Discover more from WRITE, TO HEAL by Mimi Zhu
Breaking the Patterns that Broke My Heart
Of Letting Go and Letting In
i’m currently resting after an international book tour following the release of Be Not Afraid of Love, where i met so many wonderful, spirited people, and heard about the many constellations we are creating by connecting through the written word.
while i am taking a short break from writing work, the scope of my internal work has been overwhelming and vigorous. i’ve been in australia, in the home i grew up, and i am processing not only the last six months, but..somehow…inevitably, my entire life. i write this newsletter to tell you all about it.
PART I: THE PATTERN
i’ve been alive for nearly three decades now, which feels like forever, and also nothing. i think enough time has passed for me to distinguish the patterns that have formed in the timeline of my life. when i think of patterns, i think of waves and ripples and zigzags; sequences of shapes that hold consistency; as repetition provides a sense of comfort and familiarity, sometimes even home. but what happens when these patterns are toxic? what happens when home is an unsafe space?
i have deep difficulty writing about my family, even in my own private time, and there is so much that i do not feel comfortable sharing publically. i feel immense shame vocalising some of the things that Chinese families always want us to believe should only be known in private. but i also know what it’s like for our Chinese family to choose isolation, to choose “saving face”, to protect our pride instead of our relationships with each other. with all the secrecy and unwillingness to admit to any “weakness”, the distance between us grows wider, and we become strangers even to ourselves. and so, that is the first pattern i will break. as i write to explore the mysteries of why and how we love (or don’t), i need to explore my relationships; starting with the ones that have shaped me most.
my heart has been breaking since last december, after i had a nasty experience with my father, and finally accepted, after nearly three decades, that i’ve been in an unhealthy and emotionally abusive relationship with him. he has used me as his emotional punching bag since i was a child, nonconsensually appointed me as his therapist, and neglected me and my family for most of my life. i have spent decades yearning for his love and approval, and this december, after an explosive interaction between us, i finally gave up. he can’t love me because he simply does not know how; and saddest of all, i do not think he is interested in learning how to either.
while it was utterly devastating to comprehend letting my father go, everything became abundantly clear. a nonlinear timeline of my personal relationships started forming, swirling like a spiral, in which faces and energies and behaviours and arguments began to parallel and even interact with each other. while so many of these relationships were different, they also shared some kind of cosmic connection; there were similarities in how we engaged with each other, and what we seek from each other. i have historically been attracted to chaotic energy that always left me feeling uncertain and unstable. i would overcompensate and bend over backward just to earn this person’s love, and when i would get that “love” in unpredictable spurts, it was the satisfying reward that i was risking it all for. the highest highs came with the cost of my emotional security. i resented these lovers so much for it, and my intuition was begging me to stop, practically crawling out of my skin. none of these relationships lasted very long.
having this realisation initially led me into a doom spiral. am i damned in love? am i not cut out for a healthy relationship? am i the problem; seeking only what is unavailable to me and making yearning a personality trait?
i had to pull myself out of this vacuum of despair. yes, because of my parent’s relationship and my own relationship with my father, i have spent a long time seeking emotionally unavailable masc people just to win their love. i have become a mother, a therapist, a guide; and i have neglected myself to do the work for others, to show them i am worthy of not being left. it is a toxic pattern, but it is familiar; it has reminded me of home. but something snapped last december; a thread of awareness was illuminated in the dark, and i stayed close to its light. i finally knew what had seeded itself into my subconscious for so many years and driven so many of my unhealthy behaviours. last december, i became determined to dig it out.
shortly after the conflict with my father, i sobbed to my therapist in messy, mucusy tears. she said something that jolted me with clarity, “your dad is your greatest teacher, he is showing you how to let go.”
the revelation of this pattern was challenging and painful; but it was also liberating. now that i could see the pattern right before my eyes, i could also learn how to break it. i could set myself free; and see how, in some ways, i was already on my way.
PART II: THE OUTLIERS
the pattern is clear. i see it without a doubt, the way attraction, repetition, and reenactment work. i spent a few weeks fixating on the pattern, feeling sorry for myself and eternally damned, though again, the thread of awareness beckoned me to zoom out and direct my attention somewhere else for a second.
the same spiral of relationships emerged, but this time i saw outliers, glinting like stars around them. they were also connecting, though they were branching out. they were the faces of my chosen family, my friends, some past lovers, my community, and people i met during my book tour.
i thought about these relationships; most of them with queer people of colour, and how i didn’t feel anxious with them, how i didn’t feel like i had to earn their love, how our relationships, after some mutually communicated work, felt reciprocal and even balanced. there was conflict, there was disagreement, but there was also a willingness to be accountable, honest, and put our pride aside. even though i know so much queer cinema and art is about yearning and unrequited love, which is very real, so much of being queer has also shown me that the love we seek is within our reach and already in our hands; we invent the rules, and we carve out new patterns of our own.
these new patterns feel like stars, like milky ways, like sparkles…but they are also vast and wildly unfamiliar. it took me a while to accept that love, and sometimes i took them for granted. i’ve also had lovers whom i’ve shared such sacred times, who made me feel safe and held, who didn’t make me question whether i was too much or not enough, and who were grounded in enjoying the time we shared. who were truthful and honest about their feelings, which felt so confusing to me that it was almost uncomfortable. in all the panic i had about never experiencing a healthy love, i realised i had, multiple times before, they just looked differently than i had envisioned them to.
australia has been so hard, and in breaking my secret-keeping pattern, i decided to reach out for support. i spoke to my best friend and life partner sammy and told them i wasn’t doing too well. we had spoken for years about them one day coming to australia, though it always felt like a far away dream. i asked for help and then immediately minimised my experience, backing away from even uttering a request for them to travel so far. i told them, “please don’t if it’s too much”, and they hushed me. they said they would be here. and they came.
we traveled together by the australian shore, taking in tropical rainforests and spending time by the concrete beaches on the shores of unceded gadigal land. we were silly and joyful and saw sea urchins, blue gropers, foggy mountains, rockpools, moss, and rainbows. they came to my book tour event in sydney, and i heard sobbing coming from the corner of the room and i knew it was them. during the scariest of times, they held me as i broke down. i became a child in their arms, utterly silent one moment and then blubbering in tears the next. they gave me the space to be; something i realised i hadn’t known too well growing up. it felt unbelievable to bring this person to the place where i became who i am, and i realised that it is also possible to rewrite home.
i see these stars, shimmering and also navigating their own patterns, finding me, finding love, finding each other. i see how our paths cross, how it’s possible, anything is possible, for us to create new patterns and break the ones that broke our hearts. our intuition, our silver threads of awareness, our gut feelings, have been redirecting us all along. instead of fixating and centering the toxic patterns that have drawn me back to an unsafe home, i want to be an explorer, and i want to see with crystal clarity the love that already exists in my life, and invest my energy into those relationships. i want to let go, and i also want to let in. i write to rewrite.
what is your toxic pattern?
what do you do for yourself to slightly alter that pattern?
it may surprise you, but you may already be rewriting it.
MUSIC TO WRITE TO
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