An August Whirlwind

Welcome back! To both you and me.  I’ve been absent from my blog, among many other things, this month, due to a confluence of things.  A windfall of blessings has come my way over the course of the past few weeks.  Several I thought I would share; intended on sharing at the time(s) but the extra effort necessary to install them here properly required my attention might be diverted elsewhere.  So here I am, back now, with the time, energy and perspective to share:

Personally: August is filled with incredible moments for me.  Landmark events that are keystones to the perception I have of myself.  August 7th marked the 8th Anniversary of my sobriety and abstinence from alcohol.  Those who know me know that for the years usually earmarked for social drinking, my habits ranged from average among my peer group: recreational yet qualifying in the binge-drinking category, to excessive with respect to the dream and goals I said I had for myself.  From 16 to 24 years of age, I put more energy into fulfilling my weekend (or even weeknight) plans than I do into fulfilling my long-term plans.  I was upside-down on life.  I was mortgaging my future with a present I didn’t have the planning funds to defer.  When I finally realized it, I found myself standing in the middle of my childhood bedroom, a 24-year-old man, knowing with ever fiber of my being that I’d undoubtedly push away everyone I ever loved, or that ever loved me, should I continue down the path I was on.  Under the only epiphany I’ve ever experienced, I vowed then and there to my girlfriend, now wife, that I was done with alcohol.  I did this under a considerably high level of intoxication, unprovoked, while certainly not unwarranted, and my wife tells me often of the skepticism with which she approached the topic the following day – uncertain of the level of commitment, or even the level of memory, I had to my statement.  The result has been the single most stable era of my life.  While there have been considerable valleys, they are attributable to other, more common deficiencies among humans.  The peaks have been exponentially more resounding within my soul than the lows.  This fact serves to propel me further; to ask myself what more I can tackle – where else is there room on my plate?  I’m far from efficient in carrying these items to their fruition, but the my sobriety has brought me to closer relationships and a greater level of achievement in my endeavors.

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Since the first week of December of last year, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the birth of my third child.  On August 9th, Eve Corinne O’Connor entered the world a very pink and healthy baby.  We’re in love with Eve and eager to get to know her.  We believe Eve will settle in perfectly with our young family and her big brother and sister have already fallen for her.  Eve was also born via C-Section, a first for our family.  We had to make that decision rather quickly, as it was discovered that my wife had contracted Chorioamnionitis during labor, the same infection that forced my first daughter to be born with the aid of a vacuum.  My wife was not as far along with Eve as she was with Quinn by the time the infection was noted, which reduced our options to either waiting an hour and having no choice but to have a C-Section, or to schedule one immediately.  We chose the latter, and at 10:00 PM sharp, we became parents for a third time.  I’ve never had the experience of incorporating a new family member while also nursing my wife back to health.  Both of our previous babies left my wife sore, but surgery had never been a requirement.  While my daughter is essentially exclusively dependent on my wife, my wife and my older two kids are essentially exclusively dependent upon me.  My blessings and my requirements multiply.  In the end, I’m in love with another beautiful, healthy girl and I’ve now tacked the 9th onto a growing list of circled dates in the month of August.

Professionally: The past 12 weeks have been a blur, without the added content above.  I was assigned to a project at the University of Richmond, starting May 15th.  While not a complicated job, having only 12 weeks to renovate 14 apartments is challenging.  When the permitting process takes two weeks longer than you anticipated, it really becomes more like 10.  What results is the necessity to open the job for all possible hours of the week.  Twelve hour days become the norm and seven days a week become the only way you are going to steal back that time; because the University has students coming and they’ve hired your firm to deal with the speed-bumps along the way.  Typically, from the time drywall is first hung in a unit, there is 45-60 days before it can be turned over.  We did it in 28.  It was grueling, especially given my wife’s pregnancy and the attention two toddlers need at home.  How my wife was able to stick out her end of this deal is as impressive as the feat we pulled off.  On August 8th, the day prior to my wife’s scheduled induction, we obtained our Certificate of Occupancy and met our goal.  It wasn’t an epic trail because it wasn’t long enough to be, but those six weeks where I spent half of the time existing in a week at my project was a test I was proud to measure up to.

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Culturally:  I made the decision to spend what free time I did have not stuck in front of a TV, but inside of a book.  Over the past two weeks I’ve read two books, together completely opposite on the spectrum from one another, increasing their yield ten-fold: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  1984 hardly needs an interlude.  I read this book this year, for the first time, in part because of the political allusions many on the left made to this book with the incoming Presidency of Donald Trump.  While I can’t personally draw any parallels to this presidency that don’t uniquely reside within his administration, there are countless specific pieces of information that certainly create internal dialogue about our awareness of ourselves as it relates to what we can verify along international comparisons, roles of various agencies within our government, etc.  I found it to be excellently written and Orwell is doubtless prophetic in his analysis of how powerful people retain their power.  Kalanithi and When Breath Becomes Air is perhaps the most moving, powerful memoir I’ve ever read.  Granted I’m on maternity leave, but I devoured this book in two days and am currently grieving a loss I never knew I experienced until I picked up the book.  I haven’t determined an exact means of expanding his legacy in my own right, but the phrase he borrowed from Samuel Beckett “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” is sure to be at the heart of my effort.

Taken as a whole, the first half of August has been an excellent few weeks.  I’ve been afforded the opportunity, in countless avenues of my life to stop and reflect on What Happiness Means to Me.  I’ve been able to add to my understanding of what makes a life worth living, and how to live those values in the moment. Moreover, I’ve gained more clarity as to how my values can vary from those dearest to me without their values being in direct conflict with mine.  As I’ve known, but strengthened my knowledge in, one’s values creates their identity and provides them with a guide as how to best live their life going forward in the most beneficial way to the world possible.  While there are, and will always be, those who act counter to the best interests of the world, it is our charge to filter those actions through our values and respond in the most effective way possible.  Not just to shout down hatred and violence and bigotry and regression.  But to reinforce the hopefully expanding trend of creating as much freedom and opportunity for the most amount of people possible; so that happiness can be found and meaning explored by all who wish to pursue it.

Yours in the Pursuit of Happiness,

Will O’Connor

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