I am often asked why I chose to get involved in the field of human change. Why do I believe in the goodness of humankind, when as a world, there are times and evidence that can shift perspective otherwise? Over the years, I’ve written my thoughts, as a form of self-therapy to help me define and create my own intention and purpose. This post, I wrote about 6 years ago, on a personal blog I used at the time. I thought it would be appropriately included here, as personal witness of the passion I feel about the capability of human growth and change.
I've attempted to begin this sentence several times now.
Nothing sounds right.
I've quite consciously chosen not to have written about this subject before now, as my feelings surrounding this day always flood my veins with a hot mess of complicated and jumbled hallmark movie"ish" emotional stew.
I've never wanted this entry to sound trite or cheesy or hallmark movie"ish."
This date signifies a large portion of who I am; who I've grown to become.
This date, in my history, changed my life.
Right around this date, 25 years ago, I awoke to a plethora of people I recognized from my church packing.
At first, it was exciting. I loved attention...loved attention, especially from adults. The gorgeous San Diego sun was shining in such a way that you nearly had no choice but to be jubilant. My sister and I played Mr. Potato Head with a cute young woman whom I vaguely recognized, but felt comfortable enough around to not question her being in my apartment.
As time moved forward, the San Diego January sun created a day warm enough to set up the outdoor plastic pool. My sister and I anxiously awaited the water filling, and made our way to our front porch, just underneath the stairway that lead to the apartments above us.
I was seven. Just barely.
It was at this point that I began to perceive something bigger was taking place. This party of people and friends, and even family from Utah hadn't arrived just to play and swim.
I watched the couch being carried out, and then I noticed my things.
"That is why we were sent out here to swim," I thought.
My heart sank, all the way to the bottom.
Not because we were moving, which had become clear, but because I knew my dad didn't know.
Without going into details, I'll mention that things had not been good at home for a while. I was keenly aware of this fact...too aware. My seven-year-old thoughts were often turned to issues light years ahead of my chronological age.
My thoughts turned to my little sister and her blond curls.
She was laughing and swimming in the pool, as she should have been.
She was four.
I was protectively placed "on guard."
And although my instincts wanted to run and tell her, "STOP! Stop playing. Don't you see what's happening?? Don't you want to stay here? Don't you notice that Dad is not here?"
I was quite actually jealous of the naivety and her aptitude for resiliency.
She needed to stay safe.
My childhood memory says it was maybe a matter of minutes, but it may have been hours.
I was in front of my white apartment, standing aside, watching the masses of people moving all our things into a moving truck that had been parked in the alley.
Then, I saw him.
I noticed his long brown hair first, then saw his suntanned skin and loosely buttoned shirt.
I ran to him.
My adult brain understands now that my dad had most likely figured out what was going on, but as a child, it felt like a miracle. He had come to put us back together again.
I knew my dad was not perfect.
I knew he was doing things that he should not have been doing.
I knew that my mom was doing everything she could to keep us safe and strong.
But, I didn't care. I didn't want to leave him. I couldn't.
Extremely out of character, and without care for the myriad of eyes who were watching, I wrapped my arms around my dad and cried.
I cried tears that had been held in for years.
"I am NOT GOING! I will not go. I am staying with Dad."
Over and over and over.
We didn't go.
My dad entered rehab within the next couple of weeks.
He has been sober since.
The feelings become complicated surrounding this date when I choose to allow the past to creep up into my present. Sometimes I feel sad for the little blond-haired perfectionist who dared not ruffle any feathers for fear she would add more stress to a fire that was so aptly brewing on its' own between her parents. I feel sad for the little girl who covered her sister's ears as they hid together during some of the rougher moments. I feel sad because that seven-year old’s' ears heard everything.
As a nineteen year, old, I made a conscious choice to forgive my dad.
And, I did.
Because his issues were not mine to carry anymore.
My experiences have brought me to a place of simplicity.
And, even more deeply, in this year, I can sincerely say I am grateful.
Immensely grateful for the roads, however rocky they've been, that have lead me to the place I am in today.
I can sit in my office, with my J Crew cardigan and skinny jeans, and know that most people who see me on the street have no idea of the life I've experienced. They make assumptions of me based on visual details.
But, I don't.
I understand that appearances are never the entire story.
There is always more.
I am driven to encourage change because I have had a first-row seat.
I witnessed one of the most important people in my life find that internal drive within his soul and do better.
He overcame pieces of his history too horrific to mention and discovered strength in his present.
He learned to find motivation in doing good and developed self-respect by allowing himself to feel.
He found purpose and hope that through his choices, life would get better-better for all of us.
I know how to persevere.
And, I know how to hope.
I learned that from him.
I used to visit my dad in rehab and drink MARTINELLI’s apple cider in the glass apple bottle jars.
The first time I watched my daughter drink the same drink, I considered her eyes and smiled through the welling tears. She was distinctly oblivious to the emotional meaning that small apple jar, now made in plastic, held to my heart. I watched her blue eyes dance, as she ate her bagel and was proud of my history.
Proud to be my father's daughter.