Meeting strangers with familiar faces

Recently I met the two most interesting people the world. The unexpected thing is, however, they are both are my children.

My wife and I are finding this new stage of life, “empty nesting” as it is called, simply fascinating. While we knew we’d be enjoying a journey of rediscovering each other, we didn’t expect to find our newly minted adult children so fascinating. Both our son and daughter have come a long way from Legos and Barbie dolls.

I remember years ago looking at a photograph taken of our kids and realizing how much they’d physically changed over the course of a couple years. At the time our son was probably about ten, his sister a few years behind him. Looking at the picture I noticed our son was now a bit taller, his shoulders a bit more square and athletic. Sitting next to him in the photo, his sister still displayed her gusto for life with a brilliant smile, but she, too, was beginning to physically change.

These evolutions, as a parent, are almost invisible when viewed on a daily basis. So small and imperceptible, they are almost like watching blades of grass growing in your front yard. Parenting is like this as well – we are simply too close to the moment to recognize the changes going on before our eyes.

Only now, what my wife and I recognize cannot be measured with a yardstick or pencil markings on the kitchen door casement. The dramatic changes we see are now occurring in the world located between the ears and behind the eyes of our kids.

I guess this is what this next stage holds for us as parents – recognizing the changes with our kids are no longer easily identifiable from the outside. The growth and maturity is now an intellectual and mental evolution. And the separation of time and distance between us now will only accelerate our awareness of this natural progression.

After picking up our daughter at the airport earlier this month, we found ourselves sitting down for dinner at a local restaurant. While I could see she’d again changed her hairstyle and color (an ongoing evolution), there was something much different in the air about her. No longer was her focus on her cellphone or what her friends were doing nearly a thousand miles away. Instead she was leaning in to our conversations and asking very insightful questions about world events – once even beating me to the very question I was about to ask.

The same thing happened a few weeks before with her brother. For both, the scope and range of their interests has changed dramatically. The questions they asked were thoughtful and intellectually challenging. I honestly thought I was meeting a brand new person each time a conversation broke out.

Suddenly, a familiar feeling came across me. I realized I was looking at that old photograph again – only now the changes occurring were hidden behind their beautiful eyes and the time and distance now separating us. Our son and daughter are indeed new people – light years removed from Legos and Barbie dolls. And all I can say is I can’t wait to discover who we’ll meet next time.

 

– 30 –

 

 

 

 

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Buttons Reveal Ageless Lesson

You would think very few things would surprise you in a relationship after three decades of being together.

“What is the deal with the buttons on your car,” I said the other night as my wife and I drove across town.

“What do you mean?”

“The stations – the stations are all out of order,” I said.

My wife shot me one of those time-tested looks – a one combining “I have no idea of what you’re talking about” and “whatever it is, you’re wrong”.

To be honest, this refined and efficient look is well earned on my end.

Pressing the button furthest to the left on the dashboard, music began to play. I then pushed the second, third, and fourth with the same result.

“See what I mean,” I said. “The stations are out of order.”

Again, the look flashed my way.

Trying to help, I offered an explanation.

“Look,” I said, repeating the sequence of buttons. “You’ve got stations out of frequency order. Why wouldn’t you have the lowest frequency number at far left and progressively move across to the higher frequency?”

“Because,” she said, “button number one is my favorite station, number two is my next favorite…and so on. Makes perfect sense to me.”

Suddenly a strange silence settled in the car as we waited for the light to change – both of us realizing we’d been completely oblivious to the other’s point of view for all these years. Why, I thought to myself, would you place stations in any order than a nice, neat numerical sequence progressing from left to right? My wife’s plan, using the numbered buttons to rank the stations from favorite to least, felt like total ‘chaos’. To me her theory is more closely aligned to telling me the earth circled the moon.

But to her my theory is ridiculously misguided. The numbered buttons indicated easy access to her favorite stations — a foreign concept never once crossing my mind over all these years.

I was totally stunned we’d somehow traveled a life of three decades, two grown children, and  over a half-dozen cities together and never once crossed this bridge before.

This revelation is special to me. Common logic might lead you to believe the magic of a relationship fades or loses its luster over time. There is truth the fact my wife and I know more about each other than any other living soul on the planet. But there is also truth in the fact that there is always something new for us to discover in each other.

My wife and I have known each other since before we even knew ourselves. But this recent discovery serves to remind me of how wonderful it is to be in love with someone you realize will always hold surprises revealed only through the currency of time.

In the end, we’ve reached an amicable agreement about preset buttons debate: I am wrong and she is right.

That is until we get into my car….

– 30 –

Recognizing The Status Quo As Your Enemy

 

The other day I was talking with a friend about the dangers of doing nothing. He, like many people, is facing some very difficult personal challenges in his life.

“The status quo is really just a comfortable illusion,” I said. “While you think you might be maintaining whatever you’re looking at, what you don’t see is the incremental deterioration going on in front of your eyes.”

I’ve come to fear the status quo – and mainly for what I was sharing with my friend. Over time I began to understand that, regardless of the particular aspect in my life I was looking at, doing nothing was never the best choice. And those times I rationalized avoiding making a decision was the best answer, I quickly discovered myself moving backwards.

I remember the day the painting crew finished changing color of the outside of our home. Gone was the old, oxidized grey paint – now replaced by a beautiful, warm yellow. Also gone were the hundreds of tiny chips in the white paint around the widow casings and the slight variation in color in paint from the sun bleaching one side of the house verses the others.

What I learned right then was my eyes had been playing tricks on me — doing nothing in my life was simply moving backwards in slow motion.

This principle, or the recognizing of the status quo as my enemy, is now an integral part of my life.

From the curb, the old house paint looked fine. No one could see the small cornflake-sized chips of paint peeling from around the upstairs window. Nor could they see how the exterior wall on the west side paled after years of doing battle with the hot summers. But the degradation was there all the same – only appearing in waves too imperceptible for me to recognize on a short-term basis.

To simply do nothing was to support the illusion of status quo’s steady march to the drumbeat of time. To keep the house looking good I’d need to invest in time, money, and effort. Pressure washing would need to be done to keep the grime from slowly eating into the paint; weathered edges around the windows or openings would need to be caulked or touched up on a regular schedule. Simply put, doing nothing would be authorizing the status quo to take the house backwards.

Our individual lives are no different. We might appear healthy in the mirror each morning as we get dressed, but taking a walk around the block or eating more carefully allows us to live a healthier life. The same applies to our career, our finances, or more importantly to our loved one. To maintain the important things in our lives we must make an effort to invest in them. Maybe that means constantly reading about changes in the business world or maybe learning to clip a coupon here and there. Or more importantly, making the effort to demonstrate to those you love how much they mean to you in your daily actions and words. We must move our feet to simply keep up.

My friend is in my prayers. What I hope is that he, too, will recognize that doing nothing is simply the greatest illusion of all time.

 

– 30 –