Parenting is a tough task. Perfect parenting is an impossible one. But most parents do a phenomenal job of caring for their children, while holding down a job (or two), remembering everyone’s birthday and making order out of chaos. There are some, though, whose unresolved issues and emotional pain from their own upbringing result in abuse and deep emotional scars for their offspring. The fallout is costly, with failed relationships, unexpressed anger, and years of therapy for many worthy souls. And even if they arrive at a place of compassion and understanding for their parents’ pain, it can be hard to completely let go of the feelings and memories that distorted their world.
In cases like this, it can be refreshing to give yourself permission to vent and to not feel obliged to love someone just because they gave birth to you. It can be healthy to reclaim yourself by rejecting all that ‘stuff’, through humour and spontaneous self-expression, in ways that got suppressed through abuse in your formative years. If you’ve done years of therapy and have diligently peeled away the layers of pain that got laid down, it might feel good to just ‘let it rip’.
Over the years, many women have came to see me about the pain of their past – and the damage done by their severely dysfunctional alcoholic parents. These parents had dumped all their toxic pain on their children (a projection of their own sense of worthlessness and despair, since their children are an extension of them) and some took a perverse pleasure in seeing them suffer. It’s hard to feel compassion for parents like that – and maybe we shouldn’t even try. If we find ourselves trying to make sense of such wanton cruelty, it’s often because we’re trying to figure out what it was about us that caused them to be that way. That, in itself, is a big part of the damage done to our sense of self and our innate self-worth.
So, for all those lovely women (and men) out there who have experienced the pain of a loveless and alcohol-driven existence, here’s a tongue-in-cheeky recipe for relief that will hopefully bring a smile to your lips and a lilt to your heart. (For other forms of toxic parenting, see Part 2 – coming shortly.)
Imagine a world without those parents; they have evaporated into the ethers in an alcoholic haze and are no longer using up valuable oxygen on planet Earth. You’ve decided to expunge all negative feelings and memories associated with them. What should you do?
Celebrate! Take a whole week off work and give thanks that you’re finally free. But don’t go drinking, now. You know what happened to them, and you don’t want to give them the afterlife satisfaction of turning into an alcoholic yourself.
Spend all of Monday walking on the beach, breathing in that delicious parent-free air. Savour the fact that you are a self-sufficient, autonomous, self-determined being, and give yourself total permission to be as outrageous and creative as you a-parently are.
On Tuesday, eat a whole bar of organic dark chocolate, just to re-affirm that you can actually enjoy yourself (maybe even experience ecstasy, if it’s really yummy chocolate) without getting drunk. Notice the uniqueness of your experience, which you can’t possibly describe to anyone else, even if they’re a connoisseur of chocolate, and remind yourself that all your experiences are your own, for you to accept or reject, as you see fit.
On Wednesday, go into a pub/wine bar and order a fresh orange juice, sipping it slowly as if it were heavenly nectar (which it is). Luxuriate in the fact that your taste buds are alive and well (rather than being numbed by alcohol) and that you can fully appreciate the delicious, sun-kissed perfection of nature’s simple goodness.
On Thursday, go dirty dancing and take special delight in being able to pirouette 10 times without falling over legless. Even if you do fall over, you can laugh, knowing that it puts a healthy spin on life; and you can get up, knowing that you’re still in charge of you.
On Friday, write them a letter telling them what you think of them and send it off to the Guinness Book of Records, without a return address. Be creative, exaggerate, and inject as much humour as you can, knowing that laughter is a form of self-love – and an antidote to pain.
On Saturday, go sit on a mountaintop and give thanks for all that you are that they were not …and apologize to the universe for ever thinking that you were anything other than perfect – not to mention courageous, strong and forgiving, with an uncanny ability to see life’s many ironies.
By Sunday, you should be feeling fabulous. Parents? What parents…?
Please note: No parents were harmed in the making of this blog.