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With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I’m reflecting on the lessons I learned from my dad. He has been absent from this earth for more than 15 years, but part of him is with me in so many ways. He was an introvert, and so much more. He was an artist, a voracious reader, and a kind man. We didn’t always communicate very well. I think that we were perhaps too much alike, too stubborn, too hidden behind our own walls. But I know that he loved me.

Here are some of the lessons I gained from him during our years together:

1. We Don’t Have to Fit Our Introvert Natures Into A Box

I sometimes wonder if life can be more challenging for male extroverts than for females. There are some beliefs out there, even in this day in age, whereby men are expected to be loud, bold, take charge types. Ideas surrounding masculinity are evolving but can be sticky and difficult to shake at times. The lesson here is to know who you are, and don’t worry about what labels anyone may try to impose. Know who you are, and own it. After all, you are the only you in the universe!

2. When Someone We Love Dies, We Continue To Carry Them With Us

I inherited some talents and traits from my dad, such as my love of drawing, the shape of my feet, a taste for amazing foods. But in addition to the inherited traits, I know that I carry a piece of my dad’s spirit in my heart forever. There is something eternal about love, whether it’s for a blood relative, friend, or partner. Part of us is shared with them, and part of their spirit remains with us at all times. It’s a beautiful connectedness that we share with others, and it’s a powerful force that never ends.

3. You Can Be Social In Small Doses

My dad was a traveling salesman. Many introverts wouldn’t think of sales as an ideal career path, especially the type where you have to shake hands, make presentations, meet and greet- the whole noisy shebang. But my dad’s job also required him to spend a lot of time alone, on long car trips and in hotels. He was able to use his energy in doses when he needed it, then recharge.

This is a big lesson I’ve learned about my self: I need to find a balance between being social and recharging my batteries in my own way. This is part of self-care because we often need to step outside of our comfort zones from time to time. Flexing those social and emotional muscles can be rewarding, as long as we protect ourselves from burnout.

4. Corny Jokes Are Always Appropriate

At my dad’s funeral, one of the attributes people mentioned more than anything else was his beautiful and infectious smile. He loved to laugh and make jokes, even if they were sometimes groaners. I still mention with fondness some of his favorites, such as, “Look at that cemetery. People are just dying to get in there!” He loved movies like the Naked Gun and Airplane, and TV shows like Saturday Night Live. I learned from him that laughter is powerful medicine. Enhance your life with laughter, joy, and the occasional corny joke- you and the world will be a better place for it.

5. Take Care Of Your Heart

I look at this lesson a couple of ways, the first being quite literal. My dad died of heart disease, after a six-bypass heart surgery and several years with an internal defibrillator.  I learned many lessons from his doctors’ advice about taking care of your physical body and heart. We only get one body in life, and we ask a lot from it. Do your best to take care of it, nurture it, and treat it with respect.

I also think of this lesson in an emotional and psychological way. In my dad’s final years, he was unable to work due to his health. He was generally very positive, but I can only imagine how lonely his journey was. Yes, he had family and friends to lean on, but he was never the type to open up to others or ask for help. When we go through trials in our lives, we must remember that we are not alone. Sometimes as introverts, I believe we have a tendency to get stuck in our own heads. This is fine, as long as we are in a good place. We need to learn to recognize and know ourselves well enough to determine the best course. It comes back to self-care, self-love, and nurturing our own spirit.

I’m grateful to my dad and the lessons he taught me. What have you learned from your own father or father-figure? I would love to hear from you, and I would love for you to subscribe to my newsletter. We are all on this journey together, so let’s support one another as we go.

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Love to you, -Suzanne