On life, presence, the speed of childhood and the perils of rushing

Last night I had some rare one-on-one time with my oldest, who will be 9 in what seems like a heartbeat. 

As I tucked him in, he asked me to sing him a song – something he hasn’t asked for in a while. I was feeling frustrated, tired, irritable, and just wanted him to go to sleep, but then I took a moment to realize the importance of what he was asking. I don’t always do that, in many aspects of my day-to-day routine. I find myself too caught up in the rush of work, parenting, and navigating life, and I don’t take time to listen. 

So I asked him what he wanted. We settled on “Hey Jude,” and after that, he asked for the song I used to sing to him every night as a baby: “Moonshadow.” So I sang that, too, and tried not to let the lump in my throat get in the way. As I did, he relaxed, sighed, snuggled up to me, put a hand on me, and closed his eyes. When it was over, he opened his eyes again and asked me, “How old are you again, Dad?” “48,” I told him. He thought about that for a moment, and a troubled look passed over his face. “I don’t want you to get older, Daddy,” he said. “And I hope your voice never changes because I really like the way your voice sounds when you sing to me, and I don’t want that to change if you get older.”  
It was a bittersweet moment for me. It was a reminder that life passes quickly, and that we all get older, and that our children grow in an instant, and it left me with tears in my eyes. It was a reminder that if I don’t slow down and take notice of each moment, instead of racing from one to the next, I’m going to miss the most important things in my children’s – and my own – life. 

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” My son’s words last night illustrated that perfectly, and were a reminder that I need to be present for the journey instead of focusing on, and rushing toward, the destination. 

be present in the moment, and focus on the journey, not the destination
My oldest son at a time that simultaneously seems like an age ago, and also the space of a heartbeat.

On life, and the passing into history of a year most(ly) dreary

Back in 1989, my friends Chris, Linda, Karen, Tamara and I were hanging out listening to music, as usual, in somebody’s dorm room at ESU.

At some point, we went to our dorm’s common room and flipped on MTV or VH1, and on came the video for The Traveling Wilburys’ “End of the Line.”

When the camera panned to show a guitar sitting in an empty rocking chair, it took us all a second to realize it was an homage to the late Roy Orbison. We sat silently as the symbolism sank in. For me, at least, it was a sobering moment (something I’m sure I needed more of in college, but that’s another story). I started thinking about death, the legacies we leave behind, and the struggles we all go through on our journey. 

I realized, then,  that “End of the Line’s” poppy, catchy structure belied a more profound meaning: You can waste your life wondering what other people think about you; you can waste your life sitting around hoping good things happen to you; you can waste your life dwelling on the past and worrying about the future; or you can accept the things you can’t change, live your life to the best of your ability and take your joy wherever you find it.

Sadly, 27 years later I still don’t always remember to live that message, but I try.

2016, by most accounts, has been an awful year. Divisive politics; the death of more icons than I care to list here; global atrocities; personal setbacks  … everyone seems to have a story from the year the music died.

It seems appropriate, then, to post the video and lyrics to “End of the Line” here. Think of it as a kind of tribute to those who’ve passed, a salute to those who are still on the journey with us, a send off to 2016 and a reminder that it’s all right – remember to live and let live, because the best you can do is forgive. It’s a message we can all carry with us into 2017. 

 

“End Of The Line”
Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, doing the best you can
Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand

You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring (End of the Line)
Waiting for someone to tell you everything (End of the Line)
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring (End of the Line)
Maybe a diamond ring

Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong
Well it’s all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well it’s all right, As long as you got somewhere to lay
Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgment Day

Maybe somewhere down the road aways (End of the Line)
You’ll think of me, wonder where I am these days (End of the Line)
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays (End of the Line)
Purple haze

Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love
Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive (End of the Line)
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive (End of the Line)
It don’t matter if you’re by my side (End of the Line)
I’m satisfied

Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive

Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line