I’ve been feeling sort of like a vase on the edge of a shelf… Like sometimes I’m perfectly stable… And then other time’s it’s like someone bumps into the shelf and the vase wobbles and blessedly doesn’t fall over… but in that infinite space of time while it’s teetering back and forth… you’re not fully sure if it’s going to keep itself upright, or careen to the floor and shatter.
We found an amazing (old) pop-up camper. It has ALL the things we had on our must-have list, and our want list. We were the first ones to reply to the craigslist advert… and the first to look at it. It’s 20 years old, so there’s patches needed, and some fixes… which is what we wanted. Pay less and fix it up… So now it’s parked in our driveway. And I have SO MUCH energy around fixing it up and making it ours. I spent hours and hours cleaning it out the first two days. And we’ve been recovering cushions. Once we finish those, we’ll paint the cupboards. I can’t tell you how much I love the idea of having my own space to recharge in when we travel… with all our own stuff… I am giddy just thinking about it. After our lovely, but stressful, family vacation to Maine last month, having our own space has become more important to me.
Right after we brought the camper home, my husband left for a 4 day conference. He rarely travels. It was HARD. Harder than I anticipated. I honestly don’t know how single parents function. So right as I’m coming off of that “learning experience” my (until 2 years ago estranged) father and his wife flew in from out of state.
My dad has a lot of issues. He’s done a lot to break the parent child bond/trust. And he doesn’t see it. He re-writes history very well. Suddenly, I’m the issue again. I was a bad kid. I was a bad teenager. I ruined his relationship with me. It wasn’t him hitting on my best friend and making us so uncomfortable we ran away in the middle of the night. It wasn’t him using me as a springboard to try to date girls younger than me when I was 16. It wasn’t the multitude of other ways he damaged our family. No, it’s that I was a lippy teenager and therefore it’s my fault. So a few years ago he came to me contrite. He had been in a 12 step program for 11 years. He understood he was the problem, as well as his behavior. He was sorry. For me, most importantly, he was about 2,500 miles away. I had just had my first child and couldn’t imagine not having her in my life. And I was in therapy to work on the emotional and mental abuse of my mother… and was aware that relationship was on the wane… So of course I caved. It had been about 14 years since I last had seen him. So long story short we started talking on the phone, and he seemed okay for a while. He was 2,500 miles away. Didn’t call too much… sent cards at holidays and packages of clothes for the kids.. As long as I didn’t talk too frequently he stayed on his manners and didn’t go down the overly critical and negative path with em. But then he and his wife decided to come “home” for 3 weeks this summer to visit their kids and meet their grandchildren. (Come to find out, my stepsister lives less than a mile away from me.) The safety I felt in allowing a small relationship with my father and step-mother has been stripped away because they are here, not a safe 2,500 miles away. It’s been about a week and a half they have been here. My stepmother is a lovely woman, with a large capacity to love and see the best in everyone and their actions. She’s quite nice to be around. My father is still who he always was. I’m sad to say. I guess for years I thought his deviant behavior was what made things so toxic with him. But it’s not just that. It’s the whole nothing-bad-that-happened-is-my-fault thing… it’s always been his way, but when he said he was sorry and was in a 12 step program… I thought he might have changed that part of him. It’s his constant negativity, and putting everyone else and anything they like down. It’s him trying to parent me as a 35 year old woman; or even more offensive him trying to parent my kids. It’s him not even listening to the actual words I say, and then I realize he never really has. It’s him being offended because to remain whole, I can’t spend time with people every day. Because I am an introvert… but both my parents wanted me to be an extrovert (Isn’t that a weird concept? Wanting your kid to be something other than who they just simply are, so you ignore who they are… If you refuse to acknowledge it, it’s not really true, right?!?). Me taking care of myself and my family… it’s a personal attack and rejection of them… Instead of simply me taking care of myself and my family. I start thinking, maybe this is normal… Maybe this is how families actually work, and I’m the problem for thinking things shouldn’t be like this…. Maybe everyone’s family is layered with shame, feeling unsafe and abuse, and I’m making more of things than I should. And then I realize, that’s one of the biggest reasons I drank so much. To avoid processing things like that. To stay numb so I didn’t rock the boat. So I didn’t have to do the hard work of figuring out what was right for me… And how to live that.
In the midst of all this emotional upheaval, and opportunity for personal growth, one of my dear friends had a heart attack this past week. At 35. At the gym, because she’s pretty stinkin fit and healthy. While her kids were there at the onsite daycare (they didn’t see it happen), and she had to be wisked off to the local hospital and then transferred a bigger one. It’s shocking. It’s been freakin unreal. This was Friday, and I don’t even know how to process it. There’s the part of me that is insanely worried about her, and her family. And there’s that other part of me that realizes that I’m not nearly as healthy as she is and is scared shitless of leaving my babies and husband behind. She’s okay now, but my heart aches when I think of not seeing her again. Because she and her kids are such a huge part of our life. It makes me want to dig deeper in my life and just live that much more completely.
It’s so freaking hard not to drink my way through this. I have, several times, wondered if it wouldn’t have just been better if I hadn’t stopped drinking 67 days ago… If I had waited until after my father’s visit. But what keeps stopping me is that I have been given the gift of sobriety through this. To be able to see each part of it more clearly… To have clear memories to sift through and choose what to do with it.
So these ups and downs are like that moment when the vase is stumbled into… But I know… I KNOW…that if I were to start drinking again… It would go away. Because I’m 100% certain that the result would be my life in shatters.