Well, this morning I had a lovely little shit surprise waiting for me at work. I was quite justifiably frustrated and I did let those responsible know that their actions were unacceptable in the future. But it did get me to thinking about something else that’s been lurking in the back of my mind for quite some time.
I am angry. Specifically, I am angry with my father. Not just for raising me in such a strict, stifling environment, although I consider that pretty reprehensible as well. I am angry because he wasn’t really there for me. I am angry that he failed me so hard. And not so much that he failed me, but that he never owned up to it and he continues to live his life thinking that everything was hunky dory when it was far from it.
It wasn’t. I suffered for years under him. And even when I tried to escape into a world he never fully prepared me for (because, as he put it, he’d been expecting me to stay at home until I got married) and I ultimately ended up stumbling and falling, he was never there for me in a truly supportive way. I could not qualify for the FAFSA until I was 24, and I could not get help getting into college on my own, but since I wasn’t “living right”, he refused to help me. Not very helpful when the one person that can help you not only refuses to help you but also berates you for your poor quality of life and for not doing anything to change it. I wanted to scream at him so many times, I can’t change it by myself! I need help! And you won’t help me! I guess his sports car and his luxury apartment in a gated community were more important than a daughter that was living in an unheated camper trailer for two and a half years in Pennsylvania (which, dunno if y’all know, but Pennsylvania winters get mighty cold). Oh, he did pay my car insurance for the car I had that was paid off (it was under his name, as I’d never had the title transferred to me when I moved out, and part of his divorce decree was that he would pay it until I was financially ready to take over). So there’s that I guess, even though he was basically ordered to do so, he still did it without giving me any hassle. Until of course the car was totaled in an accident and then I had no transportation at all, living in the middle of nowhere with no public transit whatsoever. Oh, he had extra vehicles after my first stepmother passed, but I’m not sure what happened to them. It would have been very helpful to have a working vehicle living where I was. But that would have been asking too much, ya know, because that would have required that he gave a shit.
For full disclaimer purposes, he did eventually end up helping me. Eventually. After I suffered for almost four years in poverty, he moved me out to where he was in Ohio and rented an apartment for me so I could start over. I qualified for the FAFSA at that point and I went to school through an accelerated program and I finished an associate’s degree in fourteen months. He also generously put me on his insurance because I didn’t qualify for Medicaid in Ohio (he previously absolutely refused to, so for a while I suffered without insurance until I finally caved and got Pennsylvania Medicaid and had to keep reapplying for it because I had no other options; it was far from the best coverage, his would have been much better and more beneficial to me, but he outright refused). He paid my rent until six months after I graduated, to help me get on my feet (which, I actually ended up moving to Minnesota because the landlords were horrible to me and I didn’t want to live there anymore). Oh, and when I moved to Minnesota, he did give me some money to help fund my cross country trip. But probably only because I was breaking up with my ex and moving because of that, as he didn’t like him.
So, I mean, while it’s not like I was totally abandoned, and I wouldn’t want to portray it that way, he really seemed to do the bare minimum and wait until things had reached critical mass in order to help. When he decided to help me move out to Ohio, it was because I begged and pleaded with him to help me because I wanted to go back to school. I wanted to change my life. Nobody wants to live in poverty. But I needed help and I finally got him to see that. I had found a program I wanted to do, that I could do from home, but I needed an internet connection because I had none and I had no transportation to get to classes (remember the totaled car and the no public transit?). He refused to help me with just a basic connection and I remember that I almost broke down and finally told him that I did want to change my life, but that I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed help. I think he finally realized at that point that I truly wasn’t looking for a quick fix. Somehow, something I said made something click in him that made him present the offer.
The fact that it took me four years to do so is ridiculous. In my honest opinion, a truly caring, empathetic father would have reached out before then, and not at the insistence of the child. While I don’t have children yet, I can’t imagine subjecting them to nigh-homelessness and two years of Pennsylvania winters with no heat just because I didn’t agree with how they were living. Not to say that he should have catered to my every need or given me handouts left and right, but for fucks sake, help me in some tangible way! Help me get into school so I can better my life! That’s what I wanted. That’s what I had to wait four years for until he finally gave me the opportunity.
I would think a former pastor would be more empathetic. Not him. He was never empathetic to anyone that I personally saw, much less to his own family. My mother had to constantly remind him to call his own mother. Now, I myself have difficulty keeping up with people, I admit, but even I remember to call and text (or now, facebook with) my own mother on at least a semi-regular basis. Because I care about her, it’s easy to remember. My own fiance regularly calls and messages/texts his mother as well, just to check in with her and make sure she’s doing okay. I really can’t fathom how self-absorbed one must be to never, ever remember to call or keep in touch with his own mother over the course of his entire life. I seriously remember being very young, perhaps three or four, and I remember my mother telling my father, “Don’t forget to call your mother!” Seriously. And that was a constant thing for my whole life. And not just his mother, but also other family members and a couple of pastor and missionary friends. I suppose if he could have, he would have just lived in isolation from everyone, reducing any social interaction to the bare minimum.
So, how exactly did this revelation come to me? In a dream. In the dream, I had already come out to my father as pagan (which I have in real life, as well), and for some reason I was visiting him and I was forced to go to church. I hate going to church, especially since I get flashbacks of bad memories whenever I go. I dread it. I don’t go nowadays and I don’t usually like to think about it too much more than just in passing. But, for some reason or another, he forced me to go with him. During the dream, I kind of had a moment where I snapped and had enough and I turned to him and started leaning into him, saying that this whole dragging me to church thing even when he knows I’m pagan is just rude and inconsiderate beyond anything. I started leaning into him regarding something else as well. What exactly I can’t remember, but what I do remember is that I actually shamed him into silence. He couldn’t give me any answer, because he knew he didn’t have an acceptable answer.
It was one of those dreams where I woke up and my throat was hot and raw, like I’d been yelling. I laid close to my fiance, willing myself to settle down, but it took a little longer than normal to finally fall back asleep.
I think my subconscious channels the anger I still feel toward him. Anger at emotionally abandoning me (though, if he was never there for me to begin with, is it still abandonment? Or is it something else?), anger at the mold I was forced into for the formative years of my life, anger at the absolute passiveness he exhibits when it comes to his own family members, anger at the lack of love and true care I felt from him at any given time (no, paying the bills =/= true love and care). He has disappointed me in ways that I truly cannot even describe.
I have tried so many times to put together a letter for him, something from my heart, something to tell him how I feel. Not that I think that he would really change, just to basically clear myself of him. But every time I try to commit words to paper, the anger flourishes in my words and before I know it, I’m screaming at him through the page. And that’s not what I want to do. Letting him know how angry I am is not what I truly want to do, because that will accomplish as much as yelling at a brick wall. I want him to realize that he damaged me in a nigh irreparable way. That it was his specific actions that hung over me like a dark cloud. That it was his lifestyle that made me feel like I could never measure up, because I could never measure up to its standards. That it was his lack of any kind of empathy that drove me to certain depths. That the father that I should have been able to look up to, to look for in time of trouble for comfort, to look at as an example in what to look for in a significant other … that that father does not exist in any form for me. There is no comfort that I can find in him, no care or empathy or love that a daughter can draw out. To me, he is merely a shell of a person, lacking any true substance.
I hope it was all worth it for him. I was forced to suffer the consequences of the lifestyle and his personal issues, but he will be the one to ultimately live with it. He’s pretty well alienated himself, as far as long-term friends go. He’s also alienated himself from a lot of his family, including his children. I can’t speak for my sister (although she interacts with him minimally, I think so as to limit the frustration levels of doing so), but I know my brother has written him off. I personally will not be wanting him at my wedding. He won’t be walking his last daughter down the aisle. He won’t be giving the marriage blessing (not that I would want his Christian blessing anyway). And he won’t see any children associated with me. I don’t want them to have such a disassociated, disconnected, un-empathetic grandfather. To me, that is far worse than having no grandfather at all. Sorry to my future kids, but I will spare them the pain of what I went through. I know they’ll understand eventually.
And this, this right here is why the fundamental lifestyle just does. not. work. People are isolated. Children are forced to measure up to impossible standards, and when they inevitably don’t, it’s their fault for not having enough faith or giving in to the devil or whatever they want to use as an excuse. True empathy is discouraged in favour of rules and regulations. Doing the right thing is done merely for a future reward, not because doing the right thing is doing the right thing. From what I have personally witnessed, it encourages sociopathy, and, frighteningly enough, psychopathy. IFB especially can basically just make it up as they go along, based on their own little twisted interpretations of scriptures, and call it a day. Some of those can be very damaging.
I’m sure some of my readers (if I still have any 😛 ) might have heard of Alecia Pennington. A group I’m a member of have been following her mother’s (frightening) blog for some time, but we had specifically been following her since her escape. She finally came out with the issue that she now can’t even prove she is who she is because her parents did not properly document her and she is having trouble gathering the necessary documents for proof. When I first watched her video, I ached for her, ached because I understood how difficult working with parents like hers are. Difficult to get through the narcissism and sociopathy associated with shunning family members at the drop of a hat simply because they don’t share your beliefs. I had been rooting for her ever since I’d heard of her escape, but now her access to a new life was blocked in a way she could not overcome without the help of the parents that more or less pushed her out.
Fortunately, more than likely due to social media pressure (as her mother shills essential oils for a living and depends on how she is presented to the public, and her father is a CPA), her parents finally backed down from their “offers” (laden with strings attached, if I know anything about people like them, and I do) and agreed to help her, period.
I hope she is able to work through her feelings about them. I know she’s fresh out of that environment, so everything is still so raw and gaping and there must be a whole gamut of emotion that she goes through. I do hope, however, despite her difficulties, that she is able to make a life for herself, a life that she wants and that she creates on her own terms. Considering her mother went on and on in a blog post detailing what basically seemed like grief associated with a child’s death – and then proceeded to shill her essential oils immediately after – I sincerely doubt that they will ever come around to the gravity of their damaging beliefs and actions.
Honestly, I doubt anyone like that will ever come around. Truly, you have to have some sort of ingrained empathy in order to recover from that level of fundie, and they just don’t have it. Like my father, they will likely flounce around forever, wallowing in their own little narcissistic world, just as full of themselves as ever. If there’s a way to truly get through to them and knock them down a peg, I have not found it yet. If I do, though, my father will certainly be hearing from me.