My biggest fear

I hadn’t told her what I was doing, she knew only so much about this journey, so – naturally – she thought I was wasting time, distancing myself from my family for who knows what reason. I’m sure thinking this way is scary, especially for someone who had recently been presented with divorce papers. She was worried, but what I thought was happening was that she, like my parents, came to yell and nag.

I wrote this in this post and almost immediately realized that there was something amiss. I couldn’t put it into words then, but now I think about it, I think I know what’s wrong with this paragraph.

I do really believe that she came to yell and nag. She came with the conviction that I was wasting time and distancing myself. Not because she believed I was planning to leave her, but rather because she truly believes exactly what I fear may be true.

I fear that I am worthless; that the only reason I have a job is because my father is my employer and that I wouldn’t be able to find another job if it whacked me over the head after announcing itself with flashing lights and bellowing horns. I fear this; she believes it. And she rejoices in the fact that she can throw this at me no matter what and she knows I fear this and she rejoices in that too. And because of this I am worthless in her eyes and no matter what I do I’m wasting time that would be better spent doing whatever she thinks I should be doing.

And it goes deeper. When I caught her and told her she was behaving exactly like my mother, she had a way to wiggle her way out of the accusation. She used it expertly! She became all mushy and lovely and tried to convince me that it is merely my perception of her that she is like my mother. While it is true that my behavior back then could have caused her to worry too much and appear to me as if she was mothering me, the deeper truth is that she has had such an attitude since we first started dating. And she has continued having such outbursts despite the fact that my own behavior has changed.

That is, I no longer lie to her, or hide from her the things that I’m doing. She knows it all now. Yet she still thinks I’m wasting my time and that I’m worthless.

And this is what I believe is true.

There’s a reason I fear what I fear. As I comb my memory for times when I was put down because of something I was doing, or the way I was doing it, I’m overwhelmed. It’s been this way often and throughout my life. Granted, as time went by I started taking even constructive criticism in a negative way, lumping all criticism together with mockery and shaming. So I try to think back about where this all started. At some point my memory breaks and all that I’m left with is the second dream in this post. My mother is disappointed in me because I missed her so much I started crying. And her disappointment is the ultimate criticism of everything I feel, say, or do.

I am a disappointment to my mother.

This is the message of that dream. I am worthless and the only way I can hold a job is to be employed by my father.

Isn’t. That. Just. Peachy.

So, does my wife believe it because I believe it? Or do I perceive her attitude as such because I believe it and therefore interpret what she says or does as attitude that proves her belief in my worthlessness? It’s hard to tell, particularly because she’s extremely uncomfortable having conversations about such topics.

In the end it really doesn’t matter what she believes.

What matters is: do I (still) believe I’m worthless?

The truth is that for some time now – whenever she’d throw one of her fits – I haven’t been looking for a fault within.

The interesting thing is that I do remember instances where I was praised by my mother. However, all her praise sounded hollow and fake to me. My father never encouraged me, he’d just give me advice that would blow up in my face (like that one time when he told me to confront a teacher).

I remember being afraid of the dark. If I let myself go while I’m alone in the dark, I’ll probably run home screaming now too. But it wasn’t the darkness that I was afraid of. I wasn’t afraid of what might jump at me from places I couldn’t see. I was afraid of specters that my mind conjured up in the darkest places. Things like half-decomposed reanimated corpses, faceless children and other impossible things from the worst horror movies. It took me a while to realize I can’t go on living my life being afraid of “the dark”, so one day I faced that fear and eventually defeated it for all intents and purposes.

But why am I saying this?

Because I see a connection between these fears and my mother’s disappointment in me. I was never afraid of evil men or wild animals attacking me in the night. Nothing that was a real danger was ever a problem for me. It was always specters. Problems I imagined, not problems that were actually there. And why did I imagine those problems?

Because – or so I believe – my mother’s disappointment in me was based on unreal, imagined problems in my behavior; specters. And as I was subconsciously chasing an honest approval from my mother, my mind obliged and created specters for me to defeat. To make her proud.

I could occasionally even see it in my programming. I would write dozens or even hundreds of lines of code solving a problem that didn’t need solving; or I would find myself writing how the program should behave when an impossible condition was met. Sometimes I did it just for fun and I’d put in a message that no user should probably ever see; but sometimes I did it because – what if? …

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