The Shoulds, The Dad, and The Ugly

Like most of us, I’ve spent way too much time “shoulding” myself. There’s such a negative connotation to “should”. It leaves us in a constant state of disappointment. We go from “I should’ve said or done this”, to “I should have known better”, instead of a more positive thought like “next time I will try to”, or “now that I’ve learned something, I will…”.

I found myself in the throws of should this weekend. This was a doozy, as it was related to communicating with my [biological] father.

Ever since I posted about forgiveness, I’ve been thinking about my dad. I never speak of him, because the long and short of it is, he left when I was two.

There were the occasional weekend visits when he still lived on the island, but after a while, he just faded out, like the ending of a movie that leaves you wondering “what just happened?”

The things I remember about dad are the very things I’ve inherited. Irony is nothing, if not entertaining. Our humor is dry, and can be somewhat corny. We both live and breathe music, and to this day, when I hear a Simon and Garfunkel song (especially, “At the Zoo“), I think of dad. When speaking of my skin disorder, I’ve often said “I have my best feature (my eyes) surrounded by my worst (my skin)” – both traits are from him.

It’s been 25 years since I’ve seen him, and although I live quite publicly, I’m certain dad wasn’t privy to my story.  When mom emailed this weekend letting my sister and I know he wanted to reconnect, I was overcome with a desire to cleanse my spirit of the dark secrets I’ve kept hidden from him for so long.

The only photo I have with my dad

But why was I protecting the very man who abandoned me? It’s simple really. All these years, I still wanted his approval – to make him proud – to be Daddy’s Little Girl.

There are moments in your life when things just click; the light bulb turns on and instead of thinking too much, you just do it.

Saturday night, I did. I wrote my dad an email, introducing him to the daughter he never knew. Straight from my heart on to the keyboard, I couldn’t type fast enough. And before I clicked ‘send’, I read my story out loud.

Jesus, that’s a lot to process.

I held nothing back – from the rape at thirteen, to the stripper pole and drug addiction in my twenties – it was all so ugly. There were no more shoulds. I was sending this email, and I was scared to death.

Fuck it. It’s real, and it’s mine. I’m not responsible for his feelings.

So I pressed the send key, let out a deep sigh and shut down my lap top for the night.

As I lay my head on the pillow, I felt something I never experienced when it came to my father. I was free from disappointment, quilt, shame, sorrow, and anger.

In owning my truth, I realized – I didn’t need his validation – I just wanted to be heard.

The next morning I received two voice mails from dad. It was surreal. I listened to him again and again, searching for judgment or pity – but every time I played his messages, all I heard was love.

To be continued…

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