Sunday, December 4, 2016

#FreeWriteChallenge Day 19 - A Risk I Wish I'd Taken

Too Risky

I’ve had a lot of fun with this #FreeWriteChallenge. I think one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed it so much is that I’ve gotten a chance to write a lot more fiction with this one. I’ve never been one to sit and write a lot of short stories. I’ve gathered a little collection here since mid-November, and I’ve had a great time writing them.

For this post, however, I’ve decided not to go the fictional route.

I’ve thought about this topic a lot over the weekend, and I’ve decided that I have, in fact, taken quite a few risks in my life. Homeschooling is one of the biggest ones, and then there was moving out of the country, becoming a self-published author, starting up my own editing company …I’ve jumped into many unknowns throughout the years, and I must say, I’m incredibly glad that I did.

There is one risk I didn’t take that haunts me. Actually, if I’m totally honest, I have mixed feelings about it. It’s very personal. It has to do with my dad. I’ve written a lot about him in previous posts, however, so you may already have some idea where this narrative is going. If you haven’t read what I’ve written about him, you can do so in Music I Love, A Family Member I Dislike and Five Fears. Seems that when I start thinking about my past and am asked to delve into the personal parts of my life, my dad is always there waiting. Maybe it comes as no surprise that the one risk I didn’t take has to do with him.

I’m going to write this as though I haven’t already shared these things. If you haven’t read them, it might put things into perspective. If you have, I’m sorry for the repeat. Go ahead and skip down if you want. You know I’ll get to the heart of this topic eventually.

I was a meek child. I was very timid and hated the thought that I might do something wrong. I wasn’t usually like that around my mom or her side of the family, but around my dad, I clammed up. Around him I became very quiet and very shy. My dad scared the hell out of me.

There’s a lot of back story here. I know a good portion of it. Mom has been pretty open with me about her early days with my dad, and I’m well aware of my own history with the man. His side of things, though? His perspective was something I never got. He wasn’t forthcoming. We didn’t have a warm and fuzzy kind of relationship. He was not affectionate or sweet. He made sure I knew from the very beginning that I was an inconvenience, that I was in the way and it would be a waste of his time to have any sort of meaningful relationship with me. I wish I could say this was an exaggeration. It’s not. I never knew anything different where my father was concerned.

Another good word to define my dad would be intimidating. He wasn’t a big guy. He was under six feet tall, and he didn’t have a large build. He did like to use his fists, though. He was a name caller, and his words had a nasty bite. No one ever made me feel as small as he did.

And that’s where the risk I didn’t take comes in.

I never argued with my dad. I never—not once—stood up to him. I had a step-brother. Whenever one of us would step out of line, do anything wrong, we had an unspoken agreement. We never told on one another, and neither one of us ever confessed. We were too scared. When this happened, my dad punished both of us. For some reason, it was easier on my brother and I to deal with the punishment together because we were allies. We never got the other one in trouble. We stuck together.

I’m glad I had that kind of relationship to rely on. My brother and I were really close for a long time. I met him when I was seven, and the last time we spoke I was twenty-one or twenty-two. The way the two of us fell apart, well, that’s a story for another day.

The not arguing with my dad, though, isn’t.

I wish I had argued with my dad. I wish I had stuck up for myself. I knew he wasn’t always right. I knew he made mistakes. I knew he was an ass. But I was terrified of him. I didn’t like being yelled at. I didn’t like being hit. I didn’t like being told I was stupid, or the other many insults he threw at me.

I often wonder what might have happened had I stood up for myself. What might have happened had I looked him in the eye and told him he was wrong? What might have changed in my life had I had the guts enough to stand up, tell him I wasn’t going to allow him to drag my self-esteem through the mud and make me feel less than? So many times I think he did what he did because he knew I would never fight back.

That’s a risk I never took.

The thing is, I never had the ability to take that risk.

After many, many years, I got beat down by the dysfunctional relationship my dad and I shared. I never had the courage to stand up to him, but I knew I had to get away. So, I did. Shortly after my twenty-first birthday, I separated myself from him. I cut off all communication. I walked away.

It was the best thing I could have done for myself.

He wasn’t at my wedding. He never met or saw either one of my kids. And it took me years and years, but I became a much stronger, much more secure person. I built my self-esteem little by little. I set goals and I achieved them. I proved to myself that I wasn’t the person he always told me I was. I had worth. I was important. I deserved better.

If I had been the girl I am now back when I was younger, I would have taken that risk. I wouldn’t have let him talk down to me. I wouldn’t have let him abuse me physically and emotionally. Oh, no. Our relationship would have had a whole different dynamic.

My dad’s been gone now for a little more than sixteen years. I think about the things I wish I’d been able to tell him frequently. I think maybe, if it was possible for us to meet up again now, he might actually like the person I am today. I’ve got a little more fire in me. I stand up for myself. I’m a decent conversationalist, and I’m a very funny girl. I’m not so bad to hang around with.

I also know that if he didn’t like me, if he had unkind things to say to me, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell him what I thought about it. I wouldn’t allow him to get away with the things he did in the past, and if he didn’t like me, I’d be okay—because I like me. Knowing that about myself is a very empowering thing. Very empowering, indeed.