I’ve been gone a long time…

Four months. Four months ago was the last time I posted anything. For months I had plenty of things to talk about but I could never get them out of my head and on here.

But I’m back at it, and since August here there’s been a few things I’ve realized I want to change. First, 2017 was really tough. For the world, not just me. It felt so intensely negative the entire year that towards the end of it there, I shut out most of the outside world and just internalized all the bad stuff happening, thinking it’d go away if I ignored it. Didn’t really work.

Next, I decided that I want to use this outlet for more than just parenting topics. One of the self-imposed restrictions that stopped me from posting more was that I couldn’t always shape what I wanted to talk about to how it ties to Parenthood. I like to do and be a little bit of everything, so trying to narrow the focus of this blog had the best intentions. But as life imitates art, I saw that I was becoming so one dimensional in my real life as a parent, that I started forgetting how to be a husband, friend, son, brother, artist, employee, and so on. I think that providing a wider scope of topics on here will also give me back the diversity in my life I’ve lacked. Plus, I’ll be able to share more.

So the remainder of this post is going to be a bit scattered. I have a lot of get out and want to just exhale everything dancing in my head.

In line with opening up the content a bit more, I am also going to start adding more travel-specific posts, as well as including more photo galleries of those travels. I am deciding whether or not to make a fully dedicated page just for travels, or have it stored on a separate page of Something Grander. I think it’ll be a good opportunity to share my experiences of traveling all over the country and sometimes the world, and if anyone follows me on Instagram, you’ll see my family does a good bit of traveling. I’d like a more organized forum to document those experiences.

I am also planning to incorporate music a lot more into my posts. Playing music, discovering music, and creating music is such an instrumental ::eye roll:: part of my life, that it seems almost disingenuous that I haven’t brought it up much over the past year. A couple ideas I had were doing nostalgic reviews of albums that shaped my life and specific memories that tie to them, as well as providing commentary on certain songs that mean a lot to me.

Finally, I am making a specific Instagram account just for Something Grander so that I can separate personal photos and topics from things I feel comfortable sharing with the whole world. If you happen to follow my Instagram account, look out for that.

So let’s get it started:

Until reflecting on 2017 and setting my intentions for 2018, I didn’t realize how fear drives a lot of my life. I guess it always has, but it jumped out as a big theme for the past year. Some of it is easy to explain. I just became a father last January and everything is scary. You worry about hurting the life you just created, and you want to instinctually protect them from all ills of the world. But fear trickled into my career and into my creative outlets.

I’ll save the specifics for my wife/volunteer therapist, but what I’ve realized is that I am more scared of rejection or loss of income than happy about how I live each of my limited days on earth. I worry about starting a project, whether it’s a blog post, song lyrics, a chapter in a book, or a set of pushups, so I just sit on my phone and check Instagram or NPR.org, which in turn stresses me out. It’s amazing how much time I can waste on my phone.

I fear the inevitability of having to choose family over long hours at the office, so I spend hours worrying about what I am doing with my life, when I should be focusing on being the baddest mother forker in the office. Fear is such a god damn distraction. And it took a lot out of me the past six months. My boss was incredibly helpful in trying to help me navigate it all, and now that I’ve had time to distance myself from the fear, I’m in such a good place. I have meaningful things to do and I’m taking on a lot of things I never thought I was capable of doing. It’s great feeling.

Balancing work and the home life is still tough. I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my three week vacation, and having my wife still on her sabbatical certainly makes it easy to feel less overwhelmed, but the overarching theme: choose happiness over fear — will shape what comes ahead. I don’t want to live each day and be stressed out over not doing the things I want to do because I am afraid I don’t have enough time, or that choosing art over an income is going to destroy my livelihood. I can create and work. I can be father and artist, husband and friend.

Something Grander came from lyrics I wrote about trying to get pregnant. Each delayed period, upset stomach, or headache my wife got was a cue that this. was. it. She was pregnant, right!? Most of the time the answer was no, she was not pregnant. Until she was. The fear that we weren’t going to be able to have a child was weighing on both of us after months of that little pregnancy test’s missing plus sign. It wasn’t until my wife and I agreed to relax, have fun with the process, and focus on being happy that it finally happened.

That’s what this year and this creative outlet are going to be for me. I will choose happiness and embracing the things that could lead to happiness over avoiding heartache and fear of loss. Live more fully. Live more freely.

Rejecting the Dad-bod: A Comedy

There’s nothing funny to me about having a dad-bod. I reject the cultural cuteness we’ve given it over the past few years. I had a dad-bod before I had a son, but no one gave me a high-five for being so hip and ahead of the curve(s).

If you happened to read my posts from time to time I’ve mentioned that I thrive on proving people wrong. I get joy out of defying expectations. I like taking what someone assumes I should be or do and be the opposite. That has created a constantly-rotating wardrobe, different hairstyles every few months, new music explorations, new book-reading choices, and so on. Whether the drivers are healthy or not, the effects have given me a freedom to be and do whatever I want.

This is how I found myself at a gym, one week before my first son was due, signing up for a new membership — my third different membership since I moved to Wisconsin. When the manager asked what my goals were, “I want to look like a monster,” wasn’t a strong enough metric to monitor progress. He also couldn’t really take my testimony that I used to be in really good shape as a reliable gauge on what I should aim for. But that doubt gave me motivation.

My son was born on a Thursday; my first session with my trainer was the following Monday at 7 am. I hadn’t eaten before the appointment, I hadn’t slept much — as anyone with a newborn could understand. I nearly passed out. I couldn’t get through the 30 minute fit test. I spent the following 33 minutes crouched on or around the one men’s toilet. It was not my best day and not the impression I wanted to set with a guy I was financially and contractually obligated to see once a week for at least two years.

But it got easier over time, as things do. My wife was always home, and so I knew I could go to the gym before or after work, and she’d be with the boy. I started making visible progress. For the first time really in my life, I focused on the lower half of my body and started developing an ass, which I have never had in my entire time on planet earth. Eventually, my wife also got a personal training program with the same trainer, and she was able to go consistently between her part time schedule at work and either of us picking up our son from day care.

Culture makes it seem like the dad-bod is some sort of badge of honor, but here I was getting into the best shape of my life. I was telling people that this is my dad-bod. By Memorial Day, I was finally on the right side of physical strength and wellness. Then shit got complicated.

My wife went back to work full-time and our routines fell apart. One week I needed to be in San Diego, the next week she’s in Texas. Next week we’re both in town but I have band practice. She’s clawing her way back into full-time work mode, so she needs late nights at the office to get caught up from months of maternity leave and part-time work. Oh, now I’m in New Jersey. Now I’m in North Dakota. Now I’m in North Carolina. She’s in Texas. She’s in Palm Springs. Family is visiting. Family is visiting again. The rain finally stopped, we need to do yard work. Nope started raining again, this time causing floods in the basement. Oh, time to travel again.

It’s mid-August and in just 10 weeks, I feel like I’m slipping into that skinny-fat stereotype of bearing a father-body. I stepped up my volume of eating to account for all the gym time, but when my stops at the gym decreased, my caloric intake didn’t. I see love handles, I see a fuller belly, I see saggy man-boobs. Dammit.

After justifying my descent into mediocrity for weeks, I really got into my head about how I got here, and most importantly, how to get back. I don’t know if I have good answers really, but here’s the plan I’ve come up with. First, I need to do it as early in the day as possible so I ensure it gets done. Second, I can’t focus on the perfect opportunity. I have a plan each day to exercise and then I have things happen where my ideal scenario of exercise is compromised and before you know it I’m half-asleep in bed drifting off into tomorrow.

It must be a priority. It was a priority before and life was probably just as complicated (but in different ways) as it was a few months ago. But because it was so important, I found ways to do it consistently. My lesser vices went on the back burner (things like waking up and playing on your phone for 20 minutes can set off a sequence of laziness that derails a perfect amount of time to exercise). I ate better because I knew it was helping me each day. Once it’s a priority, it’s a way of life.

My son is getting bigger and heavier. I need to be able to haul him around, and set a good example. Today was the day I needed to remember how far I had come at one point, and how far I’ve slipped. But I am not discouraged, just delayed. I have a deadline to get to the shape I want to be in. 11/11: Family reunion for my wife’s side of the family. I was telling her that I need to be the most physically impressive man at this reunion so that her family knows the Shermans have strengthened the genetic makeup of our family tree. She laughed. But motivation comes in a bunch of silly forms. And that’s the motivation I need.

Sleeping With Both Eyes Open

She stares vacantly as I repeat her name. “Rae. Rae. RAE, she’s asking if you need anything else!” That one caught her attention, and my impatient disciplinary tone caught the restaurant’s attention. I feel stupid. “I swear I love my wife and we’re equals,” I mutter loud enough for some patrons to hear me. I have the same desperate frustration in my tone that I heard from my father so often growing up. It still catches me off guard.

I hear him in my own voice more often over the past five months. My patience has shriveled, my fuse has shortened. In the 5 months since becoming a parent, I’ve learned more about the psyche of my father than I had in the previous 30 years of knowing him. I’m not free from maternal influence. I become my mother when I panic about my son being too close to the edge of a bed, even if he’s in the dead center of a queen sized mattress. Every time he sniffles I think it’s pneumonia. I am on high alert and am convinced that  everything bad that could happen is happening, and happening right now.

Not that I could, or would ever want to experience it, but I still struggle seeing how I would’ve handled parenthood ten or even, five years ago. I still barely feel like I know what I am doing and I am light years ahead of where I was in my mid-twenties…(okay I was in my late twenties five years ago. Piss off.) My wife isn’t immune to it either. Remember that catatonic hot mama in paragraph one? She’s adjusting as well. Exhaustion hits her and hits her hard. I can’t remember the last time I saw her get a full night’s sleep. She has definitely sacrificed more of herself since our son arrived. She is now back to work full-time and a full-time mother. She is still waking up more often than I am at night, even if it’s to pump. She’s gracefully transitioning from pregnant woman to post-partum working mother, while recovering physically and professionally.

We’re five months into it now, folks. And now, we’re becoming the stereotypes we fought so hard against. Two full-time employed working parents, forgetting to change cat litter for a week and falling asleep at 8:00 pm. Zombie-like moans and grunting exchanges in the bathroom to brush our teeth at 5 am. We take care of each other just enough to get to tomorrow, but we are forgetting what a moment alone together feels like. Friends who’ve already gone through parenting look at us and smile because they recognize all the familiar symptoms. Their favorite part of seeing us like this is knowing that it will pass soon enough, and these motions are all part of the process.

 

I’ve Been Gone a Long Time

Welp, it’s a been a while…since I processed a clever thought.

And it’s been a while, since I forced myself to write.

It’s been a while…since I …ah, to hell with it. The realities of juggling a career, a band,  marriage, fatherhood, and exercise has resulted in me pushing this off. I’ve slipped. But I have a ton of stuff to post, they are all just in various draft stages.

I know I’ve been gone a long time, or at least it’s felt that way. But expect to see some stuff soon! Balance is a minor setback.