First Impressions

Let’s go back to something that happened when I first came to America, right before I started second grade (I didn’t go to first grade because of my birthday date). I remember vividly sitting in the passenger seat, while my mom was driving us somewhere, and the talk she had with me. She said something along the lines of, “You need to reign in your always funny demeanor and be serious sometimes, especially at school because first impressions are everything and you don’t want your teachers thinking you’re stupid.”

As I am writing this now, I feel immense disgust almost for the words she uttered at that moment to a young, vulnerable and very impressionable little girl. I remember back then feeling extremely hurt by this and vowing to myself that if she wants me to be serious all the time, then that’s what she is going to get. It’s important to point out that for the first 7 years of my life I found it very easy to find joy and humor in just about everything. My days consisted of crazy laughter, nonstop talking and just everything you can possibly think of that has to do with truly enjoying life. Of course, I probably either inherited or picked it up from my dad, who was the same way. It also took me aback for the simple fact that I never thought it bothered her in any way and she never mentioned anything about it ever before.

I think in that instant, my demeanor flipped and I went from a happy-go-lucky kid to an always serious, attitude-prone and at times moody mini adult. The best way I can even describe it is that a dark cloud had been put over my whole existence in that one single moment. Whereas I had no problem enjoying life before, now I found myself feeling melancholy even at the happiest of times. A friend of mine once mentioned to me that I have sadness in my eyes, even when I smile and now that I think about it, it probably started around that time.

It really makes it clear just how big impressions can be when we are small and malleable and totally clueless about life or anything that has to do with living it independently. What was even more messed up about the whole situation was that, as I became serious permanently, my mom and stepdad (at the time) made almost daily comments about how pouty or sad I looked. To this day I still have problems controlling my facial expressions because the heaviness and instinct to remain serious are still there.

Always being serious also took a lot out of me because it became difficult to find the humor in the funniest things and when someone joked with me, my only reaction would be to shut it down, there and then. It might even be the onset towards my depression, which I didn’t get diagnosed with until much later in life but that could have easily stemmed from this instance. Oftentimes, me not being able to have light and funny conversations would then give off the impression that I was a stuck up bitch, which was probably why I had such a hard time in high school and am oftentimes told that I can be “unapproachable” but only initially because I am a very warm person once you get to know me a little bit.

So, my mom spent a good portion of my life trying to deal with my negative attitude, even though she was the one who put it there in the first place. This is further example that I was never really allowed to just be myself, regardless of what that meant, as long as I wasn’t hurting anybody of course (and I wasn’t). It’s like my mom had this picture of what her only child would look and act like and she started grooming me towards it at a very young age, even if the tactics were a bit intense.

Thankfully, I have found my soulmate and fiancé, Mike, who is the perfect balance to all my seriousness. He is funny, easy going and we spend our days laughing and joking with one another. Since my communications with my mom are usually serious in nature, it’s a breath of fresh air not to have to be so rigid and tense all the time.

Master Negotiator

Another thing that has impacted me quite a lot is my mom’s major negotiations growing up. Now, I know this didn’t come from a bad place but it definitely bothered me back then and it’s bad because I find myself doing the same thing with my kids these days.

When I was growing up, there were lots of times my mom would trick me into doing something she thought would expand my mind by bribing me with something else, something she knew I wanted or was actually interested in. And don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about this when it’s done to an extent but I feel like my mom wen’t a little overboard with this.

For example, I have always had a big love for puzzles, I’m talking the more pieces, the better. And since my mom took me to a lot of museums so I can learn to appreciate art, getting puzzles of famous paintings was a treat and combined my mom’s love for art and my love for the puzzles. There was nothing wrong with that, until I would finish a puzzle and she would proceed to tell me that I had to report to her about what painting the puzzle depicted.

I am not going to lie, I resented her for it. It seemed my mom was really good at taking the fun out of things that should be only that. I mean, I wish I had the upscale tastes that she did (opera, ballet, art….etc) but I absolutely did not. I could definitely go to a museum and enjoy looking at paintings for an hour tops as compared to her being able to spend days and days there, never even getting bored. I think she was always hoping that she could fit me into her same “interest mold” and the more she saw that that wasn’t the case, the more she desperately tried to make it so.

But no, I could mildly enjoy doing all those things once in a while but it wasn’t something I ever felt any passion for. On the contrary, I had my own interests, at the time I was really into classic movies, yummy food and some other typical things kids my age were into. I wish my mom would have let me pursue my own interests with as much passion as I would have liked without trying to convert me over to hers. I know she was trying to expand my wisdom and get me more cultured but at the time it just made me feel even more like a complete failure because I couldn’t enjoy the upscale things that she did.

Some other examples of this include having to watching documentaries about things we were studying in school in exchange for things I wanted or even just her very emotional pleading with me to do it “for her”. Maybe I’m not as evolved as some more upscale kids, but I didn’t know many kids who wanted to study or do anything school related when they weren’t in school. No, that wasn’t my idea of fun or even remotely enjoyable. I was into teenage drama shows and computer games and other stuff like this. I feel like kids at school are exposed to a lot of information during the week and they need to refuel and recuperate on the weekends.

When I was younger, we also went to a lot of operas, ballets and other such upscale events. When I was younger I had a hard time even pretending that that kind of stuff interested me and when my mom would tell me where and when we were going to one of those, the look on my face spoke volumes to exactly how I felt about it. So, she took to bribing me with food. I have always been a big foodie and so of course I happily agreed with the promise that she would take me to a nice restaurant afterwards.

It’s import to mention here that my mom is the opposite of someone who’s a foodie, and by that I mean she really doesn’t care what or where she eats, as long as she gets something in her stomach. Although, on the other hand she will eat any kind of yummy food or take out that we have at home, almost as soon as it appears there. It just goes to show how complicated and contradictory my mom really is. With most things in life she tends to walk on opposite sides of both extremes, carefully navigating the middle area has never been a strength of hers.

So she’s always hated spending money on food but was more then willing to do it if it meant exposing me to the kind of upscale interests and society that she herself was really into. Oftentimes, she told me that I would appreciate all that I have seen and learned when I got older but all I really appreciate now is the effort that she put into at least trying to awaken a passion in me, even if it was strictly her passion.

The conclusion that I can draw from this, now that I’m older and wiser, is that a lot of my insecurities stemmed from her trying desperately to fit me into her personal bubble of exactly what she wanted for my life. Image and prestige are very important to her, so she has always tried to make me see similar. This is even more detrimental to a young girl who is still just trying to figure out who she is and what she can make of herself and her life. Lots of my arguments with my mom stem from the fact that I see different, I don’t care so much about being upscale as I do about being comfortable or happy. I guess that’s why I fell in love with my fiancé, Mike, because even though he was rough around the edges, the connection was otherworldly and my heart told me that he was the one I’ve been looking for my entire life.

In Pursuit of a Lightness of Being

Life is slowly progressing, moving, seemingly in the right direction. There have been a few disagreements here or there but nothing major since the huge blowout we had in the end of last year. However, even though things have been slowly improving, I haven’t quite been able to get rid of this feeling of dread in myself, almost like a weight that is pulling me down from the inside. It’s like I can’t enjoy things fully, not really just enjoy them without a hint of sadness always there, always reminding me of past or even present pain.

I mentioned this to my therapist, even though I had a hard time trying to find the right words to describe what exactly I was feeling and she gave me hope, told me that I am not the only one who feels this way and actually said that it is quite common, at least amongst her clients. When I asked her what I can do to help myself break free from these emotional restraints, she said that I need to confront all the instances where I have ever felt sad, upset or any other kind of strong, negative emotion. Next, came the part that really opened my eyes, she told me that in order to be able to truly move on I have to allow myself to feel the emotions that these instances bring up in me, which undoubtedly were brought up when they were actually happening.

As human beings, we are really good at suppressing things deep inside and all that negative energy can manifest itself into different symptoms for each individual. For me, I find myself in a state of permanent emotional drainage and this in turn affects how much energy I have and how I am able to go through life. Because of all the mental pain that I always have, I lash out at my fiancé for the smallest things and make him the scapegoat for the psychological pain that I am enduring every moment of everyday. In the past I did this to my mom as well but since she is the root of the majority of where my psychological problems stem from, I have quickly learned that that just causes more problems and further psychological trauma and I have enough to deal with already. More then enough.

So, what I am trying to say is that for the unforeseeable future, I am dedicating this blog to aid me in my journey to heal and work past all my trauma that I have acquired in my 28 years that is obviously still holding me back from living my very best and meaningful life. I will be taking a very personal journey into the recesses of my mind and will be bringing up experiences that have molded me into the psychologically anxious person that I have become in order to then, feel it all over again (cry, scream…etc) so that in turn I can let it go and become free of it forever.

And It All Gets Better In Time

Things are starting to improve and return to normal, slowly but surely. This past month or so I have grown immensely, I feel like a brand new person and that’s not even an exaggeration. I went from a girl who felt like she was stuck in her childhood because of constant fear of getting in trouble and doing something wrong to an adult who is more than capable of doing her own thing and making her own decisions and ultimately living her own life.

When this whole mess with my mother and Mike happened, I was terrified, mostly because I felt like my whole world was getting turned upside down and I knew that things were never going to be the same ever again. My carefully constructed world came apart at the seams and it was difficult to cope at first. And then when my mom didn’t talk or even look my way, that was downright unbearable in the beginning.

And then at a certain point it just clicked, I broke free and stopped letting her mood and actions control my own mood and actions. She would say something hurtful to me and instead of getting highly riled up and responding in tears and my own hurtful words, I would just feel a heightened sense of calm that was unpenetrable, even for her. I have thought about the reason for this and I seriously think it has to do with discovering and figuring out who I am at the very core, the very center. I have my own beliefs and my own perceptions and my own truth and for once I stand firm in all of it.

I was always so scared of speaking up, of having my own opinions because my mother has cemented in me that the only right way to think and act is her way. Well, guess what? I now know that that’s just not true. We are all too intrinsically complex to see the world one specific way and I understand that, for once in my life I see it clearly.

Just because she’s crying and speaking passionately about her truth doesn’t mean it has to be everyone else’s truth. I think the fact that I grew up in a different culture and then came here only to experience a totally different one has given me a greater openeness and understanding of different perspectives and point of views. I said this before but the world is not black or white, there’s a lot of other tones in between that make the world even more colorfully beautiful.

She’s starting to come around and as much as that makes me happy, there is always going to be a sense of being a bit on alert whenever she’s around. I guess I’ve just realized that I can’t completely lay my heart out to her and trust that she won’t be judgemental or unsympathetic to what I share with her. That’s okay though because recently I’ve gotten my mojo back and I found that as much as I like having her company around, I don’t need it!