Friday, May 18, 2007

Working on a change

Last week I wrote two different versions for the same post. I occasionally do that. At this point in time, a part of me still wants to post the more venomous version. But I'm a new person and don't want to go that route. And also last week I had to do some counseling for one of my students.

She was crushed when she learned that girls of whom she thought as friends proved to be otherwise. These other girls were spewing major amounts of venom. They are some of the accepted "mean girls" at my school. She couldn't understand why another person could be so hateful. I along with a couple of other adults at the school gave her the reasons.

The first reason is jealousy. I went for the not as obvious choice though. When someone is feeling really bad inside, the only way this person can make him/herself feel better is by making others feel just as bad as s/he does.

This is the lesson I learned from having a recovering alcoholic as a father. My father started drinking heavily shortly after the divorce. He could polish off a fifth of brandy watching Saturday afternoon sports. And then we'd head out for dinner -- because back then he didn't cook -- and he would drink at least one bottle of wine. And we'd weave across the road on the way home. His visitation was for every other weekend. My parents split for good by the time I was eight. By the time I was eleven, I was calling to ask him if he was intending to pick me up for the week. By age twelve, I stopped calling.

Sometime in these years my mother asked my father to talk to me about the whole divorce thing. We did. He told me how hurt he was that my mother would want to leave him and cried a lot. Years later I told my mother about this conversation. (I think I avoided it at the time because I knew that it would cause yet another fight between my parents. And I don't deal well with confrontations.) My mother was pissed off beyond belief. She said that her intent was that the conversation would be about my feelings. Instead it was all about him.

Speaking of the divorce, I should really question my dad about the day he came to pick up furniture from the house. Apparently he was majorly pissed off about the whole thing. I remember my mother sending me to my room to play. According to my mother, I chose to play near the doorway to my bedroom. Actually I do remember this part. My bedroom, at that time, was straight down the hall from my parents' bedroom. Once more according to my mother, my parents exchanged words and my father ended up pinning my mother to the floor, trying to strangle her. In the doorway to what had been their bedroom. Straight down the hallway from where I was playing. I have always trusted my mother on this because to this day I have absolutely no memory of the incident. But my mother assures me that as she looked down the hallway, she saw me staring, frozen in the doorway. And being the bitch that she can be, she was upset that I did not come to her aid. Thank you, therapy, for helping to be OK with the fact that I didn't help her because I was eight years old at the time. There was a lot of anger though. The lack of memory thing and all. Because if my mind has locked the memory away in a place that I can never reach, then perhaps it's best kept in that place. And after all these years, I have realized that I could confirm the information with someone else -- my "real dad" since he was the one who pulled my dad off of my mom. The next part I cannot have a memory of as I did not leave my room. My mother's response was to go to the kitchen and to pull a butcher's knife on my dad. Once more, my "real dad" intervened. (My "real parents" intervened a lot back in those days. Probably part of the reason why they took me in the summer after my freshman year of college when my mom threw me out. Oh, and my parents know that I call these folks -- their best friends -- my "real parents.") My next memory of that day, after going to my room, was of the police showing up after my dad had left. Hell. My memory starts at about age two and a half. I'm just missing about a year or so of at home from when my parents were in the process of breaking up.

I swore that this whole thing would not be me. It's the reason why I don't stay in relationships for too long. Because I have always been a daddy's girl. And daddy? He left. I know it was not by choice but still he left. And when he started chugging down the alcohol, he was truly gone. I was nearly thirty before I started seeing signs of the dad I remembered from age four. And during many of those painful years, I was ready to walk away from him. But everyone else kept telling me, "He's your father. He loves you." He just had a funny way of showing it. And it has probably colored every relationship -- or lack of relationship -- I have had since then. In college, when I was at the lowest point in my life, he was nowhere to be found. And yeah, he was sober then. He just hadn't completed the steps. Years ago I gave up on receiving an apology. When I was in my 20s, I would bring up my father's past behavior. He would ask, "Why can't you let go of the past?" Because it hurt. And an apology would be a nice start.

The thing I remember my father saying once he was sober -- and our relationship was on the mend -- was that he was so evil when he was drinking because he was hurting and wanted everyone else to feel the same way that he did. I shared this with my student this weekend. The other reason why people say hateful things about you is that they want you to feel bad too.

And so I had to start to question why I wanted to spew all that venom. I know that I have been going through a lot of stress at work. Will I have a job next year? I had my meeting yesterday but there was no mention of my status so I'm not really sure at this point. Next week I'll ask the question pointblank. Right now I'm just glad to have the meeting over with.

I do know that when one grows up in the midst of chaos, one tries to grab control wherever one can. And if this control means saying venomous things that one may regret later? Well, hell yeah. But the other thing that I learned in dealing with my dad over the years is that I don't have much faith in apologies. I figure that we all make choices. And these choices? If you've thought about them carefully, then you're not sorry for them.

And so I realized that writing and editing that post was enough for me. Because it many ways it was not me -- or at least the person who I hope that I am. And after a few deep breaths, I have given it all up to the Goddess. The really funny thing is that after writing this post, I no longer feel the need to post that other one.

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