It’s been a big year for me, evolving as a person. Growing, if that isn’t too much of a cliche. In some respects, this has involved breaking down entirely and rebuilding from the ground up. As recently as last year, I didn’t stand up for myself. I let others make their own interests be the priority in my life. I felt like I was a spectator in my life.
Something clicked. Or snapped. It all depends on how you see it. It had been building for some time. Years. Decades.
I had enough. At 28, it was time to take control of my life.
Now how this evolution began or the causes of it aren’t definite. I remember one of the very basic principles I learned in school was controlling your variables in an experiment. You must have one single variable to really be able to prove the cause of something. Well, this wasn’t an experiment and in life you can’t really control variables so a few things happened (nearly) simultaneously, the main two being:
-I became a momma.
-I lost 76 pounds.
Both of these things contributed to my finding a new identity for myself and an increase in confidence. Priorities change. Perspectives change. Where I had no gumption before, I suddenly had a backbone. I stand up for myself now. I look out for myself and my family. I don’t worry about what other people think. I realized that my opinions and feelings matter, despite 15, 20 years of being told they don’t. This was empowering.
A turning point? I stopped speaking to my mother.
Now. I will not air all that dirty laundry. Honestly, I don’t think there’s enough clothesline in the world to air all that dirty laundry. Okay, so that might side with the dramatics a bit, but if you’ll take my word, it was necessary for my survival. This was not an easy thing to do, but I knew in my heart I had to. The reason I even mention this is because it comes into play when I tell you this:
I was never allowed to display a photo of my dad growing up. He died in a car accident a few months before my third birthday. I was told my whole life by family how I’m a spitting image of him. That I have his personality. Without elaborating too much, I put a photo of him out on my dresser in my room at one point and it resulted in a one-sided screaming match. My second step-dad was my dad. It was a slap in the face to him. Etcetera.
Now, it doesn’t take a Psych major (::raises hand::) to know that my mother never dealt with the grief of his death. She didn’t handle it well for herself so she certainly didn’t handle it well when it came to me. Or my sister. But she’s another case of clothesline and if I dive too much into detail, you may start charging me hourly for your reading time.
But. That said, it still wasn’t okay that I be forbidden from displaying his photo. That I be expected to replace him. From my perspective as a mom now? Cannot imagine destroying her verbally the way I was destroyed. Cannot imagine shaming her. Cannot. fathom.
But I digress.
In a conversation with my favorite aunt (my dad’s sister) this year, I felt validated. She adored my dad and was good friends with my mom when they were married. She’s the type to tell it like it is. If you’re wrong, she will tell you. I trust her opinion. It’s no coincidence that I’m so drawn to this personality type. (Deanna comes to mind.) My aunt witnessed a similar incident to the photo situation a few days before I married the Hubs when my mother decided to call me a horrible person and told me I wasn’t her daughter. She ripped me down the middle until I was sobbing so hard I could hardly breathe. She refused to participate in anything the rest of the week, but ultimately put on a happy face for family, making no mention about what she had said to me. I thought of how this must have felt to both my aunt and my grandma, who were witness to the incident. We didn’t talk about it, but my aunt made sure to tell me that she didn’t know really if my dad hadn’t died, if he would still be married to my mother with how things were between them. She hinted that he wouldn’t stand for what my mother had said and done to me. She did make sure I knew that my dad was a wonderful dad and loved me so very much. He would have been so good to me and would have adored being a grandpa.
It was bittersweet. It made me feel better and worse at the same time. Better in that I was reminded that I did have a dad who loved me. Worse in that I feel cheated out of a dad who loved me that much.
I had long discussions with the Hubs around that time about not being allowed to have a photo of my dad displayed when I was growing up. He had offered long ago to display one. I don’t know why, but I felt blocked to do so. I think I was afraid that every time I saw the photo I would think of the fact that I wasn’t allowed to have a photo before. That it would remind me of my mother and how she made me feel.
I can’t explain it, but I got past that.
I have 3 photos up now, though I’m going to see about getting photos from negatives so I can have a slight enlargement from the 3×5 photos. They went up about a week or so ago. When Little and I are looking at photos on the wall or on shelves and we’re pointing out who’s who, I tell her about her Grandpa. He’s not a topic to be avoided anymore.
Something I read this year struck home with me and there was another bittersweet resonance in my heart. It was from a quad mom–Suz of Steece’s Pieces. In a blog, she had mentioned the pressure that comes with knowing that they now say personalities are basically established by age 3. So what we do as parents now, even before our kids can really remember much, affects their personalities for their entire lives. It made me grateful in a strange way. My dad died a few months shy of my third birthday. I’m grateful that he was around to influence me for that amount of time. That he was there for the majority of that “window of opportunity,” if you want to call it that or believe in the theory.
I’m thankful for that time and the impact that he had on who I am.
Maybe it’s the strangeness of knowing that he was 29 when he died and that I’m that age now that makes me so introspective. There’s a sadness to this new type of attachment I have to the memory of my dad, now that I realize I’m allowed to feel it. That he didn’t live beyond this point when I feel like I’ve just begun a new chapter that will hold the best years of my life.
And I smile when I see the photos of my dad I have displayed now. I’m not entirely satisfied with the frames, but it feels right having them displayed. Something in my heart feels more settled.
Title is taken from lyrics from “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks, a song which always, always, always makes me think of my dad.