This past week I decided that Facebook was having a very negative impact on my emotional health. I’ve actually known this for a long while but wasn’t ready to take the steps to disconnect from it. This past week, after seeing some posts that fueled jealousy along with posts that pissed me off, I knew I needed to make some changes. This battle is hard enough. Only a stupid person would allow something to continue that is hurting them. I did that for several years with alcohol. You’d think I would have learned my lesson. It was slow in coming, but one morning, as I was scrolling mindlessly through Facebook and I felt serious negative emotions begin to rise once again, I opened the settings app on my phone, found the blue Facebook icon, and touched “uninstall”. A little box asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. I touched “Yes” and the deed was done. I no longer have easy access to Facebook. And it has been SO freeing. I still have my account; I just need to be on my laptop to visit it. And that takes deliberateness–as opposed to a mindless touching of a square on my phone because I am bored or lonely. Not having that access has given me time to work on other things that need to be done. One of those projects that has been years in the making is a scrapbook in memory of my dad.
It was twelve years ago, Father’s Day weekend, that my father passed away. To say I miss him would be an understatement. For the last ten years or so of his life, he suffered tremendously from the effects of emphysema caused by years of smoking. He was pretty much housebound most of those years. That was difficult to see. Growing up, I thought my dad could do anything. In many ways, he could. He could fix and build things with his hands. He tended to his gardens every summer, creating beautiful landscapes in our yard. Early in my life he worked hard for a local gas company. Later in my childhood, he worked hard at his own business of owning and running a gas station in our little community. His days were long and often during weekday mealtimes, he was not present. Weekends, though, he was always home. There were very few Saturdays and Sundays that we weren’t altogether for a big meal. He loved strawberry ice cream. I remember many Sunday evenings he would send my mom and one of us kids down to the local dairy to get hand dipped ice cream cones to bring back and enjoy outdoors. After I married and had kids, he would often have my mom call to see if we wanted to meet for ice cream somewhere. My firstborn loved ice cream just as much as his grandpa did!
My dad was a quiet man. He had few friends, but he was fine with that. He said he didn’t need people around him. It wasn’t that he couldn’t socialize. He went to church and attended many of the events there (although I think now he did that because my mom guilted him into it a lot of times). He drove the church bus for years and developed some special relationships with the kids picked up on his route. He also drove the bus to church camp every year. I didn’t realize it until later in life, but many at church didn’t approve of the fact that my dad smoked. To that I can only say that he often tried to quit. As a child, it usually only took a week or so into his latest quit attempt for all of us in the house to be wishing for him to go back to smoking! It wasn’t until a major health crisis and eventual diagnosis of emphysema in 1990 that my dad finally stopped smoking. The damage was done, though. He underwent major surgery around 1994 to staple his lung to the wall of his chest. The doctor said if he survived the surgery it might buy him ten years or so assuming his heart held out. It was almost exactly ten years later that a heart attack took his life. No one was with him when it happened–a fact that to this day my mom beats herself up over.
My mom used to yell at me and tell me I was just like my dad. She told me to not grow up to be like that. She wanted me to be sociable, to have lots of friends like she did/does, and to enjoy being around people. There are some personality traits, though, that just cannot be changed or chosen. Regardless of what mom wanted, or even what I would eventually want, I grew to be very much like my dad. I have few friends. I find it difficult to be in a crowd of people. I don’t feel like I fit in, even with people I know well. I liken it to the child peering through the window of the candy store and wishing so much that she could enter in and enjoy. I often wonder if my dad felt that way or if he just accepted that was who he was. I know, for years, I felt like that child. I couldn’t understand why socializing came so easy to people around me, yet those skills eluded me no matter what I did. I can’t count the number of times I have stepped out of my comfort zone to try to make a friend only to have it be obvious that it wasn’t going to work. I’ve kind of given up trying.
All that said, I think I have reached the point where I have realized that perhaps some people are just destined to be loners in this world, and the sooner one accepts this fact, the better. I think my dad knew this about himself at a young age and he had made peace with the fact that few were going to understand or like him or want to get close to him. I couldn’t even begin to count how often my mom and dad would argue about attending some function and my mom would get frustrated because my dad would say he wasn’t going. My dad just didn’t need to feel that people liked him. I think I need to reach this point. Lately, especially, I have had a growing dislike for the person I am. I wake every morning with the flaws of who I am glaring at me and reminding me that few people really understand me or want to try to do so. I have thought a lot about how to change so many things about myself. Today, though, as I think about my dad, maybe instead of trying to figure out ways to change, I just need to accept that this is who I am and this lonely life is what I am destined to. Maybe when I reach that point, what my heart feels won’t be loneliness but rather, just acceptance that God creates some people differently and those people most likely won’t be understood by most.
My dad also walked through serious bouts of depression. I saw it most as a young adult, after his illness took much from him. In my youngest years, he worked hard. As his emphysema progressed, though, he lost the ability to work, drive, and even walk from his chair to the bathroom. Few people knew the extent to which he suffered. I guess that was one down side of not having people who cared much, although I suspect that even if those people existed as part of his life, he would have been too embarrassed to allow them into his private hell anyway.
Today, I am wishing I could talk to my dad for a little while. I wish I could ask him how he came to the point in his life where he accepted the fact that he was different than most around him. I wish I could ask him how he got through the deepest sloughs of depression with his sanity intact. I wish I could ask him if he ever felt loved. I wonder if he knew just how much like him I was/am, for, regardless of the wishes of my mom, I am very much like my dad.