Daddy Issues

I didn’t know what to expected when I started the Passion Search workshop I’m doing, but I don’t think I expected it to be as emotionally challenging as it has turned out.

A lot of the homework has involved reviewing high and low points in my life and trying to understand what helped or hindered me at that time. It’s brought up a lot of memories I just hadn’t put much thought towards, and I’m finding that some of them are more painful than I realized. Mostly stuff that involves my father.

As a general rule, I don’t think much about my father. And when I do, it’s usually annoyance. I won’t go into my life story. The short version is that I didn’t live with my father until my teens, and he ended up being an emotionally abusive alcoholic. Somehow he managed to be both domineering in steering my life choices while also absent and uninterested in being involved with my life.

He died six years ago, after I had stopped talking to him for seven years. He was fifty-three, and his liver slowly failed him as he puked up blood every day. I can’t find it in myself to mourn his
passing. I feel angry that his other two sons were left wondering about the mystery figure that
spawned them and then disappeared from their lives. I feel disappointed that he will never see how awesome his grandkids are.

But I don’t feel bad that he’s dead.

Somewhere in my twenties, I stopped thinking about life with my dad. Up until then, I’d put a huge weight on the story of my suffering. But I got tired of talking about it. And as I stopped talking about it, I stopped thinking about it. And I felt that it no longer had an impact on me. It had been a long time ago, and besides the man was dead.

But as I’ve been working on the homework for class, all of the angst of being a teenage boy who had no friends and felt unwanted by his parents has come bubbling back up. Which is really a miserable sort of thing to relive. Especially as I’ve started to see the building blocks of problems I’m having with my life now that I’m almost forty. On the upside, it’s helped me understand how that time in my life has impacted the choices I’ve made since then. On the down side, it’s pretty painful to dredge all this back up.

I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. But here’s a fun fact: when I was thirteen or
fourteen, I desperately wanted to go to Mars. My body literally ached with the desire to go there. It marched through my veins like the proverbial radioactive rubber pants.

Through convoluted rationalization, I decided that the best life choice was to become an engineer. It was a responsible career, and I convinced myself that I could leverage into going into becoming an astronaut and going to Mars. And so my life became about “becoming an engineer,” and I forgot about that part of me that wanted to see Mars.

That Mars-seeking part of me is still there. I’m obviously not going to be an astronaut at this point in my life, let alone get to Mars. And, seriously, the thought of me designing planes and spaceships should terrify you. But I feel like this memory is a cookie crumb in the dark forest. That the desire to explore a strange and alien world reflects an essential part of me that I have ignored.

Maybe it’s the same thing that fuels my desire to write. Maybe it’s something else. But I’m getting closer to understanding.

1 thought on “Daddy Issues

  1. jublke

    Before my husband and I could get married in the Catholic Church, we had to attend pre-marital counseling sessions. With a priest. I remember thinking, what can I learn from him about relationships? But one of his assignments for us was to look at all of our early caregivers and write out their most prominent positive and negative attributes: needy, distant, loving, supportive, etc. After that, we had to choose the two traits – positive and negative – that had the greatest impact on our childhood. And then, he said, “Now look to your partner. He or she will likely embody those two traits.” I remember being blown away by this – both that it was so accurate for us and that I would take that negative trait along with me, like some sort of filthy security blanket. Not sure why I felt compelled to recount this here – I just wanted to say that you’re doing good work and that the insights will help you to have a better future, even if they are painful realizations. I am still married to the guy that embodied the best and worst of my caregivers – 20 years down the road.

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