“I’m a fan of you, Molly Daniels, in your entirety,” he
Granted we later slept together. But I digress.
I had the good fortune to spend time last night with several
women I admire. I shared with them what’s going on with my father and my
having to make the decision to attend his wedding in lieu of performing in the
play in which I’m cast.
One of them reflected: “I’m sorry your dad is not able to
And when I listen to this more deeply and clearly, it is a
bell of truth.
The fantasy and illusion I’ve abided by for years has been
that if I am a good daughter, a good girl, a devoted and doting woman, then I
will be seen. The delusion is that my people-pleasing will make him see me. But. This is false.
I have tried many times, this path of behaving. And I’ve
tried its opposite, being a wanton, crazed, rebellious teen and young adult, in
order to be seen.
But what struck me this morning was this image: You know
when someone has a lazy eye, and you’re not really sure where to look, so
sometimes you just look at their forehead? Or if you’re trying to avoid
someone’s eye for another reason, you focus somewhere else that sort of looks like you’re looking at them, but you’re not?
That’s how I feel with my dad. That he never actually looks
directly at me, which is why I’ve tried to make the trappings around me so much
larger or different or “approvable” or “disapprovable.” If you can’t see me,
maybe you’ll see the life I’ve built that meets with your military/engineer’s strict
sense of correct.
If I have the job you can brag about, … but that’s not me. I
am not my job.
If I have the relationship with you you can brag about, …
but that’s not me. We don’t know each other.
If I have the life you can brag about, … but I’ve tried
that. You threw my own failings in my face.
I have tried to make the external parts of me approvable
enough for you. But even those periphery trappings (and they are “trappings”)
have not been enough to hone your focus onto the all of me. Me in my entirety.
I didn’t know that was what I’ve been seeking until my
friend told me he saw me. I didn’t know that was what I’ve been missing,
and making a pretzel out of my life and myself in order to make happen.
If I want to please my father so he sees me, what do I think
will happen if he sees me, “in my entirety?” … I don’t think I can answer that.
Except to say he’d love me, in a way that I could feel.
Because here’s the thing: If he’s looking around me, and not at me, he’ll never love me in a way that
I feel. He may “love” or approve
of the things around me, the life I meticulously and back-bendingly try to
arrange around myself. But that’s still not me.
This is a system, a relationship in which I am not seen. The
one thing I want to glean from it is the one thing I cannot have.
In reading Brene Brown so voraciously right now, I can know
this: He’s not able to be vulnerable enough to do that.
To see me, is to expose himself, is to open himself to being
vulnerable, and for him, that is not an
option. His whole life has been built on a foundation, a faulty one (well, in
my own estimation), that precludes true connection, because he is unable to
look at and love himself. I know how this formed, and I can only presume the
pain that’s caused, because he’s never shown it. (Except in these indirect ways.)
Brene writes that men deal with vulnerability in one of two
ways: Rage or shut-down. (She also writes about those who find ways
out of that dichotomy, but those are the go-to’s without the tools to do
anything differently. And surely, those aren’t the only means to deal, but it’s her
research, not mine!)
I know that when I told my dad that I might not be able to
come to his wedding because I’ll be in a play that weekend, when he put on his “I insist” voice, that was his way of hiding his vulnerability, his
disappointment and hurt. I know that this was rage to mask actual feelings. I
know that this rage was to protect and prevent of moment of true connection, in
which something different might have been said like, “I’d really love for you
to be here. It would mean a lot to me.”
That directness is too vulnerable.
To look me in the eye and say that is too vulnerable.
To see us both as humans doing a dance of having a
relationship, instead of as a master and a servant, a “father” and a “daughter,”
is too vulnerable.
If I can’t squash it or approve of it, I can’t deal with it.
I “get” this. I get and have compassion for and understand
this dilemma for him. Also, this is a dilemma that I’ve prescribed for him; true or
not, it’s only my interpretation.
But, like I said before, it’s my choice how I want to engage
in this “relationship.” Because for as long as I can remember, I’ve been waving
my arms in an effort to start one. An effort in vain. And my arms are tired.
Brene writes that shame is countered by self-love, and that
shame resilience is a practice, not a diploma.
“I’m a fan of you, Molly Daniels, in your entirety.”
I’m going to have to say this phrase to myself, repeatedly.
To truth-test the thoughts of “not good enough” – especially “not good enough daughter” – as this future unfolds.
I’m going to have to truth-test my fantasies around this
relationship versus the reality, and I’m going to have to accept, even for a
minute at a time, that this relationship is the way it is, and that my father
is the way he is.
I’ve heard many times that “acceptance is not the same as
approval.” No, this isn’t ideal. But turning my life into a pretzel to garner a
connection I will never (or not today) have, is the worse fate.