I’ve found myself processing a lot of grief and anger over the last couple weeks.
It’s par for the course whenever I enter a new relationship. The frustration I feel over the dissonance between my life now and what I always envisioned for myself brings me to my knees as I sit in the uncomfortable reality of living two lives.
In one life, I am like a boy again, blissfully in love with my new partner, the two of us enjoying all the radiant glory of New Relationship Energy. But in the other, I am all too mature; a responsible single father of three children, dutifully carrying the burden of executive leadership and child-rearing all at the same time.
In my younger days, it was always my mode of being to jump with both feet into whatever new adventure came my way. It was by this volition that I found myself working in world-class recording studios in Nashville, or touring the country as a musician, or quickly married with one child and another on the way.
Suffice it to say that neither commitment nor haste have been my foes when embarking on new paths.
And perhaps it is this tendency for me that actually causes the most mental and emotional strain when I enter a new relationship while navigating the throes of single fatherhood. It is not so much the disconnect between worlds that bothers me as it is the unwavering anchor of fatherhood that quite literally prevents me from committing fully to my new love and the exploration of that blooming.
True it may be that many men have faltered in their commitment to family in pursuit of love, but not I. For as long as I can remember, I have held a visceral and unequivocal opposition to the abandonment of fatherhood. My consistently showing up for my children has never been something I’ve been willing to sacrifice.
And so it goes that I remain fixed in domestic duty while desiring with the other half of my heart the freedom of young, unburdened love. I find myself dreaming, longing for weekends spent in bed, of breakfast before work, of nights out far too late in the name of the intimate pursuit of romance.
But as a single father who also works a demanding professional position, I am left with a but a few hours each week that are my own, and fewer still to offer my lover. And so we subsist on stolen nights together.
For as long as I’ve been a single parent, I’ve detested the circumstances of my life in this regard, always wishing that more of myself remains unclaimed that I might offer it to my personal pursuits.
But recently, I’ve noticed within myself a certain stillness that has offered a tremulous solace.
This is not the surrender of attrition wherein I find myself simply too weary to fight against the torrent of all the struggles of life. Instead, this is the quiet curiosity of recognizing that perhaps the uncomfortable reality of my present circumstance is precisely what I need.
I believe that as we grow older, our posturing in the world must adapt with the immense amount of information and experience we gain. For example, a man who continues in his 30s to react in anger the same way he did in grade school has not done his duty; he has failed to adequately grow and progress as a human.
It is also my steadfast belief that our most profound growth is only accessible from outside our comfort zone. When satisfied, comfortable, or otherwise getting our basic needs met, it is not always in our best interest to go out seeking change. We may not be deeply happy, but the part of us responsible for social evolution recognizes that to an extent, if we’ve got sustenance and sex, our deepest emotional and spiritual well-being can take a back seat. From this belief, I’ve adopted the perspective that discomfort can often serve as a road map toward personal growth.
Within this pseudo-moral code, I find myself inclined to view my angst less as a burden—or as something to be overcome—and more as a jolly concierge ready to show me what marvels lie in this particular region of my inner landscape.
If I am to seek growth at all turns, forever in an attempt to better myself that I might die more healed and holy than the circumstances into which I was born, then I am forced to confront the plausibility that my tendency to jump in 1,000 percent may have run its course and is now in need of revision.
Perhaps the lesson in this chapter of my life is less about finding out what happens when I go fearlessly into the unknown. Perhaps it is more about discovering how I can nurture my insecurities enough that I am at peace moving slowly into all the quiet beauty that lies ahead.
The 20-something me was enlivened by the chaotic risks of plunging headfirst into the Next Big Adventure. It is always difficult to diverge from our long-held default settings, but it is not impossible. And so, as I stand here, at once anchored in fatherhood and drawn into new love, I’m finding that the requisite balance between the two whispers love songs to my blooming maturity.
I find strength in my resolve to live for a time in both lives. I find fulfillment in my commitment to my children and pride in my ability to nurture new love in the dark, sweet hours of our stolen nights. And, beautifully, I find myself enlivened by the notion that salvation from the pain and struggle I’ve felt since my divorce might be delivered not on the wings of escape, but rather the grounded resilience of love in all its forms.