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The Things we Save in a Flood

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you might know that I have a small fascination with indoor rowing.

It's a thing I absolutely love to do and I am fortunate to have a rowing machine in my basement.

More than anything, this post is about identity.

The Situation

I was working upstairs on a Friday, and it was just coming up to Noon.

My wife doesn't work on Fridays. She made her way down to the basement around Noon, and realized we were in trouble.

She yelled up to me using that voice which instantly told me, we are in trouble.

I half knew what to expect and it was still a surprise.

Our water heater had a crack in it, and it had started to flood our basement.

We had caught it early, but there was still several hours worth of water to clean up.

If I fast forward to the end of this situation, our basement is now fine.

If I rewind to the beginning of this situation, the very first thing I did ... was move my rowing machine out of the way of the water.

The Struggle

As I mentioned at the beginning, the basement is where my rowing machine is. I use that machine almost every morning.

During the several day stretch where the basement was out of commission because it was drying, the thing I struggled with the most was not being able to row.

Now you might think, why didn't I just move the rowing machine to a different room? Why didn't I just go to an actual gym—which I have access to—that has a rowing machine?

Those are all valid thoughts. And I did none of those things.

I realized my struggle was about more than the rowing machine.

The rowing machine represented a ritual. Each morning, I wake up before everyone else in our house, I go down to the basement and I row or do some other kind of exercise.

I had built up an identity of being this person who does this very disciplined thing.

Then one day, a flood comes along and directly threatens this part of my identity.

The Realization

If this part of my identity were a tree, I realized that it didn't have deep roots.

It was very sensitive to strong winds.

Maybe, I love my rowing machine too much.

I have become dependent on it and to a larger extent, my entire basement, in order to hold up or reinforce this part of my identity.

I realized that in order to build a stronger root system for this part of my identity, I had to—somewhat counter-intuitively—detach it from certain rituals.

Put simply, if I value the discipline of waking up early and being physically active, I can't let a flood in the basement get in the way of that.

The Parallel

I am writing this very early on a Monday morning.

For the past week, our son has been quite sick. He got slightly better over the weekend, and he's looking ok right now as I write this.

He had a fever for several days, and a symptom that showed up toward the end of the week was random periods of uncontrollable itching, with no visible rash.

The itching was torture for him.

The doctor said that the itching was a response to the fever, because it had lasted for so long.

The worst part about the itching, was that there was really nothing we could give him or do for him to help alleviate his pain.

This was absolutely crushing to go through as a parent.

Then it hit me.

If I have attached my identity as a parent to the ritual of always being able to alleviate my child of pain, then the minute that becomes impossible, my identity is threatened.

Wanting to alleviate your child from pain is probably the most natural response in the world for any parent, and—this and is really important—it doesn't make you a bad parent if for some reason you can't do this.

Wanting to wake up early and exercise in my basement is really important to me because it reinforces the part of my identity that loves discipline, and—this and is really important—it doesn't make me any less disciplined if for some reason I can't access my basement.

Our identities need to be deeper than the rituals we've attached to them.

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