I started to see a new therapist just last week and while of course these things take time, it seemed to go well in that he listened and re-framed what I’d said and was actually kind of quickly & scarily perceptive about my main issues– though I had actually put together a list of things I knew were issues and had made a point to talk about them and my concerns about being stuck in particular ruts or being afraid about where certain things in my life right now were leading me toward.
Without boring you with a ton of the details here, one of the things I brought up was the problems I’ve been having with my dad, both long-term and of late, and how he’s really been getting under my skin and how I’ve been so wound up about him and about everything else that the temptation to be awful to him in retaliation for real thoughtlessness & inattention & old-dog-new-tricks stubborness & his self-destructiveness around his own health when his November hospitalization led to the diagnosis, in no uncertain terms, that he could change the way that he ate or he could be dead in a year.
All my responsibility & need for appreciation & guilt at not paying my way (which is bs but still) quirks and all my inner child crap that rebels every time he never says thanks or interrupts or tells me how to do a job he knows nothing about or… everything else– it’s a bad, toxic combination right now. And I don’t want to kick him while he’s down. But I do want to stand up for myself, and I always anticipate all the ways it will explode because he’s an unmedicated bipolar & so completely unpredictable (and sometimes just viciously mean or just a flat-out-screamer) that I often just don’t. I don’t want to continue to silence myself, though, or what the hell was the point in leaving the husband?
My therapist gave me homework to do while I’ve been on vacation: to try to think of positive things about my dad.
It’s been hard, because every time I try to think of something nice there’s a counterpoint that says “except when he uses X characteristic to bludgeon you into compliance.” His desire to share knowledge is also a desire to be a know it all and show off and he never lets you get a word in that yes, he’s told you before or yes, you actually read the review of the show before you attended it, thanks. His desire to tell me how to behave at work has more to do with all the times he’s gotten himself fired from a job for being outspoken, but his outspoken = drunk & unmedicated, and mine = medicated and in a legitimate open door corporate culture. The lectures just raise my hackles and make me feel stupid. And I cannot get out of his way, or more accurately, he is always underfoot, and then he gets mad at me when he’s wandering around the kitchen like a zombie while I’m cooking supper and trying to use the small space to feed us & do something creative.
I am still feeling really conflicted and angry, I guess. But here we go: some good things:
He remembered that I like W.S. Merwin & got me the Library of America for Christmas this year. And a collection of Mary Oliver’s prose, the only book of hers I didn’t own.
He’s mostly stopped questioning if I’m going to finish everything on my plate, and mostly stopped huffing when I pull my plate away from him when we’re out to eat and I leave half for lunch the next day.
He can every once in a while be counted upon to cook steak tips for supper, which are pretty much one of my favorite food groups.
He tries, tries again. He sometimes succeeds. He was trying harder to be less grumpy last week. It wasn’t perfect, and he didn’t apologized when he did snap at me, but he did at least get the hell over himself PDQ.
… And… that’s it right now, which is sad, that those are only things I can think of that don’t come wih some flip side when he’s being an ass. But I’ll work on it some more.