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“In the mess of things, art comes alive.”
My life is in a bloody mess today. Life before was as if I’m at the beach. Enjoying the cool salty breeze and the wave’s gushing sound while I build a sandcastle. Beside me are fresh coconut juice and a portable speaker which plays a subtle tone of reggae. It’s bliss. I have control over my time and pace. I can build my castle the way I want it to be.
From then and now, two things happened that messed up my vacation. First, I got married. Suddenly someone got an opinion about my sandcastle. Suddenly someone had switched my favorite playlist to Adele. I lost some control. Yet life is still pretty manageable.
Then the second thing happened. My son was born. As I look at my sandcastle, I am glad at least there’s still a lot of sand elsewhere which I can use to start over. Everything I built was virtually destroyed. My speaker now plays nothing but children’s songs. Well, at least I still have my coconut juice. Or so I thought. As I turned the husk over to drink, it seems like it’s been emptied for some time already. Not even a drop left!
Recently, Lalaine and I had the pettiest argument ever. We wrangle if we should buy the 250 pesos queen size baby floor mat — because it’s on sale.
Lalaine: It’s cheap. Baby needs it. Let’s buy it.
Jed: It will clutter the room. Baby can use the bed. Don’t buy it.
We debated for two days, and since we couldn’t find the middle ground, we didn’t buy the mat…yet.
Neither of us was right or wrong when I look back from a third person’s perspective. Both of us value things differently. Lalaine sniffs for good deals. And I am more mindful of simplicity.
I am not the confrontational type. I don’t like arguments, and I’m allergic to conflicts. I find all those things messy. If I could, I’d rather have my alone time back at the beach and chill. Who wants a messy life anyway? I bet no one in their right mind except those who want to be great men.
There’s No Shortcut to Greatness
How do you create champions? Self-sacrifice, hard work, and self-discipline. Those are some of the fabrics needed to become one. None of that sounds pleasant to me.
Let’s face it: Who wants to get up every day at 5:00 am to run 5 miles? Who wants to do two-a-day workouts in pre-season? Who wants to push their bodies to the limit so they can become stronger, faster and better at their chosen sport? In short, no one except those who wish to become a champion athlete.
Likewise, who wants to get up every two to three hours to help feed a newborn? Who wants to take care of a fuzzy baby while mom takes a much-needed break? Who wants to apologize to his wife after a petty argument? Again, no one except those who seek to be champion husbands and dads.
There is no shortcut to greatness. But there’s a secret ingredient to it: Embrace the mess in your life. The very burdens we carry for our families over time are what make us stronger men.
The Making of a Superhero
“Becoming a husband and then a dad is one of the best things that ever happened to me — it forced me to be a better man than I was.”
— George W. Bush
Research revealed countless benefits to men who are committed husbands and fathers. They live longer and enjoy better mental health. They’re also more productive at work, and contribute better to their communities. Married men are generally happier with life than their unmarried or childless brothers.
Fatherhood turns ordinary men into superheroes. Based on statistics, children who grow up with their fathers are much less likely to spend time in jail. Be drop out of school, fail to hold down a job, suffer from severe mental illness, or become an addict to substances. They are also much less likely to bear children out of wedlock. Thus, prevent the cycle of the social devastation of fatherlessness that threatens our society.
Not only do our family, and civilization as a whole will benefit when we learn to embrace life’s crap. But you and I as well. It will help us become a better man in many important ways.
Expect The Mess
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”
— Proverbs 14:4 ESV
Unfortunately, our society has downplayed the reality of trade-offs in life. They assert we can get all the benefits without the trouble. Nowadays, we can lose weight while watching TV. Get rich while traveling the world. And have a family without commitment. It’s like having a hardworking ox that doesn’t poop.
If your ox doesn’t poop, you know it’s not real or you got one sick ox. Give yourself a favor, stop the hunt for the mythical creature called the poopless-ox. It doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a poop-free life.
Even so, I don’t advocate to embrace all the poop in life. Too much poop also means the ox is unwell. What I’m trying to say is, life is not about obtaining the state of perfection. It’s about getting the proper positive-to-poop ratio.⁴ (LIFE = +/? )
I went to see a counselor last month. The reason was to deal with my panic attacks. I couldn’t sleep well. Thanks to anxiety, fear, and meaninglessness who overwhelms me at night. I don’t remember inviting them in, but for some reason they’re here with me, happily disturbing my peace.
I’ll spare the details for another post, but in general, the counselor told me that I’m beat-up. My self-esteem runs on empty. She said that I sounded as if I try to catch every falling hair that could mess up my floor. I spend way too much mental and physical energy to preserve a state of flawlessness in my life. — which will never be.
As long as we live, unpleasant things will always be at the door. Sickness, disappointments, conflicts, and others may come in without warning. No matter how hard we try to keep them away.
Good Days, Bad Days
“Life is like the stock market. Some days you’re up. Some days you’re down. And some days you feel like something the bull has left behind.”
— Paula Wall
Life fluctuates. It’s a delight when it’s up, and it sucks when it’s down. But like the stock market, it doesn’t mean one is good and the other is bad. Both instances can be profitable when handled the right way.
The challenge is to enjoy it both ways. Best to treasure, and share the satisfaction when life is well. And appreciate the transformational value it gives when everything feels like sh*t.
Men nowadays validate greatness based on his well-built career. His thirst-quenching bank accounts, and gratifying toys. I’m no different. Those are the things I refer to as my sandcastle, coconut, and portable speaker at the beginning of this post. The achievement of those material things is more important to me than my success as a husband and as a father. — Which is incredibly short-sighted. I’m straight selfish by default.
Today I struggle with the mess, otherwise known as: the family. But I allow it to metamorphose me from being an egotistical boy to a selfless gentleman.
“The only people who get hurt on a roller coaster are the ones who jump off.”
— Dave Ramsey
If I can give one unsolicited advice, it’s this: Hang-On.
Life is less about overcoming, and more about living. Less about taking the opponent down, and more about getting back up when you are down. Less about doing, and more about hanging on.
How do you think branches bear fruits? By staying connected to the Trunk.
We banter about pledges to “change the world,” or “to make a difference in people’s lives.” Yet these are the by-product of our transformed life.
Don’t load yourself down with lists. Don’t enhance your anxiety with the fear of not fulfilling them. Our goal is to not know every detail of the future. Our goal is to never let go.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.John 15:4 ESV