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integrity2a

Mark,

I can’t imagine or even fathom what is going on right now. It’s like the moment when I became conscious, was told I’d suffered a massive stroke, realized I was paralyzed, and then it slowly dawned on me that it wasn’t just a nightmare. This situation is so similar in that this feels like a nightmare I can’t wake up from. I rise each day, think about my children, start to go to wake them and tell them what a horrible dream I’ve just had… and then as it dawns on me all over again fresh, with all the betrayals, hurts, and ugliness, I have to reflect for a few minutes to convince myself this is actually the reality.

I’m up praying my morning prayers as I’ve done for years, and of course, I include you in them as I’ve done for just as many years. As I speak to God about my gratitudes, hurts, struggles, and blessings from past and present, I can’t help but to reflect on my dad and other life-transforming factors of my 40-some years of existence.

I have never been one to blame others for long for my individual hardships and life challenges. I’ve found over the years that doing so simply held me in that difficult place. So, rather than stay there stuck, I’ve learned the practice of deeply reflecting on such issues, discussing them intimately with God and asking Him what my part and responsibility is in whatever matter. I do this in order to effect change within myself – the only place I know with certainty that I have the power to effect change at all. I’ve learned that for me, it’s much easier to always blame myself rather than others because if I can find my fault in the issue, I can attempt a repair. If it’s truly another’s “fault” entirely, then I’m powerless to actually fix anything about it at all. Thus, I actually tend to prefer to take blame on myself, both from within and without.

I think this is an excellent practice. However, I also have learned that my willingness to do this is a dangerous setting within relationships involving others who are still stuck in the blame-others game. Somehow from their perspective, I’m an easy scapegoat because I’m so willing to take on the blame and do the work required to change the situation. I’ve learned to discern these particular relationships as those which stay stagnant within those negativities. After all, if I’ve accepted the blame and then done the work to change and the issues remain the same over time, then the logical explanation is that it was not actually my issue after all. As again, the only person and situation I have the power to effect true change at all is within me; thus, my efforts are truly futile…and I’m simply spinning my wheels attempting to change that which I can’t – others. This wisdom of discernment has proven very accurate and powerful over a lifetime through which I’ve regularly found myself involved with people who sit on the other side of this change-fence; those whom prefer to blame others rather than take responsibility for the change required to affect the situation.

I was beyond fortunate to have had a father like I did. Since he passed a year ago, I’ve noticed something recurring. When I talk of him I’ll occasionally have someone remind me that no matter how wonderful my father was, there’s no way he was as “perfect” as I remember. You know, that’s absolutely true. He was not perfect. He was amazing, wonderful, and maintained an integrity to which I aspire, but he certainly was not perfect. And in this time, I’ve come to realize something about why some people tend to think I’m describing my dad as “perfect” when I’m simply speaking the truth of him, my dad was perfect. He was absolutely perfect in his willingness to admit his imperfections and perfect in his motivation and ability to accept responsibility for those things and effect the changes he needed to correct whatever situation which brought the issue to light.

One of my favorite earlier, “grown-up” moments from childhood was once when my dad, whom I saw infrequently, made a poor choice while my sister and I were with him. I think I was only around 8 or 9 and my dad was my ultimate hero. This made his poor choice (the first I recall him making ever that I was old enough to have some understanding or awareness of) that much more horrific and confusing to me being that I was so young and had a pristine, impeccable vision of my dad. However, that frightening incident turned into one of my earliest favorite memories and lessons from my dad. Upon fully realizing his poor choice, my dad took my sister and I aside, sat us down, and apologized. He made no excuses for himself, although I’m sure he could have made many and we being so young wouldn’t have doubted his excuse for even a moment. He made none. He simply apologized sincerely and that was that. He didn’t fall all over himself apologizing and begging for forgiveness as I tend to do when I know I’ve made a mistake. He didn’t blame anyone else or simply refuse to admit he’d even made a mistake like my mother chooses in such situations. No, he just apologized one time from his heart. This instantly restored my vision of him as my hero. Do you know how I know he meant it? It never happened again.

It’s truly ironic that one of the last conversations I ever had with my dad was something similar. We sat in his car on my morning break at work. I was a little hurt and disappointed over a choice he had made just the day prior, but I wasn’t talking of it. And he said to me, “Chloe, I’m sorry. I want you to know and you to tell those babies that they’re going to see a change in Papa.” I almost cried, Mark. My dad didn’t even really owe me an apology. What he had “done” was so minimal and unintentional, it’s not as though I could have ever been angry with him over it. My dad was then 75 years old and still maintained the well-deserved acknowledgment as my biggest and greatest hero.

Another huge lesson in integrity I learned from my dad, in spite of the fact that my mother practiced the literal opposite, was his absolute unwillingness to speak down about or to others. In all the years between you and me, all the struggles and hurts we’ve experienced together and the heartbreaks my dad watched some of that create in his daughter and his two grandchildren, he never once spoke an unkind word about you. And beyond that, in spite of the horribly hurtful and life-altering behaviors my mother did to my dad, no matter the heartbreak she caused, or the depth of disappointment he felt from it, I never once heard him in 42 years say one unkind thing about my mother either. And as an adult, I realize there must have been more than a few times when his heart just ached from her choices; still, not one unkind word or hateful gesture in return. Not one. Not ever. This truth means so much more to me when I think of the horrible things my mother told me as a child about my dad. Things I doubt were true, but strangely enough, even if they were at all true, they’ve never once changed my perspective of my dad.

I believe these two points of character he chronically demonstrated over the span of my lifetime are the very reasons there’s just not much anyone could say negative about my dad, true or otherwise, which would be reason enough to see him as less than the wonderful example of a man, father, and human being that he was.

I may never fully understand your choices or this vendetta you seem to have waged against me as a woman and as the mother of two of your children. And you might even delight in knowing that although I’ve felt no romantic love for you in a very long time; your choices in this situation have broken my heart beyond any kind of heartbreak I could have fathomed possible. I truly thought I’d experienced the harshest of heartbreaks before, then I realized what the true depth of what heartbreak could be when my dad passed last year, and still, you’ve effectively exceeded any threshold of pain I’ve experienced prior. I don’t know what kind of man you are anymore Mark and I wouldn’t presume to know much about your character for certain these days, so I can’t know if sharing that truth brings you some sense of peace, joy, or closure which you may have been seeking or not. Truth is, I’m no longer affected on any level by what drives you to do what you do. I simply know that what’s true and real is true and real.

In all this, as heinous as it’s been and remains today, I willingly accept my responsibility in naively presenting to you the ripe opportunity to induce this level of life-shattering pain you’ve inflicted and I’m not sarcastic when I say, I do hope you’ve at least received the satisfaction you were seeking with the “pounds of flesh” you’ve attained with it.

I’m deeply sorry you feel the need to spread untruths about me and speak so ugly of my character in general. Over the past 16 years, I can honestly tell you, I’ve always diligently attempted to avoid that choice. Regardless of your choices, how confusing or painful they’ve been… regardless of the efforts it required to find excuses or veils adequate enough to cover the transgressions and their effects on my life, I have strived to hold onto the basic respect I felt you were entitled as the co-parent of my most valued treasures God chose to bless me with – my children. I realize over the years of our association, I’ve probably disappointed and perhaps even hurt you at times as well. I can honestly say that it was never my intention either to do so or to gain any personal satisfaction or gain from it. If I’ve ever caused you a fraction of the pain and depth of destruction you’ve created in me with all of this, “deserved” or otherwise, I offer you my sincerest apology.

And finally, regardless of how this situation plays out, I will always strive to maintain the integrity my dad demonstrated throughout my lifetime. I will continue to attempt to find his kind of perfection within my many imperfections.

God bless you in your own struggles and life-challenges past, present, and future,

~C

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