As humans we don’t give up easily. My primary example is a game called “Candy Crush”. Maybe you have heard of it. Maybe you have thrown your phone at a wall because of it. Maybe you have done the “Tiger Woods fist pump” completely involuntarily because of it. While I haven’t tossed my phone at the wall, I have been observed emphatically celebrating as I beat levels 97, 146, and 200.
See the makers of “Candy Crush” depend on our unwillingness to give up. No matter how bad we fail or how close we get and fail. They know that we’ll come back more and more determined. I’ve seen and heard testimony of people being on a level for weeks!! Still they play. On a grander scale I started watching a show called “Hell on Wheels”. It’s setting focuses on the expansion west, just after Abraham Lincoln is assassinated. It follows the Union Pacific Railroad and it’s attempt to connect the east and west coasts. I get that it’s a tv show and that many of the incidents are probably exaggerated, but it does depict the human nature of not wanting to give up, despite the odds.
Here’s the thing though. There are simply things not worth fighting for. I think this human spirit gets caught up in believing it has to fight for everything or against everything. We get pulled into petty and stupid arguments that lead to nothing or worse destruction. Too many times we go down the rabbit hole and we don’t find wonderland but we find more pain and sorrow. While I firmly believe that it’s good to have dreams and to follow them to its fullest, at what point do we begin to prioritize these endeavors. Recently, I have found myself wasting time on things and people that add nothing to my life. Pursuing things that bare no fruit. The little extra energy I have is getting wasted on things that just lead to a dead ends. So, I need to shift gears and refocus. There are things in my world worth fighting for, worth not giving up. The main one is a crazy 3yr old that calls me dad. The little bit of extra energy that I was using on stupid things, I can put into him. Playing a little bit longer with him, reading one more story, and taking him to the park one more time. Fighting is not the issue, it’s what you’re fighting for.
It’s about 7:30pm. I get the idea in my head that I want to go look at a new pair of shoes. I load up Toby with promises that we’ll go look at toys afterwards if he is good. We head to the first store. A few shoes I like. These green ones seem to fit ok. I don’t “love” them. Toby is running around being his charming self. Patrons and employees look at him and then smile at me. Toby slides across the floor on his stomach laughing. A nice couple chuckle and walk past. Yeah, really cute. Time to move on little man.
It takes me a minute to pry him away from the rounder of tshirts and get him to sit in his stroller. We roll out. Stopping for a second to say hi to someone I know who just walked in with his family. Moving on little man. We get to some stairs. He gets out so I can carry the strollers down about two stairs. Then… Then… I see it. Well not really it, but them. The brown dots speckled throughout the seat of his stroller. Confusion sets in, quickly
replaced my a realization of what I am looking at. In slow motion that Michael Bay would have been proud of, I turn my head to see Toby with a large brown stain on his back covering both shorts and shirt. Time to move on little man.
He’s yelling that he wants to ride the horse! Can’t bro, you just crapped yourself. Nope, you can’t get out. You have poop all over you. We get to the car. Praise Jesus I have wipes and an extra diaper. Crap, only four wipes. This is at least at 6-7 wipe job. Nothing, absolutely nothing like stripping your kid down naked in the middle if the parking lot as you clean off his butt and front side. Clean, well mostly, ok the big pieces. New diaper. No little man, you cannot go ride the horse now. No you don’t have clothes on and you still have poop on you. Tomorrow. Time to move on little man.
So one of my favorite movies of all time is The Dark Knight. A classic line in that movie is when the Joker asks the question “Why so serious?” It’s an epic and creepy line, mostly because he is holding a knife in his hand and telling a story about how he got his scars on his face.
Recently, I’ve been asked that question a few times. “Why so serious?” Or it comes in other forms like “Why do you have to think so much? Or it comes in statements like “Stop thinking so much” “Stop over analyzing things” “just chill out and let it go”
I honestly don’t know when I became this way. I have an idea but I don’t know if I was like this before and maybe life events just magnified it. I think it came from being blindsided. I won’t get into details but it a time where I simply did not see something coming. It knocked me on my butt and it was something that I don’t know if I really ever recovered from it.
Generally, I think so much because I don’t want to be blindsided again. I don’t want to be caught off guard. In my line of work it’s an attribute that you have to have. You need to know what a kid’s motive is, what they are thinking and what they might do next. Constantly you have to analyzing people, situations and what the next step is. I want know where things stand. I want to know plans and objectives. I don’t want surprises. Don’t get me wrong, I like nice surprises like gifts and things, but it’s those life surprises that you don’t see coming and that mess you up. Those are the ones I try and guard against. It’s so hard to do.
I know that I can’t stop everything that could ever happen to me, but I’m serious because I think deep down, if I relax too much or get too comfortable again, I’ll get blindsided. I know my over analyzing, over thinking, constant planning, and pushing turns people off and probably wears people down. It’s something I have to work on. Turning it off. Turning off that part of brain that wants answers and wanting them now. How do I do this? I’ll have to think about and let you know.
So there are anniversaries and then there are anniversaries. There are the big ones like wedding, birthdays, holidays, and celebrations. Then there are those anniversaries that are little ridiculous. You know the ones. The one month anniversary of us dating. The two year anniversary of your job. They have meaning but not really. Then there is a different kind of anniversary. The ones you you would rather forget. The death of a loved one. The day that a tragic accident happened. The day you decided to separate.
Today is the 6th month anniversary of when my STBX and I decided to separate. Yesterday I had a moment. Rarely am I emotional. I’ve been called brusk, robotic, flat, and very police officer like. When I do seem to get emotional I hits me like a tidal wave. Practically knocking me on my ass. Those moments more often than not suck.
About six months ago when my STBX and I decided to call it quits, you can imagine I had one of those tidal waves of emotion. In order to cope with it I wrote/typed Toby a letter. It was just as much for me as it was for him. That letter was the genesis of this blog/rant. I have almost chickened out a few times but in a moment of vulnerability, here is that letter:
Dear Toby, (1/22/13)
Today I’m pretty sad. I would hope that my first entry to you would not be a bad one but a joyful one. However, as most human beings I find myself contemplative in times of distress. Your mother and I last night decided to separate with the intent of getting divorced. I want to let you know that this separation is not because of you and that you are not the cause of it. Even the beginning of that last statement is a complex. We are separating and you have a big part in it. We are currently not happy. We love each other but we are not friends. We don’t hang out and we don’t want to do things with each other. We both understand that wanting to be with each other should be a huge part of a marriage. With that said we also understand that we could push through this and try and maintain our previous course. The consequences of that would be huge. We would be rolling the dice on developing resentment and anger toward one another. Even if one of us is unhappy, the effect that it would have on our family as a whole would be devastating, more importantly the effect it would have on you would be devastating. We both love you too much to risk putting you through that. One thing that I have learned through my job is that parents cannot hide their issues from their kids and if they try then it makes things worse for the kids. In the end if your mom and I are happy in our lives then we will be better parents to you. If we are unhappy then the chances of us passing that on to you becomes great. Again, we love you too much to do that to you. I love you son. You are an amazing person and have enormous potential.
A friend was telling me about a time in which she ran into an “ex” from high school and it was super awkward because some crazy stuff went down “back then” and they hadn’t talked in four years. Talk about one of those moments that should be board line illegal. Everyone has had those moments where things happen when its “awkward” or you ask a question but you already know the answer before it you even ask the question, and as the words are coming out you wish you hadn’t asked?? Yeah… We’ve been on both sides. Either asking the question or answering it. That awkward moment.
One awkward moment that keeps popping up for me is the question “what are you up to tonight?” Well lets see…. Single dad of a three year old. Hmmm pretty much nothing. The kid goes to sleep by 9pm. Not like I can leave the kid home alone. I can’t take him out with me to a bar or club. Even going out to dinner is hassle. This is the same kid that I take to McDonalds and he climbs over the seat and begins jumping in the booth behind me. Also the same kid who was just running around with a fork and I was more worried that he was going to stab me than himself.
So yeah… The answer to the question “what are you up to tonight?” For the next… Um… 10-12years will probably be the same… Nothing. Really… Nothing.
Ever had the wind knocked out of you? I did. No, this isn’t some old football injury story or even anything that comical. It happened when I was about 11yrs old. I was playing on my great uncles porch. There was a dog chain wrapped around the railing. I was pretending that I was scaling the porch, like a mountain climber. I would grab the chain and plan my feet on the porch and begin pulling myself up. One time though the gain gave way. I landed with a thud on my back. The landing knocked the wind out of me. For someone who has had a history of a heart problem I remember thinking, well this is it. I’m not gonna be able to breath again. I’m gonna die because I was pretending to scale a mountain. Eventually I gained my breath back. I slowly regained my composure. But in that moment…
I’m having a moment tonight in which I feel like the wind is being knocked out of me. I look at the sea of toys, dirty dishes, trash that needs taken out, the unfinished yard, my car with so many problems I can’t begin to name, add a 3yr old who just got into trouble for pushing kids at daycare… It all seems overwhelming. The air feels like it was forced from me. I try to take a deep breath and focus but it doesn’t work. It feels like the sum of what’s going on is swallowing me whole.
I know that there are people out there that have less than I do. That have less resources. Less support. Sometimes though, it all feels overwhelming. The constant wonder of when will it get easier or will it? Will it always feel this overwhelming? Or will I just get use to the feeling? At some point I’m sure I’ll regain my composure, but in this moment…
Dear Toby (7/14/13),
Hey little man. I realize as I am typing this out that chances are when you read this you won’t be so little. Chances are you’ll be 16, 17, even an adult with kids of your own. Either way you’ll still be my little man. It’s been a crazy few weeks. I went on vacation for a wedding to Nashville. You stayed with Nanna. I was gone for five days. I had a blast but missed you constantly.
I am constantly amazed by how fast you are growing up and the information you are retaining. I think only as a parent will you understand what that’s like. I couldn’t imagine missing this time with you. I couldn’t imagine going days without seeing you. Hugging you. Kissing your cheeks. Having you “attack” me.
I know at some point you’ll grow up and not want to do those things. That you’ll go off with your friends and maybe even gone a few days. I know you’ll rather go to the movies with a friend than stay at home. Those days are coming. They’ll be here before I know it. That’s why I’m so happy to have this time with you. These moments. There are only a certain amount of these moments left. I don’t know how many or when they’ll run out. That’s why I try and do my best to be patient with you and enjoy.
So when I was in Nashville last week my buddy Jeremy and I were about to leave his house and pick up a few things. Jeremy was getting ready to leave and he put on a fresh pair of socks. He looks at me and says “you know if I was super rich I would wear a new pair of socks every day, of course I would donate them after I wore them but just wear a brand new pair everyday.”
So that got us thinking about how much it would cost to pull this off and surprisingly it wasn’t that expensive. We ended up calculating to wear a new pair every would about $3,000. Obviously pricing varies due to the socks that you wear.
Many if you already know that later last week I was in a wedding. Of course we had to get tuxedos and get all dressed up. I don’t know if this was always the case but they included a new pair of socks to wear. When I put them on I thought back to the conversation that Jeremy and I had and realized how right he was. How great it is to put on a new pair of socks. Something new. Something that no one else wore. Something that wasn’t bent or distorted or stretched but when you slip it on it just feels right and feels good. I smiled as I put on the fresh pair of socks.
Buying socks and wearing new pair everyday would be a luxury that the likes of Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Micheal Jordan and so many other millionaires would consider pulling off. To them it would be almost an insignificant luxury that they might not even think about it and just do. For the likes of you and I, unless for some reason a multi-millionaire is reading this, it’s a luxury that would be ridiculous and absurd.
Sometimes I think that for many of us, we don’t do enough for ourselves. We don’t buy ourselves a new pair of socks. We wear the ones with holes in them. The ones that are stretched and twisted. Maybe we wear a green one and a blue one because the washer or dryer ate the other. Too often we deny ourselves small but significant luxuries that won’t necessarily make us happy and solve all of our problems but may just put a smile on our faces for few moments.
Everything looks so small. Houses, roads, fields, highways. You can’t even make out cars or people. Clouds slip under the window. They look like cotton balls floating through the air. The sun seems brighter up here. Hotter even. It’s a big world, yet everything seems so small.
My buddy Dietrich was telling me about this cool coffee place down in Nashville called “Just Love Coffee”. The owner apparently inherited a nice sum of money. As anyone would do, he began traveling. He travelled to Africa and adopted two boys. Then he founded a fair trade coffee shop and began buying coffee direct from the farmers all over the world. My buddy Dietrich served some of this coffee to me this weekend. I’ll just say it was pretty darn good. Then thoughts began to trickle into my mind. How crazy is it that I am drinking coffee from half way around the world? That a farmer harvested the coffee beans himself. That the majority of the money used to purchase the coffee will end up in his hand. It’s a big world, yet everything seems so small.
I spent a great deal of time this weekend explaining to people what I do. It’s hard to convey the tragedies and atrocities that I read and hear about on a regular basis to someone in just a few minutes. I share stories and experiences, all the while cautioning people that there are some truly messed up people out there. That they need to be careful. They don’t have a particular look, build, or style. I know many brushed off my warnings with thoughts that they’ll never have to worry about it or not in my neighborhood. It’s a big world, yet it seems so small.
It was good for me to have this vacation. It helped to remind me that there was more out there than terrible things that I deal with. That there is more than the small town that I live in. That there are great people in this world like Jenn, Dietrich, Adam, Emily, Bennett, Jeremy, and Amber. That even though the world can seem small, it’s still very big.
Time is an interesting thing. It can move incredibly slow or fly by in a blink of an eye. We have all heard people describe time in various contexts. My buddy Adam said that the first time he baby sat Toby it felt like it was for two hours, when in reality, it was about 15minutes. Yet it seems just like yesterday I moved from Nashville back to Pennsylvania. Time is an incredible thing. It stops for no man. It is truly the champion of all things.
So far during this vacation time has steamrolled ahead. The wedding flew by and the whole vacation seemed like a blur. Yet it seems like I’ve been away from Toby for forever. Still, back at work things keep moving ahead, I get texts about this issue or that. Time and life doesn’t care that I’m on vacation. It doesn’t care that this is suppose to be a time to relax and get it away, it marches on.
I’ve ranted about how so much of my life is on a schedule. How I’ve put Toby on a schedule. I give him count downs, I plan out the day and try and stick to it. So often I think that to a very large degree I put my entire life on a great big schedule. I wanted to graduate college by this date. Married by at least this time. Have a kid by the time I’m this old.
How often do we put these lofty expectations on time? That we try and put a timetable on our lives? Schedule when we want this or that to happen? I think as people, humans, and a generation we put too much pressure on time. It’s weird to say… Pressure time. We set these expectations and then when they don’t happen, what follows? Disappointment, sadness, anger, and frustration. Not that I am going to completely ignore time or change the way I schedule my daily life, especially with Toby, but maybe… I take some of that pressure off of time. Maybe I lower my expectations of when I want things. Here’s catch in all of this, too much of our lives are uncontrollable, the greatest of all is time.