One of my favorite movies in the last few years was a movie with Matt Damon and Scarlet Johansson called We Bought A Zoo. I know, if you saw it you probably thought it was ok, or just, whatever… But for me, I don’t know, it just hit me differently. It has a bit of everything, parenting, death, animals, love.
Stories in which a person loses a wife or a husband hit me really hard. I think it has something to do with me never really having to find love. I don’t remember a time when my wife and I weren’t together. I didn’t have all those teenage breakups to prepare me for adult breakups. I never really had someone break my heart. It’s not something I ever had to go thru, so when I see a husband lose his wife in a movie, however it happens, I think my brain never fully experienced that so I just cry.
My wife liked the movie a lot, but her hearing me whimpering next to her on the couch probably made her think a little less of me. He’s sensitive is good to a point, but by now I’m sure she just says “What a little bitch he is”.
I wonder is my heart is fragile because it hasn’t been broken that often. It hasn’t been tested as much as most. I’ve had my heart broken with deaths, but no relationship heart aches, other than the ones you have as a kid, but as you get older you realize none of that was real.
Did I miss out on something, am I not a strong person because I found my person so young? People that divorce and get remarried, did they learn from their mistakes and are better husbands the second time, are they better husbands than me? I do always assume that most people are better than me and I am just pretending my way thru life. I look at friends and think about how they are so well rounded and seem to have this life thing completely figured out. Like they are in their cars driving with a goal or destination in mind and I have a car that only goes into neutral. If I hit some momentum it looks like I am moving forward with everyone, but the second the road flattens out or there is a hill to climb I get stuck at the bottom and they speed right passed it.
I like that though, I think it keeps me a little bit more grounded. I don’t ever feel like I am better than anyone. And I think it makes me work a little harder on being a Dad and maybe even a husband. At least I hope it does.
There is one part of the movie where Matt Damon is explaining to his kids how he met their mom. Who had since died, but he was talking to the kids and trying to show them just how they met. His brother, many years before, had told him something that stuck with him when he got into situations he was scared of. His brother said “all you really need is 20 seconds of courage.” And he told himself that before approaching this beautiful woman, who he married and had two kids with. I loved that line. Especially because growing up I was petrified of any public speaking, like a group presentation in school. I was paralyzed with fear on the days leading up to a public speaking event. I wish I had that line to reference to when my face would turn beat red and my hands would start to sweat right before I had to be up in front of the class.
I use that line about the courage all the time in my adult life though. When the kids have a thing they are dreading, like a performance or something that makes them uncomfortable I tell them “all you need is 20 seconds of courage”. Although I don’t think they need the line. They are good at that type of stuff, probably because they have been performing on stage for dance and cheer ever since they could walk, but I use it as another little tool to help them calm down. But, I use it for myself all the time. In fact, I had a meeting with my new bosses boss yesterday with a whole group of us and as I walked into the room I wanted to make sure my voice was going to be heard. I had for long just had been the quiet one, never wanting to speak because I was scared of whatever dumb thing I would say. So, I told myself all I needed was 20 seconds of courage and I spoke up during the meeting. And I felt great about it. I got a really good response and the bosses boss knows me now. I talked about things outside of work that were important to me and we bonded on something. I won by getting over my fear, by remembering that I only needed 20 seconds of courage.
I have used that line to help me do a few things I am super proud of in life. A best man’s speech and even officiating a wedding. Things that I just never envisioned myself being able to do. I rely on that quote to help me push thru that fear. If you know me, you know I don’t shy away from a dance floor, and I don’t mind being the loudest person in the room saying the most inappropriate comments I could think of, but that’s all a bit of an act. I use some quick breathing exercises to calm me down and then I tell myself “20 seconds of courage” and I just keep my legs moving towards whatever is in my way. I don’t say “No” to anything anymore due to that crippling fear I had. I’ve had a ton of great experiences just from saying “yes”. And so what if I get my courage from a dumb movie about a Dad and his kids buying a zoo.
I thought I would forever be that little afraid kid in class not raising his hand to come up to the board and write down my answers. Even though I was proud and confident in the work I did, my fear was just too much for me to overcome. I didn’t let my voice be heard and I missed out on lots of opportunities. Having daughters has completely forced me outside of my comfort zone. They challenge me, expect me to be in a dance with them on stage at a recital when all I wanted to do was quietly watch from my seat in the audience. They opened my eyes to a whole new world, they showed me that world isn’t flat. The world isn’t what I thought it was as a kid. They are my “20 seconds of courage”. When I think of that quote I think about all the things I get to because they opened my eyes to it, they didn’t let me sit on the sidelines.
I love my damn kids so much. I love that my kids know all these cool new places that this old man can go and they always have a flashlight to help me when it gets dark and scary. I always thought it was the Dad’s job to scare away the monsters hiding in the closet, but, what I learned is that these girls are my Superhero’s. They make being here so worth it, and I can’t wait for whatever my next challenge is.