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When Life Is Hard You Have to Change

These last few months have seen a lot of change for me, and I'll be the first to admit I haven't taken all of it well. I've had people close to me in my life who were quite averse to change, and their reactions to changing circumstances always gave me pause. I always considered myself someone who not only didn't mind change, but embraced it, even welcomed it. But I'm starting to wonder if it's akin to the adult version of the saying about parenting, "little kids, little problems." Perhaps change is easier to embrace when you're in your younger years?

My wife and I bought a fake tree for the first time in our 20+ years of marriage this year. I grew up with a fake tree, which is why when it was finally time for me to decide which fork in the road I'd take, I proudly chose to go real--it was part and parcel of me forging my own traditions. And yet, there we stood, at a lot surrounded by real trees as we always are on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, except now the trees were very small and far more expensive than ever. My wife tentatively suggested it might be time to get a fake tree. I looked at my kids, they all shrugged, and next thing you know we're in Lowe's, buying the unthinkable--a plastic tree. I'm still not proud of it, though I am happy with it, despite myself. I think what bothers me is how swiftly we pivoted. And perhaps this seems contradictory to my initial point, but bear with me.

Speaking of traditions, taco night at our house is a big deal. Every week, it is my night to shine in the kitchen (if my wife were here she'd say my only night, but she's not). To be fair, it's not like the recipe requires any skill, it's just that we have three boys and they love tacos, so it's always a good night. Practices and week night sporting events prevent us from doing it every Tuesday, but it's usually on the menu at some point during the week. As the holidays were approaching, an evening became unexpectedly free and I decided to throw together taco night on a whim. I was so excited just to be able to stay home and was having a blast prepping, listening to good tunes, even popped a top on a Corona. Halfway through my prep work I decided to announce on our family group text that it was TACO NIGHT with an excessive number of exclamation points I'm sure. I've had to threaten my sons all too often about not responding to texts quickly enough, but on this occasion I think I would have liked a little buffer. Instead, I found out in back to back rapid fire messages that both my teenage sons had already made dinner plans with their girlfriends.

Of course when you have your head on straight and you're seeing things clearly, you smile and are glad they are out living, doing what kids are supposed to do. But when two of your best friends from childhood have each lost their fathers in recent months, things don't always appear as they should. Objects in the mirror are in fact closer than they appear. That's how they feel anyway. And suddenly I feel my own sons slipping away from me as I stir this enormous pot of meat for no one. And, of course, that is not true either. Our eleven year old and I take up the slack, probably because my bottom lip hangs so low it makes more room for tacos.

I certainly know I'm not the only one of my friends experiencing this changing family dynamic. For as long as I can remember, we've raised our kids together along with a close group of friends, doing everything from boating to camping, from traveling to hosting Saturday football watch parties and Sunday dinners. The gatherings are never exactly the same. Some couples come, some go, some move, but the core group has remained fairly intact all things considered. Until recently. It started with one or two kids heading off to college, then another one or two signing up for travel teams that involve air travel, not day trips. Next thing you know, months have gone by without us seeing the very people that for a while felt like family we spent so much time together. And it's not like my wife and I are sitting around waiting for everyone--we're busy right there with them. But then comes a recent Friday night when all the stars align, and not only are all three of our boys away on social outings, but it seems like all of our closest friends are obligated or out of town. When you're so used to being busy and obligated yourself, these moments can be unsettling--like, what do we do now? Now that we finally have a choice? As usual, I'm tempted with self-pity and angst, but instead I do what any good husband should do. I challenge my wife to a cook-off. Me on the grill vs you on the stove. Game on. Before you know it, the smack talk is thicker than the smoke coming off my grill, and the music is louder than the party we thought we'd wished we were having just an hour before.

A day later, we're in another weird place in the middle of a beautiful weekend afternoon with no plans--something we simply haven't had in what seems like decades. And then, in a moment of inspiration, we remember we bought pickleball paddles for ourselves but haven't used them, so instead of fixing a cocktail and sitting around wondering what to do, we fix a cocktail and go play pickleball on the court our neighbors painted just down the street. Even better, we end up playing with and against neighbors whom we've met, but never really hung out with and end up having an awesome afternoon.

I feel compelled to stop here and recognize the first-world nature of these problems. Lord knows we've experienced the gamut from oil spills to hurricanes, business ups and downs, not to mention in the last few years, we've experienced a lot of loss, including painful loss well beyond that of losing grandparents and parents, even pets, but that due to tragedy, even suicide. But, like someone taught me a long time ago, pain is relative. And while it feels like we've endured our fair share of loss, it's carved out room for us to feel that much more joy. Next to the tragedy we've witnessed, phone calls out of nowhere that leave you screaming uncontrollably, crying as you fall to your knees, these new situations we're facing certainly pale in terms of the pure, raw emotion they evoke, but they are real nonetheless--relative to where we are at our age, in our lives.

And then suddenly, in the midst of the holidays with all the mixed emotions involved, just as I'm bemoaning the passage of time, represented most notably in our oldest son's upcoming graduation and departure, he gets exciting news, his options start to unfold, and just like we've had to pivot so much lately, a switch goes off and I almost immediately stop lamenting his leaving and start celebrating the excitement of his, and our, road ahead.

I don't know man. Maybe my parents just didn't talk about it openly, but no one tells you how much harder life gets as you get older. It's been absolutely beautiful along the way, and I know it will continue to be if I keep my lens clear and keep trusting it's all in God's hands, but I've got to be ready to put in the work. Right now I've still got great vision, maybe not 20/20, but good enough. Everyone tells me it goes super fast as soon as it does. Seems an apt metaphor for my age right now, like you have to keep finding the right strength readers so you can see what's up close, what's far away, and most importantly, what matters and what's really going on.

Anyway, it's not that I'm afraid to change, I say to an imaginary Shannon Hoon, gone way too soon so long ago. It's just hard, but I think you knew that all too well when you wrote the song.

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2 Σχόλια

Laura Bogan
Laura Bogan
05 Ιαν

This is beautiful and exactly captures how Chris and I have felt these past few years!

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10 Ιαν
Απάντηση σε

So glad it resonated with y'all!

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