It’s safe to say I’ve regained some sense today, as far as my current lovesickness goes. I’m caught up at work and feeling even more impressed with myself than usual. Fleas are about to be hunted.
A week ago I drove up to spend the night at my mom’s. We had a nice visit. And I had a nice 3 hour drive to reflect on things on my home. I felt pretty raw. As much as I thought that I have dealt with my upbringing and my complicated feelings toward each of my parents, there is certainly a lot there to unpack.
I maybe haven’t explicitly gone into this, but basically, my father has difficulty managing his anger. (More accurately, he makes no apparent attempt to manage his anger.) He, still, is angry a lot. I think he probably has very valid reasons for carrying around so much rage. It is also clear to me that some fucked up combination of brain chemicals contributes to this issue for him. Until my mother separated from him permanently (after at least seven attempts), she was the target of most of this anger. He never really hit her, so in his own mind, he was not a violent person. But please take my word for it, if my father corners you and screams at you, replete with a fine mist of spit droplets flying at your face, it is a violent experience. It isn’t yelling. It is something else, a physical, observable and visceral transformation in him that I will never be able to explain fully to someone who hasn’t seen it. Nobody does angry like my father. If there was an award for most intimidating husband who Has Never Laid A Hand On a Woman, he would win it. There was no limit on the words he would use to make my mother feel small, stupid, and scared. Sometimes things would be fine and he would be calm but rage was always a possibility. Calm nights were nice, but I don’t think I ever stopped feeling the anxiety of trying to anticipate the next blow up.
When you are born and raised in an environment where you feel a lack of safety and security, there are a lot of different ways to react and adapt to that, healthy/unhealthy. I did more than walk on eggshells. At some point in my early childhood I realized I had some power over my environment. My dad loved me so much. I was his little girl. His first biological child. I was inclined to perform and be adorable and please authority figures. He was all about me and I knew it. I thought I could keep him happy and keep things calm if I pandered to him. My job became being delightful. THIS LOOKS LIKE A JOB FOR DAD TAMER 24/7! CAPTAIN DISTRACTION OF ADORABLE KIDITUDE!
The time before he came home from work was the worst part of my day. I dreaded the thought of my father walking through the door. Then he would walk through the door and I would fucking run to him and demonstrate how thrilled I was he was home. It was crucial in my mind that I pretend to be as excited as humanly possible to see him, because this was the first line of defense against all that scary behavior I knew he was capable of. It didn’t always work. There was a cloud sometimes that might or might not develop into something. The worse mood he seemed to be in, the more I turned on the charm.
I wonder even now sometimes if my insides match my outsides. I try.
I have been aware of this coping skill and the weird, conflicted feelings and resentments that I have developed because of it. It’s fucked up. It’s so fucked up. I didn’t purely love him the way you should love your parent, that is the truth of it as far as I can tell, but I pretended and I pretended really well that I did. I didn’t want to be Daddy’s Girl.
[That’s not to say that I never enjoyed spending time with him, because on top of everything else, he was fun, loving toward me and my brother, funny, and seemed to know everything. Plus, most of the time, I knew I was not going to get yelled it. I was in his favor, given all the campaigning I did. I knew how to avoid pissing him off, like we all had learned to the best of our abilities.]
The thing that somehow I never saw in all of this was my mom’s perspective on things. Which was, here is a man who terrorizes me on a regular basis whom I can not really escape from and he is my daughter’s favorite person.
I can’t remember a time I wasn’t desperate for my mother’s affection. I clung to her and I wanted so badly for her to validate me. She couldn’t. She was fighting her own battle anyhow. She was poor and overwhelmed and depressed. The worst thing, though, the thing that is killing me is that she felt like I was on his side. And for a very long time, I don’t think she stopped thinking that.
I’m heartbroken about that. And I’m angry about that. I feel cheated out of the relationship that I wanted so badly to have with her as a child. It’s not her fault, and I don’t know how much time I spent thinking that it was.
My mother told me last week she remembers sitting in counseling with me, when I was about 11 or 12, feeling attacked and frustrated, while the counselor asked her to look at me, because I was sobbing. The counselor said, “Look at her, she is in pain. You need to tell her that you love her.” Fundamentally, my mom could not understand that then. I don’t remember that particular counseling appointment but I remember that I was in pain, because that is a good way to characterize most of that time of my life. She couldn’t see that, because most of the time I could only express my own feelings in anger. She was a safe person for me to be angry with. And I was angry all the fucking time. I don’t remember that appointment, and I don’t remember if she was able to look at me and say “I love you” in that moment. Or not.