Rules of Engagement

For many years I've advised friends who asked that it's never fair in a fight to throw the kitchen sink at someone.  In other words, deal with the fight at hand, not issues and events long past.  Nothing can be done about those things.  Instead of a constructive environment where you're dealing with the present moment, you open the door to destruction, chaos, and mayhem where you dredge up everything and anything someone has done to you. 

Last night I let the kitchen sink fly.

I called dad for the first time in a month.  I prefaced the conversation that what I was about to say were facts and perceptions, not judgments or blame.  I was not throwing the kitchen sink at him. Rather, I was telling him there was a kitchen sink.  A gorilla in my emotional room.  I apologized that my mom wasn't around to share the weight of the sink, but that I could no longer carry it and move forward.

My big fear in doing this is that he would react as if it were blame or that he owed me explanations or penance, or that it would be a setback in his recovery from alcoholism.  I just needed understanding.  I needed him to know that I wasn't going to let those things hold me back anymore.  Lots of it had to do with my childhood and how my parents weren't in a good place themselves to be able to teach, nurture, and guide me.  I was overweight/obese as a child, and they knew when it started, why it started and didn't do anything about it except berate me and make me feel ashamed.  I needed him to know that, on behalf of my childhood self, that I was mad, disappointed, and no longer accepting that failing as my own.  I needed him to know that as a parent he failed me in ways that made me unhealthy both physically and psychologically.

I told him that I was able to go back into those memories and have compassion not only for myself as the child who was fearful, felt neglected, and needed guidance but for both him and my mom for not knowing any better.  I expressed regret that because of their own emotional issues that there were barriers that were in place (that I constructed, or just seemed to be there) that prevented us from having a healthy relationship with each other. 

I also told him that going forward that I would no longer worry about him more than I worry about myself in ways that were unhealthy.  I would recognize when his emotions were eclipsing my own.

To my surprise, he took lots of what I said on board.   I think over the years he's not just changed the lens with which he views me, but has switched cameras.  For a long time he saw me through my mother's eyes -- an angry child that wouldn't follow orders and would lash out.  When put in context of having a mother who was a psychological terrorist, he began to see that my actions and attitude as a child was just what I needed to do in order to survive.  Because no one was able to be a good example, I had to do a lot of trial and error on my own.  It made me stubborn as hell, but also tough as nails.  Despite being rather stoic, there were lots of things that were never said.  I should have said them when they came up, but I just didn't have the confidence that my parents would respond in a healthy way or a trust that I could speak my mind without repercussion. 

I asked him to think about what I said before replying (i.e., not trying to emotionally defend himself but to be able to calmly respond).

But I woke up today feeling great relief.  That I said what I needed to say in order to let the past be the past.

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<3 Robby