Monday, June 23, 2014

My Attempt at a Thank You

I'm trying something new these days. I don't know how to explain it, or why it suddenly makes perfect sense to me to live this way when it seems that only a few weeks ago, I couldn't imagine the world I'm living in right now. A few weeks ago, I had no idea it was possible to let go of worry.

Don't immediately get jealous, ok. It is exactly as good as it sounds, but it is also just as impossibly difficult as it seems. I STILL worry that I'll forget how to do it one day and go back to my previous way of living: in constant knots of terror.

Doing a search for "crying babies" is the saddest thing one could do.
I don't remember the exact catalyst that clued me in to the fact that I was in trouble, but it had something to do with my ever so complicated relationship with my parents. The parent in the limelight for this one: pops.

He was telling me how I needed to wait before putting a deposit down on a new place to make sure my promised room mate was actually going to move to Chicago. It was sound advice, that I had already put a good deal of thought into because my dad taught me to live like that. He had been telling me for forty-eight hours at this point. And I was already stressed out.

Nothing is more terrifying than looking forward to time with a parent, and knowing, just KNOWING, the criticisms that inevitably come along with it. My room will never be clean enough. Nor will my car. 
And surely I could snag a partner if I would just stop doing a list of things that I do...including...sometimes being mean. 

Chock it up to the fact that it often seems that men have a propensity to want to "fix" things. Chock it up to the fact that I still complain about being single, so I'm basically just asking for advice. Chock it up to the fact that I'm a woman and he's a man. Or call it what it is, an attempt to right some wrong he feels he's done me in raising me to this point. 

I have always been cautious, skeptical, and having my heart broken by my best friend when I was a wee young lad of just twenty-four didn't make it any easier for me to ease up on the caution. 

But I remember my dad saying to me once when I was contemplating trying out for the Tennis team in junior high, "Do you really want to try out? What if you don't make it?"

I probably just wanted to wear the cute outfits. 
That was the moment. I think about that breath of time a lot when I look back at how tiny my steps have been in putting myself out there. I think about all the auditions I didn't go to, and the jobs I didn't apply for, and the guys I allowed to be mean to me because I was afraid of being mean to them. And I was angry. For a while. 

But staying angry only hurts me, and I've been doing that for much too long. 

So, when my dad said, just one more time, "please don't put a deposit down on an apartment until you know for sure...," I lost it. I exploded in rage, punched my fist into the palm of my hand like one of those kids in Newsies getting ready to fight the fucked up child labor paper route system through song and dance, and I yelled, "don't you think I know that?! Don't you think I'm competent enough to know that?!? You don't even CARE!!! Leave me ALONE!!??"

To which he replied, "Okay."

If he said anything else, I didn't hear it, I immediately began to gracefully power walk a decent cushion between the two of us. We were on our way to a Cubs game. 

I have no idea how long I walked or how gloriously ridiculous I looked with my fists clenched and my hips jaunting about, this way and that. I was lost in a fog of my own rage. I felt like a two year old again, burning with fury and unable to express exactly why, and with no clue as to how to dry the tears. 

My mind raced over the other men in my life, pictures of moments like I was falling and seeing everything again. And I remembered conversations with my father about how I needed to hold on and be patient with them, try to be less frightening (try to hold back my true feelings). The only trouble is, the only true feelings I was having were the ones that were revealing themselves in my rage, the ones I was denying. 

In that moment I wished more than anything, that instead of cautioning me to stay safe when I wanted to take new steps and try to test my limits, my father had pushed me to step out into the abyss. Instead of counseling me to ignore the feelings that told me to run from different men, I wished my father had coached me to accept nothing less than the utmost respect from any man that would ever deign to love me. 

The truth is, he DID those things, in ways that anyone would attempt in his total lack of knowledge of what it's like to be a girl. For some reason, my brain only noticed that for which I have had the hardest time forgiving myself. 

My dad is, more than anything else, human. My dad has seen me as a tiny baby and, terrified, vowed to protect me at all costs to whomever would listen. My dad promised he would die for me, and I never doubted him. My dad's love for me is no less than super human, but his instinct to avoid pain is the humanity in him. Nothing hurts my dad more than seeing me hurt, and he prays for nothing less than a life without suffering for his daughter every night, in part because he loves me, and in part because he too has no desire to suffer. 

How could I fault my father, who loves me so, for being the very thing that he is: human? 

That is the plight of the parent, the terror of the task. Our humanity will never allow us to live a life without pain, without fear, without fault. For every responsibility we assume, we also adopt the myriad of mistakes we will make while trying to stay the course. 

Yes, both of my parents made mistakes, surely. But they made a lot of good choices too, don't ya think? I mean, I'm kind of amazing. At least, that's how I feel now. 

My dad called me to see if I wanted him to pick me up somewhere, and I yelled, "NO! I want you to apologize!! I want you to say you're sorry for all the things you did to fuck up my brain!!" It seems pretty intense, I know, but don't picture me saying it. Picture her:  

And so, my dad apologized. He didn't go on and on or try to defend his position. He just said he was sorry. He said that he loved me, and he asked if I still wanted to go to the Cubs game. I did. So we met there, hugged, scarfed down some hot dogs and beers and the WORST nachos I've ever eaten, and we watched the Cubs actually win a game. 

And since then. I don't care any more. I just want to be me. I don't want to worry about making me change to fit different spaces. I don't want to keep shredding my heart apart with self doubt and self hatred. I'm no longer interested in the voice that questions the validity and purity of every choice I make. I don't care about being pure. I want my hands in the dirt. I only care about being grateful for the love that I have in my life. I have people that worry about me constantly. I can't imagine what it takes to care about someone as much my parents care about me. I only hope that I can share some of the love I have been given with whomever may need it. I only care about turning some of that love in on my self, and admiring the core of my existence, the chance beauty of my tiny blip of a presence on the timeline of time. 

In other words, I am in awe.