YK’s 365 Release: Day 25

When I eat, I kind of eat like the cookie monster from Sesame Street. Everything is delicious to me, I eat large quantities, I inhale my food, and often leave a small mess.

In kindergarten the teacher made a note to tell my mother that she could always tell where I ate because I left a little mess. The way I saw it, the table needs to be cleaned after you eat anyway. The messy part, I was born with. The eating quickly part came later.

When my family moved to Korea, we were placed in a society with drastically contrasting family values and standards. All of a sudden, my father became a patriarchal figure in a society that valued men more than women. We were now in his territory, where he was monarch. Thus, he got it in his head that we were not respectful enough of our elders and particularly of him.

Yet, we were already independent, outspoken, free-spirited, and we were all women.

During the 10 years I lived in Korea my father and I had a torrential relationship. We would altercate for hours. He became a misogynistic and prejudiced bigot.

At dinner, the one meal a day we always ate together, he enforced a rule that we could not leave the table until he was finished. This was not just my father’s way, it was the Korean way. So we had to sit there until he finished. And passive aggressively, he never finished.

He would take advantage of this new law, to lecture us. He would make us sit at the table for hours, until he broke one of us verbally into tears. That seemed to be his signal that he had won that argument. He was mercilessly irrational and indecipherably unreasonable.

To his credit, he never laid a hand on us, but perhaps we were hit enough in Korean school by our teachers. He was, however, always howling at us with the complete and fastidious logic that was all his own.

As we grew older we were able to clearly outwit him in our arguments. We also stopped listening to him because he spoke in riddles, with convoluted rationale. I could tell he meant to communicate a certain message, but he was not as mellifluous in his transition from Korean to English, and by then the three of us were completely fluent in both. He would say things like, “There’s a gorilla on your back.” Or, “You’re chasing after the pink balloon.” Sometimes metaphor is not helpful, especially when you’re in the midst of an intense argument.

One family reunion, sometime when I was just entering college, we got into particularly odious argument and I was at a point where was repeatedly telling him that he was just plain wrong. As with most men from his generation and culture, being told you are wrong by a younger person, let alone a woman, is inconceivably disrespectful.

It was at this point I saw him grow the most indignant I have ever seen. He pulled out his belt, and his eyes were wild with rage. He started bolting after me, and right at that moment, my older sister jumped in front of me with her arms spread. She said, “Dad, if you want to get to her, you will have to beat me first.” And my younger sister also rushed in front and said, “Me too dad.”

I remember these seconds vividly as some of the most poignant moments of my entire life. This was the moment that cemented the solidarity between the women in my family. And my father backed down, realizing he was finally defeated.

It was only after many years, my father and I reconciled. He is now an old man that regrets his anger and verbal abuse. He is, after all of that, still my father. He has been seeking his own peace in Buddhism, and interestingly enough, he sees how Buddhism has changed me and brought me undeniable peace and bliss. So now he asks me for my insight and wisdom. It’s mind boggling.

In his past, he had his own ideas of how to raise us that differed from the methods of my mother, who wanted us to be fiercely independent, vocal, creative and self-sufficient in all ways. My mother’s ways won, in the end.

This is not to say my father has not made indelible impressions upon me. One legacy that he has left me with is the peculiar one that opened up this entry. Only in the past few years did I realize why I eat so quickly. It was because I wanted to leave the table before he could open his mouth. It was so I didn’t have to speak. So I shoved everything down as quickly as possible so my mouth would be occupied at all times. And now, the speed of my consumption has become a long-standing habit.

day25_dadSo, on Day 25 of my 365 Release, I would like to remember why I do the things I do, how my sisters are the guardians to my world, and how I live a life free of regret because I have always pursued my passions. I also want to appreciate that peace can be found at any point in one’s life if you want it at that moment. I want my father to find peace, I want him to be happy. I have already in the past, released everything toward him and found my own peace. There is never any reason to hold on to anything.

Today, I will give him something to remind him that he too can find peace. It’s a photo of my father carrying me. I am content, cradled in his arms, peeking over with adventure at my older sister, my future and eternal guardian, to see what’s going on in the world. He is smiling. I will frame it and give it to him, so he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that I love him as my dad just as I did when I was a kid. Unconditionally.

[I created the 365 Release Project to practice non-attachment, letting go and change by giving away 1 thing a day for 1 year. The background, vision and guidelines to the 365 RELEASE project are here. The running list of everything I have released is here.]

5 responses to “YK’s 365 Release: Day 25”

  1. YK Hong says:

    update and revision: according to my sisters, it was my younger sister that jumped in front of me first, then my older sister.

  2. nicole says:

    deep… on so many levels…
    1. as I contemplate my existence and identity in boys club that is my surroundings among the ascetics of Juna Akhara – and as I struggle with my identity here, wanting to fit in, yet somehow still in subtle ways sticking out. These days the biggest struggle I face here in India the most, is where as I may be more comfortable around the men who move around freely in the world than the quiet, obedient, housewife mentality I encounter among “good Hindu women”, most men are quite uncomfortable among independent, strong, outspoken (queer) women like myself.
    And so I am still searching among the female ascetics to find the few maja jis who have actually broken the mold and truly live as one female ascetic once told me in 2004 “there is no gender in Shiva’s army”…
    2. as I contemplate my own reconciliation with my estranged father who has recently been discussing plans to visit me, ironically more interested in what it is I do out here than the mother who stood by my for the decades of his absence.

  3. richard says:

    had to read this again. i know that you released this picture without expectation, but can i ask if your dad responded to you sending this picture?

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