I was talking to one of my sisters about my drive last night and how it dawned on me that I had been living the last several months as though I was still subject to someone else’s rules. Even when my children are gone and the house echoes in shared custody solitude, I am on my own, but subjected to the authority of what I’ve always done, whether or not previous choices were mine. It made me examine the rules I live by and who I give authority over my actions. It made me look at what I bow down to. Yesterday it was a revelation born from my field trip. I had this idea that a beach day should be a whole day. It was the idea that it had to be lived out the way I had always done it because that’s how it’s always been done and it’s the way other people have said I should do a beach trip. There was so much freedom in acting on my every whim to visit several places in brief moments. I stopped where I wanted to and stayed long enough to see and feel and be. My latest struggle is for the power and authority in my life and my choices.
My parents love God. My Dad kept a poster on the wall with the alphabet and characters in Hebrew because he was reclaiming a lost heritage in learning all he could about it. For Dad, faith comes in studying the bible and doing what it says, as he sees it. My mom reads her bible early in the morning and reminds me that God is in control. Trust Him, and it’s a lesson she reminds herself of. My parents had bible studies in our livingroom.
I grew up in a Foursquare Church. I was baptized on September 11, 1994. We went to Sunday school each Sunday morning and in the afternoon we went to a Thai Presbyterian Church. My parents were open to allowing me to go to other churches. I went to Baptist and Catholic churches with friends. I went to Synagogues and Buddhist Temples (my Mom grew up in Thailand and was Buddhist until she married my Dad). They drew the line at a few places, but I saw it as an arbitrary line. In my teens as part of youth group, Mondays we had Discipleship Groups. Wednesday nights were youth group services where I was part of the worship team. I loved singing and in honesty, it was performance, and not worship. There was inauthenticity in my praise and I could never again be on stage for worship for that reason. Fridays we had more fellowship. Tuesdays and Thursdays I was learning karate at a Christian Martial Arts Dojo. God/Jesus/The Trinity was what my parents valued and it was a great way to be with other kids in a safe place.
I went through my rebellious years. I refused God and church and rebellion became me knowing God is real but deciding He had nothing to do with me. About 5 years ago I started taking my family to church again because I needed to let go of my anger. There is community in shared belief, but there’s also the belief that there is something in charge of everything, big and small and that there is a plan and that plan is amazing if you believe in it. I’m not perfect. I lust after strangers and have a newfound affinity for male Crossfitters everywhere. I get angry and it takes a little longer than I’d like to let go of it. My rage is based on my lack of control and my beliefs are based on willingly releasing control because He knows the plans He has for me and they are greater than I can imagine. I believe in a bible that tells me to remain faithful to a husband that has rejected and abandoned me. I still struggle with the fact that I no longer want him because I believe the bible says I’m not to move on with my life, but my God wouldn’t want me to remain in an abusive situation, even if I can’t find the verses to back that. I read that God hates divorce but hear He loves the divorcee, and my struggle is in knowing that the anger and pain can turn into bitterness and at times I feel I can’t control my rage. I let it go, I give it up and I forgive the ex so it doesn’t destroy me and any future relationships. I’ve been entertaining the idea of dating, even though I am still very married.
I love attention. I love posting something and obsessively reading my comments. I love checking my WordPress views, or hearing the little alerts that tell me I have a like or a new follower. I don’t like my own posts on Facebook or Instagram but I can see the allure in doing that. (I just refuse to be that person. Everything I share is solid gold, so naturally I love what I shared because in my sharing, my awesome is showing.)
In the 5th grade, my teacher’s wife wrote a song, and culled her singers from her husband’s classroom. We did a two day filming at the VA property in West LA in a Japanese garden (go past the golf course past housing) where I was part of a classroom singing a song on Almost Grown (a season long drama) and having a kid crush on Raffi Di Blasio, because he was adorable. My freshman year was about Leadership and Drill Team. I loved standing out. I was a singing, dancing drama kid in high school. I spent several months as a television extra in 2000. It was great to have a job where I was booked because of my looks. I was cute or pretty according to the casting directors and that was enough to get a job where I could look for myself walking in the background of my favorite shows. I have a reel somewhere from the beauty contest on The X Show (1999 men’s show on FX) because someone in the mall thought I was hot and would look great in a lifeguard bathing suit, several sizes too small. Being an extra had it’s downside. I had the biggest crushes on certain celebrities and those crush fantasies died when I saw how petite they were. It wasn’t about short men, but men that looked like little toys to me.
I like to see who is watching me when I go out, even if they don’t say a word. I like being seen. When I was younger, I would wear low cut shirts or short skirts, but I don’t do that anymore because I feel I should dress and act a certain way as a mom.
Before I was a mom, I was bar hopping, shooting pool, smoking cigarettes and binge drinking. I got my first tattoo from a friend’s Dad on their living room floor with a tattoo gun he made using a walkman and a stick of deodorant to transfer the design. I was living out whatever fantasy I felt like and there were no rules because I was doing my best to break all of them. When I got pregnant with my first, I immediately wanted to be a good mom. I wouldn’t even eat chocolate because chocolate has caffeine in it and caffeine affects lung development. My mom is amazing but it took a long time to see it. The first glimpse of her amazing was during the first few months with a cholicky infant, on my own all day and night while the ex worked, and was jealous that he couldn’t get more of my attention when he was home, (and that’s where his first girlfriend met those neglected needs, and the first time he made me feel like his failings were my fault). I called Mom while sobbing and thanking her for not killing me in my infancy. At the time, I didn’t know I had the baby blues, but in the second half of his first year, I could see the many ways my mom showed us her love for us and I wanted to be that mom.
So much of what I see as acceptable falls on the authority of what my parents taught me about being a good child, daughter and person. It follows their values and ideals. As a good child, I need to be quiet and obey what they tell me. I need to sit quietly and accept what they say as the gold standard, no matter what I think about it.
The other day, my Dad was explaining a situation to me a second time and justifying his actions to me. I was in the middle of looking for seashells along a beach, so I stopped him to ask, “I don’t mind the retelling, but are you telling me so I understand why you did what you did, or because you feel bad and need to make yourself feel better about your actions? It’s okay to decide you’re wrong. (He started telling me about the history of this relationship.) There’s no reason to be stuck in what you have done when there are so many rewards in what you can potentially do.”
As their child, I need to be nice and put the family first. God, family and education were what they taught us and through all of it, I felt the responsibility of being ladylike from my Dad because my mom reinforced hard diligent work. I used to hate her work ethic because I wanted her around and she was always working. When I was a kid, I had a recurring nightmare. I would dream that my Dad killed my Mom, dismembered her body and put it in the barbecue. Then I would wake up in a panic and look for her but she was always at work. Being home alone with Dad in those first few moments after I woke up were terrible but he never knew about my dreams. His PTSD is a family gift that keeps on giving. Dad may believe in negotiation, but my Mom is the one that has the analytical business mind. Her English is something she’s always been embarrassed by, but she speaks Thai and English, has a huge heart with more generosity than most, believes in and rewards hard work . . . I could go on, but this is about me.
In the conversation with my sister, we were talking about her going out to dinner with her daughter and how it wasn’t the financially responsible thing to do, but then we both said, “why not?” (That was about our Mom, and had nothing to do with how we want to live.) We make space, give time, and put money toward what we value and what we value cannot be dictated because then we would be living someone else’s dream.
I’m not a fighter in relationships. My fight is a silent treatment. It’s not in anger or as punishment, but more that I try to hide my words so they don’t hurt others. If my words are raging in my head, and causing me pain, I imagine the devastation on others would destroy someone I was usually so careful to shelter and protect. Maybe I should have seen him as less fragile. I’m much more interested in sacrificing so snuggling could happen. I’m a hugger and snuggler and a giver by nature, but at one point I felt I needed to give so much of myself that I believed putting myself second was about making him happy and his happiness was good for me as well. There was a backlash. I would hide things or lie. There was lots of lying because I felt a certain way that didn’t seem okay to him, so I hid who I was in senseless lies. I didn’t see where his happiness became the only thing that mattered to me or him. I didn’t see how I taught him it was okay that I was second.
My sister told me about an issue with her insurance agent. He tried to diffuse her ire by bringing up the brother in law that introduced them. He asked how our brother was doing. She is a better person than I am, because that shift of authority onto a male without any connection to the transaction would have angered me further. Tonight I went to the movies with my Dad. He likes to talk through movies, and during the credits I pointed out the people watching the scrolling screen and suggested they might have been listening for the score. He said he likes it when his kids teach Daddy something. He meant it as a compliment, but I saw him infantilize me in calling himself Daddy, which isn’t a name I’ve used since I was little. A few months ago, I would have soaked up the compliment, and I’m not saying I reject it. What I see is how he needed to fit his idea of me into a concept that didn’t make him feel like less for the ideas in me that are bouncing around independently and in spite of him. I feel owned by the rules and values of a society that is still making strides in equality because we just aren’t there yet.
Fitting in means I’m willing to acquiesce myself into what goes against who I am in a way that makes others accept that I want to be around them. For the most part, I’d rather hide the truth than face the reality of who I am. Tonight I told my Dad about my blog and I very nearly lied about it. I don’t want to write under the weight of his judgement but it means more to be honest and authentic. I told him how to find it, but admitted I’d be okay if we never discussed what I write in it. The power falls into what I’ve seen other people do or what would make fewer waves. I’d rather be flexible and content, but so much of how I live and parent has to do with what others think and I have to make an intentional effort to put my kids first in terms of what is comfortable to them. I’m a pretty transparent person, but we live in a world where it’s not normal and not typically accepted.
I’m walking in a new authority. I decided it’s far better to belong. I will be me in authenticity and passion and I will walk in faith that I am acceptable as I am, without needing to change to fit in. In the age of social profiles that are created to show others the best side we can possess, it’s hard to just be who you want to be. I can alter your perception with the angles and half truths I illustrate myself in but it is a constant challenge to not do that. I don’t use filters but I will crop out parts I of my body I want to hide. The value in being authentic and refusing to hide is impossible to quantify.
I live in an indulgence of what feels good, and it can be excessively epicurean, but it makes me happy. I’m drinking alone right now. It’s Whipped Cream Vodka with Simply Lime. I feel good right now but I’m sure there will be editing in the morning. When people ask how I feel about a movie, I’ll usually say it was good because I assume most people don’t really want to know what I think. Tonight my Dad asked, and I told him. I tore it apart like literature because that’s what I do, and for the first time, I took ownership of my thoughts, no matter what I thought it would look like. For my job hunt, I’ve been excessively picky because for the first time I’m directing my career and making sure it makes sense for me and my family. That feels empowering and amazing. My autonomy isn’t complete, but I’m getting there.
Where do you sit your power down, and who holds the authority over your choices?