Here I invite you to reflect upon your most important relationships. They may or may not include biological relatives.
I began Father’s Day by jogging through a nearby cemetery. I’ve run through it many times before, but it seems different on holidays because there are usually more visitors.
Amidst the empathy I feel for those who can no longer experience the company of their fathers, I feel grateful that mine is still around. Although we live several hours apart, I know that I’ll be able to speak with him on the phone each Father’s Day. We’ll be able to talk about the things we have in common.
On the other hand, jogging through the cemetery brings up a number of thoughts that are far from gratitude. For one, it brings up fear. I realize that one day – hopefully far into the future – I, too, will be one of those cemetery visitors.
Good old Dad will no longer be around to speak with, to tell me about his gardening stories, and to make me laugh with his jokes. I will no longer have the opportunity to create any new memories involving him. I will be left only with memories of the past.
To escape this fear, I then shift my focus to how he should or could change. I think about how his brother died from a heart attack a few years ago, turning my cousins into Father’s Day cemetery visitors. I recall how another relative died from a heart attack earlier this week.
I think about how Dad underwent a bypass just a few years ago, and how he’s not yet altered his smoking and eating habits. I worry that he’ll go down the same treacherous path once again. It’s easier to feel disappointed in him and to focus upon his human imperfections, rather than face the dark, haunting fear within myself.
I’ve been down this fear-avoidance-blame path a few times before. This time, however, I realize that while I am genuinely concerned about my Dad, much of what’s going through my mind is driven by selfishness. Rather than being concerned primarily with whether he’s enjoying life, I’m more concerned with how long he’ll be around, so that I can enjoy the comfort of knowing he’s there.
My fear may also indicate that the way I relate to my Dad isn’t quite where I want it to be yet, and that what I’m really afraid of losing is the opportunity to define and create that.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much control over how long Dad will be around, or how he lives. I do have control over how grateful I am that he’s still around. I have control over how I relate to him. I can choose the types of additional memories I invite him to co-create with me.
It’s no coincidence that leading thinkers from both coaching (e.g., Dave Ellis) and counseling (e.g., William Glasser) emphasize the importance of solidifying relationships with those closest to us as we move forward.
Although Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have passed, consider the people closest to you who are still living. They may or may not be biological relatives.
Are you in a proactive state of gratitude and clarity in how you wish to relate to them? Or, are you driven by something more reactive?
What do you want these relationships to look like?
What one or two little steps are you willing to take over the next week to make these relationships even better?
I hope that you had a happy and reflective Father’s Day!
If your father is no longer physically present, you may also find this Father’s Day tribute by fellow life coach Tom Volkar inspiring.