lessons of love need to be learned the hard way

The “P.L.D.” Drinking Game

A good friend of mine talked with me last night about a fun little drinking game she plays with friends via internet conferencing:

  1. Each member of the video conference finds a bottle of the beverage of their choice (her particular choices tended to contain alcohol, but it’s not really necessary).
  2. Taking turns, each person talks about a Poor Life Decision they’ve made. Dating that person, selling that car, choosing that major, turning left instead of right, the infamous Hot Fudge Mushroom Pumpernickel Sundae, whatever.
  3. As the tale of each P.L.D. comes to a close, the teller takes a drink. If, while listening, you found yourself wincing, shuddering, or face-palming in some way, you are welcome to commiserate with a drink from your own bottle.
  4. Repeat until catharsis, intoxication, bandwidth limit, or all three are reached.

I’m actually not joking about the catharsis. She told me it is remarkably therapeutic, and does not, as you might infer, lead to drunken bouts of self-recrimination. Instead, it’s more a process of reflection and reclaiming and re-framing these decisions. It is a recognition of the journey the person-who-was became the person-who-is, and the fact that both have value, and indeed are inseparable from each other.

“Why Doesn’t He Just…”

Admit it, that phrase (or some variant, like “I don’t understand why they don’t just…“) has gone through your head once or twice. I once had a friend exclaim, as I was talking about my many musings on happiness, “Why don’t you just be happy?!?” As it happens, she was exactly right – that turned out to be exactly what I needed to do.

But I had to find my way there myself – well, and taking you along, with this blog. And so does everyone else. I’ve seen my daughters make – well, let’s call them “unusual” life decisions. Or maybe “unexpected”, yeah, that’s a good word. They are decisions that I might not choose to make, but what I conveniently forget in my Fatherly instinct is that the only reason I would make different decisions is because of the lessons I’ve learned by making my own mistakes.

I’m not saying you can’t learn from others. I read Dan Gilbert’s book on Happiness a couple of years ago, and he said that the scientific key to happiness (statistically) was to spend more time with family and volunteering to help others. I changed my life to do both, and guess what? I’m happy!

But I didn’t actually believe him. No, it was actually a grand experiment – I was lucky enough to be in a place where I could say “Let’s change everything just to see what happens.” Most people aren’t in that place for most of their lives. I’ve seen my daughters do it a few times, and sometimes they’ve ended up in great places and sometimes in not-so-great places, but they learn.

My job is not to teach them. My job is to help them learn, and sometimes that’s just a matter of being around when they fall, so they can lean on me a bit while they pick themselves up.

I often wish I’d learned that sooner. I probably would have, if I’d paid more attention to the way my father raised me. He definitely let me make my own mistakes, and was honest about his reactions to it. Sometimes the reactions were pride; sometimes stern disapproval; but never once did he make me doubt that he loved me.

That’s some fine fathering. So, Dad, while I’ll be hundreds of miles away, happy Father’s Day. And thank you for letting me learn things the hard way.

You’re the best teacher a son could have.

(actually, Dignity was our cat.)
“Dignity. Always, dignity.” Love you, Dad.

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