I don’t normally use this blog for correspondence to someone, but I loved this letter so much I thought it was worthy of sharing for posterity’s sake. I want this in my memoirs. This was written after I went to Al-Anon for the first time.
I just realized that I know a piece of the puzzle that you don’t know, and that you’d probably like to. My sister, Steffi, was an attorney at a domestic violence shelter for many years, so her bookshelves are filled with thousands of dollars worth of self-help. Dana and I spent some time with her last summer in Sacramento.
I was asked to preach, and because of the Lectionary, I started reading about battered women and abuse. I went through Steffi’s library at length and read everything I could possibly read about battered women because I was looking for you, trying to find your emotional picture, so that I could figure out what the hell had happened to me over the last 24 years. I didn’t start the project by looking for you, but a book on verbal abuse held up so many red flags that I cried for weeks. You stifle my love for you by not letting it flow naturally. By damming it so that my emotions slap on you like waves and all you have to do is destroy the dam so that the tsunami doesn’t have time to materialize in the first place.
The missing piece of the puzzle for me was wondering how I could pull myself out of this relationship without your permission. It’s not that I couldn’t let you go, it’s that once you were gone, I still couldn’t take off the ring, you know? My interactions with you changed, but my behavior didn’t… a complete and total hallmark of verbal abuse. You also manage our connection so tightly that it’s strangling, and I didn’t know that wasn’t normal for a very long time. And by managing, I agree that it’s ok that you take up all the room in this relationship because that’s how we set this up. After 25 years, our relationship can’t handle some cracks and tears? Please.
Last night I lost about 400 lbs of emotional weight, and I feel lighter today than I have in weeks.
Before those books, my mental health was very unstable because the fact that I couldn’t NAME THE PROBLEM and it was going undiagnosed for years and years and years finally got to me. I realized how sick I was without even knowing it, so it kept compounding.
My first family didn’t drink at all. They had other flaws, but that wasn’t one of them. I say this to acknowledge that in raising me, everybody did the best they could do and I’m not bitter. I’m awesome.
You helped make me into a gorgeous woman, (name redacted). With your help, I’m a knockout. With your help, I learned how to get it done emotionally. With your help, I learned to love the banjo (that was a lie… releasing the shame).
There are two pictures in my mind that I want to leave you with today.
The first is the way the air electrified for me when you touched my hair because I knew that if you were touching my hair, then it was something really intimate… because anyone who tries to touch your hair has a fair shot of not bringing back a hand.
The second thing I want to leave with you is the most precious of my life, the most healing, and I’m sure it felt so friggin’ weird to you, but I have to explain now what I couldn’t explain then.
Years ago, Dana and I went to visit Steffi and the parents in California and we were literally scrambling for me to make it back for a meeting with you on time. I made it at, like, 5 of 7 and when I arrived, you were lying on the couch. I was so emotionally crispy that I couldn’t help it. I dove into you to get the scent of home, the feel of home.
(name redacted), when you hold me the way you do, it makes me remember why I moved here in the first place. That your body and your mind and your heart felt more like home to me than my mom’s, my dad’s, my girlfriend’s… Not until I met Dana did I meet the one which you called “the passion that will ignite my soul.” Those are my words for the moment when my center of gravity changed, so that we could break our first family connection… as I have done each time that I have been in serious relationships. The only time you become that center of gravity is when I’m so wrecked that I completely shut down and you’re the one I want. You’re the one I want when I’m hurting so bad that my soul is crushed into my 13-year-old behavior.
And this will never have anything to do with you unless you want it. and you’re going to have to want it, because we’re fucked up and I won’t be friends with you if you can’t show your crack and let some light in (That was a joke).
Welcome to what family looks like for me. I hope it’s dark, twisty, hilarious, and worth it.