Actually Accepting the Seemingly Unacceptable
You know it’s going to be interesting when your counsellor starts the sentence with “the therapist in me hates to say this, but…”
Last week, we had a quick cancellation appointment appointment after I asked for help. In that appointment I just kind of downloaded all the crap that seemed to take over (i.e. brother-in-law who completely lacked compassion and adoption frustrations).
While, this week we had our regularly scheduled appointment where we really talked about our families and our efforts to have open and honest relationships with them. You know, real relationships that matter. Between her, Mr. MPB and I, we had an interesting conversation, and it all started when she said the therapist in me hates to say this, but it really is time for you to start building an armor around you to protect you from your family. I’m paraphrasing now, but essentially, the discuss was about rather then giving my family the ability to slam the door in my face, I need to start closing the door to protect me and building myself a little suite of armor to be able to withstand their seemingly endless supply of insensitivity. I do not need to slam it shut, but I do need to accept that the relationship is what it is, and I cannot change them.
We talked about the recent and most obvious example of Mr. MPB’s brother. We opened up to him and his wife about our losses. We shared everything. In turn, they shared nothing and were rather hurtful in the way they told us their news. We opened ourselves up, we wanted a better relationship, and instead we are left feeling alone and hurt, as if all our words and tears fell on closed eyes and ears. We are hurt by their insensitivity, but more so we are hurt because we feel like they never actually listed to us.
We also discussed a much more complicated example – the relationship between my Dad and I and the very clear difference of what I want it to be and what it actually is. She noted that one of my biggest struggles with this relationship is that I keep trying and hoping to have the father I had for the first 14 years of my life – the one I remember and clearly long for. The one who loved and adored me and my siblings and would do anything for us. So, for years I’ve kept making excuses for him, hoping that that version of him will return. And at the same time I’ve kept letting his insensitivity hurt me – each time he has driven through our city and doesn’t stop to visit, or each time he chooses to spend time with another sibling over me, etc. And, with that, for years, I have continued to relieve the grief of losing not just my mom and sister, but also my very family, including the father that I admired. I have held onto the idea that maybe he’ll change, because he changed once, so maybe he’ll change again back into the Dad that I remember. But clearly that isn’t happening and whenever I expect that it will, I’m just left hurting. (And it’s only taken me 17 years to start figuring this out).
But here’s the thing, as much as I’m struggling to actually do it, I realize that need to start doing it for myself, my marriage and our future children. We even discussed a few practical ideas on what we will discuss when we see our family in order to maintain safe conversations: other family members lives and news, world news, the price of oil, the weather, etc. The focus of the conversation will not be on the details of our lives. I will not try to get them to take an interest, as they tend not to ask (like most people, they do not bring up our miscarriages or ask about real adoption information – people don’t know what to say and don’t realize saying nothing at all is the absolute worst). Maybe one day they will express an interest, maybe they wont, but either way it’s off limits right now to protect my heart from being let down and hurt again.
Honestly, part of me is really sad – is it really acceptable to accept that our families continually let us down? Something about that feels wrong. Really, shouldn’t our families want to do better and want to have meaningful relationships with us? By building an armor and closing the door before my family slams it in my face, part of me feels like I’m giving up. And I’m afraid of the potential consequences – if I stop calling and visiting as much, what if my Dad doesn’t make more of an effort, does that mean we will never see each other? If we don’t put aside our hurt with Mr. MPB’s brother and just move on, what will our relationship with them look like in 5 years? So, all of this has me feeling rather sad, depressed and scared that this is our reality. Yet, I know it’s a necessity, and I know this helps put us on the right path forward.
But, I have to add that this is only part of our path forward. The other part is focusing our efforts on the relationships in our lives that do matter. Such as our friends that give back to us in a meaningful way deserve more of our love and compassion. And, we also have the opportunity to build new relationships, particularly in our local adoption community. We need and want to focus on building and creating our chosen family that is understanding and supportive of our all our lives experiences, the good and the not so good.
I realize now I’ve just written another version of the letter to my family that I wrote last week. Ops. If you made it this far, I commend you.
But, there is one big noteworthy difference between last week and today: I think with some effort I’m actually going to be able to accept these relationships for what they are and in turn maybe be just a little bit happier in my own life. Today I feel more at peace with this path forward.
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