The Groans of Settling

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Staring at a mountain of mess is not something you want to do when you come home. It’s even worse when it hasn’t been home for half a year. Those million annoyances I mentioned the other day make settling back into life much much more difficult than it ought to be.

In my head I had left the house much cleaner. I worked really hard the couple weeks before we left to get it ready. But when we walked in it was just scary. The way this house looked when we walked in is just another indicator that stress makes hard work far less efficient. Apparently I had just spun my wheels in February and March. Sure, I fixed the broken truck (this is beginning to sound like a broken record), but I let other things slide.

The best part of returning here is that after six months so much of this stuff has lost it’s usefulness to me. I haven’t seen it or touched it or used it in half a year. Why do I really need it? How much of our junk do we just keep because “one day” we might find use for it again? I have realized that is a very pauperish thing to do. Poor people keep things and re-use things almost compulsively. This is not wrong, when the situation calls for it. But when you have the resources to replace broken things or pass along unused things without having to “worry” about replacing them later, you should. I have not used so much of this stuff, why hang on to it when I can give it to someone who can, and if I need it later simply replace it?

Emotions are fickle also. I said I liked it out there and wasn’t so sure of here. But now that I am here I am not so sure. There are advantages to having the grocery store two miles away. There are also disadvantages to having fast food and shopping so close. There are temptations galore!

The biggest question right now is this: Is this vacation or is this life? when you spend equal time in different places it almost feels like you take on two different lives. We have different friends, different activities, different styles. It almost feels like we are entirely different people out there.

Settling in to a “new” place takes time. I’m still not sure this is home or not. But for now it will have to do.

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Home

A garden perhaps?

What makes a home a home?

For some it’s the noise of children, laughter, a crowd of family and the bustle of life. For others it’s smells: food cooking, trees and flowers, clean linens on a line.

For me?

I don’t know.

I’m on the precipice of moving back to the place that I called home for nearly ten years. But it doesn’t feel like I am headed home.

There is much I love about that place. There are people that I love, places that I love, and since driving Uber and delivery my intimacy with the city has grown. I know it in and out and I find every corner special in its own way. And the opportunities! Such a massive place with so many people and so many corners, there is food, nightlife, art, music, shopping, and jobs galore!

Yet, it still lacks something.

The place I grew up has long ago lost its “home” feeling, despite the family and friends that I have there. As soon as I left, the whole area changed. I get lost there now. I can’t stand the weather. The traffic is unbearable. There is a rush and a bustle which I have long since lost my stomach for.

Here? This is probably the only place I have ever been where no one says they want to leave. I have met more people and gotten to know them in the past six months than I ever have anywhere I have lived. The community here makes this place feel like home. For the first time in my life I feel like I am in a place where I can know and be known.

Of course I am conflicted. We have no physical home here like we do in Florida. Despite feeling home here I have yet to feel settled. But going back there for a season isn’t exactly settled. Back and forth is flux. And my mind is not good with flux.

But moving is change. And my mind is not big on change either.

And family? We have gotten accustomed to 700 miles away from them. This would be nearly 2,000. That’s hardly a short trip, and a family of seven can’t just hop on a plane easily, not with the cost of tickets these days.

So is this home? Could this be home? Am I just so unsettled I’m desperate to call something “home”?

I hope to find out the answers to those questions in the next few months.

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Why Do I Write?

I wish I had a full sized Matisse… And a desk… And a quill pen….

Why write?

Why write when you are pretty sure no one is reading?

Why write when it gets stressful to keep pumping out posts?

I ask myself those questions sometimes. It can get crazy trying to manage real life and keep up with a blog (or two or three). Sometimes it’s a strain to come up with ideas about what to write. Sometimes I write a complete dud. I had a friend once who wanted to do a podcast with me, like I have time or energy for that! No, blogging is enough.

But why do I do it?

Once upon a time I wrote poetry. Loads of it. I had enough teenage angst to fuel all kinds of creative output. I was published a few times in some random youth anthologies and school lit mags. It was fun, but with age came a dwindling of talent.

In those days I even wrote songs. A few were recorded by my wife’s (then girlfriend) guitar instructor. He hated me. At least the recordings were okay.

Growing up, I was fairly political. I had tons of opinions. I made bumper stickers for my car, some of which I am now greatly ashamed of. My university had a well-read paper and I put my political thoughts and writing skills into innumerable letters to the editor. Some were published, most were not.

After college I went into a bit of a writing hibernation. I had written so many papers and reports that I was spent. It took several years before I started to write randomly again. It was mostly political, but after some prodding I started my first blog about my exploits as a homesteading parent. It was a short lived blog.

Giving up on the blog, I holed up in writing commentaries on social and political subjects. All of them were saved as Word documents, pointlessly hidden on my hard drive.

Knowing how much I enjoy writing, my wife encouraged me to start a new blog. Thus was born Drip Torch Press. It has not always been an easy thing, but I have tried to stay fairly consistent in posting at least once a week. It’s certainly helpful to have the ability to schedule posts out weeks ahead of time. If you ever notice that the posts have stopped, just know that I died weeks ago.

So why do I do it? The big reason: catharsis. As someone who struggles with anxiety it is imperative that I have an outlet for my jumbled brain. The benefit of having a place to dump my thoughts and collect them into little piles is immeasurable.

Having this project is also a perfect way to increase focus. With anxiety comes a frequently scattered brain. It is healthy to have a place that distracts the mind and focuses it on one thing at a time. Learning how to focus here translates into learning focus elsewhere.

Writing to an audience, big or small, is also an ego boost. If I didn’t have a blog my narcissistic tendencies would probably channel themselves into destructive and annoying habits. At least here the recognition is deserved, not just expected.

And last but not least (until I think of another reason) I write for money. I try to impress people into buying my photos and paintings (it hasn’t worked). I post all of these posts on Steemit, which over the course of a year and a half has allowed me to buy into the cryptocurrency markets. It’s a slow trickle, but a trickle nonetheless.

One day I will be able to buy a cup of coffee and say “I earned this from doing something I love!”

That is the goal…

Inky Blackness

I’m sorry, is my negativity showing?

Sometimes I lie awake in inky blackness, wondering why I can’t seem to get it right.

Which buttons do I push to get this whole thing to work?

How much do I have to grope around in the night?

Sometimes I wish I was an optimist.

And not just a long term optimist, but one who knows today is OK.

I want to be the optimist who knows he won’t forever be swallowed by a suffocating and inky blackness.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? That’s not a tall order once you are done tackling your anxiety.

Once you kill the thought that everything is not OK. Once you put to death the belief that your needs will not be met.

When those wicked thoughts are in their graves, then comes the optimism, right?

I am optimistically hoping so.

Stop Fearing Your Own Voice

Kids aren’t afraid of their own voice.

I got an email the other day about writing in your own voice. We grow up being told in school how to write, and writing in your own voice is a big no no. You must write through a filter, just like good speakers talk through a filter. I can’t tell you how many “great” speakers truly grate on me with their speech patterns (Hillary Clinton and Obama both have a cadence that runs me up a wall).

It’s much the same with writers, there are some bloggers who I read once and think “never again.” Sometimes it is because they are too long winded. Sometimes it is because they are too stiff and formal, sometimes they are just trying to sound too fluffy for my tastes.

That article really got me thinking though. I filter a lot. (My 12th grade English teacher would kill me for using “a lot.”) I hold back so much out of fear. Mostly fear of the audience and what they might think, but also just fear of really being myself. (And “really”… she really hated that one.)

Whether it is writing or painting or picking a picture to post (don’t get me started on my guitar playing) I hold back. I don’t put my all into anything, I am afraid of it. I am afraid you will see me for what I am. You will see my flaws, my lack of talent, my lack of ability, or my ignorance. I fear that you will chuckle at me or walk away confused by me. I fear you will think I am a fool or a dork or any number of other pejoratives.

Perhaps I am all too aware of my flaws. Knowing them makes it all the more difficult to show my best. I am not the aloof kindergartner who actually believes his recorder playing sounds good (it never sounds good), I am a grown man who knows what he is trying for and exactly how far off the mark he is.

But just because I am not quite on the mark does not mean that I can’t show off my progress. I am getting ever closer to the mark, when I put in the effort. Whether it be in painting, in writing, in taking pictures, in playing music (that one’s in a holding pattern) or any of the dozen or so things I attempt to do in life, I am progressing.

Not sure if better…
Or just a change in style.

I need not fear my own voice or my own hand, for both are bound to improve with exercise.

And neither should you.

Judging A Book

Oh no, it’s that long haired hippie freak and his beard again…

What does your style say about you? Can someone really tell much just by what you wear or what you listen to? What do the various decorations you put on say to the world around you?

I walked into a country western store the other day. Everything in there was country, from the boots to the hats to jeans and the accessories. They even had redneck wine glasses. There was a guy in there with his son and they were both dressed to the hilt with rodeo garb. Needless to say my sandals, t-shirt, and long hair didn’t exactly fit in.

My wife works with a guy covered in tatoos. If you didn’t know him you would probably make an assumption that he has spent a bit of time in prison. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a hard worker who loves his kids.

I crossed paths with two guys in Wal-Mart who could have been drug dealers, but the well put together type. They were nothing but cordial when one of them almost ran into me. Definitely not the kind of reaction I would have expected if I had been judging them by their looks.

Even in church you meet some wiley looking characters. I grew up in a fairly well-to-do area where people dress up for church, and our church at “home” is filled with good-looking, tan, well dressed folks. It was a bit of a culture shock attending a mountain church. Mountain people live in a rough area, and they look the part. People come to church in jeans and graphic tees. They have mullets and scruffy unshaven faces. Some of them even smoke (gasp) in the parking lot. Yet they worship with sincerity and love God with all their hearts.

I love all these folks, from the tatooed characters in Wal-Mart to the well dressed folks in my home church. I may feel very conspicuous around many of them, and they may not always know how to talk to me, but every one of them is a person, created in the image of God, and worthy of love.

When we start judging people or expecting people to be just like us we risk alienating those who most need love. Christians stop spreading the Gospel. Imagine if Christ had avoided some of the people we do.

Now, this doesn’t mean we embrace sin. We shouldn’t be “inclusive” for the sake of political correctness or trying to make our church bankrolls bigger. Outright unrepentant sin should not be accepted by any true church.

But judging people by how they look and by their style is something no one should do.

On Being Boyish Or Girlish

Someone tell my daughter she’s too brave…

Brave, strong, energetic, fierce. What do you picture when you read those words? Rather, who do you picture? I dare say the person in your mind’s eye is a male.

Why?

Likely you have many reasons. Fairy tales, action movies, perhaps you even read the book “Wild At Heart”. We assume men naturally have these characteristics. And that these are positive traits. Men that lack them seem like less of men.

But girls that have them? Do they become less girly? No, quite the contrary: they are well recieved.

We actually value these traditional “male” traits more than traditional “female” traits like humility, quietness, meekness, and delicateness. Characteristics that can be considered “weak” are looked down upon in our “only the strong survive” culture.

We have so over-emphasized self-reliance that any trait that seems dependant on another person, like empathy or compassion, has become a flaw. Femininity, or rather what we have chosen to define as femininity, is weak. To be feminine is to be demure and vain.

Therefore, we are more than willing to accept a “boyish” girl. She is strong and self-reliant. She will not be a burden on our individualistic society. She will contribute to it by being in the workforce and producing independent, strong children (who she will give to the State to educate and raise, but I digress).

We can accept girls who don’t exhibit those traits. After all, they are girls. We can’t expect all but the most exceptional of them to act strong and independent. Girls who aren’t “boyish” are okay. They make good wives to the more “manly” (read: brutish) men out there.

What about boys who don’t exhibit those traits? What about ones who actually exhibit those feminine traits?

We have gotten to the point where it is just assumed they are probably gay. We have actually gone back in history and labeled many historical figures as such. Men who expressed deep love for other men and wrote passionate letters to them (not sexual, just passionate) must have been homosexual. I’ve even read theories that Jesus and John were a couple.

Apparently straight men are incapable of anything other than brutish vulgarity and everything they think, say, or do is basically sexual. If he is brutish and aggressive the man is straight, if he is gentle and passionate (yet restrained) he must be gay. Or at best asexual.

And gay, like feminine, is weak.

Why can girls be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? Because we are phobic of “weakness”, that’s why.