Lessons from an Existential Crisis
I was having a bit of crisis the other day on Twitter and so many members of my tribe came to my aid with kind words and thoughts. Thank you.
I turned 50 last year, right smack dab in the middle of the pandemic. Before that happened my partner asked me what I wanted to do for my 50th. She was fishing for ideas and was planning something special.
I was never a conventional guy, so I suggested maybe a big camping trip. We find a place on the map, set a day and time, and then send out the invites for people to show up, camp, play music, laugh, and reconnect again.
A friend once told me that that the most precious thing you can give someone is your time.
I was so looking forward to the reconnection part. For me being together with the people I love and care about is what’s important to me. I’m never about the gifts, I’m about the cards they write to me and the time we spend together.
It brings me great joy to read the words my loved ones write to me, because I know it comes from the heart. Every year my partner and children ask me what I want for my birthday or Father’s Day, and every year I tell them the same thing. I want a nice dinner together and a card with words from their heart.
Yes, I get some small gifts but it’s that time I spend with them that I treasure, it’s the most precious gift I can get. A friend once told me that that the most precious thing you can give someone is your time.
Time is not a renewable resource. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. For some strange reason yesterday that realization hit me harder than ever before and it led to mini crisis.
I left one important thing out of that Tweet because it paralyzed me.
I think what triggered it was a retirement party we were invited too. A friend of my partner was retiring early and her partner and son organized a small retirement party to celebrate. They live on a small farm in southern New Jersey and they’re good friends of ours, so of course, we were going to go!
But the night before I started to feel a bit off, something was cooking in that hamster wheel of my mind. I tweeted an observation in the morning that first I went to weddings, then new baby parties, then some divorces, and now I’m going to retirement parties.
On the drive home, he got quiet and told me that he had two big regrets in his life.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? You’re bound to have a lot of weddings at first and a lot of stuff in between and then retirement parties. Except that wasn’t the end, I left one important thing out of that Tweet because it paralyzed me. I left out the part about going to funerals.
Death has been stalking my family since the beginning of the year. My parents and aunt caught Covid19 in February and ended up in the hospital. It nearly killed them and my sister and I went through a roller coaster of stress and emotions. They all made it out alive, thankfully, but I could help shake this feeling of dread. For the first time in my life, I was faced with my parent’s mortality. They’re not going to be around forever.
Now they’re suffering from long-term Covid19 effects. My mother lost so much weight that she’s just skin and bones. My aunt is losing all her hair. My father lost a lot of weight and had to go back into the hospital after 4 months. He almost died because he was bleeding internally, a side effect of Covid19, his medicine, and being a stubborn old man.
He ended up needing three blood transfusions and was in the hospital for two weeks. He got close to crashing a few times as they figured out how to help him. I was told that if I didn’t bring him that night he would’ve likely died in his sleep.
I’m trying to stay afloat from the dark murkiness of repressed emotions, emotional baggage, societal and cultural expectations, trauma, and a host of other yucky things.
He’s back on the mend now but the levels of stress I’ve felt throughout this much preventable pandemic can probably kill a small horse.
That wasn’t the worst of it. He called me up one day wanting to go out to have some french fries. I gladly obliged and took him to one of his favorite places. He was so happy and we have a great lunch date.
On the drive home, he got quiet and told me that he had two big regrets in his life. These regrets were two mistakes he made as a young man that had such a huge impact on his life. We talked and he wondered what life would’ve been for him if he didn’t make those mistakes.
If he did, my sister and I wouldn’t be here and he would’ve never met and married my mother. My parents have a complicated relationship too say the least. I know he’s not happy and neither is my mother.
Here was my father, a man that I had a complicated past with, assessing his life. The good, the bad, and the ugly. At that moment I saw him for what he was, a flawed man.
That’s what he is, what I am, what you are. We’re all flawed, imperfect, weak, vulnerable, and searching to become whole.
I went swimming this morning with my partner. The water was murky as I swam across the lake. In the middle of the lake, I realized that my existential crisis was a lot like swimming in this lake. I’m trying to stay afloat above the dark murkiness of repressed emotions, emotional baggage, societal and cultural expectations, trauma, and a host of other yucky things.
The blue sky was above me, the sun was shining and leaves moving in the gentle wind. That was my salvation, my authenticity. I was between the two, the dark and the light, with me in the middle. I was swimming with anchors that tried to pull me under in the deep and it was so hard to stay afloat.
I have a wonderful mother-in-law that cries every time we hug…
Over the past year, I learned to shed some of those anchors and let them fall to the bottom of the lake. I wanted to reach the far shore so I can get out and into the sun. I want to sit under the trees and bask in the sunlight. I need to do this for myself, for me, so that I can learn to love myself again.
My heart swells as I write these words because I have so much love in my life, around me, and to share. I’m the luckiest man alive. I have a wonderful son and daughter that think I’m the best Dad ever. I have a loving partner, the love of my life, and we share such deep connection. I have an awesome sister and two rambunctious nephews that make me proud.
I have two wonderful parents that love me and think the world of me. I have an awesome extended family on my partner’s side filled with many nieces and nephews! They all love their crazy uncle from America. I have a wonderful mother-in-law that cries every time we hug; we don’t speak the same language but we communicate through hugs. My brother and sister in-laws always welcome me with open arms.
For there is no more room in our lives for regrets, what’s in the past is in the past.
And last but not least, I have you, my wonderful tribe. A tribe filled with compassionate people, loving people, and brave explorers charting their destinies into the unknown. I see you on an ocean around me and it looks like we’re heading in the same direction. I see you with my spyglass in your vessels, reading the stars at night and longing to find your port of call. A place that is home for you.
I will be 51 in a few short months and I have a new birthday wish. My wish is that one day we all reach the same port together. That we sit across a dinner table and break bread together, share laughter, tears, and raise a toast!
A toast to love! To us!
I wish that we write each other cards and say how much we mean to each other, words from the heart and with no feelings spared. I wish that we become what we need to be, our true authentic selves.
For there is no more room in our lives for regrets, what’s in the past is in the past. We have the rest of our lives to live and what better way to do it but with an ocean of love calling to us.
After all, what else is there?