A Dad Says “Goodbye”
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.
Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.
Let reality be reality.
Let things flow naturally forward
in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu
People close to me have lately been asking me, with varying degrees of concern, how I’m going to be this coming week. It’s the week, you see, that Caroline and I take Autumn to college in Michigan, the week that our daughter starting out a new life for herself 900 miles from home becomes more than just an abstract idea.
So, how am I going to handle it?
I have no idea.
So far, there have been moments of excitement for her, and great pride in the enthusiasm that she is showing for embarking on a new adventure. I’ve been feeling optimistic. There have also been moments, stealing up on me from nowhere, of stinging eyes and hitched breath.
I have no fundamental problem with crying. Not in a misplaced machismo sense, anyway. You ever want to see some waterworks, sit down with me to watch “War Horse”, or “Glory”. Or “Babe”, for that matter (I must have seen it a dozen times, yet I still dissolve every time at the end when Farmer Hoggert says “that’ll do, pig….. that’ll do”).
Please give me a moment.
As I was saying, I don’t have a problem with tears, in principal. I have, however, long held the belief that tears are of limited use beyond the occasional catharsis. Why let our vision be blurred at the very moment when we need to be looking ahead with clear eyes at the best way to move forward? My philosophy, born largely from my years of martial arts training, is largely one of growth and forward motion. As much as I loved the years when my little girl play with stuffed animals for hours, was always up for an Easter-egg hunt and could be scooped up easily into my arms, it would be absurd to expect her to stay that way.
A warrior reacts to the situation with which they are faced, not to the circumstances in which they wish they found themselves. And the warrior I aspire to be tries very hard not to dwell on sadness and disappointments, but rather look for ways to grow from them. In the case of my daughter, it’s not too hard. The fact is, for as much as I miss that little girl (and I really do), I am absolutely blown away by, and crazy in love with, the young woman she has become. In that way, my daughter has taught me every bit as much about life as my time in the Dojo has.
And one more warrior’s lesson I’m learning, as I prepare to see her off to her life half a country away: reacting to the challenges facing you at any given juncture in life, is not about fighting like nothing hurts you. Just like I would never let one of my students to totally ignore an ache or pain warning them to rest a part of their body. A warrior’s presence of mind – true living in the moment – demands we acknowledge the hurt, even if we’re not going to let them slow us down.
I still don’t know the answer to my friends’ question. I am not trying to picture what that moment will be like, when it’s time for me and Caroline to drive away from our daughter’s new home. But I am resolving to give the heartache a place right next to the pride and the love. I think I’ll be the better warrior for it.