family, mental health, wellness

What I Learned From Reconciling With My Dad

Me during Christmas 1980-something with my cat, Sockeye. (Yes, we named our cat after a fish, and it wasn't the first time. Lol)

I reconciled with my dad this past summer. It had been about 6 years since we last spoke or saw each other.

We’ve had a tumultuous relationship over the years, which I associate in part to us being so much alike (Full disclosure: it’s taken a while for me to be able to admit that.) We both have strong presences and personalities, which has played a big role in our inability to establish and maintain a healthy relationship.

But here we are today, and I’m grateful for this space of time in which we can establish a level of trust, which has never existed until now.

The process of rebuilding a relationship with him has had its share of awkward moments. Time changes people, at least it has both of us. And you have to get to know the new version of them.

You have to release the memory of the person you used to know, in order to appreciate who they are in the present.

I think we both get a little freaked out at times: scared to say the wrong thing and have everything go sideways. But I am hopeful that won’t happen again because I know we have both missed being in each other’s lives, and that this is important to us.

When he wasn’t around, life never felt complete. There was a constant lead weight on my heart, in the form of gut-wrenching predictions that would run through my brain – emotional torture really: “What if he dies and I never get to see him again?”

So it’s a huge wave of relief, being able to communicate with him, and release my grip on all the agonizing what-ifs.

This version I see of my dad is more like the father I’ve always wanted: Loyal, Dedicated, Kind.

And I think I’m more like the daughter he’s always wanted: Honest, Generous, Kind.

I feel like I can rely on him now in the ways that are truly important. I.e., emotionally.

It’s really a monumental feeling to own, as I spent much of my life seeking what I never got from him growing up from other people. (FYI: I failed miserably).

I’m a realist and know I’ll never get the version of my dad I dreamed of or wanted. And truth be told, I am absolutely OK with that. It’s not productive or kind to create a blueprint of the perfect father in my head and expect him to live up to it. He is human after all, just like me, readily capable of making mistakes.

And he has made mistakes. But in holding my forgiveness ransom in exchange for perfection, I suffer. So I’ve decided to be courageous, and let it all go. And he’s done the same for me.

I’ve learned that if I want a good relationship with my dad, I have to be generous with him. And generosity looks like patience when he’s not being the way I want him to be.

When I’m patient with him, it makes it easier for me to extend some patience my way. Because in order to forgive myself for all of my deficiencies, mistakes and terrible choices, I have to forgive him too.

There can be no healing if there is not full circle forgiveness. Click To Tweet

I now know that you can’t get love from others unless you love yourself first. You have to model how it is you want to be treated, by way of treating yourself well. Meanwhile, you must accept that in doing so, there is no guarantee you will get treated the way you want to be treated.

But you can appreciate who you are, with or without the approval of others. And you don’t need other people to relate to you or even understand you to do that. Which brings us to a powerful truth:

No one is capable of being your saviour: That’s your job.

By meandering this new relationship territory with my dad I’m noticing all the ways in which we are the same: We both just want to be valued and appreciated for who we are.

And after all the years I spent feeling so different from my family – like I didn’t fit in with them, which led to years of feeling rejected, isolated, less than –  I now know that I was spinning a torturous story in my head.

We are all very much alike in our desire to be loved and validated. Our differences lie in the methods we use to try to attain it.

On good days, I see the humanity in all of us – innate flaws that are in and of themselves quite beautiful, if you can get past the instinctual need for judgement.

And on bad days, I feel like a rejected 12 year old.

But below the surface, I know that I’m just trying to continue to value myself, which is a volatile process. Depending on the day, that can and will look like me feeling like the odd one out. But most days I’m cool with it, which is great because:

It truly is paradigm shifting, when you learn to value yourself. Click To Tweet

And I think that’s a huge reason why I have a relationship with my dad right now that actually works: because more often than not, I value and appreciate who I am. My ability to do that cracks open the door to me being able to value and appreciate him.

And while there’s still a level of comfort missing between us (with my entire family for that matter) I’m working towards feeling more relaxed around him, meanwhile continuing to embrace what I bring to the table:

Sensitivity.

Compassion.

Insight.

Instincts.

Voracious emotional generosity.

So in a roundabout way, reconciling with my dad added more fuel to the volatile belief that who I am as is, is OK. And for that reason and many more, I’m extremely grateful.

xo

A

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autobiography, family

Full Moon Clarity on Codependency

My life over the past few years has been a steady flow of life altering realizations, and I can thank the full moon for it.

That sounds hippy-ish, which I have no problem owning — I am a hippy at heart. I just still shave my armpits and wouldn’t pass up vintage Chanel if I came across it.

But let me explain further: not all of these realizations are “holy shit — are you kidding me?!” moments. Some are “Gee, I never thought of it that way” situations.

Although lately, there have been many more core-rattling, soul-freeing moments of recognition than minor insights. And it’s been intense.

Usually, the most extraordinary moments of wake-the-fuck-up clarity come after a period of severe mental and emotional shutdown. I’m talking, I-shouldn’t-be-allowed-in-public kind of terrible. These are the days that, no matter what I do, nothing appears to be powerful enough to shake the overall shittiness I feel.

So I just try to stay away from people, read uplifting books, stretch and meditate, and stay the F away from social media. Because I’m way too volatile to handle random DMs on those days.

Did I mention this next-level doom I find myself consumed by always coincides with the full moon?

Years ago, if you had mentioned anything about the full moon being responsible for my problems I would have given you my are-you-fucking-kidding-me look and called you a weirdo as soon as you left.

But nowadays there is no denying it: the full moon brings out the emotional instability in me.

There is, however, some glory on the other end of these periods of despair. I ALWAYS come out with something solid, like a golden bar of guidance which was only achievable and attained through a period of wretchedness.

So yeah, the shit brings gold. And here I am with another bar of it, after the full moon that has just passed. This month’s golden wisdom?

My co-dependent relationship with my mom needs to end because it’s causing us both a lot of pain.

This is a huge one for me because I keep holding onto this image of us being BFFs, and being in sync and relating on every level. I’ve been wanting this to be the reality for years, even though I know in my heart it’s never going to happen. And this past weekend has finally pushed me outside the bubble of that dream and into reality.

We are very different people. We clash quite a bit, and I find myself irritated and annoyed and often times insulted, as I’m sure she does as well. 

And it’s my own fault because I keep coming to her about everything — not because it’s necessary but because I am so used to doing so. Some days I get so excited about things that have gone on with my writing career, or a new insight I’ve had that I want to share it with her, forgetting the fact that she’s just not into the things I’m excited about.

In reality, much of what I share with her could do without being said: there is no need for me to talk to her about everything and anything. I just do it because it’s what I’ve always done.

On her end, I’m sure she get’s annoyed with me. In fact I know she does, because she has a tendency to zone out when I’m talking to her. As I said before, she just isn’t that into what I have to say. But she still relies on me as her main source of companionship, and I her, which is proving to be super unhealthy and we both know it. In fact, we’ve both admitted it, on multiple occasions.

I feel she needs some acquaintances with similar interests, because people need to connect with other people, or else they get depressed – and I know that first hand. But I can’t be her sole source of connection. I don’t have it in me to be that, and what’s more, it’s not fair. That’s too much pressure, to be my parent’s everything.

And it’s not possible for me to fulfill that role either, at least not well, because at our cores, we are so different. I wish it weren’t the case because I’d love her to understand me more and get what I’m trying to do with my life: evolve and become a more conscious human being. And I’m sure she wishes I understood her more as well and was more agreeable with her words, actions, and decisions.

But here we are, two people relying on each other way too much, and it’s not working anymore because we just don’t fucking relate.

Yesterday this wild aha moment came to me:

you cannot evolve into the person you are destined to be if you stay in this state — in this codependent relationship. The longer you stay in this dysfunction the more both of you will suffer. You have to stop being so desperate to connect with your mother over everything and anything because she will never relate to you to the level you want her to, and vice versa. To do so — to endlessly hope for the impossible — is to suffer. Do you want to suffer?

The short answer is no, I don’t want to suffer. And I don’t want my mom to suffer. I think my worries about her suffering is what got us here in the first place (did I mention we are in a time out at the moment?)

I worry about her. I feel bad that she has no partner: that she has no one to go to tea with but me. I feel guilty that she isn’t happier and healthier, and that (in my opinion) she doesn’t take any ownership for where she is in her life.

I also feel bad that I don’t relate to her as much as I’d like to. But you know what I really want? I want my space. I want to feel free to be myself, 100%, without the old school comments that, with a snap of the finger, make me feel less than.

I want to not feel responsible for her isolated way of living, and for her lack of connection with others.

I want to not feel like I owe her all of me, all the time.

What do I know I need to do?

I need to stop the constant check ins, and excessive amounts of time spent with her. I do not need to have lunch with her 3 times a week or invite her on every single walk.

I need to acknowledge that just because I feel she doesn’t value me the way I want her to, doesn’t mean I’m not of value.

I need to accept that she doesn’t get me, or what I’m trying to do, or who I endeavor to be – at least, not to the level I do.

I need to give her space and time, so she can fill it with activities and people who are closer suited to her personality and beliefs.

I need to do away with the dream that she will be kind to me all the time. And I need to accept that sometimes I need my space, and when I do I should stay far away from her because when don’t, I can be a righteous bitch. That never feels good.

I need to admit that my incessant need to run things by her and have her understand me is not working – some things she is never going to understand, and that’s OK.

I need to realize that the longer I feel bad for her and fill up her days with my voice and my presence, the longer she will abstain from connection with anyone outside of me.

Sounds like I know what I need to do. Time to give us both some breathing room, and stop trying to take responsibility for someone else’s happiness (damn these control issues! lol!)

Of course, I’ll always be there for her. And it’s not that I won’t go out for lunch and chat with her and make time to be there for her and help her.

But for the sake of both of us, the codependency has to end. Time to cut the chord, and I can thank the full moon for that realization.

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autobiography, family

Why Your Parents Are Jerks and That’s OK

About 10 years ago I got arrested for being drunk in public.

Long story short, I was in a really bad state. I was severely depressed, drinking heavily, and couldn’t see past the bottle in front of me.

No one in my family was capable of helping during this time; they didn’t know how to deal with me. Neither did the psych nurse that came to see me in jail when I’d sobered up. She basically told me that if I did it again there would be charges pressed. No offers for counseling or help.

So it was all on my own shoulders , to heal and get better. It was like, “You’re fucked up and there is no reason why you should be because  none of us are fucked up. So it’s on you to figure out your issues and get over them.”

Do I think I deserved better treatment? If I was eager to jump on the self-pity train I’d say yes. But I’ll repeat what I said previously: no one in my life was capable of helping me; they didn’t know how to deal with me. And I think I scared the shit out of them because I was like this volatile fucking rocket that was ready to go off at any time.

I learned a lot from my experience. One being that generally as a society, we lack compassion for scenarios and people we don’t understand. We get so scared, and default to simplifying and minimizing another person’s struggle.

So we say “You fucking loser drunk” instead of “You deeply troubled girl who doesn’t know how to love herself.”

And obviously, it takes less time and energy to call someone a loser, or a fuck up, and wipe your hands of them. No one wants to take ownership of a shitty scenario so they just blame it away.

Parents do it too.

And egos don’t like compassion or empathy. They are horny for power and control, and there’s tons of that in the judgment process. So generally, our ego-dominated society digs judgment, because it boosts people up, albeit under dirty, false pretenses.

What am I saying? I’m saying I wouldn’t change a thing. I got better on my own and I’m proud of that fact. It didn’t happen right away – not even after that night in jail – but it happened. And through the process of recovering and discovering some love for myself, I learned a lot of stuff, particularly about my family.

I learned it takes two to tango. That just because someone does something shitty doesn’t mean it warrants them a lifetime of judgment and ostracization. And I’m not talking about myself here, though of course, it is relatable to my scenario.

I’ve realized that the avoidance of any and all responsibility for one’s actions causes great imbalance. I’ve long held one parent responsible for all the issues in our family, sheltering the other from any ownership. When in fact it takes two to create a shitty situation. To capitalize on the other’s mistakes and use it as fuel, in order to dismiss ownership of the unsightly, and proclaim “I didn’t do anything wrong; I am innocent” is to create an imbalance that causes much discontent — for all parties involved.

Blame is high-grade procrastination — it’s like the THC in weed. It keeps you from seeing your own contributions to the discontent you feel. For whatever reason, my journey has entailed blaming others and outside sources for all the shitty stuff that went on in my life. I was taught how to blame away my problems, and now I’m teaching myself how to release the need to do that.

Because I am hyper cognizant of the fact that blame is a recipe for suffering.

Truth: if you find yourself in a shitty interaction, you had a hand in it. You are not innocent. This does not mean you are a piece of shit and unworthy of love. It means that to say you had no hand in the events surrounding your discontent is to avoid the lesson. And I don’t know about you, but I WANT TO KNOW ALL THE LESSONS. I want to make sense of the struggle, and come out of it like a fucking phoenix rising from the ashes.

I think my hope for what I wanted my parents to be was so intense that I couldn’t see who they actually were: flawed humans. That’s not a slight, it just is what it is. Yes, they have talents and abilities and positive qualities — but they are human, and to be human is to be flawed. Part of my journey has entailed realizing that they will not always be right, or kind, or compassionate, or loving.

They are capable of being jerks, just like me and every other person walking the planet.

And they weren’t and will not be capable of being my saviors. They won’t be able to fix me or teach me to appreciate myself; they won’t be the ones leading me towards enlightenment. Though, through their dysfunction and perceived failures, I have learned to love who I am, and function at a higher state.

So even though they aren’t good with apologies; even though they judged me and gossiped about me in the past; even though they may not consider the repercussions of their comments and behaviors — each moment of disappointment I feel is actually an opportunity for me to just accept them, as is, for who they are.

Because when I do that, I open the door for them to be generous enough to do the same for me.

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autobiography, family

When You Don’t Relate to Your Relatives

A nervous me with a cameo by mom's arm, on the way to my brother's wedding, July 2017.
Disclaimer: this post contains a bit of emotionally digressed content. Which means I do a little bit of bitching, followed by a solid message of empowerment. So bear with me. (PS: That’s a very nervous me above, with a cameo by my mom’s arm, on my way to my brother’s wedding.)

I have been working through some stuff over the past week, much of which stems from my feelings surrounding my brother’s recent wedding (read about it here.)

One of the things that has been bothering me to the max are my feelings about the extended relatives that were there (not all of them – I have some extended family members that I enjoy very much.)

But to truly explain where my issues with my relatives comes from I have to go back a couple of years, and then some.

Two years ago I found out that my aunt was gossiping about me really badly. I know she is a merciless shit talker. Every time I see her she is judging someone. In fact, I’m not sure what made me think she wouldn’t do the same to me. Probably because she had been nice to me over the past 10 years, emailing and calling me on occasion; we had some nice chats. So to hear she was saying bad things cut me deep.

It also really hurt because I realized the time frame in which she was shit talking me: I was in the thick of depression, anxiety, and addiction. I was in a terrible place and was suffering hugely. And I remember the deep level of pain I felt during that time; it rumbles me to the core to recollect.

So it hurt really fucking bad to hear my pain was being capitalized on as gossip fuel by my aunt.

All that judgment, when if she had taken some time to ask if I was OK, might have played out differently. But let’s take it through the truth filter: there is a high probability she wouldn’t have changed her tune. She’s twisted with bitterness, and I am not the only victim of her hate tirades. It’s very sad. And to be real, when I was suffering, I sure as shit wasn’t dishing out kindness either. I was mean and bitter and toxic. I guess I just thought my aunt would be loving and kind and supportive because she’s my aunt.

So faaaccckkk – knowing what my own relative was saying about me really burned, and still does.

Here’s what I’d say to her if I had the chance; if I actively sought her out to confront her:

“What makes you think you are better than me? What makes you think I deserve to be treated so terribly? What makes you think my addictions are worse than yours? You have been addicted to being verbally and mentally abusive YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. I remember running into you in a grocery store as a kid and you acted like you didn’t even know who I was. You know you’ve got some stuff under the seams when you pull that shit, so don’t fling your judgment diarrhea my way.”

Big sigh. That felt good to get out.

Back to the wedding. It was a lovely wedding. Meticulously decorated. Everything was fabulous – the food, the cake, the decor. Bride and groom were very happy. It was all very exciting, I was just so damn nervous. Then I see said aunt, and she put’s a fake smile on and looks me up and down. And all I can think is “she’s looking for shit talking fuel.”

And why wouldn’t I think that way? I was already rattled and feeling vulnerable, in the thick of this huge social function that my introverted ass was not comfortable in. And I know what she is capable of. So for her to even try to be nice was just not even happening for me. I made an excuse (easy: bride needs a drink) and left the area for self-preservation purposes.

But it didn’t end there. Another aunt, who wouldn’t give me a minute of her time when I ran into her at Costco a couple of months ago (warehouse oatmeal took precendent) tried to engage with me as well. And I wasn’t having it. Minimal attention was given as well.

And then the uncle who has a habit of not acknowledging people dismisses my hello and walks right past me. The same uncle who will occasionally talk my ear off, when it’s convenient for him – acts like I don’t exist. This is typical behavior for him, but still WTF territory.

And finally, the uncle who likes to shit talk just as bad as the aforementioned aunt is there. He takes the time to tell me after dinner that “Uncle <name> is leaving. Aren’t you going to say good-bye to him?” Like I’m a fucking moron who lacks manners. Thanks, dude, but we already said our good byes and made plans to email next week, so scram.

I know this stuff is so catty and shitty and a whole bunch of other acronyms. And I know somewhere buried beneath all the bitching is a lesson, grounded in the truth which is You Are What You Complain About.

But this is my family; this if how they are. And I feel unsafe around them – like they are sharks in the water, waiting for me to bleed. I shouldn’t be narcissistic: I know I’m not the only one they’re doing it to. But it doesn’t make it easy to accept, and I wish it didn’t bother me.

So I’ve made some observations, one being that I’m tapped the fuck out on dealing with them. I feel like I’ve never fit an acceptable mold in their eyes, and I’ve spent too long feeling less than because of it. So as of right now, in this moment, I am done. I know what my issues are, and one of them is I’ve spent too much of my life worrying about what they have to say about me. I’ve spent too much time trying to fit a mold I will never fit.

I’m releasing the need to be angry about things I have zero control over, namely how my relatives see me.

Somewhere along the timeline of my life, I aged out of being treated with kindness by certain family members. And with their history of fire-hydrant style judgment, and the lack of kindness, I have decided they will get the most minimal amount of my attention from now on.

Through my interactions with them this past weekend I’ve realized something (well in truth, my dad sparked the flame towards my accepting this a couple of months ago): I don’t have to spend time with anyone I don’t want to spend time with. If someone isn’t up for being nice to me, on all occasions, they don’t get my time or attention in the moments of their choosing. You either go all in with me or you get nothing.

Relation or not, if you aren’t kind I will keep my distance.

This means I will be very choosy about what family events I go to. Instant no’s will go to all invites, depending on who and what it is in relation to (please – no more invites to wedding showers without being invited to the wedding.)

And with that, I feel like I’m ready to release the beast inside that is angry about this. Like, seeyah later, I-have-no-need-for-you anymore time. You no longer have the conch ego (not my first lord of the flies reference and not my last. lol.)

Moral of the venting session today? Sometimes looking after yourself means loving yourself enough to admit that you don’t relate to your relatives.

And please – if you do anything new moving forward – be choosy about who you extend your time to. This doesn’t mean you need to ignore people: it means releasing the need to try to please the unpleasable. Because some people are never going to accept you; some people are forever going to look for your faults and use them as ammo.

And you know what else? Ego LOVES to try to do battle with people who are unsettled and vulnerable. So when you are feeling less than, you may notice you have a lot of shitty interactions that day. That’s because riled up egos love going to battle with other riled up egos.

So do whatever you can to empower yourself, every single day. Because when you emit positive vibrations you’re less likely to be met with the opposite. This is a tried and true fact that I’ve witnessed in my own life on so many occasions, it’s wild.

Now – I promise to counteract this bit of bitching with heaps of positivity. And I thank you for accepting me as is, in my fear tarnished coat of truth and all. I remain committed to being real, which means acknowledging that sometimes people piss me off, and that I am capable of a temporary emotional digressions, which always results in a solid lesson. So it’s worth it.

Onward we go, with gratitude to counteract the complaints. Time to get right via some meditation. Have you heard of calm.com? I LOVE it. Plug your headphones in and have a listen. It will zen you the F out.

xo

A