I'm no poet, but when emotions are swirling through my mind and my head is crowded with thoughts, poetry provides an amazing release. I sit down and write a poem probably once or twice a year, but this was the first time that I'd ever shared any of my work.

Poetry allows a writer to express and explore raw feelings. No reasons. No stories. Pure emotion.

Our emotions are what unifies us as people. Regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sex, social status, sexual orientation, intelligence, education--everyone experiences love, happiness, passion, ecstasy, fear, nervousness, sorrow, pain and suffering. The words to describe these emotions, the causes that evoke them and the way a person deals with his/her emotions may differ from culture to culture and person to person, but everyone feels.

The holiday season always sends my emotions into over-drive, but as I grow older, the resentment, anger and sadness I am used to feeling time of year has given way to a much more powerful emotion, guilt.

My parents separated when I was just two-years-old. I have just one single memory of their brief time together. I was sitting at the top of our chocolate-brown carpeted steps, watching my parents through the wooden rungs of the banister, with my knees tucked into my chest and arms wrapped around my shins. I could hear yelling, the sound of glass breaking, and then I saw blood. Or, at least what I thought was blood. Turns out my father, in a fit of immaturity, had doused my mom with Heinz 57. 

After my parents divorced, I lived a dual life. My mother and father shared dual custody. I had two very, very, very different families. My mom's house was the type of house that children should grow up in. In her house, I was encouraged, disciplined, loved and cared for. I wouldn't say I was spoiled, but I sure never went hungry.

At my father's house my life couldn't have been more different. He remarried three times, twice to the same woman (who he apparently just recently divorced again). With his wives came step-siblings for me, and with their inevitable divorces I would once again become an only child. He introduced me to the dark-side of life--to motorcycle gangs, a plethora of drugs, over-doses, criminal life and jail. By twelve years old, there wasn't a drug I hadn't seen done, and by the time I was sixteen, there wasn't one I hadn't tried myself. He was too fucked up to see anything wrong with doing hard drugs with his pre-teen daughter. He was too fucked up to remember to buy groceries. He was too fucked up to keep his promises and too far gone to love me.

Throughout my childhood, I bounced back and forth between these two worlds. Sometimes I would get tired of being hurt, and I would swear-off my father, his home and lifestyle. I would stay with my mom and wait for him to call. He never called.

His parents, my grandparents, used every Thanksgiving as an excuse to force my father and I together. He would make empty promises that things would be better if I came back...he wouldn't talk down to me anymore...I could have a kitten...There would be no more fighting...no more drugs.

Every year, I believed him. And, every year I was let down. My anger, resentment and sadness grew until is consumed me. I hated him and everything that made me think of him, including the holidays.

Now, I find myself consumed by a new emotion, guilt. I am no longer angry at my father. I feel sorry for him. He is financially ruined and in poor physical and mental health thanks to the bad decisions he's made throughout his life. I haven't spoken to him in a couple of years now. It hurts to much. Hearing his distant and faded "junkie" voice repeat the same things over and over, makes me sick to my stomach. The last time I stepped foot in his house, I literally threw-up. The last time I spoke to him on the phone, he blamed me for our failed relationship. I guess he has to lie to himself to live with himself.

I feel bad that I'm not strong enough to look past the past. I feel guilty that I don't try to have a relationship with my father. I feel horrible that I know he won't live much longer and that doesn't make me want to reconnect with him. I feel selfish because of my need for self-preservation. I feel frigid because I'm not sure I have any love left for the man who calls me his daughter. All of these emotions combine together to create a guilty feeling that eats away at my soul.

PS - Thanks to all of you who left comments on my poem. Your insights and support inspired me to write this post. Writing helps me understand and cope with my thoughts, and hearing from all of you reminds me that I'm not alone in my experiences. Thank you!


  1. Aww, M.J. I'm sorry for everything you've had to go through. You're always so insightful, even in the worst situations. Your outlook on things is always so well explained and it is obvious that writing is your favorite form of "therapy." Thanks for sharing--I admire your strength more and more with each post.


  2. As hard as it is sometimes, some relationships are too toxic (literally and figuratively) to keep around. It's really hard and I've struggled with lesser versions of what you and your father went through. It sucks to love someone who is family and then overtime see them in a true light. Childhood masks alot of the horrible things we see as adults.

    I haven't said more than ten words to my Grandfather in over three years. I just spent four days with him and my fathers extended family, the only thing he said to me was "Hello" and "Would you like lemonade". As a kid I loved him, he was the exotic over achiever in the family and I wanted so much to be like him and follow his path. Then, I grew up and learned some things that hadn't been privy to me as a child. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and continued to have a good relationship with him.

    Until I went to Germany to visit him one summer and just flat out asked him what his version of his divorce was. He had the gall to paint himself as the victim and my grandmother as the evil one. At that moment, I lost almost all respect for him. It was just so ludicrous and it really cemented all of the character flaws that I had started seeing. Today it would be hard for me to find anything positive to say about him. I hate that. He's alive and I should enjoy this time with him. I can't.

    You really shouldn't feel guilty, love is not something we can control and self-preservation is one of the most important human feelings. It can be hard to see past the past, and it doesn't help when the other person blames you to make them fell better.

    Stay strong.

  3. You say that you are no longer angry at your father, but feel sorry for him.

    That's how I feel too. About my dad. For very different reasons, but that's the exact feeling I have.

    I do have a little tool I can use for reparations, my kid. I trust him with Jake. I used to think it was a test, but it's not. It's a chance.
    I can't change who he is or what he's done in the past but I can chose a new path/relationship/whatever with him now.

    Not saying have a kid for all this, of course. But maybe there is a tool somewhere in your belt that you can use to smooth things over and start fresh. He will never be a Daddy, but there are other roles he can play, if you so choose.

  4. I am so sorry for what you've been through and what you continue to go through. I don't feel you should feel bad about your need for self preservation, especially in this situation. It is ok to not be a part of his life and vice vera at this point but you need to come to terms with that somehow in order to be at peace with your feelings about him. Could you write a letter to him? Write everything you've ever felt about him and your relationship, hold nothing back. You don't even have to mail it. Write it and then either put it away or destroy it afterwards. I used to be angry, resentful and disappointed with my father for all he put my mother through (and therefore put me through) while he was alive. (He was a Very very very abusive man and an alcoholic). He died when I was 3. About 10 years ago, I started writing in blank note cards to him on Father's Day and then I throw the sealed envelope into the bay or ocean (his ashes were spread in the Gulf of Mexico).

  5. How confusing for you as a child, and now to burdened with that responsibility as an adult to know what to do with it all. Your strength is amazing.

  6. Wow, that is a lot to deal with, especially while growing up yourself and trying to figure out what is right and wrong.
    I don't think you should feel guilty for not wanting to reconnect with your father...why continue getting hurt? I have seen some of my friends try to make it work in the last years of their fathers lives...after they were molested by their fathers, were in similar situations as you, or they just weren't around...and not one has had a positive outcome, but rather, continued to blame themselves for everything that happened, and then continued to feel inadequete because their father's couldn't love them like they were supposed to.
    I say, you realized the trend and put a stop to it, good for you for doing so.
    This is no longer your burden to carry...you have tried...he has failed you, not the other way around.

  7. It sounds like you have been through more than one person should ever need to - especially as a young child.

    You are obviously a strong person and should cherish that knowledge.

    I didn't have a great relationship with my mother in my teenage years - similar circumstances to yours (failed marriages, alcohol and blame). It wasn't until later in life, that I was able to tolerate her, but things were never 100% between us. She passed away 2 years ago and even though I should be letting things go, I still harbor some resentment.

    Writing can be one of the best ways to deal with emotional wounds, so keep at it and remember, we are always here to "listen".

  8. Ur a strong girl....i am sure u will sail thru....hats off to u...all the best...my best wishes always with u !

  9. I know that it's much easier for me to tell you not to feel guilty than it is for you to do it, but he really isn't worth the energy. It sounds like he has never been a parent to you and biological ties don't make you morally obligated to be his emotional punching bag.

  10. Real...touching n tearful!!U write beautifully!Now chk my new poem.

  11. I'm sorry to hear that you went thru all that - WAY more than any child should ever have to witness. You have come out a strong and successful woman!!! You should be proud of yourself.

  12. I really can't say more than what others have already posted here but I will say that getting to know you over the past year or so, and then reading this post made me realize something...you are an amazing person who has proven that a human's resilience with love and guidance as well as self-love and respect goes a looooong way! You didn't let your background define who you are/will be. As a kind, considerate and loving friend, you have taken the good with the bad and come out with the best blend of MJ :)

    Keep writing, purging, thinking, evolving and yeah the guilt will be there but in time, it may fade. It may not go away completely as we all have things we tend to hold on to no matter how many times we tell ourselves to "get over it already". Truth is, this is life and as such we play with the hand dealt. Just gotta figure out a way to move on and to be true to ourselves, even if that means trying to ignore feelings and certain people, or not actively forgiving (until the time is right). When the time is right you'll know.

    Stay strong! One day we'll have to drink to parents and "parents" because many of us are more alike than we may realize. It's through sharing, that we learn how strong we are, how vulnerable we are, and how much we have the power to heal ourselves and others. HUGS!!!

  13. wow, I'm really sorry you had to deal with this growing up. no child should have to go through that. and i don't think you should feel bad for not wanting to have a relationship with someone who hurt you so badly. it's totally understandable why you wouldn't want to subject yourself to any more of that toxicity.

  14. Oh sweet baby! I'm crying now. No, it isn't pity, I'm not even crying for you--just with you, so that you don't have to do it alone.

    I've cried alone and that hurts to much. I've cried for a mother who is too numb to tell me she loves me; I'll be 33 next spring, still haven't heard those words come from her lips. Wonder if it was something I did...

    I remember teacher parent meetings to which she never showed. Thank the Gods I was decent student and my teachers were nice--they pretended it was okay. No such thing as social services in the Dominican Republic, so when kids get beaten senseless, no one comes--I just cried, alone...

    So today I cry with you and want to share some of the guilt. No, don't frown, for me feeling guilty makes a much sense as you feeling that way. You played the hand Fate dealt you and although I've never met you face-to-face, I can tell you that you have played a damn good game.

    I read your words and I can feel the sincerity, the tolerance, the love... so what if there is some anger? We all need a bit of balance.

    I'm sending you the BIGGEST virtual hug ever sent. Much love.

  15. That's a hard life and I can relate to it in some ways. Not all. But I can really relate to the "I don't hate him anymore but do feel guilty now...." I know how that is. I hope writing this down helped you some. Reading it sure helped me.

  16. It's painful to read, which is a testament to how well you share your story. Thank you for opening up and allowing us to hopefully let you know that you're not alone, that you're NOT a bad person, that you shouldn't feel guilty.

    You rock, chica.

  17. That's a lot to go through. It's interesting to read now as I am going through a divorce. A much different situation. Reading this gave me some perspective. Thank you.