“What pushes you to fight through the daily grind, to keep your head up and to keep going?”
I was recently asked this question during a podcast interview. I found it to be a fascinating one because it’s something that I deal with each and every day of my life.
My name is Martin Bruckner and I am a husband, a dad, and an artist. I have an amazing wife, a five-year-old daughter who is the light of my life, and I have two jobs that keep me creative for almost every waking hour of every day. I am an Art Director during the day, and at night (and weekends) I have created a side business called “Spaghetti Toes” where I take the funny, silly, gross, adorable and loving things my daughter says and I bring them to life through my art. I also do this for parents and grandparents all over the world.
Please don’t put spaghetti between your toes!
When my daughter, Harper, was two-years-old, we were all enjoying a big bowl of spaghetti – a favorite of my daughter’s. She was tired of putting the noodles into her mouth so she decided to see what would happen if she put the noodles in her ear, in her nose and lastly… between her toes. My wife was having none of this and sternly said: “Please don’t put spaghetti between your toes!” I looked at my wife and thought: this is our new normal, and it made me happy.
Later that night as I was giving Harper a bath, she had dropped the cheese she was eating in the tub. I remarked: “Did you drop your cheese in the tub, again?” That thought, along with the one my wife had said at dinner stuck in my head. Being an artist, little visuals started to form and I hopped on my computer and sketched out little child-like drawings to go along with each quote. Over the next few months, I put together about eight more drawings based on funny things we had said, and I had a little book made for my wife for Mother’s Day. She loved it.
I decided to create a little Facebook page called “Spaghetti Toes” and I posted each and every one of these pieces of art based on our family’s musings. After a while, people started to take notice including a fun site called Pleated-Jeans.com. They wrote an article about my art and before I knew it I was being contacted by the like of The Huffington Post, CNN, Buzzfeed and more to talk about my work. My entire family’s life changed just like that. I soon had an agent and a book deal. At the same time, all of this was happening, I was getting messages every single day from people all over the world that simply wanted to tell me how my little drawings of our funny family happenings brightened their day. They would tell me that in a world of negativity, my silly daily drawings were something they really looked forward to. I was gaining more and more amazing people that would soon become a community of daily support that would help me and my wife on our journey as parents. I still get messages almost every day from moms, dads, grandparents, and people that have no children, who just want to tell me a little story about their lives.
My wife, my daughter, her silliness, my art and the people I’ve met because of it… this list is what pushes me through the daily grind, but it’s also true that my own brain can get in the way of my happiness too. It’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves to be happy all. The. Time.
Still, I get CRANKY
Why, after working at a job I love, coming home to a house full of people (and 3 dogs) that I love, after having an amazing dinner with all of those people (and animals), do I still get cranky? I am so lucky in this world. My wife and I always say this to ourselves, but why do we still find ways to complain about the traffic? Why do I groan in utter agony that I have to complete yet another task for the day, when I look at my dog, wagging his tail and patiently still waiting for his walk at 10 pm? Are these bad things? Are they really hard? No, not even close, so why do I let them eat at me? This isn’t a riddle and the answer isn’t a difficult one. I’m a human being with a brain and that brain isn’t always my friend.
How do I fight through it? The answer that I always come back to is perspective. Perspective is an amazing thing, and for me, it’s one of the keys to happiness.
When I was a little boy my dad once said to me: “Marty, a good portion of the things you do in your life, are things you don’t want to do, but you do them anyway.” I have never forgotten that. I’ve also never forgotten that he also taught me to put things into perspective. For me, those two thoughts go hand-in-hand. This world isn’t a kind place to all of us. It’s cruel and unfair and ugly and I think about that every day. It’s also unfair for me to complain about the little things. I’ll still do it, daily, but when I’m done, I need to step back and watch my daughter play with her toys or pick her nose. We all have these pressures – especially when it comes to parenthood to do right all the time. We need to hold on to the little things that make us happy. I need to listen to my wife laugh (and laugh she does, at everything… which is why I love her). I need to witness the pure joy of having two puppies at once even though they drive me nuts and nobody should ever get two puppies at once. But those are the things that matter. Those are the things that make me happy. Without those things is when life would not be a happy place for me. We all need these happy things in our lives especially when things get tough.
Life isn’t easy, nobody has ever said it is
Life isn’t easy, nobody has ever said it is. Even when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you don’t. And that’s okay. Writing this article has been an amazing exercise for me. It’s been quite difficult because I’ve really had to dig deep into myself and think: “Why aren’t you happy all the time? You have an amazing life. You have a beautiful family. You have a talent and people actually pay you to do what you love. Why can’t you walk around with a huge smile on your face all the time?” I wish it was that easy, but some days it’s just not. No matter what. It goes back to the perspective one more time for me though. Even if I’m having one of those days, I lay down with my daughter before bed, I rub her head and sing her songs and that’s when it all comes back around. That’s when the only thoughts in my head are the good things and I think: “This is all that matters”.
So now I’m going to finish this article. I’m going to go make some dinner for my family. I’m going to play with my daughter and put her to bed. And then I’m going to go walk my dog and be happy!