When others ask me what brings joy to my life that's easy to answer: my family, my accomplishments, a loving God, beautiful weather, and so forth.
But the questions I always dread are:
What pains you in life?
Is there a topic that pains you to talk about?
Something that has changed you?
I am going to be authentic and real for this post, even if it is uncomfortable and not easy. Writing can be therapeutic. Writing about topics that are not easy may help someone see that they are not the only one. Also, writing through the pain is a step in letting it go...
Many many years ago when I was a teenager, my family life was crumbling around me. Every time I turned around my parents were fighting or it was my dad and brother going at it. I was the one that tried to steer clear and close myself in my room. From the time I was in 7th grade to 10th grade I dealt with horrible depression that prevented me from experiencing life. At one point, I wanted to take my own life. My parents were on 24/7 watch over me due to doctor's orders. And the one time my dad had to watch me by himself, he sat on the couch, and fell asleep within 5 minutes. Sitting next to him I thought, "hmm... apparently he doesn't care if I hurt myself. If I did something, he wouldn't even know." From that day on, I had the thoughts and feelings that my father doesn't even love me... Someone who can easily fall asleep when their child may be in danger totally boggles my mind. From that day on, I carried that little bad angel on my shoulder telling me "daddy doesn't love you and he doesn't care."
My senior year of high school, the relationship between my parents was getting worse. Sometimes I just prayed for them to split up so I wouldn't have to live with the chaos and commotion. Then one night, I could tell something was very wrong...
My instincts went into "fire alarm" mode and I crept up to my parents' bedroom door to listen. They were arguing again but this time it sounded different. Normally I wouldn't open their bedroom door without knocking but in this case I did. My dad was screaming at my mom and had pinned her on the edge of the bed. My mind went into instant protective mode and running up to my dad, I pounded on his back and yelled, "Get off her! Get off her!" Needless to say, my dad was in such a rage he doesn't even remember me being in the room or pounding him on the back. That night, we told my dad to get out. That was the first and last time he ever laid a hand on my mom. They divorced after that.
I wasn't upset about my parents divorcing. It was actually a relief so I could live life in peace for once. The downside though was the realization that I had a horrible relationship with my father and I wanted to do anything to repair it. I was sad that I never had the father I needed or wanted. These events and just feeling he was never there for me forced us to go to counseling. My father denied everything and easily blamed everyone else. After 2 sessions, I called it quits.
My last semester of college arrived and my mom made me go live with my father. It was really not my choice, but where else would I go? While living with him, I found out he took up smoking (found him on his porch one day smoking as if it were nothing new). Also realized he was a big drinker and would hang out at bars with friends till 1am some evenings. Being in a bad area, in a tiny apartment, with my dad not coming home till 1am made me feel uneasy. One day I cried and told my dad that I didn't like this. There was also an incident when my dad and I needed to go somewhere and the instant I got in the car, I smelled heavy alcohol. Asked him if he had been drinking and his response was, "Only 3 beers. I know my limit." In an instant, I got fierce and told dad to pull over and let me out. Seriously, what responsible adult drives their kid around while intoxicated?! This was not the dad I grew up with.... my dad never smoked, and drinking in our house was not an option. In a huge blowup with me throwing empty boxes at my dad one day, I yelled that I was getting out of there. That day, I called ASU and made arrangements to live in the dorms. The next 2 years I didn't have much contact with my father. In the mix of those years though, I did see him to celebrate my birthday. We went out to dinner and during my 19th birthday and 22nd birthday he announced that he was engaged (both times to 2 different ladies). ahem, thanks for the birthday announcement. The first time I ran out crying. The second time I laughed in my head and let it go.
So I let time heal and felt good doing my own thing for a few years. I let the past be in the past and moved on. When I got pregnant with my son in 2010, my grandmother passed away and I started to spend more time with my father and new stepmom. I tried to include them in my life more since I would be bringing in their first grandchild into the world. For the last 2 years everything was good and my son loved having his Grandpa around to play with. Everything was just fun and games.
During the recent holidays, my Dad and Stepmom were informed that we could no longer go to their house. They are heavy smokers and the smell just lingers in the house. We got sick every time we went there. Dad wasn't happy with my thoughts. A few weeks after that, I allowed my dad to take my son out. They wanted to go ride a bike. Dad informed me that they were going to a dirt area to ride. The instant they were gone I got a pit in my stomach. Calling them up, I had to specifically ask Dad if he was taking Josh to their house... after skirting around it, he finally admitted that they went to their house, "but it was only for awhile." This is the first time I have had to get mad at someone for doing something related to my son. It was not pretty.
For the last 3 months, I have not talked to my father much. There is so much anger, hurt, and bitterness. Last week, we finally sat down and I brought up all the points that were mentioned in this entire blog post. Everything I brought up, my dad once again denied. He said he fell asleep when I was suicidal because he was too darn tired. I was told that the night of abuse was actually my mom attacking him (strange, but I walked in when he was hurting my mom). During this conversation, I was told that I should never have become a teacher and that my dad wasted his money on my education. Was told the cigarette smell in their house does not get my family sick and that him and my stepmom aren't stupid and know what's ok/not ok for joshua.... wow, i thought I was Joshua's parent and could call the shots. And the main thing that really resonates was being told that Dad is just too busy to even worry about me and my issues. And that I overreact. He said he doesn't plan on changing and is happy with his new wife and won't let anything come between that. My rose-colored glasses have been lifted and Dad gave me his answer. It's not a happy one, and really makes me wonder why he even wanted kids in the first place. To him, life is about living in the moment and making himself happy, even if it means hurting his daughter. After discussing everything with my father, I ended it by saying that my worry is that he will die tomorrow without apologizing or reconciling the relationships that have been broken. Dad said that it's his problem and that's what he chooses.... This is a tough realization, but I'm glad that my ears and eyes are open to the truth. I can move on now.
I'm glad that I am the one that can choose happiness in my life. And honestly, people that stress me out or are hurtful should not be given a thousand chances. I deserve better than this. No daughter should put up with the abuse, the insensitive comments, or the character tear-down. If anything I'm mainly taking action to protect my son from this dysfunctional lifestyle so he does not have to grow up thinking this behavior is acceptable. It's not.
This is such a flippin long post, that if you really read this, I give you kudos for sticking through it. If anything, I needed to do this for myself. If you feel inclined to share your thoughts, experience, or have something encouraging to say, feel free to comment. This is not a light topic, but if there is someone else out there that has a similar story, please know that you are not alone and you deserve better in life.
One day I hope the pain goes away, and that beauty comes from these ashes.