Today at work we were asked to talk about our most defining moment. We ran out of time, which meant that everyone was not able to present, including me. But it got me thinking for the remainder of the day. I was grateful for the reprieve because I’m not sure how much I would share. Hours later, it’s still on my mind, probably because I’ve not given it this much thought in a long while.
My first defining moment was the loss of my father in my life. And it was a long goodbye with him in and out of my life for at least a couple of years before he was out of my life for good. His entanglements with alcohol and crime made a few unwelcome appearances in my childhood before it was exit stage left for decades. However, in his absence he lived very vividly in my imagination and dreams. I dreamed of him coming back and rescuing me from my life with my mother and stepfather. I dreamed of him taking me to the library again, and going fishing together. I would day dream that he would suddenly show up at my high school graduation. All of this dreaming and imagining kept me from seeing the actual situation with my father-that he was not this person anymore. I unconsciously built walls in my awareness to not fully know how bad it was with my father. He had been the only safe parent for me, and then, even he became unsafe. I could not know this for decades. I think my heart could not handle it until I had my own sense of safety, and that would not come for decades.
When I was still living at home, some of my aunts and uncles would talk about my father occasionally, usually by mention of his latest stint in jail. I would immediately leave these conversations. I did not want to know anything about my father that had to do with any criminality. At the time, I could not have articulated why this was. Now I am aware that I did not have the wherewithal to know back then.
In my thirties I heard from my father when he was hospitalized and he thought he was near death. We talked on the phone for a long time, and that conversation was a dream come true. I had always imagined we would talk as adults and find similarities and we did! I learned he studied labor issues in third world Latin American countries in grad school in the 1970s. He learned I worked in labor and employment matters. We learned we both loved poetry and creative writing. I immediately started dreaming of being pen pals with my father, and visiting him in Texas every year if he made it out of the hospital. But he was still in active addiction. He didn’t find recovery once he left that hospital. And just like when I was a child, he proved to be unreliable. We would make plans to talk. but I would call him and he was already drunk. I thought the solution was to call him in the morning, but I still found him drunk in the early a.m.
I had to accept that my father was still an active alcoholic. I had to accept that the father I knew and had as a child was gone. That person was not coming back for any extended period of time. He could show up for a few minutes in a conversation, but that was it. I had to accept that my father was never going to be there for me because he cannot even be there for himself. Most importantly, I had to learn that I could love him from afar. I could love the memories of him and who he was for me at one time. But seeking it out was not going to bring it back. I had to bury that dream for good. The most important lesson I’ve learned from my father is acceptance. I have had to learn to accept the bad with the good in my life. I finally accept that it is not healthy for me engage with my father in any way, and I accept that it is likely we won’t ever speak again. I don’t love it, but I accept it. I recognize, finally, that there is nothing I can do to change him.
I am about to enter the 2nd anniversary of the start of the pandemic’s impact. For me, the impact started in early March 2020, and I have to say that I’ve perfected the art of isolation since then. On a positive note, I think it has made me a better employee as it is easier to conceal my DID and PTSD as a remote worker. It’s certainly easier to cope with a difficult day working remotely. I can get it together enough for a video meeting, but then exhale and just let myself be as soon as it is over, instead of having to contend with colleagues and managers seeing me look out of sorts. Ironically, I received my best performance rating ever during the pandemic. It has felt strange to achieve professional success during a global pandemic, especially with the knowledge that the pandemic may have helped me achieve that success.
However, I’ve never been good at keeping in touch with friends. It’s always been a struggle for me, and I don’t fully understand why. As I approach year two of this pandemic, I see that the impact for me personally has been less consistent connections with friends. I want to be better, yet I am aware that I become frozen with the thought of even starting to reach out to friends. I had a therapist once who theorized that this reluctance could come from the feeling of safety that comes from being alone. It’s lonely, but it’s safe. In the past, people were not safe, and it can be hard to undo that lesson because not all people are unsafe.
I thought I would start with posting on this blog for the first time in a very long time, over a year, in fact. I am going to keep trying to keep, or rather, pick up those connections with friends. Here’s to a new year!
This little handsome devil is Thurman. He’s been with us for almost two weeks. This sweet creature came from a puppy mill, and when they were done with him he was taken in by a rescue. He’s six years old, and doesn’t understand dog toys or even dog biscuits. He hates to be picked up, he shakes, makes his legs stiff and tries to get away. When he’s stressed or anxious he pants and shakes, it just breaks my heart to see this.
I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what is best for him, or trying to soothe him, or keeping an eagle eye out for signs he needs to go potty that I find myself less shaky overall. I think the last time I shook, felt stuck or ruminated was over two weeks ago. I can’t swear to it, but it does seem like it’s been an inordinate amount of time since I’ve felt stuck or fuzzy.
He needs to be walked several times a day as we have learned the hard way that his bladder is very small. He cannot go over 4 hours without a walk. I’ve learned that when you walk a dog you become ripe for conversation or greetings on the street. I am accustomed to keeping to myself on walks that this new way of life is bewildering, stressful, uncertain, and lovely all at the same time.
It took him a few days to find his bark. First time was mere minutes before a WebEx staff meeting when I was working from home. He heard children outside our window and started intermittently boofing, this sound that was not quite a bark but sounded like he was asking, “What the hell is that noise?”
Then last night he decided to show us his bark at bedtime when he wanted out of his crate. My wife and I laid in bed, held hands and tightened our grip with each bark hoping it was just intermittent as we are in an apartment. We figured out he would bark when he heard me speak. I tried to whisper to no avail. I’m glad today is Christmas because I am aware it was very late before I finally fell asleep.
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