Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

23 Nov 2010, 11:25 a.m.

Interior Drama

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Mom just showed me some kitchen stuff -- nice cookware, that sort of thing -- that she would like to give to Leonard & me, if we want it. I said we'd decide when Leonard gets here and sort of fled upstairs. I know it's fairly rude not to say "thank you, that looks great!" but I just immediately felt exhausted and needed to get out of there. It's so deflating I have to push myself to think about it enough to write it out.


  • Mom wants to give me things to show she loves me, and some hindbrain part of me interprets that as controlling, so now I have to choose between feeling controlled and rejecting a mother's love. Great.
  • Kitchenware reminds me of how little I know my own kitchen, how I am not pulling my weight and lean on Leonard way too much to cook and clean and generally be the kitchenkeeper. So more guilt and inferiority and regret.
  • I'm already fighting packrat tendencies I inherited, and try not to bring new things into my home that I don't need. Mom kind of understands this but still adheres to a lot of giftgiving traditions. Leonard and I now have two giant Rubbermaid tubs in our closet full of stuff she has given us that we don't use and daren't give away (some of it she might need when she visits, for example). It's like a Superfund site of unresolved emotion.
  • It never stops. She has always tried to give me things or advice, and even if the frequency's less now, she won't stop till she dies.
  • Kitchen stuff also reminds me of food, which has also been foisted upon me by Mom for approximately all of my life. She tries to be good about it but sometimes I just feel like I'm on a hair trigger about it, skipping breakfast or dinner, secretly snacking on my American stash. I have recently fallen again into the habit of saying no to seconds and dessert and fruit and snacks even when I am a little hungry. I can tell that this decision isn't coming from my rational adult brain. It's like my twelve-year-old self is finally getting to say no at the dinner table and have it mean something.

I'm sure there's more but that gives you a first approximation of why my stomach twists and my esophagus is closed up. It's all stuff I want to work through, and it doesn't usually hit me this hard. I guess it was my lowered psychological immunity (loneliness, homesickness) plus the combo punch that got me. I'll be better after I've done a little more writing and gone to the railway museum.


Mel Chua
23 Nov 2010, 10:17 a.m.

Sometimes it helps when I think of it as "finding ways to generously deflect my mother's love," - redirect the things to my brother or cousins, or absorb it with (as much of) a smile (as I can manage) and find a way to quietly pass it to a friend later on. Although I hear you on the Rubbermaid tubs o' stuff you can't give away...

A hug to you across the ocean, Sumana. One of the things your blogging right now reminds me of is how much of an internal space things like writing can give you when it feels like there's nothing else - when the physical world that surrounds you doesn't give you a cultural or mental (or digestive) break. You can clear a space here, at least, and have people reach back through the familiarity of a domain you own.

Miss you.

23 Nov 2010, 12:31 p.m.

Mel, two minds with but a single thought. I so appreciate that you're listening.