I’m a magnet for anything involving Iyanla Vanzant. The very title of her show on OWN contains a command to “Fix My Life!” so I mean, really, what more could a viewer ask for in the way of a reality television spiritual guru.
Although I’ve admittedly scoured perused old Iyanla YouTube episodes with titles like, “A Father of 34 Children Confronts His Painful Past,” and “My Toxic Obsession: A Former Model Battles an Addiction to Butt Injections For Beauty,” it was the five minute segment called “Daddyless Daughters” that rendered me something of a human rag doll — a sudden mix of nausea, full body shakes, tears and snot — lying solo in the fetal position on my bathroom floor.
Sorry neighbors. Sorry readers.
But you see, I am a Daddyless daughter.
That I might possess a societally ordained disguise as a well bred, high functioning woman with two parents who live in the heart of Greenwich, Connecticut, matters little when Iyanla poignantly, and so fucking factually, states the obvious — “Daddy Gone –” encouraging all of the other daddyless daughters in the audience to own the enormity of their pain/hurt/confusion via the use of three short, grammatically incorrect syllables that cut, like a flesh ripping blunt blade, right to the crux of the matter.
Statistics would suggest that I’m one of twenty-four million Americans who grew up in a biological father absentee home and that — for all intents and purposes — I’m decidedly one of the more fortunate byproducts of a broken system.
It stands to reason then that I’ve never allowed myself to bask in an elongated state of self-pity or to feel the residual effects of a rejection that I still can’t even really begin to process myself. Although I was made aware of the sobering, “wow-this-is-really-kind-of-a-conversation-STOPPER” circumstances surrounding the situation, like my father’s apparent demands for my mother to have a first trimester abortion (cat’s out of the bag now, guys!), by the age of fifteen, I was determined to play sleuth, spending my summer vacay hidden away on the desktop computer in my attic and ascertaining all of my Dad’s noticeably covert contact information while blasting Ashlee Simpson’s, “Pieces of Me.” Eventually, I reached out to him via letter (From what I’d been told, we both had a penchant for writing) and we actually corresponded via a series of enthusiastically riddled long distance phone calls.
But for reasons that I can’t quite make sense of, the deeply articulate voice on the other end of the line suddenly slipped away again like a helium balloon passing through the fingers of a credulous child as it soars through the boundless blue sky above. Fly if you must, John, but fix me first. Give me back the piece of myself that you took with you at the outset.
Beyond the absence of my “bio dad,” one could easily assert that I lead a fairly privileged existence, especially because at the age of five, my stepfather arrived onto the scene like a brand new pink Power Wheels Corvette convertible (That was the hot toy car circa 1992) — the pinnacle of big red bow surprises sent straight from the universe.
Offering up an entirely new identity that came replete with a two-parent family, a big white house, pre-paid tuitions aplenty, and a little sister, to boot, surely, I could no longer be categorized as a daddyless daughter. In fact, even within my household, we rarely spoke about the subject or mentioned the fact that I had another father floating around somewhere within the continental United States.
Here’s the thing: my stepfather provided for me as if I were his own, and I believe that he genuinely intended to view me as his biological daughter. My Dad, as I came to call him, was indisputably good to me for the large majority of my life. That said, there was always a palpable disconnect that existed between us — an unspoken, if not inconvenient and tragic truth, that alluded to the fact that a fundamental piece of our emotional bond was mysteriously absent.
I can’t speak from his perspective, of course, but I can tell you that although I loved him, I loved him, I loved him, I consistently felt largely inadequate beneath the glare of his presence. The relaxed cadence that he seemed to enjoy around my mother and sister quickly dissipated when it came to striking up conversation with me. Was there something wrong with the way in which I communicated? Was I boring? Was I stupid? Worse yet, was I a subconscious physical reminder of another man — one with dark features and Grecian roots? As a child, I really didn’t want to be that; the very idea of it sickened me to my core and made me feel guilty, helpless and dirty.
Although I’m deeply appreciative of it and believe that it’s something that shouldn’t just be swept under the rug, I needed more than the financial stability that my stepdad afforded me. I craved some further measure of warmth, expression, cajoling, empathy, humor, love –- anything to break the unyielding glacial barrier that rudely, aggressively, purposely wedged itself between us for twenty some odd years. If I could have knocked it down by myself, believe me, I would have, but ultimately, it was too strong, and I needed his focus and concentration to dismantle it in its entirety.
Of all the people that I’ve encountered in my life (sans my biological father of course because, well, again, I’ve never actually encountered him), ironically, my stepdad was the only one who I could never quite win over despite my foremost efforts. I always believed that if we could somehow remove the invisible wedge that consistently drove us into an awkward abyss of horrible politeness, struggling at times even to form small talk, we could’ve enjoyed a profoundly rewarding father/daughter relationship.
Recently, my Dad and I decided to go our separate ways. He’s another helium balloon in the bright blue sky now, and regardless of our conclusion, I’ll always pray that he soars safely and peacefully amongst the gentlest of winds.
But I had to stop looking up at the sky in order to face what’s right here in front of me.
At the end of the YouTube segment, Iyanla sat upright in front of the women like some kind of eretheral maternal deity. She encouraged them to “clutch their pearls,” which is really code for “I’m-Iyanla-Vanzant-and-I’m-about-to-dispense-some-really-fucking-unbelievable-wisdommmmmmm-so-listen-up.”
And then she chided, “You really have to be able to forgive yourself for the things you told yourself as the result of the story that you made up about the reason why your father wasn’t there.”
In doing this — that is, in retracting all of the less than kind words and sentiments that I’ve developed throughout the course of my life about myself, I’m healing.
While I try to reserve most of my blog entries for substantially more uplifting topics, the preeminent reason for creating the written portion of NoteBrooke.com was to normalize either esoteric, unattainable or hard to talk about topics — to make them more chit chat worthy and less… dire.
So, here’s my truth: I’m a Daddyless daughter, and I forgive myself for it anyway.