Paradoxical

Fear and intimidation formed the basis of his power. To this day I tremble, afraid I’ve misstepped – parked the car wrong, forgot to close the door properly, or spoken out of turn. My father was a hand grenade with the pin perpetually pulled.

He was also motivational, citing the works of Carnegie, Peale, Gibran, and even Rumi. His brilliance was a light for me to follow, although I never understand the paradox between this worldly man and the ticking time bomb.

He spoke of love with tears in his eyes, as if he recognized his own failing, as if love was something he didn’t deserve. In his final years, realizing the error of his ways, he cried often.

I didn’t know how to react. The man had broken me in so many ways – broken all around him. I could not just forgive and forget.

Love is paradoxical – its’ contours seldom defined by expectations.

Am I grateful that I had the father I did? Absolutely. I recognize that in his wake I am challenged, but also given the resources to overcome. Many times I wanted to walk away, and yet, I didn’t, sensing that there was more to be uncovered in this dance of love and hate.

Father has been gone for more than a decade. I still wrestle with the paradox.

( Reena’s Exploration this week is paradox. Images are from personal collection. Maple trees and snapdragons remind me of my father.)

Blended Blessings

Marrying for the third time entailed blending families – not always an easy task. I had three; he had two – bookends to mine. Falling in love is one thing, but the chances that all parties will be enthused about the idea is another.

Ric’s oldest, a son, was already an adult when we met, and had his own life, so our choices really didn’t affect him. Same with my oldest daughter.

Ric and Erika

The three youngest ones, however, were still at home. We had differences in parenting styles. Being critical of each other was a quicksand pit we tried carefully to avoid, but it wasn’t always easy. Developing trust and respect, and a genuine fondness takes time. I’m pleased to say, we made it.

More than that, as a stepmother, I’ve gained a new role that enriches my life in many ways. While I refer to Erika as “our daughter”, our relationship falls outside the mother/daughter framework. She has a mother, and doesn’t need me in that role. Not sure what you’d call it – role model, friend, alternate source of support.

Whatever it is, I count it as another blessing.

Our gang

Third Time Lucky

I first married at nineteen, two years after I left home, and many years before I’d developed into the woman I would later be. We separated before our second wedding anniversary.

Certain I was fatally flawed, I jumped at the next opportunity that came along – a relationship that would produce my three children and span seventeen years.

In the end, he confirmed what I secretly believed: I was not loveable.

I would prove that to myself again and again with poor choices, until finally, in my forties, I admitted I had a problem. My picker was broken. I was choosing mates based on the wrong assumption.

What, I asked myself, would a relationship look like if I was loveable? I decided that it needed to start with myself. So I started courting me. I bought myself flowers, just because I deserved them. I took myself out to eat and focused on what I liked. I visualized what it would feel like to be loved and I set five goals to achieve before I would re-enter relationship:

  • To understand my needs
  • To be able to identify my wants
  • To establish healthy boundaries
  • To believe myself worthy of love
  • To be financially independent.

When I met Ric, I wasn’t ready. The fifth goal had not been reached. So, I told him: “I’m not ready for relationship right now. I am willing to hang out for a year, and then we can reassess.”

Golf buddies

He agreed, and exactly one year later, picked me up from work and took me out to dinner, ordering a bottle of wine to celebrate.

“Celebrate what?”

“It’s been a year; we can talk about us!”

Six months later, he asked me to marry him. I made him wait another eighteen months.

The thing about Ric is that I know that he loves me. He would do anything for me. He values my wants and needs, and my boundaries. He listens to my fears. He is my best friend.

Wedding Day

Third time has been a charm (he’d say for both of us). I am truly blessed.