last year

On Being a Father

I am the father of three children.

Being a father has changed my life in ways I could not have predicted. Well beyond merely having additional responsibilities and learning to live with more people…though including those things.

Having children has given me the clearest and most direct lesson that life is not all about me.

This has been a difficult lesson to learn. And some might think that is curious since much of what I share is about awakening to the impersonal nature of life. But all the same there is a difference between discovering something and actually *living* it.

Being a father is a choice to actually live it. It is choosing to show up and keep showing up and receive it all. Including the daily failures. Failures to communicate. Failures to keep my cool. Failures to be non-reactive. Failures to get what I want. Failures to protect them as much as I want. Failures to know everything. Failures to be kind and patient.

It is humbling. And it is often thankless.

And it is the most important thing.

A young person I know recently got into some serious legal trouble. I feel a lot of grief, sadness, and anger. He is charged with three felonies. Heartbreaking. Because he is so sweet, such a good, honest person with a loving heart.

And he had and has no father for most of his life. His biological father abused him as a child, and he was removed from his father many years ago.

The cycles of abuse, neglect, and trauma are ours to take responsibility for. Now. Here. In ourselves. And in our relationships with others.

The cycles of abuse, neglect, and trauma can only continue when we’re unwilling to show up fully. If we show up fully, they cannot continue.

To show up fully is to be vulnerable. Not to be perfect. Not to get it all right. But to show up and be real and vulnerable. To admit to failures. To look others in the eye. To say I’m sorry. To be humbled and to still show up.

Even when the conditioning of millions of years says to get the hell out of here. Or to hit. Or to shout. To blame. To shame. To violate.

Even when that conditioning has already played out. It is not too late.

Now is the time.

I came into this life with a lot of challenges. I developed more challenges through this life. Emotionally challenged. Shame, humiliation, disgust, terror, arrogance.

Before I became a father, I thought I needed to change all those things and fix myself first before I could be worthy of relationship.

Nearly nine years after becoming a father, nine years of choosing to be a father, to show up daily, I know differently.

I don’t need to be perfect. I don’t need to fix everything first.

I just need to be willing to keep showing up, keep being humbled, keep opening my heart.

Trauma leads to more trauma…when we try to avoid it all and fix it all and isolate.

But the healing of trauma occurs with presence, the willingness to show up and be vulnerable and receive this experience, this moment right now. And in the healing of trauma there is a gift to the world.

The gift of presence matters. It matters to everyone.

First, I choose to be present to my own experience. I choose not to reject my experiences, my feelings, my emotions, my thoughts, my circumstances. I choose to receive it all, acknowledging that I don’t know what any of this means. But I can choose to receive it and trust in life, Trust in that which gave life to me.

Second, I choose to be present to my own experience in the presence of others and to be present to others as they have their experiences.

Third, I choose to forgive myself and others for when we forget what is most important. And I choose to show up vulnerably now.

To me, this is what it is to be a father. And a friend. And a lover. And a human being.

It matters. It makes a difference.

Your presence matters. Your presence to your own experience. And your presence to others. Your presence heals.

You may be a father. You may be a mother. You may not be a father or mother. But your presence matters. It matters to you. It matters to your friends, family, and loved ones. It matters to the world.

Don’t underestimate the importance of showing up vulnerable and authentic now.

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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