The country singer / songwriter Garth Brooks has a song called “The Dance.” It’s a simple but powerful song, where the writer speaks of a breakup in a relationship. Essentially, the jist of the song is this: the writer is lamenting on the fact that had he have known the relationship would ultimately be in failure, he probably would have missed “The Dance.” Or in other words – sometimes, even though the end or loss of something hurts – it’s not necessarily the end that counts. It’s the Dance in the middle.
I got a call Sunday that I much rather would have not received. It was from my mother, teary eyed and heartbroken – giving me one last chance to say farewell to my “childhood” dog George – a dog I received for my 16th birthday, and as a family we had raised for 11 years. He had hurt himself beyond medical repair, was in a great deal of pain and suffering, and well – you know the rest. It was hard. It was really hard, probably more so for my parents.
My parents have been through the broken roller coaster of life in the last 3 years, and as we all like to think – undeservedly. A failed company my Dad put his heart and soul in for well over a decade went bankrupt. They were forced to move away from a home they eventually lost – to a strange place in New York they eventually grew to love. Not long after gaining normalcy, they were forced yet to move again to Tennessee. I watched my Dad, my own personal hero, handle it with valor and stride. I watched a guy who had spent the better part of his life taking care of me and his family, mentoring, nurturing, loving me – get beat down over and over again – and still get back up. I stand today with more respect for him than any other man in my life. I watched my Mom stay by his side through thick and thin, going wherever her husband went, because for my Mom – that’s what she does. She loves with loyalty and heart of a christened knight.
But then there was George. George did not move with me when I left the nest, he stayed with Mom and Dad. He needed to stay, where he was he had greener pastures, his backyard, his picnic table throne, his squirrel minions, and plenty of love. For those who have had dogs before, you’re quite aware of the unconditional love they offer. For those of you who don’t, I’m not sure what to compare it to. Ben Williams is attributed with saying “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face,” and I would personally have to agree.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my experiences with George lately – and one central theme comes to mind over and over again – purpose. I’m bemused at the fact most of us go through life spending our whole lives looking for purpose – a reason for existence. George never had to question his. He knew it, he lived it, he exhumed it in all he did. George’s purpose was joy. He gave it up easily, mixed it with loyalty, protection, and humor. He stuck through the heartbreak of my parents moves, and the distance and loneliness that state borders do to separate us from the ones we love. In the midst of it all, there was George.
George knew what he was here for, I’m certain he had received his mission briefing well before any of us knew he would become ours, a blessed edition to our lives. Part of me, well… Part of me also thinks George knew when his mission was over, when it was time to throw in the towel and go home. I’m sure some would say that’s just me full of “wishful thinking and self healing” …But I don’t think so. I think he knew, accepted it, and was ready.
I wasn’t there for George’s passing. And as I write this cathartic bit of an essay, a few tears stream down onto my keyboard. Call me emotional, I don’t care – you’re probably right. It doesn’t matter. If George was here, he’d nudge me on my lap with that “get over yourself and come play with me look,” and that would be okay – because it would make me laugh.
And that… that’s a legacy worth remembering.
In Memorandum -
George “Georgie” Dawson
January 1999 – March 2010
Friend, Companion, Joy-Bringer
Everyone has a point in their life where the reflect on what they have become. 10 years go, if you would have told me I’d be working for a tech company running a Hosting Environment, I would have believed you. 10 years ago, if you told me I’d go home from that job to 3 children and a wife, I would have questioned your sanity. Some parts of me have been very predictable, while other parts have been small surprises.
To be honest, I’ve been dealing with a bit of depression lately. I’m reevaluating who I am as an employee, a father, a friend, and a husband. I feel like I’ve made my share of failures in all four departments over time. My biggest struggle has been juggling the four departments simultaneously. In doing so, I think I’ve neglected to actually work on me. Now, please don’t confuse that statement with the same statement a selfish person would say to justify a change in lifestyle. No big purchases here (can’t afford it), no sudden career changes (unwise), no lavish hobbies (see reason number one).
I’m guessing my depression stems from the fact that I’ve tried so desperately to excel in the four areas mentioned above, I’ve lately managed to burn myself out. I’ve entered into a routine of going through the motions, something I never really attributed myself to before. I’m just not a “go through the motions” kind of guy. I get bored. Even more so, I’ve made some missteps in managing certain aspects of my life and household, I’ve let those cascade into my identity. It’s well, rather – depressing. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to slit my wrists are cry myself to sleep every night – but to be honest faithful readers (all one of you), I’m just confused about what to do next.
I first tried the familiar instant-gratification route. In high school in college, I had a fish tank hobby. At one time, I had too many fish tanks, that I’m pretty sure my parents were ready to kill me. I loved it though, I really, really enjoyed it. I was obnoxious about my fish, designing the aquarium, keeping them happy – and just viewing their world I created. So, last weekend, I found a fish tank on craigslist – a lot like my last one before I moved out of my parents house a long time ago. I was excited. I spent the whole day cleaning my fish tank and matching stand, and the equipment it came with. I even went out that night to look at some accessories / stuff I would need to get it started. Then, the reality hit me of just how expensive of a hobby it is. I guess I had more disposable income in college, some of this stuff is atrocious, and I just could not justify it. I wanted to, I just couldn’t. It’s not like I’m poor, but the father/household part of me said “no – there are other things we need.” So, being the responsible parent / father I am – the fish tank remains on hold until I won’t feel guilty about doing something with it. Right now, it sits empty in my living area. I kind of like it empty. It’s amusing. I’ll get around to it – I really want to, but that might be awhile, and I’m not complaining. All good things come to those who wait.
I’m also the trying “move in the right direction route.” I’ve met with an admissions counselor to look into going back to school. When I started college, a bachelors didn’t exist for what I wanted to do, I had to go the 2 year degree route and then certifications. Now, as I’ve matured and so has the world of education to mach the tech-industry, I’m looking at jumping back in – finishing up with a bachelors degree which should lead to new opportunities. Maybe even give me the money for a really cool fish tank. With sharks. Now that would be neat.
So I guess tonight I really don’t have anything that witty. No catch phrase. No one liners. No real message. I’m just here, on my blog. Trying to figure out what to do next.
It’ll all work out. God’s yet to fail me there.
Three of you
Small, little, and tiny
You spend each day discovering
Exploring, frolicking, careless
With endless adaptability
Coupled with graceful forgiveness
For the one unfit to lead
Bringing unbridled joy and laughter
Upon a life unfulfilled without your presence
I remain in awe of who you are, and who you will become
As I lay you to sleep
Thinking of your future
The promises to be unlocked
The reality of adversity
I find comfort in the solace
That you are not just my child
But that of a greater God
One who picks up where I will falter
One who will remain faithful when I stumble
And I remind myself that you too, shall overcome
But as for tonight, I claim you
Because as much as you rely on me
I rely on you for purpose
For kisses, hugs, and smiles
My children, my life, my love
May the years ahead of you bring you the same joy you’ve brought to me
I’ve been thinking a lot about escaping lately. In order to use the word escape, you first have to imply that you are trapped, or held against your will. Vacation commercials often tell us we need to “escape,” coupling such marketing with pictures of sandy beaches and pristine sunsets. Everyone there is happy, sipping their exotic drinks and dancing the night away at the hottest clubs. We are told that this indeed is “escaping.”
I’m not buying it. But I do understand the notion of “escaping.” Right now, I’m going through a stressful time in my life. Work is ramping up on a huge project I own at the office (one of those projects that means a lot of dollar signs to a lot of people up top), while some of my most important relationships with the people in my life personally are not exactly going the way I’d like them to. I have bills in my inbox that still need paying, a to do list a mile long, and a car that could really use a tune up (or an overhaul, for that matter). I know, it’s life, it’s nothing special. But by 10 PM, after the world slows down in the Dawson household, I can relate with “escaping.”
Although, I’m not very certain that a week in the tropics would be my answer. Sure, it might buy me some much needed rest and relaxation, but for what? To come back to the piling bills, the relationships in need of mending, the car that needs repairs, the project that inevitably that will be still in my queue?
I remember taking a vacation to Destin, Florida years ago, standing on the beach. I watched a guy, in his mid 40s , sitting in a beach chair and drinking a beer. I remember standing next to him. It was late at night, I was on the beach, smoking a cigar, drinking a beer, watching the waves, being a stupid tourist. I thought I had it made at that moment (or perhaps that was the over indulgence of unfiltered nicotine and beer – I know, bad choices – I’m just being real, here – I was 22). I also remember looking over at the guy, and asking him where he was from. His answer: “here.”
Here? Turns out he just “managed” that section of the beach, making sure the beach chairs were picked up, the sand was raked, and the umbrellas were folded. I really envied that guy for a moment. He’s where everyone else wants to go. He’s there. That guy, that guy doesn’t NEED to escape. I made sure he knew that. I’m not sure he bought it.
I probably simply had a moment of “grass is always greener.” In fact, I think that saying only exists because the majority of us haven’t decided what it really is we want out of life. What would make us say we don’t need to “escape?” I know there’s people out there that have figured it out. Few, but there are some. Maybe they’re on the beach, folding beach chairs for a living. Maybe their running a Dude Ranch in Nevada. Maybe they’re just simply doing what they love and keeping it simple, nothing exotic.
Maybe. I hope I figure out what it is that got them to that place. Until then, I’ll love life, I’ll laugh. I’ll trust God. You can tell me all day, “Grant, happiness is a choice,” but I’m frankly tired of hearing it. I’ve had tons of people in my life tell me if I listen to them, if I attend their small church group, join their ministry, read this book, join this group- whatever – that I’ll figure it out. I don’t think it was meant to work that way.
Truth be told, I am happy, but I just know – I know I could be happier. I want to find that escape, so I never have to look for it again.
Mine’s probably not a sandy beach with an umbrella in my drink. I know it’s not. It’s better than that. Way better than that. Some place great for my family, for my kids, my wife. Me.
When I find it, I’ll send you a postcard.