Today my father and I worked on a lesson in this Emotionally Healthy Relationships course he became a facilitator for in his church. He wanted to practice it more than the one time they rushed through it in the training, and he thought it might help us improve our relationship. Initially, he was sending me scanned copies of the pages for the lesson we were working on. It’s got a biblical connection, but we aren’t focusing on that at all. It’s about doing the exercises and seeing if we can improve our communication and get better at this. I was willing to do it to help him and also because I don’t want to regret not trying with him. As much as he has hurt me, I want things to get better.
The scanned page thing wasn’t working for us as we got farther along, because the exercises were getting more complex and required more preparation ahead of time. So he sent me the workbook. And we went back to some of the other lessons last week and today. It went well and I learned a little about him that I didn’t know today. But…I also realized that his reaction to an email was sort of emotionally immature. And instead of addressing it head on with the person, he got upset. I am a big believer in people will treat you how you let them and accepting poor treatment or malicious sarcasm without addressing it with the person means that they will continue to do that. Fuming privately does nothing except upset you. The other person has no idea you are upset. Or they think you will just take their bullshit.
The next lesson he wants to do scares me. It’s about choosing something that bothers you and “climbing the ladder of integrity”, which seems benign on the surface. I thought of a couple things right off the bat that would work. One is the way that he infantilizes me and the other is the way he ignores things I tell him that are deep.
For the deep things, I have told him that I have ADHD, I have seen horrible things in combat, I was raped, and I was assaulted at a young age. His responses have been some combination of “Oh, ok, so now I know.” No further questions, no interest in trying to understand what I am going through, and barely any recognition of what I have endured in my life, especially as a young child. I stopped being vulnerable with him years ago, because why should I? Why should I open up and tell him things he clearly doesn’t care to hear. If he won’t accept and take in what I tell him, who can he actually care about me? When he has no desire to even talk about things that have hurt me in the past, how can I trust him enough to tell him the things that have made me who I am?
The infantilizing is much worse. This goes along with only seeing me as a teeny tiny person who was just an extension of him. That’s not who I am. I haven’t been that person in so long. He did it today at the end of our conversation. It makes me feel sick inside. Like I feel my guts toss and turn like an insomniac when he says something about his “little girl” or “my sweet daughter.” I want to scream at him “FUCK OFF”, you do not even want to know who I am inside. You never cared who I was inside. You never even ASKED who I was inside, you made assumptions and then abused me to conform to your assumptions. You were like the bumpers in a bowling lane, supposedly meant to help, but just keeping me from really putting on my own personality and being who I am supposed to be. And I hate you for it. I really, really hate you. Just like I did when I was 4, just like I did as a teenager, but especially now. I can smile and nod but I am just tolerating you. I am just letting you say whatever so we can get it over with and I can roll my eyes in private and deal with the rage I feel inside me over your ignorance.
I feel like I am going to burst when I talk to him. It’s getting harder every day to keep the real me inside when I talk to him. He claims to be a feminist but he turns around and treats me like a child even now. He talks about equal rights and equal pay, but never demonstrated that in his own house. His words were sometimes good, but his actions have always been shitty.
So by some day to be determined next week, I need to have this exercise prepared. Being that vulnerable with him is scary to me. I don’t want to give him any pieces of me. I also don’t want to piss him off but I can’t cope with this any longer. The more comfortable I get with who I really am, the more I can’t play along anymore. The more I feel like Little Zander is going to burst out of me like the aliens in the movie Alien. And he’s not going to be nice about it. He is full of rage and anger at being dismissed and ignored and treated like garbage. And if he explodes before I am ready for that, I won’t be able to control him. It will be like reuniting with the 6 year old version of me who could not control anger. Who was always in blind rage for no apparent reason. I want to raise Little Zander a little more before he takes everything over, especially with my parents. I want to not be in a place where I feel like sometimes I am Zander and sometimes the Facade. I want to be all Zander, no more fakeness, no facade. I feel like once that happens, I won’t feel so all over the place and so erratic. The back and forth will be over and I will feel much more stable.
But first, I must figure out what I can handle for this next lesson. How I can stay true to myself, but also not share more than I feel comfortable sharing with him. I have to think about what is safe enough but not watered down. Part of me wants this to all be ok with him, but the other part knows that it never will be ok. There’s just too much damage that he won’t even try to understand.