Obviously, I’ve written a lot in this space over the past 450 days. Just doing a little quick math, based on a rough guestimate that my average post is around 750 words, I’m thinking I’ve written in the neighborhood of 440,000 words about my experience of parenting and productivity in the time of COVID.
That’s a LOT of words, even for a guy as wordy as I am.
Making the decision to finally close the book on this project was surprisingly easy. It wasn’t because I don’t like it or lost interest, but really because I got a strong feeling that it was time. As I eluded to yesterday, recognizing that my return to work travel was a real turn of the page and a step forward into a new era seemed like the right moment to me.
While making that decision was easy, trying to come up with the right thing to say is not. I will admit to you, friendly reader, that I am more than a little intimidated and overwhelmed about creating a post that caps what has been the longest, most consistent writing project of my entire life. How do I summarize everything that has happened, and all that this blog has meant for me?
I suppose the answer, like every post in this blog, is to not be so focused on the grandiose, and instead focus on the moment itself. That has been the heart and soul of what I’ve tried to do here. Capturing small moments in a big time.
I wrote a post last summer called The Master’s Wheel, that referenced an idea I took away from the movie, The Mask of Zorro. As the old Zorro trains the new, he has him stand in a series of concentric circles, telling him he will be starting in the smallest circle and as his skills grow, his world will expand to the outer circles.
I felt then, as I feel now, that COVID was an opportunity for all of us to pull into that smallest circle. It forced us to slow some things down and live in the very smallest ring…just ourselves and our immediate families.
That can be a mixed bag, I know, but I will say for myself, along with being a time of intense challenge, fear and difficulty, it has also been a time of substantial personal growth. COVID has changed all of us, I’m sure. I can absolutely say I am not the same person now that I was in March of 2020.
This blog has been a big part of that personal growth. As I have mentioned many times along the way, this whole thing started as a goofy dare with myself. When the world shut down, I knew other parents were also freaking out and I started a little Facebook group, and then thought as a goof that I’d try to write a post every day. I figured at the time it would be maybe a month or two, and I didn’t expect to even make it that far.
But the farther I got, the more I didn’t want to break stride. There were times when it was a cathartic outlet, giving me a platform to express a fear, frustration or hope I might have. There were also many challenges along the way. Probably the most difficult stretch was between May and September of last year, a time when we were deep in the front lines of getting help for Henry after his autism diagnosis, and finding our way through that difficult process, but I wasn’t yet sure how to write about it.
The eventual discovery of the power of being able to come forward and write openly about it has definitely been the most rewarding component of this project. As I wrote in my first Beautiful Boy post, Erin and I are both immensely proud of both of our kids, and I want to write about all that they are. This is just one dimension of the many that make up who he is, and it has been so rewarding to learn more and understand him better in the past year.
There were absolutely many, many days where I didn’t want to write anything. And of course, some days where what I wrote wasn’t terribly interesting or insightful. But the act of doing it, for me, was always valuable. It has made me at last believe that I do have the power to achieve whatever I put my mind to.
I hope that anyone reading this realizes that applies to you, too. Whatever it might be…a goal you might want to accomplish or habit you might want to build, it is absolutely possible. I am not a person of unusual will, I am just Jim. If I could do this and stick to it for 450 days, I know you can, too.
The other thing I want to pass on to everyone, whether you are a parent or not, is that there is real power in journaling. No, this blog was never really intended to be a diary or record, but it has certainly given me that. Even when I end the public face of this, I will continue to keep some kind of record of things for myself.
I have been going back over my posts from the beginning in a process of writing a book about the last year. It is shocking how many times I would discover that I had forgotten so many things, from small moments to entire family plotlines. These aren’t things I wanted to forget, so I am thankful I have a record and also wonder how many similar things I’ve forgotten from times that I wasn’t keeping a record.
Memory is an imperfect apparatus, and there is value in having something to refer to. I think it’s important for two reasons. First of all, your life is important and worthy of remembering. The day to day moments are what make up the rich tapestry of who you are and what your life is, and those are worth remembering.
And secondly, more than just a log of fond memories, I think having snapshots of your perceptions over time can provide a really important perspective of your own personal growth. That part has been a game changer for me. Particularly given all the drama and change in the past year, it is very instructive to see where your mind was at different steps on the path.
It’s hard to really come up with a concise conclusion, but if I had to summarize in a simple set of bullet points the essence of what I have learned in the last 450 days, it would be this:
- Flexibility is the key to resilience. The way I kept my sanity juggling work and family and pandemic panic was in finding ways to bend, but not break. Structure is important, but it’s also important to recognize there are days where it’s OK to let the kids have a snack lunch, or to maybe take a break from emails to play hide and seek.
- Self-forgiveness: Many of us are relentlessly self-critical, and I struggled mightily at so many points of this journey, trying to be all things to all people. Cut yourself some slack. None of us are perfect, and our imperfections are part of our beauty. Give yourself space to be imperfect.
- Write to remember: Like I said above, take notes along the way. Your life is bright and beautiful and should be remembered.
- Be present: Journaling also forces you to focus on the moment and be there. Do that.
- Just do it: Whatever your goal or aspiration is, you can do it. I recognize how corny that sounds, but each day is its own adventure, and each day has its victories. If you want something, take each step and keep walking toward it every day. Some days you’ll feel inspired and other days not, but each step is valuable.
Lest I get through this post leaving only the impression that I did this thing myself for 450 days, I need to make it very clear that Ps and Q was absolutely a team effort. First of all, endless thanks to Erin, my amazing wife, who has supported and encouraged me every step of the way. And infinite gratitude also to Amelia and Henry, whose daily adventures and imaginary worlds I am so thankful to be part of.
The team also includes all of you. Anyone who has read this blog, made comments or were just there, I am deeply thankful to you. Knowing you were there inspired me and kept me on track. Whether as post I wrote got 1 or 100 readers, knowing someone would notice if I DIDN’T post was an important part of my growth as a writer and as a person.
I am deeply thankful for you. Everyone’s time is valuable, and if you made a few minutes to read some of my posts, it means a lot to me and I don’t take that for granted.
I also want to thank all those who contributed to the blog along the way. Thank you to Katie Weeks, whose sense of humor, as well as her professional and parenting perspective, I have always respected immensely. She shared a few great posts that added a great additional perspective.
Thanks also to Tom Rosenthal, an old college friend of mine. A funny guy and one of my all-time favorite creative collaborators, Tom and I used to have a college radio show together. Today he has a beautiful family and he was good enough to share a slice of life from the time of COVID last summer.
And finally, Amelia. My incredible daughter, she loved the idea of my doing a blog and she was kind enough to add her thoughts in a few posts along the way, too. I can’t wait to subscribe to her blog someday.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. And I should clarify, I will leave this blog open and will likely jump in from time to time express a thought or story. This is simply the end of the daily blog. I think that part of the story is over, but that is not to say I won’t have other things to say on these things later.
I will miss doing this, but I am also looking forward to putting some energy toward some other projects I’ve been wanting to pursue since before COVID, like my screenplay about a werewolf president (Howl to the Chief), and a reimagining of classic television shows with the twist of being set on the moon (Moon Cheers, Moon Taxi, Moon Falcon Crest, etc.).
Here’s to new beginnings and good days ahead. Best wishes for health, happiness and sanity to everyone out there. I’ll close with a quote from the Roman philosopher, Seneca: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”