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The Bardo.

My best friend from New Jersey is in town this week, and
I’ve decided that, unlike when my brother was in town, I’m going to try my best
to stick to my morning routine, despite the guest (as I know it made me a
little less serene without it when my bro was here!).
My dad wrote me back from my email asking for less rather than more contact, as I’d asked for space to work some things through. His email was pretty harsh, manipulative, and angry. I read it on Christmas night, as I
sat with my best guy friend from SF (well, originally from Philly) at Chinese
food, after seeing a movie (the perfect Jewish Christmas, as per our usual 4- or
5-year standing tradition).
I’m, well, a) reaching out for help around it, and b) not
letting it dictate how I feel about myself. He wrenched out a whole bunch of
ugly things I did before I stopped drinking, as if to say basically, here’s
what a fuck-up you’ve been, see how much you need me. Ahem. No.
Then again, maybe that’s not how he meant it, but… really, I
think it is.
What occurred to me, though, was that it is nearly exactly
what happened with an old friend of mine a few years ago. He’d come to visit me
in SF, and hadn’t told his girlfriend that he was actually staying in my
apartment (on the couch, in the living room). Later, after he returned home,
she found out and confronted him about it, he’d asked me to lie. I told him I
wouldn’t. And he got very argumentative, and texted me that, “Everyone was
right – you are a bad friend.” …
He’d known that had been a sore spot for me was about how good or not
a friend I’d been in the past and, master manipulator, he sought to gouge that
sore spot to guilt me into doing what he wanted me to do. – I saw it exactly
for what it was: a cheap shot intended to get to me to feel badly enough about
myself to say, huh, you know what, I am a bad friend, I better do what he says,
so then of course, I’m a good friend. 
The problem with his plan, and with my dad’s, is that I actually don’t feel bad about those things any more. Yes, those had been places of shame in the past, but guess what?! I’m healthier now! Check that shit out. I don’t think of these as places of shame anymore; they’ve lost the power they had to wound me anymore (or to dictate how I then tried to counter-balance, or numb, them).
Needless to say, I did not lie to his girlfriend, and he and
I have barely had contact in these intervening years.
When I read my dad’s email, I remembered this incident with
my friend so clearly – it was like a complete duplication of events. “Hey
Molly, let me rake over the coals all the ways in which you have been a fuck-up
in your life, so you can feel bad about yourself, and then realize that you, of
course, need me, and need to cow to how I think this relationship should go.”
Um – not going to happen buddy. A) how hurtful and unkind.
B) how lame.
In the end, of course, as always, it’s just sad, you know?
It’s just sad that we don’t have the relationship that works for either of us.
It’s sad that we’re at such cross-purposes and communication. It’s sad that the
love that we want from each other is not the love that we’re getting.
The other thing that occurs to me about it is that I’m not
toeing the party line anymore, and that’s fucking with him. When you have a
relationship based on a certain dynamic of dependence, and one of the people
begins to not play that game anymore, the system begins to fail. Because I am
not content any more to play into the game of “wayward daughter needs benevolent
father” what happens to the (ahem) “benevolent” father? The game doesn’t work.
The system falls apart, and because he’s needed these roles to be as they are,
just as I used to in the past, he loses his footing and he retaliates.
I get it. I get that he does feel confused about my asking
for more then less contact, but none of it excuses his subsequent, or previous,
ill behavior. There will be time for me to assess what my part has been in
maintaining and feeding the system of dependency, and potentially for me to
admit my part (I’m not an innocent, I know – but nor is it necessary for me to
think that owning my part means putting my tail between my legs and admitting
some kind of guilt or mea culpa to the grand judger of all).
It’s in-between. As my friend tells me, there’s a concept of
the bardo in Tibetan Buddhism, it means the state of being in transition, in
the middle, in between. All of our lives are filled with these liminal states,
and indeed, life itself can be conceived of as a bardo between birth and death,
a pause between the states of “non-being.”
And so it is with me, with you, with us all. In a state of
in-between, with how I relate to myself, my dad, the world. I’m in between who
and how I was and who and how I want to be. But at least that means I’m moving,
yes? At least it means I’m alive.

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