Holidays are hard.
Father’s Day, holidays, many days, are hard because they carry with it the weight of unmet expectations. They are little milestones to breathe out and say, “Things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be.” There should be a cake, a card, a family of four, some inappropriate jokes, and so on. None of us envision a life that’s missing anything, let alone another person, yet at some point we will all find ourselves wrestling with loss. The most profound point of connection throughout the human experience seems to be our whispered sighs of “me too” when we see someone else is missing something or someone.
Because life doesn’t turn out the way we expected.
Some of us expected there to be a father to celebrate on Father's Day. Some of us expected there to be something worth celebrating. Others expected things to go according to plan, that everyone would get along or at least pretend. Maybe we expected dad to notice us or tell us how proud he is of us. Some of us just expected things to be different, not better or worse but just different. But life doesn't really go according to be planned.
You know, there’s just something about dads. A mother loves her child because it’s a part of her. A father has to choose because it’s a part from him. When we, as children, manage to secure a father’s love we cherish it. Some of us hold onto it tightly, like a really good secret or a hidden treasure. We carry it around in our back pockets and when we forget who we are we unwrap it, ever so slowly, to remind ourselves we belong.
Some of us grab onto a father’s love and flash it around. We wear it proudly on our skin, we put it all out there for the whole world to see. We flaunt it and bask in it and it feels like the old swimming hole we turned to on hot summer days. It’s refreshing, all encompassing, and it causes us to grow up while keeping us young at heart.
The result is always the same. A father’s love results in our confidence.
The confidence to try, to fail, to completely eat shit and still get back up and try again. It’s the courage to ask her out, the wisdom to turn him down. It’s the bold statement and the narrowed eyes at the end of an interview. We see it when we reach out to connect, to touch someone, to know first and foremost that someone reached out for us first. It’s the courage to dream big, to love deeply, and to rest assured that there’s always a place or a person to call home.
Our mothers nurture us but it is our fathers who encourage us.
Encourage in the sense to inspire courage.
So one can only imagine the repercussions of a father’s lost love. Our confidence and sense of self tends to wither. We need a constant reminder of who we are and where we belong. When those reminders become few and far between, or vanish completely, we tend to forget.
We are nothing if not forgetful people.
It’s why we turn to other men and ask them to be our gods, seeking out the sense of being and stability only a father could really provide. Even the shakiest of dads tend to offer us a place to land. So when that love, that sense of belonging and connection and the general confidence to try at whatever lies before us disappears it’s no wonder we look for it wherever we can. It’s no wonder we’ll always leave emptier, smaller, and more scared than we started.
Some of us have given ourselves away for far too long. We’ve become reckless, hoping the next thing or person finally sticks. We’re quick to risk it all in hopes that maybe, just maybe this will finally be it. We go all in all the time, leaving behind us the wreckage of lives that could’ve been saved had we just had the confidence to place our identity elsewhere.
Others of us will sit with our backs against the wall, too tired and small and scared to ever try anything. Too discouraged and doubtful to really live. We become both fearful and frail and decide that by never trying we can never truly fail, all the while wondering why we so constantly feel like a failure. To never swing is to always guarantee the miss.
No matter how strong or how scared we are we really do need a father’s love.
Without it our identities are in flux our confidence is compromised. We’re left without a road map, without a starting point, without a safe space to be big. I don’t know where you find a father’s love. Left to our own devices we will seek it out with someone or somewhere. We will most often use it up quickly and look for more. I don’t know where you go when you feel lost without dad’s direction. Because if I know anything I know that without a deep, rooted sense of where I come from I’ll never be able to fully see where I’m going. Without an understanding of who I am at my core I’ll never be able to use that to grow and get better.
I’ve got a good, good Father.
He’s not safe, He never has been, but I promise He’s been good. On those holidays when I whisper, “this isn’t what I planned, this wasn’t how things were supposed to turn out” I can also whisper in the same breath, “but what a ride.”
Because without a good Father I wouldn’t be able to rest assured that I’m loved to the fullest extent. Once you know you’re fully loved then and only then can you proceed to live life to the fullest potential. Then and only then can you turn around and offer that same sense of belonging to the people around you. If love isn’t first rooted in something unmovable and unshakeable then it will continue to fall apart. Love without permanence is cheap, an off brand known as lust.
Only because of a good Father’s love can I put my head on the pillow tonight in complete confidence that I am worth choosing and worth knowing. Only because of that same love can I have the confidence to offer the same to others.