Today I’m stretching myself and sharing something more personal than usual. About emotions. Which isn’t my usual style. It’s the emotional aspects of myself I find most personal and difficult to share in any form. I’m a very controlled person, and I like it that way.
But this blog is for me as well as for you, and I want to be honest in describing my travel and adventures. Most days are amazing, some days are ‘just’ great, and every now and then, there’s the odd more challenging day. But that’s ok. The light and the dark, the sun and the shade, all are part of the rich and glorious patchwork quilt of life. I’m happy to include every patch in my quilt.
I’m in Koh Samui airport, again, and I’m feeling unusually, deeply, sad. It’s Father’s Day in the UK, and my Facebook and Twitter streams are full of beautiful pictures and messages from my friends towards their dads. And I’m sad because my Dad passed away more than 5 years ago, much too young, in his mid fifties.
I miss him every day.
Last night I had a conversation with someone about how unusual it is for me to cry. And how I’m not keen on emotions. Or being emotional. And we talked about why, and I think it’s because of both a need for control, and a dislike of feeling vulnerable.
I’m sitting in a café, surrounded by tourists, in the world’s most beautiful airport (official). I have a long time until my flight because of the limited ferries to get here from the island where I live. I am on my way to Singapore for work. I was in this airport three days ago coming back from Bangkok, and I will be back here again for my return journey in two days. There aren’t many business travellers who come in and out of Koh Samui, so I feel a bit isolated because of that. Distant. But I’m tired too, and that plays into how I’m feeling.
I decide to honour my Dad with a picture and message of love on Facebook – it’s the modern way. I flick through some photos on my computer of the two of us, and I put up one my Aunt sent me recently. Dad and I look happy – he has a glass of wine – it looks like a parish function, as he is in his dog collar. I’m in a dress, unusual. Smart.
My throat is choked and my eyes feel wet.
A wave of sadness passes through me physically, and my eyes are hot. I blink back tears, and feel annoyed with myself on top of the sadness. I don’t want to share my emotions with these strangers around me. The couple with the cute child in a dress too big for her. The elegant Italian couple having a single expresso each. The British couple reading OK magazine and Mercedes magazine respectively. The two very young, well groomed and neat lads, who have all their travel itineraries and documents printed in a neat folder and are consulting them carefully.
But I don’t need to worry. Everyone around me is wrapped up in their own worlds. Few of us look outside ourselves and our own concerns to what’s happening with others. I do, sometimes, as I like to make up stories and people watch, but then I am a psychologist. I’m allowed. But often I’m wrapped up in my own world in the same way.
I leave my table and go and gather some airport napkins. I’m angry. I snatch them up quickly before the staff member behind the counter realizes why I might be taking them. I sit back down, and a tear falls onto my laptop. I struggle with the emotions; sadness, anger, grief. I wipe the tear off, and decide to take the moment to think about Dad.
I play this song on my laptop in the cafe. I listen through my headphones, on repeat. Dad once played this song for my sister and I on the BBC Essex radio programme he presented each week. A really strong memory for me is listening to it live, and then afterwards, sitting in my parents’ living room, on the sofa, leaning into the circle of my Dad’s arms and feeling protected and loved. He gave great hugs, my Dad, and was very comfortable with physical affection and love for his family. I’m grateful for that. I’m not a touchy person with strangers (in fact I have very strong personal space boundaries), but once I trust someone, and feel close to them, I like to connect through touch.
Perhaps I also feel sad right now because in this current life, this travelling life, this itinerant life, this solitary life – this amazing life – I don’t have many people whom I am comfortable touching like that. Casually, lovingly and openly. Easily.
After the funeral, back at work, I held myself together pretty well. I went straight back to a ‘presentation tour’, where I was part of a team who went round the UK to 7 venues and presented to audiences from 25 to 100 on the latest thinking and products. I functioned, I excelled, I did my job. But one night, a few days in, at dinner in a bar with my colleagues, this song came on the loudspeakers. And I went to the toilets and it hit me pretty hard. I wept tears of loss and loneliness that Dad was gone. I kept my emotions to myself.
So unusually, in this café, with croissant crumbs on the floor, and surrounded by people in their own worlds, in a place where everyone is transitioning, I let myself feel the emotions around losing my Dad. I remember how grateful I am for the support of the rest of my family – how their wordless comfort supported me through that terrible time, and still now. How most of the time, I can talk about him without that emotion, and with gratitude that he was in my life for 29 years.
On my own journey, physical, spiritual, intellectual, social at the moment, every day something happens I want to talk to him about. Something I want his opinion on. Something I want to share with him.
I learnt a lot from my Dad. He was a man who did what he loved, who was deeply spiritual, but open and curious about what others had to say on their own spirituality. Fiercely intelligent, he could discuss anything, and debate with anyone. He loved his family and friends deeply. He loved me wholeheartedly. Absolutely. I have no regrets about my relationship with him, nothing I did or said which I would do differently, apart from wanting more time – to laugh, joke, talk, share, love and be loved.
I want my life to be part of his legacy, passed on through my own interactions, values and life to the people around me.
To be someone he would be proud of every day, in the same way I think of him every day.