The biggest obstacle I encountered with Sawyer when he was much younger was the idea that there was a problem I needed to solve. The problem, as I saw it, was that his behavior – his talking to himself, his lack of participation in school and at home, his humming and flapping – was incompatible with society as I understood it. If it was incompatible, then he would never know success on any level, because success always involves other people in some way or another, and if he never knew success then I would have failed as a father and I would never be happy.
If something exists that can come between me and happiness then it is a problem. If I cannot be happy I do not much feel like being alive. Without joy, without enthusiasm, without curiosity, without passion, without love, without excitement, this experience called life is a dull, meaningless forced march toward the grave. In this way, happiness – in all its myriad manifestations – is my reason for living, and if something arises that can blot out the sun of my joy, life on Planet Bill will cease to exist in any meaningful fashion.
Problems, you see, are threats to my very existence. Dramatic you say? Most definitely. But these thoughts occur quickly and quietly in my mind, and before I know what’s happening my son talking to himself in the grocery store stirs a fight or flight panic in my chest. Now, it’s every man for himself. Now, I am afraid, and all fear ever wants is for something to stop. Fear knows nothing about creation, only destruction. The choices I make while running for my life always lead me somewhere I do not want to be – because every choice is creative, whether I like it or not.
Love, on the other hand, is all about creating on purpose. And love is the truth of my relationship to Sawyer, to myself, and to life all around me. Love never asks, “How can I stop that?” Love only asks, “How can I have more of this?” Love knows that the more I create of one thing, the less I have of another. The useful question, then, is always how can I have more of this that I enjoy? If I observed Sawyer paying attention to me or his friends or the world around him, I would ask, “There! He just did it. How can I help to bring more of that?”
It may seem subtle, but the difference between asking, “How can I stop this?” and, “How can I have more of that?” is the difference between fear and love. It is also the difference between a world full of problems, and a world without problems; a world full of broken people, and a world without broken people. Love does not see problems. All love sees is more love.
I do not always see the world through the eyes of love. Sometimes to do so seems irresponsible. A man must be vigilant, lest the hyenas of trouble creep up on his vulnerable world. When I look for problems, I always find them. They are everywhere, hiding in every shadow. The world, I have noticed, is full of shadows. My imagination can put anything at all in a shadow, can hide any thought, can tell any story, even though the shadows I fear are nothing but the trace of the movement of light.
I am the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, and Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. Learn more here.