Since my youth, my story has been the same. It sounded something like this: “I don’t know my dad. I have a two-for-one mom. She is strong.”
There’s nothing wrong with this story…except I was missing something:
With every breakup there are ideas to consider. Breakups aren’t comfortable, and their stories lack happy endings. Someone told me once that a break up is likely to be bad, or else the break up may not have happened. Knowing my parents’ history, I had to be sensitive. I had heard the stories (well, her side of them). It didn’t change my curiosity or longing.
And then, at age 34, I received a Facebook message that changed everything.
Suddenly the opportunity to reunite and learn about the other side of who I was had presented itself. For the first time in my entire life, my heart just felt open. I know hardships are part of their story, but their story didn’t have to be mine. Their break up wasn’t my fault. It didn’t have to be the reason that we didn’t have a relationship. My children’s father is a great dad, and we weren’t great partners. That was okay. Our relationship doesn’t define his role as their dad. I felt the same way in this circumstance. Maybe there were wrongs, maybe some rights, and once consolidated, the love they had at that moment in time created a human…ME.
I longed to know.
I knew there was risk. It will never be my intention to hurt others. This, however, is my journey and I feel as though I deserve that. We rarely acknowledge our value and find ourselves treading lightly amongst the feelings of others – so much that we deny ourselves amazing experiences because someone else may feel something about it. Perhaps this was selfish? I quickly digested that idea and was happy to explore this experience for all it had to offer.
In the short time I’ve conversed with this man, I learned that all of those stories I had grown up hearing had more depth, even humor. I loved hearing the opposing perspective and welcomed it. It didn’t change my loyalties, my mother and her family raised me.
However, my heart grew bigger.
I appreciate him allowing me to explore life with him as a part of it. I’m not trying to change the past; we all make mistakes. I do, every day. Bigger than those mistakes are the people we become as we learn from them. The valleys are often where we find our strongest selves. Rain is what makes roots grow deeper. Forest fires allow certain trees to release seeds that fall to the forest floor and open, creating a flourishing habitats that will continue on. It would be foolish of me to deny someone the opportunity to share a journey and grow this relationship that he, too, has longed for.
But what do I call him?
Titles are important. Words have value. I spent a few nights sleepless over how Ishould address him. When he answered the phone I would skip over labels by jumping in with, “Hi, it’s just me.” It felt easier. Then I finally caved. Every conversation was an attempt to catch up on time lost. His willingness to be a shoulder to cry and offer guidance were “dad like”. He wanted to help. He yearned to protect. He visited often. He was being a dad.
We all long for connection, to deny ourselves the experience is unjust for all involved.
So, spite convictions, I decided that just like someone I choose to spend life with, I would bet it all. I decided to change the story I had told for 34 years. We had to begin somewhere. Harboring anger and frustrations denies us any joy and rewards that may be waiting for us. Maybe I sound crazy to you, but I do know this, that just like when I birthed my two beautiful babies, who now have more family, connection and love, my heart had the capacity to hold it all. I want to be my best self, and to do that, I have to explore all it can be.
So, maybe you’re not sure. Perhaps your story doesn’t fit in a box. That’s okay, it doesn’t have to. YOU get to write the ending. Embrace life. Love the journey and always be willing to take those calculated risks that you may regret otherwise.