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I find it hard to stomach “When the body says No” by Gabor Maté.

It’s discomforting to come across details and traits I can personally relate to. It’s emotionally draining for me to read the stories. And still I read on, because I see myself on several pages.

The read rips a dark hole in the fabric of my childhood.

Much as I tell folk that my childhood was happy because my mother tried her very best, I was a quiet and lonely child.  I recalled a loath for my more-popular peers, mainly out of despise that I couldn’t be more like them and fit in.  It was clear that I came from a financially-poor family, and I didn’t have the esteem nor outgoing nature that is present in others. I remember returning to an empty apartment after  school.  I struggled to keep up with my peers socially.

My first secret escape from home was to Sydney, a 2-3week trip with friends at the end of high school. I was tired of the quarrels between my family, the tension at home. Deep in my heart I harboured hopes for everything to be fine again when I came home—that calm was short-lived.  Strange that I only make the connection now, that that was exactly how I would relive it each time I meet my parents, after my departure to Sweden.  The beautiful perfect picture lasts rarely beyond a few days.

Why did I leave Singapore?  Perhaps this is one more deeper reason.  I was too attached to family and couldn’t bring myself to openly-reject them.  It was to be my final escape.

Out here, I get to do as I will because it’s okay. You don’t know how it’s like to be with my mother. She offers only criticisms.  The rare compliment sounded as if it was spoken  through clenched teeth.  On my wedding day in Sweden she nodded with approval at my dress which was quickly followed by “why did you choose this hairdo?? It makes you look old.  Did you choose it yourself?”  7 months later at our wedding party in Singapore, she picked on my then-hairdo again.

I rarely Skype my parents anymore. Honestly I do it every now and then out of obligation. It makes me terribly nervous before and after, and terribly agitated during the dialogue.  At the same time, I feel bad for keeping my distance.  Whatsapp makes a good excuse of staying in touch—my family has never been as close-knitted as I pictured us to be.

My perfect fantasy is a scam, my coping mechanism from childhood.  How will the reality of my relationship with my family affect other personal relationships and the family I wish to build?

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