Dear Dad: Facing Rejection

I wish you were here with a snarky comment to put me back into perspective.

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Dear Dad:

Wow….It’s been almost five months since your service, and it feels simultaneously like yesterday and a decade ago. I’m sitting at my kitchen table with a blue light on as the garbage collectors collect trash & compost & recycling. These simple routines remind me of how it was something as simple as a hand upon your shoulder that made you smile too. And my smile is tinged with sadness just like yours.

I try not to get consumed by the overwhelming anger & rage I have at how you were taken from our family because of a cancer that was (most likely) preventable. It was greed & capitalism & White Supremacy & ecocide that killed you. It was a fervent belief in the superiority of man over all of nature that killed you. It was a chemical that should be banned (and is in some countries) that (most likely) killed you. It was not just the mantle cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma that killed you. Cancer is a metaphor.

I wish I could call you instead of write into the void. I want to hear a snarky comment, something unexpected that would possibly make me a bit defensive but would cut through all of the bull shit. My head’s been swirling with rejection, and I know you’d have something wise to say. I know this because I know how much you, too, fear rejection, and how my rejection of you after coming out hurt you so, so very much. I’ve gotten multiple rejections to art things I’ve applied to the past few weeks, and your snark, which again would be tinged with sadness and a bit of nostalgia, would help me put it all into perspective.

I’m still waiting.

Instead, these thoughts keep swirling and swirling about how I show up in the world and whether my existence within this space-time matters. “Yes, it does,” says my heart for it knows love, is love. “Yes, maybe,” says my stomach as it churns and churns and churns. “Hmmm….,” says my brain as it analyzes and critiques “existence” and “matter”. “Probably not,” say my eyes as the tears flow down my cheeks. “Dear Dad,” type my hands instinctively.

And I am still waiting.

This waiting is also a space of possibilities. There is still a possibility of you responding to my letters, especially the ones written after your death and to this one specifically, if I can just wait long enough to notice it. It will not come in the form of a letter, but it will come and I will know it when I experience it (but only if I am in the proper state.) Waiting prepares me for this state.

Waiting is also spinning for someone with ADHD, like me (and most likely like you, though you were never diagnosed.) My mind spins this morning with insecurities sparked by a random thought of you. I want and need you to know: you are not the cause of my insecurities, though I probably did (partially) inherit them from you. Anxiety is both genetic and behavioral, and an anxiousness undergirds all of my insecurities. And you were diagnosed with severe anxiety.

That, too, I know comes from generational trauma inflicted by generations of poverty. Poverty was not your fault, and I know that sometimes, especially late at night / early in the morning, knowing that truth was impossible. Poverty is what fueled the bullying you received. Poverty is what kept you literally hungry as a child. Poverty is what fueled violence in your home. For poverty creates severe anxiety and capitalism needs poverty to survive.

I know all of this, and I know you knew it too for we had deep conversations about the structures of this country and how these structures (are designed to) keep us depressed psychologically and materially. And knowing it does not decrease the emotional toll it takes on one’s psyche and spirit. It only gives it a name.

As I wait for your response, I think of you and your last year, a year in which I never got to physically see you, to touch your shoulder or kiss your cheek. This memory is so bittersweet for while we did not physically touch we were the closest we had ever been thanks to these letters, which you requested. Not being in physical proximity allowed us to be closer in spiritual and political proximity. The complexities held within it all astound me.

I also think back to those that were in physical proximity to you, the ones you invited into your home even as COVID raged and your immune system became more and more compromised. I think about the negotiated conversations about boundaries and safety protocols, about the dance of physical wellness and emotional well-being, about the limits of mom being able to physically lift you. I think about all of the people who cared for you, held you, bathed you, loved you, and I see in them a response from you.

You are reminding me to bear it all, to be radically vulnerable and honest in my reflections on my being. You never held back with your family of blood or of choice. That is one thing poverty and capitalism never took from you: your honest vulnerability. It is why I know you struggled with rejection late at night / early in the morning. It is why I know you were relentlessly bullied in school, the same one I attended. It is why I know you were hungry as a child. It is why I know so much about who you be in all of your messy complexities. You let yourself be seen.

Well, dad, here is me writing to you and publishing yet another letter in an effort to be seen in all of my messiness. It is in tribute to you. It a part of your legacy and my inheritance.

(Overshare moment: I kinda want to vomit as I consider hitting publish. Then again, I wanted to vomit every time I sent you a letter. Something about expunging the contents of my stomach feels very much like a physical manifestation / reaction / response to these words.)

My mind is still swirling and spinning, and I am still thinking (obsessing?) about rejection. But it doesn’t feel as intimidating or as isolating or as depressing as it did at the start of this letter to you. In fact, it—my anxiety and depression and ADHD—kinda now just feels like a fact of my existence. This fact can simply be acknowledged, just like I can acknowledge the fact that the United States is an extremely violent country / nation. And I do not need to let it determine anything about my being in the here & now.

Thanks, dad, for this conversation this morning. I heard / found your response as I waited and wrote. All the garbage trucks have finished their collecting. And the sun is coming up over Potrero Hill. It’s a bit foggy, and so it is still a bit dark. There’s work to be done. But first, I need a bit more coffee. I know you’d approve.

In fact, I’ll pour a cup for you today and let it sit out. I’d like to have you here with me all day. I kind need your guidance. Or at least your company.

In grief & joy & rage & love,

Jason Michael Wyman


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