There’s much to be said for a father’s love. They teach us right from wrong. In households like the one I grew up in, the acceptable roles of each family member were determined by our father. He saw that I was good in school so naturally, I was to be the doctor in the family. This was all well and good except I never had the heart to tell him that I wasn’t interested in medicine. Of course, conscious fathers have the best intention for their children. In my dad’s mind, the medical profession offered the most honourable path to wealth. He felt it was his duty as a caring father to shepherd me into such a career. I played along for years until self-sabotaging my grades in Uni by skipping classes to watch artsy films. I came to him with less than med-school perfect grades and still he didn’t give up. He had the perfect solution to “my problem”.
Why didn’t I research attending med school in Puerto Rico or other off mainland places?
Disheartened at his relentless pushing me into something I didn’t want for myself, I nonetheless wasted more time and energy trying to do the next best thing, training as a scrub nurse. At the end of the training, I could get into the lucrative field of medical equipment sales.
Alas, it was easier to accept a job in Istanbul, as far as I could get from dad and his expectations from me.
These days, I’m secure on my own path as a writer. I call dad once a week to hear about his theories on aliens and how he can arrange an abduction so they fix his DNA to give him eternal youth.
Two weeks ago, a run-in with a father of a different sort flared up unresolved issues I had around growing up in an unbalanced household with too much male energy. To be clear, I’m fortunate enough to have my mum around but growing up, she too had bought into the idea that to be worth something as a person she had to earn money. I’m not sure whether how much she earned ever warranted being away from our household. To this day she thinks money was her greatest contribution to our family. By the way, a large amount of the money my parents earned went to investment properties where they lost money.
Father Geoffrey, a Catholic priest, came into my life out of a desire I have for my daughter to receive a good education. We hold a belief that Catholic schools offer a balanced curriculum and community service. One of the requirements of a Catholic high school we’ve been looking at is that the students be baptised before the age of one.
Father Geoffrey impressed me with the importance he placed on words. “In the beginning there was the word…” he said. As a writer who grew up playing with words he knew he had my attention. Talking about the Catholic Church’s focus on repairing the relationship we have with Mother Nature caught my interest. Somehow before leaving his presence, I’d given him my word to come to mass. So I attended my first mass last Sunday.
A Matter of Splinters, Planks and “I” Problems
When I walked into mass what I was confronted with was a projection of a cartoon character with a plank in its eye pointing at another character with a splinter in his eye. This was a few days after Cardinal George Pell was charged with child abuse. I wondered whether the implication was that turning a blind eye to abuse of power is unacceptable.
Then Father Geoffrey spoke, He began with pointing out the splinters in our eyes as “modern people”. Our obsession with our phones, taking too many selfies, thinking that the world revolves around us, expecting the Catholic Church to perform baptisms of our children when in fact we have no intention to join the church (OK, so maybe he didn’t specifically say it, but I could feel his judgment of parents like me) and many of the other evils of the prevalent philosophy of selfism.
We are a society obsessed with making ourselves happy and we get carried away with the idea that if everyone simply followed their bliss, the world would sort itself out. To me, this feels like common sense. One must feel fulfilled if they are to be of service to others. I observe myself on days where I haven’t properly looked after myself and my patience runs short. On the other hand, if I’ve taken the time to fix myself up in the mirror and developed feelings of love and acceptance towards myself, then the love flows out naturally to the people I encounter.
To be always doing and fulfilling duties is the way of the male energy and it is what unconscious, carried away fathers do (before becoming Darth Vader in the eyes of their family). Taking the time to play and create, well this is in the domain of the feminine. The house in “The Sound of Music” before Maria sets step in there is a classic example of a patriarchal household. It is oppressive. It ignores the creativity and the individuality of its members. It runs on the thought that everyone is duty-bound and self-expression is frivolous.
But father is always right and there’s no doubt that his loving presence (not Darth Vader!) keeps us on the right path.
Shame for Being Self-ists
As a person on social media, I observe the obsession with self in myself and others. I don’t see it as evil. I think getting to know yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a person. “An unexamined life isn’t worth living” and “know thyself” said Socrates. Many of us never fully explore what moves us. Our earlier years are filled by trying to please others. Parents, teachers, peers, bosses, colleagues, friends and family all come to us with their needs and it’s natural to forget about our own needs and then we start to drift further and further away from ourselves. The things that gave us pleasure, like singing, dancing, painting, writing or playing games, these are the first things we give up because we no longer have time.
When play goes out the window so does joy. Performing duties becomes non-stop and then we start to go through motions without emotion and that’s the ticket to burn-out city. I burned out on school work, you may be burned out on office work or housework and Father Geoffrey may be burnt out on church work given that his mass wasn’t full of joy and laughter.
Far from shaming people for being Self-ists, we should encourage everyone to spend time with themselves to reacquaint themselves with a sense of play. Maybe then families, home, workplaces, school, church, etc… would be more fun.
Life is A Balancing Act
As much as fun and play are good, fulfilling our duties is what strengthens relationships. As a writer, if I don’t show up to write every Friday I lose trust in myself and stop seeing myself as a writer. If I try to force myself to write every day then writing loses its appeal. Such is work.
Just as a mother and father must both “play” a role in a household and hold their ground as individuals with different styles of parenting, your sense of duty and play must honour, respect and obey each other if you are to enjoy the fruits of your labours.
Anways, this is the premise. Can I say it works for me? Yes. I’m still here. Going strong.
Over to you…
What are some of the things you enjoyed doing as a child that you haven’t had time to do lately?
How will you get back into these activities?
Let me know how it goes and what you felt after allowing yourself some play time by e-mailing me firstname.lastname@example.org.