It’s my dad’s birthday today & I’ve been reflecting on some of the more subtle, but overarchingly powerful influences he’s had on my life.
For much of my life, I’ve been more tuned in to noticing the differences between myself and my family than the similarities. I’ve always known that my dad has a brilliant mind that I can’t really comprehend. The engineering languages he understands and uses to create, invent and problem solve aren’t something I’ve ever even touched the surface of. Most of the books, instruments, tools and environments he uses to create with are totally foreign to me. They feel so complex and different that I’ve never tried to understand. I see that false belief in me that feels that some things are outside the realm of my comprehension and understanding, but I also acknowledge that we need a desire to want to know and understand what we learn and seek out.
The way I can relate to the language and practice of engineering is by the places, people, materials and plants that I am willing to sit with endlessly to try to understand, relate to and find meaning in for myself and my life. It’s the action of working artfully to create and bring about. I’m only ever striving to find a better way to be in the world and a more comfortable way to relate to myself and others because I am in love with peace, happiness and the way it feels to love those I am with. I am always engineering my life in this way.
The ways that I try to make sense of the world and the instruments, tools and actions that I choose and use are possibly things that my dad wouldn’t select and I see that doesn’t matter much at all. What’s important is the process, the effort and the way the results temper our lives. It’s a delicate balance of passion and patience. I see at this point that my dad and I share this striving for balance in different ways that have resonance.
In the world and community that I’ve created for myself among friends and clients, I believe that I am seen and experienced in a similar way to the way I’ve experienced my dad. Primarily calm, practical and hard working with deep creative practices, unique taste and widely varied interests often practiced in solitude. Within the context of my family and in other subtle ways, I don’t see these similarities so easily when I’m next to my dad.
He’s such a long, tall person with a deep voice and often a calm confidence and ease. In my experience, his presence is always known as he enters a space. In my family, he’s often the one we turn to for help with things that are broken, seemingly unsolvable problems and in times of need. Within my family, I’ve always felt like the most emotional, least reliable and not the first (or even second) person someone would ask for help. Yet outside my family, I’m perceived (I think) as a mostly calm, stable, helpful presence. I’m someone that many people ask for help from continually because I seem to be able to help them in a helpful way that is effective.
I remember as an adolescent how impatient I was with my dad as he would try to help me with my homework. He was always trying to explain how interesting math was and how fascinating the process was and I just wanted him to give me the answer so that I could be done with my homework and go talk on the phone with my friends about boys. He has always been the “computer person” of our household. Always calmly available and trying to help when I forgot to hit “save” on a paper I’d spent hours writing or help with printer issues or make sure that we had the right computer for our needs and that it had the right, up to date programs running. I’m so lucky to have a dad that understands these things and is helpful, but also his calm in reaction to my hysteria about whatever issue I was having was so annoying that I would often shift my frustration about my computer issues on to him.
My dad would very often resolve whatever issue was happening, mostly patiently, never giving up or throwing in the towel, approaching it with curiosity and exploring all possible options. He’s been able to repair things I thought were beyond repair and fix things I thought were unfixable because of his patience, experience and knowledge.
I think I witnessed this so often that it seeped in to me and began to seem like the best way to be, even if I couldn’t practice this way at home in my family context. In my field with my web design clients, I’m able to harness that same calm, patient, curious place and solve problems that seem unsolvable to others and create solutions that were previously unimaginable. It’s taken me a long time to realize where that calm came from, but it’s my dad. And I realize so clearly that the calmness is a product of experience, confidence and also a prayer to diffuse the upset energy and bring things back into balance where they can be sorted out logically and methodically.
Inside of me, I have a scientist like my mom, an artistic engineer like my dad, a daredevil like my sister, and many more qualities and characteristics that I’ve pulled from people in my immediate environment and brought into my life and how I interact with people. Many of my threads are uniquely my own and I have little explanation for why I follow certain pathways other than my own curiosity and interest, but I’ve learned that I can trust myself to be a safe, useful and helpful person in the world and to bring with me what I can use to make myself, my community and my environment better, and leave the rest behind. The way that we are as people in the world and the impact that we have is fascinating to me. Those people, parents and teachers that have influenced me deeply in all kinds of different ways may have no idea of the longevity of their impact and how a comment, a kind gesture, or even a stern rebuke guided my actions, thoughts, and way of relating to myself over a long period of time.
I’m coming into a period of feeling proud of myself for who I am and what I’ve created in my life. For so long, all I ever really wanted was for my parents to be proud of me, and though I think that they mostly are, and have been, I needed to experience that pride in myself for it to feel real, sustainable and worth all that I’ve put in. We cannot live our lives only to impress others, it has to be for an internal alignment and resonance that feels true and worthy our time and efforts, and because we like it.
I like my life and my choices. I honor the times I’ve been through that have been extremely challenging. I think the hardest times that I’ve had were when I couldn’t find a way to let anyone else know how dark I felt inside or how badly I need love and support. Hiding that truth turned into a crisis several times, but letting it out to be seen and acknowledged was the action that led to me healing and feeling better. Being able to bring the gift of calm and patience to a situation doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own deeply intense feelings inside from time to time, it just means that I am able to be present for and hold what someone else is experiencing because I too have been there, know what it’s like and am willing to be a quiet companion in that place gently encouraging movement forward to a lighter place when the time is right.
I’m grateful for my dad’s life and his way of being in the world as a man, father, a husband, a fixer, an artist, a singer and musician, an enjoy-er of sci-fi and someone that has been of great service to his community in ways that he enjoys. I like that my dad enjoys a cheesy, corny joke now and then and has a passion for having his dessert all to himself.
Sometimes the most important parts of a person aren’t the most obvious, there’s a essence over the arc of time that remains steady and true that can be the most impactful and influential, but it takes time, life lived and many experiences to realize the steady undercurrents and guiding strength that have been there all along.
Happy Birthday Dad! Thank you! I love you!