“Happy Father’s Day!” Rafiki beams, handing me a staff with a carved Phoenix handle.
“Wow. Thank you Rafiki,” I grin. “Why a staff?”
“This is a reminder that you are learning to walk alone. You don’t need me to whack you with the stick to teach you life’s lessons. You already have it up here.” Rafiki points at his head.
“Thanks to your love, support, and guidance.” I respond. “I wouldn’t be so knowledgeable if it wasn’t for you.”
Rafiki shakes his head, “You’ve always had awareness. You’ve always known how to parent Little Phoenix. You just needed to figure out how to access it.”
Father’s Day 2017 has been triggering and yet, I am better able to manage my emotions. As hard as I try not to think about it, I keep flashing back on Father’s Day a year ago. All I wanted was my family; the four of us to spend the day together.
Last year, that was a mistake!
A year ago, I was still in denial about my divorce. I hoped and believed that “if I could” do everything to prove my love to my ex, we could salvage our marriage. Maybe, just one more day of connection with the four of us as a family, it would open her eyes to see how I believed we were meant to be.
That’s what I hoped might happen when we hung out on Father’s Day last year. It’s what I continue to hope for when we all get together.
Unfortunately, I only continue to repeat my childhood trauma when I think like this. It doesn’t matter what I do. Because of my addiction, I’ve already caused the riff in our marriage. I will never be enough in her eyes because she still sees the monster I once was, not the person I’m becoming.
“That’s untrue,” as I hit myself with my own cane and the Rafiki that is now in my head speaks to me. “It’s not that she still sees the monster, it’s that she’s still experiences post-traumatic stress from your past actions. We’ll need to address this in another blog.”
“Yes sir,” I tell myself.
I still have trouble not trying to prove myself. I still recreate my childhood trauma; that part of me trying to prove my worth to my parents.
I no longer need my parent’s validation to know I’m worthy. I don’t need my ex’s validation to know I’m worthy. I don’t need anyone’s validation (although…it is nice).
I am enough. And I love me.
When I think about where I was a year ago, I can truly see how far I’ve come. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned over the past year. I’m grateful for finally not being overwhelmed by the physical and emotional pain that used to leave me crippled.
I pray that my ex can someday also find peace from my actions.
Father’s Day 2016
I asked for three things last year. I wanted to take the family on a walk. I wanted to watch Finding Dori. And I wanted to eat dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that almost every father wanted to do the same thing. Traffic was horrendous and after sitting at a complete stop on the freeway for a half hour in 95 degree heat and a broken air conditioner, I made the executive decision to pass on the walk and go see Finding Dori in a cool movie theater instead.
My daughters were hungry, tired, and extremely hot. They had not mentioned anything about Finding Dori prior to leaving the house, yet now they were whining and complaining that they didn’t want to watch an animated movie.
“That’s for kids!” was their objection.
In addition, I felt intense distance and tension between my ex and myself. I sensed that she was there more out of obligation than truly wanting to spend the day as a family. I felt as if I was a burden; that none of them wanted to be with me. I felt like the third wheel of our family.
In addition, I was physically and emotionally in pain constantly thinking that this was the last time we would do something together before I moved out of our home for good.
My internal struggle had always been managing my abandonment issues when I was working and gone for days at a time. That’s where my addiction sprouted its ugly head; to medicate those feelings. To not feel the fear and the pain.
Father’s Day 2016, I couldn’t stop thinking that I would never come home again.
The home I tried so hard to keep from becoming broken. The home I would soon move out of.
A year ago, I was still in denial about my divorce. I still fought the reality that it was going to happen.
On Father’s Day, it seemed more real than ever. I would no longer be the father of my own home.
I was depressed and hurting. My ex was irritated at my daughters and she had very little patience with their attitudes. None of us wanted to be together that day and yet we were somehow trying to connect.
We were all miserable.
My ex preached to my girls to be in a good mood for Dad. Since it was Father’s Day, we all should do what I wanted to do.
What does Dad want?
All I could think about was why don’t you practice what you preach and stop being so emotionally distant from the man who loves you.
Dad wants to reconcile his marriage and fix his family.
That wasn’t in the cards this day.
After arguing about the movies and eating some food, I took over and had another idea about where we could hang out. And after an hour drive, this place we ended up was also way too crowded for the four of us.
We tried another area to go on a hike, but once we got there, my youngest daughter didn’t want to walk.
We ended up at one of our favorite restaurants, enjoying dinner and the one reason why we always go there; the cheesecake for dessert.
Unfortunately, I felt off and uncomfortable. My inner child screamed to get away. Dessert just wasn’t the same. I was done with the day.
When I pulled into the driveway, all I could think about was that I only had 12 days left before I’d be gone for good.
Tremendous Gut Wrenching Stabbing Pain
As I remember that driveway on Father’s Day, I ‘m instantly transported to one of the most PAINFUL days of my life.
This was less than two weeks later, July 1, 2016, when I was packing my truck to move out and my ex’s male friend climbed into the front seat of our minivan and drove my family to my ex’s parents’ house for a Fourth of July road trip; the day it felt that my family had replaced me.
And, as what usually happens when I acknowledge my personal pain, I instantly deny it.
I remind myself that it was my fault my ex asked for a divorce. That it was my addiction that hurt her. That I broke our marriage vows. That her pain, her fear, and her triggers and reactions to those triggers that affects our girls are due to everything I caused.
Consequences for my actions.
The Rafiki in my mind reminds me, “Yes Phoenix, your actions did cause where you are today. That is true. But the pain you feel because of your divorce, the distance, feeling replaced, and living apart is all valid. Don’t minimize and deny what is true. It’s OK to feel that pain. It’s not OK to continue to blame yourself or your ex for those emotions.”
“But…” I try to interrupt my own thoughts.
My mind cuts me off, “When you blame, you harbor guilt, shame, anger, and resentment. Those toxic emotions that will eat you alive. They will hurt you and in turn, you will hurt others because of that pain. Accept what is. Don’t fight it and don’t try to excuse it.”
When you blame, you harbor guilt, shame, anger, and resentment. Click To Tweet
Guilt, shame, anger, and resentment are toxic emotions that'll cause you pain and to hurt others. Click To Tweet
I take a deep breath. I reground myself.
Taking Care of Me
Last Father’s Day was the first time I took care of myself.
When we pulled into the driveway, it was around 7:30 at night. I explained to my family that I was going on a walk. I jumped in the car and headed out to a local state park.
I was alone. I did not call anyone. I listened to a podcast as I walked.
I hiked about three miles to a lake, sat down, and watched the sun set. I felt God’s presence and I felt peace for the first time that day.
That was the beginning of learning how to take care of Little Phoenix. It was the first day that I realized I didn’t always need my ex around for my happiness. It was the first time that I could ground myself after an emotional day with my family.
Fast Forward to Father’s Day 2017
My oldest daughter asked me if she could go to the mall with some friends this Father’s Day. I only had a few hours in town before I had to commute to work. My daughter was torn. She felt obligated to spend the day with me, but the two of us had spent the day before together. I knew how important it was for her to be with her friends.
I decided that her happiness was most important.
It was no longer about me.
This also gave me the opportunity to have one on one time with my youngest daughter and take her to see the new movie, Wonder Woman. My ex offered to purchase lunch after the movie and the three of us enjoyed pizza and Starbucks.
Soon, I was on the road heading to work thinking about how life has changed in just one year.
I still struggle with divorce. I still struggle with my emotions. I still wish things were different. Maybe I always will. Who knows.
And yet, I’m more grounded. I’m more open to and accepting about what’s important to my family. By letting go, I have found that I am happier than I’ve been in so many years.
I grab my new walking stick as I take another walk. I’m not alone. I have Little Phoenix with me. This Father’s Day I’ve learned to parent my inner child.
And I also have my heavenly Father with me, watching over me and giving me His unconditional love.
And, I have the love of my family in my heart.
What a gift! Love of self. Love of family. Love from above.
Love does heal. I believe you can heal too.