Still Crazy, After All These Years

The hardest time of day was after school. I was never sure who I was coming home to.   Sometimes she was in the kitchen getting dinner ready, others she was passed out on the couch. Why, these many decades later, is that memory so vivid?

Lisa recently passed on to me an article talking about the typical traits of people who had grown up with an addicted parent. “Can you relate to any of these points?” she asked. I’m assuming the question was rhetorical.

I am a control freak with a high propensity for chaos. I feel responsible for everything, and guilty for considering myself first in most situations. I have a high need for attention given my sense of loneliness and abandonment. I am a therapist’s wet dream.

The first time I learned about being an adult child of an alcoholic was when my mum had checked in to rehab –after being found by my siblings in a rather compromising situation in the bathroom. We were summoned as a family for an intervention and some education. It was a revelation.

Like an adopted kid finally knowing where they came from, I understood why I was like I was. I told my mum what I’d learned. “Don’t make me your excuse” was her well differentiated response. In other words, ‘you’re on your own with that one’.

She is right though, what is the point of blaming her? Besides, if I’d lived a ‘normal’ childhood I might not have enough ideas to write about everyday.

However, those years are still indelible and tough to shake. Not hard at all to feel like I’m back standing at the top of the driveway assessing the signs before I go and open the front door.

Fatherhood

“So, what can you tell me about being a father?” asked the young, soon-to-be dad. He had his notebook and pen at the ready. It struck me that my answer isn’t really something one would write down.

I vividly remember the sunny afternoon, 26 years ago today, sitting in our apartment. Lisa, pregnant for the first time, was in the early stages of labour. As she was breathing through a contraction, I could hear someone outside mowing their lawn. Here we were in the midst of irrevocable change, while just across the street it was any other Sunday.

I spent an hour on the phone yesterday with the cause of that change. He’s working through his next move, finishing up in one city and considering a project overseas. Yes, time does fly.

I had no real training for raising kids. I knew more about what I didn’t want to do. The first was our trial case. Everything was new and experimental. It was best if we stuck to the basics – feed him and keep him out of traffic. The fact that he’s grown up seemingly well adjusted and still communicating with us, is well, one of life’s little mysteries.

There is no definitive text, or advice, on how to do the job. That said, there are two things that mattered the most to me; time and humility. Being there – from sitting on the bed to standing on the sidelines. There is no quality without quantity. And, it worked best when I got out of my own way, which sadly, didn’t happen as often as I wished.

Love wasn’t something that required effort or work. It consumed me the minute they breathed their first. Today, I celebrate the son who started all this, and survived – Happy Birthday Sam.

 

I’m Asking

I got a text from a friend yesterday that started with “you were right”. I mention it, because, well, that doesn’t happen very often.

On the weekend I was about to provide a great solution to a problem when the intended receiver stopped me with, “I don’t like unsolicited advice”.

I don’t either. In fact, I am not much a fan of being told what to do at all. I guess, in some ways, that makes me a typical guy. No, I don’t ask for directions, and no, I most often don’t look at instructions – hence I get lost when I’m traveling and I have leftover stuff from building Ikea furniture.

Where do I get off thinking I know more than that Swedish guy when it comes to the bookshelf? It’s not that I know better, in fact I’m probably the last guy I should be going to for guidance. It’s that I have a hard time knowing different.

It all started because, from a very young age, my mother would say, “Question authority”. We spent lots of time in front of the television with her disagreeing with most of what was said on the news or by any politician. I left home ever suspicious of the dominant view.

Of course none of that stops me from offering my ideas, whether I’ve been asked to or not. Once, while I was running with a friend who is a member of Parliament in Ottawa, I was letting him know what I thought of his government’s policies. After I’d gone on awhile he replied, “Rory, if I ever get into a position where I can appoint diplomats, you won’t be one of them”. So, I guess I’ve got that going for me.

That all said, what do you think I should do?

Fall and Rise

It’s dark in the morning now and I can hear rain on the roof. Summer’s fading fast and fall is making its presence known.

Summer is irrational. It’s a time to ditch the routine, shed the clothing, and enjoy long lingering nights, heat, water, outside. It’s all so loose and fluid. Fall arrives like the parents coming home. Enough of this nonsense, what do you think you’re doing? Put your clothes back on. It’s time to clean up this mess and get on with it.

As a fan of change, I welcome the new rhythm, even if it is a little uptight. The only thing I’m worried about is sliding back into the same old same old. These past months haven’t been so much time ‘off’, rather they’ve allowed space to think and consider what worked and what didn’t from the previous seasons.

I’m not content with the same pattern as before. There is opportunity for different, for better. Sure there’s some fear and risk – even if it’s that I can’t keep my resolve – but it’s worth a try.

As the day brightens now, my questions are: What matters? What have I put off? What do I want? What can I add? Where should I let go? What needs to change?

Sweater on, I’m stepping forward into these shorter days with both anticipation and apprehension of what is to come. Happy Autumn.

 

 

Connected

So I booked myself a massage. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done that in my life. They asked what kind I wanted. I decided on one called ‘deep tissue’ as I figured that was the most utilitarian, one that I could get something from.

I remember the very first time I got a massage the woman said, “You seem really tense”. I replied, “Gee, I have no idea why, I am just lying on a table naked and someone I’ve never met is running their hands all over my body”. She didn’t really see the humour.

I’ve done a pretty good job of separating my head from the rest of me. There are only a couple of places – the dance floor and the bedroom – where I have felt that my brain takes a back seat. But even then it’s not a given.

If I’ve thought about it at all, I’ve considered my body as the vehicle that gets stuff done that the brain wants to do. It’s not that I’ve abused it all that much, it’s been more benign neglect in service to what I’ve thought is more important.

The idea of ‘self care’ has always conjured two terms for me: indulgent, and self absorbed. Sure, it’s best to eat a reasonable diet, exercise, and get good sleep – but beyond that? I hadn’t really seen the standalone value and contribution of my body.

So, there I found myself, nude, face down on the table. I could either fight it, or let go. Untrue to form, I chose the latter. An hour afterwards I was standing talking to a guy and he said something no one has ever said to me. “Hey man, you seem really blissed out”.

Brain, meet body, body, brain – you two take it from here.

Am I Rich?

In his later years my dad used to say he was rich – rich in family. We didn’t grow up with a lot of extra money. My mum made do with the clothes she had, and we ate a lot of casseroles. I remember the first new car they ever bought – they were in their 60’s.

I guess what my dad was saying was that he was proud of his kids, and happy with where […]

I’m Now Undecided

I watched most of the Canadian leaders debate last night. I felt at times like a little kid standing in the living room watching my parents fight. I wanted to cry out “just stop yelling at each other, please!”

This was not three impassioned men who desperately believe in their vision for the future, this was one guy trying to best the other. They were vying for the twitter quote, the take down, the one liner.

They […]

Get a Job

I met with a university graduate yesterday who represented himself  just like everybody else. Now that he’s done school it’s time to look for a job to start his career. My sense is he wants to fit in, when what he needs to do is stand out.

I’ve known him for many years. He has a ton of great qualities and if prodded can speak excitedly about what he’d like to do. Yet, somehow, it seems he feels he’s […]