I suppose I'd best get around to this before it's 2013.
Last year's year-in-review post was a lot easier to write than this year's for two reasons: 1) I was stuck at work until midnight with nothing else to do, and 2) I had a very strong feeling on the preceding year in that I had hated it and was so glad for it to be over I likened it to Roy Scheider blowing up the shark at the end of Jaws. This year, I've got a baby trying to crawl up my leg half the time and it's been harder for me to find much of an emotional through-line to 2011. Finally, I realized this was because the only constant in my year was MASSIVE CHANGE!! The year started with Kim at home on bed rest. From there, it was new baby, new plays published, quit job, lose friends, subsequent depression, more involved at church, new apartment, and, perhaps the biggest change of all, I got some new socks during our marathon Christmas adventure. You can see, then, how it's been difficult to get a handle on exactly what 2011 was, because I feel like I'm still sorting out what life is now.
All right, let's start with the biggest change, because it got the ball rolling on all the others: in February, Kim and I welcomed Isaac Joseph into the world, and he has been a joy. He is so good-natured that it is difficult to stay "down" when he's around (unless he's hungry or sleepy or in pain). And that's been an incredible blessing, because there have been some hard times since he's been born. New babies are always difficult. It's such an extreme shift between "I'm so happy, I love this new baby so much" to "I'M SO EXHAUSTED, I CAN'T DO THIS!" every week, sometimes every day. It's disorienting, being a parent. Obviously, though, it's been great overall, and I wouldn't go back on it ever.
It does, however, radically shift your priorities. I was surprised how even going from Parent of One to Parent of Two requires a priority shift. I'd thought I was stretched pretty thin, between being husband and father and holding down 1.5 jobs while maintaining something of a social life, but it turns out there was a whole new level of stretching we could reach. I couldn't leave Kim and home with both boys as easily as when it was just Robbie, so I started heading out at nights less. I didn't so much lose a ton of sleep, because I haven't slept well in years, BUT my late-night time shifted from being writing time to being rocking baby to sleep/doing dishes/being-exhausted-(but unable to sleep)-from-the-boys-and-the-dishes time. In addition, the summer was fast approaching, which I knew would be my busiest season in my job at the church. Finally came the straw that broke the camel's back: I was "cast" in the summer show at work. And by "cast" I mean assigned one of the scene shift jobs, the other two of which had gone to unpaid apprentices. I knew this basically meant I'd be leaving my family in the lurch and putting my church in a bad situation headed into our busiest season because I was supposed to change scenery for a place where I was constantly frustrated and ultimately unappreciated/abused while slowly losing money anyway. For the first time in my life, it wasn't worth it anymore.
My decision to quit the theater was hard. It's still hard, though I'm convinced I made the right choice. I wish I were still working in theatre every day. I had made the best friends of my life there, and I knew I would see them only very rarely after I left. I knew I was depriving myself of two of the most precious things in my life--my art and my friends--but it was time for me to go. Now obviously, without the consistent income from that job and with nothing else to jump right into, we didn't have the money to keep both boys in day care, so I became a stay-at-home dad, keeping Isaac at home with me. And those first few months were rough.
I trust you'll forgive me if I don't go into further detail on that point?
Eventually, I began to adjust to my new life. After a while, I started to enjoy it, and that's where I am now. I now keep Robbie and Isaac both on Tuesdays and Thursdays while keeping Isaac the rest of the week. I still don't see my friends unless I go to their workplaces and visit them during work hours, but I'm adjusting to that as well. That's just about the only way our schedules can line up. The only time I really have free any more starts at about 9:30 or 10:00 at night, and most folks just can't stay up late anymore. We're not in college, after all. Well, life comes in phases, and that's what this phase looks like for me. God is very good, and I am very blessed in my days at home, my time spent working for the church, and the few opportunities I do have to get out with friends, whether it be for a football game, a late movie, or Christmas Tree-zzas.
As time went on, it became clear that we needed to cut costs further, so we moved. To a bigger apartment, it turns out, in a comparable neighborhood, but a bit further out from, well, everything. (Except for the church and Robbie's day care, fortunately) This has also made seeing friends more difficult. It's been good, however. The move has been stressful. We're still completely unpacked, and that's been stressful. Because again, these two boys require a lot of energy and attention, and we've been distanced from our usual support system. In all of this, I've been forced to really do battle with some of my own personal shortcoming, attitudes, weaknesses, and fears. It's been uncomfortable. But it's been good, and I hope I'm becoming a better man because of all of it.
And now we've reached the "conclusion." What do you conclude from your world turning on its ear? Well, in my case, from turning my own world on its ear, and my family's. I guess what I've learned is that you really do have the power to do that. I spent a lot of my life believing I was sort of a prisoner to circumstances, that you just can't change your situation. And I learned this year that you totally can. You can always quit your job. You can always move out of town. Or you can do something less drastic: cancel your cable and Internet so you're forced to get out and meet strangers. Become vegan. Sell your car and walk/ride a bike wherever you go. Those things are options. They may not fix your problems, but they're there. I heard a quote at a children's ministry conference I went to last October: Change happens when either you know enough to want to or you hurt enough to have to. I think in this instance, the biggest change happened when I learned that maintaining my unhealthy status quo would no longer be unhealthy just to myself, but to everybody I cared about. So in my case, the violent change was worth it. In your case, it may not be worth the fallout to take the leap, whatever the leap may be. But at least when you reckon that yes, it is an option to you, you really take stock of what is important in your life. Yes, where I am is worth it. I'm living this way because of (priorities) or because I'm reaching (goal). And if there's nothing in those parentheses, well, what have I got to lose? I'm moving to Montana!
I've also learned that change is intentional. You have to stick with it. Over two years ago now, I wrote a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month. It was an incredible experience, it was something that I'd never done before, and I thought it would radically change me. It hasn't. I've been wanting to rewrite it for years now, and I haven't done it. I met a goal, I didn't change myself. I still want to become that guy who can write novels, but it's too easy to be exhausted after playing with the boys and instead watch TGWTG videos until I'm tired enough to go to bed. 2011 has taught me that I don't have to accept that from myself. If I want to make that change, I can make it. But I have to follow through with it. Change takes conscious action, not goal-setting.
So hopefully, 2012 sees me reclaim some of the things I want to be doing. Toward the end of the year, Robbie will be starting school, Isaac may be back in day school, and the whole Change thing will start all over again. Hopefully these experiences will prepare me for that time. Only time, my own discipline, and the grace of God will tell.
In the meantime, I think I hear the baby stirring in the next room. Naptime is over. Gotta go.