So, shortly after that previous posting, Dad called me. It was brief and nice, in a warm holiday-season way.
When I told one of my close friends this, she said, “Oh, my God. So, he didn't read the blog?”
Of course, that’s a good question, especially to ponder here!
What would I do if he did?
Talk about it with him if he wanted to.
Anyway, I felt this commotion of anxiety, sadness, blaséness, anger, and relief. But each emotion was so low on the scale of intensity, you know. Underneath everything was a sort of acceptance, but you know what, I have felt that before. I have felt that with each round of not hearing from him (which, by the way, is very different from not speaking to him– semantics, but words are powerful to my tricky sticky mind, and so I need to be accurate with the words I use because when I say “not speaking” it sounds purposeful and angry, which it is not. Actually, it’s that old, psychotherapy phrase a lot of us, Gen-Xers know¬– “benign neglect”. Except it really wasn’t benign.). Anyway I have felt with each round of not hearing from him or hearing back from him, when he does finally call, I always feel relief and acceptance and happiness and hope. Hope that this time around, this time, it will be different, somehow, either he will be, or more importantly and what I truly want, is that I will be different.
My issues with my father are mine. They are a collection of dusty, old photographs that make me cry every time I come across them.
I understand that my father doesn’t want to hurt me and doesn’t mean too, and I understand the Zen approach to all this is to say okay let go, detach. I have pockets of time that this is the way it all rolls out. I allow the reigns to fall, I let go, I open my palms to the sky…I even forgive, etc.
But at the core, at my core, what I feel and what I see is that I value certain things in my life. The reason why I don’t extend myself to my father any more is because I don’t value the relationship as much I used to. The reason why is because what I valued in our relationship before, was the unconditional support I felt from him. When he stopped that, I started to pull away. The reason why I feel such sadness about him is because I want to feel different about him, and I want to be a different way with him than I am. I want to just accept him as he is, but I can’t. I cannot make peace with this. It’s constantly swimming upstream.
What I do is not call him often and send him occasional emails. What I feel I should do is call more often and make attempts to see him more. What I want to do is let go of all expectations and let things kind fall where they may. If I want to see him, I call and try to make that happen. I think I fear that if I let go, I may never want to see him. If I never want to see him, I have truly lost him and the relationship with my father…which, for whatever reason, is very important to me.
I just emailed him because I wanted to– even though I had all these mixed emotions about it. I honestly also still feel guilty, and I know this makes people nuts, but until you are in my shoes and experience what I have, you won’t understand. I hesitate to write the next few lines. But, this is about writing naked and writing my feelings. So I will make a disclaimer: THE FOLLOWING IS ALL MY IMPRESSION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE SITUATION WITH MY FAMILY.
I THINK THAT….my mother and sister have been unbelievably hurt by my father, and I love my family, and I also saw it–saw the pain he caused them. That has, at times, affected how I have felt about my father. I think this is the part where a lot of people–strangers or friends or relatives– shake their finger at me and say something like, “Well it takes two to tango, in no divorce situation is it all one person’s fault. Plus, you shouldn’t take sides. It’s your parents’ divorce not yours.”” I shake my head in frustration and say, “You don’t understand. My father wants the post-divorce family to be all happy and together and when my sister and mother say they don’t feel what he feels, they don’t want to be friends or with him at holidays and birthdays, he gets mad. But, since they won’t speak to him, he takes that out on me.” So while people say the parents get divorced, I argue, no, it is the entire family who gets divorced.
What’s odd or weird to me is that I went for a long time saying to myself, he treats them differently from me. He isn’t that person they describe. He’s honest and open and compassionate to me. And this was true for a long time…until I started to do things with my life that he didn’t approve of. Then I saw what they did, and I struggled with that, denied that I felt he was judgmental, that he wasn’t all the way upfront and honest with me. But then all those things happened when I was pregnant and then when I had my daughter’s party.
I can’t help but judge my father for hurting me and my family. It hurts me because they are a part of me. They are the most important people next to my own immediate family, my husband and daughter. They have loved me no matter what, and he hurt them. How do I reconcile that? It’s not like he’s been wonderful to me. I mean I have been on the receiving end of his judgments.
It’s funny… all he wanted from my sister was acceptance, but you see, he never gave her that…about anything. The sad part is a parent should love their child no matter if they agree with their career path or chosen spouse. That, to me, is awful. I don’t know how to look at my father when I think about that. I mean he eventually did the same thing to me, (at least about my career path and the direction I turned in my life after I had Chelsea). It seems like if you don’t follow his advice, you’re out. Again, I go back to how can parental love be conditional?
To me, what a child chooses to do with their career path (unless they become something illegal!) or who they decide to marry (unless a criminal) and what religion they choose are not things that a parent should issue a judgment about. These are areas you do not control nor do you have the right to control them. If you decide that who they marry or what job they have is some kind of statement or mark about you, then you are really screwed up.
You love your child just because you do– not because they get good grades or marry the right person.
Many times I felt that my father loved and supported when he wanted to, when it made him happy and proud.
So if the Zen approach is to make peace with that, to issue a pass because I am a grown up now, to just sit and pretend it isn’t so, well, then I am not Zen and frankly I don’t want to be.
The Zen approach to me is to accept the way I feel and stop struggling against it.
That’s not to say I have given up on trying to connect to my Dad. I won’t ever do that.
He seems to be in a more cautious place with me now. I mentioned in the last blog how he apologized to me recently for being so harsh about my change in career. That certainly was a nice thing. But I felt so….disconnected when he said it. Maybe time will heal us?