My sister phoned last night. We had quite a long chat, during which she asked if I’d be coming home this Christmas. Since last year I’ve maintained that I won’t go home again as I don’t want to spend any time around my father. So I’ve been thinking about it and what it would be like if I did go home.
My therapist would be proud of me. In fact she probably will be when I mention it next week. My first thought was “What emotions is this going to bring up and how can I deal with them?” So, what emotions is it going to bring up?
Well, the thing that really got to me last year was how rule-bound and inflexible my father is, and how he would get jealous of me spending time and talking to my mother. There’s not much to do at my parents’ house, so I get bored and tend to focus on these things more than I should. When he’s particularly rule-bound he treats everyone like a child who can’t be trusted to do things on their own. When he’s jealous, he acts like a child himself and everyone has to be terribly careful of his oh-so-fragile feelings.
So there’s a mix of emotions that I’ll be feeling. Being treated like a child makes me feel angry and resentful, the implication is that I’m not good enough or responsible enough. His jealous spells put me in the role of adult, so I find myself feeling responsible for his feelings, not because I particularly care if he gets upset, but because my mum does and he’ll end up sulking, which makes her feel bad.
So how do I deal with these feelings? I think it would help if every time he treated me like a child I reminded him that I’m not by telling him “I’m not a child and I can do that myself, thank you.” I can remind myself that for 51 weeks of the year I live by myself, have dealt with a whole load of shit in the last couple of years and am working on getting my life together now that I’m feeling OK. These are not the actions of someone who’s irresponsible. I can tell myself that if I’m feeling useless, it’s because I have no real role in that house, not because I can’t do stuff. It’ll help if I do have other things to do as well.
And when I find myself having to be careful of his feelings because he’s an emotional child throwing a tantrum, well, I don’t have to go along with it. If he interrupts something my mum and I are doing, I can tell him that “Mum and I are kind of busy at the moment, perhaps you could wait until later on?” or if he tries to derail a conversation we’re having, I can say “Mum and I were talking about something, so it seems kind of rude for you to change the topic from nowhere. We can talk about that later if you want, or you’re welcome to join in with what we’re talking about.” I can tell myself that he’s an adult and should be able to manage his own feelings in a sensible way and if he can’t then it’s not my problem. I can decide that if he puts himself in the position of a child, then I’m fully justified in treating him like one, which doesn’t mean acquiesing to whatever he’s throwing a tantrum about.
I think it’ll help if I have more to do. This is slightly problematic. A lot of the things I do here, I do on the computer (like writing this, for example). My parents do have a computer - a rather nicer computer than mine, annoyingly - but they only subscribe to a dial-up package, which charges for calls after 4pm. (This is because my father hates change and refuses to upgrade it for any reason.) However, I recently bought a tiny guitar amp (the Orange Micro-Crush ) which I can easily cart around, so my guitar set-up is much more portable than with the bigger practice-amp I have. So that’s a few hours a day sorted out. My sister’s house is also within walking distance, so I should obviously go see her on one or two days. I have my little mp3 player, so I can also take plenty of music with me. I also have an extra 2GB mini-SD card hanging around somewhere and an SD-card-reader, so I can take some computer stuff with me. (I could load Python onto it and think of a programming project that’d take a few days). So I guess there’s lots I can do if I think about it and plan ahead.
Is dealing with my father going to be difficult? Of course - it always has been. But I’m so much better now than I was at Christmas, even though I felt kind of OK-ish then. I’m not giving up cigarettes, so I’ll be much less edgy. And I think it’ll be worth it to spend some time with my mum and my sister.
So yeah, it looks like I will be going to my parent’s house for Christmas. And I now seem to have a plan to deal with the things that caught me off-guard last year.