Ever wonder why you are who you are, or how very generally you became “you”? Maybe I am the odd gal out, but I think about this so often that it has become commonplace for us to discuss as a family over dinner. Okay, fine, I am not a conceded person, so allow me to explain. As a family, we discuss each other (not just me), and characteristics that we individually have which either reminds us of each other or someone else in the family that we have seen behave a certain way.
I’m certain my stubbornness which for purpose of this writing will call my “stick-with-it-ness” comes from all sides, angles, and branches of the family tree, while my whit and humor glaringly come from my father who undoubtedly got it from my charismatic and fun-loving grandfather and grandmother.
Most people don’t know how to take my humor, and quite honestly I have spent most of my life laughing at myself and my circumstances until I just one day stopped. My ability to bring smiles and make others laugh has always been something I am not only proud of but ultimately brings me great joy, as I get to see a glimmer of my lifelong inspiration, my grandfather, come out of me. Just like most things special to us, we take a pause and can easily recognize when those things we care about are disrupted. In my lifetime thus far, I can recall two such moments of disruption, which sadly, although several decades apart relate to each other.
A Trauma Trigger, otherwise known as just a “trigger” as referred on by on Wikipedia as a psychological event that engages a memory of a prior traumatic event.
For nearly two years, a trigger was engaged from my past which I did not identify with until it was too late and ultimately landed me in the hospital. After months of feathering the gas and pressing my triggers, the ride ended after a life-altering crash, when the pedal reached the floor, and I collapsed. The “collapse” I had was not physical but more psychological, as I felt more lost than I had felt in my entire life. The second disruption was the cardiac event I experienced, which if you want to read about are covered to some extent in The Glass House: A Fractured Ceiling and Psychological Warfare: Interoffice Battle.
You may be asking yourself, “Okay, where was the first disruption”? If you’re like me, you may be wondering if I will ever get to the point, so I appreciate you bearing with me as I have contemplated many times even sharing what’s to follow.
Ever heard the old saying, “the first man a daughter will ever truly love is her father”? I am sure there are some daughters out there that have had some amazing relationships with their father, and they are inseparable, while for others, that connection seems like a mere dream.
I grew up going by ‘Princess’ as that is what my daddy always knew me as. To this day, even now in my forties, when asked, my father would refer to me as ‘Princess’, which I’ve been known by since birth. I’ll be the first, out of the two of us to openly admit we have had some ups and downs as you’d expect from any normal relationship. Despite what we’ve gone through, I have always waved the white flag for my dad and jumped to his defense, supported him, and been there for him in all the moments humanly possible in an attempt to repay him for letting me be his ‘Princess’. Admittedly, there has never been a moment in time, I’d ever say no to my daddy out of fear that it would send him in a spiral of disappointment with my actions.
Over the years, I can honestly say I could never think of a time where I’d ever consider saying a simple “no”, or even “no more” until there was.
On May 26, 2019, my daddy broke a promise. The context of the promise is irrelevant and quite frankly immaterial overall in substance, so I’ll save that story for another day. What mattered at that moment, is the flurry of discussion that ensued once I saw his dedication to breaking a near decade-long promise.
It was at this moment I immediately knew the conversation was unsalvagable, however out of respect stood still, and somewhat froze. It was kind of one of those instances, where I was there listening (I was taking it all in), but his voice almost felt like it was fading away into the distance.
While receiving a barrage of excuses as to why breaking such a long commitment was acceptable, expressing that my opinion was irrelevant, all while drawing parallels between our family circumstances and that of the Prodigal Son story, I quite honestly grew numb. The discouraging remarks were like daggers sunk into my body. This continued for what seemed an eternity until I caught a look from my husband. His glance was all I needed to “kick” me into gear, “pick myself up”, and reclaim dignity and courage to withdraw from a spiraling situation.
I stated my final position, agreeing to dissolve the prior commitment to each other, and quickly walked towards my husband who was standing by our car ready to pull out from the driveway where we had been parked after a weekend visit with my grandmother. My father of course quickly followed behind and stopped at the front of my car to continue the dispute in anger (Although not desirable, my father gained his softer and not so softer sides from my grandfather, who also had a history of flaring up). I looked towards my husband again, and back at my father, and stated, “I will do as you have asked. I am sorry, but we need to leave now”. If there was ever a moment, I was proud to have such a good man in my life as my husband, it was then. As I went to get in the car, my father continued raising his voice and directing remarks towards my husband that were returned with kindness, and confirmation that it was time for us to leave.
Now, are you ready for it? The trigger referred to earlier, remember that? As I went to get in the car, my father said…
If this is how we are going to end our relationship, then so be it.My daddy
This remark took the daggers and twisted them for maximum impact.
I will never forget the four-hour drive home for as long as I live. Flooded with emotion, the girl who once always saw the positive in life and silver lining, had a lifelong history of what seemed to be constant arguments, displeasure, and unhappiness consume her with emotion. This emotion was followed by grief when I realized the ‘Princess’ that once existed was no more…
Sure, everyone says time heals, I get it, if that is your perspective, however, the time required is not for the faint of heart, especially if you are known as a “healer” and one who spends their life “fixing” what is broken. Unfortunately, I did not realize the personal and emotional toll this would take on someone like me who spends all my time helping and supporting others.
Nearly two years passed, while in between, a global pandemic came on the scene, and my family suffered the loss of our great matriarch since I had spoken to my parents. After all, he said our relationship had ended, right?
I truly understand people say things in the heat of the moment, and more often than not, regret every word, however, is it our job as the recipient to simply let it run off like water on a ducks back? The short answer here is, no.
What I didn’t realize until months into this period of “silence” and what I will consider a timeframe of reflection for me; it was not a single remark that “triggered” me that day. On the drive home which provided several hours of discussion with my husband, it was as if I gained immense clarity that my trigger was shaken by the culmination of similar remarks that haunted me for a lifetime leading up to that moment and what solidified the need to truly give him what was stated, an end.
Now look, I’m not a heartless human being at all, so I feel like I must explain myself a tad. The “END” for me was a bit different than what he actually stated. I drove away that day with clarity that manipulative and hasty remarks thrown at me over a lifetime needed to stop, not our relationship. At the end of the day, he is my father, and that will forever be the case. However, my pain that day came from the need to cut off the relationship in order to “end” the things I did not like. I always knew that cutting off the relationship was a necessary action to force a period of healing and recovery. In other words, although not said out loud, when I said goodbye, it was more like, “I’ll see you when I’m ready”, rather than “Okay, have a nice life” before pulling away.
Over the course of nearly two years, I learned a lot about myself and my family, but more importantly, I was able to clearly express the type of person I am and who I aspire to be. That person is one of love, support, strong character, empathy, open-minded, but above all, a person who is not consumed by fear. Considering all the significant life events I’ve gone through, I still did not realize how full of fear I still was, until I drove away with the thought that my father never wanted to see me again. I pride myself on being a pretty tough cookie, but this truly took the wind out of my sails. What is important to note though, is the wind did not stay gone. For several months, I was in pain, a heart full of sorrow and eyes full of tears with the loss that I had experienced, and although not sure what got ahold of my brain one day, it’s like my entire perspective got flipped on its edge. I had NOTHING to be afraid of, I was not the problem!
A lot of us spend our entire lives trying to make our parents happy (well, I did, or at least used to) just so we can see their faces beam with pride. It was a gut punch for me when I felt like I had failed my father (even though I didn’t), so for months, I blamed myself for my fathers actions, but when that light bulb clicked on, it was as if a brand new me had emerged – I like the new ME!
Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe you’ve not gone through the exact scenario, or maybe you have, but either way, thought I’d share with you some points around the “what” and the “why” that drove my actions in hopes to help you navigate similar circumstances.
So what actions did I take?
- Took a break! – This “break” was as long or as short as I personally needed it to be but was never intended to be permanent.
- Identified a hobby to refocus my mental energy – For me, it was sewing that allowed me to “reconnect” with my grandmother who was my original teacher.
- Reconnected with friends and my “inner circle” – It is always important to have a “circle” of your closest friends (even if they are family) that knows your story and can be trusted for honest feedback.
- Networked with others who experienced similar “disconnections” with their parents – This translated for me to join a children of narcissistic parents social group to share in experiences. [I’ll explain this one further in a future article]
- Carved off dedicated time for my faith – Intentional time with God through prayer, meditation, and reading scripture brought me clarity.
- Forgave myself – Although in that one moment, I did not create the problem, I needed to forgive myself for the times in my life where I was not the “perfect” child. This was a must in order to proceed to what comes next.
- Forgave my parents – I carried out this action in two distinct steps:
- I wrote a letter that poured out a lifetime of hurt and pain followed by somewhat of a call for peace by saying there was an “open door” and then more importantly conveying a message of forgiveness.
- I made an intentional trip home where I could then share those same words of, “I forgive you” in person.
Each of the above were crucial pieces that if ignored, or even halfway followed through would no doubt have left me in a state of hurt which would only perpetuate the grief in losing such an important relationship in my life.
Finally, why did I do all of this?
- Awareness and understanding – Whether it was through reconnecting with my “inner circle” networking with new friends, or simply communicating with my spouse, sharing my feelings out loud with others gave my own, but also allowed others to share in perspective which solidified my thoughts and affirmed feelings.
- Peace – This was achieved by sharing, but then once the understanding was gained, and I realized I was not the systemic problem, I felt a bit of a euphoric release in my heart. I knew this moment was achieved when the little demons running around in my thoughts were squashed (Don’t give a funny look here, we all have them)!
- Respect – Whether they (my parents) choose to acknowledge it or not, sharing feelings honestly is one of the best forms of respect you can give or receive.
- Freedom – It is liberating when you are able to express yourself completely without the fear of repercussions. I truly felt like the HULK, breaking off chains that were placed on me from the time I was little that were always hindering my ability to truly speak my mind and share honest perspectives.
We all have our burdens in life, some more extreme than others, but out of this experience, if there is one thing I can leave you with that is the common thread to how I conquered this hurdle in my life, it’s the absolute necessity to express “Your Truth”. Whatever your truth is, no one can refute it, so long as it is honest. Your feelings are yours, and yours alone, but if you never express them, how will the world and those around you ever know there is a larger issue at hand that needs to be resolved?
My truth, was not so easy to express, and although I had to “dig”, I did not have to dig too deep before I remembered, my grandfather without fail, always told his truth – this likely stemmed from his courageous ways and “thick skin” that gave him the confidence to just say what he felt. Whatever the case, I choose to believe that although I had a hard time getting there, as soon as realized that I too shared in some of these same characteristics, it was likely I too had the fortitude to express how I felt.
So at the end of the day, maybe I have the characteristics that I do in order to help me navigate times such as these and I’ve been fortunate enough to stave off the less desirable characteristics that drove me away from my family for two years.
Peace be with you my friend…
Confidence doesn’t always come naturally, and often times we need support to gain and build upon it. If you are looking for support in your growth journey because something is holding you back, I encourage you to check out my background at www.nancymouellette.com and connect to see how I may be able to help!
I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by following me on Twitter @nancymouellette and Facebook @OwnYourPurpose
Credit where it’s due!
Elorfaly, O., Kgomotso Seko, Senkosky, E., Hinchliffe, T., & Guia, S. B. (2019, August 1). A new hope for women empowerment in Africa. The Sociable. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from https://sociable.co/business/new-hope-women-empowerment-africa/.
Marcel. (2014, October 29). Very old path between Two hedges by Marcel. Stocksy United. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from https://www.stocksy.com/434439/very-old-path-between-two-hedges.