How My Parents Never Died


We are our parents.

In one way or another, an image of them becomes embedded in our consciousness.  My mother use to be my mirror.  I could see in her all the pieces of me I didn’t want to become, and focus on changing those negative aspects into positives.  My mother is dead, however, and rather than a mirror, I now must come to terms with the internalized bits of her which have the potential to turn me more like her behaviors than I would ever conciously choose.  I wonder how honest I can be about which behaviors of hers I have embodied, which I have eschewed, and which I still must battle.

Backhanded compliments.  I struggle with this one every day.  I say something meant to be a compliment, but some hidden undercurrent of distaste or judgement creeps in.  It can be very subtle.  There can always be a ‘but’ or an ‘and’ which contradicts what I truly want to say.  Partly that is because I always see layers to everything, every situation.  But mostly it is because I don’t know if I ever heard a compliment without that qualifier.  I don’t know if I believe anyone should be so perfectly supported that they get a big head and don’t keep things realistic.  But sometimes I think a perfectly complete compliment, good job, thank you, is all that should be said, and I don’t stop there.  Not often enough.  I have been working on that.

Positively, I am not a control freak in the relationship arena.  I do not think I need to micromanage nor call every half an hour or anything.  Yet, this seems to backfire.  Maybe I should be calling much, much more often, and engaging, and keeping me in the mind of the person and hearing where they are and letting them be aware that I care and will be checking up.  For all that they may resent it and consider it a pain, it also shows that I care and am paying attention.  Yet, I want someone who is their own person, who has values and can be honorable and trustworthy without my constant nagging.  Catch 22.

I do not force my children to do things.  I try to encourage them, yet likely there is a tone in my voice which discourages because that means going out of my way, and I am selfish.  My mother was terribly selfish and self centered.  That is likely why I put up with it in others, conditioning, and justification for continuing my own.  As an introvert, it is difficult for me to engage with other people for extended times, yet with my children I want them to know that I care about their needs.  I wish I did it better without sounding put out or inconvenicenced, for I chose to have them in my life and they are not inconvenient.  They are wonderful people who deserve to be treated with loving respect and brought up to cherish themselves and take care of themselves.  Fine lines to walk.

He, on the other hand, is like is dad.  He doesn’t value anything gifted him.  He only values things he bought, and paid a high price for.  His toy collection.  His version of hoarding.  Gifts are treated with contempt and are never good enough.  Always judged.  I think that may be something my mother did, as well.  Maybe that is why I accepted that low level of ‘yeah, nice, ok’ when he received a gift.  Maybe he is afraid to receive gifts, feels he doesn’t deserve to be given nice things and so pushes the thoughts away, devalues them in his heart so he doesn’t feel good about them.  I do that, some.  But I also value the person who gave the gift to me, and that makes it important.  He never valued the loving gifts I gave him.  They were free.  So he made me pay.

Affection was very conditional.  If I did what she wanted, I was praised.  I could never make dad happy, though.  He only interacted with me to make fun of  me, which he thought teasing was proper attention for children, especially girl children, or to yell about cleaning house when he was angry.  I couldn’t stand teasing.  I got enough of that from kids at school, from my brother.  I needed someone to support me and whom I could trust, not someone who would pull the rug out from underneath me to have fun at my expense.  I’m not sure about the conditional affection.  It makes total sense that it is difficult to be affectionate with someone when they have been disrespectful, contemptuous with you.  To want to touch someone when they have been cruel?  I guess that is that moving on thing.  If you find you cannot be affectionate with someone because they treat you in a way that you cannot stand to get close, then it is best to leave.

My real dad?  He only showed up enough to keep me from getting close to anyone else.  He didn’t love me, nor treat me with respect, nor think about me.  But he wouldn’t let me go, either.  Kind of the way my marriage feels now.  I cannot move on and find someone who might really care about me, and I can’t be in a real relationship with this man because he is incapable of giving in a real partnership. 

My mother was never really happy.  She loved extolling her misery.  I see that I am miserable now and don’t know how to get out of it.  I didn’t think I was chasing misery.  Was I?  Is what I truly saw in Him was someone who could make me so unhappy that I would recreate my mother’s life and wish I were dead?  Will I end up wishing myself to death?

Our marriage is very much like our parents.  His mother was miserable, broken spirited.  She couldn’t look anyone in the eye, lest they actually see the horror and pain within her soul.  His father was loud, angry, critical.  His sons were his work horses and nothing they ever did was right.  Nothing was ever good enough for him.  And his mother was lonely, disrespected, manipulated and controlled by her husband and her mother-in-law.  And now, I cannot stand to look him in the eye, because he just lies to me.  I look people in the eye.  If I look him in the eye, I know it will be with contempt, to keep his mind games at bay.  My parents never seemed like they loved each other.  The tension was unbearable.  My mother complained about my step dad to we children over and over.  But she wouldn’t do anything different.  She would complain about the way he did the yard, or insisted upon how the flowers were planted, but never planted a single flower herself.  Nothing was ever good enough for her.  And they were rarely, rarely affectionate. 

She sat in her chair (I lay in my bed) and whined and read books (and I cry and play Age of Empires) and she did nothing else but go to work and eat  (and I go to work).    That comparison is very hard to take.  Ew.

This is not finished.  Whenever I think of more relevant items, I will add them here, in one place.  Some will be very difficult to swallow or admit, but I must.  I must keep my mirror.  I must keep my lens focused.  I must face myself lest I become that which I never wanted.  I must alter those negatives, and replace with positives all those aspects that mean I am the person I choose to be, not merely the leavings from a battleground childhood.  All those things I allowed as an undercurrent in this relationship which has destroyed my hopes and dreams.  This is not over yet.

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