In my last post, I mentioned some difficult times growing up. I loved my mother, though not initially. One of the things my mother would say was that “you kids only remember the bad things, never the good.” and things of this nature. I grew up believing that most parents have said this, or variations of this at one time or another. I’ve also seen people turn against parents that I thought were wonderful. I’ve been surprised so many times, when people I felt had a great childhood, ended up vilifying their families, years after they moved out.
My childhood was very challenging. My marriage has highlighted numerous deficits in my being that I wasn’t aware of for 45+ years. One of these was that I found that I couldn’t touch appropriately. I learned that I had gotten along (not super, mind you), by mimicking the emotions called for in a particular setting, and, by understanding the responses girlfriends, and others, were looking for, and displaying them as needed. I also learned that I was an asshole. When I viewed a person as a threat, and the threat could be of a very innocuous nature, I payed a great deal of attention to that person, in that setting, and then, when that person was no longer viewed as a threat, I ignored them. So… this caused confusion. As I say, the threat could be silly by other peoples standards, so, they wouldn’t necessarily ever understand my focus, on the one hand, and then my lack of focus on the other.
One aspect of my being an asshole was that I didn’t really care about other people, myself, situations, or things, in the same manner that most people do. I don’t form attachments in the same way most people around me do. I thought that this made me a bad medic, and so I wanted nothing to do with it, and, for this reason I didn’t go active duty and shied away from a career as a nurse, first responder, paramedic, etc. Years later I discovered that this was, in fact, a great asset.
Before I continue on this convoluted line, let me go back to people who call out their parents, and families, when there seems to be no justification for it.
Some of my siblings might share some of my memories, but, I don’t think the youngest do at all, in fact, my mother became a good friend to my sisters, with one sister deeply mourning her passage and confiding that she considered our mother her best friend. My mother had ALOT of great strengths. Does that change anything for me? No. I have discovered that people like me are made, and not born. Once created, we cannot be uncreated.
In the touch aspect. My wife is blind, and, while I can mimic emotions on many levels, including facial and body, I cannot create convincing touch. I basically sought to find what she liked and duplicated it in response to signals she was giving me. Big mistake! She was communicating, and seeking communication from me, on a level that I simply didn’t have access to, and, for years I was utterly confused, and she was becoming frustrated and distraught. The signals I was responding to turned out to be irrelevant, just white noise. I actually can do better now, but, in part this is because she has explored who I was, and what I was able to offer, and, has come to recognize the part of me that tries, and forgives the failures, and seeks now, to reach me where I am. I also don’t try to pretend so much with her.
So yes. Situations that seem ideal from the outside are not necessarily so, and, sometimes the kids are simply stupid, spoiled, or not aware of how good they have it. For a long time, I thought that my parents hated me, and must have had reasons for doing so, so you end up thinking that they must be right and you really are worthy of peoples hate and scorn.
So where is the balance? Where are the good memories?
There are, in fact, not a lot of what I would call good memories. There are not even a lot of bad memories. Remembering is very emotionally charged, and, in remembering I still feel threatened, feeling the fight mechanism kicking in. Not the flight. I never ran, and it never comes to mind, in pretty much any situation, though, isolation, and avoidance of conflict are high priorities, however, once in conflict… I love it. This was one aspect of computer gaming that really grabbed me. I could play for endless hours just killing monsters, etc, and, when pvping, I would come back time and time again, long after team mates had quit in frustration. Though I wasn’t very good at it.
My memories were fairly neutral. It was just the way it was. Not necessarily good or bad, simply here was physical violence. There was yelling. There threats, their humiliation, and here gentleness, calmness, firmness, some caring. My mother, ultimately, was a practical woman who gave in to her rage and frustration, and, my father… Oy.
I had the opportunity to get to know my father when I was an adult, and I took it, several times. My mother used me as her confessor after I moved out. She wasn’t interested in my responses, or my opinions, she would just walk with me and tell me things. Nothing that had to do with “me”, or our relationship, just her life, her children, and her husband, and I wasn’t included in that “children” section.
In getting to know my father I realized that my mother chose a man who was very distant and self centered. It was simply who he was. It was there in her stories, and, in spending hours and hours with him, over a period of months, on three separated occasions, I saw what she was talking of. Is it “bad” to be self centered and distant? No more than its bad to be whatever I am, or what my mother was. What is bad are the choices we make, not who we are. I don’t see myself as bad, nor my mother, nor my father.
Being an asshole was something that was pointed out to me, and it was driven home by the change that I affected in some people around me.
I was working a barn conversion job, for a friend of mine. His crew was great. I really liked them, they were fun, talented, and close. One day, I was unnerved by their behavior, and, woken from my “dream” world. I asked Gunny why the crew no longer liked me, why they changed, and he said “Well… you are an asshole.” very matter of factly, then he brightened up and added “But you make the guys strong!” I decided I didn’t want to be an asshole, and, set about trying to discover what I was doing, and how to change it. 15 years later I’m not quite there yet, but I’m not as bad as I was.
These last 7 years I’ve tried to be a good husband. That’s been a journey and a half. My mom struggled to be a good mother. I know that at least one sister felt she achieved that with flying colors, and that was shared by others. She had particular problems with me, but I believe I am missing large pieces of the puzzle in understanding her anger towards me, and then her view of me as an adult, where I wasn’t really seen as her son, but something different. It was a view that was somewhat shared by my estranged father, who, liked me, some years ago, before he got remarried, but, when talking of “his children”, I wasn’t one of those either, in fact, with him, I often felt like I had to take the role of father, myself, or friend, or stranger, depending on the situation. I’m not sure about son, though I think he related to me as that on occasion as well, though he had difficulty connecting with my brother as well, so he may simply not have related well with his boys.
I don’t talk much here of scripture, but it has been a very big deal in my understanding my role in society. Family I am still working on. Though I am learning that everyone’s family is complicated. Ridiculously so, sometimes.