Some Things My Father Never Told Me
There is no book that falls down from the sky that gives you all the answers to the questions you will have in life. You have to find them on your own. The contexts will vary and cannot be summarily covered in simple platitudes and phrases that can be molded to fit any and every circumstance.
When you find that your explanations aren’t understood by the ones to whom you are offering them, you dig into yourself and find other words, you make stories or render analogies that the other person will perceive as pertaining to them; you keep looking until you find those other words.
When your heart is breaking, you have to tell the ones who broke it that they need to stop doing whatever it is that broke your heart. You need to trust and love them enough, sometimes, to make yourself that vulnerable.
If it seems that only one side is heard in a contest, in an argument, in a positioning of hearts and souls, you keep looking for ways to make the other side heard…but you look for the signposts that tell you that they and you have passed those same and other markers…again and again, so you find other words, explore other pathways and avenues of thought and reason to express that other side…and sometimes you keep your mouth closed and listen with the ears of your soul and hear things that your brain doesn’t want to hear…and sometimes you learn, you understand that the other side has already heard and understands the side you defend and knows in their deepest hearts that what they say is true…and sometimes it hurts.
When your loved ones don’t understand you, they still love you, they still cherish the air that you breath and their hearts still beat with yours…they just don’t understand…and you love them, too, anyway…and you find the words….If it’s you who is speaking, make sure your family knows it’s you, and not someone else. If they think it is someone else, a someone else who may be pulling your strings and making you dance or sing or writhe in pain, find the words to help them understand that it is your heart speaking…only yours….
If the day comes and you find that your family isn’t fond of the person you’ve chosen (or who has chosen you) to be your life partner, sometimes that has to be ok. Your aching heart can love both of them, your family and your partner. They don’t have to love each other…they didn’t choose each other, you did. And you don’t have to choose only one or the other…you can love both, separately. Sometimes that’s just the way it is…sometimes.
Understanding will come to your family that you do actually love your spouse and that your spouse makes you happy…if it is visible in your life…if the part of your soul that you reveal to them contains that joy, if they are able to see that unmistakable joy outwardly in your life. If they hear you say those words, but only see you living your life in a contrary manner, or under a burden that isn’t yours, and one not joyfully borne, they aren’t going to buy it…they will not believe your words and they will not share in the understanding of your love.
Family is, they will, they are going to talk to each other about some things before they talk to you or the other ones involved in whatever the situation. They find out what each other thinks…they find out what they themselves think…before talking with you. It’s like writing in your journal; you give voice to your thoughts in a safe place before delivering them to the one who is the intended receiver.
Sometimes you’re supposed to be uncomfortable. Sometimes the un-ease is what makes us reflect more deeply on what is being said to us…in love. Not to oversimplify, but growing-pains hurt…because we’re growing…sometimes it sucks, but you endure and learn and grow and continue loving…because you love.
When nobody wants to talk and it is important that you do, then talk. But talk with new words that haven’t been dragged around the block several times and now only have ragged holes in themselves and are empty of meaning.
One tells their spouse that it’s “ok” by saying and meaning that it’s “ok.” Sometimes “ok” is all there’s going to be…and sometimes “ok” is the seed for a better future….
When someone says they can’t be more cordial to your spouse, I believe they really can be…maybe not today or tomorrow, but with the passing of time, they will be able to…because they, too, will endure and learn and grow…and continue loving…you.
You already know that life isn’t fair…it isn’t fair in opportunity, in love, in war, in simple living…in complicated living. Sometimes what makes the difference is compromise, sometimes it’s concession…sometimes it’s in changing one’s perspective, cherishing what one has and not what one hasn’t. Sometimes it’s in understanding that your strength complements the other’s weakness and with the two of you, even in that unfair situation, whatever it might be, it is good…but don’t expect life to be fair, don’t even ask it to be.
When family speaks-out hurtfully, out of line, out of turn, uninformed, inform them. They aren’t speaking-out that way “to” hurt you, but because they are hurt, too. Even when your side is so crystal clear to you, so goddamnably crystal clear, the other side carries hurt and love and emotion inside of themselves, too, and sometimes that is what’s speaking. Understand them, too…even if you don’t like what they’re saying, understand them.
When one family compares itself to another, that’s normal; it simply is. They want to identify things in themselves that make them distinct, that make them family, that make them Them; and that is done, sometimes, at the cost of naming what is wrong or different in the other, identifying in the Other what is not Them. It makes them feel more secure in their Them-ness, and that’s not good or bad, it just is.
When it’s important, when it’s important, to respond to the one family about identifying the other family’s Otherness, then respond. Tell them what disturbs you about that identifying process. It might not change anything, but don’t sit and say nothing…silence equals complicity.
Speculation and rumor are going to fuel concern…the concern might turn into action, and something good might come of it. Something good will certainly not come of it if there is no action. And loss doesn’t have to happen. It seems, in this context anyway, that loss becomes the result of choice…someone chooses to turn-away, someone chooses to abandon, someone chooses loss.
In a place where boundaries have never existed, their sudden appearance gives the indication that they are full walls. In a place where boundaries existed, but were often stepped-over with ease and back again, the sudden and marked appearance and enforcement of boundaries gives the impression of fortified walls. When the observers have known in the context of their lives, all of them, that boundaries are honored when they become sensitive, but otherwise danced around, to have them suddenly guarded with force makes the observers wonder at what changed…for they know that they haven’t.
If your family ever feels or says they feel that you throw your relationships away, make it clear that you don’t, or didn’t. How could they feel that way if they didn’t get a clue from you that you did? Look at it through their eyes…just like you ask them to do…and really look. How could they, loving you, come to such an erroneous conclusion if that was not the message that you sent? How could they, loving you, adoring you…really?
In whatever situation, you show that you tried by doing…and doing…and doing…not just trying…and doing again.
If you feel that your family has given up on you, let them know that that’s the message you are picking-up from what they’re putting out there…call them on it…love yourself enough to do it…love them enough to do it…even if it hurts or confuses. Chances are…they haven’t. Chances are…you are so deeply mired in your own situation that you can’t see what they’re doing, really…so call them on it.
And if you’re ever called to the task, you show your family that you really care…by really caring; yes, do actually say the words…because the words are important, but make sure your action, your attention, your attending…speaks louder than your words…consistently.
Those are just some of the things that my father never told me….
He also never told me to change the oil in my car’s engine every three to five thousand miles. My father-in-law told me that…after I had driven about 17,000 miles without an oil-change…in the first car that I owned that I didn’t have to add a quart of oil to the engine every week…but that’s for another posting.