Try. The word try. Three letters. Yet, a powerful word. Merriam-Webster defines “try” as follows:
Heard the song “Try” by Colbie Caillat on my playlist today. I have listened to it plenty of times before. Even thought to write a post about it several times, but never did. Until now.
I tried. I tried to be the man your mom wanted me to be. The perfect husband. The perfect lawyer. The perfect father. The perfect neighbor. I wasn’t trying to be someone I am not. I was me trying to be who I should be for the woman I married. Try as I may, I wasn’t able to achieve what I tried to do. I not only felt, but was reminded more than once, that I didn’t measure up or meet expectations. At first, I kept my thoughts to myself and then verbalized to your mom that I worried she would leave me (which she ultimately did).
Prior to this point, I had never really failed at anything. Sure, I did not win every race I swam, ace every test I took, become friends with everyone I sought to befriend, get offered every job I applied for, or meet every deadline (including, those I created for myself) at work. So, seeing, hearing and feeling that I failed in my wife’s eyes as her husband, as the father of our children and as a lawyer was the first time I felt failure let alone coming from someone I loved.
My salary wasn’t enough, but I was okay with it. The bills got paid, we had a nice house and there was food on the table. All our needs, and many of our wants, were met. My title always had to be better than the last, but I valued my role and the work I did more than the title. As long as I was compensated properly for the work I did, title didn’t matter to me.
My work-life balance wasn’t enough. I was expected to be two places at once: at the office working; and, at home to help out. I loved my family. So, it was easy to tip the scale in that direction. Stood at the bus stop many mornings to see my girls off to school. Read to one of the girls, for many years Kaitlyn, at night unless I was out of town for work. Shared equally parent helper responsibilities at pre-school and reading/classroom help in grade school. Brought your mom coffee in bed every morning to start her day, and made sure not to try to wake her before 7am. On weekends, I took my girls so mommy could have a break. (I often thought daddy needs a break, but always incorporated the two of you in my weekend “missions” to Lowes, the car wash, the hardware store, Starbucks, Harvest Cafe or Brookside Bagels for a bite to eat, and if it snowed, we went tobogganing, made snow forts or had Kokie pull her “sisters” over the river and through the woods.) I saw your mom trying in her role as a stay-at-home mother and about to break at times, and stepped in so she could have a break, regardless of how she asked me for help. Sometimes, I didn’t know she needed help until she was pretty mad.
Bottom line, I tried to be the man who was both the successful professional at work and also the successful husband and father at home. I tried. It wasn’t good enough. It was never going to be good enough. Yet, I loved my family so much that I tried until I bent and almost broke. Then, with the divorce, it was even worse than in the marriage because we were no longer all under the same roof. I felt like I had gone from hero dad to zero dad in the matter of a month when I left my assistant general counsel job in June 2013, a job I had told your mom I wanted to quit a year and a half earlier. But, I stayed in it at your mom’s request for my family. I tried to make lemonade out of a lemon. I tried.
In doing so, in trying again and again and never achieving what I desired — true contentment of being loved for who I am and not what someone wants me to be — I felt failure unlike in anything else in my life. It ate at me. It affected work. It affected my marriage. It affected my family. It showed on my face and in the tone of my voice on job interviews and networking meetings to try and move on from I job I wanted to leave. And, when I was discarded after all of my seemingly imperfect efforts to help, to understand and to love, it felt like 13 and a half years of wasted time. It hurt really bad. It went right to my very being. My soul. My faith. My identity.
When I would meet people for the first time, I would talk about my wife and my girls, the things I enjoyed, politics (I’m fiscally conservative and socially somewhat liberal), sports (I’m a die hard Eagles fan; both Kaitlyn and Skylar could sing the Eagle fight song at 18 months), the economy and job market…. This is how I sought to identify to someone who I am.
I never brought up my profession. If someone asked, I usually said, I am husband to my lovely wife, K__, father of two beautiful girls, Kaitlyn and Skylar, and consider myself a mathematician who happens to earn a living as a corporate lawyer. Whether this question came out the first time I met someone or the second or third encounter, no one ever pegged me for a lawyer. I took pride in that because I do not define myself by what I do for a living….
I tried to be in your lives…. in divorce. I did not try once, twice or three times. I tried from Day 1 when your mom walked out on me with you on August 31, 2013, then asked for a divorce on September 4, 2013 and every day since. I spent everything I had to try but it wasn’t enough right now. I have heard many (including, my parents and some of my closest friends) ask me why I keep trying in the face of their perceived failure on my part to be in your lives. Why I spend so much emotional energy and financial resources only to get relatively nowhere or have things become even worse. In fact, I find myself wondering sometimes why I keep trying — why I even write this blog — and, I always answer the question with: I keep trying because failure is not an option. I love my girls. I love my girls so much that I can not fathom them thinking, let alone knowing, their dad gave up on them and stopped trying. Things aren’t the way I ever thought they would be — married or divorced — and I am limited in what I can do for you right now. But, your dad is going to keep trying even if all he can do for the time being is write you here in this virtual space.
I love you Kaitlyn and Skylar. Listen to Colbie Caillat’s song “Try.” Really listen to the words. I believe this song is particularly written for young girls, such as yourselves, trying to find their way, understand their value and grasp what it means to be loved. “You don’t have to try so hard. You don’t have to bend until you break.” You do not have to go to extremes for anyone in order to be loved by them. If they do not love you for you, then it isn’t love. I never asked your mom to be someone she wasn’t. With love, you may try and fail at things time and time again — I pray that neither of you ever fails at anything — but, it really isn’t failure if someone loves you for who you are and you love them back the same….
That is love.