The Courage to Become | Andi Franklin

The Courage to Become | Andi Franklin

What I remember, is the silence. The dimly light dining room. My knees on the chair cushion and arms draped over its back, clutching a $25 Target gift card I had gotten as an early birthday present. Curtains peeled back, street lights on, and a cul-de-sac full of cars that were in for the night.

He’ll be here. He’ll be here. He promised he would take me, so he’ll be here.

I don’t know how long I was there, staring and waiting and convincing myself that he would show. But finally, I felt my mother’s gentle hand on my shoulder.

"Its time to go to bed, sweetie. I’m sure he just got caught up.”

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Looking back, I think of my mom and hard that must have been for her. I think of how long she pondered what to say to her bright-eyed little girl who sat in a window all night waiting for her dad to show up and take her shopping for her 7th birthday. I wonder if she knew how far gone he was, I wonder if she saw it coming.

That night marked the beginning of my biological father’s exit strategy. I can only remember seeing him one other time in passing before he was gone for good. He never said goodbye. He never told me why. He was just, gone.

My mom explained that he was in the clutch of drugs and alcohol, but I wasn’t buying it. Deep down I knew the real reason he left⏤me.

This belief coursed through my veins and spread in my body like a cancer. Each year that passed I would get sicker and sicker, subconsciously convinced that his love was the cure. Meanwhile, in my conscious mind, I became obsessed with finding him.

The reason changed with each season in my life.

At the tender age of seven, I simply wanted him to come home to me. I loved him, missed him, and didn’t care about the rest. But as a new year turned, so would my feelings toward this elusive man. Emotions? I’ve felt them all. I think that is kind of expected when you are abandoned.

But what surprises me now, is how I let that single event in my life take the driver seat and dictate every future relationship.

My story of becoming, lies here—in the gaping wounds of a woman who spent over 20 years of her life looking for love, when love had been hers all along.

My quest to fill the void of my biological father’s love sent me down twisted, untended, shadowy trails.

It got to the point where I would push for young men to leave me around my birthday because I had convinced myself it was going to happen anyway.

Somehow, no matter what, I would always find myself back where I started:

Seven years old. Curtains peeled back, street lights on, and a cul-de-sac full of cars that were in for the night.

He’ll be here. He’ll be here. He promised he would take me, so he’ll be here.

I would always see it coming, but I would sit and wait anyway.

The leaving. The betrayal. The heartbreak.

My deep longing for love led me into the clutches of manipulation. Young men knew how to work a broken girl, and one in particular was so skilled that it took me weeks to realize he had raped me.

“But did you say no?”

Yes.

“But did you try to fight him off?”

 Yes.

“And yet, you still didn’t realize you had been raped?”

No.

Trauma has a funny way of doing that to a person. Especially when it roots back to your childhood and incessant need to be loved.

Fortunately, I clawed my way out of that hell and found myself on the other side. The side that could sit in a space with other women who had gone through it and say, “me too, and I’m here for you.”

I met a man who wasn’t afraid of me and my baggage. A man who refused to leave me around my birthday, despite my many attempts to sway him otherwise.

We fell in love, got married, and therein lies the happy ending, right?

I sure thought so.

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I had actively convinced myself that I was cured.

Healed! Praise Jesus, Hallelujah!

 I thought the void had been filled and I went on with my merry way with life.

Until the day I finally had to come face to face with him.

Meeting my biological father again for the first time in 18 years was terrifying.

It was my grandfather’s 80th birthday and my father had been clean and sober for about six months, so the family allowed him to come to the event and notified us that he would be there.

I was five months pregnant with my first son.

Palms sweaty, face flushed.

Don’t you cry, Andrea. You’ve gotta stay strong for your brother.

 I brought a notebook full of letters, songs, and poems I had written to him throughout the years. I was going to give it to him and show him the pain he had caused.

But when I saw him, I couldn’t do it.

This man, so broken and fragile. Petrified of us—his grown children.

My heart no longer hurt for just me, it hurt for him too.

And so the notebook stayed with me and I left that birthday party, heart still guarded, but softened. 

He managed to stay clean for another year and a half and was even invited to my brother’s wedding. Then suddenly, he was gone again. Back into the warm arms of alcohol and Methamphetamine—his oldest friends, and closest enemies.

When I found out, I decided I was done with him for good. I wiped my hands clean, threw them in the air, and proclaimed that I was whole, and didn’t need him.

And yet, no matter what, I would always find myself back where I started:

Seven years old. Curtains peeled back, street lights on, and a cul-de-sac full of cars that were in for the night.

He’ll be here. He’ll be here. He promised he would take me, so he’ll be here.

 Three and a half years had passed since I had seen or heard from him and then, my grandpa died.

I knew he would be at his father’s funeral, but I also knew he was on drugs and I was terrified of seeing him like that.

I stepped out of the truck at Green Acres Cemetery, not knowing what to expect.

Palms sweaty, face flushed.

Don’t you cry, Andrea. You’ve gotta stay strong for your brother.

But he never showed. And it was there, at the celebration of my grandpa’s life, that my becoming shifted.

I found out from my cousin that my father was homeless, living on a dirt road somewhere in the desert. 

A rumble stirred within me.

Homeless.

 I couldn’t accept this. I heard it echoing in my mind for days.

Homeless.

And so, I knew I needed to do something.

I talked to my husband and told him I really wanted to bring a care pack of sorts to my father. You know, toiletries and snacks and things that may help. I knew it wasn’t much, but I also knew it was better than nothing.

But first, I needed to know how to get to him. I decided to send him a facebook message and ask him if what I heard was true.

No response.

Then, an epiphany.

I was lying in bed next to my husband when I became.

I need to tell him I forgive him. Because, I do. I forgive him. And I need to tell him I love him. Because, I do. I love him. And I always have.

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 Then, another epiphany.

My entire life, I have thought that I needed his love to fill the void in my heart, when in truth, it is MY love that I have wanted to give to him this entire time.

There aren’t adequate enough words to describe this moment.

23 years in the making, I finally discovered my truth:

Conditional love is not who I am. My love is mine to give, and I don’t need someone to love me back in order to give them my love.

That, is unconditional love. And that, is what my soul has always wanted to give to my father.

I sent another message and this time, I told him I loved him and forgave him, without expecting anything in return.

Still, no response.

Then, I sent him this:

I just wanted to let you know that I love you. And I’ll probably tell you that every week from now on, whether you reply or not, because I want you to know that there is still someone living and breathing on this earth that loves and cares for you.

And every Thursday for the past three months I have done just that.

Since then, I was able to see him. My husband and I made the hour and a half drive to the dirt road he’s living on to bring him some things.

He’s created a house of sorts out of an abandoned trailer he found. He scavenges with his girlfriend and they both do drugs.

But, I still love him.

We chatted and laughed and I promised that next time we come, I would stay for a while and catch up more.

He will never be the father I dreamed up in my mind and he may never get clean and sober again.

But I’m no longer seven years old. Curtains peeled back, street lights on, and a cul-de-sac full of cars that were in for the night.

Now, I am a thirty-year-old woman. Eyes peeled open, natural light flooding in, and a heart full of unconditional love that I’m ready to give, freely.

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I’ll be there. I’ll be there. I promised myself I would love fully, so I’ll be there.

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Essay by: Andi Franklin

You can find more of Andi's writings on Facebook, Instagram and on her website Andi Franklin.


If we are not consciously CHOOSING JOY, we are DYING. 

Watch Choose Joy or Die, my 2018 TEDx talk. 

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Hi there!

I'm Catia, a woman, wife, mama, sister, sister friend, you know -- I wear a million hats just like you. 

One of my biggest whys is that I want people to feel good about ALL of who they are. Including you. 

The threads running through all my work (I wrote a book - The Courage to Become, I speak - TEDx #choosejoyordie, I coach, I mentor) are hope, joy and empowerment. 

If I could choose ten words that best describe me I would say: honest, welcoming, giving, curious, loving, earnest, empathetic, spiritual, playful, and sassy. Let's add: adventurous. That's 11. 

Nice to meet you! 


 

 

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