a_bit_of_wit_2: (morons)
(also posted to tumblr, feel free to comment wherever)

"When do we get to stop reacting to our parents and start living for ourselves?" --Tali'Zorah vas Normandy

Sometimes the subconscious can be a cold, unforgiving mistress. It can keep things buried in there for long periods of time, and cause you to feel emotions that the conscious mind can't wrap around. When I feel whatever set of emotions, I want to know why. And sometimes, those realizations can be painful.

I've always struggled emotionally on the matter of my immediate family. Both of my biological parents are deaf, divorced, and remarried. My father is largely out of my life, having moved on when I was 6 or so, my sister just getting into being a toddler. The man who became my stepfather when I was 8 became the father figure in my life, and remains so today. While I don't call him "dad" (the thought of his stepchildren calling him so makes him very uncomfortable), he has been my father.

Growing up with him, however, presented its own set of challenges. Largely because of my stepdad's horrible childhood, he was big into the idea of negative reinforcement. He never raised a hand to any of his kids--his own and his inherited ones--but for many years, he was miserable. He longs to have and maintain a very close, tight-knit family. He wants to be needed. Although, in hindsight, how he went about it, one would think of him the total opposite.

I know that all parents get separation anxiety when their kids grow old enough to have thoughts of their own, move out, and become independent. I'm aware of it. Perfectly understandable. But I don't think my stepdad ever got over it. When his kids (my older stepsiblings) got to puberty first and started having ideas of their own, he got angry. And stayed there. The thought of them no longer needing him made him incredibly depressed. Then I got the constant wrath when I reached that point. Then my sister. Is it any surprise that after being subjected to years of his misery that all his kids wanted to get the fuck out at their first available opportunity? Bless my deaf mom, who didn't hear many an insult, a bigoted remark, or just general annoying things he hurled at his kids.

I moved out when I was 19, and to this day, remains probably one of the best decisions of my life. That realization then that I couldn't rely on my family for anything stung. A lot. I think since then my relationship with my stepdad has improved, and finally, after many years, he's begun seeing a therapist. His own mental state finally shows improvement. One thing I need to make abundantly clear: I do love the man, and respect him. For all of his faults, he imparted a lot of good things to me. I'm trying to keep hold of those. And really, all I want for him as he grows older is just to be happy.

My mom...well, she's a different creature together. Being the first-born, and only, son of a Jewish mother is a blessing and a curse. And extremely sensitive. She's about THIS close to be considered a hovering parent, even though her boy has long since moved out, married, and is now going full-throttle to complete a decade-long journey into getting his damn Bachelor's degree. A wonderful person, she is fully supportive of everything I do...at least, emotionally. But her constant need to be in touch with me really gets under my skin. Yes, I know, she's my mother, and all that, but I don't feel the need to talk to her constantly. If I go a few weeks without calling her, she goes into floods of tears. For fuck's sake. She knows damn well that during the school year, I am extremely busy, but it's not getting through. And then we go through the same damn routine of "you don't care about me," Jew-guilt, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. She is so craving constant contact that I really don't want to deal with it. I'm the Golden Child in her eyes, it seems. It's also the same reason why I don't tell her about my occasional flare-ups from Crohn's disease--because the first reaction, and always has been, panic. Hell, all I had to do was tell her that I'm going to the hospital for some tests, and all she sees is the word "HOSPITAL" and goes into a panic, obsessively worrying about her baby. And then I get flack from my parents why I don't tell her these things.

My dad...well, as mentioned, he and my mom divorced when I was very young, and he's been largely out of my life. He does keep in contact, though...I guess, as the guy who shot out the spermload that ultimately made me, he does feel some sense of responsibility. I feel sort of weird about him, though...he did none of the raising of his kids, none of the hard work. And his wife (my stepmom) is trying to weasel into my life, and I don't want any of it. I've met her all of once.

What this long diatribe has come down to is this: recently, I've been feeling a torrent of negative emotions whenever I think of my family. Anger. Bitterness. Resentment. Sadness. Tears. I just want them to leave me the fuck alone. And I'm trying to figure out why, because I normally just think of my family as the occasional nuisance, but didn't mind keeping in touch all that much.

My wife, April, has always been good at picking my brain apart and making clear what I can't see. Always good to have a second set of eyes when trying to find something. I've been slowly coming to the realization that some of this stems from pure jealousy. I've been with April's family for the past 9+ years. And I think I'm now just coming to realize just by being in that group, that April has, and always had, something I never did--a cohesive family. She's never had to experience divorce (and all the horrible things that entails), step-siblings, years of constantly-depressed parents, deaf relatives, having to grow up quickly, and so on. Her family has her back, and she can depend on them for things.

April suggested a possible valid theory that I hadn't thought of: lately, I have been thinking about fatherhood. I am 27, after all: spawn will eventually enter the fray. And in the back of my head, I'm going through all the things that I should NOT do, given what I had to deal with. I am worried that I will become him when I do become a father, and if that happens, I'd like April to shoot me. I don't want to force my eventual kids out of the house because I devolve into Martin the Paranoid Android.

But what else dragged all these feelings to the surface? I can only think of one other possibility: recently, I've begun planning a series of photographs I want to take chronicling my childhood, which involve heading downstate and spending a lot of time in Rockland County. The last week or two, I've been recalling memories and places I've been, places and things I want to capture before they disappear forever, from when I could first remember to now. What I didn't expect was that recalling my childhood brought up connotations I have with them; some positive, some negative. What became a mental list of just simply things I wanted to photograph became a time tunnel, and it dug up things I buried, some good, some bad. As a result, it's made me want to do this series even more.

I will be visiting my parents in a few weeks...all I can hope for is that these feelings dissipate. Last night was a good starting point: I called my stepdad for Father's Day, and to my shock, he was in excellent spirits. It brightened my day, because I was in a funk thinking about all this. So I am hopeful.

I've already come to the conclusion that I'm simply going to have to placate my mom and call her more, if only to shut her up. I hate feeling obligated to keep in touch (I'm historically HORRIBLE at correspondence), but April's right--it's a small price to pay to keep the peace. For all my direct attempts at telling my mom not to be so damn sensitive and worrying constantly, all she does is pull rank. She doesn't get it.

Well, now that I've dumped all this out of my head, I do feel lighter and a bit better. However, I still search for the answer to Tali's question. It might be better contemplated on a full stomach, though.
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May 2017

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