“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” ~Bryant H. McGill
The day I chose to forgive was the day I became free
It happened on an ordinary weekday. It was just another ride on a crowded train. It's been years since it happened, yet I can still recall the faintest details of that moment.
There they were, sitting directly across from me. She pulled out a small mirror and began to apply her lipstick. He playfully nudged her, causing her to mess up. She got mad. He laughed. She couldn't help but smile despite her aggravation. She said, “Daaad, don't do that.”
Before I knew what hit me, I felt warm streams of tears rolling down my face. I couldn't stop them, couldn't control them, and there was no way to hide them. It's as if years of suppressed pain came swarming up my spine and took over all my senses.
This was the day I realized I really missed a father figure in my life. The funny thing is, I did just fine for seventeen years of my childhood until this very moment. This moment was the straw on camel’s back to my bottled up emotions.
A dark part of me wishes I could tell you a tragic story of how my father passed away at a young age and how I never got to know him. That didn’t happen though. And I think it’s one of the very reasons it hurts so much.
My father was alive and well. Still is. He simply had different priorities and was not the kid loving type. You see, he was “there,” but he was never there for me.
I got to see him on weekends from time to time, but most of our “quality time” was spent with him taking care of his personal errands and me waiting in the car.
Many times he canceled plans at the last minute, and sometimes didn't show up at all. On birthdays he made a quick appearance to drop off a gift and quickly took off to take care of other more important things.
Sometimes he’d call and ask for my older sister, and they would chat for a while as I patiently waited for my turn to talk to daddy. Most times my turn didn’t come. I watched in hopeless silence as my sister said “goodbye” and hung up the phone.
It stung a little extra the day I overheard my mother reminding him that he has another daughter and that he should ask to talk to me too. To me, he was a mystery. A tall, manly figure with gold chains and strong cologne.
I remember looking up at him from the corner of the room, hanging on every word that came out of his mouth. I’m not sure if it was fascination or intimidation that drove this curiosity. Probably a little bit of both.
He was the life of the party. He drove an Audi in a town where most people walked, me and my family included. I was a shy little girl who wanted nothing more than to be loved by her big and strong daddy. I didn’t understand why he didn’t seem to care.
So there I was, a seventeen-year-old girl on a morning train trying to wipe the tears without smearing my mascara. It was too late, mascara was everywhere. After this day, over the course of many years, I experienced a kaleidoscope of emotions. Mostly anger.
I hated him. I blamed him for not being there for me when I needed him most. Over the next few years I acknowledged a series of behaviors that were direct outcomes of my ”daddy issues.”
I was extremely insecure, which caused an enormous amount of jealousy that led to endless fights with my lovers. I sought out friendships with men, mostly because I needed their attention. I continuously victimized myself, and it was all his fault. I blamed that selfish, arrogant jerk who was too cool to hang with his little girl.
Years passed this way. I dwelled. The anger and sadness resonated inside me. Tears came to the surface at every darn daddy scene in the movies. I pretended Father’s Day didn't exist. I felt bad for myself every chance I had. It was exhausting. I avoided his rare calls and slight attempts to “build” a relationship. “It’s too late,” I told myself.
This went on for years. So much of my time was wasted on accusation, pain suppression, and avoidance. “This is just the way things are,” I told myself. I didn't think there was another way.
Some say time heals all wounds; others believe it’s up to us to heal them. In my case it was a little bit of both. On my long journey to recovery, I did a whole lot of soul searching and self-realization. I began to slowly and cautiously unravel the layers of hurt and blame.
I consciously and diligently started working on improving my confidence, and with the help of a steady and healthy relationship with a wonderful man, I started to learn that not all men were bad. More over, I began to understand that men, just like women, can be wonderful, caring, loving, and supporting beings that make this world a beautiful place.
As I dove deeper into studying the human psyche I learned that all of our behaviors are taught, and if there is no positive influence to teach us right from wrong, there is a big chance we can go astray from what is right. My father was no exception to this rule.
His father wasn't nurturing or loving or any of the other things I wanted my father to be. He never learned those fatherly tendencies that I so desperately needed from him. While he certainly had an opportunity to change this pattern, as we all do, he didn’t, and for that I empathize with him.
I’m sorry he didn't get to feel the love and admiration I felt for him. I’m sorry he wasn't there to rejoice in my accomplishments. I’m sorry he wasn't the one to show me how amazing a father’s love can be. I’m sorry he missed out on a life long connection with a caring and loving soul he himself created. I’m sorry he missed out on so much love.
Today, as I watch my incredible husband play with my son, my heart smiles. I cry happy tears that he will never feel the void that haunted me throughout my younger years. He won't have to wonder why his daddy isn't there, why he didn't call, or when he’ll see him again.
The presence of his parents’ love will teach him that life is full of loving and caring people who come together to grow and foster unity in the safety of their loving home. He will know love the way he’ll know his name.
This part of my life taught me that while hardships are inevitable, the way we respond to them is up to us. For many years I chose to feel hurt instead of learning to forgive and looking for the light.
I chose to blame instead of seeking understanding. I felt anger instead of compassion. I chose to be a victim instead of becoming the victor. I sought happiness in others, not realizing that it has always been within me; I simply didn't know where to look.
Today I wish my father well. I hope he lives out the rest of his days surrounded by peace, love, and kindness. The day I chose to forgive him was the day I set myself free.