Monday, October 3, 2016

Birthday Blog

Hey Guys,

So it's now out there, officially, for all to see. I have a hard time talking about this, perhaps because I have an ever harder time understanding it myself, but I really struggle to feel comfortable on my birthday. I know it's a sort of commemorative day, but all I did was show up some 27 years ago. Logically speaking, the day has no difference from any other; we don't gain a year's worth of wisdom in a day. I get that I have issues with it, and that I overthink it, but the truth is I feel such a weird social pressure around this day. I won't get into it at length, but I just usually end up feeling isolated at the end of the day.

This year, however, I had a request. I asked Leah if she could gather some memories from my friends and compile them. I don't usually use this phrase, because I find it a little awkward for me but the only thing that comes to mind is that my heart feels full. In reading over the memories shared, it has really helped me realize the impact the smallest gestures we do may have. There are many people whose words carry great weight with me. I have such a respect for the way words we share can bring healing, and I feel filled by the memories I've been fortunate enough to share.

One friend, speaking with great wisdom, remarked that "friendship relies on memory." I am so thankful to have amazing people who surround me, sharing in life and building the memories to sustain me when I feel alone or isolated. Friends, your words have more impact than I can appropriately communicate.

Thank you for making this a special day.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Coming up a bit short

I feel like I'm in a space of trying to find the most efficient way to pack for a trip. I am pretty good at arranging all the clothes and various items inside my bag, and stacking all the bags inside the car to maximize space, so I don't mean efficient in that sense. I guess I mean more like I want to bring only what I need, and use everything I bring. There's this bizarre sinking feeling for me when I get home and see all the things I never used that I brought along. For me, it's on par with the way normal people freak out over what they forgot to bring along for the journey. An ideal circumstance for me would be using and needing everything I pack, and leaving nothing untouched. A close second would be making due with what I've got, but needing one or two more things. To have too much though, that's a wasteful feeling for me.

I'm not sure if this is quirky or just absurd, but it's part of a bigger philosophy for me. You know how people try to decide how much food to buy, then look at the spread and utter with a sort of stunned disbelief, "I think we bought too much food." Then they do the thing where they have to find the silver lining, and they say "well it's better to have too much than not enough." It's at that point where I'm silently disagreeing in my head. The only times I've really gone hungry in life are when I've fasted, when I'm being stubborn, or when the food is no good. I have made a habit of ordering more than I need, and forcing myself to eat beyond a comfortable fullness on more than one occasion. I feel like it's weird that we see insurance, over-preparation, and stockpiling as the sensible option. I mean, I totally understand it on the one hand, but on another it just feels silly. I'd love to grow comfortable with coming up a little short, and having less than I need to get by to learn to need less.

I have been through seasons of busy life and those of rest. Times when I feel pulled from activity to activity with minimal time to myself as well as times when rest at the end of the day feels forced and unearned. Yet throughout, I've never really lacked the ability to find a way to be entertained or to find people around me to share in the enjoyment of the passage of time. I can't even tell you what I'd miss if everything I own were to wash away in an accident, because there isn't one moment that I spend thinking about the extra stuff in my bag or the uneaten dishes full of extra food. I stock my shelves and cupboard, filling my house with things never to be inventoried, and seldom to be seen aside from as part of the skyline of my living room or kitchen.

But still I feel the pull to store up, stash extra, be prepared and consider future needs. The weight of commercial advertisement is heavy, and it makes it tough to be as free as I'd like. Maybe one day I'll pack the perfect bag, with everything I need and nothing left to add. I hope as life slows, things become much simpler and I learn to let go of the feeling that I need any more than what I really need. Either that, or that bags become bigger, stuff gets smaller, and robots give me superhuman future strength.

Thanks for reading, I feel there's more here to be said but it's late and the quality of my writing suffers with each passing minute.

P.S: Summer is ending, and I don't feel worry. I don't know what I feel, but at this point maybe the dread is still on the horizon. I love my son, and the time we spend together is lazy but brilliant as he makes simple discoveries seem refreshing. He laughs with a forceful joy that makes me question the inner workings of his mind, but I become less geeky and more caught up in the moment when he looks at me and smiles.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Somewhere in between

I have the feeling that I'm stuck between two places of equal appeal and finding preference for the tension in the middle. We learn to experience the world in absolutes, little black and whites that simplify the mess and help us make sense of what is permissible and what's not. Then we learn that when we take little pieces of each side and mix them together, things don't fall apart but rather more accurately resemble what we see. As we become more sophisticated, better adjusted and more capable, we begin to mix it all up until we acknowledge that those original groups were just placeholders, helping us categorize everything until we were able to work beyond the confines of two exclusive groups.

All that said, as I swim in seas of grey I find  myself inevitably drawn to those clearly defined shorelines. It's like a sort of mental nostalgia that has me picturing the world as it was supposed to be when I first made expectations for where life would take me. This is all really abstract, so let's get to some examples.

I was walking to get a coffee this morning when I had a little mini-liberation moment and forgot how old I was. I had to do the backwards math that brought me to the mundane age of 26 (...or is it 27...?). At first, I felt old. I was like, man, that's old. But then I thought about lifespans, quarter-life crises, and the process of "getting old" and then felt young. Buuuut then I thought about growing up, about going to school and learning who I am, the mistakes that come with first times and the pains that accompany doing things wrong with no sight of whether you'll end up doing them right. So where does that leave me? Young relative to anyone old enough to not like being asked their age, and old relative to anyone who talks loudly in public places because they "deserve" or crave the attention of a crowd of strangers or super old to anyone super tiny who smiles when you make eye contact because joy is all they associate with the held attention of a stranger.

I had a short but poignant conversation the other day that's sort of been swirling around in my head as I mix it with brief little bits of everything else. My brother in law asked me why I became a Christian, with emphasis on the specific religion as opposed to something else. I concluded that it was largely influenced by where I come from, and what I was introduced to as a result of that. It was a conversation filled with the logical, analytical elements of my being. At the same time, in the back of my head is this reassurance that God is bigger than everything I'm capable of understanding, and that His pursuit wouldn't be limited to anything. This tension is so difficult, as doubt is a sort of manifestation of man's inability to comprehend this grey space between the tangible and the miraculous. In any case, this one is messier than the first.

Finally, but in the same vein, this sort of idea of the limitations of a faithfully lived life have me really feeling stuck in the middle. There's this man who has been coming to our church on Sundays sharing his beliefs about God and faith and the world we find ourselves in. At lunch this past week, I talked to some friends about this man and his position, and read over his literature. To simplify, it's a pretty strict adherence to all Jesus says and a condemnation of those who water down his message to accommodate sinfulness. On the other end, I think people can become waaaay to liberal in their interpretation of Christ's commands and allow for sin to rule them because they feel God's grace covers all their poor decisions. This tension is particularly challenging, because this grey space feels arbitrary at times. Am I a sinner for accumulating wealth? How much wealth? Is that an idea coming from our culture, or the God I serve? You get the idea.

I could keep going into more examples, but I guess you get the idea by now of where I'm at. I feel like good fruit comes from the pursuit of understanding in this tension, but also that a shortage of answers produces so much dissatisfaction. How do you come to terms with the struggle to answer the unanswerable? When is the right time to decide that a question is bigger than the shortage of ideas left for you to consider? Hopefully you can leave me with something to consider, as I hope I've done the same for you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What's it like?

"What's it like, being a dad?"

"How do you feel now?"

"Getting much sleep?"

"Isn't it great?"

"He's so beautiful"

"Sleep?"

"Is it weird?"

"Is it exciting?"

"SLEEP?!?!?"

Okay, so that's what THAT is like. That post baby discussion that begins, moves into quickly or concludes with a discussion around my sleeping patterns as if I had this baby to talk about my rest or lack thereof. To get it out of the way, I do now and forever have had wonderful sleeps, thanks. Also, my appetite is good, my excretions are regular, my vision is poor (as always), my activity level is overly sedentary compared to where I'd like it to be, and I have yet to start balding. Any other questions about my physical well being you might have, please just ask. I'm an open book. If not, I'd LOVE to talk about my little man instead of myself. It's weird how quickly questions turn to me as if I am the thing I am thinking so much about in the wake of this new life coming into the world.

Let's tackle some of those other questions from the bottom to the top of my list.

Is it exciting? At times. I get a rush of adrenaline when I hold him close, look deep into his eyes, tell him I love him and he spits up foul, acidic smelling, freshly churned mama's milk. I get frantic as I reach for anything to soak up the spill and assess the damage. Diapers can also be the source of excitement when they fail to contain the damage or you find yourself unprepared for the sheer amount of mess that can be held in a size 1 Pamper's BabyDry. The rest of it is wonderful, but that is not what you asked in this question so I'll try to be as accurate as possible.

Is it weird? I guess the best way to answer this for me is as follows. I keep feeling like the real parents are going to come in and thank me for watching over this little dude and send me off on my way. I have to daily convince myself that I am in fact doing this, that this is my life, and that it is all real. BUT, at the same time, I feel like Neo from the matrix learning how to parent -- Diapers? I know how to change diapers. I can burp him, comfort him, change him, play with him, swaddle him, bathe him all without worry or stress. I feel like a completely capable and competent impostor. Yes, it is weird.

He's so beautiful! Not really a question here, but I'll go with "yes." Ugly babies have it rough, because they don't even have a personality that people can fall back on to compliment. He will develop a plan B personality in case he takes an ugly turn, but right now he is totally beautiful. Some say babies get their looks from their dads, but I think of myself more as rugged than beautiful so maybe they're wrong.

Isn't it great? Yes, it is great. It is in fact the greatest thing I'll ever do in my life. I don't hesitate for even a second to recognize the magnitude of this life shift, and I think it is only so difficult to comprehend because I have nothing to adequately compare it to. It's like an all you can eat ice cream buffet with chicken wings on the side that make you jacked or that childhood dream of living in a mansion on a street of mansions all occupied by your best friends, but better than those things because it is 100% real.

How do you feel now? Honestly, I feel now pretty normal. I fear the worst thing that can happen is this euphoria will dissipate when I become accustomed to things. I feel like anything in the world can happen, and it might be great and it might suck but no matter what it won't change what we have with this guy. When I come home, I take off my "out-in-the-world" hat and put on my "back-in-a-dream" hat and just sink into this place of joy. Sometimes, I feel like emotions hit hard and fast and because they are so dramatic we give them this extra weight of importance. This isn't that. I think my love for him will only get stronger, and each day I'm increasing my capacity for all these amazing things I feel for this guy. That's sort of how I feel, at maybe a 5% level right now but feeling full in that 5%.

What's it like, being a dad? This question is too big for me. For now, since my influence is limited at this point, I'll give you a brief answer that'll change in a little while. In my head, I have all these things I know I need to consider. I have theories on child rearing, education, psychology and development that I want to balance and strategically implement. In my heart, I burp with him, make him do funny things with his hands, mess his hair up, help him push out his farts and laugh when they come in loud and unexpected ways, speak for him in a silly voice, play music to him and look forward to the days when he can sing along, pray for him, stare at him, poke his cheeks and tickle his feet. Being a dad is me at my best self desperately hoping that it spills over into the man he's becoming. It is also me at my worst self looking in the mirror at what he'll pick up if I'm careless or apathetic.

This is my best shot at giving you an update. Please ask if you have questions but for the love of all that is good in this world leave sleep out of it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Stubbornness, happiness, and humility

So one thing I've struggled with for the longest time is stubbornness. I just like to be right. Not only do I enjoy being right, I'd like to think that I've put a lot of time and effort into ensuring I'm right. When I speak, I hope that I am informed on the subject matter, that I've done some research into my topic, and that I can contribute something useful. When I am faced with opposition, I feel almost duty bound to make my side heard and to resolve the disagreement (generally by persuading someone to see things my way). I just like to be right.

One thing I've learned in marriage is that you can end up feeling really bad about being right. Sometimes that satisfaction that used to come with being right is now accompanied by feelings of guilt, remorse, frustration, pride, and all sorts of other not-so-great things. What used to be one of my favorite things can now be something very conflicting. In light of this, I have come across a question that has helped me let go when being right isn't feeling all that great. The question in question is this: Would you rather be right, or be happy? What a great way to reframe this sort of tension that accompanies being right in the wrong ways, and the ill consequences of being right at the expense of someone you care deeply for.

But then, as I was thinking today, I feel like God was giving me something more to chew on. It's this very reflection that has spurred me to post tonight. At volleyball, I got in an argument over a ruling with an opposing player, and later after the game apologized for the way I handled it on the court. This encounter led me to consider the following. Sometimes I may be neither right, nor happy. The higher calling, in situations where I feel like I just wanted to be right and win, might just be to submit.

Now I don't mean to suggest that one relinquish their morals, or compromise their identity, but rather that there are times when I talk to people that I am called to be a light. I'm not so great at evangelism, and often shy away from sharing my faith in bold ways, and I often justify that by telling myself that I will let my actions speak for me. Since I take this stance, I think I need to consider that to be right and to let everyone know how smart I am only serves to communicate how great I am. In fact, it could diminish God's work in me, encourage me to rely only on myself, and show people how little God is doing through me. Likewise, to go through disagreements in a disconnected manner to simply placate others seems unappealing to me. Happiness is cool, but I don't think it is something I should strive for in times of conflict.

Ultimately, if every time I get into a disagreement I can judge the importance of the issue at hand and begin to consciously decide to let go of my desire to demonstrate arrogance veiled in expertise or knowledge, maybe I can start to more consistently understand what it looks like to humble myself. Put another way, If Jesus himself can come with all the power and authority on Earth contained in a body that was broken, beaten, and given up as a sacrifice to demonstrate what true power and love look like, I need to start to consider submission in difficult times the calling to which I am held. If I can learn to choose not to be right or to be happy but instead to be humble, I think I can begin to better understand and live out (maybe in just a small way) that death to self that Jesus said was so necessary for following him.