The oddity of passage of time (distorted viewpoints, fallacies of memory and strained relationships)
First off, this subject area may be a bit repetitive so I'll try to make this the last time I discuss this here. Is anyone else reading this holding onto any resentment or other negative feelings towards other people and you're not exactly sure why or what you're expected outcome with those feelings is?
I want to get a little personal here. I think I often use this blog as a vehicle to #selftherapize and I'm REALLY in my feels lately about an issue I have dealt with for literal decades now.
My dad and I have never really been close. I think some version of that statement could serve as the dictionary example of understatement.
understatement [ uhn-der-steyt-muhnt, uhn-der-steyt- ] noun
the act or an instance of understating, or representing in a weak or restrained way that is not borne out by the facts:
ex. Dale and Kenny Anton have never really been close
The reality of this statement is this: my father and I were often at great odds during my childhood (or at least that is the way I remember it) and we have both carried this burden throughout the majority of my life. I have never really taken great measure to restrain my vocalizations of how much dislike I carried in my heart for my dad throughout my earlier years, as well as into and through my 20's, possibly into my early 30's. While this is understandable, I don't think it is necessarily fair to either of us anymore. I have many vivid memories of times in which I either failed to meet his seemingly unnecessarily high expectations or blatantly and knowingly disregarded either state/federal laws or military regulations which lead to negative repercussions for him and pain and fear for me. Unfortunately, the severity of these memories has dwarfed, in my memory, any presence of good ones. Among many examples I could provide: one such instance involved a theft from the Post Exchange which my mother worked at on the base on which my dad was stationed. I was caught by the store security and I have no doubt my father bore the brunt of that poor choice from his chain of command. I bore the brunt of his anger. In no way am I saying, nor do I truly believe, my dad's actions in correcting my behavior were justified yet I can't claim innocence in the massive strain which existed in our relationship. I was a habitually rebellious kid who often pushed boundaries as far as they would stretch.
I often felt my dad never understood who I was/am (to be fair, I often STILL don't truly know), nor did I feel he ever wanted to. Looking back through the fog of memory, I'm fairly certain I was less concerned with getting to know him and more focused on getting the hell away from him. I don't think I truly ever knew who he was/is, nor did I ever want to (though, to this day I learn interesting facts about him that either open my view as to who he truly is or just completely rearrange preconceived notions I have carried). Something about the often overpowering white noise of our chaotic and high tempo life never really facilitated us getting to know each other properly. I also feel it necessary to comment here that he was not provided with what my generation would consider the best example of parenting from his own father, though I do feel I fared a little better than he did in childhood. Unfortunately we have to play the sometimes loaded hand of cards we're dealt in life and, at the core of it, regardless of how well they are played, we are all just doing the level damn best we can.
On a side note, and to help you get to know me and this situation a little better, I have never really been super close to anyone in my family for very long: mom, dad, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. During the times I was geographically co-located with my extended family, I interacted with them, got to know them, enjoyed my time with them, but once Uncle Sam sent dad the message saying it was time to move on, I ultimately had no problem emotionally discarding those experiences and moving forward. Though it was sometimes emotionally crippling at first; it was almost like I learned to file those experiences in a cabinet in my mind to be fondly, if not vaguely, remembered occasionally but never really absorbed. It started to hurt less if I could just regard each experience as almost episodic phenomena, something to be categorically observed and experienced then discarded shortly thereafter. I remember being close to my mother as I grew up. I always thought of myself as a “mama’s boy” but once I left home, that tie also kind of severed, maybe not severed per se, but severely frayed. In my adult life, I find it upsettingly easy to cultivate a friendship/relationship, enjoy it while it lasts then, without so much as a second thought, excise that specific chapter with almost surgical precision to never be revisited. I often internalize my feelings about this, rationalizing it as a natural part of life. I have, however, come to realize that this may not be the emotionally healthiest way of living ones life. I say this knowing that, until recently, the only relationships I truly cared to maintain are those with my wife and kids. I am often saddened by my absence of desire for stronger ties to my family but emotional distance has become a suit of armor of sorts. I used to throw the blame completely at the feet of my 39 years of traveling gypsy lifestyle but I am coming to believe more and more that there is also self-motivation there. If there is no relationship to break off when you move, there is no significant hurt waiting for me at the end of three years.
Thanks for traveling that brief mental side street with me. Back to the point I wanted to make: My relationship with my parents. Over the years, as I've matured both physically and emotionally, I have kept in the most basic, obligatory at times, contact with my parents: the occasional phone call, text messages, occasional visits when we are in town so they can see the grandkids, although it always felt rather forced. In recent years, I have started to notice myself actively hanging onto the idea of not wanting to be close to them yet I am not cognitively sure why.
Sure, sometimes when we are home, dad has the tendency to make relatively upsetting jokes about embarrassing moments from my childhood, but doesn't any/every parent do that? Do I not joke with my own children like that?
Sometimes he can be, what we as newer age parents consider, harsh with our kids. But isn't that the result of how HE was raised and what he believes? I can't necessarily fault him for that.
Maybe I even feel less than excited to visit him because our interactions feel sometimes forced. But whose fault is that exactly? I have to accept at least some of the blame.
My point is, I think some of the distance still growing between us is just a natural growing pains of a family that never really felt that close to start with. I find myself almost desiring an adversarial relationship as though living that way will make the inevitable severance of ties less devastating. I still struggle in connecting with my own brother. So I have to believe my half-hearted efforts to remain distant with my parents are partly self-contrived, but what am I trying to accomplish with it? It sometimes feels like a waste of effort to accomplish something I don't really want nor think I need, yet I truly believe I want/need that connection in my life. I am starting to wonder how much longer I should harbor this useless negative emotion. The answer is no more. This really got me to thinking about how much time and energy I spend in my life being upset about things I don't necessarily need to be upset about and, furthermore, who/what is the architect of these feelings. My biggest hurdles to this have always been my inability to properly process emotions and a somewhat lingering confidence issue regarding telling my dad what I'm feeling for a fear that he would either downplay it or disregard it completely. In recent years, my dad has attempted to bridge this weird gap between us, going out of his way to congratulate me on accomplishments I was not sure he was aware of, owning up to some of his less than stellar parenting techniques, making an effort to call or video chat more. Lately I find myself more and more wanting (needing) to bridge this gap myself as well. I just need to get over the hair trigger I have.
In keeping with the bridging of this gap, yesterday, out of the blue, my dad made me cry again for what has to be the millionth time. This time, however, it gave me renewed hope for our relationship. Though I often want to believe, as most angsty teens or "My Chemical Romance" fans do, that I have little to nothing in common with my father,(I often carried it as a point of pride: "I am nothing like that man") the reality is, we share many similarities and that's not a bad thing. We were/are both Career Army Soldiers, we both served in combat zones, we both suffer(ed) from some degree of short temper (often leading to a feeling of remorse for actions conducted while inexplicably angry), we both share a love of biting sarcasm and an often dark form of wit, we both regard music as a powerful force in our lives, and (something I am just now coming to realize) we both share a love of writing.
My dad texted me yesterday morning to discuss a song he recently heard which was written by a former USMC 0331 (a Marine Infantry Machine Gunner). The song was written for Operation Song, one of many programs in the United States focused on helping veterans process the atrocities witnessed while serving overseas in hazardous areas. Upon hearing the song, dad had a fairly strong reaction and thought about me. He reached out to pitch an idea in which we would coauthor a blog post regarding the song. A sort of multi-generational viewpoint/opinion on the effects the song has on each of us and what our experiences were in regards to the middle east.
He then went on to mention the idea of collaborating on more works in the future. The amount of competing positive emotions I felt in this brief moment was almost too overwhelming. I now am willing to admit a concrete fact that, as my father and I share many similarities, I am insanely excited to share this part of our lives with each other. I feel like this could be the moment I decide to stop having this imaginary fight with my parents and finally move on to growing our relationship, I just have to get over myself. I have never been able to fully grasp my purpose in life. Looking back at the last 18 years, I know I have been a faithful public servant but it was mostly out of necessity and job security, never job satisfaction. To be honest, I can't stand this life most days. I know, as I have toyed with writing over the last several years, that my true calling is this, this creating, this translation of thoughts to print. Knowing that I can share that with my dad and maybe bond over a mutual love of something is pretty exciting.
I think, what I am saying here is, I am emotionally tired of rejecting a father who clearly wants me to be a part of his life simply because it sometimes makes me uncomfortable when the benefit of opening up could severely outweigh the couple of bumps along the road. The older I get, and the farther I get into being a parent myself, the more I realize just how damaging this clinging to the past truly is to all parties involved.
How much unnecessary baggage are you still carrying that could simply be unpacked and resolved?
Lets see where this goes.