I don’t know how to begin this blog. Except for maybe saying “Merry Christmas”. For you see, I truly received a gift this year. Not a gift which contains a physical embodiment of our natural world. A gift one receives wrapped in thin, colored paper and tied gently and carefully with silk or nylon ribbon and edges taped together to hold it closed. Closed until that one fateful moment of anxiety and excitement allow the receiver of the gift and the giver of the gift to both feel the joy of the inevitable reveal.
No, that is not the sort of gift I received. My gift did not come on the eve or even the day of the celebration of our lord’s birth. Instead, my gift was given to me late on Monday night during a conversation with a close and personal friend. His gift was guidance and an idea.
The idea, once I thought about it, was not just one of what I was doing wrong or right in my life but how my life can be. Should be and hopefully will be. He showed me that my basic premise in life, a motto I’ve been living by since I was a boy of single digits and a motto I’m sure we’ve all heard in our lives that seems to have become a platitude in recent years, was somewhat flawed. My motto “Work hard, do your best, and you will succeed.” While a good motto, needs to be modified and amended.
It’s no secret that I’ve been working long arduous hours four countless years. Years that seem to have never happened to me because when I look back in the fog of my memory, all I see is work. Solutions to problems others could or would not see. Endless tasks of moving things, repairing things and delivering things. Items, physical in nature with little or no value today. Objects both animate and inanimate while important at the moment they were needed have become lost to the oceans of memories and problems that came after them.
These tasks, objects and issues which took up so much of my time, took precedent over my physical, mental and emotional health. They stole from me the opportunities to spend with my family. To go on adventures, experience joys, pleasures and pains with them. I’ve missed family functions, dinners, plays, recitals, and daily bonding time. All because of that motto. Work hard and you will succeed.
The reason I followed that motto was always to provide for my family. To ensure they had everything they needed and some of the things they wanted. I refused to stop for anything or anyone. I always arrived early to work, did everything I could do to make sure my tasks got finished and only when I completely physically and mentally exhausted at the end of the day would I return home to fall into an almost coma like state. Not communicating with my family, not taking an active role in their lives because I was completely incapable to. This is not my excuse, nor is it my reason. No, this is my crime.
My crime of becoming all too consumed with the daily grind of living between a rut and a grave that stopped me from being the man my family needs me to be. The man my faith guides me to be. Through my endeavors of these years I’ve lost sight of not just what my family needs but of what I need as well. My need to feel more than a physical bank. A bill payer, a shell of a human who barely exists on this plane and a ghost of a man who is also a father and husband.
A father who needs to be present in his child’s life, to watch that child grow and become a young adult. To observe and guide that offspring in becoming a healthy and happy young adult who will eventually turn into a prosperous and stable adult. I’ve failed there. I allowed my mate to pick up my duties and carry them as a yoke. Burdening her with more responsibility than one parent should have. Yes, I am guilty of this.
As a husband I have failed even more so. I’ve been absent both physically and emotionally. When I was present, my replies to whatever conversations were usually primeval grunts in acknowledgement or dissent. Simply because thought at exhaustion is almost impossible. I am guilty of this as well.
Yet my family, the ones who live with me, the ones who grew up with me and even my extended by marriage family all stood by and watched as I slowly traveled down my chosen path. It is not that they agreed with what I was doing, but that they knew there was no amount of words, actions or deeds that would make me change my southern tack. They stood by and prayed, hoped, consoled each other and occasionally, in desperate times, almost drug me to places I saw no financial or physical reward from. I placed them in that situation. A situation where the person they love was on a self-destructive path and that person could not even see what he was doing to himself or the ones around him.
So, late Monday night, sitting in a smoke filled cab of a vehicle while it slowly rained outside and fog rolled in from the bay, my friend sat and listened as I droned on about how I had lost my way. How my motto had become my obsession and my obsession had turned me into a lost and empty soul. A soul who saw nothing good, nothing worth anything and all that he touched turn to dust and smoke. A soul whose very existence was to wake up before light and only retire after the light was gone. An almost vampiric existence. Which is to say, no existence at all.
He listened to all of this, and when I was finished, he asked if I wanted his advice as a friend, as a pastor or if he wanted me to just watch him walk away into the night. I chose to receive his advice as my friend and as my pastor. After all, I knew if I let him go off alone into the mist, I may never see him again. He spoke not in platitudes or comfort. He spoke of wrong thinking, of missed opportunities because of faulty logic. He spoke of a grander design and how I am the only one in my own way. He told me nothing of what I wanted to hear, he told me what I needed to hear but did not want to hear.
His words shamed me, humbled me, scared me and embarrassed me. He held a mirror up to my life of work and all I saw was a man who was underweight, hollowed eyed and lonely with no one to turn to when I needed someone to speak with, to give me comfort to just listen. Because of my actions, I had become alienated on a deserted island. Even though that island was filled with people who cared, I could not see it. The simplest acts of kindness towards me were met with suspicion and empty thanks.
Yes, my friend gave me some very painful truths, harsh criticisms and humbling facts. His words were knives to my flesh and soul. I did not bleed red though, instead, I bled salty tears of pain and embarrassment. After all, when you face the abyss, and the person who is trying to talk you away from that dark and endless void is not offering you words of support or encouragement but instead only tells you what you’ve done wrong, it gives you pause. Well, it gave me pause.
His words made me think about the premise of my life. And how that premise had caused me to push away the people I love and was trying to take care of. How my good intentions and deeds became twisted and bastardized by my own hands through my own thoughts. Somehow, someway, through my solitary focus, I lost all focus. My life had become a blur of endless moments filled with endless chores that obliterated all I should have seen.
My way of existence and the man I have become it seems, has gotten in the way of the man I should have been and the man I hope to become.
So this year, my Christmas gift was unexpected, unwanted and yet, completely necessary. It was also given with great love and honesty. It was the gift of my life. A gift I’d been taking for granted of for years. A gift I hope and pray I will never take advantage of again.
As of right now, I vow to get of the way of others and my creator. I vow to take time for the people who not only need me but want me in their lives and have only my best interest at heart. I am now on a path that I hope will make me the man that is worthy of their love and admiration. Not by being a provider, but a supporter, a listener, an advisor, a friend and a companion.
My gift it seems has also become others gift in an odd way. A gift of answered prayers, a gift of a friend, a gift of a father and a gift of a husband.
So, on this day, my dear reader if you are still with me after this woefully long tale, I say to you, take the gift of your time. Love the ones you are around and share with them all that you can. Become the person you know you can be inside and enjoy being with those around you. Do not follow my path. It is fraught with loneliness and no one should ever feel alone.
I hope you all have had a Merry Christmas and it was filled with love and that that you were surrounded by the ones you love.
Have a great week.