Accept that although you cannot change what is in the past, you absolutely can change your personal feelings towards it.
This applies to anything and everything and all circumstances; any time frame, whether the source of your discomfort was long ago or happened just this morning. It also applies to whoever is in your past, and whatever action has taken place. Of course, you are not responsible for someone else’s deeds; indeed this is a hugely important part – you are, however – completely responsible for how you choose to react to whatever is bothering you.
This is a complex topic and something in which I have a great deal of interest. Before reading the short essay here, the simplest terms are to always take responsibility. Obviously, it goes a lot deeper than that.
I did not choose for my father to leave and never to return when I was just a few weeks old. You could say that I was perfectly entitled to carry feelings of abandonment. When, at the age of twenty-two, I finally found my father, he was quite sanguine about the whole thing; believing I would come and search him out one day, and how very nice it was to finally meet me. He actually told me that my parents should never have had me, as the marriage was already over, and my arrival tipped things over the edge.
All that emotion I had invested in my long-lost father seemed almost indulgent at that point, as I connected with what was tantamount to a stranger. After only a dozen or so perfectly pleasant meetings he died. It was a heart attack, and he went instantly. I went to see him at the chapel of rest. When I looked at his face closely, I saw our physical likeness, and felt the strange irony of sharing similar features with a man I hardly knew.
My mind ran through almost every emotion; obvious sadness, regret at not making enough effort and seeing him more often, anger at his laissez-faire attitude; a throw-back of the seventies and his “Cool Hippie Ibiza Vibe,” anger at him being snatched away before I had a chance to develop any sense of a truly meaningful relationship and a guilty sense of disloyalty toward my mother who had assumed complete responsibility for me and my sister emotionally, physically, and financially.
But more than anything, there was a deep sadness for the little girl who never knew what it was to be a daddy’s girl and a little princess; scooped up, held tight, and unconditionally loved. I felt such sorrow for her; the dreams she had of having her own daddy; her own knight in shining armour. Her hopes that one day he would arrive at her door, declare he was her long lost father, and would never again leave her side. I saw the scene in The Railway Children, when the steam from the train finally clears to reveal the children’s father; finally home. I always wished that one day my own might do the same, and I would run towards him with his arms ready to envelop me. I saw memories dance about before my eyes, of school plays attended always by one, not two, of my friend’s father returning from foreign business trips with exotic gifts, of all my little friends’ innate confidence that they were the most special and that theirs was the best, tallest and strongest daddy.
I told that little girl, that heart-broken junior version of myself, that although I couldn’t change anything and that regrettably, there would always be a part of her that would feel a sense of abandonment, she need not be despondent, she was very much loved and by exactly the right people, and her wonderful mummy had enough love to give, even for two.
I looked at my father, in peaceful repose. My anger and frustration subsided. I realised in that moment that all I could do was let go of manufactured dreams, of idealised scenarios and ultimately, of disappointment.
In truth, I really felt a great deal of pity for the man; after all, he never knew the joy of raising two little girls. He never experienced their tiny hands in his, or the simple pleasure of reading a bedtime story and a kiss goodnight. He missed so much and now it was too late.
I forgave him.
When he was lowered into the ground, I forgave him again, but more than that, a little part of me was released, and finally free.
The eminent psychiatrist and survivor of the horrors of Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl authored the greatest book I have ever read; “Man’s Search For Meaning.” He said; “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
If this post has brought up feelings you might like to discuss, do please get in touch x