When I was tagged in this positivity challenge my first thought was my father. If I was going to talk about 7 things across 7 days that I was grateful for and that injects a whole lot of positivity into my life, I had to start with him. So this is my attitude of gratitude part 1/7 - eek!! - and it's probably the heaviest one for me. I promise I'll be lighter through the week!
An Inherited Gratitude for the Little Things
Dad’s always had this super excited passionate positive vibe to him. He’s got this utter appreciation for music that totally rocks his world, and I remember him calling me on my travels INSISTING I listen to that track or the other because it was ‘music you could listen in the dark to’, referencing his habit of putting on a song in the dark for a total auditory experience. He’d effuse about the way the light made prisms of rainbows over the crest of waves, the lentil burgers Mum made that were the best he ever had, the unusual bird he just saw in the garden. You could say I inherited that – this incredible gratefulness for all this awesomeness in life – just as I inherited his tendency for extremes – you can’t have all those super enthusiastic grateful highs without the lows, right? But I digress.
I wondered about what that all meant - all that joy for the little things. How does that amount to a well lived, well loved life? How does that all add up when you're at death's door, looking back at it all?
Be Grateful, Because Death Can Come A-Knocking When You Least Expect It
So back before Easter, Dad got diagnosed with a super aggressive form of blood cancer that the local GP failed to pick up. Please can I add here that if there’s a lump, you need to get a second opinion if the first guy says ‘it’s nothing. I’ve written about this before so I don’t want to go into the details, save to say we were all in total shock - yeah right, yogi surfer vegetarian healthy guy Hans with cancer?? - does that mean we’re all mortal? Uh-huh.
And of course, I know that – all men must die. So my first reaction was of gratitude, which kinda surprised me. It wasn’t floods of tears (that came later) or denial (which never came) but this profound gratitude.
I immediately said to my father, pale at having just told his eldest daughter the worst possible news and knowing my emotional heart, that it was fine, that I was so proud that he was my father, and that I was grateful for everything he’d given me, and I would always carry him with in my heart. I even went so far as to tell him how I’d see feel his presence in the infinite fields of consciousness whilst meditating, and at sea, conscious of us both as limited and limitless beings (he’s a yogi, okay, so he gets that stuff) - I mean, this is just what I do!
Dad changed the subject after that outburst, in the way that men who don't talk about their feelings must do.
I’m not sure he knew what to say. He’d never been one for effusive displays of affection or love – it was rather something that came out more in his actions. Later he’d laugh and say the ‘L’ word was like the ‘S’ word – love and sorry both got stuck in his throat on the way out. So when he did start telling us how grateful he was for his life and for us, we were all rather teary. Well, okay, I was blubbering.
Be Grateful for All the Ones that Have Ever Loved You - And Tell Them That!
How keenly we feel life when death is imminent. Everything is sharper, richer, more tender
Perhaps that’s what Dad was feeling when he brought his estranged brother in to clear the slate. Perhaps that’s what he was feeling when he rang old friends to chat about how much he’d valued their friendship. Perhaps that’s what he was feeling when he told Mum how much he couldn’t do without her help, with her buying him slippers, cleaning up his vomit, making him chia balls and lentil soup and helping him stumble to the loo.
Perhaps that was what he was thinking when I walked into the room and he exclaimed: ‘Gorgeous!! How’s my favourite eldest daughter’ and proceeded to tell me, with eyes welling with tears, that he was so, so proud of me. Proud of his grandson. Proud of his son in laws.
These words were NOT the kind of words my Dad would EVER utter. Pet names like 'gorgeous' or 'love' were definitely not in my parent's vocabulary - they are earthy, practical people that found such affection to be a little dramatic and unnecessary. But with the prospect of dying clear in his mind, he felt it so important to tell us all how grateful he was for us all, and that he had been so lucky in his life. That he was sorry for ever being harsh with us.
Dad, harsh? What critical self-talk was that? Was he regretting sharp words spoken in anger, perfectly normal behaviour for parents? Was he worried about how he’d be remembered? Any worries about the kind of man he had been made me laugh as I reassured him. He was one of life’s innocents, and wouldn’t hurt a fly – he’s kind, caring, enthusiastic, vivacious. I mean, this is him, camera in hand in a bamboo forest. I think he’s going to be a panda in his next life.
The conversation that day now turned to hours of talking. My sister left – far too much emotion for her, but I stayed as the room got dark and talked to my parents about their lives. They talked about regrets, and the things they should have done - you know the ones, the mountains we coulda shoulda woulda climbed. Dad would have loved to have been an architect. To have an eco home in Tassie. To have started yoga earlier in life.
They talked about how they tried their best to raise us right. They talked about the friends they’d loved and lost through disagreements or simply because they no longer shared values. They talked themselves back into this beautiful moment where all they could really feel was gratitude for all they did have.
All those little things they'd been grateful for in their lives all of a sudden became THE BIG THINGS.
They had a beautiful house, a beautiful family, a beautiful relationships, in a beautiful part of the world. What great joy they could find, despite the presence and inevitability of death!
The big mountains didn't matter at all.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we found out he's in remission a few weeks ago, and although he's still got a few chemo treatments to go, things are looking really positive and he's now on a less aggressive treatment. I know that eventually, he'll leave this moral coil and that too is part of the beauty of life. But I wanted to see Dad grow old and frail - not be in pain from cancer and taken when he's still at the prime of his life, so this is great news.
And Dad's still saying 'Hi gorgeous!!' and 'Bye, love you!' as if he's been irrevocably changed by this incredible gratitude to those he loves. I love this new Dad just as much as my old one - I always knew words of love were in his heart. And I'm super, super glad that I have a few years yet with him - to surf, to meditate, to do yoga with, to chat with, play music with, laugh with, get excited about stuff with.
I really couldn't feel more grateful that this beautiful soul is my old man.
The other moment of gratitude I felt this week was saying to J. how grateful I was for Dad and the amazing relationship of closeness I have with him. J. went kinda quiet, and finally said: 'You're lucky you have a relationship with your Dad at all', and I kinda felt a bit abashed by that - J. just doesn't have the same relationship with his father and there I was gushing about mine. How humbled then, I felt, that I have had this time with my Dad at all.
I was tagged by @canadianrenegade to:
Write a post about something you have to be positive about today - this could be anything from being thankful for your current situation, someone being nice to you, being thankful for your friends and family, or even being thankful for the opportunity you have been given here on Steemit - just keep it positive :)
- Do this for 7 days in a row if you get nominated.
- Mention three people who should do this on each day.
- Tag it with #7daypositivitychallenge and include these rules at the bottom of your post Include a picture of something positive (related to your story if possible.)
- Tip: You need to put the # in front of 7daypositivitychallenge or it will not let you use the tag.
Sorry if you've been tagged before in this challenge @mrprofessor @rainbowrachel @honeydue - please don't feel obligated, but you've been tagged!
I'm also totally honoured to be a passenger on the #ecotrain - check out this hashtag for some pretty amazing posts permaculture to meditation, environmental issues to food forests - I highly recommend checking out this tag as you're guaranteed of sweeeetness!