26 March 2017

A Letter To My Dad

Well, Dad, I have something to say. And isn't going to be easy because they're things that have gotten in the way of me having a better relationship with you and I feel a ton of shame about the way I have treated you in the past, but you'd have to know what that is to know why they affect me. You'd have to know - and acknowledge - what I felt hasn't ever really been spoken to. But I realize that 1) it's been so long, it feels almost ridiculous to bring it up. So much time has passed, so many things have changed, life has brought growth for all of us. It feels almost counter-intuitive to say, "hey, you may have thought we made amends, but I never did, and here's why" and address something you've long since put away and I haven't. It feels awful to kind of just drop this on your lap. And 2) there is a very real fear of your response about it. I've proven that I can be oversensitive, defensive, and confrontational about a great many things, and when I have tried to approach you before (in my crappy way), it's just been hard to hear your hardened responses when I keep trusting in the loving relationship we claim to have. AND... I have all the proof in the world of how my personality annoys the shit out of all three men (you, E, and now recently M.) But I feel like I've been keeping something from you for a long time - which I swear was for the best intentions - but it's just ended up eating at things in my life outside of myself and I just don't think it's right to keep it from you any more. Even if it's hard.

I have had an impression for some time that our relationship, specifically, hasn't grown as much as I thought it would from when I was at home, and I know that in the truth of it not growing, among the many good and bad reasons, a good chunk of that lies mostly with me. It's not that our relationship hasn't grown at all, it's that I'm still holding onto something that you probably don't know I'm still holding onto. And, here goes, it's about the time period of when I was pregnant with Aurora. Two major things that suck to admit. 1) how much it hurt me that you struggled to talk with me for a long time in the beginning, after we'd built such a friendship while I was in high school, and basically presented your case to me in terms of your feelings, but not showing empathy or outward compassion for what I was going through. And 2) how we have never, ever made our peace about that, or about anything else during that time, in large part because it's always been a difficult subject to approach for the both of us and because I haven't heard you admit that it was at least several weeks (months) before we even started talking; and that the conversation after that was short and clipped and filled with your feelings, not mine. 

I have, for the last 19 years, struggled on and off heavily with this. This is not a new thing for me. And there's no special reason it's coming up now. I just find that it's affected how I see other people and treat them and I see how very long that's been going on (and how very tiring it is.) It's affected how I mother. It affected my thought processes going into the world. It affected my marriage, the ways I have coped all these many years, and my relationship with Trevor very negatively. It's affected my relationships with my friends, my brothers and it's affected my relationship with you, unfortunately. Each time something happens in my life and I revisit this and then re-decide to move on, I find that it always comes back up. Because I put myself and my self worth on the back burner until I explode. And I've had to learn some things about how I express myself, which is deeply rooted in the grudges I've held and the walls I've put up. It's been a heavy price to pay for being unable to say something to you. 
I've held it in for so very long that I haven't known any other way. Holding onto it seemed to be the only way to deal with the situation at the time, but I have become so, so resentful. It has colored every way I have tried to relate to you or stay in touch with you. It's become such an outside-of-me thing now that it affects people around me even when I'm not thinking about it and even when I'm trying to rise above it. It's become such a problem that whether or not I'm successful this time in getting through to you, I have to give you my very best try in expressing how long I've been hurting - in, yes, the hopes that you will respond productively, but largely and wholly so that I can say I gave it an honest go, that I tried letting you know without you feeling attacked or like you have to relive the hard stuff again. That I let you know while we have the capacity to deal with it now. While we're still alive. While we still have the chance to talk about it. While we still have our faculties about us. And before you die or something happens where we can't and we're forced to deal with it in the afterlife.

The truth is that the part about keeping the baby was about making amends for you. Not for me. I wholly agree that we were on the same page about keeping the baby, but when we stood in the vestibule of St. Matthew's and you took an impassioned stance on not giving up Aurora for adoption, it was coming together on an idea, which I was grateful for, but it was not making peace for me with you about the rejection and withdrawal I felt from you. Which came in the form of the floor being dropped out from underneath me when you stopped talking to me, which I remember was for months, and when you looked at my barely formed belly with contempt when I came home for Thanksgiving that year, which aren't exaggerations. Those are memories.

I know you meant well about making peace then, but it wasn't making peace for me. 

The other very big truth also is that I felt abandoned by both parents, but moreso by you, in a time when I needed you more than ever. The truth is I felt like the first time I tested your love, you withdrew it. (Mom, too.) I realized your stand with me on keeping my baby was your way of showing me some (?) colored way of being on my side. But it was not the same as me being able to admit how much I was hurt by your actions after learning I was pregnant and feeling like I'd lost all your protection and wishing you'd speak to understanding that. It hurt more with you than with Mom because you and I were closer. You were the one who introduced the mercy of Jesus to me, the one who talked about tender mercies and loving relationships. You were the one that lectured us kids to get along because life was short and love was important. You were the one who seemed to believe in tenderness. It was a very hard pill to swallow.

I never faulted you for having to deal with it how you needed to because it was a new thing for us all. And I know a trillion other things have happened since then to make this seem so out of left field. I know that you didn't know how to deal with it and that it shook up a lot of your beliefs about me, about life, about disappointments in general. Me getting pregnant was the last thing you expected to happen; and it didn't fall into line with your morals, your perceptions, your ideals, your culture, or even your own historical context of me. None of us had ever been through that before. At least not from the vantage points we were at during that time - you as a dad, mom as a mom, me as the daughter. I understood that with flying colors back then. I understand that perfectly right now.  
But I also managed, even if on accident, to understand it was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened, and not only in the the whole wide world, but to you. Me being pregnant was the worst thing that happened to you and mom. And even though it was far from the life you'd imagined for me and even though we were all new to the earth-shattering shock it brought us all, I was relying on the knowledge that both of you did, however, as former kids yourselves, get yourselves caught up in a similar situation (enough to warrant to marrying Mom) to help me out or help bring sympathy or compassion to the table. And instead, the outpouring of responses to continue on long after the initial reactions was much, much worse than I'd anticipated.  (I've expressed the sheer betrayal I felt to Mom about the fact that she could have easily related to me being pregnant in college but didn't - the miscarriage story - and also didn't bother to elaborate until long after I got pregnant.)

But we haven't been able to ever really talk about it productively and I haven't expressed to you the deep wounds that came from being upset by your initial and subsequent reactions and, much later, by the realization that you and Mom had both been in my shoes (with the miscarriage story) but both struggled to show me compassion. I think it's the latter that hurt for longer than the former. Because it's come to really matter in my relationships, when I would feel ignored or checked out on. I developed very basic, very strong and primal fight or flight response when I feel desperate, angry, or just plain scared. This wound, I'm embarrassed to say, has affected every single relationship I've ever been in, on some level or another. (Some of that does overlap with other things from my childhood, but this was basically the clincher.) 

I've never been able to tell you because I have never been able to find a way. And I've never been able to find a way because I have always been hella embarrassed by the fact that I can't just get over it. I've also never been able to find a way because I "knew" to put my thoughts of being pregnant/life changing/being scared as hell aside, in exchange for thinking about how it all made you and Mom feel. But it just kept coming back up and it just kept going that way until I broke. Both in my marriage and now in this relationship. (It didn't matter with the loser French guy - but it matters now and matters always.) I've done a LOT of damage in handling things the way I do and being resentful. A lot.

This resentment, this harboring of hurt, is also why when I have tried to approach you with it, other terrible crap comes out. Terrible things, awkward things, loaded things that I'm extremely ashamed of like judgment and lectures and whips and chains and just about every terrible, disrespectful way a daughter can be about a hot, emotionally-charged thing. (The emails I've sent, the outbursts I've had with you, and even leaving Kyle the way I did.) It has always gotten in the way. I will always, always own and feel terrible guilt for treating you with disrespect because I wasn't able to be truthful about how much your actions did hurt me because I was afraid of how you'd react (it's easier to go balls to the wall and know you're getting the bull than to ask the bull a question in the arena.) It was easier to be a lame couch shrink than admit something about myself to you. The only difference now is that I've seen how much and for how long it's affected my life apart from you; and I'd rather let you know in this life than the next that I needed someone to care about how freaking traumatized I was about what I was facing as a pregnant woman while trying to manage my parents' feelings, which wasn't my responsibility. 

It wasn't fair to you and it wasn't fair to me. I didn't mean to hold onto this like a thing and I surely regret being disrespectful to you in the past. I realize that the wound is real. It's not gonna go away and I can't pretend it's something else, and I've held onto it for so very long. I don't want that any more. I don't want to be the one holding us back, or being the one preventing us from having an authentic relationship, and I'm sorry. I didn't even realize I was doing it until I started fighting in this relationship and I had to realize why my hardass ways weren't working. I never wanted to be like that. 

Like I said, I hate dropping this on your lap. It's gonna feel of of nowhere and make us revisit some painful moments and for that I'm sorry. Just. This is me trying to find an ultimate way to show you how much I love you. That after all this time, our relationship is still important to me. That before we're too old and before we find out some other rude way in the afterlife, we can still be okay. We can still be real. We can still be authentic. And that we CAN get through terrible moments. This isn't fun, but at least it's easier than a lot of other things.