In taking on this adventure, the first thing Rose and I did was go through a lot of introspection and conversation. Part of being intentional about how we build our family meant being aware and honest about our own failings and histories. For me the biggest issues to address were my family history of addition issues and time as an expression of love.
There are a wide variety of ways that people display addiction–not all of them outwardly negative. While we most often recognize patently negative addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling etc.), there are also ways that people display addictions that aren’t as readily apparent. For the purposes of this post addiction is reaching an investment level in something where it interferes with your other commitments. So: can’t pull yourself away from work to pick your kid up on time (that is addiction); played WoW too long and missed your bus to meet up with your friends (that is addiction); didn’t eat because nothing fulfilled your dietary choices (that is addiction); hate yourself because you missed one day at the gym (that is addiction).
Principals are good, dedication to excellence is good, having a hobby is good–chronically letting them overshadow your relationships or self-care is bad.
When I sat down to think about it I realized that I use the same coping mechanism against addiction that my dad did in his later years – I do lots of things all at once. You can’t over-invest in things that you only do a little bit of, right? You also can’t be failing to do multiple things if you do two things at once, right? No, in fact, that is wrong.
I kind of have an addiction to the steep part of the learning curve, and to newness. When I needed to cut back on playing video games so I could get more packing done I started building a ukulele. When I needed to stop watching movies all day I researched the entire character biography of the Incredible Hulk. I basically distract myself into disengaging from the thing I am doing too much of, but I also have 2 or 3 almost finished projects at all times (and almost read books, and almost beat video games, etc.).
Accepting that one of my favorite things about myself–I have a wide variety of things that I am at least slightly proficient at (or come back to pretty fast)–is at the core the result of a major flaw, I over-invest, was a long abrasive road to travel.
A Change of Time
Time is really important. Being on time shows that you value other people’s time. I grew up in a family that was chronically late.
With my dad time was expansive; it took over and hour to go the grocery store that was literally across the street, we would talk to everyone, and we would get to the next thing when we got there, it was very laid back. I also just assumed that he was going to be 15-minutes late in picking me up, it was a fact of life.
On the flip-side of that coin my mother was inconsistently late; sometimes it was 15-minutes, sometimes it was 3-hours, but it was always late. That was scary for me, once I noticed.
I recognized that I can fall into both of their patterns. I need to teach myself skills to overcome the pre-dispositions and habits that have accumulated in me.
Here’s the Kicker
To combat this issue I have accepted that one of my bad habits is going to get worse. I am working to give myself not just permission, but also a mandate, to leave what I am doing to keep my promises to Rose and Rockford. I don’t finish the page, I don’t complete the e-mail, I pause the game, or let my character die. So, my pile of almost done has been getting bigger, but I have to accept that my obsession with knowing the name of the Incredible Hulk’s sons isn’t as important as waking up on time to take care of my son.
I’m still chronically late (I send a lot of text message ETA revisions and have lots of phone alarms), I still try to do too many things at once, but I am working to make sure that I shoulder the burden of my flaws instead of passing them on to Rose and Rockford to forgive me. I hope that in the long run they will see that in a global sense they are the most important things to me, even when I fall prey to my obsessions.