I read not too long ago that people that have survived a plane crash tend to have an incredibly healthy, balanced and ever-increasing optimistic outlook on life and the world in general. There are times where I feel that I can relate to this. Now, I don’t think that I’ve come close to the horror and sheer terror that some one who has survived falling in an aluminum tube from 30,000 feet has. However, I do believe that the worst thing that happened to me feels exactly the same as the worst thing that happened to you. I’m not unique in that, with a ton of help, I’ve been able to allow my life to be steered towards calmer waters. Lots of people, everyday, are making radical or not radical changes to their life. This is one of the most beautiful things about human beings, in my opinion: we have been given brains to use. We get to change our mind. It’s a natural freedom that I don’t believe is exercised often enough. In a universe in which nothing, truly, ever ends it almost seems taboo to say “I changed my mind.” Well, I changed my mind. I got tired of living my life in a plane crash and decided to ask for some help. I got a new pilot, he took the wheel and pulled us up before we smacked into a mountain. This simple change has exposed me to truths about myself and the nature of living that seemed like revelation at the time, and only in hindsight seem incredibly obvious. First and foremost, the circumstances of my life DO NOT dictate my attitude or my behavior. The end result of this is pretty simple: my life gets better as a result of seeing things a differently. My perspective doesn’t allow me to focus on the negative over the positive and I no longer jump over hurdles to make things that are just meant to be into “coincidence”. I turn the “have to” into “get to”. I choose to be happy and I must, always, find the gratitude. When the world hands me a situation that doesn’t seem too shiny, I’ve got to find something in there to be grateful for. It’s not always apparent, and I’ve had to dig through a lot of muck to find it somethings. But it’s in there. In that gratitude lies not an ounce of self. When I find that thing to look at and be thankful for I am finding a gift. I’m finding something I can learn from. It’s fucking magic. It just is.
This has naturally affected every area of my life, but none more so than my relationships and, specifically, my relationship with my son. If one ever desires a lesson on being forced to find the positive in a situation, an afternoon with a 3 and a half year old will do wonders for either your level of calamity or serenity. Which one depends entirely on you. Jack can, at times, seem like a bulldozer. His mood, wants, and acceptance changes seemingly on which direction the wind is blowing. As I’m writing this, I’m nursing a bruised ego from one of his latest little gags. He thinks running away from his dad is hysterical right now. So, he will just bolt. Doesn’t matter where. Now, he knows to stay out of the street and he’s always got a destination in mind. If he’s running down a sidewalk at full sprint he will stop at our car, however he is still 3 and is not fully aware that driveways exist. For him, mostly, cars are things that are regulated to the street and will never cross that sacred barrier. So, while I’m having 3 simultaneous heart attacks at the possibility of bodily harm, he is laughing his little butt off and cheerfully waiting for me at the passenger side door. I pick Jack up, as calmly as I have walked to where he is, and I put him on top of the car. The words come out:
“Jack, you can’t run away from me. You could get hurt. When Dad says STOP you have to stop.”
Jack is all smiles and I get to spend the car ride home thinking about how horribly I handled that, but also the embarrassment I feel knowing he ran by strangers who SURELY where part of that secret cabal of parents that are actively taking notes on my fathering. In those seconds I’m certain that I’m doing as many things wrong as I possibly can, then I’m wondering who else I can blame for it, then I’m back to myself. This is all quickly removed from me though, as most of these things are now a days. I take honest stock and know that things happened as they should. I’m grateful that I didn’t run after my son like a raving lunatic simply because he was running down a sidewalk, guilty of the crime of being three. I’m grateful he didn’t get hurt. I’m grateful I’m alive and strong enough to pick him up and talk to him. I am typically granted some level of assurance that things have indeed gone a certain way for a reason. This happens the following day at the park.
Jack is a Scooter Monkey right now.
It’s a sight to behold. In a matter of 2 months he’s gone from never stepping on one, to navigating the rough terrain of York Park and the suicide inclines of Garfield Park in Pasadena. He is fearless and I love it. Jack is old enough for me to keep a healthy distance now. I’m sort of the back up. He’s off finding other kids to play with and things to do, both dangerous and wonderful. If it’s older kids he’s trying to keep pace and taking direction, if younger then he’s commanding them with a “This way, my boy!” (Dead serious). I socialize with other parents, keep my phone in my pocket, maybe even say a prayer or two. Awaiting the inevitable “Daddy, follow me!” or “I need a boo boo.” Which means band-aid. Which actually means adhesive bandage.
Jack scooters, approaching the point in which he could either keep going into the street, oncoming traffic and potential reincarnation OR he could turn onto the sidewalk and come back into the park. This is where I would usually vocalize a “Jack”, just to let him know that I know he’s approaching a decision point and has to use his brain. Some times, with the traffic pounding 50 yards past where he is, I would even go: “Jack. Stop.”
This time, I don’t say his name. He stops, turns and smiles at me before safely taking the turn back into the park. In that moment I know I’ll never have to tell him to stop at that place again. I’ll never have to make sure he knows what he’s doing there. He does and he may always have. I’m grateful that I’ve learned something about my son and he’s learned something about his father. That we’ve both learned something about the world. I stop. I take a breath. I say: “Thanks” to whatever may be listening.
No, it’s not exactly surviving a plane crash. However, everything is relative. It may seem a tiny thing to take stock in, reflect on and come away with something as definitive as the notion that my life is rather amazing. These tiny things keep on stacking up. They tower over some of the ugly things that are dark and scary. No matter how seemingly trivial, I have been made aware of something that I believe we are seldom willing to take notice of: the plan. I do truly believe that everything is rolling out according to a plan. The tricky thing is that I do not get to know the plan, or even most of my part in it. However, every once in a while, I am granted a snippet of it. Like looking through a keyhole in a door, I cannot make out what’s on the other side fully. What I do see is comforting and makes me feel warm and taken care of. It gives me enough to keep moving my feet. Knowing intuitively what days are brave the storm days and what days are Muppet days, and to be thankful for each one that I get because there is no guarantee of tomorrow.
Thanks for listening to me go on for a while. Be well.