Therapy helps me hear myself think. Sometimes I think some things I don’t want to say out loud. Saying them out loud brings up feelings that I’ve tried to suppress for a long time, and I don’t like it very much.
It was my duty to love my parents, appreciate them, accept them; for the most part, I did. But for some reason, especially after I started to drive myself around, they didn’t support me. I started to feel that what I thought was support was really parental duty…they drove me because they had to, not because they thought what I was doing was worthwhile.
They paid for viola lessons so I could maintain the first chair in concerts they weren’t interested in attending. They bought me art supplies for artwork they wouldn’t try to understand. Thinking about me was a waste of their time. On some level, I agreed with them. I was wasting my time.
Looking back, I was being encouraged to develop talents that were marketable to colleges – but it turned out my parents never had the money to send me to college although I operated under the assumption they would. No, I’ll just say it. I was led to believe that they could and would be able to send me to college so long as I could come up with SOME scholarship money.
I ended up with high academic achievements and talents in art and music that ultimately meant nothing to them. My achievements meant nothing to them. My future meant nothing to them. I meant nothing to them.
And because I felt misled and alone, those lovely achievements meant nothing to me. I had worked SO HARD to make them proud, but there was never a “pay-off” of any sort. My dad slept during the last orchestra concert he attended. My mother commented that she had never liked the “monkey faces” in my artwork. Good grades got an “That’s what I expected of you.” And when I started to bring home average grades and the school was calling the house because of my truancies, no one said a word. Had they ever really cared?
When I joined the Army, my dad told me he was happy I joined the military because he couldn’t have kept me in school for more than a semester. I had wanted him to be proud of me because I was serving our country like he did, or because I was going to receive the GI Bill benefit and put myself through school.
But no. Me not being able to go to school was about HIM, not about me. He didn’t even care about me. At least that’s how I felt. I was crushed. But I played it off at the time.
When I left for the Army, I didn’t allow myself to think about those disappointments any more.
Frankly, it hurts to think of them now. More so, I suppose, because I’m examining the parts of my life that segued into my marriage, and I’ve used my marriage as an excuse to smother my personal aspirations. And why not? Personal achievement never impressed my parents, and since I was basing “who I was” off of their feedback (another can of worms), I’ve denied myself personal achievement since.
One hard lesson I want to learn and accept is that I must pursue things that are meaningful to me so I feel good when I accomplish something. Even if no one but me finds my pursuits meaningful, and even if no one ever praises me or gives me a cookie for pursuing them.
The question is, what is meaningful to me?
I’ve spent my lifetime trying to impress someone else. How do I switch gears and learn to impress myself?