I remember when my dad died. It will be 34 years in July, and I still think about him every day.
At the time of his death, I was convinced that I could not survive without him. That I would fail at taking care of my mom. That my life would never be the same.
I was devastated.
I had just finished my first year of law school. I was working in a law firm in Chicago, and I was spending as much time as I could at my mom’s home in western Illinois, helping her to create a new life without her lifelong love. It was hard, and I was suffering. A lot.
But when I was back at work, most of the time at least, I seemed okay. It was disconcerting, actually, how well I was doing.
What I noticed then is that when I wasn’t thinking about my dad, I was actually doing well.
I could have seen then that reality, my reality anyway, is only what I’m thinking about, what I am aware of in the moment, and that it is constantly in flux.
What I saw instead was this idea that I should think about my dad more, that I could be a good son, to him and my mother, by suffering more. That I was a bad son by not suffering.
I was on a retreat recently where I was doing a lot of work with the roles that my parents had played, with the examples that they had shown me. I started talking about how many possibilities I had not seen because of that. And I said that despite that, I knew they were doing their best.
And one of the teachers said, “You don’t have to protect your parents right now. You just need to take care of you.”
And it hit me in that moment, so many years after my father’s death, how often I want people to feel better. Even if I feel worse in the process.
But if other people, even people close to me, are suffering, it doesn’t help them or me to think I should suffer, too.
Suffering doesn’t help me do my job better or become a better person.
I saw, and continue to see, that a lot of my “rules” about life are simply not true. And certainly not solid.
I saw, and continue to see, that my own “reality” is no more solid or unchanging than the clouds in the sky.
That much of the joy in life is in the seeing of that constantly shifting creation.
I’ve seen that, more and more deeply, for the last 30 plus years. The most dramatically realization, so far at least, was last July, on my father’s birthday, when the idea of “me,” simply disappeared.
“I” came back a few hours later, but I take that “I” a lot less seriously now.
When I see that I’m making up my life, making up potential futures, and then either being excited about or scared of the futures I just made up, my relationship with myself and my life completely changes.
I can see that all I am ever doing is creating. I can create a life where I have to suffer. Or I can create something different.
Can you see that space?
What are you wanting to create from there? What’s wanting to emerge?