Saturday, February 24, 2007

can somebody please tell me how to respond?

My dad got married today. Not to my mother.

I don’t quite know how to behave. What does a daughter do when her dad finds somebody new to hitch up with? Is there some protocol I can follow? “Smile now. Offer congratulations at this moment. Step forward and welcome your new stepmother with a brush on the cheek. Smile some more.”

Can somebody tell me how I should feel? Mostly I feel like weeping. Weeping for what isn’t. Weeping for what never really was, but should have been. Weeping of a broken heart shattered by pain.

This journey into family breakdown began when my mother decided enough was enough, and left my father. I fully support her decision – 30 years of abuse is a long time. That was four years ago, but in reality the journey began long before Mum left… it began before I was born, and was travelled every day of my life.

Growing up, we had a semblance of normalcy as we played happy family for the outside world. We did the things families do – fun excursions to Royal Australian Navy ships, visits to the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, scrubbed faces and best dresses in church every Sunday. We knew how to act when we were on show: smile and laugh in the right places; never give away the traumas experienced behind closed doors; jump to one another’s defence if anyone dares to hint something might not be quite right.

To everyone else we were a tightly knit family - on the inside we stuck together because we were brainwashed and cowed.

In my mind our family was like a magnificent Faberge egg. Gilt and beautiful on the outside; a fabulous specimen of fine art. Hollow on the inside with no real substance, no nourishment.

Somewhere along the way each of us became gradually aware that life in our household was not what it should be. Where there ought to have been love and laughter we were at odds with one another; unable to relate meaningfully; tearing each other apart as we struggled to survive the onslaught to our souls.

Despite all of that, when Mum left I was devastated. The pretence was over. Before she went there may have been wounds and pain, but technically we were still a family. Now there could be no pretending. The treasured Faberge egg fell to the floor and smashed into a million pieces, and with it, my heart.

You’d think that after four years I might have worked through some of the pain. I have (all credit to God and his infinite love), but like Humpty Dumpty, things can never be put back together again. Especially when I want them put back the way they should have been right from the start – with love and respect and patience and generosity and joy.

I’ve learned to accept that there will always be places in my heart that will never heal, that will never recover from the tearing. Mostly I hide the wounds, sometimes I uncover them in order to allow myself to feel the pain, occasionally I reveal them so I might offer healing to others. (Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)

So where does that leave me on this day when my father has married another woman?

Obviously in pain!
Constrained by how I think I should feel:

Millions have walked where I now tread… I am not the first to experience the advent of a stepmother. This is normal for the world today so surely I can accept my reality amongst the greater reality and respond graciously with a welcoming smile?

Besides, since when was my father ever accountable to me? He is his own person. He makes his own decisions. I am a child, and children don’t tell parents what they should or shouldn’t do. Let him make his own decision and live with the results. It’s not my business. Butt out and let the day pass without too much bother. His life, not mine!

This normalising tool sounds good in a counselling text but it does nothing for the ache in my heart. It doesn’t hide the feeling of betrayal. It doesn’t give me back my family.

Deep down inside, my Faberge egg has been ground into dust. If it could have been put back together before, it certainly can’t be now.

Ah the pain.

I don’t know how to behave. I haven’t figured out the protocol. All I know is that once again I feel terribly wounded. I can only sit with that pain until the way forward becomes clear.

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At 6:40 am, February 25, 2007, Blogger merry said...

I'm sorry you're feeling so shattered. Even though it's quite common these days for one's parent to remarry, it is still an unusual thing to have to witness.

My husband's father remarried a year and a half ago, but for him it was more weird than heartbreaking -- but his parents divorced when he was 9. He had a lot more time to get used to them apart, and he was still very young.

Your wounds will take time to heal. Hopefully the new situation will ultimately result in happiness for everyone.

At 6:42 am, February 25, 2007, Blogger merry said...

(That was me. Blogger was being weird and then posted twice)

At 7:45 am, February 25, 2007, Blogger Robyn said...

I'm sorry Cec, and I love you. I'm praying for you, wish you lived closer. Ask Frank to give you a big hug for me please.

At 9:29 am, February 25, 2007, Anonymous Sandy said...

Cecily, I think the healthier you mentally become the more you see what's going on in your life. I wish I could say congratulations for becoming healthier, but I know how painful this can be. Be patient with yourself, remember you are going forward and in time things will start to come together. You've learned the damage that can become of shutting down and pretending to be happy, so what's next?

I apologise if I come across as a know-it-all; not intended.

At 3:03 pm, February 25, 2007, Blogger Cecily said...

Thankyou all for your kind comments... I have actually worked through lots of this and I'm better adjusted than I sound (I think so anyway!). Just things have a way of coming around and around again and again when a new circumstance arises. The angle is slightly different each time and allows for more work to be done! This is one of those moments.

At 3:04 pm, February 25, 2007, Blogger Cecily said...

PS Merry that blogger thing is weird isn't it?! Happens to me too, except I never think to delete it!

At 6:33 pm, February 25, 2007, Blogger Lucidiocy said...

Hey Cecily,

Stumbled upon your blog and wanted to encourage you somehow, yet I don't really know what to say...I do know what it's like to walk on Faberge eggshells .


At 1:01 am, February 26, 2007, Anonymous Sandy said...

Got your message thanks for the info.


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