2014 was a rough year.
No, I didn’t get arrested. No, my marriage was not hanging by a thread. But I lost something precious. Something I’ve had my entire life until last year. I’ll get to that later.
The demands of career and family life drained me. I frequently burnt out, especially when I returned home. The daily routine after dinner was to sit down on the couch and supervise the twins while the wife washed the dishes. Sure, I was physically present and preventing the kids from beating each other up. But I was not truly present. No, I was glued to the cell phone, lost in the digital joys of Facebook, Google Hangouts, and anyone and everything besides family.
Mrs. Mewie, too, was exhausted. Not surprising for someone who cares for twin toddlers each day without a break. When the kids went down, we could have spent quality time together. But two very tired adults do not make for an ideal interesting conversation. No, after the kids were asleep, I looked forward to playing video games as an excuse to disconnect from the usual motions of life. The dream project of revising my novel also was put on hold, which was frustrating, to say the least.
Mrs. Mewie provided hints of her desire to connect with her husband but frankly, I was too tired to pay attention. At least once a week, I succumbed to apathy. A state of stagnation. My life began a noticeable pattern of being on auto-pilot. Work. Dinner. Kids. Video Games. Sleep. Repeat. Hints from Mrs. Mewie evolved into what I perceived back then as nagging – to be more active in the kids’ lives, and also with her. I became numb (as opposed to deaf) to her requests. I helped when asked upon. But nothing more. I simply lost the drive to do anything beyond what was required of me. I settled for mediocrity. I know what you’re thinking. Husband of the year, right?
At the time, I believed in a half-truth, half-lie. Life doesn’t get any better than this. The truth: I’ve achieved my life-long goals of pursuing a successful career, getting married, owning a lovely home, and becoming a father who provides for the family. The lie: I’ve reached my highest level of happiness and can’t expect anything more. Mission accomplished. Now go home and live out the rest of your days keeping the momentum up. What a wrong way to think.
2014 proved that I couldn’t sustain this happiness. The energy required to perform could not keep up with demand. After a long day at work or a weekend with the family, I found myself conserving the last ounces of energy just to play video games. It was pathetic and I accepted life as is. Something inside me died. The passionate fire to seek better fanned out. And ultimately, I became bored. I reassured myself that this exhausting routine was just a temporary state of parenthood and that this will pass. Better days are ahead, but for now, man down. Maybe 2015 would be better.
Last month, with much nudging from Mrs. Mewie, I ditched my family to attend a weekend retreat known as Men’s Bootcamp with friends I refer to as my band of brothers. I learned a biblical perspective about what it means to “be a man.” I wrote down 12 pages of notes from that weekend, but for today, I’ll share one epiphany I experienced: In order for a man to effectively and consistently love his family, he must be fully alive. Physical health is not enough. Men must be intellectually, emotionally and spiritually charged to lead, to guide, and inspire loved ones to live their lives to the fullest. Once a man is full of excitement, energy, purpose and sheer joy, there is a natural, powerful overflow to his wife and children. I discovered what was missing in my life: adventure.
A man needs adventure in his life. Adventure that is part of the bigger picture – the vision and purpose of one’s existence. Something that a man can also talk openly about and with wonder. You can tell you have adventure in your life when your back straightens, your eyes light up, and your heart pumps faster from just talking about it. I needed that.
So what adventure makes me feel alive in 2015?
I am learning how to fight. For those of you who never heard of Krav Maga, it’s the official fighting system of the Israel Defense Forces and is world-renowned for dirty fighting. When your life is in imminent danger, Krav Maga requires you to do whatever it takes to survive and protect your loved ones. To neutralize the enemy, I’m learning to throw honorable fighting tactics out the window. Forget punching the face. If the opportunity allows it, attack the groin, the throat, and the kneecaps. The intense physical training literally leaves me in bruises – the instructors refer to them as “Krav Maga badges.” With adrenaline coursing through my veins, I truly feel alive during and after each session. I’ve never been more confident and knowledgeable in how to protect my family. It’s an amazing feeling and when I return home, I use this energy to be the best husband and father I can be.
I’ve also dropped things I love to pursue those things I love more. I refuse to look at my cell phone when I’m home. I unplug from the digital world to fully focus on my beautiful wife and amazing children. Sure, I still play video games (not sure I can ever outgrow this), but only after making the most with my loved ones. Everyday, I do my best to remind Mrs. Mewie that she captivates me. She is the beauty in my life that I seek daily. I remind her after a long tiring day that she is the best influence and mother of our miraculous children. My mission after work is to pour love, energy, and excitement into her exhausted mind. I do whatever it takes. Buy her flowers. Ease the household burden by washing the dishes. Give her a massage without waiting for her to ask for one. Write and hide love notes in random locations for her to discover later in the day. Take the initiative to pray together in bed each night. To witness her smile, laughter, and renewed joy overflowing to our children and friends, I’ve never felt more alive than now. I’m even putting in three to four quality hours a week to revising my novel. At this rate, the draft will be completely revised by the end of the year. Man up.
With adventure in my life, the energy within me overflows to everything and everyone I touch. I love my work. I love my novel. I love my friends. I love my kids. I love my wife. I love life. And I’m quickly learning, life gets better.