Archive for the 'Life' Category

Something Beautiful

Someone famous once said, “If you don’t bend, you will break.” I could be paraphrasing. It would have had to come from someone famous because us normals don’t get quoted. It was probably someone who is also dead because getting famous for something you say usually doesn’t happen until after you’ve moved on and someone else finally understands what you were talking about and tells everyone else.

This place… this… repository of words and thoughts, fears, feelings and forgettings, rememberings, searchings, findings and losings is devoted to the quest; to the process and journey to discover the opposite of breaking. My son solved the puzzle for me of what the opposite of breaking is, but knowing what it is, is only half the battle. Some say the other half is red and blue lasers. Technically that’s true — the firing of lasers indicates action. The other half of the battle is putting what you know into action. The other day (or today, or whenever) I was only half of what I should have been. I was, er… am, quite the opposite of bending.

• • •

A few Fridays ago at The Trail (a men’s short-term morning bible study at our church) I listened to my friend Dan talk about breaking. Well, indirectly at least…

All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. reference

This version of these verses from The Message are more poetic than most. Other translations refer to us, our lives, our hearts as “jars of clay” and the treasure is God’s light and power hidden in us, in plain sight. The best place to hide something valuable is in worthless junk in plain sight.

Dan continued his lecture. Uncovering some clay pots, one at a time, on stage explaining that as we go through life we incur cracks and chips in our clay pots. Our experiences or decisions and circumstances in which we find ourselves — either by our own doing or as a result of other people’s choices — take a toll on us. They break us. Sometimes in a big way, sometimes in barely noticeable ways (at least on the outside). And no two people break the same way, or have the same set of chips and fractures. He had the lights turned down in the room and I could see light coming out from inside the clay pots; through the holes and the cracks. His message ended with the notion that the more broken we are, the more people can see God shining out from inside us.

I couldn’t stop there. Because if that’s the end: to be all busted up and fractured, I don’t want that. At what point is the last crack going to happen and everything comes crashing down? When is the bottom going to fall off? Fear set in and I became afraid of this final moment hanging out there somewhere in the timeline of my life waiting for me to finally give in and give up and smash. I’ve seen it before. I’ve been close before. I remember watching my dad on the kitchen floor rolling around, crying, out of his mind. We see movies all the time where people just snap and go nuts. Somedays I feel I’m standing on that line and all it will take is a simple push in the wrong direction and I’ll be done.

And then it hit me.

Maybe Dan was trying to get here, or maybe he wasn’t. I don’t know, but it hit me. Hard. That light? The light of God seeping through the cracks of those of us that have him in our hearts? That light is glue. His light is the resin that holds everything together. That light is stronger than my clay. In fact, the clayness of my heart, the parts made of dirt and mud and impurities, just get in the way and if I’m really honest with myself… if I step back from my own selfishness and my own moping and my sick sense of self-importance, then I can see the way the light bends through and around the cracks. In some parts it is thicker and more brilliant than others and it makes me wish I was all glue and no clay.

Pieces of We

Almost two years ago, Lego released their first Mini-Figure series. These are specialized singular figures only (not from any other sets) in mystery foil packs* with sixteen in each series and Kai and I have collected our favorites. Series 5 just came out less than a month ago. We jumped in at Series 4 at Legoland on our last family vacation. I was looking for the Werewolf for my sister. Kai started out trying to find all the figures with helmets; I wanted all the monsters. My first was Frankenstein’s Monster, then the Werewolf, Mummy, and the old Fisherman. I know, the old fisherman is not a monster… keep reading. Once I learned of the Zombie from Series 1, I had to get it. I found it on Amazon for way more than the $3 retail cost (along with The Robot for Kai). The Vampire was also from Amazon for less than $2.

I’ve always liked monster movies as far back as I can remember, despite being so incredibly frightened as a kid. I still vividly remember, when I was about 7 or 8, watching a black-and-white version of Dracula at night at my grandmother’s house. Or, maybe she just had a black-and-white television. Anyway, there was a woman in a white night gown unconscious on a bed, and a man hiding in the closet, terrified. Dracula flew in from the balcony window and approached the woman. He paused and you could hear the heart beat of the guy in the closet from Dracula’s vantage point. He said something to the man in the closet, knowing who he was, and left, I think. That scene has been stuck in my head for a long, long time and I don’t know which version of Draclua it’s from. I almost don’t want to know.

There were plenty of other not so family-friendly vampire/horror movies at friends’ houses who had HBO and parents who either didn’t care or… well, didn’t care. At one point, my other grandma took me to the movie theater to see Fright Night (1985). As far as I knew, monster and horror movies were normal. Being scared is normal, right? I used to be petrified to get out of bed at night, thinking that as soon as I set foot on the floor, something will grab my leg and yank me under my bed… I still have a hard time going to sleep with any part of me hanging over the edge of the mattress. Logic has very little affect on fear. It’s pretty safe to say that vampire and monster lore is somewhere buried deep in my psyche. And, so is Christmas music. Go figure.

Fast forward about thirty years — I’ve got some life under my belt and my world view has changed quite a bit. It recently occurred to me that all these monster stories have something in common (besides obvious plot lines, bad special effects, and horrible piano music): they are capitalizations of isolated and extracted and flawed characteristics of humanity, of myself, exaggerated and exploited. Monster movies remind me of what I don’t want to be. And seeing them now as little plastic toys with semi-adorable faces disarms them.

Mindless, relentless, obsessive (the zombie):

Lego Zombie Mini-Figure (Series 1)

Lego Zombie Mini-Figure (Series 1)

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Bound, lifeless, destructive (the mummy):

Lego Mummy Mini-Figure (Series 3)

Lego Mummy Mini-Figure (Series 3)

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Fractured, alone, misunderstood (Frankenstein’s creature):

Lego The Monster Mini-Figure (Series 4)

Lego The Monster Mini-Figure (Series 4)

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Angry, manic, depressed, uncontrollable (the werewolf):

Lego Werewolf Mini-Figure (Series 4)

Lego Werewolf Mini-Figure (Series 4)

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Cold, parasitic, selfishly passionate (the vampire):

Lego Vampire Mini-Figure (Series 2)

Lego Vampire Mini-Figure (Series 2)

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Okay, now this is where the old fisherman comes in as patience and wisdom and old-fashioned manliness, instead of all this monsterness. Not the kind of manliness that seems so prevalent today, but the quiet, gentle, discerning kind. The kind of manliness that isn’t pushy, obnoxious or loud. The kind that knows how to treat everyone and knows how to ride out the storms. The kind of manliness that does not react to time (or the lack thereof); rather, he responds with tact and thoughtfulness, compassion, warmth, strength, and dependability.

Lego Fisherman Mini-Figure (Series 3)

Lego Fisherman Mini-Figure (Series 3)

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Becoming a bad-ass fisherman means conquering of all these inner monsters. I’m not sure I can cross many of these off my list yet on my journey to becoming a fisherman. Some days are better than others, though.

* Mini-Figure individual foil packs from Series 1 and 2 had a second barcode that identified which figure was inside. As of Series 3, Lego no longer used a second bar code, thus making the packs more of a mystery, unless you got really good at feeling for certain pieces.

How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb

I am so mad at you. My anger runs deep because it was born first in the hell fires of empathy — not for you — and second in the flames of defense — against you — and lastly in the smoldering fear of what I am capable of in the midst of knowledge without wisdom. Because of you, I am forced to carry my armor and I don’t want to. I am forced to wear this burden, this reminder of humanity weighing down my striving for more than what humanity could ever offer. Because of you, I am forced to realize what we all have the potential to become, especially when we are left in isolation.

I don’t hate you. But right now, I don’t like you either. In some ways I thank you pointing out so clearly what not to do. Please do not talk to me. Please do not come near me. I might not remember that I don’t hate you if you do. I’m sorry you have become what you are, or rather, my heart breaks for you that you did not yet become what you were meant to be. My heart breaks for me because you did not yet become what you are meant to be. There is a gap now. A hole in the way things should be.

Where is wisdom in all this? Where is mercy? When does grace kick in? Carrying this burden and this frustration and the anger means that my hands are preoccupied. It means that my fists are incapable of forming and the weight of all this knocks the wind out of me, making it hard to speak which means I am safe from destructive words that cannot be undone. I am afraid to put down these things, to free my hands, to catch my breath. I am afraid of myself in the midst of all this brokenness; afraid of losing myself in the riptides of unforgiveness. Wisdom is knowing when grace is needed, mercy is using grace instead of a fist.

Maybe I’ll find mercy up here. Maybe I’ll find acceptance. Maybe I’ll find that space where forgiveness transforms into lifegiveness. Maybe I’ll find the ability to see you how He sees you. I have a hunch it happens somewhere in the universe between the nucleus and the electron shell in every atom in the fibers of my being. I am trying to get there. For now, I’m clinging to the default mercy of stasis; of inaction. For now, I’m clinging to the default wisdom intrinsically existent in the distances in the combinations of space and time. For now, I’m clinging to the grace buried deep inside the carrying of all this, expecting mercy lives somewhere in here.

Twenty-three nineteen

He’s lying down, fighting the rip current of the sleepy high tide. Kai tells me he thinks he knows what ‘the opposite of breaking’ is, “It’s like Facebook or Twitter.”

I tried to make the connection, thinking he might have some insight into something deep. Smoke bellowed from my ears, “What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

It’s a website where you post your thoughts and feelings.”

“Oh. Yeah. Kind of.” I was thinking he meant means when he said is. He said he thought he knew what the opposite of breaking is. He’s so literal and I know that. But it still shocks me when he’s so extremely literal. “I thought you meant you knew what ‘the opposite of breaking’ means.”

“Oh, I don’t know what it means.” he said.

“Yeah, me either.”

“Then why did you name it that?”

“Because I don’t know what it means.” And I don’t. I don’t know what word is the opposite of ‘breaking.’ “Maybe it means fixing, but not really.”

And then he said something so profound and deep, so abstract and so incredibly literal, all at the same time. He said it in such a way as if a question can be stated as if it is a matter of fact, “Or bending.”

. . .

So, who can bring the monster world to its knees merely with their mind powers? Kids. A child, or an artifact from a child, is deadly to the monster world and warrants a scrub-down, otherwise known as: Code Violation 2319.

Seconds From Disaster

The past few nights I’ve been working on an epic post, working through way too much stuff in my head over way too much time and I’m seconds from crashing all day long. Tonight was a pile up.
Continue reading…

Are We Not Men?

The smell of evaporating rain on the summer-heated asphalt conjures ambiguous flashbacks and less-than-vivid feelings from my childhood, pretty much all summed up into one memory of laying in the middle of the double-yellow street, on a blind corner, in front of the house I grew up in. Somehow I’m not dead. I remember watching steam rise and swirl around me as the rain fell, creating more steam. The street was almost too hot for my skin and I would tolerate it as long as possible, then run to the back yard covered in grit and tiny pebbles and jump in the pool. Repeat.

My dad was not around much when I was a kid. Maybe he was, I’m not sure. That’s really not the point. The point is that he left no strong impression in my mind for better or for worse. I don’t remember him being around. He liked to work. He was always working on the deal of the century. Although, nine times out of ten or eleven he was home for dinner. Most of the time he got home just in time, I think. I wish I had more powerful memories of my dad, but they are just not there. The memories I do have paint him in a very passive and in-the-background light; always reading the paper, or absorbed in something other than what was happening. Not angry, not excited, not engaged. Sure, I have some fond moments with him, but those are from my teen years after the divorce. Everyone loved my dad. He was really good at giving everyone else the best of himself. He would walk into a room and not one person would not notice. He could be considered a genius by those who measure such things. I don’t know if I ever fought for his attention. I probably did. Perhaps we just get used to things. I was always more concerned with explaining to my mom how this or that Lego spaceship worked with all its escape pods and detachable rovers and mission-specific vehicles. The older I grew, the more frustrated and angry I became as I realized how she seemed to increasingly not pay attention. Then I had my own kids. Knowing what I know now, she was most likely trying to hold everything together and had very little left over for the non-critical things.

Recently, I had a chance to hang out with my littlest sister. I haven’t seen her in over two years and only once or twice in the previous two. She just graduated from college. We talked and laughed and reminisced and had an awesome discussion about how somewhere along the line, our awareness of the world around us became larger than our creativity, or our perceived capacity to be creative. At that moment, whenever it happened, we stop believing. Mostly in ourselves. As if we traded our imagination for the voices that would tell us, “That won’t work.” “That’s not a good idea.” “You can’t do that.” I shared with her my short story concept about a time machine… about always living in the past or waiting for the future to happen, thus completely missing the present. My dad missed her graduation. So did I. It’s funny how physical proximity and time as investment collateral can be a valid excuse by which we gauge how “worth it” something is. If the only truly eternal thing in this universe is people, then why do we write them off so easily? The fact that my sister graduated from college is huge. I didn’t. Neither did my other sister. Yes, I feel bad about missing it. I’m off the hook though, you know, because we live so far away and it’s expensive to fly and life and stuff. My dad is not. He could have been there. He chose otherwise, or probably more aptly let the choice for him to not be there be made for him. I love my dad. I miss him. My mom has always said he’s got a big heart. He’s a glorious asshole.

I used to think my dad was invincible. That illusion crumbled over 10 years ago. It was nothing dramatic. At least, not as dramatic as it could be or sounds like. He no longer represented the ideal man to me. I just realized one day that my dad made some choices and mistakes that he never recovered from, or never figured out how to get out from underneath. I don’t know. Maybe he likes his life. When I realized I did not want to be like my dad, that’s when my adventures in growing up began. There was no one in my life I wanted to be like. I was newly married, with an infant son, and a full-time job. And suddenly I had no time left for making spaceships.

I talked to my counselor today (back story). He listened to me tell my stories from the past two weeks. Stories of kids running away, father & son breakfast times, losing Lego pieces in the car, and the “quarter incident” at the grocery store. Then he punched me in the face. Twice. Metaphorically, of course. Over the past three months we’ve been talking about and working on what my role is, both as a father and a husband. Today was two fistfuls of both. I can’t recall the exact phrasing he used, but the following is what I got out of what we talked about.

Guys, here’s some free advice: if you’re living for the approval or praise of your wife (or anyone), stop it. It will undermine every decision you are required to make. It will be evident to your kids that your authority can be shaken, because they’ll know you can’t do anything without her. This is not a “tyrant” or “boss” kind of authority; rather, the kind that lets your family know you are provider, protector, teacher, and counselor. It is the kind that defines your presence as peace-giving and definite and not feared. This is the kind of authority your wife considers security. Second-guessing yourself is like drinking poison that hollows you from the inside out, especially when it’s centered around self-preservation and shielding from criticism from someone else, assumed or actual. Obviously, making sound decisions is important and should be revered to build and maintain trust so that we can be what we’ve been entrusted to be. Like it or not, carrying the title “husband” and/or “father” is not just for tax breaks. And don’t be a dumb-ass (read: passive, uninvolved, too tired, over-worked, etc…) forcing her to wear your boots to carry you both through life’s shit storms. It’s hard enough to navigate when you don’t have all the answers; don’t make it harder by making your wife/partner your obsession and your enemy. She needs you. You need her. She is amazing and it’s a miracle she chose you to be with. She’s your best teammate. Treat her like the incredible person she is by being the man you are meant to be. It’s time to stop being kids in our parents’ shoes and start being adults who can wear kids’ shoes. Here’s a great article about this, in better detail. The Art of Manliness is a great site in general.

Freebie #2: As parents, our kids need to see mom and dad as a united front and that there’s no chance for a “divide and conquer” strategy to gain any ground (either planned, reactionary, or otherwise). We gotta be ready for this. It happens. We do it to ourselves, our kids do it to us. Not out of a sense of malicious intent, but out of a reaction to any number or combination of things.

Bonus, maybe: Simple is not easy. These are very hard patterns to break. We have suitcases of garbage from our past that can affect and thwart our abilities to do what we need to do. Combined with your wife’s own case(s) of crap, we’re lucky anyone makes it out alive. But I’m not talking about dealing with the past. This is about starting right now, today, choosing to be active and present; choosing to give all we have to each moment we have. Our kids are not going to be four again. They’re not going to just sing as if no one is watching for much longer. They are not going to be eight again and be willing to tell you what they’re thinking, wether you asked them to or not. They are not going to be eleven again, wanting to explain how that Lego spaceship works, or what story idea is floating around in their brain.

As I drove away from my counseling session, wiping the blood from my nose and trying not to aggravate my new fat lip, I started thinking about role models. I was thinking of what I look to for examples and how there’s no shortage of role models, just a severe shortage of decent ones. Even now as an adult it is tough to find a voice not celebrating the stereotypical “guy” who only watches sports, can’t wait to drink beer, and has no clue what the woman who has pledged herself to him actually wants, as “the life.” I don’t know what the word for being sad and mad at the same time is… maybe it’s smad. From Dexter to Abraham Lincoln, from Superman and every other super-hero to late night talk show hosts, from The President to Jesus to rock star song writers and every protagonist from every movie ever made… they all want to tell us or show us how to make life work. That somehow they have the answer. And they can’t all be right, can they? I mean some combinations are deadly. On a more personal note: there’s my dad who pretty much traded us in for a new family long after my sisters and I “grew up,” who can’t stop trying to escape the present, teaching that when life gets broken, go get a new one. And you’ve got my amazing friend Carvis whose bio-dad who only knows him by silently lurking on his blog for the past eight years only to surface and defend himself after an angry post about Father’s Day (which consequently, was not about him), teaching that if you can justify what you did then no one has the right to be mad at you. And then there’s Bill Cosby who’s pretty much everyone’s pipe-dream of a dad, teaching us that television might be the best source for finding answers. Not to mention God, which we all fall short of living up to — I don’t even know how to pull that one in and still make sense and carry this post through.

Then I realized that all we get left with is the classic Frankenstein Syndrome. We become monster. Not as a role model, not on purpose, but as a result. We are demo. We break and get broken and try to find “experts” to fix what’s wrong and before you know what’s happening, your head is cracked open and a crazy doctor is pulling stuff out and cramming other stuff in and trying to tidy up the mess.

The Monster

Do not, through inaction, succumb to the Frankenstein Syndrome.

We become bits and pieces of all kinds of theologies and methodologies and flat-out lies fist fighting with undeniable truth and promises of grace and hope… all mixed up, leaving us for the most part numb and dumb; unable to make critical, life-long decisions; creating havoc everywhere we go when all we really want is to feel loved and accepted, but have no idea how to solve this problem and so we plow through people and ourselves and end up back in the hands of some other whacked out scientist repeating the process.

Then I remember my kids and my wife, and I start praying for God to disassemble me and extract all the parts he didn’t put in, and add back the parts that are missing, and nurse me back to the man I was created to be. And let my scars remind me of what life would be like without him, and let my dependence on him power my confidence in the effect of my presence in my kids’ lives, and let his grace sufficiently enable me to fulfill my responsibility to my wife and our family and to not end up cultivating a bio-hazard dumping ground.

Dissolving

“Sir? Sir…” I called after the man we just saw moments before-hand digging through one of the many garbage cans lining the 16th Street Mall downtown — looking for food, looking for anything. At about 9am, the biting cold of a mid-November morning starts to loosen its jaws a bit, up to 30° give or take a few. Cold, nonetheless. What difference does two or three degrees really make? His hair was exactly as you’d expect it to be; his clothes following suit. No bags. A hollow gait with each trash can his goal. I caught up to him, and… actually, let me back up a bit. This all started with an anniversary weekend getaway, a blueberry muffin, and a very special girl.

Breakfast — the day before… I was craving just a blueberry muffin and a vanilla coffee drink (or grandé vanilla latté with no foam for those of you who only speak metro), but got distracted by the notion of a vanilla custard french toast offering and when we ordered our food at the Corner Bakery Cafe, I still ordered that blueberry muffin. You know those kind of huge muffins with that crumbly topping? Fresh-baked and moist in the middle with a crunchy outer crust? Like this one:

blueberry-muffin

A blueberry muffin from the Corner Bakery Cafe

Well, the muffin was still intact by the time we finished our meals so Jen wrapped it up to bring with us on our adventures and we thought we could share it when we were hungry again. Then I realized I left my phone up in the hotel room. I needed my phone. You need your phone, right? Gotta have your phone. Once back in the hotel room, it made sense to just leave the muffin there and maybe call it dessert and not carry it around all day. So that’s what we did and the muffin sat on the credenza in a bag in the hotel room all day while we delighted in a long day of walking, playing together, filling up our cameras with funny faces and amazing places and things that make Denver what it is, and topped off with a fancy impromptu dinner at Maggiano’s.

One of the threads weaving itself through our weekend was a heightened awareness of homeless people. For the uninformed, here’s a little something about my wife that defines a significant part of who she is — and this in no way encompasses the extent of her traumas and triumphs: she was a teenage runaway and spent 10 days on the streets and dealt with situations and things most people only know about from movies and the evening news. Because of her experiences and the damage and repercussions and the road to healing she’s been on, she now has this incredible gift of tenderness, forgiveness, intuition and the super power to see right through bullshit.

Okay, so earlier this night after our fancy dinner while walking back through the 16th Street Mall on our way back to our hotel room she wanted to give our leftover food from dinner to someone. It wan’t much, but something is better then nothing when you’re hungry. And hardly anything becomes even less if you share it. The streets were thinning out and the nightly chill started its descent on downtown. it was getting kind of late and most places were closed, but she did find a few people who were homeless. She handed me the to-go bag and said, “Go give it to that guy right there.” Timeout — a little something you should know about me: I do not do well with crowds, I will always find the least in-the-way place to stand in a room, and I’m borderline paranoid of talking to people I don’t know. It took a lot for me to look back at Jen and say, “Okay.” I don’t remember how cold it was, but everyone was wearing winter jackets. This was, after all, November in Denver.

The man I walked up to was an older black gentleman, almost like my dad’s age, or maybe life just made him look older like that. He was standing with two or three other older people. I had the food in my left hand and reached out to hand it him. He took it with his left hand and reached his right hand out gesturing to shake my hand. As I was reaching for his hand, he said, “Thank you, I’ll pass it around.” His hand was warm and not nearly as rough as I was expecting. I think I replied with something stupid like, “Stay warm.” or something like that. I thought for a split second about saying something like, “God bless.” which seemed so trite or perfectly insensitive. My force field started to decay. My head started reorganizing. Jen gave me a gift. She probably knew it, too.

By the way, “renting” a movie in your hotel room is a rip-off (thank you Redbox and Netflix for spoiling us all.) We watched what I can only describe as a really bad camcorder recoding of a TV screen that was playing the movie Date Night. Even still, we laughed and ate our pumpkin cheesecake in our pajamas, leaving us in no shape to be eating a muffin. “Let’s bring it with us to breakfast tomorrow and we’ll eat it then.” She suggested. My wife is always full of smart ideas. No, brilliant ideas. She has this knack for knowing the right time for saying whatever needs to be said or doing whatever needs to be done.

Waking up quietly and peacefully is one of the few luxuries in life that I’m sure all parents of small children could just die for. The last bits of our weekend were upon us, and we were so excited to head back to our new favorite place for breakfast.

So there we were, Jen and I, sitting in our front window seats, laughing, reminiscing, loving each other and people watching as if this was our normal Sunday morning routine and we’d been coming here for years. We enjoyed an amazing breakfast for the second day in a row on the last day of our weekend getaway in celebration of being married for 12 years. I can still taste the cinnamon and vanilla custard baked into the french toast. We ate and talked and sat in the restaurant for well over an hour, and I fell in love all over again with my wife.

People watching. We tried to guess the stories of the people we saw. Jen kept pointing out people who were homeless, explaining how she knew based on various clues I’d never pick up on. We watched a lady have an entire conversation with the thin chilling air. We watch a different lady move from one table to the next in the restaurant making up various stories trying to convince people to give her money. We saw a rich man (you can tell by the shoes, the overcoat, and the way he wore his baseball cap) walking around with and talking at what could have very much been his son who’s all grown up, but probably feels lost and unsure of himself. We watched a handsome man standing outside, patiently standing, nervously standing and watching in all directions; checking his phone every other minute, waiting for someone to show up. He was early, or maybe she was late. We guessed at his story and figured this was a Match.com moment in the making. She finally showed up. “It takes time to make yourself look nice. And he better appreciate her cause she looks pretty for him.” Jen says with a smile in her voice.

We finished our breakfast and continued to sit and watch and talk. We never got to the blueberry muffin. Once again, we ordered too much food. “We can just take it home and the kids can have it.” she said. We talked about our dreams and wishes. We held hands and watched the world spin itself up around us. And we watched the same guy that went down the other side of the street work his way back up on our side stopping at each trash can looking for something. Looking for anything. Without missing a beat, Jen grabs the muffin out of her bag, along with three dollars in cash that we had left and handed it to me. “Go give this to that guy.”

I’d like to say that I responded immediately with, “That’s what I was just thinking!” But, no. I challenged her. I started reeling with reasons why that was a bad idea to give someone in need a bit of food and a few bucks… “He’ll just buy alcohol with it.” I started to spew out and quickly realized what I was saying and tried to take it back. Words have this amazingly linear trajectory. There is no reverse. As I was trying to not say what I was saying, I got out of my seat, took the muffin bag with her three dollars and sped out the cafe doors. During my insolence, he managed to make it to the corner of the block. I went from a brisk walk to a hasty jog to catch up.

“Sir? Sir…” I called after him. He turned slowly, cautiously, perhaps incoherently. I must have caught him off-guard, calling after him like that. I handed him the bag and the money. He reached out to take it from me with both of his hands. I know I looked into his eyes then, but now recalling the story I barely remember them. They were so hollow and light.

“Thank you, brother. Thank you.” I can still hear his voice. Smashing what was left of the stale, hard candy-coated shell I’ve been constructing around my heart for most of my life. Going to work the next day and sitting at my desk and organizing electrons never felt so meaningless. The newly exposed, raw flesh of my heart was not ready to be so contained so soon. It still isn’t. Almost every day now for the past six months I’ve thought of this weekend and I’m finding myself more and more unsettled with what I spend my time doing everyday.

I have an idea, and I’m going to need a lot of money, or a miracle, or both.

Vasa Deferentia Abrumpo, Inter Magis…

… Or, “Say goodbye to my little friends,” among other things.

Today was one of those monumental days. And here’s the short list as to why (in chronological order):

  • The first “official” men’s morning Breakfast/Bible study for our church
  • Launched a massive minor-point version release of our survey software at work
  • Got a vasectomy
  • Downed an Oregon Blackberry shake
  • My two oldest kids had a piano recital

Wait. What? I got a what?!
Continue reading…

Infinity, Minus One.

Limits. Breaking. A little more tape, and some glue and I think I can stand another run. Fake being alive. Holding myself together and pretending the cracks are not there.

I can’t tell if it is dusk or dawn or if my orbit has shifted ever so slightly that I never noticed the light fading and the warmth dissipating fractions of a degree at a time until I’m in the arctic circle again, wondering how the hell I got here and wondering why I’m so fucking cold. Empty. Dizzy. Paralyzed. Staring down at my feet the entire time I’m wandering around looking for answers. Looking for reasons. Navigating my life by the cracks in the concrete. Looking for meaning and validation as a person, as a man, father, husband, worker, dreamer. I keep running into the same obstacles. I keep cutting myself off and tripping myself up. If it was raining hope outside, I’d run out there and suddenly have an umbrella to stand under. Nausea. Vertigo. I’m stuck in an infinite loop fixated on my feet trying to keep my balance. Working way too hard to make sure I’m stepping in the right place so I don’t crash all the while wondering where the right places to step are, as if making a mistake will cause the universe to crumble. Paint over the mistakes; put more glue in the cracks. All I see are my feet, occasionally catching her reflection in the water I’m trying to not drown in, mistaking what I see for reality. My emotions and thoughts spin constantly. Unstable. Circles. Circular. Cyclical. Dead. Fight scenes and games play themselves in my head making me wonder if anything is real. Comparisons torment my self confidence.

Not all parts of the loop are bad. It’s nice when my orbit takes me around the sun and I get lit up and thawed. Moments like those are addicting and invoke ill-fated endurance and stamina, perpetuating the cycle and in the shadows it’s cold and lonely. Behind the light of the moon and falling through space without any sense of direction or sense of being makes me sleepy. The stars are a blur and they feel so far away. Hopeless, tired, worn out and contemplating letting it all go. Hoping I get lost. It takes all I have to hang on lately. The hardest thing to do is wait for another revolution for my time in the sun, my blip on her radar; to wait for the warmth and the embrace and the kisses like drops of light on my face. Giving up, walking away and drowning in the muck and the mire and the mundane and the deafening silence seems better than waiting for just another moment of peace, fleeting awareness and the stifled affections of brilliance. Come on, baby, play me somethin’ like, “Here Comes the Sun.”

Too many times I tell myself, “This time around is different. Nothing’s gonna get me down. Nothing’s going to own me and make me feel the way I hate to feel.” And I say that after every time I end up feeling the way I hate to feel. Torn between my untapped potential with access to the power of creation at my finger tips and the despair that conquers in the gaps between the ways I feel around her. It is so hard to love her, and it is even harder not to. Her smile melts everything. Her presence invigorates me and kills me. If I’m lucky enough that she looks at me, like, really looks into me, my insides ignite and sparks light me up. And I’m in stasis anxiously waiting for it every time. Paralyzed. Impotent and disoriented. After more than a decade, she still lights me up. With one look, she can wake the slumbering super hero in me, or rip me into a thousand tiny pieces. And yet, here I am swearing again that I’ll not get down like this. That I’ll not let her make me feel like this. As if I’m some how feeling empowered enough to expect a different orbit, to create a different orbit, or like now I deserve a different orbit. As if she even knows what she does to me.

Trying to find that line separating love, devotion and self-deprication from worship.

How do I break my own infinite loop? How do I shift from a love-sick, paralyzed robot short-circuiting in my own heart vomit hanging on her every motion hoping soon that I might catch a brush of her hand that I can pretend was intentional, to a man with a mission, with a rock-solid purpose and a shit load of righteous passion and the means to act on it? How do I transform into the man she wants and needs instead of this poor chunk of dead drift wood I feel like I am most of the time?

I caught a glimpse tonight up on the mountain. It’s a simple solution. Too simple. It’s so simple but it takes effort and thought and dedication and all things not automatic. At least not yet. You see, I have to look up — lift my gaze higher than the circumstance in which I’m trying to keep my balance. Scan the horizon and realize that where I am is precisely where you want me to be and there’s so much more to where I am than fixating on my own attempt at not crashing. I need to look up and see where I can go, see where you are pointing for me to go. I have to open my eyes wide enough to see that I’ve traded the truth of you for a lie: there’s more than her in my view. I need to let you lift my chin up to see that the light I’ve mistakenly called her is you because I’ve placed her in front of you, again. She can only reflect your light — anything else will burn her up and leave me frozen, lost in the deep of space.

I’m sorry.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

My daughter observed the other day how weeds can grow in a crack in the concrete on a bridge and she thought it was remarkable how something can grow like that. I told her weeds grow when no one does anything. It takes effort and energy to grow good things and keep the weeds out. But weeds, they thrive in the absence of care.