Lately I’ve been learning, or attempting to learn, not to own what isn’t mine. For whatever reason I seem to have the personality trait of taking on everyone else’s shit. With this comes the unrelenting desire to help others, but at what cost to myself?
Growing up I never got along with my dad. I don’t really know why, or when it began. I’m told that as a baby I was “daddy’s little girl”, but for the life of me I can’t picture it or remember it. I watch my dad now, with other children and babies. The way he laughs and plays and shows joy, and I can only wonder if he was every that way with me. When I picture my childhood and into my teenage and adult years, and I think of my dad, all I remember is fear. Fear, anger, yelling, and me retreating alone to my bedroom to cry and wonder why my dad, the man who is biologically designed to love me, would hate me so much. And throughout all of my years, until now at 26 years old, I have owned this as my own. I was taught to believe that it was my fault he was always so angry towards me. Even now, as an adult, I’ve been told, “well your dad probably won’t want to do that with you because he will be afraid of conflict,” uhh ya – me too. “You won’t want to do it his way,” I’m told about him helping me around my house. Guess what, he won’t want to do it my way either. In my house. I can and do own my part in our conflicts as adults, and even as a child. What I will no longer do, is own his part for him.
I will no longer own the anger and resentment that I could feel radiating off of him even when he did not speak. I will no longer own the rude or outright offensive things that he would say to me as I transitioned from a child to a teen. I will no longer own the lack of safety, respect, and love that I grew up feeling.
I’m not saying that my dad didn’t or doesn’t love me. I’m sure that he does and always has. However his inability to show emotions other than anger is not my fault. I used to think “maybe if I do ___ differently he will love me,” “maybe if I just reach out to him, try to have a conversation, he will love me,” “maybe tonight if I tell him I love him before I go to bed, he will say it back, even though he never has before. Maybe this time will be different,” But it never was. The fact is, it doesn’t matter what I did or how I did it, it wasn’t me that made him this way. It was his complete inability to show emotion. We speak completely different languages, my dad and I. And frankly, my mom and I as well. As a sensitive, emotional child growing up in their household I was forced to learn to speak their language, even if at times it is broken, while they never learned to speak mine. And that is not my fault.
At 26 years old I have only just begun to realise that its not that I was too needy, or too emotional, or too stubborn, or too stupid, or too dramatic. These are just the lies that adults and my insecurities and my depression and anxiety told me were the cause of all of our conflict. But the truth is, I was just a child. A child with needs that no one in my house knew how to fill. A child with a language that no one in my house knew how to speak. A child, who needed to feel a love that my dad didn’t know how to give.
I see now, the compound effect that this has had on my whole life. I see it in the friends I choose, the boyfriends I date. Most of whom are nothing like me and everything like my dad. A typical broken girl seeking the love and validation from men that she could never get from her father. It doesn’t get much more cliche than that, but cliche’s don’t become cliche’s for being rare.
This realisation is only powerful if I choose to do something about it. I love Jen Sincero when she says in her book, “You Are A Badass”, “basically what I’m saying is it’s not your fault that you’re fucked up. It’s your fault if you stay fucked up,”. This one sentence pretty much summarises my entire life. No, its not my fault that I didn’t feel love as a child. No, its not my fault that I grew up with an angry man as a father, and that I just could not stop trying again and again to make him love me even when he let me down every single time. I was a child. It is my fault however, if I choose to let this continue to dictate my life and have such a huge effect on the friends I choose and the men that I date. It is my fault if I let this history continue to convince me that no one could ever love me, that if even my father treated me with that lack of respect and love, that’s how I deserve to be treated by my friends and my partners as well. It is my fault if I let this history continue to tell me that my beliefs and hobbies and talents and feelings are not important, that I am not important or worthy.
It’s not up to me if my dad wants to change. I would normally fear that he will read this, but that would require him to come to my blog in the first place, on his own initiative without me sending it to him. Which I doubt. But Dad, if you do come and read this, know that I love you. That I don’t blame you. That I am sorry you were never taught how to give and receive love. That you spent so many years unhappy. And that you can change if you want to. But also know, that I don’t own your problems anymore. Me being born your child was not something that I asked for, its something that you asked for. You chose to have a child. It was your responsibility to do everything in your power to love it, care for it, and to learn its language. I spent so many years envying the girls who’s dads did things with them, called them for no reason just to check in, took an interest in their lives. I envied these girls and continued to wonder what I did wrong. But I know now, that I did nothing wrong. And I won’t let your negative energy that still has so much of a hold on me continue to dictate my life, and I will stop owning yours.