Your Healing is Still Valid Even if You Won’t Forgive Your Abuser

Remember that relationship that I said imploded in ’16?

I started seeing a therapist in January, and in April I was told I had been emotionally abused (I had figured this was the case earlier, which was one factor in prompting me to seek out help to begin with). It explained a lot about why I still hadn’t gotten over things, why I had to force myself to eat, and why 2016 and roughly half of 2017 have felt generally like a pall had set over me. It explains why, for the most part last year, I felt like I had to pretend to be happy when I really wasn’t. It explains why I was just so tired.

I’m still in the healing process; I can tell you that I am feeling much better than I was this time last year, and that as more time passes, I am feeling closer to myself again. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to be the same level of happy or content that I was before all this fuckery happened, but I can enjoy things again, and thanks to therapy I know where I need to improve (boundaries) and enough to at least know, on an emotional level, that despite what others may say, the fault lies strictly with my abuser, not me.

That said, one thing that’s a real bee in my bonnet these days is the notion that in order to heal properly, I have to forgive my abuser. That it’s not for him, but for me. That if I don’t forgive him, I’m going to be forever stuck in the past. That I’m “not there yet” or I risk being forever bitter and God forbid, angry, and forgiveness is liberating, supposedly.

I also have seen that forgiveness isn’t letting the bad guy off the hook, or absolving him of his offenses, but letting go of the negative emotions toward him.

Well, too bad. I refuse to forgive my abuser.

I refuse the notion that anger in and of itself is a “bad” emotion to have. I’m not saying it’s good to be consumed by it. I don’t want to be a burning ash heap of rage and disappointment, as Sam says in GLOW. But at the same time, I think there’s always going to be some anger toward this asshole for what he’s done, even if it’s a small candle flame instead of a raging wildfire. It may even turn from a flame to a small icicle, but I don’t think it will ever be gone, and frankly, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. That flame/icicle reminds me that I didn’t deserve this. It reminds me that I’m not the worthless non-human I was made out to be. It reminds me that common courtesy and respect from those who claim to love and/or care for me is the baseline, and that I can’t accept anything less.

And frankly, the thought of forgiving my abuser is not a liberating one. Forgiving him kept me in the cycle. Forgiving him was what ultimately led to being used as an emotional punching bag and a scapegoat. Forgiving him for this, ultimately, is keeping me in the misery prison, and a reminder that at the end of the day, my emotions don’t matter so much, that what happened wasn’t so bad, and oh, your feelings about this need to be extinguished because otherwise you’ll be miserable forever. This leads to way more emotional labor on my part, and I don’t owe him precious energy that I’d rather have for myself.

I also think that hey, maybe it’s normal, or at least quite understandable that when people treat you poorly, you’re angry, hurt, or disappointed about it. I don’t see how pressuring people to let go of those emotions before they’re ready, or to smooth things over, is supposed to help them.

I’ve gone without forgiving people before in the past, and contrary to what the forgiveness-pushers say, I’m not stuck in that point in time. I rarely think about them, even. Not forgiving them hasn’t interfered at all with my ability to enjoy things and be happy. In fact, I think the way I handle them is the same way as the ones who say “forgiving them you don’t have to talk to them again or let them back in your lives” except, well, I don’t do the forgiving part. I don’t feel at all bitter from omitting forgiveness. It’s mellowed to a matter-of-fact “this is how they are, and I will have none of it from now on.” Quite peaceful and accepting, if you ask me.

In any case, I owe my abuser nothing. Not even my forgiveness. Not that he’d know what to do with it anyway, or appreciate it for what it was–certainly the few times I forgave him and stuck around bore that out. (Also, spare me the lectures about how my abuser is also a human being and how I need to consider the shit he’s been through, and how I lack empathy if I don’t. I did. I have. It’s one of the reasons I stayed. Happy?)

Now, if you want to forgive your abuser, or feel that it would be instrumental to your healing, you have my full support. If it would truly make you feel as free and light as they say it does, then you should do it. Where I bristle is when forgiveness is touted as mandatory for every abuse victim/survivor, despite the fact that every healing journey is individual, and also in the face of mounting evidence that there are cases where the notion of forgiveness hurts more than helps. (Like mine.)

And for those who don’t want to forgive their abusers and feel ashamed of that refusal? I’m here for you. There is no shame in refusing to forgive those who harmed us, no need to exonerate their cruelty, no need to pretend your pain is gone. There is self-love in that, even, realizing that it was undeserved and that the abusers are the ones who should feel guilty. And self-love in deciding to prioritize your feelings over theirs.

You are not bitter, or healing the wrong way, just because you decide not to forgive those who hurt you. You are trying your best in a world that treats abuse victims terribly, and I am so proud of you for it. And if you’d like, maybe you could find some forgiveness, for yourself.

(Note: any comments that ask me to reconsider my stance on forgiveness or tell me that I’m using the wrong definition will not be let through. I have spent the summer up till now grappling with this, and I’m not going to let anybody sway me.)

 

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Interview with Shenwei

I was interviewed by Shenwei as part of their series on Taiwanese-American writers! You can see it here.

Thanks so much for the interview! It was a lot of fun.

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Year-End Award Eligibility Post

Gah, it has been a while.

Um. So. Relationship imploded this year, but I did get a new place, and was very lucky to do so, considering even my new neighbors knew about how gorgeous it was. Housing market is such that you have to act very, very fast. I love it, though, how I can walk in and feel immediately more peaceful within minutes. It’s pretty great.

Despite the hectic year, I did have two pieces published!

1.“Of Peach Trees and Coral-Red Roses,” published in the Summer issue of Kaleidotrope. A retelling of Tam Lin, with a fantasy! Chinese princess. This story started out as a request from a good friend, and a few years later, I took a look at it and decided that it’d be pretty darned great on its own. It’s changed a lot from its previous incarnation–before, the peach tree wasn’t such a major role–but thanks to Rachel Poutasse, one of my beta readers, it really became a star in the end, and I liked it a lot better, considering Kairu doesn’t just resort to iron, like she did in earlier drafts, but uses what she knows from home to defeat the Faerie Queen. It was a nice way of having her keep her culture to save a loved one.

2.”Dreaming Keys,” published in the anthology An Alphabet of Embers. This was my first published story, and once again, had it not been for Rose Lemberg, the editor, and their encouragement, the story would never have happened. Originally it was part of a birthday scrapbook for Ben Whishaw from the fandom, but since I’m not particularly good at making graphics, I figured a story would do. When the call for submissions from AoE came out, it was Rose who encouraged me to submit and not self-reject. I have to admit, at the time I was at a loss about whether or not I even had anything that would fit, until I remembered “Dreaming Keys,” and went for a revisit.

I want to write notes on both stories later (about diaspora and fighting your own biases/cultural standards for “Peach Trees,” and the use of hanzi and reworking an old idea into something completely new for “Dreaming Keys”), but for now, here is the post! Enjoy!

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2015 Roundup

2014 was the year I started writing and submitting. I like to think that 2015 was where I really made things happen, though.

My goal was 30 submissions, and while I didn’t reach that, I did submit 22 times over the year, which isn’t bad, considering I’m doing this with a full-time job (not to mention a shiny new relationship since April). Out of those 22 submissions, one was accepted: “Of Peach Trees and Coral-Red Roses” will be in Kaleidotrope‘s summer issue this year. Also of note: “Dreaming Keys” is in the anthology An Alphabet of Embers, due to be released in February. It’s my first published piece, so I’m quite proud of it.

Also, I submitted twice to the Writers of the Future Contest, and got two Honorable Mentions for the third and fourth quarters. Here’s a nice badge they gave me for the fourth quarter:

HONORABLE MENTION

While I did write new stories in 2015, a lot of them are unfinished, either because I would go, “oh, shit, that word count is way too high” or “oh, shit, I don’t know how to finish this thing.” I’m hoping that won’t happen as much this year. Currently I’m working on something for PoC Destroy SF, and the issues behind those are: too many ideas, not enough time and energy, and a perfectionist habit that I’m desperately trying to break. I really don’t think writers can be told “the only perfect first draft is a finished one” too many times.

I also did a lot of reading! A lot of great books came out this year, including Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, Mira Grant’s Rolling in the Deep, Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, and Catherynne Valente’s Radiance. I was also introduced to The Dragon King Chronicles by Ellen Oh, and Shira Glassman’s Mangoverse, which are both utterly delightful series (Mangoverse is ongoing; the next book, The Olive Conspiracy, is coming out in July.)

Because I am superstitious about certain things, such as this upcoming Mercury retrograde, I’m considering rereading some of last year’s books and posting reviews. I need to be more present here, anyway, so I may as well ask you, the readers: along with book reviews, is there anything else you would like to see? Posts about cooking, perhaps? Or beauty products?

To close, I have some goals for this year:

  • get up to 30 submissions;
  • lose the perfectionist streak and finish more stories; trust betas to help me fix them later;
  • get more exercise, due to high triglycerides running in one side of the family;
  • learn to weave.

Best wishes for a smooth, productive 2016!

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Story Sale to Kaleidotrope

I had a bit of a harrowing weekend, what with attending a family event, which included being on the road for at least six hours on Saturday and Monday. The family event itself was fine! But there was a lot of hectic rushing about, and I can only take so much of that.

And it’s been a bit of a stressful week, but one very, very bright spot was that when I came home on Monday, I discovered that I’d sold my short story, “Of Peach Trees and Coral-Red Roses,” to Kaleidotrope. It’ll be out in the Summer 2016 issue!

This story is a retelling of Tam Lin, and has a touch of inspiration from wuxia stories and Chinese mythology. It’s near and dear to my heart for several reasons, but the main two are that 1) I’ve been drawn to Tam Lin in a way that I keep coming back to it, like a favorite vacation spot, and 2) this is an attempt to try and put East Asian heroines in a world that I’d always found closed off to me since childhood, because as a kid, I would read all this great fantasy, but subconsciously there would always be that notion that these were worlds that I could never, ever enter.

If you’re looking for a great story like this with East Asian heroines, I highly, highly recommend SL Huang’s Hunting Monsters. Seriously, go read it if you haven’t already!

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Alphabet of Embers ToC

So the official ToC for Alphabet of Embers has been released, including yours truly, along with other awesome folks like Zen Cho, M Sereno, and Emily Jiang (you should read their work, it’s terrific).

Otherwise, not much going on here except writing and submitting. I’ve managed to submit two stories so far, and I’m hoping to increase that number by December 31. I’m trying to do 500 words a day if I’m not editing, with 1000 words on weekends, but we’ll see how that goes. A friend suggested a story bank, which is basically a document with all the story ideas I’ve thought up so I have one now. It’s a short list, but it’s growing, little by little.

Hope everyone had a good new year, and hoping that 2015 has good things for everyone.

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On Bravery

I feel like I don’t have enough for a Year in Review here when it comes to blog posts, but on the other hand, a lot did happen in 2014 when it came to writing.

I started thinking seriously about submitting around 2013, although like almost every writer, I’d been writing longer before that (Seriously, I have a story I wrote when I was thirteen that was going to be a novel. To this day, I still can’t look at it). A lot of it was motivated by anger, admittedly, or as Ken Liu said when announcing his novel, reacting against things. Unfortunately, 2013 wasn’t exactly productive, because real life got hectic, but also because I spent way too much time talking about the stories I had in mind instead of actually writing them.

So when 2014 started, I made a resolution to stop talking about writing, sit down, and actually write. And then actually submit, which was the hardest part.

It seems to have gone well so far. My first submission was to Writers of the Future in January, and then to an anthology in June, followed by another one in July, yet another in August, and then magazines starting in September. My last submission for this year was sent in late December, and I got the rejection yesterday.

Speaking of rejections, with the exception of Alphabet of Embers, the submissions were rejected, but out of them, two were personal. Maybe I’m on the right track. AoE is out in 2015, and while I’m resubmitting two previously rejected stories, I’ve got two more that are bouncing around in drafts, and at least three or four that are in my story bank. And all the while, it makes me really happy, because wow, guys, I’m actually doing it.

And it’s huge for me because if you asked me a few years ago, it would have just been a pipe dream. Because I wasn’t really brave enough to put myself out there. The idea of being rejected, or never making it, scared me (which isn’t good because as I’ve learned, almost everything gets rejected anyway). So maybe this isn’t a big deal for some, but if I had to put down one big thing that happened in 2014, it wouldn’t be just the acceptance (although that’s a big deal in and of itself), but it’s the fact that I finally managed to get the guts to put myself out there.

So here’s to 2015, with more productivity, and hopefully more of my stuff out there.

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