How To Forgive Your Parents…When You’re An Adult
What is forgiveness exactly? These holidays we celebrate a brand-new year and all the false promises that go along with it. On the first day of 2015, my father and I began a lovely conversation about his childhood that ended with criticism. When I was sharing my fears about going back to work full-time, my father asked me if I was a glass half-empty or glass half-full type of person? He compared my attitude to my husband’s (guess whose fared better?) Finally, he shared that he would never, ever hire me if he were an employer. This is my dad’s version of a pep talk. Over the years, I have gotten so used to listening my own self-criticism, that the sound of his rang familiar and devastatingly close to my heart. If you haven’t already figured it out, I come from a long line of Tough Lovers. They’ve hauled ass across the world to make it in the land of the free and the brave, and they never let us forget how we came to be the Tough Mothers we are today.
I was at a loss. How could I, during this time where I needed confidence the most, be expected to justify my negative attitude, my entitled expectations, and the fears driving my decision about going back to work? Didn’t my parents struggle in this country precisely so I could know my own my worth and value my time as a precious resource? Even the most confident of persons would crumble underneath my father’s tough immigrant gaze. It stayed with me, creating a knot of anger deep in my belly. He’d worked so hard only to criticize me for preferring to stay home with the children. He even called me SPOILED!
My shame spiral began. What could I do about this feeling that wouldn’t go away, this gnawing at my hard won peace with myself, my confidence shot? What could I do about hating my father like I was fifteen all over again? Hadn’t I gotten past that phase, with three kids and four therapists later?
Forgiveness. When this word first popped into mind, I totally thought I understood what it meant. But as I stood there, turning it over in my head, I tried to identify how forgiveness actually feels in my heart. Nada. It turns out I don’t fully grasp the concept of forgiveness. I want to get there. Trust me, I do. Sometimes I have these fantasies of my father and me being much further along in our dynamic. He’s perhaps a bit older, less edgy. Or is that me? Maybe he’s on his deathbed and we have that moment of forgiveness that I’m looking for right now. I’m impatient for it. I so want to feel the sweetness that comes along with better, more honest communication.
In Louise Hay’s book, “Heal Your Body” she describes forgiveness as being fundamental to the process of loving. And Loving is the energy that heals everything! Resentment, anger and bitterness clog up our souls. This limits our infinite individual essence, which is the special light that each and everyone of us bring to this world. Wow. That’s a lot of pressure to forgive. But Forgiveness is not only an intention, there’s a space that’s created which we allow ourselves, whereby we can plant a seed of forgiveness and observe it grow. As I focused my intentions on forgiving, I watched my defensiveness around my father slide away. If I stopped to alter “forgiveness” or catch it or understand it, just like sand, it would slip away with its elusiveness. But if I simply made the promise, I could sit back and watch it grow.
If any of you have had a chance to read the magical and awe-inspiring children’s book, “The Carrot Seed,” you’ll know how hard it is to have faith in yourself when the rest of the world, those closest to you even, believe otherwise. You also know that on page 11 of 12 total pages, when a Carrot and Faith are allowed the space to grow, you can wake up one day and there’s a giant present waiting for you on the ground. It grew after all. You know, I’d hire me if I had a job for me, despite what anyone else thinks.