Been having a lot of “what is it all about” moments lately, undoubtedly brought on by boredom with my corporate job and my father’s ongoing illness. As he continues to lose the battle with addiction, I can appreciate more than ever that things often aren’t what they seem. Growing up, we saw a towering giant, a man with all the answers, a protector.
Now I know it was a house of cards. He was dying inside for years and years, hobbled by his childhood, mental illness and the extraordinary pressures of being a “successful” businessman, husband and father while secretly feeling like a fraud. Exacerbating the problem was that he felt incapable of expressing his innermost feelings to his intimates, and he never stuck with therapy long enough to deal with the core problems. It’s so sad, and I wish I could take his pain away but there’s nothing left to be done. Out of this tragic situation, however, I’ve been able to draw some wisdom.
The main lesson, one I’ve been learning for the past three or four years, is that I alone am the true authority figure in my own life. No one knows me better than me, no one knows my heart better than I. I will not put my happiness in the hands of someone or something else. No career, no relationship, no ideal weight or dress size is going to deliver me to happiness. I can’t wait around expecting external things like work, money, and people to start making me happy. They may deliver a temporary ego boost here and there but they will not provide real, lasting happiness. Real happiness comes from within.
I’ve also concluded that I need to go after my desires like I’m gonna be dead soon because ─ I’m gonna be dead soon. I’ve tended to follow the safe and narrow paths up to now even though my mind and my heart have always been heedlessly curious. As a child, I was conditioned by a repressed family culture, Catholic guilt and overdeveloped sense of responsibility not to take risks or go after anything too extraordinary, untested or pleasurable. I believe my father’s true temperament is similar to my own, and after squelching it for 40 years, his mind and heart have entered a battle to the death. I want to get off the straight and narrow path now before it becomes even harder to venture out into the wild. The older one gets, the harder it becomes, I believe.