Some years ago I realised that I punish men. Not all men. Just some men. Each of the men I punish is a stand-in for my father, whom I can’t forgive for not protecting me from my mother. I know it sounds trite when I put it like that. It sounds trite because it leaves out so much of my underworld. It’s like saying the sign bearing the name of the town is the town itself.
Because I punish only some men, not all men, I have tried to figure out what links them all. If I can find the common link, I can recognise early on that this is one of those men and avoid him or, if that’s not possible, monitor myself more carefully whenever I speak to him. But I haven’t found the link. It’s there. It’s something about them that reminds me of my father. It might be several traits. I suspect they won’t be noticeable to anyone but me.
Over the years that I worked to heal myself and gain self-respect, the people who helped me said, “You always talk about your mother. You never mention your father.” I explained that my mother was a tower in my life. The sombre shadow she cast blotted out my father. Both of my parents were wounded children, grieving inconsolably for all that they never had in the way of love. But it was my mother, not my father, who trained me up to try to console her, though she was beyond consolation. She taught me to be an empath. Whatever powers of empathy I possess I owe to her training.
Healing and self-respect came when I let go of my angry longing for a different mother to the one I had. It didn’t happen in one fell swoop. It happened gradually, morsel by morsel. It’s hard work of a kind that’s as elusive as it is life-changing. Talking about it like this inevitably makes it seem trite. I wish I could find the words to show how complicated and difficult and illuminating and marvellous it was. But I can’t. It’s one of those experiences that can only be appreciated by living it.
I let go of that angry longing for a different mother. I have not let go of my angry longing for a different father. I said earlier that I try to figure out what links the men I punish so that I can avoid them or monitor myself more carefully. But really, the best solution to this problem is to let go.