My father and my forgiveness go together like macaroni and cheese, analogously. I’ve long eaten macaroni, alone and with lots of add-ons, but at this point in my life it’s not likely that I’ll eat it unless there’s cheese involved. Macaroni tastes so good and satisfying when its paired with cheese!
I don’t speak to my father very often, though more often now than in many years. My childhood and 20’s were such that I had reason to distance myself from him, and he did not resist my distancing. I used to tell this story a little differently; the story used to put all the responsibility for this distancing on him, exclusively, with me as the hapless, helpless child and victim. Now, the cheese on the macaroni gives the story the flavor of empowerment. The story, and my personal truth, is that I distanced myself to protect me from further hurt, it was my choice to do so and I needed to do it to at least begin to heal. Even as a kid, I’ve had the power to take steps in the direction of my healing, and I was doing just that when I consciously chose to distance myself, at 13 years old.
Today is the anniversary of the day I recognized that my healing was not complete, and this lack of healing would cause the relationship pattern set by me and my father to repeat. That point was brought home by a great deal of romantic relationship drama. It didn’t take much for me to see that the drama found its pattern in my relationship with my father. Just some meditation and introspection brought me to face the root of the issues.
It hit me at the end of last year that forgiveness was the next step. I was meditating when that hit too. I’ve practiced forgiveness for a lot of what went on in my childhood (not relating to my father), but I didn’t apply this to my relationship with him. So for the past six months, with great introspection, I’ve been changing the story I’ve created about my father with the practice of forgiveness.
And what is forgiveness? To me, it is releasing me from the burden of wishing the past was any different. It is acceptance that my past was, and the recognition that it no longer is. It is steeping myself in the present with gratitude for EVERYTHING that came before it, including the pain. When it comes to my father, forgiveness is all those things, and the acknowledgment that amongst the hurtful things, there was a lot of good that he helped set up for me, that he gave me whether he intended to or not.
Two things he gave to me were a love of reading and adeptness in going beyond perceived limitations. He did this with my mother, and it’s two of the few things that I can point to and say they collaborated on, even after they separated. One day when I was 8, my father was driving me somewhere and in the midst of the drive he handed me a copy of David Copperfield. I remember asking him what I was supposed to be doing with this little, dense looking book with small type? “Read it,” he said. “It’ll be good for you.” I did read it, eventually. I tried it but couldn’t get through it (due to boredom, frankly), and tried again when I was 11. I got through it. I look back, and I remember that moment so clearly because he was suggesting that I read something good and implying that I should stretch myself beyond what I perceived to be my abilities. (I was an advanced reader at 8 years old and I knew it, but still, I was 8!) I did it, I love to read and I am also adept at stretching myself beyond my perceived capabilities when required. He has something to do with all that, and I am grateful for it.
It’s a big deal to say, I am grateful for my father, particularly after almost two decades of holding in anger and pain about my relationship with him.
And while this is all about me and my father, I share this because it might be about you and your parent(s) too.
I also share this because it highlights the importance of the stories we tell about our lives and ourselves. Your stories can empower or disempower you. Your stories can be miserable and emphasize your misery, or it can be joyful and emphasize your joy.
I say, if you’re going to tell a story about your life, tell a “good” one, such as:
My father and my forgiveness go together like macaroni and cheese, analogously…. Macaroni tastes so good and satisfying when its paired with cheese!