My daughter was conceived out of wedlock. Although I strongly considered marrying my daughter’s mom when we found out she was pregnant, we never did. Some would argue that marriage is the right thing to do but I was never pressured by my family or hers to stand at the shotgun altar. We both tried in our own ways to make it work. When my daughter was about a year old we separated and agreed to split the time equally with my daughter. The next 6 years would be a roller coaster ride that would test me emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.
I had no preparation for parenting. I didn’t have any savings. I didn’t have an IRA or 401 K. My jobs were seasonal, guiding in the mountain in the winters and on the rivers in the summer. I didn’t own any real estate. What I did have was a promise I had to live up to. When I welcomed my daughter into this world with a song and I cut her umbilical chord, I promised her that she would be loved. I promised her that I would be present and an active participant in her life.
I could, if I chose too, to indulge in the clever games that the mind plays of blame and narcissistic justifications. My ex and I disagreed wholeheartedly on not only how to raise our daughter but how to be a parent. We were so entrenched in our positions, with neither of us wavering, that we ended up in court. The 2 year brutal legal battle that ensued is something I know for sure that I would not wish on anyone or ever have to go through again. My life, as hers, was placed under a high power microscope. We were forced through multiple mediations, through child and family investigators and then court. Ultimately, regardless of our own intentions, the one that suffered most from our deeply entrenched positions was my daughter.
There is the saying that every time you point a finger, you have three pointing back at yourself. While at a weekend intensive for personal development, I had an epiphany. I wanted to create a new possibility for an amicable relationship with my daughter’s mom. To enroll her in this new possibility, I had to be more honest with myself than I had been in a long time. I had to look at who I was in the relationship with her and also the type of man I was through out the custody battle. I reached out to her in a long and heart felt letter and I asked for her forgiveness. I shared with her a vision of a new future. One that wasn’t shackled with the baggage and chains of a tumultuous past. In our collective vision, the past was left where it was and we moved forward together as co-parenting partners completely supportive in creating the best possible present and future for our daughter.
In my many years guiding on the river and on the mountain I have had to keep myself sharp and present. It’s easy to get into comfortable patterns of being and for better or worse we find routines. We take the same lines, we tell the same jokes and we blanket the beautiful present moment with our habitual attitudes of mind that are riddled with tarnished perspectives from the past. I challenge others and continue to challenge myself to leave the past where it is, forgive and let yourself be forgiven. So far it has made an amazing difference in my life and opened doors that I would have never thought would open. My daughter continues to thrive and I feel like I have become a better father and a better man. As we all prepare for our new adventure to Maui, I can’t help but have faith in what lies before us.