Tonight I reached for a glass… okay… a bottle of wine. I had a hard day at work. I just needed to cool down a little and re-claim the pieces of me I felt I may have lost sight of in some exciting opportunities at work. I do that. I get all excited about an opportunity, a window, and I run full speed ahead. I’m kind of like a child in that sense. I still have not decided whether or not this is part of the child that I should’ve outgrown by now or not. Either way, I needed to take myself down a notch and as I have been taught by most members of my family… this is seemingly the best way to do that :).
Lately the skeletons have been creeping around my curves a little too comfortably, so I thought I owed them some attention tonight. I feel like I barely have time to breathe anymore. I am supposed to be committed to this craft of writing again, yet I barely have time to stand still. I am doing important things… raising my son… for one :). I just wish I had a few more hours in the day so I could carve some much needed “me” time in between all the responsibilities pulling me left and right and forward! Okay and sometimes, back.
I really hate the way memory can creep in and ruin a perfectly good drive home. While visiting some old friends in my hometown this weekend, I had the chance to drive down the street I spent all of my teen years growing through. I would say growing “up” but I really didn’t start moving upwards until I was out of my teen years. My stomach turned and for the first time I felt I was having a physical reaction to the painful memories that can still bring me to my knees. My father took me for a walk when I was about 15 years old to explain to me how “different” I am.
The conclusion that I have come to over the years (and through years, and years of therapy) is that all of the whispers of diagnoses never really stuck because there were always real, substantial, circumstantial reasons for my depression/anxiety/mood swings. No doctor could ever truly rule out that I was just a product of my surroundings, which included a substantial amount of emotional neglect. There’s no doubt in my mind that the anxiety disorder diagnosis is dead on… name a person in my family who doesn’t have it and I’ll send you a million dollars! 🙂 And if I am truly bi-polar, however “soft,” I’m cool with it – and I take great comfort in the fact that I’m the only one who has chosen NOT to use alcohol to cope with this awkward state of mind… so I am the healthiest one of us all! I digress.
Back to the walk. I can remember feeling so special when my dad wanted to spend time with me. He spent a lot of time with me when I was little… pretty much up until teen. He did okay even in the pre-teen years. The older I got, however, the more he became a distant, powerful stranger in my life. He was wonderful and inspiring when he was happy. But I never knew if he would come home happy – throw change up in the air and giggle with me and my siblings as we jumped to collect the most quarters – or angry, all but treating us like we were the last people he wanted to bother with. No one is perfect, I realize this. My dad worked hard, for many, many years, at a job he ultimately hated, and he did it for us. I know that now. I know that he struggled through it, for us, his family. I have always wondered how much happier my dad could’ve been had he actually taken a chance or two earlier in life… had he not let go of his idealism as quickly as he did. My dad loves John Lennon. LOVES him… but you would never know it today… because he has been known, more than once, to actually agree with Rush Limbaugh. From John Lennon to Rush Limbaugh… that’s gotta explain a lot about the kind of change my dad has made in his lifetime.
The walk. My dad invited me to walk with him. As most of these “special” moments with dad went, I danced down the driveway of our quiet, suburban house, so proud to be my daddy’s daughter. I wrapped my arm around him and couldn’t wait to share a daddy/daughter moment… hoping this would be one of those rare occasions that he chose to father, rather than coach (he was a great coach!) We didn’t get very far at all until he said the words that have echoed in my soul now for years. “You’re different, Karen,” he said, placing his hand firmly on the tip of my right arm the way he always did. “Yeah, isn’t that a good thing, though, Dad!?” I was always brave when I was younger with him – the fear really grew with age, thanks to moments like this. “Well, yes, you’re right. But you’re different in maybe the kind of way that you don’t want to be different.”
It was something along those lines. I, of course, can certainly not remember every single word – but I remember their impact. I remember that the word “different” established itself in my head that day as something I did not want to be.
He went on to ask me why I am the way I am… and I couldn’t tell you exactly what he meant by “different.” I remember him always wanting to know why I always wrapped my arms so tightly around my friends for pictures… why I was so passionate about the love I had for my friends and pretty much, for anything I was involved in at the time. I had extreme passion… and it was complimented by extreme sadness. I remember the sinking feeling settling in… the self-doubt, rebellious anger, frustrating refusal to accept his evaluation. I knew, though, that I could not argue. What he said must be correct. He told me that people “noticed” this difference. And that he thought I should know that people “talk about it.” I asked him what they said as the first tear rolled down my face… it’s all a blur now and I could fabricate a memory. I am sure whatever I come up with would be close enough to convey the point. I think this is far enough though. The feeling of walking, elated… and then so intensely defeated.
I wish I knew why this particular memory has been at the forefront of my mind recently. I have worked through so many of these intrusive memories in the past; this one seems to be sticking around much longer than normal. Maybe because my mom has been in full abandonment mode lately. I don’t know. I know that it sickens me every time I think of that day and every other day I mistakenly let my guard down with my dad.
I’ve learned a lot. I don’t share exciting news anymore. When we bought our first house, I did not tell my parents until we’d bought it. They were offended… it would hurt dad’s feelings that I didn’t want his advice, my mother warned, but I knew I had to keep it from them in order to maintain the strength to go through with it.
For years I dreaded Father’s Day. This has been a bit of an easier holiday since my son was born and I have my husband to celebrate on this day (and especially since he’s actually been very much worth celebrating lately!) However, it is always very emotional for me to choose an accurate greeting card for my father. So many cards out there say things along the lines of “Dad, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for your encouragement, love, and support…. or Dad, you are the best father a daughter could ever…. or Your love has turned me into a better person…. or even you show your love…” cards that i just cannot bare to read. It takes me at least 2 trips to the card (stores) and then 20 minutes at least to find the perfect, “not too much, not too little” card for him. Sweet enough to make him feel like he’s a good dad, but true enough too. I don’t think there’s any point in buying a card if it does not speak to the reality of a situation. He is not the best dad in the world. He is not my hero, nor is he my inspiration – nor do I feel like I am a better person for the way he chose to live his life – but he’s my dad. And I’m learning more and more every day how to appreciate him for who he is.