Talk Bravery

Choose one moment of bravery and write a letter to yourself back at the beginning of 2014, letting you know how brave you’re going to be this year.

Dear Al,

The year 2014 is a year filled with so many possibilities; people to meet, places to see, and ways to strengthen and grow. But this is also a year to be brave, though you may not grasp that in the first moments while reading this. And not that you weren’t in years past, but this time around you will do something that you’ve shied away from for a very long time. Given the turmoil within the family and being away most of the time, it’s understandable why you haven’t given much thought to it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a long time coming, close to a decade to be exact. 

Not only will you leave the familiarity of Iowa City and embrace the uncertainty of post-graduation, but you’re going to have two very difficult conversations, each with your parents but at different times and for different reasons. The common thread is that you’ll come out of both of them with various perspectives but a deeper understanding of what has happened and why. The anticipation will become unbearable because you can’t predict how either of them will react, but you know it needs to be done. 

Sitting down with Dad is a little unplanned, but you’ll be relieved that he initiates the conversation. You won’t realize it until days later, but this will be the first time you have ever sat down and had a deep, emotional conversation as father and daughter. It doesn’t matter what was said as much as how it made you feel close to him. You discover that he has wanted to be there for you all these years, and that just because he’s a reserved person does not mean that it didn’t hurt watching you struggle or that he doesn’t deal with his own feelings. You won’t necessarily agree with everything that he says or thinks, but you’ll appreciate his compassion. 

You will write Mom a letter (edited and re-edited multiple times) and read it to her in a therapy session. It’s a little more tiring because the both of you will go back and forth about doing a session together for weeks, so it will definitely be nerve-racking. But it won’t be as dramatic as you picture it to be. There will be emotion and there will be tears; she’ll say a lot of things that you’re already aware of, but it’s different when your therapist affirms her perspective as well. You will walk out of there feeling relieved that you did it, but extremely overwhelmed by the discussion and all that you have to process, much of which you will continue to do for a while. The best thing is that you’ll be able to say what you need to say so that you can move forward

Some will try to warn you that this might have made things worse, and others will repeatedly ask you what was said. But you know that this is between you and your mother and no one else’s business, so you stand firm. That is exactly where bravery comes in: choosing to tune out the noise and gradually come to your own conclusions, despite the outside influences. This is the first time that you’ll understand how everything your parents did and continue to do for you was an act of love. You think that because your parents know you so well, that they should be able know what you need. But here’s the thing: every person gives and receives love in different ways, and doing so in a way that you might not recognize doesn’t indicate a lack of love. It more or less shows that all of us have limitations, including you. It’s not a question of whether or not they love you or you loving them, but how to communicate that when you have different love languages.

Know that you will wrestle, doubt, and wonder, and that is all OK. It’s not always easy to accept people for who they are, particularly when it’s easier to picture change in your head. You won’t admit this right now, but deep down you do struggle with that: You don’t want to be walked all over (due to someone else’s behavior), but it’s also frustrating feeling like you have to adjust to every one else’s flaws, yet no one has to adjust to yours. You’re not sure how to accept their past choices without denying how each one affected you personally. 

That’s OK too. You’ll get there. You might have to do it more than once, but you will.

The good news is that by the time I’m done writing this, you’ll be in a place where you’re more self-aware, and therefore can overcome it. You don’t have to hold onto certain ideals or myths anymore, because you’re no longer trying to just survive. In fact, you want to do more than that: you want to succeed, you want to grow, and you can’t do that unless you loosen your grip. It’s scary, not knowing what it will all look like when the divorce is over and done with. You want to lean into hope, but not so much that you become blind. Believe me, I get that. 

You have done a lot of brave things, and will come through to the other side. Have faith, and trust that God will carry you and mold you, and all will be well in the end.

photo credit: Mike_tn via photopin cc

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