These lines choke me up.
After already being in an emotional from these,
“We drove all night
To Billings Montana
Flew into Utah
And slept there all day
I can’t remember
Stopping in Denver
Yeah, I live my illusion that
somebody needs me to play”
For as long as I can remember songs (and literature to a much lesser degree) about being pulled on the road or being taken away from something you love by something else that compels you have spoke to me. Those things that pull you in a certain direction that no one understands. They seem risky, seem even unjustified to many; not worth the cost.
For nearly a decade now I’ve been traveling for “business” intensively. Even the current and recent C19 didn’t ground me for long. For my entire career I have had a road warrior element to what I do.
And as Chris Stapelton wrote, I do miss my son constantly.
When he was born and we bonded within those first few weeks after he came home, I fixated on how do I just stay here. I had not made being Dad a goal. I had no strong desire to be one. I had not longed for children. It had not been anything that I identified I needed to have a complete existence. Yet, there I was. Somewhat in a panic of how do I balance this new role and responsibility with a still unestablished professional self. Lost is a good word to describe where I found myself.
I had a huge amount of flexibility at the time. Yet I needed more I thought. I had the idea I wanted to be a stay at home dad. Mine spent many years of my early life on submarines the same way I’ve spent many of Aden’s on airplanes and in hotels. So much for staying home. But I did not envision being gone as much when he was born as I have been. Have I not determined my priorities or figured out the balance?
Until he was born I was fairly unstable. Productive and solid citizen for sure. But there was a footing missing. And no clarity. Even today, the anniversary of his first decade on this planet quickly approaching, I battle this. This feeling that I am making the wrong choices. Too much time away.
After he was born and we’d bonded I was certainly no father of the year. But I had some purpose to be better all the time. Time and access/availability were the corner stones for what I thought I wanted to offer as Dad. Be physically there. Be ready at every opportunity to take him wherever he needs to go, and create opportunities for him to go places that he may not understand in the moment but will relish down the line. I did know that I was in a position to not be a 9 to 5er (never had been really and no expectation to be it). And it worked. And I was somewhat grounded, and did not spend a lot of time gone whether it was out of town, or out all night hustling. I was present. There. Most of the time.
At some point that smiling devil crept in. Some old ways and habits resurfaced.
The past 8 years. I’ve spent A LOT of my time away from home and him. This is a byproduct of how I make a living. The road has been a tool, a selling point, and a superpower of how I operate. And a prime revenue generator.
All economics and competitive advantage? Or is there something I need to fill? Some transaction with a demon in progress?
That travel has thrown off money, ability to do things my father could not (monetary and otherwise). But the price? Undetermined. That bill has not come due except the emotional strain I carry within. The guilt. The struggle to maintain interest for what I do at times when I’m having a hard time not being around my boy.
I think we all teeter on just saying, fuck this, no matter how much we enjoy our work (or get from it) when we’ve gone just a little too far and for too long away from the ranch.
And then we bargain and go along.
I often think I’m doing my best. And often know I’m not.
What’s the value and benefit to this time away? What have I missed? What did I get that was better when I traded off a chance to take Aden to a rehearsal or to Taekwondo, to be in, wherever for whatever. You can’t fully appreciate what you never felt or saw. Certainly hard to feel you contributed. His list of accomplishments are long and deep. But when you’re around, maybe 30% of the time, can you really say you helped that along?
Is the way I jump in and out of his life any different than if I was an absentee dad who was not with his mom living in his house?
This is too much I tell myself frequently. Not worth it. And these days I own my own business. I think I can turn down whatever and whenever. But I know the reality is that there are plenty of others vying for what I have — at least they think they are which is threat enough. So what can I really turn down? Doing so likely means going on to somewhere else.
If I come off the road does that solve my awful feeling that I’m depriving myself of my son and my son me?
Again is it all economics? Vagabonding professionally. Half assed version of a pretend rockstar skipping all over the place and doing what others need done?
There is something inside of me that makes what I do appealing to me. Even to my family I think. All ego? Look at me. How awesome galavanting around doing this constant road warrior thing I think sometimes.
Sure they miss me. Like I do them. But no one is serving notice on me. That typically does not happen with a warning anyway. That almost always comes when you’re not alert and ready.
For the time, I will keep doing this. Keep taking every opportunity to be on the road in as many places as I can for the good and the bad and get my lessons each step. Keep doing all I can to get back and be around Aden for all I can (plays, games, big moments, little moments). Best I can, bring him a long. Best I can, tell him about what I am doing. Seek his opinion. Help him become who is going to be (and recognizing he just needs support and not a forced hand).
As a Dad, I can just celebrate his life every opportunity I get. Actions, words, hugs (lots of hugs), thoughts. Make it more about him where I can. Keep my ears open for inspiration from him and for him (after all he’s had some great ideas for me about what I can do and how I can help him). Express myself to him as much as I can so he knows Dad loves him.
I don’t know yet how he feels about all this time I have spent away (and I can almost quantify it, and its a lot). I don’t have to pay the bill. And for all I know responding to this devil may have actually been a stroke of genius and created the best platform for the both of us to be where we want to be.
Either way, thanks to Chris Stapelton and his song for helping me express something that’s been in my own head for sometime that is also not going away https://www.chrisstapleton.com/song/the-devil-named-music/.