What is the Universe Telling me?

COVID-19 is forcing us to the right.
(Image Credit)

Regardless of age, health or location, the smartest people I know have self-quarantined. On their counsel, I’m also home with my wife and two boys working remotely and working harder domestically. Between looking for ways to keep Sam and James occupied, checking in with friends, and talking to my parents over the fence in a bizarre Home Improvement meets Every Body Loves Raymond scenario, this question is on a loop in my head:  What is the universe telling me right now?

Consider the education system.  With classes going online for several weeks (or months), parents, teachers, and administrators are rethinking everything we do and how we do it. Suddenly high stakes testing, class size, and evaluations are meaningless.  Soon enough, we are going to have some strange bedfellows: public, charter, private, and online education.

What is the universe telling me?

If we get this right, we could be looking at the biggest positive change in the history of American education.

A month ago, I bragged about having my head in the sand.  I was in a state of blissful myopia, ignoring social media and the news, mainstream and otherwise. Now? Being uninformed is not only irresponsible, it can be deadly. As someone young enough to not be at high risk and old enough to know better, it’s incumbent upon me to know what’s happening so I can act accordingly.

What is the universe telling me?

Blissful ignorance is selfish.

I checked in with my friend Chris over the phone for our longest call in years.  After acknowledging the gravity of the situation, he cut the tension with a story about heading to Kroger in a Hazmat suit to buy salad dressing for his 80-year-old neighbor. For the first time in months, I was literally rolling on the floor laughing. 

What is the universe telling me?

Seek out opportunities to laugh really hard with other people.

As a sports fan, March and April are truly the best time of year: March Madness, opening day in baseball, The Masters, the NFL draft, the NBA playoffs.  Typically most days have been full of options for escape, even during my darkest times, since childhood. No more.  Time to read, write letters, exercise, meditate, call people I haven’t called in awhile, engage and be fully present with my family. In other words, be Dionysus, not Appollonius (see graphic above).

What is the universe telling me?

Slow down, breathe, move inward. When this passes, we will all emerge more whole.

Dear Friend Who’s About to Have a Kid: Life is About to Get Simple

Dear Friend Who’s About to Have a Kid,

As an expectant father, most of what you’ve been told is that parenting is really hard. Other synonyms: difficult, tough, challenging, life-altering, impossible, a grind. But “hard” seems to be the adjective of choice for the modern, unsolicited advice-giving parent, usually along with a sigh and a head shake.

Sleepless nights, maddening carseat scenarios, nightmare plane rides, strain on marriage, strain on space, strain on body, strain on professional life…just a lot of strain, really.

So I’m not going to sit here and regale you with the countless other reasons why having a child will be the hardest thing you do. On the contrary, I’d like to make the case that, on balance, parenting will actually make your life a lot simpler.

Some reasons:

You will always have an excuse to arrive late, leave early, or not show up at all.

No more hemming and hawing when you get these texts:

Colleague: “See you tonight at the Christmas party?”

Boss: “Can you stay late to finish the project?”

In-laws: “Wanna pop over to watch the latest Meryl Streep’s vehicle?”

Friends: “Moving again. Help me lift the couch?”

A simple “Can’t make it. Kid thing” will suffice. No explanation necessary. Keep responses vague and you don’t even have to lie.

Best part is you can always hedge with something like: “Gonna do my best to make it, but if so, will probably need to leave early. Kid thing.”

Better yet, don’t respond at all and no one will hold it against you. No one gets the benefit of the doubt like a parent.

You won’t need to set an alarm.

It can be glorious when they shuffle in with bed-head and snuggle you on a Saturday morning. It can be maddening on a Monday when you were up with them until 3 am and you’re trying to get 20 more minutes of uninterrupted sleep before a full workday. Regardless, it’s one fewer item you need to worry about. Congratulations, your wife will birth the world’s most sophisticated alarm clock.

You will become more efficient.

My folks watched my boys the other day and I accomplished more in three hours that my pre-kid self would have in two weeks. Something about having finite amounts of time that ramps up your productivity.

You won’t need motivation to get (or stay) in shape.

There’s a reason we’re built to have kids in our twenties: millenials can eat nuclear waste between Fortnite binges and still stay fit. At 40, a trip to the post office saps most of my energy. But for the first few years, 90% of parenting is getting your kid tired enough to sleep, so physical fitness is as important as emotional resilience. If I don’t stay in shape, the nightly game of “Dinosaur King on the Mountain” in my basement could put me back into physical therapy.

You will never need motivation to go to work or to stay at your job.

Mouth to feed = “I don’t need this job.” Mouths to feed = “I can’t lose this job.”

You will become a better person.

Imagine life with a parrot on your shoulder and a mirror in front of your face, both reminding you, incessantly, of your faults.

Actual exchange from this morning in the van:

Sam: “Dad, can you put on the Superman song?”

Me: “Buddy, I can’t use my phone while I’m driving.”

Sam: “Why?”

Me: “Because it’s not safe.”

Sam: “But you just did it back there when you turned on the Batman song.”

Me: “I know buddy, but…(stammering). Hey, look at that excavator over there!”

It’s not even that you become a better person because you necessarily want to become a better person. It’s just less of a hassle.

So friend, as you await this miracle, take comfort knowing that just because something is more challenging, doesn’t mean it’s more complicated.

I leave you with the words of one of my favorite minimalists, Henry David Thoreau:

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

Fatherhood will afford you to let alone pretty much everything.

Except what matters.

— Rory

Wanna hear interviews with dads? Check out The Detroit Dadcast.