Monday, February 25, 2013

The Gift of the Absent Father

My wife and I are about to embark on our next big adventure. We've forged an amazing bond through our travels through Europe, Bali, the Caribbean and others. Wherever we go, we always explore and get off the beaten path, usually with a backpack and an agenda to have no agenda, to let our spirit and randomness take us where it wants to.

This time we are moving to Mexico with our two dogs, a cat and a Yakima sky box on the roof of our Honda Pilot.

It dawned on me today how fortunate I am to have been given this sense of independence and adventure. It's a confidence that I can go and do anything, anywhere. I've had it since I was young, when I would ride the bus to St Louis to go to Cardinals games at 14 by myself or when I sold a 100 items for a school fundraiser so I could win a Nintendo.

This spirit of independence and adventure has lead me to success in sales, in the Army, in college and today as an entrepreneur.

This is the gift of my absent father. I realized that perhaps my father was absent just so I could have the courage and the independence to go on crazy adventures with my wife, just so I could break free from an employer and do the work I am meant to do as a coach.

Today I celebrate the independence in me and in you. We are powerful and resilient. We were given a gift and tempered in this way for a reason.

Our job is to heal the pain that tells us we have to do it by ourselves; while honoring our ability to do it by ourselves.

If we can honor our ability to be independent and learn to allow love and support from others, our power and potential is unlimited.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Will You Help Me Move?

Probably five of the hardest words I have said in the last several months. Maybe this seems like five simple words for most people. Right? It's completely reasonable to ask your friends or family for a favor once in awhile, and this is just for a few hours on a Saturday, its not even money.

So what's the big deal? Well, the process of moving, is where I became aware of the deep roots of how dangerous I think it is to get supported by others. In most areas of my life, I am able to get by without asking for too much help from other people.
However, moving sucks sooo bad that even "Mr. Do It All By Myself"(me) is willing to ask for help.

Of course, I've realized that my aversion to support is not because I enjoy doing things by myself. It just seems safer. Absent my father, I made up that I could not rely on anyone and to do so, from here on out, was way too risky.
No way was I ever going to experience the pain, on any level, of being supremely disappointed by someone I was vulnerable to.

Now, consciously I know that asking my best friend or my incredibly gracious, loving and supportive in-laws is not going to lead to excruciating pain and isolation, but it doesn't matter, the same old roots of that pain, of being left to fend for myself and the fear of realizing that maybe I'm not worth being helped is almost too much.

The other part of this is that there is a scared part of me that fundamentally believes that I'm not worthy of being helped or supported even by the people that love me the most.
And, I'm afraid that if I ask for help, they will think I'm needy and not love me anymore. It's kind of like me not wanting to rock the boat, or push my luck too far.

"Just be happy that they haven't left you," is what the voice says.

This blocks me and you from having the full experience of being loved and supported and contributed to.  You might notice you are also uncomfortable with receiving gifts or being celebrated.

If you won't do it for yourself, please do it for the little boy or girl version of you, that was heartbroken by the absence of a parent and deprived of the love they so desperately wanted.

The only way out is to love yourself and practice allowing others to love you.  Its the antithesis of your story.

I Love You and You Are Worthy.

Monday, February 11, 2013


I think the hardest thing that I've been working on overcoming is my need to perform and do things perfectly. Everywhere all the time. Brushing my teeth, cooking a recipe, being a best man, uncle, husband, and especially any thing to do with work.

Somewhere along the way I made up that in order to be loved or safe or to avoid disappointing others, I needed to do everything good or right. I believe kids without one of their parents grow up with a deep yearning for love and affection they miss out on. I sure did.

When I was a boy and up through my 20's the feedback was pretty consistent, at least in my own head. Do a really good job, work as hard as you can, do something well enough to earn attention (love) from your coach, teacher, boss or other people's parents that you wished we're yours.

I say "at least in my own head" because I'm the one that made the connection: better performance = more love and affection.

Believe me, this way of "doing life" drove me to get good grades (when I tried), to do well in the Army, graduate college, land a six figure job and make a few high school baseball teams.

Here's the problem: when you do life this way, you don't believe you are worthy to be loved unless you are constantly achieving or performing and of course, you have to do bigger, better and faster all the time, everyday, in every setting.

The two biggest impacts of "doing life" this way are:

1. You never get to be loved just for the special, unique gift you are to the planet and that is what you are. You are worthy to be loved because you breathe.  The idea that your lovability is based on what you do is a source of perpetual misery.

2. Your performance will always have a ceiling and a breaking point. When your performance is driven by a will to please others, you lose your own creative voice. Fundamentally, you are controlling yourself into doing well and even the most controlling can only control for so long before you withdraw and self-destruct.

Take on this practice: The path out of this cycle is noticing, yep just noticing, whenever you are judging your performance and basing your lovability or value based on what you do and how you did it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Fantasy Dad

In the absence of my real father, I created an idea of what fathers are like.  A vision of what a man and father are and what they might be like if I had one.  This man was the type of man who wore a suit to work and did important business things, then came home and played catch with his son, coached the little league team.  He was a romantic, generous and loving husband.  He was strong and caring and always had your back.
That man never became my father and that disappointment has been the source of a dull, aching pain that I have mostly ignored my entire life.

You may have created a "Fantasy Dad" too and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  The danger is when you think that what it means to be a good man or father is being exactly like the fantasy you created in your mind as a child.  

My "Fantasy Dad" was absolutely perfect in every way, truly God-like, every good quality you could imagine in a human being all at once and all the time.
I used my "Fantasy Dad" as the model for what it means to be a man.  That was the measuring stick to live up to.  And, unfortunately I've learned in my 31 years that no one is "perfect" at least in the way our egos would measure perfection.  (For the record, From a spiritual perspective I believe everyone is perfect and all of it is perfect.)

Trying to become my "Fantasy Dad" is a 24/7/365 job with no finish line. It means whatever I accomplish is never enough, it never measures up: running 9 marathons (wasn't fast enough and should have done 10) graduating college with a 3.5 GPA (Should have been better school), being promoted to E-6 at 21 in the Army (It was just the Reserves), or making 100k a year by 27 (I got lucky).

Not only is this exhausting because I have to constantly achieve in order to be worthy, I never get to enjoy wins in life because nothing I ever do will measure up.

How do we escape this rat race? Here are some tips to support you:

1. What was your "Fantasy Dad" like? Write it down, what kind of work did he do? How did he treat women? How did he treat his children?
2. Notice everywhere and every time you are measuring yourself against the fantasy of a man you created.
3. Celebrate your wins even if it feels stupid.  Treat yourself in whatever way you treat yourself and make it a point to celebrate even small wins. Eventually, you will build a muscle that allows you to enjoy life.

 Just noticed, I'm feeling like this blog wasn't very good. So I have one more practice for you and I.  

4. Practice letting go of your interpretations about your work. There mostly unreliable.  Ask other people to acknowledge you for your greatness.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Follow your Heart...

As a kid who thought he had to figure it all out on his own, I went to work forcing and controlling and achieving, from my head.  All the while of course my heart was guiding and directing me, I just wasn't fully listening.  I was too afraid to listen to my heart fully. What if I failed, what if it didn't work out. Of course as a young man without a Dad, I thought if I did fail, if it didn't work out, it would be the end of me.  Us fatherless sons tell ourselves the story that we are all alone and that we have to fend for ourselves every second of every day.
The two things I want to say are:
1.) It isn't true that we are all alone, look all around you, there are people who are dying to support you and get your back if you would just let them.
2.) If you follow your heart, you will be taken care of and you can never fail.

Have a Great Day,

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wife Leaves = Downward Spiral

Mostly, I don't even want to share this, because the self critical voice that keeps this whole story in place tells me that it's pathetic and lame that I would feel this way.
Since, somewhere in me, I know that that voice is not true, I'm going to share anyway.  And, my hope is that it helps you understand a little more about yourself.

I am married to an amazing woman. Her name is Tasha and she is the safest space in my life. She is the one person, I've really allowed myself to relax with and be loved by and supported by.  Believe me, I'm still a work in progress with the allowing myself to be loved part, but the point is that her presence has a healing effect on my heart. I can experience myself as loved and supported and free to be me.  Its kind of a like guard dog who doesn't need to guard any longer.

Anyway, my wife is a destination wedding planner and travels for occasional contract work where she is gone weeks at a time.  She has been traveling like this most of the time that we have been together.  Today, I'm into day 4 or so of her being gone and I find myself going into a familiar downward spiral where I stop taking care of myself, I feel isolated and alone and I perpetuate that by staying isolated and alone.

This has happened enough times now that I fully expect this downward spiral every time she leaves.  Its hard to admit for a man who crafted his life around not being dependent on anyone.  Of course, us men who grow up fatherless tend to craft non-dependent lives.

If we remain completely independent from all others, it protects us from the possibility of being disappointed or let down by someone we count on.

When she leaves, I believe it triggers emotional wounds that go back to being a very small child when I  realized that my father was not there and that fundamentally I was alone and had to fend for myself.  It has to be that because the numbness and bad feelings wash over me uncontrollably.

If you're in this place with me, here are some tips that I promise to follow if you do.
1. Have compassion for the part of you that needs your special person to be with you.
2. Get ahead of the downward spiral by putting in structures to connect with your significant other, as well as friends and family while they are away.
3. Make a list of 10 things that are loving that you can do for yourself while they are away. For example, healthy meals, drink water, go to the movies, exercise, drink less alcohol, etc.
4. Book a session with a therapist or highly trained coach.

Thanks for listening and I hope you can find your way out of the downward spiral as I find my way out of mine.  Or, maybe I'll just be with it and forgive myself.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Growing Up Fatherless Story

I grew up having never even seen a picture of my father.  My Mom and him were casually dating, when he found out, he split.  I finally met him when I was 13 and having had the opportunity was ultimately thankful that he hadn't been my "Dad."  That word "Dad," a word that I can never say, a word that represents a hole in little Rodney's heart who never had his.

By then, the heartbreak and its impacts were firmly cemented.  In fact, by age 5 or so, I don't even remember having a feeling one way or the other about not having a father in my life like the other kids.
I believe this is the nature of the heartbreak for so many men who grow up with an absent or distant father.  We don't even know we are heartbroken because it's been there our whole life.

Up until around the age of 25, I hadn't really had any feelings at all about growing up without a father.  Thank God, I found a deeply connected and rigorous life coach training program that challenged me to look at my fears, feelings and stories that I tell myself.  That's when I began to unravel how growing up fatherless was impacting my career and relationships.  I learned how it keeps from fully experiencing the love of others, how it has me closed and protected, how I place a subconscious limit on my potential.

Today, through a lot of work on myself, a lot of reading, therapy and coaching, I now have some altitude on my story.  I have begun shifting the story that I'm just an abandoned, worthless kid out of the way.  Every step forward has given me more access to my greatness, more opportunity to be loved and more joy.  I want you to escape this story too.

The Absent Father Project

Welcome to The Absent Father Project. 
The Absent Father Project is a blog for men who grew up with an absent or distant father.  Its a place to understand our selves and learn about the impacts of being abandoned.  Its a place for men to heal the feelings many of us have chosen to never feel.  Its a place for men to grow up and transcend our childhood stories.  Its a place to connect, to share,  and mostly to experience that we are not alone in this journey.
It's a place for me, Rodney Mueller, a fatherless son, to share and creatively express the profound impact that growing up without a Dad has had on my life.  Through my story and my perspective, I hope to shed light on yours and as I free myself from my story of growing up fatherless, I hope to free you from yours.
We don't have to be trapped by the story that we made up about ourselves as a little boy. The story that we are not good enough and that we can't rely on others places a ceiling on our experiences in life.  It creates an upper limit with money, leadership and love.
Join me as we endeavor to transcend these stories and reclaim our power.