“Then what is the truth about hate? The truth about hate is love. Hate is simply love turned upside down.”
~ U.S Andersen.
I was sixteen years old when I met the man who would become my stepfather. If there was ever a karmic relationship, this was it. It was a summer afternoon and he lazed across his sofa with a beer firmly nestled between his fingers. He was friendly in a stern kind of way, and he called me “Mortica” (which would fast become my nickname widely used among my friends – Mort, to be exact). He then asked me rather bluntly if I could actually talk. I smiled and chirped back like the little shy bird I was back then, while my insides whirled at the prospect of such a loud adult confronting me about my lack of confidence.
He was my boyfriend’s father.
I had no idea what to make of the man we called John, aka U.J. He was bold and indiscreet, confident and outgoing. He was larger than life, and he was everything I was not. I was very self-conscious every time I was in his company during those early days. His extroverted nature seemed to evoke my deepest insecurities. Until I finally became comfortable around him. Of course, I had no idea at the time of the intense feelings and major role this man would eventually evoke and play in my life.
It’s weird how some people stick around and can drive you insane. You see, it wasn’t long after I’d met John that he in turn met my mother. It was love at first sight, and before anyone could say “what the hell is happening here?”, the two of them took off on an adventure that would last almost thirty years.
Meh. There was a lot of bullshit that went along with that ride. I was young and I’d lost a mother. Naturally, I blamed John. Yes, I was surrounded by some questionable influences at the time – all with their own agenda at play. But at the end of the day, I can honestly say that it was John that had first stirred the deep feelings of hate in my belly.
I say this without an inkling of those feelings present, and I say this with as much love as I now feel for the same person that had managed to provoke in me a hostility that I didn’t quite understand.
Enter karmic relationship.
The thing was, even long after my relationship with my boyfriend had ended when I was twenty-one, I still couldn’t shake John from my life. He was there like a chunk of pasta baked to the bottom of a pan – relentless and stubborn, and no matter how hard I scrubbed, I just couldn’t move that damned piece of pasta.
What do you do, right?
Choices. In the end it always comes down to choices. What we choose for ourselves is neither wrong nor right, but every time you get to choose is another chance at choosing love.
I chose love, and I chose forgiveness.
My mother had vanished from my life for seven years. That was her choice, and one I know she struggled with for a long time. I had missed her so much, more than ever when I began a family of my own. Yet still, I remained a silent daughter in the face of her attempts to contact me. That was my choice, until I could take no more.
I could have chosen to continue to withhold her from my life and the life of her grandchildren. I could have held that sword of damnation over her head for walking out on me and my brother when I was teenager. I could have nurtured the animosity, succumbed to the feelings of abandonment that had plagued me, and continued to punish them.
But at what cost?
I’d realised holding onto the pain and continuing to blame others for the hurt I was feeling wouldn’t benefit me in any way. All it did was foster the negative feelings of depression, resentment and torment. By holding the sword of damnation over their heads, I was really balancing the blade over my own. I was punishing myself.
I was twenty-three when I next saw my mother, not long after I’d given birth to my first child, a son. He had arrived to remind me what love was really all about. He came on the breath of angels, filling the void in my heart that I hadn’t known was empty, and oh, how I wanted him. He saved me in more ways than he’ll ever know, and would later reveal himself as another karmic relationship! That boy had a plan for the both of us.
The point is, the arrival of my son had reminded me that love is nothing if not forgiveness, and that people can only do the best they know how. We all make mistakes. That’s why we’re here – to screw up and learn, and screw up all over again. So, I pushed aside the past and allowed it to become just that, and I slowly embarked on nurturing the relationship with my mother and stepfather again.
It wasn’t always easy, and John still had the uncanny ability to drive me crazy at times. He knew how to push my buttons and sometimes found great pleasure in provoking a reaction out of me. I’d rise up and bite, and he’d respond with a chuckle, then I’d become frustrated and stalk away. We didn’t always see eye to eye. He had trouble grasping my way of thinking and my spirituality, often treating me to a “woo-woo” spooky comment of some sort. And I’d get up him for never learning how to cook a decent meal or how to wash his clothes. Oh, and when the subject of equality between the sexes arose – watch out! He’d hit a home run every time. What? It’s a touchy subject with women.
Did I mention he drove me insane?
Yet, as time passed and we both matured, I learned to understand him. I learned he could only view the world from a lens in which he chose to see, or could only see, and I accepted him for everything he was, everything he tried to be, and everything he wasn’t. In turn, he eventually went easy on my personal beliefs and even managed to come to respect me for it. Acceptance all around.
But the best thing about the relationship I’d experienced with my stepfather was the love born from turbulence that grew between us over thirty years. He was there when my world blackened and spun out of control. He was there when I needed a father to talk to – his patience for listening to my dribble turned out to be darned remarkable. He was around when I just needed a good laugh, too. We shared a similar dark oddball sense of humour.
We found a common ground that connected us, and formed a bond so deep that it was me he asked for when he needed to tell someone he was dying. Someone that could talk to him about the other side.
That man that had scared the bejesus out of me when I was sixteen, had turned out to be someone I loved. He had touched my life and enriched my personal growth in ways I will never forget. He had made the effort to work through the past and listen to my shit because he loved my mother to pieces, and he loved me.
At the that time of writing this, a year has passed since his death. I miss him every day, and every day I feel his gentle touch on the side of my cheek, letting me know he’s still around when I need him the most. When times get tough and I’m batting some internal demon, I feel him stronger. I open the door and he is there. He’s always there … and I know now that he doesn’t think I was as crazy as he thought when he was dwelling in his physical body.
Most of all, though, I am grateful that I chose love and forgiveness. Imagine what I would have missed out on had I chosen to stay stubborn and indifferent towards my folks? I would have missed out on one of the most challenging and treasurable relationships of my life.
Life is made up of choices. I choose love every time. Even when I’m hurting so bad that I feel like my heart might collapse from the pain, still, I choose to qualify those emotions with love. And my life has been richer because of it.