The Grudge That Held Me
In the end I discovered that the joy I was withholding, was causing me my own.
I denied forgiveness, until I realized I was the one that needed forgiving. This awareness changed my experience of life, of myself, and those around me in ways I never would have imagined. Let me tell you how I came to be here.
When I was about 16 yeas old, I went to my fathers first birthday party. Yes, you read that right. His first birthday party. You see it was his first year sober. In Alcoholics Anonymous you celebrate birthdays acknowledging your sobriety. At the party, my father chose a special poem to be read. It is called the Man in the Glass. It is the only thing I kept from my father for over 20 years.
The poem talks about how your life is a mirror to reflect on. The poem's brilliance is that it is not about blame or shame; rather, it is an invitation to accountability. It is a call to self-reflection, of your values and desires and an examination of your self-esteem. If you were to look at yourself in the mirror, would you be celebrating or despairing? Other people in your life may say you have accomplished great things and may think you are a wonderful person, but if you look at yourself, you know you are not living an authentic life; you cannot be genuinely happy. The praise of others is not important if you are disappointed in yourself for things you have or have not done. There is hope in knowing the person in the mirror is with you to the end. The poem reminds us that you can be your own best friend by being true to yourself and living a life of integrity. Being able to do that is to be willing to be honest about what you see without judgment and be willing to change when needed.
I never knew why but I could not allow my self to throw that poem away.
Let us start at the beginning. When I was young, my father kept a bottle of 5 Star Whiskey on the kitchen counter. I hated the smell of it. It smelt like my dad. Eventually the bottle disappeared but only from sight. Bottles were hidden around the house. Bottles my older brother and I found while we were playing. Between two by fours in the unfinished basement. In the broken couch our puppy Dino chewed the bottom out of. In the glove compartment of the car. Bottles everywhere, and my dad was almost always drunk.
My parents separated when I was eleven years old because of a threatening incident. Through out my teenage years, I saw my dad regularly. It was like meeting with a stranger. Someone I sort of knew but had no real relationship with.
And then I was accepted to and started University. I was not aware of that the fact that acceptance into University meant to me that I was smart, worthy, and capable of accomplishing important things. I grew up feeling so insignificant I did not even see how I was creating my own invisibility. Even I did not see me! I needed the validation of others, like a whole University! to make me feel significant. I was second to alcohol and I was just barely beginning to recognize how much that shaped me.
My father had agreed to help support me through University because my mother was concerned, she may not be able to do it all on her own. We both thought he would want to do it too. However just before the beginning of my second year my father informed me that he had no money to give me towards my tuition. I was shattered. It was a blow that said you are not worth it. I flashed back to my childhood when I needed dental work and my father told me to get a pair of plyers and squeeze my teeth together. It reminded me of sitting at the dinner table with my very drunk father asking me to try not to cough too much because the sound was annoying. It reminded me of the time he took that bottle from the glove compartment before driving me to my brothers soccer game. I felt second to something else in his life again and decided I was done. I wanted to move forward with my life, and with people who would support me. I was growing and I did not want anything to get in my way. I stopped talking to my Dad that day. It was our last conversation for over twenty years!
It was the passing of my mother on the morning of Christmas Eve that brought us together. But not right away. It still took me about 7 months to see my dad. Over the years he had tried to be in touch with me and I ignored his calls. He did stop drinking and a few years ago I went to his 30th birthday celebration.
The grudge held me and prevented me from seeing not only myself but my father also. The grudge had such a hold on me I wore it like a badge of honour, telling everyone that having no relationship with my father did not bother me. And of course it did not. Because I allowed myself to ignore the entire situation. It was as if neither of us existed. In my mind we were both somewhat invisible.
But you see I soon became aware that the woman in the glass was me!
I was afraid to see my dad because I needed to ask forgiveness. Not for the original infraction. But for never giving him a second chance. This was especially hard knowing he had already forgiven me and only wanted to be with me again.
Since our reconciliation we have brought joy to each others lives.
I am grateful for, his example of how to overcome an addiction and create a new way of life, for my mother’s love, strength and guidance all those years, and my brother for always believing in me.
If a grudge is holding on to you I hope you are able to open your fist and let it fall away! Amanda Da Costa
Amanda DaCosta is a Coach who comes from a place of non judgement. "There is almost nothing you can tell me that will surprise me or make me value you less as a human being." Amanda says. Amanda has a background in psychology and 15 years of experience in the mental health and addictions sector as well as 20 years in the fitness industry. She understands the importance of the mind, body, and heart connection. Her approach is to help people reconcile the parts of themselves that feel disconnected by embracing their own humanity while taking full responsibility.