I’ve been told recently, by two people whom I value, that you cannot release someone from your anger if you are not ready and willing to reconcile the relationship. I passionately disagreed with both of them. Here is why… I refuse.
I refuse to open my heart to the hurt that would come rushing in if the relationship was allowed back in. The Hoover Dam would burst, and the pain would drown me.
I know this sounds dramatic, so I will elaborate.
Every year, for forty three years, I have attempted to make sense of this. Yes, even as an infant, it was confusing to me. I do not have evidence of hearing the yelling or feeling the pain from inside my mother’s womb, but I will argue that I remember.
If there was joy, it was temporary. The main emotion was fear.
We were slaves to it. It controlled us. It became us.
Never knowing what to expect, we tiptoed. We pleased. We became who he wanted us to be. Until who he wanted us to be changed. And then, the new expectation, and then it changed again.
As I write this, I finally see it as a disease. I see that he was controlled by an unknown. He knew what he wanted us to be, and how he wanted us to act, and what he needed to do to control us. And then, it changed. So, he demanded new actions, and new expectations. And then, it changed again.
One day, when my mom found courage within us, the three of us, she escaped. We were free from the daily tirade.
At first, everything was good. He seemed to have released his anger during the week, before we visited. He taught me how to ride my bike before the party, before the drinking. Or maybe he was drinking? He moved to a house on the lake, where I fished on the dock, rode go-carts, snowmobiles, played with our new pretend kitchen upstairs, went for boat rides, and had big parties. It felt normal. Every other weekend.
I fell in the lake once. I was rocking back and forth on a fold up canvas stool, sitting on the dock. It folded me up, and I fell in. That was the closest I’ve ever come to dying. As I was sinking, and then floating, but not floating up fast enough, running out of air, seeing the surface but realizing it was too far… I saw my grandpa’s hand reaching down toward me. Somehow, I reached my hand up and we made contact. He had polio, and a prosthetic leg. He acted quickly, when he saw me fall in (even though he was nowhere near the dock). He laid down on the dock and reached down into the water. He must’ve prayed too, because it was truly a miracle – that he saw me fall, that he got there in time, and that he was strong enough to yank me out of the water and onto the dock. I don’t remember what happened next. I just see his face and his arm and his hand, vividly – as if I am still under the water, waiting to be rescued.
We moved soon after that. To a house out in the country. I received my first spanking there, because I touched the wood stove, on accident. I was forced to eat whatever was served (even liver and onions), and… I got sick. I hated the weekends. I hated the anger. I hated the fear.
I found some courage once, to refuse to go. I was told that if I didn’t change my mind that I must not love him. That I wasn’t his daughter. That I hurt him. I changed my mind.
I missed my friends’ birthday parties so that I could be his daughter.
I became someone else. Someone who wanted to be accepted as his daughter.
I grew up thinking that this was normal. To become the person that someone else wants you to be. To avoid the guilt trips, and the pain.
I didn’t realize how much it hurt to set myself aside so that I could be accepted. Set aside everything I wanted, to be called his daughter.
The details are blurry from age 8 to age 18. Blurry, or numb maybe. I didn’t really feel any emotions. I just jumped through the hoops, and tried to meet the ever-changing expectations.
I accumulated identities. None of them mine. Just whoever I thought I was supposed to be.
We stopped talking a few times, when things would escalate and the person I was trying to be just wasn’t good enough, one too many times.
I became someone else. The me I was always meant to be. I found my identity.
I no longer wanted to be anyone else, for anyone else.
I broke free.
So, that is why I refuse. I refuse to reconcile.
I refuse to be the person I would have to become all over again, in order to meet the ever changing expectations. I would have to go back through everything I’ve been through, endlessly in order to please him. I refuse.
Instead, I release him. And all of the identities that he created for me.
The Hoover Dam can burst, and I will not drown.
I am the me I was meant to be.