For the past year, I’ve described our life as a car wash.
Sequences being run, one after the other, until we get spit out looking slightly cleaner on the other side.
I used the car wash analogy after numerous friends exclaimed some version of “WHAT THE F*CK DUDE” about all the major changes that happened, very suddenly, in our lives.
First, we got engaged.
A week later, we found out Andrea’s pregnant.
(This was not expected, at all, though I’m sure every God-fearing person assumes we’re lying.)
Every week after that seemed a blur.
- Moving out of my apartment and into Andrea’s.
- A close friend having a breakdown and disappearing for 4 days.
- A TEDx talk in the Dominican Republic.
- Our wedding in Colorado.
- Searching for a new home.
- Holidays with families.
- Moving out of our apartment and into a home.
- Doctors and midwives.
- The book we’ve worked on for three years finally being finished.
- Wedding and baby showers with friends.
- Joining Book In A Box as “Head of Podcast,” where I had little understanding of podcasts and no clue what I was doing for the first month. Or the second month. (And most of the third).
- Andrea leaving her job because of “very pregnant.”
- Launching our book on Kickstarter, because nothing calms life down like a 30-day product launch.
- Back-to-back-to-back business trips in Colorado, New York, and Florida.
- Switching positions at Book In A Box after an entire quarter of weekly reports: “Really excited, it’s coming together… and what’s the deal with podcasts? Is it a pod, or is it a cast?”
When Trump was elected President, and I was (literally) surrounded by people crying, I just casually sat at a table in the hotel lobby, eating my breakfast and thinking Yea, sounds about right.
Of course, all of this would just be “LIFE!” if it weren’t for the emotional turbulence that came immediately after the biggest change of all.
Last July, a member of our family had a heart attack.
At 3:00am, we rushed into his room, after waking to cries for help. I called 911, then ran back to help with CPR until the paramedics finally arrived.
We spent the next 10 days in the hospital, waiting and hoping for him to wake up.
He never did.
His unexpected passing was a seismic event, which affected everything this past year.
The pregnancy. The wedding. Holidays. Visits.
I wouldn’t wish the sudden loss of a loved one upon anybody, yet I know it happens to everyone.
And I know that it’s a choice, in how you respond. How you carry yourself. How you find what you’re grateful for. How you process your emotions.
It doesn’t make it any less messy.
. . .
The car wash analogy has been a fun way of describing all this chaos. As though life turned into a conveyor belt and mechanically sprayed us with a series of soaps, power washes, and super blow dryers, and now we’re about to get shot out looking like squeaky clean, brand new parents.
What it’s actually felt like is getting knocked down, repeatedly, by waves at the beach.
Now, I need to be super clear:
NONE OF THIS IS TO COMPLAIN.
I’m not whining, or feeling entitled that we deserve anything different.
In fact, life has been AMAZING. Like legitimately incredible this past year.
For all the challenges and stress we’ve faced, our blessings have somehow managed to outpace them.
Our families and friends and companies have been there for us, in ways that we never could’ve predicted. They’ve been understanding, patient, and relentlessly compassionate.
Andrea’s company even helped me surprise her with a honeymoon getaway, since she’d gone straight back to work as an expecting mom after our wedding.
My company has not only mentored me in the areas I’ve most wanted help with (being a good husband, becoming a father, getting out of debt), they’ve also just been a haven for work. I get to help authors, every day. That’s an amazing gig.
There are times when I think about my wife and daughter and two dogs, and our nice little home, and I tear up.
For so many reasons.
For having three (soon four!) constant sources of daily love in my life.
For the times when I wasn’t my best.
For the irony of running away for so many years, from something better than what I’d planned.
. . .
It’s a funny thing that men don’t talk about.
After we found out we’re pregnant, I felt this massive thrashing of my ego. All my little secret plans were destroyed in an instant.
Can I still do anything I want, just for myself, with no regard for anyone else? Is it too late? NO, YOU’RE DONE.. It’s over. LIKE HELL IT IS. Chill out, just think this through. ALL OF YOUR MONEY WILL BE GONE AND YOU’LL DIE A BROKE FAILURE. Okay, but I’d still like to buy all of the things and do anything I want and go anywhere, forever. YOUR LIFE AS YOU KNOW IT IS OVER.
And those voices went on for some time, and it was very loud and frustrating. Especially because many of my friends have those voices too, and they confirmed that both of the voices were technically right.
But here’s the other funny thing men don’t talk about, which is way more important.
While men are *right* about facts and data and logic, women are right about EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS.
Literally 100% of the fights Andrea and I have had have ended with me thinking: “Damn, she was totally right to feel hurt and upset, and I didn’t see her side, but now I do and how the hell did I miss that?”
Some guys will read that last sentence and think, whipped.
And that is exactly why we’re messed up.
Men mostly think in hyper-logical terms. If X equals Y, then Z.
In other words, “If Charlie admits his wife is right, then he must be whipped.”
What’s missing from the equation is EMOTIONS. How she feels, how I feel, how we make each other feel.
Being married has made me acutely aware that, while I’m a lot better than most men, I am still emotionally handicapped. Difficult emotions are difficult to process, and sometimes I have such a hard time talking about them because they don’t compute.
“But I have a good life, so why have I been hit with crushing sadness? Does not compute! Initiate silence!”
“But I am a loving person, so why am I feeling this anger? SHUT DOWN!”
“But I am a smart white American man, so why do I feel like an incompetent failure? Initiating long face.”
Andrea’s joyfully guided me through all of this, and I’m just in awe of her all the time. She somehow sees through 100% of my bullshit and still loves me so much.
. . .
There was this crazy thing that happened when I was in New York City.
For the first time in 9 years, I emailed my readers and said “Let’s meet up!”
And it was amazing.
A reader picked me up from the airport, at 1:00am!
The next night, I went to a restaurant and told them “I might have some people meeting up with me here tonight.”
They said, “How many?”
And I said, “Maybe 8…. Or 2… Or it could be 10.”
They planned for 10.
After they pushed four tables together, I moved two of them apart. This will look less embarrassing while I’m sitting here alone.
Like 15 people showed up! I think a third of them were there for another reason altogether, but it didn’t matter. It absolutely blew my mind that that many people showed up to hang out with some guy from the internet.
And the next day, one of them got me an Uber and rode with me to the airport. Amazing.
Now, you might think “Boy Charlie has it made!” I thought so, too.
I’ve also wondered why I was so surprised. I’ve met up with countless people I read about on the internet. No big deal.
But the more I think about it, the more I’ve had this haunting thought:
I could have been so much more generous.
These past couple years, I haven’t written much at all.
The things I’ve sent to my email list have mostly been promotions, or just mailing it in.
Take take take.
I could have done so much more.
You might think, “You don’t owe us anything! You helped me with ____.”
It doesn’t matter.
I could’ve given more.
. . .
That is my greatest wish, for my daughter, my wife. Our family.
That we give each other all the love we have to give.
That we remember our chaos is the adventure.