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The Walking Talking Man Blues

Photograph by Getty Images

Look here.

Nothing ever stays the same.

I ought to know.

I was the man who waltzed through this life thinking that I was a damn fine person, a great parent and a pretty good spouse. Motivated just enough by the constant ticker of propaganda and self-imposed cliches that I kept running across the bottom of the 24/7 news screen right behind my eyeballs; I spent years, hell, decades, in a holding pattern of anxiety and impatience and verbal warfare with the people closest to me.

It was exhausting, but I kept it up. Why? Well, change is so ... so ... change-y, isn’t it?

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Nothing ever really stays the same, though, unless you use all of your energy to make sure that it does. And even then, the changes come and go while you just pretend that they don’t.

At least, that’s the 10-ton meteorite that recently fell from the sky onto me when I was faced with the reality that no love affair, and thus, no family unit, can last without constant vigilance and work and the desire to make it better when something is wrong.

It’s almost too hard to comprehend most of the time.

As parents and partners, our lives are difficult and busy, and we hurl ourselves at the things we want to believe are the most important—our jobs/our savings/our health insurance/politics/Little League practice and car pools—all so that we don’t have to really ever deal with the fact that, emotionally, and even soulfully, we are just too scared of the fact that we are so utterly flawed in the face of so much of life’s possibility.

Relationships remain very strong when they are tended to and cultivated. But, obviously, once you start coasting and you just let the weeds grow wild or allow the the picker bushes to have their way, it is way harder to save something you didn’t even realize needed saving.

Like anybody else in my shoes, I want to be the best daddy I could ever be. At the same time, I wanted to be the greatest husband who ever lived, but I wasn’t doing enough to make that happen. Truth be told, I was barely doing anything at all. In fact, lots of times, I was making things much worse by overreacting to little stuff, getting all worked up over insignificant puffs of inconvenience, or taking offense to innocuous things like a kid spilling chocolate milk on the floor or a comment from my wife about doing the dishes better.

Be the mom or the dad you have watched living inside of yourself for so long now.

I held fast to my protective wall of defense against anything and everything; I saw so much of life through negative/pessimistic/antagonized eyes. I spent years and years watching the world around me—a beautiful world, by the way—through the tired, jaded eyes of a man who just wanted to coast along and get by with as little self-improvement as possible.

No matter what the daily grind threw my way, I saw it as a personal attack on my life.

Crazy, I know.

But there it is.

But things can and do change, if you actually want them to.

For the past couple of months I’ve been reading a book by a well-known Vietnamese Buddhist monk. It’s not a book that I am here to sell you on, because frankly, the dude has sold so many books that he’d probably prefer to NOT sell any more so that all of the royalty checks quit gumming up his mindfulness.

Look, my point is this: In spite of all of my years of coasting along and just getting by, as a parent and a husband and a brother and a friend, and despite the fact that I more or less never ever dreamed that I would someday be faced with the somewhat dire consequences I face today as a result of the way I had lived my life for so long, it is actually extremely possible to wake the hell up one day very soon; to change your world from the inside out long before you’re dead and your kids gather to remember a person who never really embraced the happiness and beauty laying right there on the doormat of the front stoop of the very life they had been lucky enough to live.

I wish I could assure you that I am the furthest thing from a New Age sort of dude, too, in case you’re wondering. I am an ex rocker who fishes and hunts and likes a beer or three, and I dress like a teenage Goth in all black almost all of the time. And if you called me "New Age" to my face I would challenge you to a duel in my yard, which is covered in frozen dog turds, but I don’t care about falling on them because I already do that half the time anyway.

All I’m saying is, if any of this strikes a chord within you, then wake up and find what works for you, for your kids, for the man or woman you love (but whom you fail on a regular basis when it comes to expressing and showing the real thing).

Be the mom or the dad you have watched living inside of yourself for so long now. Unchain that SOB and let him or her free. Be the husband or wife you have been standing there staring at in your quietest hours, your face smushed up against the aquarium glass as you watch the best version of yourself pacing back and forth on the fake ocean floor of your guts.

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Find something (because it won’t come looking for you). Go out and find Buddhism or yoga or a book or friend who has been there or a God or a science or a treadmill or a frying pan or whatever the hell it is that might help you swing open the doors to doing the serious living and loving you’ve been watching go down from far away.

Do it before it’s too late.

Get off your psychologically-frozen ass and find a newer, better way to love the people in your life.

Or don’t.

Either way, change is coming.

Trust me.

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