Failure.

My Dearest Son,

I love you dearly. I love you more than I ever thought I could love another human being, including myself. And for that reason, I have to say with meaning and feeling as deep as the universe, I am sorry. I’m trying as hard as I can, and in the end it isn’t enough. Most likely because I’m just not capable and have too much pride to admit it. It certainly isn’t for lack of want or lack of love, please know that.

The biggest piece of advice I will ever be able to give you is this: Don’t become like me. Because if you become like me, this is the life you will lead, and as you can tell, other than your presence it’s not turned out all that well for me. Realize my flaws for what they are. Get angry with me because I haven’t prepared you for the world. Get angry that I can’t teach you patience, empathy, communication, selflessness, listening, remembering, or any of the skills that I lack to develop and maintain healthy relationships. Get furious at me for not doing my job as a parent. Resent me for having to look elsewhere for these lessons. God knows you’re entitled to feel that way.

What’s happening now is not normal, not the way I want it to be. It’s in my power to stop it and turn it all around, yet I struggle mightily with how to do that, failing at every turn. And as long as I struggle and fail, you and Mom both suffer. And neither of you deserve that.

I don’t know what the future holds, but please, please take my advice as soon as you can. It may turn out to be the best thing I can do for you.

I’m sorry.

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Identity…….Epiphany

I’m now officially 4 days in to a 2 week business trip in the Netherlands. One wouldn’t think this is the time or the place to “find oneself”, yet here I am. As fun and unique as a trip to Europe is (I’ll be in Paris for a weekend day), the business part of the trip is certainly palpable. 12-hour work days, no time for lunch, working for Europe during the day and North America at night. International conference calls at odd hours racking up phone bills and data charges for someone other than me. Get back to the hotel, change, pound some beers with dinner, bang out a few emails before bed, crash. Repeat ad nausem.

Yet here’s the thing I can’t shake: I thrive in this environment, and I’m damn good at it. It’s what got me here in the first place, over 4,000 miles from home solo on a trip to a facility I’ve never been to in a country just as foreign. The reputation of a leader who “gets shit done” both honestly and fairly. The ability to negotiate a salary I never thought I’d see in my life, enough to support my family on one income and give my son the same gift I had as a child – a parent at home during those critical early years. To put it simply, when I have no one to account for but myself, I can kick some serious ass.

But then my wife sends me a photo of my smiling baby boy rocking out on my drum set at home, and the contrast jolts me back to reality. The important things are now incredibly clear. I am alone in this hotel room. The trip doesn’t matter. Me making money for some company that cares as much about me as they do about solving world hunger doesn’t matter. Is it necessary? Absolutely. Is it the most important? To some, but not to me. I do this to support my family and give us the privileged freedom of not having to worry about financial security (this itself is a rarity in these times, I am soberingly aware). Suddenly, all I want more than anything in the world is to fly home and hug my wife and son.

Sometimes it takes being away to truly understand what matters. Being a father, having a family, being connected to a community, these are things that I want more. Feel-good story of the year, right? Not exactly. I have not been the best father to my son and I’ve been a downright shitty husband to my wife. I’ve taken this for granted for years, all while driving my family, the ones I love most, to the brink of disintegration. What will it take for me to right the ship and actually show the love I profess to have? Actions will always speak louder than words, whether spoken or typed, although there is something strangely cathartic about the public admission of it all. Let’s hope I’m on to something and can finally atone. 10 more days.

Rivers of Light, Streams of Consciousness

15 months, nearly 16 at the time of this writing. It’s been fun and amazing for sure, and certainly kept me busy. It’s insane how much he’s learning and understanding and at such a rapid pace. He’s been such a joy in my life that every time I look into his eyes I see hope, light, promise, and future. And I certainly try to reflect the same back to him, but sometimes I get the sense he can see through me, deep into the darkness below. You see, there’s certainly enough darkness to go around. Darkness in the news, darkness in adapting to this new home, darkness in the sky (although that’s getting better as we move into Spring), darkness in some relationships, like I said, more than enough. That two admittedly fucked up adults can come together in love and create someone so perfect is beyond comprehension to me. His life is so pure, so innocent, that he doesn’t deserve to be affected by it. Hell, I don’t think I deserve him sometimes. So I put on a brave face, strap on my big-boy pants, and try to shift the narrative.

Being with him, observing him, and looking into his eyes help. As much as he needs me and depends on me as a child when I’m with him, I almost need him more. I need him to show me that light, shine a bit of it on me as I bask in his innocence, curiosity, and wonderment at discovering new things. It’s almost addictive; without his light a void remains, a reminder of what I am and what I am not. The constant push-pull struggle is still there, right underneath the surface. I want to be the role model for him, yet I don’t want him to be me. I am flawed; I am lots of things I don’t want to be and certainly don’t want him to be. But then a small sliver of light shows up through a simple hug, a snuggle, “da-da” in his soft beautiful voice, or climbing over my legs and plopping in my lap to read books. In this moment at least I am doing the right thing, I am doing right by him, and the darkness recedes gently like the tide.

I think I’ll just enjoy this little bit of light right now until the tide rolls back in.

Learning to Fly

The house is more silent than normal tonight. Most people would say that’s a good thing, but it just makes me sad. My father-in-law left to go back to Illinois today after spending the last 10 weeks with us. Back when I was still considering the job offer, he volunteered to travel out here with us and help with the move transition. An extremely generous gesture for sure; this decision was one of the reasons why I decided to take the risk on relocating my family. It’s one thing to move for a job, but it’s an entirely different thing to move across the country to a place where you don’t know anyone and your wife and 1-year-old son are completely isolated while you go to work. So needless to say his support was priceless.

And support he did provide. He endured 4 days of travel; over 2,100 road miles; 3 nights in a hotel with me, my wife, my son, 3 cats, and a dog; 28 nights in an extended stay hotel with us; the stress and strain of moving in a house and unpacking boxes; surviving the holidays; caring for his grandson while we adjusted (and also while we fought)…..all while being just as isolated from family as we were. He’s not just a father-in-law, he’s practically a saint.

And we all knew the arrangement was temporary. This isn’t his home, this is our home. We (or more specifically, I) chose to move 2,100 miles away from our entire family and friend base. So once we got settled and the roar of the holidays died down, we knew the training wheels would come off and we’d be on our own. But that doesn’t make it any less scary and any less sad. So now the real work begins. It’s time to band together as a family and put down new roots. It won’t be easy, but no one said it would be.

So thank you, Dad, for all your help getting us out here, getting us set up, and everything you’ve done. Travel safe, and we’ll see you in a few months.

From Sleep, Awake

As you may or may not know by now, I’ve moved from from Central IL to Northwestern Washington state. I’ve changed jobs, companies, and set my entire family on an adventure into the unknown, 2,100 mies away from friends, family, and everything we know. This wasn’t completely on a whim; the Pacific Northwest is the area of the country my wife and I decided we wanted to live permanently eventually; we just didn’t think it would happen this fast. But when the golden ticket arrives you can’t really say no. “Opportunity only knocks once”, as they say.

We’ve been here 10 days and we’re not settled yet. We’re staying in a hotel while we wait for the closing date on our new house. Me, my wife, my son, my father-in-law, 3 cats, a dog, and a partridge in a pear tree for that matter. We’re starting to go stir crazy, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re displaced and already feeling isolated it’s incredibly hard to find comfort, to start to put down roots and make a new place truly home. Add it all up and even when it goes smoothly, The question can creep in. Was this really the right thing to do? A routine errand provided the answer in the most unexpected way.

After work I decided to take my son and find the nearest “shared branch” bank that would allow me to transact using my account from back in IL. Even though it was only 5:30 in the evening Daylight Savings Time ensured that the sun had already been down for quite some time. A full moon helped guide us on our trek as we headed for Oak Harbor. A small road (WA Route 20) with only 1 lane in both directions took us the entire way, winding through the trees and a few small towns. Suddenly the view opened up to Deception Pass. Even though it was completely dark, the moonlight gave way to a breathtaking view. I pulled over to the scenic waypoint, turned off the car, took my son out of his seat, and walked to the viewing area.

We stood there, silently in awe, father and son, watching the full moon reflect over the eerily calm waters and pine trees of Deception Pass. Maybe it was the moonlight, maybe it was the slight chill in the air, maybe it was the stress release, or maybe it was that I was listening to the magically epic Z2 album from the Devin Townsend Project. Whatever it was, the significance of this moment hit me like an impact gun, nearly buckling my knees and practically moving me to tears. This is why we’re here. This is our purpose. The sense of adventure, of worldly exploration, of wonderment and deep humbling respect for Mother Nature.

My iPhone can't even come close to recapturing the moment. Yes, that is the moon.

My iPhone can’t even come close to recapturing the moment. Yes, that is the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That sense had always been a part of me, but years of spirit-crushing winters and a job that drained the life out of me had left me wondering if it was gone forever. Tonight the fire was reignited and it’s starting to burn brighter and brighter. This fire will provide the strength I need to carry my family through this transition, to dig deep, find a home, and instill those same senses in my son and all the children I will have. I was born and raised in the Midwest and will be forever proud of that. But tonight Mother Nature opened her welcoming arms and reassured me that yes, my family belongs here.

Welcome home.

Motivation.

Motivation

I’m standing here at the counter of a local sub shop wondering why I’m even here. I had plenty of lunch options at home but decided not to prepare anything. I already know that, despite the plethora of options to make a semi-healthy sandwich here, I’m going to choose my regular, most definitely unhealthy option: tuna salad on a pretzel roll topped with mayo, swiss cheese, and sweet peppers, a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and a Mountain Dew. I wasn’t always like this, and it’s certainly not what I aspire to be. I used to be the epitome of healthy eating – lots of green veggies, lean meats, limited starches and sugars, and certainly no pop (yes, I call it pop. That’s what it’s called where I’m from, so deal).  I already know my current lunch choice is furthest from healthy yet I intentionall
y sought it out. I’m fully in DGAF mode. Why? 1 word: Willpower, or lack thereof.

I get up every morning with a finite amount of energy to spend before collapsing from exhaustion at night. Most of this energy is spent surviving the day – work, band practice, errands, taking care of my son, and attempting to maintain my marriage with my wife – leaving very little left over for willpower. You know that little voice inside your head that tells you not to do things you know are inherently bad for you and usually follows through with self-control? Today that voice barely lifts a finger, and I’m actually okay with that. I’ve expended a serious amount of energy looking back at the last 4-1/2 months. My wife and I have successfully started to figure out how to raise our first son, survived the longest and worst winter of our existence (seriously, check the record books), and are starting to win the war in the trenches that is parenthood.

But winning that war comes at a personal cost. I’ve gained weight, certainly more than I wanted. Eating healthy is a struggle at the present time, and some days are better than others. Long term I know this will turn around, but the energy needs to come from within, which means major changes. Maybe at some point I can focus on that. But for now, I’m trying to figure out the next few hours. And right now that has to be good enough.

The Look

Experienced parents know it when they see it. Non-parents have no real equivalent. And for first time parents it is the most soul crushing look you’ll ever receive from your child. A few days ago I received it for the very first time. I was attempting to give T. a bottle, to make the independent feeding connection we had a few months back. Gnaw on the nipple, turn away, cry, comfort, repeat. After 10 exasperating minutes of this, with tears streaming down his face, I got the look. Eyes drift right, avoiding me for a few moments until the emotions overcome him. Eyes then lock on me and they are filled with desperation. “You know what I want. Why are you not giving it to me? What you have to offer is clearly NOT working. I’m hungry and I want Mommy. Can you not see this? Can I trust you do provide for me, to do the right thing?” These are the things he would say to me if he could. Crushed, defeated, and heart-torn for him, I head upstairs so he can find relief in the comforting bosom of Mommy.

I’m sorry, little guy, for putting you through all that. We’ll get there eventually, just gotta keep trying different things.