Unpacked anger

I have been quiet these last couple months. I am trying to re-locate myself. I have not written because my axis of belonging has flipped — X has become Y, and Y has become X.

If you read my blog, you will come across the same themes: displacement, sexual trauma, the frustration of being unable to create meaningful connections, shame, a sense of longing for home, familial tensions, etc.

All of these are edges of the web that still pin me down. I am still trying to piece together the “why” of who I am, and these are major elements of that. I recognize that I am angry because there are still unreconciled pieces.

In this post, I will tell you more about myself, and highlight the parts that I am (still) angry about.

When my family moved to a distinctly different culture than the ones we grew up in, we took no time to process the transition together. I am still angry about that. We were all trying to survive. While my mother and older siblings were working night shifts at casinos and fast food places, I was forced to learn ‘ad-hoc mothering’, babysitting my 6-year-old brother and 6-month-old niece before school, after school, and until the moment I would lay down to sleep. I had to grow up quickly. I am still angry about that.

I was not taught the specific behaviors that would allow me to be more easily accepted by people my own age. Through mistake after mistake, I had to learn that on my own; none of my family knew what I was going through, or gave me the space to tell them. I am still angry about that. When I moved, I was 12. Because of my impressionability at that age, I was painfully aware of my social shortcomings, stumbling into interactions stiffly, uninformed on which conversational cues to use to continue them, helplessly unaware of how to make people comfortable with me. The question I constantly grappled with from the age of 12 to even now, is how do I make them like me? I am still angry about that. I spoke English perfectly — but I couldn’t speak “the language”. I could speak — but I couldn’t communicate. I became silent because my real voice was not acceptable. I am still angry about that.

I am now 25-years-old. Assimilation has become a science to me as a result of painfully nitpicking at myself for over two dozen years. I am angry about that. Assimilation has become my way of survival in whatever arena I am in: work, friendships, romantic relationships… I become whatever the other person needs me to be. I am angry about that. I have learned to observe interactions between people so acutely that interpersonal dynamics start resembling process diagrams in my head.

Seeing patterns between people like this has recently started weighing heavy on my heart. I am constantly at intersections where I recognize and empathize with the pain of people I care about, and find myself ill-equipped to positively influence them. Yet, I blame myself for lacking the courage to try. Every day has become an emotional battlefield. I am angry about that.

I have lost myself at the over-exposure of my heart and my soul (or is it that I never really found myself, and I’m only recognizing that loss more intensely now?). I am angry about that.

The only way I am now able to relate to someone is through their struggle; everyone else who has anything other than pain to share with me, I reject. Unpacked, unprocessed anger is such a contagious emotion, and it’s especially hard to fend it off when I harbour it within myself.

How can I be free of a habit that I have used to survive all these years? How can I accept anything positive when I have fed off of the melancholy for so long?

A close friend told me recently that I deserve to ask myself why I am so angry — why I choose to stay in that place of anger. Maybe this post is the beginning of that.


Daily Post prompt: Relocate

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Women & their (in)visible power

It’s been a strange week.

A couple nights ago, my Vietnamese co-worker got smacked in the head by some random guy at a bus stop. A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine who is Taiwanese got punched in the face by her father, bruising her eye.

Women, and specifically women of color, are harmed every day — and not just by complete strangers, but by our own kind, and people we know and love. Am I paranoid because I am assuming the physical insult done to my co-worker was because of her race? Maybe I am. And is it sad that I’m not surprised my acquaintance got punched by her father? Maybe it is. But faced with these abuses, what did my friends do? Nothing. No call to the police, no reporting, no self-defense, nothing.

* * *

There is an almost complacent reaction when women of color endure such abuse, like it’s expected and there’s nothing we can do about it. Why?

Because we are used to it. We experience it every day.

Generations of physical, emotional, and mental trauma has — for whatever reason, whether it be displacement, sexual abuse, cultural expectations, family dynamics, life — sunken permanently into the soil. A woman, her mother, her mother’s mother, and so on, have experienced pain, and shoved it into the mouth of her daughter, to be a bitter taste in the back of her throat for as long as she will live. For the women who have passed on that pain, they know no better. They cannot fight patriarchy and break the cycle; tradition is too formidable a force. And in their frustration, they misplace their anger onto the next generation.

If I promise to myself I will never beat my daughter as I have been by my own mother, will I keep that promise? If I swear to myself I will never emotionally tear down my daughter as I had been, will I uphold it? Will the cycle stop with me? Or will my willpower slip because of my anger?

* * *

Women are taught, from birth to death, to have constant doubts about themselves. The media, the men in our lives, our workplaces, all teach us that it is normal, even desired to have all these qualms and anxieties: am I pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, good enough? In a Twitter post, Feminista Jones dares other women:

Not surprisingly, women began replying back with situations where they simply said thank you, accepting the compliment without further ado. The men who said them either retracted their compliments or just moved on to direct insults. As Feminista Jones says in an interview about that post:

It’s the idea that they [men] bestow the compliment on you, and you’re not supposed to be aware of it.

It’s almost as if recognizing our own beauty as women is unacceptable. We can be complimented, yes — but we have to act modest, as if we are undeserving of such affirmation. It’s almost as if low self-esteem is required for a woman to be desirable to a man. It’s almost like it is a sin for a woman to recognize her own power.

My friends being hurt; the subtle microaggressions I and countless women face every day, the resurrection of feminism in the 21st century, the intergenerational trauma that women of color are burdened by, and how that manifests — it is all palpable, especially in the States’ harrowing political climate. The macro feeds into the micro, and vice versa. The unrest can be felt.

It is time for a change. I ask you: When will it stop?

* * *

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Daily Post prompt: Qualm

Carry me home

Carry me home, sweet salty tide
I never knew your strength after all
And in this anguish, I release it to you
So you may enter my pores 
And make me one with you 

Bring me back to the minute sands
Upon which I lay my innocence 
Like a trusting fool, a jester of the seas
I forgive you in my weariness
Oh, lover of the breathless seas

So carry me home, driftwood docking
Upon your frills of froth
And make me a jester once more
In your court of longing and love
Bring me home once more

________________

Daily Post prompt: Carry

Surviving shame

I got in my car and rolled down my windows. I blasted Placebo through the speakers, feeling a tingle so sharp at having found the perfect song for my angst. I wanted everyone to know I was angry.

I was stopped at a traffic light. I stared at the red like a frenzied bull, ready to go at the change of light. I turned sideways at the driver next to me and glared. I didn’t care if he caught me — he was a man, after all, and men deserved to feel some hate.

Okay, rewind.

I should clarify that I am not a raging man-hater. Nor am I angry all the time.

I get angry when I’m reminded of the injustices and dirty deeds done to girls and young women by men — and not just men… but men they know. I listened to a friend today talk about her experiences with one family member as a girl… potentially two. And as I listened to her shaking voice, I knew that this grown woman has carried damage inside ever since… and shame. You wouldn’t know it just by looking at her. She is calm, composed, upright… and strong. She survives.

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Why does this happen? Why is my friend the one that carries the shame, when this happened to her as an innocent? Why is she the one whose sense of self-worth deflates because of someone else’s crime? She is a beautiful, intelligent, educated, loving woman who deserves a partner who makes her feel like a goddamn queen.

Listening to her words, I could relate. I feel shame, like a fine glaze on my person, every damn day. It won’t rub off. I feel dirty. It makes me feel like I have to overcompensate, be extra nice, be extra apologetic, be something more than I’m not. I can never feel completely whole ever again, and I haven’t, not since the age of seven.

Why are women treated like this?