On October 1st of this dastardly year of 2020, as a family we suffered the loss of my father.
It has taken me a couple of weeks to find any kind of words to make sense of this loss – but I’m actually coping a lot better than I thought I would. Dad was unwell for about 10 years, but the last 6 months saw a rapid decline in his health, and we knew the time was near.
So it was not a surprise, but it was still a shock.
I’ve been trying to focus on what it means to me going forward. He had three children, and four grandchildren – all of whom he adored.
He was a bit of a workaholic during his working life, but he did that to support the family. We didn’t always get everything we wanted, but we always got whatever we needed.
There are so many stories I could write about – countless stories that would take years to complete.
We were always going to lose Dad one day – it is one of the truths in life that everyone we love will eventually pass – so I’d been prepared for that for quite a few years as his health steadily declined.
In the nearly two weeks since his passing, I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what his passing means to me.
I will of course miss him. I’ll never be able to pick up the phone again and talk shit about the football or the car racing again. I’ll never again be able to tease him for falling asleep in my comfy lounge chair the moment he sat in it.
Those things – (and so many others) – are gone, but I knew that would happen, so that’s okay.
While preparing his eulogy with one of my sisters – (read proudly by her at the funeral) – I figured out what I will miss the most, are not the complex memories, but the intangible moments.
We were getting absolutely smashed, and at three-quarter time, we were 41 points behind – but I had a feeling that Melbourne were tiring, and I turned to Dad and said: “we’re going to win this!”
He said I was “out of my mind” – (though his actual words might have been a bit more colourful!) – but I had a feeling.
Thirty minutes later when the final siren sounded with Essendon one point in front, I turned and looked at him, grinning.
The look on his face was priceless – and I’ll never forget it.
It was one of those completely intangible moments – those moments you couldn’t just create even if you tried. It was a single moment, but borne of years of sharing our love of the game, and our Bombers.
Or the moment Channel 7 came back from a commercial break right near the very end of the 1995 Bathurst 1000, and our favourite driver Larry Perkins – (who had been racing from behind all day after an incident at the start) – had gotten into the lead with barely nine laps to go when the previous leader Glenn Seton broke down.
We were literally dancing around the lounge room in complete joy, completely on instinct. It just happened.
I’ll never lose those moments in my heart – (and there are many of them) – but what I will miss most is that there will be no more of them.
I’ve been a single man again for a little over 7 years, and living with only myself and my daughter for about 4 and a half years.
I’ve briefly attempted a couple of relationships in that time, but found nothing that inspired me to want to stay in them for any extended period of time. It was clear I was not ready either.
Seven years is a lot of time to think about what you want in life, and what is important to you.
I would like to think I’ve figured many or all of those things out by now, but as time goes by I realise that that simply isn’t the case.
In recent weeks I’ve been working through in my mind what I consider the “truths” in my life – travelling the road to my own personal truth, if you like.
Family – my family – and in particular my daughter – are the one true constant in my life. Like any family, there are always bumps in the road from time to time, but I’m fortunate to have a loving and supportive family.
Creativity – I’ve always tried to think about and learn about new things, to keep my mind active and healthy. I’ve gotten away from that a lot in recent years, so I’ve been engaging myself in the restoration of my first computer. This has definitely given me something to feel occupied with and inspired by.
Work – I’ve had a little bit of a bumpy ride in my working life in recent years – but find myself in a job that I love and find new challenges in every day. Perfect.
Love – this one is a little harder to define. I’m reasonably sure that I am not ready to be in a relationship again yet, but I know I still want that eventually, because I miss the companionship all of the time. Trust is still my main issue. There are some wonderful women in my life who I’d love to end up with, but I don’t trust myself yet. There is one amazing person who has been a part of my heart for many years who I could trust myself to be in a relationship with, but that’s a complicated situation in itself. She is cared about deeply, but I don’t really know how I feel about her. She’s absolutely a truth in my life, but I don’t know the question of where, let alone the answer of where she fits in.
Learning – I always want to learn something new every day. I don’t always manage that, but I’m always looking. What point is there to live life if you can’t learn and grow?
So that’s the list I have so far.
I’m still trying to completely rationalise each of them, but if nothing else, I get to think about these things and figure out what I need to do to resolve them in my life.
I have never been the kind of person who believes in “regrets”. I believe the whole concept of “regret” is a wasted emotion.
Undoubtedly, we all have incidents in our past where we might wish we had done things just a little differently. We might have zigged when we could have zagged, failed to tell someone we loved them when we really did.
Even if we tried to.
Such events could easily feel like “regrets”, but for a long time I have chosen not to live that way.
Holding or keeping a regret is just looking to the past, and there is no future in that. There is simply no possible way we can go back and fix those things, so why should we worry about them?
We can make amends, or do things better the next time around, but we can never go back and fix things “the first time around”.
There have been many things in my life that most people would not hesitate to categorise as a “regret”.
I choose to see them as learning experiences, as chances to grow, and as opportunities to learn about myself and how I react in certain situations. Perhaps so I get to learn how to do them better the next time around.
These situations have in many cases caused me deep emotional pain, even over extended periods of time – but I still refuse to view them as bad experiences.
They are responsible for who I am, and without the pain, and without the anguish, I would not have learnt from those experiences. I would not have learnt who I am.
I am the proudest father of the most amazing daughter in the world. I would not have come to be her father without having made some quite poor decisions.
Not that I am saying that getting into a relationship with her mother – (which has since ceased) – was a stupid thing – far from it. I would never have met her mother if I hadn’t gone through a crazy set of decisions that set me back significantly.
If I hadn’t have left my first IT job at the end of 1998 to take up what at the time seemed like an amazing opportunity – (but wasn’t) – with IBM.
If hadn’t then subsequently left that job in the wake of the breakup of the other serious relationship in my life, then I would never have found myself working with the future mother of my daughter.
If I had my time over, I would have stayed with that first IT job for a lot longer. As a result, it is quite possible – (and probably likely) – that I would never have met her, and my daughter as she is now, would never have come to be.
I have no doubt I would have met someone else, and probably had a family with that someone else – but that first child would have been a completely different person.
They all might have been poor choices, but at the end of it all, I’m in a wonderful place.
That’s why regrets are stupid – even the worst choices we ever made can lead us to where we are meant to be.
Over the last few years of my life, a lot of things have changed. Many of those things have adversely and/or positively affected my headspace.
My mental health – (while generally pretty good) – has had its difficult times.
I’ve found over the last few years that writing about how I feel when I’m having trouble has helped a great deal – but I’ve generally kept that writing under lock and key. Much of it is deeply personal, and won’t ever see the public light of day.
Lately I’ve found that after writing about most of the really complicated stuff in my head, I’ve found myself wanting and needing to write more, but not having anything specific to write about.
So I’ve decided that every now and then, I’m going to write a short piece about how I have managed to put myself back together after a difficult few years following my separation from the mother of my wonderful daughter.
There won’t be specific pieces of “juicy stuff” – just short essays on how I view my life and the world now. I don’t even know how long I will do this for.
I just want to give it a bash – and if I can help others struggling with mental health issues, well then that would be perfect.
If you’re not struggling with your own issues – remember to look out for the other people in your life. Most people bottle things up when they hit tough times, and that’s a lot of the problem.
Check on them – sometimes they just need someone to ask if they are okay.