“Give me a piece of your mind”

My parents are honest people with strong opinions for which they sometimes need loud words.

Even now that they have grandkids, I have seen them explaining matters of the world in a way some others may feel is not appropriate for such young kids. Some kids dig it and others zone out when being spoken to in this manner, but I always thought it was kind of cool that my dad never “dumbed things down” for me.

A request I got from my father on several occasions (and far too often, as far as I was concerned at the time) was “give me a piece of your mind”.  You can imagine it was something he did to get a sense of what his sulky adolescent daughter might be thinking. I never really knew what he meant and my answer never seemed to be what he was hoping to hear anyhow.

You could say honesty was valued highly in our household. And to express your honest opinions it was required to be eloquent. “Just because” was never a valid explanation for anything and I was allowed (up to a certain extent) to expect the same from them.

I remember my first boyfriend was quite overwhelmed by the in depth conversations we had over dinner.

The biggest liar and most truthful person, all in one

A line that I wrote down in my “ideas journal” the other day, is that my father is “one of the most honest people I know, as well as one of the least”.

He is one of the most honest because he doesn’t seem afraid to have an uncommon opinion. He will stand up for his beliefs, at the cost of being “the odd one” in a crowd. He is also unwillingly honest, as his face just gives away what he thinks about you and your explanation.

At the same time, he is one of the least honest people I know because as much as he tries to uphold the idea that he doesn’t care what others think of him, his fear of appearing to be weak always wins. He will say everything is going splendidly and that he has never felt better, until he reaches the point that the only one buying it is him.

Then again, does it count as lying if he lied to himself about it first?

Also, his stubbornness sometimes reaches truly absurd levels. He will stay on a chosen course even after being disproved by someone. Adjusting your course would be admitting you were wrong at some point and that apparently is not an option in his world.

He can also be very arrogant, in the sense that he will easily discard your idea as a lesser opinion if it is not in line with his. And not only is the opinion of low quality, so are you for coming up with it. He will use big, aggressive words to make you feel unsure about your line of thought, and make you back down. You might even accept his own idea at some point, just because he presents it with so much self confidence.

Intellectual & Emotional Honesty

What I figured out only recently is that the type of honesty I was taught to express was purely intellectual. That is the type of honesty that researchers and journalists apply in their work. It is the type of honesty that is based on logic, historical facts, knowledge, vocabulary and grammar.

This type of intellectual honesty is something that comes natural to me. I have never had trouble forming my opinion or pointing out to someone when they set off my bullshit radar and why.

Apparently the invisible, irrational, uncontrollable concepts of feelings are something you can be honest about too… You apparently don’t even need words to express them! Mind. Blown. And when it comes to being honest about those, I suck. I wonder why?

A child’s tears

This brings me to the final clue to my father’s dishonesty; he has never been able to handle my tears.

…Not that I even know how to cry anymore…

Unless some plant or tree is in bloom, or something.

And there’s some snot involved during these pollen allergies, as well.

But maybe they don’t actually qualify as tears.

Anyhoooooowww, see how awkward I get from talking about these things??

…where were we?

Ah yes, me crying.

Far before I reached an age that this was reasonable for, I was expected to be able to explain my behavior, especially when my behavior included tears. If I couldn’t come up with a “good” reason for my eye leakage, I was simply asked to stop doing that. And so I did.

All though my father told me years later that the crying prohibition was one of the few things he regretted in life, it did teach me to express myself pretty well. I know what I want and don’t want and am more capable than many others to express where my boundaries lie.

After analyzing the heck out of it during my long train ride home last week I came to a new theory. He saw my tears as criticism. Honest little wet mirrors rolling down a child’s cheek. And he couldn’t deal with that.

Time for a new lesson

Don’t get me wrong. My childhood was actually pretty awesome. Part of it was thanks to my parents, other parts were great despite of them. I hold no grudges. Or I try not to.

I am definitely thankful towards my parents for giving me the ability to discuss every possible topic, be it social, political or cultural in any crowd. When it comes to other forms of honesty however, I think I may have a lesson or two for them.

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Musical first aid

Last weekend, while visiting my parents I put on some music on their way-too-high-tech audio system and motivated my dad to cruise through the wondrous world of YouTube.

My daddio goes through phases of extreme innovation and radical conservatism; wanting to be ahead of the rest with the newest-of-the-newest technology and gadgets on one day, and only wanting to purchase things from “people you can look in the face and shake hands with” on the other. Sometimes both at the same time. It is possible. But it’s confusing sometimes. To me, I mean. To him it makes perfect sense.

Anyhow, my dad was going on a fanatic musical-melancholy tour through YouTube, watching old Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan footage and was about to go into his “they just don’t music like this anymore”-rant. Luckily, I came prepared and presented him with First Aid Kit, the wonderful Swedish duo that can restore your faith in humanity and modern day music in one sitting.

 

Oh, how I hope to get the chance to see them live some day. I’ll be heading to Roskilde festival again this year… Fingers crossed…

 

 

 

the old development worker

This post was first published in my political analysis corner, but after giving it some more thought I changed it around a bit, split the original blog in two and decided to bring the part about my dad over here, which seems more fitting…

As my father returns to Afghanistan for the so-many-eth time I can see he is tired. He is still doing the job he has done all his life; writing and evaluating development aid projects, always returning with the conclusion that it wasn’t enough; that human greed sabotaged progress once again and that people at the bottom of the food chain have stopped believing they will ever be better off.

Irak 2009 (237)

I got angry with him a couple of months ago, when he rambled on and on about everything that was wrong with mankind, about how all that is good and beautiful in the world is being broken down and trampled on. It takes him several weeks to come down from that cynical cloud each time he returns, which gives us very little time to actually enjoy his company before he heads out again to burden his soul and thoughts with the weight of the world.

It reminded me of when my great aunt, aged 95, lost her son and declared she no longer believed in god, if this was how he treated her and the people she loved. I felt I needed to guide her back to her faith as if this would somehow restore the balance in the world. She was the believer and I the non-believer and that is how it was meant to be.

In the case of my father, he was the one fighting for more funds for development aid and voting on the political parties that most fanatically promoted the re-distribution of wealth, whereas I stood somewhere slightly left of center, being skeptical and calling for a more inclusive system but with a critical eye on unnecessary handouts. I criticized NGO’s and their old fashioned post-colonial attitude of bringing aid and knowledge to the “poor unknowing souls in the third world”. I called my dad paternalistic and labelled him old school. He called me naive and unrealistic.

But now it seems my dad has lost his faith in the sector he has worked in for almost fifty years and that he can’t seem to let go of (or it of him). More than anything he has lost his faith in the Middle East and Afghanistan most of all. He gets so very bitter when he speaks of the endless violence, the politicians sabotaging productive decision making and the corruption that runs through every single institution. I think it is the shamelessness that accompanies it that hurts him most of all.

DSC_0175.JPGOn the one side I wish he would just retire and spend the rest of his days walking through his garden, talking to the cat and taking pictures of butterflies. On the other hand I know it would be the death of him as he is addicted to the feeling of being needed and making a difference.

Even if at the end of the day he feels hardly any progress was made on the issue at hand, he needs to give it his full 100% and maybe a little more. It’s what we love about him and at the same time it is what makes him such a difficult person to be around.

So I guess it’s up to us, the people who know him, to pick out the positive traits he has and give them new life in our thoughts and actions. Perhaps it will even help him during those moments of bitterness that will undoubtedly bubble up from time to time.

Let me be your Teddybear

“Stones or Beatles?”

I imagine this was a very relevant question back in the days when my parents were in their prime. My dad was most definitely a Stones kind of guy and I think until this day it is the music that excites him the most. So when I read yesterday’s daily prompt I new immediately what to write.

I remember discovering new music myself and wanting to share it with my parents, after which they put on a song of their own to show me. We would then go back and forth like this for a while, until my dad would get too rowdy and my mom would get annoyed by the fact he wasn’t putting everything back in alphabetical order.

All though I could name several songs that are intertwined with my childhood memories, there are two songs in particular that I associate with my father.

The first one is inevitably by the Rolling Stones. I never fully appreciated these guys and I’m sure some of this has to do with these memories. It is the music he would play the loudest, despite the LPs being slightly scratched. It is also the music that was guaranteed to put a frown on my mother’s face within seconds and lead to a riot in the house if it lasted too long. I gave my dad Rolling Stones CDs to replace his old records but he always went back to the (to my ears) horrible monophonic sounds from his LP records (and he still does).

Aside from Satisfaction the song he loves the most is most definitely Wild Horses. It is one of the songs I appreciate up to a certain degree as well, all though I must admit I often prefer to listen to a cover by someone else than the original. It’s also at the top of the list to be played at his funeral some day. Can you imagine that?

The second song is quite different. Sung by the king of rock n roll, albeit a lesser known song by him: Teddybear.

It’s quite an endearing song, isn’t it?

The combination of these two songs pretty much sums my father’s personality. He is as much the passionate trouble maker who will not let himself be dragged away even by the wildest horses, as he is the teddybear that wants to be loved unconditionally.

Calvin & Dad

Today I am going to take the easy way out and post a bunch of images from one of my favorite comics of all time: Calvin & Hobbes. But to demonstrate that I did put in SOME effort, I decided to highlight Calvin’s relationship with his dad, which is quite hilarious if you ask me…

Let’s just start by saying Calvin’s Dad is an office bum that comes across as kind of dull at first. He tends to take the easy way out when it comes to chores and all though he loves his family, doesn’t always seem totally in sync with them.

calvin snowmen protest

calvins dad on vacation

He’s kind of paranoid about his privacy:

calvin & dad future

He cares for the environment, science and atheism:

Calvin & Dad leaves

He ‘s got a magic father book that contains all the knowledge of the world:

calvin & dad parentbook

calvin & dad parentbook 2

And even though the book is secret, he still shares so much of his wisdom with his son:

clv37c

All though sometimes even he doesn’t have the answers:

Calvin & Dad 6

And all though he hardly ever smiles, he’s actually hilarious and I suspect he has his colleagues cracking up all the time. He reminds me of Louis C.K. in a way!

calvin & hobbes bedtime negotiations

Calvin & Dad 4

calvin & dad

Luckily Calvin knows how to rebuke. But of course, Dad has the last word.

Calvin & Dad 5

But it’s all good, because he totally understands and respects the Calvin & Hobbes symbiosis:

calvin hobbes bedtime story

Hail to Bill Waterson!!