I Was Lost But Now I’m Found

by Bill Brenner on April 3, 2017

There are plenty of reasons I haven’t written in this blog in a long time. The easy reasons are that my career has been busy and I’ve been managing a family building on the side. I also decided awhile back that I shouldn’t write unless I had something to say. To be honest, I just didn’t feel like opening up like I used to.

But lately my willingness has returned.

Mood music:

The last year has included some of the best and worst times of my life. My wife and kids continue to make me proud with all they do, and I absolutely adore my still-new job. Though I never wanted responsibility for the family real estate, I found ways to make the best of it, and I’ve certainly learned a lot. I’ve also always been a sucker for trying to fix things that are broken, and in that building I found no greater challenge.

But somewhere along the way, I lost myself.

I started trying to be my father and do things the way I thought he would have. For a while, I was paying more attention to that than my real job. Sometimes I had no choice, because the property has a huge environmental cleanup attached to it.

My mental and physical health deteriorated. The frequency of migraines shot up, I gained weight and started slipping into my habit of being a people pleaser.

I grew obsessed with saving my father’s dream of selling the building and leaving his kids a financial cushion. I desperately tried to make everyone proud, especially my sisters, who co-own the building with me.

As I worked to put the property back on its feet and rent out the spaces, I found myself trying to put my trust in the various contractors who came along, when I should have been eyeing everyone skeptically and asking tougher questions. When a property needs work, it’s stunning how the sharks smell blood and start circling.

By year’s end, I was bitter and resentful, angry with my father for dumping this mess on me. I resented being left on my own without the necessary business experience. Most importantly, I started to realize I wasn’t being myself.

In mid-2016, I left one job to go to another. The role turned out to be different from what was discussed early on. I found myself with little to do, so I took that as a reason to focus on the building even more.

That didn’t last long, because I’ve never been one to phone it in with work, and the fact that I was doing so was eating at me.

Then I found another job, and in the process found I myself again — remembering what I did for a living and why I was on this planet. The person I was began fighting the person I had become.

As I fell back in love with my real work, my resentment of the family responsibility grew. Some questioned how I was doing things, which made me angrier, since I felt everyone was happy to leave it all on me in the beginning. I started to get sicker.

At the bottom of that pit, things started getting clear again.

I remembered some important things:

  • My first responsibility is to God, and, by extension, my immediate family — specifically my wife and children.
  • My life’s work is in information security, not real estate.

A few months ago I took all my confusion into the confession booth. The priest suggested I practice prudence — using reason to govern myself. In my case, prudence meant putting the added responsibilities in their proper place, behind the things that are more important.

That’s what I’ve been doing.

I asked my sisters to start taking on some of the building responsibilities, which they have. I began limiting the days at the family building to once a week and spending most of the time each week at my company’s office. It’s made things better.

There’s still a lot of turmoil right now. I can’t fully escape the building. I still have to do better at doing right by my family. But my life has come into clearer focus, and I’m grateful for that.

The time for people pleasing is over. If my father is watching, I hope he understands that I can’t be him and that I never should have tried.

Some will be taken aback by the choices I make going forward, but they’ll have to deal with it. If something doesn’t fit into my top priorities, I won’t spend any more time on it than I have to.

If that makes them angry, so be it. It’s time I got back to being me.

Fire storm in the shape of a fist and the middle finger

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynn Hoff April 3, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Bill, I have always loved your column, and I was so glad to see another installment pop up in my Facebook feed today.

“The person I was began fighting the person I had become.” What a great line, and so descriptive of where I have been myself many times.

Godspeed to you with all your responsibilities. I admire your continual effort to keep perspective.

Pam Hirsch April 3, 2017 at 2:44 pm

so glad to read your fresh column this morning! Thank you for sharing your travels…. God Speed in your new awareness. Check in along the way.

Elizabeth April 3, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Bill, I understand your journey and I’m happy you found your way. Thanks for sharing. Losing a loved one puts a lot of expectations on us, not all of which we should take on. Especially as the family compass. Good luck!

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