I think I have developed an “insistent-persistent” side… I have become highly confrontational and expect people, who matter to me, to be so as well. This hasn’t always been the case, as it is a relatively newly-acquired trait. It appeared only a few years ago, when I decided (after a lot of soul searching – and I mean a lot!) to really push myself to the limits and face my fears of being rejected. I was afraid I was going to be rejected by my dad and that side of my modern family. For years, we had had a very dysfunctional relationship – strangers in our own clan – we never really addressed openly our disappointments and issues. This consequently led to a complete and utter misunderstanding; Silence breads all sorts of misconceptions, but if you want to be felt and understood, you have to do the unthinkable (for most of us): let down your defence mechanisms and bare your vulnerability. In other words, share your truth.
For years, I had lived under the shadow of having a very challenging, to non-existent at times, relationship with my father. No matter the infinite love I was getting by my mother, stepfather and brother, I was haunted by the thought that there was also another family on my paternal side, with whom my relationships were strained (and I have been a very typical example of a girl with daddy issues – attracting all sorts of bad apples!).
“I have been through all stages… hurt, denial, anger, numbness.”
There were times when I thought I was coping well and there were times when I felt complete despair. When I look back at myself, I see a child, a teenager and a young woman who had been misunderstood. And who felt had no voice. In my late twenties, I decided to give this relationship a final shot. Up until then, I had made several efforts of reconciliation, but none of them had been successful. The reason for that was that I hadn’t really bared it all. I was initiating communication, but at the same time, I was guarding myself and I was predisposed for the worst case scenario. So, every time I made an attempt to reach, I was just masking my anger and pain. I was a ticking time-bomb, as I was waiting for the wrong words to be said, the wrong looks to be given, the missteps to be made – and I was out of the door!
My father, whom I admire, is a survivor of a stroke, a heart attack and cancer. Throughout his health issues, our relationship remained very tense. When he re-emerged healthy and a triumphant winner over his last challenge, I decided that this was life’s way of telling me “Listen girl, I’ve given you 3 chances – now you are all grown up, deal with it and get the best out of it!” Not only do I look up to my father, because he faced his misfortunes with great courage and came out of them a winner every single time, but also because he had the courage to accept responsibility, really take into consideration what I had to say and change his train of thought, well into his 60’s!
I communicated to him – and subsequently to the rest of our family – everything I felt I had to say, every big or small thing that had caused me pain or anger in the past. I declared my own story, my own thoughts, from my own point of view. I did not leave anything out, as I felt this was going to be my only chance to move forward and have no regrets. I had never imagined that I would have to feel so exposed, in order to feel strong and be heard. And I had never believed there would ever be a day, when I would be able to write about this without feeling hurt.
“When you forgive and move on, you do not by any means forget. However, when you look back, you realise you have learned to surf through your memories rather than drown in them.”
And then, one of my biggest milestones happened – My Dad reached back to me. We forgave, analyzed to the core old behaviors and incidents and decided on a new beginning. And suddenly, against my greatest fears, I had regained my position in the family clan! And not only that; I was fortunate enough to be received with great love and warmth by my sister and brother, even though I had been absent from their lives for years . I also found two great friends, confidants and supporters, in the face of my two stepsisters. And finally, where I once saw an evil stepmother – I now saw a woman, who had ferociously stood by my father through all his challenges, who had played a key role in keeping him alive and thus, gave me the opportunity to reconcile with him!
“By opening up, I myself was finally able to open my eyes and ears, as well, see the other side of the mirror and listen to their stories, free of prejudice.”
All families have skeletons in their closets; family dynamics are almost always challenging and no household is drama-free! I’m certainly not the only one who has had a parents’ ugly divorce in her past to share. There are so many stories, so much more complicated than mine. No case is the same, no individual is the same, no one can ever truly feel somebody else’s pain, Hurt is a customized feeling. I’m not trying to imply that just because I did it this way, it will work for someone else, as well. I just hope that by sharing this, I will send the message that sometimes, even when no one believes, situations can turn the other way round… They can!
“Old behaviors can be substituted by new ones. And no issue has only one way to look at, there are multiple perspectives in each and every story.”