courage

The Courage to Call Dad

The last time I talked to my dad was July of 2014. That last conversation ended with him hanging up on me.  Needless to say it's been really hard to admit to anyone, let alone myself, that I haven't talked to my own father in nearly 2.5years. That "click" and the dial tone on the other end of the line broke my heart into the tiniest little pieces. 

It's hard to imagine not talking to someone who you admired and loved so much as a kid. A combination of family stuff, and my reaching the capacity for any kind of drama (even if it involves family), I decided that what I really needed was space to heal. Rather than try to force something out of anger, I refocused the energy on my own healing. Little did I know that days would turn into months, and months into years.

I initially started seeing Anne because I became frustrated with a romantic relationship that ended recently. This emotionally depleting on-again-off-again romance spanned about 8 years. Deep down, I knew the incident with dad needed to be resolved before I could really focus on a loving relationship with myself and on a loving and committed partnership.

My first session with Anne was transformative.  Our first exercise was a guided visualization technique. In it I imagined myself sitting in the audience of a theatre by myself, inviting people from my past up on stage. "Imagine connecting on a soul level" she said. I was finally granted the permission to say everything I needed to say to them, all while practicing forgiveness and compassion. 

When it came time to invite my dad up on the stage, I started to cry uncontrollably, and felt a heaviness in my chest and in my heart. Anne kept it going, coaching me through it all by reminding me to focus on the breath and on feeling the deep-seeded pain. Healing through a visualization like this really resonated with me and connecting soul-to-soul was the next-level healing I was craving.

Fast forward to session three. Anne suggested that I go see my father, to reconnect with him. In her opinion, reaching out to him was the golden ticket to my own healing. By reaching out I would demonstrate to him unconditional love. I was thinking to myself "Fuck, I did not sign up for this!" I immediately resisted the idea, because it had been so long.  Calling him felt more right to me.  When I finally found the courage to call, he wasn’t available. I decided I would call him back another day when the timing was right.

In the meantime, Anne reminded me to focus on the good parts of the relationship and on connecting with dad’s true self...without all the layers of past hurt, misguided actions, and judgements. Then I remembered our home videos from the early 1990s.  

The video entitled "Christmas 1990" is particularly special. I am a spirited, bounce-off-the-walls, theatrical kid.  What I saw through the eyes of my 9yr. old self was a girl who loved her father unconditionally, in a home that encouraged cooperation, fun, and creative self-expression.

The first few scenes in the video are from our elementary school Christmas concert.  Dad is the cameraman, and from his POV, he is proud of his kids.  He frequently zooms in on myself, my sister, and two brothers. At one point, after my song finishes, I spot him in the audience, and I give him a smile and a little wave. He giggles behind the camera, admiring the gesture meant just for him.  A special moment between father and daughter.

Watching these videos helped me to reconnect with my own essence, and reminded me that dad and I are connected, no matter what our current circumstance.  These videos gave me some hope for reconciliation, and the courage to call him back a second time. 

Anne suggested that when I call him back I should leave a message with my name and my phone number.  She said "Well, let's just say he doesn't call you back for a few months, or ever, at least you can say you tried."  Without any attachment to outcome at all, I called him back. This time I was ready to leave a message. I was not expecting to get him on the line instead!  

While I waited for him to get to the phone, my heart started to pound, and my hands started to sweat.  Soon after I heard him say hello, with enthusiasm in his voice, I instantly felt at ease. We talked for about twenty minutes.  He asked me a lot of the questions about life, work, etc. It was probably one of the nicest, and healthiest conversations we’ve had in about 6 years. 

I feel good about finding the courage to call.  It was totally freeing, and I feel an immense weight lifted off my shoulders. A heavy burden I’ve been carrying around for a long time. 

In hindsight, I strongly believe that by focusing on the positive aspects of the relationship during the last few months meant a positive outcome once I did make contact.  By focusing on myself for a while, I have come to know that my relationships are outer manifestations of what's going on the inside. I feel like I have truly made peace with this aspect of myself, and now I feel like I can accomplish anything. I feel energized having let go of all expectations from here on out, and I look forward to what’s going to happen next. 

Love, SJ