Everything has a beginning…

My father was a US Marine from 1967 to 1970. He had an insanely stressful job, close to death every day, saw his friends blown up, etc….so tons of PTSD. Before that though he was a creative child in a household where unless you did sports or were an accountant you were perceived as an aimless disaster. My grandfather, while an amazing grandparent to us kids, had no understanding of what it meant to have a relationship with his sons. Everything was hard ass, black and white….my dad was a 150% creative, nervy, emotional, abstract, heartfelt and probably as a kid was innately affectionate. Understanding and affection is not something he received from his own father.

My grandpa was an accountant. Nobody crossed t’s and dotted i’s like that dude. He was relentless in his precision with everything and that carried over into his parenting. He also himself, was treated like shit as a kid by his own struggling parents, survivors of the depression era, etc. high stress and trauma, especially as it related to money, were in our DNA…so the whole idea of a warm fuzzy parent/child relationship was just lost, not even in the same universe as their family dynamic.

This was extremely hard on my dad. He was raised feeling like he’d never make the cut with his dad. For my father, everything in life was color and music and sensory-experience. He never got any real validation for that, just disappointment from his dad for not being good at little league baseball. So like most of us creatives, he really took this to heart and went crazy academic in college, graduating magna cum laude, top of his class at Cal Poly Pomona….dotting all the i’s, crossing all the t’s, unknowingly chasing all that validation he never got from his dad. The most important thing in life was “having your shit together” financially, avoiding your emotions, your creativity and anything deemed illogical and a waste of “time and money.”

While my dad did all that in college after the Vietnam War, financially he was a total disaster. He was seriously one of he most creative people I’ve ever known. He could draw, he could paint, he could play guitar like a “motherfuckin’ riot.” He taught me how to fingerpick a guitar and could kick out “Blackbird” by the Beatles or “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie and it sounded GOOD.

The challenge though is that he was tortured on the inside about all of that, anything right-brained. Whenever he did anything creative as an adult he was so sensitive about it because while it came natural to him, every time he engaged in it, plucked a guitar string, picked up a paintbrush and got out his oil paints, his childhood codependence and negative reinforcement associated with it cut deep. We all know someone who was continuously scorned for just being who they are naturally but when it’s your own parent that does that to you from a young age, it’s hard to get over that, even with extensive counseling.

While he was not nearly as harsh on my brother and I as his dad was him, he definitely still carried his version of the torch of broken self-worth into our family dynamic big time. He was still physically rough with us, judgemental and honestly just didn’t have the tools to have a meaningful father/son relationship he so desperately needed himself…and not just father/son but father to a creative, highly sensitive couple of sons that needed far more nurturing, hugs, kisses and validation than he could every offer. He just didn’t have the tools for it.

This is where the foundation was laid for financial failure and career “breadwinner” stress for me. It’s where the path to trauma and anxiety for his own kids, and my own struggles with the idea of finance, being good enough and deserving enough to succeed at anything started….and why this pandemic handed me my mangled mental health ass on a platter.


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