taking down barriers to Love

my father in his early 20’s (home from college)

My mother told me the other day that someone in the family had given her a bunch of old photographs, and that she was thinking about throwing the ones that had my father in them out. I asked her please not to do that, and told her that I would like them. She replied, “Okay” with the tone of, “I really don’t understand why you would want them.”

I got my mail yesterday, and there was a small packet from her with a note saying she had “picked out a nice little bunch” for me. I appreciated this so much. I know it wasn’t easy for her to do. She is, little by little, letting go of the idea that she was “wronged”, and the more she drops the thought that she had a miserable past, the happier she becomes.

I had never seen this picture of my father before, and it brought tears to my eyes. He looked so full of life and fun and hope and future. Life didn’t turn out the way he had hoped…I know that now. He is disappointed in his own life, and it seems there are a lot of people who are still disappointed in him too…I used to be one of them.

Coretta Scott King once said, “Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” I can feel the truth of this for myself. Hate is a locked door. We are hoping to keep ourselves safe from further hurt, but we really end up imprisoned with the horrible memories (we are trying to flee from) locked inside too, as erratic painful companions, liable to be triggered by a question, a photograph or a random thought.

There was a time in my life when a photograph like this would have brought a feeling of disdain to me…like a painful barb….that wasn’t so long ago, yet I can’t even conjure up those feelings anymore…what a great relief. When I changed, everything around me changed too. My perceptions of the past, my family, my self.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

34 thoughts on “taking down barriers to Love”

  1. This all boils down to taking personal responsibility – and thank you for putting this on the front page news today Mary! From this honest vantage point, I am placed in the drivers seat – even though I might want to assign blame elsewhere (which at times might feel more convenient and comfortable) – it simply is not the truth. This is something that I strive for daily – and though I may miss the mark at times, I know that this is really the only way to inner peace and acceptance. A humbling process.

  2. Lynne, your commenta are as profound to me as Mary’s and Coretta Scott King’s comments. Divorce is often like a living death. Loose a spouse through death and once the painful shock has lessened, happier memories take their place. With divorce, there is a living thorn in one’s side and it takes a far greater effort to deal with this than with a death.
    SandyP in Canada

    1. I corrected the word comment with an s instead of an a. I don’t know how to go back and retrieve my comment so please note: s instead of a.

  3. Mary – It’s wonderful you were able to change your feelings towards your father while you can still spend time with him. So often people come to this realization too late in a relationship. I know my sister and I had some serious issues with our mother while we were growing up, due to Mom’s mental instability. We had the opportunity to resolve these issues and enjoy the last months of her life with an entirely different perspective. What a gift that was!

  4. I take it your parents were divorced as mine were also when I was a young child and then a neighbor girl told me I no longer had a daddy. So, I truly related to you blog this morning of the mixed feelings and distain towards a person…however, during my lifetime my father would come into town with his wife and call to see me…I would go although this never made my mother very happy. One time when I truly wanted him to come as I was going through a rough divorce he promised he would come and then called to say he couldnt make it…I felt very let down, and I suppose brokenhearted at the time. Years later when he had a stroke and was lying in a hospital miles away I got a call and went to see him (the last time I saw him before he died) and although he couldnt talk he was trying desperately to tell me something ….I imagine it was he loved me…and I told him how much I loved him and missed him and held his hand and kissed his head…it was very powerful and meaningful to me to be able to see him and be with him at that time…and I never regretted doing that. He passed away later that year in Texas and I was told not to come there by his wife as they were just having grave side services. I still sent a huge flower wreath for him although never heard a word from her about that or anything else. But in my heart I knew that he knew I cared and loved him.

    1. Julie, how wonderful that you were sensitive enough to read your father’s thoughts though he could not speak. You gave him the greatest gift of your presence, and in turn, you made peace with the past. Bless you for sharing this.

    2. what a powerful story of forgiveness Julie…I am so moved by this…thank you for sharing it here.

      1. Thanks Mary….I didnt have a very good Mother figure in my life either for after my Dad left her there were a succession of boyfriends and one she wanted to marry that I did not like so she sent me to summer camp out of state (age 15 & then sent me a telegram about her new marriage & husband). I dreaded coming home believe me…but it wasnt long and her new husband moved out and she tried to kill herself. I had spent the nite with a girlfriend and came home to a house smelling of gas…pilot lite out and found her upstairs overdosed on pills. I called the Dr. on the pill bottle and he came to the house…after examining her he took me aside and said she didnt really want to kill herself or she would have…and never to mention it to her again…I never did. She recovered and I grew up and married at 18. Years later and lots of therapy later I forgave her and in later years became her and my stepfathers care giver…(this man I loved as he was good to her). We sold their house as I promised they would never have to go to a nursing home and we added on to ours with the money…their own wing…and they both died within a week of eachother and never did move into their new place in my home…so we had to sell the house eventually as it was just too large for us. But when my Mother died I was on very good terms with her and loved her unconditionally I will say. I am glad as a therapist once told me that it was important for me to come to terms with my childhood and teen years and forgive her or I would mentally suffer when she died…he was so right and I am so glad that I sought help with this when I did.

  5. The replies to this post brought forth SO much honesty, pain and triumph. Everyone has a story and, whether joy-filled or painful, it is a glorious one because it is yours.

    Wonderful post, wonderful responses. I am in awe of both.

  6. I have a Mennonite perpetual calender on my kitchen windowsill, and one of my favorite pages has this quote:
    Hatred is like an acid; it does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the object on which it is poured.

  7. Thank you Mary, your photo and words touched my
    heart and soul…glad you found the “key” …love patiently waits for us…

    1. I’m so glad I found it too Sue… and so very grateful that my story is appreciated as I share it here. Thank you

  8. Recently I read Oprah’s interview with Deepak Chopra. She asked him about about being criticized and becoming resentful. Deepak said he read a statement from Nelson Mandela that changed hm forever. He said having resentment against someone is like drinking poison and thinking it will kill your enemy.
    Thank you Mary for continuing to remind us how important is is to let the barriers of hate, bitterness and anger “go”!

    1. wonderful words Joy…thank you for this profound thought

  9. Oh, Mary, you are so wise! Thank you once again for a wonderful post that conjured up some pain, but healing and light as well. You are God’s messenger, I just know it!

  10. This hits home for me. Just the other day one of my sisters was lamenting the fact that our mother tore up all our father’s love letters and WWII correspondence in a fit of hateful rage against him. Both my parents are dead. My mother’s rageful act occurred years ago, but my sister and I had been corresponding relative to the WWII correspondence, my mother’s letters to our father, that did survive the War and my mother’s wrath because my parents were devorced and the letters were in my father’s possession and found in his house in Wisconsin on the day of his funeral!

    What a find!! My sisters and I read these love letters from our mother to our father, written before any of us were born, in which she calls our father whose name was Albert, “My Dear darling Allie”, and she hopes that he will be safe on his navy ship in the South Pacific. But she is sure he will be because “you were born under a lucky star”. I was raised to hate my father and be wary of all men, especially quiet men like my father. “Still waters run deep and dirty” was one of my mother’s favorite comments about our father ( and some other less printable ones!!!).

    My growth has been away from my mother’s rage, heartache, and hatred of men, “the spoilers” of life. Having a son who resembles my father but who is so different in ways that are healing for me has helped. The bitterness that my mother held close to her heart for so many years hurt her and her children tremendously. But I have let go of that too.

    1. Good work, Mary Rita! My hurt was being orphaned at 12 & sent to a relative’s care, which was not good. But I agree–the more we let go, the better. There just ain’t no percentage in doing other! Not that it isn’t hard: I’m still working on my recovery from a terrible boss for a decade…hooray for all of us!

  11. Dear Mary, I find that sometimes hatred towards something or someone is a powerful voice….a message from our higher selves that we need to not only let it go, but to look deeper within our heart as to why we are carrying such toxic thoughts. When I travel down that scary path of truly understanding the negative feelings I may be harboring, there is ALWAYS a pearl there. When approached with humility and forgiveness, there…. hidden in the stinky exterior of my own negativity is the interior message….a way of looking at the situation differently, or a way to let go of past behavior, or a way to be more loving towards not only the object of my negativity, but ultimately myself. Thank you for such a timely post!

    1. “…there is ALWAYS a pearl…” such wise words Debra. Thank you. Carl Jung once said, (basically), “The hand of God is in the pile of dung”…I always loved that.

  12. Thank you Susan…yes I guess I did make peace with the past that day although I still resented the stepmother always trying to keep me from my father even after death.

  13. I was fortunate to a the best of dads. He was a quiet man but so loving of my sister and me. My mom developed dementia in her early fifties. Her paranoid stories about him were dreadful. I’m glad that it didn’t take very long for us to realize they were not true.

    My own children weren’t as fortunate. My husband was very supportive of their efforts in sports and music but was a harsh disciplinarian. He loved reading and playing bridge, but never like to work in or outside our home. So when he lost his job on our 20th anniversary, he only made half-hearted attempts after that. All during my son and daughter’s high school and college years, I was the sole support of the family. It was a hard and humiliating time for them. He died three years ago at 64. When our family is together, I bring out the picture albums and talk about the happy things we did as a family. I want them to remember the camping trips, the concerts, the ball games, and the recitals that he never missed. I don’t expect the hurt to be forgotten; however I don’t want it to be their only memory.

    1. What a lovely thing to do Susan…thank you for sharing this…it is so encouraging to hear stories of moving beyond hurt to bring healing to others.

  14. Oh, how I LOVE Rumi! I had a very difficult relationship with my mother my entire life – we were like oil and water. It seemed, when I was young, that Mom was put on this earth simply to make my life difficult. I knew I was finally maturing when I was about 40 and found myself able to express my point of view without our conversation descending into a yelling contest. And it really wasn’t just me – my brothers felt the same way.

    As my mom got older and less well, I did what I could to make my dad’s life easier (thinking what a burden she was to him) – it was only a by-product that I was making HER life easier. Mom was in ICU for 4 days before she died in 2000 and I was there (again, thinking to ease Daddy’s burden). But for once in her life, she only wanted ME to help her – not nurses, not aides, not even Daddy. All of a sudden, it was as if a curtain had been removed from my eyes and my brain and my heart. I realized that Mom had always done the best she could with what she had available to her and that all her efforts at “correcting” me were directed toward saving me from what she had experienced as a young woman – I was so much like her that she didn’t want me to suffer the same challenges and disappointments she had.

    I wrote and delivered her eulogy and it was truly of the heart when I stated, “I am proud to be my mother’s daughter.” I hope she was proud of me, too. I am who I am not only in spite of my mother, but because of her.

    Release is only possible when the focus shifts from “me” to “thee.”

    Peace to all who gather here ♥♥♥

    1. Oh what a beautiful sharing, Laurie. I am so glad that you had an epiphany of sorts while your mom was still here. Thank you for opening your story to us.

  15. It looks to me like your Dad has a very nice smile. You resemble him. And Mary,what about those drapes behind him? Holy 1920’s! Did you chuckle?

  16. Yes what a happy expression and ‘devil may care’. thank you for the piece, you are like a great Unitarian minister , making me think of things that need thinking !! Love Judy

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