I buried one of the most toxic people I have ever met last Thursday. He was nasty, vindictive, racist, self entitled and brimming with self pity. He died in pain and afraid. He was my father.
The experience of having toxic people in your life doesn't have to be entirely negative. They can, and should be of great value to you. Once you exclude them and their poison from your life, toxic people have a great deal to teach us. The very first lesson is the one below by Robin Sharma.
Toxic people are invariably frustrated people who haven't had what they think is fair treatment in life. They feel that because their lives haven't been the stellar event they think they should be then no one else is going to have a great life. Toxic people undermine confidence and self esteem. Often they feel threatened by those who are more intelligent, better looking, have achieved more than they have and seek to destroy these people.
My father who is dead in the photograph above taught me deeply valuable life lessons.
His racism taught me that we are all the same. That we as people, as members of the same species all share the same needs of love and meaning. That the differences between us are essentially cosmetic in nature. The mixing of genes and cultures is the biggest thing we as a culture and a species have going for us.
His violence, both physical and emotional taught me tenderness. The people who I love know I love them. With my boys Ariel, Orson and William I give them the tenderness, the love that they need to grow as people. Ariel knows that I love him deeply and am seriously proud of him as a person. My father never did this, never told me these things. With Selina I do my best to be a loving, patient, gentle husband. My father was violent and abusive. If he wasn't winning one of the frequent fights with my mother who wasn't reluctant to use a gun. Because of my father I have learned to control my anger and the violence within me. My father taught me not only the value of love, but the meaning of it.
Because he refused to travel and explore I have explored and wandered and wondered. Traveling has opened my mind and allowed it to grow. Because of my father I find things to explore in the physical, intellectual and emotional worlds. I seek the trails to walk, the books to read, the thoughts and goals to have and the bliss of Forgiveness in my meditation. Because my father had a closed mind, he taught me the beauty of an open one.
Because he was unhappy and fault finding I have learned the bliss of happiness, of embracing and abiding in the positive things in life. I have found happiness in encouraging the best in people, in seeing them achieve it. I see the rewards in encouraging my children, building their confidence and self esteem.
My father taught me how to die. We frequently die in character. Having led a violent, self indulgent life where we are the sole priority, we rarely suddenly become open, caring, gentle people just because we are dying. The momentum of a lifetime is too great, the surge into the next lifetime too strong for all that many of us to alter course in our final days and hours. My father died in great pain and deeply afraid. There seems to be justice in this. A man who had spent most of his 84 years giving pain of one sort or the other to people, as he began dying found himself in pain of the sort that no amount of morphine could dull. Karma was completing its orbit and returning to its originator.
Because he had lived a life where he destroyed the confidence, the self esteem and damaged the lives of the children that wanted regular contact with him, which I mercifully didn't, my father faced the fact that he had hurt himself in the end.
This is why I can't be angry at my father. His entire life was an act of self harm. As I stood beside his grave the night after he was buried I kept asking his ghost:
"Was it worth it for you?
Did you get the results you wanted from your behaviour?"
I could only see where he had hurt himself.
With this in mind I will end with a simple: Raymond Bowater, where ever you may be, thank-you for being my Teacher.