Diversions

Ooo, shiny!

We live in an insatiablely intolerable world at times. Life is a messy, dirty, steaming pile of excrement some days. There is no escaping the to-do lists and the schedules and the ever growing piles of bills. It almost makes me jealous of the people of old who lived short miserable lives. At least they were short…

I’ve never been able to drown out my worries with diversions. I hear of people escaping their troubles and woes with movies, music, video games, or even alcohol. Perhaps I’m just not a focused enough person to forget my cares and immerse myself in numbness or fantasy? I can only be so distracted before my mind wanders back to the struggle of the day.

Painting, writing, playing Pokémon GO with my kids and wife. I enjoy these. But none provide any forgetfulness. Stress is always right there making it hard to find forgiveness for not accomplishing everything on that to-do list. “Why are you taking a break when you should be doing this?!”

Will it ever change? Maybe. Maybe one day my cares will be few enough to drown out with frivolity, at least for fleeting moments. Until then I’ll just continue distracting myself half-heartedly.

This Is The End

This is the end.

The end of what?

Not the end of me, nor of this blog. You can’t get rid of me that easily.

No, this is the end of the summer. And the end of a long, hot, dark season of my life.

I had high hopes for this summer. But they were dashed by some not-so-fortunate circumstances. I had plans. But none of them happened.

I learned a lot though: Regret is a terrible response to disappointment. God always provides, though not always how we want or with what we want. Anxiety is physically draining, but you don’t have to let your mind get caught up in what your body’s doing.

We’ve had a rocky couple of months, almost a year’s worth. We almost lost our house. We thought we would. We had our water cut off once (though that was just missing the payment because we were distracted by other bills, we actually had the money) and almost lost it one more time. We spent a week internet-less, much to the kid’s chagrin. We had to reinstate our car insurance twice because it was canceled. We got phone calls threatening to re-possess our trailer (good luck with that). Food got short once or twice. Cars broke down. Jobs were had, jobs were postponed. Church got over-crowded and we had to find a new one (still figuring that one out). The house is in disarray. Projects have been put on hold.

I spent my summer mowing lawns, weeding gardens, and moving boxes and furniture. And a load of driving here there and everywhere.

But now we have two stable jobs. The bills are getting caught up. Routine has come back.

And looking at that list I can’t help but feel it’s all first world problems.

But problems nonetheless. Especially for an anxious brain like mine.

It’s the end, and I couldn’t be more glad.

I Don’t Care

Every time it seems to get better, it just gets worse again. Every time I think I am going to have a break from all the awful, something else comes along. And I’m broken. Broke and broken. And alone. So utterly alone.

I am human and flawed. I’m negative. I see nothing good. While I believe there is good, it is apparent to me that it is not for me. Good things aren’t for me to enjoy. I haven’t failed. I haven’t lost my privilege to good. It’s not like that. It’s just that good things seem to stay away more than the bad.

Maybe there is good. Maybe. I have blessings, sure. But every blessing seems to come with a drawback. Every choice good, bad, and neutral has negative consequences to some extent. There are no purely “good” things in my life.

Is that normal?

I know I have friends. I know intellectually that there are people out there who do have some care about me. Maybe even some concern about my soul. But where are they?

“You gotta be a friend to have a friend.” OK. But when I’m drowning in shame and anxiety and self-loathing who really wants me to be their friend? No one wants an anchor. No one wants someone who takes more than they could ever give in return.

Because I don’t have anything to give in return right now. I’m burned out. I lost my ability to empathize. You might talk but I might not listen. When I do I’ll turn every statement negative. Even the positive statements I will twist. I suck the life out of joy. I can’t give you anything. Not that you would ever ask.

I do care. I care a lot. There wouldn’t be a boiling rage or a twisting knot in my gut if I didn’t care. I wouldn’t want everything to be fixed to desperately if I didn’t care.

As I said the other day, to all six of you who read it, I don’t really want to die. Despite what the voice whispering in my darkest thoughts keeps telling me. There are too many good things to enjoy in this life.

I just want to be able to enjoy them for a change. Is that too much to ask?

I have to write. I have to get this out. If nothing more than to untangle the web of lies that seems to have ensnared me of late. I have never been so overwhelmed and lost in my life.

But that is hyperbole. It can’t be that bad, can it? Other people have it worse. Other people are dying. Other people are enslaved and abused. Other people have way bigger problems than I ever have. I’m just a whiny loser who can’t keep his head on straight. Everything bad in my life either isn’t truly bad or if it is bad it’s deserved.

It is totally hyperbole. Right?

Why do I crumble so quickly? Or have I crumbled that quickly? When did all of this begin? Has it been a year? More? A week? A month? How much time elapsed vs how much time did my brain tell me had passed? Truly life isn’t that bad. And if it is, it can’t have been for that long. Right?

I honestly don’t know. Maybe I have been strong but I just didn’t see it. Maybe I have been good. Maybe I’m better than my lying mind will let me believe. Or maybe I am much much worse

I care. I do.

Dailyish Thoughts #104

Literally nothing to do with this post. But look at that snail go!

My youngest just turned five, my eldest is about to turn thirteen. And I am just getting older by the minute. People don’t give kids enough credit. Those minds are quick, clever, and always absorbing. It is a joy to watch these wonderful people grow up. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take at least a little bit of pride in them. But really, what have I contributed much more than a few genes (and all the good genes are from their mother)? They are wonders on their own.

Why do I suddenly have a flashback to some horrible Chinese food we had in Arkansas? Does anyone else ever pull up random memories completely without context? That place was awful, and I’m easy to please, so that’s saying something.

We are talking about completely rearranging the house again. Rooms will be repurposed, furniture rearranged, and multitudes of items “rehomed” in the trash or shelves at Goodwill. This should be interesting…

Dailyish Thoughts #103

Not by me…

It’s been a month. It’s been a couple of months. So much for sticking to the plan. Life is one smack down after another. Every tunnel has a light at the end, only to find yourself back in the tunnel, not sure if you left it to begin with. Then you realize the light has never been at the end, the whole of life is a tunnel, with flashes of light coming from time to time, a blur in an otherwise dark landscape. We don’t see the light at the end. We have faith that it is there, but we don’t see it. If it comes, it comes quick, before we know it. For most though, it will be be the sudden end of any light that will catch their attention. Darkness will be forever.

Yeah, it is cryptic. I’m tired. I’m beat up. I’m anxious. I’m lost. I’m still headed into the future. I am wandering, but with a vector more or less tuned toward Heaven. I fall. I get up. I fall. I get up.

I drag along a family. I don’t have time for friends. Or they don’t have time for me. I’ll never know which, honestly. I drag a family. I steer the ship. Or so I imagine. The till isn’t broken, but it is frequently ineffective. The oars have been burned. Or stowed. I know not which.

God always provides. Maybe not what we think we need, or in the way we think we need it. But He always does. For some of us, it’s in a way that forces us to recognize “He IS God, we are NOT.” We never steer the ship. We never had oars. We just ride, watching for the little flashes of light in an otherwise dark and ugly cavern.

Protected the whole time by His goodness.

Trust. Humility. Noise. Tired. Work. Labor. Money. Faith. Friends. Why. How. Confess. Rinse. Repeat. My body is sore and my heart is tired. My mind is a web and my thoughts are impasto. But I do plan on getting through this. I don’t give up.

There is far too much of this tunnel yet to be explored. Too many flashes to bask in. Too many good things to taste, see, and feel in the midst of the darkness. Too much joie de vivre to be had.

Why give up now?

Writer’s Block

I say I have writer’s block, but really I just have too many ideas. Too many thoughts floating around, bouncing off the walls of my skull. Too many short thoughts without context or the rest of the thoughts to turn them into something good.

The sexual habits of married Christians. Christians and mental illness. Working for Task Rabbit. Being poor. Depression and anxiety and all the troubled thoughts. Several bands local and not. How I want to make art but my life is too messy to do much of anything right now. My back pain. Aging. My many desires that will never come true. My messy house. My tendency to be an escapist. The idiocy of raising the minimum wage.

Pinballs in my head. Any number of topics to be explored. But I am overwhelmed. I am too busy with trying to stay afloat in so many ways to begin digging too deep into anything.

My life revolves around trying to make money to pay the bills. Free time is unfortunately limited but all too abundant. I need more work, even if more work means less time for life. Life is work and work is life at this point.

Praying that it all settles. But who really knows? This could be my life for awhile. I hope not, but at least it’s interesting, right? Maybe when it settles I’ll have some tales to tell.

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The Subtlety of Opinion Making

I can’t tell you how many faults I have, it could be many, it could be few. But I can tell you that wanting to be accepted by everyone is one of them.

I care too much what people think. I let them get in my head and tell me what to feel, what to think, what to do. I let them convince me what I should do and what’s wrong with what I do do.

I let it bother me when when they tell me I’m an exception. Not in so many words of course, they just state what they believe “average” people feel about a subject. If I don’t fit that “average” there must be something wrong with me, right?

I can’t stand to be wrong, which is a double edged sword. On one hand I’ll debate people until I am blue in the face when I think I am right. On the other I’ll fear and worry that maybe everyone else is right, which is crippling when you just want to be accepted. If I am wrong, what is right? Why can’t I seem to get it?

We are hit with a fire hose of data every moment of every day. We see more images and read more words in a day than most people in history saw in a year or in some cases a lifetime. Many people of the past never strayed much further than a small radius from their place of birth. Opinion forming was a simple process of observation. What do my parents think? What do my neighbors think? What does this book say?

Now I get to read the opinions of thousands daily. I get every point and counter point. I get bombarded with the proper use of logic and the most illogical thoughts, often by the same people and frequently in the same sentence. People get in my head. I am a people pleaser, and if I don’t agree with people I must surely be a disappointment.

No, that would be thinking too highly of myself. I care what people think about me, but that assumes people actually do think about me. People post all the time “I’m stepping away from ______ for a little while” like everyone else actually cares. Just because we get hit with everyone else’s fire hose, and we let that hose of opinion bother us, doesn’t mean anyone else is actually concerned with what we think. Sure, there are “influencers”, people who attract a following and become known for their wisdom and wit. But most of us are not those people.

Most of us are a tiny voice in a monstrous cavern filled with the roar of everyone else’s combined tiny voices.

How many opinions do I have of my own? People have told me how to think and how to feel for so long. I’ve swallowed what they said hook, line, and sinker, even when deep inside of me I didn’t feel right. I’ve become the master of “smile and nod”, suppressing my true opinions to the point of choking my own identity. No one knows the real me, frequently I don’t even know the real me. I don’t even know the me that others know. I am a fake, a fraud, a liar. All because I worry what others would think if they saw the “real” me.

But who’s looking? I hide in shame, behind the fig leaf of a smile and nod, but are people really looking for the real me? Or do they just want to spout their own noise and if I agree I agree, if I don’t, oh well? Is it shame, or is it pride? Wanting to please people is pride. I don’t want to look bad, I don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s discomfort. Everything is truly about me and my own desire for acceptance. It’s not shame, it’s fear. And fearful is not a way to live.

So maybe I will step away from the fire hose. Maybe I will narrow the voices I listen to down to a select group who actually matter. Maybe I will be able to care what others think and feel because I will be able to discern their tiny voices without the din of data from literally everyone in the world. Maybe I will flee from shame and fear and actually express myself for once. That would be a change.

Where Have I Been?

Maybe you follow me. Maybe you don’t. If you do, you might have noticed my recent absence. What is the reason for this absence, you may or may not ask?

Long story short: life is nuts. I was going to “stick to the plan” this year. It would seem that plans are obviously for the weak. God laughs at our plans. He has better ideas for us.

We haven’t stuck to the plan. We have made a decision to stay in Florida and pursue whatever we can. This has led to mounting debt and some very tight weeks, since the “whatever we can” has been slow to materialize. Sure, I’m driving a bus full time and doing delivery on top of that, but the money sucks.

I know that this is intended to make us more trusting and reliant on the Lord. But pain and struggle is never fun to go through. Getting used to a routine of 4:30 AM wake ups and virtually no time to myself has been a big adjustment from last summer’s mountain top freedom. So has getting used to the lack of funds.

And seeing others in more difficult situations makes me feel ashamed for feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I should be able to suck it up. I guess different people handle different levels of stress. I thought my tolerance level was higher, but it seems I am wrong. However, stuff that was huge to me before is practically nothing now. It amazes me to think I got so worked up over so little not that long ago.

I can only hope that means that what I am anxious about today is going to feel very small to me in the near future. I do realize that that could be the case in two ways: either my future problems will be that much bigger (like now versus three years ago) or the problems will be resolved and I will realize how trifling they were in the scheme of things. Let’s pray it’s the latter.

One reason I have been away from here is that I started journaling. Something about handwriting out all of your feelings, fears, and doubts is cathartic. It may not be as quick as typing but you can’t beat the tactile feel of a pencil scraping across paper. I love to make marks with my hands, no matter the medium. And I love to make words. What better way to combine those loves than with a journal?

You should be glad I am writing in that book. Along with the busyness increase there has been a flare up of the old anxiety. Not the particular anxieties of money and weariness, no, the general anxiety that speaks some pretty awful things into my brain. I get those out on that paper. There was a time when I thought “hey, I’ll be real on my blog”, but those days are gone, or at least put away for a bit until I can get a lid on this nonsense.

There is a plan now, and contingencies. It’s not all bad. There is dim light at the end of the tunnel.

I just don’t know how long that tunnel will be….

How Not To Blog

I am a bit sporadic on this blog if you haven’t noticed. I don’t write consistently and when I do write the subjects are all over the place. My mind doesn’t function in a linear way, everything is intersectional. Connections are made where perhaps there should be none. Dead ends are frequent. Hanging bits…

I have been told, and have read on other blogs, that this is no way to blog. Blogs should be consistent and subject matter oriented. Readers should know what to expect and when to expect it. This gets a blogger tons of followers and many tons more hits. He/she might even make a bit of money for some well read posts.

But that’s boring. At least to me it is. I don’t want to read about the same subject day after day after day. And I really don’t want to read someone’s whole life story before I get to a recipe, especially if the whole post is inundated with ad after ad for junk I don’t want.

Variety is the spice of life, right? That’s why I usually only post when I have something I think is interesting to say. I like to keep you guessing about when the next post will be and what random subject I’ll be spouting off about. That was the whole point of this blog, to be unconventional and a bit off the deep end.

But now I am entering a new chapter in my life and I want to be more stable and more intentional. I want to settle down and be more successful with all the facets of my life. This may mean that you will be seeing recipes from me, but instead of telling you my entire life’s story I will probably just say “Hey, here’s a recipe!” This may mean I’m going to try to stick to one subject for at least one day a week, like I have been with my “Music and Art Mondays”.

It may mean even that I disappear for awhile while I figure this whole behemoth out. So if I’m not around for awhile it’s because I’m letting my brain reset. There is too much data floating around in there and I take in far more than I should. A much needed sabbatical is looking good right now. I just haven’t decided if it should be just a break from social media or a break from everything online.

Watch and see I guess.

Gossip Sucks

Gossip has been on my mind lately.

It was brought up at church that gossips won’t inherit the kingdom of God. They are put in the same category as adulterers and liars and thieves. I never really gave it much thought, but I’ve noticed quite a bit of it going around at work and in the culture in general. I suppose it’s always been there, but for some reason it has been more noticeable to me lately. Probably because of the mention at church. When you start looking for something, you’re guaranteed to find it.

What constitutes gossip? Is merely relaying information about the actions of someone gossip? Or is there a malicious intent that makes it gossip? I think we all know that one person who just can’t wait to tell us the juicy news about so-and-so and what they’ve been up to lately. Is that person a gossip? Is the news media gossip? Is pretty much everything on social media gossip?

The dictionary defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as true”. Given this definition I’d say we could call gossip lies. The facts may be true but then again they may not be. The entire purpose of telling them is merely to malign the character of the person you’re gossiping about.

So yes, probably most of what is on the news and in social media is gossip.

There is a bandwagon effect underneath most gossip. Those who share or indulge in the gossip are only sharing the “information” favorable to their own team. The source of the data is unimportant. What matters is that it confirms the suspicions of those sharing it. Sex abuse scandals are fraught with this kind of gossip. If you believe the accuser you share all the nasty details of the accused. If you support the accused you smear the accuser.

True justice is lost in gossip. Due process shuts down, mired in the tedious, nasty points of each side. Everyone loses, some more than others. The case never ends either, even if the courts are done with it. Years down the road there will still be fingers pointing back and forth and rumors being ruminated on.

The worst part about gossip? You know the person sharing gossip with you is most definitely gossiping about you. Heaven forbid you end up on the receiving end of someone’s poor opinion created purely out of the mouths of others.

Be careful what you listen to. Be even more careful what you pass on.