I’ve always heard that stress kills. I’ve always kinda believed it, but kinda not. I was skeptical because of my dad who lived under stress for as long as I can remember, never seeing a doctor once when I was growing up.
This is a bit of a longer post, clocking in at about 1100 words, and I’m going to get a little dark here, but there’s a light at the end, I promise. For those of you who want to go straight to the happy stuff, skip to the end now.
Almost every month since I was about 10 years old had been touch and go for my dad, both financially and emotionally. We lost our house that he helped build with his own two hands when I was about 12. He lost his wife (my mom) to cancer when I was 16. I remember him staying up until 4am almost every night just trying to figure out how he would get out of the hole. This nocturnal habit never ceased.
He was one of the first computer programmers back in the mid 60′s and did very well until I was about 5 when the programming jobs started to leave the country and his business partners embezzled money. From then on, his mind fixated on the limitations of “There’s no more jobs here. They’re all gone,” and “Don’t trust anyone. They’re all out to screw you.” He carried this mentality for the rest of his days.
When I was in middle school, he landed a job doing systems work for a gold mine in Nevada. He was paid basic living expenses and was told that after 2 years of work, he’d be able to cash out his shares and become a millionaire when the company went into production.
2 years came and went.
He kept accumulating shares of stock, but during times when the company couldn’t pay him, instead of finding other work – because of his belief that there was no more work out there – he decided to grunt it out and wait for that big pay day, getting paid when the company could pay him, and scraping by when it couldn’t.
16 more years of this… Came and went.
Every month, for 18 years with the company, he barely scraped by and widely depended on help from friends and family. Every month the stress would build when the bills came due. Every month his victim mindset festered and grew into deep paranoia and skepticism about the world that he was so much at the mercy of. That big pay day never came, and he was never really happy.
Like I said, he never got sick when I was young. In the 32 years that I knew him, he never visited the doctor. Never even had the flu.
Maybe stress doesn’t kill, I thought. Maybe some people, the higher-wound types, actually needed that juice in their lives to keep them alive.
Not so much. It catches up with everyone.
I lost my dad a little over a month ago to cancer.
My Father’s Lessons
Through all of his years of struggle, he never left. He was always available to talk as long as I wanted to talk. I think I only saw him drunk once or twice. We had countless conversations long into the night about business, relationships, spirituality, and whatever came up.
He stayed by my mom until the day she died and never remarried.
He grew up a farm kid in Nebraska and never worked out- but he had a vice-grip-like handshake from his years baling hay.
My dad influenced so much of what I do today through giving me books at a very young age – many of which were far too advanced for me at the time, making my eyes glaze over, but I read them anyway.
He gave me his old aikido books when I was about 10 and, even though we couldn’t afford classes when I was a kid, I read the books and did ki breathing meditation techniques as an adolescent (weird, right?), making it a long-term goal to train in the art. Finally, I did, and now hold rank of black belt thanks to his influence.
Now that I’m older, I’ve often re-opened a lot of those books that flew over my head as a child.
There were a lot of things he could have done differently, but from what was available to him, he was a great father. It’s just sad that he had to pass unfulfilled. I’d say he did a pretty damn good job, though.
That happy ending I was talking about..
I write this not to be a downer and incite pity. For one, it’s a bit of a catharsis to write about it, but mostly, I write about this to proclaim the lessons he taught me through his good times and bad.
- Stress does kill. It’s flat-out not worth it to stress. This is easy to forget. Remember it and remind yourself constantly. Take hold of the reigns. Do something. Live below your means until you catch up. Clear your head and f’king take charge of the situation ASAP.
- You are as much of a victim as you want to be. My dad was one of the first computer programmers. Ever. But as soon as the ‘jobs started to go away’ he gave up. So many people made a killing from computers in those early days. He was in at the right time and smart enough to do the same. But when he was knocked down the first time, he projected his troubles on outside forces and it became a habit of belief which never stopped. He never got back up.
- The mind is a great tool but a bad master. Don’t let it rule you. Rule it and you’ll get along fine.
- You can move. You can adapt. Be agile. We can’t control the direction or force of the wind, but we can control how we set our sails. Focus your energy there.
- If you read something inspiring, implement it in your life. Put it to action. Now. Not later. Not when things become easier. Not when the stars align. Now. Before it’s too late.
- Enjoy your friends and family. Even if you’re broke. The good ones won’t care if you’re not rich or if you can’t cover the dinner tab. Your soul thrives on good company.
- You will die. Don’t wait for the jobs to come back. Don’t wait for the company to cash you out. The clock will run out and we have no idea when that might happen. Live.
P.S. I miss ya, Pop..