‘’Why can’t you be like all the girls your age?’’ he asked. ‘’Look at your cousin, she is doing normal stuff. Why can’t you be like her?’’
I was 13. My newly found passion for ballroom dancing didn’t please my father. He had a hard time understanding why I enjoyed spending all of my Saturday afternoons dancing with people who could be my grandparents. Sometimes I wondered whether I was making certain choices simply to annoy him. At least, that’s what he thought. Maybe he was right. I don’t know. Our relationship has always been complicated.
I have always been different from the people my age, and that bothered him. He never missed an opportunity to remind me. I was never enough. Never good enough. Never funny enough. Never pretty enough. Despite my numerous attempts to please him, and be the perfect daughter, it was never enough.
But he pretended. We pretended. We used to spend a lot of time in cinemas, supposedly to enjoy some father-daughter time. People thought that we shared a common passion for movies. The reality was far less charming, and we knew it. In cinemas, we did not have to force ourselves to talk to each other. It was the only place we could avoid to face the awkward silence. Awkward silences. We had many of those.
Whenever I tried to get close to him, he rejected me. He never had time for me. He was never present. It was like I did not matter. I was not enough.
For many years, I looked for someone to love me like my dad hadn’t been able to. I looked for my father’s love in the arms of men who kept on trying to change me or to belittle me. I was falling for the wrong people, for the wrong reasons. Deep down, I knew it but I did not know how to do differently. I was ready to give my all and expect nothing in return. I gave it all. And I received it all; pain, contempt, betrayal.
I was mistaking love for acceptance and validation. At the time, I did not know that. Instead, I thought that being in love would inevitably end up in pain and tears, so I gave up on the idea of relationships. What was the point of going through this? Why allowing my heart to bleed? So many questions, and only one course of action: to never fall in love.
‘’You know, I read recently that we only accept the love we think we deserve. And when I look at you, and your life, I think this is true”, he said. My friend Samuel knew me well. He probably saved me. From them. From myself.
‘’So, do you think that I always end up in screwed up relationships because I believe I do not deserve to be loved?’’ I asked.
‘’Exactly. What they give you is not love, but you do not see it’’ he replied. ‘Love will not hurt you.’’
November 2015, my world collapsed. The kind of phone call we never want to get. He is dead, my friend. I read his last email again, and again. It takes a new meaning: ‘’ You have been hurt and you decided to build some kind of barrier between your heart and the world. I promise you that one day,you will meet the right person who will love you exactly for who you are. But you cannot be scared like this and keep your heart shut. You need to give love a chance.’’
This short paragraph became some kind of prayer that I recited in my head every night before sleeping for at least the next 3 months. I realised that he was right; I needed to give love a chance, a real chance. However, I also realised that before opening my heart to strangers, I needed to open it to myself.
From this day onwards, my life changed. I changed. I started to love and accept myself. I understood what Sam had told me many moons ago; we only accept the love we think we deserve. I realised that I deserved so much more than what I had been receiving, and that it was time for me to accept this love. I understood that love does not hurt, when it truly exists.
And suddenly, I loved myself enough to let go of my fears. I loved myself enough to say no to destructive relationships. I loved myself enough to open my heart and to welcome the right people in it. I knew that one day, someone would enter my life and make me forget about the pain, the contempt, the betrayal. I would allow myself to trust. I would allow myself to feel deeply. That gave me hope.
But for now I loved myself, and that was enough.
On the Side : Rosi Golan – C’est l’Amour