(Post written 11/15/15)
This morning my husband was trying to help me gather together a few blog posts for me to share with my memoir writing class. As soon as I asked him for help I was pissed.
This is at once terrible and hilarious.
It could come as no surprise that an alcoholic might be also a perfectionist. More times than I can count I’ve discovered this is true about people. I inherited my perfectionism from a task driven father. Each Saturday morning we would stand in the bathroom locked in a battle of wills and Soft Scrub. He wanted me to clean the bathroom right. I wanted to clean it right. I did it wrong. He got mad. There was yelling and I usually ended up sobbing in my room wondering why he was so mad about the way I scrubbed the tub. Now that I clean my own house I get it- there’s just a certain way things look to me when they’re cleaned properly- not sparkly really, or immaculate- just right.
My father comes from a non family. I have never once heard a story about a wonderful or even good memory- only the ones about a drunk father or another perfectionist: his mother- my grandmother. As tender and kind as she was to me I don’t know that she ever shared that side of her with him.
I realize that I am hard to love. This is something I can’t seem to reconcile with the sweet and tender insides of myself, but I know where it comes from. It’s not that I’m hard to love, it’s that loving is hard for me. So when I do things like ask for help I feel wrong already, which makes me impatient, which makes me feel dumb, which makes me act like an asshole instead of grateful for the help. God, I hate to be wrong. And still, ingrained so deeply in my psyche, is the knowing that asking for help is wrong. Even though here, in this now, I know asking for help is the rightest.
So I struggle through his instructions. He didn’t listen, he didn’t understand what I wanted and so now I just want to do it myself. I don’t need his help, no one ever listens when I talk. No one understands. I am so irritated, jittery with frustration in my chair, irrational with the need to get out of here right now.
I am only this way with my husband, and my father.
I have never had a completely trusting relationship with a man. By this I mean me feeling safe. Loved. Adored. Honored.
In the beginning my father loved me. He plopped his army hat on my fuzzy baby head and drew an anchor on my little chest. He joked with me, he adored me. He made snowmen with ears and said dad stuff like “Nice to meet you hungry!” when I announced that I was hungry. There’s a picture of me at five or so draped across him- the two of us lolling about grinning on a chenille bedspread at my grandmother’s house. The picture of him holding up a flounder for me to kiss, both of us laughing. It tells me that I felt safe in the world once.
Then we bought a house, then we moved away into another bought house, and he disappeared into work and reponsibility. He stayed away from home to avoid my mother’s bitterness and anger at being plopped out into the country with two kids half an hour from a crappy town. It’s sad to know that when I could have used a father he was trying to salvage his own life- they both were- struggling to stay married because that was the right thing to do.
I never chose boys as friends or lovers that were actual choices. They all kind of fell into my life and then fell out. There was the older boy who would take me out to the treehouse and feel me up, finger fuck me while I laid there legs spread and confused. I knew I was looking for love, but also knew that this maybe wasn’t it. But maybe it was.
Drinking made it lots easier to not worry so much about what I was allowing to be done to me. I would drink too much and then sort of come to underneath someone, or in a strange bed without my pants, or in a relationship. I fell in love, but not desperately- there was always a big part of me that was solidly alone.
I have never ever been able to trust anyone with my heart. Even my best friend from kindergarten found someone else and moved on. No one has ever clung to me with undying devotion, loving me always felt more like an easy either or. Even my mother, who was estranged from her own mother, used to tell me how she ditched her mom and she could easily cut me off too. There’s more to that story but that’s the part I always heard: you’re hurting me so I will leave you.
In my long term relationships I bonded with people who seemed as confused as me. I thought that by me being their savior I could also gain salvation. This never works. I punished myself with holding on to boys and men who didn’t really like me anyway. And they held on back because maybe it was just easier that way for them too. I chose friends who drank like me, not ones who thought I was funny, or who just loved to be with me because, well…me.
The hard part is this: I really love my husband. But I feel that part of me- the one that’s resigned to being alone. The one that has been left over and over again- a whole lifetime of leftovers. It’s so hard for me to soften my heart towards this man who dearly loves me but whom I’ve taught to defend himself lest I break part of his heart. I’ve broken so much of it already. How can I relax into my own loving heart? How can I gain the trust needed to build a secure relationship? How do I crack open this well of hurt and bail myself out so he and I don’t spend our years together abiding?
Note from today, 1/5/16: I can tell I was in such a hard spot this fall. I’m still trying to help myself love and be loved. Man, this shit can be so tough! Onward. 🙂