Firstly, I apologize for this rant as it is clearly too early on a Saturday morning for you to fire up your computer and be faced with such blarg.
Secondly, this is not so much a rant about my dad as it is a fresh kick to my own ass for letting him get to me and losing my temper.
I apologize, in advance, that this blog isn’t the least bit funny (okay, maybe it will have some aspects of humor, but probably leaning toward the irony side of humour rather than the ha ha ha side of humour), but my blog is the place where I process and, right now, I’m processing like a high speed Mac on crack.
For years, I’ve been making a conscious and concerted effort to be less judgemental, more forgiving, more accepting and less opinionated. I slip up a lot, but every time I do, I am acutely aware of what has transpired and I renew my efforts to keep on trying to change these undesirable traits. Change, as you all know, comes from within and, as hard as it may seem, change is entirely possible with effort and fortitude. I believe that the adversity I have undergone in my life has helped me to create a change for the better, within myself and also within others who know me.
One area where I’ve been concentrating my efforts is in graciously allowing others to express their opinions and not losing my shit when they don’t agree with my own. It’s a really difficult aspect of my personality to control because everyone wants to feel as though other people agree with the principles and truths that govern our lives. In fact, I would say that there is nothing that is more difficult to change about yourself than learning to accept that everybody’s truth is as real to them as your truths are to you. So, for example, if I was raised to believe that the sky was blue and another person was raised to believe the sky was red, it wouldn’t matter how much I tried to convince that other person that the sky is blue because they believe that their truth – the sky is red – is the truth. And, you know what, maybe the sky is red. Chew on that for awhile. This is where the whole agree to disagree gig comes into play.
My dad doesn’t have an agree to disagree button. He only has an if you don’t agree with me then you are completely wrong and stupid button. IT DRIVES ME FUCKING NUTS. The worst part is that I know he is that way and I do my best to just let it go and let him rant about things when he feels the need to, but he can be so obtuse and so completely closed-minded that he can’t ever bring himself to acknowledge that there may be another truth involved in addition to his own. The really sad part is that our entire family and his friends all see that he is this way and everyone lets him get away with it, even when his attitude hurts people – which it does, regularly.
Trying to have a conversation with my dad that challenges his beliefs in even the tiniest way is like bumping a hornet’s nest and then realizing what you’ve done and running away at full speed while they chase you down and sting the shit out of you until you eventually just lay there and give up because you can’t escape them. I’m not exaggerating. The dude is relentless and angry. It boggles my mind. It makes me sad. It frustrates me.
Last night, I popped by my dad and stepmom’s place to see if he could help me figure out how to build something. Our conversation started pleasantly enough and he was all “I can help” and I was all “Yay! Thanks”, but then I brought up his latest project – being on the Board of a local, long-standing golf course here in town, one that is seeing a drastic decline in membership due to poor past management practices, deaths of its long-time members, etc. – and everything just kind of slid downhill faster than a fat kid on a greased Crazy Carpet.
Here’s the paraphrased gist of our conversation:
Jo: “Hey, I heard through the grapevine that the media and marketing people on the Board might need some help with ways to market the course for free.”
Dad: “No. There are three of them and they are doing just fine.”
Jo: “Really? I haven’t heard anything about the course at all. Ever. There are many ways for the course to get the word out without having to spend a penny using social media outlets. Do you want me to send you a list of ideas that they can use?”
Dad: “Well, sure, but I’m fairly sure they know what they’re doing.”
Jo: “Also, I was thinking that if you want to boost your membership, why don’t you offer young people a discounted rate to golf and then just black out certain times of the day or days of the week that they are allowed to golf there.”
Dad: “We are already working on that. We are thinking about offering a membership that is $1000 up front and then $10 for every round of golf.”
Jo: “Oh. Do you offer a payment plan for people? Because most young people I know won’t be able to fork over $1000 without using credit.”
Dad: “Why not?”
Jo: “Well, most young families – say a mom and dad with two kids who make even $90,000 a year – aren’t going to be able to come up with $1000 dollars for a membership at a golf course. They can’t afford it.”
This is where both my dad and my stepmom jumped in at the same time. She asked what these families were doing with their money that they couldn’t afford a mere $1000 for a membership and my dad piped in with a comment about a person who makes $90,000 a year and can’t afford $1000 membership clearly needs to see a financial advisor to learn how to learn how to manage their money. Keep in mind that my dad is quite comfortable, financially, and his wife inherited millions from her parents and has never struggled, moneywise, in her entire life (and this is not a dig, it’s just fact and is totally relevant to the conversation). I’m also fairly certain that when my mom and dad were still married and they were raising three kids on his wage as a heavy duty mechanic, thirty years ago, they didn’t have any superfluous cash floating around for a golf membership. They conveniently forget these facts about their lives and this is where I started to get annoyed.
Jo: “You don’t get it at all. It’s not the same now as it was when you were young. People these days, even if they make around $90,000 a year, still struggle to stay afloat. Kids are a lot more expensive now than they used to be and most people (the ones who golf anyway) are carrying a four or five hundred thousand dollar mortgage, making regular payments on a vehicle, etc.. They don’t have access to extra lump sums of cash.”
Dad (SHOUTING): “I don’t get it? You want to come downstairs and take a look at the fucking bills I pay every month?” (WHOA! What the hell just happened here??? Did I say that you don’t have bills to pay? Did I say anything about you and your money? Pretty sure I was talking about young people these days, not older, financially stable people who have had a lifetime to build up their wealth…)
Jo: “Well, don’t get mad. I’m just saying that it’s not the same as it used to be and you don’t get it because, even though you live in the same world as the rest of us, you are financially comfortable and don’t struggle. I’m just saying that if you don’t offer people an alternative way of paying, like monthly, then I believe you are going to have a hard time attracting new members to the course. It’s just my gut feeling.”
Dad (Again, YELLING and completely pissed off): “If someone who makes $90,000 a year can’t afford a $1000 membership, then they’re doing something seriously wrong .” (Yah, I’m pretty sure that’s what you already said…and then I explained to you why and here you are saying the exact same thing again and you’re also conveniently ignoring the fact that your mortgage has been paid off for, what, 30 years, and your house probably cost less than a hundred grand back in the day. Arrrrrrgggggh.)
Jo (Oh, and there I went, losing my shit too): “You know what dad. You can’t do this. You can’t be in a position to take people’s suggestions, whether you plan to act on them or not, and get pissed off and all high and mighty when people offer those suggestions to you. If you get pissed off every time your members make suggestions or express their concerns to you about the golf course, you’re actually going to make the situation worse. You are on the Board so you can make a difference and make things better. Having a stubborn, stuck in your ways, my way or the highway kind of attitude creates enemies and causes people to not want to deal with you at all. (I know this because I had many power-trippy moments when I was the President of our derby league and I learned very quickly that I had to open my mind and heart to make things run more smoothly and keep momentum moving forward. Apparently, my dad, in all of his 64 years, has yet to learn this valuable life lesson.) You know what, forget about helping me. I’ll figure this project out myself and I won’t be coming back tomorrow morning after all. (And then I stormed out of his living room, seeing red and ready to kick the shit out of the damn hornets).
Dad (from the living room as I was putting my shoes on in the kitchen): “I can’t change. It’s who I am.”
Jo: “That is such bullshit. Everyone can change, you just have to want to change for the better and make the effort. It’s not that you can’t change, it’s that you refuse to even make the effort. And, you know what, that’s fine, but here’s something to think about. Why don’t you just try to listen to people without instantly shutting them down if they don’t agree with you? How’s that for a fucking novel concept.”
SIGH. And then I stormed out, jumped in my car and spent the next 10 minutes deep breathing and berating myself for letting my dad’s usual BS get to me. The worst part is that he was totally right, about the changing thing anyway. I was pissed off because I want him to change and he doesn’t want to change. My mistake was in, once again, ignoring the fact that his truth is his own and that he and I will never see things the same way because we are completely different people.
My dad’s values are not my values and his truths are definitely not my truths, so why would I ever expect them to be? If he wants to spend his entire life always believing that his truth is the one and only truth out there, why should I give a shit? All that does is cause me to suffer unnecessary anger and frustration. Change comes from within, so it is up to me to change my own reactions to other people’s behaviour, not expect them to change theirs.
So, Dad, if you’re reading this, I apologize for getting angry at you when I should have just let it be. And I forgive you for yelling at me, forgetting how much you struggled when you were young and trying to raise a family, and for not wanting to change.
And Lorna, I apologize for judging you based on my knowledge that you have never struggled financially and for thinking that you have no right to criticize anyone for poor money management when you started out in life with more money than you’d ever need or want.
Here’s my truth. My mom struggled financially her entire life, including when her and my dad were married and especially afterward because my dad didn’t help us out much (which I forgave him for a long time ago, but it is still one of my truths). We went through times when she could barely afford to feed us and I wore clothes until they were worn out and too small for me (and I was ridiculed at school for being a poor kid because of it). My mom never learned how to manage money until much later in her life, mostly because there was never enough money to manage in the first place. My dad never once made an effort to teach me how to manage money, but he has always been lightening quick to point out that I need to learn how to manage money better. (I also forgave him for this along time ago, but it is still also one of my truths). I have watched my brother and sister (the younger ones) grow up never wanting for anything – never knowing what it is to be hungry or how they will feed themselves or if they will be able to pay the next month’s rent – because they grew up in a financially stable household with two parents who could provide for them and make sure they were happy, healthy and safe.(I don’t blame them for this and love them to bits despite the fact that they don’t understand what my childhood was like).
Here’s another one of my truths: I don’t believe people who don’t struggle financially are in any position to criticize people who do. So, when my dad and his wife criticize other people for not managing their money properly, it makes me angry, to the point where I feel the need to defend people I don’t even know – hypothetical families who make $90,000 a year and can’t afford a $1000 golf membership – just on principle. On the other side of that, maybe my dad and stepmom’s truth is that because they are financially stable, they have every right to criticize people who aren’t. 🙂
My truths are my own. People don’t have to agree with them for them to exist. My truths are a huge part of what allows me to create change in myself and to constantly strive to become a better person in my own eyes. 🙂
I also forgive myself for temporarily slipping up in my efforts to be more kind and accepting of other’s truths. Next time, I will hopefully recognize my own ego right away and suppress my instinct to ignore other people’s opinions to have my own heard. The best people can do to make a change is to recognize their mistakes and try not to repeat them. I’m a work in progress.
Have a great weekend everyone. I wish you all enough…