My Dad called me tonight, and I stayed on the phone with him for about an hour. The conversation was a good one, because he got me talking about the truth– in other words, how I *really* am doing these days. He didn’t pry; in fact, he told me I didn’t have to tell him if I didn’t want to, but I know that it was an opportunity to have a heart to heart with my Daddy and I definitely don’t get that enough.
I told him about the dog; about work; about lingering self-esteem doubts that I can’t allow back into my life if and when the day comes that I start dating again; and the way it feels to recover following a divorce.
Seriously, how lucky am I? I can’t tell you how blessed I feel that I am able to have a conversation like this with my father. I know not all of us are so fortunate.
I’m kind of in awe of the journey it took to get to this point. So many things have happened in our family, so many tough challenges, tragedies and lessons, and yet somehow all four of us are doing OK. We made it out of the woods, I guess you could say. None of us were ruined by any of it. In fact, we’re all changed for the better because my Dad, my Mom, my sister and I have all gained wisdom and experience and we all know the value of what happened. It can be hard to believe it when I think back to the way I was in, say, college. I legitimately didn’t believe I deserved the best of anything. It was weird. I settled for what I felt was “at my level.” I could have been manager at the video store where I worked– all I had to do was tell my boss that’s what I wanted. God knows I did the work of one, just for the salary of a regular clerk. I could have dated that super hot Italian dude, Alex, from my communications classes; he always sat with me, we would talk long after class was over and laugh; he’d tell me about his mother and his dog… but he was incredibly good-looking. Like Brandon Lee good-looking. So many girls on campus were always flirting with him, checking him out– those pretty, thin and accomplished-looking sorority chicks. At the time, I was dating my dumb hippie boyfriend that I never loved– I was just passing time. But I thought THAT was my level. That I could never be with a guy like Alex– he was in a whole other league. He could get any girl he wanted. How the hell could I compete with that? No, I was better staying with someone more “my speed.”
The me that looks back on this particular scenario now is thoroughly amazed and disgusted in my lack of self-esteem back then. What was I thinking? The guy was clearly flirting…with ME. Sure, he was polite to those sorority chicks in the student center, but he was still hanging out at my table as I ate my lunch. But did I see this? No, I certainly did not. I remember not even giving it a thought that his attention could mean anything more than simple friendship. After all, I’ve always had guy friends, since my personality and sense of humor skew that way more often than not… and I only WISH you blog girls had been around so we could all let our freak flags fly together. I didn’t think I was “worthy” of dating a great guy. Holy cow. That’s sad.
But the good thing is that it is now passing. I’ve learned that I tend to do things like that. I aim low so I am not disappointed. I accept good enough rather than the best. Well, I’m armed now with knowledge of my past behavior, and I think just being aware of it is going to go a long way in helping me to never slip back down into that dark place again. It’s not fun to think you aren’t good enough. It’s way more fun to enjoy life to its fullest. It ain’t rocket science. But it’s a simple truth.
I got off on a tangent; the Alex thing is just an example, and I am in no way ready or interested in dating. Allow me to make that perfectly clear. This single existence is A W E S O M E! I’m in no hurry to give this up. Hell noooo.
Anyway, I thanked my Dad for the great talk and told him this:
Me: You know what’s interesting, when I think back to Opa [my Dad’s father], I can’t remember a thing about him. I never had a clue who he really was as a person, even before he got sick [Alzheimer’s].
Dad: No, I don’t think I ever did, either.
Me: Well, I just want to tell you how happy I am that we are able to talk like this, right now, because I think if we didn’t all go through the divorce and the mess of things, it wouldn’t be like this. I think that thanks to all that crap, now I know YOU. Maybe, if it hadn’t all happened like it did, I would be thinking of you today the way I think of Opa. I’d be like, ‘Oh, my Dad? Well, umm.. he’s into cars…he likes animal documentaries, and uh…I guess that’s it.’
Dad: No, if I only knew back then what I know now about myself, I think that I would have been a better husband, and a better father.
Me: Yeah, but that doesn’t matter now, because at least it happened. At least you learned the lessons, and you drastically changed the way you thought of yourself, and everything else. You really became that better father. Better late than never. And it’s not like me and (sister) hold any grudges about the way you used to be distant. We like you now, and we’re just so happy to have a relationship with our Dad!
Dad: Thank you. That means a lot. You have no idea. I love you kids so much. (Other stuff was said– can’t remember…) Well, I can’t leave you much…can’t leave you any money, because God knows I don’t have any of that… but I hope I can at least just share what I’ve learned, help you two out when you need it, and maybe you can benefit from the shit I’m telling you and go on to have the best lives you can have.
He really did say “the shit I’m telling you.” 🙂
I’m just sitting here thinking of the significance of what we said tonight, and I feel so grateful for the knowledge I accumulate every single day of my life. I’m grateful for the shitty times. I’m grateful for the way I freaked out last night when I couldn’t get my article to come together, after hours and hours of trying. Not only because I got the stress out of my system, but also because I knew enough to call my sister right when it was getting unbearable… I’ve learned to reach out for help, get someone to snap the rubber band on my wrist to get me out of a downward spin rather than let it take me down… but that my sister is a friend enough to know what to say to get me going. She gave me solid advice and ideas of how to get the article going, and I am seriously so touched and thankful for that. She didn’t say, “oh, I know it sucks, poor you.”
Nope. She said, “OK, get away from the computer. Go in the kitchen or something, and set the kitchen timer, and write out one point you want to make with the article and when the timer goes off, stop.” Damned if that isn’t the greatest advice I could have heard last night. It worked, and I went to bed with a complete new outline for the article.
I just appreciate the ride. It’s taken me 33 years to get to this point. I wouldn’t trade any of it, because it all means that my existence from this point on will play out in a more full, vibrant manner because I know how far I’ve come and what I have.
Life is shitty sometimes. Divorce, sickness, death…all of that is complete and utter shit. But the big toilet of life always flushes, sooner or later, and the shit goes away.
Oh my God. I think I just “went there” with the worst analogy to wrap up what was otherwise a decent, heartfelt post. But I’m keeping it. It makes me laugh.
It’s an older song, but it’s in my head tonight anyway: