My daughter stands posed, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, with her softball bat pointing upwards at an angle over her shoulder. She faces me, eyes staring at my hand, patiently waiting. Underhand, I toss the orange object towards her.
Her arms swing the bat and the momentum spins her around in a circle. Strike!
She laughs, raises the bat once again, anticipating the next pitch.
I bend over and pick up another coral colored piece of fruit. She swings. WHACK!
A pumpkin chunk explodes into tiny pieces, guts filling the air, seeds flying in different directions, and I get sprayed with a slimy mass of strings and pumpkin juice.
A couple of minutes earlier she was standing over a pumpkin, pounding it with the bat she’s “had since I was six years old. Remember, it was bigger than me. Look at how small it is now.”
She was hitting it over and over again. Breathing hard she had stopped, leaned on the bat, and commented, “Dad, I can’t even make a dent in this pumpkin. This is good therapy!”
She’s right. This is good therapy. I pitch the next chunk.
Three Years Ago
Three years ago, my former spouse asked for separation. It was a tough time for both of us.
Being a “typical male,” I thought I could fix things. I knew my former spouse had a deep well of anger that she had stuffed. I figured I could help her process that anger. I thought I did this out of empathy and compassion, but boy was I far off the mark.
This morning I read one of my daily readings, it was about empathy.
True empathy “requires releasing the desire to change another’s emotional dynamic, because wanting to only ‘fix’ another’s pain may come from our desire to escape feeling it ourselves.”
True empathy requires releasing the desire to 'fix' another's pain. Click To Tweet
Three years ago, I was too self-centered and focused on my own suffering, that I had no empathy with what my former spouse was going through. My belief was, if she could release her anger, then we could work on us. And, if we could work on us, I wouldn’t have to feel the painful childhood wounding of being abandoned.
Fix her to fix us and I would then be fixed. Took me quite some time to learn that this was backwards thinking.
Instead of surrender and acceptance, I thought I could stop the inevitable. My father once said, when he was battling pancreatic cancer, “It’s like holding back the ocean with a soup spoon.”
I wielded my spoon in hand believing I could find ways to stop the tidal wave.
So, one day, with my faulty beliefs and when the kids were in school, I took my former spouse outside, gave her a bat and told her we were going to smash pumpkins. She wasn’t too enthusiastic. The energy that radiated off me was trying to “help” and the last person she wanted help from, or be around, was the one she was angry with.
Looking back, maybe it wasn’t very smart to give my former spouse a bat and then have her tap into repressed anger that was due to my lies and my betrayal in our marriage. This story could have ended up differently.
She was a good sport and apprehensively stepped into position.
When the first piece exploded, covering me with fragments of pumpkin, her eyes lit up, her shoulders relaxed, and she encouraged me to pitch the next chunk. Over and over she kept hitting what I was throwing at her.
“You try it now. This is fun.” She excitedly handed me the bat and it was my turn to experience the thrill of walloping a pumpkin.
As I swung the bat, I expected the firm connection of a baseball, the bat vibrating in my hand, the pumpkin soaring over the fence. Instead, when the pumpkin connected, this mass of orange burst into multi-directional bits of blob.
In a weird way, I felt powerful. I felt strong. Like nothing could stop the destructive force of my swing.
I laughed and my former spouse threw another pitch.
We Need More Pumpkins
It didn’t take us long to destroy one pumpkin. Then two. We were having so much fun we didn’t want to stop.
“I don’t think our daughters would mind,” I suggested.
“We could get more,” my former spouse added.
“Plus, they’re starting to grow mold. I mean, we’re going to have to throw them away anyway,” I continued, justifying our non-spoken, psychic, mutual intentions.
We grabbed the last two carved pumpkins, the ones that were our daughters, and continued playing our new-found game, laughing the entire time.
Later that day, when our daughters got home from school, they weren’t very happy with us. Our youngest was extremely angry that we smashed her “beautiful” pumpkin (the one that was sagging with white stuff growing out the eyes, nose, and mouth). It didn’t matter that it was already compost material, it wasn’t ours to smash to smithereens.
She gave us a piece of her mind.
And, she was right. We had no right to smash her pumpkin without permission.
We both felt guilty and I spent the rest of the weekend searching for more pumpkins.
Do you know how hard it is to find a pumpkin after Halloween? I found a couple, but eventually, I had to purchase those fancy, small, decorative, Thanksgiving pumpkins.
Rising from the Ashes: A Family Affair
Both our girls were hesitant when Mom and Dad excitedly told them about our new post Halloween pastime. We had to coax them, telling them how much fun they were going to have. They were still angry with us and reluctantly grabbed their bats and waited for me to pitch the orange squash.
It only took one hit before they, too, were hooked. We hooted and giggled. My youngest daughter soon forgot she was mad at us and had the most fun of all. Once again, we rapidly ran out of pumpkins and the following year they couldn’t wait to play again.
Through separation and divorce, our family started a new, annual tradition.
This year we invited my former spouse’s sister with her two younger boys and a couple of our daughter’s friends. We gathered more pumpkins. Next year we need to start growing our own.
In the backyard once again, armed with four bats this time, round robin, I pitched pieces of pumpkin with the goal to get the biggest splatter we could.
We have now hooked others with the thrill of pumpkin smashing. I wonder how many generations this family tradition will continue.
You never know what’s going to happen when you take a risk and step outside the box. Three years ago, with the distance, pain, and anger that surrounded our separation, we never would’ve guessed that today we’d connect for the day as a pumpkin smashing family.
Through pain there’s growth. Through growth there’s healing. And through healing, there’s love, whatever it ends up looking like.
My hope is that my Fledglings take a chance to step outside the box and allow growth and healing to occur.
May you find new traditions that makes life more meaningful.
May you Rise from the Ashes and Soar with the Eagles.
May we share in our struggles and with our successes so that Together We Can Heal.