The second time – could’ve been another day, could’ve been later that day – I revisited the notion after a long day at work. For a good month or so I’d spend at least 15 minutes in a stall in the men’s room crying softly. The feeling would just come on all of a sudden; I’d have to log off the phone, hold it in while I walked quickly to the restroom, hope no one else was in there, and just let it out as quietly as possible, sometimes stuffing toilet paper in my mouth to help keep it muffled.
Following one of those many days I had a similar mental exchange. Except when I got to the accomplishing part it seemed a little easier; I was already in my car and there was a highway right over the hill I could have a fantastic wreck on. But then I thought of the other people who might be possibly involved. And then the third voice barged in again, asking what the fuck I was thinking.
You know what I’m thinking, I responded.
RIGHT – BEFORE YOU DO YOU ANYTHING YOU’LL REGRET, MAKE A FUCKING PHONE CALL!!
And then, I don’t know, I just came to my senses and called back home to North Carolina and talked to my surrogate mom – I was ashamed and scared to tell her what I had been considering. Ashamed for the stigma surrounding people possessing such thoughts and scared to admit it because that somehow makes it more real.
She wasn’t mad, she wasn’t ashamed, but she was scared for me and suggested I call my former therapist. I called her right away and we talked for a few minutes. I called her again a few days later; no more thoughts along those lines, and by that time more people were coming into my life.
The all caps, bold and italic lettering voice I think was the voice of God; or my guardian angel if you think God is above using the f-bomb.
Have you ever seen a dog chasing a car? Ever wonder what a dog would do if it actually caught the car? That’s kind of what it was like when I moved to Ohio. I didn’t really know what to do once I caught the woman I had been pursuing for going on three years. So, I just made her my life.
I had no other friends except those I met through the church I started attending because she was already attending. I wouldn’t spend any time with those friends unless she was at work or otherwise occupied. I basically felt as though I was nothing without her.
That’s too much of a burden for anyone to bear, the burden of another’s existence, of another’s value. And it proved too much for her. Ultimately that relationship failed and because I had invested so much of my life into it, when it was gone and she was absent from my life all of a sudden, I felt like I had nothing. What was the point of waking up each morning only to feel the worst I had ever felt in all my life? Day after day, each hour of each day, each minute of each hour.
There were two distinct occasions – shucks, it might have even been the same day, time was just slushing along, all mixed up – but I distinctly remember two separate times at which I seriously considered ending it all.
One of those times was one morning as I woke up. My internal dialogue went something like as what follows:
What’s the point?
We have to go to work.
Because, we have to. Responsibility.
But why? What’s beyond that? Why keep on doing this?
Because we’re here.
What if we weren’t?
I imagine we’d feel a lot better.
We wouldn’t feel anything.
That’d feel better than this…
And then I started thinking about how I could accomplish it and I guess as I woke up something else woke up and barged into the conversation: WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING??!
That was enough to scare me back from the proverbial edge.
Why do I continue on in traditions such as celebrating Christmas and Easter; or praying before meals, especially with Jenny?
Why do I pray for her and our son?
The fire I once possessed has long since gone out. Perhaps for longer than I realize.
My first real positive experience with Jesus was LIFE ’95 during Jacob Aranza’s sermon. I google him now and there’s some serious stuff not of a positive nature out there. I suppose that’s to be expected.
Anyway, it was toward the end, during the altar call-type thing, that I first felt forgiven. It was the first time I felt that any evil things I had done didn’t matter in terms of who I was as a human being.
Following that experience, I tried to get the most out of every time of worship. Anytime there was singing to God I tried my hardest to commune with the Almighty. Sometimes there was success, but most of the time, I suspect, it was emotional responses.
And actually, I suppose that’s what it was at the LIFE event: an intense emotional response. A response to some serious truth, but an emotional response nonetheless.
In his book No Man Is an Island, Thomas Merton says that if one is in step with the Spirit one doesn’t feel it. Illustrating the point with a marching formation, he points out that when troops are marching in step together they don’t come into contact with each other, thus not feeling each other. It’s when you get out of step that you feel it; that is to say, how one feels is not necessarily a good indicator of one’s relationship.
One thing I can say though, is the LIFE event changed how I experienced thunderstorms. I believed (and perhaps still do (we don’t get many thunderstorms where I live nowadays)) that God is closest to our plane of existence in thunderstorms. I mean, the idea is he’s omnipresent, but maybe within the cumulonimbus formations, the membrane between realities is stretched a little thinner. Just the power and might of the rushing wind, the flashing lightning bolts and explosive thunder…
Saying all that to say, I went from having a mortal fear of thunderstorms to eagerly looking forward to them. To this day I still have what some may consider an unhealthy desire to personally witness a tornado.
That fire I spoke of earlier…
At its core I think it’s a good thing. However, I took it, in response to the aforementioned emotional response, and figured I owed God something. Like, I needed to pay Him back or something for the wonderful way He made me feel.
And then, over time, it turned into the feeling a junkie gets when he does all the drugs to try and replicate that one feeling he had, the first time he smoked a joint or shot up. No matter what I did or tried, I couldn’t get that exact feeling back.
And there was that whole issue when my first girlfriend put it on God to break us up because, I reckon, she was afraid of hurting my feelings or something. I was angry, upset, pissed off at the Almighty. After that great thing He had done at LIFE, and all I had done in those few intervening years before high school graduation, how could He pull this shit? I was a vocal witness for Christ; I got into debates and discussions about faith; I wore provocative Christian t-shirts that spurred conversations; I listened to nothing but Contemporary Christian Music, taking in the Word of Life through modern music styles to help edify my soul and remember doctrine more easily (I think I still know the full rap by DC Talk for Jesus is Just Alright).
All that – all that – and He ostensibly took away the most precious relationship to me up to that point in my life.
Of course, from what I learned at church and in books is that I was guilty of idolatry, putting my ex up on a pedestal, wanting her more than I wanted God. Close friends and family warned me about balance (which made more sense). But what was the death stroke was the shame my sexual desire was shrouded in. I didn’t give up my virginity until after that experience, but my innocence was already taken from me at a very early age. And someone who should have protected me and helped me heal, instead swept it under the rug; it was never to be spoken of; it didn’t happen. It was a shameful thing to have happened and to bring it up was to only bring on more shame…so it was never spoken of until my mid-20s, in therapy.
That shame came from a faith rooted in fear, not love. It was the faith instilled in me, even when I had that life-changing experience.
I guess therapy was when I had the next real Jesus Experience.
Not to retread, but it was there I learned that I was enough. I came to see that I am lovable as I am. That’s what Jesus – or unconditional – love is all about. And as such, it’s a love with no demands or expectations. There’s nothing to pay back, there’s nothing to do in return.
Of course, there’s reciprocity. When someone loves you, you want to love them back. The root of desiring to repay, I think, springs from a guilty conscience. That mentality doesn’t believe one is worthy of that love; and maybe one isn’t (from a certain point of view), but one has it, and it wouldn’t be so freely given if the giver didn’t think the receiver was enough.
Reciprocity is different than paying back. You don’t have the compulsion to repay, but someone makes you feel good (i.e.: loved) and you want to make them feel the same way. What’s scary is that this principle is also at the root of vengeance.
So anyway – we’ve got LIFE ’95; therapy; when would be the next Jesus experience…?
I think it would actually be…meeting Jenny.
When Jesus was on earth, He was all about upending the System, bringing new light to old wisdom and new life to old souls. I was caught up thinking that marriage – finding a mate – was supposed to be a certain way. “Equally yoked” was a buzzword concept thrown around a lot in my formative spiritual years and, as such, was ingrained in my membrain (I know that’s not how you spell it).
As my first attempt at marriage fizzled, I put myself back out there. In spite of all relationship failures up to that point (and they are legion), and in spite of that ultimate relational fail, I was bound, determined, and sure that true love was out there waiting for me.
However, as fast and hard as I tried to run from the old way of thinking, “equally yoked” still prefaced every prospect. There was a lady or two I met who met the conventional meaning of being equally yoked but many more (with whom I felt more compatible) who did not; Jenn was among them.
And this wasn’t the first time this had happened.
When I was in college I dated a young lady who wasn’t conventionally equally yoked, yet upon reflection the relationship had the potential to be one of the best I ever had. But because of that conventional belief, I ended it. At the heart of it I was a coward and didn’t know what I had. Twelve, thirteen years later I resolved that if I ever found myself in that position again to not just abandon it, but to hang on as long as I could.
Though I am a quick study, I’m a slow learner. After a few dates with Jenn I knew in my gut that she was the one, yet convention still called…as well as fear of happiness. I called it off; but she didn’t. She still liked me and when I went off to Germany for a few weeks we stayed in contact.
It was one afternoon, after traipsing through the beautiful countryside, and then seeing a picture in ein alten Frau’s living room of two horses: a mare and a stallion standing together, looking into the distance…weird, I know, but it was in that picture – let’s say the spirit of the picture – that I saw us.
As soon as I could I skyped her and told her I loved her and that I wanted to be with her.
And then with her, it’s just been one Jesus experience after another. We take turns in pissing each other off, or disappointing each other to varying degrees, but everything is overshadowed by our love for each other. Most of the time we’re making each other smile and/or laugh.
And inherent in love, I believe, is commitment, faithfulness, and trustworthiness (to name a few). Such things I lacked in myself for a very long time because I couldn’t ascribe them to myself; I didn’t think I was worthy or sufficient.
But then learning that I am, I’ve slowly been able to develop these traits and cultivate them more and more, and thus, love more freely. Not perfectly, mind you; and I still screw it up more times than I get it right, but I’d like to think that now the majority of my actions come from a place of love instead of fear.
Now more than ever with Stormy in the picture – managing the love streams between child and spouse.
These have been my Jesus experiences so far – experiences of unconditional, unbridled love and self-realization. I reckon it’s facilitating such experiences for others by being an honest, loving human being that Jesus is getting at when He talks about the Great Commission. Not making a sales pitch for hellfire insurance, or getting people into the “feel-good-about-yourself-club” and making them follow a bunch of rules; but rather showing love, dignity, and respect to everyone; and insofar as we’re able, to aid them toward self-realization so that they know they, too, are worthy and sufficient, and that that’s something that’s worth keeping going in this broke-up, busted-ass world.
Her first book, When We Were On Fire, especially resonated because I felt as though I was reading my own personal history of growing up as an ON FIRE FOR CHRIST teenage crusader; that is, were I a female and had I grown up in the Midwest instead of being a dude growing up in North Carolina.
I grew up going to church every Sunday. Once I hit youth group age Wednesday nights were thrown into the mix. The more I started learning about God, the more I became afraid of him.
I distinctly remember in the summer of ’93, we were having a rash of thunderstorms and tornadoes tearing up the piedmont. Whenever a severe storm or tornado warning was issued for our area, I’d go outside and walk into the middle of our neighborhood circle and bargain with God to just hit me and leave my family’s home – and the neighbors’ – alone. My conscience was just so saturated with guilt and fear, and for some reason I’ve always associated weather conditions with God’s immediate presence, that I was sure in those thunderstorms he was gunning for me.
A couple years later I attended my church denomination’s tri-annual youth conference, LIFE ’95. In one of the last large meetings I felt God’s love for the first time. It was the first time I felt no judgment; only love, forgiveness, and as if an enormous weight I didn’t even know was there was suddenly lifted from my soul.
Fast-forward eleven years…I’m in therapy to try and hash out some detectable, but indiscernible emotional issues.
I had been through the height of the True Love Waits movement in which the lesson I took away from it was that my natural, budding, sexual urges were sinful – or could lead to sin. After all, just thinking about having sex was a sin (often citing, and I believe misusing Matthew 5:28).
Within those four years I experienced a few significant firsts: disillusionment with the Church; abandoning God; sex; grace in a new way; severe self-loathing.
You see, I could have chosen to remain in a Christian bubble, similar to what I had at home, but I decided against that.
And then I moved back home.
It wasn’t long before I found myself cycling between backsliding believer and Bible-thumping asshole.
The jobs I worked at got me further into the real world with the people who I worked alongside and there was more dissonance I felt between being told I should spread God’s good news of unconditional love and yet remain separate from the sinfulness of wicked sinners – especially homosexuals. Shoot, the guy I could most relate to at my first job out of college was gay*. When I worked at a Barnes & Noble café a few years later, one of the shift leads was gay and we’d always, well (heh, heh) have a gay** old time singing showtunes and such toward the ends of our shifts.
As a young adult, the deeper I’d get into the Western Church Machine, the more I found myself despondent, despairing, and ultimately depressed. I couldn’t do anything right. Anything I would do right wouldn’t be me, because God gets all the glory. The only thing I could take credit for was everything I did wrong, and everything I’d do wrong would keep me from knowing God, so just try/pray/read your Bible harder, harder, harder.
Not exactly grace.
So yeah, therapy. First time I was ever told all that was bullshit and that I’m enough as I am. The kernel was planted in my spirit, and has been budding more and more in the last few years, that I will never arrive and be who I was meant to be. I arrived in July of 1980, in all my perfectly flawed glory, and the Darkness got to work (as is wont to happen to all of us who breathe, eat, and shit). But the Light – the Light has always been there, too. And always will be.
I was in therapy for three years, read a bunch of books (I recommend The Ragamuffin Gospel and No Man Is An Island), and went on to make the same damn mistakes…but this time with tools and strategies – a humble way of saying, “the beginning of wisdom” – to augment the ever-present Light and deal with the never-leaving Darkness.
What really helped put things in perspective was my first marriage. Yeah, Jenn’s my second marriage.
That first time out was my last time trying to do things by the book. At the expense of my identity and who I am, I tried following the teachings put out by modern evangelicals instead of trusting my gut. The result was one week of attempted happiness followed quickly by about five months of agony.
Granted, I probably shouldn’t have rushed into it the way I did, but I was sure that if I followed the modern teachings rooted in ancient wisdom everything would turn out okay.
And this is a very generalized telling of the story in extremely broad strokes, but it’s the essence of my experience and how I processed it. It was enough to get me to abandon the system and just go after some freakin’ happiness.
And here I am. Maybe you’ve seen the previous posts in this blog, maybe you haven’t (I’d recommend it for context), but I’m happier and more content with this life than I ever have been.
I still believe in God and Jesus, but I’m finding a need for some serious rethinking on concepts and doctrine; the true depths of mercy, grace, sin, and love.
So, I don’t know what follow-ups to this post will look like, but the door is opened now.
And does any of this resonate with you? Just curious…
*adjective, gayer, gayest.
of, relating to, or exhibiting sexual desire or behavior directed towarda person or persons of one’s own sex; homosexual:
a gay couple.
Older Use. having or showing a merry, lively mood:
gay spirits; gay music.
Older Use. bright or showy:
gay colors; gay ornaments.
Older Use. given to or abounding in social or other pleasures:
This is the tipping point, usually, where I’ve started a blog, pump out a handful of decent posts, then futz out.
Well, it’s about telling stories.
The last post is the video story of Jenny’s and my trip to the Big Island last summer. It was a lot of fun and I tried to convey that in the editing of the footage. If you haven’t already, check it out.
And then the preceding posts have been stories about our son, Nightstorm. I don’t feel like there’s much to say there in the way of interesting blog posts, suffice to say we’re still battling the wretched rash of his poor heinous anus (and I think we’re winning), and that he’s freaking huge compared to the size he was when he was born. I mean, geez. He eats, sleeps, poops/pees, repeat.
I think he’s starting to make eye contact now, though, and each day we’re learning a little more of his personality.
Jenn and I are trying to figure out how to make him join our program and not make everything all about him.
I mean, he’s a helpless little squirt, but he’s almost a month old now. Regardless of whether we’re starting to train him in certain behaviors, I think it’s good for us to start communicating with him now as we will when he’s a year old, two years, seven years, 18, and on and on and on. Sometimes it seems as though he’s testing us with little cries to see how fast one of us responds.
From the previous Storm-centric posts there has been much improvement. For me, in the aforementioned attitude shift, and we’ve had a few more visitors which I think has improved Jenn’s morale; not to mention that we’re learning ol’ Stormy better, too.
It would seem that every time something new surfaces which alarms either, if not both, of us, it’s something completely normal for newborns and infants. I’m also convinced that a significant amount of pediatrician visits are more for the parents’ state of mind than anything having physiologically to do with the baby.
So now, when something happens, we don’t immediately freak out; we google it, check multiple sources, and go from there. It’s a real mind over matter thing. Watching your progeny experience apparent distress and possible trauma only to find out its gas and all newborns deal with it for a while as their intestines figure out how to work. He may scream and wail, but unless other indicators are present, all you have to do is try and soothe him. Could be gas relief drops do the trick, or the sound of a running faucet, or holding him in a different position.
And to learn that the heinous anus isn’t uncommon was something of a relief, too.
Really, a lot of it is learning that we’re not the only ones who’ve gone through this stuff. I mean, humanity has teemed with staggering numbers for millennia before now, so of course we’re not the only ones; but it’s the specifics of the challenges we face, hearing from a friend how they went through the same thing; or reading an article or messages in a mommy forum, seeing them describe, word-for-word, how you’ve described your own child’s situation. Were it not comforting it’d be freakin’ eerie.
When you feel like you’re the only one facing something, when you feel isolated and all alone, that’s when despair and depression can set in. Whether you’re one of two new parents (or a single one for that matter), recovering from a drug addiction, or just trying to make it through the workday in a toxic environment.
It’s this incalculable value in community I’ve seen demonstrated time and again, moreso ever since leaving North Carolina, my home, six years ago. Cary will always hold special place in my heart, but now Hawaii is my home. It’s not just where Jenn and I hang our hats; it’s the friendships we’ve established here and the family she has that I’m a part of now.
Before I met Jenn, I never imagined I’d want to call Oahu home. It’s too crowded, traffic sucks, and everything is so freakin’ expensive (especially real estate). But then we met, we fell in love, and I’ve found that I miss this place whenever I travel elsewhere. We are considering relocation in the next few years, but we’ll see where we are as a family by then.
Huh – look at that. A blog post did manage to come out.
A couple other things I want to touch on…pursuing my dream of being a content creator; last summer I started up my production company and gave it a real go. Had a paying client and everything.
As you might imagine, though it worked, it wasn’t smooth at all. Many times I considered throwing in the towel. However, do you know that thing about when people tell you that if you quit something you wanted and the desire keeps coming back then it’s probably something you should pursue anyway? That’s what keeps happening here.
I keep coming back to producing videos, to writing, to filmmaking. I can now, truly say from experience, that failure is good – failure is great!
I delineated a ton of lessons from the experiences of my initial venture and am applying them now to PHAZON MEDIA! I did a lot of things right with The Bailey Adventure, but a lot of things wrong, too; things I wouldn’t have thought of had I not even tried it. So I tried it, succeeded on a level, failed on another, picked up the pieces and here we go again, a little wiser, a little braver, a little more daring.
Shucks, if it weren’t for all failures in my life I never would have moved to Ohio, gotten dumped, enlisted in the Navy*, wound up in Hawaii, and three years later be in a happy marriage with an adorable baby!
And each day still has a healthy amount of failures! Sometimes I cuss and fuss, but I always take time afterward to reflect and learn. I learn how to better communicate with Jenn; I learn how thoughtless I can be and then how I can be more thoughtful. I learn the veracity of the saying: “Bees are attracted to honey, not vinegar.” I learn to let love guide my actions more often than fear and suddenly the world seems a little less nasty; always broken and busted, but less nasty and a wee bit more beautiful.
So, in addition to learning how to husband and dad, I’m learning how to get my business going; I’m learning more about the creative process, about the daily life process. I learn to value and love my wife more as she believes I can handle all of this and I’m blown away when she lets me sleep through the night so I can be better prepared for my physical fitness test, or go off on some Saturday afternoon (today) not just to get the car looked at, but also to catch up on my writing. Not only that, but her willingness to go along with my decision to leave a secure job in the Navy to go back to school to pursue my lifelong dream of writing and filmmaking.
Okay – I’m rambling here, but I can never run out of ways to express how I love my wife. She ain’t perfect, far from a paragon of any kind, but dadgum, she’s perfect for me; somehow she thinks I’m perfect for her, too.
*still not an official spokesperson for the U.S. Navy, Dept. of the Navy, Dept. of the Defense, and all opinions and such don’t reflect them, etc.