Over my 37 years on this spinning ball of ignorance my father has given me great advice. Stop calling your brother stupid. Get your elbows off the table. Don’t use your shirt, use a napkin! Blow your nose because if you snort one more time I’m going to hurt you! You’re grounded! Again! That last may not have actually been advice.
A bottomless well of knowledge, my father is.
I’m great at giving advice, but not so much at taking it. I don’t like being told what to do, even in the form of advice. Consequently, any time I’ve gotten advice from my father I accept it gracefully (mostly) and then ignore it. Like any good son does.
I’ve been trying to narrow down the best piece of advice my father has ever given me. I’ve culled my list to two, but I think that’s as far as I can take it. So, I’ll simply share two great pieces of advice my father has shared with me repeatedly, but I’ve many a time rolled my eyes at because, well, I don’t really know why.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Like any normal child (or abnormal, for that matter), I lied to my parents. I denied committing misdeeds. I told them I would do things I had no intention of doing. When I was in trouble, I swore I would never do it again. I said I would be home by curfew. I said I would try harder at school. I lied a lot.
Whenever I was caught in one of these predicaments, my father would always say, “Actions speak louder than words.” Of course, my stubborn teenage self shrugged, rolled my eyes, and said, “Yeah, whatever,” but he was right. Actions do speak louder than words and it’s a lesson I have finally come to learn through many trials and errors.
For most of my life, I didn’t listen to the actions of others. I listened to their words. In fact, I often paid no attention to the actions of others and took words at face value. That has gotten me into some very tough situations, but after having been burned many times I’m finally paying attention to more than the words falling out of people’s mouths.
For instance, earlier this year I agreed to give Superbitch (my ex-wife – again, her chosen moniker – I didn’t make that up) another chance. She said all the right things. She had changed, she said. She knew what she wanted. She loved me. She had settled down. She now preferred to stay at home instead of going out all the time. She said all the right things.
I gave her her chance, but I was wary of her. She had told me all these things before. The first couple of weeks were great. Then I had a depressive episode.
Many of you know that depression makes you sad for no reason at all. Everything in the world can be going right for you, but depression rears its ugly head and says, “Be sad, motherfucker!” and you’re sad. There is no rhyme or reason to this madness.
Superbitch thought I was mad at her despite my repeated assurances otherwise. From that point on, her interest in our relationship did not exist. There was no affection. There was no interest in spending time with me. She started going out with her friends frequently again. When I brought these things to her attention she assured me that she still wanted us to work, but her actions told me otherwise.
This time, instead of listening to her words I listened to her actions, which didn’t change even after having a second talk with her about my concerns. So I made the decision to part ways with her, and haven’t looked back.
See, Dad? I finally took your advice…years afterward. Better late than never, amiright? RIGHT???
Be Sure BRAIN is Engaged Before Putting MOUTH In GEAR
Dad used to have a sign in his office at work that said this, or something similar to it. He took every opportunity he could to recite that phrase to me, because I often said stupid shit. This is another piece of advice I wouldn’t take to heart for almost 20 years.
When Superbitch initially left me in August of 2012, I was a clusterfuck of emotions. I was sad, lonely, depressed, bitter, angry, and drunk. In my rage I said many uncouth things to my future ex-wife. Horrid things I can’t take back, but wish I could. I called her unsavory names and wished ill things upon her. I meant none of those things, really, but was simply lashing out because I was in pain.
Superbitch handled it with grace, mostly. Instead of flinging hatred back at me she asked me to stop. She told me I was hurting her. And finally, she pointed out that I was behaving like my first wife, and that’s when the gravity of what I was doing hit me like a kick in the groin.
She was right. My goal was to get her to come home and I was never going to accomplish that by hurling demeaning epithets and telling her I hoped awful things befell her. So I stopped. When I was upset I forced myself to really think about what I was going to say before I said it. And wouldn’t you know it a funny thing happened. We actually had productive dialogue. Weird, eh?
I made it a point from that moment on to really consider the consequences of any words I speak before I utter them. That sticks and stones nonsense is bullshit. Words can hurt. Especially when hateful, bitter words are hurled by people you love.
My father is an extremely intelligent man and knows what he’s talking about. Just don’t tell him I said so. Despite our past differences he’s given me great advice over the years, most of which I disregarded because I seem to have an innate preference for learning things the hard way. People share their experiences with me. They give me their advice. Until I experience something firsthand, however, it just doesn’t seem to sink in. I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, so I attribute this to severe stubbornness.
But hey, at least I learn eventually, right?