Reflection

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Since November 17, 2009 I have been keeping a journal – very much off and on – that I have titled “Things Dad Learned” for Jack Searby. Today, I was writing in one of the last pages of the journal so I decided to flip back through it and read a few entries from the past 6 years. What ensued was a lesson on the power of reflection.

Looking back across these entries that are intended to be shared with my son when he heads off to college, I came to realize something in a very powerful way: it is very difficult for us, in the moment, to realize the insignificance or gravity of a situation.

Two examples drove this home for me. I came across an entry where I put on paper a very emotional passage about how trying my son, who was 4 at the time, was being to his mother and I. It was laden with a ‘woe is me’ tone about how hard he was making life by being overly emotional and getting in trouble at pre-school and on and on. As I look back on this, I almost have to laugh at how trite I was being. Jack, at age 4, was a new brother, in a full day pre-school because both of us were working full time, dealing with me being on the road a lot for work, and he was 4! I know that I thought it was a big deal at the time because this journal isn’t a “recap of my day” type of ledger. But with the passage of time and maturing of both Jack and I, it is obvious that the moment was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It made me wonder what things in my life today I’m making more out of than I should. What “stresses” in my life today should I just let go of because they will seem so silly 5 years from now?

The second example was a series of entries that focused on a fear that I was moving too fast with a small business that I had started and self caution to not overextend myself financially with the venture. They were almost footnotes to their posts, but showed up 6 or 7 times over a 6 month period, as if I wrote them as reminders. Reflecting back, I now realize the gravity of those self-reminders and wish that I had recognized their wisdom. Instead, I plowed ahead on emotion pursuing the dream of owning a successful small business with little regard for the larger financial picture. Because of my blind faith, it all came crashing down – the business failed, we closed up shop, and I left a trail of financial wreckage that had to be dealt with (and is still being dealt with). THIS caused me to pause as well and consider what seemingly ‘little things’ in my life seem to be continually itching me that I need to pay closer attention to? I have been feeling my age lately and telling myself I’ve got to be more moderate in my diet and portions. I keep telling myself that I need to be more gentle and caring in my conversations with my kids. I regularly come back to the idea of dwelling on the joy in my life more and sharing these joys with my wife. These nagging thoughts may carry more gravity than I realize…and I probably won’t know for sure for years.

The reflection on my journal was healthy. It made me realize that I still have a long way to go to being the man I want to be and that I keep repeating some of the same mistakes. But it also made me realize that I have grown a lot in the past 6 years. The key will be what I do with these realizations over the next 6 years. Today I will take a step towards joy and gentleness in hopes that those small things carry great weight.

Companions on the Journey

LincolnRoadTrip

Disclaimer: If you’ve never had a dog this may not be a meaningful post to read. If you have I apologize if it makes you sad.

“He who travels alone can leave today; but he who travels with another must wait ’til that other is ready.”
                                                                                                  – Henry David Thoreau

My wife and I recite this to one another before just about every trip when we’re trying to get out the door to go off on whatever our next family adventure will be and we are endlessly waiting for the kids or each other. It is one of the most true statements about travel. Except when it comes to dogs.

For the past 14 years, Jessi and Lincoln have been my companions on the journey of life. The picture above was taken just before our first anniversary (when Lincoln would have been a little over a year old), as we set off for a new adventure in Colorado. Lincoln rode all the way to Colorado Springs from Cookeville, TN in the cab of that U Haul truck with us and continued to ride along for every twist and turn of life after. All along, we never had to wait on him as a companion, he was always ready to leave today!

Lincoln went to the top of 14,000 foot mountains with us and he slept in canyons with us. He tolerated us bringing another dog home to join him for awhile, and he was the one that stuck around when Landon went to live at the farm. He was there when we brought both of our children home, loving them with the same kindness and gentleness that he loved us.  He was wagging his tail and greeting us at the door nearly every day, and he was lying by our side consoling us during some tough times. He’s lived with us on a farm where he could chase cows, in an RV where he was the “camp dog,” in a 750 sq ft shack that we called home base, and in every house we’ve ever owned. He’s snuggled up with us in a tent and in the car when the tent got too cold. He’s been on 10 mile hikes and mountain bike rides and was still up for a slow walk around the block on his last day.

We got Lincoln from the Putnam Co. (TN) Animal Shelter in March of 2001, just a few months before we were married. In the first few months of his life he did what puppies do – chewed everything in sight, had accidents all over the house, ran away every time we opened the door, jumped out the window of a moving car, and generally taught us that raising a puppy was not a task to be taken lightly. And he went everywhere with us. We were young and adventurous and he was our companion on the journey.

No matter what changes life has thrown at us, Lincoln was up for them all. He taught us the skills we needed to continue the journey with children, that’s for sure. We didn’t know it at the time, but walking a lab through the woods is pretty much the same thing as walking a child through the woods. Sometimes they run ahead and sometimes they lag behind. Occasionally they’ll walk right beside you and you feel like all is right with the world. And you’d better have plenty of water with you at all times, because they get thirsty. If only we could get our kids to hike ceaselessly without complaining like Lincoln!

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our old friend. Time had taken its toll on Lincoln. His old legs weren’t up for any hikes and his eyes and ears couldn’t see and hear anymore to find things to chase and bark at. Although his body had started to deteriorate, our buddy stayed on the journey with us. He was still at the door wagging his tail and laying at our feet for a pet when things got tough. He loved his family and we loved him to the very end.

As I sit at my desk and write this, sadness washes over me. I know that my four legged companion on this journey won’t ever wander into my office and lay down next to my chair again. His company was always nice, and it will be lonely without him around; he was such a good listener. But my sadness is soothed just a bit by knowing that his pain is over. It had been a long time since he had been up for chasing cows and running on trails, and I know that was as hard on him as it was on us. He was a fantastic companion to Jessi and I for our journey together thus far and for that we are grateful. Yesterday, as he drifted off to sleep, he whispered a few low growls. I whispered “I love you buddy” in his ear and he whispered back. I’m pretty sure he said “thanks, I love you too.”

Unexpected Emotion

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I completed my first marathon today and it was mostly what I expected – physically painful at times, fun to run that far with a large group, mentally challenging to finish, and satisfying. There was one thing that happened, though, that I didn’t expect…

After I crossed the finish line under the huge MARATHON FINISH banner, I immediately burst into tears and sobbed for several minutes. This unexpected emotion wasn’t because I was hurting or sick, it was because of The Journey that was involved in getting to that place. The Journey wasn’t just a physical trip that I took making a commitment to train for 9 months with a focus on one thing – this race. No, it was also an emotional Journey. It was a Journey of finding a new level of discipline inside myself. It was a Journey to find a way to spend a few hours each week away from my job, my family, my obligations, and my failures and just quietly put one foot in front of the other. And it was a Journey to experience a mindfulness that has helped me deepen my faith and improve my relationships.

I didn’t expect it, but I understand why my body burst forth from the anticipation that had built up about this important event in my life. My body understood, better than I did, how much good has come about inside of me because of The Journey and it allowed that celebration of tears to express that joy.

I don’t know where my running Journey will take me next, but I do know that it doesn’t end here.