Just a few days more than a year ago, my father died. He was my father, my friend, my mentor, my hero and my primary model of what a man should be. He was flawed and imperfect, just like the rest of us. He was also very aware of his imperfections. To this day, I find myself reaching for the phone to call him to ask for advice or get his perspective on current events. It is actually physically painful when I am reminded, again, that he has died.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m writing a book. I’m trying to make writing something a daily habit. I’ve mentioned there is a lot of work to be done here at RM Ranch to make this a true urban homestead. All that said, the biggest work is that done by my wife and I as we work out a plan for the future. Our goal is to be free to live our lives with as little interference from those we don’t specifically invite into out lives as possible. It’s a long-term plan and is going to require some significant initial sacrifice on our part if we are to achieve the long-term goal. In all this, too, I’d love to be able to talk once more, to my father.
But, I’ve learned something over the last year.
I’ve learned the necessity of actually living life. Over the past several years, we have experienced major life changes, loss of friends and family, huge financial hits and significant medical issues. Each of those were hard. Together, they threatened, at times, to overwhelm us. Yet the things that needed to be done if we are to achieve what we want did not go away. Both of us had a years long encounter with depression. It was bad enough that I can’t honestly speak of everything that transpired for those years. Parts of them are simply missing for both of us. Things are better now, but the holes in our memories remain. We’ll likely never know some of it. Other events that occurred will probably become clear (I’m currently looking through our financial records to see if we actually filed taxes during our depressed years – not cool).
I’ve learned that, for me, the “cure” (if there is such a thing) for depression is this: I must get out and do the things I simply don’t feel like doing. My wife needs a different approach. So what? The most important thing is that it work.
I’ve learned there are some things that simply can’t be undone. People you’ve hurt don’t magically get better. Mistakes you’ve made don’t simply disappear. You can apologize. You can do your part to rebuild relationships. You can (and should) accept responsibility for your actions. You can’t control what happens afterward. All you can do, is try to not repeat the mistakes of the past.
I’ve learned I’m more like my father than I once thought (for years I’ve told my clients it’s normal to see so much of your parent(s) in your behavior – I just thought I was going to be an exception. How foolish was that?). I see it increasingly, almost every single day. It’s kind of amusing, actually. I draw the line on some things, though. For instance, I absolutely refuse to hunt black bears with a .410 shotgun loaded with slugs. There’s a reason we have .30 caliber rifles.
I’ve learned my patience with those who suffer from real problems is getting greater and greater. Life in this world does some hard things to people. I’m glad I’m able to empathize more with them, as time goes on. I’ve also learned my patience with those who are, frankly, simply engaged in whining or responsibility-avoiding behavior seems to be getting shorter every day. I have a finite and limited amount of time, energy, money and other resources. I prefer to use them in the place I see them doing the greatest good.
I’ve learned career military people (including retired ones like me) and LEOs tend to have, at least in their heads, a nice orderly universe. Things that disturb that orderly universe are not easily tolerated.
I’ve learned that a huge number of people only think they want to be free. When faced with freedom’s most basic price, responsibility and accountability, they find it too high. Freedom must be purchased at full retail. It has no wholesale price.
I’ve learned some people seek change as a way to build and others simply seek change as a way to destroy. Sometimes, you have to watch closely to see the difference.
I’ve learned that regardless of how far I wander, God will not let me go. He always reminds me of who and what I am and called to be. That’s comforting to me. His patience is apparently greater than my stubbornness, which is saying something.
I have learned that love is a thing to be cherished and cultivated. I’ve learned that I’m increasingly inclined to agree with Elie Wiesel, that “the opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.”
Most of all, I have learned that with all its pain and sorrow, with all its amazing ups and devastating lows, life is a thing to be cherished and experienced as fully as possible and that such fullness is not a synonym for extravagance. For the first time in many years, I am beginning to feel truly alive. It’s pretty cool.