Recently, my friend Lori and I were talking about the discrepancy between eulogy virtues and resume virtues. It turns out it's not an easy task to ponder how we want others to remember us. Our eulogy virtues express our character and intention which have a lasting impact, they're our legacy, unlike our titles and accomplishments that go on our resumes. Never, ever did I think I would be writing my father's eulogy just weeks later.
My dad left a massive legacy. He was a helper of all beings and died living who he was. He had a gentle spirit and was an organizer of fun. Two days ago I heard from our next-door neighbor from my childhood years; she shared with me; "I remember him (dad) leaving for work always impeccably dressed, and he used to shoot hoops with Brook (her son) some evenings. I remember the Halloween that we weren't going to go out for candy and your dad dressed Brook in his old MP uniform, and we ended up trick or treating."
My dad was larger than life. He was invincible. He was generous and passionate and happy. He was full of energy and big ideas and shared them with everyone he met. He was MY lifeline. Without exaggeration, I would not be who and where I am today if not for my dad and his belief in me.
He didn't make it easy to live up to his standards, but they were always fair. There were hoops to jump through with any request made upon him, and one-way conversations to withstand, but in the end, he would give with unequaled generosity.
About a year and a half ago I began riding my bike for transportation. On my first long commute, to NE Minneapolis, I came out of a 45-minute appointment to find my bike gone. I called my dad because he lived and worked close to where I was, and I knew he would come to my rescue. And, he did. He knew I was heartbroken at the loss of my bike (I love my bikes), which at the time was just one of a string of painful losses, so we drove straight to a bike shop, and he replaced my stolen bike. THAT is the kind of man and father he was. I always knew I would be okay because I had my dad.
I have a new project that my dad was as excited about as I am; a women's cycling group. He couldn't stop himself from brainstorming ideas to make it successful and fun (all the while telling me about all the projects and committees he's working on, of course). Just last week, while I was in the bike shop I'm partnering with on this project, my dad came up in conversation. You see, he was also an avid cyclist. He enjoyed long Sunday morning rides that took him from NE Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul and back; with a coffee and newspaper break about halfway. I am so proud of my dad and grateful to have the opportunity to tell others about him. I told my friend Rich, the manager of the bike shop, that he would meet my dad one day soon because my dad loved meeting new people, especially people that value me and my passions. I told him my dad is a loyal customer to people that are loyal to me and that they would be lucky to know my dad. I said all of this with visceral pride and happiness. I couldn't wait to bring my dad to meet my friends at the bike shop.
That was just ten days ago.
I wonder now, as I scream that I can't do life without my dad if it is a parent's charge to prepare their children for life without them? I seem to have failed that lesson.
My dad is my mentor. He will always be my mentor. I am who I am because of his role modeling and support. He taught me how to self-reflect through his receptivity and curiosity. We learned together.
During a conversation a couple of years ago, my dad asked me what grade he earned as a father. "B? C? Probably a B-?" He told me he figured when you had a kid, it raised itself, and that it was much later he learned that wasn't true. I answered that he earned an A+ for having the curiosity and courage to ask.
He was compassionate — he had a boundlessly loving heart. He valued physical closeness though sometimes squeezing your knee until you laughed and squirmed in pain was his form of affection. He loved to sing. He would turn the music up so loud in the car that he couldn't hear himself singing. Sometimes dad forgot the windows were open and he'd wag his finger at someone while singing at them. Or he'd drive around the block over and over to finish a favorite song, and if you were in the car with him, you were going along for the ride whether you liked it or not.
My dad wanted to learn from his experiences, and he wanted to share his experiences with everyone. He liked everyone and wanted to support every person he met without judgment or expectation. He told me just last Friday that my son Joey is like me because we are both drawn to protecting the underdog. I wonder if my dad ever recognized that he was the same?
My dad was ardent about my security and well-being. Not long after I decided to go into business for myself, he was sharing his "wisdom" with me about how hard I would have to work. I waited until he finished and then said to him, "If you're angry with me, it's okay, you can tell me you're angry. I know it comes from a place of caring and concern." His response was "I'm not angry!" Then we both paused for a moment, and he said: "Well, okay, if this is what you're going to do, how do we market it?" His demeanor and energy had changed in a moment. He heard me forgive him for being angry and changed direction to success building solutions instead. He never again showed disappointment in my choice but instead supported every path I chose (always focused on the big picture, marketing, and ROI, of course).
I feel deeply grateful that my dad valued learning and personal growth and conversation. One afternoon some years ago, he was talking with his good friend and neighbor, Dan Brady. Dan was telling my dad about a trip he had recently taken, and my dad's response was to share a trip he made to the same place. When Dan left my dad asked me something about their interaction, and I asked him "what might happen if you let Dan have his story; if you just listened and asked questions to give Dan a chance to tell you more?" My dad said, "But I'm connecting with him when I tell him about my trip." He was a master in finding the commonalities within stories and enjoyed sharing them. A few years later I was at a clinic to have surgery, and my dad was there with me, along with my dear client and friend, Gerry. While I was in pre-op, they were sitting together talking about Montana as Gerry has a home there and my dad loves everything about Montana, the mountains, and being outdoors. After Gerry left and my dad and I were waiting together, he said out loud but mostly to himself "Why do I do that? Why can't I just listen? Why do I talk so much and not listen more?" I didn't say anything as I recognized the words he used from our long-ago conversation. He had heard me and my words marinated until he was ready to receive them. Not long after his self-inquiry, the anesthesiologist came to my room, and we chatted while she worked. Before she left, she asked for my business card and when she was gone my dad said to me "I know what you do and how you do it; you look people in the eye and you listen to them. And you smile." Followed, of course, by "How do we market that?" He was looking at me for role-modeling and wondered how I built the relationships I have with my clients. He used to say, with wonder, "All of your clients are your soul mates." Could he see how we learned from and with one another and how much I was like him?
Bob leaves big shoes to fill. I feel his presence everywhere. He is always on my mind and in my heart, especially as I parent my children; I hope I can do for them all that my dad did for me.
In closing, I challenge us all to live up to his legacy and his greatness.
I love you, Dad.
How and why does apathy develop?
I wonder if it's a shield who's goal is to protect us from disappointment? After all, if we don't get too impassioned about something, we won't feel as hurt or disappointed if it ends.
What happens when there's no sadness either, just emptiness? What if we find that it's safer not to feel too much in either direction and there's only indifference? It seems a lonely place to live.
I wonder if apathy is a learned emotion? It seems that it's often a feeling attached to specific circumstances and not others. Though maybe some people feel apathy continuously? Still, a lonely place to live.
What's the antidote to apathy? Stepping out of one's comfort zone and doing that which we avoid to remain safe? How might that look? Can you imagine it? What feelings get stirred up when you picture doing the opposite of what you'd like to do? Can you endure that feeling and do it anyway or will you fall back on habit and stay with apathy? Neither choice is wrong; it's just where you are right now.
Alternatively, if you can't imagine doing the opposite of what's comfortable, maybe it's time to remove the source of your apathy?
Apathy is not a place anyone should live.
Anything worth doing that takes time to learn. If we only embark on things that we already know we can do, what new things can we master? If we choose to do things that don't challenge us, how will we grow? If we expect new lessons to be comfortable and give up when they're not, how will our minds and bodies evolve into something smarter and stronger?
When I decided to learn to meditate, I recall thinking (while I was attempting to meditate) "This sucks. I'll never be able to do this." And then actively saying to myself "Meditation must be like learning a new exercise; I have to practice even when I think I suck and it seems too complicated. And then trust in the process. 1. Show up. 2. Do the right thing. 3. Trust the process. 4. Repeat." It took more than a year before I noticed the changes that had occurred. And I believe part of what transformed me was the mantra I had created while learning this new skill.
We have to sit with the discomfort of our imperfections and lack of success to generate the strides we seek. Sometimes that means doing things we don't like or that are challenging. And waiting for the perfect time, practice, exercise, or diet is just an excuse to delay what you profess to want.
Instant gratification (all or nothing thinking) leaves little room for allowing our bodies and minds to catch up with what we envision for ourselves. Show up. Do the right thing. Trust in the process. Repeat; it might take a while.
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