Today is Father’s Day. My wife and I will be spending the day with our fathers, thanking them for all they went through to help us grow up to be upstanding citizens in the world and not killing us when we were kids. As I’m sure we have them plenty of reason to do so. It is on this note, I am going to share something I originally wrote last December for the Reverb10 Challenge. The theme for December 5th was, “Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)” What follows is the first time I have ever put into words my thoughts about the hurt and anger I was carrying around inside of me for many, many years of my childhood and adolescence. These words still feel as raw and painful as the December evening I wrote them. My relationship with my father has grown tenfold in the months since and for that I am grateful. No one is perfect. I am so thankful to have my father today and to maintain a good relationship with him.
This is a raw topic for me this year. The moment I read it tears came to my eyes.
This year I let go of Divorce.
When I was in 5th Grade my parents divorced. They split for no other reason than they had grown apart as people do. It was very civil. There was no screaming or fighting, just absence. Dad was never around. Mom was always working in her own right trying to keep a business afloat.
When they split, everything changed.
I was spending my weekends and Wednesday nights in Leesburg being driven back and forth like so much emotional baggage. My brother and I both having to split our time with once was a single set of parents.
It was really hard on me and I remember meeting with Mrs. Hill our counselor in elementary school and doing… something. Whatever it was, it only helped a bit. No slight against her, she was wonderful and helped me understand a lot of what I was feeling.
However, what I was left with was those feelings of anger and not understanding. The comprehension of my 5th Grade self is not what it would be today. I was lost and confused and hurt. Even though I knew it was not my fault as they both reminded us often. But it didn’t matter. It still hurt. And the hurt didn’t stop.
That’s when I had the good fortune to meet an excellent English teacher who introduced me to poetry and writing. I had an outlet. I filled notebook after notebook with my private pain. My late night ranting. My anger. My hurt. I poured it all out onto the pages in angst-riddled middle and high schooler prose. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote until I didn’t hurt anymore. Or at least I felt I had directed the pain outside of myself.
It felt good. It felt really good. I am so thankful to have been introduced to the medium and to have been able to embrace it so forcefully. I needed some way to cleanse my mind and that turned out to be the perfect solution.
I wrote. All through middle school I wrote. When I hit high school and a whole new set of pressures and decisions I kept writing.
I wrote a lot about my feelings of the divorce and growing up in a split parenting situation. I wrote a lot about myself from the perspective of others. I would put myself in a different place, probably a coping mechanism.
I wrote of loss often. Just being lost and trying to find my way home. But there was no map to take me where I needed to go. Long lost, it was forever gone.
But this year I was able to let that all go. I was able to finally, truly, honestly come to terms with the divorce. With the role it played in my life. With the way I felt about my parents because of it. I was able to finally start putting that behind me all these years later.
With the prompting and careful, measured advice from my wonderful wife who had always had the leveler emotional head than I what I was missing out on. She helped me to see things I had not considered before. She helped me get over my grudge I was holding and my pain I had clung to, that had identified me and my writing for these past many years.
She helped me work through my issues with my father. She helped me open up and see him for who he really was, someone who cared for me and loved me dearly.
He was not the scratchy faced man sitting in the living room, as he and my mother explained to us they were splitting up, and then walking out. Going to wherever he was going on that day.
He was not the cause of my pain but Just a player in the story of my life. He was no more evil than I or anyone else.
I finally saw that. I finally realized what I had missed. The relationship I had put on pause. The arm’s length I’d keep him and many others at. My trust issues with him and other people in my life. I saw the root of those and let them go. I’ve taken down the last walls with him. I’ve finally let him in again. I’ve finally been able to accept him for who he is.
I’ve let it go. I’ve let it all go. The toxic thoughts dwelling deep inside my head played out in the angry industrial raging beats of the music that inhabited my life as a preteen and teen. The long nights of listening Trent Reznor’s tortured vocals and seeing myself starring in the private tragedy as he provided the soundtrack.
In 2010, I was finally able to let that all go. And I have never felt freer. It was not worth keeping all that inside of me. But I couldn’t get rid of it on my own. I needed help. And I got that help. Whether I wanted it or not, it came.
I have been a better person for it since and I have lived a happier life. I have rebuilt a previously very strained relationship. I have vanquished the thoughts of skipping out on family events on that side. I have let all the hurt go where it should have gone those many years ago.
Streamed down onto the carpeted floor of our old living room. Of that house up on the hill in Berryville, that old blue house where I grew up and lived most of my life till college. That house wrapped in so many memories good and bad. So much pain and so much ecstasy.
Those tears I shed on that day as I clutched my mother tighter than I thought I ever could. We cried as a family but also as individuals.
All those years of what I had to endure. All those years of trying to make sense of it all when I knew in the end, there was no sense to be made.
All of that is gone now. All of that is over. I am free.
I am free of the burden of pain.
I’ve let it go.
That’s what 2010 did for me.
That’s what my wife helped me do.
I look forward to 2011 with a better, stronger relationship with my father. I look forward to all the things I missed out on before because I was too busy being hurt.