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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wednesday Night Musings

It's late. As I write this it's a little after 11:30PM and I'm thinking to myself "Wait, I just said it's late? I used to stay up to 2, 3 in the morning no problem!" But that was well over a year ago. I haven't regularly clocked those kind of numbers in a long, long while.

Tonight though I did decide to throw caution to the wind and just indulge. Why?

I spent three hours writing depressing stuff today. It was needed. It had to be done for the character and certainly the backstory has cleared up his motivations and reasoning for a lot of things. It was totally worth it as far as what I got out of it.

But it was really quite heartwrenching... I've tortured characters in a lot of ways since I took up this writing thing over four years ago. I'm put them through personal and literally hells. I've hurt them physically, emotionally, and on levels that have yet to be discovered (like the 8th dimension-everyone knows there is one but it just hasn't been found yet).

I mean, I've been given the title "King of Character Torture" on the writing forum I frequent. It's a pretty long, nasty list of things I do to characters.

But today I did something I very rarely do when I torture characters: I felt bad... like, really felt it. It's not often that happens. I'm a pretty callous dude when it comes to writing torture. I take pleasure in it sometimes, sometimes I just nonchalantly do it, but it's very rare that I feel bad for the characters.

Worse than feeling bad for the character I was writing today was what that feeling made me do: I got tears in my eyes as I wrote his stuff. It was heartwrenching in the worst way and maybe it was because it mirrored reality a little too close. I have a tendency (like all authors to some extent) to write what I see, what I observe, in life.

I try to make it not so blatant where I'm basing certain characters and story arcs on... I do my fair share of mixing and matching. I try to channel my limited (very limited) experiences and the experiences people have so graciously told me into my characters. Sometimes it works to great effect. Sometimes it falls flat.

Today, it worked-on me anyway-to great effect. I was writing a character whose mother had left his father when he was 13. The character, he was young, going through those teenage years... and then his mother split. Yesterday morning, I had no plans whatsoever to make his mother even remotely sympathetic. Why?

Well, this character's experience was based off a good friend of mine's experience in high school. When the crap hit the fan, it left him a wreck... it left his dad a wreck... and I had no love for my friend's mother after that. She had caused him so much pain, why did she deserve any sort of sympathy at all? She got none from me. It's been one of those things I've held onto for years... if I could only see her again the things I'd say to her.

But that's likely never going to happen. So, when taking this experience and grafting it onto my character, that feeling of hatred (too strong a word? I don't think so...) asserted itself with my character's mother. She was going to follow that same script as my friend's mom... just up and leave, and when she did things would spiral out of control.

Yesterday morning, that character's backstory was only three thousand words. Fast forward to 2PM today and that backstory was standing pretty at a little over twelve thousand words. Total time for all that... about seven hours, give or take a chunk of twenty minutes. Pretty good pace (not my best but close).

I discovered something these past two days while writing that character's mom... that hatred I had for my friend's mom, once so strong and so rooted in me... it was a hatred seen through a child's eyes. When things hit the fan back in high school, well... we were in high school. We didn't understand the world. Heck, the world was just something on TV for us then.

But this event was over seven years old now. Things were different now with me and with him... we've both moved on in life and we've both grown. I mean, he's married and I'm... not (let's not get distracted, shall we?). But life has changed us both, a lot, since those days.

The hatred I had for his mother and the my character's mother... over the course of the last two days has melted away. In it's place? Understanding.

I think, after years of trying, I get why his mom left his dad. The revelation is saddening for me... depressing even. I had it all wrong, I think. I painted her with one brush and one color, refusing to consider the multifaceted aspects of marriage... life... a family.

I'm still learning those aspects. I will always be learning those aspects even when/if I get married and have a family of my own. It's a never ending process.

But today was a day where that process took a big leap forward I think. There are so many things that go into a marriage, a life, and a family, isn't there? We tend to think of the family unit as, just that, a unit. But it's not just a unit... there are individuals in that unit and often times those individuals aren't aware fully of what the other ones are feeling.

We're not all Borg you know... not linked to a hive mind and aware of everything going on with everyone else. (Obligatory Star Trek reference made, happy?) 

So, with my friend's mom, I get the possible reasons why she left his dad... why she left my friend at probably the worst time you can leave a kid (those teenage years are a minefield). Through writing my character's mom, I better understood the possible reasons behind the leaving... maybe none of them apply to my friend's mom. Maybe she was the nasty person I made her out to be all these years. I somehow doubt it though.

There are no such things as "bad guys" in the real world. People who do bad things? Sure. But stereotypical "bad guys" don't exist... everyone has their motivations and in their minds, those motivations are right. The consequences of our actions can never be fully anticipated. Even the best of us screw up on a daily basis.

Which brings us back to why I threw caution to the wind tonight. I was pretty depressed from the character torture I inflicted on my poor character (and his mother and father). I was nearly brought to tears. It's certainly not the most disturbing or torturous thing I've ever written... but it made me feel for my character for the first time in a long time.

So, being in the depressed state I was in (and realizing today was Wednesday, I can undo the damage tomorrow), I put on a movie and indulged. A lot. One bag of popcorn, some ice cream, two bowls of oatmeal, two glasses of green tea and a heap full of regret later, and I was done.

Great movie. Bad food choices on my part but I felt like I needed it.

Okay, I didn't need it that much but there's an ulterior motive to giving into my moody eating habits.

I need to sleep. People, I don't know if you've realized this, but I have not slept well in a week. It's been over a week since I got eight solid hours of sleep. I've been living off five, six hours of sleep for days on end. My body is all kinds of off and each morning brings a new minor pain to add to the other minor pains I've accumulated over the last week.

I'm not at 100%. Probably more like 70% really. I'm getting by and right now, that's okay. But this can't last. My limits will be reached sooner rather than later.

I've tried medicine but got no love. I've tried going to bed early but I'm sabotaged by my brain. I've tried boring myself to sleep but I don't get bored... there's always something going on in my head.

So, I gave myself three options to resolve this tonight. Either I was going to stay up all night and attempt a reset (but I was pretty tired already), drink myself into oblivion (but I'm not a drinker... and I have no idea how hard or easy it is to reach oblivion for me), or put myself into a food coma.

I chose option three, food coma. My depressed state, my hours of heartwrenching character torture, had given me the perfect opportunity to justify screwing up tonight on purpose. Now... the question is whether it will work. The answer? Probably not as seeing everything else so far has failed but we'll see.

To be honest though, the depressed state really helped cement tonight's actions. I'm a moody eater and if I get too deep into my characters (which has been the case for... well over a week now), the wheels start coming off the wagon. Tonight, the wheel to fall off was food choices.

Am I disappointed? Sort of. I'll be more disappointed tomorrow if I don't sleep well. Then all of it would seem to be a waste.

At any rate, it's 12:30 in the morning now and officially Thursday. I'm going to try and go to bed.

Thanks for reading folks. Good... well, morning. ;)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Revelations From Ephesians

Sunday we concluded a study on Ephesians in my Sunday School class (admittedly, I was only there for the last four chapters but that's a majority of it) and there were a few things I picked up from it, primarily from chapter five.

That chapter of Ephesians concerns itself towards the end with husbands and wives. We've all heard this next bit-it's been used to justify a number of things in the name of the Bible and God; it easily gets taken out of context.

"Wives, be subject to your husbands as , as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife , as Christ is the head of the church, He Himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:22-24

Okay, let's go ahead and get rid of the idea that this is saying wives are to subject themselves to their husbands every whim. That's generally what this gets turned into, the age old argument that this verse is saying "wives should do everything their husbands tell them too, without question, without backtalk!"

This verse is not saying that. I never made it out that way to begin with but often, that's what people make this verse out to be. If one looks carefully, one sees that the wives are instructed to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord... this often gets overlooked or, as with this verse in general, gets misinterpreted. "Oh, so the husbands are like GOD in marriage! Always listen to God, always listen to the husbands, got it" is what some would like to interpret here.

That's kind of half-right. Wives should listen to their husbands... but the key to the phrase is how the husbands are compared to the Lord. If a husband asks the wife to do something inherently harmful or sinful "Here, take this gun, shoot my mother-in-law and claim you did in because God told you so!" than the wife has every right not to do it and should slap the husband upside the head (if not something more painful). Further, seeing as how our relationship with God is not a one way street (we have free will, we can choose to do what we wish) the relationship between a wife and a husband is also not a one way street. A marriage is a relationship and it takes two to make it work.

The next revelation came from a set of verses, 25-27, that tell the husband to sanctify the wife as Christ has sanctified the church. Basically, take care of the wife as Christ has taken care of the church: a pretty big commandment for the husbands and one which too many ignore/reject.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." Ephesians 5:25-27

Often, it seems to my eyes (all four of them), that the husbands ask the wives to do things to take care of the husbands but not the other way around. I tend to look at my father as the example here of what one should do (complete aside, Dads out there, strive to be good role models-it really does make a difference). My father was the youngest of three but didn't get the baby treatment; he was asked to do things just like everyone else in my grandmother's home and that included cooking.

My father loves to cook. Being half Japanese (making my grandmother full Japanese and myself a quarter Japanese), he learned how to do all kinds of cool cooking things in the kitchen from my grandmother. Being that he was also being raised in the Deep South (where fish fries are as common as tea time in England) he learned how to cook Southern style as well. The unique blend of skills this has brought to him has been one of the things I think-think mind you-that has kept my parents marriage working as well as it should.

My mom cooks too-also a Southerner (not Japanese though, lol), she knows how to make biscuits at the drop of a hat. The two of them split the cooking duties, basically 50-50, and my father really does his damage on the weekend. I cite this as an example of taking care of the wife; it's not as though my father is saying "You're a woman, you cook ALL THE TIMES" but he's helping my mom out by cooking about half the time, taking care of her in other words.

Of course, taking care of cooking is just a small aspect of the overall picture, but it's one that's much easier for me to relate to now; before, I never really had any appreciation for cooking. I figured if someone else was good at it, why bother learning? I would just mess it up anyway. But if the experiences over the last year has taught me anything it's that helping out where one can-whether that be the kitchen or anywhere else-is valuable. Further, cooking has expanded my appreciation of the people in my life who are good at it and who put up with my noob questions about it. (Another aside, apparently cooking for girls is a great way to impress them-this I've been told for many years but never really put any stock into until recently, when I've begun cooking for friends, some of them girls, and they've always come away with a smile. Even if the food wasn't great, the appreciation they showed was genuine).

So, we have two revelations so far: the first, the exact nature of the subjecting the wife should do to the husband and the second, the husband's HUGE responsibility to the wife (as found in verses 25-27). But my favorite bit comes next, verses 28-30.

"So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body." Ephesians 5:28-30

This set of verses came towards the end of the lesson. Up to this point, I'd agreed with everything the lesson had been saying... I of course added my own spin to things (as I am want to do) but still, the point remained that the lesson and I had agreed up to this point.

But this is where my mind wanted to launch into an attack on those verses. "He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes and cherishes it..." I took serious issue with this verse in particular when I read it. Why?

Um... do you realize how many people hate their body? Speaking as someone who spent many years hating their body and most assuredly not nourishing or cherishing it (all that junk food... *shivers*), there was no way I could look at that verse without having an issue with it. I was getting ready to launch into a full on debate about it but the lesson was concluding... people had places to go and things to do. I let it slide.

But I had all day to think on it and, though still a bit perturbed by the verse, I get where it's coming from now. That's because I reflected on some very sage advice offered by a friend of mine months ago that, at the time, seemed to be a bit of a stretch. As everyone knows by this point, my weight loss journey has been the primary focus of my life over the last year.

In that journey, I discovered a lot of things but the meaning behind some of them still puzzles me. One of things that bugs me is how my body is not a machine... it responds differently, day to day, week to week, to what I eat and do. This has been a constant source of frustration for me... I like to predict outcomes, find patterns, and stick with what works. However, what works changes sometimes as far as my body is concerned.

Back in May, after many months of constant debate on this issue, my friend made the point that maybe the frustration I had with the semi-constant adjustments I made to my eating had a part in the grander scheme of things. Maybe all the work I had done up to that point were part of lessons that I needed to learn to help prepare me for other things in life like dating and marriage. Her words are as follows:
 "I would think about it in terms of lessons learned. The 113 pounds is a nice side effect of realizing you are in control of your own behavior, and that sacrifices pay off, and that sometimes progress is measured in fractions of a pound."

When she made this observation I half-heartedly agreed but didn't put too much stock in it.

As often I find in my conversations with her, what at the time seemed insignificant does in fact have meaning down the line. In this case... I think she's right. The bible verses prove it.

How? Follow me along this crazy trail. Maybe I've finally lost it.

The verse states that a man should love his wife as he loves his own body for no man has ever hated their body. They nourish and cherish it, so the verse says. Well, I certainly didn't nourish and cherish my body for the better part of 13 years... I had no concept of it and was very much against changing. Then I began my weight loss journey and began to achieve what I had once believed the impossible.

And now, with my eyes on the future and looking to get back into the dating game, this verse pops up. It took me a day to realize it, but the verse-and my friend-are both correct. The sacrifices I made to get to this point, the progress I made (some large, some small), the frustration I felt and overcame, the fact that I learned I was in control of myself and my body... all that is-I think-lessons there to teach me how to nourish and cherish my own body.

The connection I'm making here seems a bit farfetched, I grant you, but hear me out. In order for a husband to properly care for his wife, he must love his own body. Not to the point where it's to the exclusion of everything else but to the point where it shows he's taking care of it, where his choices show that he nourishes and cherishes that body.

If a man can do that with his own body than he can do that with his wife.

This is where I think the lesson my friend put into words applies. I want to be married... I want a wife, at least one kid (probably two-everyone should suffer enjoy a sibling) and, to be blunt, I don't see how to accomplish that task in the world today. It's intimidating and scary for me... socially awkward fat guy, now (supposedly) thin looks to find love; yeah, it sounds like a bad advert in the newspaper want ads, but it's the truth.

My friend's lesson ties in perfectly to the verse. I needed to learn to love my own body, to cherish and nourish it, to basically take care of it as it should be, in order to prepare myself for other events in life (love and marriage perhaps). The Lord gives us these bodies and tasks us with taking care of them, in my interpretation (and I assume other people's as well) of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

So, if your body is a temple and you are commanded to honor God with it and you are commanded to love your wife as you love your body-to cherish and nourish it just as Christ does the church-then in my understanding of all this I arrive at the following conclusion:

In order to be properly prepared for marriage a man must learn to take care of their own body through what he puts into it (nourishment) and how he treats it (cherishing). The need for men to do this is apparent in this day and age. Men, like the rest of America, are progressively getting in worse shape. Physically, their bodies are not being nourished properly or cherished. Furthermore, the men in this country (and worldwide) aren't impervious to the perceptions of them. I'm sure many aren't happy about their bodies and certainly don't love their bodies.

I was in the same boat a 13 months ago. I didn't nourish or cherish my body, I didn't love it, and I certainly wasn't honoring God with it. I was using it, abusing it, feeling miserable about it, and just wasn't in a good place.

The lessons I've learned over the last 13 months have been brought into focus today thanks to Ephesians and my friend's wise words from May. I've learned to nourish my body in the last 13 months... I'm thinner now than ever, I'm in better shape (and getting a little better every day) now than ever. Cherishing my body... still a work a progress. It's not easy some days to like my body when it doesn't cooperate with me, but most days we get along all right. Loving my body is still very much a work in progress; there are parts of it that I detest (namely, the sagging skin on my midsection) that I wish were gone for good but I'm learning (slowly) to accept myself.

It's still a work in progress in a lot of ways but the end game is now clearer. These things I'm doing, these lessons I'm learning and taking to heart, they have a payoff in the future when I find my wife (at this point I want to go ahead and offer future apologies to said future wife for this past post... even if I find the possibility that she'll ever read this small).

If men take the time to treat their bodies with love and care, to learn how to properly nourish themselves, then I think the state of marriage would be much improved. Personal dissatisfaction with one's self has a way of becoming toxic and leaking out onto those closest to us (in the case of marriage, the wife) and that causes damage, if not serious problems.

And now, two hours later at 6AM in the morning, I'm done. Maybe this made sense. Maybe it didn't.

But these are my revelations from Ephesians. Thanks for reading folks.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Writing and Kids

This week has been a somewhat trying one for me. Not in the "oh, it's been a horrible string of days and my life sucks" way but in the "oh... maybe I'm not a complete waste of space" way. Let be me clear about this, just so in the future when I inevitably look back on this post (and I will) I can slap some sense into myself from the past (it's called time travel and it kicks tail): there are things I'm decent at... heck, maybe even above average.

One of those things is writing and the other is dealing with kids. 

Now, before you sound the red alert and call in the Egobusters (complete with their own Ghostbustersesqe theme song) let me tell you that I don't come to this conclusion lightly. It kinda just... happened. This week was key in this discover because this week the kids I nanny (hey, there's a sentence) went back to school.

So my time, once meaningful, became quite less so. In fact, it became pretty much meaningless.

I hate that. I realized last year, when I began my weight loss journey (which will never be over... sure, the losing weight part is but the journey just follows a different path now), that I had monumentally wasted a large portion of my life up to that point. I wasted it on video games. I wasted it on sports (football in particular). I wasted it on stressing about things I had no control over. I wasted it pursuing things I wasn't passionate about, but had only a passing interest in.

There's not a lot of redeemable aspects of my previous life. I had my moments, like all people do, but the first twenty-two years, seven months, one week, and five days of my life were largely wasted on things that were, ultimately, without true meaning.

The sad fact is, a lot of those things I did in my previous life aren't going to be remembered years from now. My memory, spotty already, is bound to get worse as time goes on. That's just a fact. But the things I did that carried true meaning, well, they'll live on... they'll matter even if my memory of them is fuzzy.

Throughout my life I've been pretty adept at dealing with kids-it comes with the territory of being the oldest of four. I'm pretty decent at that.

And this week I actually put it into words. The question was asked of me "What are you passionate about?" and I only had two answers: kids (specifically, the ones I nanny-love those guys) and writing. That's it. I don't have any other passions beside that.

It's a bit odd, I grant you, seeing as how being in my early 20s I should be thinking of other things, passionate about girls and all the things I can do with them... that doesn't register for me. I would much rather be hanging out with kids or writing than going out on the town and pursuing girls. I don't club. I don't date. I don't have much in the way of a social life.

And as much as I miss that aspect of my life... I don't miss it to the point that I yearn for it. I miss it to the point that I reflect, nostalgically so, on the years of my misspent youth and the crazy adventures there in.

But this week I was stripped of one of the things I was passionate about, the kids, and I was left with little to do. I took to cleaning to distract myself but that only made me miss the kids more, so I decided to write.

Not a bad choice on my part.

This week has been a writing breakthrough as far as original work goes... since Sunday night I've put in well over 14k of words into my original stuff. It's been exciting, it's been sleep depriving, it's been insanity inducing... I've missed it. It's been many months since I made this kind of progress and a few months since I worked on my original stuff. For once, I think (hope, pray, wish to God) that I have an idea I can stick with.

I have really bad writer ADD... I jump from idea to idea as soon as I fall out of love with it. I'm very, very flaky with ideas... original work or fanfiction, I just have a problem with commitment.

I flirted, briefly, with dropping the idea I've put 14k over these last six days, and it didn't happen. I didn't move on... the first time I have done that in a very long time (not since my first piece of fanfiction ever, over four years ago).

So, I'm quite pleased with the progress... true, it's all backstory/character development stuff but I place a very high premium on that. The characters have to be good or the rest of the story doesn't matter. Get them right and the rest will come easy enough and I feel I'm on my way to getting these characters right.

And Wednesday, with lots of time on my hand, I came to the conclusion (while sitting in the library, freezing) that I'm pretty decent at this writing thing... and that it isn't a total waste of time. It really isn't. I've never been of the opinion that it was a complete waste of time but I always felt bad doing it when I could do other things... it was like I was taking time away from something more important.

I don't place writing near the top of my list of important things (people are important, spending time with them is important)... but it's on the list of important things.

That seems quite confusing, let me try this: if you don't have anything better to do, writing is not the worst way to spend your time. In fact, writing may bring into focus the importance of your time as it relates to the people around you.

This week, writing did that for me. Simultaneously, it also kept me from sleeping and I'm on day three of craptastic sleep (I'm really, really tired). I think that's ironic but I'm not gonna be a loser and look up the meaning to make sure I'm right.

Writing taught me this week that spending time with the people you care for and pursuing one's passions should be at the top of everyone's list.

I'm pretty decent with kids and writing. Better yet, these two things are my passion... and I like spending time with them. Not a bad deal at all.

There were other things I was gonna say but I've lost track of them... so, we'll leave it at that. Thanks for reading. 


Saturday, August 18, 2012


As I sit here on this Saturday night (around 10:40), lounging about in my Kingdom Hearts shirt and my addias shorts, I can't help but let my mind wander. You know where's it's wandering?

Why, to tomorrow, of course. Specifically, what tomorrow may bring. Tomorrow is church, which starts at 8:30 in the morning. This will be week four of me attending this church and it's strange; it's a new church, one that has many similarities to my old one and yet has it's differences.

I'm not so much worried about church as to what it all means... down the line. It's late, I'm tired, and my mind is projecting far down the line. I'm now going to ramble.

My mind is wandering to tomorrow tonight and is wandering many tomorrows down the way.

I'm nearly 24. I will be 24 come October 13th. After that, I start on my merry way to "just turned" 24 and then a few months later I'll be a solid "24, going on 25 in October." Age is just a number and this belief has been ingrained in me from my father who, despite being 52, has the a zest for life like someone my age.

But then what I believe and I observe are two different things. Something happens to guys after a certain age... usually in the 40s. Something just... happens. I don't know what and I don't know how it happens, but it's happened to my father and it's happened to other guys I know who are or have passed that age. After a certain point though it just seems like, for guys, once you hit those 40s... life becomes regulated. It becomes routine. It becomes... rigid.

My father, bless him, has been doing the same routine for many years now. It's a routine that serves him well, as far as varied activities go, but he just seems so set in his ways and doesn't want to really shake things up. I can understand, in part, not wanting to mess with a good thing... but even a good thing needs to be shaken up sometimes.

This observation carries on to other older fellows too... it's like after they hit that point in their 40s (usually 46, sometimes earlier, sometimes later) things just become... routine. Rigid. Set.

Here I am at 23, nearly 24, and I find myself increasingly under the belief that I wasted my best years (because after 25 it's all downhill from there... that's what I've been told anyway) and I'm way, way behind where I need to be in a number of areas (pretty much everywhere).

And I'm afraid of 46. I doubt I'll ever make it there as my prevailing theory, since I was around ten, is that by the time I'm 30 one of three things will happen: either I will be dead, locked up in an insane asylum, or married. Out of those options, married is the one I'd like most and behind that would be being dead (I don't have a death wish, it's just that being dead is far more preferable than being locked up in a funny farm for decades on end).

But assuming I do make it to 46... what exactly will I have to show for myself then? Will I be in contact with the same people I am today? Will I still go to church? What car will I drive (mine is 18 years old now, it won't make it another 22 years)? Will I be married? Have kids? Will I be able to support a family? Will I have a job?

All questions I can't answer. I can't even guess on because I have no indicators in the now.

I keep telling myself that it's just one step at a time... one day at a time... and you do with it the best you can and then you move on to the next day. I tell myself this and yet, I find, that the days don't add up to much of anything. Shouldn't they add up to something? Isn't that the meaning of living a life is that one day can add up with another to make something more?

And yet... I find that the days are kinda blurred together for me. They add up to something but to what, I can't tell. What's the solution? I don't know the equation.

As I observe this in myself I equally observe the fact that, yes, things are becoming too routine for me. Things look too 46 for me... but my routine, as it is, has a limited lifespan. It will change for I'm not in a position to preserve it. Time won't let me... at this point in my life things change often. Things will continue to change often.

I don't so much mind this as I do not knowing what things are changing into. I kinda wish I had a Pokedex for life that way I could know exactly what things will change into based on certain criteria being met. In truth, I suppose, this would make life too easy. Not knowing is half the adventure. The other half is figuring out how-if possible-you adapt to the changes.

Which brings me back to church (how? I don't know). Tomorrow, I'm going to attempt to change something... to affect a variable that is young and hasn't been set in stone yet. Remember, this is only week four of me in this church, I'm still a somewhat mysterious figure, I still have a potential to be more or less... things are fluid.

This fluidity is new. I'm not used to it because, before, I would always just carry on the previous iteration of me into a new place and touch it up a bit. The previous iteration of me in this case is gone... in it's place is this new and very much confused me.

But tomorrow I'm going to attempt to change a variable, to test myself and this new me.

I'm going to try and avoid a premature 46. I don't have enough life, enough experience, enough of anything to be a premature 46. I joke, sometimes, that I'm pretty much retired but the truth is that I'm pretty much retired-seriously, the time I have at my disposal is insane. Yet, I feel, this time is often... not misused but certainly not maxed out as far as potential. It's merely... there. It's used for purposes unrelated to me and for that it is redemptive, in a small way, but certainly it's not used to enhance my own position... part of me feels that would be horribly selfish and part of me feels like I'm wasting away this time being unselfish...

It's a mess, really.

But I don't want to settle into a routine... I don't want to find myself rigid and unwilling to shake things up. This past Friday I shook things up for myself and spent the day doing... fun things. I ran, I read, I caught a movie, and I browsed some stores. I did these things and enjoyed myself; that was nice for a Friday because, usually, I let my cheap side dictate I go no where, do nothing, and spend my evenings watching movies or writing (like I'm freakin retired).

I'm not an old seamstress, blast it, I'm nearly 24.

I feel like I'm behind in life... like I'm the new kid who shows up to class a few weeks late and has to catch up to all the things he's missed while trying to pay attention to all the new things he has to learn. The past is the past, yes, but it still has a bearing on the present and on the future. This, in my mind, is a fact. It cannot be changed or distorted, it is a fact.

So, with that fact in mind, I'm going to try and not let my past influence me tomorrow; I will let it serve as an example of what not to do but I certainly won't let it make me think that I'm incapable of change.

I can change.

I have proven this over the last year. I'm a different person in some ways and the same in others, but I have taught myself to do things I thought were never within my grasp. I can change... so if I can change than it stands to reason that I have it in me to ignore my past (or at least minimize it's impact) and plow boldly on.

Or shall I say blindly on. It makes more sense that way, doesn't it?

Back on point... tomorrow is church. I'm a bit concerned with the variable I'm going to attempt to change... I'm worried over what I should wear (Hawaiian shirt? No... yes... no... maybe... no), and I'm worried I could royally ruin this thing.

Worse yet, I could chicken out and not do anything different: merely accept the situation at hand.

But I'm tired of sitting on my hands and watching the situations before me develop without any input from me. I'm a patient person but I certainly don't have the time to be that patient.

So, I shall try.

Ultimately, tis better to do that than nothing. At least failure means you made an effort.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is God Listening?

That's the question, isn't it folks? It's the one that gets asked all the time along with "Why does God let bad things happen?" and "Is God there?".

Is God Listening?

That's a question I've thought about a few times in my life but perhaps this is the one time where the question has some serious personal implications.

In the past, when this question came up, there was a moment of hesitation before the word "Yes" came out of my mouth. Of course God is listening... he answers prayer requests every day. He works in the lives of billions on a daily basis sometimes in ways that are hidden, other times in ways that are very blatant.

But I find myself over the last few weeks pondering this question again and instead of the word "Yes" coming from my mouth the words "He is listening... sort of" have replaced "Yes".

This isn't the say I've lost my faith or anything like that-that's not happening. I'm merely questioning the manner in which the Lord listens because it seems to me he's practicing a bit of selective hearing on his part. As the God of all creation, he's entitled to do this (and pretty much anything else) but it does aggravate me.

Over the past few weeks, I've been in prayer on a regular nightly basis over a number of things. My prayers have been about important manners with a friend of mine and the health/well being of all my family (church, immediate, and adopted). I've been in prayer about our country... and you know, at the tail end of all that, I include myself and my many matters of (perceived) need.

Enter the last three days, and watch in awe as the first three matters I pray about are answered. The situation with my friend worked out very well... she got everything she needed to happen and looks to continue to have things work out in her favor (Lord willing). The health of the various types of family is good (and hopefully getting better if things happen as I think they will) and hey, our country might be really screwed up but with a new vice presidential candidate on the scene, maybe the Republicans have a shot at this (maybe?).

So, yes, God does listen.

Except... wait, what about my stuff? Hello?

"I'm sorry, God's not available right now... please leave a message after the beep."

That's what I feel like and, yes, it's quite selfish of me to feel that way. Look, it's not about me in the grand (or small, or tiny, or nonexistent) scheme of things. I get that it's just... well, I don't have the Lord's patience. I'm human, it's a major failing, and I'm a bit aggravated.

Don't get me wrong, I'm way, way pleased that the other prayer requests have been answered (and in a good way!) but why is it that mine seem to go unanswered?

Again, this could just be a matter of God working in the background, doing some hidden stuff I'm not aware of (this is likely). But an active, blatant, thing is what I would like to see. You know, some fireworks? Some explosions? An 80s action movie show of force?

Okay, admittedly, it's a lot to ask and probably isn't going to happen. How about a neon light? How about a blinking billboard?

"God will be with you as soon as possible. Thank you for calling, please hold."

... sure, I can wait. I mean, really... what else have I got to do (nothing)?

So, in conclusion, the Lord does listen, and he does listen to me... it just seems that he's not doing anything as far as my personal prayer requests (you know, the ones strictly about me). It seems that way... I know it's not, but it seems that way.

And I'm aggravated by it.

Which I guess proves that there's still a lot of work on myself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

15 Seconds

You ever have a string of days where you're progressively seeing yourself do dumb things, yet can't seem to stop them? The last three days have been like that for me. I've been battling sleep deprivation and it's not the kind where I'm like "Oh, I'm not going to bed early enough" but rather the kind where I'm like "Why am I tired after NINE HOURS OF SLEEP?!"

I've averaged nine hours of supposed sleep the last three nights and have little to show for it-except a dumber, more irritable, and generally dickish me.

The ultimate indictment of this, the true and powerful litmus test of how loserific I've been lately, came yesterday where, in a fit of irritability at myself (on number of levels) I decided to take it out on someone who was innocent. They were innocent and I stuck my nose in a situation that I had nothing to do with to enforce my will and take out some frustration.

15 seconds later, guilt set in and I looked at myself and said, "Way to be a dick."

15 seconds: seems like a small sample of life, doesn't it? Really it's not. In 15 seconds one can go from happy to sad, angry to remorseful, prideful to guilty. In 15 seconds I could do a number of horrible and amazing things. 15 seconds is a lifetime for some things and yet we treat it with very little respect.

It's 15 seconds... most of us will live at least 15 years, if not longer than that. 15 seconds is chump change, right?

In the grande scheme of things, for most, yes. For me... generally 15 seconds is enough for me to evaluate my immediate feelings on something I've done recently. It's a quick gut check: no time for excuses, no time for reasons, no time to let anything crop up to prevent you from an honest to god self evaluation.

And yesterday, I came to the conclusion I was guilty of being a dick.

That's fine, in of itself, but I did nothing to remedy the situation. Pride set in almost immediately afterward and I began to formulate a defense for my actions. A defense that I had to use tonight at dinner and I did use it... I choose to use it. I shouldn't have, I should have merely accepted it, but I used it.

I did stop using it, despite my pride saying otherwise and I survived relatively unscathed... but it doesn't change the fact that I messed it up and, rather than face the music, I tried to make it sound like I was right.

That sucks, just so you know. I thought I had that under control... I thought I could control my outbursts of frustration and instead I messed up, tried to justify it, and ended up feeling worse. I guess it's like they say, one needs to confess the sin immediately after committing it... if you let it sit and stew you end up trying to make yourself sound right.

Which I wasn't, to be clear. I was a dick-there's never any reason to be that.

That said, I can blame my irritability and frustration on my lack of sleep, but that's not entirely the truth. My irritability and frustration is just as much about my dissatisfaction with myself as it was about lack of sleep. Let me lay it out for you, day by day, how this went down.

Sunday: Church... on crap sleep, but church. All weekend I had eaten pretty poorly and I expected to feel like crap Sunday morning, and I did. But despite that I was very much looking forward to church... it's exciting to go to a new church with new people, starting off with a clean slate so to speak. No one knows me at this new church, no one knows the years of stupid things I've done, the horrible shape I was in last summer (and most of the last decade)... they all just assume I'm the same guy I've always been.

Eventually, it'll come out that I'm not, but the relative unknowness is nice. The lack of history, in particular, allows me to start fresh in meeting people. I took advantage of this this past Sunday, sticking myself out there to get to know some people... it's funny how things work out because a lot of the people I meet have the same names as people I know back at my home church.

Anyway, service went well, Sunday School went well, and on my way out I was involved in an extensive conversation with a cute girl and I wasn't making a fool of myself (I don't think so), but my mind was half distracted with things I needed to pick up at the store... so I wasn't all there.

So when she asked, "What are your plans for the rest of the day?"

I responded, "Shopping after this." It was true, those were my plans...

It wasn't until we parted ways and I got into my car, she into hers, that I realized what a golden opportunity I had just missed. She had asked what my plans were... if I had even an inkling of thought, I would have mentioned lunch and asked her for the pleasure of her company.

Instead, I said grocery shopping. After she left the parking lot I slammed my head into the steering wheel a few times and resigned myself to the fact that I suck-really, really suck-at even the most basic social things.

The grocery shopping went little better as I forgot to pick up two things, and then went and ate leftovers that I probably should have thrown out, felt ill, and missed Chinese buffet for dinner.

Well, I went to bed in a fairly miserable mood. Pissed at missing my golden opportunity, miserable at what I ate for the weekend (and lunch that day), and lacking in sleep.

Monday:  It would be little better Monday. I woke up, again feeling tired and more irritable, and knew that I didn't deserve any sort of food, so I decided to fast at least until dinner. I was on the path to Crankyville and despite having a relatively easy day, by the time late afternoon struck, I was in a foul mood.

So foul that someone who doesn't take notice of my mood actually commented on it and how it seemed off. That should have been a warning sign that I was about to do something dumb and I did just that. I went, became a dick for a minute, and 15 seconds later felt horrible for it.

Despite this I enjoyed dinner and did my best to be nice to my innocent victim the rest of the day. Still, I felt bad once again and in order to get sleep, I took a pill.

Tuesday: That pill did nothing for me. I woke up again feeling tired, irritable, and all around unhappy. I was not in a good mood and I again tried to be nice to my innocent victim-which I succeeded in today, but it doesn't make it any better. The day was spent in brain dead mode, my klutzness turned to full.

I then got called out at dinner for being a dick, essentially, and I tried to defend it about halfway through before realizing that the defense of my actions was merely a confirmation of my dickness. I dropped the defense, accepted the consequences, and apologized to an indirect victim.

I'll be apologizing to the innocent victim tomorrow morning.

Bottom line: 15 seconds can put the actions of two days into focus.

It was a pretty sharp focus. Got cut from some of the edges and generally I feel... smaller. Less. Such actions are not worthy of someone my age... they're worthy of someone who's 15, not someone who looks 15 such as myself (still pissed at that).

Ultimately, it shows that human growth can just as easily be overestimated as it is underestimated. We think less of people because people, as the phrase goes, are idiots. We think highly of ourselves because we know ourselves.

We don't know ourselves. We think we do, we hope we do, but we don't. We can revert back to worse versions of ourselves faster than we can try and grow a new version... unfortunately, it's easier for us to rollback to previous behaviors than it is to instill new ones in us.

This fact I am learning first hand this week. Such dickish, irritable, behavior is teenage junk that I should have nothing to do with. I'm pissed at myself but more that, I'm disappointed in myself.

It doesn't mean I quit... it just means I have to commit myself to being better and following through. It's all about personal motivation, as someone and I were discussing today. I used that personal motivation before to lose 126 pounds... I need to use that personal motivation now to shape the internal me rather than the external one.

It sounds hard and it is.

But maybe it's not all bad news... after all, it only took 15 seconds to bring everything into focus.

Well, two days and 15 seconds really. Maybe not the best news but certainly not the worst. I've been known to last longer than that on a bad course of action.

At least it's progress. Right?

... right.