Happy Belated Father’s Day! I know, I’m a day late. But I have to share what happened this Father’s Day. It was brilliant. And know, before I share this with you, that it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, most of my Father’s Days have been downright disappointing. Let me explain both the joy and the agony.
Yesterday, I had the best Father’s Day I’ve ever experienced. I spent it with the love of my life, Joree, and my 12-year-old daughter (who is amazing in her own right). At lunch, my daughter gave me a present (which I learned with my older children not to expect on Father’s Day as it often led to disappointment). I unwrapped the gift (amusingly wrapped in bubble wrap which she had painted with her gouache paints). As I tore the bubble wrap away, I realized what she had done.
I am color blind. I have spent my whole life seeing 60% of the colors available in the world. It’s not a big deal to me. I’ve never known anything different.
As the bubble wrap fell away, I knew instantly what she had done. She got me a pair of sunglasses that allow me to see color. My first thought was this was much too expensive of a gift for her to get me. My second thought was I can’t believe just how thoughtful a gift it was. I opened the box and put the glasses on. I looked at the trees — now many more shades of green than I’d ever known. The car colors were vibrant and alive — blue, white, red. Tears filled my eyes. I had not known what I’d been missing. This is a world of color, vitality, brilliance, and energy. And, until yesterday, I had been seeing a mere 60% of it.
We finished up lunch as my heart swelled with gratitude.
Next, the three of us went to the movies to see Ocean’s 8. I walked slightly behind the two ladies in front of me as we entered the theater — my daughter and my girlfriend (the word which completely fails to encapsulate my depth and breadth of admiration and love for her!). Without any awareness I was watching, they walked side by side happily chatting. And I was flooded again with appreciation and gratitude.
Due to a highly contentious divorce between myself and her mother, my daughter has been through the ringer for several years. And now she gets a mother figure who possesses tremendous communication skills, a high degree of empathy and emotional awareness, warmth, and connection. She has a woman who cares deeply for her and who is present for her. And we know that time and attention are the currencies of relationships.
It’s funny the way life works sometimes. It’s not always the big things for which we need to learn to be aware of and grateful for. It’s the little things.
Later in the day, I spoke with my son who is nearly 18. Our relationship has been stormy for much of his life. He has had a rough road for a variety of reasons — drugs, alcohol, defiance, rage and so on. And he has been angry at me for years.
In the past year, we have worked hard to repair our relationship, to rebuild trust. It’s not been easy. And yet we are making progress. We talk daily. We talk honestly. We are less triggered by one another. We listen to one another.
Yesterday, he was very appreciative also, expressing thanks for helping him out of a recent depressive episode. I told him that this was one of the best Father’s Days I’ve ever had. His response, “You deserve it dad, I’m so glad you feel appreciated.” It seems so simple and at the same time, those are sincere words that I never thought I’d hear from him. And again, I was fighting back tears of gratitude for the massive upswing my life has taken since my divorce. I have never felt such gratitude and happiness as I did yesterday.
Full Disclosure: One of the reasons I teach anger management skills is that I needed those tools when I was at my worst — 10 years ago, towards the end of my marriage. I was angry about what was going on around me — entitlement, dishonesty, manipulation, rage without reason, lack of values, and little empathy. I have never been an angry person. But I was for that brief period of time. Fortunately, that anger fueled me to make a dramatic change in my life — divorce. And that is one way anger can be used for positive ends — to get you out of destructive, crazy-making situations. It was painful. It was difficult. And it was so worth it.
My shitty marriage has turned out to be one of my greatest teachers. I had the critical epiphany that anyone can become angry due to the right (or wrong) situation. My wife (at the time) accused me of being angry despite the fact that her unusual behaviors were triggering it. While I had reason to be angry, I realized the anger wasn’t helping me (or anyone else). And so I resolved to change. The biggest change was getting out of a toxic marriage. On top of that, I worked the tools – forgiveness, metta meditation, cognitive reframing, relaxation techniques, becoming aware of my triggers, exercising, and so on.
It took time. But the results speak for themselves. I have wonderful relationships with my son and daughter. I am in a loving, supportive, emotionally aware relationship. Business is booming. And I am content. I am happy. I enjoy life.
And I believe that is what we are all pursuing — happiness. We go about that pursuit in dramatically different ways — wealth, power, fame, meaning, helping others, hedonism, spirituality. And ultimately, we are all looking for ways to be happy.