I am reading a book called “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie. The book was published in 1986. I wish I had heard about it then and moreover wish I had read it. I don’t know if I could have recognized myself as clearly as I do now in those pages. Hindsight.
I am codependent. I worry, check on and spin my wheels thinking about things that are beyond my control. In the past three years since my son’s death it has become debilitating.
Sadly Melody Beattie also lost her son. In her book which was written before his untimely accidental death there is a passage about her son and him hanging on her. I read it and wept. I have found things I wrote about my son – lightly complaining about him and it triggers guilty grief.
Yet in reading I recognized something. One of things I am missing is that toxic codependent relationship I had with him. I used to call and check on him If he didn’t answer his phone I called his sister to check on him. If I didn’t hear from him I would launch into a scenario of “who could I call? How would I find him?”
Even when he was in his mid twenties and came home for a visit I worried. At night when he went out with his friends I would stay awake until I heard his car come up the driveway. I lost sleep over him. And ultimately it did not change anything.
All my worry, concern, fretting, fussing, trying superstitiously to exert my voodoo power over the universe and him did not work. It did not work. It will never work for anyone I care about. It is time to let go of that – the memory of that with my son, the codependency that I have had and deepened with my daughter and what little bit I have continued to hold on to with my husband;
for my sake, I need to let it go.
I grew up learning codependency from my mother and it was reinforced in the church. It was a part of southern female culture. We mistook the admonition in scripture that says “bear one another’s burdens” to mean take on their life. We ignored the scripture that said “consider the lilies” and put on our worry cap. Time to let it go.
When I realized that the codependency I had with my son was so strong as I read about myself in that book it shocked me. It was a dimension of our relationship that he openly disliked, yet I continued. It was my choice. He was kind about it, but he was puzzled as to why I would exert so much energy in such a futile effort.
Perhaps I grieve having to let go of the codependency too. And I am a bit embarrassed that I did not recognize it or was not willing to let it go sooner.
On the show I so much enjoy called “Call the Midwife” one of the midwives looses her boyfriend in an accident. Upon his death one of the nuns says to her, “God was not in the accident, He was in the love you had.” I tell myself that every day now since hearing it.
I have not parted with many of my son’s belongings. There is no rush. But I am parting with all the memories of the worries I had about him. The things I worried about did not happen and the thing I least expected did. My time spent awake and worrying could have been better spent. But that too is now in the past and I have to make sure I don’t duplicate that behavior today. I don’t need to inflict this on my daughter, her husband or my own husband. I do not need to impose this on any of my friends or church family in some bogus righteous cause.
I open the cage door of my heart and for today at least set that nervous fluttering bird free. It is a beginning and a long journey to alter behavior so deep-seated and engrained. In doing so I think I honor my son who knowing this was a part of me, loved me anyway.