What It Means to Be Brave { + In Focus. }

A few weeks ago I was inspired to see a glimpse of what my father looked like after seeing the film, The Guardians.

You see although my parents married at a young age, it fell apart after he was deported back to India right before I was born. When he returned to Canada when I was about a year old, the relationship didn't last (for a variety of reasons) and they both moved on. My mother and I stayed in Manitoba and we heard he had moved to Alberta. I didn't have pictures to reflect on his image and no place of reference for one half of me from then on. 

Fast forward to later and with many different periods of wondering what happened to this man that in Fall 2016, I decided to hire a Private Investigator in Canada to locate him. And they did and I wrote him a letter right before Christmas and it was returned to my mailbox the day of the Women's March in January 2017. When I returned home a feeling of elation turned into overwhelming heartache like no other I have experienced. I remember having three more private clients after brightly marching the streets of DC and then having to put a face on even though rubble and ruins were felt in my heart. An earthquake that left big holes within me so shaky that that feeling can still be felt now. 

I pushed deep down seeing that letter and the significance of seeing written on it, "wrong address". But in that moment I did actually think it was sent to the wrong address and so I {with hope} emailed my PI in Canada to confirm. And he told me immediately & flatly that it was the correct address. THAT moment is where "it" hurt the most.

I witnessed myself - outside of myself - numb up. It was like an armor that happened instantly like in a super hero movie. A layer of titanium skin grew around me so that I couldn't fall apart - so that I couldn't feel the hurt. 

I kept this experience inside me for a few days and then one day in the middle of the week I cried for hours.

After that cry, I moved on. At least I thought so. Because that is what I do. I told a few people about it. I wrote about it. I realized that this is just part of my story and it is a place where I want to heal from. 

Being part Indian from India and being part Indian as an Canadian Aboriginal - I am very used to having shame run through my bones. It's part of both cultures in different ways. I know it so well that I operate from that place of shame more than I want to admit. My strengths - as people might see them - were grown/built from my own fear of crumbling and allowing others to see me in full and in my naked truth.

But I have nothing to hide any longer because this marathon with me and the truth are finished. I think it was only a matter of time and some internal work that I've realized I no longer have the energy to take this on alone or that it has to be the only narrative to me. I do carry the hurt from that leaving. It's hard not to. I want so badly to be loved and held and seen in ways that I thought a father should see their daughter. But that cannot happen now but it doesn't need to be the end of that. So this broken record is something which I am trying to smash to smithereens so that it is nothing. Simply dust. Ash to blow away.

I know that it has been years since my parents were together and that many things have happened in life and who knows what this other person (my dad) has gone through. How can I expect that he would welcome me with open arms? Just because I want to establish a relationship now doesn't mean he is ready. Maybe he will never be ready. 

So this was where I left it in Spring 2017. I accepted that this person is not ready for me and might not be ever. And although there were many fits and starts since I was a teenager on ways to connect with my father, I knew that his new family and time could ultimately be a barrier.

And there was much thought and wonder and fear on how that day would show up - if we were to meet. Would he welcome me with open arms or would he have his arms crossed? I still hold the thought that his family -  and not him - decided to send the letter back to me. The PI told me on the day he went to the house in fall 2016, my father's wife and daughter came to the door as he stood back and they spoke Hindu with each other and said they knew about me but that they would decide as a family if they would make a relationship happen. It was in that moment that I knew I had no real say in this. But I still chose to write a letter for my own peace of mind. Once the letter was returned and I processed it, I made peace to let it go UNTIL I saw the movie, The Guardians, a few weeks ago.

The movie is set in France during WWI and women are needed to farm while men are at war. A couple of the female farmhands are sitting together and one has a black and white pic of her parents in her hands which she is sharing and the other has no pictures as she is an orphan. The orphaned girl says openly that she will never know what her parents look like. And in that moment, I realized I have never seen a pic of my father. I know what my mother looks like but not my father.

Short story was my step father was a jealous man and got rid of any pics of my father. Weird and gross. But is what is. So, I reached back out to Kyle (my PI) in Alberta and asked him how I would be able to get a photo. And he told me the only way was to try a delivery scheme where he would go to the door and deliver a package and in that process, snap some images. And next thing you know, less than two days later, I had images sent to my email address. I was stunned at the images because it was the first time I laid eyes on him that I can remember. 

The reason I feel he is not wholly to blame for returning my letter is because he wanted my parents to stay together. It was awful that he was deported but he tried to make it work when he returned back to Canada but my mother was so hurt and ended it (I am simplifying). I know I was not a mistake.

In trying to reconcile me: who I am, why I do the things I do, why I work as hard as I do, & why I feel so compelled to prove something to whomever is a side that I don't quite understand. I can only guess based on my own actions but it feels circular and repetitive. But I feel moved to keep reaching for my own truth and hoping that maybe one day I will meet this person. Like me, my father left his country in his early twenties wanting a better life from where he was. We have a lot of similarities. I don't think he realizes that potential. And that breaks my heart. 

But my life is very good and I am so grateful for everyone that has shown up in my life. And the gift of having no father has been that I have grown into the strongest and most bravest person I know. 

So I share this very personal story - of which I am still working through - because it is in these moments that I have felt the most sure of my own path - the most in focus + clear. Much like your own sometimes thorny and tumultuous path. Things we would like to change are what makes us who we are. What gifts have the Universe shared with you that you can use to your advantage? 

What can you do for you to be the most bravest and strongest person you know.

Namaste.

-Jess

Jessica Sandhu