A Different Kind of November Challenge

I read a blog this morning that really gave me pause to review my life and analyze things differently (thank you to stilllearning2b). I’m a grudge holder and I know that holds me back from many things. I tend to destroy things that were once dear. Despite my efforts to hold back, I find myself, more often than not, speaking out of anger and frustration instead of sitting back and waiting to cool off before I speak.

As I grow older, I see the products of my anger and I’m ashamed. I really am. It’s something that I acknowledge and need to work harder on in order to break my habits. I could blame it on a marriage in which I was not allowed to speak about my feelings. I could blame it on being hot tempered and passionate about what I believe in and feel. I could blame it on all sorts of different causes, but in reality…My actions are entirely my responsibility and I do take ownership for what I’d said and done.

The blog I read this morning included a challenge. The writer asked that readers identify the person/thing/situation in your life that has caused you the most grief, pain, anger. Then, create a list of 10 reasons you are thankful for your biggest life challenge.

Yikes.

I’m accepting this challenge as another step in my growth as an individual.

I’ve chosen to write about my father. I’m sure I could detail 50 reasons why I’m angry with him extremely easily. But 10 reasons why I’m thankful? Hmmmmmm…  It, honestly, didn’t take as long as I expected it to, but my list is rather weak. Allow me to explain.

My parents divorced when I was three due to my father’s alcoholism and infidelity. He was not very involved with my brother and I although we did see him every weekend. My childhood is filled with stories of being let down over and over again. Bills unpaid, performances missed, promises made and never kept. As an adult, my relationship with my father has been rough, to say the least. We’ve gone without speaking for five years and are now in the middle of another estrangement. The reasons behind it are many, but when all is said and done, he is an unapologetic alcoholic who sees nothing wrong with his verbal abuse and inappropriate behavior when he’s drunk. I’ve mentioned rehab to him and he says he has no desire to change who he is. I endured a lot of verbal abuse and even more empty promises during the past few years before I made the decision to, once again, cut him out of my life. Unfortunately he’s been cut out of the life of his grandkids, but trust me when I say – they are better off away from him.

So, to find 10 things about him for which I’m thankful isn’t easy. But, it forced me to look at him in another way – between the bad times and find the things that were good. It’s a great lesson for me in being thankful during this month in which so many (including me) are trying to focus on the positive and all of the blessings in our lives.

Well… here goes…

  1. He created me. Without my father, I wouldn’t exist and for that I am thankful.
  2. He got me involved in sailing/being near the water. The times I feel most complete as me (not as a mom or anything else) is when I’m near water. There is nothing more calming, reaffirming and inspiring than hearing the sound of waves crashing against the shore. Learning to sail when I was a preteen was an amazing experience and has provided a lifetime of practical knowledge.
  3. He exposed me to a lifestyle I would not have had the opportunity to experience. Living with my mom, we grew up in poverty. She did the best she could, but free lunches and food stamps were the norm for us. My father married a woman from a wealthy family and with the exposure to that lifestyle, we learned so much about how to behave in that environment. Not that my mom didn’t teach us etiquette, but he provided the opportunity to use it.
  4. He taught me about animals through his work as a biology professor. I have great memories of sitting in his lab while he was dissecting animals to study. It opened my eyes to how the body works and enabled me to understand the world better. A friend of his was a veterinarian and had so many exotic animals in his house that it was like going to the zoo. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me to have so many pets in my own home and why I’m interested in science.
  5. He showed me that it’s okay to laugh loudly in public. My father is probably the most boisterous person I know and I’ve been that person also. His laugh echoes wherever he is and he never hesitates to bring others into his jokes. It’s an incredible gift.
  6. He inspired me to be educated. Because he had a PhD and worked as a professor, I have always felt more than comfortable in a collegiate setting. I love going to college campuses and enjoyed my experience so very much. I never stop seeking new things to learn.
  7. He encouraged me to keep an open mind and explore different types of literature and film. My father was an avid reader and huge SciFi buff. His collection of hundreds of SciFi paperbacks always put me in awe of the creativity behind the stories. I’m happy to say I’ve read Asimov and Heinlein. We watched Star Wars together probably 20+ times (and more on my own), as well as episodes of Star Trek. SciFi is still fascinating to me even as I lean more toward classic novels, mysteries and biographies.
  8. He taught me the art of conversation. My father can talk with anyone. As he’s aged, his lack of being empathetic has increased, but he can carry on a 10 minute conversation with someone he accidentally bumped into if he so desired. I can honestly say that my mother was and is the same way, but their topics conversation deviate from one another.
  9. He taught me about networking. He seems to know someone no matter where we would go. It was a great gift of his that he, as family legend has it, learned from his own father. I wish had that gift, but at least I understand the importance of it.
  10. He taught me by example what happens when you let your demons destroy you. I know I have an addictive personality so I am always on guard to remain in control of my life. I’ve stumbled many times, but my awareness of what can happen if you give in and give up has saved my life.

I pass along this challenge to you. Identify your biggest challenge/open wound and find ways to be thankful for it.

 

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