For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” ~ Benjamin Button to his daughter.
A few months ago I participated in a metaphysical workshop which taught me how to sever ties with people and events that have caused pain. These ties, or cords, connect us with people, places, objects and situations that have meaning to us. They are made of astral and etheric energy stretching between the two, very much like an umbilical cord, and transfering emotional energy and chi, no matter how physically far apart we are from the person or how long ago the situation occured. We create these ties because it is a natural way for us to interact with other people and communicate with the surrounding world. Some cords are beneficial and create a nurturing sharing of energy and information, as with healthy relationships between family members and good friends. The more energy is being exchanged (healthy or unhealthy) through a cord, the stronger it will be. Sometimes when we end unhealthy relationships or move away from unhealthy situations these cords remain, painfully binding us on an emotional and energetic level. Most of us find these cords, or ties, very diffcult to remove. We carry around hurt, pain and anguish because we are still connected to the source of that pain.
When I signed up for the workshop I knew I had a cord to sever with my father. I wanted to sever the tie that connected my heart to his judgmental words and to the emotional indifference that I remember of our shared past. There were more cords to sever as well which tied me to other people and situations, but I had decided beforehand that this one with Dad had to be dealt with first, and then I’d allow whatever / whoever was next to reveal themselves to me. (That story is for another day!)
The Best Relationship
I was open to the experience, wanting more than anything, to heal myself and allow our relationship to improve. Six months prior, at a Closeness, Distance and Intimacy in Relationships workshop, I promised myself that I would do my part to develop the relationship I wanted with my Dad: a loving, supportive and open one with reassurances of love and affection; where we would enjoy each other’s company and have freedom of discussion without judgment; with acceptance and guidance from both sides and I wanted us to feel proud of each other. I wanted us to forgive each other and appreciate what each could bring to the relationship.
What We Were
I did try. For the first few weeks. I remembered my promise to myself to reach out more, and to be more patient and understanding and accepting of him. I knew it would not be easy as when it comes to my father I’d carried around particular fears for so long: fear of judgment, fear of rejection, and the fear of effort without reward or appreciation. I actively worked to think more positively about our relationship but to be honest I was not giving my all to do my part. It was because in the back of my mind, and locked away in a box in my heart, I still stored those fears and pain from the past.
Letting Go of Dad?
So, when the opportunity came to get past those fears and blocks I took it. During the workshop, we prepared ourselves through meditation and when the time came to cut the ties participants were encouraged to visualize the person we wished to sever ties with. I closed my eyes and pictured Dad walking toward me. I saw the fine threads that connected us and I began to weep. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I just could not do it. I was afraid that I would lose him altogether. But I knew that it had to be done. I had to cut the ties between us that were harmful to our relationship. I took a deep breath and repeated the required words until I felt calm. All was quiet in my mind and you know what? He was still there, but there were no more bad feelings, only love. The workshop took a lot out of me but I was hopeful.
In the weeks that followed, little by little, things started happening.
I started back calling to say hi, how’re you doing. With my sister and little nephew now living abroad there are spaces left in his life. He has been calling to check up on me too.
Dad does not come to my side of the island often but now when he does, he calls and schedules lunch or asks to meet so that he can give me avocados from the tree at home.
One day an ex-boyfried from two decades ago sent me a photo via a whatsapp message. It was a copy of the Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs, that looked strangely familiar. His message stated that he believed the book to be mine. I asked him if my name was on the inside (back then I put my name on all my books). His next message was a photo of the inside cover. It was inscribed: “To Phoenix, Love Daddy, Christmas 1985.” I cried. I would have been 13 years old when he gave this book to me. Maybe back then I’d already fallen in love with words. 1985 was before my parents split up and I took it as a reminder that there were moments of love between us and that those are the things I should remember.
The Dad who was there all along
And I did. In the following weeks I remembered things that I’d forgotten about: the two-story dollhouses he built by hand, one yellow and one green, for my sister and me; the many times he drove for over an hour after midnight to pick us up from nightclubs when we were in our late teens, before we learned to drive, and when we did learn, he still drove for an hour to meet us and follow us home, (we lived too far for friends to give us a lift you see); the time when in his own way he offered wisdom and comfort after my first breakup with my best friends. Stories I’d overheard of his difficult childhood also surfaced in my mind and my understanding and compassion for him grew. I recognized the meaning behind him saying that one of his regrets in life was that he did not provide a safe home. He had said it was important for fathers to do that for their daughters, should they ever need a place to return to.
About six weeks after the cord-cutting workshop I went to visit him and we had a really good conversation, about life, purpose, philosophy mostly. We’ve had these discussions in the past but I’d always been tense, feeling unheard and foolish and very sensitive to perceived criticism, even if he merely had a difference of opinion. This time I felt more relaxed and comfortable sharing my views and ideas because I was no longer equating agreement with his acceptance of me. I was calm in my thinking and speaking and there were no signs of the the old desperate need to say something that he liked so that I could prove that I was worthy of love. I was very happy. The most incredible thing of all? When I was leaving that day, as I got to the door and turned around to say my goodbyes he reached out and pulled me to him, embracing me as he kissed my cheek. My father – the emotionally distant, prone to withholding affection, uncomfortable with expressing emotions other than anger and frustration father – hugged me. It was a brief hug but meant so much.
When my sister and I hosted an art exhibition last October, he came. And after he left I saw that he’d signed “So proud, Daddy” in our guest book. That was huge for me, for my sister too, as they are words he’d never said to us before.
Clear the way of negatives, so the positives can rush in.
There is still room for improvement but I guess the point of my post is this: If you can clear the way to better relationships with the people who matter to you, it is possible to heal. We can’t change events and situations that happened in the past but we can change how we react to them now. We can change the value we place on them and we can choose to let go. When we cut ties that no longer serve us, the healthy ties remain, and with openness and love can become definitive and grow stronger.
“I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it. It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness, there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive. We live on and because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.” ~ Gregory David Roberts
On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by thought-provoking quotes by fictional philosophers, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.