Monday, March 03, 2008

A Phone Call From The 'Rents

My father called me yesterday to say he'd seen the interview and that he thought I did a fine job. He used adjectives that coded in my head as positive even though I can't for the life of me remember them. Calm? Composed? I know he said I looked "great" and I have it in my mind that he may have said I sounded "articulate". I know for a fact that he said I did NOT sound nervous or inexperienced. He said I didn't ramble. He said I made clear points and came across as sincere. Ha! If he'd only seen the un-edited version he would not have said that.

My father was both genuine and sweet. The fact that he called to tell me what he thought - and the fact that what he thought was positive - all of that tripped me out. You see, I had all kinds of classic cross-parent/child issues with him when I was younger. Every bit of what you'd expect from a daddy's girl who was abandoned due to the divorce process when she was 14, in the mid-80's by her Dartmouth-educated, dashingly handsome & charming father. Did I mention I'm an oldest child? I have always - all my life - been desperate for his approval and attention. To a degree that shocked his socks off when we finally talked about it all - a decade or so ago. I think he had NO idea how much his say so meant to me. He spent his life trying (and feeling like he was failing) to be "good enough" for HIS father. It was a complete surprise to him to have passed that down without meaning to. To be perfectly fair, he is so different from his father that I can understand why it didn't occur to him that I would feel the same way about him as he felt about Grandaddy.

My dad and I have a great relationship (now) - and I genuinely love to be around him. I feel so much more comfortable with him than I used to. I don't analyze everything he says looking for the barb, the criticism while simultaneously trying to contort his words into praise. I'm a lot better at being myself and letting him be himself. It helped A LOT to learn more about anxiety patterns and how they manifest themselves in families. (You know that time I invited my father over for supper - when I scrubbed my house, spent a week planning the menu and the entire day cooking it, making sure to find interesting recipes for some of his favorite foods - only to have him show up and say he couldn't eat a bite because the ladies at work had brought in potluck and made him try everything and he was too full? Yeah - that wasn't about me - and it wasn't just that my dad was being a big fat jerk!! It wasn't a failure in communication. I didn't do anything wrong. It was anxiety - and now I know. I know what to look and listen for - how to diffuse and interpret it. And sometimes I know how to avoid it - and sometimes I'm good at acknowledging it and poking fun at it in just the right ways. As I said - things are sooooo much better between us.)

As good as things are - the reality is that my internal negative critic uses my father's voice. And it probably always will. It sucks. It's probably not fair to him or me. But there you have it. I heard myself on TV, mangling basic grammar and I instantly imagined my father upon hearing it, being embarrassed to admit knowing me, much less to having sired me. And then he called to say I'd done a fine job, that he was proud of me.

I'm glad I'd already made my peace with how I'd done in the interview. I'd already writhed, talked myself through it, whined some more, and then truly decided I'd done the best I could have done - given that moment, those circumstances - and that it was fine to have it be exactly what it was. I didn't consciously know it, but I needed to have done all that on my own without the warping affect my dad's approval or lack thereof can have on me. So... how wonderful just to be able to listen and honestly thank him for caring enough to call, and to be able to allow myself to savor his words. This growing up stuff? So worth it sometimes.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lily,

I've been reading your blog since NaBloPomo, but whatever happened that you were interviewed about must have been long before then. Could you tell me where the interview is and what it's about? I haven't been able to figure that one out on my own.

Love reading you.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the e-mail! Now I get it completely. Such a horrible thing to have happen...I'm so sorry that it did.