• author
    • Kathleen Brotherton

      Columnist/Youth Editor
    • January 15, 2015 in Columnists

    You can’t always get what you want or need

    I would like to sit down with the individual that coined the phrase “That which does not kill you will make you stronger.” What sort of obtuse, narrow minded individual sets such a standard for damage?

    I am a master of letting the difficulties of life roll off of me. I take hands of cards, garbage cards that could beat no other hand. I throw on my best poker face working with what I have. Sometimes I can bluff my way through and sometimes I lose. For the most part I know when to hold and fold.

    I convinced myself I had a strength of character that surpassed the strength of humanity. I could cast aside the hurts others inflicted upon me and live unaffected in a perpetual state of forgiveness. I was rather good at lying to myself – not an easy feat. I am quite the skeptic and can sniff out a liar like a blood hound. I turned my soul into a giant garbage can. I stuffed every miserable part of my life, every broken heart, every unkind word. I stuffed my father’s emotional unavailability down into the can. I failed his expectations. He dismissed me. He cast me aside, pushed me away. I would be breathless with the pain caused by his dismissal. My love for him was without condition, I worshiped him like a brazen idol. The thought of alienation from him was almost unbearable.

    “I’m done with you.”

    “I’m done with you.”

    “I’m done with you.”

    For the first time in my life, I have acknowledged to myself and others how deeply my father has repeatedly damaged me. It is not easy admitting that your idol is not a god. I would live with the perpetual knot in my stomach, waiting to be called back to the fold, waiting to be given a job for which I could redeem myself from previous “You pissed Dad off again” grievances. It did not kill me, but each and every time my father disowned me, I became less alive.

    What didn’t kill me paper-cut my heart over and over until there were hundreds of droplets of my sense of self worth, my sense of self love – anything good about Kathy Brotherton was bleeding out onto the floor. My ability to have relationships with men that were healthy, productive, without the expectation of the bottom falling out was an impossibility. I have sabotaged every relationship to date with the expectation of my father’s rejection. I have sought out and been with my father, over and over. That, however, is for another column! What didn’t kill me, damaged me and imbued a hurt into my psyche so immense that would have been more merciful to put me out of my misery.

    Boo hoo me, right?

    I have responsibility in this. I am not my father’s victim. I let him get away with it. I excused him. I dismissed his accountability for the damage he caused. I never stood before him and demanded accountability for his actions. I gave him excuses, I enabled him.

    What didn’t kill me didn’t make me stronger. It hurt me and when I couldn’t bear the burden of the hurt any longer, I let it turn to anger. It pissed me off. It festered an anger so deep within my soul, I’m not even sure what I’m capable of when it is set off.

    One thing I recently found out I’m capable of, is reiterating my father’s words.




    I said these words to my beautiful daughter. I said those words to an adult child for whom my love runs so deep I feel like my heart might explode with love for her. I allowed the very worst of the man that fathered me to manifest within me and perpetrate the very damage that had been done to me my entire life onto my child, my beautiful precious child. I would never hurt this girl with intent, much less go a single day without her words, her smile, the infectious manner in which she embraces life.

    That which didn’t kill me is turning me into my father.

    My son is having a difficult time with his first year of high school. His battle with ADHD makes it exceptionally difficult for him to meet the demands of the highly competitive school he attends.





    Pain is not your weakness leaving your body. Pain is the weakness of others inflicted upon you. It damages your body, your mind, your soul and heart. The difference between my father and me is that I once I have deescalated from my irrational emotional state, I recognize the need to do damage control. I cannot bear being the reason my children’s feelings are hurt. I have to apologize, hug them, hold them and cry the poison out of my soul.

    I have put myself onto the path of professional intervention. I have to empty out my emotional garbage can one hateful word, one disappointment, one failure imposed upon me at a time. In the interim, I have pummeled into the minds of my children.

    “No one gets a get out of jail free card for hurting you, everyone is accountable, even me.”

    That which does not kill you does not make you stronger. It makes you not dead but maybe not so alive, either.

    • You are so on target. We can only acknowledge our cracks and try our best to fill them with superglue. It is a strong person who allows themselves to look at their own cracks. I think you are pretty strong, kiddo.

      • Baby Sister,
        You have always been my champion. You saw things for what they were and let me muddle in the blissful gray areas of this heart break when I simply wasn’t strong enough to look it in the face. How many times have we slid down the rabbit hole together pushed it all away and enjoyed a biscuit and cup of tea inside our own heads? You have defended me, championed me and created a policy of non toleration every time this has gone down. You have never cajoled or ridiculed me when I needed to forgive, when I begged you to not get involved and allow me to deal with this in my own way. You are outstanding. You are my family. I wish I could open my heart, put you inside so that you can feel exactly how much I love you.
        Pour the tea. Let us get on with this business!

        • True friendship does not judge, it just holds hands. Thanks for holding my hand too. We cannot decide for anyone anything, we can only guide them, to see for themselves. Love you

    • Kathy, recognition is the first step to overcoming past hurts. And then getting help to find other ways to cope. We go back to what we lived with, because it is what we know and believe it or not, sometimes because we have coped with it and have tools. The tools of course are not always the best. A very wise therapist told me that all you need to be is good enough, not perfect. When you are good enough it seems to promote better perceptions of self at least it was for me. You go easier on yourself. With you kids your recognized your own hurt doing what it did best for you but now know that you need different tools. You will find them and talking to your kids about these various hurts and why you lashed out helps. I know you will do better because you want to. I would guess your dad was old school and lived in denial and just didn’t get it. You do.

      • Madge,
        I want to thank you for always reading and contributing heart felt comments that forward the conversation of topic. My father did not get to choose to be a father, it was chosen for him. I built my tribe. I birthed them. I gave them life, I chose them. I want them. When I am 95, I want to sneak over my daughter’s house and steal her Ben Gay from her medicine cabinet like I steal squirts of her expensive perfumes during this portion of our history. I want to do it all over again with a pack of Grandchildren and my Grandchildren Starter Pack is well on her way. I feared acknowledging to the world the way my father has treated me would affirm the worthlessness I have always felt at the rejection of my parent. If I am not worthy of my father why would I be worthy of the rest of the world? The magic was once I put it out there, acknowledged and confessed to myself while confessing to the world this grave injustice in treatment, healing began immediately. Many other’s reached out to wrap their arms around me virtually and literally.

    • I sure agree with you, Kathleen, especially about the maniac who “set the standard of damage” at what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Great column.

      • Kathy,
        Thank you for taking time to comment. It is parents like you, ones who diligently fight for justice for their children that give me a true standard and model to pattern myself after as a parent.


      • loribelle

      • January 17, 2015 at 9:50 pm
      • Reply

      Oh my gosh, this is SO like my story. Only it was/is my mother who made me feel like my only value was measured in how I could be of service to her: the work I could do, the gifts I could buy, the favors I could bestow, and so on.

      When I gave birth to my children I swore I would do a far better job, be a more loving Mom, teach more, share more, involve myself more, and always always make them feel valued and treasured and adored and beautiful and intelligent and generous and LOVED without reservation or condition. I would never let them forget that they were gifts from God, bringing grace to my life. Yet, somehow, I would hear her voice yelling from my lips. I would feel her frustrations in a less-than-ideal marriage that spilled over onto the children. I tried so hard. I loved them and love them with my entire being, physical & emotional & spiritual, but somehow things still went awry, and I have now suffered a year of silence from one of my daughters.


      And no pep talks, no “they’ll grow up and realize how much they need you”, no “get on with your life and stop taking crap from them”, no advice at all can make ANY part of it the slightest bit better or easier.

      I continue to draw breath. I find peace by the ocean and joy in my friends. I laugh. I sing. I learn. I work. I create. I love. I do all the things that constitute “living”. The loss has not killed me. And I say I’m stronger. I mourn, but I don’t cry every day like I did 5 years ago. I don’t dread birthdays and Christmas as much as I did, although Mother’s Day and Thanksgiving shake me to my core. Am I stronger? Or is the scar tissue just thick enough to hold all my broken pieces together like some clumpy, nasty, gooey old duct tape? Does that constitute “stronger”? I don’t know. I’m still here. I’m still breathing. But I wonder sometimes what is the point. There should be a lesson to learn, but really, why bother? There are no do-overs. No second chances. If carrying on, even in the absence of purpose, is strength, then I must be freaking Hercules.

      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

      Who, in their infinite wisdom, decided that “a Mother’s love” would be the pinnacle, the epitome, the glorious quintessence of all loves? And how does the lack of such a thing in one’s childhood affect life, love, parenting, relationships going forward?

    • What’s happening to you is called “closing a gestalt” in gestalt psychology. Something that is so painful that it’s traumatic leaves an opening in the finished loop (or gestalt) and your subconscious mind will keep trying to close that gestalt over and over and over to make sense of the trauma. That is why sometimes we find ourselves doing/saying things that we seem compelled to do… our subconscious is trying hard to make sense of a puzzle that makes no sense.

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