Wisdom from my Dad

There is a set of family aphorisms, distilled from my father’s stories. We are a family of storytellers and complainers, and I still am apt to make a point by telling the story and expecting the listener to distill my meaning and salient points. It’s rude and can be annoying for people in a hurry, so if you’re in a hurry it won’t bother me if you need to leave.

Always take the final. Dad went to Indiana State University a long time ago, when it was still Indiana Teacher’s College and they still required every graduate to demonstrate competence with English composition and spelling. For a variety of reasons, my father didn’t learn to spell until Wheel of Fortune was well into syndication. He had failed this course already a number of times. This semester was the last semester it would be offered. The college was changing curriculum. If he failed again, he would have to graduate under an entirely new catalogue and likely never graduate. He failed every spelling test of the semester, under the syllabus he could not pass the class and he was not alone. There were three other students who were poised to fail and the instructor gathered the young men in her office. She asked each of them in turn, “Are you going to take the final?” and waited for an answer. Dad realized there was a purpose to the question and somehow divined the “No” was not the answer to give. He took the final and was gifted his “D”. He didn’t graduate from ISU, but those are other stories.

Everyone has different objectives, and the people who give you your goals may have their own goals which are directly opposed to yours. Pay attention. After my parents started having children, Dad decided to settle into a career and became a sales rep for an OEM manufacturer. His job was to sell as much product as he could, and he was evaluated and compensated on the number of widgets sold. In order to travel to see clients, he had to purchase airline tickets and rent cars, or purchase gas for his company car. The person who could authorize those expenditures was rewarded for keeping expenses low and would refuse to let Dad leave town to meet with clients. Sometimes, when Dad would make an especially large, long-term contract he would aggravate the person in charge of the plant where the widgets were made, because the sale meant incurring expenses to add a line or a shift of employees. It isn’t personal, they are looking out for their bread-and-butter just like  you.

You can’t park at the front door until you drive to the front door. Dad meant this one literally. In a crowded parking lot, go ahead and drive by the building entrance because there just might be a spot available. Over time, I’ve expanded this one to something more metaphysical about asking for what I need. I can’t have it until I ask for it. People tell me no often, and sometimes they tell me yes.

Right now, my mind feels like a dumpster fire and there’s no way out, except through. The dumpster fire has me looking for small comforts, like chocolate and pizza and a Netflix binge. There are a thousand small things which need my attention and the extra mental burden of eating well and moving more seems like too much, like I permission to NOT attend to something. The trouble with not attending to eating well and moving more is feeling awful after, not in a guilt-ridden-emotional way but physically awful.

Tomorrow I’ll go lift early, get some tea and breakfast, and settle in to the mound of things to be read and written. Somewhere in there, I’ll take a break and call my dad.

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