getting personal

i’m feeling very jumbled and hostile and uncomfortable.  i want it out.  i want all the gunk out.

the holidays were hard and i couldn’t be more happy that they’re over.  it’s not that they were bad;  they were pretty good, considering.  but i’m just done.  i’m done with expectations, and with not getting what i expect.  i’m tired of the loneliness of the grief.  i’m sad that it’s so hard to connect.

i’m having a lot of trouble connecting lately.  about a week ago i was feeling confident, and then i slipped backward.  i think it started with a letter from my dad.  i’ve been thinking about our relationship lately and i think it would be fair to call it estranged.  so i got this letter saying that he thought now would be a good time to resume talks but some bad news came his way (very cryptic, no explanation) and so we’d have to wait a little longer.  a note like that would’ve been fine, but then he finishes it off with how he doesn’t know who he’s gonna get when he talks to me – the old me or the new me.  he doesn’t like the new me.

the new me says what’s on my mind, expresses hurts and angers freely, doesn’t bite her tongue, is assertive and sometimes aggressive.  the old me is very diplomatic, always carefully crafting communication so that you’ll have the best chance of hearing what i’m trying to tell you.  of course, they’re both part of me, but my dad doesn’t see that yet.

i’ve also been out on a few dates with someone new.  he’s great, he’s many of the things i’m looking for, and he seems to really like me.  but i feel like i’m fucking that up, too.  because i feel uncomfortable and scared.  because our last date was after i got this email from my dad.

why can a few careless words from my dad ruin my self-esteem?  why do i allow that?  or why do i think i can control that?  sometimes i hate him.  i’m very quick to cut people out sometimes, and i have exciting fantasies of unfriending him on facebook and not allowing him to contact me anymore.  i’ve always been looking for this acceptance from my father who was never here in the first place.  he was across the world in my formative years, while i was witnessing all kinds of fucked up shit that my mom allowed in the home.  i always dreamed that if my dad were around i would’ve turned out totally different, felt more affirmed and loved, if only…

but this summer i had a sort of breakdown.  having him here, having him pressure me to file for him to get a green card so he can come and go as he pleases…  dealing with the feelings around taking care of him when he never took care of me…  i had the realization that all my life i’ve wanted him to come here, so that i could be complete, so that he could love me and fix me, so i could be all better and suddenly be able to have healthy relationships with men and not be scared.

and then he came.  and i fucking hated it.  and i realized having him here didn’t fix anything.  it didn’t even change anything.  i just had this epiphany that all my life i’ve been waiting for him to be able to come here so that i could be healed.  but he came and nothing got better.  i only felt worse.  at the time when i was having this realization, i was working through it with a friend of mine.  what i said to her was that i was waiting for him to come fix me… but i’m not broken.  and i don’t need him.  i’ve survived this long and developed into this person without a dad.  the time for a dad to love and shape me has passed.  now he’s just some guy that looks like me, trying to fit me into the nigerian cultural role of a daughter and i’m not having it.  there was a freedom this summer in realizing that i don’t need him to be healed.

i’m not broken.  i just reacted to my circumstances and i can heal myself. 

now it sounds hollow seeing as this recent letter is bothering me so much.  it feels abusive.  it feels backhanded.  i know that he’s not an evil man or a bad person.  i know he did not intend any abusive communication.  i understand that.  still.  someone alluding to me that there’s a jeckyl and hyde thing going on with me, and that me expressing myself freely is offensive, wrong, and bad… it feels abusive.  and makes me second guess myself.

i have not responded to this letter because reading it made me angry and feel insulted.  i really haven’t gone deeply into any thinking about my dad since  he left.  he arrived here just after my aunt’s cancer diagnosis.  he left a couple weeks before she died.  it was terrible timing.  on top of the regular feelings about him, i felt resentful that i should have to take care of him while one of the women who actually raised me was the one i wanted to be taking care of.  i have so many ugly, ill feelings about him and that time period, and the grief upon grief on top of it now.  it’s like a dark oily muck on top of my heart and my mind.

and now i’m trying to date.  it was going well at first.  maybe it’s still going well and i’m being paranoid, but i feel like something changed.  i want to move slow so i can remain comfortable and feel in control, especially at the beginning.  i want to know that i like the person for who they are, not because they’re paying attention to me, or because they look good on paper, or because i finally feel comfortable.  i’m at a point where i really do want to get to know a man, and get into a real, healthy relationship.  that’s where i’m headed now.  but i’m so guarded, so incredibly guarded.  how much do i share before i know you are worthy of my vulnerability?  in the past i’ve been so open and forthcoming, i’ve felt like an emotional whore.  so i’m cautious.

and i have touch issues.  i deeply want to be touched, but not before i’m comfortable.  physical affection is something i sometimes have to grow into.  this sounds strange to me even now because i love hugs and comforting touch with my friends.  but i get so physically rigid when i’m touched before i’m ready.  or when it’s not me that’s doing the touching.  control, there’s a control issue there.  so this seemingly nice, respectful, intelligent, together guy is trying to show me physical affection and i’m stiff as a board.  so awkward!

so on the post-dad’s-letter date, i was just feeling strange.  it was still a nice date and he made it clear that no matter how i changed direction, he was there to spend time with me.  i expressed to him how i wanted to move slow and make sure i was choosing well this time.  he commented about how he hopes i don’t lose something good, like him, because i’m waiting for perfection.  though he has said a couple of times that he looks forward to when he can see me again, he has been less forthcoming and less responsive since that date, and now i’m paranoid that i was too offputting.  we aren’t able to get together before i go out of town for a few days, so i’ll have some time to think and work some things out, hopefully.  part of me wants to pour my heart out and lay it on the table, tell him all that i’m going through, but i know to keep the emotional whore in check.  it’s only been 3 dates.  rules, regulations, i don’t know how this is supposed to go.  but i’m also coming to terms with that.  my head knows that it’s supposed to go the way it feels right for me.

it’s a jumble.  this is all connected.  and unresolved.

5 thoughts on “getting personal

  1. Sounds like you’ve made incredible progress since you saw your dad. Not too surprising I guess. You sound very thoughtful, insightful and deliberate. I know nothing of the Nigerian culture, but part of this may be cultural. One of my closest friends is a first generation Sicilian. His kids were all born in North America and raised in California. He expects them to behave like Sicilians. They don’t even come close – their cultural norms are worlds apart. It causes a lot of tension, even now when they’re all adults. I’m not trying to excuse any bad decisions your father made but this may be an additional consideration.

    My advice for you about your friend – don’t display much vulnerability yet. Play hard to get. The early stages of a relationship are like an interview for a job. It’s expected and hoped the interviewee will sound and appear fantastic. Everybody knows that won’t be the case when the interviewee actually starts the job, but if they start talking about “issues” too early on, the interviewer may think “there must be a lot more bad stuff behind this since they’re compelled to mention issues now”. The interviewer is likely to decide to play it safe and keep interviewing other people. Put on your best face, put your best foot forward, and make him chase you. Note this is not being dishonest! There’s a time and place for everything.

    • you have a knack for saying just what i need to hear at the right time. thank you for such a thoughtful response and for the good advice 🙂 you’re right on both accounts – much of what’s happening with my dad is a cultural misunderstanding, though i still hold him accountable and he still judges me. and laying my cards on the table too fast is a choice i don’t want to make at this point, that’s a fear move. thanks for your support!

  2. Yup…all things are connected, and complicated. Sorry you feel so jumbled. The one thing I would say is in regards to the “old you” and the “new you”. It’s hard making changes within ourselves, and even harder when others try to keep us in the place *they* were more comfortable with. Family, in particular, can trigger so much in us. But you are putting yourself out there, dating, even during a time when you feel vulnerable and shaky. Whatever the outcome, it seems like good practice for the “new you”.

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