Tuesday, June 14, 2016. Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary defines a promise as “a statement telling someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future; an indication of future success or improvement; or a reason to expect that something will happen in the future.” Big takeaway: you don’t actually have to say “I promise” to make a promise. And trust me, this is coming from the king of broken promises. Let me explain.
As soon as I was diagnosed and realized I was going to be home from work for several months, I said I was going to do a lot of things. Take the kids to school everyday. Walk around the neighborhood with Jen after dropping the kids off at school. Use my bike in the basement daily. Spend hours and hours with the kids hanging out. The list goes on and on. Well, I can count on my hand how many times I have taken the kids to school. Jen and I have yet to walk in the neighborhood. My bike continues to collect cob webs (and Pelton continues to make lots of money on the Sussberg’s). I do not get to spend hours and hours hanging with the kids. [But I do realize — and this is part of my unfinished post from Saturday June 4th — it is not about how much time you spend with your wife, kids, family or friends, but instead whether or not the time is actually meaningful. And I realized this before I read about Professor Pausch’s take on time.] It would be easy and completely fair to chalk up all of these broken promises to the aggressive treatment regime that I am undergoing, as it was simply impossible to know how I was going to feel when this all started.
But as I sit here and rely on good excuses for missing out on many things that I thought would have been possible, I am reminded of many previous statements that I have made and for which I have every intention of following through on, but simply do not realize or appreciate what I am actually saying. I “promise” things all of the time. I imagine many others do as well. And it is most always with good intention. For example, I often tell Jen I plan to eat dinner at home (giving her, as Merriam-Webster would say, “a reason to expect that something will happen in the future”), and then forget to let her know that I had scheduled drinks with someone and that we would probably just grab dinner. [To add insult to injury, I usually forget to call until 8ish pm, at which point she has already cooked something for me.] Or I tell the kids on my way out in the morning that I will see them later — not realizing that kids hang on every word — and disappoint them (and Jen) when I’m not home before bed. [It is heartbreaking to think about the number of times that Jen has called and asked if I told Jake or Ryan (Brandon is still too young and only wants his Mommie anyway) that I was going to be home that night. I never thought about putting myself in their shoes; it is so easy to say I will see you later, but why say it if it is not a fact? And intending or hoping to be there just doesn’t cut it.] I even did this on May 7th, while still at the hospital, when I told Jake I would be home for his birthday (on May 9th) only to wake up on May 8th with a fever that extended my hospital stay by five days. [Jen came to the rescue here, as always, and blamed it on the doctor, who even got on the phone with Jake and claimed full responsibility! More on that later, as it is a great story….] I also have a tendency to try to do everything and be everywhere; I tell people I will attend events all of the time, without really thinking through what I have going on, and feel incredibly guilty when I have to break plans (promises) or otherwise cancel.
I think I have a much better appreciation for Jen’s repeated comment to me about managing expectations, which I fail to do quite often. I have also realized that when you mismanage expectations you break promises — even when you don’t realize you are making promises. I have missed more games over the last two months than I have attended (and when healthy I am at all games on the weekends and even some during the week), but WE have managed expectations and not made any promises to the boys about whether or not I can be there. [I use “WE” loosely as this is very much the Jen show and everyone who knows us knows that.] But as I think about it, if I had a dollar for every time that I have made a statement about someplace I will be or something that I will do in the future, and then not followed through, I would be looking at new Wranglers, not used or pre-owned ones. As a result of my recent wake-up call and a lot of alone time, I am realizing that the making (and breaking) of these promises is all within my control; yet I cede control by speaking before really thinking and not realizing the consequence of failing to follow through. If you fail to follow through when you take a shot on the basketball court or swing a bat, tennis racket or golf club, your shots and swings are unpredictable. I strive for predictability. And I for one need to be careful about getting myself labeled unpredictable — whether by wife, kids, friends, colleagues or clients — for failing to deliver on promises that I sometimes do not even realize I am making. Intending to follow through and actually following through are two totally different things.
This was something that I intended to post last night but I didn’t get a chance to write it because I was not feeling well and fell asleep (even before the Cavs game). Jake woke me to watch the first quarter of the game and I fought hard to stay awake. I was worried all night (and this morning) that he was upset that I was falling asleep after every other possession. But I did get to watch two innings of his baseball game, which they won, and see him pitch a very solid inning (3 strikeouts and 3 runs) and hit an RBI single that he stretched to a double (another appropriate use of “an” vs. “a” even though there is no vowel at the beginning of RBI). Wish I was able to stay until the end when they won in the last inning, but I was too cold and asked my mother-in-law to bring me home early. I was, however, very cognizant of managing Jake’s expectations and letting him know up front that I would likely not make it the full game. I didn’t even make a promise to him that I would be there at all…..