Saturday, August 23, 2008

Paths Taken

The Universe sometimes delivers lessons (opportunities) with all the subtlety of a tidal wave the day after Christmas; or, like in a game of catch between father and son on a quiet summer evening, with a stunning blow to the head.

This is no coincidence that on the repaired doorstep of my new home, on the verge of a new life, I should be examining so closely and celebrating so lovingly my parents at the end of theirs. Their story book marriage sets a standard that, as next of kin, seems only too natural to want to repeat, especially when they made it all look so easy.

Having grown aware of a tendency towards compulsive behaviors, my latest form of addiction seems to be monitoring constantly the hits on this blog, yearning for comments. Feeling so satisfied, proud and bolstered by the evidence that my words have touched others in an emotional way, your words are like opium to my aching need for approval. Equally, I admit to suffering envy to read that another site enjoys 1500 hits a day, judging those words must be that much more profound than mine.

Addictions, compulsivity, yearning for outside approval, and envy; these are all aspects of deep-seated insecurities psychologists tell us. In our Families of origins, we were somehow deprived of the love we needed, and live our later years struggling to heal from the loss. We have to work hard to overcome the behaviors that we developed to compensate. If we are lucky, we learn compassion for others in the same struggle, especially for our own parents, understanding that given their own losses suffered, they were only doing the best they could. As were their parents, and so on and so on and so on.

Without blame or rancor, I too trace my need for approval directly to the amount of love, praise and encouragement washed over me by my mother in my early and developing years. Given the wonderful childhood that is described, however, how dare I then complain of suffering damage from too much love? How can one blessed with such a creative, stimulating, incredible childhood still cry “foul”?!

My mother never made me more special than any other child should be to their own mother (like tommy Smothers, my sisters’ will sometimes disagree), but there is no doubt that she made me feel very special. In fact, to claim that perhaps I was loved too much just proves a parent's plaintiff complaint to be true: there's just no winning.

Approval and encouragement was lavished upon us with such joy and abundance, it was easy for me to believe I could do no wrong. No matter that a picnic on the side of the NJ turnpike in March was blustery, noisy and miserable, the sky was blue, she reminded us, as if we could see something not visible to the other families scurrying for shelter and burgers inside. She allowed moments of disappointment and frustration to daunt us momentarily, but quickly cheered us up and onwards (she was captain, after all) to rewrite the ending, resubmit the text, and refocus our attention (can you tell I received a short story rejection today?).

Failure” was not a word in her vocabulary.

It takes an effort, therefore, standing on my new steps, to look over at my former home with the For Sale sign in the yard, and consider the sad feelings, regrets and insecurities that I “could have/should have” done better. No matter how hard we try, paths once blending in joy seem to be diverging, overcome by hurt, anger and frustration. So proud of my parents, I have to recognize that some of my own children are greatly disappointed in the choices and decisions I have made. Even having done this all once before, and learning otherwise, I fear this "failure" would be unacceptable to my mother.

The truth lies somewhere between the assessment of my own self-judgment and the reality of my parents’ lives held so high in my regard. Although my perception describes a failure to measure up to their fine example, in reality, they loved each other humanly as well, sharing a life full of good days and bad.

In truth, they love me all the same, forgive me my foibles, and long to see me stroll on a more picturesque path. And whatever my issues, my children mostly want to see their father hold his head high, resting quietly with them on the side of that path from time to time, eyes soaking in the beautiful surroundings of their own imprefect lives, sharing in the joys and sorrows of their moments; a man brave and confident, humble and joyful, making his way, loving strongly, and hurting no one on purpose.

Doing, in short, the best he can.

Please share with your friends


Anonymous said...

Your wonderful post has given me cause to think... I suffer from OCD, although not severe, it has impacted at some point upon my life. But I'd never given any thought to it being related to my childhood experiences. I merely viewed it in relation to a problem with the wiring in my brain. I may explore this subject in more depth.

But your post itself is wonderful. You strike me as being very hard on yourself at times though, and although I understand that this is part of your journey to becoming the person that you desire to be, I feel that maybe you're a little too hard sometimes :-)

But I guess that this is the point of the exercise. To strip yourself bare and start again!

Lane said...

We've talked about all this alot over the years of this our middle age. I still think that to some degree you suffered from the role of being the only son in the midst of a gaggle of sisters - growing up in the 50's when the role and success of the male was still more important than that of the women in the family. Mom and Dad both wanted you to succeed in a way that was subtly but substantially different. They gave us sisters a lot more latitude. We just didn't have the same pressure. How you reacted to that pressure is, of course, your own story and one you are delving into the compassion and tenderness for us all, yourself included.

Hayden Tompkins said...

No, don't be sad about the hits! It took a year of putting out an article every day, commenting on others' articles, and participating in the Manival. A lot of it was kick started by an article (just one!) getting picked up by the Steve Pavlina "How to Be A Woman" challenge.

It also took me about six months to find my 'voice', which is weird because I actually can't remember writing any other way.

I don't think it is a bad thing to have a need for significance. People want to know that who they are and what they have done has made a difference in the world. That you, Kip, specifically, made a difference.

Just keep the purpose of your blog in front of you. Laying bare your soul, revealing yourself in all your cracked humanity, simply so you can explore the truth of yourself. It's incredibly brave and brutally honest.

Laurie said...

I followed you over from Simple Marriage Project. I really connected with your comment over there and wanted to check you out.

I am really at a loss for words. You're writing is beautifully expressive and tender. I am your new fan. I can understand so much of what you talk about wanting for hits and comments etc. I don't have a blog but I long for the blogger to recognize my comment. I heard we all need three things, love security and significance. I feel sometimes I need all three more deeply than others.

Thanks for sharing. I look forward to more. (truthfully, you had me hooked with your blog title alone!)

Kip de Moll said...

It's not that we always get answers, sometimes just asking the questions releases old habits.
I appreciate your concern that I may be too hard on myself. On the whole, I'm laughing alot and feeling joyful. I'm playing alot of music and meeting new and old friends. Face to face, I think people would generally agree that I'm laughing alot more than whinning these days.

You're my sister. It's been your job to lighten that pressure (tongue in cheek).

I admire your optimism and wise humor. I really do think you're 1450 degrees more profound! But I'm glad and honored you take the time to read me too.

Believe me, I was expostulating, not fishing for compliments, but I'm so honored to have "hooked" you nevertheless. Let's remain good memebers in Standing in the Mutual Commentary Society!

jouette said...

you know, some days i think that it would be totally zen to just unhook the post counter thingy and never look at it again. it can totally mess with your head and change the way you post even...
but in the end, what are you writing for? who are you writing for? yourself. and when you do that, it comes out so amazingly beautiful and profound and THAT is when it touches the rest of us so deeply.
i love your writing and how open you are. kip, i don't really know you, but i thank you for being you.

Writer Dad said...

You're doing a great job. Also, you should be proud. You're running two blogs, each different from the other, while managing the difficult life of being a contractor. Bravo.

Pauline said...

Funny how, when the writing is as good as yours, you don't sound as though you're whining; rather you're exploring your mind out loud. Those of us who can relate learn a lot from your insights.

I know what you mean about the comments - half the fun of writing a blog is to see what people say about what you're saying and how you're saying it. I wrote for the newspaper for some of the same reasons I blog -because writing is fun and feedback makes it more fun.