It’s hard when we talk about our parents. They are supposed to set an example for us, teach us our direction in life, set the tone for the life we will live out the rest of our days. If you’re lucky enough to have exemplary parents like my wife did, and live a fairly normal childhood then I commend that, it’s probably a good thing to follow in their footsteps.
For me, it was a different story.
My Dad was an abuser, a pathological liar and an alcoholic. Luckily he wasn’t involved much in my life after five, and during high school he was in and out sporadically. But it’s amazing to look back. Really amazing. The profound effect my parents had on me.
My Mum, she was SO dead set in telling me that it wasn’t good to turn out like my Dad. Dad was scum in her eyes, she couldn’t fathom how a person would lie, cheat and steal for their own gain. She hated it, and she drummed that into my head for years.
Sadly, it backfired on her. She forgot one vital statistic. I AM the product of my Dad whether she likes it or not. And through a series of teenage arguments and rebellions against her discipline I adopted the stance of, Well, my Dad does it, why can’t I?
I’m not justifying my actions here. Thinking back my motivations were rather messed up as a way to “get back” at my Mum, but they set the tone for a HUGE portion of my life. Essentially for at least 10 years I lied, cheated and stole, and a lot more.
And it didn’t stop there. My Dad was a mentally abusive man in his later years, so we were always arguing and disowning each other. It was quite a roller coaster of emotions. I spent most of my 20’s being drawn to people exactly like my Dad as a weird psychological attempt to fix some issue I had with him at the time. Because that’s what relationships are; we meet the people who mirror something that we’re trying to fix in life.
One gentleman I’ve never mentioned before. His name was Pete; he’s dead now, and looking back his life was quite a sad story. I lived with him for three months. We were brought together by my Mum forcing me out of her house so that she could rent it out to other people. He was a strange one; yet, like my Dad in many aspects.
We started off easily, our relationship strengthened by every pub visit and intoxicated session we dared to go on. We didn’t work, and both of us were quite unwell at the time, suffering from quite a degree of mental illness. It wasn’t long before the cracks in our relationship started to show.
I remember the angst he felt when I began to get romantically involved with someone over the internet. I’d spent entire nights with her, leaving Pete on his own, friendless. He didn’t like that. He was too narcissistic to understand that people were entitled to their own lives, and that not everything revolved around him.
Thus began his warpath of trying to control me to the point of suffocation. I remember visiting some other friends once and them telling me, “Oh, Pete has been at it again, giving us his oh poor me story” – and that came as a shock, because as far as I was aware everything was fine. I was oblivious to his eternal plight of victim hood. I remember storming back telling him that night:
“Why can’t you just confront ME god dammit, rather than spewing your sobs to my friends?”
I remember feeling really violated, because he and my other friends were having conversations about me behind my back without doing the honour of confronting ME. An act of cowardice in my opinion.
Do you have a problem with me?
Please deal with me. No-one else. Other people construe and conflict and warp the situation.
It was the final straw in our relationship if I’m honest; his need for control and inability to communicate honestly with me had me afraid. What else was he hiding behind my back? If he could pretend to my face about something so crucial as the well-being of our relationship while undermining me to others, what other betrayals was he capable of? That all too familiar Dad-like paranoia came flooding back and had me realising I had chosen yet-another-replacement-dad.
I learned a valuable lesson from that experience: I wasn’t going to judge other people based on things said about them behind their backs ever again.
Perhaps I would listen and help, if appropriate, but it wouldn’t effect how I felt about someone. I learned there are absolutely two sides to a story, and I was introduced to the idea of a grey area. Sometimes there is no right path to take, just two shitty ones! haha.
And above all I learned to deal with the consequences of my actions. It wasn’t the pivotal moment, but an experience I had that allowed me to reflect upon later in life. That every choice I make will have a consequence attached to it, good or bad, or slightly worse.
I grew up.
My Dad died later in life, and sadly we never truly made peace with each other. I now see his passing as a blessing, because from there I truly blossomed. I started to heal from the dishevelled existence he had laid out for me, eternally searching for the Father I had never truly connected with, desperately searching out his traits in other people.
I finally healed.
I later found out that Pete had died from a heart attack in 2014, sad, really. He was young, and had so much to offer. Yet his anger, his bitterness at life and the world around him did him a great disservice. I feel lucky that I finally sought the help that I needed to move forward with my life.
And that truly shone through.