If you missed Part 1 of this attempt at answering the world’s most ridiculous question, you might want to go back and read it. Or you might not – it was a bit heathenish and verbose – so you might be in the right place, after all.
Last week, I watched my daughter play her last middle school soccer game, and when it was over, I cried like a damn baby. She’s been a goalkeeper for about seven of her nine years playing soccer. She’s good, too. I’ve been told countless times by coaches that she has a natural talent for the position. She’s never worked very hard at it to change that “good” to “great,” but that’s her choice, in my opinion. Parents can’t really force the kind of fanaticism that makes people prioritize a sport above tasty food and good friends the way some great athletes do. We can’t even force them to love the sport. We can just introduce them to it and support them.
I look back and regret those moments when I did try to force her to love it. There weren’t many, but it happened. I quit doing that several years ago. Since that time, I’ve just sat back and enjoyed watching my big baby girl play soccer. And now she’s about to go off to high school. Damn.
She gave up a total of eight goals in thirteen middle school games this year. Her team went 13-0. They were incredible. One of the best middle school teams you’ll ever see. And I got to witness it.
Why in the hell are we here? Well, I got to see every minute of that incredible season. I got to watch my big baby girl excel at her job every time she stepped foot on that grass. I guess that’s one reason.
On Saturday and Sunday morning this past weekend – since I’m gone by 6:00 am every weekday – I was the first person my four month old little baby girl saw when she opened her eyes. For just that moment, and it’s a moment that I seemed to stretch into four or five, I forgot how much I blame her for taking away what little freedom I had left before she arrived. For that moment, I forgot how stressed I get every damn day because two kids under three years old – plus trying to keep up with a teenager so that she doesn’t feel neglected and attempting to make my wife feel loved – is most of the time harder than teaching 82 high school kids who have the respect of terminal cancer and the work ethic of dead people.
Why in the hell are we here? I’m here for those moments when that tiny baby looks up at me from her crib and there is absolutely nothing on Earth that makes her happier. Until she sees a boob. Then she’s happier. But I got my moment. And that’s why I’m here.
My little boy is struggling with potty training. I think we’re to blame more than he is because of the aforementioned f**king madhouse that we live in (see Part 1), but when given the opportunity to peepee on the potty at home, he will not do so. He has done it about half a dozen times at preschool, but not once at home.
So a week or so ago I saw the coolest thing; a tiny toddler froggy urinal. It was only $16, so I got it. When it arrived, it was much smaller than I thought, but it was properly scaled down to his size based on how big a real urinal is for me. But after a week, he still refused to use it. I showed him how it worked with water and a giant syringe; how if you pee on the frog’s tongue it spins around so he can work on his aim.
When we’d finished squirting the water out of the syringe and watching the froggy’s tongue spin, I showed him how we can just dump the peepee out after he goes because one option is to plug the hole in the bottom to capture all the pee inside the little plastic tank. So naturally, my explanation and demonstration apparently sucked and now he thinks the froggy is a water toy, not a pee collector.
Well, as luck would have it, I soon got frustrated with this refusal to peepee in the froggy urinal, so I got good and pissed (pun intended) and said, “Come on, you’re going to watch me do it. I have something new to show you anyway.” The new thing was to remove the plug and hook a three foot tube to the bottom so we could watch the urine snake down the tube and into our shower. I hung the froggy urinal on the shower door in our bathroom because everything he could pee on in there is covered in tile.
So I got down on my knees and told my boy to stand right beside me, and I proceeded to pee in a urinal the size of a honey bun. But let me tell you, watching that pee snake down the tube was neat for both of us. And then he got to help me wash the urine remnants out of the tube with a cup of water, so that was equally cool. And then he still refused to peepee in the froggy urinal, so it was truly a waste of time and effort. And now it was just a water toy that daddy peed in for some reason.
Why in the hell are we here? I’m here to do daddy stuff that only daddy can do. I’ll pee in that damn urinal every time tomorrow if it means I’m helping him get comfortable with it. Daddy stuff is the reason we love our daddies, and it’s the reason he’ll love me. It’s why I’m here.
On Sunday, I watched my daughter and my niece sing a song together in church called “Reckless Love.” I listened to my daughter start off too high and too timid and then too forceful and I didn’t get the least bit scared for her. I knew she had the guts to get back right. When she did, I listened to a young girl sound almost hypnotic when she gets in her range. She’s a true alto, and her tone and clarity and pitch when she drops down out of the higher range is so pretty it’s worth the pain of every bad note to find the ones that just make you say, “Wow.”
Why in the hell am I here? I’m here to nurture and support and breathe in that voice. I’m here to hang on every note because every note could be the last one. I mean, look at me. Life made me stop singing and my mom can’t hang on my notes anymore. Twenty years of alcoholism and Kodiak wintergreen played havoc at a vocal instrument that used to be pretty good. Maybe one day I’ll sing again. It won’t be what it once was, and that’s why it’ll probably never happen, but maybe one day. One day when I figure out why the hell I’m here.
On Mother’s Day, my daughter gave my wife a card, and in that card, she said she was thankful that my wife made us go to church. If you read Part 1 of this, you can pretty much determine my basic feelings about church (not a big fan.) But my fourteen year old TEENAGE daughter thanked a woman who has only been her mother for five years for taking her family to church.
Why in the hell are we here? I’m here to support a teenage girl that WANTS to go to church, and I’m here to say I TRIED to find my faith. I’m not here to shut the door on it, not when my own daughter is holding that door open for me.
In that Mother’s Day card, she didn’t thank my wife for helping her daddy fight alcoholism every day of his life, but that thankfulness doesn’t need to be shared anymore. It might not be a huge reason for their unbreakable relationship, or it could be the most important reason, but they’ll always share a mother-daughter bond of fight, grit, love, and togetherness that my addiction forced on them. I’m well aware of how thankful they are to have had each other during that time. That thankfulness doesn’t need to be spoken. I’m equally aware of how thankful they are to have me back.
Why in the hell are we here? I’m here to spend a lifetime in gratitude to two women who stood by a man they loved. I’m here to watch a young girl who could have lost a mother AND father now blessed with having both. I’m here to watch her adoptive mother do what her biological mother was never given time to do, and I’m watching that woman do a job that makes me proud as hell to call her my wife.
Applying the question of why we are here to my family adds perspective and enough will to live out my days, but it cannot finalize the journey. Not for me. As long as they are a part of my journey through life, I’ll be here for them. That’s why I’m here. But that doesn’t finalize the question for me. That is NOT the complete answer. The man inside me that still feels like a failure in life cannot and does not break free by simply finding clarity of purpose in my role as father and husband. That’s simply the family side of my purpose.
But there is a professional side, a success side, a risk-taking side, a personal gratification side, a need to feel important side, a desire to be revered side (or at the very least, remembered positively.) That side is still wanting. That side doesn’t achieve fulfillment from teaching, parenting, and marriage alone. That side needs more. I don’t yet have an answer to why in the hell I’m here when the question is about this side of my life. I have some ideas, some dreams that contain more risk than my life might allow. But no concrete answers yet.
Why in the hell am I here? I’m here to find contentment on the side of my life that my family cannot apply perspective or assistance. Until I find it, my attendance in the here and now is somewhat appeased by the mountains of answers that are filed under my family’s names, but I’ll never stop searching for the answers filed solely under mine.
So maybe it’s not such a ridiculous question when asked correctly. Why in the hell am I here? Not “we.” No more “we.” Why in the hell am I here?
Maybe I’m here to consider it. Maybe it’s not such a stupid question because maybe it needs to be both asked and answered. And I think that maybe sometimes the answer needs to be more ridiculous than the question to help us understand the difficulty (or impossibility) of answering it correctly. Maybe not always, but maybe so.
If someone were to ask, “Why in the hell are we here?” and you can answer something like, “Well, today I’m here to take my son down to the creek in the middle of February and see who can stand in it barefooted the longest.”
Or maybe if someone were to ask, “Why in the hell are we here?” and you answer, “I’ll let you know after my wife and I get back from our second honeymoon. I’m taking ten grand and plan to spend it all on her.”
Or maybe you look back and find out how to answer it looking forward. Think about that for a second. Maybe that tired old saying “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” can offer us some context here. We have to look back at our pasts (perhaps even with our eyes closed) to find out how to answer this question going forward. We’ve all answered it poorly at various points in our lives, and we can learn from that.
We’ve all asked that question of ourselves on mornings when everything has gone south, the baby’s exploded through their third outfit in an hour, the older kids are trying to find out where they lost the oven door, and your boss wants to see you when you finally make it to work because you parked the company car on top of a fire hydrant. Why in the hell were you here that morning? Well, you can’t answer that, now can you? It’s not the right time to answer it. Just reflect. There has to be more clarity and less stress to properly answer it. And that happens a lot. Maybe not as ridiculous a scenario, but occasions where you shouldn’t answer that question happen all the time.
Case in point, go back and read Part 1 of this if you haven’t already. You’ll see why you don’t answer the most ridiculous question in the world while stressed and mildly depressed. When I am in that frame of mind, I get sarcastic and cynical. When I look at my blessings, as I did Sunday after watching my big baby girl sing, I get weepy and sentimental. I’ve answered this question two distinctly different ways, and Part 2 is by far the best answer.
But honestly, who the hell cares why we’re here? We’ll never really know. But you CAN figure out why YOU are here. All of mankind? No, not happening. We’ll never know why mankind and all our furnishings are here. But within that massive sea of bodies, you only have to discover why YOU are here. That’s somewhat restorative. Somewhat terrifying, too, but overall, it’s actually pretty amazing to think of how simple that answer can be.
If I had these past few weeks back, and somebody had asked me, “Why in the hell are we here?” at various times throughout those weeks, I’d probably say, “Well, today I’m here to watch my little girl play soccer, after which I will ball my eyes out at nine years worth of memories, and even if she never plays another game, I was right where I was supposed to be for nine years. And Sunday, I’ll be here to watch my little girl sing in church, and I will once again cry tears of joy so fat that my hand will drip while I wipe them away.
“And I’ll be here to listen to these two little kids and the laughter and joy that will set my heart on fire. I’ll be here, too, when their pain and hurt rip it to shreds because I can’t take the hurt away. I’ll be here to watch the woman I love do the job she loves – that of motherhood – and I will stand in awe because she amazes me daily and still loves me in all my faults and inadequacies.”
I’ll be here to love and be loved, I’ll be here to share sobriety with anybody that needs that specialized kind of help, I’ll be here to search for my holy grail of contentment, and even if I get frustrated at a thus far empty journey, I’ll be here to get up another day and fight like hell to seize the opportunities that scream at me to try.
So why in the hell are we here? We’re here to ask that question, and we’re here to embrace the answer. And when we do, there is always that fantastical chance that we’ll have no further need to ask that ridiculous question.