Wednesday, September 16, 2009

6. Strength in Vulnerability

For the past week, I sat down at my desk and opened a blank Word Document on my Mac many times.  Every time, I stared at the white space on the page, only to closed it without putting anything down.  

I wanted to draft a new article for my blog on a subject in line with my previous articles.  Each time I attempted to put down the fragments of thoughts I had floating around in my head on the page, I couldn’t hold on to the fragments to let them turn into a thought.  The fragments remained too abstract and too widely scattered, to be pulled together and close to me.  I eventually surrendered to a possibility that it’s not the time to continue the story the way I want to tell it.  It was probably time to sort out what happened recently that has distracted me.  

I got on a new roller-coaster-ride of my personal journey.  Yes… again.  The series of rides just keep going.  This one seems like an extension of a ride I’ve been on in the past.  Only, it’s going to a new height, and taking me to a yet another plane.

The ride started as a result of a step forward I have initiated, to get closer to my immediate family in Japan, by being honest in a way that’s unprecedented for me. 

For the first time in my life, I opened up and communicated to my mother and my sister, about some of my hidden, but true feelings regarding my hometown and our family life.  This came as a result of series of correspondence that took place between my mother and I, prior to my blog writing… the correspondence that included some inadvertent rude remark from my mother that lead to misunderstanding and pulled a significant trigger in me. 

I have been attempting to handle a strong sense of anger this triggering ignited in me for quite sometime.  As I was planning a long awaited visit to Japan in a near future, I saw the need to address the anger that seems to linger and had no intention of leaving me.

I saw many things that needed to be done.  One of them was to show my mother who I truly am, by coming clean with some feelings I held inside for a few decades.  So I formed an involved letter, and sent it to my mother.  I wrote this letter with much consideration and control, through multiple trials and errors, to avoid hurting her senselessly.   I emphasized that I do love her, and that I am grateful for her love and efforts to raise me through very difficult times.  A copy of the letter was sent to my sister to include her in the process of my “coming out”. 

The content of the letter mainly consisted of my views never expressed outwardly before, due to 2 things, as some of the readers may already know.  One is deeply imbedded teaching which dictated me not to disgrace my family or culture by expressing the negative.  Another is that I took protecting my mother’s mental and emotional state as my duty since my childhood, so I learned to conceal my true negative feelings automatically.  Of course, whenever my mother and I got together as adults, we often had fruitless arguments, as any daughter who wants to break away from her mother psychologically would experience.  That’s different from truly opening yourself up after having to look deep inside of yourself as an adult and becoming aware of so many components in your life.

To contrary to the reality I am seeing now, in my past as an adolescent and an adult, I have always considered myself to be open, aware and honest.  I lived by a strong belief that I knew what was going on.  I had a strong conviction toward my right to live my life the way I thought I should be able to, and was proud because I put great effort toward living the way I believed. I remember I often thanked my lucky stars that I was so free and happy living in the US.

Yet it is obvious now that I didn’t let myself be conscious about the depth of the negativity I held inside, about my family life and culture. The nagging whisper in my head I chose not to listen to, as a young excited expat back in Berkeley, was only getting louder through the years.  The whisper got louder and louder and it finally got loud enough for me to recognize that I can no longer ignore it.

I will choose to not reveal details of the letter for my mother's sake, but I want to let the readers know that I informed my mother, of the hurt I've been carrying, and that I've actually never really felt love toward my hometown and it's culture. I also let her know the reason why I was writing the letter at this time.

Letting myself come out in this way, especially in front of someone like my mother who is weakened as she is aging, was not something I could decide to do easily.  I agonized over whether I should actually go through with it or not.  I sought opinions of a friend, my husband and my counselor who is almost at my mother’s age.  And I concluded that, while I can’t take the impact it would have on my mother lightly, it needed to be done for many reasons.  One of the most important reasons was to prevent my children from getting sucked into an unhealthy cycle of the “Old Hurt” any further, by taking care of a part of my pain.  The part that I inherited from my parents and the environment they lived in.

In response to my letter, my mother expressed simply her sympathy, and sorrow that I had to share my negative feelings about things when she is weakened.  I anticipated this kind of response, and I understand how she feels.  I am sorry for her sorrow, and I know some people would never do this to their parents.  But for me, this needed to be done.  I only put a fraction of what I wanted to communicate in order to leave a room for her dignity and sense of acceptance from me.  I have no regrets that I made an attempt to communicate with her, in order to protect my children, and to have a relationship with her on the base of honesty and undistorted love, in the years that’s left for us.  My only regret is that I didn’t do this much earlier in my life, when my mother was young and strong enough to bear the reality easier.

In retrospect, it feels as though the misunderstanding that happened between my mother and I earlier, which propelled me to initiate this communication with her, happened for a reason.  I felt I was given an opportunity to address an ongoing issue because of it.  I must say it took a lot of concentration, time, energy and caution to open up just the right way so that it would be meaningful, not hurtful. 

Right now, I am emotionally exhausted.  No wonder people avoid this kind of personal work, by just trying to “accept things we need to accept as an adult”!  I did for years.  Why be burdened with deep guilt for hurting your parents who did the best they could…  Why open up a can of worms when we can just keep ignoring because we are adults!  Why give our parents grief.  Never mind that our subconscious won’t accept some things it recognizes as things we shouldn’t live with!!  After all it’s only subconscious. Right? …Wrong.  Dead wrong for the person I am today.  I thank my current husband and my children for helping me be who I am today.  In my case, they aided me to learn the role of the mighty subconscious.  Subconscious is not to be ignored.

In actuality I don’t really mind the exhaustion.  For this decision to open up has given me a new window to see out from, in my heart.  Through this new window, I am seeing in everyone, somethings I’ve never seen before, including a part of myself. 

Since the letter had been sent, my sister and I have been in more frequent communication. Besides using emails, we had a long phone conversation.  I have learned a lot through the conversation.  I am continuing to learn something new about my mother, my sister, and even my late father as a result of my opening-up.  There is a hint of regret in me that I lost so many years of getting to know my own family just because I was blocked from freely expressing myself.  Even the regret itself makes it clear to me that the value of this recent revelation, far outweighs the negative.

Understandably my mother seems lost for now.  My sister and I broke through a wall we didn’t know we had between us.  Right now I feel extremely exposed and vulnerable.  Yet I feel stronger.  It’s a kind of strength that’s new.  It’s just utterly amazing to personally feel the “strength during the state of vulnerability “, the kind of strength I’ve always heard about.  It feels genuine and more solid.  It feels like my puffed up roots on steroids with fake strength have been dug up from sandy ground.  I feel like I am replanted into fertile rich soil.  My roots shriveled up a bit, but now they are increasing in thickness and length, growing deep.  They are gaining real strength and stability. 

I no longer have a coping mechanism to conceal what I don’t wish to feel.  And I don’t have to hold my breath anymore each time something happens that stirs up something inside me.  I can breathe, feel, and see things more clear than ever before.   My hurt is enhanced. So is my joy and happiness.  I see more clearly which baggage I can unload off of me, and which baggage I need to take responsibility of carrying through to the end.

It feels I am almost at the end of the first round for this particular ride I got on only a little more than a week ago.  It is possible that the ride may stabilize and stop for a while.  It is also possible that a sudden assent, a drop or a sharp turn is still ahead. 

No matter what is awaiting next, I feel that the ride will eventually make a stop at a very good place.  I have a feeling, after this ride among many I am yet to take, that I would actually be able to laugh without a tint of sadness hidden in it.  I have a feeling I would be closer to being free in a true sense.  And I hope dearly that my true freedom will ultimately bring a sense of harmony and peace among people around me.


  1. Thank you for letting me know your blog updated. Because of my low skill of English, it still takes time to read long essay... This time, I just want to let you know I tried to read your post. :-)

  2. wow, this is an amazing post as usual! i am struck by the similarities between your experience and mine except perhaps the difference in age as i had the talk with my mother just last year when i was 19. my feelings sort of erupted after my mother made a rude remark to me as well and i ended up spilling out all my pent up emotions. i'm sure she was pretty scared and worried then but we have been able to talk about it (through a long phone conversation) and i think talking with her was just what i needed. i've been at peace with myself for the first time since forever this past year but i view the future with much uncertainty. i've reached a point though where i try not to worry about the future.

  3. Hi Yuko,
    Your writing is really quite poetic. :)
    It's enjoyable to read and draws one right into your vantage point as you explain your scenario.

    I look forward to hearing about the continuing saga, hoping the journey remains enlightening.

    Kio tsukete! (Take care!)

  4. Hi Yuko,

    I love reading your chapters! I just relate to so much of it -- what is being said, and not being said.

    I know how you are trying to be careful not to hurt your mother and family, but really need to communicate how you feel to her. I'm sorry, but I laughed at the part where you had your talk with her and she said she was sorry you had to share your negative feelings when she is weakened. It reminded me of my late mother!

    With my mother, I always tried to prepare before seeing her: Trying to go through all the possible scenarios that might come up, and what might be said, then when I'd finally meet with her -- pow! Something out of left field would come at me, I wasn't prepared for that one, then my mouth would run ahead of me! And as I'm in the moment, I know what's coming out of my mouth might make me regret it later, but I can't believe what she's saying! Then of course, after I leave, I'd feel upset that I wasn't cool & collected as I wanted to be!

    And yes, I was always emotionally drained after!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It's a catharsis, not just for you but for me and I'm sure for other readers too!

    Much love to you Yuko, as always!


  5. Yuko-san

    Thank you for sharing such personal story with us. One thing that I've learned this past year is that the feelings are neither positive nor negative; they just are. It's our judgement to say some feelings are good, bad, positive or negative. Given the history you've had with your mother, I admire your courage to open up and start communicating with her. She may never fully realize nor appreciate the significance of it, but it's for you and you felt what was needed. I believe that many readers were encouraged by your action.

    The other thing I've learned is that the feeling that have not been felt through will keep showing up over and over. Some of the pain are caused by resisting the feeling, in some cases people are afraid of the act of feeling....because it's too raw and feels, well, vulnerable as you said. Showing the vulnerability of your heart to others is one of the most honest things you can do. I am still working on this part myself. I think that writing definately helps...we share the same impression about writing in English as well (it feels more free!), it seems to have similar effect on both of us. Thank you for taking us with you on your journey and I look forward to reading the next chapter.

  6. Thank you everyone for your comments. I would like to respond individually a little later. I wanted to make sure you know I read them all, and again, I am grateful for your thoughts and support.

  7. fruitflieslikeabanana,

    I appreciate your effort and time trying to make sense of my writing. I may try writing this in Japanese someday. どうもありがとう!Thanks for visiting.

  8. eccentricyoruba,

    I am so happy for you that you are already in a process of accepting where you have been, where you are, and where you might want to go. I think your mother is in a way lucky that you are open with her. As you further mature, I know you will be more content and happy, whether you feel you belong somewhere or not. I am very curious where you are going, so I hope you let me continue to follow your journey as well. :)

  9. Henry,

    What a delight to have you here! I am flattered and honored by your kind observation. It is wonderful to know that someone sees poetry in my expressions.

    I will look forward to getting to know you here, through twitter, and at your chat room as well!

    Welcome aboard. :)

  10. Reiko,

    You rock, sister. You KNOW my story. It's as if you've been there with me. LOL

    "I wasn't prepared for that one, then my mouth would run ahead of me! And as I'm in the moment, I know what's coming out of my mouth might make me regret it later, but I can't believe what she's saying! Then of course, after I leave, I'd feel upset that I wasn't cool & collected as I wanted to be!" That's exactly the way it was for me. LOL It is such a relief to KNOW someone that had similar experiences that may have been affected by it in the same way I have.

    And yes, you're right. There are a lot I'm not saying here. I am grateful for the recognition.

    Love, always.

  11. Etsuko-san,

    There are couple of great reminders in your comment I am grateful for. One is that "...the feelings are neither positive nor negative; they just are."

    This is one of the things my counselor helped me see a while ago. We are so bound by the teachings of the environment that we do judge unproductively. And I still sometimes revert back to the old way of judging myself from time to time. I noticed that sometimes it hinders personal growth.

    Another is that unless we let ourselves feel things we need to feel thoroughly, it keeps coming back and affect us in unhealthy ways. That is so true. Only when we let ourselves feel in depth, we would understand the meaning of what we are feeling.

    English is a language of cultures with history less binding to us, as our foundation was built through the culture of our home county in the east. So yes, it makes sense that we both feel that it's very freeing to use English when expressing ourselves. I am glad we can be open and make a note about this.

    Thanks again for visiting, Etsuko. I look forward to taking the next step with you along.


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