Thursday, September 5, 2013

Two Stubborn Germans

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The time has come for me to declare the conflict between me and my father as a stalemate.  As happens within the game of chess when two players battle it out until their resources are so exhausted that neither can emerge decisively victorious so has it also come to pass in my personal relationship with my father.  The principle of diminishing returns set in long ago.  To continue to initiate new battles in this virtually epic saga is to waste precious energy that I could more wisely spend on numerous other matters.

I am actually not that surprised that the conflict between me and my father has reached such a condition of stalemate.  Last month, after meeting with a local conflict resolution facilitator, I attended a weekend workshop he offered here in Minneapolis.  One of the activities within the workshop required us to assess the relative strength of our position in an ongoing disagreement we are currently having with someone in our own lives.  I chose my father.  Using the questions provided I determined our relative strength in our conflict to be essentially equal.  And thus we have stalemate.

What has surprised me since this condition of stalemate became radiantly clear is the predominant feeling I have now.  It is not anger.  It is not grief.  It is, interestingly enough, relief.  Somehow I had imagined my predominant feeling would be anger.  And yet it is not so.  And I don’t even feel within myself the sense that I will erupt in anger later.  Perhaps I have battled it out with my father so many times that I suspected in my heart of hearts that our present disagreement would end as those which have come before this one have ended.  It seems my father and I fundamentally do not see eye to eye.  And I suspect we never will.

If I continued to have a myopic vision of my life in which I defined myself so deeply through my particular relationship with my father I know the stalemate would likely leave me feeling enraged.  But I see myself as so much more and I indeed am so much more.  To begin with, I am not just the son of my father.  I am the son of my mother as well.  I have an entirely different family in Europe that is as much my family as the one I have here in the United States.

There is also the broader reality of the life I have already lived, the education I possess, the many places I have visited and the amazing friends I have made.  I am so much more than the interactions, gifts and wounds that define the history of my relationship with my father.  If I take a broad view I can move on with grace and dignity.  It is when I think in narrow terms that I find myself spiral into trouble.

Perhaps I would not feel so strongly about the urgency of moving on if I was not simultaneously dealing with other pressing challenges.  Thankfully I am beginning to find lasting resolution to these other challenges.  Today was my final scheduled visit to my physical therapist.  I have been advised to continue doing certain exercises as part of my daily routine for the next month.  If need be I will schedule a follow up appointment.

When you’re suddenly caught in a perfect storm of difficulties seemingly appearing in every direction you can look the extraneous, superficial and petty aspects of your life very quickly reveal themselves to be exactly that.  Though there are many goals we each strive to realize throughout our lives there is much about this modern life in the industrialized West that is unnecessary.  I threw out much of its standard features years ago; I have not regularly watched television in I cannot remember how long.  And much of the standard daily fare here in America is, in my opinion, virtually devoid of value.  Here I am speaking about so much of what passes for food, news and entertainment.

It’s time for me to set sail in the direction of my dreams and stop waging battles in conflicts that fundamentally cannot be won or whose victory delivers prizes whose value proves empty to me.  Living a full and happy life is the best way I can honor myself and my ancestors.

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