There are days, then there are DAYS.
Wednesday, 14 May was a DAY.
It started off innocuously enough: sunny, pleasant walk into work, morning coffee. I did sense something percolating beneath my (reasonably) serene surface, so I didn't expect it to be completely calm.
It started with my Facebook status: I had meant to type in something light, but my fingers took on a life of their own and typed in "Irim should smack herself for believing that someone who shares so many characteristics with her father could be redeemable." What was it about? There were two answers to that, and over the course of the day, I gave both.
Most of my friends steered clear. Clare, bless her, jumped right in and asked what was up - whether it was family stuff or something else. She got the answer that was uppermost in my mind: the sudden realisation that a male friend of mine is VERY like my father - very controlled; tends to mask aggression behind teasing/humour; is given to sudden outbursts of anger, but will never admit that he's angry; has a sense of humour, but seems incapable of laughing at himself or admitting his foibles; is alternately emotionally present/emotionally distant.
What makes me really angry is that I've responded the way I did to my father growing up: walking on eggshells, steering conflict away from him (e.g., not telling him, "You idiot, of course s/he had the right to be furious with you; you were totally irresponsible!"), not showing him the consequences of his actions, letting him/his life dominate the conversation, and - the worst of it - checking to make sure everything is ok when he's being distant.
I really thought I'd learned.
From the above description, I'm sure a lot of you are wondering *why* I'm friends with him at all. There's a wonderful side to him as well - funny, protective, thoughtful, and a good, perceptive listener. That's the person I met, became really good friends with and went to when I had family issues. Over the last year or so, he just hasn't been there when the going got tough, and he's more likely to make a snide comment rather than listen.
If it were once, ok. Twice, if it were clear he'd been having a tough time. But this has become a habit, as has his lashing out when he's been drinking (considering it takes alcohol at least 24 hours to clear your system, I'm not sure he's been completely sober in years), and I just can't go there anymore.
I'll do anything to save a friendship, and it takes me a long time to decide I won't take it anymore. This pattern isn't healthy for either of us - and I'll take my full share of responsibility for how it has gone - I should have been true to myself rather than try to keep the peace. After a long exchange with Clare, where she listened and gave lots of support, I decided that I've really had enough. If my friend can find his way to being honest about how he feels and why, I can and will be there. Until then, no. I didn't leave my father's house over a decade ago to replay my relationship with him.
A little while later, another friend asked about my status.
She got the parental answer - that my uncle wouldn't listen to anything I had to say and was pushing too hard towards a reconciliation with my parents.
She asked a lot of thoughtful questions - we talked about my father, then she asked the showstopper - what about my mother?
The mother another friend assumed was dead because I never spoke of her.
My father may be manipulative, but he's overt. My mother invites confidences and betrays them, pulls the helpless tear shower on friends and relatives, who then tell me how much pain she's in - and once I'm within reach, she'll hand me over to my father and join in the nastiness.
I know she's cried to my uncle and aunt and told them how desperate she is to be in touch. Hard as this is to say, because of our history, I remain unmoved.
So her more subtle, covert betrayal has made reconciliation with her more difficult. In a weird way, my father has more integrity; he just is what he is. She is what makes her life easier at the time, and you never know where she really stands.
And yeah, I'm very aware that's what I was turning into with above-mentioned friend. *Shudder*
To top it all off, that evening, an older male friend had a real go via email over something I thought we'd sorted a month or so ago. And he managed to sound...you guessed it...just like my father.
A trinity of happenings with my father as the central theme - the universe's way of telling me to wake up and pay attention.
Yes, Wednesday, 14 May was an emotionally exhausting day. But it reminded me of how loved and blessed I am by my friends, how strong I am, and that things are moving forward.
Now it's time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.