Not that long ago my father told me that he wondered what he might have accomplished if it weren’t for his anxiety. We’d had conversations about anxiety over the years and as I got older, the conversations became more candid.
He told me about how his anxiety impacted his relationships and how he felt that he hadn’t lived up to the expectations that others (and he himself) may have had for him. My Dad had gone to a small, elite private high school and many of his classmates had gone on to do great things. They’d gone to elite colleges and universities, had high-powered careers and made a lot of money.
Although my Dad didn’t do those things, he was proud of his classmates who had. In fact, he was often impressed by others. Something that stands out in my mind is how often he praised others, or was in awe of others, for what they had done with their lives.
That’s not to say that my Dad’s life wasn’t worthy of praise or pride, at least not in my eyes. But I am starting to get some clarity about something. I think that one of the reasons he may have focused so much on the greatness of others was to take the attention off what he didn’t do in his life. And I think that I have been afraid to pursue some of my dreams for some of the same reasons.
I happen to think that he was a great man and that he didn’t have to make a lot of money or have a high-powered career in order to be a valuable person or to make a contribution to society. He was loving and he was loved. He was a great listener. He helped people feel good about themselves. I believe he left us all in better condition than when he found us.
And as I have been thinking about this, I realized that I’ve been struggling with something for quite a while without really knowing it. I feel like I have two opposing forces within me: the selfish(?) desire to be heard (which is why I write) and the desire to be a more selfless person, one who focuses on or helps others.
And I find it curious as to why I judge my desire to be heard so harshly…as being a selfish act. I very much believe that what comes easily to me is valuable to others. I believe that if someone has a gift then they should use it and that in using it, it becomes valuable to others. And so, very soon, a book based on this blog will be published.
I’ve been told that sharing my story is inspiring and valuable, but I have also been told that, in doing so, I’m self-serving and that I’ve become something…bad. Well, that’s not exactly what was said, but that’s why I took from it.
So what if both things are true? What if who I am and what I want is both selfish and selfless? What if it’s a not a matter of either/or, but both/and? And what if it’s okay if both are true?
These are the kinds of thoughts I’ve been having ever since my Dad died. And in the days after my father’s death, amazing things happened. There was a lot of love, a lot of clarity, a lot of laughing, and, surprisingly, not as much crying as I thought there’d be. My sister, brother and I spent a couple of wonderful days together, with my father’s wife and many of his friends.
I was in awe.
Which brings me to the point of this post. A few weeks ago, well before my father died, I heard about a different way of thinking about resolution-making and goal-setting; instead of making statements about what you want to achieve or do, pick a word that encompasses the way you want to feel. I was intrigued. Then a friend pointed me in the direction of Christine Kane’s “Your Word Of The Year Discovery Tool.”
As Christine says, “Intention, even in the form of a single word, is unfathomably powerful. Resolutions are fine, but they are often motivated by ‘shoulds.’ [exactly, that’s why I don’t do them]. A word, however, contains energy, images and meaning. These are things our hearts and souls get excited about. And this is how transformation begins. Rarely does deep transformation happen because of ‘shoulds’.”
And so I brainstormed a bunch of words, waiting for the right one to come to me. I allowed myself time. I didn’t care if it took me until AFTER the new year. I wanted to make sure that I chose the right word…one that would feel powerful and make me say “YES!!”
Around the same time, I was contemplating creating a vision board and I had already found a bunch of pictures, images, words and phrases that resonated with how I want to feel in 2011. And there in the pile was a clipping that said “the awe tour.” Awe. AWE!! I want to be IN AWE in 2011. I want to be in awe of others and myself.
I had planned to write a blog post on New Year’s Day announcing my word. Then my Dad died and I wrote this post instead. Talk about awe. And what has unfolded in the days since he died has me in awe.
I don’t expect each and every day will be hugely awe-inspiring (or else I’d wear myself out!), but I believe there is awe to be had in simple, little things. That’s how my Dad lived his life and it’s how I want to live mine.