Day 28

Sunny Wednesday coffee in front of the fountains in the gardens of the Palais Royal. 

After having taken a break for a few days because of immense fatigue, here I am again. Typing, just typing, because I can. 

I have not known fatigue like this in a long time. A fatigue that takes me and binds me to the bed, despite me and my will. 

Underneath there is also an anxiety, a desperation that claws at me about all the things that I am not doing, that I am missing. I feel it tie up my chest, making it difficult for me to breathe. I want to cry and scream, in an effort to release some tension—any tension—but I cannot.

I close my eyes and I am taken back into the dark again. It’s not sleep because my brain is running a mile a minute. I try to will myself to stop it but instead of stopping, my brain just flies off to another corner. I hear voices, I see faces, some that I recognise, some that I do not. I call out to no one in particular that I want this to stop. I want to stop feeling this way but obviously it does not. The dark continues to wrap me up in its embrace, immobilising me, taking away with it my strength and willpower. I want to go, to just do anything, to stretch, but this is bigger than me and I have no choice but to give in to it.

I can feel a chill settle around me despite the layers of wool that I am wrapped up in. And with it, a soreness. Without warning the chill turns to heat and I am suddenly clammy. 

Despite it all the tightness in my chest doesn’t leave, reminding me that I have responsibilities and a list of things to do that just keeps extending. I can’t find the energy in me to type, to write, to knit the only thing that convinces me that I am not going through a depression is that I can still find the energy to wash and dress myself. And to cook and to eat. But beyond that, I have not much else to keep me going. Where has it all gone? 

As I am typing I look around and 90% of the people around me are without their masks. It is beyond ridiculous. We are sitting in such close proximity to one another with the wind blowing. We seem to think that we are special, somehow immune to this virus that does not discriminate and does not choose its victims based on any standard that we know.

I stop myself and let my ears focus on what’s coming through: music through my headphones, the fountain and wasps. It is soothing, in a way that white noise is soothing. I can see two wasps hover around me as I write. They stop me from moving my arms and my fingers. They bumble around, trying to bump into my arm, almost trying to make me give way.

Is this a metaphor?

Image: Beyond the Window Box

Day 17

A letter to my stepchild


Big, 

Today you had a conversation with your father about bringing up Little and your role in her education and I am not sure if you realise that I had overheard the entire thing, or if you did, whether you cared or not. The thing is that I did and I do. 

I have never been more hurt by you in the entire time that I have known you, Big. 

I made a decision when I started being with your father to dedicate my time and my life to this house, and to you and Little. It meant an indirect decision to put a pause in pursuing my career. I made a decision to be a constant presence in your and Little’s lives. I made a decision to wake up at any time in the night when Little calls for me. I made a decision to put up with the good, bad and ugly of the both of you and not just press “quit” and push either of you away when it gets too much, like children do with old dolls. That is what it means to be to be a parent. It means to be there constantly and to be stable and to be consistent in what is okay and what is not. 

They were all insanely difficult decisions to make that have all impacted my life irrevocably and forever. It meant spending differently. I meant handling my finances totally differently because now I am participating in a household budget that is HUGE. It meant giving up the concept of weekends. It meant giving up on regularly seeing my own parents back home. It meant that time and space that I used to have for myself is a luxury. It meant changing my entire schedule that I have kept for most of my adult life to revolving around your school days and hours. It meant redefining the entire concept of privacy. 

Do you know what that means, Big? I mean, do you actually know truly in your heart? 

But in the end I made that decision willingly and gladly because you and your family are worth it. It led to long discussions with your father about what that would mean and what my role would be. I was hesitant of accepting their invitation not only because of the obvious legal ramifications (which we were dealing with in court with your own mother), but also because both you and Little have your own biological mothers and your own set of rules that I have to contend with. 

I am telling you all of this because I feel like you deserve to know. I am not asking for your pity or for you to acknowledge my burden as these were all my decisions I made consciously. We all live with the consequences of our choices (as you once said so eloquently to me on the subject of your father). The way you use the relationship that I have with your father as a bargaining chip in your discussions with your father as a way to hurt him hurts me directly, Big. They hurt me and insult the way I have chosen to conduct my life. 

You are right that you never had a say in whether I can (and should) be in this household and whether I get to have a say in raising Little or not. You are absolutely right. Let’s leave aside the fact that I think that you forget that you are your father’s child and always will be, which means that you are not his equal nor are you mine. Let’s not forget that have an age difference that accounts for a vast gap in life experience, knowledge and accountability. Let’s leave aside the fact that I truly believe that if an older child were enlisted to participate in the household and in the education of a younger child, then his or her role would be to help enforce the existing rules in the family and not to start changing them or starting new ones. That is not the role of the child. It is also not the role of the child to sneakily or passive aggressively “ignore” or “change” the rules when they want to or when they think “it is right”. Running a family is not a democratic procedure. However, it is clear to me that you see things differently and I am not here to debate about that right now in this letter to you. 

I am formally asking you right now via this letter whether or not I am welcome in this household. This is a legitimate question and I expect an honest answer. If your answer is no, then I will talk to your father and talk about how I can continue being with him without 1) living in this house and 2) participating any longer in this household. If your answer is yes, then I would like you actually accept me as a figure in this household and to no longer bring up the polyamorous beginnings of my and your father’s relationship, or any part of our relationship, in your discussions with him ever again. 

Yours (if you will have me),

Otter

Sunday lists n.2: 5 things I do when the anxiety gets too much

Today is SUNDAY! Sunday means my beloved is at home. Every other Sunday means that we get the house to ourselves for some precious alone time. Sunday means writing lists for this blog. Sunday means reading. Sunday means really appreciating the things that I am grateful for. And as silly and trivial as it may sound, especially in the face of this global pandemic we are facing, I am truly happy that my anxiety has been relatively manageable these past few weeks.

Here are some things that I find helpful, for me, for those times when shit gets rough.

Clean

I find cleaning to be akin to sorting out thought’s in one’s brain. As you are decluttering your desk, you are also decluttering your mind. As you throw out old receipts, candy wrappers, backs of band-aids and so on, from your bag, you’re also sorting out your memories. When I can afford it, the best way for me to calm down is housekeeping. The act of mopping the floor (I do it on my hands and knees) becomes meditative, and the same goes for washing the dishes. Even if the anxiety hasn’t gone away by the end, I can look around at a clean space and feel less overwhelmed by visual clutter.

Cook (a lot)

Since quitting the kitchens, cooking has become restorative for me again and I will work my hardest for it to stay that way. When my internal freak-out alarm is at its loudest, the kitchen is where I find my solace. The calm begins with choosing, or creating, a recipe. But the best part of it is meal prep. Chopping everything and getting them ready in their bowls is so calming. Making something so that your family’s fed and loved is so crucial to me and the way I love. When everything seems to be falling apart, knowing that I can be relied upon to make a big batch of pasta and meatballs, or curry, or chicken karaage that everyone will eat up in a split second is reassuring.

Exercise

Right, so sometimes I’ve done the first two and I would still find myself bouncing my leg up and down and picking at my cuticles. This is the time to bring out the big guns. And by big guns, I mean some good ol’ HIIT and weightlifting. Full disclosure: I have been living with a seriously banged up knee for more than 20 years now, which means I have to maintain my weight at around 50kg. But to complicate things further, there are A LOT of exercises that I can’t do. Still, there is no better way to feel alive than feeling your whole body moving like an engine and then having sweat pour off of you. I know at that moment that I exist, and that life is a bit crap right now, but if I can do 10 pushups in 10 seconds, then maybe, just maybe, I am fucking awesome.

Maybe.

Write

So I only did the first three things for almost as long as I have had anxiety. I couldn’t keep up with something like journaling and I was basically writing for a living, so writing when I was panicking seemed like a busman’s holiday. Or, in this case, a busman’s nightmare. But sometime last year I got back into writing, but writing poetry to be specific. I really got into the groove of it and it helped to have a little notebook and pen on hand to whip out at any moment– on the street, on the metro, in a cafe, at a party– to sort of expunge myself of any panic I might be feeling at any moment. It worked until one of my exes told her mother that I was a poet when she was asked what my profession was. That lie, among many other screwed up things that were happening at the time, just made me want to stop writing. That is until I stared this blog 11 days ago!

Writing is like cataloguing one’s memories and thoughts. It’s better than a photograph because you need to describe everything that you are going through, in your own words.

Writing is cathartic.

Writing heals.

Plan ahead

Let’s be real, I have always been a planner. Sometimes the best part of a holiday is planning for it: the places you’ll go, the outfits you’re gonna wear, the things you’ll eat, etc. But I digress.

When I find myself spiralling, it helps me to have visibility on the future. It doesn’t even have to be that far ahead. It could just be planning for the day, or for the afternoon, even. It helps to tell myself I have these non-negotiable things that I need to accomplish, some things that I would perhaps like to do, and a couple of things that I would include to treat myself with if I happen to get everything done. It helps me focus on the immediate and it also gives me motivation to keep going forward.

Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot.

One of the things that I tell myself when my anxiety is riding dizzyingly high is that I need imagine myself walking on a tightrope. The tightrope walker makes it to the other end by placing one foot after the other. Sure, on a long piece of metal string (ok rope. fine, cable), but that’s basically the action. Dwelling on the height, on the morbidity, on its dangers, just renders the act impossible. To me, it’s kind of like managing anxiety. What matters in the end is that we keep on walking.

Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot.

Image: © Getty Images/Unsplash

Day 9

So you’re ethnically ambiguous?

Get ready for strangers playing Russian roulette with your origins, as if where you’re from is a game, even when you have your headphones on and it’s bloody 7am on a cold winter’s day.

“Konichiwa? Sawadeeka? Annyeonghaseyo? Nihao? Alright, be a bitch.”

There will also be enthusiastic randos coming up to you to ask if you’re from such and such a place?

“Oh, hello! Excuse me, but are you from Nagaland? No? But you look so much like it…”

When they finally get a terse answer from you– let’s be clear: it’s not because you want to satisfy their curiosity but because it’s clear that they won’t let you go until they get an answer– shit gets real.

“Oh, so you’re from Hong Kong? Do you know Jackie Chan?”

or

“Oh, Hong Kong! I have a friend, Johnny Appleseed, who’s from there. Do you know him? He’s real nice. You guys should meet.”

Shit could get even more real when you least expect it.

“Man, Hong Kong. I heard they don’t have TVs there.”

or

“Hong Kong. You guys are part of China right? So that means you guys kill girl babies?” (Yeah, shit for brains, and that’s how I am here.)

or

“You from China? I heard your pussies are bushy as fuck and are sideways. Is that true?”

or, my favourite

“You know what I love about your people? Who? I mean, you Asians. It’s that you guys put your families first and that you are really in touch with nature. I mean, just look at zen and Buddhism.”

Now that we’ve covered encounters with strangers, let’s talk about the people who’s meant to have your back. I am referring to the people who live in the same town as you.

Fucking. Bloody. Malarky.

They also get in on the “guess the origins” game.

“Oh, your skin is so dark/fair/something-that-is not-theirs! You’re not from around here, are you? OH! You are? Then you must have grown up out of town! You didn’t? Are you mixed? No?”

or

“Where are you from? The States? Wait, what you are from around here? You sure? Maybe there’s someone in your family from abroad? I swear you are mixed.”

Once that’s down, they get on with picking on your language even if you speak it perfectly.

“See you are mixed–well, not mixed, but you know what I mean. You know what I am talking about. Your pronunciation! It’s so…clear and enunciated! What, your parents are professors?”

Sometimes even family members get tempted to give you their two cents, usually about your body.

“Growing up abroad has really changed your body. You’re so big now, you really got to diet or you’re going to be obese when you’re older. What? Oh, yes, you grew up here. I forgot. You just look so…dark. I forget sometimes. You know how it is.”

or

“You got all those freckles on your face. I have this great lightening cream. Wait, you like them? You’re going to regret it when you’re my age.”

A perfectly fine house party between friends and roommates can turn hella awkward especially during Halloween because they forget that you’re from the country from which they appropriated their costume.

“I am a geisha, can’t you tell? What do you mean geishas don’t dress like this. I even got those chopsticks in my hair. I got this dress from Chinatown. What? You’re saying this is a qipao that Chinese women wear? No one cares, you get the general idea. So freaking glad it’s just for the day, can you imagine wearing this all the time? No wonder they get all sorts of weird diseases all the time, putting eating utensils in their hair. Sure, ok, no one wears this all the time. Fine, I get it. Who called the PC police up here? OH SHIT, you’re from CHINA?! Ok, not China. But bro….! I’m sorry!”

Never-ending BS, from all sides.

Putain de chintok

Stuck-up slanty-eyed bitch

Race traitor

Pawn of the western media

Chink

Now that you know, steel yourself. Face the day with your head high.

Open the door.

And breathe.

Image © Lyubov Ivanova/Getty Images

Day 8

This is the story of a little square.

Once upon a time there lived a little square. I could tell you more about her; what colour she is, for example, but no. She is just an ordinary tiny square. Her parents constantly preached to her about the great things about being a square. It’s not that she is ashamed of being a square. Oh, no, of course not! Never that! It’s that she quietly fancied herself to be unique.

Like all parents who pass down their experience and wisdom on to their little ones, the little square’s parents taught her all there is to know in order to succeed in life as a little square: watch the lines, don’t go bending corners and keep straight.

The little square tried very hard to follow the things she’s been taught. But one day she got into her little head that maybe she’s different. Maybe she is no ordinary square.

First she tried to colour herself. She tried purple, she tried green and she tried orange. No matter what colour she painted herself in, everyone knew right away that she was the little square.

Drats.

She tried giving it up for a bit, but then she’d try again. And again. And again.

Then she remembered her parents’ rule about keep straight.

“Right, screw this, I’m going to go down all those winding paths and twisty corners. I’ll show them!”

So off she went. Her little squareness made it really difficult to go down all those winding paths and twisty corners.

This is going to be a problem.

She sulked. As she sulked a big long sulk, she looked around her and saw all shapes of different shapes (haha) and sizes rolling, bouncing and twirling around. That day she decided to pluck up the courage to speak to a doctor about turning herself into a triangle.

After many, many months of cutting and taping, she became a triangle. And for awhile she was truly happy. She went back to her square parents, who had a hard time accepting her at first, but are now happy to hear her stories of a square living as a triangle.

But one night as the darkness settled in, she realised that she was still unhappy. She saw all the little round-shaped holes teasing her. Circles were tormenting her in the day, and spheres in the night.

And after many, many months of cutting and taping, she became a circle. And even though, like last time, she found herself happy again. Like last time, the darkness settled once more in her heart. And she found herself speaking to the doctor again.

And so she became an oval. Then a rhombus. Then a diamond.

A few months after turning herself into a diamond, she found herself at the doctor’s office again.

“Doctor, doctor. This isn’t me. You know what I really need to be?”

“No, tell me.”

“No, I am asking you. I don’t know.”

This time the doctor cannot bear the pain of cutting his patient any smaller. He explained to her that there is just not enough material on her to make her into another shape. If he does, she will die.

That very night, the once little square, sat by the fire in her garden. She stared into the fire as she sat there, and she got more and more mesmerised by the dancing and shifting shapes. She tried to lean in to take a closer look. And then she walked closer and closer to the fire.

Just a little more.

Oh, that’s pretty…!

And then she fell in.

And as she did, the dancing fire transformed her into a million tiny fragments to be carried away in the loving arms of the wind into the night sky.

Photo courtesy of Archiproducts

Day 6

Holy Batman anxiety. A trip to the pharmacy this morning where I made a mistake in cutting the queue after having thought that there were two, instead of the one, has left me with a shaky hands, heart palpitations and stars and butterflies.

How did I even get here? When did I first begin to realise that this is a condition not everyone has?

Was it when I realised that I would get dizzier and dizzier when my parents pressured me to make calls to the charity hotlines when I was a kid?

No, because I don’t like peer pressure, that’s all.

Was it when I got shaky before I got on stage for concerts?

No, because I read The Berenstain Bears Get Stage Fright. If they made a book about it, then I shouldn’t make a mountain out of a molehill with my nervousness.

Was it when I caught myself going through the play-by-play of my mistakes over and over again in my head, as if I could go back in time and make it all stop before it had started?

No, because mommy said it’s important to review the mistakes we make every day so that we don’t make them ever again.

Was it when I got my first panic attack because of all the people and noise? Was it when I felt my stomach knotting up before going to a party?Was it when I would hide in the toilets before presentations? Was it when I would feel the world spin after turning red whenever I heard my voice crack from nervousness?

When was it? And does it matter?

When I was little there were some weekends where there would be a charity event on television. My father would always use it as an opportunity to try to toughen me up. There’s always the song and dance with him asking me if I would like to do a nice thing for the poor people out there, my responding that if we wanted to do nice things for people then we should just show it with our actions instead of donating money that would trickle down several middlemen and lose its meaning. It all usually ends with him throwing down an ultimatum before The Rehearsal.

The Rehearsal was where my parents would pretend to be the people on the receiving end and we would practice our lines before I actually make the call. A bizarre ritual in and of itself without all the rest of it. For reasons unbeknownst to me, they didn’t seem to realise that The Rehearsal just made it worse. Most times I can finish barely dialling the number and would start to be short of breath. Then I’d wheeze and then I’d start to cry. The rare times where I’d made it past the dial tone, my throat would close up and I wouldn’t be able to speak.

Then came the yelling.

There would always be the yelling afterwards: “Otter, it was just a tiny phone call to a stranger about something inconsequential. Why can’t you even do that? Are you going to avoid strangers your entire life? Is that it? You can’t hide behind us forever, you know!”

To be quite frank, I don’t really remember his exact words because it always happened in such a blur, his voice drowned out by my own crying and wheezing. They would try to backtrack when I would start to get the shakes, and then they would explain how they didn’t mean to hurt me and try to explain that they understood what I was going through. That was the worst bit, because they would always get it wrong.

The more they explained the more I shook. Then they’d babble and explain some more and it would get worse.

Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.

My mother likes to say that I get panic attacks because I have a “weak heart”. She said that again a week ago when I was on the phone with her. I am just too fucking tired to argue anymore.

Now, there are good days and there are the bad. But sometimes I really wonder if my anxiety would have been this bad if I had been able to stand my ground and had said no to them, at least once.

Checklist for the day

  • 1 empty water bottle on the coffee table
  • 1 bag of clean unfolded laundry by Big’s door
  • 1 unplugged night light sitting in the corridor
  • 1/2 load of clean laundry lying on the bed in the master bedroom
  • 3 pairs of shoes in the entry way
  • 6 dirty glasses, 2 dirty coffee cups, 2 dirty dishes, 1 dirty pot
  • 12 glass bottles to take down for recycling

Image: © Mykyta Dolmatov/Getty Images

Day 5

My introduction to feminism came later than most. I put that down to having grown up in a traditional Chinese family in a hyper-capitalist city. Political beliefs, existential musings and philosophical discussions were something that were restricted to late evening conversations and anyone who took them too seriously were immediately deemed as radical and sacrificing their livelihood for lofty ideals.

I wasn’t introduced to the words “feminist” or “feminism” until my first year of my undergraduate. It was so new and so foreign. It made so much sense to me from the get go (of course I don’t need to feel like I need to shave, of course I should be paid the same amount as a dude, of course I have the right to call out manspreaders), but it didn’t feel like something I could grasp. It felt like it didn’t apply to me, a seventeen-year-old. I felt as if I hadn’t suffered enough, or at all, for being a woman. I felt like the gross catcalls and leery stares I got were compliments. I felt as if losing my virginity to my first boyfriend, after he got me drunk and forced me to have sex when I was blacked out, was something dirty that had only happened to me. I didn’t understand how silly it was to feel that feminism is something that one can only identify with if something had happened to them.

Even hearing the word “feminism” roll off my tongue felt like a transgression in itself back then. I still remember the day when I first became aware of International Women’s Day. It was a day off and a close friend and I were wandering around downtown. She was telling me about feminism and how important it is to her after my basically having asked: “why anarcho-feminism?” After hearing her becoming increasingly passionate as she spoke, I told her I didn’t identify as a feminist. I justified that by saying that I stand by everything that feminists believe in and identified with. But I don’t feel like I am living like one and putting what I believe in into practice yet. It’s a label that I don’t feel comfortable in owning, at least not yet. While she understood me, she accused me of being a bad ally. It is a conversation that has stayed with me and which I revisit from time to time.

“I am a woman, not a feminist.”

After the first time I was date raped, I tried to muster up the courage to go to the university police after having gone to the clinic earlier in the week. When the policeman began to question if I had had alcohol (I didn’t) and if I had invited the rapist in my home, I just wanted the conversation to end and left without filing a report. It devastated me. I tried so hard not to let it affect me and kept with the grind to pursue the career that I had dreamt of. I got a lotus tattoo as a gift to myself. A permanent one. To tell myself that like the lotus, I can also grow out of the mud and make something beautiful.

I became a more militant and more outspoken feminist. Why should I self-police the way I look when nothing mattered? Why should I play nice if what they want is to see us down, to see us weak?

Then it happened again. Date rape again, but this time when I tried to confront the rapist, I got a cease and desist. When I called the survivor’s hotline, they were bored with my trying to figure out if I had been raped or not and were only interested in ensuring that I wasn’t going to off myself when I hung up. 

I got my fourth tattoo to remind myself to stop looking for reason in what had happened to me. I tried to drown myself in work, to stop performing femininity and to fight for visibility in the workplace. But I was either too visible, by being too feminine, too Asian, too petite, too North-American, too outspoken, too loud, too much. Or I was not being seen at all. I was only one of three female postgraduates in my program. I had to fight to speak up when we had union meetings, or any meeting at all. People always assumed I was an undergraduate. It became even more ridiculous when I became a faculty member. I still remember the time when I was almost thrown out of the staff room.

A few years later, I got burn out. Like, serious burn out. It was only last year that I started to embrace it and not give myself a time limit to get out of it. I have since been using my time to take care of the kids, to nurture myself as I should have done all these years ago.

So why do I feel like such a bad feminist? Whenever I tell people I stay at home now, I get the weirdest looks from people. Where people would have usually gone on to talk to me about my work and projects, now the conversation would fizzle out and there would be an awkward silence before people talk about something else entirely and I would disappear into the background.

I choose to be a homemaker. I am not my work.

I am a feminist.

Checklist for the day:

  • Call gran
  • Expecting a package and sending out two other
  • Do the dinner shop
  • Tidy up the house
  • Feed me!
  • Move the basil
  • Pick up Little
  • Get dinner ready
  • Work out

Day 2

After writing yesterday, I felt my brain going almost manic. For the rest of the day, it fired a hundred ideas a minute for the next post: life as a stepmom, lists of books, life after trauma, life after academia, living in Paris as an ethnic Chinese who speaks French, English and Chinese, the intersectionality of racism and sexism here and elsewhere, pen recommendations, recipes and the list could go on for quite awhile, but I chose to stop listening.

Choosing was easy, but actually stopping was incredibly hard.

Instead, I made a promise to myself to write and to post just once a day. For a fixed period of time, I will sit down and write everything down for one post. I can go back to it, edit it, or change it up completely. But when the time is up, I will stop and call it a day.

The thing is that I am no stranger to this feeling of manic writing frenzy. I remember when I used to embrace the sudden burst of creativity and would let myself sit down and write paragraphs that turned into chapters overnight. I loved, and welcomed, these moments which (to nobody’s surprise) usually came in the beginning of a project. What would inevitably happen is that the “burst” would inevitably live up to its definition and fizzle. The outpouring of ideas that I had in the beginning would slowly taper off and I would feel incredibly guilty for no longer churning out several chapters a day and that would lead to a cycle of guilt, pressure and shame that would then transform into the infamous writer’s block.

This was more than five years ago.

I have come to realise that the best way to make this a steady and long-lasting habit, or ritual, even, is to go slow. Write a post a day, and then close it. Do not give in to write down all the ideas that tickle my brain just yet. Believe that if an idea is important enough, it will stay with me until the morning. Believe in the limitless possibilities that this writing medium offers.

As I got to thinking about nurturing habits, ny thoughts went to my teenaged stepdaughter, whom I love and of whom I am so immensely proud. She radiates light when I look at her. Whenever she talks to us about something that she is passionate, I see roads opening in front of her and I swear I would chop off an arm if it means she could get a chance to walk them. She is also brilliant at testing my patience and sanity. The prevailing issue with us concerns rules, how to set them, and how to enforce them.

She and I share the same size for most clothes. I enjoyed this from the start and loved loaning her pieces from my closet when she went out. It began to grow into a habit that I called her out on. The next time that she took clothes without permission, she also went into our bathroom and used my perfume and makeup without asking. I spoke to her again, writing her a very long letter explaining that I love sharing things with her but that asking me before using them is a bare minimum. It does not matter that each time I say “yes” to her. She cannot take that “yes” for granted and just assume that she can go ahead and do whatever she wants. Now that half a year has passed, she is doing it again. As they say, old habits die hard.

Included in these old habits of hers are the following:

  • Constantly asking for new clothes when she clearly has enough. I am aware that they are not the latest style, but that is not what she is saying as she obviously knows that if that is the reason she brings up, we would shoot it down right away.
  • Not taking care of her belongings and when called out either says that she needs to be taught it (instead of just going ahead and doing it) or that she does takes care of her things, just the things that she happens to care about.
  • Complaining that she looks to her parents for discipline. Problem being that firstly, I do not discipline teens, nor does my partner, and she knows that. There are rules that are understood in our household and they are to be followed. Secondly, the brand of discipline that she is looking for is that of her mother’s. I have no problem with that, it’s just that they are not mine nor do I share her values and therefore not mine to set. Thirdly, is the way she feels entitled to set the rules for us by passively aggressively letting things slide, ignoring rules that have been set and feigning ignorance when called out.

I am tired of going over the ground rules again and again with my kid, only to have them ignored all over again. I am exhausted to have to explain to her how her actions violate my privacy and trust, or to have to explain to her why her intentions do not matter when her actions indicate something grossly different. I am pained each time I do the mental dance of asking myself is she or is she not being manipulative. How do you deal with a person who maliciously ignores your requests, such as please return my belongings immediately after using them? At some point it is not about the person not knowing better and it becomes clearer that the person is blatantly ignoring what you have asked them. What to do then?

How can I teach my teen to be considerate? How do I nurture respect and selflessness in her? What does the world “belief” mean to someone of that age?

Checklist of the day, AKA my brain is registering all the sounds and nothing else:

  • My typing, or I am smashing ants on my keyboard
  • The dog barking next door
  • The light coming through the living room and kissing my basil
  • The low hum of the refrigerator
  • My kid’s half-eaten sandwich and thermos of coffee sitting on the kitchen counter (for which I woke up at 6 to prepare)
  • The bunny pushing around its dish

Day 1

I write today to stop escaping and to start documenting.

To document the reasons that made me escape in the first place. To document the numerous checklists that I made in my head to make me stay grounded (but let’s be honest. If they worked, I wouldn’t be here). To document the darkness. To document the light. In doing so, I can come back here when the whirling dervishes of my head try to drown me, when I feel like I have nothing more to give, that it is okay because like everything else, it will all pass. When I am at my most stable, I know there are others out there like me, with worry and doubt behind their eyes, hoping for a kindred spirit out there.

I write today to start something.

When life comes at an unstoppable speed, when I feel like a grain of rice being washed, with both hand and water pushing me towards something greater than you, I just want to hit the stop button. If not “stop”, then “pause”. It is times like these when I would escape: into a book, under my covers, in my thoughts. A shelter for my brain so I can breathe again. This sort of escapism saved me from the worst of myself, but also made me incredibly vulnerable. I want to stop running and start living.

I write today to fight back.

There are often multiple sides to one story and there are moments, especially in this time that we live in, where it seems as if that whoever screams the loudest wins. Where I would once keep my head down low and my mouth shout, now I wonder why I feel as if I should do that? Would I not be complicit in shutting my voice down? Don’t I also deserve to be heard?

I do, we do.

I have always had the habit of making checklists in my head. It was/is a crutch for me when dealing with anxiety and when I was recovering from my rapes. Maybe I will stop making them one day, but until that time I am going to document them here. In doing so maybe it will banalise the process, free up some much needed headspace and also it’s all part of the archive.

Checklist for the day:

  • Heightened hearing: Y/N
  • Strained breathing: Y/N
  • Lowered appetite: Y/N
  • Knot in stomach: Y/N
  • Heightened irritability: Y/N