Art therapy & A breakthrough convo with my Dad

I’m not much of an artist, but in my quest to engage in activities with my kids I decided to jump right into the drawing and painting and creative process with them.

The great thing I learned is that when I take part in the activities I set up for them, their attention spans increase. My son (5), my daughter (3), and I all sat at the kitchen table drawing and painting for over an hour. We listened to music and looked over each others shoulders.

My masterpiece.
My masterpiece.

*****

Since December when I started this blog that quickly became a release for many of the mental health battles I have dealt with, I have been very inside my head trying to dissect the confusion, pain, anger, shame, and mistreatment of the past. I am discovering that by examining my life and taking a really good look at my demons, the more able I am to relieve myself of the woe. This process has been really helpful in my development as a person, outside of writing.

As I face reality I am becoming less wrapped up in all of my past problems. I am living in less of a dream world, that became comfortable to me, because it was an escape. And even though ‘my pain’ will always be greater than ‘your pain’, I also realize that your pain will always be greater than mine. If that makes sense.

Basically what I am saying is that many of us are fighting a battle and our battles are always ‘the worst’ thing in the world. For ourselves; not for anybody else. No one else could know how bad ‘this thing’ is that we are dealing with — and they can’t, because all they know is their own life. Learning this has made me realize that I don’t need to project to the world that I am the only frail human being. I’m not.

While, yes, my life and combination of my experiences are atypical I am not alone in bearing scars. The more I acknowledge my scars and talk to others the more hopeful I feel about the rest of my life. The more internal peace I am creating. The more control I am gaining over my mental illnesses. The more normal I feel. The more calm I feel. The more self-confident I feel. The more comfortable in my skin I am becoming. The more sober I am. The more connected I feel to other people because I am not living in mental isolation.

In other words, I feel less sorry for myself. And what a wonderful thing. People who feel sorry for themselves or wallow in self-pity are unattractive. I am not afraid to say that’s been me before.

I am also not hiding from anything anymore. Instead of coping (with too much alcohol at times) or burying my emotions, I am confronting what bothers me. Saying scary things out loud. Writing about sensitive topics. Muddling through confusion. Feeling the pain. Seeing clearly. Letting go. And goddamnit I feel good.

***

When I think about what to write next on this blog, because I still have more work ahead of me, the word “self-absorbed” creeps into my thoughts. I find myself asking myself how I can be less focused on myself. You see. That’s three uses of ‘myself’ in just one sentence!

But instead of berating myself (there I am again), I decided that for the purposes of this blog it’s all about me. Me, me, me!

The biggest reason is because I am making PROGRESS on my path to recovery or reformation or transformation or whatever you want to call it. Big time progress.

For example, I finally talked to my Dad about some of the pent-up emotions I’ve lived with twenty-some years. I put a finger on what has bothered me the most. It’s the way he DISMISSES my every thought or emotion that contradicts his own. Growing up I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know how to stand up for myself, or that that was even a choice.

During my talk with him, he accused me of having “my head buried in the sand.” Not anymore, Dad. I’m not going to allow you to silence my opinions and shut me down every time I get emotional, or God forbid have an original thought.

I bet he’ll welcome it. At some point I have to grow up, right?! When I was younger and under his command (yes, command) and financial dependence I didn’t have much say. But since then, why haven’t I realized until now that I DO have a say. It’s like I was so programmed into believing that I didn’t, when it came to his and my relationship, that I had absolutely no idea how to have a voice. I didn’t have the maturity to deal with his domineering ways. It didn’t help that I was so starved for his affection and attention.

As we talked and I sobbed and “blubbered” as he called it, I know he HEARD me. As for me, it felt great to WEEP (the correct word to use here). To weep away some of the pain and let go of my resentment toward him when it comes to the way he dismisses me.

Finally. After all these years.

I decided I am not going to punish him or blame him or hold a grudge against him anymore. Until talking to him, I don’t think I ever really knew how much resentment I was living with, because we’ve managed to patch up our relationship quite well since his affair and the demise of my parents marriage.

Even though I have still been sensitive to some of the things my Dad says to me, no more. Mostly he is respectful and he loves my children with a whole heart. I’ll focus on that and I’ll love him without restraint and I’ll stop dwelling on his faults.

As we talked he didn’t bow down to me in apology or put his arm around me or try to comfort me in any type of physical or emotional way. Yet, I felt strong. VERY STRONG. Moving forward I am not ever going to expect anything like that from him because it’s caused nothing but disappointment. I am not going to expect his remorse for all the undeserving verbal/emotional abuse he forced on me. I am not going to jeopardize my self-worth based on his approval. I am not going to do back flips or waste my time trying to explain my mental health problems, that in part, he still refuses to acknowledge. (F’ing stigmas!!).

Instead, I AM going to stop circling him like a puppy dog just waiting for a pat on the head. This. Is. Freeing.

I am liberated knowing that I am going to stop letting the past make me feel bad. I am going to stop holding him responsible. Even if he never completely reforms or stops dismissing me, I am ridding myself of anything negative that he projected on me, unintentionally or not. I recognize now that I have the power within myself to do this.

Holy shit, I think I just graduated into the next grade of maturity?

Cool. I mean, the school year is winding down, and aren’t we all just students of life?

*****

A few days after “our little talk” I was nervous when I called him to tell him something. I don’t want to drive a wedge between us. Through thick and thin, I do love the man. He didn’t answer, but called me back promptly.

Immediately he asked me, “How are you doing?”

I said, “Great!”

(Because it’s the truth — I feel damn good after talking to him).

He laughed and said, “So do you feel great because you scolded your father?”

I simply said, “Yes,” and we moved on.

Certainly, my Dad and I have a bizarre relationship. Laced with a lot of tough love, I think I am softening inside, while simultaneously putting armor on the outside. Everything is going to be alright. And now I feel damn gooder.

*****

When I look at the picture (above) that I drew with my kids I look at it with complete understanding. An understanding of why I am the way I am. That picture is helping me visualize where I want to go from here. I am certain I’ll need a bigger piece of paper and more thoughts specific ideas and time with others.

For now, I am trying to be content about where I am in THIS MOMENT and in this day.

2 thoughts on “Art therapy & A breakthrough convo with my Dad

  1. Thank you for sharing such an intense moment. It sounds like you have a unique relationship with your dad and that talking to him brought out some strong emotions. At the same time, the art has provided some release for being present, here. I find it confronting talking to my mum about stuff from the past so I can relate somewhat. It can be hard to be open but I am not sure why – maybe Catholic guilt in my situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great that you can talk to your mom, even if confrontational at times. I am learning that it’s ok, helpful even. I feel some guilt, too, but I will always try to honor my mother and father above all.

      Liked by 1 person

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