Soul Trekking: Conversations with My Father

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It’s been six years since my mother passed away unexpectedly and I am still awakening parts of myself that I haven’t felt since 2008. I wouldn’t peg the experience to be either good or bad, I’m just grateful ‘It’ is happening. Wandering around in existential limbo has been the most unnerving and calming experience yet. Being emotionally unstable was once something I was ashamed of. I kept quiet a lot. A lot. I’d shut my feelings down and try to exude a polished surface, afraid that I’d either make someone uncomfortable or embarrass myself, which would almost immediately backfire in my face. There was so much rage and pain circling around in my core that I’d combusted and burnt out internally. I was raw and charred inside and as blind as a bat on the outside. After a longstanding friendship suffered, partly at my hands, I decided enough was enough. I had to get a grip on the grief or it would destroy me.

I was suffering and because of that I was ashamed. Guilty of circumstances. I hated myself and everything about me. Running from my grief had only led me to more, pain I’d exacted upon myself and others that I loved.  I was surrounded by help and didn’t want to see it. I transferred all of the guilt and shame I felt for my mother’s sudden death to all other facets of my life. I’d recovered in my mind. I was just having some mental and emotional hiccups. Besides, no one was worry-free, and to share my plight would be selfish, oppressive, insensitive. I was at fault anyway. There was nothing or no one that could save me from myself.

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I contemplated God for a long time. Now that I look back, maybe longer than I wanted, but I had to be sure. Would The All want me to perish in my own despair? Were my feelings of shame and guilt valid? Was the shame and guilt a scapegoat for the actual pain and anger? I’d learned that I was displacing my valid grief and anguish with senseless self-deprecation to more easily dismiss the pain and grief. I’d studied just about every advanced-level psychology course in community college to gain a better understanding for my how my own mind worked. And the very conditions I studied were playing out in my head; Survivor’s Guilt, Suppression, Repression, Grief, PTSD, Manic Depression, Bipolar (Disorder), etc.

My father came to mind when I started dissecting my mind. Although he was never a physical constant in my life, we kept in touch through letters and occasional pictures throughout my adolescence. I got to know his mind, how he processed information and experiences, his dreams and pains, between 7 and 18. He’d been incarcerated 95% of my life. I met him in prison when I was seven years old and we established a pen pal relationship thereafter. One of the main themes in our communication was depression; how he’d gauged, battled and defeated it through meditation and Buddhist teachings, its triggers and how knowing that would affect me and my process.

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I had an answer! I texted my Dad the other day and asked him if we could talk. He lives almost 1,000 miles away and has established his own life; girlfriend, career, hobbies, turning 50, you know… But the one thing he can’t seem to shake is his guilt. The guilt of not being a constant in my life. Reaching out to him is healing for both of us as he gains a sense of  redemption by being a part of my life, as a pen pal, and I gain a better understanding of one half of the duo I hail from. But for some of us, healing is a scary thing. It often requires us to break the mold we’ve shaped out of our lives, lies included. My dad would like to believe there’s no chance to regain my confidence in him. He opts for defeat when communicating with me, afraid I will reject him if I learn too much about him.

I am more determined than ever to reach him and build a platform for healing by breaking that mold we’ve both shaped. He hails my mother as a saint, someone he could never outdo or even match up to. Abandoning her when she birthed and raised me is also something he has yet to forgive himself for. I can’t tell him enough how much she forgave and upheld a dignified view of him in his absence, throughout my life. It just isn’t enough. Rational as it may be, my words of truth fall on deaf, defeated ears. They are seen as consolations, not affirmations. I get it. I can’t count how many times loved ones have tried to remind me of the good I possess. I only heard their words as consolation. I was a failure and there was nothing that could change that, not even the good in me. With this understanding, I changed the whole course of contact with my dad. I’d try a different approach to assessing his half of myself.

Instead of reaching out to my dad about my lowly feelings, I  asked him about his biological family. He grew up a foster child, in and out of homes, displaced most of his life. I wondered if that had any affect on his lack of presence in my life. I learned that I have several aunts and uncles and that my grandparents’ names were Bubbles and Alfonso Thomas. Two aunts are identical twins living in rural Florida. The need to know them has never been stronger. Understanding the people my dad comes from will help both of our perspectives and bring much needed healing to our family.

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