How I Forgave Them
Let me preface that forgiveness is unique to each induvidual. Everyone has a right to their experience without being pressured and shamed out of it by those around you so THEY can be comfortable. I have friends in similar circumstance who believe “forgiveness” is for those who are sorry, and I get that. This is simply my story.
My relationship with my nuclear family (Mom, Dad, Brother) had always been strained. I moved across the country six years ago, and not surprisingly in hindsight; things didn’t get better. It wasn’t until my divorce from an abusive husband a year and a half ago, we became estranged. My parents are arguably a tolken narcissistic relationship with my father being an enabler. They were all too happy to spend thousands on my wedding, yet in the midst of a complex and at times, messy crisis; They were the first to fade into the background. When I asked them why I hadn’t heard from them, and that I REALLY needed their (emotional only) support they exploded and blocked me. When asked, they told friends and family that I was too disrespectful and emotionally unhinged to deal with, and that they were just so worried about me. I felt angry, ashamed, abandoned, humiliated, worthless, unloveable. What was so wrong with me that they couldn’t love me? I had a wildly successful career, stayed in shape, was kind, carrying, attractive. I bought them nice gifts at Christmas and birthdays. Yet in contrast to my brother whom they adored, they never seemed happy in my company. I found it confusing when they were beaming bridal shower and wedding. What changed? What did I do to make them so upset that they would block me AND go on to cut me down to my friends and loved ones while I’m already going through an agonizing process. On the other side of the country. Alone. (Again, hindsight is a funny thing isn’t it?) When they hung up and blocked me, I snapped. Suddenly three decades of built up anger and frustration living in this dysfunctional cycle of use, abuse, discard, and stonewall boiled over. I think I always knew how little they cared for me, but watching it play out before my eyes was more than I could bear. I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and I was no longer willing to play along, and cover their unkindness and neglect so they could save face in front of friends and family. This time, I was not going to let them off the hook. Now I’m not saying it was the right way to go about it, but I couldn’t say I regret the angry, or nasty emails I fired off them. I don’t regret anything Ive said to or about them. I grew up not being allowed to have or express feelings, even when they dumped their feelings on me. I was expected to absorb their feelings AND mine…and move on. They exploited this conditioning for years, and I’d had enough. It was never my job to protect them from the natural consequences of their behavior..especially when it was directed at me. I told them off in every imaginable way. While I wasn’t ready to forgive them, I did learn how to forgive myself for being angry. That was my first step toward piece. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of forgiveness, since this all started. It dawned on me that they couldn’t give me what they didn’t have, and compassion and empathy were not something I’d seen them demonstrate toward anyone. Still, I’d seen them give it to themselves in boat loads so I knew they had it. I’d also never heard them apologize or even admit they screwed up to themselves…or anyone else. Yet, they seemed to know the difference between right and wrong so I believed them capable of that also. It was just their foolish pride and ego that kept them playing the victim, and the more their story fell apart, the sooner they’d come around and make amends.
HERE’S WHERE IT ALL CAME TOGETHER. I had to ask myself why I couldn’t grant them forgiveness. Was it because: they weren’t sorry? They were still actively exploiting the situation for attention and I believed I had something to prove? I felt like forgiving them was nothing more the completing the cycle and repeating the pattern? It all crossed my mind, until the truth hit me like a punch to the gut. Forgiving them meant letting go of the belief that they were more capable than their behavior would suggest. They had built a world around them designed to keep them feeling safe, comfortable, and worthy. Like avatars, they’d created these public persona’s to avoid having to deal with any pain or discomfort in their lives. Any deviation from this world made them uncomfortable, and was seen as a direct threat. My brother played along, but I could never bring myself to do it; to live unauthentically. That made them uncomfortable and resentful, and what I now understand is that was 100% about them and their desire to stay small. The way I look at it now…They’re sharks. Sharks are beautiful from a far. and they serve a purpose. However, when they smell blood in the water they become vicious and attack. My parents know they’re sharks, and like finding Nemo, they don’t want the image of predatory sharks. So try and pretend not to be sharks. They worked for years to create this “dolphin” persona and they will do ANYTHING to protect it. But when they smell blood… My brother the proverbial ‘Golden child’ is like those sucker fish that hang on to sharks as both an avoidance and defense tactic. So long as that fish is attached to that shark, they’re provided nutrition from eating algae on the sharks skin while safe from being eaten themselves. I like my life better.