What I wrote about my father yesterday, I would never have written 10 years ago. It was only a couple years ago I even dared shine a tiny light on some of those dark spots on this blog. He’s a subject I’ve struggled to unpack because so much of my relationship with myself has always been tangled up in my relationship with him.
There is no better time than now, I try to tell myself, even though I wish desperately that I’d been able to do this 5 years, 10 years, 20 years ago. I have to pull my oars up into this boat and stop paddling furiously against the raging past, frustrated that I can’t go back in time, that I’ve spent so much of my life squinting through distorted lenses.
I exhale. I’m here. Now. In this. It feels good in that way when you push through something you were really scared about, and you survive the sweating and the heart pounding fear, and you come out on the other side just a little bit more brave and whole than you were before because, if nothing else, you showed yourself you could do it.
Still, I can’t ignore how open and raw I feel, itchy and irritable like a snake shedding an old skin. The more I write about my father and how his narcissism continues to adversely affect my life, the more angry I get and the more that anger spills out onto things that have nothing to do with him.
This morning the Man and I were talking about paleo breakfast options as I grow weary (and literally itchy) from eating so many eggs lately. I griped that I would love sausage, but it’s all got junk in it I can’t eat. The Man made a comment about how nice it would be to have some deer sausage or moose sausage.
My father is a hunter and when we were ‘in the fold’ we were recipients of venison, elk, moose, bear and random sausages and other things my father made. I hold game meat in high esteem, so to lose access to this when we stopped speaking has stung a bit for both of us. Yet, no amount of deer meat is worth the emotional gutting I take every time I interact with him, so no, I won’t make nice just to get free meat. I’ve never been the opportunistic type anyway, it’s just not how I roll.
But the Man, the poor poor Man. I took his whistful musings about game sausage as testimony of his grief and disapproval over the lack of relationship with my father (things he has verbalized in the past when he had a poorer understanding of the vast wounds I’m trying to heal from).
Gasoline, meet match.
I don’t remember much of what I said, but I clearly remember how I felt. Angry, indignant, and mostly, betrayed. The tirade was mild and only lasted a minute. I stopped myself for a breath when I started to realize what was happening. I apologized. He clarified that what he was saying had nothing at all to do with my father. I felt shame and frustration and anger, but I also felt proud for not letting the shame of losing it a little bit pull me under all the way. I was most proud of being able to tell him how sorry I was and to put my remorse into words. I always feel sorry, but it’s so hard for me to say it without feeling worse.
I know why I’ve avoided this work for so long. Part of it was that sliver of hope that somehow, some way, he would be different and his being different would erase all of the damage. But the biggest part, I think, was knowing that this work would trigger an earthquake and that so much of what I thought I knew would crumble around me. I’d be left standing amidst shattered and broken perceptions and I was too afraid I wouldn’t know how to rebuild anything from all of that rubble.
This is where I am, in the mess, edgy and treating people how I don’t want to treat them. I’m also learning to rebuild, one brick at a time, and when I stand back to look at my work, I see where I’ve learned to stop and take a breath, how I’m able to see the spot way in left field where my reactions are really coming from, and that I am humble and strong enough to fix the things I break, and even the things I didn’t.