My Father. My Self.

January 9, 2024

My Father. My Self.

May 29, 2023

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss - an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. - is sure to be noticed.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

For all kinds of reasons, we lose track of our self along the way. It may be the desire to leave our shame and stories behind. It may be the roles and personalities we’ve taken on in adulthood. It may be because we’re just so damn busy, we have no time to keep track of ourselves. 

My 86-year-old dad gave me the best Christmas present this year. He reacquainted me with my younger self. As I’ve written before, Dad cared for me in a rugged sort of way. He wanted the best for me and I pushed myself to try to live up to his expectations (and mine). Quite simply, both Dad and Mom wanted me to be as happy as the other kids my age, so I lost track of that creative little boy who was a little timid and very introverted as I did my best to emulate my Marine Captain Dad.

At Christmas, Dad told me he’d been a shy little boy up until 9th grade for all kinds of reasons. What a surprise! I wasn’t alone. And, I came to feel a deep empathy for both Dad - who wanted me to have a better childhood than him - as well as for myself. I feel closer to Dad as a result. 

The day after Christmas, I saw the hauntingly poignant “All of Us Strangers” about a shy introverted midlifer whose ability to connect emotionally was disrupted by his parents dying in a car crash when he was around 12. As a screenwriter trying to share his story, he goes back to his childhood home 35 years later only to find his parents looking just the way they did before they passed away. The bittersweet moments of him - as an adult older than his parents - talking with them about how he’s grown up and become the man that he is is so touching, but also sad because he’s really talking to ghosts. 

What a gift to have an adult conversation with one’s parents while they’re living, when you’re not reverting back to the parent-child role you grew up with, when your parents are willing to be candid and vulnerable about their own life journeys. If you’re so inclined, I hope you take the initiative to have a “big talk” (not a “small talk”) conversation like this while your parents are still living. I know my Christmas gift from Dad has been very liberating for me as I have a new, compassionate narrative to understand my relationship with him. And, if they’re not living, all the more reason to watch “All of Us Strangers” as an incentive to find a way to communicate with them. 

-Chip

P.S. I just stumbled upon this new LA Times essay by the filmmaker of “All of Us Strangers” who I related to on many levels, especially his final sentence being a quote from Carl Jung. 

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