No, I haven’t lost my mind, it’s sort of like an old saying you have probably heard – it’s good to be just a little bit uncomfortable. I realize that many of you will look at my situation and agree that my life hasn’t exactly been built for comfort in the last year. To recap: lost my wife, home, nearly had to move to another state… but fundamentals like a roof over your head or food for the kids are not things that I’m speaking about. It’s something a lot less tangible.
This all started the week before my birthday. I’d been so focused on routine, I hadn’t really thought much about what it would be like to break it. It is a necessary evil to have that routine as a solitary parent. It’s even more important when you have four kids. But where the routine rules, there’s the concern of stagnation.
Every year, my parents took the kids for a few weeks. I wanted, so badly, to grab my wife and run… just go without a plan or destination. To be kids again and stay at a random motel, sleep together all day, walk on the beach, kiss at the Continental Divide, walk the Gettysburg battlefields… something. Instead, my wife worried about our kids, missed them more than was healthy and we sat home. I had no choice this and last summer. I wanted Abbi, my oldest, to be a teenager, not a surrogate mom. So I did the uncomfortable thing and sent them to Nebraska with my parents. Having burned my vacation time, I cannot see them for nearly three months except on my iPhone.
It’s why I took my birthday trip. The impetus was actually from an unexpected place: Andrea’s best friend, Ann-Marie. We have a wonderfully strange relationship. When I met my wife, she was best friends – by complete coincidence – with a woman I grew up with. Think of it: the woman (or man) you’re dating knows intimate details of every good and bad thing from your early life; details you don’t know about them. Andrea got all these and still married me. At the height of my depression about my birthday, Ann-Marie texted me and offered tickets to a spur of the moment concert if I could get to her. When I couldn’t find cheap tickets she convinced me to drive to LA… the trip you saw here.
But that’s not the end. I got home and Ann asked if a singer/songwriter – a talented woman named Julia Sinclair – could spend the night. She was between gigs and just couldn’t drive to Reno after a coffeehouse gig in Sacramento. Two weeks before I’d have said “no.” I was trying to find a comfortable spot, be lazy and complacent. Instead, I said “yes.”
I played guitar for two straight nights with a woman whose talent exceeds my own. I LOVE the fact I don’t know as much. I can absorb that, like a sponge, and learn from her. Years ago I ran a jam session and learned more from the people coming on and off the stage than I ever would have just listening to records. In the case with Julia, we drank wine, played music, wrote music, and she left a friend, not an acquaintance – and I don’t use that word lightly.
This week I joined a ragtag group of musicians from my parish to play a fundraising gig. I’ve played 10% of the songs on their list. Again, I’m with the most talented group of people playing stuff I’ve never tried before. It’s totally uncomfortable and I love it! It’s a situation I can trace back to that first phone call from my friend. To quote Ringo: “I got BLISTERS ON ME FINGERS!” and I adore it.
You know my friend Ann didn’t settle for comfort either: she called me. I lost my wife, but she lost her best friend. I hadn’t realized that every time I called, texted, sent a photo, or had the kids write, I was sending a visible representation of what she lost. After more than a year, we reconnected and talk about our lives, not our losses . . . that’s uncomfortable, but it’s been worth it.
Don’t get built for comfort, life’s not meant to be that way. It’s far too short and someday – maybe today, maybe tomorrow – you’ll regret it.
So how does this translate to GEM nation? What message are we sending our children if we are too comfortable? If you got a call from a person you trusted asking to let someone they trust spend the night, would you? If you got the opportunities we had with my kids out of town, would you bemoan the empty house or would you grasp the chance to reconnect? When was the last time you not just saw part of the country with your kids but experienced life in the process?
More from GEM:
Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.