9 October 2017: I am emotionally safe with Dad because he is not emotional.
I am emotionally safe with Dad because he is not emotional. I can depend on detached professionalism, which, in this past weekend’s case, is beneficial.
Thursday, I sat down to garlic bread for dinner. I’d rather starve than be hurt again. And while that is abuse’s exact definition, I just went hungry the next 15 hours, because fear paralyzed my ability to call her.
But I did resolve to call someone else: Aunt. With her, I resolved to call him: Father.
I literally had no clue what is going to happen. I told Therapist Friday morning. It could be a complete disaster or totally fine; either way, I lose nothing. It cannot get any worse.
Father is straightforward:
“How much do you need?”
“I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what was said.”
“I got your email; that’s a lot for me to process right now. How much do you need total?”
“I see your itemizations. Text me two figures: What do you need today, and how much through Oct. 31st?”
Our entire conversation? 5 minutes.
There were no mind games with him,
no reading in between the lines,
no tangential disputes
no raised voices.
We did not question one another’s competence. We were not on trial.
We did not convince, argue or justify what I needed,
or what the alternatives could be,
or how this need developed,
who blamed the other in a 2014 conversation or a previous instance’s vague impact on our relationship during a childhood year.
My heart entered the mud crawling on eggshells, but found no need for a military strategy after all. It was incredible.
He meant what he said and said what he meant. He did not interrupt me when I spoke and I did not interrupt him. I did not cry; he did not yell. There was no guilt - just facts.
So when Mom’s story spoke afterwards - that seesaw fall after deprivation story - I spoke over my soul: Little bird: You deserve good things. He is helping. He is neither happy nor sad towards you or this situation. It is what it is. There is no judgement here. And his lack of judgment was the invitation I needed not to judge my Self.
Don’t get me wrong - father and I have still have many battles. But we focus our action-oriented brains to problem-solve. We compartmentalize by determining the appropriate times and places for each puzzle piece. It is not to deny the issue. It is just because we know there will be no final image today.
What is the priority in this moment?
What are the needs?
What long-term needs require action today?
His vision enables his understanding that my car insurance coverage policy lapse did not arrive because I failed to act the day before its end. It was a culmination of missed moments. Missed moments that I needed consecutive support rather than inconsistent resolution at crisis points.
The four-hundred dollar utility bill was not a single month’s usage because I over-cranked the air conditioning that billing cycle.
My fuel-empty car did not stop in an intersection one irresponsible day. My double ear-infection, sinus infection and debilitating myofascial pain syndrome was not a consequence of one sleepless night. These gathered experiences create an emergency from the emergencies throughout an entire year. And my ‘sudden’ one-year-work-leave existed from 24 years’ living rather than an outlier emotional season.
Dad and I definitely need more conversation before I call our interactions well. But in today’s time frame? No. It was most appropriate we follow through to honor our plan, temporarily tabling any emotions threatening to hijack and shift rationality. We had other things to do that day.
His choices validated my every job search, application, email, phone call, interview, handwritten letter and every other employment effort. They validated an understanding that treatment would take time, and I’d stewarded my healing opportunities well. The traumatized little human inside still learning to speak and investigating whatever else her brain blocked became instantaneously aware that someone important saw her worthwhile enough to actively care. I can logically speak to her that Mom’s fear is so large it controls Mom’s actions, and Dad’s circumstances unknown to me, plus all mine, determine our experience. But those 5 minutes sealed little me’s understanding: “I am powerful.”
So those silent affirmations that I am not a failure freed me to refuse carrying shame that does not belong to me. I could release myself of excuses, reactions, emotions, commitments, therapy outcomes, stigmatizations and loathings far beyond my control. Even more, I could begin to separate 25 years of manipulative lies from Truth.