August 10, 2017

It is our Right to Screw it all Up, Sometimes.

A few days before Christmas 2005, my parents informed my sister and me that they were about to separate.

We all had seen it coming; nonetheless it was as if my whole world had shattered and I was forced to walk on sharp splinters. There was a part of me that couldn’t believe it was happening. Not to us.

With dismay and pain came their little capricious brother, anger. I was suffering, therefore, someone had to be guilty! First I thought it was my fault, and then my parents’. Finally I came to the conclusion that no one was guilty, that there had been mistakes but that every one of us had tried to do her or his best.

It took me a long time to let go of the pain, to accept what had happened, and to forgive my parents for the suffering their decision had caused. I understood that as human beings, we have the right to make mistakes and not to have everything under control.

What helped me on my way to forgiveness after my parents’ divorce was embracing their humanity. As a teenager at the time of their split, I was still imagining them both, but especially my father, as someone who was always thinking and doing right. When he separated from my mother, the image I had of him broke into pieces. He fell from the pedestal I had put him on. I was angry with him, as if he hadn’t maintained a promise that he’d never actually made: the promise to be perfect.

Like many others, I had this ridiculous idea that my father was kind of a superhero, with a tie instead of a cape and the superpower to tell wonderful stories instead of flying. And yeah, my dad was amazing. But he is no perfect superhero. He is a human being. And this gives him the right to do wrong, to make mistakes—to be imperfect.

Embracing his humanity was also about his wholeness as a person. It took me time and a dream to see this. I consider myself an empathetic person, but I know now that I hadn’t been empathetic toward my dad until a dream opened my eyes.

My dad lost his father when he was a child and he’d never talked much about it. A few nights ago, I had a dream in which I was my father when his father died. I remember the confusion and the pain I felt in the dream my mother (in reality, my grandmother) told me that my dad had died. I remember asking myself, with my throat closed in a gasp of despair, “Now what?”

I woke up with a heart full of compassion toward my father.

Being him in my dream helped me develop empathy toward him and to understand that he had also been a child, a teenager, and a young adult before becoming a dad. To see him as a parent but also as a son, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and a partner. To accept that fatherhood hadn’t been the only dimension of his life. That he’s a person and he has—like everyone else—different roles.

And combining these numerous roles isn’t always simple. You can’t always be a good partner, a good friend, a good daughter, and a good niece at the same time. I had to give him credit for having tried to do his best, at least. I realized I was extremely disappointed in my father because I was holding on to childish concepts about him.

Embracing his humanity meant distancing myself from those ideas and to start recognizing his human nature.

My humanity was also an issue until some time ago.

I had to accept that I couldn’t do anything to avoid what happened. That even if I thought for years that I should have done something—I couldn’t have. My parents’ relationship was not under my control, nor was it my responsibility. I am not omnipotent, and I surely wasn’t back then. I had to accept my humanity and the fact that I was just a hurt, scared 15-year-old. I began feeling compassion toward that teenage girl.

I know she is still here inside and so I’ve started taking care of, reassuring, and comforting her. There was nothing you could have done. It’s not your fault. You’re loved.

To embrace our and others’ humanity can help us find forgiveness—suddenly, we see people for who they are: people. With many rights, one of which is the right to make mistakes. Another one is the right not to have control over everything.

We are neither superheroes, nor gods. Accepting our human nature led me to more compassion, and to something that seemed unattainable—like a sort of Holy Grail—forgiveness.


Author: Giulia Panzeri 
Image: Author’s Own; Hillary Boles/Flickr 
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell

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Giulia Panzeri