Parents and Estrangement

This is not going to be a fun post to write. It is also going to be a novel, but it needs to be said. But I think more people should talk about this, and it’s been weighing on me, so here it goes. Today I read this article: Life Without My Mother is a Joy. It was posted today and it specifically references mothers, but it definitely can be applicable to either parental figure. It brought up some painful memories.

After my tumultuous “moving-out” experience, both of my parents had plenty of opportunities to be a part of my life. My mom pushed past the hurt that I’d caused her and actively sought to have a relationship with me. And I know it wasn’t easy. There was sometimes where I hung up the phone on her, the first year I didn’t see her on Mother’s Day, the young adult choices I was making that she didn’t necessarily approve of, but she still kept trying. She apologized (and still does) for the actions she was a part of that hurt me growing up. So she and I have a good relationship now – actually much better than it had ever been.

The flip side of the coin, and the real reason for this post is because of my father. Growing up, I’d always considered my papa to be my favorite parent. We bonded over our shared spirituality, my tom-boyishness, etc. In fact, when I went of my first date with my then boyfriend, now fiance, he almost didn’t continue seeing me because of how over-the-moon, “I have the best dad ever”. I had been living on my own for 4 years, trying to figure out how life works, working a soul-draining full-time job and managing to go to school full-time and was about to finish my undergraduate degree.

During the first year of dating my boyfriend, I watched him carefully with his children. That year was personally very difficult for my partner, due to a variety of reasons, but he never ever gave up on his kids. No matter what they went through, or how distant they acted towards him, he was always there, always reaching out to them, refusing to ever let that relationship go. He was respectful of them when they were mad at him, he apologized to them when he was wrong, he sought out fun opportunities to bond with them. That spoke volumes to me. Seeing him be a real father made me realize that I actually didn’t have the utterly fantastic dad I thought I did.

Honestly, I realized that I had barricaded off processing my relationship with my dad because I was just trying to survive myself in the real world. When I thought about my own relationship with my father, I realized he actually had been essentially non-existent for the first five years of me living on my own. He called me once six months after I moved out – only because my mom forced him to. He stopped by my apartment once – I have a hunch it was because I had finally gotten my “own” place and wasn’t rooming with anyone else. But for the vast majority of the time, years in fact, he never reached out. No phone calls, no texts, no even “likes” on my facebook or twitter feeds.

A little over a year after my boyfriend and I had been dating, I came to the conclusion that my relationship with my father needed to be addressed. I was done acting like everything was okay between us. I wrote a five-page letter to my dad explaining what I loved about him growing up as well as my hurt and frustrations with how he was acting towards me. This letter was the first time I’d ever stood up to my dad. The first time I found my voice and told him how I felt. Here’s a small portion of my letter:

So it boils down to the fact that I feel our relationship has been ruined and you haven’t tried to do anything to apologize for the way it is and how you treated me five years ago, and continue to treat me even now. Your recent text seemed to illustrate it to me: “I have never closed the door on you. You chose to go out on your own, but I’m here if you want me. I’ve never “pretended” things are ok. I love you very much even though you chose to leave us.” That text came across to me like this: So “you never closed the door” but you don’t welcome me either… you’re “here if I want you” but only on your terms. Since I haven’t “repented and come home” you’re trying to do the barest minimum. You’ve “neverpretended’ things are okay” – but you’re willing to let them stay like this for the last 5 years until who knows how long? I “chose to leave you” – since when is moving out and becoming an adult a bad thing?

My father’s response to this was basically “You seem to be angry about this, we should talk in person.” No apology, no expression of desire to improve. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to sit down and talk about it with him. It wasn’t my responsibility.

So I set boundaries.

I told him that he had my cell number and my email address, he could call when he wanted. But he couldn’t call on my birthday or Christmas if he didn’t call me on any of the other 363 days of the year. I unfriended him from Facebook, because it hurt me every time he commented on my siblings posts, but never on mine. Every time I saw he had sent my sister a care-package while she was away in college, but never to me. I needed to protect myself and allow myself to live my own life without feeling like a dagger was plunged into me any time he acknowledged someone else but not me, his oldest daughter.

He still hasn’t changed.

Last year in September, about four years after I wrote that letter to him, I planned a small family reunion. I invited my mom, my siblings, my grandparents, and my partner’s children. I did  not invite my father. I didn’t even tell him it was happening. He heard about it at the dinner table a month or so before. “What’s this about this trip?” My siblings told him what we were doing and who was going. He never asked about it after that. Never said “I wonder why she didn’t invite me?” or even seemed to think that it was atypical that a daughter would invite her entire family – minus her dad.

He won’t change.

Last December, I became engaged. A question I’ve had in my mind the last six months is “Do I invite my father?” I’ll be the first to be married, I’m his first-born. This is a memorable event for me, it should be one for him as well.

I had quite a few concerns about inviting him, I can’t list them, but suffice it to say, the real reason is because he hasn’t shown he wants to be in my life.

Being estranged from my father is one of the hardest things. I feel the hard emotional pull when I least expect it. I cried last night watching Survivor and seeing a close father-daughter relationship. It’s toward the end of the season and the contestants had the chance to win precious time with their loved ones. The daughter was crying in her father’s arms – overwhelmed that her dad was there, and he said “I am her strength.” My father isn’t my strength and he doesn’t want to be a part of my life.

I think I know the reason he does this, but in my opinion, there is no valid reason on the face of the planet for why a father should not want to be a part of his daughter’s life. So this estrangement – is actually put in place by him, but I set up the boundaries. The fence-line is put up for my own emotional sanity. And I have the right to do that.

But at the end of the day, what I really want out of this is for people to feel free to talk about this. I don’t know if I’ll ever reconcile with my dad. But I do feel happier in my life. I don’t have to deal with his judgment of my choices, I don’t have to tip-toe around his ideology. Maybe most crucially, I don’t have to listen to him praising our current terror of a president. I am glad that I’ve become a person vastly different from who he wanted me to be. I’m a strong, independent, feminist, liberal, woman who cares about other people, no matter their sexuality, gender, religion, race, or anything else that society tends to judge others by. I have a wonderful man by my side and a puppy at my feet and I am at peace in my own corner of the world.

For my readers:

It’s okay if you and your parents are estranged. No matter who put the walls up. Your reasons are valid. It’s okay to find happiness and joy outside of your parents. Please do. And also please know that I am open to talking about it if you ever need a listening ear.

 

Balance

My sister starting her own blog/diary reminded me that I’ve been doing terribly at updating this. I enjoy writing, and while I often think I don’t have much important to say, I have to remind myself that one doesn’t always need to say the important things. The little things matter as well.

It is all about balance. Weighing what is important in one’s life. My new job has been a challenge to balance over the past 3 months. It has been intense. Besides one coworker, every other coworker including the management staff of 3 have either moved, given notice, or been promoted. There’s been new hires, and a changing of the guard so to speak. I haven’t been 100% happy with everything, I’ve come to realize that the equilibrium is slightly off. With a slower season approaching, part of myself is hoping that it rights itself, but part of me isn’t sure this is going to end up being my career path. I will say I’ve never worked with so many amazing people. And I still support the company 110% – even to the point of probably saying I can’t imagine ever renting from a different company. They have shown me how important excellent customer service is to me, and vital ways to make sure that it stays in the forefront of everything they do.

My bf and I are also trying to find balance in other ways. In healthy living for example. We are slowly adjusting ourselves to going to bed earlier, waking up earlier. Eating healthier, not drinking as much. I’ve lost 10-15 lbs in the last few months, mostly because of this job and the fact that I’m on my feet, constantly running around. I’ve never worked harder or longer hours.

So it’s not all bad, but not all good either. Finding the balance has been tricky.  I’m not even convinced that finding the balance is not solely changing one’s actions, but it can also be changing one’s mindset. For example, I always thought I’d have a desk job for my career. But I’ve come to realize I enjoy movement in my work. It’s kept me active, helped me lose weight, and I feel so much better about myself. And when I do get a chance to sit down at a desk for computer work, I enjoy it that much more.

So here’s to balance, and trying to find out who I am and who I want to become!

PicsArt_04-23-08.56.28

Persevering

20150725_113021

Bridal Veil Falls – Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

The last six months have been a bit of a whirlwind. After over a year working at a local mom & pop car rental agency, I was offered a job at a really nice resort in Wailea. I’d had 4 interviews for various positions at that resort over the span of a year, and finally a job opened up that was perfect for my background, in a department that has zero turnover. I was told it was going to be a temporary (as in a year to 18 months), but I was happy to be working for a great company that I was quite familiar with.

The next three months were crazy. I had no on-the-job training, they just put me to work and expected me to figure it out. But I plunged in, head first, and was excited to coordinate with multiple departments orchestrating the billing for the groups that would come on property. I dealt with some pretty intense and high-stress people who expected perfection even when they hadn’t given us correct information. I learned how big an undertaking a resort is, and caught a glimpse of the enormity of how all the individual parts that make up a “resort experience” happen. It was definitely a learning experience. But it was fun and exciting and I hoped I could create a career there. However, a week before my 90 days,  I was unexpectedly called in and let go. It ended up being truly temporary.

So… back on the job hunt. Have I mentioned how much I don’t enjoy it? Well, I don’t mind revising my resume, or creating cover letters. I even don’t mind going to interviews. I’ve done so many so frequently that I think I do relatively okay with them. The really hard part is the waiting. My personal goal is to not have more than 1-1.5 months in between jobs. That way, if I get laid off in November, and get hired in December, it doesn’t look like there is a gap in my employment history.

I kept at the job hunt. I applied at other resorts where I had people who knew people sort of thing (Maui is all about that). I was even called in to interview for a position that opened up that I hadn’t previously applied for – which is always a good thing as it shows they actually took my application seriously, or that I knew people who talked about me positively, or both.

I finally stumbled on a job position that fits my background and my career goals. The interview process was pretty intense. Phone interview, then interview with the HR coordinator over all the Hawaiian islands, than a branch observation and interview with the manager and district manager, and then a final interview with the regional manager. I was offered the position at the end of the final interview.

So I’m excited that the job hunt is over, and that I’ll be in a company I’m excited to work for and with. I dislike working for a company just to pay the bills. I want to be passionate about my employer and the positive impact that they are making, their respected reputation that they’ve earned.

And a minor thing, I’ll be starting work by the end of December – so no discernible  gaps in my employment history. 🙂

But at the end of everything, while it was tough, I didn’t let myself get discouraged. I kept plugging away, knowing that the universe has something out there for me, I just need to find it. So don’t give up, persevere!

Photo credit: me – Bridal Veil Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon – July 2015

The wave crashes – my personal story about growing up religious and how that ended

I currently live in a sunny, tropical location where I feel privileged to be able to daily observe the waves crashing as they roll in to shore. I use the waves as a metaphor for how I came to be the person I now am. I grew up in a conservative, fundamental, patriarchal, calvinist, creationist, quiverfull, single-family income family. All of the -isms and ists and such slowly grew into our family until they reached their peak right about a year after I finished my 12th year of homeschooling/co-op/independent learning/community colleges.

At first, my family wasn’t too radical about religion. My parents knew they wanted to homeschool us from the beginning. I was the oldest, and with my father an officer in the military, I’m sure our moving around every 2 years probably played a factor in it. They wanted to give their children a religious up-bringing. I loved my childhood. My mother would take us on great and unique field-trips. We lived on the east coast then, and visiting Monticello where Thomas Jefferson lived and invented, and running on the field where the Wright Brothers first flew their plane, and seeing where George Washington carved his name in a natural bridge in the Appalachian mountains brought American history alive to me.

Then, when I was around 12, a new pastor was brought in by the church and my dad started to become even more “religious”. He started leading bible studies, and every drive to church would quiz us on Bible trivia. He insisted we have personal devotions every morning as soon as we woke up, and we’d have family devotions every night after dinner. I enjoyed learning about the Bible, I didn’t mind memorizing long passages, and worked up memorizing entire books of the Bible (his requirement before we could learn how to drive). A few years later, when I was around 16, he started taking me to creationism, evangelism, and worldview seminars. I enjoyed going to the seminars because I learned new things. I’d read the Bible countless times, I knew what it said, so different material was fascinating. I thought I wanted to be a missionary, so we took in-depth Islamic studies similar to what missionaries would learn. I went on a couple short-term mission trips and I realized I loved traveling. I made lasting memories meeting the local people in third-world countries.  I particularly loved hearing their stories and seeing how they lived their life, trying to understand their culture.

My father believed everything built on each other, and the Bible and God should impact every part of your life.  Christianity was the one thing that my dad and I shared. I was a “rebellious” child, so I was in trouble frequently, but religion was the one thing that I knew I could talk about  with my dad. Lee Strobel’s A Case for Christianity and A Case for Christ made a huge impact on me. I liked having all the answers to life’s toughest questions tightly sewn up in a book. Lee’s life story, that he used to be an atheist and he turned to Christ was powerful and spoke volumes to me. I was baptized in my late teens and while I had the occasional desire to “be more worldly” for the most part I was content with my faith.

***Far from the ocean shore, a small ridge forms past out-cropping of rocks. It didn’t know it, but the ocean behind it is telling it it’s going to do something big, eventually.***

Fast forward to the couple years after I graduated. My family (prodded on by my father) switched to a new church. The smallest church we’d ever attended. It was 40-50 people total I believe. My dad liked the paster because he was staunchly Calvinist, patriarchal, and believed in hard-core evangelism.  We became even more religious with church all day Sunday, Wednesday night Bible study, and Friday night evangelism. I had mixed feelings about the church. Since it was super small, there wasn’t an eligible guy in sight (let’s face it, every good Christian daughter gets married sooner rather than later). But I did get on board with the evangelism. I told myself it was preparation for the mission-field. But still, asking pure strangers “Are you good enough?” never quite sat well with me. I felt like I was guilting them into something. Shouldn’t a genuine faith not require guilt and fear? I preferred an exchange of ideas, friendly debate, explaining flaws in people’s logic.

I was able to go to community college, and I had a few part-time jobs that kept me out of the house a few days of the week. I loved working and earning a paycheck. Babysitting was easy for me, and better yet, when the babies went to sleep, I could try to catch up on the social culture that I felt so far behind in by watching cable TV, and even an occasional R-rated movie.  I’d listen to current music on the radio, and even a couple late-night shows that I knew my mother would never approve of, so I never told her.

***The ridge of water gathers strength, and form. It grows higher and seems to move faster. Even it doesn’t know where or when it’s going to break. It doesn’t know if if it’s going to be majestic and break cleanly, like glass, or tumble over-itself in a mass of foam.***

It starts in a worldly place, with a Christian friend. Of all things, I was trying to explain Carbon-14 dating to her. A tall, dark, handsome and mysterious man who has a couple of classes with me walked over and joined the conversation. He was obviously one of the “others”. The non-believers, the worldly people. We begin conversing, he starts asking me questions, and I tell him I don’t know, but I’d like to do more research. He’s very clear that he doesn’t want me to lose my faith, he just wanted me to think and explore some more. I tell him I don’t mind. It’s a good thing. I like researching and expanding my knowledge. So I go home and pull out every single book in our library that might possibly have to do with creationism apologetics. I read the sections on Carbon-14, and then, like the good scholar I am, I look at the reference pages. I am shocked to find the vast majority of the references were from obviously other Christian scientists who obviously believed in Creationism. I had a hard time accepting what I saw there, plainly. The books had been there the whole time, but I hadn’t seen the obvious deception. Their circular and erroneous logic.

***The wave quickly peaks, its crest perfectly formed in the crescent and the face of the wave crystal clear for a nano-second before it crashes and and the rest of the wave folds into itself.***

Looking at that reference page was the beginning of the end for me.  I’d decided that I’d need to move out. I had to reassess everything that I thought about my life, especially my spiritual life, and I couldn’t do it while living with my family, so I told my parents. My dad arranged for an intervention for me. They took me against my will to his pastor where they guilt-tripped me until I gave up my cell phones. The pastor wanted me to give up my “worldly” jobs, and quit going to a “worldly” school. He pushed for no internet, no phone, no friends, only family and church until I stopped doubting my faith and returned to the fold. That was when the wave crashed for me. I viewed it as essentially brain-washing. I told my father “If all you say is true, why do you need to brainwash me? Haven’t you always said the Truth is there? If I dig more, are you that uncertain that Your truth won’t hold?” It was a wave crashing. Because my father had taught me that everything depended on each other, every spiritual belief I had crumbled into a wide swath of bubbles and foam and nothing-ness.  And it crashed fast and hard – I had moved out of my family’s house within 6 weeks of looking in that first creation apologetics book.

Then, because my spiritual beliefs vanished, my life choices adjusted. I realized what I truly loved: learning and adventure. Traveling and meeting people and seeing how people lived their lives from their eyes, their culture, their values. I was free to work on my career because I sincerely enjoy earning a paycheck and providing for myself. I realized I could enjoy an intimate relationship without the vows of marriage, because, I reasoned, someone who’s not sure of themselves personally, emotionally, spiritually, or sexually should not commit themselves for a life-time to someone else. But most important, I was free to be me, and to figure out what life meant to me, not someone else’s interpretation of something that I should live by.

My wave crashed. Because it crashed, my life changed, but it was necessary, I believe it would have happened sooner or later. The ocean that is my life had the tremors all through my childhood. But it opened me up for my own personal journey, and that’s what matters in the end.

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

20141019_142424

Wow, has 2014 been a whirlwind. I started the year off working at a company that I was desperately trying to find its replacement. Then I find the replacement, only to find out within 2 months that I’d be moving to Maui! 3 weeks after my boyfriend was offered the job both of us had packed and left the great Pacific Northwest and were living in the tropics. From an apartment in the city to a condo on the beach. From a dead-end job to a position where I’ve already been promoted to a manager. I can feel the difference in all the little things. I’m eating better, exercising more, and lost weight. We’ve simplified our life, and it’s been good. There’s been downsides – being so far away from family and friends is difficult. And I’ve missed the changing seasons – especially experiencing fall which is my favorite. It was the first Christmas where I didn’t do any decorating. But overall, I’m very happy with the changes. It’s been a good year. A year of growth, new experiences, new friendships, and even experiencing a new culture (and in some cases, a new language – pidgin counts as a different language – right?).

Here’s to 2015 and the adventures it will bring!

A Homeschool Alumni’s Hope

20141013_152656

Every parent wants what’s best for their child(ren). They invest countless aspects of themselves and their freedoms in order to raise their offspring. It is a natural feeling to want to protect them and wish them the best, and have a grand idea of how you hope your precious children will turn out. I get it. I was raised in the homeschool movement were we were taught that we were going to be the movers and shakers once we became adults. Our parents hoped we’d be positive impacts for our future employers, in our community, and in the world. I personally was homeschooled all the way through my senior year. I am proud of being a homeschool alumni.

There comes a time, however, when we come adults. Our parents have little to no say on the person we choose to be, or how we choose to live our lives. They hope we follow the line they’ve drawn in the sand. When we don’t – we hope they understand, many times it’s not because we don’t love them anymore, it’s because we’re all individuals. We’ve found our own path. I was not the most obedient daughter, my infant nick-name “Birdie” proved to be quite apt as I was a bird – and I frequently flew off – not always in the direction my parents wished. My mom wrote this a few years back about me: “We would tell her to stick with us and she would for a while, but then would venture off again.” No, I know I’m not the person they originally hoped I would be. However, they are proud of the person I am. They’ve grown and changed just as I have. They were the ones who helped me be who I am. They had “given me the tools” for life as my parents often remarked.

The reason I’m writing this is homeschool alumni (particularly Homeschoolers Anonymous) have been raising their voice. There have been abuses that have gone on in our lives, and we do have a right to blog or post or tweet about them. I get that it’s easy to try and dismiss us – we moved out of your house a few years ago, we were children then and weren’t allowed to talk-back. It’s not, however, being disrespectful if it’s telling our story. It’s not being rebellious when we find a scandal and try to have it addressed by those who were involved. Sweeping allegations under the rug, avoiding the tough questions, or ignoring us is not how you taught us to be. You are the ones who raised us. We are adults and we have a voice. We ask you listen to us. If we express that you have harmed us in someway – apologize. Take responsibility. We want reconciliation, we want those relationships restored.

Trust me, we want to share the joys, the sunny days, the happinesses in our lives more than the storms. But we all should face those storms irregardless of whether we want to or not. Do you have the courage to help us make this a better world?

Photo credit: me

Focusing Forward

IMAG0639

About this time five years ago, I started a blog. It wasn’t meant for the public, however some posts were not hidden. I went through some major life changes and that blog captured snapshots of what I was thinking, reading, and doing. I am not a very consistent writer, but I do generally (eventually) get back to it. I genuinely enjoy being able to go back and read what I’ve written, what I was experiencing at that point, what I was pondering. That blog captured some very painful and sensitive moments, memories that even yesterday I wasn’t able to read out-loud to my partner because I started crying. But the one thing that I realized as I went back over a few years of scattered, random blog posts is that I was focusing forward. Like a “this sucks, but I am going to do x,y,z and tackle it”.

Reading those old posts made me proud of myself for being the person that I am. I don’t think I was realizing what I was doing while I was doing it. I think honestly I was in a survival mode: “I have to do this for myself, my sanity, and so I can put food on my table and pay my rent.” It wasn’t easy. There were definitely days I wanted to hide under my covers and not have to show my face at work that day, wanting to dwell on the past, drink hot chocolate, and binge-watch Netflix. There were days where I second-guessed my job choices, my friend choices, or whether I really should have spent those precious $4 on a Starbucks coffee.

But now looking back, focusing forward is what got me through those times. I was telling myself “Next time I’ll do it this way”, “Now I know…”, or “I have (event) coming up next week”.  It’s fine to make the next hurdle you are facing the one you put your heart and soul into, as it’s a stepping point to where you need to eventually go. Yes, my blog talked about the boyfriends I should never have dated, and the company I should have left two years sooner, but all of it got me to where I am now, and that’s good. All the positives and negatives came together as learning experiences. I’m proud of the forward looking, forward focusing “me” that I was 5 years ago that has ended up making me the person I am now. My take-away is as follows:

Sometimes you will need to weave a little bit on the forest path to come out to the waterfall, or spring, vast panorama, or sometimes just the simple unique forest flower that is just a little bit further down the trail. It’s okay, just keep focusing forward.

Photo credit: Me. 🙂 Taken in Makawao Forest Reserve, Maui, Hawaii on October 5, 2014.