Wednesday, April 29, 2009
For Whom the Phone Tolls (Joanne’s response)
Celia could have deleted the email from her father but she chose not to. I deduce a few truths from this. First, Celia knows the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, on her father issue. She may be furious but she is facing it. Second, it appears that the first thing she did upon reading it was to forward it to Rob and then call him. So, she is bringing the issue into her engagement with Rob, considering him her closest friend and support now (she could just as easily brought her sister into it, who is closer to the original relationships). Angry as she is, Celia may be unconsciously taking this opportunity to show Rob that she is ready to deal with it. I strongly encourage Rob to do something counterintuitive -- to "stay on the side of the resistance" to use a psychoanalytic phrase. Basically, this means that Rob's biggest job here it to communicate to Celia that he understands how hard this is, and that he may even understand why she still needs to be mad at her dad. We have seen in previous episodes that when Rob pushes this issue toward resolution, he loses. No wonder he is nervous now. If Rob can support Celia from her perspective, he actually promotes the issues resolution.
Monday, April 27, 2009
For Whom the Phone Tolls
Rob was in his cubicle trying to reconcile a spreadsheet when a new email arrived. It was from Celia, and in the subject line it said FW: I HEARD YOUR NEWS.
Celia seldom forwarded things, but this joke must be good if she had bothered, and he welcomed any distraction from the Excel headache before him. Rob opened it to Celia’s own note, which read, “I’m going to kill my mother.”
Why would she kill her mother about a joke, Rob thought, as he scrolled down to the original email, which was from a Don Gillespie. Must be someone related to Celia--
He began to read the text, which read, “Hi, Cele. Your mom told me you got engaged to a nice boy you met at Ohio State. I am happy for you and hope to meet him soon. I know you have been avoiding me for the last few years, but please know Jeanne and I would love to attend your wedding, and bring Charity. She’s five years old now. I wouldn’t want the past to keep us apart during an important milestone like this. But it’s up to you. Love, Dad.”
Rob was flooded by simultaneous realizations: Don Gillespie was Celia’s father. Celia’s mother had taken in upon herself to share this news; that’s why Celia wants to kill her. Celia could no longer avoid dealing with him. Further, wasn’t Rob a little old to be called a “nice boy?” Surprisingly, Rob felt a little sympathy for the man, who seemed to be handling this the best way he knew how.
Rob said a silent prayer of thanks that he hadn’t been with Celia when she read this email, because he knew there was no chance he would have responded in whatever way she would have considered “right.” Now, he had a chance to think about it, but he was still terrified he’d get it wrong.
He stood up and looked around over the cubicle walls. Surely one of his female colleagues would talk him through what to say. His cell phone rang, and Celia’s name popped up. Rob sat down, determined not to answer until he knew what to say, but then it occurred to him what Celia must be going through right now, how angry and upset she must be – and she was reaching out to him, the nice boy to whom she was engaged. It would be rotten to blow her off just because he was in a panic about how to respond correctly. Responding at all seemed more important.
He could buy time by pretending he hadn’t read it yet, he thought, as he answered her call. “Hi,” he said, in the most normal voice possible.
“Did you read it?”
Rob sighed and decided it was better to dive in headfirst and hope to miss the rocks. “Yeah. Just now.”
What does Rob say next to Celia?
Saturday, April 25, 2009
You can run but you can’t hide (Joanne’s response)
I may be in denial about Celia's father issues. Apparently I identify with Celia, and apparently Harold identifies with Rob, because for Harold it's all about Celia's father, and Harold sees the long term implications if the issue is not addressed. As the family therapist of our team and a huge believer in the generational transmission of family pain, I ought to agree wholeheartedly. But I part ways with Harold to a degree, believing that Celia has quite a bit of autonomy and latitude about if, when, and how she takes this on. If this inconvenient-email-from-hell hadn't dropped in her inbox, I would fully support Celia getting to this when she gets to it because we have no direct evidence that the failure to do so is impacting her relationship with Rob. However -- Celia has been transported to a crossroads that is not of her own making and she must now make a decision. I appreciate when God and universe conspire to get our attention. Celia, sitting and actively making wedding plans, when the email arrives? Please. I support Celia's right to handle this as she sees fit, but I also recognize that the failure to do so will cause its own additional pain, and now that she has yoked herself to Rob, she has his well-being to take into account as well. I can't wait to hear what the email says, should Celia decide to read it.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
You can run but you can’t hide (Harold’s response)
As I read the latest episode (and the surprise twist at the end), I was reminded of conversations that I have been having with my teenage son (a high school senior) about the importance of being a person of integrity--a truthful person. My primary point to him is even when you think that you have gotten away with a lie or unethical compromise you really haven't. You never get away because God sees you and holds you accountable for your actions--until you ask for His forgiveness in contrition.
What does all of this have to do with Rob and Celia? I don't mean to infer that Celia has done anything unethical in relation to her dad. But, Celia has been running from her father abandonment issues for a very long time. Despite her best attempts to quell any consideration of her father, his presence (psychologically if not physically) has become center stage. The irony of this (and any overt efforts to repress) is that the more Celia makes a conscious effort to forget about him the more she is actually remembering him.
Celia is running. But, she certainly isn't successfully hiding from this issue. And, in my Christian worldview I want Celia to deal with this. Why? Because she needs healing. It isn't for her dad. It is for her. Until she stops running and confronts the pain and emotional tumult her abandonment issues are likely to corrode relationships that are meaningful to her--including her relationships with God and with Rob. She has to trust that the poor and hurtful decisions of her father have not escaped God's eye. He has not gotten away with anything. God holds her father accountable until he becomes repentant. And, if God has forgiven him then Celia really needs to question her own stance.
Some of you reading this post have serious emotional wounds that you have tried to run from for a long time. I would like to encourage you to give them to God so that you can live an abundant life. With God, no hiding is necessary.
Monday, April 20, 2009
You can run but you can’t hide
Celia had it figured out. Sitting at her kitchen table, alone with her laptop, pad and pen after her roommates had left for class, she had sketched out a “wedding” (a concept she found best tolerated in quotation marks) over a pot of tea and a scone. It now stood as a morning ceremony, which meant neither gowns nor tuxes were expected, followed by brunch for twenty-five: both immediate families, a few other relatives and a couple close friends. She imagined a scenario in which there wasn’t anything resembling an aisle down which a bride was expected to walk. She and Rob could just gather near the officiant and the proper words could be spoken.
Last evening, Rob had called his parents and explained the situation. Rob was right; his parents hoped they would consider some small ceremony over an elopement, and before he had even brought up the money situation they had offered to “help” pay for it, though no figure was discussed.
So from that, Rob and Celia had agreed that, for fun and for the savings they could achieve, they would plan the simplest and yet most elegant wedding ever seen. This was a wedding they could enjoy planning together, and for Celia its scale was manageable.
The biggest questions that remained were in what city to hold it and at what location. Rob and Celia lived in Columbus, and because Celia worked at a church directing a choir, she knew she could secure those facilities inexpensively and even wrangle some free music. The church had a basement hall for parties, but Celia was more intrigued by a pretty gothic courtyard and garden between the main sanctuary and the chapel. It was too small for most celebrations but could serve their purposes perfectly – weather permitting. There would be no need for additional flowers or other decoration. But the weather issue was an issue. Celia didn’t want to be anxious for months about an issue she could not impact.
But getting married in Columbus meant that nearly all of their guests would have to travel to them. While this would not impact their bottom line so much, it would be inconvenient. Since Rob’s parents had been so generous with offers of financial assistance, Celia thought it might be respectful to suggest getting married in Cleveland, where they lived, so that they and their relatives wouldn’t need to travel. Finding an inexpensive hotel for Mom and Catherine would be a minor detail, although her aging grandmother was an issue, too – but that would be an issue regardless of locale. A Cleveland wedding would also require more specific involvement from Rob, which Celia didn’t mind and in fact hoped for.
Celia saw no good reason to get married in Canton. Even though it had been her home until she went to college and her family still lived there, it was one more fact of her life that had more to do with her father and his abandonment of their family than with her. She had always dreamed of leaving and saw no reason to return now.
Celia hit a key on her computer and froze. A new email appeared in her in-box, from Don Gillespie, her father, with a company domain name she didn’t recognize. In the subject line it read: I HEARD YOUR NEWS.
How does Celia respond?
Friday, April 17, 2009
Who Wants a Wedding? (Harold’s response)
Like Joanne, I think there is a lot of maturity shown by Rob and Celia in this latest episode. I applaud Rob for keeping his cool under pressure. I admire Celia's willingness to acknowledge the impact her father's actions continues to have on her while asking that these issues be deferred.
Too often as couples we allow multiple issues to confound us, particularly under stress. For instance, we merge frustration with our parents, disappointment with our kids, and fatigue from our jobs when there is what appears to be a simple discussion about whether we should dine out tonight or not. It takes a healthy couple to recognize the emotions at play are way more extreme than the situation should demand. Therefore, something else is probably getting triggered here. So, kudos to Rob and Celia.
The other thing that strikes me in this edition is the idea of a "lost fantasy". Celia concedes that many of her fantasies were diminished after her father's abandonment. This is sad to me. I think the engagement period (and the subsequent marriage) should be filled with fantasy. It doesn't have to be about superficial things necessarily (e.g., a wedding dress). But, engaged couples should fantasize about the wonderful things that they will experience as a couple. My hope, therefore, for Rob and Celia (and you) is that past disappointments aren't allowed to diminish future fantasies because that is the true beauty of marriage.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Who Wants A Wedding? (Joanne’s response)
If couples can benefit from any one aspect of wedding planning (and as Harold and I have noted in previous posts), it's learning that the content of the conversation is never the entirety of what's going on; in fact, it's a small percentage of reality. Rob and Celia have real and concrete decisions to make about their wedding, but I admire that they are balancing the urgent -- wedding decisions -- with what is important -- their relationship. Both are really asking, "Do my wants, needs, and concerns matter here?" Their choice and ability to remain in this tough conversation, when both would prefer to flee, answers that with a resounding "Yes!" They are in agreement that they would like immediate family members to be present at a ceremony. The rest is negotiable.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Who wants a wedding?
Celia held out the strawberry ice cream container out so Rob could squirt chocolate syrup on it, which he did quietly. Celia took a spoonful and offered it back to Rob, who did the same. Though a big part of her wanted to flee the room and this conversation, she stayed.
“Rob, I know I need to deal with my dad sometime,” Celia said. “But it’s up to me when, and how. I’m not willing to take it on just so he can walk me down the aisle, and I’m not interested in discussing it with you right now. We can talk about it when we meet with Carolyn next.” She took another spoonful of ice cream. She was glad it was here; it kept her rooted on the sofa.
“OK,” Rob said. “But”---
“Rob, I really mean it when I say I’m not going to talk about this now.”
“OK,” Rob said. “Can we talk about how to pay for a wedding?”
“If that conversation doesn’t include asking my dad for money, then yes.” They had reached the bottom of the ice cream, and Celia scooped up the final bite and dropped the spoon into the empty container. “Rob, do you want a wedding? I didn’t know guys cared one way or another.”
Rob thought. “I guess I always figured if I got married I’d have a wedding.” He paused, thinking, and Celia braced herself for whatever was coming next. “No, it really isn’t that important to me, for myself, but my parents or at least my Mom would be disappointed.”
“They’re not the ones getting married.” Celia could feel herself becoming more contrary with each statement, and she didn’t want to be, so she reached over for Rob’s hand and felt herself soften as she picked it up. “But I get that you would like them there, and if I am really honest with myself, I want Mom and Catherine there too.”
Celia played with Rob’s fingers, wishing he would respond, but she had the feeling he was still not sure how she would react to anything she said. He yearned for the remote control, she knew, and her heart warmed that he resisted.
“Don’t you want a wedding dress?” Rob asked. “Girls are supposed to like that stuff.”
Celia thought about it. When her father had left them, Celia had stopped fantasizing about many things, including being a princess and wearing princess dresses. Somehow a bride’s gown fell into that category for her; but then again a wedding dress didn’t have to mean long and white--
“As I see it, we have a few options for paying for the wedding, if we keep it small,” Rob said. Perhaps the dress question had been merely rhetorical.
Which option thrown out by Rob makes the most sense for Rob and Celia?
Friday, April 10, 2009
To Elope or Not To Elope? (Joanne’s response)
Celia is in a mood, and Rob, bless him, is trying everything in his bag of tricks to avoid escalating this into a deal breaker of a fight. He remained engaged in the conversation, he avoided giving her sarcasm right back, he did not insist on continuing his thread of the conversation, and he even tried the chocolate syrup trick. Rob may be onto something that Celia needs to deal with her father eventually, but Celia is right that this was not the time to have that conversation. Celia told him very directly why she's angry with him and Rob should have apologized for speaking a right thing at the entirely wrong time. How will Celia respond to Rob? That depends entirely on her mood. Sometimes that's just the way it is in intimate relationships.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
To Elope or Not to Elope (Harold’s response)
Touchy Touchy...That's how I'm feeling about Celia right now. This issue with her father just doesn't go away. No matter how you slice it at some point in her major decisions her dad is in her mind. Isn't that interesting considering that she claims that she wants to forget about him. Celia's experience makes a statement to all of us that those hurts that render us feeling insecure (especially those that happened in our distant past) rarely really leave us.
Sometimes we bury them only to find skeletons in our closets. In the midst of wedding plan we see again see Celia's skeleton. To his credit, Rob is trying to get Celia to deal with the issue. But, even he doesn't appear to realize yet just how emotionally loaded the topic is. I am very worried that if Celia doesn't figure out how to intentionally address her father issues that her angst in wedding planning will spill over into other aspects of their marriage.
Celia's issue isn't about eloping. It is about avoidance. Sometimes, avoidance has its benefits. But, I hope that they can find some time to visit their therapist (Carolyn) again because the "father topic" is certainly too hot for Rob to handle. And, it needs to be reckoned with sooner rather than later.
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