When I was 18, I said goodbye to my father. There was no drama. No big blowout. Two sentences effectively closed the door on any relationship that I would ever have with him.
"You know I love you."
"You have a funny way of showing it."
And that was it. I closed that chapter of my life and walked away. This isn't to say that it was easy, or that I was not forever changed by those first 18 years. Far from it.
I am a firm believer that people come into and out of our lives for various reasons, depending on the season of your life. I've also learned to love my friends as though they are my family, for they have chosen me and have loved me unconditionally and been there for me through every single great and tragic event in my life -- which is more than I can say for my blood.
You see, when I closed the door on my father, I also said goodbye to a whole side of the "family". My uncles were never necessarily involved in my life, and my aunts couldn't understand why I wouldn't speak to my father. It was too painful for me to continue to explain to them that my father had never shown any interest in MY life, and at the age of 18 I intuitively understood the damage that it was causing.
Although I was technically an adult, the child inside of me continued to wait by the phone for a call that wouldn't come. She would wait by the window for a man who could not show up for her. And it was time that I started taking care of HER, instead of worrying about the feelings of a group of people who seemed to care more about their brother than about the child that he had discarded.
Over the years I have fought a myriad of emotions that were so ingrained in my psyche that they became part of my identity. My fear of desertion. Fear of rejection. A desperate need for approval. The ANGER and CONFUSION that a child feels when she's the one that is left behind. The search for a relationship to fill the hole that my father had left empty.
Until one day in my late twenties when I woke up and said, "This is ridiculous." And I JUST MOVED ON.
I've been asked "How do you do it? How do you just walk away from family like that and cut it off? How can I make it easier for myself?"
I have no answers to those questions. It was not easy. It just WAS. It's still not easy. It just IS.
Times come around when I am called back to that family. Weddings. Deaths. Another broken relationship. And I go to them. Because I do still feel that natural call to want to be a part of something that you're left out of, even if it means that you are hurting yourself. I steel myself, hold my husband's hand, and I GO. I don't know if I'll ever be able to totally free myself.
What I do know now is that I have the freedom to choose relationships that are good for me and good for my children. I can choose to be around people who lift me up and make me whole again, as opposed to people who would tear me down, even if they didn't realize that they were doing it. I can choose to feel those emotions and then make like Elsa and let that shit go.
People tell me to forgive. If I forgive him, I can release it. But I don't want to forgive him. He doesn't deserve my forgiveness. What he did was unforgivable. Forgiveness is not a real thing. It's something that we tell ourselves we have to do in order to move on. But I disagree with that.
What I have chosen over forgiveness is appreciation. I appreciate all that he has taught me about who I should open my heart to. I appreciate all that he has taught me about the meaning of family. I appreciate all that he has taught me about the types of people I WANT in my life, and in the lives of my children. For these lessons, I will be forever grateful.
But I will never forgive him.
What I've been through is my cross to bear. It is a lifelong journey. When Emma and Jane are old enough, they will ask me about them, and I will have to rip the band-aid and go back down into that dark place to explain it to them. The difference is that I have opened my heart to love and I have learned how to allow myself to be accepted as I am, so it won't be as painful.
To those of you out there looking for a way out of a toxic relationship, know this: All you have to do is walk away from it. There will be others standing in the light ready to take you in. The pain will eventually dull, and the healing and learning process will take over, and you will be ok.
I would never wish for anyone to go through what I've been through. Unfortunately, I know that there are many of you out there who have been or are in the process of going through something similar, either for yourself or alongside a loved one. Don't be alone. The quicker you realize that there are people out there who can love you better than that toxic person EVER even had the capacity to, the faster you will be able to make the best decision for yourself and move on. You got this.