There’s something appalling—nearly unforgivable—about the things we forget, like, 98-ish percent of our known existence.
We forget that we breathe. We breathe more than 23,000 times per day on average. There’s literally NOTHING we’ve done in our lives more times than taken a breath.
Yet, we never notice.
We forget that we are not promised tomorrow. Today may be our last. This conversation may be the last one you ever get to have with someone. Virtually all of us would say and do things differently if we knew this meeting would be our last.
We forget all of the opportunities we have to be grateful.
Health. Money. Shelter. Clothing. Transportation. Family. Friends. Employment. Education. Abilities.
There’s always something to be deeply thankful for. Something we’re taking for granted.
Our health and closest loved ones seem to be the most obvious victims of our unintentional neglect.
My Blindness to the ‘All The Time’ is Why My Marriage Ended
There are so many perspectives. So many ways to frame and slice the conversation about how love dies. How families break. Including the story of my own divorce.
But underneath all of the specifics is a simple and difficult truth: I didn’t remember to actively love my spouse.
Like, I forgot.
I feel shitty about it, and I’d feel even worse if I didn’t know that pretty much everyone suffers from this in some form or fashion.
We grow numb to the things we feel All The Time.
We grow deaf to the things we hear All The Time.
We grow blind to the things we see All The Time.
Combine this psychological phenomenon that all of us encounter with undiagnosed adult ADHD, and boom. You get some hapless asshole who derpy-derps through life unintentionally hurting those he loves.
You know what the worst part might be? I used to be blind to it, legitimately.
Today? Not so much. I write about this stuff every day, so I’m much quicker to recognize when I’m doing it, and better understand how another person might feel about it.
I’m always in the market for a larger Shame bucket to carry around.
How I Remember to Actively Love My Son
I hope it’s clear that I felt love for my wife. The same way I feel grateful for breathable air.
I just FORGOT to actively demonstrate it in the way that would have saved everyone involved a lot of pain and suffering through the years. Sometimes, when you have a near-death experience with a Jolly Rancher, you remember how neat it is to be able to breathe without a delicious piece of hard candy lodged in your windpipe.
“News at 11, a local man was found dead in his parked vehicle this afternoon. Law enforcement officials at the scene declined to comment on the active investigation, but we were told off the record that there’s no evidence of foul play, and that a giant bag of Jolly Ranchers candy was found on the passenger seat, suggesting the man likely died from a choking incident like you might expect from a small child. None of the man’s coworkers admitted to being friends with him. Reporting live from Cleveland, Ohio, this is Johnny McJohnson. Back to you in the studio.”
I had a serious problem with forgetting to actively love my son.
He’s a fifth-grader. He’s amazing. And he’s been my entire world for the past six years.
And even though that’s true, and I’ve never known love like the love I feel for him, I still get really upset with him sometimes (almost always when getting ready for school, where his priority often seems to be to do ANYTHING except stuff that will help us accomplish our goal of getting to school on time with as little stress as possible).
And I get pretty mad sometimes. Because I know what he’s capable of, and I know how smart he is, and it feels like he’s intentionally sabotaging my efforts some mornings.
(I know. The irony isn’t lost on me. I promise.)
And sometimes, he and I will exchange words and attitude, and then maybe that was a morning where I wasn’t picking him up later that day. Maybe it would be two or three days before I’d see him again, per his mother and I’s 50-50 shared parenting arrangement.
So, sad and angry dad drops off sad and angry son only to have both of us feel crappy about it for a while and would both choose to go back in time and do it all over again, if we could.
And since he’s 10, and I’m the ‘adult,’ I needed to take action. Because doing the same thing over and over again more or less guarantees the same results over and over again.
The Simple Magic of the ‘Focus’ Wristband
I could make myself a sign.
I could get a tattoo.
I could set reminders on my phone.
I could write it in my calendar.
I could do a lot of things. But ultimately, I chose a simple black, flexible bracelet. One of those rubbery wristbands like the #LiveStrong ones that former cyclist Lance Armstrong used to pimp before he admitted to doping and everyone stopped thinking he was cool.
I bought a box of them. They all have cliché motivational words on them which annoy me, but in this case, the word “Focus” is apropos.
I now wear a mostly non-descript small black rubber wristband on my left wrist. There is nothing special or noteworthy about it. Unless I’m wearing short sleeves, no one would ever know it’s there.
My Focus bracelet has one job. Only one job.
To remind me to actively demonstrate intentional love and patience toward my favorite person in the world. He is my life’s greatest gift. And it’s pathetic that I get angry with him and speak to him in ways his young mind might interpret as me saying he’s not good enough, or communicate that I’m not immensely proud of him.
Jolly Rancher jokes aside.
What if on one of those mornings, I never made it where I was going? What if the last thing he remembered about me was me being angry with him at school drop-off, only to never have the chance to speak again or remind him that there is NOTHING he could ever do or say, and no amount of frustration he could ever make me feel that would equate to my love for him lessening somehow?
That wouldn’t do.
So, I ordered a pack of these silly wristband bracelets.
And, you know what? It works.
My Focus bracelet reminds me to smile and laugh at him clowning around when he’s supposed to be brushing his teeth.
My Focus bracelet reminds me that a few minutes here and there are NOT even in the same universe as him knowing his father loves him and feels immense pride in him.
My Focus bracelet literally triggers intentional patience, resulting in a 90-percent reduction in anything resembling an emotional outburst, and a much more mindful father not carelessly ‘forgetting’ how much he loves his son.
I know it might seem silly, this small thing. This wristband with only one job.
I was skeptical as to how effective it would be. I shouldn’t have been.
When we MINDFULLY, INTENTIONALLY, invest our mental and emotional energy in those we love, it sticks. Because we know what’s at stake.
Someone, somewhere doesn’t know how much you care about them.
They don’t have any idea how much they are loved and cherished.
What super-tiny, subtle shift can we make to keep our minds attuned to what matters most to us in a way that can help us maintain discipline, better communicate our love for others, and walk the walk in our daily lives?
What small thing can we do today to invest in and protect our life’s biggest, most sacred things?
I paid about $15 for a pack of wristbands I only needed one of.
But can you guess how much it’s worth?
There’s not enough room here to write out the number.