Growing up without a father I always wondered what happened between my parents. In my naivety and innocence I questioned what part I had played in my father leaving before I was 3, and what I could have done to get him to stay.
At 16 I went in search for a father who had not responded to any of my phone calls or letters. Who had never contacted me on my birthday or even when he was told I had been undergoing a series of potentially life threatening surgeries. He had stayed distant and unconcerned like someone who had left an old umbrella on the tube. I could envisage myself as one of those girls with ‘daddy issues’ and wanted to try and change ‘My Story’, I didn’t want this abandonment to define me, if that was even possible…so armed with a microphone, digital recorder and BBC Radio 4 producer I went looking for a man who wasn’t lost. His address hadn’t changed in 20 years, but in my eyes he was lost. And he had lost. I found him in Lagos, Nigeria and being the Jeremy Paxman I am asked him everything I’d ever wanted to know in concise detail. But nothing really made sense, could it ever? I’m not sure I prepared myself for less than satisfactory responses. But what could he possibly have said that would make it all ok.
If I could write a letter to my younger self, I’d tell her, you did nothing wrong. That adults sometimes make decisions that affect children negatively in response to their own emotional and physical needs. I would tell her that sometimes life happens in such a way that circumstances create a gulf that cannot be breached, and people sometimes can not find the strength, maturity or motivation to bridge that distance. That sometimes relationships don’t work, and children are collateral damage. Created with love or lust, but sometimes a painful afterthought in the transaction that is separation. Sometimes differences can’t be embraced. Sometimes destiny can’t be diverted. Sometimes people just can’t forgive and forget.
I would tell my younger self, that parents are just human, flawed and facing the journey of life with an incomprehensible and selfish desire to be happy, at whatever cost, often with an out of date road map or a faulty sat nav. Parents do their best at the best of times and scrape through with a could do better, or simply just shouldn’t have bothered at their worst. I would tell her, you are enough. You did nothing wrong. The family he chose to raise instead of you did not win. His choice illustrates his short sightedness, his inability to responsibly find a way to love you all. His weakness, not yours, his failures not yours. And for every tear you have shed the pool of hope has grown. It’s made you stronger, more thoughtful, resilient and caring. Your story isn’t a guilty secret, it’s a beacon of hope. You have overcome adversity and shone through the fog, pursuing your dreams with courage. You can do anything you put your mind to. You can be anything you choose. Remember that those that helped create you are simple vessels and sometimes their part is fleeting and temporal. The day I found true forgiveness is the day I really became free. Free of the pain of not knowing, free of not understanding, free of the burden of unanswered questions.
My mum found a way to raise me alone and always praised my father. She created a home that was our normal, and ensured my perception of my father was always good. She told me stories of how they met, what a good man he was and how much he loved me. Maybe that was her way of coping too. The positive reinforcements despite the reality of his absence helped me to find forgiveness. And one day in my mid 20s he turned up sick and unannounced at the Euston concourse and came to find me. Too little too late, but a gesture of love nonetheless.
Now that I have a child of my own, everything has changed. My mental and emotional freedom mean so much more, as I’m conscious of how my behaviour and insecurities could impact my child. I understand the flawed behaviour of parents as I see my own daily, but now even more cannot comprehend the choice to abandon a child. Finding that freedom and release of negativity in your memories is a remarkable step to healing, no matter what has caused your pain. It’s all part of your journey and everyone’s path is different. Just be open to freeing your mind.
Forgiveness is personal and painful, but liberating and essential. It doesn’t mean forgetting, it just means you’ve let go….and that is awe inspiring and powerful, and uplifting, and the best gift you can give yourself. Try it….you’ve got nothing to lose and freedom to gain.
So whatever your situation, free yourself from the burden of holding on to pain that will only create wounds that can take a lifetime to heal. Let go of that bitterness, resentment, disappointment, regret, anger. Find somewhere to put it to rest. I hope you find peace.