CHAPTER 2 - Lessons From My Father (November 8, 2013)
Flash forward 35 years, where I am now 40 years old. I had not spoken to my father (James) since I was 18 years old.
He had left the military and was having troubles finding himself in this world…a tortured soul that was bound by responsibility he could not come to terms with, and a family he ultimately did not want, or care for. We were being raised by our mother who was financially supporting us, and the only one physically caring for us. Any time spent with James was forced and awful.
James was angry, all of the time. He was a quintessential bully in life and would bully his way through everything and everyone. About the age of nine he started to become extremely emotionally and physically abusive to myself and my brother. His daily rants seemed like that of someone that had been drinking all day long, however there was never any alcohol needed. The reality of his own life was always enough to get him revved up on his latest angry kick.
He emotionally beat my brother down so bad that my brother turned to drugs as a teenager. I, however, left all resemblance of any life I knew with him and moved as far away from it all as I could, and stayed away.
I grew up angry, sad, lonely, terrified, resentful and with a false idea of life and family. I set out on a spiritual journey in my mid 20's, one that has been consistently revealing truths to me ever since. I learned how to let go of my anger and fear and resentment and learned the all important, "mandatory-for-spiritual-growth", truth that we must not just GO through things in life, we must always GROW through things. If we don't grow and learn we will be forced to repeat all lessons until we "get it". In all things there are lessons. Everyone we meet has something to teach us, and ultimately everything truly does happen for a reason, and it's not always our place to understand that specific reason at the time.
My parents thankfully and eventually divorced when I was 16. I never spoke to my dad after that because I moved far away from home and I heard that he had moved on with his life, happy to be free from any and all responsibility. Over the years we never connected. I heard once that everyone is in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Apparently this concept includes family members too...his reason for being present in my life is glaringly obvious. It was a very specific reason and a very temporary season....
It had been almost 22 years since we last spoke, almost 24 years since I last saw him. However in a strange twist of events a few months ago he found me on Facebook and explained that he was having heart complications and apologized to me for being the kind of person he was to me as I was growing up.
My response (cut and pasted), “Dad, thanks for your message. I am sorry to hear of your heart complications and certainly hope that in your life you have found love and peace and are surrounded by both during these times. I appreciate the apologetic sentiment but you can die in peace because I forgave you years ago. Your demons were not because of me, I was just in their path-a lesson I learned as a young adult. Forgiveness from me is secondary to the forgiveness you must find for yourself. I hope and pray that some day you do. I have been offered forgiveness and I freely give it, as I believe it is the key to all things in life. I pray you find it, as we all deserve it.”
His response was a very simple, "thank you".
He died six weeks later. It’s a strange feeling to have someone so pivotal in the biggest miracle of my life, turned biggest adversaries and nightmares end up dying.
Feelings come flooding back, rushing in like a storm. I am left feeling grateful with a touch of indifference. However looking back after it’s all said and done I realize that my dad ended up teaching me the most profound lessons in life. For so long I thought of him and only considered the man that refused to admit his mistakes, the man that ruined my brother's life, the man that stole so much of my childhood from me. The man that refused to be a father, the man that hated and resented his responsibilities. The man that always made me feel less than.
The truth is our lessons in life certainly are not learned by someone knocking on our door handing a book of life lessons that we can all just read and adopt. And we certainly do not grow by staying safely within our comfort zones in life. We learn them from all of the experiences of our lives....all the good and all of the bad. It's all there for our benefit to grow. There is often such a thin line between good and evil.
Growth for humans is the same as it is in nature…it through the biggest storms that we grow the most.
When I was a child I thought his existence in my life was pointless. What could I learn from an angry man I was forced to call my father. What could someone like him ever teach me in life?
Yet after his death I started looking back on my life and realized that it was actually my father that taught me some of my most profound lessons. Through him, I learned how to become the woman I am today. Because of my relationship with him I discovered things about myself and life that I never would have otherwise, and thankfully, was able to actually learn these lessons very early on.
He was a violent storm, yet he did not break me.
My dad taught me through his cruelty that there’s a power above my own. He taught me through his distance that being alone is okay. He taught me through his ridicule that I am supposed to be strong. He taught me through his anger that I should always first think before I respond. He taught me through his lack of love how to be a better parent. He taught me through his lack of concern how to be a better spouse. He taught me through his selfishness that life is better the more you consider others. He taught me through his death that forgiveness heals all things. I feel grateful for these lessons.
These are the truths that have made me, me. I am so thankful for the miracles that were brought together, the mountains moved and the oceans parted so that the little girl in that tiny little province in Northern Thailand could be here today!!
Today I get to say that I am freer above all things because of my heartaches and lessons. I am more considerate because I have been broken. I am kinder because I have been ridiculed. I am thoughtful because I have been left. I smile more because I have cried so much. I help more because I have needed so much. I am more giving because I have been without. I am more loving because I have been alone.
The truth is that I wouldn’t change a thing about my life if any of those changes meant I was going to be any different than the woman I am today. There is a power above any power, there is a God above all gods. There is a love above all loves and a purpose above anyone's understanding.
These are the lessons of my father. I meant what I said to him, that I truly hoped he found forgiveness within himself and died with peace in his heart because he was one of the human beings that taught me some of my most profound lessons. I am a better person because of those lessons, as difficult as they were to learn, it is the truth!
Lesson #3: There are no mistakes, no failures, no heartaches, no shipwrecks, no let downs or knockdowns that come without lessons. We grow through hardships and just like nature, the biggest storms bring about the most growth. Usually the bigger the heartache, the bigger the plan!
Lesson #4: If everything in your life is falling in part, more likely than not, it's all actually falling into place.
Lesson #5: We don't learn from everything working out exactly as we want and plan. We don't grow from getting our way or everyone being exactly who we want them to be.
Lesson #6: PEOPLE ARE WHO WE NEED THEM TO BE, not who we WANT them to be. Stop trying to change them and just learn your lesson from them!
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