Crooked spin can’t come to rest. I’m damaged bad at best.
~From Say Yes by Elliott Smith
I’m never proud to fit into a cliché. I don’t want to be just another girl with daddy issues. I don’t want that hanging over me for the rest of my life. I don’t want my stomach to twist in knots because a sound or smell or facial expression brings me back to the days when I felt small enough to step on. I don’t want to cry for reasons even I don’t completely understand.
I want to be the exception. I want to be the one who’s come through the emotional abuse, neglect, and abandonment unscathed. I want to be stronger than I am.
I don’t want to take every piece of criticism from the person I love to mean that he thinks I’m stupid or uninteresting or inconsequential. I don’t want to pull apart every word and examine its meaning.
Growing up, my father would disappear for months or years at a time. And then he’d show up out of the blue. I’d run to him and he’d pick me up and hold me tight and everything was wonderful in the world. My daddy loved me.
I’d spend every moment I was with him trying to be perfect. I never talked back to my father. If I disobeyed, it was not intentional. I had to make sure I didn’t do anything that would make him leave again. I had to make sure I was good enough for him to love me.
And when he’d poke fun at me, belittle my ideas, or just choose football and beer over me, my heart would break. It was almost never the words he said. It was his voice – that tone of condescension and beration. He’d look at me as if I were nothing and I’d feel as if I were nothing. His power over me was always absolute.
Hatred began to seep into me. I tried to hate him. I ended up hating myself instead. After all, I was the one not perfect enough. Maybe if I was better. Maybe if I was different. Maybe if I was a boy and played football and baseball. Maybe then he would love me.
I spent years working through all that self-loathing. I came to understand that my father did love me in his own twisted way. I came to understand that I would always love my father, regardless of his lack of involvement in my life. Time and time again, I thought I moved past the ant-like feelings of my childhood.
Time and time again, my father would show up out of the blue telling me how things would be different. He still does it. Mostly in the form of tearful phone calls now. He’s sorry. He knows he screwed up. He wants to have a relationship. He wants me to know how much he loves me.
Time and time again, I fall for it all. And my heart is left broken in pieces again. And I’m left disbelieving that anyone could possibly love me because if my own father can’t, there has to be something wrong with me.
It doesn’t matter how ridiculous these thoughts are. It doesn’t even matter that I know they’re ridiculous when I have them. The feelings can’t be squashed. And so I’m left here, uncomfortably fitting into that cliché.