I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and waxing poetic with my son on life, parenting, work, relationships, etc. Life comes at you in stages and you’re forced to make decisions that you never wanted to.
Stage 1: Marriage
About 8 years ago it was my divorce. I had to figure out whether or not I could handle being a ‘weekend’ father or a single one. I chose the latter because I couldn’t possibly live without my kids.
During the divorce, I had to figure out what kind of man I was going to be. Was I going to be an angry ex-husband that dragged his ex in and out of court, bad-mouthed his ex to his kids, or was I going to take the blessing of having my kids and take the high road. I believe I took the high road. I still talk to my ex-wife often and even pray for her family at times I know they’re struggling. The truth is, it takes much less energy this way and my kids are much better off for it.
Stage 2: Work
At work, I’ve had to make decisions as well. I’ve left more than a few great jobs in the past decade. I left one because I knew I was never going to be what my boss wanted me to be. I left another one recently because I wasn’t personally fulfilled. I’m in a fantastic job now that’s challenging me every single day… but I’m realistic that I probably won’t be here a decade from now, either.
It’s not that I have doubts, it’s just that I am more comfortable with my ‘niche’ in Marketing and Technology. I like moving quickly at work. When things slow down and companies need those skills that don’t interest me, I realize it’s time to move on (inside or outside). I have figured out that when I work on my strengths, I’m a much happier person than when I’m worrying about my weaknesses.
Stage 3: Family
I’m approaching 40 now and have come to a point in my life where I have to make decisions with my relationships as well. In the past, I’ve expended a lot of energy on having a family that’s ‘proud of me’. In many ways, their opinion was more important than my own. In time, I realized that they measured success much different than I ever did.
My success is measured by my children’s happiness, the quality and quantity of solid friendships, my network of associates, the respect I get at work, and the products and services I deliver every day. You might notice that title, fame or fortune weren’t in there. They were not, and won’t ever be.
As a result, my decision has been to leave people behind that are trying to drag me down instead of lift me up. I respect, love and pray for them, but I’m just not going to expend energy on trying to make them happy anymore. If I’m not successful in their opinion, they can keep their opinion. I’m responsible for my happiness and they should accept responsibility for theirs.
As a father, I’m thrilled with who my kids currently are, and I love them unconditionally. Our conversations on a daily basis are about what they succeeded at doing, not on their failures. That said, I am tough on my kids if they aren’t living up to their potential, though.
My daughter’s grades dropped significantly last week. I think the majority of it was that her social life had become more important than her school work. It pained her when she got her grades, though. She cried all day because she’s typically an A/B student. It wasn’t how disappointed I was that was apparent, it was how disappointed she was.
Katie loves leading in class and hates to be at the bottom. We made some changes – no visiting friends on weeknights and no make-up. Make-up was the tough one… I really thought she was going to burn holes in me with her eyeballs. Within the week, though, her grades started to come back. She’s not burning holes in me anymore, and even laughed at me the other day in the car.
It’s a tough high wire act, but I’m doing my best to accentuate the positive, not the negative. I’m trying to steer them in the direction of the beautiful sea, not always reminding them of the storm behind them.
As my kids grow comfortable with who they are, I grow more fond of who they are becoming. They amaze me every day. I have incredible kids… but I don’t have any misconceptions of who ‘I think they should be’ or ‘how they should act’. That’s for them to figure out. If they’re happy with themselves, their direction in life, and with me… then I’m happy for them. The best way I can teach them is by showing them how I am acting. Buddha said, “Whomever sees me sees my teaching.” I couldn’t agree more.
Stage 4: Joy
I remember a comment a while back from good ‘virtual friend’, William who asked, “Why do Christians always have to identify themselves?”. I never answered the question because I had to think a lot about it. He was right. Many Christians announce who they are with a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. William has every right to challenge folks on this. If you put yourself on a pedestal, be prepared to answer why you’re there!
I want people to know I’m Christian – not because it’s who I am but because it’s who I hope to be one day. I need help with my life. I want to be a kind person. I want my friends to recognize me as one who cared, put a smile on their face, or inspired them to do something different with their lives. As I sit at work working with a stubborn vendor or a bug that I’m troubleshooting in circles, it’s easy for me to forget the big picture and utter a few words. It’s easy for me to get angry at the people at the company that are giving me a hard time.
My (limited) view of the teachings I believe in tell me that those people at that other company are probably working hard, have challenges they’re trying to overcome, and they deserve my patience and respect. If I tell you I’m a Christian, it opens me up for criticism when I’m being a hypocrite. I am often a hypocrite (too often) so feel free to let me know that I’m not being a good Christian, even if you don’t have the same beliefs as me.
If I can figure stage 4 out, I’ll leave this world a very, very happy person. I know that I’ll experience true joy… I’ve seen that kind of joy in other people and I want it for myself. My faith tells me that this is something that God wants me to have. I know that it’s something that is there for the taking, but it’s difficult to spurn bad habits and change our heart. I’ll keep working on it, though.
I hope this wasn’t too gushy a post for you. I needed to vent a little about my family issues and writing transparently helps me a lot. Perhaps it will help you, too!