(Not Quite) Daddy’s Little Girl

Unconditional love. Respect. Affirmation. These are the things that I have always wanted from my birth father. For most of my life, I have hitched my self esteem, my self worth and my self identity to his opinions of me. This has definitely been to my peril. What’s ironic about my desire for these things from my father is that he was not a permanent fixture in my life until I was fourteen years old. He didn’t have a track record of giving these things, but for some reason I constantly fantasized about a utopic relationship between us. Why is it that we seem to want the most from those who are least able to give it?

My father and I have a complicated relationship. I am the youngest of his four children by three different women.  My parents were not married when I was conceived and my mother decided to leave him shortly after my birth. I would see him from time to time but I don’t remember him being a steady presence in my life.  My mother met my step-father when I was three and married him when I was six years old. My younger brother was born and we relocated from New York to Texas. This move ended my visits with my birth father. With the exception of a handful of trips to New York, I don’t remember having a substantial relationship with my father before I was a teenager.

As I reflect on our history, it boggles my mind how much his absence affected me and influenced how I engage men in romantic relationships. One might think that I would not be seeking something that I never received but in my mind, I had created a fantasy about what it would be like if my father and I ever reconnected. This fantasy became a reality when my mother and step-father divorced. This was a traumatic time in my life that was overshadowed by the fact that my birth parents were reuniting and would eventually get married. I found myself in a broken state; one where I struggled with the loss of a relationship with my step-father, who had raised me and, at the same time, trying to be happy about the return of my birth father who I really didn’t know. It was a difficult time for everyone involved. I learned very quickly that the life I had envisioned with my birth father would not become a reality.

I had a revelation yesterday. It was actually quite painful but simultaneously liberating. Nothing I could ever become, say or do would engender the affirming and uplifting response that I so desperately seek from my father. And you know what? That’s my issue, not his. I have to come to terms with the fact that I have been looking for that which is life-giving in the wrong place, from the wrong person. For my sanity’s sake, I have to let go of this overwhelming desire to be “approved” of by my father. I am a thirty one year old woman who is finally letting go of something that has not served me well. I am choosing, on this day, that my self worth and identity will not be based on any external factors, particularly those that perpetuate negative and harmful ways of being.

I have never been the proverbial “Daddy’s little girl”. Nor will I ever be. And it’s not necessary that I am. For the first time in my life, I realize how important it is for me to create a new narrative, one that takes into account who I am and have been created to be, first and foremost by God.

I pray that I am able to remember that God created me and simply said, “It is good.”

I pray that my self worth and self esteem will no longer be based on what others think and that I will embrace that I am enough.

I pray that I am able to be in relationship with my father in a way that honors who we both are and leaves room for who we are not.

Love,

Me

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Forty Days, Forty Nights

I am a Christian. For anyone who is interested in my relationship with my faith, I’ve written about it here. One of the things I love about the denomination I belong to is that we subscribe to the Revised Common Lectionary. This means that we follow what is called a Liturgical calendar that organizes the year into church seasons. Our new year begins with Advent, which is the time of preparation before the birth of Jesus. After Advent comes Christmas, then Epiphany, then Lent and so on and so forth. We are about to begin the season of  Len, which starts tomorrow with Ash Wednesday and is my favorite season for a variety of reasons. Lent is the time that commemorates Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights in the desert before officially beginning his public ministry. Christians mark the season of Lent by doing a variety of things including reflecting, fasting, sacrificing those things that would distract us from our faith walk, being in intentional community and practicing repentance – not just apologizing for wrongdoings but physically turning in another direction.

For me, Lent is a time of listening for God and being mindful of those things/people/situations that would distract me. Now, you may be thinking that I should always be listening for God, but I get so caught up in the everyday tasks of life, that I often neglect my spiritual practices. I like to think about Lent as the time that calls me to be focused and disciplined. I believe that God is always active in my life, but that I’m not always attuned to how God is working and Lent provides the time and space to just be…

This Lenten season I am excited to be participating in a group that is discussing Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression by the Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman. Dr. Coleman is facilitating this group that will be journeying together through Lent as we reflect on depression, faith and life. A key part of this group is to journal your reflections after each day’s devotional reading. I will be sharing my thoughts here on Embracing My Shadow. I am doing this for a number of reasons:

  1. I want to continue to reflect on the way that my faith has impacted my struggle with depression.
  2. It’s important for me to have a space where I can write my thoughts.
  3. I want to be held accountable by my Shadow Lovers.

I look forward to this time of clearing – to a time when I can let go of those things that are distractions and reflect on how God might be speaking to me. I am not planning to do anything else other than this devotional group during Lent. I ask for your prayers and support during this journey.

You may not follow the Liturgical Calendar. You may be disconnected from the church. You may not even be Christian. But I truly believe that we can all benefit from times of reflection; times when we become centered and seek renewal. I look forward to this journey.

Love,

Me

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t…

It’s been over a month since my last post on Embracing My Shadow. I have been avoiding you… No let me be honest – actually, I’ve been avoiding myself. And I must confess that I am ashamed.

I was so excited with the momentum that was building with this movement of Shadow Lovers. I planned for a new year that was full of order and direction for the blog. You can read all about my plans here. I followed the advice of many a veteran blogger and created a schedule of blog posts. The writing had come to me so easily in 2012, I just figured that it would continue. I tend to keep my ideas in the Notes app in my phone but I felt the need to be a little more organized. I printed up a calendar and planned out my postings for the first three months of 2013. I  was ready to take 2013 by storm. I was the consummate perfectionist. I was on top of it. And then, it all stopped…

I was so excited that I forgot myself. I forgot what happens when I place so much pressure on planning and I forget what it means to be in the moment. I forgot what this endeavor was really about. I was caught in a whirlwind and I couldn’t keep up. So I did what I am prone to do when I get overwhelmed. I disappeared…

Time passes. I keep telling myself I’ll get something done. Then I don’t. Then I feel guilty. Then I put it off some more. Then I build it up to be this huge thing and I stress myself out over it. This stress impacts my entire life. I feel a tightening of my chest. My eating habits change. My sleeping patterns change. I get sick. And it generally comes back to the one thing that I am not dealing with. Does anyone else do this, or am I alone in my avoidance issues?

I used to think that this was simple procrastination, but I am learning that it goes much deeper than that. I have learned about what it means to be a perfectionist and must admit that I suffer from this personality disposition. Perfectionism, depression and anxiety create a perfect storm in my life that has led to overwhelming despair, shame and a type of paralysis that perpetuates the self-defeating thought that I am not good enough, nor will I ever be.

So I confess to you, dear Shadow Lovers. My perfectionist tendencies got the best of me and as soon as I fell off of the proverbial wagon, I had to disappear. I mean, how could I continue on when the plan had been changed? When I hadn’t lived up to my end of the bargain? When I felt like I had let myself down? Tis easier to hide…

But I’m learning that not only does this way of being not serve me well, it goes against everything I preach and teach about being authentic. More importantly, it perpetuates a cycle that harms the very essence of who I am and who God has created me to be. So I turn here, to you (and to me) and confess that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. I over plan and fall short. I get paralyzed and everything stops. It’s time for this to change. I’m going to be honest with myself and recognize that the world doesn’t end because my plans fall apart. I am going to be more gracious towards myself. I am going to remember to live in the moment and just go with it. I am going to give myself a break. I am going to look at myself each and everyday and say, “I am enough.”

I ask that you be patient with me as I work these things out. Maybe you too suffer from some of these ways of being. Maybe we can walk together as we learn to embrace, love and care for our WHOLE selves. Maybe, just maybe, we can come to a place where we realize that we are enough, just as we are.

Love,

Me