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Friday, September 30, 2011

A Lesson from my Dad: What Makes Us

Who we are and what we manifest comes to us through a series of a million tiny chemical reactions, neuropathways, interactions and experiences that shape us into the individuals we ultimately become.

If you have been following my posts the last few weeks, I seem to be stuck on a theme about peace. Not "whorlled peas", but personal peace. Where is it? How do I achieve it? How do I keep it?

In addition to this, a few weeks ago, during one of the twittechats, we started discussing our lost childhood. The things we had hoped for and the wonder and awe that life held for us then; and what going back to that open state of mind and heart can bring us. We will talk about more of those things here in the future, but I am pulled back time and again to lessons I learned from my father. 

None of these lessons was structured, at least not with a book or curriculum, but were heart-connected lessons; life lessons which continue to unfold for me. Many of the important lessons we learn in life are taught to us by people who are connected to us; those who care for us and want the best for us. Oftentimes, as people are walking their own path, they cannot see clearly, but they help show us the way.

My Dad was my best friend. He was as tall as a mountain and strong as a bull. Or at least that's how he looked through the eyes of a child. And, this is how he will always remain in my heart and mind. As I grew older, I could see some of the chinks in his armor, and understand more of why they were there.

Unfortunately, this rock, my supporter, my protector was killed in a car wreck when I was 8. That summer month of my 8th year was the longest of my life. I turned 8 years old, my father died, my maternal grandmother (second only to my father for my affection and attention) died and I was hit by a car.

I still love and miss my Dad, 50 years later.

What did I learn from my Dad?

Well, like most father's, he could deny his daughter, nothing. But, all things are relative. What may have been everything to me, wouldn't have been much to many others. We were poor. Also something I didn't discover until little later in life when I was exposed to people who had a lot more, and flaunted it.

My fondest memory was around the age of 4 or 5, before I started school. My Dad watched me in the mornings before he went to work. My mother left for work by 5:30 am and cooked us something before she left. We'd have a little breakfast, then get in his huge blue and white Chevy, my best buddy and me. Two peas in a pod. We'd drive around for a bit and eventually pull up to his favorite bar.

Every single weekday morning of my first five years, he'd turn to me and ask, "What do you want, sweetie?" I would day, "Orange Nehi, potato chips, Slim Jim and salty fish." He'd smile and laugh, go off to the bar and purchase these items as if he'd never heard me recite this list before. He would bring it all back to the car, make sure I was comfortable and felt safe.

Of course I felt safe, my Dad was taking care of me.

Once I was settled, he'd go back to his place of refuge. We would each stay in our respective places- me in the big blue and white fort, and he at the bar, until it was time for him to go to work. These days he'd probably be arrested, but it was a different time then.

For hours, I would eat my snacks and watch people go about their busy lives outside my little bubble. I could make stories for where they were going, conversations they were bound to have and just watch.

I could read their faces, watch their body language and know a good portion of their story. I watched them laugh, cry, carry their groceries with downtrodden shoulders and interact with their children. I'd watch them kiss and fight and share jokes.

I was never lonely, even though I was alone. I was never afraid, because my Dad was taking care of me.

OK, so what's the life lesson?

Through all those long hours sitting and observing, I learned something many adults still seek. I learned to be alone and content, if not downright happy with my own company. I learned to sit in silence and not be afraid. I learned to see people beneath what they were saying. I learned to watch faces, eyes, body language, breathing, touching, movement. I learned to see human interaction, without the distraction of words.

Long before I grew up and called my office, "The Listening Place," I learned to shut up and use all my senses when I am with people, and this still serves me well in my life.

Long before I took prayer and meditation to heart and made them part of life's practice, I learned to be alone without being lonely.

Long before I needed to take downtime and quiet time, I learned to exist in and listen to the quiet.

Long before I learned to read words, I learned to read people.

Thanks Dad. :)

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