Channel surfing is so dangerous. One minute you’re flying high, pressing buttons, ruling the TV, dodging commercials like that ball in your elementary school gym class- and the next minute, you’re getting sucked into the last twenty minutes of Love and Hip Hop and all is lost. Now there’s no need for me to repeat my paragraph on my hatred of reality TV- you guys should remember my loathing of it. But tonight, I saw two segments that did the absolute impossible- they connected with my life. I mean, my real life. I watched the conversation between Tahiry and her father and I also watched Mendecees try to explain the possibility of jail to his seven year old son. Those two parts pulled me in, reminded me of myself. Since the memories start with childhood, of course, I’m going to address the two scenes in reverse. But first, a little background…
A few months ago, I wrote a blog about whether you should share your whole past in a relationship (Let the Past Be Present). And in that post, I explained that the emotional trauma in your past should be shared. And then I admitted that my biological father wasn’t in my life the way I needed him to be. In actuality, he’s been an addict most of my life. Now, I had another father- a wonderful, honorable man- and a mother too, so I don’t want anyone to think that my life was this struggle- and I don’t want to take away from the fact that this struggle has been 1000 times harder for my dad- but it is what it is.
When I watched Mendecees try to explain to his son that he may not see him for a while, that moment got to me. I remember being 11 years old, and sitting with my dad, listening to him tell me that he was going away to get better and that I wouldn’t see him for a while. I didn’t understand addiction- so of course, I didn’t understand him leaving to deal with it. He said he was coming back, but deep down I was always afraid that he wouldn’t. I cried, because that’s what you do when someone you love says goodbye- but I had no idea what it really meant. He did come back, and things were good for a while, but a year later, we had the same conversation- this time, over the telephone. I guess he thought it would be less painful if we weren’t face to face; it wasn’t. And I had no idea that years later I would be hanging on to bad relationships, to outgrown friendships, to things I shouldn’t- because he made me afraid to say goodbye. And even though he did come back, he’s still not fully in my life. Sometimes I feel like we said our final goodbye that night on the phone, when I was twelve years old, because nothing was ever the same between us after that. My dad is a decent guy- and he loves me. But I don’t know that he’ll ever be able to appreciate how long it took me to reconcile that feeling of abandonment. I don’t know that he’ll ever see that my need to hold on to things was a direct manifestation of my inability to hold on to him.
The other scene that connected with me was the one of Tahiry’s conversation with her father. She talked to him about how his failings as a father and husband shaped her as a woman. And I thought about that too. In dealing with my biological dad, I felt like the parent most of the time. I looked for my dad, made sure he was eating, sleeping, and generally getting along. It made me think about the partners I chose- and why I chose them. It made me think about the men I’ve loved, about what I was looking for when I fell for them. I know this is classic Psych 101 shit- but it’s pretty real. I wanted to save my dad. I wanted to make him better, fix him up. And I wanted to keep him- so much that I chased him. And that’s how I was as a woman in love. I loved people who I thought needed me- needed me to fix them, look after them, save them. I chased them when they left- and forgave them when they returned. I thought that love meant never walking away. I didn’t believe in saying goodbye- not even if it was going to save me.
Five years ago, I wrote my biological dad a letter, telling him some of these feelings. I never mailed the letter; I just needed to get my broken heart on paper. I needed to see and hear and read- out loud- how I was killing my own spirit by following this man’s example. I don’t want you guys to think that I don’t love my biological dad. I do. Very much. But I can’t forget who was there for me, and for a long time, it wasn’t him. I can’t forget that he made me afraid to cut my losses, afraid to save myself… afraid to say goodbye.
It hit me a few years ago, after I broke up with my ex, that I had a great example that I was ignoring all this time. My father. Not my biological, but still my real father. He was the man I should have been emulating. The person I should have let guide my decisions. I took for granted what a great job he did, and what a great man he is. So now, I’m trying to be the woman he raised- finally. Love myself- as he loves me. And define myself- the way he always wanted me too.
Like I said, channel surfing is dangerous. I don’t have the energy for another blog… no more TV. I’m going to bed.