Behind Closed Doors

I’ve touched on vulnerability before, in one of my earliest posts before I knew whether I even really wanted a public blog. Well, you guys, it’s one thing to talk about vulnerability; it’s another to actually be vulnerable. It’s hard to be vulnerable; it’s hard to open yourself up and let people really know who you are, inside and out.

In Brene Brown’s TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” she says that vulnerability is “…the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love…”. This is so true. Through my own experience, I have learned that when I set aside my fear of rejection and stop concerning myself with what other people might think, and I choose to open up to people and allow myself to truly just be myself, it turns out that I am much happier, more joyful, and hey, bonus–people aren’t as bad as my subconscious would have me to believe.
Speaking of Brene, if you’ve never taken the time to listen to this particular TED Talk, please set aside 20 minutes to watch it. Her closing statements get me every time:

“This is what I have found: to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”

So, why all this talk about vulnerability today? Well, here’s thing… I’ve had this post sitting in Drafts for a few days now. I had it scheduled to post Monday evening, but I chickened out at the last minute and cancelled it. I’ve added some, subtracted some, added some more, and subtracted some more. I want to open up and be honest because that’s what I want this blog to be about, yet I still struggle.

I struggle because I don’t want to demonize my family, but at the same time, I don’t want to minimize my own pain. I fear that people who’ve “had it worse” will read this and think, “She really needs to get over herself. This is nothing.” But then, I’m reminded of what I know to be true: that pain is pain, and it doesn’t matter how someone else perceives your pain; all that matters is how you perceive it and how it affects you.

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Father’s Day. 

I was grouchy all morning. I snapped at the kids and snapped at Marc over everything and nothing at all. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t take a shower. 

The lack of a shower should have been my kick in the pants that something wasn’t right, that something more was going on. It took Marc finally snapping back at me (can you blame him?) for me to actually stop and think that maybe it was more than just waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

Father’s Day. 

I scrolled through Facebook several times on Sunday morning. Post after post of profile pictures changed to images of friends and their fathers, status updates regaling their feeds with tales of awesome fathers and beautiful relationships… it was all too much. I longed to be able to block all posts regarding the day–hear that, Facebook? You need to add that feature!

I love my father. Growing up, I admired his work ethic, working long hours to provide for us. I was enthralled with his stories of far away lands, places that his work took him–Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Germany and American Samoa, to name a few. He could fix anything, and he could build anything. He was my hero.

I also know that he loves me, and I know that he loved my mother. Although he was completely emotionally unavailable to me for my entire childhood and adolescence, he was there for me when I needed him most; the day my mother died, he held me and I held him and we cried in each other’s arms until we had nothing left to give.

There’s a gap, though… a gap that exists between that love and all the times he made me believe I wasn’t good enough, the time he told me I was getting a “secretary ass” at 16 (when asked to explain, he said it meant it was getting wider), and all the humiliation and belittlement and abuse he put my mother through throughout their 25 years together.

I always believed this to be normal behavior between husband and wife, between mom and dad, because I never knew anything different. At some point though, I realized that I shouldn’t talk about what went on behind our closed doors. So I stayed quiet, and everything was perfect and happy and my life was one of fairy tales.

That is, until June 2014.

That’s when I told my husband the truth.

I told my therapist the truth at our first appointment soon thereafter.

Then I told my mother-in-law the truth.

And suddenly, the truth didn’t seem so shameful anymore.

Despite all of this, I longed for the happyperfect relationship with my father that I’d imagined in my head so many times. He and my stepmom came to visit us in New Orleans last year… it was after that visit, the one that left me reeling for days afterward, that my therapist suggested I release my expectations and take a break. Why call him, when every phone call led me to binge? Let him lead the relationship, rather than me dragging him.

I’m still on that break. I don’t call him anymore; I wait for him to call me. We’ve spoken about 3 times since then, not including obligatory text messages on holidays and birthdays. I let go of my expectations for our relationship, and life has gotten much better for me. I understand now that his not calling or visiting isn’t a reflection on me; it is not his way of saying that I’m a bad daughter. It’s just who he is. He loves me the best he knows how.

So Father’s Day, for me, is complicated.