Red Light in Traffic

Small Deaths

I heard a loud honk.

I snapped out of it and looked up to see that the light was green. I pressed on the pedal to zoom through the intersection.

I didn’t know how long the light had been green. I’d been out of it since my father passed. I’d never mourned at this level before.

Processing my father’s death had thrown me for a loop.

I missed him.

A lot.

The world felt a little different. Coffee didn’t taste as good. A walk on a trail was about my dad’s death instead of about enjoying nature.

As I drove, I appreciated this time to process everything in my life. I felt like I was becoming a different man. I remembered how, in my mid-twenties, I flipped my car because I was driving drunk. How that moment changed me. Sent me into a depression.

There are daily small deaths within us. These small deaths open us up to becoming happier and more grateful people.

We have choices that we make every single day. Eat an apple instead of a donut. Take a walk instead of plopping on the couch. Work on projects we care about instead of reading articles on our phones. The more we let old habits die, the more we can do things that help us grow happier.

When I gave up drinking, it was because I’d realized it did me more harm than good. I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. It’s a small part of me that died.

When something dies, we need to process it. To mourn, in a sense.

Sometimes that’s mourning the death of a loved one; other times, it’s mourning old habits that we no longer need.

Taking the time to mourn that drinking, reckless part of me allowed me to move on and become a happier me. Now, as I mourned my father’s death, I was learning so much about myself.

I’d gotten so angry over small issues because I didn’t process my feelings very well. I’d been afraid to embrace these feelings. I’d ignored them, just like my dad used to ignore his feelings.

We build happiness through appreciating small moments, things as simple as peeling an orange. Through asking, “How can I enjoy this situation?” or “How can I learn from this situation?” instead of focusing on just getting through it or complaining about it.

When we practice enjoying the process of peeling an orange, we’re laying the groundwork for handling bigger issues.

Mourning my father’s death was helping me slow down and understand why I acted the way I did and how I could continue to push outside my comfort zone for the growth that I sought. It sounds weird, but in a way, I was learning to be grateful for my father’s death. He taught me so much, and day by day, I saw a little more clearly how to use this knowledge to create the life that I wanted.

He wanted me to be my own man. To learn from him and do something great.

It reminds me of a great quote by Sir Isaac Newton:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Thanks again, Pops! You are still teaching me even after your death.