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As I tweeted earlier today, I’m now the answer to life, the universe, and everything years old.

Kristin asked me if I felt older on the way to church this morning, and my reply was, “I feel like I’m learning new things recently.” This is my first birthday without a dad and it’s about 6 months since he passed. I was struck oddly today by the lack of him calling me up to sing the silly penny song that he’s sung to me every birthday that I can remember (counting pennies you receive for each year behind you). But beyond that small sadness, I’ve been examining my life in detail since he’s passed.

It’s been intense.

Most of my friends who have lost parents say that this period lasts for at least a year and that it is especially intense if you have kids, because you’re forced to come to terms with the fact that you had a parent, you’re a parent, and you’re mortal just like that parent, and your kid(s) is(are) eventually going to be going through everything you’re currently going through when you pass. Then there’s another layer to that where I realize, much more profoundly than I ever have before, that my dad was just a man, just like me, and just like everybody else. We’re all individuals, but we’re also all the same. We’re all just trying to figure life out and are attempting to do the best we can.

It sounds simple, but it’s been mind-blowing for me.

There are no rules. There are only consequences.

And when I say there are consequences, they are legion and often unpredictable. Out of those consequences we actually understand, we construct the rules we will follow.

I’m starting to realize that there’s no reason for me to follow some of the rules I’ve always had. I don’t have to hold myself always accountable and responsible for everything around me and for all the mistakes and decisions of those who I feel are part of my life. That’s not my responsibility. Again, it sounds simple, but that realization has lifted a weight from me and been exceptionally freeing, and has given me more grace when dealing with others’ decisions.

It’s also allowed me to start pursuing things that I never really allowed myself to pursue in the past. I’ve been making time for C.K. again. Instead of being some distancing thing, it’s been great and made me want to do more with others; especially when I see how interested Jackson is in participating in these creative things with me.

It’s amazing how, in life, you can always learn more and grow. I feel like such a kid.