The Gifts of Invalidation

I’m revisiting old poems, letters, notes, and various other writings that I’ll be including in memoir number two.

Yesterday, I sat and read them aloud to my husband. He sat shaking his head with tears in his eyes.

In one of them, I was 32 years old and my dad was fifty-two. I am now fifty-two. That letter was twenty years ago. I was asking him to please validate my pain—explaining that I needed it for my health to live my life fully. I explained all the work I was doing on myself in therapy, and sharing the books I had been reading. I asked him if he could he please help me by explaining some of the things I remembered.

In the letter, I said it wasn’t to blame or hurt him, just to help me since I was having health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks and back pain to the point of barely being able to walk. At age 32!

There is no return response to that letter.

There are other letters to him and my mother where I fully tear into them and let them know in no uncertain terms just how awful it is for them to have such “selective memories” and how hurtful their dismissive, flippant attitudes hurt me. I tell them both how tired I am of the poking and prodding of me they do to get a response, yet, when I do respond, they insist I “live in the past and need to let things go.”

Then, there are soft and tender poems I started writing about my mother in the late 90’s. I wrote how sorry I was that I may not have always appreciated her, and how awful her life must have been. I assure her she was always loved. I was writing to her about understanding how difficult motherhood was since I was doing it alone. Then, I realized as I read,
I was searching for a common thread between us and trying to rectify in my mind that my suffering and hers were the same. I was actually begging to belong to my own damn family; giving to her what I wished she could give to me.

I know we’re supposed to be soft and gentle with our younger selves, but reading these letters and poems made me wish I could go back and actually ring my own neck! Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I was angry at first. How desperate to beg for love and belonging. But, I thought doing so meant I cared about the other person and was sending the message they were worth it. I didn’t realize I didn’t love myself. If I had, I would have never, ever, begged to be seen, heard and validated from people who proved again and again that they weren’t going to change.

Reading those letters proved I’ve been a lifelong seeker of the truth, and have spent my life thinking it was me who needed to change while those around me never did.

I read those letters now without any spark of emotion toward my parents, except for maybe some sadness. What a waste of a life to be the same at every age and stage of life. Nothing else in nature stays the same and unchanged except for a narcissist. — And, it’s all because their ego can’t take that they are not perfect and superior at every turn. How awfully sad.

Except for some residual twinges of anger about being desperate to connect with such dysfunctional people regardless of how self-sufficient I was, I’m proud of myself and who I’ve become. Because those around me refused to grow up, I’ve outgrown them by leaps and bounds from being in a constant state of change as a seeker of truth and self-healer. I had to go on to validate myself, learn to hear what it was I was really trying to say, and as a result, have always enjoyed my own company and can happily and healthily look at my imperfect self in the mirror and smile. I love me.

I took my twinges of anger toward my younger self (or probably more of a residual irritation than it was anger) to the yoga mat for mediation last night before bed. My god. I slept like a dead person last night with glorious, undisturbed, peaceful sleep and a calm mind. I awoke to such vivacious energy to continue on with writing and clarity about what comes next.

What a gift this has truly turned out to be. I am forever thankful.

My multitasking room where I write, make art, sew, do yoga, and meditate.

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