The Detoxing Man is Adaptable (of spirit and intention).
I have often said that I’ve been married at least 5 times, and it is just lucky that they have all been to the same person. I am not the same man I was when I got married at 21 or the same man at 23 when we had our first child or the same man at 25 or 30 when we had our second and third children. I am not the same man even now as I see our older kids succeeding in high school and looking out into their own independent futures.
I mean, how could I be? The things that I needed to hold within myself as a newlywed with a basement apartment that cost $500 a month to rent are nothing compared to the weighty needs of this moment nearly two decades later. But, it wasn’t by accident that I grew and changed. My original intention was to teach for my entire career. I was going to be the old man English teacher who had traditions of yearly reading a single book that I would be known for just like my high school had with Moby Dick and Jude the Obscure.
But, my intentions needed some adaptation. They needed to morph and grow in scope when we welcomed our first two children into the world. They changed the game, both because of the monetary support they required and the flexibility needed to care for them. My intentions to be a good father came in direct conflict with my intentions for being an English Department Chair and immovable pillar of a particular school community. I needed to adapt to meet the needs of my family, and I am so glad that I did.
And more recently, when all of my children needed to learn from home during a global pandemic of society-altering proportions, it called into question the very nature of work. My spirit, my very self, had always been driven to find time whenever possible to get work completed and fulfill my responsibilities to my employer. I would wake up early and answer emails or work over the weekend on a particularly important meeting, presentation, or document. And yet when I was called upon to parent, to teach, to find time for making meals while completing the same set of work, my spirit adapted. I was no longer bound by finding time to do all of the work. I was freed. To take the time my kids needed to set up for their virtual classes. To set up outdoor and indoor spaces so that we could all find ourselves “home” in different ways. To squeeze in games or a walk when we needed breaks or to recharge when the screens became too much.
I adapted to meet the needs of the moment. I became a different and better man because my value wasn’t tied to the simple output of my work. While still making sure to achieve my goals at my day job, I was able to find a much more fulfilling “job” by investing in the daily work of expanding what was possible within my family. We know each other differently and better. While I’m glad that my wife married the man I was in 2004, I am so much happier knowing that she didn’t have to stick with him.