Facebook has a really cool automatic system in place that generates a photographic memory from your personal archives.
For example, a couple months back, Facebook Memories generated a memory of something I posted six years ago. It was a video of my daughter Cecilia sitting on the front porch holding a makeshift leash with a toad on the other end. It was one of those precious moments of parenting that I had to capture and then share with the world.
I am not addicted to social media like those who post about what they are eating at the current moment, but, I must admit, because I do live a bit more of a public life with some of my work, I do enjoy sharing with those willing to watch and listen the joys of living an authentic life.
Kind of like this column I write … maybe a simple story and thought about the joys and struggles of parenting will be relatable and draw us, as a people of faith, closer together.
Recently, there was another Facebook memory that was automatically generated. It asked me if I wanted to re-post. This one was not just a fun memory, but one that hit me in such a way that I have been reflecting on it for days.
The post was very short and simple. It was a picture of a path cut out in an autumn cornfield with the caption, “Lost in a corn maze.”
I had taken the photo in fall three years ago while working my way through a corn maze with my kids during a day of pumpkin picking.
At face value, pun intended, it was a wonderfully warm memory of a cool day with my children. Just like running across an old photo album in the attic, I was immediately transported back to that moment. Life gets so busy in the moment that oftentimes we need something, or someone, to generate a memory upon which to reflect.
What so profoundly touched me with this photo and caption was the context of my life when I lived that moment. Yes, it was fun. Yes, it was a great pre-Halloween, Norman Rockwell autumn day with the family, but the image and words were a metaphor for something so much deeper.
I was not just lost in a maze. I was going through the beginning of a separation at the time. I was doing my best that particular day to have my kids live as close to the life portrayed in a Norman Rockwell painting of the simple joys of nature, Americana, and childhood. I wanted them to not be affected by the twists and turns of my life.
I wanted life to be “normal,” if not even better than normal. All the while, I was lost in a maze. I was searching, just as many parents are searching for the right way.
At that moment, I would travel one way and run into a dead end. At other times, I thought I was on the right path and alas, nope! Sometimes I walked with people at my side and other times one of us wandered. The goal was to get through it.
These memories and feelings all came back when I saw that Facebook photo from that day oh so long ago. In some ways I have moved far beyond that maze, and in other ways I wonder if we all are in a maze when it comes to parenting. Being a single parent for the past two and half years only presents new twists and turns to our path.
The word “OUR” needs some focus here. That is the answer. Parenting is a collaborative effort, yet, all too often the stress or feelings of being overwhelmed are perceived as being on a single pair of shoulders.
When we shoulder the burdens of parenting alone, we only make our path that much more difficult. Even in the corn maze, there were others. They, too, were lost. Some I followed, from others I learned where not to go, and yet from others, like my kids, I just learned how to enjoy being lost.
In my reflection on the corn maze experience of parenting, I have come to terms with feelings of being stuck in the uncomfortable space of being lost. The humility that comes with being lost from time to time is healthy.
I mention in my recent book, “The Pivotal Life: A Compass for Discovering Purpose, Passion & Perspective” that, “There is no growth in the harbor of comfort, and no comfort in the harbor of growth.” We don’t control our environment, but we do control how we respond to it. Parenting is just that.
I am realizing that in order to enjoy my time in the maze with those I love, if I can acknowledge the maze (life’s path) for what it is, something that is an imperfect path riddled with mystery, then I can better accept the feelings that accompany being lost.
As this dad sees it, enjoy the imperfect journey of parenting while being loved perfectly from your parent in heaven.
(Jeff is a motivational speaker and author of the newly released book, “The Pivotal Life: A Compass for Discovering Purpose, Passion & Perspective.” Jeff is the founding director of Pivotal Directions, Inc., a servant leadership organization for those seeking to make a difference in the world. He is a single father of three wonderful children who attend Lumen Christi Catholic School in Mequon.)