We decided to spend the bank holiday having a barbecue. As we knew Tom would be at a loose end we invited him along too. We spent the afternoon trying to escape the oppressive heat with our feet in the paddling pool, burgers in hand. Then Dad rang to ask if he could pop round to see us.
He came over, he sat down, Tom came in from the garden and offered him food from the barbecue and then sat down with us. Dad looked at me and said, ‘My house move might be delayed’ and then he moved his eyes from mine over to Tom’s and for the rest of the hour that he was here, he spoke only to Tom. Almost every time I tried to join in the conversation I either got blanked by both of them or spoke over. I may as well have not been in the room. The times I did manage to engage with Dad, I had to repeat what I was trying to say three times before he acknowledged me, each time being more forceful until he couldn’t ignore me. It was one hour of complete and utter adoration for my Dad, gaining Tom’s full undivided attention the whole time and he loved it. Tom revelled in being able to talk to someone who only had eyes for him but over and over again made himself look stupid by trying to make out he knew more than he actually did about every topic of conversation, a fact I’ve failed to notice before now.
The two of them completely monopolised my space, both left me feeling worthless and invalidated my very existence in my own home. Both only wanted to know I was in the room when they could do something to ‘help’ me that would make them both look good. Both offered to give me their old iphones despite me saying I didn’t want one as mine was good enough for the purpose I needed one for.
Neither man treated me as though I was worthy enough to join in the conversation. I realised as I sat there that as a child, the only way I could ever get my Dad’s attention, his love and his acceptance of me being a part of the family and a part of his life, was when my funny or silly side came out. It was the only thing I ever did that made him engage with me. My intelligence was never once noticed. My musical talents were ignored. I even learned to play the piano with no piano lessons at all yet all of my natural abilities, hard work and commitment went totally unnoticed, a fact I’ve only just realised.
I was never encouraged to work. All work offers went to Millie. All opportunities went to Millie.
If I wanted my Dad’s ‘love’ or approval I had to push myself right into the limelight by playing the clown, acting foolishly and validating for him that his similar behaviour was acceptable while at the same time also validating to Dad and to myself that everything else I had to offer as a daughter and as a person was of no value. As an adult, I still do this. Every time we meet, all Dad ever talks about is himself; his work, his photography, his house. He must go home feeling great, thinking he’s had great conversations! All the while, I subconsciously adjust my mood to one of joviality. I joke and laugh and be funny and light but deep down I think all I’m really saying is ‘NOTICE ME!’
Today I didn’t do that. I just sat back quietly and I watched in a way I never have before. I just quietly observed and because of my reticence to join in, I noticed how little he and Tom value my input and value my very existence. I was, on the whole, invisible to them.
Strangely enough, I’m fine with this. I’m accepting of the truth connected to Dad and Tom and I’m learning to accept how this truth is affecting things with Phil. When I’m with Phil I talk. I talk about me, I talk about the kids, I talk about my life, I talk about most things that matter to me and I talk shite and then when I’ve talked and talked and talked I suddenly get struck by how much I’ve talked, how selfish I’ve been, how I made everything about me. I notice that Phil has barely said a word and that I have totally monopolised our time and space and then I feel guilty and selfish. I feel as though it must mean that all I care about is myself and that I don’t care about him. I notice that when Phil talks, I often interrupt him. I don’t mean to, I just become so caught up in the conversation that I don’t stop to finish listening to Phil’s valid part in the conversation before butting in with my own. I notice this but I don’t always manage to stop it happening until I’ve already done it.
I’ve wondered if I’m just like Tom and just like Dad. I now wonder if, and I could be wrong on this one, but I wonder if it’s because Phil gives me that space, that non-judgemental space, that space that says, “I value you and all that you bring to our conversations and to my life” that I’m being swept away on that and just going for it, with no thought about Phil’s need to converse equally but I’m not sure this is a bad thing. I have someone, for the first time in my life, that loves me for being who I am. He loves me for my darkness as much as he loves me for my lighter side and maybe it’s that unconditional love that makes it okay for me to monopolise the conversations because maybe by doing so now, I won’t always need to in the future.
I have also noticed that when we’ve been in company, I have sat back quietly and allowed Phil to dominate the conversations, almost to speak for me and that’s okay too. I trust him to be able to hold his own verbally and to hold mine too when I lack the confidence to do so myself, which is true much of the time. With Phil, in our private alone time, I feel totally safe and held to be able to show him who I really am by speaking my truth. That’s something I do with no-one else. That’s something I’ve no doubt learned from years of invalidation from Dad and Tom.
I’m also noting that lifelong invalidation of my abilities, skills and values has contributed largely to where I am in life now. To how little money I have always had in my life ~ I feel worthless therefore I am financially worthless. The financial is reflecting back to me the emotional. I can also see, upon reflection, that I’m clearly not completely worthless otherwise I would be living on the street without a penny to my name. I must believe, somewhere deep down, that I have some value as I do have money to live on, I just don’t have enough for any extras. Although seeing that written down is making me question that too! I do have the money for extras but I choose to give those extras to the kids every time rather than to myself. I’ve always thought that the right thing to do but maybe it’s time to start giving to myself too?
I can see it affects my ability to either look for a job or start my own business. Every time I attempt to do either, after a few hours, days or maybe a week or two, I suddenly get hit by the thoughts of ‘You’re not good enough’ ‘What you have to offer isn’t of value’ ‘Everyone else will be better than you’ ‘You are totally worthless and of no value to anyone’. Sometimes these thoughts are loud enough for me to hear and I’m aware that they are what is holding me back. More often, they run on a loop, in my mind, just outside my field of awareness but if I stop and listen, I can hear them whispering, taunting me, holding me back.
Today’s interactions (or lack of) with Dad and Tom left me feeling sad and drained but now, having written this, I feel positive that with Phil’s unconditional love, it won’t always be this way and with more and more awareness I will gain the tools to change this.
– I know I am intelligent enough to engage in a conversation with anyone.
– I know I am wise enough to be able to add value to people I talk to.
– I know I am funny enough to add that in if I want to, not just if I need to, to be noticed.
– I know I am worthy enough and I know I am good enough.
– I know I have a lot of skills and abilities that are good enough for my personal life and for a career.
– I know that I have a lot to offer to the right people and I know that I have a lot to give to myself.
No matter what I’ve previously been made to believe.