Father’s Day

Fox and I visited his parents for Father’s Day. I decided to go because I like them and want to have a relationship with them, and I’ve been avoiding them. They know about our situation from my perspective, and they were both eager to show their love and support regardless of the decision we make. They are two of the awesomest people I’ve ever met.

We had a wonderful time and stayed up way too late last night, so I ended up sleeping over. Fox went to church this morning and his dad has work (which is why we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday), so it’s just been me and his mom. We had a heart-to-heart sharing our stories and family baggage and wants and fears, including what’s going on between me and her son.

“I’m sensing a pattern: there’s a lot of loss in your life, and you cope with it by pushing people away or withdrawing. You’re pushing him (Fox) away and he’s anxious and that’s why he’s being so clingy.

“I see you in a place in your life where you need to make a decision. Either you are going to use this relationship to learn how to be in healthy relationships with yourself and others, or you are going to keep pushing people away. You need to decide: either try to work with him to learn and grow together, or let him go.

“You need to either give yourself wholeheartedly to this relationship (and life in general) so you can learn and grow from it, or you have to walk away from it. Either way, the worst thing that will happen is you’ll get a divorce – and you’re already willing to do that. But if you keep doing what you’re doing – if you stay connected to him while simultaneously pushing him away – you’re both going to be miserable.

“So decide.”

I’ve had my quills out for too long. I’m poised, my hood spread, ready to strike. I was actually snarling at other motorists on my way here yesterday. I’m tired of being so tense. I’m exhausting myself and wasting my energy – energy I could put to much better use.

When I’m connected with people – open, honest, vulnerable – that’s when I feel the most alive. Listening to their stories, sharing in the creative process with them, enjoying a delicious meal, giving and receiving hugs… these are the things I thrive on. I need relationships; the most painful thing about the way I’ve been living with Fox is that our relationships with other people have become so limited. We’re disconnected. I’ve disappeared inside myself; I almost did that again by trying to drive home while exhausted last night.

“Yes I’m alone, but I’m alone and I’m free. Just stay away and you’ll be safe from me.”
“Actually, we’re not.”

~ Frozen: “For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)”

Everything comes down to one innate need: the need to be fully myself in relationship with other people. I’ve spent most of my life learning that I can have one or the other: I can be myself when I’m alone, or I can sacrifice myself and become enmeshed with others. To this day my mother actively teaches me to hide part of myself to be more acceptable to others (her).

Neither of those options is acceptable anymore. I can have periods of time when I’m alone, that’s not a problem. It’s healthy and necessary. But I need to be connected with other people; I can’t have being alone be a requirement for being myself. I need the people I care about to see me – all of me, not the mask and armor I’ve been hiding behind and trapped within. To feel safe doing that, I need to be able to see myself.

So whatever decision Fox and I make regarding our marriage, I choose to let go and throw myself wholeheartedly into our relationship – even though I find it terrifying. Not for him, but for myself. Worst case scenario I get the thing I’ve been leaning toward anyway and maybe I learn something useful I can build upon for future growth. Best case scenario I grow and I get an awesome life partner – with an equally awesome family – who can help me continue to grow. I think it’s worth a bit of risk to shoot for that.

I’ll close with a bit of wisdom from my father, one of the ways he’s still alive in me after all these years: Be honest. I choose to be honest with myself and with others, even (especially) when it’s scary. I love you. I need ______. No, I don’t want ______. I’m not sure if I want _____ but I think it’s worth considering. I’m sick and tired of _____. I’m sad I’m scared I’m angry. I can’t live like this anymore! I don’t want to talk about this right now. I feel _____ when you _____. Please give me some time to process. Please respect this boundary. Please listen.

Communication

I talked to Mom about some of the things I’d written in my last post, particularly:

  • wishing I had a support system for recovering from depression similar to the excellent support she’s getting for her recovery from knee replacement surgery
  • being willing to help her out with her recovery but needing something in return
    • including sharing care of Dog and asking her to order her groceries online
  • family therapy
  • how I felt in response to her dismissive ‘goodbye’

She seemed pretty understanding and concerned about me. She reluctantly agreed to order her own groceries, then explained that the place where she’ll be receiving physical therapy 3x/week is near the supermarket. We can go grocery shopping together after her therapy. She also offered monetary compensation (TBD).

She seemed reluctant to engage in family therapy, asking, “well, what do we need to work on?” I realized that, while I’ve been discussing her behavior fairly extensively with Wakana, I haven’t actually talked to Mom about it/its effect on me. That’s not really fair.

So, I told her how I felt when she started talking about all the things she’ll need me to do and coming home from rehab, then abruptly said “goodbye” without taking a moment out of what she was doing to look at me. She said she had no idea I felt that way, I had wanted to know everything she would need so she was trying to help me by telling me. She thought we’d already hugged goodbye and I was saying I had to go so she didn’t want to hold me up. She hadn’t meant to be dismissive, nor to hurt me – of course not! She said I need to let her know when she’s doing something like that, at the time when she’s doing it.

I really felt like she was concerned about me, felt bad to learn that she’s been hurting me, and genuinely wants the feedback that will help her better communicate her love and caring. But I found it very hard to give her that feedback, and I’m concerned that if I try to do it “in the moment” I might say it in a way that’s hard for her to hear – or outright hurtful – and we’ll both respond to each other in ways that hinder our efforts to develop a healthier relationship. We’ve been doing that kind of thing my whole life, after all. I wrote that I want her to have support in listening to me, but just as (if not more) importantly, I need support in communicating this stuff to her! I find it horribly uncomfortable, I’m afraid I’m going to break her, I feel like I’m violating some essential, fundamental, unspoken rule. I need help learning it’s okay to tell her how I feel, especially in response to her behavior.

Wakana can help with that – she’s already been helping a great deal – but I think there’s only so much she can do without seeing both sides of the equation. Everything she knows about my mother is from my perspective; a family therapist would get to know each of us as an individual and have the opportunity to observe how we interact with each other during therapy sessions. Ze could support both of us in trying new ways of interacting that might help us both get what we want and need out of our relationship. Ze could help me recognize when I am misinterpreting Mom’s behavior, draw Mom’s attention to nonverbal cues about my emotional responses, get us both to say those things we think we’re not allowed to say – or think the other person already knows.

I’m not sure how much I should push for assert my need for family therapy, or if I should just accept that it’s not something she’s comfortable with and keep working on my own stuff that prevents me from being honest with her. I have Wakana, I have Codependent No More – which has been sitting on my shelf collecting dust – I have other stuff.

NO!!! I’ve been doing this my whole life! Enough already! She wants me to be a huge part of her recovery; I need her to be at least minimally involved in mine. I appreciate that she’s willing to work with me, but at the very least I need her to help me feel more comfortable expressing my needs to her. I need support in asserting myself, help feeling like it’s safe. I’m not entirely confident she’ll be able to give me enough such support on her own; the work I’ve been doing can only help so much. We don’t have to dive into family therapy as soon as she gets home (in about a week), but I at least need it to be an option. A safety net, if you will.