Between my arrival in China at the beginning of 2003 and the summer of 2007, I had had only three vacations in Australia. I returned during the SARS epidemic in the summer of 2003 and again six months later in the winter of 2004 and again in the winter of 2005. As I mentioned earlier, difficulties at the beginning of 2006 prevented me from returning at that time. In May of 2006 however, I returned to Australia for just a few days to attend my youngest daughter's wedding. As the summer of 2007 approached, my youngest daughter began asking me if I would be coming home for a holiday. I found myself unable to answer her questions because in my heart of hearts I actually did not want to return.
I had long realized that when I talk to Chinese people about going to Australia, I say exactly that; 'going to Australia,' but in Australia when I talk about returning to China I would use the expression 'going home.' On previous vacations in Australia I had found myself eager to return to China. In 2005 I experienced more than just a feeling of 'looking forward' to returning to China; I felt 'trapped' in Australia. Constrained by my flight schedule, I couldn't wait to 'go home.' And so it was that as summer of 2007 approached, I became more and more troubled by the prospect of returning home.
Sensing my reluctance, my daughter chided me in an email and from my perspective, was trying to manipulate me into returning home. I finally came to the decision that I really needed to sort some things out with my kids and so used my daughter's email and its content, to have a full-on fight with all of my kids. "Why?" you ask. The simplest answer, but hardly a revelatory one, is that as the title of this book indicates, 'I had found myself!' I was no longer interested in superficial relationships.
I have been married twice, but all of my children are the issue of my first marriage. Most divorces do not leave people happy! They may give some people relief, but divorce is not a happy thing, and the ongoing consequences of it are like a cancer that remains unseen until sickness necessitates a search for the source of the pain. Divorce puts everyone into an artificial environment. The definition of 'family' has to be redefined, and sometimes that definition requires compartmentalizing. For example: When the 'family' gets together for Sunday lunch, what constitutes 'family'? At Christmas families sometimes have to celebrate in two different households, but the composition of 'family' is not the same both times. One can say that 'it is always the children who suffer in divorce,' but that is an oversimplification. Whole extended families suffer. Many relationships suffer. Many topics and issues become 'taboo.' The number of problems that can arise out of divorce can range from the minor to the most devastating. One can never truly anticipate the consequences. Likewise with staying in a marriage that is no good.
Given that what I am now writing, involves real people in real situations, the last thing I want to do is cause pain and so I want to state here quite clearly, that unless otherwise specified, what I now write is a combination of both my personal experiences and my observations of what other people have experienced. Unless otherwise stated, I do not wish to imply nor wish it inferred that any or all of my following statements specifically applies to my relationship with my children. But given that this book is about 'finding myself,' I must make some attempt to explain not only what happened in summer of 2007, but why it was necessary.
I sent all my children a copy of some statements that my youngest daughter had made in her email, and I asked them to discuss the statements and their feelings about me. You may not think that unreasonable, but I knew that my request would cause trouble, and it did. I had in fact deliberately set out to upset my kids in the hope that we might be able to 'clear the air' so to speak. Did I succeed in upsetting them? Absolutely, and it took them sometime to realize that a very substantial change had occurred in our relationship. That change, to put it simply, was that I no longer "needed" them.
I have been told that that last sentence and the sentiment it expresses is absolutely horrible -- but I disagree. Before I came to China 'I needed' my children but didn't often see them. I had nothing to live for but my children and they didn't need me. Today, I am no longer 'needy.' I don't 'need' my children in order to live a happy and worthwhile life.
Relationships: Control and Dependency.
Every relationship involves to some degree and at various times, issues of both 'control' and 'dependency.' A rebellious child might want to buck the parent's control. We know that they depend on us, and we know we are responsible for them. We ourselves are 'controlled' by society, our moral values and law, to ensure that our children are cared for. An older teenager may consider that he/she wants to be free of a parent's control, but is hampered by the awareness of his own dependency upon the parent. On the other hand, feeling that he is no longer dependent on the parent, he may seek to break parental control.
We are all aware that within divorce there is scope for children to play parents off against each other. In such a scenario it is the child who is in control and the parents who are dependent on their child. We are also aware that some parents use the kids to control the ex-spouse and that ex-spouse in turn is dependent on both the other ex-spouse and the kids. Such issues are clear and straightforward. There are however issues of control and dependency that are not so clear and perhaps never consciously considered by people in their various relationships.
Anger resulting from a sense of abandonment, or resentment because of a circumstance or a lost opportunity, can lead a person to 'withhold' love and acceptance as a weapon of punishment and / or control. In short, sometimes people who have a 'bee in their bonnet' about us may feel that because they have suffered or are suffering some emotional pain, they have a right to 'dump on us.' Within the context of divorce, 'both parents' can find themselves being dumped on by their kids. Mostly it is nothing more than childish 'tit for tat,' or tantrum throwing. But like everything in life, a pattern can begin to develop that changes the occasional one off event into a way of life.
Now as I have said, it is not my intention to do any finger pointing. I am merely explaining my 'self.' As I indicated in Chapter One, by the time I came to China, I was already planning my own death. That is the defining statement of this situation. That was me before I came to China. I was sick of living. I was sick of being in a 'double bind' (no win situation). I was sick of being in trouble when I spoke and of being in trouble when I didn't. I was sick of 'walking on eggshells,' waiting to see who I would upset. I was sick of people thinking that they had a right to say what they pleased but that I had no such right.
By 2007, during over four years of living in China, I had rediscovered my 'self worth.' I was no longer 'subject to' other people's personal emotional issues nor to my own. I had a life! I enjoyed my life! But I did not enjoy going home to Australia to walk on eggshells. Although it was my intention to go home in the summer of 2007, the only reason I had to do so was that 'it was expected of me'. My children's concept of 'family' did not usually include me (especially so since I lived abroad), but they did feel that they were entitled to express certain things to the father who 'had abandoned them,' but this father never seemed to have a right of reply.
Our society seems to breed a 'victim mentality' and many people like to portray themselves as victims. When you look more closely at 'alleged' victims however, sometimes you have to wonder about the mentality or philosophy of certain victims. I for instance don't understand the philosophy of 'suffering victims' who bemoan the fact that they were abandoned by worthless unloving fathers (by which they mean that their parents divorced), but who at the same time, claim not only to have had a saint for an all-loving all-caring mother, but to have grown up happy and 'normal.' I could understand it if their lives were shot to pieces and that they suffered from drug or alcohol dependency or some such, but in the case of children who both claim and appear to be happy, I fail to see the underlying reason for some 'adult children' to complain about being abandoned by their worthless fathers, while at the same time complaining that their father never or rarely sees them. Why would you want to see such a worthless person?
Some children on the other hand do get to see their father but because they have never dealt with certain emotional problems caused by their parent's divorce, they are unable to freely relate to their father.
(I use the word 'father' here because in 90% of divorces children live with their mothers. There are of course many women who can equally be described as the 'absent parent').
If the 'absent parent' is able to spend time with their children, then one would think that they would want some 'quality time.' If children's emotional issues do not permit that time spent together to have real quality, or if the children begrudgingly spend that time with the absent parent and effectively 'cold-shoulder' them, then for the absent parent, that time together becomes pointless and unfortunately, sometimes the pain of the situation causes the absent parent to further distance themselves.
Sometimes however, children and their absent parents grow apart in quite the same way as children living with their parents can grow apart from them. Children have their friends, their interests and their sports and other activities, which, especially in the case of the 'absent parent,' results in an emotional distancing. Children through their teenage years simply grow apart from the absent parent because they see less of them. Perhaps in later life they regret that it happened, but they can hardly be blamed for simply having been normal children.
I know of one father whose daughter, during a tense moment called him 'just the sperm donor,' and promptly cut off all relations with him. When I asked him how he felt about her actions, he simply said that he 'preferred the truth' to the pretence. He told me that he could respect both his daughter's honesty and her decision. His words reminded me of a saying that an old and now deceased Scottish friend had: 'you can hit me but don't sh*t me!'
For parents and their kids to have a healthy relationship, they must know where they stand with each other. Parents do not have to agree with everything that their kids do and say, and likewise, children do not have to agree with everything their parents do and say, but they must have an unclouded relationship. They must know where they stand with each other.
When my youngest daughter started pressing me about returning for a holiday in the summer of 2007, she also questioned me about my continued absence and could not understand why I did not return to Australia to live. How could I answer such a question? I did not believe that it would be a useful exercise to sit down with my kids and explain how I felt about my relationship with them. My kids have never had a problem expressing themselves when they are angry, but I did not feel that they were capable of having a 'deep and meaningful' conversation when it involved 'sore points.' I know that they have grown up with a 'keep the peace' attitude, but I grew up with a 'clear the air' attitude. It makes for a frustrating relationship. By the summer of 2007 I knew that I needed to get some things settled and so I decided that 'blunt trauma' was probably the best way to go. After all, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Naturally it was messy. There were the expected tantrums, accusations, 'cutting off the nose to spite the face,' and the 'tit for tats.' Others might have been really upset by what my kids wrote, but I spent my energies examining what they were really saying. That after all was my purpose. To get them so angry that they would hold nothing back. No more game playing, no more 'keeping the peace,' and no more evasive answers. The truth! I am not going to give you any juicy tidbits but for this one thing. Two of my children quite bluntly informed me that I was at risk of losing my family because of both my 'email' behavior, and my refusal to return home to Australia to live. One went so far as to lay down some rules and regulations - 'setting boundaries.'
I have to tell you that that shocked me! I quickly wrote back and said something along the lines of: 'I must apologize! It seems that I have given you the wrong impression. It seems that you have all misunderstood me. So let me make it clear. I am not interested in coming home. I am not interested in having a relationship with you. I am happy. I have a life. I merely wanted to give you all the opportunity to come out from behind the facades and tell me exactly what you think of me. I don't want to play this 'let's pretend that we all get along together' game.'
This back and forth of emails did not take place in the space of one day or even one month. It went on for quite some time. With each email I sent, I made myself more and more clear. In all, I guess it took from about May of 2007 to June of 2008 to work itself out. I did not (I don't think), demand that my children change their thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics, and nor did I lay down any laws that I expected them to abide by. What I wanted was to ditch the facade that I had to wear every time I was around them. One told me that if I was wearing a facade then that was my problem. And I don't disagree! But that is what I have been writing about: 'Finding Myself.' I could care less what people think I should have done or could have done to solve my problem with my kids. The reality is that I had reached an impasse. Having finally found a life to live, my life did not include them. More importantly, the relationship I did have with them did not merit spending time and money in Australia. It was my problem! It was for me to solve! The potential consequences were my responsibility!
In 2008 I went home for a month, and I can honestly say, that I couldn't remember when I had enjoyed their company so much. When it came time to return to China, I wished I could have stayed longer in Australia. Although I was unable to go home again in (Northern) summer of 2009, I did return in January 2010. I stayed for a month. During that period I spent some individual time with four of my kids, and I can say that I am glad now that I did what I did. I remember one night at my youngest daughter's house, her husband and I were talking and she began to interject. 'Family is Family!' she said. To which I replied: 'Yes! You can pick your friends but you can't pick your family - but at least you can pick which country to live in to get away from them!' She looked at me and laughed! During a conversation with my eldest daughter, she was talking about a certain family situation and how that sometimes she wishes she could just pack up and go back to New Zealand to live. I looked at her and laughed. 'I know that feeling!' I said. She looked over at me and laughed.
We understand each other a lot more now! With each occasion that I go home and talk with them, the more at ease I feel. It doesn't mean we must agree with each other, but we do have to understand each other. They know that I will not hold back my thoughts if I think that they are pushing me too hard, and I accept that whatever they say is not meant as a personal attack. It doesn't mean I don't get hurt or that they are yet capable of calmly talking about their innermost feelings with me, but perhaps in time they might.
After I had been in China just a year, I already knew that I did not want to return to Australia to live, and so sent all my kids an email which said something to the effect that they were all adults now and could think, say and do whatever they pleased, and if people didn't like it, then that was too bad. At that time, I also told them that I was also an adult with exactly the same rights. Though I meant it and believed it, I never actually lived it. It may have taken me longer to arrive at the destination than they did, but now we are all at the same place. We all have our individual thoughts, opinions, beliefs and lives and we all have genuine relationships with others which allows them to live their own lives as they see fit.
Many people feel the need to 'control' others. Many people need to have others 'dependant' upon them. But controllers too are dependent upon the submission of those they seek to control. Personally I don't wish to control or be controlled. I don't want to manipulate or be manipulated. I don't mind superficial relationships with people on the periphery of my life, but I certainly don't want to pretend that I'm part of the 'in crowd' when actually they keep me on the outside. I will let the other person define the relationship and relate accordingly - except when the definition is fraudulent. There is great joy to be had when we accept others for who they are and not what we think they should be. How nice it is to spend time with people because we want to - not because we have to.
Issues of control and dependency pervade all societies and it is the issue of control with which I take exception in Political Correctness doctrine. That is why throughout this book I keep coming back to the topic of political correctness, because it constitutes abuse of society. There is always an emotional aspect to abuse of any kind. When we feel controlled by others or are emotionally dependent on others, we are not in a healthy emotional place. All of us need to find a healthy place to live. My life in China has been better than bathing in Lourdes. I want neither to hate nor be hated; neither to abuse nor to be abused. I am content to let others define our relationship. All I ask is that people treat me as they would like me to treat them. That, after all, is what both the New Testament and Political Correctness teach.
Given that the Australian winter would probably be hotter for me than the Chinese summer in 2007 when I angered my kids, I decided not to return to Australia and that required that I come to some decision as to what I would do during my two month vacation.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
2013 Social Commentary Articles
The Dysfunction in the Religion of Peace by R.P. BenDedek
By R.P. BenDedek
September 28, 2013
Muslim belief is that ultimately everything is Allah's will. Whether they approve or disapprove of the Kenyan massacres is irrelevant. It is Allah's will! Whether ordinary Muslims approve or disapprove of those terrorists is irrelevant. It is Allah's will! Whatever a Muslim may say with his lips, his true meaning is hidden in the back of his mind. It is Allah's will! Every Muslim, like every other true believer in every other religion, dreams of seeing the world converted to their god. For the Muslim therefore, every action that leads to the defeat or conversion of the infidel must be Allah's will.
Giving the Finger to Comrade GOOGLE's brand of Communism
By Comrade R.P. BenDedek
August 26, 2013
I have come to the decision that the only thing I can do is take a page out of Comrade Google's 'Little Red Book' and say: 'Screw You!' Comrade Google didn't like the way the Communist Government of China kept changing the rules. Comrade Google would not submit to a 'totalitarian authority'. Comrade Google decided to pull up stakes and leave. Is there a lesson to be learned in that?
Learning to Hate The U.S.A.
by R.P. BenDedek
August 11, 2013
American Education is actively turning young Americans into terrorists. The speaker is Brigitte Gabriel (pseudonym), a Lebanese American journalist, author, and activist. Within the video she produces documents which purport that despite so called separation of State and Church, Islam is being introduced to school children at school, and via injection of big dollars into universities all over the USA, Students are being taught to hate the USA.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning Star News. He is also the Editor of the 'Writers Journal' at Kingscalendar.com. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls