Dear Dad

Relationships

Dear Dad,

I’ve spent the last hour silently crying as J sleeps.  I suppose that means it’s time.  It’s time I take the advice of my counselor and others who have urged me to start working through this pain I’ve carried for 19 years.

I was thinking maybe I should talk to you, but someone said I should write instead, so you don’t feel like you’re backed into a corner.  So you can have time to think before you react.  Honestly, though, I don’t know if I am brave enough to give this letter to you.

You’ve been a really good dad.  When my big brother was little, you led his boy scouts troop.  During my big sister’s formative years, you made a special effort to spend time with her…to pay attention to her…because you heard that middle children often feel neglected.  You’ve invested your life into being a good dad and husband for your new family.  And now that your other kids are teenagers, you’ve made a point to support them in their hobbies and extra-curricular activities, even going so far as to drive to another state to watch them compete.  You’re a good man, and you’ve been a good dad. …to all of your kids but me.

Nineteen years ago this month, when I needed you most, you left.  You abandoned me.  You betrayed me.  You lied to me.  My brother was married and my sister was away at college, so that left 13-year-old me to be the adult when mom fell to pieces.  Ever since then, I’ve tried to fill the hole you left in my life by adopting other father figures.  My music director.  My youth group leader.  And countless others over the years: professors, pastors, even my husband.  But as much as I love and admire these amazing men, no one can fill your shoes.

The thing that hurts the most is that I was the one who defended you when my older siblings shut you out of their lives.  How long did my sister avoid you after you chose S and her unborn daughter over us?  And hasn’t it only been in the past couple years that my brother finally started speaking to you again?  But I stuck by you as best as I could.  I fought to maintain a relationship with you and your new family even when I got heat from everyone else.  I finally gave up when I realized you wouldn’t reciprocate the effort.  You don’t call.  You don’t email.  You don’t visit.  When I fly out for a weekend, your weekly small group is a bigger priority for you than me, your daughter who can barely afford to visit once a year.  When I brought O with me last time, you were thrilled to see her, yet you barely even spoke to me.  Did you know that I wept in the car as I drove away that night?

I remember the moment when I realized that your new daughter is now older than I was when you left…that she’s had a dad longer than I ever did.  I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.  I still do.

Why did you check out when I came along?  Why were you there for J and J when they were growing up, but you weren’t there for me?  Why are you so attentive to L and B, but you won’t so much as text me?  Why do you withhold your love from me, when you so freely give it to your other children?

It’s not fair Dad.  I tried so hard to be good enough for you…to earn your love.  But it’s no good, and I can’t do it any more.  Love me or don’t.  I’ve got nothing left.

And yet….  Still…

I love you.

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Me, Myself, and I

Brokenness

I haven’t written much lately. My husband tends to feel like he’s letting himself down when he doesn’t write for a long time, but for me it’s kind of a relief. I have noticed that I tend to write when I’m sad. Or angry. Or when I just need to process things that I can’t wrap my mind around. If I’m not writing a lot, it’s a pretty good indication that I’m doing well. I’m happy. I’ve got stuff figured out. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule…

I had surgery at the end of August and I was pretty dependent on J for most of my daily needs for quite a while. (That was horrible, by the way. I had no idea that I valued my independence so much!). But once I was on my own two feet again (albeit with some pain), I was much better.

And now here I am again, which means I need to figure some stuff out. Counselor says I need to cultivate a relationship with myself. I need to learn to love myself. Forgive myself. I don’t know how to do that. She also recommends I do some kind of art, because it’s a way to be creative and explore myself without the analytical stuff that comes out when I write. I don’t know how to do that either.

But I am learning to sew. And I bought glitter. That’s a start, right?

But what about liking myself and forgiving myself? What do I like about myself?

  • I’m very smart.
  • I’m great at communication.
  • I’m the best (job title) that (company name) has ever had. Their words, not mine.
  • I have moments when I’m really fun to be around.
  • I can make some people laugh.
  • I think I see a beauty in the world that others often miss.
  • I’m generous and kind.
  • I’m a great baker.
  • I’m creative.
  • I’m trustworthy.
  • I’m fiscally responsible.
  • I’m analytical (Yes, I like that about myself, but I certainly do have to keep myself in check in that regard.)
  • And what do I need to forgive myself for?

  • I’m not perfect.
  • I sometimes hurt the people I love.
  • I’m overweight.
  • I’m bad at keeping my home clean.
  • I’m not sure how to forgive God for His silence lately.
  • I’m not sure how to forgive God for allowing my mom to get sick.
  • I’m not beautiful.
  • I’m not as witty as I wish I was (…as I wish I were?)
  • I’m often lazy.
  • I frequently don’t do the things I “should” do.
  • Why does the bad stuff feel more potent than the good stuff? How can I choose to focus on the good things about myself, when they don’t feel as real or as important as the bad things?

    I’m Failing in Eating 101

    Uncategorized

    I feel like a failure tonight.  I kind of suck at being an adult.  Most days I can sort of get by, but I tend to have a weekly crisis at around 3:00 on Sunday afternoons.  (Aside: Have you ever read Hyperbole and a Half?  I can relate to this post by Allie all too well.)  I can do a few things very well:  I am an amazing employee.  I’m good at balancing my checkbook and making sure my bills are paid.  I am smart.  I have excellent communication skills.  …and then there are the things I suck at.  Unfortunately, the things I suck at are, in my estimation, vital to being a successful, healthy, well-rounded human being.  Things like eating.  Exercising.  Maintaining a clean home.

    The eating problem is the heart of my weekly emotional collapse.  In my home, Sunday is when the grocery shopping is supposed to happen.  I’m terrible at shopping for groceries because I don’t know what to eat.  I want to eat healthy foods, but I lack the discipline to actually do it.  I don’t really know HOW to eat a varied, nutritious diet.  Even if I do make some kind of meal plan for the week (which takes HOURS for me because I don’t really know what the heck I’m doing), I cannot for the life of me stick to it.  Even if I could, it would still lack the healthy foods that I know I need to eat.  And so I patronize fast food restaurants, or I eat something that comes in a can, or occasionally, I don’t eat at all.  J gets really frustrated with me because I am incapable of making the daily what-should-we-eat-tonight decision.  I feel like eating should be such a simple thing.

    Step 1: Obtain food.
    Step 2: Open mouth.
    Step 3: Place food in mouth and chew.
    Step 4: Swallow.
    Step 5: Repeat.

    I even know (in theory) what to eat: vegetables and fruits, whole wheat grains and nuts.  Maybe some meat too, but no, that’s bad for the environment so I shouldn’t eat that.  Cheese?  Also bad for the environment, but let’s face it, I’m not going to give up cheese.

    Although eating should be easy, I feel like I have a lot of things stacked against me.  For one thing, J and I both work 40-hour jobs with long commutes, and when we get home we’re both tired.  Preparing food takes time and energy…which are things I’m short on by the time I get home.  Also, I have extremely narrow food interests – there are a lot of flavors that I don’t like.  A lot.  I tell myself that I can’t eat the bad-for-me things, but I don’t want to eat the good-for-me things, which leaves….  Nothing.  And I feel stuck.  Helpless.  Hopeless.

    …is this an eating disorder?

    The Long Lost Art of Letter Writing

    Goals, Relationships

    I have begun a one-person campaign to bring back the art of letter writing. I have found that the more I immerse myself in social media, the less I actually feel connected to people, so I’m trying something new. This week I have written letters to my grandma, my sister-in-law, and one of the ladies with whom I went to Israel. I’m going to try to come up with more people and addresses in the coming weeks, and I’m hoping eventually people will start writing back. My goal is to write a letter to someone new every week (or maybe a rotation of people when I start to run out of recipients) plus respond to any letters I receive.

    It makes me feel so important to receive a hand-written letter. It takes that added bit of effort to write something by hand, as opposed to tapping out an email. And even putting it in an envelope and finding a stamp adds a layer of intentionality. Few people write a real letter on a whim…so when I go to my mailbox and discover a letter, I feel happy because someone felt that I am important enough to warrant their attention long enough to draft and send a note. I’m hoping that when my friends and family get my letters, they’ll realize that I think they’re important, too.

    Plus, maybe I’ll feel more connected to people.

    Thankfulness

    Uncategorized

    I want to be a more thankful person. In my most authentic state, I have a tendency toward brooding pessimism, but that’s not the kind of person I want to be. How can I get a better perspective? How can I cause myself to dwell on the good rather than the bad? There’s always something for which to be thankful. How can I train myself to look for the good?

    It’s 85 degrees and I’m uncomfortably hot? …or it’s so great that I’m not in Death Valley.

    It’s Sunday night and I don’t want to go to work tomorrow? …or I’m so grateful to have a job and that the busy month-end is over.

    I don’t have enough money to buy a new blouse as I had hoped? …or I’m glad I had enough money to pay my bills.

    I’m tired of my foot hurting from the car accident three years ago? …or I’m so lucky that J and I walked away from that collision with only bruises and broken bones as opposed to brain damage or worse.

    I don’t have cancer. My husband is an honorable man. I have a comfortable home. I’ve never been physically or emotionally abused. Jesus loves me. My dad made it through the surgery last week. My mom has enough money in her estate to take care of her extensive financial needs.

    I have so much to be thankful for. I just need to open my eyes.

    An Unconventional Drive

    Dream Journal

    The dream:
    The particulars of the first part of the dream are hazy in my memory…almost like they aren’t actually part of the dream that has my interest. In fact, I may have actually had two unrelated dreams, one right after the other. Regardless, this is what I remember:
    I was at M’s house for one of our occasional friend dates. It was her daughter T’s birthday, so I had brought a present wrapped in silver, reflective wrapping paper. In the dream, I discovered that T had a younger brother with the same birthday, so I drew a line down the middle of the box and wrote her name on one side and his on the other to indicate that the gift was for both of them. Meanwhile M was on the phone talking to someone else. …and there was something about a frozen entree of mac and cheese that I had brought for M.
    Then, I was watching the Mythbusters do a special on the Grand Canyon that involved zip lining from one side to the other. They weren’t harnessed in the traditional way, but were connected to the line only with elaborate helmets so that their hands and the rest of their bodies were unencumbered.
    And then I was driving alone through the Grand Canyon. My compact car had large windows and a sun roof, and if I leaned back a bit, the view was quite stunning and larger than life. There was a way to operate the car–which had surreptitiously changed into a giant Tahoe-type vehicle without my noticing–from the very back. The rear of the vehicle offered even better views, so I decided to continue the trek from there despite the fact that maneuvering became significantly more difficult. I drove on, from the back, for some time with no problem, but then things got tricky. I lost control of my car–but somehow I was suddenly unsuccessfully operating two vehicles going opposite directions with the same controls. I was able to slow both down and safely park albeit haphazardly positioned. And all at once, I was again back to just the one vehicle. I couldn’t actually turn off the car, though. I was holding down a brake button from my spot in the back, but the key to turn off the ignition was at the front. I was trying to decide whether it was safe to let go of the brake in order to rush to the front and turn off the car, but then two police officers strolled over and the brake/ignition problem sorted itself out and was no longer an issue. I raised my hands so that the police would be able to see that I didn’t have a weapon, and caught a nonverbal exchange between the two. The dark-skinned officer on the left raised his eyebrows in a mocking “can-you-believe-this-lady?” expression. The fair-skinned officer on the right shrugged as if to say “you get all types out here.” Then he indicated that I should open the hatch, and I obliged. He started to write out a ticket, but then went around front to investigate something, leaving his pad behind. I was able to see that the fine for illegally operating a motor vehicle from the rear was about $90. I felt relieved at the low cost, but knew there would likely be additional fines. Then I woke up.

    My thoughts on the dream:
    I think it’s interesting how something crazy can happen in a dream, but how I don’t realize how ludicrous it is until I wake up. The car changing in type and in quantity didn’t even warrant a questioning thought in my dream. It was merely inconvenient when the one car became two. It was stressful to operate the two vehicles simultaneously, and I felt concern about how much my ticket would be, but the negative emotions in the dream were extremely muted, almost like it was someone else’s life rather than my own.
    In my mental/emotional economy, a vehicle in a dream represents a person’s life. I find it interesting that in my dream I was running the show from the back seat. It’s like my subconscious is telling me that I’m doing things the hard way. I may need to make a difficult decision if I’m going to put a stop to the way I’m doing things, though. (Should I let go of the brake to reach the ignition?) If it were an issue of passivity, I think I would have been the passenger. But what of the changes to the vehicle? First compact, then large. First clipping along in a specific direction, then losing control and haphazardly moving in opposing and arbitrary directions. If I continue this way, my subconscious is advising that I’ll get into trouble (police) and that it’ll cost me (ticket).
    As for the first part of the dream, the only thing that sticks out to me is the feeling of giving more in a relationship than the other party. I come bearing gifts (and a random frozen meal), and my friend won’t even get off the phone to talk to me.
    The Mythbusters part is perplexing. They were suspended from their heads….which to me is a reference to being overly cerebral about things… Other than that, though, I’ve got nothing. I think someone just tightroped across the Grand Canyon, though, so maybe that’s where I came up with that.

    Themes/Analysis:
    Feelings of being unimportant and undervalued.
    Concern about being too cerebral.
    Major life changes (new job? potential move to Spokane?)
    The desire to take in the beauty around me.
    Losing control and being pulled in different directions.
    Trying too hard – doing things the hard way and not being able to turn the hard parts off.
    The emotional cost of losing control.
    Feeling judged.

    Sophie Seeks Spokane’s Security in the Financial and Familial Fronts

    Goals

    I might need to change my blog title, because J and I are seriously talking about moving across the state. In my opinion, though, “Sophie in Spokane” doesn’t sound as nice as “Sophie in Seattle.” It does still have alliteration, though, so I guess it’ll do. Most likely, the big move won’t happen for a few years. We own a condo, and we’re profoundly underwater. My hope is that the market will pick up and that our home value will rise enough for us to break even.

    Why do we want to move? Two reasons: family and finances. (More alliteration!)

    Family:
    The only family members we have in the Seattle area are…difficult. I mentioned J’s “cousin-in-law” in a previous post – I think I mentioned that she unfriended me on Facebook and has ignored all my overtures of friendship. And then there’s J’s aunt who is a piece of work. She is by far the most judgmental and grudge-holding woman I’ve ever met. The men in the family are all right, but I wish they’d take a stand and get their women in line. (…that might be sexist of me… My feminist friends would disown me if they knew… Which is why this is a secret blog. If someone I knew read this, then I probably wouldn’t be nearly this authentic about the controversial things.) Anyway, so since the dynamic of family we do have here is so strained, it would probably be more healthy to pursue the family that does want us around. Thus, the move to Spokane.

    Finances:
    In our little suburb of Seattle, we bought our townhouse for $203,000. It’s now worth half of that, but that’s beside the point. In Spokane, we could buy a NICE house for that. …and, even better, it looks like J would be able to keep his Seattle pay rate and work from home in Spokane. We’d live like kings….or more accurately, we’d live extremely comfortably. We might even be able to afford to have kids. (Assuming, of course, we could get the sex drama figured out.)

    …So… That’s the hope anyway. …now we just need to be able to sell our townhouse…

    Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can kill.

    Relationships

    I had an epiphany today.  I have my doubts about whether I’ll be able to express my profound thought in a way that sounds profound…but I guess I’m willing to take the risk.  What may be a common sense thought to me may be a ground-breaking realization to you and vice versa.  I know that’s certainly how things tend to be with J and me, anyway.

    So, before I tell you my realization, let me give a bit of background information:  I’m very reactionary, and by that I mean I tend to have big reactions to things.  I won’t go so far as to say I’m bipolar, but I do have high highs and low lows.  I feel a wide spectrum of feelings, and it’s downright impossible for me to hide those feelings.  Even if I don’t blurt them out in a flurry of words as I am apt to do, my face tells all.  J says it’s a good thing to be so transparent, but I find it very vulnerable for everyone to know what I feel about something.  For better or for worse — mostly worse — that’s my personality.

    And then there’s J who is just about the exact opposite.  He is a man of few words.  He thinks about things before he reacts.  He’s calculating, he’s careful, he’s reserved.  He’s steady and strong and all the things I tend to wish I was.

    …but here’s the problem…  In our disagreements, we hurt each other.  A lot.  He takes a risk and expresses a (generally valid) complaint, and I react with my big personality.  My voice gets louder and squeakier with emotion, and he retreats into the safety of his head.  The more I react, the less he communicates, and the less he communicates, the more I try to pull him out…which, of course, causes him to pull back even more.  He hurts me by his failure to engage, and I hurt him by my aggressive approach.

    Our counselor urged me to try to not react when he expresses a complaint, but to try to merely say something like “Thank you for telling me how you feel.”  (SHOOT.  I don’t know if I can do it.  I’m going to try, but it’s going to take every ounce of my willpower.)  After the session, I was mulling over the things we had talked about and I arrived at my epiphany.

    Both J and I need to learn the same important lesson, but we’ll have to apply it VERY differently.  The lesson?  That our words are powerful.  We must be accountable for the weight of our words.  It’s so very simple, and yet so profound.

    I need to recognize how much my reactionary words tear J down on a regular basis.  I need to work on wielding my words with extreme caution so as to not hurt the man I love more than any person on this planet.  And J needs to recognize the power of his words too…  He has the power to encourage and affirm me with his words, but his silence has done tremendous damage to me.  My hope is that he will recognize the weight of his words and use them.  I need to stop speaking death into his life, and my hope is that he will start speaking life into mine.

    Words.  Weighty, powerful words.

    Love and Loss, or Longing for Long Ago

    Relationships

    I miss my family. Yes, I miss my family members who are in their own corners of the world, but what I really mean by that statement is that I miss how things used to be when we were a whole family unit. Dad, mom, brother, sister, me: a family.

    My brother married the love of his life in 1994. She is a very private person and they retreated into their own lives. I think I’m possibly my brother’s biggest fan, but I have very little contact with him, and I miss having a big brother to watch over me.

    Then my dad left us in 1995 for his lover. They started a new family, and he’s a really great dad to his new kids…very involved in their lives. It hurts to see how there he is for them when he wasn’t for me, but they’re fantastic kids and I’m glad they have a present and loving father.

    My mom has dementia and is a completely different person than she once was. I still try to see her as often as possible, but it is hard to afford the airfare. …and it hurts so much to see her. So much.

    My sister is now my best friend, but she lives far, far away, and I miss her terribly. When I visit, I miss her within minutes of leaving. I call her “my person.” The one person who will always be there. My one person in the world. If I were to do something terrible, she’d be the one to visit me in jail. Even if J and I don’t work out, she’d still be there for me….albeit in another state. Miss her so much….

    I miss my family. I miss being in a family. I miss what we used to have. We weren’t perfect, but it was good… Now J and I are our own little family. We love each other, and things are getting better, but it is still very lonely. It’s not the same.

    I am so glad I have him, though. So thankful for that.

    The Onset of Ditziness

    Brokenness

    Yesterday J told me that he’s worried about me; I’ve been losing things lately. I regularly lose my phone, for example. In fact, J recently named it Waldo since I’m always looking for it. The phone is sort of funny, though; like an endearing quirk…but then I left my wallet somewhere. Unfortunately, the person who found it isn’t of the honest variety, and now I have a few minor transactions that I’ll need to dispute. It could have been a lot worse, but it was an emotional slap in the face. And then when J made his comment about being worried, I broke down. I know he meant it in kindness, but I felt like my competence was in question…and competence is kind of the only thing I’ve got right now. ..but not anymore. I’m ditzy and forgetful, and I’m ashamed of that fact. J thinks I’m just overwhelmed. I’m not sure, but he could be right.

    I am hoping that my new job, which I just started today, will be less stressful. Less hectic. Less political. Less drama. Initially it will be worse, though, at least in some regards. I had been with my last employer for over four years so I knew pretty much everything about my responsibilities. Doing something completely new today was quite a shock, like diving into a cold pool after basking in the sun’s warmth. I hate the learning curve, but I think — I hope — that this will be a good fit for me.