Ungrateful Daughter Diaries.

Before I go any further with this post, readers are advised that there are flashes of self-care  internal battles in this post. Anyone who does not believe in self-care or mental health should proceed with caution.

In 2018, my father was diagnosed with Stage 3-and-a bit colon cancer; the cancer was successfully removed, together with a chunk of his colon, and he has been able to live a fairly normal, active life. 

On Monday, he called me to say his doctors wanted him to go for an MRI scan because there were “abnormalities” in his latest health check. He said my mother, who claims to know everything, everyone and what’s best for everyone, insisted it was high time I took responsibility for my father’s care, so I should go with him to the MRI lab on Tuesday. Fact – my mother avoids medical facilities as she has had a double masectomy and hip surgery; I  understand her reluctance but I resent being ordered to accompany him when I would have willingly done so – he only had to ask. Why, when I am a working adult, does my mother think I will take kindly to being ordered about? I also resent the implication that I don’t take enough responsibility for his care. 

After the MRI session, my father wanted lunch before heading home. Over lunch, he talked about his childhood, English football, the US elections, recounted several arguments between my mother and her sister, and then he asked if I’d spoken to my aunt.

Squabbles between my mother and her sisters are nothing new: they grew up bickering and that habit persists to this day. What has changed is the passing of the younger sister in August 2019, and the elder sister having to sort through her effects. Because my late aunt named me as co-executor, I have obviously met with my surviving aunt (the other co-executor) at the lawyers’ and she has mentioned her unhappiness about my mother’s constant accusations that she is taking too long to clear out my late aunt’s things, and my mother’s demands to have items she had given her to be returned. Fact – my aunt is 91 years old and I feel the task is mammoth, emotional and she is doing it alone, so let her take her time and pace herself! Why is she handling this alone? Because my other aunt would not have wanted my mother anywhere near her things. hy am I not helping? My doing so will trigger more aggressions from my mother, and the suspicions that I have made off with things of value. 

Back to my father’s question. I would be damned no matter how I answer because he will report it to my mother and she will have another go at my aunt, after calling me all sorts of names and recounting my sins to the neighbours, her friends and her relatives. I settled for, “I haven’t talked to her about the house.” My father accepted that but followed up with, “What has mum done to you that makes you so ungrateful?”

This is a question that really didn’t need to be answered in a cafe in the middle of Covid-19. But never have I been more grateful for this disease because my father is near-deaf, refuses to use his hearing aid but, thanks to Covid-19, the nearest tables were 1.5 metres away. 

I told him I am not ungrateful. I am well aware of her sacrifices raising me; she has never let me forget her struggles and how she had to do everything on her own because her husband and sisters were useless. But there comes a point where gratitude and filial piety can get overtaken by survival needs and emotional self-defence. I told him of instances where I heard her telling other relatives about how I was a disloyal, uncaring, unfilial, lying, useless daughter, and that I had poisoned my relatives’ and my own family’s minds and opinions against her.

I told him of two occasions (there were others) where she upset other people at social events and I was politely requested not to have her present in the future. I told him of a school event where she ranted at me in front of the principal, teachers, students and other parents for something I never did. How much, I asked my father, was I supposed to take from her? Did he really think I should remain “grateful”, and for what exactly? I told him smoothing over ruffled feathers in those situations was already paying for “grateful”. And that “grateful” and survival were two separate issues. Fact – the question I also wanted to ask was: where were you, dad, in all of this? Did you never know mum clearly has problems? 

I don’t know how much of what I said was heard. Or if anything registered. Or if it meant anything to him. Or if he’d been simply tasked to ask that question by my mother and he would report whatever he can. I do know that the circumstances were not ideal for that conversation. My father was not an ideal discourse partner. My mother will never accept anything I say anyway because she is never wrong and she knows everything.

I am aware the situation in that household is percolating away and may well boil over. I am aware I am dodging things and am stuck in the middle. And this sorry situation has taken toll on my health (could this be the trigger for the heart attack?). I should probably also have sought help way earlier. 

But that conversation went better for me than I expected. I didn’t get emotional. He wasn’t angry so that meant I hadn’t been disrepectful or totally illogical. I was clear headed and firm. And I have therapy to thank. 

Therapy has taught me that I can’t change the past or who people are or tweak the present, especially if they deny a need for their own self-examination. It has taught me that there is a difference between being grateful and being a victim, being filial and being abused. It has taught me that abuse takes many different forms and not all bruises are seen on skin. 

Therapy has taught me that there are toxic parents. That mothers can suffer from narcissistic personality disorders, or be bipolar, or simply not be equipped to be good mothers. That fathers can be compliant because they go along to get along. That siblings don’t all get along and that the child sometimes has to be the adult.

Therapy has taught me that my mother’s script is not mine; I have a right to write my own.

And writing this has been cathartic.

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The Event

If there ever was a time I was woefully unready for what would confront me, it would be 1 July 2020. You see, that was the day I suffered a heart attack, aka The Event.

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If you’ve known me awhile, you’ll know I’m struggling with a poor relationship with my mother. And that the current distancing situation has been both a blessing and a challenge. However, I never saw this challenge coming.

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Well, on the Tuesday before The Event, I’d gone to work as usual and then had lunch out. Where I live, work and dining out are allowed provided a group does not exceed 5, and work spaces are spread out and we work in teams to reduce intermingling.

I felt tired and not terribly chatty but passed it off as the after-effects of having submitted two projects that morning. Then I went home and had dinner with my family.

I felt muscle spasms across my back and a pokey hollow feeling in my chest. Again, I thought it was exhaustion, and regretted not having headed home early for a nap! I had an early night instead and woke up feeling normal.

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Wednesday was my off-day so I was at home when the spasms hit at around 2pm. This time, I felt like I was running a vertical marathon and unable to stop. My chest felt as if it was splitting apart, I couldn’t fill my lungs and then came the cold sweats … and the realisation that this was Not Good!

I went to the hospital.

It must have been a sign of the severity of The Event because I went from check in (mandatory temperature check and Safe Entry registration) at the hospital entrance to the OR in less than 30 minutes. No usual 2 hour wait for a doctor this time!

I was strapped to an ECG machine, had multiple needles inserted to draw multiple vials of blood, had two teams of personel to change me out of my home clothes and into scrubs, had chest x-rays done and gone from the Emergency Admissions area to the Heart Centre OR.

I had no time to feel fear really. I was more agog at all the activity going on around me and I remember thinking these medics were as efficient and coordinated as Formula 1 pit crews! Two doctors explained that they’d have to put a stent into one of my arteries; it would be inserted via an “injection” near my right wrist. I learnt later that they’d also spoken to my waiting family. Throughout, a nurse held my hand or kept her hand on my shoulder, patting me in silent comfort. Bless this lovely person!

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In the OR, the surgeon explained the processes and asked if I wanted to watch how the stent would be inserted. Sure. Why not. The other option was to stare the overhead lights.

A huge video screen was angled towards me, and I was thus privy to an exclusive front row seat to view my beating heart. Coloured dye flooded the screen and highlighted the problem artery. Suddenly, a stent appeared in place like an elongated UFO. This was the moment that brought immense relief from the pain and tension, and the moment of total peace.

“You feel nothing now, right?” the surgeon asked from the other side if the monitor. “No more pain?”

Today, I would have asked if that meant I had moved on to some other plane but at that moment, being able to inhale normally was good enough!

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I spent 2 nights in the Cardiac ICU and was discharged to recuperate at home for the rest of July.

So here I am. I’ve had 2 weeks of Cardiac Rehab and physiotherapy sessions. I’ve spoken to a counsellor, and will be meeting a dietician next month. Then I’ll be meeting my surgeon to discuss affairs of my heart moving forward.

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There has been nothing conclusive about the cause of the event. My bloodwork, blood sugar, cholesterol and so on were all within range, as was my BMI.

My physiotherapist wonders if The Event was stress induced. So do I, particularly considering how much has happened in the past 12 months.

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Right now, I want to rest and heal. It feels weird to not go to work. And it is (selfishly) annoying that there’s nothing new on the telly. The books that I want to read won’t arrive in time so ebooks will have to suffice.

But I am breathing. It is enough because I am unready to leave yet. I know it’s not up to me but I pray for more time to take time for me. To let go of people and situations that do me no good. To chart new paths and learn new skills to enrich my world and make me a better, calmer person. To accept that there are lifelong medications to take and that certain activities will no longer be possible.

I am, at least, ready to make positive changes.

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RDP ~ UNREADY

Clap! ~ Act Of Kindness #38

At 8pm this evening, people came to their balconies, windows, driveways and front doors to cheer, clap, whistle, sing and bang on pots and pans to salute the medical personnel, cleaning crews, grocery store stockers, clear-headed decision makers and everyone fighting this unseen enemy. It was amazing.

Many of us are in lockdown and coping with our new normal. Many of us want to do something, anything, to make things better for our countrymen who are working while we’re safe at home.

My heart is heavy with sorrow for the victims, their families and the tireless fighters. My throat is thick each time the news reports an increased figure in the statistics.

So I am thankful for this moment of solidarity this evening.

It was just a small gesture that carried a huge message of support. It was something we could do.

So perhaps what happened fhis evening wasn’t exactly kindness. It is certainly not unique, having taken place all over the world. It is a small wave of gratitude and thanks, a mere drop in the sea of sacrifice, vigilance and commitment for the fierce frontliners in the Covid-19 fight.

To everyone on the frontlines – thank you.


Ungrateful Daughter Diaries ~ No More Pinky Promises

Hold my hand, don’t drag me by my sleeve.

Hold my hand, don’t take it to pull me where I don’t want to go.

Hold my hand, don’t fling it away because you have more important things to do.

Hold my hand and say, “We’ll do this together,” not “You’re so stupid! Why can’t you do anything right?”

Hold my hand and guide me to walk strong and tall, not pull yours away and say, “Stand on your two feet, you dirty yellow chicken!”

Hold my hand, tell me I am a good daughter despite my flaws, not tell all the relatives that I am unfilial, unreliable, untrustworthy, worthless, and lacking in grace, manners and civility.

Hold my hand, teach me arts and crafts and life skills, not use your own to slap me, and write lists and essays of how much money I cost you to raise me.

Hold my hand because you are my mother, and I should be by your side for your golden years.

But you know what?

Don’t hold my hand.

I have walked a long road on my own two feet. It has taken a long while but I have found my path. I found my way. And I am letting you go.


RDP ~ HOLD MY HAND

March

March 4th, the only day that is also a sentence.” ~ John Green

And here’s a peek the first March weekly spread in my bullet journal. I can honestly say that journalling has been a huge help in sorting out the bits and pieces of life.

Ahem. Ah Choo.

When Covid-19 hit, there were tales of Asians being insulted, ostracised, spat at, beaten, screeched at to “Get the #@$ out of my country!”

Then came the pictures of shopkeepers who placed posters across their doors, refusing service to “foreigners”.

Now that this virus has spread even further, and the patients are no longer just Asians, is it wrong to take a few moments to snort at the latest online videos?

The classic is the one where an Asian man steps into a restaurant, a lift and a gym, and coughs; the folks flee faster than The Flash. The man is an actor with a message. But behind the snarky storytelling lies a sad reality.

My child called home last week to say an Asian friend was in a fairly crowded train, heading from Oxford to London. He coughed because his throat was ticklish – you know, the sort of ticklish that a sip of water will take care of.

What happened was this: the carriage emptied. Every single person packed his or her things and left. The young Asian didn’t know whether to sob (“It kinda hurt!”) or celebrate (“I got the whole place to myself – beats even First Class.”)

I’d say the virus isn’t what’s viral. How we’re responding is. And while it’s understandable, it’s still sad.

P/S The young Asian is healthy.


RDP ~ VIRAL