How does one re-enter the blogosphere after a 7 month absence? I guess you just start typing and see if anyone is still out there.
This parenting thing is HARD, man. I've been a dad for over 2 years now, and one would think that I would have it under control, but it seems like I'm getting WORSE at dealing with the all-encompasing demands that fatherhood places on me daily. To say that I had taken my free time for granted would be the mother of all understatements. I am only now realizing that my mechanism for coping with life's stresses was entering a mindless state of total relaxation. The time I had 'pre-Bauer' to recharge was spent aimlessly drifting between whatever whim of wind hit my sail. I distinctly remember having times where I would ask myself "what do I want to do now?". Ha! Those days are long gone baby, as my days are FULL from the moment I wake up until the moment the boy goes to bed. My previous times of rest no longer exist as any free moment is immediately gobbled up by the need of my toddler.
The only redeeming facet of my new life dynamic is the fact that I've been forced to truly prioritize what I want to accomplish with my waking hours. The youthful days of keeping up with each of my many passions while still making exercise and quiet time priorities seem to be gone forever. They're gone; and I'm in mourning. Now, I have to let go of some things in order to find time for new things. I must give up something to gain something, when in the past I could just add and add and add. Being forced to place value on certain activities and pursuits has often brought me back to the same phrase "But I can't give that up, I've got to keep doing that". Whether through cultural pressure, or upbringing, or my own assumptions, there are things in my life that I've labeled as untouchable. These things cannot be cut out. Examples: I MUST put all my effort into my career to be as successful as possible. I MUST provide the best things for my family. I MUST send my son to the best college possible. I MUST focus on getting better on the golf course. I MUST become a better guitar player. I MUST stay in peak phjysical shape. I MUST buy this. I MUST be involved in that. I MUST, I MUST I MUST! But must I? Really?
In my head, I tell myself that if my son doesn't get the best education possible, I'm a bad parent. If I'm not killing myself for success at the office, I'm a lazy bum. If I'm not getting better at golf, I'm going to wake up one day and never have reached my goals. The theme is the same: If I don't _____, then I'm a FAILURE. Well, thanks to some good friends, a great wife, and a wise therapist, I've spent the past few months deconstructing these if/then lies that I've been telling myself. Rather than attempt to trudge through life with all these expectations heaped on my shoulders, I've been learning the liberting skill of rest. I'm developing a sense of self that is independent of my ability to live up to expectations or to perform. I'm learning to just BE.
And what are the results of this evolution? I'm finding more time, energy and heart to focus on other people, in the moment at hand. Its amazing how, by just removing the pressure of 'musts', your efforts become more whimsical; more adventureous; more joyful. My goal is to become that rare person who pursues life with great passion and drive, but does it all for the pursuit itself; not the reaching of goals. I need to continue to learn that there is a place between success and failure, and it's called contentment. Contentment is fueled with gratitude for what I HAVE, not what I SHOULD HAVE. If the accolades of success come my way, will I enjoy them? Of course! But I will not tie my sense of self to them.
So my lack of free time is starting to change in feel and appearance. By choosing to embrace my role as father, I'm not risking a bunch of failures in the unattended areas of my life. I'm choosing, each day, to take what the day is giving me and enjoying it for what it is. Tomorrow may bring something else completely, but I'll worry about that tomorrow.