g a t h e r i n g s

You Asked For It: Fathers

In Family Constellation books, one reads a lot about the mother. The relationship with her is reflected later in life. A breach in the connection manifests in disruptions in the forward motion toward more. Mother is at once ordinary and magnificent. Giving birth is, of course, a common act. At the same time, it is an extraordinary act. A woman risks her life, even today, to have a child. And each child, after all, changes the world.

And father. What of the relationship with him? Once the child makes it into the world, the world is a new place. The child brings to it an amalgam of variables from both parents, a blend of strengths and wisdom, vulnerabilities and pockets of unknowing. A child will embody energies from both family systems without having the ability to pick and choose. Even later, as the child becomes an adult, “picking and choosing” has a deeply subconscious layer that affects the form and content of those decisions.

We know that many children grow up without the biological father in their daily life, and many more look back and consider their father to have been absent. Leave the question of why to the side for now, I am thinking about what is missing when the father is missing.

Almost immediately an image comes to mind: my mother looks at me, my father looks out. In this image, he is not looking out to get out and he is not distracted, disengaged, or dissatisfied. He is on duty, surveying the field for intruders and invitations. He is discerning what is safe and what is not. He is protecting me in a way that is different from the way my mother protects me. He is teaching me in a way that is different from the way my mother teaches me.

As I look at the image, and then feel it in my body, a sense of calm begins to overtake my nervous sytem and warmth permeates my heart. It is a feeling of relaxation and engagement. It occurs to me suddenly that their individual ways are both most certainly within my body-mind; I am an admixture. Through the image, this sense of myself becomes an awareness, something to work with, something deep and true. It is appealing to feel this being whole, not born of one (replication) but of two (chemistry). Intuition and judgment. Reflection and action. Strength and strength. And, of course, all of those vulnerabilities. How really comforting to let it trickle into my imagination, where everything starts, and restarts.

We tend to see mother as intrinsically essential, whereas we often understand fathers as having to earn their place. They are disposable, replaceable, eraseable. No good. Weak. Crazy. Distant. Ignorant. Critical. Violent. Cold. Leave him behind. (Mothers can be all of these things too, but we are hesitant to get rid of them, even if we kick and scream for the rest of our lives about it.)

So, what is this I am detecting now? An addition to my sensory accompaniment, a slight turning toward the future so that he just steps right in, where before in my searching, begging, yelling, he receded farther and farther into the unreachable distance of the past. As I feel his presence in mine, he is just there, and I invoke the names of his colors, the best ones – confidence, charisma, optimism, wit, artistry, grace, taste – and find that they reside in me as well. They are the colors that allow me to be seen by the world as I wish to be seen, a dash of each, coming through him. A particular gift, a pallette, for his daughter.

In this, I don’t ask for anything more and neither do I harp on what was difficult – we both know that part very well – rather, I keep my gaze set toward what is coming and I feel him at my shoulder; there is room there now. His hand, a slight pressure on my skin, different from the hand of my mother, and no less essential to my sense of equilibrium. I know without looking that he is surveying our field, helping me discriminate the topology. It is our understanding now, revamped as I return an adult: I will embrace the guidance and special gifts of the men, as they are safe inside me now, and as they have found their peace in that. We go on in a good way. And others will look back to see you clearly and with full permission.