June 23, 2020

I don’t want Amazing. I’d rather Live in Neutral.

Van Morrison said “there’ll be days like this.”

The Celtic folk tune was written in 1995, and will forever remain a classic. The Irish musician is no stranger to instant hits, but few songwriters are able to take a simple life message and make it resonate through song and rhyme.

The tune is about both good days and bad days. We all have them, and life comes in waves. When it rains, it pours. Blessings and curses come in threes. It seems we’ve found a number of ways to explain the nature of our lives as humans.

I think of life as a pendulum. I am constantly swinging from one side to another. Happy to sad. Angry to peaceful. Life is good, then life is bad. “Things are going to work out” turns to, “Things didn’t work out.”

The Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback, Russell Wilson, gave a Ted Talk about positive mental thinking. He said that he tries to spend as much time in “neutral.” After winning the Super Bowl, he experienced the loss of his father. Two huge life swings in what seemed like an instant. The thing that keeps him going, however, is the mindset of balance—living in a place where you can manage the movement of life.

The pendulum is necessary for balance to exist—unless, of course, you can find some way to stop time. It can swing in a minute, a year, or a decade. We never know when life is about to head in the other direction.

As I live this ride from one side of the clock to the other, my goal, like Wilson, is to find out how to spend as much time right in the middle. That’s where balance is.

This is mindfulness. And while it is important that we practice it, it is also important that we learn from others and how they, too, practice it.

As a single father, I spend a lot of my time thinking about mindfulness and the back-and-forth.

My daughters and I spent our Father’s Day weekend with another dad and his boys. We had one of the best weekends as a family that I can remember. I was no longer outnumbered by women, the kids entertained each other, and the girls got to experience new opportunities and new people. They got to see another dad be a dad. I got to spend time with a friend.

I learned, too. I learned the importance of patience and that I’m not alone in my experiences as a single dad—both good and bad.

My belief is that there is an unspoken brotherhood among dads. They are, for the most part, pretty much on the same page and not concerned with how other dads are parenting their kids. Dad’s root for each other. A swing toward the positive.

When you’re at the park and your kid throws a tantrum because he or she can’t have more candy, the swing isn’t “swingy” enough, or—my favorite— “it’s boring,” the response, whether irritated or loving, patient or impatient, is typically met with a dad nod. If you can catch the eyes of another father witnessing the dilemma that your toddler, 5-year-old, or 7-going-on-17-year-old has put you in, you’ll probably get one.

But dad nods are only a small part of parenting. Raising children is magical. It is an endless adventure. It is also incredibly difficult, and tiring. And because of that continual routine of back-and-forth, it is a lot of effort to maintain balance in a home.

That home might be tense and full of yelling in one minute, but loving and kind in the next. Kids learn from what they see. So, you have to live in the moments as they are happening, and find your way back to center.

And that’s just the lesson when Van sings.

“When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this.
When no ones complaining there’ll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mamma told me there’ll be days like this.”

But dad’s are the ones to show us how to live them.

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