One summer, about thirteen years ago, we stopped off somewhere outside of Providence, RI for a bite to eat. The five of us were all kind of bummed since our annual summer vacation to Chatham, MA had come to an end and it was back to reality—a six hour drive back to reality! If my memory is as accurate as I think it is, the restaurant was a Ruby Tuesday’s and all of us were a bit cranky after spending a lot of time in traffic. Oh, and my son Patrick, who was about four at the time, really had to pee.
As I’m helping him get situated in front of the urinal, another guy walks in and makes the socially accepted move of finding the urinal farthest away from us, not that Patrick had grasped the concept of men’s room state-fright yet. This man was dressed in a leather jacket, had a bandana around his head, and multiple earrings in his ear—he looked like an extra from a Judas Priest video. Patrick looks at him and then looks at me and, quite loudly, proclaims, “Hey daddy, look, a pirate.” I don’t remember the man’s reaction, but I had to bite my lip to prevent myself from laughing.
My son, of course, meant nothing mean by his observation. He was simply describing the world he saw around him without using a filter. It was an innocent comment. At four years old, my son exuded innocence, I believe that most kids do, and then something happens and, poof, it’s gone.
I’m not sure when it left me, but I do know that it’s been missing for a while. I went from being someone who could always find the beauty in this world to only seeing its flaws. It has become very easy for me to point out what is wrong with a situation and more difficult to see what is right. This is true in my work, my friendships, and even in my family life.
Every now and then, though, small miracles happen. The other day, when I was feeling particularly down about something, my wife sent me a blog post in which the author reflects on something he never noticed in A Charlie Brown Christmas. It happens during Linus’ speech, in which he explains the meaning of Christmas by quoting the Gospel of Luke. Linus drops his security blanket just before saying, “Fear not, for behold I bring you tidings of great joy…” The author reflects on the spiritual implications of Linus separating himself from his blanket, and I agree with his point of view, that perhaps the illustrator was trying to suggest that the birth of Jesus should separate us from our fears. That said, it also spoke to me on a more personal level.
Like Linus, my pirate spotting son had a blue security blanket that he took everywhere. For context, my wife’s mother made one for each of the triplets and they’ve been with them literally since the day they were born (each blanket was draped over their incubators in the neonatal intensive care unit where they spent the first month of their lives). Patrick, though, took his everywhere we went—I can’t tell you the number of times I had to return to a restaurant, attraction, or hotel to look for it.
It was a true source of comfort for him. It was the thing that protected him from everything “out there” that could hurt him. Now that he is seventeen, the blanket doesn’t leave the house and perhaps has taken on a different meaning for him, but for me it remains a beautiful, physical, reminder of his innocence. Here’s the thing—I kind of wish I had one now.
- I want something to help replace cynicism with hope and anger with love.
- I want something that will help me pardon others who have somehow injured me.
- I want something that will help me embrace faith over doubt and see light over darkness.
- I want something that will help me find the joy in giving without expecting or even wanting anything in return.
Growing up, I was constantly told that I could handle everything that came my way. “If there’s anyone who can handle it, it’s you, Michael,” was said frequently whenever I’d admit to having a hard time with something. Well, the truth is, I am human like everyone else. I can’t handle everything and I let the pressures of life break me. The fact is, I feel broken and am in need of healing and long for the innocence I saw in my son thirteen years ago (and which I had when I was younger).
The good news, though, is that I’m rediscovering it. I’m rediscovering it with my wife while watching cheesy and predictable Hallmark movies almost every night before going to bed. I’m rediscovering it while becoming a better communicator about what’s on my mind and about the things that bother me. I’m rediscovering it by spending time with my kids and seeing that, even in their late teen years, they still retain an innocence that reminds us that they will always be our babies. I’m even rediscovering it when working with clients by choosing to focus on how I can be of service to them vs. what they are giving me (i.e. accounts receivable).
While I don’t have a security blanket, what I do have is choice. As I’ve become aware of my shortcomings, and believe me there are many, and because of this awareness, I’m choosing to see the world differently and therefore experience the world differently. I’m choosing love over anger, hope over cynicism, forgiveness over grudges, faith over doubt, light over darkness, and generosity over greed. In doing so, for the first time in a very long time, I feel joy over sadness and am starting to see the beauty of this world once again.