Community//

Dear Dad, You Don’t Belong to Me

An open letter of gratitude for Father's Day and how to nurture an adult daughter-father relationship.

Dear Dad,

Fifteen years ago I didn’t consider the possibility that we would one day be preparing for a relay bike race the day before Father’s Day. Fifteen years ago I didn’t think you would be walking me down the aisle at my wedding. Fifteen years ago I didn’t know that reconnecting with you would come to fruition, but it did. It’s a relationship that has since evolved into a mutually respectful domain comprised of two adults that happen to be father and daughter.

During our ten year separation, I experienced deeply compounding feelings, but I’m not here to harp on the past, merely touch on it to engage context. I never gave up on the possibility that we would one day reconnect. All that time I held on tightly to the notion that we would be in each other’s lives again and here we are today. I didn’t previously expect or consider the capacity of such a fulfilling relationship that now exists, I had no clue how it would appear. What has been profoundly healing and powerful is how we’ve stepped into the pain we each carried forth from the past, established boundaries coupled with transparency, and continue to feed a connection as the adults we are today, with open hearts and minds. 

Cultural norms that have taught us about the parent-child dynamic are very prescribed standards. A parent is an authority while the child is to follow suit, but where does the shift happen when the child becomes an adult? Do the same behavioral patterns continue on auto-pilot? We can be hardwired and deeply connected to our familiar behaviors, induced by unknowingly obsolete feelings and emotions. Through my experience in stepping away from one another a series of events lead me to believe that anything astray can be regenerated. Yes, anything. Not that the lapse was a ray of sunshine, but life is full of unpredictability and what has already occurred is simply dust in the wind.

Being in the present is a choice

Living a life dictated by the past is not a life occurring in the present. This is what we first needed to choose individually and then share in order to move forward in our relationship. Looking to the past is full of conjectured comfort in memories and nuanced, familiar imprints on our subconscious. It’s not about the good, the bad or the beautiful – those moments have simply happened. We frequently surrender to cruising the road ahead on the basis of previous experiences because we’ve been lead to assume these are the rules of engagement. While I appreciate snapshots from my past and cherish historically joyful moments, what matters most is being in the present. Not allowing past traumas, resentments or grudges to overwhelm or carry into our current state. 

Our actions and beliefs are components of an equation that produce the present. Our current thoughts and feelings may at times seem unfamiliar, not in line with the easement of the past, but they shapeshift the now and therefore conjure up a new future. Choice is decided by each of us, no one else. How we show up in each moment we’re awake, dismissing any conscious or subconscious attempts at a hijacking by the past, will lead to a life of abundance.

We belong to the universe, not each other

“You don’t belong to me, you belong to the universe.” Dad, you share this often as a gentle reminder that we owe nothing to one another, we aren’t beholden to anyone or anything. We simply are as we are, a microscopic piece of energy that comprises the greater universe. This theory of living positions us to embrace ourselves first and then those around us. Not the common ideals of cultural, environmental or biological standards, but because when you break it all down we’re all a part of a larger sum, not simply that as a result our parents. 

My power is the choice I make in being present, my thoughts and emotions, and therefore actions and behaviors that manifest in the physical world. We make a choice to embrace each other, not because you’re “my” dad and I’m “your” daughter, but because we find joy in being together. We have a shared respect for our individual nature and that of the other. Our past burdens and pain are not subject to the present reality, nor is there any obligation. Since we are cognizant of our greater belonging we automatically engage consistently on a brand new playing field. 

A new relationship today

The day we came together again after a ten-year hiatus was your retirement ceremony where you gave a speech that included two words that remain with me every day; grace and generosity. My daily practice and intent are to engage consciously where these two concepts are at the center. You shine a light on the ethos of embracing ourselves and others for who we each are and that light gets brighter each time I feed my system. The only control or choices we have jurisdiction over is that of ourselves.

We each made the choice to come together as we simply are right now. We choose to embrace one another, ask questions, welcome newness while being open to the other person. We don’t allow past experiences or behaviors to stifle present discoveries, conversations or expeditions. We choose to engage exclusively one-on-one, embracing and celebrating as two adults that happen to be daughter and father. 

I didn’t expect any of this fifteen years ago, but I did believe that we would one day be together again. What I know now is that being in the present can heal and yield intention for living a life that I want to live, with the people I want in it. 

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