Well. It could go one of 2 ways, really.
Whenever I came to Dad for advice, he’d either be compassionate and wise with some really good advice, or get really angry/annoyed at what I was asking about (maybe it was in the way I asked?) and would give me very sarcastic, hurtful advice…and possibly a verbal telling off that would take me weeks – maybe months – to recover from.
Dad can make or break me with his very word, honestly. He can take my worries away and give me lots of strength or Dad can tear me down within seconds.
I’ll pretend today that Dad is still around and I’ll work out what he would say about my current predicament.
I’d ask him whether I should leave this job in favour of a rest and an easier role somewhere else or whether I should stick with it and ‘tough it out’ in a workplace I’m happy in…just very challenged and struggling in these ‘early days’.
Response 1: Sarcastic Dad
“OK” Dad would say in a harsh tone of voice “Stop being scared of nothing and face up to this job, Janet. Don’t just run away because it’s hard“. I would grimace at this, my heart hurt immediately. Dad would put his thumbs into the waistband of his pants and run them along the edges – his thumbs seperating and meeting again at the middle as he talked; this was a sure sign Dad was getting wound up and I would keep a wary eye on those thumbs and do some furious back-peddling to calm Dad down and hopefully get his thumbs removed from his waistband and his hands back to either his sides (very calm) or back to telling a story with hand gestures – which was also a good sign.
“You’ve complained for years now about wanting a good job and now you have one and you want to run away from it” Dad would purse his lips, annoyed. He’d eagle-eye me for a response.
This is where I have to think fast. I need to calm Dad down and do my best to avoid a verbal bollocking.
“I’m just…I’m really stressed and unhappy in this role, Dad” I’d admit, baring my heart and hoping for a kind response “I’m uh…really struggling”
“What about?” Dad would require more of an explanation – already p*ssed off and wanting more than poor excuses for what he’s percieving as a waste of my resources and a sure sign of laziness.
“It’s taken me 6 weeks to just learn the basics and I’m a bit over my head with the complicated responsibilities of this busy role” I would go on. Slowly. Carefully – using a gentle, even tone of voice to show Dad I wasn’t trying to defend myself or argue with him, I was just…explaining. Gently, gently. Easy does it, JD.
“So what’s the problem? You know you can do this, you’ve done harder jobs than this before. You’ll learn more and pick it up as you go along, it just needs more time” Dad would (rightly) point out.
What sucks about Dad’s response is that he’s right, so I’d immediately feel ashamed about admitting my weakness.
“It’s just been hard because I’m grieving, Dad…I’m finding this really painful” I would try one. last. time to convince Dad over to my side.
Come on over, Dad…there’s lots of room.
Dad would then go another 1 of 2 ways. 1)I would win him over and he’d calm down. He would move close to me, thumbs out of his waistband (woo!) and he’d maybe put an arm around me or rub the tops of my shoulders – both very good signs. Dad would then say something like “I know it’s hard, chook. It’s a fact of life. We lose people we love and it’s really painful. I have lost a lot of people in my life that I loved a lot and the main thing is, you can’t just give up. You have to go on. Don’t give in. Don’t let the buggers get you down…ok?”
Dad is very big on fighting the good fight and on NEVER giving up. He’d want me to try my best in this job, no matter how hard it was. He’d want me to see it through.
I’d talk to Dad about staying in this role, pushing through and learning loads from it – as well as have a feeling of accomplishment – and I’d feel like a weight had shifted and that things were going to be okay. I’d feel like if I just kept pushing through with this job, it would be well worth it in the end AND Dad would be super proud of me for “not giving up” which is his life’s motto.
2) Dad would get even more angry/annoyed: “FFS Janet. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill” he’d admonish “Yes, you’ve lost someone. Yes, that is hard…but you shouldn’t let that have an influence on your working life. You can keep things seperate. You have to” …and again, I’d feel like I failed him with my weakness and confusion.
I’d agree to keep working. Dad would still be wound up. He’d open a beer and I’d shake my head, wondering why it was even worth bothering. I’d feel defeated and fed up. Strangely, so would Dad.
Response 2: Compassionate Dad
“Babygirl” Dad would say, bending slowly to sit beside me. He’d grimace at the creak in his knees and offer up a goofy smile “I know what you mean about work being hard when you’ve lost someone close to you. I’ve been there…and it’s tough to juggle a full work day when your heart’s broken”
“It is” I’d agree, enjoying sitting close to Dad and basking in the warm glow of his comfort. This was going well.
“What’s important here is your mental health” Dad would nod and pat me fondly on the hand “Jobs are just jobs. Money is just printed paper – you can’t take it with you when you go, darl” and he’d chuckle gently at this “Money doesn’t really mean anything” Dad would continue, enjoying the story he was about to tell me “Some of the richest people in the world are the saddest and most lonely…because there are so many more important things than money. Love, relationships, health – look at me – I’m so bloody old but I’m so happy doing nothing all day and getting to spend time with your Mother, your brother, Kate and baby Sebbie…with you…Al…” Dad’s voice would tail off and he’d get a happy/dreamy look on his face “You guys are more important than millions of dollars” Dad would get teary.
“But this job pays well and I’m happy in it because the girls are so nice” I’d insist, enjoying time with Dad and enjoying the freedom to explore different outcomes with this happy version of my father.
“That’s all good and well…but you can always come back another time, I bet. Or get another job you might enjoy just as much?” Dad would wink “What’s money really worth when you look at the bigger picture of your mental health, eh?” he’d pinch my cheek fondly “it’s more important for you to take time right now to rest. Grieve your loss, feel your feelings – don’t bottle it all up inside, Chook – that’s where it all starts to go to sh*t. You have to be able to feel what you feel and let it out“
“So I should step down from this job, then?” I’d peer up at Dad, already imagining sleeping in on my days off, going back to the gym and finding an easier job – all with Dad’s support “Go for it, my girl!” he’d cheer.
“What does your heart tell you to do?” Dad was always big on listening to and following our hearts.
“To just rest. To let this go and to pick it back up another time when I feel stronger and more able to handle it” I would confirm.
Dad would wink – his seal of approval “That’s my girl” he’d praise me.
I’d feel like I’d won a million dollars.
Two paths in front of me.
With greater risk (stay in the job) comes greater reward (Money, basically…financial security)…but with leaving the job…comes the promise of better/improved mental health…so…
I was hoping a chat with my Dad (God rest his soul) would have helped but I’m still none the wiser.
What am I missing here?