I’m pretty sure my shrink thinks that I am a little too casual about the loss of my relationship with my parents. Part of me wishes that she were right.
It is like a little over a year ago, when I walked away from my relationship with my father. The first Sunday I didn’t see them, I felt a little better, had a little more energy. The next Sunday, I felt surprisingly better. What was going on? I had energy! I had to ask myself why. The answer I came up with was that I was no longer allowing the narcissist to feed off my energy and was reclaiming it.
It is hard to miss something you never really had in the first place. For example, I never really had a relationship with any of my brothers. So when they made demands upon me, it was like attempting to make a withdrawal from an account that had never been deposited into. I never saw their demands as valid or legitimate because they had never done anything for me. Any withdrawal would be an instant over-draft. They were trying to cross a bridge that had never been built. They were a lot older than I was and the relationship never developed. They were very close in age to each other and they shared a different father than I had. There was no “there” there. Any attempts on my part to create a relationship out of thin air felt forced and artificial. It never felt real.
Not seeing my parents has improved the quality of my life. No more dread or “Oh crap. What do I say now?”
What makes me want to cry is that lack of a sense of loss. I feel like I “should” be devastated.
I have always had to protect and defend myself. My parents are proud of how independent I am. In other words, they are proud that I have never been able to depend on them for the basics of protection and defense. “Congratulations. You’re worthless. And always have been.” And they pat themselves on the back for that. Pathetic.
What I want to impress on people is the importance of investing in other people. It is the only thing worth investing in. I am really trying to invest encouragement and reality-based assistance (like rides in the cold, nasty rain) in the people in my life now. Don’t make demands upon people you haven’t invested into. It simply comes off as controlling. Reciprocity is the name of the game.
If you died now, would anyone care? Would anyone miss you? Would your being gone be a tragedy? A relief?
I believe that the different parts of my personality have grown and matured at totally different rates. How can anyone develop completely uniformly? Intellect, friendships, family, financial knowledge, you name it, can all be at differing levels. Survival demands growth in one area, then one is forced to shift.
Anyhow, when I was ten years old, I decided that I would be the child my mother did not have to worry about. My brothers were creating havoc, getting their girlfriends pregnant, drinking, using drugs, etc.
Little did I know back then that that decision ended my authenticity. I had decided to be whatever made my mother happy. At that moment, I became the parent, emotionally taking care of her. Whoever I may have been got lost in the shuffle. I remember very distinctly someone asking me when I was about to graduate high school what I wanted to do with my life. My response? “What does that have to do with anything?” What I wanted was simply irrelevant. I did not even understand the question by that time. Survival was my only priority.
When I had the falling out with my mother right before my birthday, I felt like I undid my fateful decision.
I got married. I went to school. I have an MBA now. And I still have no clue who I am. Being married put some parts of my development on hold and accelerated others. I can take care of someone now. I can handle the bills. I am super-responsible in some ways.
And I am 10-years-old in other ways. Can I excavate that preteen now? I doubt I still have a crush on the lead singer of Alabama. I thought he was truly hot when I was in middle school. I want to reclaim her. I owe her that. I will not abandon her again. I promise.
I have been thinking a lot about processes lately. Part of it comes from reading Cheri Huber. She talks about how one process does not necessarily (or usually ever) lead to another process. The process for being miserable is incompatible with the process for happiness. The gist is that beating oneself up will never make one happy. Okay. That sounds sensible.
But I am also looking at other processes. I have a friend that is not making the greatest choices. She has umpteen goals and doesn’t seem to be making much headway on any of them. I think some of her goals require her to leave Michigan entirely. But they are her goals. I simply know that humans cannot do everything all at once. I saw her yesterday. She is becoming more serious about achieving her goals. So she is scheduling everything. That is great because she will start to see that not all of her goals are compatible. It’s not that they can’t be achieved; it’s only that they will not be accomplished simultaneously.
The problem with processes is that they all take time and sometimes you cannot see any results for a long time. My friend gained weight during the pandemic and now needs to lose it. She can feel the weight on her knees and even her arches. This is the hard part. She has to have the discipline now and stop eating so much, while being okay without seeing any immediate weight loss. She didn’t gain it all at once and she won’t lose it all at once.
We all have to increase our awareness of what processes we are activating. Once you get the ball rolling, it can snowball very quickly, good or bad. Nobody says, “I really want to be an alcoholic and destroy my liver.” No. It’s about having fun and partying or avoiding one’s emotions. It may be a form of self-abuse. You feel fine–until you don’t. By then it may be too late.
At work, many people have been calling in sick. Perhaps they are sick. Maybe some of them are going on job interviews. One manager got quarantined most of last week and tested negative for the coronavirus. I am concerned about him because he smokes and this is barely the beginning of the cold and flu season. If he has to get tested and quarantined every time he coughs, he will not be around long. Smokers often wake up coughing. If he is in the process of being tested and quarantined, he is not in the process of working and running the store. His usefulness is compromised. The last store manager got fired, I’m pretty sure, and there is no reason he won’t be as well. This is a guy with real people skills, but that doesn’t matter if he is not actually at work. My feeling is that he really needs to take better care of his health, get a salutary process underway. Losing him would be bad.
Today I spent time with a friend. We drink coffee and then her boyfriend arrived. Then we all ate out and he paid. (I don’t make much money, so I don’t eat out a lot.) We went to Leo’s and the food was delicious, but not terribly healthy. They eat like this all the time and are both diabetic. I am not diabetic and don’t want to be. I cannot eat like that regularly, even though it would be fun to do so and he is volunteering to pay. I just had fabulous blood tests and want to keep them that way.
Everything requires vigilance, awareness of what processes you are engaging in. Perhaps you are completing some processes or trying to initiate some new ones. Maybe someday it won’t be so exhausting.
I have been going deep into the moment. I have been meditating, checking in with my feelings, doing awareness practices, etc. I bought the latest edition of Lion’s Roar, a Buddhist magazine. What is the issue’s topic? Death. It has lots of good articles about the reality of death, the inevitability of it. I listen to the wind blowing outside my window. I feel a sense of urgency I do not understand. I feel like the wind is speaking to me in a language I do not understand. It is all very intense.
Then I talk to my friend that moved back to Michigan from Maryland. She is a Greek Orthodox Christian, as I was when we met at the Lansing, Michigan church. I think her thinking has been compromised by covid. She had it about a year and a half ago. In my opinion, she has not been making great decisions since her last contract job ended in April. She is now back in Michigan, living with her daughter in the thumb. I asked her what church she is attending and she said she was still doing virtual church from Maryland. She says she does church where she is “fed” spiritually. This does not make a lot of sense to me because, as an Orthodox Christian, you are actually, literally, fed through the sacrament of communion. To me, her perspective is very Protestant, emphasizing the personality and theology of the pastor, not the sacraments of the historic church.
She also plans on purchasing property in Maryland at auction, renovating it, and flipping it continually. That, also, would need to be done on the East Coast.
She is waiting for her job to start as a contractor with the FAA. What?! The woman hasn’t had a paycheck since April. At what point do you become reality-based, walk into Walmart, and fill out an application? Her not-yet-real job pays $76,000/year. My current job at Goodwill pays $9.65/hour. I am currently making more money than she is, which, to my knowledge, is zero. My job is a crappy minimum-wage affair, but a whole lot better than zilch.
She says she has “faith” that she can purchase property in Maryland. What does that even mean? Faith, according to the book of Hebrews (11:1), is the “evidence of things not seen.” To me, that reeks of, “Do not look at the man behind the curtain!”
What have I done this weekend? I got mucho sleep Friday night. I bought groceries. I called the Cologuard people regarding the kit I got in the mail last Wednesday. I did laundry.
I think she is living in her head. I make this diagnosis because I have done it my entire life. I know what it looks like, both from within and from the outside. It looks an awful lot like denial. The only thing over the years that has prevented me from going into serious denial about things has been my complete inability to tune anything out. I have to see everything. Then I want to know where it came from.
Buddhism talks about hope and fear being poisons. I get it. Anything that removes you from dealing honestly with the present moment is not a good thing.
It is hard for me to try to help someone who thinks they live in Maryland while their body resides in Michigan. And she is going to need someone to lean on when it hits her that she has no income, isn’t buying property anywhere, and finds it almost impossible to improve her diet while living with her daughter that has six kids, all while living in a state that virtually nobody wants to live in.
All I can do is to keep my own head screwed on straight, handle all my responsibilities as well as I can, and keep trying to heal myself. This is a full-time job for me.
I know I am doing better.
Backstory: I took care of Barry for years. I handled all the responsibilities. He lived a whole lot longer than expected. There was no light at the end of that tunnel. I prayed every night for one of us to die, did not care which. I just wanted that phase of my life over, one way or the other. Life sucked and I saw no way out. I was crippled by chronic shame. Nothing I did ever made me feel one bit better. I sought psychoanalysis because decades of cognitive behavioral therapy did not help. At all. Life had not been fun. So I found my psychoanalyst.
I have been focusing on my own emotional growth: psychoanalysis, meditation, etc. I know I have been making progress. I feel like I have the tools to finish the job of ending the toxic shame and increasing my self-esteem.
I ran into a problem at work. There is this little area next to the z-racks that needs to be clear, by order of the fire marshal, to provide access to various electrical panels. This makes abundant sense. Rick, the store manager, wanted me to try to keep it clear. Sounds very reasonable. I found myself, in that one day, removing the trash can from the area, only to have some unknown person put it right back. This happened at least three or four times. This triggered issues from my past: being held accountable for issues and problems that I have zero control over. It is called “scapegoating.”
So I talked to Rick and ShannLynn, my favored manager that has earned my loyalty. I told them the whole story. They reassured me that they would inform the back room employees that it is everyone’s job to keep the area clear. Problem solved.
Rick got paged up front. I walked out of the back room onto the floor behind him. Then…I got this urge to run and jump up on his back. The urge literally stopped me in my tracks. Whoa. WTF?! Where did that come from? That is a level of playfulness I am unsure I have ever had. Thank God for inhibitions. He is married with two teenage children. I will not touch a man another woman has already called dibs on.
I had not realized how bad the store had gotten last fall. Many employees were quitting. There was a lot of disrespect going on. I found myself thinking about quitting. Then they cleaned house the end of December, beginning of January. Suddenly, the store manager was gone and a lot of people quit and/or got fired. It was quite jarring. This year has been a slow climb up. Rick has a great sense of humor. I laugh whenever I see him. He has brought out a side of me that has always lain dormant.
So I am saying that this encounter is 20% attraction to him/80% emotional growth on my part. He gets credit for excellent store leadership. I get credit for the hard emotional work of healing. I feel like I am coming to life, perhaps for the first time.