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4th Down and Twenty Yards to Go

Quick insight; I’m originally from Buffalo, NY. Basically what that means is I’ve lived my entire life rooting for the underdog. Despite having witnessed some horrible defeats, I’ve also witnessed some remarkable comebacks and moments when I’ve seen my teams overcome enormous adversity. Either way, throughout my life, I’ve often related quite directly to both the Bills and Sabres. (There’s a point to this so hang with me).

Yesterday was a good example. The Bills were playing Minnesota and shot themselves in the foot no fewer than ten times including four turnovers, a couple of which directly cost them points. They kept making mistakes, digging a progressively deeper hole. Each time they’d start to gain momentum, they’d make another mistake. And all you could do was sit there and628x471 acknowledge you’d been watching this for over forty years.

Yet, despite the multiple debacles, with just over two minutes left in the game, they found themselves only down by six points; eighty yards away from a winning score. Despite having lost their two top running backs to injury earlier in the game, they started their drive. A fourth down and twenty yards to go appeared to be the typical insurmountable hurdle that symbolized the past decade. Amazingly they got twenty four yards and continued. Then a third down and twelve completion. And with one second left on the clock, a two yard scoring strike that led to the go ahead extra point; capping an unlikely come from behind victory.

As a divorced dad, we’ve all fumbled. We’ve entered the day without a proper game plan. Failed to make proper adjustments at half-time. We’ve squandered leads. Mismanaged the clock and run the wrong routes. We’ve battled the referees and been flagged for illegal procedure, unsportsmanlike conduct, offsides, intentional grounding and a plethora of other penalties. Some flags warranted, others not so much. We’ve been blind sided and sacked more times than we’d like to remember. And yet, somehow we’ve managed to stay in the game.

As a Buffalo Bills fan, I’ve watched my team be demoralized more often than nought. So what impressed me about yesterday’s victory was the resilience displayed by the team at the end of the game. Nobody whined. Nobody quit. Nobody pointed fingers. They simply acknowledged and moved on. They put the mistakes behind them and gave it everything they had.

Let me ask you something. How many times have you faced a fourth down and twenty yards to go? Maybe it was needing to be in an important meeting that was scheduled at the same 5068b8c799fe0.preview-620time as your daughter’s softball game across town which was at the same time as your son’s soccer match on the OTHER side of town. Perhaps it was searching the aisles for a specific toy at 11 p.m on Christmas Eve. Or recognizing you’re out of peanut butter while you’re making lunches just as your daughter comes downstairs looking for a specific pair of jeans you know are in the washing machine, all five minutes before the bus is supposed to pull up. Maybe you had to figure out how to pay for an air conditioning unit that just died unexpectedly at a time when your bank account is running on fumes. And of course, in the huddle we’ve all had a time when we heard one play, but your ex heard a different one and then proceeded to run a post pattern when you were expecting them to cut across the middle leaving you holding the ball with nobody open and three hungry kids coming at you completely unblocked.

It may sound stupid, but I could relate to yesterday’s game. I’ve looked down the field wondering how in the hell I’m going to get the team to the other end in time. Especially when the entire game has been filled with one debacle after another. When you’ve turned the ball over multiple times, been sacked six times and hurried the entire game it can be tough finding the inner strength to hang in there. You find yourself just waiting to be blindsided convinced it’s just not your day. Just seeing someone stand up, acknowledge the mess and then shrug it off and make the plays necessary to be victorious was inspiring. For some reason, just seeing someone else muster up the strength to persevere, regardless of the circumstances, made me think perhaps my season isn’t quite over just yet. For some reason, after seeing how this game turned out, I entered the week believing I could score a touchdown even when facing a fourth down and twenty yards to go.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Sink or Swim (facing regret and fear)

Life has a funny way of forcing us outside our comfort zones. We may go kicking and screaming, convinced that doing so will cause us to shrivel up and die a slow painful death. A friend of mine recently shared a quote by Deepak Chopra who said that “Most people live their lives regretting the past or fearing the future. Therefore most people live their lives in a dream.” Researching the quote I found that author Fulton Oursler had earlier written that “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.”

As I sat and let these ideals seep into my head I realized that the times in my life when I felt the most stuck or frozen was when I was either regretting a decision I’d previously made or feared what may happen down the road because of those decisions. Panic has often ensued worrying about the “what ifs” rather than focusing on the here and now.

I am a person who thrives on momentum. I have periods in my life when it feels like I’m flying a mile a minute with each event leading me to another. All of which are leading me in the direction I want to go. In those moments I see myself climbing mountains and achieving goals. Such momentum is nearly impossible to maintain however and eventually it will either slow or600571_10151634974992908_1391745395_n stop all together. When that momentum comes to a screeching halt, it throws my system into complete shock and leaves me on the verge of uncontrollable depression. Regardless of how many times I’ve experienced the momentum eventually picking back up, I convince myself that this lull will be everlasting. Add a few additional negative punches to the soul and it can get awful dark.

The truth is, that we get comfortable in our lives. And fear tends to cause us to hold on to that comfort zone like a big log floating in a vast ocean of uncertainty. But when you’re growing. When you’re evolving. That floating log that you’re clinging to, could be the very thing keeping you from swimming to shore. And there you lie, bobbing up and down in the same ocean waiting for a ship to pass and pick you up.

Letting go of that comfort is scary as hell. What if I drown? What if I sink? And there you go again, worrying about the what ifs. Here’s a what if. What if no one rescues you and you live your life bobbing up and down on the same damn log the rest of your life? What if the log you’re holding on to gets waterlogged and sinks. Then what? Then you die and your kids get to bob up and down on the same damn log.

Some of the most successful people in the world got to where they are because they had no choice. They had to sink or swim. They were forced out of their comfort zone and forced to find out what they’re made of. Do you know what YOU are made of? What are you holding on to that’s keeping you from advancing and growing? Take a good hard look at your world. What do you fear? What are you clinging to?

I bet if you look hard enough you’ll recognize that your comfort zone is actually causing you a great deal of discomfort. Which should be your first clue that it’s time to start swimming.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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But What If?

Last night I was at my daughter’s softball game. It was a late start so by the time the first pitch was thrown the sun had already set. Off in the distance was a spectacular lightning display as storms were raging to the south of us. I overheard a child ask their dad, “What if it starts raining?” The dad reassured her that the storms were very far away and not an immediate threat and to enjoy the game. I took the guy’s advice and just sat back and enjoyed watching my daughter play what was probably one of the best games of the season. I put all other thoughts to the back of my mind and focused on the joy of watching my kid steal third base.

How often do we get wrapped up in worrying about the “what ifs” in our lives? So much so that we completely miss the opportunity to enjoy the here and now. I’m guilty of it. Quite frankly, I’m guilty of it right now. Worried about two weeks from now to the point of not focusing on2012-10-17 21.21.03
how amazing today is and how hard I’ve worked to get to this point.

You can easily cloud your head with what ifs. They’re so easy to create as there are countless scenarios as to how things might turn out. The problem is, we typically make “what ifs” a negative thing. What if it rains? What if she breaks her ankle? What if the car breaks down? What if the check doesn’t show up on time? What if my ex gets a boyfriend/girlfriend? What if I’m unable to support my family? What if it turns out Godzilla is real and he terrorizes my town forcing us to live underground and live on beetles? Sound familiar? I believe there’s a fine line between preparing yourself for the future and worrying about the things we have absolutely no control over. Or, as I’m well versed in, creating unrealistic scenarios, many of which would make for a great Lifetime movie of the week.

Some things we simply can’t tackle until they happen. Think back to all of the what ifs you worried about during the past year. How many of them actually came to being? I’m willing to bet it was less than 10%. We cloud our heads so much worrying about things that never actually happen. We really do. Yes, bad things are going to happen and there are going to be bad days. They’re going to happen. But they don’t need to consume us before they happen.

If it’s absolutely necessary for you to worry about the future, give yourself a time each day to do so. Then acknowledge and move on. Go watch your kid play softball. Or let them teach you how to play Minecraft or demonstrate to you the value of making a list as my middle child often does. Focus on those things that you can control in the here and now. Consider the what ifs for sure, at the same time acknowledging you can only manage “What is.”

 

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You’re Not Alone

My father is 91. Whenever I see him, (he lives about 700 miles away), the first thing he says to me is how alone he feels. Admittedly, part of this is his own doing. He avoids crowds due to his inability to hear people well and tends to shy away from social situations. Keep in mind, at one point, he was the President of the New York State Farm Bureau. But big picture, most of his brothers and sisters are gone. He recently lost a son-in-law. And he’s losing his memory and finally acknowledging his age and quite frankly, he’s scared.

This past week, my sister took him to a new doctor. My parents had moved a while ago and he had held on to his old doctor despite the distance until it was becoming obvious to both the doctor and my family that he needed someone closer. And so after a bit of drama he2014-05-25 11.42.45 agreed to get someone closer.

The foundation of this blog has always been to remind us that we’re never the only one on this path. Somewhere out there is someone who is experiencing the same trials and tribulations you are. Somewhere, someone understands what you’re going through. It’s true when your seven. It’s true when you’re seventeen. It’s true when you’re fifty and it’s true when you’re 91. It’s a key element to our peace of mind. To have the knowledge that there is someone who gets it and understands what’s going on in your head. Such was the focal point of my father’s doctor visit.

Even at 91. Even with everything my father has lived through. His accomplishments. His ups and downs. His knowledge of life and what it means to be 91. Despite having family around him every day reminding him that they’re there for him, even he simply needed a stranger to say, “You’re not the only one experiencing this and I want to help.” And from what my mom and sister told me, that’s exactly what this new doctor said. “I understand, and you’re not the first one to go through this.”

I’m told he wept at the end of the visit, which from all accounts lasted nearly two hours. I can only guess, that simply hearing someone tell him, “you’re not alone and I’m here to help” brought a sense of relief to him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t already have people around2014-05-30 17.31.57-1him who love him and are there to help. But sometimes it takes a complete stranger with no history to validate your state of mind.

As divorced dads (and moms), there are times when we feel incredibly vulnerable and alone. We wake up in an abyss of unknowns, convinced our lives are a complete mess. We shy away from inviting people in wondering who would want to be a part of our mess. During those times, knowing there are others just like you, somehow gives you peace of mind and an ability to face it head on with a little more confidence and resilience. It also helps us recognize that our world really isn’t as bad as we tend to make it out to be sometimes. And yes, sometimes it’ll make you weep when the weight of feeling alone is lifted. Hearing about my dad’s experience and having watched him these past few years and having watched my children grow and navigate through their first decade has helped me recognize that in every stage of life, we’re convinced we’re the first to experience the pains we’re living through.

In that vein, this blog has been a source of therapy for me as well these past three years. Each note I receive, every comment made, reminds me that there are others going through the same things I am. And that we’re all doing our best and learning as we go. The reality is, sometimes it simply helps to know, you’re not alone.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2014 in Daily Life, Divorce

 

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When I Grow Up


Yesterday, as I was on the couch watching television with my son, I looked at him and the oddest thought went through my head. I sat their looking at him, thinking, “Holy crap! I’m his DAD.” I repeated it in my head a few more times. “I’m this kid’s dad.” For some reason, I was having a difficult time wrapping my head around it.

After twelve years of being a father, I still look at my kids and am floored by the simple concept that, “I’m the dad.” I’m that guy. I’m the one they’ll talk about through college and when they’re on their own. When they’re talking to their grandchildren, I’m going to be the “dad” they talk about. Out of nowhere it hit me like a brick and suddenly, this thought became remarkably difficult for
IMG_1846me to comprehend.

For the most part I would consider myself a fairly involved father and am confident that most who know me, including my ex-wife, would agree. I did a 2 am feeding or two. My first child spent many hours with me at the office during her first year. Even had her own pack n’ play there. I’ve been the soccer coach. We’ve traveled together a lot. I’ve taken a million pictures, videos, etc. Done my best to be there as much as I could. And yet, it’s taken twelve years for the idea of being a father to start to sink in. How is that possible?

I’m having discussions with my eldest that are becoming more “life philosophies.” You know the ones. The talks that are more about the type of person they want to be when they grow up. I think such discussions smack you in the face with, “Well buddy, what kind of person do YOU want to be when you grow up?” And then it hits you. You’re the grown up. You’re the guy they’re going to look to as the reference point.

As dads we screw up a lot. Both as fathers and as human beings in general. We make mistakes and have to hold ourselves accountable for those errors in judgement. We do the best we can and base our decisions and our approaches on decades worth of research living our own lives. Still, we’re far from perfect. But I think the very idea of being “dad” should, if nothing else, force us to become increasingly introspective as to the type of person we are beyond just being the dad. By that, I mean, we should take this amazing opportunity to grow as individuals and ask ourselves, “what kind of person do we want to be when we grow up.” Because it’s impossible to ask a twelve-year-old what type of person they want to be when they grow up and then help them get there, if we aren’t asking ourselves the same question and working to get their as well.

I’m looking up at pictures of my kids that are hanging up in my office. It still amazes me to think that these are my kids. That I’m the guy who’s been entrusted with the task of being their father. And I love the fact that it continues to blow my mind even after all this time.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Daily Life

 

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