My Father

If you’re looking for an inspirational story about father figures, this will not be it. Fair warning.

In real life I don’t exactly enjoy talking about people. I do talk about people and I try to do it only when there’s a good example to learn. Sometimes to attach meaning to a behaviour, especially when it’s peculiar, I would talk about people. I also like to postulate mental illnesses people have by what they post on social media, or how they behave in real life. We are after all humans. We interact with people. Sometimes we just need to bitch about people to get shit out of our system.

My dad just got home five minutes ago. He sat on the couch and started teasing my cat. As a proud and a bit indulgent cat mom, I do not believe, at all, in manhandling my cat, well, this extends to the entire animal kingdom (unless one’s life is threatened). I do not look at my cat as though he is so precious and not naughty. He has his moments, and is the chief reason my house is not immaculate. It’s like having a three-year-old. But he is generally a good cat, enjoys my company, and accompanies me do things around the house. The feelings I have about my cat are mostly of affection. I asked my dad why he would tease or even pinch my cat. He had no answer, and quickly changed the topic to some other cat dying about five minutes where we stayed. I had no interest to listen.

That sums up the relationship I have with my father. Almost non-existent, and if we talked, it would somehow lead to an argument or misunderstanding. The latter happens more than the former, and while I wouldn’t say our relationship deteriorated after my mom’s death, I would say I do not particularly care for his presence. In fact, before my mom died I had almost zero interaction with him. After her death I thought OK, this was who I had left, so maybe show some respect or filial piety. I used to wonder if he were smarter, or a good conversationalist, or a supportive father, would I have liked him more? Maybe. I wouldn’t know, and it’s not something I’d now waste my time ruminating. Why put myself through agony?

We are as different as night and day. He usually talks shit about me to my other siblings when I am not around to hear, so I am not surprised he doesn’t have friends. He had colleagues, I don’t know many, or any of them, and one sleazy ex-colleague of his actually texted me last week and called to “hear my voice” and ask for a selfie. I did not mention it to my dad because it’s not something I couldn’t handle. Blocking people on an app is not difficult. Even before blocking I can opt to ignore the calls and messages. I’m about to go on a rant about men being horny, but this entry is about my dad so we’ll stick to that.

I once mentioned to my sister that when he died in future I was certain it’d just be a handful of us who would turn up for the funeral (mean, I know, but it would be true).

I am saying all this because for single people (meaning not married, but maybe you’re a woman in a relationship with a man) this is important if you are considering a man to be your life partner. Maybe someday you would like to have children, too. While you can choose the person you marry, your children can’t choose their parents. There may be detrimental effects when you make wrong choices. I think when we date someone, and as the relationship progresses, it is important to talk about values, and compatibility. Most people I dated were on the same page. We were, still are, individually, and collectively, not pressured by society or whoever to give birth to a few children.

My dad was mostly absent, both physically and emotionally, when I was growing up, and I’ve already told you the story about how he married another woman while still married to my mom. When he was in Singapore (he mostly worked overseas) we would talk sometimes but they’re weird questions asked by a non-intellectual adult (which was fine, he didn’t have much education in the first place). I also don’t blame him at all for my daddy issues (thankfully, not severe!) even if he ’caused’ them. I am more comfortable dating much older men, well except for S (who is my age, but is like a dad, a mom, a lover, a brother, a business partner and above all, a best friend), and while I joke sometimes about daddy issues, they are real, I exhibit one trait strongly, and it’s not what I wish I have, but I am well aware, but not too concerned.

11 months ago I was ready to commit suicide. I picked a date. Told my best friend. She freaked out. And I still don’t know what transpired between the time I told her and the time my brother appeared at my doorstep. He cried like a child. I tersely told him mental health wasn’t a topic I felt comfortable talking to him about, and he just stayed at my house well into the evening. When my brother asked my dad if he knew anything about it, my dad got extremely defensive and went “She never tells me anything!” and behaved as though this was none of his business. (I don’t want to get into the story about suicide, because it kills the mood, but this really happened).

For months after that I was not allowed to be in a room unaccompanied, and if I wanted any privacy I could have it only with the door unlocked. People are bad at preventing other people from committing suicide. I did tell them actually I wouldn’t pick a painful death, such as slashing my wrists or jugular veins, or jumping off from a tall building, or I don’t know, run through traffic. Those aren’t my style.

Also, if you are reading this randomly, and we don’t know each other, and for some reason you are contemplating suicide, I have been there many times. Those were my darkest days. I definitely do not respond well to ‘Think of all the people you’re leaving behind’. When death seems like the only option, when you feel so lonely, so isolated, people won’t even enter your mind. In a less savoury fashion…. I meant to say ‘who gives a shit?’ I certainly didn’t all those times. I only thought about my mom when she was alive, because I knew it would have killed her to bury her child, and then my cat. I do not have sage advice, but think of whatever you are going through as temporary. I needed a lot of reminders for this over the years, S does it all the time for me, but think of the situation as temporary. My heart goes out to you, you truly matter, so just sit down for a bit, and keep telling yourself the situation is temporary. But seek help from a professional. The hospital is always willing to help. You probably would have to wait, but that’s also temporary, so just do yourself this tiny favour by going to the hospital.

If you’re not suicidal, but if your loved one exhibits harmful behaviour (mentally), it doesn’t hurt to show a lot of support by talking to them, listening, giving them a huge hug and if you know you’re not equipped to help them, it is okay to ask if they would like to see a doctor, and bring them there.

Back to my dad.

My dad has his good points. He’s not lazy about work, and I inherited that from him and my mom. He went for a lot of upgrading courses despite not having a lot of formal education. But he doesn’t give a shit about anything, or anyone else. Most people have told me most Asian men are like that. They’re composed. They’re naturally manly. They don’t show emotions. The reason they’re not loving towards their wives or female loved ones is because the minute they show ‘softness’ women will climb all over their heads. I just cannot get behind this perspective.

I think as a conclusion, all of us have good and bad points. The universe lets us have relationships with people, both good and bad, to allow us to learn lessons. By being exposed to things I do not find desirable, I indirectly learn about patience, about resilience. I am aware there are things I should avoid doing, and to be more mindful about how I behave and interact with people. My dad, despite being responsible for some of my mental illness, helps me realise that even when he mistreated me, or didn’t care, I could choose the way I react, and the way I want to live my life.

The Swimming Pool

Two weeks ago, five minutes before I switched off the computer on a Friday evening, my boss came up to me, hissed and yelled at me to quickly send the email out! while I sat there perplexed. Her instructions the day before were to make sure 1) I let her vet every single detail before I sent it, and 2) when I had already told her there were some iffy details that needed to be addressed, she had 3) asked me to clarify with the person. She had neither vetted the work nor approved it for circulation. I then emailed to clarify the details with our colleague, and my boss had gotten mad, and shot me an email to tell me I should just send the email already! Most of the time, similar types of miscommunication with her happen, and I chalk it up to her inability to communicate properly. She has pulled similar stunts with PowerPoint presentations; it was completely all right for her to present data in a certain manner, but God forbid if I asked if the data could be presented in a similar manner to hers (suddenly the manner is WRONG! Use your brain!). To be on the safe side, I had copied her original PowerPoint slides to my desktop and if she ever raised this, I would just show her what the original was. A lot of people in my personal life tell me not to argue, just show some respect, and follow her instructions properly. I could, but her instructions and rules are always random, and I have come to accept that if it’s not the font, it’s the colour, if it’s not the colour, it’s something else. At this point I don’t care about being efficient or right or how to improve as an employee. My boss is also not the person paying me my salary; I keep reminding myself she is merely my reporting officer who is also getting paid by the organisation. I do believe that I could learn about people and behaviour at this job (i.e. stupid behaviour to note, and avoid doing) and because jobs are scarce now, my options are limited.

During dinner and a movie that evening I realised I could not concentrate on anything. Although I have a sense of humour about a lot of things, I must say the yelling affected me a lot, no matter how much I tried to not let it.

It was also the evening I decided I needed to find an activity or an outlet for my frustrations. I have piano lessons on Sunday mornings and I enjoy them because they make me think and improve my memory. While I do it to my friends (I’m sorry!) I don’t like going on like a broken record about what happened at work or how I feel about work.

I chose swimming.

I haven’t gone swimming since I was a teenager, and to prepare myself for this activity I bought a few swimsuits.

I go swimming for thirty minutes most evenings after work. I like the feeling I get when I walk down the steps into the pool (I suspect it’s similar to happiness). I usually stand there for a bit, look up at the sky and sigh. When I do that, I always feel my anger melt. Then I do my laps. I feel tired usually after four or so laps, and I will catch a breather and keep going before my thirty minutes are up. At the end of it I usually no longer think about work1. Then I take a very cold shower for about 8 minutes, get dressed, gather my things, and walk the twenty minutes home.

A few days ago, I decided to go swimming in the morning. It is still the school vacation, so I saw a lot of children with their parents. I was amused. Despite obviously having no teaching experience, fathers were screaming at their sons to kick or stay in the lane and don’t splashhhh aroundddd! (Mother ducks who don’t go to expensive schools teach their ducklings better!), children bringing their Super Soakers (what are they called now? NERF SOAK GUN?), spraying everyone and not giving a rat’s ass about personal space (well, it is a public pool, Bonneka, lower your expectations, swim a little more, then lower your already lowered expectations), and mothers were sitting on the side (not swimming) ready to offer a snack to their pre-teen children.

Needless to say, I did not enjoy the session, stood at the side more than I swam, cut it a bit short, stood underneath the shower for a longer time, and got a hot dog to reward myself for being a good citizen (because I didn’t tsk at any kid, and I smiled graciously at grandmothers hand combing their grandsons’ hair).

I am not a snob. My mom used to take me swimming all the time because I had scoliosis (it wasn’t and isn’t severe) while she read on the bleachers. My mom was the most loving person to me, but even she didn’t mollycoddle me in public, so no snacks or juice boxes waited for me when I emerged from the pool and said “I’m done!” (J’ai fini!).

I still prefer going in the evenings when there are fewer people. I always feel relaxed, and it’s a good activity for self-care.

What are some of the things you do to relax?

1I had a German pen pal once who told me the story about exercising to force himself to get his mind off work. Over the years I have tried a lot of different activities and I do want to engage in strenuous activities to help me sleep better. Some that have worked well: trampoline classes (can choose combat, or ABT training while jumping on a trampoline, 1 minute in should get your blood pumping), hiking, and running on the mill.