As you may or may not have gathered from my last post, I was in my parents’ hometown over the long weekend, to be a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. The flight was good, I was glad I rented a car, the wedding was very nice except for the verses from Ephesians I absolutely loathe, and the reception was great with an awesome wedding favor consisting of a candy bar and a bag that one could fill up. It was fantastic spending time with my in-laws and my husband, and to take a couple days off of work. It was nice.
Yet, it was in the same greater metropolitan area as my parents. I went to places that were familiar haunts to me, and I remembered the good and bad memories. The body remembers even if the brain doesn’t. Now that the trip is over, I realized that I’m still very angry. Sad. And angry. Why? Why do my mother and my oldest little brother buy into my father’s shit? Why is it easier for my mother to forsake her daughter just to “keep the peace” in the house? Why?
Before the trip, I went to my therapist for my weekly visit. We discussed the upcoming trip, since I was clearly anxious about it. “What would you do if you saw your family walking up the street?” she asked. Run away, I replied. I would hope that they wouldn’t see me, and I’d try to hide.
Familiar territory–since I often dreamed about that very thing. I didn’t want to be trapped, and having to encounter my family would make me feel cornered. I haven’t had those dreams lately since the chances of my family ever coming to Chicago are slim. They barely go into the more urban parts of their town because it’s “too dangerous” according to my father. I guess ethnic diversity is dangerous to him. Threatening.
I was afraid of a confrontation. I absolutely loathe confrontations. I get nervous. I stop thinking. I wasn’t even being confrontatious in front of the condo board at the meeting last night, but I was standing up for myself and the other cat owners, and I my hands were shaking like a tree in an earthquake.
I loathe confrontations with my father. My mother…it’s easy enough to steamroll her. She hates fights, too. And she obeys her husband. And she doesn’t think when she obeys. My father doesn’t think when he’s Mr. Hyde. And even when he’s Dr. Jekyll, he is often irrational. When I was starting to heal, I got a ton of dreams about confronting my father when he raged at me or my siblings. The way his upper lip covered his top teeth, and his bottom jaw would jut out before he couldn’t stand it anymore and grabbed my siblings and spanked them ferociously.
I would speak up in my dreams. The look of disbelief on his face, before it contorted into this red and purple balding ball of rage. I would step in between him and the little ones. I said, firmly and powerfully, “This is not right!” Sometimes in these dreams I would tell my mother, “This is ABUSE,” emphasizing the last word as her eyes grew big and round, as I popped the bubble of the nice little lie she told herself about how “keeping the peace” was better for us all. My father would grow more furious. My arms would shake from the adrenaline. And as I woke up in the middle of the verbal fight, just before my father could grab me or hit me (spanking by another name), I would continue quivering, seething with righteous anger.
I was afraid of it happening in real life. Thank God it didn’t on this trip. I wasn’t ready for that yet. I just barely practiced being strong and grounded for this particular sort of instance, in therapy. My therapist, in response to my “flight” answer, told me that I could wave to my siblings, if they were across the street from me. Give them the ILY (I Love You) message in sign language. Be strong. Show my siblings that I still care for them. That I still love them. It would plant the seed in their minds that perhaps the estrangement wasn’t because of my own selfishness, as my parents probably lead on. My parents certainly said as much to me when they disowned me (of course, it’s always the “victim’s” fault that the abuser abused yet again, right?).
What a concept. I don’t have to run away.
I certainly couldn’t run away in my dreams. I was always dragged down, captured, cornered, trapped by my father in my nightly nightmares while growing up. Only once did I get free in a dream. My God, I can barely believe I lived each day of daymares after the nightmares. How the hell did I ever function? I think that’s why I try to run, now. I want to be able to RUN. I want the security of the possibility of escape. I want to outrun my father and his longer legs.
Even though I was fortunate to not have bumped into my family, I still felt this anger. Living in Chicago, I rarely have to address my experiences head-on. I’m states away, miles away, and they can’t hurt me. Back in that city, the feelings of anxiety deftly descended once again upon me. I mean, more than it does in daily life here in Chicago. The body remembers. And I can’t seem to shake it loose again.
I want to numb myself to this feeling of dread, of fear, of temporarily forgotten memories lingering closer to the surface than before. I alternately want to eat or starve this feeling away. I want to alternately run or hide from the memories, lingering so close to the surface that I expect them to burst out in an unmanageable flow of emotions. I can’t do that. Not when I have a full time job. I can’t let it affect my life, my career, my education. I can’t. I can’t.
And surrounding this all is the anger. I am angry at my father. I think I forgave too quickly, growing up. I think I forgave him too quickly when he disowned me. I was hopeful. I let that hope blind me, and that forgiveness was an indication of hope. Now, I’m not ready to truly forgive. I’m still working through crap. I’m still waiting for my siblings to grow up and make their own decisions regarding me. Once they all fly the coop, then I might consider true forgiveness.
Why couldn’t he have been the sane Dr. Jekyll without the Hyde part? I liked him a lot in his moments of emotional lucidity. Why the hell did he disown me? How did he ever manage to twist reality around so much that it cost him his daughter? And all of his own choice. Why? It makes me so angry. The father who bought junk food when I had mono, who played catch, who gave me the multiple dogs over my childhood that would protect me. Why did he ever succumb to his perpetual anger and personal tension…and why did he do that so f—ing often?
I’m angry at my mother. Why did she buy into the “obedience” and “keeping the peace” crap? Why couldn’t she ever divorce him and strike out on her own? Why did she ever succumb to him when she had children to protect? Why does he let him be so darn CONTROLLING? And why did she also “side” with my father and disown me? Why is she repeating the cycle of abuse and disowning that she went through with her own parents?
I’m angry at my oldest little brother. Not as much because he got the worse end of my father’s anger, himself. He was the black sheep, and when it was my turn to be black, he became the golden child. I can hardly blame him because it was the admiration and love he craved for so long. But how the hell did he ever forget how much he hated our father for so long? How can he forget all the trauma and pretend nothing ever happened? I know I was stupid, too. I was a bully to him while young. And yet we were best of friends. Confidants while we hid out in the basement, where our rooms were, venting about how incredibly unfair our father was. Co-protectors.
I’m angry because I’m separated from my little siblings. I’m angry for their sakes.
I’m not ready to forgive. I want to, but I’m not ready to. It’ll happen in the fullness of time. And I hope to God that He understands.
Now that my anger and anxiety and restlessness has been written, I feel a little bit better. Writing does truly help one heal.