I grew up with stories about my Dad. He was on important business. He loved us but he just couldn’t be with us back then. I didn’t understand.
So I listened to those around me who told me what he was like. I can’t speak to their intentions but what came across to a little boy was that, more than anything, he would want me to be “good.” Maybe, just maybe, if I was good enough he would come to me… and accept me… and love me the way I wanted to be loved by him.
But I could never live up to my own expectations much less to what I understood were his high standards. So, in my heart of hearts, I got what I deserved.
And, even more, I imagined that, wherever he was, he knew how much I messed up. And I felt his disappointment in my small mistakes and his anger at my big ones. As time passed, it seemed to me that I messed up so much that if I ever truly met him then he would delight in punishing me and, even worse, in totally rejecting me.
I came to fear him. And, secretly, I resented his expectations. And that part of me that longed for his affection was completely overwhelmed by that fear and resentment. Guilt and shame weighed heavily on me.
So I wasn’t drawn to him… exactly the opposite. I wanted to run away and hide. I wanted to stay as far away as possible.
But, I couldn’t stop that longing. I still kept living my life trying to be good enough, hoping that someday, I could make up for all my mistakes. The longing to be loved and accepted by him would not go away.
As I got older, outwardly, I learned how to play the game with my friends and family. Everything was great! We’re all “good” people, doing the right things, saying the right things, fitting in with the right crowd. And inside, it was so empty.
And all along the way I looked to the “experts” for help, this one and that, and, most often, got what really amounted to “try harder.” Other times it was advice to give up and let him go – just move on with my life and forget all about him as if he never existed.
I chose to dance the “pretend to be good” dance and “try harder” for many years, as long as I could but finally gave up in exhaustion. What was I to do now? Who was I to be? I have pretended and tried harder so long that I am not sure who I really am!
It was only then that I finally met my Dad…