Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 6 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

The company of friends is a great thing, and when you’re at your lowest, nice strangers are good stand-ins until they become friends which is what happened for me. I was connected with a small group Bible study from another church. Being near about the oldest person in the group – by a margin of a few years – was a bit strange for me at first, but they were just cool, nice people who accepted me as I was.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t know of the recent emotional devastation I was coming out of, and that was okay.

These new friends helped me smile again. With make-up.
These new friends helped me smile again. With make-up.

They were younger so their faith was younger, more fresh – zesty, I daresay; and by faith, I guess I just mean their outlook on life. In addition to just being younger in age, some of them were younger in the faith, and I needed newness, freshness, different perspectives to help me heal and move on.

Things were starting to look up. I wasn’t going to the bathroom at work to cry as much, I was generally feeling better, and since I wasn’t dwelling so much on the past I was able to start thinking about my future.

That was when I realized, I had no freakin’ clue what to do about it.

At that point I was qualified to be a schoolteacher, work in middle management, or just management in retail. But I had no drive, no real motivation.

Over the years I had considered becoming a pastor, but that would require more school.

I briefly considered returning to video/filmmaking, but I felt grossly underqualified and clueless about the whole thing.

So while I was feeling better about things in general, I was rudderless, directionless, feeling no push or pull in any given direction, and that got me feeling antsy.

During another phone conversation with my surrogate mom, I expressed all this to her. She said to pray about it, so I did. A few days later during another conversation she said she had been talking to her husband, who among other things is a Marine who served in Vietnam during the war. He suggested I look into the military, the Air Force or something.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 5 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

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.

...but you already know what I'm thinking...
…but you already know what I’m thinking…

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.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 4 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

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.

2011...I seriously had no idea what I was doing, but denial played a strong part. Good thing I hadn't really started drinking yet.
2011…I seriously had no idea what I was doing, but denial played a strong part. Good thing I hadn’t really started drinking yet.

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.

But why?

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.

…the first time…

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 3 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

Shortly after I started therapy, I met a woman who absolutely knocked me off my feet. It was a lady in the Young Singles Sunday school class I had recently started attending, and I was just absolutely floored that someone of such physical and apparent inner beauty would strike up a conversation with me. Later I’d find out it was primarily to run interference for her roommate, fearing I was some kind of Sunday School creeper.

2008 - enamored. Oy...
2008 – enamored. Oy…

Nevertheless, we soon became friends and I was enamored from the start. Clarification: enamored with the IDEA of her. It would be another few years before I’d learn what it’d really take to be in a healthy relationship and what that actually looked like.

The people-pleasing part of my baggage is rooted in the earliest years of my home life that I can remember, trying to make our family appear as though nothing was wrong to outsiders while at home things were less than right. Somewhere along the line I just got it wired into my brain that if you make everything appear and seem right, ultimately it will be.

And the whole thing about following your heart…ugh. It’s not wrong, but in retrospect I think one needs some training in how to read the heart; and/or one needs to train the heart to be able to ascertain between that which glitters and that which is actually gold.

Well, that fateful meeting that Sunday morning did indeed turn into a friendship which I tried to fan into a romance – through cajoling, through fervent prayer, through just plain old persistence. All along my therapist was encouraging me to just be a friend, just be there. Ultimately, that’s what won out.

After a couple years of trying, giving up, trying again, etc., things finally took a turn and I wound up moving to Columbus, Ohio where she had moved, and we’d actually give this relationship thing a shot.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Connecting With the Past

We shouldn’t live in the past, but by all means we should be connected with it.

Tuesday morning I went into the gym for my daily Fit By First workout. It involved jumping jacks, situps/crunches, planks, and other things.

I took my place in front of the mirror.

I jiggled.

I wiggled.

I shook and shimmied involuntarily as I put my body through the paces.

And I watched.

Never have I seen me in such a state.

I’ve weighed this amount before, but I’ve never put myself in front of a full-body mirror and tried doing full-body exercises.

A few years ago that would have been mortifying. Now it’s…well, while I’m not satisfied with my metabolic status quo I realize it’s not going to change overnight and I’m not going to lose anything of value while I’m in it.

According to the Navy, for my height I’m about 30 pounds out of regulations. I think it’s fair to say it’s not all muscle; it’s not even 50% muscle, I think. I’d say it’s probably more significant than I think, but nowhere near what I’d want it to be. Well, maybe near; I’m not obese, but I am rambling, so to the point:

A lot of change has been going on in my life.

IMG_2295

I became a father this year. I went back to school. I’m getting out of the Navy after five years of service. Jenn and I moved and she went back to work. I have to drive Stormy to his grandparents at 0530 every morning (If we leave on time) and be back at Manoa in time for my 0730 class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I’m writing a book and getting coached in how to publicize it and sell pre-orders to get it published by Inkshares. I’m working on a prospective project for my side business. I get 4-6 hours of sleep most nights.

And while I don’t want to stay 30 lbs out of regs – even after I separate – I’m not super-ashamed because look at my life.

Crazy? Frenetic? Hectic? Abso-toot-ly.

But then tonight, after Jenn finished feeding Stormy – his last before bed – I was carrying him, gently burping him, and he had his head on my shoulder, facing toward me, but eyes shut tight, breathing deep, falling deeper into sleep.

Skinny Cliff would kill for such moments.

I thought back to when Jenn first told me her pee test popped positive; when we got our first ultrasound of him; the first time we saw his little body developing and he had limbs and as soon as the camera was on him he stretched out all the way, all of a sudden – a real live critter, just starting out; strong heartbeat, good vitals, our future son.

And that connection, that memory of the not too distant past (though it feels like a world away) flooded me with appreciation and emotion for this moment tonight.

I thanked God for this life, portly though I may currently be, and I’m just…happy. I’m content. I prefer the abilities of skinny Cliff and am working to get back to that, but to keep my spirit. Same body, a little leaner; same spirit, always growing.

Living the dream, baby.

 

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Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 2 of the story of my making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUS POST

Therapist-B had a more effective way of getting to the heart of the matter. I don’t know if it was because she’s a woman, or if I was better able to communicate my concerns or what, but instead of getting caught up in the guilt of porn or anything else, she saw and treated it as a sign, a symptom of something deeper.

So we just dove right in, deep down to the heart of the matter.

Now, I don’t want to get too far into the weeds of therapy here, because that’s not the point of this post (or series of posts as it may turn out), suffice to say I went into it a melancholy chronic self-loathing, manipulative people-pleaser and three years later emerged a melancholy less than chronic self-loathing, not as manipulative, people-pleaser.

The thing about therapy is, it doesn’t just make everything all better. It’s not the kind of thing where you go in all busted up with issues and come out all put together without issues. In my experience, what one comes out with is the emotional and spiritual tools and weapons to deal with the issues. I am significantly better off than I was 10 years ago, but I’m not 100% by certain standards. There are times I still find myself plagued with self-doubt, a lack of confidence, and wanting to make people happy.

OH MY GOD
2007 me – uh…searching for myself…?

What therapy helped me learn is that I am enough as-is and that I am worthy of love; love of myself, no less. After all, how can one love anyone else if one is incapable of loving one’s self? And I’m not talking arrogant assholery – again, trying not to get too deep into the weeds – but being able to care for and appreciate one’s self. For some it comes naturally. It could be genetics, a good home life, whatever. For others it’s a little more difficult for any number of reasons.
Anyway, previously I mentioned that the catalyst for all this was my 20th or so failed attempt at a significant romantic relationship. Therapy helped me be more confident, and therefore more choosy, in the romantic partners I would pursue, and to do so in a more or less healthy way.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 1 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

In the Spring of 2006, nearing the end of my 25th year, I had experienced my 20th or so failed relationship – this one being a long-distance one with a lady I met through Christianmingle.com. I had been to visit her in Indiana, she visited me in North Carolina, and then she called it off.

2006 me - first time I tried the Amish beard, I think.
2006 me – first time I tried the Amish beard, I think.

I have a tendency to get attached really quickly and really deeply. It was this proclivity that was the primary cause of ending most of my relationships theretofore; not the only cause – I’ve broken a couple hearts and upset my fair share of women, too, but mostly I’ve been on the rejected side of relationships (mmmmaybe about a 70/30 split).

My time with Indiana lady was unlike anything I had experienced up to that point. I don’t know that it was the best experience I had with a woman up to that point, but it really got my attention. Not to devalue or discount previous relationships, but this was the first time I was involved with a bona fide female nerd. When we were together we played video games, watched Battlestar Galactica (2004), talked about Star Trek and music and I just knew (as I had known in previous relationships) that she had to be the one.

When she proved not to be the one, I decided that it was time to do something different.

For years my dad and surrogate mom had encouraged me to go to therapy. Finally, I was ready.

The first try didn’t work out so well. The therapist was a guy who told me porn wasn’t such a big deal, as I was engaged in a rousing bit of self-loathing and self-condemnation at the time for looking at pictures of naked women on the Internet. So, I decided he wasn’t a good fit. My dad, thank God, suggested another he knew of through his network of professionals and I met with her.

Deciding to give therapy another chance changed everything.

You see, in addition to my proclivity for attaching quickly and deeply, I also sometimes tend to give up on something if it doesn’t come easy or natural to me. Part of me wanted to do that in this case, but a stronger part insisted on giving it another chance. At that point I had tried the same haphazard strategy with relationships for years and only had that many years of disappointment and heartbreak to show for it. I had given therapy a chance only for about an hour. Yeah, whatever that part of me was saying, let’s give it at least one more shot.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Doors

Lotsa doors, yo...you can only go through one at a time, though.
Lotsa doors, yo…you can only go through one at a time, though.

Four Years

Four years ago to the day my life was about to change in ways I never imagined.

I boarded the plane in Baltimore, had a six hour delay in Chicago, and at 11ish PM Friday, July 13, 2012, I set foot in Honolulu for the first time in 23 years.

When I was eight years old my family spent our summer vacation here for just shy of two weeks, I think. We landed in Honolulu, spent the night here, then flew to Maui the next day for a few days, then to the Big Island for a few days, then back to Oahu for the last few days before heading back East.

I have a handful of solid memories but mostly just impressions from that trip:

Marveling at the lava flow on Big Island.
Running around a golf course at midnight on Maui and helping bullfrogs learn to fly.
Sparrows flying into the rooftop restaurant on Oahu.
Being afraid that the roof of any of the inter-island Aloha airline planes we rode would come off like it did a few months before.
Chewing sugarcane for the first time.
Watching my first Indiana Jones movie – The Last Crusade – at a drive-in movie theater.
Marveling at the hula ladies…

Even then I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something magical about this place.

Twenty-seven years later, after four years of living here I still can’t.

The Aloha Spirit.

Ohana.

The verdant landscape.

First scenic shot. Taken on my birthday, July 29, 2012.
First scenic shot. Taken on my birthday, July 29, 2012.

The very earth itself brimming with life and vitality.

There’s just something magical, mystical; old yet fresh about this place.

While I’m not a fan of the population density on Oahu, I always feel like I’m back home whenever I return from a trip somewhere else (with the exception of The Big Island – I always feel like I’m going back home whenever I visit there).

Four years ago today, I had no idea what I was getting myself into; what with my assignment at a joint command, my first duty station usually reserved for no lower than E-5s, maybe an E-4 soon to be promoted, yet there I was, an E-3.

2013 shot - doing background work for an episode of Hawaii Five-0
2013 shot – doing background work for an episode of Hawaii Five-0

And little did I know how much of the world I was about to see.

I thought boot camp and “A” School busted open my worldview…

Cumulatively six months in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

A month and some change in Europe and then a couple months on a couple glaciers.

I feel as though I’ve certainly aged, but I also feel as though I’ve gotten a little younger somehow…

Started making real-life grown-up decisions on my own, being as far away as one can be from friends and family before you start going back around.

In 2014 I met, dated, and married this gem of a lady. Best initiative I ever took.
In 2014 I met, dated, and married this gem of a lady. Best initiative I ever took.

Knowing what I know now there are some things I wouldn’t have done, but I don’t really regret anything. It all goes into that worldview I was talking about before.

I’ve learned not to grasp things too tightly for too long, so I’ve learned to cherish the present moments even more.

Entering the service and giving up many freedoms have helped me appreciate and value freedom even more; I feel more a free man than I ever have.

Nov. 2015 - Barking Sands Beach, Kauai. Living life and learning to live with Jenn. Loving almost every second of it.
Nov. 2015 – Barking Sands Beach, Kauai. Living life and learning to live with Jenn. Loving almost every second of it.

I met my wife and my kid was born here.

Where will I be in four more years? No clue.

Probably still around. Maybe about to head elsewhere; who knows?

Until then I just keep doing what I do everyday: take it one day at a time.

There is A LOT going on this year, but the arrival of this little guy is by the far the most epic.
There is A LOT going on this year, but the arrival of this little guy is by the far the most epic.

A KICK IN THE PANTS

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion on web series. The panel consisted of three folks (Bernie Su, Hannah Cheesman, and Julian DeZotti) who have produced series for online distro and consumption and have a significant measure of success.

Check out The Lizzie Bennett Diaries and Whatever, Linda.

There were a few folks there I know from the Collective and a lot of folks I’ve never seen before.

It was my first panel discussion, so I figured I’d go whole hog into the experience and ask a Q during the Q&A portion.

I wasn’t planning on bringing up my ambitious goal of writing a 13-book series, followed up with a 3-5 season web series, culminating in a 1-3 film theatrical event, but when my question on audience-building apparently proved too vague, my hand was forced.

Even now my mind is a little foggy as my head was spinning, but what I took away from the event was: JUST DO IT.

I mean, there I was…I told them the span of the idea and that it’s a bit of a cross-pollination of Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia. And these industry professionals, as well as a lady and gentleman of high import for the industry in Hawaii, all admonished, encouraged, and just told me to DO IT – WRITE THE STORY – DO THE THING!

DO THE THING - by Arvaus on DeviantArt.com
DO THE THING – by Arvaus on DeviantArt.com

Thing is I’ve known I’ve needed to do the thing for quite some time now! I just…haven’t.

I’ve hemmed, I’ve hawed; I’ve put the pro in procrastination but the time of side quests is done. The Dragovian Trials have adjourned and it’s time to go after Dhoulmagus.

So, in terms of stortytelling, of writing, producing, anything, it’s all going toward finishing BOOK I of the KNIGHTS OF THAELION.

Jenn’s been encouraging me ever since our first date (if memory serves (regardless, it’s a good story)). Other friends, along the way, have encouraged me over the years. The inner voice keeps encouraging me.

And yet…RESISTANCE ALWAYS RESISTS. This is why it’s important to be in community with others.

Flyntax and co. have been banging around in my brain since I was 13. Time to let ‘em out.