Home > Family, Learning, Love, Parenting, Reflections > An abridged history of my hate

An abridged history of my hate

“Your mom’s father was a real jerk,” cooed my husband to our infant after I wept while reading this post aloud to him. “But I’m thankful to him all the same, because he brought me your mom, some awesome in-laws, your brother and you!”

I smiled through my sniffling, taking the opportunity to say quiet thanks not only for the newer, kinder dad in my life, but also for my own dad. He brought me into this world I so love. He might not have done great afterward, but without him, I wouldn’t be here at all.

Below is a repost about one of the most important lessons I learned from my dad. It’s not one he meant to teach, but it’s one that’s served me well nevertheless.

And so I say, happy Father’s Day, Dad. I’m grateful for all you taught me.

Happy Father’s Day, Husband. I’m grateful for all you teach me.

Happy Father’s Day, dads. Your lessons shape the world.

An abridged history of my hate
Originally posted June 22, 2011

Come a little closer so I can EAT YOUR FACE.

Come a little closer so I can EAT YOUR FACE.

Back in the mid-nineties, I was the proprietor of a fount of love and joy I called my “Hate-O’-the-Day page.”

I added to it daily for a few months before it started making me tired. I couldn’t give it up after all the time I’d poured into letting my webpage’s four followers know every little thing that bugged me about the world. No way! What I could do, I figured, was create a counterpoint. This I did via my “Things to groove to” page.

I didn’t keep that page too long before I became enchanted enough by the idea of living that I opted to stop keeping track in favor of just doing. I let both list pages slide.

A few years later, I looked at those pages and wondered if it was really important for everyone to know all the little things that drove me bonkers day to day. The groove-tos hardly lingered on my mind, but the list of things I hated felt like a train of boulders I was trying to pull up a hill. Was any of it important enough to keep up in a testament to my super-sized powers of grumpiness?

I’d reveled in regaling my mom with tales of who I told off any given day throughout high school and my early college years. I didn’t offer these of my own accord, most days; I’d get home only to have my mom implore me to tell her who’d earned my wrath, and how. Often my answers led her to call her girlfriends and share my caustic disregard for others. I enjoyed these products of my fire-breathing. It pleased me being likened to Sarah Gilbert on Roseanne. I was one tough bitch!

Working at the YMCA introduced me to a world where (a) I was forced to be kindly to others and (b) a handful of others were kindly to me because it was in their nature. Those 5 a.m. swimmers? They changed my life.

“Oh, g-d, Deborah. You were out yesterday and you know what happened? That jerk at the front desk opened the doors at 5:02 a.m. FIVE OH TWO. You know what those minutes mean! My whole morning was off! Thank g-d you’re back. Please work here every morning I swim. Please.”

Over my months at the YMCA, I started letting down my guard. I saw how good it felt to have people genuinely like me. If I made a mistake and laughed about it, instead of limiting my interactions to snappy one-liners, I found that people laughed with me. Not at me, but with me.

Against this backdrop of being OK letting my guard down, and laughing, I revisited my hate page and realized it exhausted me. It took effort to feed that hate. Typing out something that made me happy? Well, it turned out that made me happier than I was to start.

I deleted my hate page. I tried to slowly purge the hate from my physical life, too.

As Sprinkles‘s Father’s Day entry (“Message in a Wallet“) reminded me, some things were easier to let go of than others.

The hardest hate for me to let go of was my hatred for my dad. How did he get to abuse my mom, my siblings and me and lead a fairly normal life while she struggled to make ends meet? The unfairness of it made me feel I might actually explode from the force of my rage. I’d curse under my breath as I remembered hiding under tables and in closets with my sister, hugging her tight and wishing we could block out the sounds of my mom’s screams. “It’ll all be okay,” I’d whisper, even though I had no idea whether it actually would.

I’ve forgotten almost everything that happened to me, but it proved much harder to forget the things my dad did to those beloved to me.

Sprinkles made her peace with her father via an unexpected photo. Similarly, in the end, it was a sequence of pictures that helped me replace most of my anger toward my dad with understanding.

In the first image, I saw my dad as a little boy whose first grader’s eyes were full of light and hope. In the second, I saw my dad as a slightly older boy who still had a little hope in those dark eyes, but whose jaw had hardened in what I read as grim determination to survive what he suffered at his own home. In the third, I saw my dad in fifth or sixth grade. The light had been extinguished and the mirrors to his soul shuttered.

Seeing those pictures helped me understand how much he, too, had lost to hardship and abuse. It was hard to look at those pictures and feel anything other than great sadness for the violence that had perpetuated itself from generation to generation.

I understood when I saw those pictures that while there is no excuse for abuse, there is often a reason it’s misunderstood as a viable option by its perpetrator. It was clear, too, that by taking the hateful path of noting everything others did that bugged me, I was moving closer to the image of my dad in middle school and further from the picture of him as a hopeful youth.

G-d, the energy hating took out of me.

I resolved to let go. I knew it would be easier said than done, but I tried developing my eye for silver linings. It was harder to see the good in some circumstances than others, but there was usually some small kernel of light that could be plucked from even the gloomiest of surroundings.

Before I left for South Korea, I got a chance to speak my mind to my father. I did so calmly, eloquently and without any external indicator of the terror I felt as I spoke.

Speaking my mind, and doing so without hate, was freedom. I’d faced the hardest circumstance I could then imagine and had done so both with integrity and without hostility.

After I spoke those words, I felt capable of anything. Anything. I might’ve even been so foolhardy as to try flying, I felt that good!

When my mom died, my rage returned full force. I spent a lot of time giggling as I imagined really comical scenarios in which I’d dispose of my dad like the mean-spirited “protagonists” of Saturday morning cartoons did their enemies. But I also imagined some much less comical scenarios in which I told my dad with a combination of fists and explosives exactly what I thought of his getting away scot-free after torturing my mom, while she suffered first schizophrenia, then a torturous battle with cancer she nevertheless faced, like an Amazon, without accepting painkillers.

As the months went by, I found myself less fulfilled by the torture scenarios I envisioned. I recognized that spending all that time and energy hating my dad wasn’t apt to bring back my mom. It wasn’t going to help me emulate my mom’s love for me as I raised my own son. It was only going to move me closer to being that soul-crushed version of my dad that slowly replaced the sparkle in his child’s eyes.

I looked up my dad on Facebook. “He doesn’t look evil, huh?” I asked Ba.D.

“Nope,” Ba.D. confirmed. “Like a shorter Kenny Rogers, maybe.”

Looking at that picture, I thought about how much I’ve changed over the last decade. Since those YMCA swimmers showed me the sweetness of just being me and embracing my human quirks, it’s like I’m a whole different person. I’m not, of course. I still have all the same memories, the same siblings, the same family and the same general likes and dislikes–if I’m a little less quick to point out everything I dislike, and why!

I wondered how much my dad, too, has changed. The way I last heard it, many years ago, he’s been kind to his stepkids. Maybe, then, he’s very different now than he used to be, and it’s too hard for him to remember what used to be and own up to it now. I can understand that, although it doesn’t change my clearly stated–and continuing–prerequisite of accountability (first stop: admission) for any kind of relationship with him.

thank you, Li'l D, for making a mom of meGiven how much energy it takes to be angry, and to hate, it seemed silly to keep nurturing that. Every time I gritted my teeth at the thought of my dad, I’d wasted an opportunity to remember a loving moment with my mom, or to share such a moment with my son.

I felt the heaviness of that anger toward my dad–an outdated version of him who no longer exists–compared to the weightlessness of the love I felt when I remembered my mom doing things like playing with my hair as she nurtured me through sickness. And I chose to let it go. I chose to cast that box off the back of the ship and devote as much of myself as possible to love.

I have only so many years, months and days in my life. When those days have ended, do you suppose I want to be remembered for the ferocity of my hate? Or that I would rather be remembered for the strength of my love?

As I often told my mom during my college years, we always have a choice. The options aren’t always great, and sometimes they’re downright horrible. But there’s seldom a situation in which we’re truly without any choice whatsoever.

I can’t change the hurt I experienced in my younger days. I can’t undo the tragedies my mom faced. What I can do is hold my baby close to my heart, rocking and singing him to sleep as I know the incomparable joy of being–in those moments–everything to him, the way my mom was once everything to me.

My power is choice.

My choice is love.

dad race

For more on my husband, the dad who’s happily redefined fatherhood for me, please check out these posts:

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  1. June 14, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Isn’t it awesome that we have wonderful, loving, gentle, emotionally-connected men in our lives, and in the lives of our children? I went through a good part of my life thinking that kids only needed the love and guidance of their mothers to thrive and be happy; then I met my husband. I think you found yourself a pretty good husband, too. Sometimes the universe looks out for us, and I’m certainly happy for the lesson.

    I was moved by this post in the past and continue to be inspired by it. I hope your entire family has an awesome Father’s Day tomorrow. You have so much to celebrate! My daughters couldn’t wait and already gifted G this evening with a new guitar stand and a Star Wars insulated coffee cup (2 great things that go great together). ❤

  2. June 14, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I love your honesty and the person you are in spite of the pain you suffered. I too remember finding a box of pictures that accidentally wound up in my possession. I was able to look at those old black and whites of my stepdad and think to myself, “That little boy did not want to grow up to be a monster.” And then? And then my mom died and I hoped against hope that he would magically appear in front of my car while I was driving at high speeds so I could, and I quote, “Run that mf-er over and back over him again.”
    I married a guy who has shown me what a loving daddy looks like and has inch by inch, year by year, help me love myself when I hadn’t a loving dad to show me how.
    You’re amazing and I look forward to reading more of your journey as a woman, mother and wife.

  3. nicciattfield
    June 15, 2014 at 2:18 am

    Getting through abuse is so hard though, and some days are better than others. But your show your love of humanity in all of your posts which work towards recognising the rights and feelings of your children. Breaking the cycle is everything, I think, and the greatest act of love there is.

  4. June 15, 2014 at 4:28 am

    I was asked the other day if I could change my life, would I. My answer is always no, as hard as that answer is to give the reality is if we change our experiences we change who we are. If I change my history I change my future. I wouldn’t have the people in it today. I wouldn’t have you and others who continue to show me how truly wonderful the world can be.

    The world you show today gives me such hope.

  5. June 15, 2014 at 5:37 am

    I totally understand your need for him to own his actions. I’ve had my father deny to my face his abusiveness. It negates all of the pain and turmoil you went through as a child. I’ve pretty much given up on him ever admitting it to me, much less apologizing. But at the moment, we also have no relationship.

  6. Twindaddy
    June 16, 2014 at 8:08 am

    You have made a wonderful choice, if I may say so.

  7. June 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    What a great story, and how wonderful it is to hear how you’ve turned the negatives from the past into positives in your own life!

  8. June 17, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    So many things spoke to me in this post, but the top is the end.

    “My power is choice.

    My choice is love.”

    It took me years before I was able to turn the table on some really painful events in my life and release the anger and hate I felt towards the men in my life, in particular the one who sexually assaulted me. Eventually, I was able to take back my power by choosing to love–love myself, the people in my world, and the strangers whose paths I crossed, and, in doing so, the world became beautiful once again.

  9. June 17, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    This post means a lot to me right now, thank you for sharing. I’m struggling to establish boundaries with my parents and stand up for my self respect and against abuse. And maintaining my sanity through the process is sometimes a challenge, especially with all the bottled up anger and frustration. But this post tells me that there is hope.. That its possible to let go and achieve some peace of mind.

  10. June 20, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    It struck me that nowhere in here do you mention forgiveness (unless I’m mistaken). I wonder if it’s possible or even worthwhile to forgive someone who has the ability but not the desire to ask for that forgiveness. I’ve had a fraught relationship with someone in my life because he has never apologized for terrible things he put me through, and I feel like it’s his responsibility to own that behavior before I forgive it. Perhaps I’m stubborn and am wasting energy on it, but I wonder if the forgiveness is deserved until he recognizes the hurt he caused—and does something about it.

    Am I blathering? Perhaps. What do you think about the f-word?

  11. Sheri
    July 23, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    ❤ ❤

  1. November 8, 2014 at 4:17 am
  2. January 31, 2015 at 4:36 pm
  3. April 7, 2015 at 4:52 am
  4. May 3, 2015 at 9:54 am
  5. June 17, 2015 at 9:46 pm
  6. July 23, 2015 at 8:41 pm
  7. August 16, 2015 at 3:38 pm
  8. September 10, 2015 at 4:50 pm
  9. February 8, 2016 at 8:28 am
  10. July 23, 2016 at 5:03 am
  11. October 8, 2016 at 9:46 pm
  12. December 8, 2016 at 4:40 pm

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