Marie: Scary Things I Did to Impress My Dad

Posted By: on July 13, 2015

Editor’s note: This is part 33 of
Marie’s story. It continues from the end of last week’s post.

 Me: Um… I think I need a few minutes to sit quietly… without the expectation that I will be responsive to you… I need to be quiet and process what just happened.

 And, I need to go find “her”… she is hiding and I need to go find her and see if she’ll show up and participate today.

 Carl: That sounds like a good plan. Would you like for me to speak softly to you while you are sitting… I could encourage you without expecting you to respond. Would that be helpful?

 Me: No. I would like for you to not talk.

 Carl: Okay. I’ll stay right here until you let me know you are ready for me to do something else.

 (I sat quietly, with my eyes closed, for about five minutes, I think. I started feeling more connected with my body and I could feel the “little girl” part of me come out of hiding. I became very aware of my child-state emotions and of my child-state body memories. At one point, it felt very natural for me to curl up in the fetal position on the couch—so I did. Without opening my eyes, I just kind of fell over sideways on the couch and curled up. I pulled the pillows to me and placed them under my head. I had no desire to use the blanket, so I left it folded up on the couch by my feet.)

 Carl: Is it okay for me to talk to you?

 (I nodded my head… because I had totally lost my ability to use my voice.)

 Carl: Do you want me to read from the letter to your dad?

 (I nodded my head.)

 Carl: Okay. If you need me to stop, you can wave your hand or tap the edge of the couch. Is that okay?

 (I nodded my head.)

 Carl: I’ll start from where we left off last time…

 “Could you not have found a better way? Could you not have at least investigated other ways? Was that too much work? I know you worked very hard and that you always felt like you were barely making it, barely able to provide for your family. But, could you have maybe not gone to church 3-4 times a week for a few weeks and taken that time to consider other possibilities? Could you maybe have taken that time to have tea parties with me?”

 Carl: Do you want me to stop?

 (I shook my head “no”. I was getting hit with wave after wave of gripping emotional pain—I couldn’t even identify the emotions, I was only aware of the overwhelming flood of emotions. But, I still didn’t want him to stop. I wanted to stay connected with the little girl in me.)

 Carl: Are you doing okay?

 (I nodded my head.)

 Carl: Okay, I’ll keep going…

 “When Carl pointed out that you didn’t have tea parties with me, I thought, ‘Well, I wasn’t into tea parties, but I know what Carl meant.’ Then, later, I thought, maybe I would have been interested in tea parties if I wasn’t so busy learning how to drive tractors and reading about weather and electricity and building wood projects on your big saws and how to put a roof on a house and how to raise pigs and take photographs and clean sewers. I did all those things so that I could spend time with you. I did them so you would approve of me.

 “Do you think I really cared about the principles of electricity at age eight? Maybe if you would have taken time to play dolls with me, you might have noticed that my idea of playing was re-enacting violent sex acts between them. Maybe you would have noticed the similarities between my storytelling and the stories you carried around in your head in the form of psychological scars created by whomever it was that stole your innocence.

 “Or, was it easier to just not notice?”

 Carl: Are you doing okay?

 (I nodded my head.)

 Carl: Okay…

 “While we’re on this topic, can we talk about my using the bandsaw at age six? What the fuck? Do you know that I purposely coordinated my use of the saw to happen at the same time as when you had customers/vendors/friends coming into your shop so that you would brag on me? (Which you did when they would express shock at seeing a little girl using the commercial grade saw.) It was the only way I knew to get your attention and approval.

 “You assured your buddies that I knew what I was doing, that I was very careful. What the fuck? I was six years old. As an adult experienced with the use of power tools, you had three major accidents with power tools. You knew, first-hand, the dangers.

 “You lost two fingers and mangled three more. Yet, you encouraged me, a six year old, to use those tools. Why? You said it was to teach me confidence and self-reliance. But, don’t you think there were more age-appropriate ways of doing that? Isn’t operating commercial-grade power tools something I could have just as well learned at, say, age 12 or 14 or 16 and still have benefited just as much?

 “Did you really do it for me? Or, did you put my limbs and my life in grave danger just so you could show off to your buddies? When I look at the six-year-olds in my care at the school, I am horrified at what you did. What the fuck?

 “What about driving the tractors when I was nine… at least, when I was running it by myself, you gave me the tractor with the closed in cab so I wouldn’t fall off the back while engaging the blades (which I had to stand up and completely turn around to use both hands to do while the tractor was in motion) and get ran over by the blades.

 “What about climbing on roofs of two-story homes when I was 10? I told you I was fine with it—even enjoyed it — because that made you proud. Did you know that I continued high-risk behavior (high-speed motorcycle, fire fighting, etc.) for decades trying to prove to myself that I was still worthy of your approval? (Even though you were dead.) I thought that is what you wanted from me.

 “When I sold my motorcycle a few weeks ago, I actually felt a sense of relief from no longer having to live up to my reputation on that bike… I scared myself over and over and told myself I liked it. But, I don’t. Even now, it is hard for me to say that, to let go of that central part of my identity because I feel like I’m giving up a huge part of my worth.

 “Do you remember the day, when I was 12, I was backing the car (the old Buick that was new to us) to turn it around in the farm’s driveway and I couldn’t get the clutch back in and I almost ran into the grain silo? That scared me sooooo badly. I cried hysterically and begged to not have to drive the car… I felt I wasn’t strong enough… but, you made me do it anyway. Thank you for teaching me how to feel the fear and do it anyway… it was a valuable skill that I’m using today as I’m writing/reading this letter. But, let me ask… did you realize that the reason I drove the car despite my fear is because I feared your rejection and your wrath and disapproval even more? Do you realize that I thought my worth to you hung on my ability to do dangerous and scary things?

 “What about feeding ill-tempered pigs when I was 11? Mom was too scared to do it. For sure, it wasn’t safe for me. Maybe you had some ideal of ‘the good ole’ days’ when kids did that kind of stuff, when it was a way of life. But, just because that is the way it was when you were a kid does not mean it was smart.”

 Carl: Are you doing okay? Do you want me to continue?

 [Continued in the next post…]

 To schedule a free consult with Carl or any of the counselors at Heart-Centered Counseling, call (970) 498-0709, or send an email to

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