Apr 19, 2011

My Own Worst Enemy

Why is it so hard for me to believe? Why do I hold myself back? I just finished having a conversation with a coworker who is in a non-denomenational Christian church and highly involved in the choir, probably among other things. He and another coworker are highly religious, and between the two I have a lot I can bounce things off of, as they are both aware that I am to be baptized (this Saturday....eek!).

I was telling him about how recently, and I feel the same way, my wife is so worried that something is going to go wrong with this pregnancy she said to me that she just "needed a sign." I replied that she just needed to extend it to God (or the Universe which is how she prefers it) and ask for the sign. Lo and behold, just a little bit later we discovered that one of our plants we had purchased on the Supermoon when she conceived was dying. She watered it and asked that I speak to it and give it my positive energy (I talk a lot about the importance of positive thought/energy). Within an hour, if that, the plant went from wilted and sagging to completely upright and full of life. "There's your sign!" I said to her.

But...do I believe it? I don't know. I want to, but it's so hard for me to want to grasp onto that. I asked God how I could help her through this pregnancy and help her feel relaxed, and He said "Just leave it to me." That seemed the easy way out, at first, and I thought "Sweet! I don't have to do anything!" I soon realized, though, that He was asking for me to have faith in Him. Shit. That's so hard. Why is it so hard for me to just have faith in Him that everything will be okay? My coworker said to just start telling myself "I'm putting it in Your hands, Lord, and I believe this baby will be okay." I replied that doing so would be faking it, as it would be words if I didn't actually feel that way. My problem is I don't KNOW if I feel that way, not that I necessarily don't. Do I have faith that everything will be okay? What is faith? I HOPE it will be. I'm praying it will be. But do I have FAITH that it will be? Fuck if I know. What does it feel like? Do I assume something will go wrong? No. Do I wonder and worry that it will? Yes. Is that a lack of faith? How the hell do I build up and FEEL faith? Do I constantly bother Him and ask for reassurance so that I can feel better? I would think He'd want me to not need those things and have the faith internally.

Yeah, this is stupid but I look for signs in everything. I mean EVERY thing. For example, the Family Guy episode yesterday was about Meg who finds God while sick with the mumps. She eventually recants because Brian covinces her that no God could exist if she was born so ugly and with a family that didn't care for her...but I found it good timing that the episode was about God. And then The Simpson's was about how Bart always gets in trouble because he needs the negative attention that he gets from his parents when they punish him for the things he does.

So why am I getting baptized? Does it need to be a reason that is acceptable to God? Can I fake it through? Am I faking it? How do I know? Surely He will know. Part of me thinks that, well, it can't hurt. Clean slate, I have done bad things... Another part wonders if I'm just trying to fill the emptiness/ void/ hole/ longing/ however you want to name the desire that constantly drives us for something bigger and more meaningful. You know, the entity outside of ourselves, since we are too pathetic and weak to take charge of our own destiny, that justifies our existence. Part of me thinks that belief in God is an oxymoron stemming from our need to justify our stupid, empty, materialistic lives when we've given up on our dreams, hopes, and self-worth. I'm not accomplishing anything else in my life, soooo.... I might as well.

Dave Spritz from The Weather Man: "Fast food. Shit people would rather throw out than finish. It's easy. It tastes all right, but it doesn't really provide you any nourishment.... I'm fast food."

What a horrible reason to become a Catholic. Does God see this and think I'm just kidding myself? Am I just wasting my time and not going to get into heaven anyway? Or am I going to be on my deathbed and regret my whole life of attempting to lead a holy Christian life because I was just holding myself back and afraid to pursue my real dreams?

Am I happy being a Case Manager for homeless people? Umm, sure. I don't hate it. That's what I do with my entire life. There are very few things with my life that I've thought "This is it!! I HAVE to do this!" I knew very early after meeting her that G was the one. I knew I wanted to be with her the rest of my life. I love playing drums. I'm good at it, and it makes people feel good. I like having a job where I help others.. that's important to me. This job is easy, and like all other jobs in social services, I can only HOPE that it is helping them. I guess the card on my desk that a client sent me should be justification that I'm making a difference, but it's hard not to think that I could be doing more. I mean, I have time to type this while at work, so I obviously could be doing a lot more to help out I suppose.

I just seem to be unable to not question my motives and constantly second guess myself. Knowing God is going to be really hard for me. It's hard work, and the hardest thing for me is that I can't get the constant reassurance that seems to be necessary for me to feel happy. I went fishing for a compliment recently from the Mrs. when I was feeling like I needed someone to say "good job." She obliged, and, well, it felt good for a second. Then I found out that my tax refund was going to go to the school loans that I defaulted in 15 years ago. So I blamed God. Then I felt like an asshole and apologized to God. I apologized, so that makes up for me turning my back so quickly and readily on Him, right? Well, it shouldn't. I should be able to know that God, of course, is always protecting me and wants the best for me. Judging from my reaction, though, I clearly don't...well, didn't. So how do I build up that faith so that next time, I can say "Well, God, I see that it's more important that I pay off my school loans, so thanks." Or, whatever is the correct statement here. What the hell is faith? Belief in action? Prayer? Can I pray for faith? If I get baptized not fully believing in a Catholic God, will that just piss Him off?

I'm going to go to confession tonight (holy shit, I should prepare my list of sins right now...I kid, but seriously, how the hell am I suppose to confess? Where do I start? What if I don't think premarital sex is a sin? Do I have to to be Catholic? Can I confess that I don't have faith? Or don't know what it is? Jesus, shouldn't I know this stuff before I take a dip in His pool?), based primarily (solely?) on one thing. Several months ago, I said "Okay, 'God,' you better give me some advice that's related to you...am I just being stupid? What do you want me to do? Is this what you're after? What's the deal with this pursuit I'm in for You? Do you even care?" I opened up the fortune cookie....I'll pause to allow for laughter.... and the fortune read "An honest apology goes a long way." Huh. Well, okay, so He just wants to know that I'm sorry for what I've done, and that I can change my ways and lead a life as Christ would. I can totally get behind living my life as Jesus did. That's one thing I'm incredibly sure about with this whole process. Yes, I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of humility, the power of positive thought and intention, the need for gratitude, and leading by example. Absolutely! 100%!! But, yes, I'm going to Confession tonight because of a fortune cookie. I don't have to because the baptism would take care of it, but He spoke to me and I have to listen. Did God really agree to talk to me as I asked through a fortune cookie? Really?! Am I that important that He'd take the time? Wait, does that mean God is really Asian and I should be turning to Confucianism or something? Ok, that was just a joke. But.... are all these signs I use just imaginary? Does it matter? Can I learn to become faithful through The Simpson's and a fortune cookie?

I don't know. I won't ever know. That's the point, right? That you can't know, you just have to believe? Wtf does that even mean? I was trying to joke with my coworker that I wish I could be one of those Evangelicals that sprints up and down the nave moved by the Spirit. His response was that I could ask for it from God and that, if I believe, He would give that to me. Therein lies the impasse. I have to ask for the internal motivation to have faith. How can that be? Will I even recognize is if it happens? What will it feel like? Isn't the point that I should be able to have faith in HIM? Not ask Him for it? If I ask Him for faith, am I taking responsibility for anything? I have to play an active role in this process, which I guess would be the baptism, the confession, and having faith. So I'll start with the confession and baptism. I just hope my motivation isn't false or objectionable to God in some way that negates those actions. Maybe if I take enough actions, it will build up the faith in me like my coworker says. Maybe the water will immediately transform me and confirm my desire to know God and bring me closer to Him/Her/It (I don't mean this in a blasphemous way, only as a way of making sure I reach God...would it piss Her off if everyone believed in only a male God?).

Part of me keeps hoping (which, of course, is why it WON'T happen) that God will lift me 4 feet off the ground at my baptism for all to see. That He will confirm my deepest desire that my life have more meaning than it currently does, when He speaks to me and gives me a mission in life. I want to be a healer and bring an end to human suffering, be it personal anguish, physical affliction, or international hunger or war. I want others to follow me in seeing the importance of loving all God's creatures, human, animal, plant, amoeba...whatever. I want the world to see that it's physical and material desire that is the root cause to virtually all of the problems facing the world right now. I desperately want this journey to fill the void inside me that hopelessly attempts to satisfy itself through gluttony, immediate and external gratification, and perpetual procrastination out of fear. But, whatever... I have to not forget the steps in a desire to immediately obtain the end result...that would be seeking immediate gratification. So for now, I have to see the revived plant as a sign of the health of my unborn child. Somehow it seems contigent upon that faith, which I secretly hope it's not, because I'm sure to falter throughout this process. I have to not question the validity of a fortune cookie inspiring me into action. After all, that's what I asked for. I have to have faith that it doesn't matter whether I believe God forgives me for my sins up until this point. If I verbalize my sins, I'm acknowledging them as real to myself and that I want to change, which can only help me forgive myself. If God forgives me in the process, awesome.

No....wait. Let me start now. Do I believe that God is about to forgive me for all that I have done wrong my entire life when I go tonight to speak to a priest? Yes. Yes I do. Let's try that on for size...

Apr 1, 2011

Hang On

Don't give up
your environment, harsh and cold
so deceptive
trust it not.

You are strong
only intention keeps you alive
immortalized now,
although you don't care about such things.

You embrace the emptiness,
acknowledge the ugly
dead around you
but don't need them.

They'll be back
when not needed
when you've done everything,
help is on the way.

Stay strong
hope, attached by feeble
threads of others who,
bless their hearts, are so ignorant.

Hang on, stay
hidden but
continue to inspire.
You are wanted.

Mar 24, 2011

f a i t h

Fond not of the pureness of heart I so lack,
Found rarely penitent enough.
For what reason would He speak only to me,
Feeling the truth of my love?

Are these Jesus' tears that run down my face,
A sadness felt but not seen?
As death as a healing so sanguinely declared,
An expression of love so pristine.

I search for a means to exalt what He's done,
If choosing me to fashion His tears.
In true selfish desire the meaning of which,
Is surely exempt from my peers.

To assume it to be solely for my own good,
That surely could not be the case.
Tis I the weak minded and flippant at heart...
Tears tell me why you grace my face!

Have faith I may cast all transgressions aside.
House my heart in Your forgiveness I must.
Humble yourself pride, I hold Him up high,
He looks upon the lowly, I trust.

Nature's Beauty

"As once with prayers in passion flowing,
Pygmalion embraced the stone,
Till from the frozen marble glowing,
The light of feeling o'er him shone,
So did I clasp with young devotion.
Bright nature to a poet's heart;
Till breath and warmth and vital motion
Seemed through the statue form to dart.
"And then, in all my ardour sharing,
The silent form expression found;
Returned my kiss of youth daring,
And understood my heart's quick sound.
Then lived for me the bright creation,
The silver rill with song was rife;
The trees, the roses shared sensation,
An echo of my boundless life."- S. G. B.

Feb 7, 2011

A New Beginning?

Throughout my life, I've done this thing where I've felt the need to "get one last one in." So there I was yesterday sitting in my rental car (me and the Mrs.' car is in the shop...again, after two wrecks in two weeks FML) sitting in a McDonald's drive-thru after dropping off my buddy who came over to watch the Superbowl. One of my New Year's resolutions, which I always fail miserably at, this year was to not eat fast food AT ALL the entire year. If it was, like, a Jimmy John's or something that would be acceptable. But definitely no McD's, Burger King, etc. I really tried hard to set goals I thought would be achievable. Seeing as how I'm 32, weight 220 pounds, and have a boring desk job pushing paper, I finally agreed it was time to settle on never becoming the 3rd baseman for the Cincy Reds. My other resolutions were to not eat beef (I've cheated maybe a couple times but have drastically reduced the frequency), and to lose 30 pounds (get under 200 pounds for the first time in years). Over all, I guess I'm doing fairly well. I've lost about 9 pounds and it's only Feb...not bad I suppose. Haven't been to the gym in a week, though.

I have eaten at one fast food place once this year (McD's?) and was sitting there thinking "Okay, I'll go one last time so I can get it out of the way and get my life back on track." Nevermind the fact that I would have been doubling the total number of times I've faulted the entire year, and negating all the times I had the urge to go before but did a good job ignoring it. So luckily, I guess, there was a line of cars waiting to put in their order and I thought "Okay, here's where you drive away." I didn't move. "I need one more time, though, to prove I'm done with it." Then I realized that that thought had to be the most ridiculous, infantile response to any type of situation ever. "Do I even WANT to eat this?" I thought. I imagined the actual items being chewed in my gums and finally thought "Fuck this!" and drove away. A close call that I overcame. Yay me!

Here's the thing. When do I grow the fuck up? When do I stop caring about who gets more out of my relationships with my friends, family, wife, etc.? I had this thought while my friend was sitting in my living room (I had made the offer in an attempt to show off my new 50' plasma that I got as a Christmas gift) that perhaps he was just milking me for the tv, and didn't really care about seeing me... Well, of COURSE he was, that was the whole point, dummy! The thing, too, is that I've lost many friends, I can only gather, due to me having cashed in one too many favors without returning them.

So here's me: an overweight, soon-to-be middle-aged guy who's still blaming others (including God) for my misfortunes, which are really just situations that I did not have the foresight to avoid, or quickly bounce from when I found I was in them. And really, the crux of the problem seems to be that I have no identity. I really feel like I was born in the wrong decade, in the wrong body, in the wrong society, in the wrong class... basically, I at times just want to be somebody different. But that seems fairly normal for people to experience. Well, perhaps people who are either less fortunate or just unable to deal with the real world and the circumstances of the lives that surround them. And so, I'm left with this dilemma, this rite of passage in Buddhist suffering of dealing with, and making the most of, my life as it is RIGHT NOW.

Late last year, my wife and I lost our first baby to miscarriage. It was by far the most devastating and debilitating thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life. What my wife had to endure was thousands of times more difficult than it was for me, so I can't even imagine how she attempts to cope with it. I know she has to relive the m/c every month when she gets her period, is constantly wanting to be pregnant again and to have that time back, and is feeling an overwhelming sense of pressure to not disappoint me and my family and hers. I don't quite understand the latter point, although I know that I'm partially to blame for building up my expectations and desire to have as many children as possible. I definitely was not quiet about dreaming out loud with her about how many kids we were going to have. "Ten!" I'd joke, as she has nine siblings.

It seems so unfair. She feels as though I have already moved on from losing our first child, which couldn't be further from the truth. The problem is that I have no way to show or express that grief. I could talk about the precious memories we shared, but I would be making it more painful for her by doing so, unnecessarily. I could cry and weep constantly to express my despair, but somehow that would be taking her pain away from her and be selfish. I could be hopeful and help her dream about the future with our children and what they would act like, what sports they'd like to play (I do this constantly in my own mind-the girl is going to be super-brainy and get a full scholarship to attend the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College in Ashland, WI, while the boy makes the 53-man roster for the Bears as a 2rd string, so he doesn't get hurt, lineman for the Bears), and whose facial features they have, but that added pressure and potentially false sense of hope could do more damage than good. So I'm left with....nothing. If I don't talk about it, I'm an asshole for moving on too quickly and not caring. If I do talk about it, I risk delaying her progression and not being sensitive to her needs, which out of necessity are constantly changing and vary moment to moment.

Grace, my wife, recently said that she thought it might be helpful if I kept a blog from a man's point of view about the loss of a child and dealing with the aftermath. I figure since I can't do anything else (/right?), I might as well. Maybe it will help me get my thoughts in order. I feel so disjointed and distant from things sometimes. Maybe I'll learn something in the process. Or maybe it will be a place where I can just bitch about my life and continue to blame others for my self-inflicted misfortunes. Regardless, I gotta do something. I want to tell her I am most certainly NOT over this. As a man, I have different coping skills, namely that horrible one my father instilled in me that I disdained as a child "out of sight, out of mind." Forgive me, baby (my affectionate name for my wife)... little buddy (our name we had given our child in utero as the Mrs. and I call each other "buddy") but sometimes I just can't think about this anymore. I do more than you think, more than I should, but I just don't have the emotional capacity to do it anymore. I'm not moving beyond it, or past it, I just can't do it sometimes. So if I'm seeming emotionally distant or uncaring about your needs, it's not purposeful or due to a lack of sensitivity... I just can't. Not at that moment. I can right now, but I may not be able to in the hallway of a movie theater when I don't want to be crying, hurting, or within 1000 feet of any living organism, human or otherwise. I'm sorry.

I'm sorry I haven't grown up like I thought I would by now. I'm trying. I know you hate it when I say I'm trying and try to convince you that it's the thought that counts. I know there is a disconnect between my intentions and my actions. I'm still trying to figure that one out. Maybe it's ADD, maybe it's a learned habit from my childhood where I was not properly instilled with the motivation and desire to achieve my full inner potential that I know I'm capable of. Or maybe I just need to grow up. I know you think that, and it's true. But you have to let me do it on my own. I'm getting there. Slowly. But, you know, it's something positive when I drive out of the McDonald's drive thru lane. Yeah, I did go into the parking lot, and sit there with the car idling for a few minutes... but I left. Just....stay with me. Hold on for just a little while longer. I can do this. "I can fix this" as in the words of Will Smith in "I Am Legend." I just... need to be able to see the butterfly. I need to figure out my purpose... find the potential in me. I need to open my heart and listen. I still have to learn how to listen.

Just... let me breath and give me a few more minutes. Let me collect my thoughts and get my bearings. These last few months have flown by and been so painful, so beautiful, so frustrating... I like going to the meetings with you to mourn the loss. Somehow it helps, I don't know how. Even if I don't talk during the meetings, or at other times... let it be okay. I'm not being distant from you. I don't want to leave you. I don't hate you for being emotional. I just... don't have anything to say at that moment. I'm never going to leave you for somebody at a bar who likes to party. I don't want to party any more. I want a child... two kids... with YOU. That's all I want. I know my actions don't suggest that sometimes. I know I don't say it the right way sometimes. Damn it for being easier for me to write this down than say it directly to you. I'm sorry. This is me. Right now, I'm a fat paper-pusher struggling with not eating fast food and wearing a wrinkled shirt at work. That's not who I am going to be. That's not who I am, although my actions led me to this spot. But... I don't know, I'm... a good father. A caring husband who frequently makes mistakes. I cry in the bathroom at work when I watch your post about the movie "Up" because I don't have internet access at home. Well, I do on my phone but.... then I'm not crying in front of you. I have to be strong for you because.... I'm not. I'm weak. I rarely follow through on my projects or intentions. I'm sorry. I want to change that, but wanting is nothing unless it's followed by action. I know these are just words that won't ultimately comfort you. I don't know who I'm trying to comfort, me or you. I don't know.... anything. Except that I love you. And that deepest in my soul of souls, I know that this too shall pass and that it will be okay. I promise you. Us, together, we'll be okay. I know that.

And you're right. One way or another, we'll get our baby. It's gonna happen. I know it. And know that when I think of you, saying thanks to the Earth Goddess, finding appreciation in people's stupid attempts to provide support for us... you've become the most perfect person I could ever dream of or hope for. You AREN'T failing me. Or my family. My family wants me to be happy, that's all. I am happiest when I'm with you. Stay with me and everybody is happy. Baby or no baby, I will love my life, because it's with you. I'll hate it when I find myself not losing the weight I promised myself I would, or cheating by eating an unhappy meal... but, just let me struggle to find myself a little bit longer. I know I should already know who I am. I know I should be acting more like an adult. Just be patient. Let's put our hope for a baby, for a happy future towards each other and never forget what the other person really looks like. I love you. Be patient. I'm sorry, but I feel hopeful.