I suffer from unrealistic expectations of myself. Delusions, really. I guess it stems from the early period of my life when I was given the impression that I’m not good enough, smart enough, and that I’m a real crock of shit. I carry the feeling of being unworthy and unloveable with me and can’t quite shed it for good. I’m gaining greater awareness of. However, no matter how many therapy sessions I pay for, whatever cocktail of medication I’m digesting at any given time, and whatever else I do to get over those feelings, paying for EMDR or erecting another Sim City and maintaining a Putin-esque approval rating from the denizens of Bad Papa West City, I can’t escape them. Long story short, I’ve got issues. And that’s OK, everybody has them. The question for me is how do I handle my issues when I’m around Sebastian?
Every now and again I’ll fall into a hole that is a bit darker than comfortable and a bit harder to climb out of than expected. It’s not as bad as in the olden days but nonetheless, things can get a bit dicey. Once at the bottom of the hole, nursing my boo-boos, I question everything. Well, my mind does. It attacks me with a torrent of thoughts that carry the power to cripple me since I tend to take them for the truth.
- You are worthless, you will remain penniless and you will end up homeless, you schmuck.
- You fucked up your life. Look at everybody around you being normal. What’s wrong with you?
- You’re no writer. English is your third language, you dumb fuck.
- You’re too old for <insert anything>. Stop trying so hard, you pathetic fuck. It’s too late.
- You’re losing hair on your head and growing it all over the rest of your body, you ugly fuck.
- You’re ruining your son and wife, they’d be better off without you. Trust me.
That’s a brief excerpt of the affirmations that I believe in when I’m laying on the musky ground inside the hole. Yes, I know they are nothing but bullshit. And yet, knowledge holds no real power since it can be questioned and doubted.
What’s the point that I’m making since this blog is about fatherhood?
The point is, how do I parent with this mental handicap? How do I act as a husband, a friend, a human, when I’m laying on the bottom of the hole?
I’m afraid that I have already given Sebastian too many glimpses into the self-depreciating and self-destructive side of me. He is six years old now and he is picking up on vibes. He can decipher facial expressions, the nuances of my voice, my non-reactions. I remember how I used to pick up on those when I was his age.
When I retreat to the bedroom, crawl under the cover, and put on a movie or show, anything to numb myself with, to stop my thinking and continuing their conspiracy against me, I hear him asking his mom if daddy’s sick.
He gets tentative around me, he might even be afraid of me at times, especially when self-pity turns to anger and I take my shit out on him by ways of impatience and temper. That, of course, gives birth to yet another shame spiral and I start to claw myself deeper into the hole that I can’t seem to be able or willing to climb out of.
But there’s something that I can do. Something I did instinctively once Sebastian came to our lives, even during the darkest of times. I attempt to repair and to amend the wrongs that I have done. I explain my shortcomings to him, I take full responsibility for my actions and words. I tell him that it’s not his fault and that I love him, no matter what. Back in the day I had to take a hit from the old hash pipe to do this and overcome the sheer terror of initiating repair. Nowadays it just happens. Sometimes later that it should, but it does.
I sit down with him and tell him how sorry I am about how I acted or what I said to him. I tell him how much I love him, that it’s not his fault, he did nothing wrong. That’s when I get to witness the innocent goodness of a child. It’s Sebastian who consoles me instead of the other way around. He puts his hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eyes, and tells me that it’s OK. That’s when I realize, temporarily, that he won’t be another version of me. Despite everything, despite me, he’ll be just fine. He knows that he’s loved and that there is no blame being cast on him. Re-cognizing this brings about a rush of energy that propels me out of the hole and puts a stop to the self-denouncing mind.
I know I’m not as bad as think I am. I know how to love and that I’m loved. That’s quite something.
We embrace and I get to feel his little growing body pressed against mine, which my mind describes as skinny fat. That, of course, is complete and utter bullshit and what does it matter anyway?