“Wherever You Are, Be There”
-This, as as seen on a bumper sticker on the back of a hybrid, while its disheveled driver swerved erratically as he talked on his phone and angrily jabbed a cigarette towards the front windshield. Wherever it was he was, it wasn’t here. It must have been there. Yes, there, where he could deliver that furious speech.
I wished him luck silently and proceeded through the intersection with the rest of the crawling commuters headed home in the twilight hours of another grind of a workday. It gave me pause….how is it that we can be there, that place to be, when we’re all still stuck here? There is no shortage of advice telling us that we need to cherish each of these “heres”, the ever fewer moments with our kids, even as they lead us to the point of sheer madness if we have to hear one more excruciating detail about Pokemon moves or how many Lego Hero Factory parts they can stuff into their mouths before gagging.
I don’t mind my role as a Dad at all. I enjoy domesticating in terms of providing a safe, warm environment for my boys to grow up and thrive in; to be their anchor and guide through this world is not as much a calling as it is my duty and responsibility. There’s very little in the way of calling it a calling when you’re muttering a thousand curses wondering if they even USE toilet paper while sorting dirty clothes and spraying stain remover in the basement on a cold January morning. But as I finish up packing lunches late in the night, close my eyes and stand there in the kitchen with one more cup of coffee before I hit the sack, I know deep down I’m doing the right thing. I just miss adult conversations, really. Life as a single parent is a lonely journey, one in which your decisions are yours alone to live with while quietly hoping that you’re not going to pay for too much therapy for them later on in life.
These are the times when it’s just too easy to feed the wrong dog, as it were, and you can let your mind drive you down dark alleys of regret. You gotta yank your mental steering wheel out of the hands of the past. We’re all trying hard to do better by those to whom we are responsible as well as to ourselves, and extending compassion to yourself is one way to take control of the crazy ride, to recalibrate to a more calm place.
I thought about this as I was taking in the last sips of hot caffeinated salvation….and one of the biggest fallacies out there is thinking that the story of the life we’re living has already been written. Nothing could be further from the truth; from relationships to our own futures, we need to remember, always, that our script is our own story to tell, and it hasn’t unfolded yet, completely. Don’t like where it’s headed? Use your damn eraser, sharpen your pencil and write a new chapter, a new direction.
While expressing frustration to my friend the other day about life on the back burner, his response was “man, you’re still on the stove. Remember that.” I joked that I just needed to simmer down, then, but there was a lot of truth to what he said. Life is not going to proceed on the timetable or in the original direction we’d headed, and that’s okay. There are two choices: to waste time thinking about how much time we’ve wasted historically or to focus on writing another chapter of the script from a healthier more positive direction. Doors to the past may well have closed, but I need to remember that that doesn’t mean the end of the story has been written in stone already. We are, each of us, characters in an ever-evolving story, one in which the dynamics of people in subsequently evolving relationships constitute the very core of what makes us both beautifully flawed and fantastically unique in a myriad of ways.
Maybe you’ll end up with her. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll discover you’re forty and life hasn’t gone as predicted and that’s okay, too. Maybe you’ll realize that someday your kids might learn how to keep a set of underwear in presentable condition. Maybe you’ll find yourself in the kitchen alone late at night, sipping a cup of coffee and sharpening pencils in your mind, looking towards future chapters as opposed to the pages detailing how you got here.
It’s your story. Make it a good one. And for what it’s worth, give ’em all hell and just be there.