Monday Notes: Worry ‘Bout Yo Self

When I was in my 30s or so, I emailed my father because I’d had a revelation.

“You treat all of the women you’re connected to horribly,” I announced.

I’d cracked the code and I had proof. At the time, his mother was a recent double amputee, who’d just moved in with him and his wife. During a breakfast outing, she confided to Dwight and me that he was charging her rent.

I also recounted a rumor I’d heard about how he’d mistreated my own mother. It was something about helping another woman move to Moline, IL while my mother was hospitalized 165 miles away. The indiscretion occurred before I was born, but I’d heard about it so much, primarily when adults didn’t know I was listening, that I could re-tell it myself.

I left the secrets I’d accrued about his current relationship unsaid, and instead, concluded with his treatment of me, which included explicit and implicit abandonment and unfulfilled promises.

“You always did judge me harshly,” he wrote, “but you know what? You’d do better psychoanalyzing yourself.”

At the time, I was offended.

Wouldn’t knowing my parent offer insights into myself and our relationship? I mean, I guess I could’ve phrased it with a less judgmental tone, or used “I statements,” but I’m no therapist and at the time hadn’t sought therapy. All I suspected was that I may be better if I understood his patterns of behavior because parts of who he was had affected me in some way.

Or, was he right?

Would I do better to simply think deeply about my own negative behavior, which was quickly adding up and determine how to proceed with life in a healthier way? Would it be better to stare myself down in the mirror and focus on the image reflected back to me?

Nah.

Fifteen years ago, it was much easier to point out everyone else’s flaws than to identify and focus on my own. It always is. Plus, I wasn’t ready for that type of introspection.

conquer_oneselfBut, after finally doing the work, I find it’s also important to research your family of origin as a method of recognizing patterns of behavior they may have passed on to you. Sometimes these models have inextricably bound you together in unhealthy ways.

However, I do recognize the rudeness of my communication. If I had the opportunity to re-send this email to my father, I wouldn’t. I’d just accept the observations of his life as observations (and judgments) and be grateful about how helpful they may be for me.

While I believe we will do best to worry about ourselves, ultimately, we were each shaped by our first communities, our families. And understanding who they are/were can be integral to understanding ourselves.

What do you think?

48 thoughts on “Monday Notes: Worry ‘Bout Yo Self

  1. You know that I know what abandonment looks like in my own father. I would still have sent it. But, you’re right that our communities (family) shape us. Learning about my father’s own jacked up family helped me to accept him as he is but I don’t believe that I should silence my observation of behaviors that I see. Even if no one else tells you know that I see you. But, I’m also a radical when it comes to accountability.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hear you Tikeetha! I guess what I’m thinking is that I’m not responsible for anyone else’s accountability or for making someone accountable. I’m not sure my father ever took responsibility for how he acted in our parent-child relationship, but I also don’t think it was my work to do…not even to prompt him in doing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I totally get it. I don’t try to make others accountable but I guess because my whole life my dad wasn’t accountable and even though I couldn’t make him that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t call him out on his BS. I couldn’t as a child. As an adult I can.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes I agree we have to worry about ourselves, but we also have to understand how our childhood affects us in adulthood. It may not seem like it, but our upbringing has a huge impact on our lives as we get older. There are things that happened during my childhood that still affect me today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Riiight. I agree that we have to understand how our childhood affects us in adulthood and that’s a way to worry about ourselves, but I don’t think it’s always necessary to confront our parents/caretakers about it, unless they’ve expressed they’re wanting to do the work, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Definitely. I often ask “why is this bothering me?” and “where is this anger coming from?” instead of taking things so personal. And I know we can only control ourselves, but it helps to know your makeup.

    I’m curious: what did you think would or hope would come from that email? I do find it therapeutic to write things out (especially negative things) just to clear my head space, but I don’t ever remember hitting send.

    Also, the title and video are very fitting! Baby girl was friendly about it at first, then…. HA!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. sooo, I had to laugh because I ALWAYS press send. In fact, did I tell you about the time I typed a letter to a family member, put in an envelope, with a whole stamp and everything and mailed it to them? That didn’t go over well lol

      To answer your question, I think I just wanted him to admit HE was the problem. He’d spent a lot of years painting me as a wayward, rebellious child, and had internalized all of it. I think I just wanted him to take a step back and take ownership. But, you know. You can’t make people do that.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think it is necessary to look at our family of origin when we’re trying to understand ourselves better, particularly when we’re trying to identify the behaviors and thought patterns that hold us back. Not, as you say, simply to judge, but to understand how we came to act and believe the way we do. When I realized that both of my parents had some significant damage done to them when they were kids, it was easier to understand and forgive some of the negative ways they treated me. More importantly, it made it easier for me to move forward and learn different ways of thinking that reflected who I really am. I know my parents loved me and did the best they could. But now, as an adult, I get to pick and choose which of their behaviors and opinions I accept and which I reject. It sounds to me as if that’s what you’re doing as well, and I think that’s a very healthy thing!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ann, thanks for this comment. I agree. I hope that we can all get to a point where it’s okay to honestly answer our children so they can learn more about ourselves and themselves, you know?

      And thanks for the compliment at the end 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love how you always share so openly, especially when you look back and realize that you could have done certain things differently. Not many people can do that. I truly admire that. 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Absolutely!
    What you are exposed to growing up become a part of you. Good, bad or indifferent.
    For example, adults that bulky were once bullied themselves ( Reality TV ) or people who witnessed abuse become abusers themselves ( Chris Brown). Alcoholics live with alcohol all around them or not being exposed to certain things causes some to run right towards it the first opportunity possible.
    I grew up with my grandma taking care of the house and my grandpa provided for the house financially. She would serve him dinner before sitting down to eat dinner herself. My mom being the oldest of seven and helped care for her siblings couldn’t wait to get out the house! My aunts moved out as soon as they could, too.
    I feel like the same thing my mom ran away from was the same thing she wanted: stability and love. And communication is all about our feelings. How we feel about ourselves may reflect how we feel, treat and speak to others we know and don’t know.
    So, yes, I believe it all starts with ourselves.

    Thanks for sharing! That was strong on your part to do!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Heeey Cherie! Thanks for reading and commenting. So, I agree with everything you’ve said, but this part…”I feel like the same thing my mom ran away from was the same thing she wanted: stability and love” is really interesting. I think that’s a lot of us. We have certain things that we want, but we don’t want it to look like what our parents showed us…maybe.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly. We think what they showed us was settling, so to speak, and we always think we can do better. We want better, but sometimes we think our view of better has a negative image or feelings attached to it.
        I want what my grandparents had. They were married 50+ years before my grandpa passed! You just don’t see or hear that anymore.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Whew, that video is a word. And when my girl said, “DRIVE!” she was telling that man to be about his business. I felt that.

    My experience has been the same as yours. I didn’t tell my family about themselves, but I loved to tell my friends. They, for some reason, didn’t listen. Like you, once I focused on myself, my life began to change for the better.

    Familial patterns are important and they do help me understand myself better. Understanding myself gives me greater compassion for the people I love because if I can see why I made/make the choices I do based on my history, it helps me see how/why they may have made the choices they did.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Akilah. I LOOOOVE that video lol

      We have so many similarities in so many areas! That final point is a good one. Instead of learning information and then using it to judge, maybe we can use it to have compassion and move differently not only with them, but with ourselves. I like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Growing up, whenever my siblings and I made new friends, we always got “the question” from our parents, “Who are their people?” They wanted an idea of character based on people they might already know. Not scientific by any means, but I cannot remember a time when my parents discouraged certain friendships that they were wrong.

    Years back, we were planning a family night at church which included a “Then & Now” discussion between parents and their teen children. Most of us wanted to discuss our high school years, but one mom argued against it. She said she saw no point in discussing past “bad behavior” with our children and that it would in fact, encourage them to act out. UGH. She got on my nerves, but became so hysterical other parents gave in and chose another topic.

    I found out later, her daughter was exhibiting the same behavior–low grades, skipping school, fighting–that the mother had…BEFORE she was sent to live with her grandparents. She graduated from high school and college…unlike her daughter.

    I can’t help but believe an ongoing mother/daughter discussion would have helped the daughter and strengthened their bond.

    Our familial history is important because it can motivate and inspire or brand and harm us. Hiding details and/or not having open, honest discussions leave too many questions unanswered and behaviors unexplained. (Remember my comment about my great-grandmother on your mental illness post?)

    I ask–or answer– questions, end of story. I lose nothing if I find no answers or maybe gain new insight and perspective if I do find answers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree. And yeeeess! I was thinking about your great-grandmother as I read this. I suppose it’s hard for everyone to look in the mirror and own your stuff, huh? But, it’s so healing for everyone, including one’s lineage.

      I’m the same way Felicia. My youngest asks a LOT of questions. I don’t always want to answer, but I do as appropriately as I can. Sometimes, I give a yes/no answer and say, “I’m not saying anymore about that” lol but I don’t leave her hanging.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It makes sense. But, I would’ve probably taken offense too. My initial reaction would’ve been anger with his response. On the other hand, yes, we do need to look at ourselves. It’s so difficult though isn’t it? Great post! Made me think a lot.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. As usual, a wonderfully insightful post, Kathy – as for your question at the end — I dunno — I find that the more I try to generalize about things, the more I’m generally wrong. The hardest thing among all these hard things is that there isn’t a pat answer. I was raised to be the ‘good girl’ who always puts the feelings of others first, gives them far too many chances, & on & on — & at times I’ve hurt myself as a result. Yes, we’re all shaped & continue to evolve.. but at times I fare better to declare to myself that I’m not Mother Teresa, & that I don’t like someone or that the more I see them, the unhappier I am. Maybe it has some link to needing to make sure I don’t fall into what becomes an unhealthy submersion of my own feelings?…

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Kate, I do believe it is important for our own growth and health to know our roots.
    The people who helped to form us and helped us grow. The nature that made an
    imprint. The culture that is part of us whether we think of it or not.

    May your way forward continue in harmony.

    miriam

    Liked by 2 people

  12. It sounds to me like you have remarkable insight, Katherin. Years ago, it must have been hard for you to hold back your revelation about your father’s selfish nature. But I find your courage remarkable. Confronting your father actually seems like a turning point.
    All of this was part of your journey. Perhaps now you are a more careful and diplomatic person. But you’ve done a lot of healing to get where you are. I believe that expressing yourself was part of that healing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Awww thank you Judy! That is nice to say. I do agree it was a part of my journey, for sure, and it taught me so much, not just about him, but also about myself, in general. And yes lol It’s hard for me to hold back anything, really.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for sharing… I think that to determine the correct line of communication would depend on the subject matter… sometimes sympathetic diplomacy is required, other times (while being civil) one has to tell it like it is… 🙂

    “I have a greater peace of mind by being straightforward and truthful, with open heart and mind, knowing the outcome being uncertain, rather than to wake up tomorrow morning and have to deal with a falsehood I told yesterday.” (Larry “Dutch” Woller )

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