Lately, I have been thinking there is a sweet spot of connection when I can think of what I need to say and what the other person needs to hear. I think of this mostly with C, because that is so complicated. It takes a lot of thought. It does not always come naturally. Sometimes, I have written down what I thought I might text her a few times before actually typing it and sending it. I started writing her a note yesterday, and wrote it out about four times before I came upon that “sweet spot” where it seemed right. When I can do that, it feels really good. Connection, or thinking I have made a connection, feels really good.
It feels a lot better than what seems like I have heard or learned in the past about the communication, where you speak your “truth” without too much concern for the sensibilities of the other person. Thinking in terms of connection is so much more satisfying than simply trying to “express myself” (or, conversely, please the other person. Of course, with C, it’s different, because there is a power dynamic. It isn’t an equal relationship. I am not mainly trying to get my needs met in our relationship. I am trying to meet her needs, but I suppose I am trying to meet my own need to correct what I perceive as an injustice.
The times I have felt I had “needs” from her, I later realized she couldn’t meet them. It just wasn’t possible for her, and I needed to let that go. I needed her to “check in” like I would require a real daughter to do, and she can’t do that. It’s not that she wouldn’t like to, but she literally can’t. The fear and the pain over it is simply too great. She is too afraid to be rejected and feels too much sadness and grief that I care enough about her to need to know she is okay. I have to let that go. She cannot, of her own volition, come to my house either. She can walk with me to my house, but she cannot get there alone on her own two feet. I have to escort her. I might “need” her company or at least want it a lot, but I am not going to get it by telling her to come to my house the way IT Ma’am has told her to come to her house. I need to let that go too.
But there are still things I feel I need to tell her, my own feelings I need to share with her, and a perspective I need to give her, and there are things I think she needs to hear. The sweet spot of connection is where both our needs can intersect.
It’s very different relating to a peer, but I think there is still that sweet spot, where you are telling your “truth” in a way the other person can understand—you are imagining the other person’s mind and how what you think is going to make sense to that mind—and you are saying it in a way that will allow you to get your needs met from that interaction. There are always people who seem to be very proud of themselves for being honest, but I think they must not get very much satisfaction out of their relationships, because they are not connecting. They are blurting stuff out, but they aren’t connecting to anyone. They might get the same satisfaction from talking aloud to themselves.
It’s funny to me that that’s new to me. It’s probably not that I had never done it before, but I had never had to be so consciously aware of it or work so hard at it. At the same time, I think I also didn’t really know how to have relationships. I didn’t know how to form connections. Sometimes I managed it anyway, but I didn’t realize that forming connections was what you were supposed to try to do or that it felt good.
Because of the earthquake, I was thinking about going up to the high school just to see C. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to relax until I did that, and I also felt she would be reassured to see me as well—it’s not that only feels vulnerable. She worries about me also. Then I began to think.
Her classmate from last year told me she is always laughing these days. C doesn’t seem upset by what happened. To me, that suggests she’s spending her days in Teen Mode. She is pushing down her feelings of vulnerability because they are too difficult to manage and she doesn’t trust anyone with them. It’s a lonely place to be in, really, because there is no possibility of genuine connection. She is interacting with her friends, and getting some amount of connection from that, but not a very authentic one.
It makes sense to me she would do that. In addition to the shame of the sexual aspect of what she did (even if she did not go beyond holding hands) and the shame of really kind of losing control of herself and of her good sense, she would also feel the grief of comparing my reaction to what she did with her parents likely reaction. I stressed, in talking to her, the consequences that might have been there for her or that might be there if it happened again: I don’t know what her parents would have said to her, but I don’t think they would have been mainly concerned with her safety and emotional well-being. And that would raise a lot of grief. It points out, “It could be different. But it isn’t.” I think also there are times she feels angry at me for not being her real parent. There is nothing that can be done about it, and it doesn’t change the attachment we have to each other, which is very real, but I think there are times she nonetheless feels really angry I don’t have the control over her that a parent would have and I cannot protect her like a real parent. I am not very sure about that, but sometimes I think that is the main feeling she has about me that causes conflicts between us. There are so many reminders that I am not her real parent—just the attention she gets for being adopted by me. It’s a reminder. And I think sometimes it makes her angry, because anger is a part of grief, and she has to grieve for what might have been and isn’t. She has to grieve for who her parents are—that they do not meet her needs as a child—and for my lack as a parent—that I wasn’t always there, that I cannot protect her the same as a parent would.
Anyway, I was thinking about all of that, and it makes sense to me she would drift into Teen Mode to protect herself from her vulnerability and from her grief. And I think the Teen needs autonomy. She needs support and encouragement and validation, but she also needs choices. C told me on Monday to visit her on Sunday. I think her Vulnerable Child will make an appearance before then, and she might regret having told me that, but I think she still needs the choice and to see that her choices are honoured. I don’t know. But that’s my feeling at the moment. I’ll wait until Sunday.