Searching for Meaning

I was recently talking with a friend about happiness.  She too has been through loss.

She shared a book with me by Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.  I haven’t read it yet, but she gave me the cliff notes.

Apparently happiness isn’t about how big your house is.  It’s not necessarily about your career, although it could be.  It’s not even solely based on who you love or who loves you back.  According to Frankl, true happiness comes from meaning.

Occasionally, I get the itch to go immerse myself in a community somewhere in the world that could really use a great YMCA director.  Sometimes I long to go.  To move into a mud hut with new mud hut buddies to help make their lives better.

As if me as a next door neighbor in the middle of the jungle could help.  The first sign of monsoon season or an anaconda and my behind would be on a flight back home.  And maybe it’s not them who need to be helped.  Perhaps it’s me.  It flabbergasts me when I see really poor people in the world laughing and having fun.  They must have meaning.

I believe I fear the loss of meaning.  How do you find it when your kids grow up?  If it is built around career, what happens when you retire or lose your job?  What if your purpose is to care for an ailing parent or a sick spouse?  What becomes of happiness when they no longer need you?

My friend and I discussed whether meaning was different for people of faith.  It probably should be.  Faith certainly helps me get through this life.  And yet, I’m no Mother Teresa.

 

I guess I need to stop trying to define happiness by belongings, or the size of my paycheck, or the number of friends I have.  Instead, my focus should be on what I’m doing to make life better for others.  Maybe that’s where I’ll find MY greatest joy.

Sunday Post 200: Sing and Dance!

Sometimes we just don’t let loose.  You ain’t lived til you sing and dance.

This is some of the choreography from the play the girls and I were in this Christmas, Ira David Wood’s A Christmas Carol.  You don’t get the full effect without the costumes, but this is essentially our biggest number.

Next time you get the chance, let it out.  It’s therapeutic!

 

(In the new year, I’ll be posting every Wednesday as usual.  I’m cutting back on the Sunday posts though.  I’m too busy right now to keep up with writing two blogs every single week.  I’ll toss one in when I have something interesting to say.  Hope you’ll keep up with me mid week!  Thanks for reading.)

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

Sunday Post 199: Start All Over Again

I don’t often get the “opportunity” to spend time with folks who see the world grossly differently from me.  I tend to surround myself and work on relationships with those who think more like me.  They’re usually smart, witty and right!

But a few weeks ago, I shared a meal with someone who tackled the world from a totally different perspective.

At first I was quite taken aback, even offended by his comments.  How in the heck could he see the world that way?  What’s wrong with him, I thought to myself.

And then, I began to listen to his story.  I peppered him with questions about how he was raised and how he got to where he is today.  And a light bulb went off.  No wonder he’s like this!  It makes perfect sense.

We all come to the table with a view built on our specific life experiences.  He acts this way because of the way he was raised and because of the specific people and experiences he has encountered.

One thing was clear during our hour-long lunch:  he wasn’t changing my mind on today’s political issues, and I wasn’t going to change his.  But taking the time to listen, to put myself into his shoes, helped me understand why he views the world in, to me, is such an odd way.

I wish we, as a country, could have more open and honest dialogue.  I wish we would be more willing to sit with others who are different from us.  I want to spend more time with the other side, listening more – not to build a strategy to win but to gain a deeper understanding of why.

Let’s get in a room.  Let’s lock the door.  Let’s not come out until everyone has respectfully told their story.  Not just their opinion, but their story – their background and the journey that has helped them form their worldview.

Then, let’s start all over again.

Sunday Post 198: Unpacking Memories

I put them in the attic early each January.  I wrap them up carefully because they are so incredibly special.  I store them in boxes eleven months of the year, and then, right after Thanksgiving, the kids and I unpack these holiday memories.

There are so many.  There is the mule ornament from our Grand Canyon vacation.  Her mother surprised us with a donkey dive into the vast hole.

The guide proudly announced, “We’ve never had a mule fall into the canyon.”

Although I was grateful to hear this good news, even the thought of dropping 6,000 feet while clinging onto the mane of a donkey threw me into a full-on panic attack.

I told Lisa, “My ass ain’t gettin’ on that ass.”

I wasn’t a virgin, and this was not Bethlehem.

When Lisa returned, her legs permanently bowed and her derriere scabbed over, it was difficult not to say, “I told you so.”

As she walked toward the shower, I let a little “hee-haw” slip from my mouth.

She flipped me the bird.

I laugh each year when I think of that day.

Usually, memories strike like a slow sink drip.  At Christmas, they pour out like a fire hose.

Cards from old friends who have long moved on.

Those hymns we sing but once each year.

The annual Christmas pageant, the one she directed ten years ago.

Those cookies I work to recreate with limited success.

It’s not just Lisa.  I seem to remember my grandparents more at this time of year – Grandmother Tanner’s seven layer cake, an annual Thanksgiving tromp through the woods with my granddad.

The beautiful thing is that the girls and I now have new memories that have been created:  the late night Christmas Eve service which we couldn’t do when they were younger, the creation of some sort of wonky Christmas card picture, big colored lights on the tree which were outlawed before.

Even though they can be painful, I’m thankful I have fond memories.  I just wish they’d come a little bit slower at this time of year.

Sunday Post 197: Four Walls and a Few Good Laughs

We went to the mountains on the Friday after Thanksgiving to cut down our Christmas tree.  It’s a Tanner family tradition.  After dinner, the girls and I were riding back to our sparse conference center hotel with the grandparents and Michelle blurted out, “I can’t wait for tonight!”

When we asked her why, she explained, “When Dad, DJ, Stephanie and I all sleep in one room, fun things always happen!”

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about, but I did recall pleasant memories of the hotel giggles.

It was about 10:30 after showers and teeth brushing, and I suggested that we go to sleep early.  We’d been up late the night before and up at 7 that morning.  I was beat.

I turned off all the room lights but left the bathroom door cracked and the shower light on.

I lay down thinking I was through.

It took about 30 seconds for the hilarity to begin.

DJ jumped on me and Michelle and Stephanie followed.  The tickle fight began.

At one point I “went to the bathroom” but in reality crawled on hands and knees between the two beds.  When I thought they would least notice, I jumped up from the floor in my loudest scary scream.

All three jumped a foot in the air!

It’s so much fun to frighten the little ones.  I think it’s a dad thing.

Later DJ and I convinced Stephanie that Eric Rudolph, the bomber who had hidden in the woods of NC for five years, was still on the loose and could climb through the hotel window at any given time.  She didn’t like that and refused to sleep on the outside wall of the room.

I didn’t let it go on too long.  Just enough to rile her up a bit.

Of course there were a couple of Dutch ovens (if you don’t know, don’t ask), and photos taken to Snap Chat at a later time (it was difficult to get internet access in the room – yahoo!!!)

Occasionally our family has moments of brilliance like this.  No television needed, no computers or fancy games.  Just Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Doo and me, enjoying laughs with nothing but ourselves.

Oh, I finally got them calmed down at 12:30 AM, but I slept with one eye open.  Twice when the room was nearly silent, and I in that nearly comatosed state, DJ snuck out of bed and scared the puddin’ out of me!  I guess I deserved it.

Sunday Post 196: Thankful for Hope

You know what I’m thankful for this year?  I’m thankful for hope!

What if you lived life, day in and day out, with no hope?  No possibility that life could get better?  No sense that you could get through the hard times?  No potential to meet those you love in another life?  That would make me miserable!

I’ve heard some pretty compelling arguments not to believe in God.  I have listened to folks who can quite logically explain that this world could have easily been created simply through science.  There are those who are fast to point out inconsistencies in the bible adding evidence to their “There is no God” case.  I can see their side.  I see inconsistencies as well.  I have a lot of questions too.

But man, I have hope!  And I can guarantee you this, it’s a much better way to live.

I can picture heaven.  I fully plan on seeing Lisa again, and my buddy Trey, and my friend Brenda, and grandparents for days!  I sort of get excited when I think about it!  Maybe when my demise seems a little closer I’ll sing a different tune, but for now, I’m not scared to die.  I got stuff to do on the other side – so many stories to share.  They aren’t gonna believe I wrote a book!

I have hope for a good, long, happy life with good friends, grandkids, and close connections with my daughters.

Sometimes I’m scared or uneasy, fearful of the future or worried about some stupid little problem.  But overall, I have hope and faith that in the long haul, it’ll all be alright.

The opposite of hope is doubt.  It’s pretty clear which is the better alternative!

Sunday Post 195: Not too much, not too little

Parenting is hard!

I constantly struggle to balance being the cool dad with tough dad.  Last year DJ told me I was the most strict father in the world.  I asked her if she could remember a time that I had punished her.  She said, “No.  But I know if I do something wrong you’d kill me.”

She has no basis for that.  I have never, ever killed anyone before.

When Uncle Jesse lived with us, he basically told me I was a pushover – not requiring chores, doing too much for the girls, catering to their every whim.

I have friends who are really good parents but have really tough kids.  When I used to run summer camps, I saw plenty of great kids with parents who were seemingly worthless.

I still check in with DJ’s friends parents if she says she’s sleeping at someone else’s house.  I don’t really care that she’s 17.  I also don’t care that she has never significantly broken my trust.  I just think it’s a good practice.

My mom still wants to know the phone number and address of the hotels where I lodge when I’m out of town.  She doesn’t call my friends’ parents when I go out, but she probably would if she knew their phone numbers.

On the other hand, sometimes I let Michelle or Stephanie watch a movie or listen to a song that may push the limits.  I might raise an eyebrow when I walk through the room, but I’m not inclined to run up and stop Netflix midstream.

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t watching R rated movies, but some of the TV shows that are on today, some that I really like, are not really appropriate for a 12-year-old Presbyterian.

I happen to enjoy a couple of Miley Cyrus songs.  She appears to be a tramp, but she got some good tunes!

I’ll never forget the time when Michelle was three and busted out singing, Mariah Carey’s song Touch My Body, in the back seat of our minivan.  I thought Lisa was gonna come upside my head.

“You let her listen to that?”

“Ahh.  Well maybe once.”

“Once?  She knows every word!  What if she busts out with ‘Touch my body, Throw me on the floor, Tussle me around, Play with me some more,’ during music time in Mrs. Wishon’s class?”

“Well, I never really thought about that.”

“That’s because you are a moron.  Turn on Barney!”

I don’t have the answer on how to best parent.  I think too strict could drive a wedge between a parent and a child and perhaps stop all flow of communication.  On the other hand, totally letting go of the reins can lead to behaviors that could bring about long-term, unwanted repercussions.

I think my mantra on life has been to steer away from excess.  Maybe that keeps me from being too passionate about anything.  Or, maybe it keeps me centered.

Knock on wood and say a little prayer (not too evangelical and not too progressive); my girls are doing well under the current regime.  For now, I’ll keep walking the line.

Sunday Post 194: Another One Down

I’ve attended two funerals for young parents since Lisa died.  One was last week.

In both cases I sat on the front row of the church balcony.  I headed up there assuming there would be fewer people around in the event I become a blubbering idiot.  I have a bird’s eye view of those beneath who are struggling with their grief.

Yesterday I sat and watched another father on the front row, his daughter and son beside him.  And I return to that day.

It’s weird what you remember.  I was wearing my light gray suit.  I saw a former employee who I had not seen for years in the hall as we entered the sanctuary.  I grabbed her hand.  Another guy I work with was standing under the stained glass window half way down the aisle.  He had given up his seat for an elderly woman.

I remember Michelle on one side of me, Stephanie on the other.  I could touch DJ with my hand if I put my arm on the pew around my middle daughter.  I felt it was important for them to feel my presence, physically and emotionally, since their mother seemed so far away.  I enfolded the other two up under my arms, crutches to keep me upright.

We sang four hymns because Lisa loved music.  She used to say, “You don’t need to talk at my funeral, just sing.”  We did both.

I stared at the cross hung above the choir’s heads, What a mess you have made. I thought to myself.

There was no talk of the beauty of God’s plan.  We didn’t pick bible verses that would make it all seem planned.  We just  sat and ached, every single one of us.  Our minister hurt too.

Over and over and over I wondered how this could be.  It just could not be true.  I felt like I was at a movie watching someone else in pain, and yet clearly it belonged to me.

It broke my heart to see that father last Friday.  I didn’t hurt for me – I’m through the worst of it.  But to think of what he has to face: the fear, the loneliness, the open wound in his heart.  As a fellow human being, I simply ached for him.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could share the pain, if I could relieve him for two hours each week?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  It’s his journey to walk.  We can stand by his side, we can help hold him up, but he and only he has to take the steps.  One     at      a      time.

Sunday Post 193: Confucius Say

Last Wednesday I picked Michelle up from dance at 6:05pm, right after work.  We had another event at 7 so we were in a hurry.  Typical.

Michelle was standing outside of the studio when I pulled up.  She climbed in the car and looked me over, “Dad.  You have dark circles under your eyes.  You need to get some sleep!”

“Yeah.  I’m tired.  Late nights this week; early mornings.  It was a tough day.”

My first question when she gets in the car is always, How was your day?  On Wednesday, she beat me to the conversation starter.

“Tell me about it.  What made your day bad?”

“Well, if you really want to know,”

“I do.”

“I had an early meeting.  I hate early meetings.”

“Those are hard for you aren’t they dad?  It’s cause you go to bed too late.”

“Not by choice.  Anyway, I had to speak to a group of about 75 people at lunch today in Durham.  I was on a panel with three other folks talking about work/life balance.  It took me an hour to get there, find a parking place and get to the building.  And then, I spoke for five minutes.  They did table breakout groups after we each introduced ourselves.  An hour to get there, speak for five minutes, and then an hour to get back!”

“What else happened?”

“Then I had a meeting from 2:30 – 3:30 with these other two guys.  And one of them showed up at 2.  And then both of them stayed until after 4!  It took all afternoon!  And now I’ve got 80 emails I have to check tonight when we get home at 9:30!  Oh, and I spilled coffee on my shirt this morning.  It was just a bad day.  I have a headache.”

“Dad, did anything good happen today?”

“Mmmm…I didn’t get shot.”

“Dad!  I want you to think of ten good things that happened today.  Come on.  Think of something.”

I swear.  I’m gonna have to do this. Think     of      something.

“Well, Robyn who sits across from me at work came back to the office today.  She’d been on vacation.  And she’s fun!”

“That’s one!”  She seemed excited.  “And you just made it through that yellow stoplight!  That’s two.”

“Oh, and this woman who knew Uncle Matt came up to me after the meeting in Durham and gave me a big hug.  She said that she really connected with what I said.”

“See dad, in five minutes you made a difference.  You helped her, and then she made you feel good too.”

“Yeah.  It was nice of her to say that.”

“Dad, look at the sky.  I love the fall.  It’s my favorite time of the year.”

I looked up.  The pinks and purples were peering out from behind the clouds.  It was beautiful.

“Dad.  Did you eat today?”

“Yea.”

“You know, there are people right here in Raleigh who don’t have food.  That was a good thing that happened to you today.”

Good lord.  I’ve used those very words on her.  How dare her toss them back in my face! 

At least she’s listening.

“Ok.  Ok.  Maybe it wasn’t so bad.”

“Yeah.  Every day has some good in it.”

It’s like I’m raising Confucius.

 

Purchase Danny’s Book Laughter, Tears and Braids: Amazon or Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

If you have read the book and are willing to write a short review, it would be helpful:Click here. And thanks!

Sunday Post 191: My Eulogy

Last week I did my first eulogy.  Do you do a eulogy?  Say a eulogy?  I guess you eulogize someone.

I was honored to be asked by an elderly lady who attended my church and who was an avid exerciser at the Y.  She called me a month or so ago and explained that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer.  She felt like her time was limited.  She was making plans.

Sarah told me I was a good man and that certainly I could think of something good to say about her.  She was right.  It was easy to think of wonderful things about my friend.

It’s a huge responsibility to speak at someone’s funeral.  The opportunity only comes around once.  It is the single time that folks will outwardly, in front of your friends and family, talk about what you’ve meant to this world.

As I thought about Sarah last week, I also thought about the end of my life.  When it’s all said and done, what would I want someone to say about me?

I really spent some time thinking about this and have decided there are about five things I hope someone will remember when they give that 10 minute synopsis of my life.

1) He made us laugh.

2) He was a really, really good father.

3) He made a difference in this world (and be able to support that statement with several specific examples).

4) He lived his faith through his actions.

5)  He loved people – he loved all people, and it showed.

When I look through this list, there are a couple I think I’ll knock out of the park.  There are a few, though, where I’m currently coming up short.  That means I have to accept that I’m probably going to fail or I’m going to have to make some changes now.

Suppose I lived my life with those five goals in mind.  What if I considered my daily actions determining if what I was doing was moving me toward those goals or away from them?

Perhaps a little focus today, will ensure a more interesting and thoughtful message upon my demise.

  • Tanner Tweets

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 11,934 other followers

  • Past Posts

  • Contact Us