Daily Connector | An intensified quality to gratefulness | Ryan Hoke

I know the stories I tell myself matter. Reality is one thing and then the meaning I make often miles away from that reality.

Our little family (working parents, three kids--five, two, and six weeks old) went from a full life of schedule, routine (school, work, daycare, weekends, repeat) to something very different. There was and is a loss there. A loss of control, a loss of rhythm and predictability, a grieving over my preferences.

When I'm at my best I'm present, open, experiencing life for what it is as it’s happening. When I’m not, when my mind gets humming with stories--about the strangeness, the unfairness, the suddenness, the chaos, the fears, the burdens, and on, and on, and on--it can be easy to miss what is actually unfolding right in front of me. The actual moments where things are totally fine. Where both the events in front of me are pleasant and my heart is doing okay.

Have there been challenges? Yes. Learning to live with the chaos, energy, and tensions of being under one roof together 24/7. Yes. Learning to stumble through homeschooling for our kindergartner while working full time? Yes. Coping with a newborn with colic (make it stop) and a two-year-old with all the preferences and plans ("I DO IT") and limited ability to carry them out. YES. Seeing the business I helped build and grow over the past 13 years lay off people who are my work family? Heartbreakingly, yes.

There are also the moments of connection, resilience, and light which balance these things, and which are often occurring layered amidst, over, and through the stress and the heartbreak. When my 5-year-old buckles down with minimal stalling/arguing and does her homework; when my two-year-old gives "squeezies" (hugs) that she pulls from the neck hole of her pajamas and assigns colors (usually pink or blue), when my newborn stops crying for 5 minutes and gives a half smile.

We're finding new rhythms; we go for walks. We're creating new deeper kinds of relationships with each other. I feel like a different kind of dad simply because I'm having to do so much more parenting--playing, stories, making lunches, breaking up fights, soothing hurt feelings, bandaging stubbed toes and on and on.

None of this is 100% new conceptually. I'm a good Richard Rohr-ian, with a mindfulness practice and a background in mental health. Everything belongs, darkness and light, present focus, acceptance, values-based living, good theology/good psychology, and on and on. It is different when it doesn't feel easy, holy or sacred. When we're grinding it out. When my whole house is covered in a thin layer of honey, poop, and tears. When the laundry pile is four feet high and every single dish is dirty. When there aren't enough hours in a day, and I'm feeling all the feelings.

I'm slowly learning/relearning it's all practice, it's all valuable, it's all happening. That it's okay to careen from feeling like things are okay to feeling like it's all just too much. And I'm learning to notice and watch the meaning I'm making and to keep doing the things I care about no matter what thoughts, fears, feelings, predictions, and stories my mind and body are handing me.

I'm thankful for all the same things I was before--Jacqui, my kids, friends, this community--but these days there is definitely an intensified quality to that gratefulness; an awareness that the accumulation of all these little touchstones, mercies, and relationships make up the actual content of my life, that in many ways they are my life--and in the midst of everything that knowledge is a comfort.