The sun is shining outside, the wind is buffeting the leaves on the trees and I have been inside all day twisting around feeling like a caterpillar caught in the chrysalis that cannot get out no matter how hard it tries to form its wings, the wings are damaged or in the process something happened which did not allow the wings to form properly and so the part caterpillar, part butterfly flaps around on the ground, turning this way and that, unable to take flight.
Last week a friend I went to see Diana Krall perform and she sang a beautiful ballad about a butterfly trapped in the rain. The image was a potent one for me.
This week in therapy I have been exploring the killing energy of my Dad on my soul. It may seem like a little thing, but it was a huge thing, it was SUCH A PAINFUL THING to be told I could not go to University to study Arts or back to the College I was attending in the first year out from school to complete my teaching degree but instead to Metropolitan Business College where I died a little each day typing in triplicate, having to study shorthand, doing book-keeping.
At the same time I was given assistance to get a second job waitressing where the guy who owned it was sexually abusive. It wasn’t that the hard word was put on me, it was subtle leering the innuendos, the finger put through his other two fingers in the “fuck” sign to signal what he thought one of the kitchen staff should do to us. It was demeening and we just meant to laugh it off. DID YOU KNOW THAT DAD WHEN YOU GOT ME THAT FUCKING JOB?
Dad, everyone said you were a good Dad. You didn’t hit us but you never spent any time with me, asking me how I was getting along. Every day when you came home I got a brief hello and then you spent your time in the garden. When I felt insecure about my body because the boys used to taunt me for being so skinny they thought I had legs like matchstick so they called me “Federal”, I took some money out of your cupboard to send away to buy a breast enhancement cream. When you found out you only threatened me with the strap. But Dad you never spoke to me and tried to find out what was going on for me. You never talked to me, you never encouraged me.
I feel a bit shy to be even sharing about this. I can hear an inner voice or at least a voice of the collective saying to me. “Wow, that was years ago, haven’t you got over that by now”… “Don’t you think its time to move on.” But the truth is I just didn’t know intellectually before how all this hurt me. And how in not getting what I needed I still stayed bonded looking for it in all the wrong places. Despite the fact that I may have been able to find something better out there the lack of it drew me back like a phantom to the scene of the crime.
Because of the way you treated me, as an adolescent and young adult I was attracted to the guys who subtly didn’t really accept the full me. When they rejected me and blamed me, I took the blame. Instead of feeling that it was a GOOD THING, I have spent years in grieving and internalising that blame. I could not move forward to look for something better. How could I until I knew what it was that I needed to look for. Its taken so, so, so long and I have lost so much over the years. My grief is huge.
Today has been a low, low day, a day on which it has been difficult to move forward, a day in which huge RAGE has burst out of me, rage that I feel I have been repressing for years.
I think the trigger for me was yesterday seeing the movie Brooklyn in which a young Irish girl moves overseas to start a new life, is pulled back to Ireland by family loss and then makes the painful break forward, back to America to embrace her own life, moving through her sadness and grief, instead of being paralysed by it. She pays the coin of a dark passage to make her way back to light and love.
In the final scene where she speaks to a younger version of herself on the boat who is embarking on the passage she passed through a year or so before, she speaks of the necessity of moving through the sadness of homesickness and longing to embrace her new life. In an earlier scene where she informs her mother she will be sailing the next day for America, the mother cannot bear the pain and goes to her room leaving her daughter alone, telling her she must say goodbye now.
At the end of the movie, my Mum turned to me and said “what a terrible mother, not to let her daughter go, or to make her feel bad for leaving”. I saw it differently, as I saw it the mother was letting go but it was very, very hard for her. I understood the Mother’s pain and I know that if it was I that position (and I have been, feeling empathy for the mother’s aloneness – she had lost her husband and second daughter too) I would have found it hard to leave and choose for my own life, for I in fact made the opposite choice (although there were other factors in my own life.) And so my anger and sadness today makes sense to me.
The other day in therapy I was crying with my therapist. “What if this cancer takes me, Katina”, I said “before I manage to find and live my own life?” There was no answer really but the loving look in her eyes was a balm.
Sometimes I feel that in being sensitive and caring about others, I have lost my way. I have failed to pay the coin of suffering that was necessary to carry me through the critical passage. I have also allowed others to undo my forward moves with little things whispered in my ear which discouraged me. I wish I had been stronger to choose for me.
And yet has something been gained through all of this? Today it is hard to say. I am facing the prospect of breast surgery soon and am doing my best to stay positive and strong but some days the dark sadness of my life’s long journey seems too much. I long to leave it behind but I can’t, not really as it has been my life and so I must find a way to honour it.
How I wish it had been different. That I had a father who would have supported me and my dreams. Now I have to grow that father inside. The past pain and rage cannot be healed, it can only be felt and integrated. For not to do so, to gloss over it with platitudes would be a form of denial.
And so today is a low day and after writing this I feel very, very tired, a lot like that butterfly trapped in the rain that Diana Krall sang about. And so for now all I can do is cuddle the dog and draw some comfort from the fact that now, at least, I know the truth of what happened.