If we spend too much time watching cable news and Twitter feeds, the world looks like a giant dumpster fire burning out of control.
A year ago, that’s all I saw. We were a week into a new presidency that I couldn’t stomach or even fathom, and all I saw was an impending war for the soul of our country. I had my pitchfork out, entrenched and ready to strike. I’ve read the Facebook posts I made a year ago, and many of them are filled with the same things I saw in the world. Hate. Outrage. Pain. Division.
My son and I stood at the summit of Baldy Mountain, on what felt like the top of the world. He wanted me to take his photo sitting on the edge. I have no idea what was going through his mind as he sat there, looking toward the dissipating haze of New Mexico’s eastern horizon, but my spirit brimmed with the emotional memories of the day he was born.
In the months before his birth, I voraciously read every how to be a parent manual out there. I believed that parenting could be treated as an academic enterprise, just another subject to learn, an expertise to be acquired. When challenges arose, I’d just flip to the right page for the answer.
The day we went to the hospital to be induced, I felt confident that we had this thing under control. I’d put myself through Dad 101 and was ready to roll.
Then everything went to hell.
His mom’s vitals started to plummet. Undiagnosed preeclampsia was starting to ravage her internal organs. It was time to get the kid out. The doors to surgery closed in my face as the gurney rolled away. They didn’t cover this in Dad 101. My confidence evaporated, replaced by sheer panic.
This is a print I bought from Alexandra Miller, a young artist I met in 2015. I remember her being almost painfully introverted as we completed the transaction, perhaps surprised that I’d taken such an interest in this print. It’s a piece that I imagine most find heavy, almost grotesque.
The second I saw it, I told others that I saw hope.
Where most saw a withering plant and an emaciated young man being overtaken by creatures of the soil, I saw a portrait that still had life in it, no matter the predicament. It was my eternal optimism talking, a hope for the underdog, a belief that the odds can be overcome as long as your intention is set.
Each morning I’m home, I follow the same ritual. I clean the coffee maker, grind the beans, fill the water reservoir, and press BREW. I reach into the cabinet to choose from double stacked memories, from coffee mug mementos that remind me of events, experiences, and eras of my life.
Aside from photos, I don’t keep many physical reminders of my past, but the coffee mugs are an ever-present exception. I wake up my brain and fuel my morning from these vessels, sipping from the emotions and lessons they still hold.
I woke this morning to a fresh coat of snow on my balcony that sculpted the pots from my summer garden into frosted cupcakes. It reminded me of how my former garden would look covered in snow. I could almost feel those virgin steps into a pristine tundra full of serendipity.
For the first time in a while, I missed having a garden whose winter bones called me into the cold to capture its quiet beauty. Someday soon, perhaps I’ll have another plot to call my own. My soul seems to be beckoning nourishment from the soil once again.
For most of my adult life, I thought I possessed a critical character flaw because I don’t have close, lifelong friends. I’d look at people whose inner circle of friends knows what they were like in grade school, high school, or even college — and wonder what was wrong with me.
I look back on the ages of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45, and my inner circle looks completely different at each milestone, with very little thread between. I remember the moments of the purest, most intense connection with people who now exist mostly in memory or the periphery of life. I’m often overcome with a nostalgic sadness and regret that those moments are no longer on the center stage of my life.
It’s taken me nearly 47 years to understand, but the impermanence of nearly all of our connections is a good thing.