Saturday, February 17, 2007

destined to repeat  

posted by Michael Piwonka 3:42 PM
The past few days have been particularly difficult for me. Mason, completely unaware, made a comment this past week that has put me in a bad mood ever since. The subject of his comment is unimportant; it hit a nerve with me that had left me reliving ugly feelings.

After a discussion with several Al-Anon friends last night, I realized that I hadn't really learned much from my recent experiences. I harbored many resentments during my marriage over alcoholism and unexplained behavior, growing bitter and distrustful as I swallowed the resentment. I had tried to cover up dysfunctional behavior, presenting a facade of bliss to the outside world while anger festered, transforming me into a person I'm ashamed of.

I would like to think that I had made progress in the last couple of years. But the resentment that Mason unwittingly triggered proved that those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it.

I bit my tongue at an innocent remark from Mason; I'm sure my face turned red, and my blood pressure rose. The next few days I felt sick.

With a little help from my friends I came to this conclusion: I was still in my enabling mode, trying to cover up certain unpleasantries because Penny had implored me to not reveal certain things to the kids.

And while I can agree that my kids don't need to be put in the middle of things, I've been asking myself the last day or so what is more important: they have a dad who is open and honest with them, including discussing his own ghosts, or a withdrawn, bitter person who feels shackled about his feelings.

Penny has asked me to censure what I write here, and believe me, I've done more of that than she can ever imagine. Her point was that the kids shouldn't have to read about my unpleasant exchanges between me and her boyfriend. She has a point.

But then I find myself in the same place I was during my marriage: harboring resentment because I'm trying to protect Penny. And for what? Why am I carrying her weight? She's an adult, and she can do just fine without me.

While I can understand Penny's desire to keep my posts innocuous, I start to feel indignant again: I have never, and have no plans to ever, post anything that would impact the kids like two married people both leaving their spouses simultaneously to run off together. The guilt that she was trying to place on me only added to my resentment.

Does writing this make me a bad father? With the exception of Penny and her family, I have people who often tell me that I'm a good father. I need to believe them, and quit replaying the negative comments I heard during the divorce.

I am a good father.

I guess this a textbook case of co-dependency. My feelings are entirely too dependent upon what Penny, or Charlie, or her dad, say. (Here's an example of my problem: I was actually embarrassed when Penny starting going to Charlie's church while his wife was still attending there, as if it were my issue!)

We are all impacted by our upbringing, and I'm no different. I was raised by a wonderful mom who always took the time to listen to her kids, and to discuss whatever was on their minds, pleasant or not. When I look at how successful she was in raising 10 children, I think I would like to emulate her. I can no longer walk on eggshells around my kids; I have faith that it is what they would prefer.

From time to time I need to check myself: am I being true to myself, or am I trying fulfill someone else's desires?

For the longest time I dwelled on my ex-father-in-law's assertion that I had caused Penny's alcoholism. At first, I wondered if it were true, feeling guilt for everything that had gone wrong. Later I became consumed with anger, upset that he would try to blame me. Once again, a textbook example of letting someone else control my feelings.

I'm a big fan of the following saying: The first time you share your thoughts with someone else you're hearing those thoughts for the first time yourself. Verbalizing helps us formalize our ideas.

And that's what this blog does for me. Now that I've said it, I feel better already.


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random. arbitrary. completely unnecessary. yet refreshingly therapeutic.

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