In the Beginning
The day was June 6, 2016. The smell of freshly poured instant coffee surrounded my kitchen as I reached for my early morning apple. I looked inside the interwoven reddish basket placed beside the freshly baked homemade bread as I arrived at the one closest to my unsteady hand. With my first insignificant decision made I prepared for my teeth to unleash the juice of another predetermined day. The inside of the apple was about to be exposed as the seeds demanded to detach from the hardened core. I suddenly stopped as I could hear my daughter chanting my name from the elevated staircase.
The apple rested directly under my nose as I smelled the anticipation of warmth approaching. I willfully placed the apple with the others when I heard tiny footsteps descending from the second-floor bedroom. I couldn’t yet see her face but visualized her innocence wiping the morning night dust from her inquiring eyes. I could sense her presence as she curiously poked her head around the loosely patched wall. Waiting for the perfect moment to reveal myself, I purposely stayed silent. I desperately wanted her to run into my arms so I could blindly receive the unconditional love I craved.
Her outstretched arms moved closer and closer as she reached for me at a comfortable distance. She couldn’t see me waiting for her three feet away because her eyes were not entirely open from the sleepiness of yesterday. I could have called her name but decided to wait silently as her eyes widened. I was readily prepared to embrace her with the love of a father. It’s hard to describe the moment when your child runs to you with a faith that you will love and protect them with every ounce of your being. Her itsy-bitsy fingers began to form a bond around the standing hairs on the back of my neck.
Her breath trickled down my spine as her precarious grip touched my heart from the inside. In an instant, I could feel love unseen by the human eye. Every time she would squeeze a little tighter the innocent smile on my unshaven face expanded. Every time she would breathe a little softer I would bring her closer. Within the silence of the moment, I felt connected to the space between. Every time she would ask a leading question, I responded with unfamiliar words. As I held her in my arms, I could only pray that she could feel my undying love and trust that I am.
It wasn’t a regular Monday morning because most mornings I would never lovingly embrace my daughter with this same vibration. I would angerly hit the snooze button just enough times to turn my day into a race to the finish line. I would have already slammed the door shut before she had the chance to awaken to the sound of my authentic voice. However today I didn’t have to start up my white F-150. I didn’t have to drive the two-lane highway into another world of boardrooms and sales reports. I decided this week I would put in some much-needed time to renovate the interior of my home.
I would destroy my to-do list with dedication and a drive to make changes that didn’t provide the picture my family deserved. My plan was precise, and all the necessary materials were at my disposal. I had the perfect color of synthetic paint about to touch my bristled brush. With the freshly cut western red cedar molded into the ideal vision of my newly created deck, I was ready to put in the work needed to complete my dream renovation. As I kissed my wife and daughter goodbye, I had no idea my predetermined plan was about to change everything I thought about life.
When the door closed, I planned to search for the dirtiest butter knife I could find to dig into the freshly mixed can of paint. I attempted to dip the uncovered brush into the vibrant color of grey selected days before but realized I wasn’t alone. I heard three distant knocks on my front door as the interior paint was about to find connectivity. I instantly remember the dishwasher scheduled for replacement. I didn’t think I had time to replace the broken dishwasher, so help was knocking before I opened the door. A friendly voice entered, and we conversated about the weather and the impending installation.
Basketball became the topic of choice, and I soon found a connection that went beyond the water lines disconnected from the source. His name I don’t remember, but the moment soon created I will never forget. As the installation went beyond the timeframe projected I decided to go to the closest institution and get the cash needed to complete the transaction. Upon my return, I found complications I didn’t prepare for when the smell of fresh coffee flowed underneath the sunrise of a new day.
A one-hour installation had turned into three, and the result was a dishwasher with a newly carved scratch and an imbalanced vibration. Understanding of the apparent imperfections the installer made every effort to rectify the situation. I appreciated the empathy but realized that nothing could be done to change the unexpected outcome. When the outside door closed once again, I couldn’t control the suppressed emotions boiling into my being. I was so focused on the flaws my internal temperature started to rise. My unsteady hands formed in a fist of rage I couldn’t control.
Minutes after I calmly shook his hand I started to lose control. The only thing I could see was the empty cardboard box that once held convenience and comfort. Unable to point towards an enemy I sought to destroy an empty box. I won’t lie to you when I tell you that I dismantled the box that housed my dishwasher in a matter of seconds. I can’t entirely recall what happened but only remember the aftermath of a violent rage I couldn’t control. The cardboard laid in pieces from my uncontrollable hands punching, ripping and tearing the box to shreds. It was like I transformed into a caged animal unable to restrain my displaced aggression. As I stood over the empty box, my reflection screamed shame. Who did I become?
Guilt, depression, and embarrassment accompanied my unbidden tears as I internally screamed out all the things I hated about myself. I sought to seek anything about myself I could twist into a negative and each negative thought was mobilized and verbalized. I’m not sure how long I multiplied these thoughts of failure and disappointment but what I remember is the feeling of hopelessness taking route in the depths of my soul. Never in my life have I felt so helpless and so alone.
Dispirited thoughts were marching by the thousands as I attempted to tell myself a touching story about how I failed as a father and a husband. I refused to see the protection within the walls of love I created. The persistent pain trickled down my reddish checks in the form of salty statements. Each one pierced my mortal tongue from the inside of my closed mouth. As the last solitary teardrop fell onto my lips, I could taste defeat. With my left hand placed on my right cheek, I closed my unseeing eyes and took a deep breath. I could feel the presence of a burning question searching for air.
When my inhalation reached its peak, I felt the urge to hold it inside and silently counted one two three. In those three seconds, I heard a voice inside of myself asking a question. If this is not who you want to be than who do you want to become? It was a simple question, but the contemplation that proceeded would turn my life upside down. After this idea passed through my consciousness, my mind opened abruptly with curiosity. My head lightly drifted to the sky as the open air that held the question was released through my upturned nostrils.
My whole body shifted as I sat up straight to ponder the question. This one question changed everything I thought about life. At that moment my entire demeanor changed. I didn’t know it at the time, but this one crucial question started a journey I am still walking today. I began to breathe deeply and asked myself the question again and again. Each time I thought about the unanswered question I would ask it again. I didn’t know the answer, but it initiated an intellectual hunger that instantly consumed everything.
I quickly reached for my phone to find something inspirational to feed my unsatisfied hunger. I wish I could remember the first YouTube video I put on that day, but I can honestly say I can’t recall the title. All I remember is the profound feeling of hope as I rose up from the couch with a look of optimism in my eyes. The music behind the video lifted my spirit as I walked with a distinct purpose back and forth in my unpainted living room. The magical words behind the music touched a part of my soul. I viciously nodded my head up and down in agreement as the words turned my depression into hope.
I spent the next three hours listening to inspirational music and teachers of this generation and generations past. I suddenly felt a hunger for information and inspiration I couldn’t feed fast enough. Each piece of footage seemed to lead into another in perfect synchronicity. Each corresponding video I swallowed would make me hungry for the next. I felt my inflamed heart in my hand as each word expanded my idea of what was possible. As my thoughts caught fire, I couldn’t stop the momentum of my new-found belief in alternative possibilities. I could still hear the conditioned doubt and fear knocking but felt so alive as I stood in front of the double door.
When my wife and daughter returned home, something inside of me was different. I couldn’t describe how I felt or illustrate the intimate thoughts that shifted my emotions. My external environment was as it remained when the door slammed shut hours before, but another doorway had opened full of possibilities. My circumstances were the same, but the optimistic outlook changed the probabilities. I was unsure how to explain what had happened to my wife as she leaned in for a customary kiss. As her glossy lips pressed gently against mine, I could feel her hand tactically moving down my arm inching toward my palm.
I anticipated the automatic question forming in her mind. I knew it was coming, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to respond. Should I give my default answer or explain what happened. Her hand casually moved away from my fingertips as the question was released. How was your day honey? I responded as I always did before. It was okay, how was yours? If you have a significant other, you can relate to this casual conversation that happens daily between loved ones. You don’t have to think about the question because the answer has a predetermined response. It’s part of the autopilot we turn on every day whether we realize it or not.
My wife went on her way to tend to our daughter as regret took its usual place at the kitchen table. My eyes logically moved back to the mixed vegetables I had frying in the non-stick skillet. When I grabbed the curved handle, I questioned why I couldn’t tell my wife what I experienced. I used this combination of frozen vegetables dozens of times before, but while I shook the handle back and forth, the frozen broccoli started to take on a different color. The rock-hard carrots ripped from the root softened as I contemplated my hesitation.
The tasteless cauliflower sizzled in a pool of spices waiting for consumption. I looked at the pan once more and remembered the ideas presented hours before. The vegetables prepared would never have been freed to show their true colors without my cooperation. I had no hand in planting the seeds or growing the vegetables, but with a simple touch of my hand, I released them from their frozen state. What I was searching for could not be found in regret but only revealed with expression.
As I lay in bed that night, I tried to make sense of what had happened. Something inside of me was different, but nothing around me had changed. The cold pillow where I laid my head was the same irregular shape, and the chilled glass of freshly poured water had the same molecular structure. I was positioned on the same side of the double bed and stared at the same ominous shadow resting on the suspended ceiling. I could hear the lukewarm water flowing down the ceramic sink as my wife brushed her teeth from one side to the other. My environment and surroundings were identical, but I felt different. As my wife walked through the doorway into our bedroom, I decided to tell her exactly what had happened.
I sat up from my sleepy state and explained to her the last eight hours. I finished my story and stood in silence. I was vulnerable because I was no longer afraid to open my heart. She said nothing as my heartbeat froze. She proceeded to wrap me in comfort and told me no matter who I wanted to become she would always love me for who I am. With the innocent embrace from my daughter before I tasted my morning coffee to the love from my wife as I released my mask. Although my day didn’t go as planned the one constant energy that held it together from the beginning to the end was love.
Check back in next Sunday for Chapter 2 – Unlocking the Cage
As the unclouded sun poked through the pastel shades enclosing my bedroom the next morning, I could feel my phone abruptly vibrating on the bedside table. I started to tremble in my lucid dream the moment before my sunken eyes opened for the first time. I reached for my phone and quickly notice the time of 4:40 am. In disgust, I placed the phone back between the four corners of the table. I rolled over on my back to find the strange dream I felt right before my alarm had the nerve to call my name. I lied in bed and the events of the previous day returned to me in vivid detail. In an instant, my eyes opened, and my feet…