Diana (dihong) wrote,

Family Ties

I haven't spoken to my mother on the phone since New Year's or so, right after having a typical exchange about a loan:

- Me: Can I borrow money? [unsaid: I've maxed out credit cards and began refinancing the house, as well as exhausted all other sources of funds because of what I know will happen next...]

- Her: What for? The studio? Why did you have to open a dance studio in the first place? It's not like it's a real business, just a glorified hobby, right? You need to do things that will actually make money. [more followed, but was lost in the red haze that drenched my vision and hearing]

- Her, 10 minutes of lecturing later: Well, if you've started something, you should at least give it a proper try and see it through to the end. OK, I'll put $3,000 in your bank account today.

I am properly grateful, and realize that the very fact that she came through for me is what counts. And at the very least, this exchange reminds me that my mother will always love me as a child and not as an adult. Lecturing, scolding, criticizing, coddling, smothering-- those are her ideas of parenting. Is it any wonder that I haven't seen my parents in over 2 years and reside 3,000 miles away?

A dear friend of mine, an older woman who has sort of stood in loco parentis over the last 5 years, also took a hard line with me. I must release the idea of being a "good daughter" and winning my mother's approval if I am to ever get beyond this tug-of-war, she says.

I think that makes sense were I purely of Western cultural origin. And don't get me wrong, independence has always had a special meaning to me. When I was young I was obsessed with the Revolutionary War, and I was even born near Independence Day. But I must acknowledge that I come from a collectivist mother culture that prizes co-dependency in all aspects of familial relationships (especially mother-daughter).

There's a concept in Korean called "jeong". It means a lot of different things-- affection, emotion, connection, feeling, intimacy, relationship. There is jeong of all types, such as with people, with places or things, and even with enemies-- enemy jeong is literally "mee oon jeong", or "hate jeong" and yet would evoke a bittersweet sadness were the counterparty to die or disappear from one's life. When jeong is gone, there is loss and there is grief.

I think I'm not ready to grieve my place as beloved (only) daughter in my family. I think some nights I still have vivid fantasies that I will miraculously lose 100 pounds, wear fashionable clothing and make-up, rake in tons of money from my job and from sideline investments, and appear in front of my enduring parents with a "Tada!" See, you didn't waste your lives, I want to say.

The other part of me rebels at nearly being 30 but yet so under-formed as my own self based on my own values. Why should I have to justify their sacrifice? I rage that I am not a Messiah, to give up my life for the sake of others. I want to live for me.

If only I were surer of who I am, this would be so much easier.
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