fatherly advice

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I have had a lifetime with a father who has pushed and driven me to achieve–but not one who has paused for tenderness, even though he is quite a tender person inside. I am familiar with that template myself, being my father’s daughter. I have learned to make room for almost every feeling in the world except those that indicate vulnerability. So it goes without saying that I do not have a lot of conversations that begin with, “I don’t feel well,” with my father or with anyone else.

This serves me well in many instances. Not so well in others.

I called my parents today–my father picked up the phone. “Can I speak to Mom?” I asked. “Oh yes,” he said, and paused. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine.” This is usually all the answer he needs. That’s my usual answer for my dad when I am not feeling well, not because we are distant (in fact we are quite close) but because any vulnerability leads to a very painful conversation. It bothers him when I’m feeling vulnerable because I think it makes him feel helpless, and he is not the kind of man who copes with helplessness very well at all. And…ahem, I understand this because I am quite the same. It is hard for me to pause and be tender with people, including myself.

“How are you?” he asked again.

“Fine.” I said. By now, I am beginning to wonder why he has asked the same question twice.

“I want to know,” he said (or something to that effect, because I have forgotten the exact line that he used to open me up).

“Really?” I asked. The hope of an eleven year old is beginning to well at this point.

“Yes.”

“Oh.” I paused. “I’m physically much better, and I’m not feeling discouraged about that anymore,” I said, trying to assuage the discomfort of revealing my pain. “But these days, my post-stroke challenges are more psychological and emotional. I’m just so—ANGRY and HURT!” Anger, in my world, is MUCH better to feel than depression. Depression makes me feel helpless and overwhelmed, anger at least is cause for action.

The tone of my dad’s voice did not heighten with mine as it usually does–it remained staid and level and understanding. To my surprise, he shared his own struggles with anger and disappointment. “I used to get mad, but let it go,” he summarized. “I’m old now, and have learned.”

What? “So Dad,” I asked, “You’re saying being pissed off at these things is just a waste of energy?”

Yes, he said, that was his point. Just let it go and move on. Don’t be so angry. This, from a man who helped me learn to use my anger as fuel.

“But!” I shouted. “I HAVE to express my anger, or it festers and I either get angrier or depressed!” To be honest, these days, if I don’t use my anger to move myself forward, I don’t know what else can. I saw wisdom in his point, and and wisdom in his advice on youth and its energetic fuel (he’s in his 70’s)–he said that in his 30’s he also tried to struggle and argue and fight and felt despair and victory. It didn’t matter, he said–and he urged me to “let it go.”

My bloom of anger is extraordinary. My emotional rawness and lack of force field against the elements is disarming. For someone like me who likes to contain her emotions and retain control..well, this is an entirely discombobulating time. I feel like a child in the world, learning to navigate my emotions all over again.

And to my surprise, my father is there to help me navigate me through my sadness and anger. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.

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6 Comments

Filed under Life, The Stroke

6 responses to “fatherly advice

  1. Your dad is nearing the end of his life and looking back thinking the anger he expressed was all for naught, but really it wasn’t just like yours. As you say, it provides an impetus to move you forward and it did for him too. Perhaps what he is saying is not to harbor the anger. Letting it go, in reality, means expressing it. Your difficulty seems to be in expressing it appropriately and focusing the anger on whence it came (person, place, event or thing).

    You appear to know when you are angry. Do you know though why you are angry? Consider what is going on at the moment the anger appears or does the anger appear for no reason at all? If the source of the anger cannot be determined, the expression of it is likely to be diffuse – that is shot out from you like a shotgun and anyone in its path beware.

    I prefer anger vs depression (anger turned inward). You do hold the keys that unlock your emotions and the key I see you using well is your pen (or laptop).

    I am glad your father is helping you Jade. After all you are your father’s daughter *smile*

  2. I think it’s so lovely that your dad really wants to help you and is prepared to break through his own discomfort in order to do so. You’re lucky, Jade, he really loves you. I agree with LeRoy – letting go of anger is also expressing it. Not expressing it would be burying it and I’m sure that’s not healthy.

  3. [Anger, in my world, is MUCH better to feel than depression. Depression makes me feel helpless and overwhelmed, anger at least is cause for action.]

    So interesting Jade. I think of this as somehow a very masculine trait. I feel the exact opposite: to me, anger (my own) is almost unacceptable, but depression very much is okay. It’s a resting place, and a place of not having to Do anything. Wow. Huh.

  4. I am definitely aware of why I’m angry–boy oh boy. I can see why my father is concerned about my anger, because it is probably so spiked it’s probably like he’s looking into a mirror.

    As for the masculinity of anger–if I am taking after my father, it doesn’t surprise me that my behavior is more masculine than feminine. In my family, depression is something we all run away from, even if that means we’re constantly in a rage.

    It’s interesting how many of us have one facet of “feeling bad” that we are very uncomfortable with–for me, it’s the depression part. I just am so scared of feeling sad, and no amount of “encouraging me to feel sad” is going to overcome that fear.

    If you ever want me to be pissed on your behalf, Susan, I am here. 😛 I got anger for miles.

  5. That’s funny, Jade. And I’ll be sad and depressed for you! How’s that?

  6. Okay–together, we are one.

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