Heart Chakra Story

What does love mean?  What does love feel like?

When I was a little girl, I loved my aunt, who was the only source of goodies in my life.  She took me out for shopping and bought me cute outfits. She took me everywhere to show off her adorable little princess and told everybody how cute I was.  I loved when she took me to a milk bar on weekends and we had pancakes and milkshakes like a mother and a daughter.  They were fluffy and sweet with syrup. 

I followed her everywhere like a duckling.  I waited for her to come home and cried for her when she was late.  When I ran to hug her, I smelled alcohol in her breath.  She showered me with beautiful things.  She gave me money to buy beautiful things.  She even wanted to adopt me one time even though my parents had no reason to give me up.

She spoon-fed me sweets and snacks, regardless I wanted or not.  She dangled pieces of snacks in front of my face.  I automatically opened my mouth and ate whatever she fed me like a baby bird.  She was amused and she still tells me how cute I was.  She still tries to spoon-feed me.  She is 94 and I am 60.

She licked my face because she loved me so much.  It was yucky and I didn’t like it.  When I said no, she proposed to trade licking with goodie.  If I let her lick my face, she would give me a candy. 

Quid pro quo.

That was love I knew.  Love meant stomaching boundary violation from people who gave me something because they “loved” me.  And I had to accept it regardless I want or not because if I didn’t I could lose love.

As you might guess, I had eating problems.  When I felt unlovable, I filled the empty “stomach” with food, binge eating junks.  I always felt an insatiable hunger no food could fill and once physical stomach was full, I felt more unlovable and nauseous, and I forced my self to throw up.  (She could have fed me veges at least.  I wonder why nobody binges on veges…)  I still have difficulty to tell if I’m hungry physically or emotionally and feel anxious on the perceived prospect of going hungry.  The Covid-19 grocery situation was nerve wrecking. 

I always loved plants.  I asked my aunt to buy me a rose bush.  It was a red rose.  I loved her (the rose).  I was a disturbed and rebellious teenager and didn’t talk to my parents, but I went to talk to her every morning.  She was the only one who heard me.   My aunt was building her house in the property next to our house and one morning I found my rose plant was crashed under construction materials.  I hated her for that and cried and screamed that I would burn her house down.  It was the moment I learned that what I loved and cared for could be destroyed or taken away at a whim.  I learned that nobody cared how I felt.  Witnessing me in a murderous rage, my aunt replanted the rose bush somewhere safer.  I didn’t care about the rose after that.  My heart was crashed.  My heart stopped talking to the rose.  The rose bush was me.

My aunt sill “loves” me in her way.  She doesn’t see me or hear me.  She still sees a little princess.  Every time I visit Japan I spend some time with her as a physical form on which she could project her little girl.  It has been my role and I still play it because she is 94 and it is just several days a year.

After my father passed, I’ve learned that my aunt had an affair with a married man (in 1950s in Japan!) and had a daughter, and that the man and his infertile wife adopted the baby girl.  I realized that I had been a stand-in for her daughter.  Entire town knew about the scandal and still she showed me around as if I were her own daughter, in a matching outfit with her.  I remember people asked her if I was her daughter.  I am sure they knew I was not and still they asked, alluding to her illegitimate daughter.

I don’t feel love toward her.  I feel I owe her quasi-daughterly care.  Nobody loves her.  She is highly narcissistic and very caustic woman and I am the only one she “loves.”

BTW I just noticed I still react the same way when I am threatened to lose something I love.  I have this urge to destroy or walk away from the very thing I cared about so much, shutting down.  I don’t do that anymore, but I am aware that it’s still in me.

Yesterday I found somebody cut and stole a sunflower from the park garden I took care of.  It happens often.  Some people are assholes.  I felt the old rage bubbling up from my stomach and wanted to pull all the sunflowers from the garden, so that nobody would take my love away from me. 

The Flayed Hare

“What should I do?” my friend, Mia, said. Her younger sister is not answering calls from her family nor responding to text messages nor emails. “Does she still see her psychiatrist?” I asked. “Yes. And she seems to manage to go to her office everyday,” Mia said. Mia’s sister has been suffering depression on and off for a while and occasionally locks herself in.

“She can go to work. That’s a good news. What is the issue?” I said. “She doesn’t respond to anybody. My big sister has also been trying to contact her. Our niece will be visiting her from Australia with her baby. I’m going there to see them and we want to have family get together. Our parents are getting older, you know,” she said. “Why she doesn’t want to see her family. Isn’t it selfish of her?”

It hits me. She doesn’t understand. Mia has never been clinically depressed.

So I explained. I am Mia’s “How to deal with your family member’s depression” coach.

“Family gathering is one of the worst things when you are depressed,” I said. “Doesn’t she feel guilty not to come out to spend time with her aging parents? I would. That’s why I’m going. I would love to see my niece’s babies, too. They are coming all the way from Australia,” she said. She is flying westward across the Pacific Ocean to Japan to see them, while her niece is flying eastward across. She seems to be half concerned and half annoyed by the depressive sister.

“Do you know the story of a flayed hare?”  I asked.  It is a folk tale everybody knows.  A trickster hare befooled sharks and was stripped of its fur.  In pain he asked a group of passerby for help.  They told the hare to bathe in saltwater and dry in wind.  The hare did as told and ended up in excruciating pain.  Then a kind man found the hare in agony and told him to bathe in freshwater and then roll in the pollen of cottontail.  Eventually the hare’s fur grew back again.   

“Your sister is a flayed hare now.  When you don’t have skin, everything hurts.  Being with your family is the worst.  It’s just like bathing in salt water.  Phone calls are like wind blowing on the flayed hare.  It gives her excruciating pain,”  I explained.  “Then, what should we do?” Mia asked.  “Wait until her fur grows back.  Don’t call.  Just check in.  Texting and e-mailing are gentler.  Don’t expect her responding.  Just make sure she is alive and o.k.  Let her know you care, and let her heal in her soft bed of cottontail pollen.”

I’m not sure if Mia understand what I mean.  If you have never be a flayed hare, you don’t understand how it feels.

The hare in the story was actually a god and the kind man was rewarded.  

It was not Love but not to Feel Guilty

I was having dinner with Sookie, my high school BFF, now a psychiatrist, in a local restaurant.  Her phone constantly buzzed.   We reconnected a couple years ago after three decades of being out of touch, mostly on my accord.  I moved across the Pacific and I didn’t want to be found by anybody from my hometown.

“It’s my mother,” she said.  “Sorry, but I have to go.”

Sookie was taking care of her mother, who was on a wheelchair, at home.  Although her kids were all grown up, she had a full time job, as a professor and clinician.

“You are lucky.  You left home early,” she said to me.

At that time, I visited my elderly parents once a year.   I spent more time with them than my younger brother who lived in the same country.   I usually got badly depressed before and after the trip.  My original home was toxic to my soul.  I called it a tour of duty.  It’s my duty as a daughter to show my parents I cared, or at least to pretend.

Later, Sookie told me what was going on.  She prepared breakfast and lunch for her mother before she left for work, then she cooked dinner after she came home.  I asked, “Why?”  “My mother only eats what I cook,” she said.  “Once I ordered food delivery service because I was too busy.  I came home and found the food in a garbage bin.  She said it tasted awful.  She didn’t like aids I hired.   She refuses to go to a day care service because she doesn’t want to mingle with “those people.” ”

So Sookie took care of her… as her mother, a perfect housewife, took care of her husband and her children.  Now Sookie’s mother demands the same from her daughter.

Sookie has a younger sister.  She left home and live in another city with her own family.  Sookie’s sister calls her mother once in a blue moon.  They chat and her mother loves her.  Her sister won’t even visit her.  “Don’t you feel it’s not fair?” I asked.  “I do, but that who she is.  I don’t dislike her,” she said.  I didn’t understand.

“Why?”  I asked again.  “Why you have to take care of your mother by yourself?  Why you  accommodate her unreasonable needs?  You have a career and your own family to take care of.”

She pondered for a moment and said, “Not to feel guilty.”   It made a sense.  She was honest.  She didn’t say because she loved her.

I traveled 24 hrs door to door once a year spending thousands of dollars that could have been used for a vacation not to feel guilty.    Sookie cooked for her mother every day juggling her career and family life not to feel guilty.   We were doing the same.

Both my parents and hers did their best to take care of us and at the same time planted the sense of obligation.   It was not love.

I decided to do what I could do for my parents, as long as it wouldn’t destroy my life.  My mother constantly tells me to come home to take care of her.  (She also tells me to come home so that she could take care of me.  I don’t know why she thinks I need to be taken care of.)

No.  I set a firm boundary.  That’s the line for me.  Once a year visit has become three times a year visits since my mother needed my help after my father passed away.  It has wrecked havoc on my financial, physical, and emotional health but hasn’t destroyed me yet and it spared me feeling guilty.

As for Sookie, her mother passed away in a hospital from in-hospital infection and she was feeling super guilty for a long while as if she killed her mother.  (She chose the hospital when she fell ill.)

This is what happens when parents treat kids as their territory.  Colonization doesn't foster love.

If you love your parents, you are the lucky one who experienced unconditional love from them.

We did not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family as a Bootcamp

“It sounds like you were brought up by a pack of wolves,” the teacher said.  “I guess I was,” I said.  I took a semi-private class to explore family dynamics.  We were doing show and tell of old family photos.  I don’t remember which story or photo led to that remark but it made a sense.

Nobody taught me how to be human, how to communicate, how to deal with feelings, how to foster relationships, how to love, etc.  My father taught me how to survive in a hostile world.

It was the world of his construct.

My father didn’t say, “Don’t show your vulnerability.”  He just pounced on me when I was vulnerable.  He was the kind of person who instinctively knew where it would hurt most and push the spot hard.

My father didn’t say, “The best defense is offense”.  I just learned to attack back harder, verbally and energetically– if I were a big man, I would have fought back physically but I was a petite girl — and retreat fast so that my father wouldn’t catch me.  I ran back to my room and block the door with furniture, since the door didn’t have a lock.  He yelled from the other side of the door.   “You have your father’s temper,” my mother said.  I was just defending myself because I didn’t want to be eaten by the wolf.

He never hit me but his verbal attack was violent enough.  “I’m gonna beat the shit out of you!” he yelled from the other side of the door.

“I’ve learned watching you and Dad,” later my younger brother said.  “I just stayed in my room and didn’t talk to Dad.  We didn’t have any interaction.”  I guess he was smarter than me or just adopted a different strategy for survival.

When I got hurt or felt weak, I didn’t cry.  Crying would attract wolves and they wouldn’t come to comfort you.  I learned to lock myself in a cave and wait until I regained strength.  I felt like an injured dangerous animal, licking the wound in a dark cold place, with body tightened, claws out, growling.

My father made sure that I understood the world was out there to get me.  He made sure that I knew I was ugly, unlovable and worthless, so anybody who might offer a hand to me must be trying to get something out of me.   When I was proud of something about myself, he spat at me, “Got a bighead, haven’t you.  Who do you think you are?”

I had beautiful hair when I was a teenager.  It felt like expensive silk threads.  That’s the only part of my body I was sure I could be proud of, because I got compliments all the time.   So I kept it long.  “Your stinking loose long hair is everywhere,” he complained.   I had my hair cut very short.  “What a stupid haircut. You look so ugly,” he said.

Home was not a safe nurturing place for us kids but a bootcamp.  It was as if he was preparing me for being ridiculed and shamed by the world outside of my family.  If he could harden me and toughen me enough, I wouldn’t be beaten down by anybody else.

If you are a wild beast to be afraid of, nobody would come to you to take advantage of you.  Being asked of a favor is in itself the sign of weakness on your part.  Don’t be off guard.  Let them know you are somebody not to be messed with.

My father told me again and again never to be a guarantor of anybody.  Actually it makes a sense since many people he knew lost everything because they trusted somebody and co-signed their debt.

He did a good job.  I grew up a woman who saw everybody a potential aggriever.  When somebody wanted to be friends with me, I thought, “What do you want?”   I didn’t understand that somebody could want to be friends with me just because who I was.

My high school BFF called me a barbed wire.  Somebody I worked for called me a naked blade.  I thought it suited me and that I was satisfied.   The message was loud and clear.  Don’t you dare to come close to me.

My father passed at the ripe age of 86, after suffering several years from Alzheimer’s.  At a nursing home he was slightly paranoid delusional but most of time pleasant old man.   However, once in a while he suddenly yelled, “I’m gonna hit the shit out of you.”   The staff thought it was Alzheimer’s disease that made him say such a violent thing.   “No, it is how he always is,” I said in my mind.

And I grew up to be an angry she-wolf.  At one point I really believed showing my kids having power over the others was the best defense.  I called it a baseball bat strategy.  I imagined myself threatening them with a baseball bat, to make them follow a line.  It was because I loved them.  I had to teach them how to survive.  The threatening energy of my father’s yelling was registered in my psyche as a destruction of a baseball bat blows.

It was fortunate that I just had imaginary kids.

This is how a family trauma is inherited through generations.  I was locked up in the world his negative paradigm shaped.   My father painted over his daughter’s vibrant world with his gloomy palette.  I don’t know what made his world so grim because we didn’t tell stories about ourselves.  But I’m sure he thought his life sucked.

It took me 20+ years of therapy to attain paradigm shift.  The world is not dangerous.  (Fortunately I don’t live in a war zone.)  People just want to be friends with me because they are interested in who I am.

I had to peel the old paint chip by chip to reveal the original vibrant pallet of mine.  I had to demolish the wall that confined me a brick at a time.   Next to me there always was a ghost of my father putting back the brick that I took out.

I had to learn giving up anger wouldn’t make me a victim.  I had to learn I could be open to the world if I knew how to set a firm boundary.  I had to learn acknowledging my vulnerability would make me more strong.  The skillset I learned in the bootcamp would be with me no matter.  And I could be a tough cookie and an emotionally vulnerable person at the same time.

Don't paint your kid's world with your pallet, just teach them skills and let them paint theirs.