You’re not worthy of them

8:30am

What a weekend. Friday was the Nebraska game. I made homemade nachos (and killed it…they were perfect). Saturday Brad had to be in Lincoln for a soccer game at 9am. We got back home at 2pm. I worked out, bathed and rested for a few minutes. We met some friends for pizza and then went to the UNO soccer game. Home in time to watch SNL (season opener). Sunday had to get Dennis to a swim meet for warm ups at 8am. Came home for a quick lunch and then went to the movies. Had a 5pm soccer game for Brad, made homemade chicken noodle soup, and then to bed. I am exhausted from my weekend.

I ended up texting with Monica off and on. It is nice to download my brain to someone new. We might get together for a few drinks later in the week. I’m not looking for anything there except having a friend. They are in short supply these days.

I’m sleeping better and the obsessive thoughts about Michelle seem to be subsiding. The last time I visited my therapist, we talked about her continued relationship with the boys. I was honest and admitted the reason I capitulated and allow her to maintain her relationship is because she was upset. My therapist is right, there are all kinds of complications that can come up in the future that will be more harmful to the boys than losing their relationship with Michelle. Here is what I am sending to Michelle in a letter and email.

Michelle,

I’ve been working with my therapist for 10 weeks now. I’ve come to trust her and respect her. She pointed out all kinds of potential complications that, net, will be more harmful to the boys than the loss of their relationship with you. At this point in your life, you aren’t interested in any version of the world where you might need to grow. You are stagnating. My boys deserve people who can take objective stock of things and make adjustments that are in their best interest. Right now, you aren’t capable of that. I hope, some day you will be. Going forward, I do not want you to be a part of my children’s lives. With the selfishness, entitlement, and manipulative behavior you displayed regarding my health insurance, I won’t risk you not honoring my wishes as it relates to my children. I am going to cut off your contact via text, phone, and social media.  If I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be this: I don’t trust you to be objective and act in Dennis and Brad’s best interests if what is in their best interest conflicts with what you want.

David

P.S. I really do hope you are able to change and learn how to evolve and grow. I miss how happy we all were together as a family. I can see it now, as we were…our breaking up was inevitable. I love you.

I sent it this afternoon in a letter. I will send it to her via email on Thursday as well. I want to make sure she receives it.

I can bear it

I feel it lift. the

weight isn’t as burdensome.

I can bear it now.


8:00am

I went to an AA meeting last night. I’m glad I did. I’m not sure it’s something I’m going to need to go to every day (they ask you to do 90 meetings in 90 days). I think going every other week, when I don’t have the boys will help. It was a “speaker meeting”. I found the stories inspiring. These are people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by alcohol. They have spent time in prison, lost careers, lost families…alcohol has hurt them so much more than me. In spite of all that, they managed to find and hold onto sobriety. There was a line of folks celebrating their “birthday” (the yearly anniversary of their sobriety). I want a “birthday”. I want it for my kids, for Michelle, and for myself. I only have 313 days left.

I got a copy of “the big book”. The first third is about the 12 step program. Every speaker talked about how “only through the grace of God, this program, and the fellowship (you all) have I stayed sober.” I don’t like the God part. It’s off putting. God isn’t going to get me sober, I am. God hasn’t helped me get through the last 7 weeks, not letting Dennis, Brad, and Michelle down has. I don’t know how to reconcile those. It may be that I just go for the inspirational stories. I’m going to attend a “discussion” meeting next and see what I think about it.

At the end of the meeting everyone joined hands and said The Lord’s Prayer. It reminded me of a dream I had Friday night. Michelle, the boys, and I were on a road trip. We were in the mountains. As we came around a bend in the road, I lost control of the vehicle and crashed through the guard rails driving off a massive cliff. We were falling. It was high enough that as we were falling we had time to realize we were going to die. We started saying The Lord’s Prayer. Michelle and I both reached back to hold the boys’ hands and I closed my eyes waiting for us to hit the ground. We didn’t die. The landing was soft, the Tahoe wasn’t damaged. I realized I needed to get us under control and stopped before we went over another cliff. I said to no one in particular, “are you fucking kidding me?” I think I said it out loud and it’s what woke me up. I was incredulous we had survived. I woke up after that.

Anyway…after the meeting, I cried when I got to my car. I felt/feel relief. I know I can do this. It’s not a matter of trying. It’s something I’m just going to do.

I called my parents on my way home from my AA meeting. My mom was glad I found it helpful. She told me my father thinks I’m wasting my time. He thinks I don’t need to it. He even challenged me Can’t he just be supportive? I’m not hurt. I’m frustratingly resigned. This is who he is.

 

 

Resignation

she won’t acknowledge

she has work to do. why am

I trying so hard?


9:00am

Michelle and I had a bad fight Saturday afternoon. I called to talk to say hi and ended up talking about some resentment I (recently) had. She tried to turn it around like I was trying to control her. I wasn’t. I was simply giving voice to my feelings. I have always felt love was a behavior, not an emotion. She agreed. I told her I’m hurt she hasn’t gotten into therapy yet. She scheduled an appointment for October 5th (that is 12 weeks from when we broke up). I told her that spoke volumes about her commitment, or lack thereof. She interpreted this as me telling her what to do. I wasn’t. She refused to see what I said as an expression of my emotion…my hurt. No matter what I said she wouldn’t listen.

It feels like she’s stuck in this death spiral of anger and resentment. She is stuck in the past and what happened vs. the way things are now and into the future. She can’t see my actions for anything but controlling. She told me the difference between that long dinner we had on Friday (a lovely, tender night between us) and the following Thursday was Friday “she was in control…could express her feelings and I just listened.” The following Thursday I tried to talk about my feelings. She doesn’t want to hear my feelings. She doesn’t want to hear that I feel resentment that it will be 12 weeks after we broke up before she has her first meeting with a therapist. She doesn’t want to hear how that hurts me or how that hurts Dennis and Brad.

Right now, it’s not about me respecting her thoughts, feelings, or opinions because I do. Right now, it’s about Michelle being the only one who is allowed to say or do anything. She expects me to feel and say nothing unless it’s obsequious and apologetic. She doesn’t care about my feelings.

I think it is sinking in. Michelle isn’t going to try. She sees me as the only problem we have. She’s resentful, unforgiving, selfish, and hateful. She isn’t brave enough to look inward with a critical eye. It’s our death knell.

I feel sadness. I feel resignation. I’m fighting so hard to be a better man for my boys and for her. I can’t believe she won’t fight for us. I feel hurt. I do not feel hope. I slept better Saturday and Sunday nights than I have since we broke up. I guess resignation leads to less stress.

I can’t believe we’ve come to this.

Thanksgiving, I had this idea of doing “An Affair to Remember” in Chicago. Tell her I’ll be somewhere at noon the Friday after. Fucking stupid!!!

I would still jump if she said she’d take me back.

I am fucking pathetic!!


3:00pm

A letter I sent to Michelle:

Michelle,

The whole point of me sending these journal posts to you (The more insightful entries I have been mailing to Michelle) was to share. I realized I was going to have to do some colossal soul searching and super uncomfortable examinations of myself. I thought it might help both of us if you could witness it. It felt right to make myself vulnerable to you.

I had hoped, maybe naively, you would be willing to do the same (be vulnerable not necessarily keep a journal). With both of us sharing/growing, I thought, maybe, we could find our way back to each other. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. I don’t know. After our dinner on Thursday and the phone conversation Saturday afternoon, I feel further away from you than ever. I feel like we had started a trip together, 8 weeks ago, only for me to realize you’re still asleep, in bed, you haven’t packed your suitcase, and you aren’t planning on leaving for another 3 weeks. I have gotten so far ahead of you. I hope you can catch up but I’m afraid you can’t (or don’t want to).

I hope at some point, if you catch up, we can find each other again. We all feel less without you.

I love you.

What is best for me

when faced with hurting

others, I struggle to do

what is best for me


8:30am

I’ve been staring at the letter I wrote Michelle the last two days. I’ve read it over and over again. I feel worse about this than when I sent that email to my brother. It’s the finality of it. If I send this letter, I will never see Michelle again. It closes the door on us. No matter how much I try to explain that I need this, she will never forgive me.

She spoke with a co-worker and scheduled an appointment with a therapist. I guess that’s good. She is going to need it. This is going to hurt her and make her angry.

She’s made her position clear as it relates to us. I can’t think about what’s best for Michelle or what’s best for us. I need to start thinking about what’s best for me and my children. I need to try and piece my life together now that she is gone: taking care of my children, sobriety, exercise, reading, and writing.

I guess the hesitancy is the finality. I want us to be together so badly. She told me she didn’t want me to hold out hope for us to get back together. Pathetically…that’s what I’m doing. That’s my reluctance to send this. I’m still so desperate for us to reconcile. I should listen to her. I can’t control others. I can’t influence others. I can only control myself. I need to look at things objectively. Objectively Michelle has told me, from the beginning, we are not going to be together. She has told me I should not hold out any hope. I can’t influence that outcome. I will not have hope.

I need to be the best person I can be for my boys. I need to move on with my life and find happiness again. I need to do what I think is best for Dennis and Brad. They are confused and upset. Seeing Michelle and continuing their relationship with her is fostering that confusion. This is what’s best.

I won’t give up hope. It’s not who I am. I am a glass is half full kind of a person. What I will do is behave as if I have no hope. With my grief…I’m trying to take care of body and mind in the hopes my heart will heal itself. With my hope…if I behave as if I no longer have any maybe it will finally atrophy and die.

 

It can’t be rage

hear its pulse in my

ears? it can’t be rage. it’s the

hurt of losing her


7:15am

The five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I guess it’s not normal to follow them in sequential order. It’s normal to bounce around between them. I haven’t gotten to acceptance yet. Up until this week I haven’t felt anger. Now I’m feeling (I don’t want to say rage because that feels like it implies violence) whatever is just short of rage. I want to vent all of it on Michelle. So here it goes…I’m not communicating this to her…but it sure is going to feel good getting it off my chest and onto “paper” (so to speak):

Do you remember with some of my friends how long it took me to face facts with them being awful and wanting them out of our life?

By our life I mean our family, you, me, and the boys…do you remember when you thought about us as a family? Do you remember laying in bed holding each other; I would ask if you were happy, and you would nuzzle in close and tell me how happy you were…how our life together was all you wanted? I do. What a fantastic lie!! We faced the first significant crisis of our relationship and you split. You have told me on several occasions how happy you were to be free of me – whether you admit it or not – that also means to be free of my boys. Not our boys, not your boys, you don’t want them…they’re my boys. You don’t want us as a family. You never did. We wouldn’t be almost 6 weeks into a break up. We’d be trying to recover from what I did in Arizona. I know exactly how damaging Arizona was. I know down to the smallest detail. It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was. How Arizona was a symptom of a larger problem I had created for my loved ones. How my drinking was hurting all four of us. I’m making a gross assumption here. I hope I’m wrong. You haven’t gotten any help for your anger issues or your panic attacks. The reason is simple, you don’t care. You only want what’s easy and comfortable. It’s hilarious if you think about it. You’re a cliché. You’re every millennial: entitled, lazy –as it relates to working on our relationship, impatient – you want what you want right now, and spoiled. We could have stitched us back up and been so much better as a family: closer, stronger. I wounded us. I cut us deep. You killed us.

Well imagine having to come to term with those facts with one’s family. The people you spent your entire life with, the people who are supposed to love and accept you. The only way it could have come to this was something like what happened in Arizona. I wish you could have been more understanding and more patient with me.

Do you remember ever doing the same with your toxic friends who treated you, me, and my boys like shit? Nick was openly hostile from the beginning and made assumptions about me and where I come from (I’m successful and a piece of shit because I grew up rich and privileged…I didn’t. I worked for everything I have). Caroline refused to come to our home and spend time with us because I have kids. Both of them, how they treated you when you decided to move in with me and start being a family? How about Laura and how she treats me because I am a man. She hates me because of my gender. She’s a sexist pig!!! Think about those things when you lament how much you “sacrificed” to be in our relationship. You have all of your friends (the good ones and the bad). You have your family. Do you remember the pressure you put on me to lose my friends? I do.

Short of my children and my career, I sacrificed so much to be with you. You sacrificed nothing but your time. In fact, you did quite well: you got your student loans paid off, cut work to part time to concentrate on school – making the dean’s list, were able to put more money into savings than you ever have in your life, (if you take out the California trips) took some nice vacations, took advantage of one the best health insurance plans in the country, got to practice having a family of your own (a dry run for when you are actually serious about being in a relationship), and the sex was always great. On balance, 3 ½ years well spent! Now you can put all that behind you (and you did…in the first week) and look to a bright future unencumbered and free of me and my children.

Best wishes,

The man and children who’s hearts you broke

P.S. The person in your family you said will never forgive me is your mother. I know her history. I know how much love, patience, understanding, and forgiveness she needed from her family. I can see the irony, can you?


3:00pm

Driving to school this morning Brad and I made a joke. He was all mumbling and tired. I told him that he shouldn’t drink in the morning – ha ha – I told him to not be an asshole like his father when he drinks. We both laughed really hard…he said, “that was a good one Dad!!” I’m grateful to be sober. I’m more present with Dennis and Brad. It feels good!!

An unconscious attempt to isolate me?

a brainy, tender,

obtuse, loving hypocrite.

is she who I need?


8:30am

Let’s pro – vs – con this relationship thing with Michelle then Patrick and Rae.

Michelle:

Pros:

  • She’s smart
  • She’s funny
  • She’s tender, loving, and affectionate
  • We laugh and have fun together all the time
  • We never lack for conversation
  • I’ve never been as attracted to a woman like I am to her
  • She loves me
  • She loves my boys
  • The boys love her
  • We are great in bed together (the best either of us have ever been with anyone)
  • She’s complicated
  • Her family is wonderful
  • She’s ambitious and driven
  • She’s the best friend I’ve ever had

Cons:

  • She’s complicated
  • She can be selfish
  • She’s obtuse
  • She’s vindictive and cruel when she’s angry
  • She won’t work on her anger issues (therapy)
  • Those panic attacks
  • She won’t work on her panic attacks (therapy)
  • She’s a slob
  • She doesn’t pull her weight with house work
  • She doesn’t communicate her needs
  • I lost most of my friendships because of my relationship with her (I defended her when they treated her poorly). She pressured to do that…was that some unconscious (or conscious) attempt to isolate me?
  • She never defended me when her friends treated me poorly (does that make her a hypocrite?)

 

Patrick/Rae:

I started on the pros/cons with Patrick and Rae. Midway through realized I didn’t need to. I started thinking about the 14 years I’ve lived in Nebraska. My brother visits once a year. Rae has been up here once since I’ve been divorced (my 40th birthday) and twice before, when I first moved here. That is it, three visits in 14 years. The boys and I visit Arizona no less than twice a year, every year. It was important to me because I wanted to maintain the relationships with my family. Sadly, that isn’t a priority for them.

Fun fact, in the 3 ½ years we were together, Michelle visited Arizona (and my family) more than twice as many times as Rae has visited me the 14 years I’ve lived in Nebraska.

I’ve invited them for the holidays, nope. I’ve invited them to different vacations, nope. It’s not even like they have an apologetic…”man, we just can’t swing it” or “we don’t want to do that but what if we did this other thing that might be easier for you”. No thought to compromise.. They refuse to drive an extra few miles when we’re in Arizona to meet us. Instead it’s, “this is what we’re doing. If you want to see us and spend time with us, you have to do what we want to do.” They’ve actually said those words to me.

On balance, they don’t value their relationship with me or the boys. Contrast that with my parents. Sometimes I feel like they visit too much (I’m saying that in a cheeky way. I don’t mind how often they visit). They value their relationship with me and their grandchildren.


this relief hurts those

I love. is it selfish to

want this feeling?


1:30pm

Why am I so quick to condemn and write off Patrick and Rae but not my father. The answer is simple. What Patrick and Rae did was more egregious. Objectively that is true. Why is it true?

I think intent is the majority stake holder in culpability. Did my father intend to be cruel to Michelle? Did Patrick or Rae intend to be cruel to Michelle? I don’t think my Dad did. Rae is a different story. She went out of her way to inflict maximum damage. Patrick stood by, did nothing, and then piled on. Dad is a product the 40’s and 50’s. He sees the world through a different lens than we do. He has values that are slightly off. He gets a pass. His hurting Michelle was unintentional.

Rae is angry and mean. She and Patrick both lashed out at Preston last year about his girlfriend (Shelby). It was upsetting to witness. Michelle received the same treatment. They just were more circumspect about it, more chicken shit about it.

I don’t know what has happened to Rae. She and I used to be so close. I would call her every few days and chat for 30-60 minutes at a time. I don’t know where this anger comes from. I don’t know if she infected Patrick, he infected her, or if they developed this anger in tandem.

I don’t like writing this down. I can still picture the look on my parents’ faces when they read the email I sent Patrick on the 23rd. They were sad. It hurts them that Patrick, Rae, and I are on the outs. It hurts them we aren’t going to be together as a family during the holidays. I’m sitting here with my eyes closed trying to tap into how I feel about not being together for the holidays, not being around Patrick and Rae. I feel relief. It’s like I can breathe easier. I don’t feel tension in my shoulders thinking about it. It feels good.

That makes me feel bad. It makes me feel like I’m selfish. It makes me feel guilt.

All on me

9:00am (shared with Michelle)

A text my brother sent me last night:

Not quite sure how this all came about but wow. Not even a birthday text. No nothing no explanation of what it is that we did to deserve the complete cut off. Well anyways I was thinking of you on my birthday. Hope you are getting by and things are okay with you.

I replied with an email:

The radio silence has been unfair. I apologize. Contrary to what Mom, Dad, and I assume you both think, this isn’t about how horrible you both were to Michelle. I’ve spoken to many people, in Omaha and Phoenix, they all tell me how disgusting you and Rae were about her for years. I’ll never understand that. This isn’t about that, this is about me. This about anxiety, stress, and how I deal with it by self-medicating (with alcohol) and pretending it just isn’t there.

You both are stressful people to be around. I’ve been on edge for years wondering what nasty thing is going to be said about me, someone I love, or someone we know in common. It can be as silly as did I cut my toe nails, does my shirt match, is Michelle wearing a bra, to something serious like a critique of my “taste in women” when I’m at the lowest and worst moment in my life (the Friday in Arizona when I fucked up and sent Michelle away). It’s pervasive, hurtful, and all said with equal venom. It’s difficult to admit, but vacations haven’t been much fun in years. I wanted them to be, so I forced it.

I get an idea in my head of how things are supposed to be and that’s the lens I make myself see the world through. It’s a coping mechanism and an unhealthy one. It’s about controlling/changing a stressful and unpleasant truth because you don’t want to face it. Admitting someone you care about is difficult to be around is hard. I feel you have so much anger surrounding you both, all the time. It feels toxic. It worries me.

I’m not asking you to change. I’m not trying to hurt you (and I’m sorry if this does). I’m just trying to be honest. It’s ugly and it isn’t nice but it’s the truth.

You said you hope things are okay for me. They aren’t…but I’m working on it.

I feel so much stress right now. It didn’t feel good to write this down. It felt even worse sending it. It’s accurate. It’s how I feel right now. To be honest, I almost didn’t send the email. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I know Patrick is upset we aren’t talking. I’m not sure how he is going to react to this email. If I was a betting man, I’d say with anger. More than likely he’ll glom onto that first paragraph where I described their treatment of Michelle as “disgusting”.

Whatever…like I said yesterday about Michelle and her capacity for forgiveness, I can’t dwell on how other people behave. I can’t control or influence that. I can only influence how I behave. Right now, I need to look at the world the way it is and accept (not control) it. Go with the flow.

Patrick and Rae are toxic to be around. It hurts to say because I love them…but it’s true. They are toxic to me and toxic to my relationship with Michelle. So much so I destroyed it (relationship). If I had accepted things instead of trying to control them, I’d be happily married right now. Instead she’s gone.

That’s all on me.

Where it healed is stronger

someone will love me.

not the one I need. she hurts

too much to requite.


8:30am (shared with Michelle)

A note to Michelle:

I wish you could look at other relationships and draw parallels to ours. I wish you could look at what your brother did after your horrible episode on Facebook where you publicly called him a racist. He was angry (because of how hurt he was), but you talked about it. He had the capacity for forgiveness and now you are both better for it. Family is important enough to Mark…he forgave you and you were forgiven. You both felt the joy and relief (in equal measure) that comes with forgiveness. It’s like a broken bone…where it healed is stronger than it was before it broke.


2:00pm (shared with Michelle)

Maybe I’m approaching this all wrong. I can’t dwell on whether or not Michelle has the capacity for forgiveness. There is nothing I can influence there. Maybe I should focus my thoughts and energy the next few months and coming year on forgiving myself. I don’t know how to do that. I can see the mistake I made. I have worked and will continue to work on making sure I don’t repeat that mistake. But how do you forgive yourself?

Say, “you ruined your relationship with Michelle by drinking too much and abandoning her at her most vulnerable. It’s okay. You’re not a bad person. This doesn’t define you.” When it isn’t okay, it literally has defined our lives (mine, Dennis, Brad, and Michelle’s) and for the worse.

Maybe for the better?

Breaking up has brought to the fore the toxicity Patrick and Rae (and to a lesser extent my father) bring to any relationship. It forced me to come to terms with and address my drinking problem. It forced me to look at the root causes of my self-medication with alcohol and controlling behavior to mask my insecurities and the resultant anxiety I feel.

I should stop dwelling on what I can’t have. Instead I should focus on what I have and how I am living up to what it means to be a good man. Regardless of what happens between Michelle and I, I am coming out the other side of this: a better father, a better future partner/husband (for someone), a better friend…a better man. That is a start.

Now that it’s lost

only forgiveness

can resolve the regret we

both feel in our hearts


given lovingly.

respect can never be earned

now that it is lost.


8:00am

Michelle and I spoke for over an hour Tuesday night. She wanted to talk about the boys and how/if she maintains a relationship with them. We talked about that but we also ended up talking about:

  • Our week so far
  • About living with her parents
  • Her difficult visit with a girlfriend in Seattle
  • Our relationship
  • My drinking problem
  • Her anger issues
  • My family
  • Etc, etc

We both cried at different times. She cried about how hurt she felt and I cried about being the one to hurt her. When we ended our conversation I told her I missed her. She replied, “I know you do.” I told her I thought she missed me to. She started crying and said she did.

I mentioned how I’ve lost her trust and the trust of her family, especially her mother. She told me I had and losing her mother’s trust was the worst possible outcome. For Sheri, our relationship is untenable in any form. I can see her where she is coming from. I know Michelle won’t believe me when I say this, but I miss her mother and her family. They are so, kind, generous, and giving.

I am torn about Michelle and the boys. Michelle is still the boys’ stem-mom, as far as I’m concerned. She told me the same. That being equal, what happens when Michelle gets involved with a different man? She assured me she would never let that interfere. I think that is naïve. What man is going to be comfortable with his romantic partner having a close, step-mother relationship with her ex-boyfriend’s (of 3 ½ years) children? Dennis and Brad hope (against hope) Michelle and I get back together and we are a family again. When that doesn’t happen and she is involved with another man, they’ll be crushed. The older Michelle gets the more likely it is the guy she is with will have children. Naturally she will lose the relationship with my boys in favor of her actual step-children…that will destroy both boys. There is no outcome (short of us getting back together) that doesn’t involve pain and hurt for the boys.

I don’t know if I’m capable of making a decision in a vacuum here. I won’t talk to my family. Sadly, this is something Sheri would be a great person to go to for advice. I think the best thing is for Michelle and I to make this decision together.

Michelle and I spoke about my controlling behavior again. Being in therapy is helping me see it stems from my anxiety/insecurity and was exacerbated by my drinking. I was a different person when I drank. I feel a vague sense of relief the controlling behavior has a root cause. I’m glad that deep down I’m not some sort of asshole.

I wish I could earn Michelle’s forgiveness and trust. I felt her wanting to give it (which might be my imagination) when we spoke Tuesday night. She kept asking why I did “it”. Why I didn’t tell her to not leave the next day? She said if I had, we would still be together. She told me, if she had gone to Seattle mid-vacation (as she had wanted to) we would still be together. It felt like she regretted those things didn’t happen. It felt like she regretted we aren’t still together. She talked about our family (Michelle, me, and the boys) and how awful it feels to not be one anymore. She misses us as a family. So do I. Finally we spent time talking about my relationship with my folks and brother/sister-in-law. She doesn’t think I should cut them off. She acknowledges they’re awful but said they love the boys. She wants me to go to Arizona for Christmas. Short of a complete, unequivocal apology to both Michelle and I, I am never going to Arizona to visit Patrick and Rae. Apology or not, I’ll never vacation with them again.

I am my father

2:00pm (shared with Michelle)

I had a great meeting with my therapist, Lisa, this morning. We talked about my family and the anger I’ve been feeling towards them for their treatment of Michelle. She asked me how it was growing up. It was stressful. I was constantly worried about doing something wrong and what my father might say or do about it. Something clicked for me when I told her that. Every time I have a supervisor tell me they need to talk, I have a huge stress-fill reaction. I can feel my chest tightening up into a, “oh no, what did I do?” This is the same reaction I had as a child with my father. I was always waiting for him to find something wrong with what I had done (or didn’t do).

That brought me to Michelle, Arizona, and the stress I feel being around my family. I put that stress on her. Talking with Lisa this morning made me realize how and why. I was always nervous about what awful thing my family would say to or about Michelle.

I spent my entire childhood trying not to do anything that would make my father super critical and judgmental. In Arizona I simply substituted Michelle for me. She became my surrogate. I expected her to do what I do when faced with hyper critical people…do nothing to rock the boat, go with the flow, make everyone happy. I put the responsibility for their actions on her.

The problem is, Michelle wasn’t rocking the boat…they were. They were looking for any and every reason they could find: her playing with her niece’s hair, that she didn’t wear a bra one afternoon out, the way she laughed, the color of her swim suit bottoms, her age, that she doesn’t do enough house work, the color of her hair, her opinion of a movie, the type of beer she enjoyed, etc, etc.

So when Michelle couldn’t do the impossible, it became her fault. I always blame myself so as my surrogate, I blamed her and was angry. I told her to leave and sent her away. Simply put, she became me and I became my father.

Nothing that happened was her fault. What a mess.