“When one has not had a good father, one must create one.” —Friedrich Nietzsche
My father is full of anger, sadness, and pain. He’s needy. He struggles to cope with my darkness because he’s too busy hiding his own.
At his best, he goes into denial mode and tries to cut it off, eat it off, and sleep it off with pills. My father doesn’t have the patience to talk about his feelings with my mother and her attempts end in a fight.
He’s all about business and he treats feelings like one of his businesses.
As I got older, I tried to figure it out all alone. I suffered. I pretended to be better than I was. I sucked at relationships. I doubted everyone and myself.
He is still my father—the most important man in my life. In order to get anywhere by myself, the first step is to embrace him and to allow myself to become like him. Angry, sad, and full of pain. Then I feel him. Then I can understand what he’s been through.
From this point on, there are choices for me. The biggest one is how I choose to learn from my father’s model. My father gave me my life. And he saved it a couple of times. He also taught me a lot.
Here are his seven lifesaving lessons.
1. He introduced me to fear which became my best friend
What high school am I going to attend? What college? What job will I find? Will my income be enough so I don’t starve? What about my health insurance? Pensions? Or even, will I be careful enough while crossing the street? Oh my God, are we all going to die one day?!
This shit goes on and on.
Do these questions upset you? They did upset me. Those were the questions my father asked me. With a glimpse of terror in his eyes. He even asks me these questions today.
I felt pressured. Possessed by fear.
Then I got rebellious about it. I put my whole energy into escaping him and his questions. I went to places where these kinds of questions didn’t get asked. Drugs, daydreaming, alcohol…you name it. I pushed myself to escape the fear. It grew like an alien inside of me until the explosion.
It happened on a stage in a controlled environment with a supportive group of people. And you know what? For the first time in fifteen years, I felt alive, powerful, and complete. I thought to myself: I need this shit. I need fear. It’s like a fuel to get me to places I want to go.
2. My father’s obsession with others made me care about me
What’s with you, are you insane?
What’s with your sister, is she nuts?
What’s with your mother, is she sick or what?
What about this friend of yours, he looks like a stoner preparing to shoot himself?
What’s with the whole fucking world, is everybody going crazy?
Am I the only normal guy around here?
Or is it vice versa?
My father told me how everybody sucks and how everything is hard and impossible these days. Those days last for twenty years now.
I was a good boy. I had to fix everyone I met, including him. Including the rest of my family, my friends, my girlfriends, and my colleagues. I was the caretaker of the whole planet.
I had to fight the corruption, injustice, crime, pollution, and every toxic piece of shit I’ve encountered.
Until one day I had an epiphany.
I’m not fucking Batman.
My father was right. Up to a point.
I needed to take care of someone. This time, it needed to be me.
3. My father’s triple identity inspired me to find my unique one
My father had at least three lives. First, he was a father and a husband in our family. Then, he was another woman’s man. And of course, he was a businessman.
I never got to know his other identities. What was he like in the relationship with another woman? How come people at work respect him and I don’t?
I felt there are missing pieces of him. It seemed he couldn’t be honest with me. After a while, I let go the need to figure him out.
Since I didn’t have a triple life, I made up my own triple identity. For my family, I was a good student in search of a decent job. For my girlfriends and my crew, I was a cool guy with a big artistic carrier in front of me. Deep down for myself, I was another lost soul who knew nothing.
To break this, I’ve decided I’m not gonna hide anything from my father or the entire world. I’ll speak the truth, even if it brings the pain and shame in me. This is going to be my identity.
It was strange in the beginning, but it did work. I connected more with my father and people around me. I felt more freedom. I felt more at ease. If my father didn’t introduce me to the game of identities, I would never have realized the urge of responsibility to build my own.
4. His relationship with money shaped my relationship with money
It was in their DNA to make money and succeed in life, he said about the rich folks.
This concept confused me for two decades. For me, the success was to feel joy about creating something from scratch, to have fun with people I like, or visit places I have never been to before.
In terms of money, success was to get the job done and get paid for it.
My father’s words stuck with me. I had a deep belief money is a problem and I will never have enough of it. I worked hard to get it, and then I would spend it. Never reinvesting in something meaningful.
Maybe knowing I’m not the one with the money in my DNA, I didn’t bother to make smart moves considering my financial struggle. This led to addiction, followed by stress when I did have money. I didn’t appreciate having it. I threw it away like it was hot.
One day I looked at myself in the mirror and realized we don’t know shit about money. I started to read and learn from people who make a ton of it. Today, I have a different practice. Money is like a universal code to open a lot of doors. My state of mind is not dependant on having or not having it.
I don’t believe you have to have money in your DNA to get rich. I’m grateful for money being such a huge topic for my father. This pushed me to create my own relationship with money.
5. Enjoy the journey, keep my focus
It’s all about the result and the finish line for my father. He eats his meals in a hurry. He travels with a destination in mind. He’s always tired. He’s somewhere else. Never in the moment.
I was never relaxed while working. Never at ease. I forgot how to breathe. Run. Play.
When I first tackled this problem, it had to be one or the other. Either I’m going to make something as scheduled by being super hard on myself, or I’m going to go in the relaxed/drunk state. Both scenarios damaged me.
Then I tried something else. How would it be if I relax in the process of getting something done? What if I marry the two opposites together and put a fine balance in between?
This feeling of being in the middle of the two gave me a sense of control. I could take layers from each and use them to my advantage.
If I didn’t watch my father look for the end results while feeling anxious about it, I would never have searched for the joy in the journey.
6. The mystery of sex needs to be resolved
Once, back in high school, I left condoms in my room after having sex with my girlfriend at the time. My mother found them and reported this to my father. This was the only time we talked about sex. He asked me to join him on the balcony.
“You’re having sex,” he said.
“I am,” I answered.
“Are you aware you need to protect yourself in order not to get your girlfriend pregnant?”
“Sure,” I said. Silence joined us. I stayed there for a couple of minutes and went to my room. He stayed there looking at our neighborhood.
From this point on, the sex talk went something like this for me: (Big silence) “…do we have a condom?”
I was in my late twenties when I realized I’m super interested in the topic. I began to read and address it on a deeper level. I owe this to my current girlfriend. Yet again, it was my father who sent me on the journey.
Today, it makes me shiver to talk about sex. It’s one of my favorite topics. It feels alive to talk about sex before, during, and after having it.
Deep down, we’re all seekers. I believe it is in our nature to know the unknown. If my old man didn’t make sex the biggest mystery of the universe I would have never explored it.
7. How to stop and see the bigger picture
It’s one of those things when you relax and let go. I was a boy sleeping in the same room with my father. I got up, took a vessel, closed my eyes and started to piss. After a while, the floor was wet.
My father got up and started to scream, “What are you doing!? Stoooop!”
I couldn’t stop. It felt too good.
After the second yell, I felt paralyzed.
This made a mark for me. Do not let go. Always stay awake. You cannot relax. Stop right there. Think. Hold your horses.
I had to learn how to take risks, do stupid things and go over the edge. That’s the hard part. The easier one my father taught me—sometimes it’s good to pause and look at where I am on the bigger scale.
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