Sunday night I had dinner with my nephew. He was in town interviewing for a job. Max is thirty or so, married, father to a three-year old son. His wife is due to deliver their second child in July.
I have lived with a great deal of shame that for much of my nephew’s life, I was an absentee uncle. Absenteeism, be it emotional or physical, seems to be a common thread for me. When I could not find compassion, I attributed my absenteeism to cowardice, Feeling broken, I didn’t have the courage to expose my hideous flaws, so I ran away. With compassion, however, I am chipping away at the thick shell of shame behind which I once hid. I now appreciate the only way I will meaningfully connect with people is by revealing my true self, warts and all.
At dinner Sunday, I told my nephew my feelings of disappointment in not being a “good” uncle. I explained about my challenges with his mother, my sister, which also contributed to my challenges. What was gratifying was the fact I wasn’t looking for forgiveness. I did not acknowledge my feelings hoping he’d absolve me, tell me I was being too hard on myself, and so forth. I told him how I was feeling because that’s what I am trying to do now.
As I now think about the evening, I savor my realization that before the long-planned dinner, I hadn’t resolved to make a grand apology. I hadn’t rehearsed what I might say, nor had I contemplated the possible reactions my words might elicit. In the olden, inauthentic days, that series of steps were my modus operandi. I spent decades carefully choreographing my relationship encounters, No surprises!
Needless to say, dinner was wonderfully satisfying. Our conversations touched on what’s going on in my nephew’s life, a whirlwind reminding me of the sheer chaos that comes from balancing career, and family. When I recall my oldest daughter at three, life was a cyclone of activity. Like my nephew and his wife, both my ex and I worked full-time, with fairly “big” jobs. At the time, in our universe, the globe spun so quickly, I often imagined that with just a little push, all the balls we had up in the air could easily fly into space, escaping the tenuous gravity that kept our lives together. How could I have imagined it was exactly the opposite, that the hurricane was what we relied upon in lieu of that was missing?
In my last post, I talked about recognizing my father’s role in my hunger for validation, how I now believe he never found fulfillment being a father for reasons that had nothing to do with me. I suggested this insight may help me change my relationship with validation.
I think that not apologizing to my nephew, may be a manifestation of my changing relationship with validation. I wanted to explain how I felt, but not with the ulterior motive of being told I was forgiven, that I was still a good person. Even though that’s exactly how I felt at the end of the evening.
Thanks for listening. Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. I won’t explain the thought process that resulted in this totally random clip. Tom Waits. Roberto Benigni, Jim Jarmusch’s Down by Law. Bam!