I have high expectations. At times they are so high, no man can attain them. I have metaphorically created a father and mother I will never please again and again.
My first husband was magic! They always are. When the abuse got bad enough that we parted ways, I was afraid. I would push my dresser against the door after checking the locks a thousand times. Then I would lie down only to wake up frozen by fear. Surely he would come through my window. Looking back, I find myself laughing. I lived on the top floor of my apartment building, so short of flying or scaling the wall in true spiderman fashion, I was probably safe. The truth is he was probably off drinking and fighting his own battles.
I recently met a man who is a great friend to me. I care deeply for him. He has shown much kindness to me and I have a sense of appreciation for the wisdom he has imparted to me. Our bond and friendship are priceless. Yet I have found myself dissapointed and disillusioned time and time again. What did he do to cause this? Absolutely nothing! It is what I have done and continue to do.
I have attributed God like qualities to this man. He is the voice that dictates my every move. I am constantly afraid of dissapointing him. I am constantly attempting to follow rules he has never verbally set for the reward of his time and attention. I have dizzying dreams of him rushing in to save the day. He is my metaphorical knight in shining armor. I fantasize of lying in his King size bed, silken blankets against my skin. We talk for hours about all types of things and he tells me about foreign lands I have never seen. I envision trips to Europe, flying off in his private jet and sailing across the ocean.
In my mind he is the most intelligent and cultured man I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. In a sense he truly does create these worlds. He paints beautiful pictures with elegant words and I hang on to each one like a young school girl eager to please.
When I was a teenager I would idolize our local weather man. I met him once at a college basketball game. I was smitten. His face was so kind and gentle. I imagined him as my dad. I fantasized of coming home from school and seeing him in his favorite chair. He would read the newspaper and smoke his pipe of some sweet smelling tobacco I’d never known. He would ask me about my day and I would tell him. He would listen intently as though I was the center of his universe. His smile would light up the room and captivate my heart. He would tell me about the stock market and how the Dow Jones had faired that day.
You see my real dad was an alcoholic. He struggled with addiction all his life. I never got to live with him, but I would yearn for the weekends I would spend with him. I remember he and my mom fighting about who would pick me up. I would listen silently. I was just a little girl but I imagine I felt unwanted. These feelings would follow me into adulthood. I am still sorting them out and I imagine it will take a lifetime to unravel the damage.
My real dad taught me many things despite his absence. I look back now and see that. It took some time to understand because I was always focused on what he did not do. My visits consisted of sitting on the couch while he watched westerns. I never asked to watch my shows. I sat quietly as John Wayne’s voice rang out from the TV set. Every now and then he’d ask me to get a beer from the refrigerator. “You want one?” “I can’t dad. I’m not old enough.” I remember he’d leave me in the car for what felt like hours while he visited a friend to pick up his daily dose of marijuana. I still get angry about being left behind.
I wanted so badly to be a part of his world. I hungered for his approval. I once brought him a tape of me singing. He never commented and I wondered if he ever listened.
I’m not angry with him. I know what it is to be so consumed in your own world, you lose touch with everyone around you. As I get older, I remember good things. I remember watching him cook breakfast. He’d mix batter for scrambled eggs until it was the perfect golden consistency. They’d always come out fluffy and I realized recently that he is the reason I know how to make scrambled eggs.
I used to look through his toolbox mesmerized by the array of items. “What’s this for?” I would ask as I held up a level. He would tell me about each tool and I would listen intent, always the eager student.
He smiled a lot and I laughed a lot. He always bought me lottery tickets and he was a master of the claw machine. My bedroom walls were lined with bears, bunnies and all manner of fluffy, stuffed things. He once told me, “Tiffany, you’re grandad was Jesse James. We are outlaws.. always have been and always will be.” I held onto all his words as if they were the oxygen that sustained my life. These things became a part of me. I laugh as I look back, but now I must dissect these voices that have shaped my identity. It is the only way to get to the core of who I am.
When my weekends drew to a close I remember watching my dad drive away. I would wave until he was a tiny dot and watch him dissapear, swallowed up by distance. My heart would break but I’d bury it deep down inside.
Today was eye opening. Every time I shed a layer, I am hit with another epiphany of truth. Layer after layer, I am shedding my past. This is the only way I can find true freedom and be the best friend, mom and lover I can be. It is difficult work. It hurts to uproot the wounds of yesterday, but in the end it brings healing.
Today I will do the neccesary work so I can be the most authentic version of me.I won’t set unrealistic expectations on myself or others. Today, I am ridding myself of lofty expectations.
Written by: Tiffany Jackson
Photography courtesy of Bobbie Osborne