Self Help Me
Damaged - a personality trait

They say who your parents are, how they behave, how they treat you and others becomes what you unknowingly seek in a mate. So kids of alcoholic parents often end up marrying an alcoholic, kids of mental ill parents end up with mentally ill partners. You would think when one has struggled their whole life to take care of a parent when they grow up they’d want to be free of the burden, that they would have an awareness to avoid those people, that those people would turn them off but it’s the opposite. You get those people. You know how to help those people, how to take care of them. You subconsciously buy into this relationship because it feels almost comfortable. It feels like home, your shitty, dysfunctional, abusive home.

 It’s gotten to the point in my life now that when I meet someone new and really click with them and really enjoy being around them I walk away thinking, “What happened to them?” “What’s their issue?” I had an eye opening realization in college that most of my best friends that I have made over the years have had horrific childhoods that mirror my own in some way. And it wasn’t a conscious thing. Literally I’d meet someone, get along and really enjoy being around them and then as years go by we’d get closer and it would come out that their dad was an abusive alcoholic, or they had a parent that was mentally ill, or they had been molested. It feels like a game. In this room of people find the damaged one. And I have the gift of knowing simply by getting along with them. This is no surprise to anyone that studies human psychology. When I was a teenager and confused about my mom and her issues I would go into bookstores and find a book about mental illness and read chapters in the back while standing in the isle. Almost every book I’ve ever read has grouped together kids of alcoholic parents and mentally ill parents. Children with these parents were often put in situations that made them grow up faster and deal with real issues beyond their maturity. This upbringing shapes you as a person. It’s weird to know that my personality, my reliability, my eagerness to please, my ability to take mental abuse well, all stems from having a mentally ill parent, that parts of me that I once thought were unique and special are simply collateral damage.

Dad’s Book Club

As young as twelve or thirteen my father was making me read self-help books on my own. I remember when I was in the sixth grade my best friend Dani moved to Tennessee and I also moved that year to another part of New Jersey. I really wanted to go visit Dani that summer and my father said if I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he’d pay for me to go. And I did. I would read it during lunch and on the bus everyday just trying to get through it. I had just moved, I had no friends and I was reading this book. Looking back now it doesn’t surprise me at all that I had no friends. I couldn’t imagine doing anything to make me a bigger loser. And my father was a loser for making me read it.  I remember when I was finished my father asked me if I liked it and if I had learned anything,

“Yeah, I guess but I know most of this stuff. You already taught it to me.” But the truth was I didn’t understand what was so complicated about it. I went to school and watched TV. There wasn’t a whole lot I was trying to be effective at.

In high school my father went on to convince me to read other books that would change my life. The Silva Mind Control Method, which taught me that positive thinking could get me anything I wanted and that happy people mediate. Which is really fucking hard by the way. I’m not sure how people do it. They tell you to lie town and count backwards to clear your mind but I’d just end up falling asleep which makes sense since isn’t that an old remedy to help you fall asleep…counting sheep? Every few years I try to get into meditating, the same way I try onions thinking I might like it but I never do.

I also read half of a huge book called The Millionaire Mind. My father said it would make me rich. It was so boring and over my head I just couldn’t get through it. My father made me feel guilty about not finishing it. Like somehow with this single move alone I was ruining my future. Like somehow at 16 I was throwing millions I could be making away.

It wasn’t until I was twenty-one that I really started trying to apply what I read. For my twenty-first birthday at my request my father got me a book he’d been raving about for months called, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It was about spiritual enlightenment and my father said it was complicated but so amazing. Changed his life. After every book he would say this, “changed my life.” It was rarely a good enough selling point for me but I always found myself making time to read these books. The one benefit I did consistently get from reading the same self-help books as my father was that I could use the information against him when he was being a jerk.

My father, since we were kids, would try to get me to settle whatever argument I was having with my siblings by saying, “It’s in the past.” It drove me nuts. But don’t get me wrong when I got into my first driving accident I was the first to let my father know that it was in the past.

He also wouldn’t let us use the word “can’t.” Saying, “can’t” was considered a bad word equivalent to being caught saying “fuck” or “shit.” I think we had to give him fifty cents or a dollar or something every time he caught us saying it. Instead we were supposed to say, “I am having difficulty with such and such.” It was rammed into my brain so hard, that the word “can’t” sticks out when I hear people say it. I find myself holding back the urge to correct them and collect my much needed fifty cents.

More painful then being forced to be a member of his book club was my father’s constant listening of many of these types of books on tape. When I was fourteen my father took Dani and I to the beach and made us listen to How To Win Friends and Influence People. I always made fun of these tapes but I also persistently asked questions, like “What does he mean by that?” or “How do you do that?” or “Can we please listen to something else?”

Santa hates me!

Christmas to most kids is a cut and dry system. If you were good, gifts. If you were bad, no gifts. I was either eight or nine and all I wanted was a pair of roller blades for Christmas. Like most middle income families Christmas was a big set up, months of my parents trying to find time to shop, finding places to hid the gifts, me and my sister dropping subtle hints like boulders, “If I don’t get a polly pocket this year my life will be over.”

We would always decorate the tree together usually after Theresa and I got home from gymnastics. My dad was so anal about the lights and the strings of beads and what goes where that while I would start out excited to decorate the tree it would became a chore I did wrong just like everything else.

            Christmas morning my Dad, after much shaking of boxes and our inability to sit still, let us open our gifts. I go for the gold right away. I see a huge box with my name on it. It’s my roller blades! I go nuts. But either in my stocking, which always had some small toy and candy or taped to the roller blades box itself I can’t remember there was a note from Santa. Santa wrote that I needed to be better. That I had to listen to my parents better, and do better in school, and give a 100% at gymnastics. And that unless I do that, that’s the only way I could keep my roller blades. And while it didn’t say anything bad I started to ball. Just cry and cry cause Santa thought I was bad. And before I even used my roller blades I was being threatened with them being taken away. I remember my Dad holding me and telling me that wasn’t so. That Santa thought I was a good girl but I could be better. I could listen better and try harder at school. Christmas came with report cards evidently in my family. There was this third option with Christmas i never heard of before called, “ok, you can have this but you better try harder or else.”

            I never got another note from Santa, (Probably my mom’s doing…thanks mom!) although similar notes but much longer and much more demanding were to come from my dad in a few years and continue until I was an adult) That was probably the beginning of my desperate search to be “better”. Knowing that Santa didn’t like me as I was, my dad always pushing me and at the time thinking my mom didn’t love me was an all changing part of my life. 

love this picture - me and all my self help books. How I digest positive info :P

love this picture - me and all my self help books. How I digest positive info :P

SELF HELP ME picture: you can’t see it well but on the back of my fake future book it says “this is one of the best books i’ve ever read  - Everyone” and on the front is a pic of tony robbins with devil horns. Ah adorable details only i appreciate

SELF HELP ME picture: you can’t see it well but on the back of my fake future book it says “this is one of the best books i’ve ever read  - Everyone” and on the front is a pic of tony robbins with devil horns. Ah adorable details only i appreciate

Courage and The Power of Now

            At 18 and two weeks before I went off to college I got my first tattoo. My best friend Amanda, had designed a tattoo around the word, courage. The C was small, then the letters got big in the middle and went back to small and it has a vine with leaves running through it. I got it in between my shoulder blades. I went to the Lions Den alone in New Hope, Pennsylvania. I remember sitting in my car after I got it done and being excited, proud and scared. I had gotten my first tattoo, the one thing my father had repeatedly told me he would disown us if we did.

            When I was very young probably seven years old it was Easter morning and my mom had made Easter baskets for everyone. My mom did great with cute traditions (loved decorating for Halloween her favorite holiday and always made great Easter baskets with mad candy!) The baskets were wrapped in pink, green and baby blue Ceran wrap and filled with candy, and little toys everything in the shape of eggs, bunnies and baby chicks. She had also gotten us Easter themed temporary tattoos. All soft pastel colors, same cute bunnies, baby chicks and fun colored eggs. I loved them and wanted my mom to immediately help me put some on and as my mom was pressing the damp washcloth to my skin my father gives me and my sisters a speech about how tattoos are bad and if we ever got one we would be in huge trouble. It was an in depth speech that pissed off my mom and confused me and my sisters. I don’t think we understood what he was talking about. I don’t think we knew what real tattoos were. This was the first, but not the last “don’t you ever get tattoos or else” speech. So I sat in my car very aware that i was pushing the boundaries of the relationship with my father.

When I was 21 instead of fighting my Dad I began to turn to him for advice. Instead of feeling peer-pressure and unwillingly reading the books he suggested I started requesting books and asking about them. I started being more interested in my dad’s way of doing things and approaching problems. With living on my own creating more problems I needed more answers. My dad had just finished “The Power of Now” and he talked about it non-stop. It seemed like everything that happened both good or bad got a reference to the book. As a newly graduated college student with no idea what I was doing with my life I needed some guidance. I needed to calm my brain that was constantly full of fears and figure out what to do next. I had asked my dad for the book and read it slowly talking to him every few days about things that I didn’t understand and things I agreed with. We had started our own little Miele book club. I felt like my world was expanding and feeling that I could handle things I never could before. I didn’t understand a lot of it, and was not ready to attack a lot of what it suggested but I was curious and eager.

I was temping during the day, working all kinds of random hours, making very little money, I was very lonely dating a guy I wasn’t sure why, doing stand-up but not as successful as I would like. I need inspiration. I needed hope. I remember finishing it and calling my dad right after work. It had been three years since I had gotten my tattoo and I had been hiding it successfully from him (not from others though, I think I showed my mom, and both my brothers had had accidently seen it and I believe I threatened them to death if they told dad. Cause I’m calm like that.) and I was feeling an extra strong nagging to tell him. It was clearly on my mind. Over the last three years especially the last year I had repeated dreams where my dad found out. I had also been on two family vacations to Florida where I avoided swimming without looking suspicious. I somehow convinced my dad that every time they went swimming I wanted to run like for 4 hours! A part of me was feeling silly that I even bothered going on a family vacation if I couldn’t participate in 70% of the fun. So with much mental aguish I told my dad. I said, “Hey Dad, I have something I want to tell you but I’m scared to tell you” He said, “Have you already forgotten everything you learned from ‘The Power of Now’.” I said, “No, I’m scared you’re gonna forget everything you learned from ‘The Power of Now’!” He laughed and I said, “Dad, I have a tattoo” He asked a few questions and then told me he still loved me. It sounds like no big deal to you. But it was a life long release for me. And the beginning of me shedding my fear of what my dad thought of me.

Tony emails

“I wish Tony Robbins would stop emailing me!,” like she had read my mind that was what my sister texted me. It made me laugh. I had had the same thought that week. Years after going to my first convention and I was still getting emails from Tony Robbins. Unlike regular spam Tony Robbins emails make you feel guilty for deleting them. Make you feel bad for not wanting to know what he has to offer, make you feel like there is something wrong with you for ignoring his help. That could possibly be why I don’t just unsubscribe because I feel like one day I’ll really hit rock bottom and might actually read one and it might do something – what exactly, I don’t know but until I turn my life into shit I’d like Tony to know I could really do without the endless emails – if he’s as awesome as he says he is why doesn’t he just know when I need a pick me up?