Here is something I realized about myself recently: in the midst of major change, I tend to regress back to the basics in my life until I can handle branching out again. It helps me stabilize myself in times where I might otherwise go crazy, and it also allows me to be both mindless and mindful of my responsibilities as they arise. It doesn’t seem too problematic, so I allow it to occur and play out its own course as it needs to.
About a month ago I took a new job in a different city (Boston) that requires me to spend a couple of nights a week away from home in order to be in the office enough to get acquainted with the new processes, staff, workflows, etc. The goal is for my family to move closer to Boston within the next year in order for me to be in the office full time, but obviously that will take some doing in order to get all of our ducks in a row. In the meantime, every Tuesday morning I get up around 4:30 in the morning and drive the three-plus hours to my office, and then stay there (not in the office, but close by….probably something I didn’t need to explain but I’m too lazy to delete it at this point) until I drive home after work on Thursday night. Mondays and Fridays I work remotely from home in Connecticut. And so it goes until we move.
So how, you might ask, does this story have anything to do with the title of this post? Good question. Allow me to explain. Since I began this position about a month ago, I have found myself pulling the usual regression to the basics once more. In this case, I go to work, go back to the apartment I am staying in, watch TV, play video games, read, go to sleep, wake up, go to work, rinse and repeat. Nothing too nuts. When I go home, I look forward to nothing more than seeing my son and my wife (and even my dog). Beyond that, I couldn’t really care less. That’s not to say I don’t go along with whatever plans my wife makes for the weekends, and it’s not to say I don’t enjoy them. It’s also not to say I live like a recluse when plans aren’t made–I still try and live a relatively social life when I am home. I only mean that, given the current circumstances of my existence, it is easier than ever to find and cling to the simple things in my life that make me happy. Family. Friends. Bed. Couch. Recliner. TV. Etc.
I mention all of this because this morning, as I was going through my usual (basic) routine of signing onto my work computer, drinking my coffee, opening email, and browsing Facebook, I came across a post originally put up by the parents of one of the children lost in the Newtown shootings. It was a picture of the two other children in the family touching the then-pregnant belly of the mother (who was pregnant at the time with the now-passed boy), and everyone was smiling happily. Basic. Simple. Joyful. And at the same time, in retrospect, one of the most heartbreaking things I have seen in a long time.
My first instinct was to copy and paste the picture I am referring to in order to better illustrate what I am describing, but on second thought, it seemed almost unnecessary to do that. This type of description could apply to any of the families whose basic, simple pleasures were forever destroyed by the atrocities at Sandy Hook, so there doesn’t really seem to be a need to narrow it down to the one I happened to see. Suffice to say, at least for the few moments I came across that picture and read the comments below, my simple, basic existence was rocked into something beyond the status quo that I have been enjoying over the last few weeks. And why? Because I became all too aware that no matter how comfortable you are, and no matter how much you put your faith into the normalcy of your life, things like this can and do happen sometimes.
I don’t say that to throw some horribly pessimistic monkey wrench into people’s morning, nor do I expect it to keep me down for the rest of my day. On the contrary, seeing that picture and contemplating about how all of the twenty children (and six adults) represented the core, basic, fundamental aspects of happiness that each of their respective families enjoyed when their lives were going through moments of upheaval and change, I find myself “regressing” even more toward the things in my life that keep me centered and help me continue to reflect on who I am, and who I want to be.
I have one son, a three and a half year old named Casey, and the thought of losing him–particularly in the heartless, mindlessly vicious way that so many were lost in Newtown–is virtually inconceivable to me. But knowing that others have experienced that kind of loss nonetheless makes me aware of how real that kind of loss can be, even if I don’t have emotional access to it myself. And it is in virtue of that knowledge that I will continue to focus on those basics, those fundamental values, even after this time of change has passed for me in my life. So in closing, maybe “regression” is the wrong way of describing what I’ve bean talking about, as I can’t think of anything more forward-minded than that, for me.