“Be Yourself. Everyone else is taken.” Oscar Wilde
Do you ever feel you have cracked open and you didn’t realise you needed to?
Sometimes we hurt so much that we retreat almost in self preservation mode. That’s what happened to me when my dad passed. His death hit me really hard. I never felt so ill equipped and away from all things that once felt normal.
I was in an extraordinary place. There were times I felt nothing ever could come close to this pain. Losing my dad meant life took a different turn and it happened in one strike. The moment my father took his last breath my life changed forever.
As time went on I remember thinking I didn’t want to live. Gradually this turned into a sense of feeling invincible and occasionally, by my standards, at any rate, reckless. I began to think I don’t care anymore.
Why I’m talking about this now 8 years after my father’s death well, last night I was watching the After Life a series by Ricky Gervais. The story shows how he was following the death of his wife of 25 years. Of course, this was a case of an untimely death of a young person so very different to our situation, but I recognised and was reminded of how I felt in the early day of my life after Dad. My father had lived a long and good life, yet I missed the many things about us. I was going out of my mind and sometimes defiant.
The title of this post is cracked open because hindsight is a wonderful thing if we learn from it. I can look back and say with honesty that my dad’s passing caused so much pain that after much ‘bruising ‘ and soul searching, also, stumbling along the way, and after many social experiments, I was finally cracked open. When this happened I’m not sure but I know in my ‘recklessness’ by taking steps I would normally never thought I was capable of, I gave myself permission to surrender and be where I was.
Cracked open was the catalyst for allowing a small ray of light through my otherwise dark and empty world. Those who don’t know me and my dad deserve an explanation here. You see my father and I were like two peas in a pod. We got on so well we were buddies and also, a formidable father daughter team. We were once business partners and he was my teacher. He was many things to me all rolled into one neat package, my father. I think losing my dad and also my best friend was a double blow for me. He’s death drained any desire in me to live.
It was really dire in the first few years, and yes, for some of us the journey of walking through grief is painfully slow.
Last July I made the first big commitment and change to my life from being in survival mode to perhaps giving myself permission to stretch myself and allow myself to be loved. It sounds sad and heavy but honestly, it isn’t. I’ve been blessed with a very privileged upbringing and my life has always been pretty fantastic on all levels. I have never had to be without what I need in fact, I have more than I need yet I miss my father’s love so so much.
So what happened in July last year? I decided to say yes to a German shepherd puppy. He, Oscar came as an 8 week puppy. Now all dog lovers out there will know full well how hard it is to raise a puppy. Not having had children this was even a bigger challenge for me.
My puppy has recently turned 9 months so we’ve spent 6 months getting know each other and learning to live together. Dog training is misleading it’s actually training for the dog handler. This is ongoing and I’ve experienced fear, fear of him pulling me, fear of me letting go of his lead, and there goes my sense of invincibility.
As a single parent which is I realise I now am, I am raising a strong and powerful puppy, and he’s big. It has been hard but I am absolutely glad he has come into my life. You see I need him more than he needs me.
My father’s death cracked me open and now Oscar has cracked me open even more wider than before. My father was until now the only person who gave me unconditional love and now Oscar does. We all want to love and to be loved but this is not a transaction or a contract, it can only happen when it is meant to happen.
Oscar cannot replace my father, nobody can, but he’s come close to being my absolute buddy whose presence gives me warmth in ways I cannot describe in words.
I’ve been cracked open and it’s been worth it. I now realise the grief and discovery of me was necessary. If we just think for a brief moment and just focus on these two words cracked open..
What do these two words actually mean? To me, it means being thrown out of your normal cosy world with a large thud and then being broken into a million pieces. You still look intact but through the cracks a ray of light starts to come through, perhaps hope and strength? In time you feel enough warmth that you allow yourself to be opened even more. Then comes this overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for what is and what we have been through.
This is for all those out there who are going through a tough time and, feel hopeless and lost. I urge you not to give up hope, even in difficult times you will find you have the strength to overcome the challenges you face. A good friend of mine gave me a card with the following words which I have displayed to this day in my study as it is a reminder of how far I have come. Let this give you the same hope I so badly needed once, and still do now and then.
“In the midst of my darkness I found the sun within myself”. Albert Camus
Peace be with you.
11th March, 2022