Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Finding My Voice, Finally

Sometimes I wonder if I will recover from recovery. Ok, Drama Queen, life isn't all that bad. It is just one of those vulnerability hangovers that Brené Brown talks about in her writings (Daring Greatly, The Gift of Imperfection). I get that. Showing up, being honest, speaking my truth - there are the feelings that follow. I’m just feeling the aftereffects from the emotional energy and honesty required for yesterday’s two-hour therapy session with my parents. Yes, I stepped into that arena, not so much with oodles of courage, but with a willingness and commitment. 

Let me first say that I love my parents dearly. They are the most supportive, generous, and loving people I know. They have stood by me, encouraging me to be my best, affirming me for my unique and individual qualities my whole life. The very last thing I would ever want to do is to cause them pain. The mere fact that they were willing to come to a therapy session with me speaks of their commitment to my welfare. So just writing about this topic is difficult. I am committed to sharing my recovery journey in its various nuances, and this event is one of those pivotal times. To not include this in my journey record would be a disservice. I've mentioned before that I struggle with having family of origin problems because I have known how loved I am and I fight feeling guilty over having problems. But they are there, and I'm facing it and working on not minimizing my struggles. My family’s primary dysfunction is in our boundary failure, resulting in a lot enmeshment, so much that Debra has referred to it as a big yarn ball. Learning how this has been affecting me, negatively impacting my becoming a FFA, is one tough lesson (ok, a bunch of tough lessons). The circumstances are what they are. 

The problem can be easily illustrated in our housing arrangement. Tony and I own a ranch style home on an acre lot. I am living there now with my niece and nephew (without Tony). My parents winter with me and live in a guest house on our property. They began their snowbird lifestyle back in 2001 when they would live in an RV parked on the property. When they decided to look for something more permanent, it was agreed that they would convert our current garage into a guest house, and build another garage to replace it. The timing of this housing shift coincided with the downward spiraling of my marriage.  Over the course of the next several years, I became increasingly emotionally and physically enmeshed with my parents. When they would return to Iowa each April, I usually had about a month of major adjustment. I also regressed in my adult behavior while my codependency became more and more of a problem.

Now that I am in the Healing Lane, daring greatly and pursuing a wholehearted life as a fully functioning adult, I envision myself as a single, yet interdependent, woman apart from my parents. It demands my growing up and becoming unenmeshed with them. Yesterday, I knew I needed to fully speak my truth to my parents about our living arrangement. I needed to tell them I did not want to live jointly with them. Essentially I had to tell them our arrangement isn't working. It felt a bit like my telling them when I was 19 that I was moving to Arizona. But this was worse. I'm a mother now and feel the bond of a parent to the child. The goal is to relate as adults and to quit this unhealthy relating as their child.

It was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I have spent most of my life trying to live up to what I believed they wanted and deserved. Being the pleaser was my role. Saying something that could be received as hurtful was just out of my comfort level. Waaaaaay out. There is no guarantee that what I said wasn't taken as rejection. There is no guarantee that they will continue to winter in Arizona, which is something I still very much want. There simply are no guarantees. I had to speak my truth and release any control or attachment or tendencies to manipulate the situation. Healthy living just doesn't include those things. Healthy living includes accepting our limitations and staying in one's boundaries.

I will not forget the smile on Debra’s face after this grueling honest sharing. I asked her why the smile, and she said because I had found my voice, finally. She wanted me to notice the difference in my own demeanor and the change in how I was relating to my parents. There was an empowerment that came from my vulnerability and honesty. It represented several years of maturity in a matter of minutes. Even as I share this experience I find that I am required to be vulnerable. There just seems no end of opportunity to dare greatly, to get into the arena and risk oneself. I will take each as it comes, knowing with each risk there can be great triumph, but with no risk there is no triumph. There is indeed triumph in finding my voice...finally.

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