Monday, May 3, 2010

A Good Father, a Good Man, and a Good Writer: Taking Time to Define Myself

I can’t seem to sleep tonight.  I can’t sleep.  I can’t sleep.  I just can’t sleep.

And I wasn’t able to sleep last night.  Or the night before.  Or the night before.

But that’s not so unusual;  I have written of my lifelong bouts with insomnia before.  But this particular night of sleeplessness, as was the previous nights, seemed so much different.

I did not just lie there for a period of time unable to sleep.  I did not fall into a light, uneven, fretful sleep only to finally give in to my restlessness.  But I was awaken from a deep, satisfying sleep by something, someone, who seemed to shake me awake, who seemed to whisper in my ear in dulcet, sweet tones, “Step outside yourself.  Be intrepid.  Press forward.”

And I awoke with a start.  And I looked around in the darkness, fearful for just a moment at what, who was there.  And finding nothing, no one, I cursed aloud because I knew it would be another sleepless night, and I felt so tired, so very tired.

However, tonight I took time to question, to ponder, the charge I had been given:  “Press forward!”  But go forward where and into what?

So, I got up quietly as to not awake anyone else, intent on suffering alone.  I retrieved a pen and a pad from my desk, and I sat down to map out what direction I might take.

I started with those things I knew I needed to do—I need to manage my time better.  I need to be more conscious of my health.  So forth and so on.  Then I moved on to those things I wanted to accomplish.  But looking at my pad and looking at my ever growing lists, I just had this nagging feeling that perhaps I still was not on the right track.

Then something, someone, spoke to me:  “But what do you want to be?  Define yourself.  If you died tomorrow, what would you like people to say about you?”

So, I paced the floor for a moment, and I thought.  Then I sat down again and wrote, “I want to be a good father.”

My grandfathers are gone now, but I still have nothing but fond memories of them and admiration and respect for them.  I know now that they were not perfect men.  I know now that they were deeply flawed men;  many of their flaws I will never even know.  But even with all their flaws, their children, their grandchildren love them still, deeply, unconditionally.

And they did not have much too leave their heirs financially;  medical expenses exhausted every cent my paternal grandfather ever saved over his lifetime.  Yet, they left us with so much more.  They left us with pride in who we are and where we came from, and they left us with wisdom of experience, of the ages that I will pass to my sons and my grandsons.  This is the father I would like to be.

Then, I thought of my wife, and I wrote, “I would like to be a good man.”

I don’t have much.  But I do have the respect of my wife, of my children, of most people I interact with on a daily basis.  And this I value very greatly.  They see in me sometimes things I don’t see in myself.  They follow me.  They listen to me.  They show me great deference and affection.

I would like to be worthy of that respect, that deference, that affection.  Given all my faults, given all my flaws, I would like them to see me not for what I am, but what I could be, what I desire to be.  And I hope that in all I do, I can be a blessing to somebody.

And just as thought I was finished, my feet brushed against a box pushed beneath my desk.  Just a few days ago my wife collected my unfinished, deserted manuscripts, miscellaneous notes, and character sketches from my desk drawers, from the top of my closet, from our storage facility, and she collected them all in that box.

Later, Over a cup of coffee and a smile, she informed me of what she had done, and she implored me gently but emphatically to choose any manuscript and finish it.  Someone wanted to read what I had written she told me.  Someone needed to read what I had written.

So, I wrote one final goal:  “I want to be a good writer.”

I wrote my definition of self, those things I most desired to be, longhand and with great flourish on a sheet of paper, and taped it to the wall directly in front of my desk.  That way when I am sitting here and I am tired, when my mind wanders and I begin to stare into space, I will see in front of me, “A good father, a good man, and a good writer.”   Then I shall remember what exactly I am working for and gather my strength to continue.

But tonight I shall rest, for tomorrow begins my campaign.  Tomorrow I begin pressing forward.
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