Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Dad #1: A Non-Regret, Just Not as Planned

I truly don't have any regrets in my life. I like to live my life and do the things that I love. It's not always easy with my OCD and my anxiety, but in my more recent years, it has become much easier than when I was younger. I do sometimes have trouble always saying the things I want or need to say, but I am so much better at this now. I now stand up for myself and what I believe in. I'm not afraid to share my opinions and really show people who I really am. However, I was scared to do this when I was younger for fear of judgment, sounding uneducated, being laughed at---you name it, my OCD brain fed these lies and more to me. 


I remember being a freshman in college and taking Introduction to Women's Studies. I was so excited to take this class. Women's journeys throughout history have always interested me--I love history and finding out how I got to where I am. I got this from my dad. My mom has faced some sexism in her life--she is a very strong woman, and she has raised me and my sisters that way too! (Go, Mom!!) She sparked my interest in the class as well. I always have been a feminist and wanted to do something with this interest, so I signed up for the class. 

Once it started, I automatically felt overwhelmed by everything about the class. Everyone was so opinionated and open about everything! I was one of the youngest people in the class too. I loved listening to them; and that was just it. That's all I wanted to do. I didn't have the confidence to tell people how I felt treated as a "woman/teenage girl" in the past--I was only 18! I didn't feel comfortable sharing my life experiences, my anxiety, my true self with any of these unknown faces. 

At midterm, my TA who taught the class asked me to grade myself and offer a suggestion for how I could improve my performance in the class, as she did all of her students. I told her that I didn't feel like I really contributed much to our conversations. She stopped what she was doing, looked at me, and asked, "Would participating more in class be a realistic goal for yourself? Honestly. Don't make yourself do something that you don't think you can do." 

I was shocked that these words came out of her mouth. I didn't know if I should be offended by her words or not. But now that I look back, I think her sentiment was genuine and caring. I think she new our heated debates and discussions and openness made me feel uncomfortable. I think she was looking out for me. We helped determine our grades in this class, and she didn't want me to cut myself short by telling myself that I could do something that I wasn't ready to do. Thank you, Beth, for knowing what to say. And understanding that all students do not need to be held to the same standard. I loved your class. 

The point was that Beth saw that I was doing what I could do at the time to the best of my ability. She didn't know that I had anxiety and OCD. She just knew there was a reason that I wasn't sharing in class. There was a reason that I never talked. There was a reason that I started at my desk and hoped she never called on me to comment. She never did. People always do what they can at the present time with the skills they possess. It's not always the best or what they should be doing, but it's all that they know how to do. This is how I coped. 

This is why I don't regret things in my life. How can you regret things when at the time you don't know how to do things better than you do in the moment? When you make a mistake, you learn from it, and you do better the next time. You change your actions the next time. If you want to do something, you jump in headfirst, no matter what your OCD brain tells you. No matter how much you want to rip your hair out or turn off your brain. 

Women's Studies P.S.--I did eventually get the courage to share a story about how my middle school gym teacher told me I played basketball and threw a football "good for a girl." I told him it was because my dad taught me and I am good. I don't think he liked that. The one thing I was good at was getting riled up when people made "girl comments," especially in the sense of girls not being "as good as." Rachael, my sister, can vouch for me, don't even get me started!

A Non-Regret: Just Not as Planned

The one thing in my life that I look back on and think could have gone differently under different circumstances (surrounding my anxiety) is the fact that I did not talk at my dad's funeral. I know I didn't have to. I know my dad doesn't care that I didn't. (Dad, don't be upset that I posted this!) Now that so many years have passed, I think about all the things I wanted to tell people about my dad, the things that I wanted to say but couldn't. I don't dwell on it. I don't beat myself up about it. I just know I didn't share them partly because of the overwhelming circumstances of the situation and mostly to do with my anxiety. 

Christmas years ago at my grandparents' house.

After talking about his funeral with my mom and sisters, both my sisters decided to talk. I thought about it and thought about it, but I just couldn't see myself doing it. I had so many things to say; I just couldn't see myself getting through it. I saw myself standing up and losing it--balling, screaming, shouting, throwing up, running out of the room. I looked like I was keeping it together the best I could on the outside, but on the inside, I was exhausted, devastated, torn down, beat up, drained, and void in many ways of any kind of emotion at points throughout that day--in a haze--just to get by. 

I couldn't manage it. I couldn't muster the strength over my anxiety, standing in front of people and sharing such emotion about my dad who I just watched become sicker and sicker over the past nine months. 

His socks kill me! I love it!

I have gotten up in front of people to talk numerous times. I have presented at professional conferences, I have danced on stages, and I have done many other things like this. I have some nervous ticks--my voice shakes, my hands shake, my lips get dry, I stutter, among other things that I can't control, but I managed through them and pushed myself to speak. This time, I couldn't do it. 

Today I know I did the best that I could in that moment with the strategies I had. My dad would never have expected me to do something that I was uncomfortable with. After all, he too had anxiety, especially socially, and would never have wanted me to put myself in an anxiety-causing situation. 

This is why this event in my life, even though it could have played out differently if my anxiety had been better, is a non-regret. I couldn't have done anything differently in that moment of my life. I don't regret my decision. I just know if my dad's funeral were today, I more than likely would have spoken in front of everyone about him. 

One of our last pictures together. Fall 2007.

But today, I feel up to this task. I can share about my dad because I do not have anxiety about sharing. What I say doesn't have to be "perfect." It is truthful. It is real. It is my dad.

So here and now, I offer you these words about my dad that I couldn't offer then:

My dad was a man, who loved me unconditionally.
My dad was a man, who took me to a midnight movie showing after I was stood up on a date.
My dad was a man, who cried at my college graduation.
My dad was a man, who believed in me, my choices, and my future.
My dad was a man, who taught me to drive with the patience of a saint.
My dad was a man, who stayed up until 3 a.m. reheating my hot water bottle, watching romantic comedies, and comforting me when I was sick.
My dad was a man, who made me pancakes on Saturdays.
My dad was a man, who called my cell phone to make prank calls.
My dad was a man, who never doubted my judgment.
My dad was a man, who dressed up like a skinny Santa for my Kindergarten class. I saw him, ran away, and cried. He must have been a good fake.
My dad was a man, who taught me the importance of where I come from.
My dad was a man, who valued family and loved his girls more than life.
My dad was a man, who loved my mom with all his heart and soul.
My dad was a man, whose laugh could fill a room.
My dad was a man with an infectious smile. 
My dad was a man, who forgot what cheese went in lasagna and threw in some cream cheese one night for dinner; don't ever do that!
My dad was a man, who wore hi-tops and knee socks.
My dad was a man, who video-taped every one of my dance competitions.
My dad was a man, who made me feel like I mattered.
My dad was a man, who did the dishes and then helped me with my homework until midnight.
My dad was a man, who talked to me like I was his equal, not his teenage daughter.
My dad was a man, who I admire, love, and feel with me every day.
My dad is a man, who I will carry with me the rest of my life.
He still can make me smile. 

Tattoos in remembrance of my dad: E = mc^2 \,\! ( he loved Albert Einstein) and "I am very proud of you! Love, Dad" in his handwriting, a note he wrote in one of my birthday cards.

Love and happiness <3 Holly

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