Happy Father’s Day

ID-10040730

It’s Father’s Day in the UK today.

So,  once more it’s time for the perfunctory buying of cards, searching for one that doesn’t include: “You’re the greatest”, “Number one Dad”,  or “I love you”.  Because,  I am many things, but I am not fake or false.  I often wonder if he knows;  if he realises that I do things like this out of duty,  rather than love.

My dad’s not a bad person,  not at all.  But, not an easy one to like,  either.  Part of me feels sorry for him:  his mum died when he was 13,  and he had a tough adolescence,  leaving home to join the army when he was 17.  He very recently revealed that he had been on anti-depressants for nearly ten years,  over 20 years ago.  I remember him drinking a lot in those days,  and he shared with me that he was in a bad place back then.  He was horrible during those times.  We would sit in dread waiting for him to come home from the pub;  cringe as his loud voice permeated through the walls as he ranted and raved, hurling horribly abusive words at my mum.   I remember standing on the other side of the wall with hands balled so tightly,  anger cursing through my impotent 14 year old self,  as he swore and raged.  During those years,   I would ask my mum repeatedly in exasperation why she didn’t just leave him, why she stayed with someone who had a tongue so viciously cruel (both under the influence and sober),  yet she never had an answer.

I wasn’t allowed to have friends home. If,  by some chance,  they were there when he turned up,  he had the ability to cause a scene without saying a word.  He would enter the room,  his face contorted with fury,  snatch up the newspaper with dramatic force,  and slam the door for good measure. There was never any need for words,  for his hostility stabbed deeper than anything he could say. It embarrassed and humiliated me;  made my insides shrivel to the size of a pea.  Life with him was like teetering on egg-shells.

Some days,  he was happy.  He would sing,  grab us in an arm-lock,  or give us “stubble-burn”. I loved those brief moments,  when we’d laugh as a family,  just for a second.  But he was unpredictable;  his euphoric mood could be wiped out in seconds,  often by something inconsequential or irrelevant we’d say,  or do.  The memory of laughter fading as quickly as it came.

For a long time,  I blamed my dad for everything that was wrong with me.  If only he’d told me he loved me, I wouldn’t have needed to wade through a ton of selfish,  useless boyfriends,  begging to be loved. If he’d told me I was beautiful,  perhaps I might believe it was true, instead of having a fragile, easily shattered self-esteem. Had he not been so critical, then maybe I would go a little easier on myself,  be happy with my achievements, rather than always feeling inadequate. With age has come the realisation that it is not his fault, not really.  My lack of self-esteem might have been boosted by an empathic,  observant parent,  but not necessarily so.  My dad is the product of his own upbringing. He is a man simply trying to deal with the cards he has been dealt.  He is clueless. I feel no anger towards him now;  there’s no wallowing in the past.  I think it unfair to apportion blame;  how can you hold someone accountable when they are totally unaware of their actions?  And he is blissfully unaware of the effect he had on me.

There’s power in letting go. There’s also power in accepting everything that has happened, and laying it quietly away in a box. It’s a choice,  simple as that.  I could have chosen to be bitter and hateful about him for the rest of my life,  or I could take the mistakes he made,  and ensure that they are never repeated with my children.  Because of him,  I will never underestimate the crushing power of the spoken word,  or how easily a sensitive soul can be trampled into the dirt by a casually flung criticism.  Because of him,  I am so aware of the influence I have as parent,  and how to hold that gift of authority in my hand,  like a fragile butterfly.

Despite that,  I am aware of the envy I have for people with parents who are everything to them; jealous of the close,  protective bond between father and daughter.  If I am honest,  I could simply cut all ties,  without feeling any regret or remorse.  I once read that if someone doesn’t enhance or contribute to your life in any way at all,  you should cut them free.  My dad doesn’t bring anything into my life,  other than a feeling of inadequacy.  Only I can’t do that;  I can’t just eject him from my life.  He would be confused and sad;  and despite everything,  I wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings,  even though he’d trampled on mine over and over again.  And,  because I know he loves me;  I just don’t love him the same way.

So,  I continue to act out the dutiful daughter routine;  to keep up the illusion that our relationship isn’t strained,  that it wasn’t permanently damaged all those years ago.  Some would undoubtedly say that it’s not too late,  to make amends now,  before it is too late.  But the stark truth is that I don’t want to.  Will I one day live to regret it?  Possibly.  I just think some things deteriorate so far that there isn’t any way back;  and for me,  I don’t even need there to be a way back.

 

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Advertisements

Who lifts you up?

Image

I saw the above quote flutter through my FB feed, and I thought: yes, how true.

 

Then I thought: actually, do I have people in my life that lift me up? Not literally, obviously, or else the hospital would be littered with broken backs. But seriously, is there anyone who makes me feel worthwhile, needed, appreciated, or loved? And the sad answer is: no, not really.

 

There are moments in my life where things happen and I feel appreciated, but these are few and far between. The kids will tell me that they love my cookies or muffins. My partner will tell me that the meal was tasty. However, when I think about it, often their words are rarely offered spontaneously. Instead, they are generally muttered in polite response to my prompt asking them if they are nice.

 

Nobody tells me I am beautiful, that I look pretty today. In fact, my kids think it is hilarious to call me fat-bum (and they are being honest, not mean). Nobody nourishes my spirit. Nobody feels it necessary to check to see if I am okay; if I need anything.

 

It must be nice having someone who lifts you up. Someone who waters and tends to your very being, cultivating it as though it were a precious flower, allowing it to grow strong and beautiful and tall. It must feel special to know that someone wants to embrace everything that makes you, you, without wanting something in return for themselves.

 

So, what happens to those of us that don’t have someone to lift them up? What happens to our self-esteem, self-worth and self-belief? Well, it can flounder; that’s what. I have always struggled with low self-esteem, am hyper-critical, have doubt in who I am, and my abilities. It’s people like me who need an up-lifter more than others.

 

You see; I do it. I do it for others. I know they need encouragement, praise, comfort and compliments. I do it instinctively, because I know what they need, because that’s what I need. So, why don’t others do the same? This is a question I struggled with for most of my life, and the answer always used to be the same: because they didn’t care about me. Their failure to see what I craved to the core of my existence was just that: their failure.

 

However, I know now that this is wrong. This is not true. This is not about them not liking me, not wanting to make me happy. Most people behave in a way that feels complementary to who they are; it would be absurd and arrogant to expect them to behave in any other way.

 

So, the change in perspective; the reason for the about turn? Well, partly due to maturity. As you grow older, you well, grow. You become more comfortable in your own body (which I find so hilariously ironic: I hated my skinny, toned 20-something body with a passion, yet love the saggy, wrung-out mass of skin I am left with today!). This is partly it. But the biggest self-revelation has come through realising that I am a highly sensitive person. That knowledge has cleared my mind of so many uncertainties, issues and self-doubt; produced a light-bulb moment with enough wattage to supply Times Square.

 

Now, I no longer feel the odd-one out; actually, scratch that. I do still feel that way, but now it makes sense: there is a biological reason for my oddity, my insecurities, my social cravings. There is a reason why my needs were so blindly missed by others; why I never felt nurtured, or needed. I realised that the way I think and feel is not the same as them, and in doing so, has offered me a huge amount of clarity, and relief. A relief that flows through me, allowing me to believe that perhaps they do care, just don’t feel the need to show it in a way that makes sense to me. In fact, it isn’t that at all: they don’t know how to show it in a way that makes sense to me.

 

That’s definitely a-weight-off-shoulders moment, if ever there was one. I am accepting of who I am, and accepting of who they are. We are meeting at the middle; not always squarely, but meeting none the less.

 

And that makes me feel good about myself. I don’t need someone to lift me up; I can do that all on my lonesome!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All cheer for the NORMAL day….

If there is one marvel of motherhood, it is its pure resilience. It’s that maternal ability to shake off whatever has come before, regardless of how turbulent and upsetting, and face a brand-new day with a renewed vigour.

I guess it needs to be this way. You wouldn’t last long if you had the previous day’s woes hanging over your head, only to have a ton more added. You would soon be bowing down with the weight of it all, unable to function. I guess it is like labour in that respect. I know it is a cliché when people say that time is a healer, but with labour, it is; it is nature’s way of ensuring that we continue to reproduce. And I guess our ability to forget, to move past our previous failings, is nature’s way of making sure we carry on fighting to do the best we can as mums.

I have always been very good at gently packing away discarded emotions and events. Sometimes I slowly unwrap and examine them, but more often than not, I just leave them where they are. The guilt and pain I felt from my actions yesterday have not gone. They are still there. But they have been packaged carefully; neatly put away. I don’t need to kill myself with guilt; I don’t need to relive every second of what happened. I did that yesterday; and today is a new day. Today has to be a new day.

So, today has been good. I wouldn’t normally write about a good day (where’s the entertainment in that?), but I wanted to give my blog some balance; let you know that I am not really a knife-brandishing, crazy-eyed momma! Well, not every day, anyway.

Today has been normal. And in our over-stretched, stressful lives, who doesn’t occasionally welcome normal? My kids have bickered, but it was minimal. The sun shone, which was enjoyed.  We went for a walk and then ate a burger, which balanced healthy, with not so healthy. It was just a nice, normal day. My kids went to bed with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts. Well, okay, not really; we’re not the Waltons. But there were no temper tantrums (us or them), and there was a definite “ahh, look at him” moment, as we gazed wistfully through the door at our six year old, who’d fallen asleep as soon as his head had hit the pillow. That doesn’t happen every day. There’s usually an apprehensive look towards the door, and a furtive sneak down the stairs, all the while praying he is not going to shout “mummmmeeeeeee…..”

And better than all of that, there is no guilt. None. I have not experienced one nasty whiff of the pesky thing. Today is a rarity. It is an unusual evening when I don’t sit here and reflect, wondering if I could have done something differently. But not tonight! The joy! The relief! The freedom! So exhilarating that I am overdosing on exclamation marks! I know I am being silly, but there is so much truth in how much relief I feel, that it is, well, untrue.

Yesterday’s post was sombre. I know it cast me in a bad light; but it was real. This is me, warts and all. If being a HSP has given me one thing, it is the ability to be honest. An open-book, in all aspects of my life. Very contradictory, given that HSPs do not handle criticism well (or at all), and bearing my soul leaves me open to that. However, although I have a strong desire to be seen in a good light, I much prefer being viewed as who I really am.

And the bad days make the good days feel so much better. They make your triumphant moments (however small), feel so much more deserved. One day, I know I will look back on all this, and that every single sad, mad or just plain bad moment will be forgotten. I know that the only things I will remember are the smell of their hair, their tiny faces, and their special mummy hugs; just as it should be. So, in some really kind of perverse way, I find myself almost enjoying the bad times; wearing the rough days like a badge of honour. Proclaiming to the world that I’ve survived to love another day.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.