I was a promising child. My parents saw a future for me. I was intelligent, creative, athletic, better than average at most things and I believed it. I felt that I could do literally anything. I was the best at things, whatever that meant in the context of my suburban existence. I dreamt of going on to a larger stage, to exhibit my talents, which I'm sorry to say, I have not.
When asked who my hero was, I always said my mother. She was the provider and nurturer. My father, a decent, honest man, had a temper that could not be quelled. Even after he stopped drinking, I feared his bouts of rage, often set off by something as simple as spilling spaghetti on the inside of the garbage can. I planned to flee after graduation, to a college on the opposite coast and never return. But life changes you, and your feelings on family.
My father was frequently ill during my teenage years. It was not rare for us to spend nights or weekends in the hospital. Though his heart condition was not dire, it was potentially serious, as all heart conditions seem to be. I feared losing him in spite of my occasional hatred for him. Having an abusive parent is a complicated mess. I learned important lessons from my father, sometime through his actions and sometime through the contradiction of those actions. I decided I would never be the kind of parent he was. He often threatened conditional love, though I know now that was an empty threat.
As a teen, I felt that every decision was life-changing. Fear of my father, what he would think of my choices, ruled my life. As an adult I am the victim of crippling indecision. My mother frequently tells me not to put so much pressure on myself to make the right choices, but at nearly 30, I have yet to master that craft. Is this the result of my father's abuse? Probably. Do I consider it an excuse to fail at my life? Absolutely not. Does that make moving forward any easier? No.
Instead I sit at a desk, longing for a life that feels completely out of reach - my own biggest critic. I know that promising child is still inside me, longing to write and dance and change the world. If only I could let her out, allow her to breathe. I live in a prison inside my own head, of my own making - furious, sad, lost, confused, helpless - but hopeful that I will clear this hurdle.
While hoping for myself, I hope that my father remains well, better and more mellow than he was in my youth. I don't agree with all of his choices, and I still feel the sting of his blows, but I understand on some level, that he is human. He did the best he could everyday. Isn't that all I can ask for?