My dad didn’t come to my wedding. He didn’t come because I didn’t invite him. I knew if I invited him he wouldn’t have come and I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to disappoint me. He had disappointed me plenty of times already in my life; he had abandoned my family when I was a teenager to pursue his dreams. He had broken many promises to us, and when my older sister invited him to her wedding he had said no. He said he didn’t know her fiancé and so couldn’t give his blessing. He didn’t know her fiancé because when my older sister and I were teens he had moved himself out of country without telling us.
My dad is a doctor who worked locums so he would be gone for weeks on end but he always returned. One day he walked out of the door and never returned. Then my mum told us he had decided he was unhappy in England and moved back to Nigeria. Alone. He never wrote, he rarely called and he didn’t send us any money. I watched my mum struggle to make ends meet for years. I was angry at him but mostly I was hurt. And without realizing it, I had decided then that I would protect myself from further heartache by never dreaming.
I couldn’t imagine a scenario where he would say yes to me inviting him to my wedding so I didn’t give him the opportunity. My husband is a dreamer; he likes to talk about what he would do if he won the lottery, he likes to plan elaborate holidays and imagine our dream home. He talks about the things we can do when we retire. And I hate it. I hate to dream. I hate to get my hopes up only for them to be crushed into little pieces so I hold back. I thought I was being smart, but today I realize how dumb that is. Because I am afraid to dream I don’t pursue the things that light my heart on fire. Because I was afraid to dream I walked even though it was within me to run.
I’ve read countless books and listened to podcasts that say you should write down your dreams. I never have. To write them down would be to admit I want them, and to admit I want them would be to risk the heartache of not getting them. But if I can’t admit what I want I will never get it; that’s the catch 22. How can you reach your dreams if you don’t even know what they are? How can you get something that you are afraid to even ask for?
In her book, Rising Strong, Brené Brown speaks about rehearsing heartbreak. I have rehearsed heartbreak for my whole life. What if he doesn’t come? I won’t invite him. What if I never succeed? I won’t try. What if I never reach my goal? I won’t dream. But rehearsing heartbreak doesn’t prevent you from it, it just means you live in it. Rehearsing heartbreak holds you back from joy.
One of my biggest regrets is not inviting my father to my wedding. Maybe he wouldn’t have come; in fact I’m almost certain of it because he didn’t come to my younger sister’s wedding last month and she invited him. But at least I wouldn’t hold this guilt I do for not asking. Maybe he would have come to hers if I had invited him. I’ll never know because I never gave him the chance. My dad didn’t come to my sisters’ wedding but my aunt, his sister, did. And so did a lot of my cousins, cousins I haven’t seen in years. And it was wonderful to see them all, and it reminded me that even though my father abandoned us his family didn’t. I had a support system I never tapped into, I had people in his family that cared and that were willing to travel hundreds of miles to be there for my family.
I have daddy issues, I’ll admit it freely. I find it hard to trust men, and my husband and I have struggled with this. I find it hard to trust him completely and I know it is rooted in the fact that the first man I ever loved broke my heart. I grew up believing that men could not be capable of unconditional love because my father didn’t seem capable of it. And this coloured my experiences with men. I believed I could not be enough so I tried to be something different, something that they would like, because whatever I was was not enough for my father. It was not enough to make him want to stay. And when I didn’t have my first kiss or my first boyfriend until I was 18 I believed it was because there was something wrong with me, that I was ugly, that I was unlovable.
I have 3 sons. I wanted girls. I dreamed about having children since I was a little girl and imagined I’d have three beautiful daughters and have a pink bathroom just like my mum did. God gave me sons. I cried at my second ultrasound when I found out I was having a boy. I laughed at my third. But today I am so thankful for my boys, they are exactly who I needed. Those 3 little men changed my perception of men. Here I was telling myself that men were incapable of unconditional love but here are 3 that love me unconditionally. They loved me even when I didn’t love myself. Here I was telling myself that men would only disappoint but here I was with 3 that could never disappoint me, that held my whole heart, that I loved so much my heart could explode. And I am content. I needed those boys to help me stop painting all men with the same brush.
A friend recently messaged to tell me she was having another boy. She said she was sad and asked how I got over the disappointment of not having girls. I told her she would love her baby regardless, I told her it was okay to be sad but that she wouldn’t be sad forever. I told her a bunch of things I thought would encourage her but today, truly looking at how my heart accepted not having girls is that I let go of the fear that boys would not be enough. I am learning to stop rehearsing disappointment. I am learning to take a step forward even when I can’t see the next one. I am learning to trust that my life has a purpose and even the darkness can prepare you for light.
“But what if the diastasis doesn’t heal?”
“But what if I need surgery?”
“But what if I develop a hernia?”
I’ve even been asked ”but what if you have a car accident and something hits your belly and you don’t have strong enough fascia to protect your organs?” I responded, what if it misses my belly entirely and crushes my head? We have to stop dress rehearsing fear. We have to stop accepting sadness because we are afraid to chase joy.
What if you succeed? What if you get stronger? What if you realize that the thing you thought would break you actually served to build you?
Life is scary, and disappointment is hard, but don’t practice for it. Don’t run from the fire because you fear it might burn you. What if it purifies you?
Live. Try despite it. And remember that you are strong, that scary things can be faced, that monsters can be slain, and as Goliath stands before you and you know his one step could crush you, also remember one small stone and one sling shot can bring down a giant. Do it despite the fear because what if you get everything you ever dreamed of