how i met your father

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Two people come out of a building. One out of the whirling central door, and the other out of the furthest door to the left. From the gold-laden revolving door at center, a sharp looking man exits. He looks to be about 30 years old; give or take, and his demeanor makes him appear somewhat like a giant, just out of place, in the middle of an amusement park.

To the left, a young woman exits from the furthest door, trying to remain as invisible as possible. But that’s not quite what it seems. She wants to be seen, she’s just terrified of what will happen once she is. So she stays quiet and stays left, and just out of the rain and just out of sight.

As they step out onto the street, the rain suddenly turns into downpour. She buttons up her brown overcoat and pulls the collar up around her neck. At the same time, he pulls an umbrella out of his back pocket. He sparks a smile and opens the umbrella, quite pleased with himself.

But she, with her buttoned up, weather-appropriate raincoat securely shuttered around her neck, is now soaked to the bone.

Here is our heroine, drenched and shuddering, yet seemingly unaware. Now this is not to say she is optimistic and handling it well. No. Anyone could tell by the look on her face that shows that, on some level, she knows how cold she is. She knows. It’s just that she isn’t tuned in. There’s just too much to think about, so much to do and to learn and to know; she has no time to stand soaking in the rain, thinking about irony.

Our gentleman lifts his head to look up a bit, trying to get a sense of how to navigate his way through this storm. Suddenly, our heroine appears in his view. He looks at her. In shock. Why is she soaking wet? What is the deal with her malfunctioning raincoat? Why isn’t she looking for cover?

He walks toward her, the bottom half of his pant legs now weighted down from the gathering rainwater overcoming the sidewalk.

“Hey,” he offers, “You look kind of, uh, like you could use a hand.”

She looks up to see a man standing before her. He has offered her a smile, and she’s working to get a read on it; much in the same fashion as a mathematician would read code. He’s got an umbrella, she thinks, but just about the only thing it’s protecting is his head. Water is pouring down from the sides of it, in sheets. He doesn’t seem to notice.

“Uh yeah,” she replies, “I guess when it rains, it pours here.”

He laughs, “Yeah, when we do weather here we pull out all the stops.”

He cautiously steps forward, in an effort to get some umbrella over top of her.

She looks up. What’s he even thinking, that umbrella isn’t big enough to cover us both. What silliness.

He steps forward for the one last step and stretches out his arm to bring her underneath. She looks up and nods in appreciation. Then suddenly she glances down at the umbrella’s handle.

“LM,” she reads aloud, surprised. He looks down at the handle. “Oh. I don’t know, I just picked this up somewhere,” he explains.

“That sounds like a bad plot gimmick of an overly long sitcom series,” he laughs.

“Haha, totally” she chuckles. “What even, anyway? Don’t you hate when they have this build up for what seems like, ever, and you’re like hello, I’ve got it… I’ve got the ending. Like, let’s move this along now. Enough with the fillers.”

“I know, right?!” he tosses his head back in laughter, “Let’s just get on with the ending already. I mean look, I’m Craig, I’ll be your husband in about three years.” 

“Haha oh! Is that right?” she half-shouts in disbelief, “I guess we’ll see.”

He takes her arm and leads her away from the awning dripping rainwater overhead, “I guess we will.” 

 

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How to Parent when Life gets Hard

  
Man. That’s a great title. I never write the title first. I have to half-admit I did so hoping it would lead to some incredible insight to put down on this paper right here. 

So.

Alright so. 

Let’s start with what I do know. I know that life gets real, much to our dismay, and that ultimately our children bear witness to it. And I also know that they are impressionable, and they’re sponges, and that they tend to save up stuff for when they’re grown and can tell us how hard their life is and that it’s all our fault.

But like, it’s real. Life is the real deal. Emotions are the real deal. And sure I’d love to tell you that every time I have an emotion slightly left of center that I sit my daughter down with the sunlight streaming in softly through the window and explain it with such eloquence and ease that she shall never be impacted.

But…. no. I mean, I do my best. And I know you also do your best. But it’s hard. Home is where we are the most ourselves, and the most emotionally messy when it gets hard; and alas, it’s also where our kids live. (Why is that? Doesn’t grandma need a sleepover?)

So, here’s what I’ve come up with- thou shall not torture oneself with worry about how the children will be impacted by our grief and our sadness. If we’re aware enough to worry about it; we’re probably already doing a good enough job (that sentence was more for me than for you, but you’re welcome to wear it if it fits). 

And if they are acting bonkers because we are standing slanted like we haven’t had our V-8? Toss our your arms to offer a hug. Get down on the floor and listen about Shopkins or BB-8 for thirty minutes or so. They’re pretty good about living in the moment. Maybe they’ve got some good stuff we need to learn. 

Let the Light in

  
Don’t marry someone just because dating them has been super exciting; it’s not always going to be. Sometimes you’ll be holding a bowl in front of them, waiting for vomit, and wondering how long until your own will come up.

Don’t search for a partner based on the life he or she can provide you with, it could all be gone in an instant. You know that.

It’s not about the ring (though mine brutally kicks ass), the baby count, or the square footage. It’s not the clock ticking, the race to the finish line, or the prepping to take the world’s most beautiful photograph.  

It’s about finding the one person who is willing to show you who they are, when the chips are down. 

It’s about them knowing you’re going to tell them the truth when they need to hear it most. And it’s okay because it’s why they asked you to begin with. 

You don’t have to always be up together and you don’t need to be always down together, and I’ll be damned if one more person says the best way to do this hard part of life thing is to just “take turns.”

Do it because of love. Do it because you laugh at the same stupid stuff and because you can freely admit you hate how the other one chews or breathes or folds their shirts. 

Do it because when the world suddenly goes dark and you find yourself furiously slapping the wall trying to find the light, you’ll know that’s the moment when nothing else matters.

And do it for the moment when the light suddenly switches back on, and then watch the scene in omnipresent distance; as you both tip your heads back in laughter. And relief.

Do it for the light.

  

The Story of Who I Am (now).

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The words. All the words. And the sentences they belong in. I need to find the matches.

But they’re all over the floor.

They’re piling up against the wall, falling over on top of me even while I sleep. I don’t have the time to sort through them so I keep shoving them and stacking them back up; desperately holding out a disciplinary hand and asking them to “just stop! Stop!” moving. They glance at me quickly, with the sass of an undisciplined child that I know too well, and hop on their word-tushes and slide down the stack at an angle just precise enough to smack me right in the face.

The words, they have a story to tell. And I’m sorry to say, the story isn’t for you.

It’s for me. 

And before I share it, let me just also say; I don’t know what the story is yet. I want to be clear about this because it’s a little secret I’ve known my whole life but only just discovered; I don’t know what I’m going to say until I read it. And I’m pretty sure that’s true for you too, maybe you just haven’t realized it yet either. And this is important, because writing is as much about the reader going on the adventure as it is the writer leading the way.

So I’ve got the words in my bag (I had to grab a trash bag because they wouldn’t all fit into a purse with any kind of dignity). Here we go.

I asked my eighty-year old self if it had anything to say to me this afternoon. Okay no, this is what really happened. The kiddos were napping and I was reading/writing, while keeping close tabs on their restless but settling little legs banging against their cots, their need to feel a hand on the small of their back just one more time before drifting off to sleep, and surveying the scene to see if anyone needed to be stared at uselessly by me while they coughed. So once they settled, this is what I wrote-

Dear Lisa, from 80 year old you.

(Pause. Hesitation. Brain freeze. Uncertainty about everything I’ve ever done and said in my life… and then finally-)

“You were afraid, weren’t you; that I wasn’t here. That the truth would come out that it actually all made no sense in the end. Because that’s the real threat, isn’t it. That it all wouldn’t just be a series of twists and turns in a life of purpose, but rather; a straight up loss. Straight up mistakes, straight up failure, and straight up shame. You were afraid I wasn’t here watching, but I am.”

And, that was it. Like a visit from a long-lost loved one in a dream, she was gone. Just like that.

But something weird happened right after this. I turned to a blank page in the back of the book I was reading, and I added this-

I have always been a compilation of who I’ve been. Nothing changes that. The story belongs to me.

I have something to learn, wherever I am today. And if I don’t see it, it’s because I’m afraid to.

I used to think the hardest thing was to take a step back. To bow out for a while from the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are. But here’s the secret that hides beneath that; every time I step back I have a choice to make. Do I fight against this, with all my might. Do I yell and kick and scream that this doesn’t fit The Story of Who I’ve Always Been. Or do I sit my ass down, take a look around, and listen. The hardest part isn’t when you disappoint yourself. The hardest part is when you realize you have been the one building the walls that surround you.

Why is this brick here?! Who’s been mixing cement?! Who’s in charge here? Hello? Can I speak to the owner of this establishment please? There are bricks all around me! And they keep getting higher. Yes. I know. It’s perplexing to me too. Would you look at that, now there’s cement on my hands, I demand to know what’s going on at once! There is a wall growing higher around me, I’ve got cement all over my hands, on my clothes, in my hair, and all I was doing was standing here. Telling everyone about how smart I was. And how seasoned. And experienced. And accomplished. Someone needs to remove this wall immediately. This is unacceptable!

I look around.

I’m alone.

Everyone has gone home for the night. I’m the one standing in hardening cement, by myself, throwing an ego-laced tantrum.

When you’ve got the chance to let yourself down, do it. Then wipe the crap off your hands, the egg off your face, and clear the page for a new chapter; The Story of Who I Am Now.