Inside all of us is a wild thing.
“Inside all of us is fear. Inside all of us is an adventure.
Inside all of us is a wild thing.”
— Where the Wild Things Are
The Want for an Inspired Life
I remember standing at the kitchen sink one day after our third baby was born and thinking, “This is not how I want to live.” Waking-up at all hours of the night, poopy diapers, pee in the beds, vomit, breakfast, cleaning, school, lunch, clean, crying, naps, more crying, more poop, more tears, more food, more messes, baths, reading, cleaning-up, bedtime. I was so empty and tired — and thinking of the next decade of this repetition exhausted me even more.
I knew something needed to be done.
I started putting together lists: of museums, parks, hiking trails, natural wonders, day trips, anything we could do to change things up. To give us something to look forward to outside the grind of daily life.
We all needed it. We needed to be injected with some inspiration. With daily meaning and creative goals, not just living for the getting-to-the-end-of-the-day-without-a-calamity.
Owning two businesses and a lost connection with my wife was taking a toll on our marriage. I was fighting to keep us together, but I was really just fighting to live the kind of life I had always wanted.
Because I wanted it.
And the babies deserved it.
Sometimes the Hardest Thing is the Best Thing
Then, a divorce happened.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s the hardest thing I’m still doing, just over a year removed from the day that I left my family’s home for good — the same day we sold my dream, my business.
So, this was it. This was the imperative. It was time to change our mindset. I was the patriarch, the leader. I had a fresh start, I could live any way I wanted to.
I was determined: To change our lives. To change our direction. To change our style. To change our way.
I wanted: Virtues exemplilfied. A family crest. Cohesion. Direction. Inspiration. Adventure.
I wanted a new life, but I wasn’t sure how to go about creating it. But through the darkest night of my life, with the help of family and friends, we slowly started to create a new vision.
Curses Become Blessings
We got one long summer together to learn how to live the life I wanted us to always live.
I took the babies to every museum we have in town. We moved to an area laced with great parks and paths and pools and creeks and open spaces.
We created a scooter gang. My posse and I packed lunches and hit the sidewalks and trails. We came home sunburnt for the boys’ afternoon naps. Then we ate supper then rode into the sunset and came back after dark.
Dad was often the hero, finding things we lost in the journey like my five year-old’s lost Barbie shoe — somewhere in the nighttime mile behind us. Twice Dad was the hero. I’ll never forget my daughter exclaiming over and over that first time: “Dada, you get five congratulations!”
It felt like we were finally doing something. The scooter wheels were churning.
Then winter came. We went indoors and with the help of my mother and father, we found new tools for the kids to stay inspired and educated and growing.
I was hungry for more outings with them. I wanted them to continue to have exciting days with me.
All of sudden, the Spring we were all looking forward to wasn’t going to happen. We couldn’t go back to the playgrounds. We couldn’t go back to the museums.
I had to come up with something else.
But, I didn’t have to force it is what I would come to discover.
In the natural flow of our life, a mindset started emerging: let’s go. Let’s go on adventures. We still can.
Covid forced me to become more creative.
In another curse came a blessing: this was the precise mountain that I needed to climb.
Instead of relying on the basics like playgrounds and pools and public places, we leaned on the natural world. We started finding places to go where nobody was. Turns out, there’s a lot of places where nobody is, where kids can still get what they need.
With no school for the kids to go to, I started putting lesson plans together on what was around us: the robin and its nest outside the window, the lilacs at the mansion that we picnicked at. Snails. Toads. The raptors we delighted in locating, soaring overhead.
At this point, my babies can identify more flowers and plants and animals than I could as a teenager. Why? Because we creatively adventure. We go out and explore. We go in, and explore.
It wasn’t explicit, but I just started calling our outings adventures. Instead of going to the museum, or the park, or riding scooters, we started saying early on after the divorce: let’s go on an adventure.
Slowly, it started to become something. A thing. Our thing. It became our cabal. Our slice inside the universe where we were always safe.
Of course I conceptualized the safety. I almost became addicted to it. It was the space and time where my life of starting over washed away and we were all just simply: together. The four of us. We were adventuring.
And that adventure starts with getting three toddlers dressed appropriately. Lunch made. Our backpack, outfitted correctly. Get them all in the car. Buckled. Calm. Ready for a little drive. Then, out of the car, etc.
But even when it was hard, and at times it is very difficult with three babies — for them and for me — you break through and it’s worth it.
We were finding things. New places. New creeks. New sunsets. New, secret places that we felt like we were the first explorers in.
We were always on the hunt for things: heart-shaped rocks. Rocks to build more cairns. Bugs. Feathers. Nests fallen from trees. Bones.
“There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen.”
― Where the Wild Things Are
We don’t go on “hikes”. We don’t go on “walks”. We don’t just get on our scooters and ride because of this mindset. No, we’re always only going on adventures, creatively. And the difference? Is gigantic.
The difference is gigantic, because we control all the variables that we can. We control the goals and the mindset, and as a result, we manage to stay in our little fantastic, magical bubble where the things we want to happen will their way into our existence.
It’s more about mindset and perspective than anything. But the moment it all clicked for me was one evening when the babies and I were on a little creek.
They were scared. There was debris blocking our way from previous floods. There were spiders. Snakes.
My five-year-old said, “Dad, I think this is a bad idea.”
The looks on my boys’ faces, aged three and one, told me the same thing.
Then we overcame a few big obstacles. Then they started to learn how to navigate the stream; how to locate and then take the easiest route. They learned how to keep their feet under them on the mossy rocks. They learned how to move through the buckwheat and foxtail.
Slowly, they gained confidence.
I was nervous as I sometimes still am on our adventures: that I’m leading them the wrong way. That I’m pushing them too hard. That they just aren’t ready for this, yet.
Then, my three-year-old, who was struggling most of the time, full of fear, to my surprise: took the lead of our expedition. I didn’t see it happen until he let me know:
Look Dad, I’m the leader now!
And then one of the most profound things that I’ve ever been a part of happened out the clear ether of the moment. It was pure magic:
My 3-year-old kept exclaiming: I can do it! Look Dad, I’m doing it!
Suddenly his whole being expanded with light and courage and he was suddenly just bigger.
Navigating waterfalls and bank drops and foxtails and horsetail, in and out of the creek.
I am doing it! Dad, I can do it!
I was so choked-up, I almost failed to respond. I could only howl. It’s something we still do: HOWL.
Doing it he was. We all were. Doing it.
And our life of Creative Adventuring was born.
I’ve always known what I wanted. It’s always been the same: an inspired life. An interesting life.
Now it’s become the explicit way I’ve long wanted to live but I just wasn’t sure how to frame it. We all have visions for living the life we want, but sometimes we don’t have the words, the package.
Not until just recently did I understand, more succinctly, what that life really looks and sounds like.
Now I have the phrase: Creative Adventuring.
It was my children that helped with all this.
They and, life.
Life clarified a lot.
Thanks to Kay Bolden for editing.