“Dad, why are you choosing your job over me? Why are you not home being my Dad?” – My son.
“Lee, why are you so unsupportive?” – My girlfriend.
I would do anything to protect these two people from harm because I love them both dearly. So why then am I responsible for causing them both the most harm? Why do I continue to behave in ways that both of them dislike and fail to understand? Why am I trying to drive them both further away from me?
My mantra is Personal Continuous Improvement. This is what this blog is all about. You take action in your life, you screw up, you review why and how you screwed up, you make changes so that you don’t screw up again, and then you rinse and repeat the cycle. My girlfriend believes you can never be perfect, and I think she is right. But by following my mantra, at least you will be heading in the right direction.
Sometimes your mistakes are easy to understand – and therefore rectify – and sometimes they are a little bit more complicated. In my relationships with both my son and my girlfriend, I have been thinking that I was going a little bit coo-coo. Try as I might I was just unable to identify where I was going wrong. This lack of understanding is causing me to keep behaving in ways that continues the cycle of pain for the two people that I love.
This week I had another important light bulb moment on my journey through Personal Continuous Improvement. I believe that my attendance at the Landmark Forum was the kick-starter to this light bulb moment and my mind has been figuring it out sub-consciously ever since.
It is now very clear to me that I am very much like my father. I now realise the true power of mentoring and especially the sub-conscious behaviours that we adopt from those that we spend the majority of our lives with. I have traveled through this world, highly critical of my fathers parenting skills, all the time vowing to be a better parent. In fact it goes deeper than that, because not only have I become my father when it comes to parenting, but I also mirror his behaviour in my intimate relationships.
I am what is known as an absent and distant father, and so is my father and so was his father. In fact I am pretty sure that there is a long lineage of absent and distant fathers in the Davy family tree. Unbeknown to my father – and myself until this week – his parenting style has become ingrained in the very core of what is to be me. In a lot of ways it has wounded me and the wounds have caused me to sub-consciously behave in inappropriate ways. I am distant and absent from my son in just the same way that my father was. I believe that I always under achieve and make up for this by working too hard, I introduce defensive walls into my relationships that are so deep they could be called The Great Walls of Lee, I am addictive and obsessive and need to always be right and in control at all times. Last, but certainly not least, I am far more comfortable criticising myself, and those that I care about, when what is needed is love, support and acceptance. All of these traits come from the still sore wounds of not having the father I wanted, and needed, as a child.
Realising that my father’s very soul seems to have imprinted itself on me, despite my open mouthed declaration that I would never be like him, intrigues me. How could this possibly happen when I have always thought I was fighting against it? How many more people are there in the world that have not worked it out? How many damaged relationships are there as a result of this lack of understanding?
This is where my mantra of Personal Continuous Improvement – which I like to call Lean Life – comes into force. I have now gotten to the root cause of my failures as a father and life partner. I understand my mistakes. Now it is time to figure out how to make the necessary improvements and then carry on living. Will I screw up again? Abso-bloody-lutely! But Lean Life means that you never stop learning and never stop improving.
In my next few blog posts I will write in more detail about what it feels like to be a distant and absent father and how it has manifested itself in my relationship with my son and my girlfriend.
Take some time to think about your relationship with your father. How did he behave? Was he there for you? Does this story seem familiar? Let us know what you think and tell your story.