Friday, December 17, 2010

The Family Tree

Further reflections on yesterday's conversation. It is full of Freudian 101 angst and just a way to put some thoughts down:

As I look to get to a comfortable place in my relationship with my own mother, yesterday's conversation brought two things to light and today I will find a way to thank her for them without going into detail about my Aunt. 1. Despite our issues and her issues with Pebbles, she would never, ever talk about me or my sister or Pebbles in such a manner. 2. She has never, ever said a bad word to or about my Grandmother. She hated the way the family "teased" grandmother.

And all of this has started me to thinking more about my Dad. And what our relationship was really like. And this is not to dig up bones, but to try to get a better grasp of what makes me tick. In the past, some of these insights have proven to be invaluable. Example being, when I realized how much of my behavior was a direct result of need/wanting affirmation and I realized that I would have to do a little self-parenting as there was a whole set of life-skills that I just didn't possess. Or when a therapist suggested I read up on the symptoms and pathology of ACOA, even though there were no alcohol issues - that the compulsive spending/hoarding issues had much the same effect on the family dynamics. With those insights, I was able, to some degree, to put away the negative talk and pick up with assessment in a lovingkindness sort of way. To be able to say to myself, "Self, wow, you are acting just like an XXXX would behave in this situation, is that really what you want? What can you do to change the situation?" Which was much more helpful than "You stupid idiot, what the hell are you doing? Screwing things up again?" stuff that I engaged in for a long time.

Which brings me to my membership in the Dead Daddy Club (tm) ABCHAO. When a parent dies young, especially tragically, it's almost as though they are canonized. I haven't done any real research, but I expect there are some pathologies that are pretty similar across children. I was always told how much my Dad loved me and there is no reason to doubt that. However, this morning I have to wonder just how good he was at parenting and how much of this kind of stuff I internalized? I don't remember a lot and what I do remember has more to do with my failures than anything else. Is that my memory or his legacy? Who knows. I suspect the real truth lies somewhere in between.

1. The dieting thing - I was not a fat child. I was round faced and I was bigger than my cousins of the same age. My mother looked like an Amazon compared to those less-than-five-foot adult women in his family. And yes, I may have had some pudge, but what I was left with was that I was fat and fat was unacceptable.

2. More family lore: My dad wanted a boy. He had a name all picked out. No girls name considered. When I arrived "a split tail" as he said, he still called me by the boys name. My mom changed the spelling of it to feminize it, but all my family and most people up home know me by that name. I find it really interesting that I didn't select it as my nom de net.

3. I got boy gifts from him. I don't believe in giving only gender specific gifts, but this was a bit different. Guns, race tracks, and even a motorcyle when I was about 9 or so. I do remember him getting so upset that I couldn't ride it. I couldn't hold it up and when I'd try to turn, I'd fall over.

4. I got ski lessons as a gift. We lived about an hour and a half from a ski mountain and he wanted me to learn to ski. So he contacted a friend of his from high school who was the chaperone for the high school ski program and arranged for me to take ski lessons. I think I was 7. I know that I hated every fucking minute of this. Here I was, this little kid on the ski bus with all of these high school kids going up the mountain to take lessons and to ski by myself. My mom said it broke her heart to send me up there, but Dad wanted me to learn to ski and so I tried. Anxiety, I feel, has plagued me most of my life. Was it innate to me or was it a result of things like this - trying to do more than what I was capable of?

5. And the last of the family lore. The last time my mom talked to my dad before he died, they were walking out to the plane on a Sunday. And they were fighting. He wanted her to keep me home from the fair so that I wouldn't "embarrass myself" by showing up riding an $85 horse, having had no formal riding lessons and having to compete with all the doctors and lawyers kids and their expensive "purebreds". My mom told him that I had worked hard and that I was going and that I was good. I went to the fair on Wednesday and won every class I went in. His plane went down on Friday.

ETA: Okay, dial it back, Roxie. It was a county fair, not The Grand National. You are not National Velvet.

This isn't about laying blame. People do what people do. This is about putting together some of the pieces in my life. Examining those "truths" that I've carried though my life to see if they really are true. To view things with some age and perspective, some recovery and some other tools that the ten year old me didn't have. And with that, I can sort of get to, "Well, it's no wonder" rather than flailing myself with a wire whip - it's just more pebbles to the path of self-acceptance - because from what I see looking back, I came from a performance-based system.


  1. I know this post was more for you than for your readers, Roxie; I'm grateful however, for the opportunity to get to know you better. How tragic about your father. I'm so sorry about that.
    After my difficult year this year, I began therapy and am amazed by how my entire adulthood has been shaped by things that affected me as a child. You're absolutely right: It's no wonder! I think to myself; like a slap upside the head. Even though we cannot change the past, somehow it makes things seem less crazy when we know why we carry things the way we do. Of course, that's only half the problem, right? The other half is working on change. Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing all of that.

  2. Examining the past can be painful and difficult, but many of us are still dealing with our childhoods as adults. Perhaps that's why we still have the desire to overeat. Based on studies and documented in psychological/social work literature, many overeaters have had difficult or abusive childhoods. Family myths are also often harmful and are best dismantled and discarded. Good for you for digging into your "stuff." It's a brave, intelligent thing to do.

  3. Your past absolutely makes your present. Examination for clarity is one thing, wallowing and blaming is another. I see you examining here and that can only be good.

  4. I have struggled with the whole examination versus blame thing on my own blog...wanting to explore for the sake of healing without coming across like someone who blames everyone else for my problems.

    You're doing a great job and I applaud you for sharing...for going to that uncomfortable place.

    I can relate to much of what you shared yesterday and today.

    On a related note, I've been reading an amazing book called The Gifts Of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I highly HIGHLY recommend it.

  5. I had no idea you lost your father like that, and boy, the things you did as a child in the name of pleasing him are quite amazing. Hope the examination of your past helps your future.

  6. Been following you for quite some time but first-time comment. This post really resonates, as did the previous post about your aunt's comments. Family dynamics are so intriguing. Today's post has me thinking about the 'family lore' in my family tree. Thank you for sharing the honesty.


We'll try this for a while.