Idioms are intriguing to me, so much so, that over a dozen years ago, my children bought me volumes of books on etymology, word origins and phrases that we often use without knowing why. When I came across this photo of my father, who at a young age was being groomed to be a boxer, I noticed he positioned his stance with his gloves off. Like most Coach Poppy newsletters, it got me to thinking not only about where we get phrases that we use every day, yet also, my Dad, who we lost a year ago yesterday. And I wondered if there was any overlap between who he was as a man and the meaning behind taking the gloves off.
Some definitions will hold that taking of the gloves off means that now we are getting serious ... no more Mr. Nice Guy. Another set of beliefs maintains that taking the gloves off means a less confrontational way to communicate. I am more familiar with the former perception – that taking off the gloves – means more determined, more intentional harm, more focused in overcoming an opponent. And I can easily say, without hesitancy, that the ONLY time my father took off the gloves was when the opponent in the ring was cancer.
My dad, the man, was beloved by all who knew him. I almost feel like there should be a book written that only contains “good” adjectives, and then I would discover all of the words that have been used to describe my Dad in this very book! There would be words like: kind, humble, bold, courageous, thoughtful, protective, hopeful, passionate, compassionate, loving, loyal, honest, brave, caring, selfless, good, honorable, intuitive, clever, empathic, gentle, mindful, sensitive, mentoring, humane ... I could go on and on.
When my father was first diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago, I smelled the fear around our family. In a deft bob and weave move, my Dad, took off the gloves and stepped into the ring with boldness and solid assuredness. Rocky Balboa had nothing on my Dad in this particular ring.
Over the span of four years, there were seven different times when his opponent knocked him down and the referee started his counting. With positive encouragement, projected hopefulness, and immense cheering from us, my father rallied each of those times with remarkable finesse, mindfulness, and gusto. With fierce uppercuts, cross jabs, and right hooks, he sent his opponent flying into the ropes. KO’s soon followed and in spite of opponent after opponent in the cancer matches, I imagine my Dad might have said, “Bring on another round.”
When my Dad had determined that his legacies were well positioned, that his life purpose and intentions were full and complete, only then did the Champion take a bow and with amazing grace, exit the ring. He was never defeated; with gloves off, and laid aside, he merely determined when the sparring match was over.
Even though it has been a year since my father made his transition, he is still so ever-present. When I dream about my Dad, I feel I have received a beautiful gift from him. Opening my eyes and heart to the goodness, the positive, the life lived in love, is what trumps and overrides any sad memory.
At a recent keynote speaking engagement as a coach, I suggested that we “reframe” every situation that we experience into a possibility-laden opportunity for positivity, learning and growth. Ask: “What have I learned here?” “What is the upside to this situation?” “What is the best thought or feeling I can have?”
And in the year since my father’s passing, I continually ask myself – not through sorrow, although I miss him tremendously – “What would my Dad – my mentor who loved me unconditionally - say?”
And I receive an answer. Every single time.