Anybody think it’s weird that less than a week after I leave the church, I started having significant insights into my daddy issues?
I think I had been trying to get attention from some unsuspecting innocents. A pat on the head from the men in my life, maybe approval and attention from them where I never got it from my dad. I thought that men in my grown-up life were supposed to be helping me heal wounds from my kid-life. Isn’t that what the relationship experts say? But then I realized that’s too big of a job for anyone. No one should be saddled with fixing me. And so, I began learning to father myself.
When I was a kid, I loved going to the hardware store with my dad, or the dump, or anywhere, really. I just wanted to be with him. He rarely spent time with us kids, working all day, then going out to the garage to work his side hustle buying, fixing, and selling wrecked cars. So, when I could get him all to myself and go someplace as interesting as the landfill, I jumped at the chance. But I was a girl, and it was hard for a dad to know what to do with a girl in those days. He never really noticed that I was a girl who loved the smell of grease and car paint, and could build and fix things. And so most of the time I was just the pretty little girl he seemed to enjoy showing off to the guys at the lumber yard or parts store when he accidentally ended up alone with me. I don’t think it was so much that he didn’t want to be with me, he just didn’t exactly know how.
When I got to around fourteen-years-old, sometimes I saw how other men looked at me; sometimes my friend’s fathers. It felt strange to see them noticing me. I wanted to hide. My body image suffered. I hated being a girl sometimes. My legs were growing long and (I thought) awkward. There were so many limitations and talk of how I should learn to type or do bookkeeping so I could get an office job when what I really wanted was to be a park ranger or race motorcycles. I felt powerless most of the time, just assuming “something” would happen and map out a life for me.
And it did. I had a baby before my nineteenth birthday and my life was mapped—at least temporarily. I spent the next fifteen years trying to make up for it. I was the perfect daughter, the perfect mother, and the perfect wife hosting football parties and poker nights for my husband’s friends. Everything was perfect. I perfected my body, my skills, and my cover up. And I thought for the longest time, I had to do all of this. But I didn’t.
Somehow, I realized I could exercise free will. So I willed myself back to college. I willed myself out of my marriage, and into the arms of another man. Imagine how I then married him, a new man who didn’t know how to be with me either.
I knew when I tried to get his attention, I was just that little girl wanting to hang out with her dad again. When we were dating and he was remote, then in a sort of startled way noticed me across the table and say, “You’re a pretty little thing aren’t you?” that it felt just like my dad saying it.
Still there is something in your mind, like when you were a child, that tells you this is normal, and therefore, good. But it wasn’t all that good. He had all he loud, scary traits of my dad, and all the opposite ones of my first husband. Which meant I didn’t have to host football parties and poker games anymore, but which also meant, those daddy issues were something I hadn’t even recognized yet. It wasn’t until after Ben was born, I was divorced—again—and left to alone to figure out my life that I really started to see it.
One day during all of this, I found myself looking into my bathroom mirror, pouting like a six-year-old about how everything I ever wanted to do, my dad would say something negative about and stop me from doing it. There was the major in Forestry, there was motorcycle racing, there was getting married (oops, you get props for that one dad). As I stood there feeling sorry for myself and looking at my teary reflection thinking about all of this, I heard that voice say, “Yeah, well who’s standing in your way now?”
That’s what I think gave me the courage to take on my own life, leave organized religion, and start believing in what I really believed without feeling anyone’s condemnation about it. I learned Reiki and meditation without feeling guilty. I started cooking and eating organic foods again. I had sex for the sheer pleasure of it. I took responsibility for my own decisions without the crutch of a church or a husband or any other daddy-figure to approve or disapprove.
And you know what? The world did not come crashing down around me. In fact, the world was kinder, brighter, more wide open.
It was clear that although I had abandoned the church, god had not abandoned me. And in fact, was still on my side. And much like when I heard Warren Macdonald say, he’d “. . . best get on it,” I heard loud and clear, it was my own turn to do the same.