This isn’t a review, so much as an essay, so there is no rating here.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships, but more specifically about my non-romantic/sexual relationships. It was partially inspired by my sister who suggested I write about how our relationship has evolved and grown over the years. And so I wanted to start writing about the influences of other relationships in my life. I enjoy exploring the relationships of my life and how they affect me because I always work to be more self-aware. Part of that journey is understanding what influenced my personality development. I decided to start with my father because he’s the origin of a lot of trauma for me, and because he is dead. So in a way, this relationship story has an ending to it. This makes it somewhat easier to write about.
In many ways, I am like my father. He was a hick kid who never really finished education, and he always seemed to butt heads with authority. Since I was raised by him, I do still fight against authority, and I’m not particularly good at doing what I’m told, unless I see the reason behind the order. As for the hick, well…it’s in my bones. I know what I am. I enjoy cheap beer and porches. I like to be outside around a fire. Camping is my ideal vacation. These feel like “simple pleasures” that I love. I don’t rely on my phone like many others rely on theirs. I often isolate myself from others because society is weird and confusing. But I am finishing my education. Because I started a process and I will finish it, which differs me from my father. I have been contemplating that difference as I watch my mother finally fix her house, which was torn apart by my father’s attempts to improve it. He rarely finished those improvement projects. It suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I saw my father surrounded by his unfinished work and decided I would never do that. I look at his memory, which is weighed down with a dismantled truck, a mantle piece in pieces in the basement, and a wood pile that was gonna be something great. I see that, and I decide it’s time to tie up loose ends.
My dad always taught me to question things, though I was never supposed to question him. He also favored me over my siblings, but also yelled at me because I was fat. He often yelled at me for eating things as a child because he believe that I should lose weight instead of eating meals. He rewarded me for academic accomplishments but got angry when I read books I enjoyed for fun. The contradictions in my psyche have been contributed by others, but they primarily stem from my father’s treatment of me. There is a strong possibility that this volatile nature stems from him being a functioning alcoholic. That’s something else I could be, but I’m not. I hold my liquor and I’m not shy around drinks, but I don’t depend on it the way he did. The contradictions my father left me with were only exacerbated by his death. I was 12 years old, and had not quite started puberty yet. I still loved my father when he died. However, without any growth in our relationship, I was left with a loose end I couldn’t tie. He never apologized for abusing us. He never learned how to be a better husband. After two years, I finally admitted to myself that my father was a good father and a terrible husband. It would take another eight years before I admitted that he wasn’t a good father, but I still loved him with all my heart.
Because of this, I am more likely to accept contradictions in my life. I easily learned about the contradictions of opinions in any humanities class. My papers in those classes were well-received because I considered many opinions, often agreeing with two or more. I also move through relationships differently because I can accept contradictions in other humans. I acknowledge how complicated people are and notice the little contradictions that they miss in themselves. However, it also means that my own contradictions get overlooked. I can become unpredictable sometimes because two strong feelings contradict each other, much to the despair of my partners. It means that I come with a lot of disclaimers in relationships. I’ve had to learn how to navigate relationships by the moment, offering brief explanations to justify my own twists and turns.
My father taught me a lot about respect, which I still hold true to. Respect continues to be an important aspect of relationships for me. If I don’t respect someone, I probably won’t like them. If they don’t respect me, I really won’t like them. I find that I can respect someone even if I don’t like them, which ties into the contradictions that got built into my relationships. This is an interesting piece of my relationships. Because I hold respect as such a virtue, it means that I follow partners I respect, and trust them inherently with their well-being. I will sometimes trust them with my own, but my independence is more important than my respect. However, it’s when I lose respect for a partner that reveals what respect means to me. This happened with one of my exes. I lost respect for him gradually, over months. Eventually, I didn’t trust him to take care of himself at all. I felt like a mother to him, and it led to a devastating break-up. Before the end, I didn’t respect him. I wasn’t sure I liked him. But I still loved him. The contradictions created were unhealthy for both of us. To hold something like respect in such an important place is to make it a vulnerability of the relationship. It means that my partners will have to hold themselves to standards. This is most certainly a good thing. However, it can become dangerous if I’m not aware of when respect is lost.
My personality is still growing every day. My father has been dead for almost 14 years, and his influences on my life are starting to fade. I have grown and changed, and my relationship to him has changed. The difference is that his relationship to me cannot change because he is gone. As I grow away from who I was when he died, the ways he changed me will begin to be overwritten. Other life experiences will help me unlearn some contradictions. Respect will slowly become less of a virtue as I gain compassion for others. Even though these fading effects are part of me deeply and will never go away entirely, they are still becoming obsolete to the new influences I gain every day. In some ways, these are the most comforting parts of my father’s death. It’s cliche, but he is still with me in these core values and personality traits. But more than that, I am growing beyond him. I am becoming more that he was just by virtue of how I continue to thrive and grow.
There are many people I’ll mention who influence my personality. In fact, that’s the point of this series. But when I talk about my father, it takes on a different color because of the loss. In a way, the loss of him becomes a part of him. In my mind, he is everything he was, plus his death. That death might have changed me more than he did. I’m now the person who stays strong in grief. I’ve learned how to let go of others who want to be let go of. I’ve learned how to cope earlier than others. Most importantly, I’m no longer paralyzed in fear when I think of death. I have confronted my own mortality in many instances by this point. I can connect with those who are grieving and it does not bother me or feel like a revelation.
In short, I loved my dad. He had issues and I have issues because of him. But he was important to me and always will be. I learned many lessons from him that I couldn’t learn from anyone else. He is, like many things, a blessing and a curse. So long, pop. And thanks for all the fun.