I’m back in therapy, dealing with the next stage of this journey, the highlights of which include my recent remembrances regarding the Gorilla and some of my ex’s other personality-shards.
That and the fact that my daughter got married last week and didn’t invite her father. He doesn’t even know she’s married now.
Also, did I mention, my ex is getting married next month. Apparently he was dating before the divorce was final – it’s only been 8 months.
So those things brought up some feelings – it was so sad to be at our daughter’s wedding and not share it with him. At the same time, it was such a relief to be able to have a nice celebration without having to jump through any hoops, so I think she made the right decision to exclude him. But it was still sad that she couldn’t have her Dad there. That she can’t have her Dad. That her Dad has excluded himself from our lives by his behavior. It’s sad, it leaves a hole, and we notice it.
His impending nuptials, on the other hand, brought up hurt – wow, he really wasn’t bonded to me! He really was able to move on without another thought. I’m still bonded to him. I meant that vow when I said it. I can’t imagine even dating at this point.
Then again, he wasn’t abused, so he’s not getting over PTSD like I am, so maybe that’s more to the point regarding my reluctance to open myself up to another close relationship.
At any rate, I realized it’s a little silly to maintain that bond at this point. I may get points in the American Patriarchal Evangelical Church Culture for staying emotionally tied to someone I made a vow to. On the other hand, according to their standards, he has now committed adultery, so that lets me off. But those points don’t really mean anything, so that’s not a reason to keep the bond – twisted spiritual pride is not really a good foundational attitude for victorious living.
So given all of that, I realized it was time to do some more work. I went to my first session last week. Didn’t expect much, because that first week is always just paperwork and getting to know the counselor and explaining the situation (I’m starting with a brand new one because my insurance changed when I got a job last year).
This counselor had me fill out a very comprehensive questionnaire before I came in, however, so we hit the ground running, dove right in and somehow found ourselves digging into my childhood. I mean, I’ve been to counseling for that. I’ve dealt with that. It still bears mentioning because it’s background, but I’ve moved on.
Or at least, I THOUGHT I’d moved on. It takes a lot to move on from who you were told you were when you were a child. You can correct the untruths. You can reject the lies. You can move forward and love yourself and even become a new creation and receive healing. But your inner child stays with you – it’s your history, the foundation upon which the rest of your life is built.
And apparently the stuff I still needed to deal with was shoved to the back burner once I married the Great Imposter and His Merry Band of Personalities, because I’m looking at all that childhood stuff with new eyes now that he’s gone. The consequence of this is that I’ve spent most of the last week feeling like a cast-off washrag. A worthless puppet. A lazy, greedy, manipulative person who would be sure to do the wrong thing if not watched like a hawk. And definitely someone not worth effort or time.
I corrected those lies. I know those things are not true – I realized that at a young age, rejected them, rewrote my self image according to who I really was, to who God said I was.
But it wasn’t until this week that I FELT like what they told me I was. I can’t explain it any other way. I spent three days feeling worthless. It was such a step change from the way I’ve been feeling for the last year as I waded into the corporate world and found out just how much I have to offer – and since people not only have paid me for what I can do, but have verbalized their appreciation!
So while I didn’t take the lies of my family to heart and start believing them when they came up in the session last week, I did FEEL what those lies did to me.
Actually, come to think of it, I have had those feelings before: in my teen years I struggled with them greatly, and as a young adult they drove me to my first therapist. But I never really understood, on a heart level, where they came from. Revisiting them as a mature adult has given me the perspective I needed to clearly see the source.
After three days of feeling like a disposable paper good, I went to a small group meeting I joined this year at church. We’re going through Max Lucado’s book Grace. I almost didn’t go, because what possible contribution could I, the inept and foolish youngest child, possibly give to the discussion?
But it was there that I remembered. Remembered to “trust God’s verdict that if God loves (me), (I) must be worth loving (Lucado, 2012, p. 121).” The awful feelings lifted, at least for a few hours, long enough for me to set the truth firmly in place in my heart.
I still have work to do. I still have lies to correct, and narratives to rewrite. I still feel like crap for a portion of most of the day, and I still fight the impulse to dress in black and sit on the floor in the corner of my cubicle with my laptop, working on spreadsheets and snarling at anyone who approaches.
But it’s okay – I have to feel those feelings. The thing about both grief and forgiveness is that the only way out is through. There’s no shortcut.
The wonderful dichotomy of the human experience, though, is that we can feel things while still understanding that the opposite is true. That truth is an anchor that makes it safe for me – for the first time – to let myself feel those feelings.
So while I know that I am not stupid, that I have never been lazy, that I do not scheme and plot and manipulate when left to myself, and that it was never right that I was used as a rag to mop up someone else’s need, I can still feel what it feels like to be told that’s who I am. I think once I fully feel the depth of the awfulness of that, I will be able to wrap it up, place it on the ground, step over it and walk away from it once and for all.
My father may have ignored me. My mother may have over-controlled and torn me down with her words. My brother may have abused me in every way possible. But that doesn’t make me who I am today. What makes me who I am today is the knowledge that:
“To live as God’s child is to know, at this very instant, that you are loved by your Maker not because you try to please him and succeed, or fail to please him and apologize, but because he wants to be your Father. Nothing more… You can no more make him want you than you can convince him to abandon you (Lucado, 2012, p. 124).
Lucado, M. (2012). Grace. Thomas Nelson