“… sound doctrines are all useless… you have to change your life. (Or the
direction of your life.)… wisdom is all cold… you can no more use it for
setting your life to rights than you can forge iron when it is cold… The
point is that a sound doctrine need not take hold of you; you can follow it
as you would a doctor’s prescription. – But here you need something to
move you and turn you in a new direction… Once you have
been turned around, you must stay turned around. Wisdom is passionless.
But faith is what Kierkegaard calls a passion” (Wittgenstein, L. (1980) Culture and Value, introduction by G. Von Wright, and translated by P. Winch. Oxford: Blackwell, p.53).
Yesterday was my first official day running the daddy day care, as the experience has been called. More formally I began a twelve week “family medical leave act” leave of absence from my traditional work to continue the care of my now 4 month old son. Just to clarify, I was off throughout most of the month of December using vacation time performing the same task and assisting him in his journey from around three months to four months. The difference now is the amount of “at cause-ness” that went into taking three months off from a day job that I’ve held for over ten years. The difference is the value that I’m noticing in trading my not too shabby salary for an irreplaceable experience. Isn’t this really what defines value – what you’re willing to give up for one thing in order to experience another thing?
From what I’ve been told, I am part of the 3% of American men who take the incredible oppoortunity that the FMLA provides. Would I say that I’m special for being part of such an elite number? Is that the point of this post, to indicate what a great American man I am, what a dedicated father, what a groundbreaking thinker and life live-er? Well, I am still housing this ego so maybe partially.
Sharing this story is also partially a tribute to “my old man” (as Springsteen may have said). It’s an acknowledgement of the context in which he, and many of us fathers, live our lives as the provider, the bread winner, income earner. Trading these experiences of being there with our children who we love so much that we would trade the time that we would have with them to go out day after day and provide for their survival. The money that buys the food, water, shelter that allows our species to continue on. As a child I had a sense that was how it was for my father, sensed that he didn’t particularly care for the 6 am to 3 pm, five days per week for 35 years blue collar life. But I was clear that he did it for his family and for that I knew I was loved even if it wasn’t verbalized.
It’s also an acknowledgement of the shifting context that enables women to work (for equal pay, maybe?), be the primary income producer in a family, and provide value and meaning into a working world equal to what it is that they’re giving up to fight that fight and endure that struggle, and equal to what they’re leaving behind. I see my joining the 3% as the seldom noticed back of the hand of that struggle. Yet, you can also hear the “speaking from” the current paradigm exhibited here and that’s the real point.
The intended value of this post – you trading your time to read it for what you may get out of it – is in noticing the privilege that this opportunity is for me, and then noticing that it’s part of a carefully laid out plan for producing results consistent with living a life equal to the opportunity that living life is. A once in a lifetime shot to live fully in the one and only life that I have. Living a life that is equal to the opportunity that living life is does not just happen. I like to say that I live a charmed life, which I do. It isn’t charmed in that it just “magically” happens however. I live a charmed life because I take the stand that I live a charmed life. I say that I live a charmed life and then I produce results consistent with living a charmed life (or I don’t).
There was a great deal of build up, tension, uncertainty and ambiguity in getting to this point, living a charmed life does not mean living an easy life by any stretch. Which is why I write this post today, rather than a few weeks ago. I will occasionally share the massive failures in not producing the results consistent with living a charmed life – the ratio of 3:1 – 5:1 positive to negative must be maintained in this blog as a matter of maintaining the authenticity of it. The results have been tallied in this exercise and it looks like we’ve made it. The build up began over a year ago while I was still in the MPOD program, in the early stages of executing the formal plan, which has all been part of the overall plan, the sound doctrine.
While one is in the midst of any major change initiative it is often difficult to measure whether any change is really happening. Changing the course of one’s life toward a previously unimagined future is often the most challenging of all change initiatives to measure. When it is your life that is changing you’re just too close to it to know if it is “turning out” as envisioned. Following a path that is being created as each step is taken is like navigating a thick forest on a moonless night. You have your compass and you use it, but until you emerge from the brush as the sun rises above the clearing you’ve “entered”, created really, you can not know if you’ve navigated rightly. Attempting to measure in the midst of the trees and darkness is a futile endeavor, orienting your steps with presence and purpose and letting your physical intuition be your guide is useful yet mis-steps are likely to occur. It is only in looking back at that forest in the daylight that you can fully appreciate the steps that had been taken, the risk that was navigated.
Building some competence through practical application of causing intentional change allows your muscles of intuition to strengthen, your resolve to walk your own path is refined, and your willingness to trust yourself, to have faith when the common, everybody knows the way it’s supposed to work, wisdom of the world is butting up against the stand that you are.
Look, I know that I’m just taking time off to stay home. Millions, billions of people have done this. For me, it’s not something that I’d ever considered, not because I didn’t consider it like I thought I couldn’t do it but because it never even showed up for me as a possible option that life could present to me. In the spectrum of possibilities that life presents it was always there. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t open to looking to see what I wasn’t able to see. It was concealed. Then, along my path of continuing to question everything, to be a space where truth can show up, it revealed itself, unconcealed itself. Aletheia.
My son caught a cold over the holidays. He was a snotty, moaning, sickly mess on my first two days of daddy day care. I’ve had sick babies in the past but I’ve never experienced them the way I did my son today. In the past, these things were my wife’s concern, my mother-in-law’s, the baby sitter’s – I didn’t have a clue how to comfort a sick baby and I was going to be at work anyway. That was the way it occurred within that context. Yesterday and today, I experienced the complete privilege and satisfaction that goes along with being only of service to a sick little baby, even when all that service can be is to hold them and comfort them as they moan with that raspy sick little baby voice. No room for my petty concerns, just room for being the space for comfort. Charmed – by design.