Back in the days when we used to live at 277 Merrick Avenue and whenever The Old Man felt old or whenever he felt the effects of his age, if he felt out of date or out of shape, The Old Man would take on big project in the house to prove to himself that he was still young and capable.
If he felt the outside world was unfair or whenever something emotionally painful happened, whenever something made him question himself as a man, like say, whether it was a family thing, a work thing, or anything that The Old man couldn’t fix, he would take on huge projects to prove to himself that he was still valid.
Often times, The Old Man bit off more than he could chew. The projects were too much for him and the labor was more than anticipated.
But once The Old Man committed, he was all in. He had to keep going because anything else would mean that his fears would come true.
No matter the pain, the sweat, and no matter how regretful the situation became, The Old Man would never admit that he took on too much.
It wouldn’t matter what he sacrificed. No matter how much it hurt, The Old Man would sweat and bleed but he wouldn’t stop.
He was tough to be around during times like this. Then again, most people are tough to be around when they’re in pain or unhappy.
The Old Man was angry in times like this. He was mad that he couldn’t fix the situation. He was mad that he couldn’t change things. He was angry that he could not communicate his thoughts without shouting. He was uncomfortable with life’s terms and he was angry that life always came with bumps in the road. Nothing was ever smooth. But sometimes, such is life.
The harder the outside circumstance, the bigger the job The Old Man took. In all honesty, although he was my hero, it would be inaccurate to say we got along very well, —this was especially so in times like this when The Old Man was at his wit’s end.
He felt the world was against him; he felt incapable, inefficient, unimportant, and incapable. These times were roughest between The Old Man and me. I wanted to help. I wanted to try but between my discomforts and his, we were never able to work with each other.
On the other hand, I was the polar opposite.
In my case, when I felt weak or worthless, unimportant, or incapable, I would shut down.
I didn’t want it to be this way. It’s not like I asked for the feelings. It’s not like I wanted to respond to life’s terms the way I did. I shut down and feel overwhelmed.
Similar to my Father, I had feelings that led me to believe I was incapable; however, our response to stimuli was completely different.
Although The Old Man saw himself as more productive and me as inefficient, neither he nor I were productive.
The reason we were not productive is because our response affected others around us. Put simply, we were both nasty to be around.
I tell you acceptance is really an interesting trick. Truth is no matter what The Old Man fixed or built and no matter what his home project turned into, whether it was fully or only partially complete, The Old Man’s problems were still a problem.
Whether it was a business thing or a family thing or whether he was responding to the feelings he had with me or my other siblings, or even if his problem stemmed from his internal fears and insecurity, when The Old Man took on too much, it never fixed the problem. It only preserved his resentments.
The projects gave him something physical to see and be frustrated with.
He would yell. He would be frustrated. He would be angry about the things outside of his control, which in some cases, became worse because rather than deal with the issue, The Old man took on another project to bury his thoughts and overwhelm himself even more.
The Old Man refused to accept life’s terms, which, in turn, made life more difficult.
He refused to accept what was in front of him. The Old Man held onto his feelings of contempt and as a result, The Old Man struggled and held onto the pains of unfair things.
And me, I would turn inward and shut down. I would feel unable and incapable and implode because I believed my circumstances made me worthless.
I would want to do more but I couldn’t do anything. I would want to get out of bed and be productive but I gave in to intimidation. I gave in to my fears and insecurities.
The stimuli between The Old Man and me were similar; however, our response was polar opposite. And yet, I say they were opposite but our response still affected those around us.
Acceptance is a really interesting tool.
In my case, I struggled. I didn’t like me very much. I didn’t like the way I looked or talked. I didn’t like the way I saw myself in the mirror. I always felt uncomfortable. I never believed that I could be impactful upon the world or leave a mark and be successful at anything. I was overwhelmed just like my Old Man but instead of build and take on too much, I destroyed and did turned inward.
In the realms of the mind and emotional struggle, there are people that yell or scream and then there are those who withdraw and shut down. Neither way is a fruitful way to live.
It’s like having a rainy day when you needed the sun. I mean, sure, you could yell at the sky but the rain is still here. You can shut down and weep and you can breakdown and feel beaten, but either way, the storm is still here.
Some people go on shopping sprees to settle the riddles in their mind. Some react in ways that are self-destructive. Some engage in mind altering substances. Some drink. Some yell. Some shake their fist at the sky to curse their maker.
Some blame. Some find fault so that they can find accountability for their emotions, and some take a deep breath and understand the rain is only here for a short amount of time.
Think about the people we have in our life. Think about our response to stimuli. Think about the way this affects others and think about the pain we feel or the pain our family feels.
I have seen relationships end and good love go bad simply because people refused to accept the fact that sometimes life is beyond our control.
We can’t kick the dog because we had a bad day at work. We can’t yell or kick a machine because the machine won’t work.
Trust me on this, by the way.
There is a candy machine in our break-room at work. Sometimes the machine eats the money and the candy doesn’t come out. I watched a man punch the machine with all his might.
In the end, however, the machine won. The machine not only kept his money but the machine took a little of his blood and skin when he smashed his fist against the thick Plexiglas shield.
I wonder what my years with The Old Man would have been like had both he and I learned to accept life’s terms and react accordingly instead of responding out of resentment.
The Old Man died when I was just a kid. I think of how much time we wasted by bickering or arguing or responding to stimuli in a way that pulled as apart instead of bringing us together as father and son.
Life is too short to live this way . . .
To argue all the time
To take on more than we can handle
To live like this and preserve our resentments
I tell you acceptance is a pretty neat trick.
Now, if we could only learn to pull this off, I wonder the magic we could create
Together . . .