I was just minding my own business enjoying the fall when I looked around to find myself firmly planted in November. Aside from being the unofficial start of 6 or 7 months of winter, November brings with it the annual feeling of dread as we begin rapid descent into the holiday season.
It’s not that I hate Christmas. I’ve come to define my feelings about it that way, but what I really hate is the expectations that are stuffed in every nook and cranny of the holiday. Those expectations, and accompanying anxiety, mostly centered around my father. The fact that I was expected to spend time with him while fraught with worry that he was going to go on some racist/sexist/mysoginistic/homophobic tirade in the presence of my children, that I was going to be subject to his disparaging or dismissal, that my children might also, and on top of that conjure some type of gift that hit some mystery sweet spot that would garner me appreciation and acceptance from him. NO BIG DEAL.
Just about 3 years ago that changed when I decided to just not call him anymore. I wasn’t intentially trying to estrange myself from him. I simply stopped calling him and he stopped calling me. He has some narrative in his head that he called me and I never called him back. That’s not true. But seriously, does it matter?
It’s always been that way – I wonder if it’s that way with other narcissistic parents? He’s always put the responsibility on me to maintain my relationship with him. From the time I was 9. No joke. Granted, my parents were essentially children when I made my way earthside and there’s a part of me that knows better to expect more from them. But humans grow, they evolve, ideally, and it would have been nice if he’d evolved out of being a child and at some point started acting like I mattered more than he did. My mother was able to in many ways, so really he has no excuse.
My father and I have always had a contentious relationship. People liked to tell me it was because I was like him. The fact is, I was not like him at all aside from some physical resemblance. I was even brave enough, at times, to challenge him. Narcissists don’t like to be challenged for those of you taking notes. It didn’t take long for me to become the black sheep, the outcast. My sister became the chosen one – the one who doesn’t talk back, the one who placates, the one who pretends to give a shit. Oh sure, I tried those things, too. But I’m a terrible liar and I don’t do fake well because I cannot stand dishonesty in anyone, especially myself. And even when I did actually care, it didn’t really matter. Nothing matters to the narcissist except the narcissist, dontcha know?
I’m pretty much over trying to figure it out because it doesn’t make sense. And at the end of the day, he has never, ever tried to understand where I’m coming from or at the very least respect my autonomy has a human and a woman in any way.
So I said, enough. Enough trying to be someone ‘good enough’ for him (because that simply doesn’t exist). Enough trying to be accepted or validated or heard or seen. I’m never going to get it and instead of spending my time recovering from every interraction with him, I’ve spent the last couple years busting my ass to convince myself I don’t need it from him, or anyone.
What I needed most when I stopped calling him was the space to get here. While still in relationship with him, I still did the dance. Every time, every interaction. He would say something rude/racist/sexist/etc, I would ignore him or change the subject. He would ask about what I was doing (sometimes) and then find a way to criticize or disparage it. He doesn’t acknowledge my daughter because she didn’t grow in my body. He has never seen value in my art or writing. Everything about me is open to mockery. I could go on. FOR DAYS.
Still, I fight those quiet demons in my head that whisper “who cares Danielle, no one wants to hear your bullshit, no one cares that your dad is a narcissist, no one wants to hear what you have to say, get over yourself”. There is a part of me that knows those are lies put there by fear and the belief ingrained by my father that I will never be good enough. That I don’t matter unless someone else says I do.
That is why I stay here. In this quiet place of inaction where I don’t call him, I don’t reach out, I fight the ‘shoulds’ and ‘what ifs’. I stay here because it’s safest. I stay here because there is light and warmth and truth. I stay here because the more I know myself the more I don’t need him to know me. I stay here because I deserve the space to grow strong and tall and whole. And I’ll stay here as long as I need to.