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New Year Perspective on Mentors

I lost my Dad since I wrote my last blog and sitting down to write feels different. He was good at it, and I suddenly wish he had done more of it. I’ve noticed how many of my thought patterns want to rewrite the story so there is somehow more, and I am frequently reminding myself that what I got is exactly enough. I feel that way at the end of each year, too, as if I could improve it all just a little. I now understand that it’s my ego pressing its luck – never quite satisfied with our present conditions (at least for long). I don’t believe that ‘discontent’ was part of its original job description, but over time, our egos have progressed from being our Personal Protector to also serving as Judge and Jury for everyone else, self included. Snap judgments have become swift, harsh and common.

As a Mentor, Duffy was nothing short of a Full House. By that, I mean we covered the spread of positive and negative interactions pretty thoroughly. He was formidable, and I have grown to appreciate how much I needed that consistency in my life. He gave me something truly valuable that I was unable to fully appreciate until I was older – his authenticity. The list of cool things he has shared with me in 55 years is endless, and maybe one day soon I will write about them (so I don’t forget any more of them than I already have). For now, I am deeply grateful for all of the love and care he has put into being my dad, but let’s be real clear: This wasn’t always the case. 

As a dad, he could be rigid and difficult to share feelings with (and a long list of other things which you can find in my teenage journals, wherever they may be!). Duffy’s most powerful parenting tool was music, and it still allows him to be a part of my everyday life. Our shared love of certain songs and the memories that accompany them are alive in my heart. That being said, I ALWAYS knew he loved me. Without question.

He was a good steward of that parenting lesson, and many other foundational gems. Having gotten away with so much in his own life, he was on to any shenanigans I tried to pull, sometimes before I had even organized the plan. Somehow, he had a way of finding out when I did something I shouldn’t, which was more often than he would have liked. He was never surprised, as if he naturally anticipated everything that happened. 

Creative punishments came easy and often in our home. (Did anyone else have to eat a spoonful of cold mashed potatoes to make up for an offense or have a fraternity paddle accompany them on vacations?) If you add it all up, I spent about a year of high school being grounded, no joke. I’m not saying I didn’t need to be checked regularly, but looking back, it appears that being grounded led to more reasons for grounding — at least in my case. The infractions made while being punished were much easier to rack up, and I think we see that same type of pattern play out in our criminal justice system every day. Once you are in trouble of any kind, life feels less free. We all react differently to loss of freedom.

Duffy was the coolest guy in the world to his friends (and mine), but maybe not so much when you were his under-aged daughter. In my admittedly narrow teenage opinion, he was completely unreasonable, didn’t understand me at all, and definitely didn’t want me to have any fun. Years later, I would see it more clearly, as we often do, but at the time he sometimes felt like more of a Tormentor than a Mentor… 

Those feelings made a big shift once I understood the true nature of his intentions. My dad was here to be one of my most influential guides through this human experience, and his training didn’t really begin until he was already on the job. Until I was 18, he was legally responsible and morally obliged to be aware of my actions, and he made it a point to teach me about consequences. Realizing this opened a world of imagination and possibilities for me that eventually replaced the anger and resentment I had been carrying. Those feelings had clouded the love, making it harder for me to see, but it was always there. When the clouds cleared, I cofuld feel deep respect for the man who first taught me how to open my perspective to a space that was outside of my own, especially when I didn’t want to.

Duffy knew the cost of a serious misstep – at least when it came to MY choices. I can’t say he took the same care with his own, which created a paradox that directly and forever connects me to the unbreakable relationship between my soul and his. Authenticity is the thread that has pulled us through, no matter what. Unlike most parents, his faults were part of the narrative of his life, and his humanity was always genuine and uncensored, two more things that helped me see the intrinsic trust that is formed in moments of vulnerability. Through our many conflicts, we have been able to accept each other, exactly how we are, because we remain steadfastly rooted in unconditional love. A true gift.

Parents and children come in endless personality combinations. When we start making friends and spending time with other families, we inevitably compare their ways and means to our own. Even within my extended family, each of my four aunts' families lived a different lifestyle than we did, simply because of our parents' character differences. As cousins, we have all shared a lot of the same customs and traditions, but there are variances in each family’s core values, rules, and expectations. We are all part of one big family, but we are uniquely individual people. Sensitivity, sense of humor and intention fits each of us in a different way, depending on our overall demeanor and our ever-changing moods. By the time kids are old enough to begin pushing back on what they are taught, they are already deep into the experience of learning just by experiencing their own family dynamics.

How we learn and who we learn from is a lot more important to our development than what we learn, but as humans, we like to skip ahead. It’s not a bad thing, but by design it often puts us at odds with our would-be teachers, and we miss things. Some parents don’t see how much they can learn directly from their children, because they are too busy trying to teach them and/or worrying that they will screw them up. The natural cycle of learning is interrupted by expectations, over and over again. No matter how many books we read, or how smart and creative we are, there is no such thing as the perfect parent. The fact that we all think we could somehow be the exception is part of a basic truth that escapes us: we are all perfect in every single moment. Our Egos just don’t and/or can’t believe it’s real. They want more proof.

It can be a really hard pill to swallow, but shifting to that root belief will guide you through a deeper understanding of your own soul’s responsibilities, simply by noticing whether others are even capable of doing the same. Age is not a valid marker for why or when a person should know a thing, yet we hear it spoken every day: “You are 30 years old and you haven’t learned xyz?!”. Preposterous!” When we stop at the part where we don’t understand how a situation came to be, we have likely hit one of our own personal triggers. The key for moving forward is always allowing, even if there is no possibility of immediate understanding. This lets you take the next breath with acceptance of reality, not the feelings of what you don’t like about it. We don’t usually notice as those things pile up in our bodies, but they do if we don’t release the tensions that come with our difficulties and conflicts, especially around generational differences. 

The kids born post 9/11 are mentored by a world that is dramatically different than the ones their parents grew up in, shifting their collective concept of loyalty away from things that are toxic, including bloodlines. The mass exodus from the job market and the family unit happened for people individually, but has also been a trend, globally. I’ll be curious to see what the post-pandemic kids bring once they are teenagers, but I’d bet a lot of money it has an even more collective mindset, overall. Our evolution as a species is imploding with the conflicting things we have been taught, the people we’ve looked up to, and the choices we have made, since the dawn of man. 

A lot of signs point to the breakdown of society as we know it, and the ideas floating around out there about what we might become are infinite, producing waves of shared emotion that ebb and flow. Science and history have mentored us pretty well this far, but we are now watching science retract some discoveries and reframe their findings with increasing regularity. What we believe to be true doesn’t always remain true, and that fact will pull us through as a species. It is not only okay to be ignorant, it is quite lovely to gain a larger perspective as we learn from the people around us. It reminds us that we don’t have to be in agreement to be learning, and that there is something to learn from everyone. Our creative thought is always accessible through our shared material.

It’s no surprise, really, that we can’t know as much as we once thought we could. Or that we think we can fairly regulate capitalism, or freedom or liberty, for that matter! At eighteen, I was probably the smartest I would ever be in my life–in my own mind. I’m sure that is true for a lot of us. Naturally, we become separated from our given Mentors simply by reaching a certain age. Once we are legally considered adults, there are certain shifts in our expectations and beliefs. How it plays out is hard to define, because each one of us receives that shift differently. Some can’t wait, while others never feel ready. 

Human to human, the rules must eventually adapt to meet the challenges of each individual, or we will continue to increase our current divide. Conflict is a natural part of our existence, but our fears, combined with our desire to win, can make it confusing to navigate. 8 billion personalities will never fully agree at the Ego level, but they would definitely be able to work together if they were to operate within the same common framework of thought. And that is where we begin to remember the roots of our connections, starting with our Mentors. 



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