It’s thanksgiving… our first with Aiden as a dood — before he was just a bean, now he’s a dood. (And a dud often enough! yuck yuck!) And after all the learning and trauma that comes with an infant, our family life has settled into a rhythm now — enough of a rhythm to take some internal inventory about my life… might as well do it out loud… in front of a million people… on the internet. :)
I think about my life this past year, how I’m finding myself in a raging, grinding day to day battle with my own selfishness — all the things I have to give up to father my son, all the things I don’t get to do and build and buy just to stay married, all the ways my life can’t be the way I’d like it to be.
Yes, I can be that self absorbed. I can be that disrespectful and angry and petulant and hollow… I can all but abandon my family in my work and leave my wife feeling isolated… I have a real knack for emotional aloofness, it runs in the family.
But my wife is still with me, barely, mostly. We’ve had scares, but she’s still here, taking my shit, trusting that I’ll be “better when I’m older,” that next month I’ll be a little less aloof, a little more natural and engaged at home… that next month she’ll feel a little less like she’s raising Aiden alone.
Of course she fights back and beats me a bit — leaning into me and leaving some marks, letting me know where I end and she begins. I’m happy she’s still with me. I’m happy I’m still with her. I’m thankful we didn’t part ways and try to parent our son together apart.
I’m thankful for that. That’s some real-life shit, almost splitting up, then going through a process of choosing each other again. I’m thankful we were able to regroup, get alone, get honest and try again.
The Remaining Elasticity
There’s so much sacrifice and monotony and garbage days and dish-cleaning and un-sexiness in regular life, it can really break you up inside. It’s like, there’s life, and then there’s that day when you wake up and realize, “this is not the life I want!” And then you have to figure out what you do from there… and that’s life too.
I think this is pretty common for men, for dads… and we’re all just hoping that it’s worth it, that the small shit, the long days, the exhaustion, the giving up of things, the r’trded petulant 2 year old with his incessant unhappiness and brief (ever so brief) moments of beauty that flash across his face and then are gone like so many dreams of a once vibrant father, that all this stuff we’re doing to build a family will be worth it, that, the tough shit won’t last and over time we’ll develop a special bond with each other, with our family, a rapport, a friendship, an easy relationship.
There’s still a little hope in me for that, which I’m thankful for. I still have a little elasticity in my soul, not yet entirely dried up and crackly and stiff like old, cheap leather. That elasticity keeps me in the game on those days when I wake up saying “this is not the life I want” — not that I don’t get whiny and petulant, but at least I stick around. That’s something to be thankful for.
The WW2 Voice
I know we’re supposed to “enjoy the journey”… well, there’s “enjoying” and there’s “enjoying.” There’s some shit that we’re just not going to like, isn’t there; stuff that you have to just take on the chin and roll with… let’s be realistic about that. You’re going to have some shit happen in your life that you just don’t like. Hell, you may even have a lot of regularly occurring shit in your life that you don’t like — grown up shit, shit that’s gotta get done.
Well there’s often a voice in us men, a tribute to our grandparents and men in ages past — an earthy and heavy and strong and ruddy voice — and when we talk too much about all the “sacrifice” we’re making, all the things we have to give up, and dreams deflated and empty energy tanks… when we go on and on about the tough shit in our lives as dads, this voice responds:
“Tough shit, pal. We all want it easier, but the field won’t plow and till itself. So get your shit together and quit asking the world to pay attention to you; it was here first.”
I’m thankful I still have that voice in tact, keeping me from being an utter and complete pssy… And I’m also thankful I’ve got enough pssy in me to at least whine intelligently about the hard shit so I can figure out what the hell I’m frustrated about! …Thanks mom! ;)
The Below The Surface Love
When the shit is hard, when you’re exhausted and empty, there’s these moments with your kid, these fleeting, fluttery, hopeful moments, like glimpsing a unicorn through dense tree and hilly dale. One of these moments can fill you up real good, like when your 2 year old, the one who’s been wining and shitty all day, crawls up to lean against you on the couch while he tries to put the back-end of a mechanical pencil back into it’s right place — sitting there with his little profile, his little fingers and thumbs working so patiently and engaged, like you can see the primary color thoughts going on in his little 2 year old brain.
Not only do these moments remind you of how stupid your kid is (you really should lower your expectations), but you also get to feel that love stuff rise up inside of you and break the surface, that deep down rumble, a vibration in your gut… building something out of nothing, like it’s unending, like you’ve got this perpetual love machine churning out so much energy and compassion right underneath the surface of your consciousness, and you always forget about it because it so rarely erupts onto the scene.
In your world full of decay and exhaustion, to feel that swell of the good stuff can fill your tanks right up… it can also make you puke and faint from the sheer vastness of it!
I’m thankful for those moments, I’m thankful for that love that breaks through the surface. Those moments remind me not only that my son is lovely, but that I’m OK, and I’ll be able to keep fathering him a bit longer without completely giving up…
Pretty bleak stuff, huh? Yes and no. This is real life stuff — at least for me it is. And my “thank you’s” from within this real life stuff are a hell-of-a-lot more heavy and true than they used to be when I was all elasticity and ideals.
I hope you’re sticking around your life, friend. I hope this thanksgiving is real and ruddy and hopeful, that you take it for what it is and put a little energy behind empathy, compassion, and a solid joke or two. CHEERS!
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
~ Meister Eckhart