As I grow and age and mature, and in turn watch my kids grow and age and mature, I've had to make some deep introspection. Not the pretty snorkeling in the tropics kind of diving, but the deeps sea exploration that requires an atmospheric diving suit. It's uncomfortable and you're surrounded by darkness and unbearable pressure.
So I took a break from writing. The first one was intentional. A fast from blogging and social media. Then came a second and longer break that was partially intentional yet part circumstantial.
And now I'm back. Fingers plucking away at the keyboard like a bad habit that I can't quite break. I'm back as a broken man. In all honesty, that's not a huge revelation. That's just me admitting that I currently am what I've always been. Somewhere in that concession, I have to believe that there's a glimmer of hope.
Hope; because my Bible says that the kind of sacrifice that pleases God is a broken and contrite heart.
Growing up as the son of a former pastor, in a strict and conservative church, somewhere in the suburbs north of Seattle, there is one thing I learned to do well - fake it. I could do and say all of the right things when it mattered and people were watching. But when it seemed like no one cared, I stopped caring. I stopped making an effort.
Being an adult changes that perspective. There's grown up responsibilities and grown up bills. Grown up colleagues and grown up friends. Suddenly there's a new magnifying glass over life. Now, everything matters. I don't have the freedom to not care or not make an effort. I can still fake it, but it's exhausting. (Granted, as a thirty-something, this sudden sense of adulthood makes me a late bloomer.)
In that awkward inward look, I'm searching for that glimmer of hope. Because it matters now. My kids are getting older and I can either build a relationship that will be their refuge for the rest of my life, or send them into therapy for the rest of theirs.
In the movie Beautiful Girls, Timothy Hutton returns to his childhood home for his 10 year high school reunion. The teen-aged girl that lives next door tells Hutton that he's coming back "to the house of loneliness and tears, to Daddy Downer and Brother Bummer." I hope that in 20 years, no one makes a statement like that to my kids. I hope that no one ever describes me as Daddy Downer.
How do I make that happen?
Brokenness demands healing. That's why I took a break. To look inside myself. To examine my existence. To decide what it is I want my kids to see when they look at me. To decide what kind of memories they take with them when they're old enough to move out of the house and start their own families. The way they think of me when I'm no longer a resident of this planet.
Believe me, the process of thinking these things through is not pleasant. But it is essential. As I endeavor not to become the grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off of my lawn, I realize that it starts with making my home a happy place for my kids. Daddy Downer is not welcome.
I wish I knew how to make that happen.