I suppose, like so much else, this story begins with my dad. When I was a child, I wanted nothing more than to be the opposite of everything he was…but that was when I was a child. Now that I am a man, it’s easy to see him clearly, as he was, as a complete human being with talents, passions, dreams. Sure he had his share of flaws, but also many strengths. I love him, have always loved him.
That is all true, I have made peace, but that doesn’t change the damage that has been done. For instance, our house was built on an ever-shifting foundation. He was wildly inconsistent. This comes pretty standard with alcoholism, but the unreliability created an environment of tremendous uncertainty and anxiety.
If you ask me, (and I understand no one has), the reason our culture is so riddled with anxiety and stress is for the same reasons. We are all so unpredictable, our values and beliefs sway in the breeze, commitment and stability are relics of the past. How can we find peace if every time we close our eyes, the furniture is moved, and when we wake, the room is unrecognizable? It’s a world of “who knows?” where truth is public opinion and public opinion is fluid.
Anyway. Though my father was home every night, it was impossible to know which version of him would show up (in mind & spirit, as well as physically) at any moment. I saw this and the devastation it causes. For exactly this reason, a primary value of mine is to be a safe, consistent presence to those around me. That when I walk into any room, nobody holds their breath in apprehension like we did.
This makes relationships hard for me. I heard someone say about the Enneagram once that #1’s (‘perfectionists,’ to over-simplify things) can be hard on others, and expect much, but it is nothing compared to how hard they are on themselves, a mere fraction of what they expect of themselves. This is mostly true in my experience. When my actions don’t match my intentions, I am my own very worst critic.
Where this is going, the “story” of the first sentence, is that I am awfully sensitive of how people show up, or more importantly, if they show up at all. Philip Seymour Hoffman says to Julianne Moore in the Hunger Games, “people don’t always show up the way you want them to.” That is also mostly true, but it can be the most wonderfully breathtaking surprise, as well. Allowing others to be who they are, quirky and awesome, has been one of the greatest lessons (and now pleasures) of my life. But they have to show up, first. He could’ve stopped half way in, “people don’t always show up.”
I have trouble with deep friendships because I get “stood up” so often. This is of course, physically, but emotional and spiritual, too. How many times has someone sat across a table for a meal with their phone on the table, preoccupied and distant, distracted. They are there, but they are not at all there.
Now. I don’t have a point, this is more of a mournful exploration. Maybe my expectations are too high (I’ve been told that), but I can’t seem to agree, no matter how hard I try. Is it really such a high expectation that I am where I say I’ll be, do what I say I’ll do, and that I am simply me all the time? And that I expect the same of you? Really?