As many of you know this week I saw my son Connor for the first time in 824 days. It was truly an amazing day. My emotions ran from one end of the spectrum to the other. I was so excited to see him. I was elated when he ran over to me and gave me a big hug. I was overwhelmed when he put his head on my shoulder as we watched the Incredibles 2. Honestly I don’t think the day could have gone much better. But for all the good that came from it there were some moments that dragged me to the bottom. To see him tear up when he first saw me. Or to see him get real emotional when it was time to say goodbye. I felt like the worse person on earth knowing I’m the reason he’s so emotional. If I had been able to keep my life together he wouldn’t have had to experience all that pain that I had put him through. Or perhaps the wondering if that meeting was once again going to be the last time for a long period of time.
I learned a lot about life on Tuesday believe it or not. Not by anything I did or said but rather by the example my own 9 year old son set. My son showed me forgiveness, he showed me compassion, he showed me unconditional love all at a time, when he could have easily turned his back to me. He had every right to say he never wanted to see me again. He had been hurt enough and didn’t want to experience that pain and process again. He had heard enough about me to be scared enough to say that he didn’t want a father like me. But he didn’t…. As they always say… From the mouth of babes. Or in this case from the action of babes.
In society today we are quick with labels. I don’t think there is anyone that has crossed our President that hasn’t been labeled one childish name or another. Or the new trend of shaming people that do things that the rest of society deems unnecessary on twitter with nicknames. We are a society that finds joy when someone falls from their high horse. We’ve even used terms like fags, queers, criminals, junky, alcoholic, cheater, nut job, whacko, psycho, crazy and many many more terms to demean people that we want to make ourselves feel that we are better than.
We fight everyday to end the stigma surrounding mental health yet we ourselves including myself find no fault in labeling others by their worse trait. How can I expect anyone to stop labeling me because of my mental illness when I don’t show that same compassion to others that suffer from other things or did something one time in their life that they have to live with forever. Who am I to judge you? Who are you to judge me? We’ve all got pasts and for some those pasts make the future seem impossible. I have always said I’m afraid of what might be because of what has been. I don’t want my future to continue to be like my past. There is only so much I can control. One thing I know I can control is the compassion, and acceptance I show to those who are not like me but none the less bleed the same, hurt the same, and want the same quality of life that I do.
For those of you that might not suffer from a mental illness could you imagine wearing a label on your shirt everyday that listed your worse trait? Or lists the worse thing you’ve ever done? Society is such that there is always a group of people that need to be on the bottom of the pile. The worse of the worse. The group that everyone else stands on so they can feel taller and feel as though they are better than someone. I cannot continue to live my life with the goal of being better than someone. My goal and our goal should always be the best me I can be. If that means finding ways to utilize your mental illness to help others then do it. If that means forgetting about things others may have done to you in the past then do it. Its not easy to forget and sometimes forgetting is harder than forgiving regardless of what others may say. But one thing I know to be true is that dwelling on it is not going to make you a better you.
Part of the reason I am where I am is because I was always trying to keep up with the Jones’s. I was trying to keep up and I failed to realize just how much of my life I was missing. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I wasn’t trying to be the best me. I wasn’t trying to be the best husband I could be. I wasn’t trying to be the best father I could be. I was trying to be everything but me. Don’t try to be something you are not. How can you expect others to accept you for who you are if you are not willing to accept you for who you are?
My son and I spent 4 hours together on Monday and he taught me lessons without even having to speak. What a world this would be if we could all step back and watch and listen to how forgiving, loving, and compassionate our children can be and apply it to our own life. If we want to be accepted we must first learn how to accept.