Yes, I borrowed the title from Obama’s book, Dreams for My Father. No, this blog post will not be as brilliantly written as his book. In fact, my blog post will most likely be full of grammatical errors and may insult small nations. I hope not, but I can’t predict what’s going to come flying out of my fingers at 9:12 AM.
The title, Dreams for my Father, is not me being hyperbolic. I do have dreams for my father. The way we relate, the way we interact, the relationship we could have.
However, something happened yesterday that left me numb and sad, determined and resigned. If you read through my previous posts, you’ll find a post called The Stranger and the Friend. This was the last time I had spoken with my father. Go ahead and read the post…I’ll wait.
(time goes by, so slowly…tick, tock, tick, tock)
You’re back? Oh, good. So, that post happened, and since then, let’s just say that things haven’t been super hunky dory between me and the man who inseminated my mother. How so? We haven’t said anything. He continually “lost” my number. But all of it — ALL of it — came to a head as recently as Sunday through Yesterday (Yesterday is not a real day of the week, but in this example, it is Thursday).
His mother had passed away two months ago. I, being the compassionate person I am, reached out and organized flowers to be sent from myself, my brother and my sister. We couldn’t be there in person — and frankly, didn’t feel it was right. We didn’t have a relationship with this woman, save for a few awkward hugs across 39 years. I can count on one hand the number of times we had seen each other. I didn’t dislike the woman — I just didn’t know her.
Nevertheless, it was my grandmother, and my father’s mother. Not wanting to seem insensitive, we sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers and card expressing our condolences. My father and I texted over the course of the week before and after the service. I wanted to make sure they got there, and that he received them. He did, he said thank you, and asked if I would like a memory card from the service. I said yes, please.
This past Sunday, I was catching up on some correspondence, and reaching out to people I love, which I do every Sunday. I send a little text that lets them know I’m thinking of them, asking how they are, scheduling time to talk during the week. It’s something I’m doing to be more engaged with people around me. I sent him a very innocent little text, something that read, “Hey. How are you doing?”
Three days later…(read that in your best SpongeBob SquarePants voiceover voice), I got a text back that said, “Who is this?”
Who is this?
Um…I was stunned. I was floored, I was flabbergasted, gobsmacked. Whatever you want to call it. I mean, I had the chat conversation from the previous two months where we had discussed his mother’s passing. I didn’t know how to respond.
Why was this so important? I’m named after this man. I’m his first child. I didn’t know how to respond. I had spent 39 years trying to be a good son, reaching out, wanting that relationship, and then to be caught by this information was truly surprising.
If I were to take an honest and hard look at the past relationship with my father, I really shouldn’t be surprised. Hurt, yes, but surprised, no. I can give multiple examples of how myself, my brother, my sister were afterthoughts. One that comes to mind immediately was in 2006. I was on the road, and happened to be playing in his home state of Michigan. I had called three weeks earlier to ask if I could have Thanksgiving with them, as we would be there at that time. He said, yes, he would love to have me.
I was excited. This was the first time I would have spent a major holiday with that side of the family. We made arrangements, and agreed I would reach out once I got into Michigan to finalize everything.
I can remember that week like it was yesterday. I had called, emailed, called, and called again. But nothing. Not.a.single.response. My father decided he didn’t want to follow through with Thanksgiving with his son. His first born son. I sat at a restaurant and had Thanksgiving dinner alone, as everyone had already left for the week. I was devastated. Thirty years old, and devastated on a day reserved for giving thanks.
Then, of course, you know about the incident three years ago. And now this.
These are just a few of the examples that come readily to mind of disappointment after disappointment.
I wasn’t sure what to do, and so finally, I responded back stating that I was looking for my father, is this not him? No response until…
three days later…
He wrote back and said yes, who is this. I have yet to respond.
I know what I want to say. And the only things I want to say are angry and emotional. And now I share my first draft of what I want to write to him:
This is your first born son. I am hurt that after 39 years, I am not in your phone, but I suppose after 39 years I am not surprised. I have wrestled over what I have done or may have done to anger or upset you, to cause you to be so emotionally distant. After a lot of consideration, I realize that it’s not what I have done, but what you haven’t done. Thirty-nine years I have spent investing in something that was not even in the back of your mind never mind the forefront. Your continued non-action has showed me that the only thing I share with you is our first name. Because I would never and have never treated my own son this way. Your life in Michigan seems to be pretty complete without me complicating it. I wish you only the best and I won’t contact you again.
Am I hurt? Absolutely. Do I wish he would grow a pair and be a man? Yes. Tell me you hate me. Tell me that I’m not what you wanted. That I was a mistake. Anything except for apathy.
My father is a coward. Any strength I have learned in this world comes from my mother. My mother, who left this coward of a man with three children, after being subjected to the abuse by his hands, and his constant belittlement. My mother who raised four incredibly independent children, all with quick and sharp minds, able to see through people’s bullshit. Sometimes we get blinded, though — some of that bullshit gets on the window of the car we’re driving through life — but we’re able to wipe it away and see with more clarity.
I write this because I am still angry. And who knows, maybe I will send this message to him. I can’t say that it would make any difference if I did. Would he even care? Who knows.
All I know is that these actions reaffirmed the choice I have made for myself: next week, I go and change my last name to my stepfather’s last name. It’s the name I know. It’s the name I was raised with. It’s now time to make it official.
To my stepfather, my dad — I say I love you. Thank you for having the courage to raise me as your son when I was not of your blood.
To my father, a man with whom I have nothing in common — all I can do is wish you well.
Oh, and go to hell, you selfish piece of shit.
Recently, a very dear friend of mine moved. We had gotten together for coffee, and she presented me with two things. One, a music book in which we had selected different songs, and rehearsed them. The second was a small card called “The ABC’s of Life.”
It’s been sitting on the shelf in my living room, under a pile of books, for a while now. After my recent move, I rediscovered it, and decided that I would take a look at it for this blog posting, and offer a couple thoughts on it, if I may. So, if you’ll indulge me, we can go through, from A to Z (sorry, Amazon.com!) the ABC’s of life.
This one is particularly relevant to me right now, having gone through a breakup that I don’t quite understand completely, but knowing that the reality of it all is to live in our truth, whatever that truth may be. And if you are unhappy, sad, diffident, whatever…that doesn’t mean that the person next to you is. And, quite simply, that’s okay. You can be sad. I can be happy. That difference is so simplistic, yet it we often forget that as a society, our uniqueness is what makes us human. Black, white, gay, straight – it doesn’t matter. As long as we accept those differences, we can work towards a better whole.
Whoo, boy. I wish more people would follow this one. Too many times people will have an unkind word, a cutting remark, a mean thought to those around them. And yet, it takes so much energy. I suppose, if you practice it long enough, it becomes second nature. But what kind of energy are you putting out in the world? These are the same people who would be devastated if they found out that someone had hurt them in the same manner. They might blow it off with their own witty comeback, but how long can that facade hold up? The world would be a lot better if we were just kind to each other. Without belittling, without yelling, without screaming. Remembering our manners. Heck, even opening doors for people. Being grateful for what we have, and excited for others’ success. All of this leads to a much more balanced, much healthier understanding of the world, and ourselves.
Count Your Blessings
I drove home recently from a visit with my family, and I was mad. Pissed off. Angry at the world. How could he do this to me? How could my five-year relationship end with so much confusion on both of our part, and feeling completely hopeless and without an idea of what to do next. On the other side of the highway, I saw a U-Haul truck that had been filled to the brim, the belongings of someone on their way to somewhere else to begin their new life. And that U-Haul truck had been completely gutted out by fire. It put everything into perspective for me, and I suddenly realized that I still had a roof over my head, I still had my furniture (even if it is not the most expensive stuff in the world), I still had family, I still had friends, and that one thing…really, insignificant in the entirety of my life, was not going to affect all of those other blessings. It really put it into perspective for me, and I quickly said a thank you to the universe.
So important. Not just your nightly dreams…you really aren’t in charge of those. But the dreams you have every day, when you wake up. Writing a song, a lyric, going flying, taking a cruise, climbing Mount Everest. Whatever those dreams are, they’re important. They fuel you. They are food for your soul. And without them, life becomes a repeat of the same thing every day. Even just having the dreams propels you towards your goal because it’s out there. And who knows who you’ll meet on the street or in the world who might help you with your dreams. Right now, my dream is to produce a version of this musical I have written, as well as record a six song demo of some of the songs to help enter it into festivals to give it new life. I talk about it whenever I can, to whomever will listen. Sometimes I fear I’ve worn out the welcome, but hey, if you don’t put it out there, you’ll never know. Come on, Universe. I’m patient. 🙂
I really believe this is a generational thing. Very often, we forget to thank people when they do a kindness. Almost to the point that when we do actually say the words, “Thank you,” it becomes almost a shock for the recipient. There have been times when I have said thank you, and the person receiving the thanks has looked almost bewildered, as though they didn’t know what to do with it. But the fact of the matter is, we can’t do it alone. None of us. We may think we can, but we’d be sorely mistaken. And those who are out there who make the effort to give up their most valuable asset — time — to assist someone else should be thanked. This goes for our military, this goes for our friends, our family, even strangers who hold the door. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of people that have breezed right past me as I’ve held the door for them without so much as a thank you, their kids in tow. I suppose a more cynical person would be inclined to simply stop, but I believe in the kindness of humanity, and think that my one small action may influence them in some way that they never even would think about.
I live my life in musical theatre lyrics sometimes. And the one that always comes back to me is this one, from “Jane Eyre.” I’ll reprint most of it here for your enjoyment:
You mustn’t be revengeful
You have to be strong
To offer good for evil
Return right for wrong
We must not hold a grudge
And we must learn to endure
Then as God is your judge
At least your heart will be pure
Is the mightiest sword
Forgiveness of those you hate
Will be your highest reward
When they bruise you with words
When they make you feel small
When it’s hardest to bear
You must do nothing at all
Is the simplest vow
Of all their crimes
Is your deliverance now
Bless those souls
Who would curse your name
When the last bell tolls
You’ll be free of blame
You can continue to grieve
But know the Gospel is true
You must forgive those who lie
And bless them that curse you
Is the mightiest sword
Forgiveness of those you hate
Will be your highest reward
The time will come when we will leave this world,
and then the injustice and the pain and the sin will fall away from us,
and only the spark of the spirit will remain – returning to God who created it
You must never lose faith
You must never lose heart
God will restore your trust
And I know you’re afraid
I’m as scared as you are
But willing to be brave
Brave enough for love
I think this is very powerful. Forgiveness. Don’t let it hold you down. So often, we hold a grudge, we let it keep us from doing what it is that we need to accomplish because we’re mad, we’re angry, and so-and-so wronged me. And yet…here we are, one, two, three, five, ten, 20 years later, still holding that grudge and keeping us from achieving our true potential, to be as free as we can. To take wing and to soar. What has holding that grudge gotten us? Twenty years of dark, deep stuff that makes it even harder to get rid of. But if we can just toss it out, forgive and MOVE ON, then we can truly be ourselves, and be free to open up to whatever life has to offer. I recently sat down and wrote a letter to myself. I forgave myself of my shortcomings, recognized that I was the most perfectly flawed version of myself that existed, and that while I could always grow and change, I could never go back and fix. And I forgave myself. For the wrongs I had done. For the wrongs I would do. For the hurt I may have caused anyone. We’re our own toughest critic, and we have to be gentle with ourselves as well as the rest of the world. And it was freeing. I let go of some of the baggage that had been holding me back since I was a kid…and my relationship with my father suddenly blossomed, my spirit was alive, and I was back in the game, back to enjoying everything life had to offer. The penultimate line of that lyric, “But willing to be brave.” Are you brave enough to forgive?
Harm No One
I do my best every day to be gentle, kind, and courteous. I suppose I could say, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent as well, but I’m a homosexual and the Boy Scouts of America don’t take too kindly to my type. Still, when I WAS a scout, that was the thought process that occurred all the time. To be kind to people. To do the right thing. And with that comes not harming anyone else. We’re all sentient beings and some of us have a better grasp on our feelings than others. However, if I have wronged you, intentionally or unintentionally, I will own my stuff. I am not afraid to say I’m sorry, if I have hurt you in any way. I’m human, after all. I make mistakes. But part of being human is owning them. An animal will harm you, and think nothing of it. But a human has the power to practice forgiveness and be the recipient of it. It’s interesting how these all tie together, don’t you think?
I don’t mean dream the next iPhone…though that’s pretty cool too. I just mean sometimes we need to get out of the black and white of our world, and imagine a bit more. Dare to dream. Just let our minds wander. You never know what this will do for your soul. It sounds like a bunch of hooey, but we have to remember our souls also need nurturing. If we nurture and cultivate that, then we can grow anything our heart can imagine.
What good is it for us to carry our anger around. It’s like plaque…and it just builds and builds and builds. Until we don’t remember what we were angry about in the first place, we’re just angry. We let it fester. We let it grow. But if we can deal with the situation, whatever it is, immediately and like an adult, then we can move past it, or more importantly, through it. Because the quickest way is through. It may never be the easiest, but it is the fastest way. Otherwise we end up spending years in therapy, trying to figure out why we were upset in the first place….and it usually ends up being something so insignificant that after the initial joy of discovering what it was that kept us back, we suddenly go…well…that was stupid. Why the heck did I hold onto that for so many years???? Better to deal with it, and move through it. They say couples shouldn’t go to bed angry. And this is a truth. Because eight hours is a long time, even if you are sleeping, to think on something, to twist it, to contort it into whatever suits your particular justification for your anger. When really, it could have been dealt with right away. Get rid of it. It’s just taking up space for you to be a much happier person.
This one is important. “Can you keep a secret?” “Of course.” Then…. “Oh my god, did you hear about what Susie did?” What does that say about you? Never mind what Susie did, what does it say about you, and how true to your word you are? Someone came to you to get something off their chest, to confide in you, and you go and blab their news. Why? To bring them down? To make them feel better about yourself? To seem superior because you have this little nugget of knowledge that is rather uninformed and only half the story? Bravo. Kudos to you. You’re only as good as your word. And if you break your word….well…you do the math. Unless it’s something completely criminal and absolutely not right — something that is hurting another person…then by all means, PLEASE break that confidence. We don’t want another Penn State.
I would add to this one, love deeply. Love sincerely. Love honestly. If you’re not happy, go. But love. Love with wild abandon. Love with all your heart. You may end up hurt…but you’ll recover. You’ll grow from it. Don’t build relationships on false pretenses. There’s no room for that. Those seeds will grow faster than anything you’ve ever experienced, and take such a hold on the relationship it will suffocate and die. Just live in your truth, and love. It’ll usually doesn’t steer you wrong.
I’ve thought long and hard about this. I could provide a list of things that I am not good at. If I did, this blog posting would be 1909810980918309813098 times longer, and you would have stopped reading after the first few. “Okay, we get it.” Instead, I will focus on something I have mastered, and that is the ability to be reliable. It seems silly to think about, but I’ve noticed that through my pain, through all the difficulties that I’ve experienced in my life, even when I’m at my lowest, people still come to me for guidance, for help. I don’t know that I’ve steered them in the right path, but the best I can do is be reliable, to be strong for them. So they have someone to lean on. It’s what I do best. Now, if I could only remember that for myself. 😉
Don’t quash anyone’s dreams. Foster it. Help it grow. So maybe the idea is a bad one. That’s not for you to decide. You never know, it could turn into something else, something amazing, something spectacular. And I suppose, from an egotistical point of view, you could take pride in the fact that you helped push that person along the way, to achieve their dream, to aspire, to hope. Or you could simply take satisfaction in their dreams. Because without them, we don’t have much.
Open Your Mind.
Take a look at our current political cycle. He’s wrong, she’s wrong, he said, she said. Not a lot of conversation going on…just a lot of noise. ‘Nuff said.
This one is great, because it means get rid of your baggage, matching set and all. Take what you only need to survive in the world, and let the rest go. Let it go. LET IT GO. You’ll feel the world lifted off your shoulders if you can just let it go…and besides, those strap marks aren’t very pretty to look at.
“Did you hear about Susie and Bill?” No. And no one else will. If anyone tells me something completely unfounded, malicious, I let it end with me. I don’t go and tell the person, I don’t pass it on, so it can grow into some big ugly monster. I let it die. Monsters are scary, but we all have the strength to slay them and make the world a bit safer. Not because I’m trying to be noble, but because I’ve been the victim of those rumors…and I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to be fed to the monster.
Don’t just take, take, take, take, take, take take. Give. Remember growing up, the saying it’s better to give than receive. It’s so simple, yet it’s true. It works. Give. Not to the point of harming yourself, but give. You never know who you might be helping.
We don’t know everything. If we did, what’s the point of going on? We should seek out answers, seek out questions to questions, seek out other ways of thinking….so that we can continue to expand our minds and continue to grow. Because some day, someone will come to you for the wisdom you possess…and it can live on, through generations. It’s kind of exciting to think about, that we all are connected somehow through our own shared wisdom.
There is nothing better than touching someone’s heart. Because it becomes a human experience, something they will treasure forever. I’ve been the recipient of people who have touched my heart more than I can imagine. I aspire to do the same. I can’t say that I ever have succeeded, but I aspire nonetheless. I want to give back, and continue to give, so that people are just a little bit better off than they were only moments before. To share that experience with someone…whether through a well-thought-out letter, a phone call, being there in time of crisis, or just letting them know that you care…it can make all the difference in the world.
I’ve struggled with this one over the past month. Trying to understand. And I can’t say that I’ve been completely successful. Nevertheless, I have done my best to understand why certain things happened the way they did, and why they didn’t. And I find that only bits and pieces are clear enough for me to say that I understand them. I suppose with time, I will grow to understand more, as I have a bit more distance and clarity in the situation. But I’m doing my best to not get wrapped up in the minutia of it all, and just understand it — for my own protection and for my own benefit. Selfish, I suppose, but it is really the only way to move on…or move through.
The truth will set you free. Live your truth. All of those things. But truth is the foundation of so many things…of shared experiences, of relationships, of acting moments, of dreams, whatever. Value it, and you’ll suddenly find that fibbing just to fib is not only pointless, but gets in the way of achieving a much more balanced life.
Nobody likes a sore loser. Or a gloating winner. Just let it be what it is. Don’t be comparing yourself to the Joneses when the Joneses may not have everything you do. I do my best to instill this lesson in my son when we play a game, because it serves you so well out in the real world. You may be the smartest kid in the class…but it doesn’t do you any good to tell the world about it, does it?
This one could be considered a reach. But basically, the definition is as follows:
environmental design of residential and park land using variousmethods for minimizing the need for water use.
All right, let’s take a closer look at that definition. I think really, it’s saying that you should make sure you are comfortable in your surroundings. Though I suppose gardening is also something to consider. Cultivating one’s own environment so that they can grow. That’s good. Let’s go with that.
Yearn for Peace.
I don’t think anyone really wants war. I don’t. I find it hard to believe that. I think sometimes people get so bogged down in their own doctrines that they forget that really, at the core basics, all of us want the same thing — to love and be loved in return, to exist harmoniously, and to be free to do what it is we were put on this earth to do. Maybe if we all yearned for a peace a bit more, we wouldn’t have lost so many of our men and women overseas. Call me a hippie, but I can’t help but think about those people in Aurora, Colorado, those children in Darfur, the mass genocide in Syria. The list sadly goes on and on.
Zealously support a worthy cause.
I think this is best summed up this way:
All right. I’m going to get off my soapbox. I’ll come in at under 3,500 words, and that’s perfect. If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Be kind to yourself.