under the microscope…

microscope

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been contemplating who my dad really was and what made him tick. What drove him to act and respond the way he did to the things that life presented to him. This has come under my microscope of scrutiny because I am my father’s daughter. I respond to things in very much the same way he did, and I am determined not to travel the same path. My life story was scripted and has acted out eerily parallel to his in terms of unmet expectations and disappointments. We did not necessarily live the same unfortunate set of circumstances; but we suffered the same feelings of inadequacy, of not quite measuring up, of the seemingly ceaseless combat for validation and possession of a voice. I know he struggled with being a good dad…a good husband. Emotions that, unfortunately, I also became all too familiar with on my journey.

Motherhood was not easy path for me. It did not come naturally or organically. I struggled with connecting and bonding with my son. It is a harsh consequence of my past, and something I strived laboriously to {still sometimes} overcome. I, too, was not immune to the judgement and opinions of those who felt they “knew better”. My love and consideration for my son was second guessed and questioned…harshly, without thought to the damage it inflicted on a new fragile mother. As a result I constantly doubted my choices and struggled to accept that I was a good mom and did know what was right for my son. On occasion, I will get trapped on that same merry go round again, and the vicious cycle of self-doubt and condemnation threaten to cripple the confidence I’ve cultivated through the years. But I know how to combat this now…how to prevent the incessant onslaught of internal damnation. I don’t think my father was ever given that armor. Our internal voices inflict immeasurably more damage and carnage to us, especially when we believe and accept the outward verdicts of those around us. My dad sought the approval and validation of those around him so I can only imagine the internal dialogues his conscious would force upon his mind and the battle that would ensue.

Looking back, I have a particularly clear memory of talking to dad about being more present, more involved as a father. He revealed that he was trying and would try, but it was so hard. It was so hard for him to be my dad. The statement was raw and painful and his truth; and I never completely understood…until I had a child and my place in his life was also questioned. I was confronted with a similar set of emotions. Granted, my own unique circumstances came into play, but it was hard. It was hard to be and to be present in my son’s life. The path I chose ushered in nearly 14 years of perpetual exhausting discord with my son’s father and the battle continues still…

I am so quick to point the finger at my father and his self-absorption, his selfishness, but what of my own? Were the decisions I made years ago not seeded in my own selfishness? My own need for validation and acceptance? These are the harsh realities that I examined years later to ensure I was not travelling the same road with my son. It was a painful truth to accept as the truth often is; but my son will not grow up resenting me, or questioning my love for him. This was and is my commitment to him.

My father’s apathy was not exclusive to his children only, and my parent’s relationship was always difficult for me to define or explain. As their daughter, I did not know all the intricacies of their story; but as a participant in their lives, I sadly became very tolerant with the dysfunction of their relationship. I did not know any different. I have the utmost respect for my mother who remained steadfast by my father’s side, but I also cannot discount the impact their relationship had on me and the partners I chose. My mother is a supremely strong woman. Recalling her relationship with my father now through the years, and even more so as an adult woman; I ache for the relationship she lost, not two months ago, but over twenty years ago. And yet she stayed. She persevered. I did not have that same strength. I processed and examined, tormented and emotionally flogged myself for years; and finally accepted and acknowledged my contribution to my failed marriages. And while I cannot in good conscious place all the blame at my father’s feet, he did play a part. Because I did not have a strong male presence or father figure to guide me and protect me, I had no idea what to seek in a partner. I did not know what behavior was and was not acceptable and I made very poor decisions as a result. Lessons of the heart are often the most painful to sort out and overcome. The scars I bear serve as a reminder of the exquisitely painful education I received. And again, the realization that parts of my father reside in me and I must acknowledge the selfishness I possessed. Acknowledge and commit to change. Something my father was unable or unwilling to do.

I only have bits and pieces of a larger puzzle to explain the complexities that were my father. All I am able to do now is seek to understand those parts of him that I have inherited. Perhaps by gaining a better understanding of myself, I will receive a glimpse into the window of his soul also.

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