A lone acoustic guitar emerges softly with a melancholy, finger-strummed melody, bordering on sad. After 25 seconds a voice emerges, much louder in volume, almost out of balance with the guitar. But…
It’s Father’s Day.
I scroll through all the social posts of happy faces of my friends with their Dads. Or photos of Dads with messages of gratitude for their love, care and lessons they taught their kids.
I stop to check in on how I feel about it.
I cannot relate to any of it. Do I feel any form of FOMO from it? No. At least not anymore. In the past, I used to wonder what I was missing out on if I had a loving and close relationship with my dad. It made me feel disappointed.
I grew up pretty much without my Dad in my life. The memories I have of him in my past can be counted on two hands — well, less than all the fingers available. They were mostly fun, but faint. We never developed a deep relationship. He was not around when I really needed support. He chose to start his own life with another family before I turned ten, and that was when I decided to start holding resentment against him — for pretty much most of my life.
When I was busy wondering what life would’ve been like if I had more of my dad’s presence in it, I was imagining about the experiences that I lacked. I believed that I was missing out on something that everyone else had. While that had some truth in it, I did not realize that I was making myself believe that it meant that I did not have enough in my life. That I would forever be lacking in something in my life.
I guess I temporarily forgot to be grateful for everything else that I did have.
A mom who gave her all to raise my siblings and I — even though admittedly, it was a huge challenge for her to be a single-mum.
Two brothers and the rest of our family who did their best to look after each other.
Friends who loved me and whom I loved spending time with. We always knew how to have fun and be there for each other when we needed it.
I don’t know how it feels to have a father. I can’t miss something I never really had. Yet, whenever I thought about him and how he chose to be with another family instead of ours, I got upset that he chose to leave us.
I felt abandoned. Especially since my mom told me that she deliberately fell pregnant with me with the hopes that I, the only daughter in the family, might have been able to save her failing marriage. Growing up to that narrative made me feel like a failure throughout most of my life. I believed that I had failed. That I was a disappointment. It became my truth. I did not question it. Because it was something I accepted.
For most of my life, the thought of my father triggered the narrative that I was not good enough to keep him around in our family. So I got angry with him. I became bitter. He was a reminder of how I was not good enough to show up for. That I was not worth it. Oh, and that all men cheat.
That’s the power of narratives that limit us. We get so blinded by the story that we believe everything about it. We don’t even question it, or try to see the bigger picture. We stay limit within the boundaries that it sets around us and we go round and round in that circle. Feeling trapped, angry, frustrated, and wounded. That’s how I felt. As a result, I threw myself into a career and sought comfort in having a career, money and the things and experiences that money could buy. I had relationships, but I was always prepared for them to go south at some point. Because I believed that’s what men do — they leave. I had a string of relationships that all ended the way I predicted they would.
It took a long time (years) before I was convinced that my then boyfriend-now-husband was not going to leave me. Every time we had a fight, I was prepared that he was going to pack up and leave. That familiar feeling of abandonment was always there — and it was sad having to go through life believing that people will leave you. It has taken many years of self-work (and patience from my sweet husband) to move away from believing that possibility. Because until something actually happens, everything is just a possibility. Believe in it enough, and you will work towards making it come true — consciously or sub-consciously.
Last year, I finally fully felt free from the final remaining bit of pain I was holding on to. Self-work did help me let go of most of it, but the final bit was to face him — literally. I agreed to go and have coffee with my dad. It was a strange experience, to say the least. My first 1–1 conversation with my dad — at age 38. I had no idea what we’d talk about. He was like a stranger to me — albeit a familiar one as I have memories of times we had spent together when I was really young. But they happened so long ago that they felt like dreams.
I asked him all the questions I wasn’t really aware that I had in me.
“Why did you cheat on mom?”
“Why did you leave us?”
“Did you ever love mom?”
Then I learnt the other side of the story — his side. For over thirty years, I only ever heard my mom’s version of the story. The one where the man she loved left her. But after hearing his answers, the bottom line was that he never ever loved her. There was nothing I could have done that would have changed the outcome. He didn’t choose to “abandon me”, per se. It’s not that I wasn’t good enough. He chose to leave the life he shared with my mom. And since I was a product of that life, I was left by default. He was simply looking out for himself and chose a different life, and a different family. It had nothing to do with me.
Not everything is about me. The world does not revolve around me.
And just like that, I was free. The narrative I believed in for over thirty years ceased to have any power over me. Because it simply wasn’t true. It was never about me. He didn’t specifically choose to leave me. He chose to lead another life and my becoming someone who grew up without a father was one of the effects (and not main cause) of that decision.
I am free. I have always been free. I was simply looking at things a different way.
My purpose in life was never meant to save my parents’ marriage. No kid should have to bear that responsibility. My purpose is to be the best version of me and support others who went through what I did before, so that we can all believe that it is possible to move through any difficulties in life. Because everything we believe in is possible to achieve.
I am not anything less because I grew up without my dad. I may have missed out on the experiences that other people have with their dads, but I can’t miss what I don’t know. I simply had a different experience. So I had no reason to feel hurt, or self-pity. I had no reason to not allow myself from becoming the best version of myself.
Today, I don’t resent my dad, but neither do I feel mad love for him. And it feels fine. We have not grown closer. Try as I might, I just don’t feel a strong desire to get close to him. This is enough for me. Civil, respectful, distant. It feels peaceful. Which I am grateful for. I don’t need more.
Sometimes I do wonder if I’m missing out on something, and I search inside myself for answers that I may have perhaps overlooked previously. Especially on days like this when many people are celebrating their dads. The only answer that comes up is that I’m truly glad that I don’t feel short of anything, and that I do not hold anything against my dad. Knowing that I do not hold sadness or negativity in my heart is a very comforting feeling. I guess it leaves me space and energy to hold those who truly matter to me and wholehearted love myself and others.
And for that, I am grateful. Happy Father’s Day indeed.
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