i dont measure the success of my life by material things: what i have in the bank, whether i own a house, whether i have the right clothes. i measure my life by the good use i make of my brain and the contribution i make to the worlds store of knowledge, by the love and support i receive and give to my friends, by always striving to improve myself.
there is a reason for this, its not like im some kind of saint or angel. my choices are, as marx would remind me, made in circumstances not of my own choosing. my life choices have been entirely dictated by forces beyond my control, primarily by the decisions that my parents made. these decisions in turn affected the ones i was able to make for myself as i got older.
im thinking about this a lot lately, the issue of family. and today is fathers day, and i have no father to celebrate. oh i have a father. i know where he is. i even talk to him on occassion. but he is not a father worth celebrating. just as my mother is not a mother worth celebrating (i dont talk to her though).
earlier this week a work colleague asked me to talk to her brother who is going through a divorce and is struggling with how best to be there for his two young girls. the similarities in our situations were startling, but so were the differences. his narcissistic ex-wife (my mother) is using the children to wreak vengeance on her ex. his initial response is to flee (my father) but given he has 20 years of parents rights rhetoric and law behind him that my father did not, he’s chosen to stay and fight. his struggle is about whats best for his daughters, rather than whats best or easiest for him.
so im very well aware of how many good dads there are out there these days. many of my friends, especially those with small children, are blessed with partners who see their role as father as a given, not something they need to be congratulated for. they are not heros because they stay home and change nappies. they’re just dads. its what they do. and one of the many reasons i am not currently where i want to be (in america) is because the man i fell for in baltimore is more committed to his daughters happiness than he is to his own, and i wouldnt respect him as much if he wasnt.
so i know good parents exist. i just didnt have them. at times like this, on these hallmark holidays, it hurts a lot to think about what i dont have and how my life would have been so entirely different if i had felt the love and support of strong parents. apart from the violence and abuse, there was never any financial support, no car or house deposit, and absolutely no emotional support. no unconditional love, no encouragement, no space to flourish. instead i struggled, and still struggle, with abandonment and self esteem issues, i spent many years medicating my pain with drugs and alcohol, sometimes i felt so completely alone in the world that i felt like i couldnt breath.
but i also know its how you react to those things that make you who you are. i fought my way back from serious drug addiction to be nearly 18 years clean and sober. i fought my way back to university and became a doctor of philosophy, now, finally, looking at reaping those rewards. i have a group of strong friends who are always there for me, an ex partner who is my best friend and big brother, and i have my sister back finally.
after many years of estrangement we are working out how to be together again, and im so happy about it i could cry. she still struggles with the past, like me, but at least we dont have to struggle alone anymore. so today, on fathers day, this post is for me and my sister, two strong women who survived, despite our parents best attempts to fuck us up.