I failed to protect myself during the process of healing. The system of self-protecting isn’t fully mature even I am fully grown. The trauma stays inside my heart with bleeding wounds. Sometimes the memories are so painful that I have to drag myself back to the present by telling myself I am well and I am winning life by living out from the memories.
When one grows up with traumatic memories, the rest of the person’s life becomes the process of healing one’s internal conflicts and traumas. After one grows up, take many hard steps to forget the mental trauma and slowly easing the pains, of course, one doesn’t want to remember or go back to the traumatic childhood.
When people proudly talked about their happy childhood memories, I just nodded and smiled. I can’t relate to anyone about childhood is innocent and joyful. To me growing up in my Chinese sitcom drama home means chaos and no rules. Perhaps what I think ‘normal and happy home’ shall only exist inside the television box such as the existence of a mother who is so sweet and warm, the ideal would have with lots of love and care toward you and often encourage you on the doodle you drew. She would say you are very talented. On the other side, the existence of a dad would be hard working with a sense of family man, caring and talkative with a positive attitude toward life, and of course a great humor. An ideal brother would holds little sister’s hand and introduce his friends to her and draw together and with the ideal grandmother who cooks delicious meals, very knowledgeable and well educated.
That is a picture I painted inside my brain, as the truth the ideal never being the reality. Actually is quite the opposite.
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy my hardship of being a kid. There were couple happy moments. Delicious food becomes my outlet, they gave me comfort and reminded me of living fully in the present.
My favorite food all the time is Chinese hot pot. As a family gathering ritual, hot pot only happens once a year during the shortest day of the year, the Chinese winter solstice.
We called it ‘make winter’ in Chinese which means the winter came, and I always enjoy it because that is the only time the cooking pot would come out to the dinner table and dad would have a big smile on his face. There are many different types of raw food ingredient on the table, and we pick up our favorite from fish balls to pig intestine and cook inside the hot boiling broth. The soup base is couple white daikon in boiling water. We treated this special day with joy and happiness. My dad is an atheist so we don’t celebrate any other holidays, including birthday. I often found myself very envy and almost jealous of other children’s Christmas gifts and birthday gifts. Christmas to me is a festival at school and being forced to exchange cheap gifts and candies, it has no real meaning to me until I grew up. Everything is a ritual, a show without meaning.
Santa Claus doesn’t exist. When I was very young dad told me those fairy tales are not real either. I grew up without western fantasy and any religious beliefs, everything is a myth. But there is Christmas light shining colorfully on the street, and my full stomach of hot pot foods.
I chose to believe in fairies and my imagination. I refused to be an atheist.
I never knew how much my dad was suffering within, I assumed he felt hopeless and has trust issue deeply rooted in him which included his emotional how he felt and what he touched can be an illusion as well. Because of his super paranoid mind I never able to get out of the alert mode to check any environment is safe or not. I cannot cry because I know he would just ignore me which happened countless time. I cannot have any close friends to visit our home because of his over-protecting. Every time I am going out to hang out with any friend is based on his grumpy mood. I cannot have beautiful dresses because his paranoid mindset that I would get kidnapped. My closet was full of my brother’s overgrown clothes and pants. I cannot ever go out play with others because that is wasting time in my dad’s standard. I cannot express my feelings because girl supposed to be sweet and cute as a doll in the music box.
My grandmother always wanted me to be a professional dancer. I would often watch television and copy the moves to brighten her smile. I feel like I am a good girl because I liked to dance. There was a period of time I obsessed with looking at the ice skating on the television. I liked the fluffy, shiny lace and chiffon dress they are wearing. Little baby blue with rhinestones in a color of silver. The ice skaters are the fairy from the winter wonderland. They are the queen of the north pole. I want to be one of them. I slowly convinced my dad that I need to learn ice skating so I can be one of the icy queens.
“No, the dress is way too short for little girls like you. It is flirty and slutty. NO!” My dad doesn’t seem to approve my decision to want to be a dancer on ice. Moreover, it is breaking the limitation of ‘no dress allowed’ rule.
I was so disappointed and move on, but the picture of the little girl same age of me in the pretty ice skating dress stuck in my mind. I want to be in charge and be the queen on ice. Then one day I saw on television there is a ballet performance. It was the swan lake. The synchronized dancing and the tiptoe fascinated me. Each of the moves is so perfect and elegant, and I can see the arm and legs moved so naturally. Is like they are born with knowing how to dance swan lake.
I did not know much about swan lake that time, all I focus is their costume—fluffy light feathers in black and white and each of them is like having a glow on their faces and enjoy the dance, so natural and meant to be. I set my mind to be a ballet dancer, perhaps the black swan.
It is not natural for me to like other colors than rainbow at that time, but somehow the feather, soft amber lighting with the ballet, everything is perfect in my artistic eyes. I want to be one of them. I want to grow up and not being the ugly duckling anymore. I want to be the best swan.
I tried to talk to my dad about ballet, but I fear of any kind of disapproval or misbehavior being label. So, I practice the arm moving like what the swan lake do, up and down like the wings are forking. I practiced so much to grab attention, to want to be approved to be a swan and not this ugly duckling who doesn’t do anything perfectly.
Finally, grandmother saw my dance and secretly paid me ten-course sessions to ballet school. I was so excited and went to my first couple classes secretly with my grandmother. There weren’t any pretty fluffy dresses but pink ballet uniform without the tulle. I lost my interested right away, on top of it when I saw a boy being bullied in the class by other girls. He was wearing a black uniform and looks super cool, but I am afraid being bully again, so I did not bother myself to help him. I am not able to practice the ballet at home since I know if my dad found out I would get into trouble.
Paper cannot cover the fire, ended up dad found out I go to ballet school, and things weren’t going well with us. Dad and grandmother yelling back and forth, and the argument made me so upset that I want to give up the whole ballet dream altogether. I don’t want to be the one causing trouble. I hate witnessing people yelling back and forth. I feel depressed so I made something up to cover my sadness. I set myself as escape goat of lost interest, my feet hurt too much and don’t want to go to ballet classes anymore, no matter how much I want to go. I just refused to go when my dad got super mad. Since that day he is not allowing me to have any hobby that costs money. He thought I wasted money and changed my mind too quickly after two classes.
Trust me it is better this way than he blamed on my grandmother secretly signed up the ballet for me expensively. I don’t want to see them fight again.
Since that day, my ballet dreamed busted, but the girl shadow in her tutu dress remain in my mind dancing toward happiness and sunshine. Just like the fond memory grandma bring my brother and me to go hiking.
We used to live right next to the Mount Parker. The road to the hill probably took us around 20 minutes then we would be at the bottom of the hill. We took the elevator to the bottom of the complex, passed through the exercise structures in bright yellow, passed through the cement and wire gates. Then we would be walking around the little river that was part of the dam. We followed the tiny steam and walked between the water on the slippery stones. Some of the rocks have moss on them in bright green.
There was a time brother argued with grandmother, she got so angry and walked away very fast. She slipped and fall very close to the river. She hurt her ankle. The accident made my brother felt super guilty and apologized to grandmother right away.
I hate conflicts and often got scared them quietly. My reaction right away is I want to ignore and escape. I hold on my feelings and senses; often thought I was the witness as an outsider, not the one in the conflicts. I usually let the other person won the argument even I was the right one. I just couldn’t deal with any negative opinions because I deal with them on a daily basis when I grew up. I let other took control in the conversation, and I just witness the flow, sometimes I felt like the only option to escape is by stop talking and end the conversation by running away from the conflict. I was in a passive-aggressive mode. I don’t want to be the one yelling or being yell, just quietly take everything in and analyzed them inside my head.
I didn’t know until later that being silent is not the solution to all the conflicts.
There were some happy moments in these hiking trip. The hill was full of mimosa pudica, and it was so much fun to try to find them. Mimosas are those sensitive plants when you touch it would close the leaves, we often called mimosas “shy grass” in Chinese even they are not grass. Once we found shy grass, we were full of joy and amazed at the randomness and the possibility of seeing them. We always thought mimosas were shy so when we touched them they would close like a lady being shy. We loved to touch them but never thought we would bring them home. Grandmother once told us what nature nurtures stays with the wild nature, so we never thought we can bring the shy grass home.
There used to be a meadow full of wild reeds around the hill. Brother and I used wild reeds as swords to play sword fight. We would name our swords in creative names based on the Chinese classic television show. It was so much fun. I often lose because I wasn’t into fighting and always wanted peace on earth. I was more of a peacemaker type personality. I don’t care about winning anything and often lose because I wasn’t aggressive at all. I walked away when there is only win or lose situation. It was so peaceful to running around in the wild reed field and let brother catch me. My face turned bright red as apple after I lost my breath.
I wasn’t good at any sports; I did not know I have flat fleet until I was thirty years old. My feet were always in pain growing up. My feet would burn and hurt even walking. I remembered I was consistently complaining the pain with ‘are we there yet?’ attitude. Most of the memories about hiking is my painful feet, and I just did not know better about getting better shoes or finding a doctor to make custom shoe soles. My family did not understand and always thought I m a negative kid who always loves to complain. I learned from family that I should be tough and suck it up. Moreover, my grandmother thought I had these evil ghosts on my ankles, so I consistently feel the pain. I remembered she gave me the drink of ashes from spell paper, and she was upset because I wasn’t getting any better. She cried and hit her chests because she was angry by not taking care of me properly. She felt hopeless because the ash water supposed to work but it did not.
Grandmother loved brother and me so much, so much that I don’t feel like I deserved.