By Dave Standen
Everything seemed right with the world. It was a Sunday afternoon, my wife had taken our four kids out for a bike ride, and the house was eerily quiet.
A moment of peace and stillness that happen in our house, like, never. I put the footy on, grabbed a bag of twisties, knocked the top off a frothy one, and parked up on the lounge feeling pretty darn chuffed about the Darryl Keraghan ‘how’s-the-serenity’ kind of moment I found myself in.
As the game rolled on, something didn’t feel quite right though. It wasn’t that the Sharks were in their fine losing form (as a lifelong supporter I’m kind of use to that feeling!) it was something else, something unfamiliar, and it caught me by surprise.
Like most you, the lay of the land in my life right now is remarkably different to what I am used to. I am usually traversing the city for our kid’s weekend sports, heading away on weekend fishing trips, connecting with the various clubs and communities that I’m a part of, enjoying the banter and creativity of my team at work, or ducking next door for a barby and shenanigans with the neighbours. At the time of writing, we are into day 52 of Locky D in Greater Sydney. There has been no kids sport, no fishing trips, no surf club gatherings, no hustle and bustle of the work environment, and no barbecues or banter with the boys to speak of, for eight long weeks.
There I was on a sunny Sunday afternoon, living the kid-free, footy-on, chips-and-beer-in-hand utopian dream. But for some reason I wasn’t as stoked as a bloke in my position ought to have been. I felt flat. Alone. Disconnected.
Have you ever found yourself caught off guard, ambushed by feelings that you don’t know what to do with?
What do we do as men, partners, husbands, fathers do when our heads get out of sorts? More beer and chips… Escape it? Numb it? Ignore it? Easy to do, ey!? Or is there a more resourceful way forward? I’d like to think so, even though I often get it wrong.
Here are three quick tools that I find helpful, and I hope may be of use to you.
Name the thing. Whether you’re caught off guard like I was, or you have recurring negative feelings or emotions be quick to name them. Tell it like it is. My experience is that in doing so the energy is drained out of the feeling and enables you ask better questions, such as “What choices do I have here?” or “What do I really want?”
Step back. Feelings are cheeky buggers, notorious for not telling the truth – at least not the whole story anyway. The reality for me is that every place of connection, mateship and where I find purpose in my life has been significantly impacted by this lockdown. That’s no small thing. Although I felt alone, I am not alone. Stepping back helped me see that I have an incredible family and wide network of friends who, although are physically distant, are close in so many other ways. Find a vantage point from where you can see the bigger picture.
Reach out. Being a dad to four kids, I am under no illusion that this fathering thing can be done alone. It simply can’t. The pressures of life, the weight of responsibility, and the perpetually changing parenting territory that must be navigated is all too much for one man (or woman!) to carry. Whether you’re in a pinch or at your wits end, call a mate and tell it how it is.
Dave Standen is senior pastor at Kingsway Community Church, Caringbah.