The Good Advice You Didn’t Take

When that beer spilled, my world opened. His reaction called me to release myself from bondage by standing up for my son the way I wished my mother had done for me. And really, this scenario is all too familiar. No wonder it elicited such a strong response from me.

When my children were younger, my father relished in his role as their grandfather; his temperament seemed to soften since my youth and I thought perhaps he’s changed his tune for good. …Until recently when I learned that he yells at my daughter and throws a hissy fit whenever she spills something. He will beg to know how old she is (a rhetorical question, though it’s not like he’s keeping track), questioning her capacities and making her feel stupid for doing something that we all do. There is, afterall, a thing called gravity that comes into play. There is the fact that she’s a fucking human being who runs into things, spills and breaks things, makes mistakes.

It makes me angry and sad for her the way I was angry and sad for me growing up. Because there was never an apology on his part. There was never an acknowledgement that he overreacted and in the process hurt people’s feelings. As a parent, it can be very easy to lose your temper. I know I certainly do. Sometimes I forget to put things into perspective. But then I try as much as possible to own up to it, reassuring my kids how much I love them and that I’m simply doing my very best just like I know they are too.

And my mom… she never spoke up for us. She never spoke up for herself. She allowed a man who otherwise wished to have no part in his children’s lives tear us down for essentially doing nothing wrong. She allowed him to override her sense of calm compassion and understanding with his raging tyrants.

So isn’t it ironic that I have watched the same story play out right before my eyes now, in my adult life, where roles have merely been shifted or reversed? It’s interesting to note the parallels. And it’s amazing how we continue to place ourselves in the same roles and situations time and time again in order to be some place in which we are comfortable–we don’t want to be UNcomfortable! Because it reminds us of all we don’t know. Too often people would rather pretend to know. And so they are doomed to wander this world without ever fully being a part of it; without ever really grasping their place in it and their potential to love and to forgive. Rather than wave a white flag and admit that they are unsure of themselves, that there may be a chance their way of thinking and responding to situations is problematic, some instead choose to believe they have been wronged. They place the problem outside themselves. They choose to reject another person’s humanity and thus their own. But our perceptions exist merely as one way of looking at things, not the only way. We must open ourselves up to this certainty or face disappointment after disappointment, failed relationship after failed relationship.

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, no wonder I’ve felt so out of my mind in my relationships. But if I am to stop these patterns from continuing, if I am to ever adopt a more progressive way of solving problems, then it is absolutely necessary that I step back to examine myself more closely and to ask myself questions like: What qualities in a person am I traditionally drawn to and Why? On the surface it may look one way, but What are they really there to show me?

So I wave my white flag which is tarnished and tattered and heed to the wisdom found in a fortune cookie, “There is no mistake so great as that of being always right.” My father can’t stand to be wrong. And it seems pride and arrogance are qualities I’m attracted to. Big egos. No wonder. But yet I resist. I resist because I am on the higher path. A mountain is made of many winding roads. And this is just one of them.

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