Seven Years

Seven years or 84 months or 364 weeks or 2,555 days or 61,320 hours or 3,679,200 minutes or 220,752,000 seconds.  However you want to track the passage of time, this is how long it has been since my youngest son Noah was lost to me due to suicide. I’ve written about this before; usually at this time of year when I am forced to relive the events which happened on that day. But this year I want to write something a little different.

It was back in the first part of March I was thinking about Noah and I began to ask myself what day he died on. It took me quite a while to remember, actually having to go back through my Facebook account looking for posts from when it first happened. After figuring it out, I felt like quite a failure as a parent. After all, how could a good parent forget the actual day they lost one of their children? It wasn’t until a few days ago when my bride said something to the fact about today being the seventh anniversary and it had crept up on her, I began to think perhaps we had both turned a corner.

When I say turned a corner, I don’t mean either of us has forgotten the day or Noah, but that we have just traveled farther down the road of life. And the more distance you put between yourself and the horrible things which have happened, the easier it becomes for them to take up less space in your every day thoughts. The passage of time is a good thing.

Something I’ve learned in the past seven years is there are no guarantees in life; things have a way of just happening to people; both good and bad. We try to rationalize it when something horrible happens, but there is no making sense of it. We live in a fallen world, in which bad things happen. Another thing I’ve learned is God never changes; He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know it sounds trite, but regardless, it is the truth. And when crap hits the fan, you have to hold on to what is true if you ever want to have hope of making it further down the road of life.

For me, today marks another year off the calendar and a few more miles along the path I’ve been forced to walk these past seven years. Would I rather not be on this particular journey? Absolutely. I’d love to have my 20 year old son here with me and my family enjoying the life he should be living, but instead I’m living another reality; the one where he is no longer here with me. It’s not my choice, but I will journey on regardless.

The passage of time is a good thing, believe me when I say it. Though it may not look like it when you are in the middle of whatever you are going through, I promise it will get easier the further away from whatever is challenging you. Just do what my family and I have done for the past seven years; breathe, take a step and repeat. Just keep moving forward.

What Defines You?

If you are at any kind of social event where you will meet new people, one of the first things to be asked always seems to be, “So, what do you do?” I understand it is a conversation starter and usually I spend a few minutes trying to explain what it is I actually do for the company I work for, which usually leads into the person moving on to someone else, or I get the glazed stare of indifference. There is a scene in a little known movie called Undercover Blues which always makes me laugh. In it Dennis Quaid plays a retired spy and new dad. Every time he meets someone and they ask what he does, he makes up some new line of work; anything from a brain surgeon to an Electrolux vacuum salesman. I may start doing this myself.

It seems whenever the question of what a person does for a living comes up, really what is being asked is what defines you as a person? I mean think about it, we love to hear about how exciting a person’s job is, or how much money they acquire through doing it, don’t we? If a person tells us they work at the local Walmart or sewage plant, we won’t hang around nearly as long as if they tell us about how their job sends them all over the world to work with the rich and powerful now will we?

Being defined by what you do has been one of the most soul crushing experiences of my life. I owned and operated a retail shoe store for over twenty years; even calling myself Dave the Shoe-Guy for a long time. I let my shoe store define who I was in more ways than one. I couldn’t get away from it either. When I was introduced to people in a social setting, it was always, this is Dave, he owns a shoe store. Never, this is Dave, he loves Jesus and Star Wars.

What defines who you are? Are you a hunter or fisherman? Do you play golf or basketball on the weekends? Are you letting these things define who you are? Perhaps you’re a husband and father; both noble things but are these the definition of who you are? I think there is more than what you do to define you. The problem is society has a way of trying to label us. It’s like you do this, so you go over here in this group. Being defined by what you do is almost the same as being segregated, and we all know how much people love to be segregated.

I realized one day there was more to who I am than just what I did. You see, I am a man who loves his family, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, an old school Star Wars fan, a writer and someone who loves to spend time drinking coffee with his friends. The job I go to every day is what pays the bills, but it is not what defines me, at least not anymore. I won’t let it be the scorecard on what my worth is in this world.

What are you letting define who you are? Is it developing you into a better man, or is it crushing your soul just like it did for me many years ago? Stop being defined by what the world says you should be and go be who you were meant to be. You’ll be glad you did.

For I Am Costanza…Lord of the Idiots

My best friend Terry and I shared a love for the television show Seinfeld. We spent many years quoting lines from this hilarious sitcom and even would call or text each other on every occasion we were able to live out a moment from the show. (Finding a Kenny Roger’s Roasters in Manila was a highlight for both of us.)

One of the more memorable and funny episodes is called The Apartment, and in it George Constanza is wearing a wedding ring in a social experiment to try and get dates with more women. Towards the end after having his plan backfire, he makes the statement, “For I am Constanza, lord of the idiots.” It makes me laugh even as I’m writing it now. I have picked up this line and use it whenever I’ve had an idiotic moment in my own life; something which happens more often than I actually care to admit.

In my fifty-three years of life on this planet, I have had plenty of opportunities to play the idiot, as I’m sure we all have. There are times however when I feel I’m actually setting the bar for idiots everywhere to be judged by. But during the times of my lunacy I don’t think this way, it’s usually after the fact. And once this realization hits me, I really feel dumb. Those are the times where I want to crawl under a rock and hide, it can be so embarrassing.

This past week at work I had a couple of extremely difficult days and a Constanza moment raised its ugly head. It was so bad one day I actually thought about fleeing; just going to my truck and leaving without saying a word to anyone. In my entire adult life I’ve never wanted to run away from anything and this shocked me. Thank God it did, because it was this shock which woke me up from my lunacy and got me to asking what was really going on my life.

These Constanza moments come to me whenever I perceive things are not going my way. It’s like my default button is to act like a fool whenever things are not going the way I want them to. Yes I realize this sounds horrible, but truth is truth, and as they say, the first step in fixing a problem is realizing you actually have one. The man who is not self-aware is the man who really has a problem. I realized the issues I’ve been having and have begun to rectify them, making the necessary changes towards becoming a better man, which will be another blog altogether.

What I want you to realize today is you’re not alone, there are millions of us out there. And just like in the Seinfeld episode as George is confessing his idiocy to Jerry, a lady in the background starts yelling out the window to the runners, “You’re all winners!” to which George says, “But suddenly a new contender has emerged.”

 

 

 

 

What Will You Do?

“What will you do when they catch you?”

“What will you do if they catch you?”

“What will you do if they break you?”

These three questions are lines from the upcoming Star Wars movie Rogue One; due out in December. (I am so excited!) But this morning as I was contemplating some things at work, they came to mind. In life sometimes there are things which happen outside of our control, and it is what we do when presented with these challenges that make or break us.

Each and every day we are presented with challenges; either at home, work, with our friends; no one is immune. Problems are like wolves chasing us down; we all have to deal with them eventually. But the situations we face aren’t really the problem, they are common to us all. The real struggle for each of us is how we deal with the problems when they show up; do we fly off the handle and go ballistic; looking like a fool, or do we passively just take it, only to gripe about the situation later to our loved ones? This is where the real battle lies; in how we deal with them.

“What will you do when they catch you?”

” What will you do if they catch you?”

“What will you do if they break you?”

Troubles are coming for you, do you have a plan to deal with them when they arrive? I must admit I usually don’t and end up regretting the responses I make when I’m presented with a challenge. I think one of the reasons I have such a hard time with this is because they mess up my routine. And who among us wants our routine to be upset? Humans are creatures of habit and when something interferes with that, it upsets the apple cart so to speak.

We have to work on being able to step outside of ourselves when these moments come and look at them objectively. For instance, I know at work when given the opportunity to add some more to my workload, it is not because my boss has decided to hurt me. On the contrary, it is because there is a situation which needs to be handled, and he has come to me because he knows I can get it done. Of course sometimes it takes me a minute to remind myself of this and make sure I keep my attitude in check.

These wolves which are nipping at our heels do their best to catch us and eventually break us; this is their job and they are good at it. What we have to do is stay one step ahead of them. And doing this requires the ability to keep a good, positive attitude when you can feel them breathing down your neck. 

As loud as they are yapping, you’ve got to be louder in voicing your positive attitude to yourself. And it can be hard, because a lot of times the other voices around you aren’t so positive and it can feel as if you are fighting a battle on two fronts.

The one thing I know, but have to remind my self daily, is I have what it takes, there is more to me than meets the eye and I am destined to do great things. Regardless of what any other voice is trying to tell me, these things I know are true for me and they are true for you as well. You just have to believe them and remind yourself daily.

So if these problems of life catch me, I’ll just not let them break me, because I’m better than that and so are you!