Conversations with my father, part 1

I had a really great talk with my father today that brought up some interesting thoughts. After speaking with him I was left with a feeling of appreciation for the relationship we have and inspiration for today’s post. So here it is!

I have always been a daddy’s girl, but what is wonderful is the way my relationship with my father has evolved over the years. We were always very close, I was a bit of a tomboy and wanted to go fishing and camping with him all the time. My mother and my sister were always very similar, very organized, logical people. My father and I were the goofballs of the family. So we spent a lot of time together, but I wouldn’t say we ever really talked. We would hang out in the same space, happily playing together at whatever, but there were never really any sort of discussions of any depth that I can remember. The heart to heart talks were always with my mother, even though we didn’t always see eye to eye, she was the one who dealt with all the emotional stuff, the one I could go crying to and she would know what to do and say. My dad was never that way, though I never felt less close to him because of it. That was just his way, and I always appreciated it for what it was. But something changed very recently, and it has affected his relationship with me and I believe his relationship with the world in general. It has strengthened my own beliefs about life as well, has made me feel like I am on the right track to leading a fulfilled, happy life.

Some recent background: About a month or so ago at his regular doctor’s visit my father found out he had had a heart attack at some point in the last year. This led to tests and in the end a pacemaker to be put in. All is well, he is up and about like normal, even better, actually. He has lost weight and is exercising, being much more careful of his health. But emotionally it has taken a toll on him. This scare made him evaluate his life, actually look internally and take stock of things, which I doubt he had done for forty years, if ever. And what has seemed to happen is his emotional barriers were destroyed, instead of holding back all emotion and really, all discussion, he is finally letting go and connecting with himself and those around him in a very real, sincere way. It’s an amazing thing to witness, this epiphany in action. He was always easy going but now there is this openness to him. He engages people in conversation, and the conversations are wonderful, deep, insightful, and friendly. He is sincere and open and feels free to experience his emotions instead of bottling them up and putting them away as most men of his generation were raised to do. And this extends to everything, he is more empathetic which affects how he interacts with those around him, whether family, friends, or even random acquaintances. He was always a great storyteller but now he is an active listener as well, and it makes every conversation with him that much more enjoyable.

Personally, this has been an amazing change. The father I always adored and respected is now a very close friend as well. He has become someone to whom I can talk about anything, and I feel at ease, welcomed, appreciated. The best part is that he feels the same about me, we both appreciate this new dynamic so much. He will call just to chat now, and every time we end up having fantastic, long conversations about anything and everything and I hang up feeling more positive and motivated than before.

Today he told me about some conversations he had had with strangers recently that had really been enjoyable and we talked about how easy it is to become cynical when you look at a whole group of people, but how incredibly easy it is to feel optimistic when you focus on just one person at a time. Everyone has their stories, their struggles, their experiences. Everyone is interesting if you take the time to listen to them. We tend to get so wrapped up in all this information that is thrown at us at every moment from a million different sources. But all it does is make us lose sight of the micro. The personal interactions that can be simple but beautiful and uplifting. Because the macro is just too much sometimes, it’s too scary, too mean, too ugly. We can’t save the entire world, so either we ignore the problems or get depressed about them. But a simple interaction with a stranger can produce ripples that affect so much more than we realize. I’m not saying it will fix everything, but it definitely won’t hurt anything. We need to be reminded of others’ humanity constantly or we tend to get narcissistic and lose all empathy. I believe that is what has happened with people like the Koch brothers, or the Walton family. They have lost sight of individual people and so it is easier to allow the greed to take over and step on whoever gets in the way. There is no empathy, no realization that what they are doing is hurting so many, because they are not interacting with the people who are affected. They are isolated from the rest of humanity and because of their wealth and power they are able to take advantage however they like with no repercussions.

Now, I realize that some simple human interaction is not going to make the Koch brothers’ hearts grow like the Grinch, and I have no way of forcing that effect. But I believe that if everyone makes an effort to actually engage someone every day, they will find themselves enriched immeasurably. One conversation with someone random can make all the difference, you can learn something from everyone, and any exchange has the potential to leave you both smiling and in a better mood, which will help carry you both through the day. It makes it easier to believe that most people are in fact decent at heart. Or should I say, most individuals. People in groups can still be assholes.

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