Sometimes the re-learning curve as an adult is pretty steep. This is especially the case when you begin to uncover some patterns that you have put in place as forms of self-preservation since childhood. Many times, enunciating with clarity your discoveries and feelings is a very difficult task, especially if you are sharing it with someone who has been a part of your life since forever (aka parents). I find letter writing as an extremely powerful tool to release your feelings and share your perspective without fear. As you write, choose who it is directed to and allow your feelings from the past to speak while also acknowledging that your adult self is in charge. If you plan on sharing it, wait a couple of days and allow yourself to digest and edit as needed before it goes to an unsuspecting passerby.
Below is a letter I wrote to my dad after I tried to express my needs but had a few flub ups due to lack of experience in being an adult daughter in this relationship.
I am sorry I spoke to you the way I did today. I apologize for bringing up things that have no reference to the way I feel presently. I wish I knew how to communicate my pain that stems from being the child of divorced parents without making you feel guilty... without making me feel guilty too. I know you don't want to make me feel bad. I know the past doesn't have to be the present, but if there is a possibility of creating a new and real relationship with you that honors my authenticity and honors your love, I need to be honest with you when I feel like old past mistakes are repeating in our present.
I have spent a few years reflecting on my habits that formed out of a way of dealing with the pain that you, my mom, and I felt from drifting apart in a fashion that left each one of us hurting in a unique manner. I look towards that past pain that each one of us felt and remember it - not so I can carry it with me in the present but rather to be able to properly recognize what I was and sometimes am still trying to protect. By going back and recalling how I responded to pain, I see patterns that I began to form in order to allow me to protect you, my mom, and me from something that I did not quite understand at that time.
As a child, I had no control of when and where I would be on holidays, who would be around me to celebrate special times. I bounced back and forth on a schedule and never got to create bonds to events or people which usually join families together. Birthdays, christmas, thanksgiving and the such felt more like times when I became isolated rather than placed in a situation of joy. Every other year, I would have to decide which Ashley I would be. Would I be the guilty daughter? Would I be the ashamed daughter? Or would I just escape in my own mind?
I was so young and didn't know how to express myself. I was so young and didn't realize I was denying myself the ability to discover my authenticity. I wanted to make you and mom so proud that I would actively say things were ok when they weren't.
I do not blame you for what I have to work through now. I thank you and my mom for giving me life and for the lessons you taught both intentionally and inadvertently. I thank you for the true love you give me daily and for your continual support. You, my mom, and I all did what we thought we had to do to make it out alive and well. We are not alone. Many people do the same.
But we are grown now and we know a lot more than what we did 25 years ago.
When things occur now that I am an adult that bring back those memories of when I was a confused child, I struggle to enunciate what is happening emotionally when I get frustrated or angry (similar to when I was a little girl). Imagine, I am 33 now and only 6 months ago did I begin to realize that I don't have to live my adulthood as a did as a child. Please forgive me for not being a beacon of grace when I present my fears, frustrations, and pain. I am trying to open up and be honest but have not yet developed the vocabulary of empathy, compassion, truth, and honesty.
All I ever wanted was to be able to talk to you honestly and for you to feel free to be real with your own emotions to me. I tried for a long time to pretend everything was ok and as a result, my pain grew because it festered in the dark since I didn't want anyone to know how I really felt. I knew that if I was honest, the honesty would bring pain to everyone.
Life is not over. We are still here.
If you are interested, I would like to try something new. I would like to have a face to face conversation with you. I would like to tell you about certain things about me that you never knew. I would like to share with you the trigger topics and situations that bring back the scared and sad inner child. I would like for you to be honest with me. Who knows, we probably have a lot in common.
You told me to live in the present and that is what I intend to do, but it is necessary that we level with each other and utilize compassion to better understand how we can mend the present simply by acknowledging and learning from the past.
I am sorry I hurt you. I am sorry I hurt myself.