Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Overtime Mind: Who's in Charge of this Reunion?

Your phone call takes too long to be returned. Your letter goes unanswered for an unnerving number of weeks. You concoct exaggerated scenes inside your overtime mind, clamoring to make sense of it all, to somehow feel sense of it all.  
Ah, reunion.  
-- Marcy Wineman Axness, The Second Rejection

Ah yes, reunion, with those crazy-making spaces between communication. For me, the cycle runs like this:

My biological father sends me a brief e-mail; I experience elation; I draft an oh-so-clever reply and hit send; I wait for a reply, and wait, and wait; my mood begins to drop; I become convinced that I will never hear from him again; I draft a long, crazed e-mail in my head asking him to confirm or deny my fears because I JUST HAVE TO KNOW; I decide to wait a little longer before sending said crazed e-mail because I don't want him to think I am, you know, crazy. Just when I'm about to abandon all hope, his name pops up in my inbox or on my caller-ID list. And the cycle begins again.

I need to make an important point: I am not actually unhappy with the current amount of communication between my father and me. The grown-up me recognizes that the level of contact is perfectly appropriate for two people who are tentatively feeling their way forward in a new relationship. He is a busy adult; I am a busy adult. He hates to type. I get that.

So why am I certifiable?

The reason is that at this stage of reunion, the adult me is not always in charge. Reunion can cause psychological regression. Though on one level I am still a (moderately) reasonable middle-aged woman -- a wife, a mother, an employee -- that's not all I am these days. There's another part of me that feels more like a toddler in the midst of a major daddy's little girl phase. For this inner-child me, no amount of contact is enough. How much would it take to fill the hole left by a 46-year absence?

I'm aware that this is where many reunions get into trouble, and I'm trying not to fall into the trap of expectations that can never be met. I'm trying to acknowledge the child-me and let her have her say without allowing her to be the one in charge. She can sit around wailing "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" all day long, but when it's time to write an e-mail or pick up the phone, she needs to let the grown-up handle the job.

Well, that's the plan at least. Wish me luck.

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