And so it is, the burden I carry each day. Not of blame, or of fear, but of a vicious cycle of confusion and deep, unending self-hate — Who am I?
I'M standing in the hallway outside the therapist’s office. It’s December, and my coat is tightly wrapped around me, but not for lack of warmth. If anything, the room is stuffy, the atmosphere hot. I don’t take off the coat though, because I’m impenetrable, see? Nothing can hurt me anymore, now that everything already did.
I’m 14, and already I’m way past letting anyone see through or inside me. I feared deep down that even if I were to allow anyone in, there’d be nothing to see at all. The raging emotions that had once lived inside long since fragmented, then disappeared, leaving a gaping endless hole where only numbness survives.
And so it is, the burden I carry each day. Not of blame, or of fear, but of a vicious cycle of confusion and deep, unending self-hate — Who am I? What am I truly worth? It’s no wonder, then, that I’m struggling so.
I move stiffly to the end of the hall, where my father sits, waiting. He looks up from his sefer and smiles at undeserving me. “Hang on,” he says, “I need to take care of something small, then we’ll go.”
I nod, the heaviness of having spent the past hour in session starting to settle on me like a fog. He goes down the hall, enters the therapist’s room.
Two minutes pass, then five, until I decide to follow him. He doesn’t see me, leaning in the doorway, but I see him, standing over the therapist’s desk. She sits primly in her chair, while my father faces her, head bent in concentration but his back as tall as ever. I can make out the side profile of his face, and I see that it’s calm, his movements serene.
I look again and see that he’s counting, coaxing bills out of his wallet with one hand, as he counts the fifties out loud. One… two… three… four... My eyes flit from his fingers to his face and back again, even as I feel my heart freeze. He’s counting still, that serene smile never fading, until finally, he waves his hand at the therapist in salute. “Shkoyach!” he says, and turns around to where I stand.
Something shifts in me that night.
It’s a small shift, so small it almost goes unnoticed but it’s the first crack in the indifference and pain.
Fifteen years later, surrounded by a loving husband and delightful kids, I look back at that moment and know that that was when my healing began. Watching him, I knew — and with each bill, the realization struck deeper — I am worthy, I am worth it.
I was worth it despite the pain I was causing him. I was worth it because he believed in my future.
But more than anything, I was worthy — little me, broken and hurting and so incomplete — just as I was. For my father, that was enough. At long last, his love was accounted for.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 795)
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