I’m going off of memory here because I’m lazy and don’t like to incorporate research (BLECK) into blogging, but I believe it was Freud, and Oedipus, that theorized our first loves are our opposing sex parent when we are babies and young children. Little boys love their mothers and little girls love their fathers truer and deeper than they think they’ll ever love anyone else, and the reaction of said parent is more important to how we shape our views of ourselves than I, and most people I’d wager, ever realize. Whether this is true or not, I can’t tell you, but I know for me, my father and our relationship has proven to be the catalyst for most of my crazy issues as an adult.
My parents divorced when I was about 5, and most of the memories that I have of the time before are not so peachy. Lots of yelling, lots of fighting and lots of pissed off dad. His anger was scary, he’d yell and scream and throw shit, and as a 5 and less year old kid, I had a decision to make – be afraid of my own father, or try to do things that didn’t make him angry. Queue the emergence of my brilliant wit. I learned quickly that when dad was laughing, he wasn’t yelling and the choice for me was obvious – I wanted a laughy dad, not a screamy one. Besides, a couple of hits on the ass with a wooden spoon would have even made Jesus renounce his religion, if it had happened to him as a three year old.
Flash forward to my adult life and the main lesson that that little girl learned – do whatever it takes to avoid confrontation and make sure everyone is happy in order to avoid chaos and fear. To this day, I make jokes in tense situations to avoid the anger or sadness that may present itself otherwise. Laughter beat out dads anger, but the laughter was just masking my fear, not displacing it. Don’t get me wrong, I love laughing and having a good time, but I pushed myself into being that way as a child because it was a way better option than being screamed at and cracked over the ass with a wooden spoon by my dad because I spilled some milk on the kitchen floor. Remember – 5 years old and less….
Our relationship as adults is less of a relationship and more of a requirement. He expects me to honor and obey, and forgive him when he tells me that depression is something I should be able to handle myself, and that it’s ‘stupid’ that I am on antidepressants. He wants me to go out of my way for him and give him the unconditional love that he’s never given me. He wants me to yearn for his affection that he withholds like it’s the last jar of peanut butter on earth. Yet, despite all of that, I still try to make him happy. I still try to be uplifting and funny and I still try to be that little girl who he used to get so much enjoyment out of – but as an adult, it’s harder for me to suppress the fact that I’ve never felt my dad loved me for who I am, only for the laughter I could create. I’ve always felt he loved me just because I could make him not be angry, and that isn’t the unconditional love that a child needs from their father. It’s made me derive my self worth through how I can make others feel – if I can’t make people turn that frown upside down, then I’m worthless. If I can’t solve a problem for someone, I’m a piece of shit, and so on and so on. I want him to be happy, I want him to enjoy life, but every time that I try to bring that to him, he shoots me down. He makes sure every conversation ends with a ‘reality check’, which leaves me feeling like the world is terrible and not worth being a part of. He’s so resistant to letting go of his negativity and constant belittling that he makes no effort to ease our strained relationship, despite the fact that he is acutely aware that it exists. And that makes me sad for him, and sad for me because there is so much more to this thing called life than just hating on it and bitching about the bad shit that happens to us all sometimes. I want to have a relationship with my father that is healthy and loving and where I feel he accepts me and that I am good enough to be called his daughter, but I’m realizing through age and therapy that that just isn’t going to happen. He’s always going to think I could do more, or be better, or thinner or prettier or a harder worker, but not in an encouraging kind of way, more like a ‘you are not good enough’ one.
Tonight in my therapy session, I realized that my dads happiness is not my responsibility, and it’s OK that that makes me sad. I cannot live my life for him, and I cannot allow him to drag me down when I find something to be positive about. I love my dad, and I always will, but I don’t LOVE my dad, and I wish that I could.