Fathers and Daughters. Me and My Dad

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Last year for Father’s Day, I purchased the book, Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers and the Changing American Family.  If you are a father of a daughter or a daughter who wants to know more about and understand your relationship with your father, this is a great book. The backdrop? Multiple interviews with women who open up and share their very personal journey and relationship (or lack of) with their father.

Words that come to mind reflective in these relationships? Complex, diverse, dynamic, sometimes difficult, yet loving, evolving, and enriching. Daughters look to their fathers for support and guidance yet do not always receive what they are looking for or need. Yet, despite this or in spite of this, daughters continue to turn to their fathers for guidance and direction, acceptance and approval, regardless of age.

Me and my dad.

After I purchased this book for my father, I bought a copy for myself. Over the course of a few months, my father and I would “chip” away at this book together. He shared his insight, his perspective. I did mine. We discussed our relationship and how it has evolved and continues to evolve over time. Doing this helped me understand not only my relationship with my father and all its intricacies, but the special bond between a father and his daughter. This helped provide clarity where once there once was very little.

My relationship with my father is neither complicated nor simple.  It just is. It has become one of honesty and openness; although our relationship wasn’t always this way. Years ago, it was much more complicated, complex, dynamic, and distant yet loving. Past circumstances and the impact of his words and behaviors – not always good –  had a profound impact on my life. Added to that was my need, like others, for independence while searching for my own identity that came from a feeling of dependency – a yearning to shed the skin and create distance, but not too much distance. And no doubt, my need for independence resulted in instances of disappointing him (A few of these quickly come to mind!)

My father has taught me valuable life lessons. Our conversations have changed. His guidance has become support. We talk books, sports, jobs, relationships, family, and work among other things. His stories are known to be long in duration – sometimes too long – because details are important to him as is the nostalgia of life. His conversations can be tangential with interspersed nonsequitars that can drive the most patient person crazy! This includes me! My impatience with him at times gets the better of me but I am able to share my frustrations with love and levity.

I would like to say that we have both grown in our relationship – individually and as a father and daughter. I listen and so does he – much better than he did while I was growing up. I like to believe that I too, have become a better listener, a better daughter. In many ways, I am my father’s daughter and in many ways, I am not. I recognize the role that his family of origin played in raising me. I have come to understand he did the best that he could.

I cannot seek to understand my father or any other person for the matter, in a single incident or situation. My father is no exception to that rule. Nor am I. People are more than the sum of their parts. We are complex and ever changing and evolving.  I have learned to accept him for one he is and just as important, for who he is not. Because doing otherwise is a waste of time and energy. Acceptance is a wonderful feeling. A powerful gift. It allows and teaches a person to move forward. This is an invaluable lesson to learn and one that I try to impart on people as they struggle to find acceptance with their own father, often based on a sense of loss.

Words and forgiveness lessens the space in between and allows us and others to move on. Time lost doing that is well, time lost. You cannot get it back. With each passing day, my time with my father becomes increasingly limited. My days from the past out number the days we have in the future. Our relationship past, present, and future remains ever present in my mind and important in my life.

What a ride! Landing safely in NYC (I think) and making a few fun discoveries!

When I sat down to write this blog I thought where did THOSE 2 years go? Geeezzzz. All the changes that took place. That made me think of all those popular and at times, overused cliches (guilty!).

The only constant is change.  Time doesn’t stand still for change.  You must be the change you wish to see in the world (Gandhi). When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves (Viktor Frankl). Get on or get out of the way. 

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Given my line of work, I am a strong advocate for change, not just for myself, but for others. Despite knowing that change ain’t always easy, in order to get from Point A to Point B, some amount of change is usually required. Sometimes many times over. The mere fact of change is often saddled with a roller coaster of emotions – some good, some more challenging than others. My journey has been my own, just like everyone else.

I have discovered that when you are in the spin cycle of life, until you safely land on your feet (and they actually touch the ground) and life returns to some semblance of normalcy, does the time that has elapsed provide clarity for a deeper understanding of what has transpired. Feeling more comfort in change is also part of that equation. I also have a better understanding that this city beats to its own very fast drummer and with that type of lifestyle comes more stress and pressure to do more, remain competitive, and work harder. Clive Thomas wrote about this very thing in his article, The Ecology of Stress.

But because I am definitely a glass half full person, the stress and pressure is just par for the course. I have learned there is just too much fun to be had in this city to focus all the time on the stress and pressure because it never really goes away. You just learn how to live with it.

So, along my journey, I have made a few of my “own” little discoveries.

1.) Buy a few pair of flats! Keep those heels at the office. Despite having to catch a few trains with my heels (at least I didn’t fall on the ground), I have learned that flats are MUCH better AND you can run faster!

2.) You really don’t know a hot summer day until you have taken the subway when its hot and humid outside. Sans air conditioning on the platforms, consider yourself lucky if your subway has working AC. This is challenging especially when you are packed in like sardines! Bring extra patience…

3.) NYC truly is “the city that never sleeps”. When you live here, you really experience the true meaning behind those words. Just walk the streets. There is always activity going on. Always. What are all these people doing?

4.) Heading out? New to the city? Don’t go anywhere without a good city map. In fact, get two. Download several map and subway applications. They are life savers. Every time. Trust me on this one. Though I am still a work in progress when someone says, “meet me on the SE corner of”..huh?? How about a landmark?

5.) Got a cookie fix but its 3 AM? Ha! No worries! Insomniac Cookies delivers until 3 AM. They are beyond amazing cookies!

6.) There are endless places to visit. And I mean endless. This city is stocked with hundreds of “nooks and crannies” that makes it seem as though you literally will run out of time before you can see it all.

7.) There is no longer a need to make an appointment for a mani/pedi. With a few places on every corner, you never need an appointment. Priceless.

8.) Amidst the noise and “craziness”, there are many places of quiet and solitude.

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9.) The unbridled chaos and craziness of this great city is worth embracing. You will never run out of conversation pieces.

10.) You are never more than a few blocks (or feet) from a wine bar and a really great, cold glass of white wine! Now that’s priceless.

11.) Who says that New Yorkers aren’t nice? I have met plenty of them. I like to believe I am one of them now.

12.) I have NEVER missed the traffic or driving since giving up my car almost 2 years ago. Go MTA!!

NYC is an amazing place. It makes me want to work harder so I never have to leave.

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Life Changes: Not Easy, But Necessary

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A blog capturing one woman’s new and unchartered path in life as she embarks on a personal journey that holds endless possibilities in a new chapter in her life.

This past Saturday marked six weeks since I’ve embarked on a journey that included moving two hours away from my home in Harrisburg – and to be on my own for the first time in my life. I’ve left behind my spouse, my family, and my friends.

I had a seemingly happy life in Harrisburg. In fact, many thought it was perfect.  Because of this, there are often a myriad of questions that ensue when folks learn of my life transition. I’ve found it difficult to answer these questions with authenticity as major changes require navigating so many personal unknowns.  For me, I took a leap of faith in pursuit of a different life.

I received a lot of pushback, especially from those close me. I have to laugh at the number of times folks repeated the adage, ‘the grass isn’t greener on the other side.’ And, I literally laugh because if I don’t, I let their words penetrate me and I become paralyzed by fear. Without a doubt, this change has been scary as hell.

And it’s not over.  This journey has no finite finish line. In fact, I may not even know when I’ve officially reached the ‘other side.’ But, when you think about it… other than death, there’s no real finish line on the journey of life.

There are times when I realize I’ve made things harder than they needed to be. Anyone who knows me, though, can tell you that I don’t tread lightly. Truthfully, the past six weeks – and the weeks leading up to it – have been strenuous and taxing. I’ve had to maintain a ‘just keep swimming’ mentality.

While it’s been difficult, I don’t regret this decision. To the contrary, this change came to fruition because I no longer wanted to live a life of regret. I made the commitment to stop making decisions based on fear or guilt; to stop with excuses and to take risks for a greater end result.  Some consider my actions careless, but others courageous. I can only speak for myself on the matter and I believe this change – any change – is necessary for growth. I’m not sure if ultimate happiness exists, but damn if I’ll die trying to find it.

 

Rachel Strella

This was a guest blog written by Rachel Strella, owner of Strella Social Media, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based company specializing in social media management.

Rachel holds a degree in communications from Penn State University. Her journey to becoming a business owner began in 2010 when Rachel’s mentor, Maria, a good friend and small business owner, felt that Rachel had what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

With more than ten years in sales and marketing experience, in just a few years, Rachel has grown Strella Social Media from a part-time venture into a successful company that serves more than 25 full-service clients worldwide and provides coaching to many others.

Thank you Rachel for sharing your story!