Trigger warning: Mentions of physical abuse
Tend to your gentle heart if you decide to continue reading.
You’ve heard this joke before. You know the one. The really bad cultural joke about the difference between White and Asian parents —
When getting into trouble with their parents, White kids would get grounded or their playstation taken away while Asian kids would get a beatdown.
Our community normalizes violent behavior so much that it often becomes a terrible punchline.
We laugh about getting a beating because it’s true. It does happen. But the other truth is that if I let my mind and body try hard enough, I can still remember the sting on my arm from that one time I accidentally spilled a glass of milk in the kitchen. I was young, clumsy, and human. I remember Mom yelling at me with such disapproval and as I started feeling the shame, she came at me with the metal rod.
Whenever I did something that Mom found disappointing, her weapon of choice was mostly the wire hanger from her bedroom (maybe this is why my subconscious prefers plastic hangers). Other times she picked up whatever item was conveniently near her— a broomstick, chopstick, or comb. Sometimes, it was the bite of her own hands.
Around the age of 9 or 10, Mom stopped the physical punishment and resorted to tactics that was more emotionally and mentally taxing. All it took was just one scary piercing look of disapproval from her and it would send shivers down my spine. I dealt with her abuse until my mid 20s. That’s when I officially moved out of their house and moved in with my then college sweetheart.
Today, I am relieved that the abuse is over but sometimes I’m afraid that the damage is far from repair. Restoration feels overwhelming. Here’s a great example —
One time my college sweetheart and I were having dinner with my parents at their home and I had accidentally spilled my drink on their kitchen table. Mom gave me a stabbing look of disapproval and said something along the lines of, “you’re twenty and still as clumsy as ever”. She may have meant this jokingly but I remember cleaning up the mess as quick as I could and then running into my childhood bedroom feeling frustrated, angry, and afraid.
My college sweetheart found me in a state of panic.
It had been over ten years later since the first clumsy accident, but the anxiety was still alive in my cells. The familiarity of the incident brought me to a state of fight or flight.
Like I said, a lot of damage has been done to my body and I am learning which messages were programmed in me based on my experience with abuse and which messages I have to unlearn. It’s a lot of work.
Before doing this work, my body was always living in a state of two extremes — either in anxiety or feeling really empty. The emptiness state came from learning how to survive the abuse I had received. I mentally had to numb myself or disassociate from my body whenever it was experiencing pain.
So connecting this back to my previous post about body and machines — my childhood experience with abuse created a narrative that said in order for me to survive, I must ignore how my body feels. The abuse I experienced made being in my body so unbearable that I told myself I hated this body. For a long time I thought, how could I or anyone love a body so beaten and damaged?
This story lived in my cells for almost 29 years. But no more after today. Enough is enough.
I am enough.
Today, I return to my body. My spirit returns home to its vessel and I commit to learning, listening, and loving it. I commit to choosing compassion and softness in a world that so often requires us to be cold and hard like a machine.
If I am tired, I’ll just be tired.
If I am afraid, I’ll just be afraid.
If I am happy, I’ll just be happy.
If I am, I’ll just. . . be.
Whatever it is that I’m feeling in this body, I commit to honoring it with love.