Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Paying For The Sins of Others

Why did it take me until age 39 to formally realize and acknowledge this? Maybe therapy would have led me in this direction sooner? Or maybe it would have been the goobeldygook that I experience earlier that went nowhere. I wish I had realized this sooner, but I don’t know if it was possible to, and if time maturity and experience needed to take me to this place in it’s own due time.

To my dad, I have paid for looking like my mother. I have paid for coming from my mother. I have paid for being an unplanned pregnancy that caused my father and mother to get into a doomed marriage in the first place. I have paid for the fact that my mother had an affair during her marriage. I further paid for her remarriage to Jimmy. I almost started the payment of my dad’s second marriage, which is going into the pits, so I have heard from the step. I have paid, and paid, and paid. I never should have paid one cent, but I have paid in my level of happiness, in my enjoyment of life, in striving to please someone who could never be pleased. I have paid, and in the end I have gotten nothing back from this man in return, except his abuse, his wife’s abuse, and constant tries to control me. This year, I have stopped paying. I have started fully being the me that I always have been, and fully enjoying my life and family who accepts me for who I am. I don’t even want to know this man. If I met him for the first time, and heard the real him behind the mask, I would not want to know him. I would seek in fact to avoid him at all costs. He’s not the worst person in the world; he lives a pretty normal life as most people do. I don’t want to know and don’t in fact like everyone. I am choosy in the people I associate with. I have these high expectations that they should be nice, they should like me for who I am, and they should not make my life miserable everyday that they are in it. I know, perfectionist, that’s me, expecting the impossible from people.

To my step, all of the above, but my dad accepted her children into his life readily. In fact, they were the sons he always wanted. They were not the constant reminder of his first marriage and relationship. In that acceptance, and with her selfish controlling and manipulative personality in place, she thrived. Until I walked out of her house 18 years ago in a nightshirt, underwear, and no socks into a blizzard, and started walking towards my boyfriends house two miles away. There was no speaking for two years, until her mother died, and I picked up the phone and gave my condolences. In the meantime, my dad had made overtures to me, and I had allowed him in my life, while he made excuses for “poor Step” and how hard it is to come into a pre-made family. Why it wasn’t considered hard on his part (Step had divorced father, kids kind of look like him, and two kids that had to live with them or DSS would be called)? I don’t know. Why did I break silence to the Step? Now I would call myself an idiot. I again gave her the permission she needed 18 years later to start the cycle all over again. After that reaching out on my part, I began the paying all over again. Paying for being born, paying for my dad’s first marriage, paying a debt that not only could not be repaid, but should not be repaid. I like myself. I am a great person. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I certainty never did anything to bring on this wrath.

To my mother, I have paid for being an unplanned pregnancy. I have paid for being the reason she decided to marry my dad, and then stay with him for the next 18 years. I have paid for any emotional abuse my dad has slung her way. I have paid for the ugliness during the divorce. I have paid because dad did not want to talk to her after she left. I have paid for her own bad relationship with her mother, and the fact I couldn’t mirror back the relationship she wanted, and predetermined how it would be with me. I stopped paying 10 years ago. I recently revisited the reconciliation idea, to find out the price would be too high. I wanted those same unreasonable expectations from her that I wanted from my dad. I did not want a one sided relationship that caters to her lack of self, confidence, esteem, et et. Her need for material things to prove the relationship is good, without the actual participation in a relationship on her behalf. Nope, sorry not interested. In a recent blog question, she asks “did Johny Cash deserve to be estranged from his children?” I see this as her question, did she deserve to be estranged from her child. The answer, I do not deserve the abuse, the debt that can never be paid, the obligation to be someone or something I am not. I do not ask it from her, I choose not to have a relationship with her, and not to torment her for the rest of her life with expectations that she feels are unreasonable.

I think what my mother is really asking is "aren't I entitled to a relationship with my daughter no matter what? no matter what I do to her, how I treat her, that I won't allow a two sided relationship?" As far as I am concerned my answer is, you deserve the same as you put in. You've taken and you have not given. You have not listened. You have not apologized. You were clearly in the wrong. You can't even admit that having an affair while married, just might have entitled my father to not want to talk to you again. You have done nothing wrong in your eyes. You do not need to give emotional support or show true affection for the person that I am. It's ALL about you. You are not entitled to my servitude in your service of reflecting back what you want to see. No, you do not deserve my participation in a relationship with you. Yes, you deserve estrangement, but it has not been enacted as a punishment to you. It has been enacted to save my sanity, and allow me to concetrate on my and my family's wellbeing.

The above is all an exercise in trying to explain how estrangement feels for an estranger such as me. Why a family feels toxic, and especially my family feels toxic to me.

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