I was always angry at my father for not being with us. Of course, I never fought with my parents, but neither did I smile through what I didn't like. I was just quiet, and angry. Every once in a while, I would blow up. Come to think of it, I thought of killing myself more than just a few times. I'm sure most kids go through this, right...? I suppose in adult terms, I was very bad with anger management. Of course, I never hated my parents, even for a split second. I was just very angry.

I was always angry, at everything and at everyone. I didn't know this. I thought it was normal. During graduate school, I went back to the US one time and visited one of my aunts. She had watched my brothers and I grow up. When I went to see her, she told me that I had changed a lot. She said she'd never seen me smile when I was little. One of my brothers said the same thing to me. I guess I really was an angry child. I feel sorry for my brothers in that not only did they have to take my mother's berating, they had to suffer what I took out on them too. I don't think I was an ungrateful child. I've never had to really worry about family finances and have had a very financially-comfortable life so far, of which I've always been appreciative, but I think I had a very high-pressure and emotional attention-deficient childhood. I wasn't smart or rambunctious enough to realize how to deal with the pressure and to get attention.

During university, I had a very different life. My parents provided me with a means to live comfortably, and a very nice car in which to get around. I had more, but not a ridiculous amount of, spending money than the average college student. And so with all of these, I was FREE FREE FREE!! I never knew such freedom. Perhaps I won't ever again! I went home quite often, and perhaps through the distance, I had space and time to grow up and become a little more tolerant of things. I have always been close to my brothers, but I think I became closer to my parents. Perhaps not being able to see each other all the time reminded us of each other's existence and our need for each other. Of course, there were times when I went home wishing that I hadn't, but most of the time, the trips were peaceful and pleasant.

My clock during college revolved around crew and karate practices. I put more time in those activities than in class. I did well in both those sports and managed to finish my credits in three years, with decent marks. But in the end, I stayed on for the full four-year program, kept up with a full load of classes and enrolled in courses which I just thought were interesting. During college, I learned many things about myself, about life and about death. I received my first kiss, I lost a good friend to death and I gained the confidence that I could achieve whatever I wanted if I were determined. My peers respected me, and my seniors too care of me like their little sister. If it weren't for the freedom my parents gave me, I wouldn't have been able to know all these things. If it weren't for the pressure they gave me before, I wouldn't have had the patience to get along so well with people, the explosiveness to excel in sports and the stamina to push through my studies.

When I was in graduate school, I was away from my parents as well, but I came to know some people who eventually became my family--my uncle's friends, my godmother and her family. I gained a godmother and all the attention I never could have imagined. Pressure started to increase at that point, though. There was the pressure of living with other people, and even though it was with someone who became my godmother, she didn't have an obligation to me, so I needed to make an effort to show that I appreciated what I was being given. It wasn't hard, though, because she showed that she appreciated me. Perhaps she is better at expressing herself or perhaps she made an effort; most likely, both. There was also the pressure of perfection. I am a perfectionist, and so is she. Where stress and perfectionists meet, a pressure bubble will inevitably form. The bigger the bubble gets, the higher the tension. If it bursts, it's something like an atomic explosion.

My godmother and I got along well. There were bumps here and there, of course. I have certain bad habits and certain, different views. But most of the time, I was a happy girl. Actually, it was in Japan when I realized that I was actually a naturally happy person. I was in a completely new environment and knew no one there who would unconsciously remind me of how I used to behave. It felt like a test of how I would react in a totally different setting.

My godmother and I have a similar personality, and a mother with an uncannily similar personality. I could talk to her about almost everything, whereas I have always been so scared of my birth mother that I normally wouldn't dare try to speak to her, out of fear of lighting a fuse or becoming disappointed from her simply being uninterested. But as the anger I had during childhood came under control, fear started taking over.

Almost every time before I returned to Taiwan when I was in graduate school, I would be anxious for days. When I was in Taiwan during school holidays, there were so many days when I would wake up scared. Nearly every morning, I would become so anxious of what mood my mother would be in and if I would be the lucky one to get the beef she had with my father taken out on, that I would dread coming out of my room starting from the morning. My brothers were in the US, so they weren't around to cheer her up or to share some of the load, so I was given all the attention. She was also going through menopause, so things were surely difficult for her. While she was literally driving me insane, I imagine that what was going through her mind was surely at least a hundred times worse. I keep telling myself, and so does my father, that I must try to understand, because through understanding, I can then come to peace with matters. That's easily said than done. I can understand, but I just can't quite come to peace.

Now I still feel like I'm six years old in front of my mother, both because of my own behavior and also by the way I'm treated. I suppose that's just the mother-daughter relationship.

My godmother once told me that pressure makes a diamond, and that is what we need. I suppose mothers innately feel the responsibility to turn their daughter from carbon to diamond, and carry that on consciously and unconsciously. Mothers certainly are diamonds--beautiful but abrasive.

In any case, I suppose that no matter how angry (or scared) I am and will be in the future, I still have my mothers to thank for all the unpleasantness that will hopefully turn me into something of value.

1 comment:

Jack said...

i'm glad that you came a long way! just try to remember and cherish every moment you have with your parents because they won't be there forever. that's what i tell myself.