My thoughts on forgiveness and some back story around my relationship with my dad, which I've touched on before. (Content: brief physical/emotional abuse mentions)
In my experience, anger and forgiveness are intertwined. I have found that I can’t actively forgive someone or myself without unearthing the anger I have buried. And facing it with open arms and mind and tools to help me work with it, like writing and art.
There was a period of time where I worked with forgiveness in my art journal. I found correspondences that would aid in my endeavors via google and some of my witchy books. Things like lemons, crystals, colors and symbols.
In essence, I was casting forgiveness spells (you could also call them ‘prayers.’ but i like to call them spells because it feels less like shadow work and more like magic lol) within the pages of my art journal. In the effort of creating, I can focus my energy toward my desire.
Most of the work I did around forgiveness had to do with my dad, who I believe is a narcissist. After trying for years to hear the approval I so desperately wanted to hear from him, I realized that he would never be the father I wanted or needed.
That he would always criticize me and have rotten things to say about my life. That he loved me on the condition of whether or not I did what he wanted me to do...even as an adult.
In one of our last conversations, where I was still calling him (even though it made me very nervous to do so), in practically the same breath he said “I don’t know you at all,” and “I don’t like how you live your life.” I remember this so well because I had been taking notes while we talked. I’m really not sure why I started taking notes, at this point, but I think it had something to do with showing my husband all the crazy crap he told me.
How, I asked my husband later, could he not approve of my life and not know who I am at the same time?
[a two-page spread specifically about forgiving my dad. the circle/x's in the back symbolize balance. there are all 4 elements there. my astrological sign and his. and the feathers have words i want to bring on the wind & into my life. 2017]
I was stuck in this endless cycle of seeking his approval, being vulnerable with him and allowing him to hurt my feelings. His inability to deal with his own emotions (other than anger) bit me in the ass a lot.
In essence, while he had his moments of sweetness/niceness, he was usually just an asshole to me.
Getting off the phone with my dad, I would have to sit for a while and remind myself WHO I AM. I had to remind myself that I’m a good person, that just because he didn’t approve or like my life didn’t mean I needed to change it for anyone else, including my dad.
I also realized that I had a lot of anger around how he went about breaking up our family to create a new family with his secretary 20+ years ago. That’s a really long time to harbor anger. And it’s just been festering there, in the bottom of my brain. Unexpressed.
I spoke to a therapist about my anxiety around calling my dad and she said ‘what if you sent him cards instead on holidays?’ So I started to do that, and soon, I stopped sending cards too. See, I realized that when I stopped calling, my dad never picked up the slack. In some arcane belief system, he seems to think that the child should always call the parent...which is utter bullshit. He never initiated conversations or contact. And that felt really one-sided to me and very selfish on his part.
I was scared of my dad and his rage-filled reactions for a lot of my childhood and my early adulthood. He hit my mom a couple of times during their marriage (I didn’t find this out until maybe last year). And he punched walls or slammed doors, rather than hit me or my brother. Shows of force and raised voices still trigger me. I’m pretty sensitive to tone of voice, too.
He is the reason I won’t be spanking my children.
There are other things I could go into, but suffice to say I was traumatized by him and still feel the effects of being raised in a house with a volatile volcano whose eruption could not be predicted.
A few years ago, a wise friend of mine asked me if I thought my dad was doing the best he could. And the air woooooshed out of me. In this age of toxic masculinity, my dad never learned that other emotions were okay. By sheer strength of his own will, he decided that hugging his son was okay. That’s not to say that how he treated me is right, or that I’m ever going to get an apology from him. It’s not to say, either, that he even knows he did something wrong (most likely this part of him is his shadow self, and he ignores it as best he can, in order to think of himself as a good person.). And it also means that I don’t have to ever speak to him again if I don’t want to.
And so, I deal with my own anger and I work toward forgiving him in my art journal. It is cyclical, though, or a spiral. You get closer to actually forgiving as you work on it.
I think part of this is a form of taking my power back, and lessening the power my dad holds over me over time. And to be crystal clear — I work to forgive him for myself and my own growth (and to lessen the power his nasty voice in my head that tells me I'm awful has on me), not for him.
Currently, I text him every now and then. For example, he turned 70 in February and I sent him a text saying 'happy birthday.' I miss him, or rather, the idea of him. And I've thought about getting back in touch. However, I know I'll need a therapist so I don't fall back into the same old patterns before I even know it. And I've not found one. So for now, things remain as is.
As for my son, I sent dad a picture when he was born/we adopted him, and dad's response was "awesome." It's a joke now — that period — like he couldn't even get it up about my finally having a child, after 4 years of trying/waiting and everything we went through for our son. asshole.
And well, my husband has been pretty vocal about his opinion regarding our son being around my dad, given his violence. For instance, we both agree that, if we are back in contact, Son will not be left alone with Dad or his wife, ever. That these are not the "spend-the-night" kind of grandparents. And I'm fine with that. I realize that going back to contact with him would mean that I have to have extremely strong, brick-wall-esque boundaries around what is acceptable for him to say to me or how he treats me/my family. That he won't just be able to spout whatever comes to mind. And this is why I want a therapist's assistance. lol.
I'll leave it there, because I could probably go on and on about Dad and this situation. But this is a good overview of that relationship.
Thanks for reading this novella lol
PS: I'm blogging along with Effy Wild in April. If you'd like to join the facebook group to read the rules, go here: