I was asked to write about something I’ve learned through my experience as a father by Dana Glazer, director of The Evolution of Dad. It really got me thinking and here’s what I came up with.
I was recently asked by Dana Glazer, Director of The Evolution of Dad (“A Documentary-In-Progress about the Evolving American Father”), to write about something I’ve learned through my experience as a father.
Dana has graciously included this in his blog The Evolution of Dad Project.
This really got me thinking, as I’ve learned so much throughout my years of making mistakes, correcting them, learning from them, and attempting to change my habits and behavior to create a better life for myself and those around me.
This personal reflection has awakened memories in me of the one thing I need to remember each and every day. Let me share it with you.
I’m a pragmatist, and I need to keep things in proper perspective, so here’s my perception:
Fatherhood, and life, is much closer to The Sopranos than to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. And they’re much different from the epiphany experiences many self-help books would have you believe are happening to everyone who reads them, except you.
I am a voracious consumer of personal development books. I love them, and am constantly reading them. But I have noticed a pattern in these books. They tend to be about “how horrible my life was, what happened (my big epiphany) and how great things are now.” I think that kind of self improvement literature can be a little discouraging to many people – those who don’t have the big epiphany, and those who thought they had done everything as instructed, experienced the success they worked for, and then found themselves struggling in the some area of their lives.
And I don’t think that’s how things really are.
Looking at my entire life, as a father and in every other area of my life, I have a great life.
After spending a recent weekend with my wife and now-grown kids, simply practicing my deepest family values – I found myself wondering how my life could get any better.
But there are problems I continue to struggle with. I didn’t suddenly have a big awakening, stop struggling with that area, and have a great life from then on.
I do have a great life. It continues to be great. But there are always areas that need more work, and when I smooth them out and that area gets to be what I want, then I keep going. It’s not that I don’t grow and improve. I do. It’s that there’s no sudden point at which everything transforms.
Which brings me back to Extreme Makeover and The Sopranos. The end of each Extreme Makeover show brings about this unveiling of a great new life, something completely different and unexpected.
But that’s not really how life is. There is no series of before and after pictures to compare and contrast, nor the changing of an ugly-duckling life into that of a swan.
Life is much more like Tony, Carm, Meadow, and A.J. Soprano.
If you were a regular Sopranos watcher, you may have expected the final episode to end in all sorts of unimaginable bloodletting, despair, and, well, finality.
But it didn’t. The last few minutes of the show was filled with tense moments that, if you were like me, kept me on the edge of my chair in anticipation of something grand that could occur at any second. You and I examined every character in that scene and reviewed every event that took place and every relationship twist and turn that occurred in the years that The Sopranos were on HBO. You played out tens and hundreds of different scenarios in your head.
And when the TV screen went blank while the family was gathering at a local diner, you, like me, felt that something went wrong with the cable/dish signal.
So what happened to the Soprano family in the show’s final episode?
Nothing. Life went on – period.
The Sopranos seldom gave viewers what they expected. Similarly, life is seldom what I expected, and that’s the lesson that I must remember every single day of my life.
The only expectation that always becomes reality in my life is that things change. No matter how hard I work to become a better husband, father, friend, and member of the community, life happens despite my best-laid plans.
There’s no ‘secret’ to life, nor final destination to great relationships, success, happiness, and fulfillment. Life is a journey.
When I accept this fact, and make every effort to learn and grow throughout my life – building patience, endurance, and persistence to deal with the obstacles and challenges seemingly thrown at me – my life will continue to be great. All I have to do is live – to be fully present – in each moment and enjoy the journey. These feelings (I call them the 4 As) of being Awake, Alive, Aware, and in Awe will continue to nurture me and those around me.