Thoughts and Questions of a Father No More
This post is directed toward those who have some familiarity with my blog. I ask for your comments and advice.
It was extremely painful to read the brave and hopefully healing words of my daughter, Ashley. To hear of her struggles and the pain she experiences due to my own actions, and not to be able to reach out and help her, is truly and deeply heartbreaking. Shame, anger(at myself), empathy, and hopelessness of ever healing our separation rush over me. yet I am also so proud of her and feel hope that she is finding strength and healing by expressing herself.
Growing up I promised myself that I would someday have a child and love and care for that child in all the ways I needed to be loved and cared for but wasn't. I would protect her from all the pain that I knew as a child in an abusive and dysfunctional home. Little did I know that my dream was an impossible one if I didn't heal myself first. The possibility that I could pass on such pain to my own child was never even a remote possibility I had ever imagined. How could it be? This was the very thing I hated most, that hurt me so much and stole my childhood from me leaving me with mountains of anger, shame, sadness, and hurt.
Ashley's comment certainly leaves me no doubt that this is exactly what I did. This truth has haunted me for over 11 years now, and continues to haunt me - as it should. I often hope that she has the love and support in her life that I never had, love and support to survive this black inheritance stronger and more intact than I did. Luckily, I know she is able to. My mother talks to Alecia, Ashley's mother, occasionally, and I hear how devoted to Ashley's welfare Alecia is, and how good Ashley is doing in school. I know she is not being abused, or moving from town to town every year like I did, and for this I am grateful. Although she is certainly scarred and wounded from all this, she has the love, strength, and support to do what I was never able to (at least until it was too late); heal, become stronger, and live a life that reflects her true self.
I do not know who Ashley is today, or the life she has led, though I try to imagine. The little girl I remember - smart, playful, curious, and independent - has grown into a young woman I know little of, except that we share the experience of extreme turmoil and inner pain. I know she enjoys writing. She always enjoyed stories and not long before I left we began playing a game where one of us would begin telling a nonsense story and the other had to finish it. Writing only seems a natural extension of her interest in stories. I remember being amazed by her intelligence. Before she was 3 years old she knew how to turn on the computer, load her favorite game, and play. Alecia and I often woke up to find her blissfully playing on the computer. Ashley was quite independent and stubborn as well. Qualities I thought would serve her well. Alecia and I would often be woken up by Ashley as she demanded that we get up, make her breakfast, and clean the house. This, at 6 AM. Se was also brave in facing her fears. She climbed the large tree in the front yard, held worms and frogs,and got dirty as we dug for rocks with kitchen spoons in the back yard all while saying she was afraid to, but still did it anyway. Her curiosity was stronger than her fear.
I enjoyed being a father that is during the times I was not lost in addiction and darker moods. Such times lasted a few weeks here, a couple of months there, and form my favorite memories. Trips to the Children's Museum, the Aquarium. Chuck E Cheese, and Gymboree gave us time to bond as father and daughter. My last such memory is of us planting a dogwood tree in the front yard.
All of this is great, but the darker days stole whatever happiness we had created. Periods of deep depression landing me in the hospital, excessive drinking and drug use, infidelity and poor treatment of Alecia, and general chaotic dysfunction haunted us. After such periods I would see the aftermath and be filled with shame. This motivated me to seek help; AA, rehabs, day programs, counseling, and religion. I tried it all with true sincerity - over and over again. Each time I failed the ensuing chaos would be worse until eventually I was living in such dysfunction and shame that I just gave up. It took years to wear me down to this point, but when it came nothing was safe anymore. I still did my best to love Alecia and Ashley (which wasn't much), but I no longer resisted my addictions. With no restraints it wasn't long before I made the incredibly selfish and desperate choices that landed me in prison.
NONE OF THIS IS AN EXCUSE FOR MY ACTIONS. What I write is just the truth of the situation. This is how the pain and turmoil of my youth had twisted me up, but I have hope for Ashley, that she will survive it better than I had. She has already shown that she has the strength to do it. It took great courage to share her truth with me the way she did in the comment she left. This gives me hope for her.
Personally, I KNOW healing is possible because I have found such healing, and I did so in the difficult and hostile environment of prison. It took my willingness to forgive those who had hurt me the most and my decision to take FULL responsibility for my own life, despite all the injustices of the past and present, and my own healing no matter what. Only then did the true healing begin and my life change for the better. I also had to forgive myself, maybe the toughest step, and one I still struggle with.
This is all great, but it's little consolation to those I've hurt. I hear the chant, "Too late...too late..." ringing in my head.
Although I can't undo the past I CAN shame my experience of growth, healing, and forgiveness with others. My experience of facing and overcoming the demons that have been haunting me for so long must mean something. So many others struggle with similar demons, and my very own daughter is one of them. As a father, I can't help but hope to be able to help Ashley. Most of all I wish I could love her the way I was never able to, the way she always deserved and needed me to. What good is all this healing and growth if these things aren't possible?
Maybe Ashley will one day read my posts. The one's labeled "My Quest" shave the views, skills, and practices that helped me heal and become the person I was meant to be. Others have found something helpful here and if nothing else, maybe this can be my legacy. For all the pain I've caused, what elses can I do but try and share my experience to help others find healing and greater freedom, peace, and joy, especially Ashley.
Is it ridiculous for me to hope that maybe one day Ashley will want to talk to me? And maybe, just maybe, she may find it possible to forgive me enough that we may attempt to build some kind of father/daughter relationship? How could I not hope for this? But of course, I'm told it is unlikely, but I hold hope anyway. A fools hope.
The reason why it is unlikely is because I am the reason why Ashley has had to struggle with such undeserved pain and turmoil. Her comment on this blog reflects the results of the extremely selfish and desperate choices I made over 11 years ago. She has every right, as do others, to hold anger, hurt, and disgust toward me, this being true, maybe my hope IS a ridiculous one.
But I know such things ARE possible, because I have found forgiveness for the one who caused my childhood to be the hell it was and all the ensuing problems it created.
My mother is the closest person to me in my life today. I love her dearly, and our relationship is great, but it wasn't always this way. Anger, hatred, and disgust were common emotions I felt toward my mother for many, many years. Growing up with physical and verbal abuse, neglect, humiliation, poverty, alcoholism, and never living in the same place for long were daily realities for me. This filled me with enormous emotional turmoil that resulted in severe depression and rage. But eventually she cleaned up. I still had my own black inheritance to deal with, yet over time I was able to see the goodness in my mother. I started to forgive her and eventually we were able to repair our relationship. We have a great mother/son relationship today, but this was only possible because she cleaned up and I was willing to do the work of self healing and forgiveness.
This is MY truth. That doesn't mean I expect everyone can do this, but I know it is possible and that it was DEFINITELY worth the risk and work. It's a dream, but I hope Ashley will one day seek out a similar path. It's hard to see that such a path is possible, especially given the popular stereotypes and messages that media portrays concerning people who have done what I've done. But I won't give up hope. I've done the work, and continue to do the work, so that in addition to being able to help others I will be ready if Ashley ever does choose to explore such a path. I not only experienced that such healing is possible, but have seen others repair relationships in similar situations, and read MANY stories of such miracles.
None of this is up to me. All I can do is be ready and hope. It is not my hopes and wants that matter so much in this situation, but what else could I hope for. In the end, my most deepest wish is that she finds the healing, strength, and love she needs to live a happy fulfilling life. THIS IS POSSIBLE.
So readers, what do you think? Is my hope a ridiculous one? Do I even have the right to dream of such things after all the pain I've caused? Can people who have committed terrible acts heal and become healthy, worthy, people able to contribute something positive to the loves of others. If so, are such people worthy of love? Most importantly, do you think healing and happiness are possible for those who have suffered terrible injustices and violations like Ashley? Please share your thoughts here.
I will hold the pain of her words and let it do its work. Maybe one day I will find out she is living a happy, amazing life, that she has healed and I can replace that pain with knowledge of this, and always I will keep hope that she may one day seek me out and we can explore new possibilities. I remain a fool.
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