Some things in life do not require constant practice to maintain a base level of skill; riding a bike, for example. Visiting my Dad again after having not done so for 5 years was like this. Except it was as if I had the experience of countless bloody falls and grazes to remind me to do it safely and wisely.
I moved out of my Dad’s house at 16 when I became aware of the unhealthy nature of our relationship. I have multiple blog posts on this here, here and here if you’re interested. I’m now nearly 23 and my bedroom in that house has remained largely untouched for about 6 years; so I thought it was high time I clear it out.
I walked into the situation with a strange sense of calm. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years but the thought had always made me deeply uncomfortable. Just two Christmases ago, my Mam suggested we go along my Dad’s house to give presents to my brother who lives there, too, and I chickened out at the last minute – terrified about how the exchange was going to affect me. Every time I come back to Shetland where most of my family live, I’m always reminded of the fear of seeing my Dad on the street and being caught off guard.
I guess a shift has happened within me. Setting the intention to forgive, while knowing that it could take some time, has proven to be a powerful thing. I watched a video from Michelle Patterson (I’ve mentioned her videos before on my blog) on YouTube where she discussed forgiveness, inner child, courage, empathy and self love. The first time I watched the video, it deeply resonated with me. The second time I watched it, something clicked in such a revelatory way that I stopped the video and meditated on it for a few minutes.
The video ending on the topic of self love made me realise something. In order to truly love myself and, in turn, love and give myself to others; I must forgive. It is not to do a service to the person in question, it is to do a service to myself and those I love. The alternative is – at worst – holding onto anger, letting it fester and living in fear of more maltreatment. I thought that if I forgave my Dad, I would be putting the power and control back into his hands; that I’d be giving him ammunition and permission to manipulate me again.
In some ways, this is a rational supposition. Forgiving before we are ready to forgive can certainly put us in a vulnerable position because it can mean that we haven’t taken the right amount of time to fully acknowledge any wrongdoing and allow the painful emotions to discharge. But setting the intention to forgive, saying to ourselves “I’m not ready now but I’d like to be someday” is more than enough to set us on the right path. And this is where I am at now.
When I sat in the living room with my Dad and my brother, I felt almost like a bystander. Like I was taking the role of the observer in the interactions with my Dad and letting my consciousness have a good emotional distance from it all. I engaged with him, I kept it lightsome, I brought warmth to these exchanges and listened to him – but I didn’t get involved. I watched him bend over backwards trying to make the most of the time he was having with me, the most he’d had in over 5 years, and remained calm and largely unattached. The words, the gestures, the implications flowed through me like rain – but I didn’t give them a place to stay in my heart.
When I stood up to go and clear out my room, I decided it with a gumption and finality that, a few years ago, I would’ve found difficult to muster. I used to sit with him for hours, letting the air and conversation stagnate, a steady stream of energy flowing from myself to him leaving me altogether weak and drained. On this day, it was different. I watched myself almost sinking back into that pattern and pointedly checked the time on my phone to serve as a cue for me to leave the room. My Dad made sure to say to me that I didn’t have to worry about clearing everything out, that if I left a few things, that would be okay; and I realised as he said it that the idea of all my things suddenly being gone from that room after 5 years of dormancy was overwhelming to him.
I mentally discounted this and commenced the upheaval of my room. The process of clearing it out was pretty painless. I didn’t feel too attached to anything in the room and I felt fine with throwing almost everything out. When I was done, I left a pile on my bed of books and CDs to take to the charity shop another time because it was almost 5pm at this point.
I watched my Dad with jaded eyes as he told me how great it had been to see me and that he’d love to see me again before I went back to Edinburgh. I responded positively but noncommittally and walked out the door feeling lighter. The great unknown of how it would be to see my Dad again had been lifted from my shoulders and I felt older somehow. Like I’d been focusing on individual puzzle pieces for years but that with distance I was now able to see the full picture.
The question of whether or not I will have him in my life now is not an important one or a difficult one to answer. The answer is no. The important takeaway from this has been the empowering and celebration-worthy revelation: I am no longer in a codependent relationship.
Thanks for reading.
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx
Art by Bape.Ril