So, what I will not be doing the month of June is traveling to New York, Arizona, California, Baja, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Paris, Sweden, India and New Zealand. My teeny-tiny plan to support and love my dad through his month-long hospital stint was to create an international scavenger hunt. I had planned to film the entire thing and update him daily with pictures, videos and blogs documenting the epic journey to inspire his recovery. In just 36 hours the entire trip was funded with every last detail meticulously planned, but it never dawned on me that this wouldn’t be the greatest present my dad ever imagined.
My brother not so gently suggested that planning this international adventure was what I needed to cope with our utterly uncontrollable situation. But had I stopped to ask if it was what my dad, the one actually battling cancer, wanted? Admittedly, my predilection for unreasonable, self-imposed challenges combined with my insatiability for impossible odds made this particular adventure more enticing than most.
My defense was that I'd planned it as a surprise, so naturally "asking" him was not an option. Soon, though, I found myself in one of the most important conversations I've ever had with my dad. To my surprise, he appreciated the idea, but quietly requested that I not hop on a plane and disappear for a month.
It never dawned on me that the way in which I'd chosen to express my love for someone wasn't necessarily the way they needed or wanted. This experience greatly expanded my definition of love, thrust it into a vast selflessness that previously was an ignorant, one-sided conversation. I'll admit I was heartbroken by the loss of chasing down a purpose-filled adventure, but with my newfound definition, that means surrendering your personal desires for the one you love.
Relinquishing control has been one of the greatest lessons for me during this process as I navigate through uncharted territory and find my “professional talents” are not appropriate to deal with my personal relationships. My fear was that I had nothing to offer if I stayed. Self-defined by what I do, not who I am, I felt compelled to extravagantly express my love, to overcompensate with impressive creativity and unparalleled execution. Only life, relationships and people are not governed by the same intangible rules and laws associated with business prowess and formulaic success.
Through this cancer storm, my father continues to teach me, guide me toward the woman I am inevitably meant to be; a richer, more resplendent version of me. Instilling a deeper sense of compassion, a broader definition of love, a heightened sense of awareness and sincere (at times painful) humility. What a man. For the fathers out there, your job is never done because at 28 I couldn’t need him more. I need his wisdom, validation, reminding me of who I want to be and that what I have to offer has nothing to do with accomplishments but rather my ability to put others before myself.
The greatest gift he’s bestowed on me is that fulfillment isn’t something to acquire, something to accomplish, to cross off your list or witnessed in public accolades. Fulfillment comes in accepting you as enough, period. To have a sense of self that no longer dances on the approval of others. It sounds so simple, and yet what a freedom exists in that space. The older I get and with 28 wise years under my belt, I realize just how little I have “figured out” and the larger-than-life lessons that still await.Images courtesy of Hiddentraveltreasures.com, Dreamstodo.com