A Brighter Light

Gifts can arrive in such unlikely packages. A friend mine is the sort of person who makes you instantly smile when you recall him. In fact, he himself has an absolutely infectious smile. He’s kind, intelligent, he’s extremely enjoyable company, he’s a loving soul and he is quite simply what my father would call a good man. There is no higher praise from my father.

809 Relax and Succeed - SunriseToday my heart broke for my friend. Because my father is my hero and my friend just lost his. We spoke a bit about his home and his life when we met a few years ago. It was clear that he had an understanding of what his father had given him throughout life. And I knew he must have given him a great deal because that is the only way to become a good man. To have people who truly and deeply believe in you.

The friend and I met doing business with each other and became friendly based on his warmth. That warmth showed through when he recently posted a quote in relation to his father’s passing. I read quotes all day–they’re what this blog is about: breaking down the quotes to deeper meanings. But today my friend introduced me to what very well may be the most beautiful quote I have ever seen in my life.

I’m well aware of Tagore, I’m interested in his work and yet somehow–remarkably–this quote about the lamp eluded me. It is quite simply the most elegant, graceful and accurate description of death I have ever seen. Indeed, for every student of mine I’ve taught I have urged them to do what I saw tribal Fijians do when I was very young man.

809 Relax and Succeed - Death is not extinguishing the lightWhile my friends caught a nap I ended up on what was supposed to be a short side-trip with a local, that ended up being an education into the rituals of dying. I had thought I was at a celebration because I was. This was no funeral. This was described to me and it certainly looked like more of party. It was like Thanksgiving but for a person.

Everyone was celebrating the person’s existence and they expressed their gratitude for what that person had given them. It will be a painful process, but I do hope my friend is able to stay in touch with that very sentiment. Because his father gave him one of the greatest gifts a father can give a son: the gift of character. His son’s lives will be forever bettered by that gift and the light of their father will always shine because of it.

The reason I love the quote is that–for the person we love the light never really feels like it changes. As the full light of morning strikes we can stop telling ourselves a story in the darkness of individuality and instead we can become one again with everything.  And who among us would not move toward this brighter light? Who among us cannot appreciate the incredible infinite beauty of an expanding sunrise over the limitations of the lamp?

This is not a death. To the real soul it is a type of awakening. Truly a dawn. It is those of us left behind who cast our thoughts into the deepest darkest reaches of loss. But for my friend’s father, he has finally moved to the only place immense enough to express all of the infinite love he feels for his wife and children now that he is truly free.

With love and tears, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Father’s Day

This past Father’s Day felt different for me. Anyone who reads me knows my Dad’s been my hero since my first trip to Australia. My Aunt and Uncle had such positive views of my parents, and I respected my Aunt and Uncle so much that I began to reconsider who my parents might be—not as my parents—but as individual people living their own lives.

712 Relax and Succeed - Life is too ironicI’ll be forever thankful to particularly my Aunt Ev who did such a great job of helping me to learn to recognize those qualities in all adults. She also did a great job of explaining some of the challenges of adulthood that too-often kids assume are things about them rather than about adulthood. That was the beginning of my father becoming my hero.

As I’ve written in these pages, Dad had a massive brain injury of his own when I was young and he was not expected to live the night. Two weeks later he was out of a coma, slowly regained his memory and his brain became a subject of debate between me and a very talented neuroscientist.

Because it was well-before the 2000’s the prevailing wisdom was that, because brain cells didn’t replace themselves in the same way they do in the rest of the body, this lead everyone to conclude that the brain didn’t change. It does grow new cells, but there was no recognition of other changes. I knew the brain had what is now called neuroplasticity and that it can and did change all the time. Her beliefs lead her to the conclusion that my father would get worse. I was young then and I couldn’t explain very well at the time how I knew for sure, but I assured her that my father would improve and that the brain does grow and change, and those two things are now known to both be true.

712 Relax and Succeed - It is not joy that makes us gratefulThe funny thing is, even though the doctors that night told Mom and I that Dad wouldn’t make it, and even though his head was this weird shiny smooth pumpkin of bruises and tubes, and there was nothing recognizable about his head, I was still entirely sure he would be fine. I literally had zero worry for him—I was more concerned about how my Mom was. But this year—after his last fall, that actually frightened me. That brought time into focus. I try not to think about time, but for Mom and Dad I’ll do anything.

I may get 20 more Father’s Day with my Dad. But I also know that he’s way past the national average for age and so this year’s could also be our last. An acute sense of that had Dad glowing in the dark this year. My parents have always been so precious to me but I have modelled myself after my father. And the idea of living without him terrifies me. But I happily go toward that terror because I know by facing my fears I will be making him even more precious and that will make us even closer.

My Dad has this one particular skill. He can be fully invested in you. This means that if you are in front of him and you’re angry about how you can’t stand Mark, and that Mark is the reason for all of your pain and suffering, my Dad would not join you in attacking Mark. But he would support you completely as you attacked Mark. He would be genuinely sorry you were in pain and he wouldn’t argue with you about Mark. You would get full empathy from him.712 Relax and Succeed - I never had a policy

Now, if my Dad went to see Mark and Mark told the opposite story—the one where you’re the jerk—then again—my Dad would not join in on any bashing of you. But he would fully support Mark. He would be sorry Mark was in pain. But Dad knows only support. He has no attack. He can just be with you in whatever moment you’re both in, and he doesn’t need any opinions of his own when he’s there. He’s there for you.

If you think you have unlimited Father’s Days, or Summers, or Christimas’s or Tuesdays, then you’re fine. But eventually you figure out you don’t, and then each of those things becomes stunningly special. Far from wanting just one more Father’s Day, you’ll want one more weekend, one more day, one more hour.

I’m not a vampire and neither is my father. We have hearts and our souls will eventually leave them. That temporary nature is the very quality that gives life its richness. It is what the vampire can only taste in small doses but humans can activate throughout their lives.

712 Relax and Succeed - When you plant a seed of love

I have my father’s sense of humour. I remember distinctly the day I learned courage from him. I remember distinctly when I learned compassion from him. And he taught me what it was like to be with a human being who was sincerely and completely invested in connecting with me. Experiencing that connection always felt so incredibly good and it gave me so much strength that still today I do my utmost to have as many of my exchanges be like that as possible. Dad has always left people better than he found them.

I’m grateful that my Aunt woke part of me up while I was still young enough to have a very deep and wonderful relationship with my parents. I will miss my Dad if he leaves this Earth before me. But in the meantime I won’t let my fears eat up my insides. Not when I can use them to push me even closer to Dad.

Reconsider the people around you. Do not take them for granted. That would be stealing from yourself.

Have an awesome day.

peace. s

Born Again

If you look at it from the right angle, being told you were dead is a big plus in life because it gets you to really appreciate that being alive is actually quite a privilege. So first my dad almost lost me due to my massive brain injury when I was five, and then I almost lost him in 1983 when he ended his roofing career by doing a 3 meter head-first dive into concrete. He’s had cancer, he experiences strokes, and the other day my parent’s neighbour found him 669 Relax and Succeed - Every experience no matter how bad it seemsunconscious and bleeding on her front sidewalk.

I have been keenly aware since I was five that just as I almost did, people can vanish and often without warning. One minute we can talk to them and the next minute we can’t. When Mom and I got to to the hospital physical Dad was there but mental Dad wasn’t. He didn’t know who we were or what had happened. It’s the first time I remember seeing my mother look scared, and Dad looked lost. It must be a terrible sensation to not be able to reel in your own identity. And at the same time it shows that our identity is little more than a collection of our memories and habits.

As I sat in the Emergency Room waiting area I couldn’t help but notice the worried expressions on nearly every face. Everyone was living in the future or the past. They were wishing someone hadn’t tried that trick on their bike, or they wish their diet had been better the last 20 years. Or if they were living in the future they were speculating about what might happen. That’s when I was reminded of how most people see things.

Because I knew very profoundly that I really could lose my father at any second, I did not waste a moment of our time together by wondering about times other than the moment we were in. In that moment I could see that he was scared and that he didn’t even know what would bring him comfort, and so I just held his hand and told him I loved him and that worked pretty well. With no offence to the others intended, if you were watching them closely you 669 Relax and Succeed - You have to embrace getting oldercould see they were so busy worrying about what they might lose that they weren’t very present at all with the people they were there with—including the patient.

Despite my awareness during the emergency I was aware that night that I had undergone a fundamental shift in my self-identity. I was born again as I realized that my time as a part of the next generation was approaching and it allowed me to come to realize that I’m unnerved by the idea of living without my father. I didn’t know it until this last accident happened, but I know of no safer place than in the presence of my entirely non-judgmental, fully supportive father. He’s always displayed courage, decency, kindness, generosity, compassion and intense interest.

My dad has been genuinely excited by everything that’s excited me. He loves it when I love my life and I do not like the idea of living without my hero and that knowledge has changed me. But rather than lament where I am in life I accept that these transitions are a natural part of my love for him and our movement though life. If I don’t resist them with wanting thoughts I will be able to fully immerse myself in the moment, and that’s better because that’s where I’ll find my Dad.

My parents are both way past the national average for lifespan. Mom teaches exercise three times a week and Dad volunteers all over the place plus he walks every neighbour’s dog. That’s what he was doing when he fell. But at their age things can change in an instant and so I’m fully 669 Relax and Succeed - Learn to appreciate what you haveaware that I could have another two decades of goodbyes or that the next one might be the last one. That can feel terrifying if I think about it from a what do I lose? perspective. But if I think about it as a simple reality, it suddenly makes my already beloved parents even more precious.

My Dad is my hero and I love my Mom thoroughly. If my life has been this great clearly they got a whole bunch of stuff right. If it works out that I get another 20 years I will be grateful for every single day. But if it ends sooner I will still be living in a state of mind where I am routinely, unbelievably grateful that these two amazing people are my parents. And loving that fact is about the best thing I can think to do with however much time we have left with each other.

Thanks Mom and Dad. If you were wondering if you succeeded—I can’t imagine a greater success than helping a kid to live a life that he’s absolutely loved. I love you both more than you can imagine.

hugs and kisses, s

PS Oh yeah, and as for Dad’s fall—his brain bleed is healing and he’s thankfully back on his anti-stroke medication. We’re going to watch some playoff hockey games together this week. 🙂

Life Lessons

If you read me regularly you know I often point out that an enjoyable life comes from the simple act of appreciation, and yet so few people ever bother to really turn that into a daily verb. They’ll say they want a better life and that they want to be more spiritual, but then they’ll promptly use all their free time to compare themselves with people they perceive as even more fortunate, but they won’t do it with the many billions more who are less fortunate. Why pursue wanting thoughts instead of appreciative thoughts when the former hurt and the 628 Relax and Succeed - The more I understand the mindlatter feel wonderful? That’s a question you really should be asking yourself.

I live in Alberta. This is a place that, for the time being, a nineteen year old kid can make $120,000 a year as a welder and he’ll still complain about it. And because everyone knows so many people like that, people where I live don’t realize that they are among the richest people on Earth. When I recently asked several locals how much they thought you needed to earn to be in the top 1% of global earners, I got guesses like 20 million and low guesses were about 2 million. The real answer (on that day) was $56,400. Most of the people I talked to were double that number and you could see their minds try to adjust their place in the world to this sliver of people at the top. Suddenly they realized that what they thought the world was—that was just the top 1%. They thought they were struggling and so they imagined themselves at somewhere in the bottom half of worldwide earners. They thought they were in the bottom half when they were actually in the top 1%. Do you see how your thinking can steal your joy?

I want you to take a moment to actually appreciate where you really are. It’s my hero’s birthday today (the day I’m writing this). My Dad already had grey hair when I was born, so we have a fascinating spread between us. He was born before the Great Depression on a rural farm in Scotland. He was the youngest of eight children and he was born before the 628 Relax and Succeed - No we don't always get what we wantavailability of antibiotics so he was lucky to have survived Scarlet Fever as a kid. He’s a clever guy but he only had the chance to go to grade eight, and by seventeen years old he was lying about his age so that he could follow his brothers and sisters into service in World War II.

Before the war Dad was pushing a plow behind a horse, and then he helped to cut the wheat with a scythe and they stacked it by pitch fork. Eight kids starts to make sense doesn’t it? Had I been a farmer in my era, I would do all of that “work” with one machine, in my sleep, while a movie was on in the cab of my self-driving GPS-controlled combine. To say life is easier doesn’t even get close to capturing the level of difference. And that’s my Dad and I’m right on the Gen X border. That’s one generation to me. Just a bit ahead of him and there’s no cars, electricity or even running water.

Take a moment to think about that. What my Dad would take a day of super hard work to do I could probably do quite casually in under 10 seconds. I worked alongside my Dad for a long time. My dad could work hard. And he might have only had grade eight but give him two thimbles, some twine and a fish hook and he’ll build you a part that will get your car to the next town for the real repairs. My friends and I couldn’t build a house, fix a car, repair an electrical motor, hunt an animal, clean a fish, do enough math and bookkeeping—by hand—to run a small business, and we certainly couldn’t deliver a baby cow. Our dads were either in the war or they lost their dad in the war—whether that father came home or not. No vaccines, 628 Relax and Succeed - Some people feel the rainpenicillin was barely invented, they all lost siblings to bombs and bullets and various diseases that we no longer fear. That was normal.

Parents expected to lose a kid along the way. Just think about that. Today that would be headline news and possibly cause the parent to stop living their life. Back then it would have been seen as unfortunate but it couldn’t stop you. You still had another seven or more kids to look after back when a washing machine looked like a single piece of corrugated metal. Can you imagine having today’s attitudes about housework when washing clothes meant grinding eight kids clothes against a rough surface for several hours in water that was heated in a kettle hung over a wood stove that you cut the wood for? Think about that next time you spin the dial for an extra rinse. I do and I still appreciate my washing machine every single time I use it.

It was just through proximity not wisdom that I knew how tough our parents were. The first white person to climb Mount Everest only died in 2008 and he did that climb in leather and wool. Life got much easier during my lifetime and it’s no younger person’s fault that they 628 Relax and Succeed - Life is a series of thousandsdon’t immediately consider how challenging something might have been even shortly before they were born. People had higher levels of acceptance and appreciation because it was easy to see how much tougher it had recently been.

There were no homes for older people so a lot of families had grandparents living with them so you heard stories. And people still visited farms where you went back in time a bit. You’d see outhouses and kerosene lamps still being used every day. But now I know tons of young people whose grandparents are in a special home they visit for an hour every few months. They have never been to a farm and their parents both have desk jobs on computers and so to them their parents life doesn’t look a lot different than theirs. Not very many kids today get to see what I did when I looked at my Dad. By 17 my Dad was in WWII, and both my parents families lost members in the war and to the war. What an insult it would have been to say to my dad that my safe, easy car-riding life was too hard.

People squander their own happiness. They use their ability to think to want—to compare themselves to others even more fortunate. So the 1%er ends up spending half their day using their thoughts to envy someone in the .0001%??? Does that sound wise to you? Or could all the suffering you’re complaining about be coming from that?

628 Relax and Succeed - Gratitude changes everythingMeditation is consideration. Siddhartha sat under a tree asking himself where suffering comes from and 49 days later he’s the first Buddha. You can do likewise, but instead of using your thinking to negatively compare yourself, instead use it to appreciate how fortune you are. Because if I’m having trouble completely quieting my thinking for whatever reason, I’ll just shift to leading my thoughts toward considering what my day would have looked like for my parents, or even more extremely, for my grandmother. Hitching a horse, riding to town, blah blah. But one minute in I realize my “bad, slow day” is actually accomplishing more in a half hour than my grandmother could have even hoped to do all day, and I would have been safer, warmer, and far more comfortable. And that awareness makes me grateful, and if you’re feeling grateful then you’re okay. It’s as easy as that.

You have a lot to be grateful for. So go create yourself a great day by investing your consciousness in things that are easy to appreciate. Trust me. They’re always there.

peace. s

Prepare to Die

This may not be easy to read. It certainly won’t be to write. But because I intend to cause it to exist for my own growth I will be fine with the fact that it will be difficult. I’ll be blunt: if any of you met my parents you would realize that while they are very active and relatively alert, they are simultaneously also candidates to die at any moment. They are far past the national 464 Relax and Succeed - The soul is born oldaverage for age, and while my wonderful mother teaches exercise three times a week, and my father is extremely active with his gardening and walking every neighbour’s dog for miles around, they are also old enough that a brain or a heart could simply reach its natural conclusion at any moment.

Death is of course an integral part of nature. The very earth that plants and trees grow upon is in fact made up of previous plants and trees, now deceased. This is the natural cycle. Scientifically they say it’s likely that each of us carries about 500,000 atoms of Shakespeare in us. Now atoms are inconceivably tiny, but that’s pretty cool when you think about all of the people and places that you have formerly been. You are literally little ever-changing bits of the universe that come together to be you for a short while in the universe’s infinite history. And of course my parents are too.

I was recently quite sick for what was fortunately a short but intense period. I sought comfort in my parent’s home—a place I historically associate with being cared for. The plan for that day was for me to help Mom, and instead it was her nursing me—bringing me ginger ale and dry toast. I’ll admit, I liked it. It may be the last time I ever get mothered like that in my life so I really paid attention and drank it in.

Of course it’s no surprise to me that my parents could die. Intellectually this is obvious. But knowing something intellectually and knowing it well enough to live it are two different things. Otherwise smokers would quit because they understood smoking was bad for them, or people would leave abusive relationships because they would know they could do better. Well that day my awareness of my parent’s temporary-ness became sharp and clear and seeing it that clearly instantly changed my life priorities.

464 Relax and Succeed - The more you are motivated by loveThey say you cease to be a child when you first realize that you will die. And to at least some degree you become a different sort of adult when you can actually appreciate the fact that your own death could happen at any time. Suddenly your time on Earth isn’t about what you can achieve or get or own—it’s simply a question about what sort of experiences you’re going to have between now and when your opportunity for experiences ceases. By seeing my parent’s frailty in such clarity, I realized that the most profound and meaningful way to live is by making the appropriate preparations to die.

Are my parents cataloguing their belongings or trying to collect more? No. Are they trying to impress you with their personality or achievements? No. Is there some big future event that they are building toward? No. My parents live Moment to Moment, really without ego. They’ve been embarrassed enough times in their lives that they’re virtually unembarrassable. They’ve felt every emotion so many times that they’re familiar enough with all of them that even big things have a casualness to them. In the most beautiful way, they don’t argue much with the world anymore. The world has proven its superiority enough times that they are humble enough to surf the waves they are given, rather than forgo surfing in favour of begging for better waves.

I don’t want my lose my parents. I love them dearly and I know when they’re gone I’ll think of a million questions I didn’t ask. I’m glad I took a Christmas years back to set up some video cameras and record my nieces asking them a million questions I had prepared: Who 464 Relax and Succeed - As we express our gratitudewas your first love? How did you meet? What was your worst subject in school? What did you dream of being when you were young? How much did you get paid at your first real job? (For my Dad it was 17.5 cents per hour!) Etc. etc. etc. So that’s all interesting to know. But that’s what my parents did. Who they are is how they feel to me. And so rather than trying to know them through information, that day on the sofa I decided that what I should do instead is simply be with them in an open and loving state.

I can’t stop what’s happening. But I can use it to help me define priorities. And so for now, rather than buying birthday or Mother’s or Father’s Day cards, I am instead using my ability as a writer to communicate to my parents what they truly mean to me. Because in my practice the one thing I see consistently is that parents are very hard on themselves and they always notice their kid’s struggles rather than their successes. And so I want my parents to know with certainty, in detail, before they leave this beautiful planet, that they did a fantastic job as parents and as people and I couldn’t be prouder to call them Mom and Dad. And the best and only thing I can do before they die, is love them as much as I can while they are here. And that is precisely what I intend to do.

peace. s

Relationship Training

Somewhere inside of himself he is a good person but my husband is very emotionally abusive. He never hits me but still I want to leave him so badly. But I cannot because I have a daughter who is only seven and she loves him so much. It would break my husband’s heart to lose her as well. I am so lost and so sad and I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?

Sad Wife

Dear Sad Wife,

I am relieved to hear that you are physically 289 Relax and Succeed - No matter how hard the pastsafe. Still, this is obviously not a good situation. While I cannot make decisions for you, I do believe I can clarify the issue enough for you to possibly see your own way out of your predicament. Only you know your values and what sacrifices would be associated with what action, but what I impart to others has value because it allows you to access your own personal wisdom. Wisdom that is always available to you if you strip away all of the busy thought-ideas currently trapping you, so let’s do that.

Firstly, it is good your daughter has such a compassionate and respectful parent. Considering your husband’s behaviour toward you it is very big of you to not undermine your daughter’s love for him. People can be flawed—even heavily flawed—and still they are worthy of love. We might choose not to be around people like that, but that doesn’t mean we have to hate them. One of the most important things a child can have is parents who respect each other. And if they can’t have that, then one that respects the other is better than none. I have every confidence that your daughter will pick up on which one of you to emulate.

So let us accept that there would obviously be a set of consequences that would go with your daughter being estranged from her father or even just from your breakup. And I can appreciate why you would want to protect your daughter from that. At the same time, let’s remember that non-action is in fact a form of action. So to not leave is to stay.

So let me put it this way: let’s play magic and say that your husband has passed away and now you’re a single Mom. You meet your current husband, but let us say that because you are friends with his friends, you quickly get a clear understanding of how he truly acts. Knowing how disrespectful, demanding and selfish he is, would you want your daughter exposed to that? Would you want her to live with someone who speaks disrespectfully to others? As a woman, would you want your daughter to see “romance” portrayed as an 289 Relax and Succeed - Wear your tragediesobsequious woman enduring the tirades of her mate? Is that the behaviour you want to model to her? Because if it is, that will become her “normal” and she won’t think there’s anything wrong with that when she’s older and dating. She’ll think that’s what a relationship looks like. That’s obviously not a good thing.

As long as you are not putting yourself in danger (and you should quietly contact your local women’s shelter for advice about a plan of action and info on area resources etc.) leaving should not feel overwhelming. Like a frog in boiling water, because this situation developed over time you’ve become accustomed to painful things. Leaving that behind will have an enormous impact.

If you feel you should leave then the odds are that leaving will feel much better than you’re anticipating. It will also model healthy behaviour for your daughter. She should know that you and she deserve better. That there is better. That people will happily and voluntarily treat you both much better, and that rather than staying and resenting and hating, people are better to leave, forgive and then build something better. That’s the only kind of experience that will teach the guy too. Unless there’s a price to his heart there is no motivation to change the behaviour. That’s why they say the second wife gets what the first one paid for. The second one gets treated better because the man is now fully aware that he can be left at any time.

289 Relax and Succeed - The rest of your lifeIf you stay your daughter might learn to resent you or hate men. If you leave your husband still has the chance to earn his way back into your lives, but at least your daughter isn’t being subjected—or isn’t seeing you subjected—to actual abuse.

Maybe this judgment and the idea is being carried by recent anger. Maybe you’re at the stage of quiet acceptance—only you know. But if it really is an abusive situation then leaving is never a bad idea simply because there are many ways to be happy in life. We don’t have to get married to one source of happiness and then hope it stays that way. We can change routes right up until the day we die.

I wish you well with the decision. But you must make any decisions from a place of loving yourself just as you love your daughter. For you are just like her—a child of the universe. You have many routes to happiness. If one path has changed, then you have every ability to shift to another that’s better overall. Your daughter is lucky to have you—your husband too. Make sure you see all of that value too. Because when you do, you’ll automatically choose the direction that’s the healthiest of your choices.

Big hugs and all the best,

peace. s

Ferrett Steinmetz: Dear Daughter

188 Relax and Succeed - If you love a flower
Thanks to a friend I recently stumbled on to a blog entry that demonstrated unusually high levels of character. Most people claim to have principles, but those will quickly evaporate if there is any social pressure applied. Our sense of belonging is so strong that our ego will often make enormous sacrifices to try to fit in—including being hypocritical about our principles.

If someone really believes in equality then they accept that their children will need to; suffer to grow; and they deserve to have the same shot at life that their parents did. Maybe an even better one if we all continue to develop our compassion through developing our consciousness as this father has. This is very simply an honest, loving presentation of how open and empathetic true love is and I invite you to enjoy this excellent piece of writing:

There’s a piece of twaddle going around FetLife called 10 Rules For Dating My Daughter, which is packed with “funny” threats like this:

“Rule Four: I’m sure you’ve been told that in today’s world, sex without utilising some kind of ‘barrier method’ can kill you. Let me elaborate: when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.”

All of which boil down to the tedious, “Boys are threatening louts, sex is awful when other people do it, and my daughter is a plastic doll whose destiny I control.”

188 Relax and Succeed - You must love

Look, I love sex. It’s fun. And because I love my daughter, I want her to have all of the same delights in life that I do, and hopefully more. I don’t want to hear about the fine details because, heck, I don’t want those visuals any more than my daughter wants mine. But in the abstract, darling, go out and play.

Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give. It doesn’t lessen you to give someone else pleasure. It doesn’t degrade you to have some of your own. And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface.

Yes, all these boys and girls and genderqueers may break your heart, and that in turn will break mine. I’ve held you, sobbing, after your boyfriend cheated on you, and it tore me in two. But you know what would tear me in two even more? To see you in a glass cage, experiencing nothing but cold emptiness at your fingers, as Dear Old Dad ensured that you got to experience nothing until he decided what you should like.

188 Relax and Succeed - Do all things

You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall, to learn where the bandages are and to bind up your own cuts. I’ll help. I’ll be your consigliere when I can, the advisor, the person you come to when all seems lost. But I think there’s value in getting lost. I think there’s a strength that only comes from fumbling your own way out of the darkness.

You’re your own person, and some of the things you’re going to love will strike me as insane, ugly, or unenjoyable. This is how large and wonderful the world is! Imagine if everyone loved the same thing; we’d all be battling for the same ten people. The miracle is how easily someone’s cast-offs become someone else’s beloved treasure.

And I would be a sad, sad little man if I manipulated you into becoming a cookie-cutter clone of my desires. Love the music I hate, watch the movies I loathe, become a strong woman who knows where her bliss is and knows just what to do to get it.

Now, you’re going to get bruised by life, and sometimes bruised consensually. But I won’t tell you sex is bad, or that you’re bad for wanting it, or that other people are bad from wanting it from you if you’re willing to give it. I refuse to perpetuate, even through the plausible deniability of humor, the idea that the people my daughter is attracted to are my enemy.

I’m not the guard who locks you in the tower. Ideally, I am my daughter’s safe space, a garden to return to when the world has proved a little too cruel, a place where she can recuperate and reflect upon past mistakes and know that here, there is someone who loves her wholeheartedly and will hug her until the tears dry.

That’s what I want for you, sweetie. A bold life filled with big mistakes and bigger triumphs.

Now get out there and find all the things you fucking love, and vice versa.

Ferrett Steinmetz

True love looks and feels like freedom. Share as much of it as you can.

peace and love. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.