“No man is an island” – advice from my father

I had confided in my father about almost every issue that arose in my simple life. Dilemmas  I had encountered revolving around exams and studying, career advice, and relationships.  I trusted him with all of my being, his advice was golden. I followed along blindly down the path he had paved for me, spoon feeding me like some form of stunted infant. Decisions bothered me. They overwhelmed me and I often felt a little bit like I needed to be programmed. That I needed a simple answer, without the internal monologue.. without the fear of potential error. Essentially, and I’m ashamed to admit it, I wanted someone to make everything ok, as if all of the answers to lifes problems could be neatly gift wrapped, and boxed away.. I think although perhaps he thought he was doing the right thing in protecting his soft daughter from potential danger ,and directing her down the correct route, it had left me a little weak.  I am trying everything to finally take my first steps towards independent thinking, towards a life with little, to no reliance on one person, but I’m finding it incredibly difficult. I feel like a wounded bambi, learning to walk with bullets implanted in his buckling legs.

I think thus it would benefit me greatly if I could endeavour to recreate some of our precious moments, if I could recall every word uttered from his mouth, to be stored for later use. So that when I feel lost, that I can summon up those comforting pep talks. Like a sheep in a storm, bleating desperately for his shepard, I seek his guidance!Where are you now dad ? I can’t hear you anymore..

His words are laced with pain for me now, but I am a woman on a mission, and it simply can not be completed without my fathers nuggets of wisdom..his kindness, his great patience and humor.  I shall never forget him, and now as the heart flutters frantically in my chest, I will conjure him up before me.. I hope through my writing, through the stories told by his friends and family, that part of him shall remain alive. For how could he be wiped from the earth? How could I possibly survive if he was gone? He created me in his own image, his thoughts reverberate in my skull.. He gave me life, and hope and enabled me to flourish. He isn’t gone.. He lives within me, and my siblings, in particular my brother Sam.. I’ve seen him cock his head in a curious fashion, his stance the same, familiar gestures.. The same dry humor. I feel less afraid. I think I can still cope when remnants of him linger. Remnants that go far beyond the physical body that remains behind. For a man as great as my father, could not simply be reduced to a mound of blackened ash.  With that in mind, I shall recreate this memory as best as I can! This conversation is based around love, and how to pick oneself up when you lose someone special.

We sat down on the brown leather couches facing one another.. Sunlight filtered into the room, highlighting specks of dust..  Dust swirled around us, as if we were joint figurines encased in a christmas themed snow globe. Dad sighed, cupping his mug of coffee in his hands.. Perhaps he was warming his own hands, as he often distinctly refused to turn on the heating.  ” Do you think I work for the ESB?!”, he’d often ask, a look of incredulous disbelief on his face, if one of us dared to crank up the heating during the day. “Did yeh ever hear of a jumper no?”

Dad I’m really scared. I feel like the stuffing has been knocked out of me. I’m scared I won’t ever meet anyone else.. This really hurts dad. I feel so betrayed. It really really hurts“. Dad sighed but smiled up at me, adjusting his navy turtle neck which now hangs in my wardrobe.

Do yeh really think you won’t find anyone? there are billions and billions of people out there. This one soul thing? crock of shit. People end up with people due to circumstance, or maybe they can just tolerate one person more than others. You just have to find someone who isn’t an arsehole. You’d be better off alone than with an arsehole right? standards have to be very high at all times. They say no man is an island right? But I am. Hell is other people. You have to learn to be happy in your own company.  You’l find someone out there. Just sort yourself out first. sign up to the gym, meet up with your mates, and get your exams! This will all work out, you just have to keep a positive attitude at all times.  You’ve everything going for you. The world at your feet! Just go for it”. 

But dad, what about him do you think I could maybe salvage a friendship ?” The thought of losing the man I had met when I was still a kid terrified me. He was the safety net that shielded me from the storm. Once another prominent figure in my life.

You shouldn’t want one.. and it isn’t possible, much too awkward.. You need to cut your losses and walk away..”  I mentally prepared myself to walk away and cried gently. My dad wrapped his arms round me. “Jessie, it will all be ok trust me.. This is definitely for the best?! who wants to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere feeding cattle anyway? Not what you wanted i presume. Never settle”. 

I closed my heart to the memories. I vowed never to speak to him again. I thought about my fathers words. I let them sink in. So love should be assessed on a scale of compatability? To put it simply, although most people would let you down on some levels, there would be some you could tolerate more than others.  It was a matter of shopping around, discovering new people as you stumble along, allowing each experience to enrich your life, bringing you when step closer to a person that could be tolerated better than all of the others. I was ready to try! I was ready to put my best foot forwards.

So what about friendships to be salvaged? I felt my heart rip in two, as i deleted messages, threw away presents, cut off communication.. I thought I knew him, but as my dad reminded me, nobody ever knows anyone. Not fully.

I felt like the pain would never leave me. It was worse than a death I thought! Here I was, I was still me, I never changed.. I saw it coming he said.  He was right, I had . Why did it still hurt then? I think it was because a fondness remained. Fondness mixed with fear. Friendship is a reassuring consolation prize.. Something could be salvaged from the ashes?  I knew he felt this too. We were not strangers. We were not monsters. Why not hang on? why let go when the nature of the relationship was so intimate. So precious.. we spoke to each other sometimes, to my fathers displeasure.  I think we both wanted to help each other through it, but barriers had been built. Barriers that could never once crumble, or god help us.. it would lead to the destruction of our progress. Regression was not the answer. So what was then ?

JUST CUT IT OFF, YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO”. Although I thought this seemed like such a harsh response I knew my father was correct.  Every conversation would be filled with forced politeness, bitter anger. They would both reignite hope and insult intelligence. On his side it would invoke guilt, on my side shame. Intentions could be misread. Just like they were so many years ago, when we met up under the false pretence of friendship, only to lock lips with one another in a secluded garden of our university.

Trying to be friends would be a last desperate and crude attempt at memorialising a relationship of fundamental importance. Alas friendship is not faithful to love, it is a disservice to the intimate nature of our joint past. An ex would not be a friend but a willing torturer..  Companionship would reignite hope, cause self doubt and frustration. It would be bitter sweet. Pleasure laced with pain.

The answer was not to attempt a farcical friendship but to maintain a mutual civil distance.  There would be an assurance that the relationship would live on, in the confines of our minds. I cried as I let go.. I pictured the termination of the relationship akin to a  balloon being released into space.. soaring higher and higher, and taking with it the pain, the hurt and the horrific sadness that consumed me.

I opened my heart to others. The odd flirty swipe on tinder. The occasional smooch in the dark corners of a shady pub.  I learnt to let go. I learnt to stand on my own two feet, and with each exciting, albeit somewhat strange, romantic encounter I learned a little more about myself.  What I liked in a person, and what I didn’t. I had fun, I also felt pain. I shared the funnier aspects with my father, some of my more crazy dates. “Tell that Bastid your dad is influential in the fist industry”. ( I will save the details of this sordid affair to another time.)

The shattering of that relationship allowed me to become a much stronger character. Someone who could withstand an immense loss and continue to bravely trust. Someone who was able to understand although it was about us, it wasn’t in fact personal. It was nobodies fault. It was the right decision. Coming to that conclusion took a great amount of time, months in fact.. But when I did I felt a deep pride well within me. I could see it in my fathers face, as I passed my solicitor exams, got fitter, stronger and braver.

Your’e getting better, I can tell!”. He was right, of course.

I Had empowered myself once more.

I had learned to let go.

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