Long Nights and Impossible Lives

I found myself at the end of a long day and an even longer week. Something we are all too familiar with. Something that happens far more than it should.

A lot of unpaid overtime, a slough of papers to read, and a handful to write. Evenings missed with the girls, bedtime stories not read, Saturdays lost, and routines of normalcy thrown out the window.

I was tired. In my hands, in my bones, in my heart, and in my soul. I don’t know how a 3-year-old can do it, can move such dark tenacious clouds, but this is a story of exactly that.

I enjoyed the last few days of fall leaves and uncharacteristically warm weather in a tall bistro chair on the front porch. I had stepped out to find a moment to breathe, to let my thoughts have room to curate the important from the temporary, and to let work-Tony slip away and allow home-Tony to find his footing again. Some days I can’t tell the difference between those two people.

Some days my girls can’t either.

Not long into my contemplating and self-sorting, Gia joined me on the front porch for a little R&R, leaving a half-finished Lion King to an empty living room (#honored). Ring Pop in hand and dripping with way more swag than a 3-year-old should, she climbs up the chair twice her height opposite mine, grabs my apple cider, and says to me, “Papa I’m glad you’re here, I’m glad you could make it today.”

Sucking back my big-fat-man-ego and not letting on how much her little toddler words mean to me, I quietly sit back and smile, the two of us just watching traffic and leaves flutter by like seasons and phases of life.

“Don’t go anywhere,” she says suddenly, “I’ll be right back. I have to go see where the Lion King is at. Don’t move, I’m coming back.” She was insistent, desperate almost as if I would suddenly poof into nothingness if she wasn’t there to confirm my existence.

“Okay, okay,” I reassure her, with no intention of getting up. She returns a few minutes later and I ask for the update.

“Hakuna Matata,” she says.

The irony sinks into my bones like honey and sunshine. I laugh, shaking my head in resignation, the world’s weight lifted from my shoulders.

By the might of a 3-year-old.

A Foothold in the Hills of an Authentic Life

I think back to that day often enough, recognizing the elegance hidden in her innocent soul like fire to my cold adult bones.

We sip our coffees and munch our fancy snacks, filling ourselves with little bits of dopamine to cover the wounds of life. Our conversations are mature and empty, characterized by shallow depth and gilded complexities; mere platitudes.

The radiance of the golden sun blinds us. It gives us headaches and strains our eyes. So we draw closed the curtains of our hearts. These little perturbations to our senses are nudges, reminders, and wake-up calls to reconnect. The beautiful consequence of parenthood, if your eyes are keen enough to catch it and your heart honest enough to feel it, is the simplicity of a moment. Our children do it so well.

As a father, a husband, a man, an adult we are always skirting from one moment to the next. Hooked on the last, eager for the next. Only ever half in at any time. But life wants us to pause.

How it so desperately wants us to stand still for just a minute.

To enjoy that one particular unique slice of time for what it’s worth. It could be a painful moment, a happy moment, a moment of quiet reflection, a moment of admiration, a moment of pure sensation, a beautiful scent, a flavor, a smile. It could be the scattered rays of a setting sun or how a young child chews her lip as she loses herself in a bedtime story or clutches your arm in protest as you try to set her down.

We layer ourselves to protect the vulnerabilities. But in doing so we take away so much of what life is.

Your children will be there, in that moment, waiting for you.

Cheers, folks.

This article was originally published at Medium. Republished with permission from the author.