After many years of having an extremely positive and impermeable, impregnable outlook on life and a belief in the inherent good that people possess, something I call a malignant optimism, my rose-colored glasses have once again been removed. However, I fear that this time, despite having been able to bounce back from any situation no matter how difficult in the past, I am unable to mend what is now permanently broken. The glasses are off and in their place lie the broken bits of pink glass.
I was a sheltered child but in many ways I was also brought up to be a free spirit. As an only child, I lived in a world of my own making. When things seemed dark or frightening, I would find a spark of light to illuminate the shadows. I played in the deep woods alone and communed with animals. I had a magical outlook, seeing things others couldn’t and experiencing supernatural things as well. I’d see the rare Luna moth frequently, or giant white egrets would follow me into the kitchen to eat frozen fish from my bare hands. Migrating birds, 20 miles out to sea, have flown into my hands as well, and I’d gently place them in my pockets for temporary refuge. As a child when I had a bad dream, I was able to reprogram my dreams more to my liking. I poured myself into music and dance and art. I had a very active and colorful imagination. I suppose this was a subconscious way to protect myself from harm, real or imagined, and it also left me feeling happy and filled with spectacular and perpetual joy. It was a good place to be and I resolved to stay there for the rest of my life. Until now.
I recognize these same qualities and attributes in my granddaughter, Sophia. She is an effervescent little girl. She is so filled with charm, and has a dreamy quality about her. Just like a fairytale princess, she traverses her world filled with fireflies, ponies, and magical dragons that lull her to sleep at night and give her joy every day. She loves music and dancing and painting. She loves books about fairy kingdoms and magical animals with healing powers. She is enamored with anything to do with the sea: dolphins, penguins and fish. She speaks with the verbal acuity and understanding of a child much older, yet she is only a toddler.
She is a product of both her genes and of her environment. She suffered at her birth from a congenital birth defect that I wrote about in a previous post. She also, this past year, has been abandoned by her father. It has been extremely difficult both for her and for her mother, and for myself, who can only stand by and watch as the suffering unfolds. She is nearly four years old now and I see so much of myself in her at this tender age in many ways. Though I was not abandoned, my father did travel extensively and was rarely at home.
To compensate for his being away, I grew up idolizing my father. She probably will not get that chance. The relationship a girl has with her father is critical to her upbringing and the woman she will one day become. There needs to be love and nurturing and affection, especially if he is gone quite a bit. The expressions and outward manifestations he provides are adopted and carried into her adulthood. It creates the ability to recognize honest and caring individuals and love from others. Without it, or if he disappears from her life altogether, the inability to see pretense in others, or danger, or the risk of becoming victimized is heightened. It also leaves the child blaming herself for his absence in ways that when she is older will manifest as feeling abandoned and seeking out a replacement father figure over and over to provide what was either not given or what was abruptly taken away.
I did not realize until just recently that my father’s absences made such an impact on my life. I would always long for his return while I was growing up. He was a bit distant emotionally and I wasn’t sure if it was his job that made him this way or if it was me. I must have internalized this at a young age. It seems normal to me, then, to accept unavailable or distant men. It left an opening in my heart that, without my knowledge, others would be able to gain access to and take advantage of. I was completely unaware that others could see into this vulnerability, this gaping hole. I didn’t even know it existed. It makes sense to me now why four years after his passing, I still grieve for him and miss his presence deeply. Looking back, I now know why I have been vulnerable at times in my own life, unable to see pretense in others, and victimized by still others in some cases.
I pray she doesn’t experience this and I will do what I can to protect her and guide her properly. It is the man, though, early in a little girl’s life who forms her basic understanding of how love should be given and what it should feel like. He forms her opinion and shapes her beliefs in how all men should behave. He sets the foundation of what she will accept in love and nurturing. Her relationship with him is much like a computer program that is running all the time in the background. It controls the operations remotely.
Sophia is cracked but not yet completely shattered or broken. There is still time to right some of the wrongs that she has been prematurely and unfortunately exposed to. Perhaps in time, much the way glass will melt and ooze down into an old window frame, those blemishes will smooth over. For me, though, having this one last time been broken, it has completely shattered a belief system that was once core to my being. I have no idea what is true or right or how to even recognize it. It is a frightening place to be. In fact, it is paralyzing. I do know that I cannot return to those old beliefs or put my glasses back on. There is no repair. The shifting, melting glass has puddled into the bottom of the frame, bubbling and separated on all four sides, the rose tint no longer left on my glass.