Jun 17, 2012

Dream Daddies and Narcissists

It's Father's Day, a day that has long been a source of pain for me.

When you are small, your father is like Superman to you.  Regardless of who or what he really is, Daddy is the strongest, handsomest, most powerful man in your world.  

My father left me when I was 8 years old, after years of being a wayward husband with a long suffering and increasingly desperate wife.  At that age I had already learned the subtle art of picking up what went unsaid, or reading looks that adults thought passed above my head.  I can remember being in a pharmacy and having a young woman remark that I had to be my father's daughter.  I can remember the way my mother's body stiffened as she affirmed it and then rushed me out of the store and acted like it hadn't happened.  I can remember feeling guilty and ashamed and having no idea what to do about it.  I felt I had done something wrong, even though I knew I hadn't.  This feeling had become the constant background of my life.

For years I nurtured the belief that he would come back for me.  Occasionally, he did, accompanied by a new girlfriend who often turned out to be his next wife and always had kids of her own.  

I've had 6 step-mothers.  

So far.

I had a lot of wonderful family to fill the gaps, but I let the absence of him color my picture of myself, and I always came up wanting, lonely, abandoned and lacking.  This has been my biggest challenge to overcome.

By the time I left home my longing for the Daddy of my dreams had been replaced by a justifiable anger at his absence.  Despite the presence of a wonderful step-father the shame and anger had made a hole in my soul that I could not seem to fill.

Out in the world I made my own way and learned again the lesson that I thought I already knew: men could not be trusted.  It had become a self-fulfilling prophecy for me.  My father's behavior over those years erased the dream Daddy I had believed in and cold hard facts left me with disappointment and shame big enough to fill an ocean.  That's what it felt like, anyway.  Eventually I realized that both the dream and the reality were just small facts in my life, and I was the only one to whom they were huge, neon-lit, glaring objects.  It was a big relief.  Luckily I have always been a girl who was not afraid to take the bull by the horns.

When I found myself pregnant with my first child and finally quit letting his absence shadow the whole rest of my life, guess who showed up again?  With another new wife, (stepmother number 4) promises of having found God (again) pleas for forgiveness and begging me to let him be a grandfather, he roared away from my door on his motorcycle with another chance.

I still loved him. Can we ever stop?  I cautiously chose to believe, yet again, because I wanted, at most, a grandfather for my baby and, at least, not a gaping whole where one should be.

During the next few years we slowly built a connection.  It wasn't until my 5th stepmother came along that I actually was able to believe again without expecting it all to end at any moment.  She was the only stepmother I'd ever had that I considered normal.  She remains to this day one of the strongest Christians I've ever been blessed to know and is the last living person on my side of the "family" that my children call Grandma. 

He left her too, of course.  I can't say it came as a surprise, but I can say that it was the last time he ever hurt me.  I kept her.  For 13 years she had been a grandmother to my children and they did not remember a time without her in their lives.  Family really is who comes and never leaves your side.

As my children got older, I had to find a way to explain their grandfather's life to them.  In order to do this I had to take my own emotions out of it.  By then, taking my emotions out of it was pretty easy to do.  

The fact is that some people never grow up.  Some people, and I am not even saying that it is their fault, can only think of themselves.  Some people cannot get out of bed without their own needs and wants being met.  Some people will sacrifice everything else in their lives for this to be their reality.  They have gaping holes in their souls and can only look to outside forces to fill them.  They will leave their children, their job, their parents and siblings, unpaid bills, their churches that have accepted them back, AGAIN, all for someone or something that makes them feel good, even if it's only for a day.  

This is called narcissism:  Narcissistic Personality Disorder involves arrogant behavior, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration-all of which must be consistently evident at work and in relationships.  People who are narcissistic are frequently described as cocky, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding.But that is only after you've known them for awhile.  When you meet them they seem self-confident, smart, funny and charming.)  Narcissists may concentrate on unlikely personal outcomes (e.g., fame) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment.  They often get it, too, and the minute they don't they are back to looking for it.

The trick is not to get sucked into the cycle.  We can't control who our parents are, and we are not responsible for our parent's actions.

My father has a wonderful family, and we all had our hearts broken together, repeatedly.  We all have 'crazy' people in our lives, and there is nothing we can do about that.  What we can do, what I chose to do, is limit the amount of 'crazy' that I invited to come in my own front door.  This decision, while painful, was less painful than the alternative.

The time came where I chose to get off the merry-go-round and never look back.  I had seen it all before, multiple times, and the hard truth is that choices have consequences.  You can run, but you cannot hide from these consequences, at the end of the day you simply have to accept them.  The day he left us he made a choice.  Unfortunately it was a choice he would repeat more times than I care to remember.  I simply got to the point where I no longer believed he would change, and that was all right.  I felt like it was out of my hands, but it had never been in my hands in the first place.

For all the heartbroken children out there:
know that there will come a time of peace within yourself where you will not be hurt again, even if the only reason is that there is a scar where the hurt used to be.

Pray for those who hurt you.  It will be hard at first, but you will reach a point where you can do it automatically.  At this point you will know you are making progress.  I promise you, you will be better for it.

Believe that is does not have anything to do with you, because most times, it doesn't.  It is not your fault, you did not make the problem, and you cannot fix it.

Do not let it color the life you make for yourself, that would truly be a sin.  Listen to your heart, it's where God speaks to you.  

Your life is your own, and can be anything you want.  

Let it be beautiful.

Just let it be.