I woke up early this morning with an idea in my head. That’s nothing new. There has never been a morning since I was aware that I could think that I didn’t wake up with an idea in my head. When I was a kid, I often went to be feeling bad that I had done something to make my father mad. And I can’t stress the word “often” enough. I was the classic enfant terrible in every sense of the word, pushing the boundaries and testing the limits almost daily. And almost daily, I found myself “punished” by being relegated to my bed in the middle of a hot July day or sitting alone and lonely in a corner. And yes, sometimes my actions even garnered me a more physical display of authority which only served to push me farther away from the intended effect.
If any of those methods were supposed to make me contemplate my erroneous ways, they failed dismally. All they succeeded in doing was to fuel my fires and inspire me to greater heights of childhood treachery and retaliation. And so the punishments continued to come regularly, until one day, I crossed the threshold into the next phase of my life known as the teen years when they stopped as quickly as they’d begun. But the verbal admonitions did not, to the point where, like many young people, I couldn’t wait to leave home and strike out on my own. That I eventually chose the worst possible form of egress is inconsequential now. That’s a whole other story. This one is about guilt and blame, and how they can devolve over time into something ugly and draining that sap the positive energy from us. At some point, there really comes a time when we must ask ourselves…what IS the point?
Long story short, I spent many years blaming mostly my father, who was quite a bit older than my mother and whose rigid grew-up-during-the-Great-Depression ways of disciplining haunted me for many years. I blamed him for everything, from not knowing how to deal with certain situations to my obsession with how the salt and pepper shakers should be placed on the table. I read all the father-daughter relationship books out there and saw him in every single sentence, often exclaiming “There, I knew it!” at the end of each paragraph. Until finally, he paid the ultimate wages for all his sins: he died. And at his at wake, in front of dozens of people, I cried as I had never cried for another human being.
In the years following his death, I was to experience many things and learn many lessons, and more than a few the proverbial hard way. But perhaps the most important one is that spending years carrying guilt and blame around are a waste of both time and energy. What possible reason could anyone have to insist on something that can have no positive effect and that can spoil what might have been the best years of one’s life?
I was told once that I’m on the right track now since having forgiven my father. But it wasn’t ever a question of his needing forgiveness. In fact, I am guiltier of resenting him than he ever was of intentionally causing me harm. And in the end, none of it matters. As children, we all start out wanting to please our parents, to make them proud of our accomplishments. And in that spirit, I know that, wherever my father is, he’s watching. And with all of our collective baggage finally behind us, not only do I know now that he is proud of me, but I am, too!