Why We Do What We Do?

Why We Do What We Do?

Written by My Collaborative Team member, Randy Heller

Embarking on Thanksgiving, I am inspired to write about some of the things I am grateful for. That said, in the midst of my own loss, I am most grateful for the things I have learned on my path and this opportunity to share my journey with others with the hope that my story may help all of you toi be mindful so you can truly be helpful. I invite you to read what I write, and as you do, ponder… What is your why? Why is it that you do the work that you do? Why is it that it matters to you?

I'm going to take a risk of vulnerability and tell you my why. My why is about healing. My why is about forgiveness, growth, and hope. My why is about making a difference in the lives of the people who I am privileged to work with. My why is about changing the world, one person, one couple, one family at a time.

As many of you know, because we have spent the last nineteen months of turmoil getting to know and care for one another, (thank you MCT!), I lost my father last Thursday. In reality though, I have not truly lost my father, because he and his wisdom he has shared with me will always be with me.

My father taught me many lessons growing up, and many of which became even more apparant when he and my mother divorced when I was 13 years old. He taught me how much I mattered, he taught me that I could overcome adversity and do anything that I wanted to do, successfully, and he taught me how to do that. He taught me to never give up, to take every challenge and turn it into an opportunity, and to be confident that I can make life work. He instilled those beliefs in me every day, whether we were together or apart. My father also believed that I was here for a purpose.

I grew up in what one would now call a violent home. Not immediately, but through a desperate need to know my father through my own eyes (not my mother's), I was able to see, understand, and know a man that she could not. I discovered that my father was on a search for love and affection, and sadly, he found it outside of his marriage. My mother, who ironically yearned for the same, had an inability to love in the way in which my father needed to be loved, and because of that and his responses (or lack thereof), left her feeling rejected, hurt, angry, and literally crazed because he could not give her what she needed. We all become familiar with scenarios such as this in our work (and perhaps even our lives) on a regular basis. As you might imagine, that vicious cycle they were in for 17 years created and perpetuated high conflict in my home.

Because of that, I spent my early years in a household where there was intense anger, resentment, and much aggression. They somehow believed and were taught that staying married, even in a situation like this, was "better for their children." Finally recognizing that could not be true, my father decided to leave. I will never forget the day that he was moving out. A part of me was quite sad, and the other part of me, quite grateful. Relieved, that maybe the screaming, yelling, and fighting would finally end. Maybe there would be peace?

Although I hoped that things would be better after that, that did not happen. It was then that I learned about the pain the children of divorce experience. I learned about feeling torn, not knowing who to love, not knowing who's fault it was, who to blame, who to be mad at, who to forgive, or who to protect. Even worse than that, I didn't know who was going to love, care for, and protect me. I cannot express the fear, the angst, and the turmoil that caused me. Retrospectively, I realized, that both of my parents, in their own and very inept ways, did what they could to protect, care for, and love me. However, because they were so impacted by their own pain, they didn't know how to show me that. They definitely did not know how to keep me out of the crossfire. I became a casualty of my parent's divorce.

My mother was so angry and hurt, she could not shield me from her pain. I learned everything about the terrible husband that my father was to her, and about how he abandoned all of us to start a new life. The idea of that was devastating to me. I have come to understand that she thought she was protecting me by explaining why he left us, trying to convince me that it wasn't her fault, or about us, but that it was because he was a "bad man." The detrimental part of that share was that I was a part of that "bad man." I also feared that if she hated him that much, and I came from him, she could possibly hate me too. So,I thought I was supposed to hate my father.In order not to further alienate her, I took her side. At that young age, I couldn't understand my mother's pain, anger and rage, regardless of the things she told me, I only thought and believed that there must've been some thing wrong with me or he never would've left us. and actually, all of that resentment toward him backfired. I began to resent my mother for creating the emotional distance between my father and I.

Ultimately, I had to know more. I had to understand. I could not hate my father, We had to connect. That was only able to occur because there was a deep need in me to have a relationship with my him. Somehow, and honestly driven by my own anger, resentment, fear, pain and sorrow, I got the courage at a very young age to share with him the view I had of him through the lens of my mother. I let him know that I needed him to love me even if he couldn't love her. I used my voice, and I told him that I could not do without him. Although he moved 3,000 miles away, over time, as well as much effort, and determination, he found his ways to let me know, that no matter what, he would always be there for me. He was always close!

When my father passed he was 90 years old, and we had no regrets! He spent every day since that time (the next 77 years!), trying to make it all up to me, remorseful for my struggles, my feelings of confusion, abandonment and loss. I treasure those memories. He was my hero. I called him Superman. He was so proud of the work that I do! The work we all do! He knew in his soul why my why was so important to me.

At point, you might be wondering why am I writing this? Why am I airing this very dirty laundry out loud in a community where I believe I am well known and well respected. I share it with you so that you can know me better and on a deeper level. You can understand my passion, my strengths and even my challenges. Perhaps my story will inspire and empower you to do the work that we do, in the best possible way you can, to change the trajectory of the families who come to us for assistance and guidance.

As Collaborative Professionals, we can teach our clients to love their children more than they hate each other. We can help them help them to understand that the disdain they have for one another, only hurts themselves, and most importantly destroys their children! We as professionals can begin to recognize that in every family story there are multiple perspectives happening simultaneously, many moving parts, and a gamut of emotions running high and wide. We can be mindful of the fact that as Rumi said, "out beyond right and wrong, there is a field." We can guide our clients to meet there. We have the knowledge, information, skills and ability to change the narrative of these families. Unfortunately, back when my parents got divorced, there was no one to guide them in that way. There was no one to help me and protect me from my parent's circumstances. Each time I do that in my work with families, particularly in the Collaborative Process, I too, heal. I am transformed. In speaking with many of my colleagues and friends, I know you are too.

So, this is my why! We, as Collaborative Professionals are blessed with this opportunity. We can protect our families from this kind of pain. We can prevent this kind of destruction and promote this kind of healing from the onset, and we can make a difference in the lives of these families, on the front end instead of picking up the pieces of shattered lives. My father has passed, but the lessons I have learned from him, our experiences, and our healing will live on in me, in you, and in all of the families who we are honored to touch.

As the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, in the midst of my pain and grief I am grateful for where I have been, where I am, and for my why!

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