Which is my way of saying I have had yet another 3 1/2 hour 'conversation' with my dad about unacceptable behavior. Mine, to his line of thinking; His, to the rest of the world's.
It seems that my short answers and 'pulling faces' is unappreciated by him - to which I responded "too bad." Short answers and resting bitch face are my least offensive options for interacting with you on a daily basis - a thing that is required because you have gone back on your word yet again and haven't left yet. My tightly drawn mouth is a direct result of having to bite my tongue against the things I'd like to say to you, the names I'd like to call you, the disrespect that the bullied part of me wants to heap back onto you in any effort to expel it. (And which I control not for your sake, but for mine, so that I do not become the bully I hate in others.)
"I'm not even sorry for the faces" I said, at the conclusion of our 'talk': "They're the closest thing to self-control I've got towards you, at the moment. And you're just going to have to deal with that."
That was after three and a half hours of frustrating round-and-round, never-ending saga that anyone of my siblings could basically repeat to you right now, if I called them up, despite not having been at this latest one.
It is, in fact, our family's own special version of the ouroboros - the snake eating its tail, for infinity - He is emotionally distant/abusive/threatening, screws up, calls people names, explodes (usually in a huge, terrifying and abusive way)... there is a 'calming down' period, which is to say a living in denial period where people avoid all mention of the latest incident, then eventually, he is 'forced' (by someone's behavior - not going to lie, usually mine) to 'discuss' it, to 'apologize', to seemingly take responsibility while at the same exact time explaining away his bad behavior by a) becoming the victim rather than the perpetrator (which is how he ALWAYS feels, guaranteed: "I was trapped; you don't understand; I grew up with X...") and b) blaming the actual victims ("Those meds that she's on make her unreasonable"; "Nobody appreciates the shit I do do, everybody only talks about how I screw up" - Well, when you're version of doing stuff is 'making sure there is a roof over our heads' and your version of screwing shit up is 'kicking people I supposedly love out of the roof I am putting over their heads' then, yeah: You kinda have to expect that.)
And round and round and round and round (literally ad nauseam) it goes.
Yesterday's discussion started with my 'bad attitude' which - I am pleased to say - I did not once apologize for. It's not a bad attitude to have boundaries, and to react when they're constantly disregarded (parrots the Adult Child of Alcoholics and Psychology Major, in an effort to actually feel that way, instead of just saying it all the time). It's not a bad attitude to be unwilling to risk being hurt again by a person whose only predictable responses are to lash out at the people around him, particularly when he knows he has a temper (but takes no steps to address it, because "I'm 65 years old" a refrain I have literally been listening to since he was 45 years old) and has a drinking problem (but doesn't see it as one or care to curtail it). It's not a bet I am willing to continue anteing up for - and I said that straight out.
I also told him that he's in denial about the way he actually lives as opposed to the person he thinks he is.
- He thinks he's the person who shows up for people, always no matter what. He's actually the person who made the summer my grandmother was dying 3000% worse by picking fights with my mother and sister, threw my sister out of the house the night of her wake and then didn't even come to the funeral. That's who he actually is.
- He thinks he's the guy who didn't abuse his children because he never made us go hungry or put us to work at the age of 9 (as he was forced to do when his father abandoned his family). And that's partially true - we've always had food on our table, even when it was tuna, white bread and deviled ham. And while we may not always have been grateful for that (I guarantee that I was never grateful for either tuna or deviled ham), I also don't think he deserves a trophy or cookies or a special award for meeting the bare minimum standard for decency. I told him that while he may not have been the guy who left, he certainly was abusive. IS abusive. He's actually the guy who told me I was a "cold hearted bitch, just like my mother" and just recently explained that, had it not been for the "burden of me and my 'disability'"(which he put in goddamn air quotes), he and my mother would not be breaking up. He's actually the guy who made me* afraid to EVER make a mistake because who knew how out of proportion the punishment would be; the guy who doesn't know how old his children or grandchildren are; who thinks his relationships are fine even though he puts no effort into them at all.
- He thinks he's the guy who puts every single dime he earns into other people's needs. He's actually the guy who went out and bought himself a new TV-set for the basement because he "didn't appreciate the cold shoulder" my mother was giving him in the den (even while dodging calls for the past-due mortgage), who goes out and blows ??? money on drinks and food every night, who asked the daughter he "physically can't stand" (and is on a highly resctricted income) for loans so that we could keep the electricity on for Christmas (and won't explain how the money slotted for that bill just disappeared).
I pointed out all of these inconsistencies last night, and at times - like the Dr. Phil guest - he seemed shocked into silence. Into agreement: "I know I'm an asshole" he would say, as if it were news to me. And then, five minutes later there would be the "But what you don't understand is...." and I would sigh and shut it down.
"It's not that I don't understand. It's not even that I don't care - although at this point I would LIKE not to care - it's that it's not excusable. YOUR PROBLEMS ARE NOT SO MUCH WORSE THAN EVERYBODY ELSE'S. YOUR ISSUES DO NOT ENTITLE YOU TO ACT LIKE AN ASSHOLE TO OTHER PEOPLE - ESPECIALLY PEOPLE YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO CARE ABOUT. YOUR LIFE IS NOT THAT MUCH MORE STRESSFUL THAN ANYONE ELSE'S, AND THE FACT THAT YOU CONTINUE TO MAKE EXCUSES FOR YOUR BEHAVIOR IS WHY I REFUSE TO INTERACT WITH YOU."
Which I had to say at least 15 different times and at least 15 different ways. And in the end it was still "I don't like you being mad at me" and "We at least need to be civil."
No: I am not civil to people who speak to me in abusive ways. No: I am not civil to people who speak to my mother (sister, brother, friend, stranger on the street, lady on the telephone, aardvark in the zoo) in abusive ways.
No: I do not placate bullies any more. Because I have done so: too many times to count. And it's ridiculous to pretend that that does not play into his cajoling routine, that that is not, in fact, a vital element in our tail-swallowing-snake-swallowing-tail loop. But the fact is that I am determined not to do that anymore, and no amount of bullying on his part (or on the part of my other family members, who continue to make me feel like the unreasonable, bitchy, judgemental one) is going to change that.
I have a right to build boundaries, and have them respected. "It's not fair that you won't at least be civil to me, when I keep asking if you need things or cooking or..."
"No: It's not fair that you continue to ask me questions when I've told you to leave me alone. It's not fair that you use my illnesses (and inability to sometimes preform a task like cooking) as a ransom if I don't behave the way you want me to. It's not fair that I have constant anxiety whenever you are in the house, that I'm always waiting for the next big blow up - those are things that are not fair. Me telling you to show respect to the limitations I've place on our relationship? Is beyond fair. Me, not responding in kind when I have any number of names I could - in all FACTUAL honesty - call you? Is beyond fair. You're getting more from me right now - with all the looks and bitten tongues - then I feel you are entitled to already, so you need to just leave me alone, and let it be."
So: +10,000 points for me, for sticking to the script (and yes, you know I write the script for this sort of thing in my head - if not on paper - at least a million times) and not giving in even when he tried to make me feel uncaring and cold.
But -10,000 points because I know he will do absolutely nothing with anything we talked about yesterday, and I'm just going to have to keep having this conversation until we can finally move out.
*One of the hardest things I do in these 'discussions' is stick to "me statements" because I can't speak for the experiences of all of my siblings with 100% accuracy. But I know damn well that 3/5 of us would say he's been abusive. And the other two would describe abuse while saying "he did it for our own good", which... speaks for itself, in my opinion.