AFTER MY GRANDFATHER’S passing, my life looked completely different. The love I found within my passion became lost in an external world surrounded by shadows of lonely dreams. The business idea my brother and I were building hit a dead end. The small business I was trying to grow was only producing modest results. My book wasn’t selling as I had envisioned. The invisible world I was desperately trying to create behind the illusions of reality were becoming a distant memory. I no longer felt the secret hope of a prophetic dream planted in the past.
The present fact of failure and disappointment was so intense I couldn’t recapture the moment I felt the freedom of a fire started in my soul. My circumstances were drowning my ambitions to the point where I couldn’t even find the strength to smile. The impossible dream I crafted was gasping for fresh air as my short quick breaths intensified. I was sinking fast, and my dirty thoughts were digging up my inhibitions and seeking to bury the better part of myself.
I continued to write looking for inspiration, but I couldn’t find anything. I felt like a robot as I aimlessly tapped the keys. There was no love in words I forced onto the blank screen. I was still getting up at five o’clock to write but struggled to even get off the couch to pour my coffee.
Most mornings I would find something on social media to divert my attention because I didn’t want to face the harsh reality of failure. I felt so guilty when I rolled over in shameful defeat it controlled my whole day. I knew in my heart if I kept fighting I would regain my inner strength, but I couldn’t resist the regression.
My early morning writing sessions turned into a revolving door of guilt and depression. The pain I felt for not having the force to rise up and fight my infernal demons was transferring to every part of my life. The blame for not providing a better experience for my family was resurfacing like an empty box that housed my fear of failure.
My ambitions of becoming a successful author seemed like a ridiculous idea. Every part of my reality was pulling me back to the path the others told me I must follow. I could hear the authoritative voices whispering in my direction urging me to stop pretending I can do the impossible.
In my suspended state of surrender, I decided to dive back into the world of sales and start a new career. I had a family that needed my support, so I decided to shelf everything I was working on and accepted a role with a local company looking to expand.
I was excited about the idea of learning a new industry and quickly dove into my work. I was starting at the bottom with no experience in what I was selling so the first couple of months were pretty stressful. Unlike my previous sales roles, I would now have to transact all my business over the phone. I was familiar with selling to clients face to face but communicating without physical interaction was challenging.
I remember sitting in my little cubical staring at the double computer screen correctly positioned on my ergonomically designed desk. I tried to make sense of all the new information and procedures but selling without looking into the eyes of my prospect was not a natural feeling.
I never worked in an office setting before, so the structure was unfamiliar. I had the freedom to schedule calls and follow-ups with prospective clients, but it was all constructed from my partially enclosed workspace.
Surrounded by three permanently positioned walls, I heard the others speaking as if my existence was unknown. I was listening to conversations taking place all around my disillusion, and each one was distinctively different. Strangers sheltered my cubical as the voice I portrayed on the other end of my headset mirrored my discomfort. The deadlines and commitments on the whiteboard were real, and I needed to run with the wind of a new target.
Each cubical had only one way in and one way out. The other three walls were mine to decorate. Some workstations had industry information plastered on the walls and others had pictures of families and weekend passions. The walls surrounding my workstation were empty as I contemplated what images I should place.
There were distinct markings visible from the last person to sit in the same chair, but my station was bare. I could feel the repetitive movement of people walking beside my desk as I voluntarily moved to the other side of my station. The cold breeze from the passers-by pushed down on my shoulders, but I refused to look up. My only intention was to fit in and prove I was worth something.
Three months had passed, and I was feeling more and more comfortable in my new surroundings. There was still a lot I had to learn, but I was slowly putting together the pieces. I even decorated my cubical with some industry knowledge that could help my day to day interactions.
With my wife’s due date approaching, I found it extremely difficult to remain focused on my work. Every day that passed, I was growing anxious. Whenever my phone rang, I anticipated jumping out of my chair and heading toward the exit.
The morning my son was scheduled to arrive I couldn’t get comfortable. The indirect steam from my morning coffee couldn’t keep me warm as I connected my restless fingers loosely around my industry stamped coffee mug. With a multitude of clients to contact that morning, I plugged in my headset unsure of where to start. I looked down at the incoherent notes handwritten on the loosely disconnected paper and tried to make sense of the thoughts of yesterday.
As I was about to punch my number into the sales queue, my headset vibrated between the four corners of my desk. I immediately wondered what problem or issue I was going to have to face before I tasted my morning coffee. I turned up the volume and heard my wife on the other end in an incredibly calm voice tell me the time was now, and I should return home.
I instinctively jumped from my swivel chair and made my way through the congested parking lot. I could see the freshly paved intersection I needed to reach as I pushed my feet down on the dry pavement.
I had my car parked in the adjacent lot across the street, so I frantically pressed the recessed button to get the light to turn green. It felt like I was standing on the other side for an eternity as the cars flew by in a panic unknowing of my destination.
When I finally reached my vehicle, I put my keys back into the ignition and threw it in reverse. I pressed on the gas so hard my tires screeched as I flew through the parking lot that held the smell of my newly painted tracks. I wasn’t headed to the hospital to meet my wife but driving back home so we could make the trip together.
I had such a nervous feeling as I drove through the landscape that enclosed the morning traffic racing to get to their decorated cubicles. I put two hands on the wheel and weaved in and out of traffic like a seasoned race car driver approaching his final lap.
I only had one destination, but the distraction of my worry was taking over the wheel. I couldn’t feel the joy of meeting my unborn child. I was even thinking about the clients that I would be unable to contact that morning and the amount of work awaiting my return.
I hadn’t talked to God for over three months before I slowed my acceleration to accommodate the red light already halting the other vehicles. When my car came to a complete stop, I sat with the others and rested my head against the closed window. I stared at the broken clouds above as my right hand tapped on my knee waiting for the colors to change.
I wasn’t shaking but felt like screaming at the light to turn green. My short quick breaths started to sync to the clinking sound of the indicator as I waited to move forward. I felt like exploding as the indicator seemed to get louder and louder.
I grabbed the wheel so hard my stiff fingers felt numb as I squeezed and released my grip a dozen times. I felt so debilitated as the vehicles formed an inconsistent perpendicular line.
I desperately wanted to savor this moment with my family, and I didn’t want to show up at my doorstep with a look of worry in my eyes. I decided to look at the broken sky ask God to release the impressions that were restricting the excitement I felt around the arrival of my son.
I drove underneath three more sets of lights before I had the urge to change the radio station, so I didn’t hesitate and reached. With my curved finger extended I noticed a transmitted light reflecting from the ring my late grandfather gave to me as a young man.
My hand stayed suspended in the air for a few seconds as the momentary glare took my attention away from the road I was traveling.
I couldn’t decide which button to press but asked God to bring me a song that could lift my soul back to a place of freedom and perspective. I was anticipating the lasting words of a timeless song as I turned the station but only found a radio ad for something I can’t even remember.
I kept pressing buttons at random but found more industry paid ads. I was about six minutes from my house when I had the urge to change the channel one last time. I was searching for the perfect song, but on my final attempt, I got nothing.
I crossed the bridge overlooking the park close to my home and decided to stop searching. Soon as I stop looking, a song vibrated throughout the car. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. To my amazement the song Forever Young promptly made its way inside my heart once again. My relationship to the song was changing right before my eyes.
I felt reborn as the song floated throughout the car. Death no longer surrounded my connection to the song because the birth of my son was my only thought as tears of joy trickled down my face.
It was such an exhilarating experience to cry and laugh simultaneously. I could feel my grandfather passing a symbolic torch from another world. The words that seemed to come from my grandfather months before now became my words. I could feel his ashes giving my words life, and a chance to start again.
When I pulled up to the driveway, my whole demeanor changed. I rose up from the car seat and took off the disposable mask that did not serve me. I wanted to make sure I was fully present to enjoy the birth of my son from beginning to end.
With a family member watching our daughter I checked to see if my wife had everything she needed to make the trip. With the prepacked bags already prepared, I opened the door once again.
I didn’t have time to eat breakfast that morning so when I saw the shiny red apple sitting outside of the interwoven reddish basket, I reached my steady hand and unleashed the juice of another glorious day. I knew I was ready to continue my journey.
We arrived at the hospital and prepared for a long day, but my son had other plans. He was ready to present himself to the world, and he didn’t want to waste any more precious time. From the moment I got the call from my wife to the arrival of my son, it was only a little under three hours.
Holding him in my arms for the first time was so freeing. All I could feel was love, and nothing else mattered. No worry or nervousness. Not a hint of fear or doubt. As I looked into his watery eyes, all I could see was perfection. I knew the only limitations he would have from that moment would be the ones given from the world around him.
I was searching for a better part of myself, but as I stared in a trance-like state into his eyes, I realized I was looking for something I already had. I was trying to become someone I once was.
The peace I was searching for reflected from the unseeing eyes of my son. He had in his possession the greatest gifts in life, just as I did when my mother held me in her arms. What I was seeking I found within the gentle eyes of my child.
My daughter and I headed home after supper to give my wife some time to recover. I could tell my little girl was tired because she asked me to snuggle on the couch and create a story about a beautiful princess. I never had the chance to experience too many moments like that at bedtime, but with my wife unavailable she looked to me for comfort.
She rested her head on my chest, and I proceeded to tell her the grandest story of a fairy princess who granted wishes to all the children in the land. Each child would stand in front of her enchanted wand as she waved it in a complete circle and touched their outstretched hand. I got so wrapped up in the story I didn’t even realize she fell asleep.
I tactfully repositioned her body and sat beside her feet to watch her sleep. I sat on the left side of the couch imagining what dreams lie deep inside her heart. I tucked her into bed and moved my way back to the living room to position myself in front of my laptop.
I hadn’t written anything significant in months, but as I pictured myself holding my son, I instinctively had the urge to express my love. I looked to my right and stared out into the landscape resting outside my window. It was dark, but I could see the rain gently blowing against the glass as the light from my laptop revealed each drop. It was as if the perfect storm was inviting me to come and join, so I went to stand underneath the drizzle.
As the cold summer rain flowed uncontrollably underneath my feet, I stood in a moment of silent reflection. Reluctantly I resisted my son’s arrival, but his representation provided another moment of poetic contemplation. His innocence and peacefulness gave me a strength underneath a weakness in my thinking.
I was only standing for a couple of minutes before the words flowed uncontrollably from my invisible pen. I flashed back to all the moments in my life that led to this one. Each one had significance but the only moment that truly mattered was the one I was experiencing. I closed my eyes for a moment and then the moment was gone.
My sole intention was to release a combination of words I could feel growing inside of my thoughts. The last time I had written anything with feeling was the poem I wrote for my late grandfather, so when I finished, I knew I had the perfect title for the piece I had written. I titled the poem, Forever Young in honor of my father and my son.
It was the one title that could bring them together and realize the dream I had for them to meet. Through my words, I felt connected to the space between inevitable death and continuous birth.
Check back in next Sunday for Chapter 11 – I believe in God
WHEN I RETURNED to the office a few days later, my whole outlook changed. My inbox was full of requests for quotes and other administrative tasks, but I wasn’t weakened to see the work that awaited me. I moved along and replied to each…