Thursday, August 30, 2012

In with the good, out with the bad

Everyone knows that when something is full, you have to remove something to make room for something else. It’s harder to gauge these things when you can’t see them.

I realized this summer that my ability to “bite my tongue” grows weaker as I get older. I guess that it why older people tend to say what is really on their mind—your body gets tired of “holding it all in.” I’m tired of holding it all in.

"Happy" family--1979
When I was a little girl, things at home were a little rough. My parents suffered from extreme depression. They both worked from home, so it was hard to escape. But despite their mood swings and sometimes erratic behavior, I always knew they loved me.

We always had “party night” on Friday and we would make homemade pizzas with tortillas and spaghetti sauce. Mom had this enormous green Tupperware bowl that we would fill with hot popcorn and melted butter. We would sit on the floor (we had no furniture) and watch something on our little black-and-white 17 inch television and have ourselves a party. It was always fun—no drama, no depression, no screaming, and no crying.

Mom and Dad were always sure to tell us they loved us. They were always quick to say, “I know we have issues, but it doesn’t mean we don’t love you very much.” And it was true and I knew it was true.

But Mom and Dad were always hard to talk to. I didn’t have the luxury my daughter has to say, “That really hurts my feelings when you interrupt me when I’m talking.” If I had expressed my feelings several things might have happened—Dad would have lost his temper and yelled at me or Mom would have done something similar or she would have terrible guilt over hurting my feelings and then I would feel terrible for making her feel terrible. It was just easier to hold it all in.

The house where I grew up in Dublin, TX
Those habits formed early for me and stuck with me until a few years ago. Those habits forced me to hold it all in while I was married to my ex-husband. He also had a terrible temper and I felt it was best to hold it in rather than set him off. Of course, being secretly mad at someone doesn’t help an already flawed marriage.

The problem is that you can’t hold that stuff in forever—it has to go somewhere. When I started getting my life back on track after my ex-husband left,  I started replacing the bad in my life with good things. All that stuff that I had been holding in began to come out.

I would go for months and feel fine, and then I would have a day when I would just lie in bed and cry and cry and I didn’t understand why. I would think to myself, “My life is good now. Why I am so sad?” I finally realized it was my body’s way of finally dealing with all that hurt I had pushed down inside me for all those years.

After I met Robby and we began to fall in love, I began to have more of those days. My life was filling up with good and all that bad needed somewhere else to go. By the time Robby and I got engaged in December, I thought I was done with all that bad stuff. I thought it had finally been purged.

But then I had another episode this summer while I was in Texas visiting my parents.  We were sitting at the table at my aunt’s house eating breakfast when my mother began telling a story about a couple she had helped. It took everything inside me to not scream, “How can you help people who are total strangers, but not help me when I needed you?”

I tend to think these things in my head when I’m around my parents, but never has my inside voice been so strong. I had to leave the table and go to the bathroom to calm myself. I washed my face and looked at myself in the mirror and said, “You gotta get your shit together.”

I cried for days over the incident. I had nightmares for weeks. I finally realized it was time to come clean with my mom and dad. I realized the relationship I have with them is affecting all of my relationships—especially the relationship I have with my children.

My parents are in good places in their lives right now. They have spent the past 14 years talking to therapists and working on their issues. They are honest with us about their issues and they are regretful and reflective every day of their lives. They have always given me the freedom to tell them exactly how I feel or to yell at them about something that happened in my childhood. But I have never felt the need to do that, until now.
My family had issues, but atleast we weren't stacked up naked and forced
 to look happy that these poor children.
A few days ago, Mom called me. We were talking and then I felt we had reached a place in the conversation where I could let it all out. I didn’t scream at her or try to hurt her—I just talked. I talked and talked and cried and cried and she just sat there and listened.

And she gave me the best gift a mother can give her child—she validated my anger and she apologized.

She told me something profound. “The only perfect relationship we can have in this world is the relationship we have with God. But God put us together for a reason—you needed me as a mother to help you get to this place in your life. Perhaps without knowing such sadness and depression, you would have never had to fight so hard to get the happiness you have now. The fight is what brought you to where you are now.”

I know she is right. I know that God puts people in our lives to make us who we are. I just never believed He gave me the perfect parents—they aren’t perfect, but perfect for me. Yes, Mom and I have still have a lot of work to do, but we are moving in the right direction finally.

I need to fix this relationship in order to fully love myself. It’s just as important as building a healthy relationship with God. The relationship with my parents affects every relationship I have had or will have. I gotta get this right this time, so I can quit holding in the bad stuff and start holding on to the good.

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