Insight Through Action

Sometimes after school, my wife hangs out on the playground with the other parents and kids. A few weeks back, one of the young boys (4 yrs old), picked up a handful of stones and threw them at his mother.

Watching from a distance, Monica had two thoughts. At least our kids aren’t throwing rocks at us (so far) and “this is going to be interesting.”

The boy’s mom walked up to the little guy, took his hand and kissed it. Completely defusing the situation and getting the kid to settle down.

What is the hardest thing in the world?

Not reflecting my daughter’s energy (right back at her) when she rages at me.

I have a slogan to help me overcome myself… it is ALWAYS ok to comfort my children.


Constructing Reality

I drop the kids off at school.

I always drop my son off first because he’s easy.

The other morning his teacher comments that it’s so nice to have him in the class because he rolls with everything.

My reply, “you need to be easy, if you have a high-energy older sister.”

Her reply, “actually, it’s nice, just-for-him.”

BOOM – it hit me.

I’ve constructed a reality that views everything through the prism of being the parent of a “difficult child”.

My daughter’s principle “difficulties” being the way she mirrors my inner dialogue!

I have been letting a single relationship color every aspect of my day.

It’s exhausting!

I need to practice letting go. Here’s a great poem about what’s required – it was given to me during hospice training and is exactly what I need for parenting.

Since my daughter was born, we have been on a mission to track every pee, poop, meal and nap. Knowing this data was essential to prove we care!

I’ve come to realize that letting go is required for my personal sanity.

  • Say “yes” as much as possible
  • As little involvement as possible
  • Don’t leave my mind with my kids when I drop them off


Changing My Attitude

Finally, I don’t want to change my situation, and become a part-time Dad, so I’m going to need to change my attitude.

I have a hunch that my hospice volunteering (13 hours so far) will prove transformative. My practice involves:

  • Breathing through intensity
  • Serving without any ability for reciprocity
  • Being the most junior teammember
  • Walking out the door at the end of the shift

It’s such a contrast to being in a role of complete authority with my kids.

My daughter’s school teaches that it is important to pause and remember our basic goodness. That lesson hasn’t proven effective when I’m under pressure and running on automatic.

What’s been easier is to focus on being a “good guy” through action taken when I’m not under pressure — volunteering, driving around town, dealing with strangers.

There are plenty of opportunities to create a habit of goodness.


Touching Fear

The first time I heard about touching fear was from Mark Allen, six-time Ironman World Champion. Mark talked about overcoming his fear of the wind, the heat and his competition. It was powerful and inspirational stuff. Years later, I was fortunate to spend time with Mark and learn more about the man.

Scott Molina once observed, “What if you do everything right and it’s not enough?”

I know that pain well – it lives on in me, and might be why doping gets me so wound up. Perhaps, that’s the price one pays for not living with regret.

We rarely share our deepest fears. The only way I can see my own is to pay attention to my triggers of irrationality. I defuse the triggers by publishing. Another method is via forgiveness. The path of forgiveness is a difficult one – there are times when I struggle to console my children (for what they’ve done to me in the past).

What our deepest fear?
The fear of being found out.

What if they really knew me?
We might realize the similarities of our inner lives.

I’ve been asking friends and family about triggers that have made them fly off the handle. Tell me about the last time you really lost it…

Athletes get excited about nutrition, training protocols, drafting and doping. Citizens might get excited about religion, politics, gun control, abortion and taxation.

I react to these topics but they are surface triggers. Want to see me deeply irrational, you need to reach deeper, past the filters I’ve carefully built.

  • Disapproval of a child
  • Disapproval of a parent
  • Loss of control over a child
  • Loss of dignity
  • Death
  • Financial loss
  • Criminal sanctions
  • Being alone
  • Infectious diseases

Hands down, the worst form of loss I can conceive is the death of my son. Strangely, that fear triggers love. I’m so grateful that the little guy is here, even as I’m aware that someday his perfection will change and he’ll be just like the rest of us. I share my love for him so I remember how sweet he was as a youngster.

Another fear is that I might fail my daughter. She fatigues me so completely that I get to the point where I (almost) don’t care. I’ve been reducing all forms of stress to give myself more energy to parent.

When I hear people talk about my kids, my efforts are working. When I ask myself about being a parent, I feel like I’m failing my kids. The difference is I hear my inner dialogue, and it isn’t pretty.

A friend in a similar position advised me to “live the life that I want for my kids.” There are weeks where that implies seeing a lot less of my kids.

I haven’t figured out the balance but I know that sharing my fears reduces their hold on me.

Five Questions from Hospice Training

As part of my hospice training, we were asked to consider five questions. Considering the questions made me realize that I had done a lot of death awareness work while managing the end of my grandmother’s life.

The hospice training was rich in observations. Two that stuck with me:

  • In response to “when are you going to get over it?” I’m still in pain because my loved one is still dead.
  • We never know the first day of the last year of our life.


The questions…

What will cause my death and why will this be true?

An interesting one for me – my physical self will die from heart failure, my mental self may die from Alzheimer’s/Progressive Dementia and my spiritual self will live on through my wife, children and writing.

I’m not sure of my cause of death, simply looking at my family tree and guessing.

In terms of life after death, it seems obvious that I’ll continue via every interaction I’ve ever had as well as my writing.

While I can’t touch them, my dead friends and family continue to influence and live inside me. It will always be that way.

Who will be impacted by my death?

I suspect that the longer I live, the greater my circle. However, there is a paradox in that sudden (and unexpected) death can have great impact. I continue to think about my good friend, Stu McGavin.

My friends and family will be impacted – I seek to make their grieving more bearable by letting them know that, notwithstanding how I die, I had a fantastic life.

What do you want your funeral, or memorial, to be like?

I wrote a previous article – invite my friends and family to a memorial service that is set up as a memorial weekend, rather than a funeral. Focus on helping the living process my death and create a schedule of support to my spouse and kids (for two years after my death).

Use the opportunity of my memorial weekend to plan ongoing grieving support for the living.

Start a letter to say goodbye to one of the special people in your life.


I love you very much, thank you for your love and sorry I was grumpy at times, you were perfect for me.

To honor the memory of our love, take one aspect of our relationship… teach it, live it and pass it on.

What is the most important thing for me to do or complete before I die?

Ideally, live long enough to have a positive impact on my kids in a manner that they will remember into adulthood.

If that’s not going to be possible then I’ve left enough writing to point them in the right direction.

Above all else, be kind.