I went and met my mentee today

I went and met my mentee today. After almost two months following my training and orientation, they finally matched me up with a kid.

I called my father to tell him about it, and also see if his memory could be jogged into realization that today is also my 33rd birthday. He sounded rather bored and disinterested that I’d had such a positive initial experience. You could almost hear his critical faculties grinding behind the silence of his tight lips—his natural tendency to let me know every single thing that could go wrong with me doing anything new at all. With my mother’s paranoia over befriending anyone who didn’t think exactly like she did, and my father’s tendency to overanalyze and overanticipate every last little thing that could go wrong with any given situation, it’s a wonder I’ve inherited any ability to get my ass out of bed at all in the morning without completely believing the world is going to destroy me.

But, it was a positive experience. I wasn’t held up at knifepoint, nobody jacked my car, the ladies in the principal’s office didn’t try to find something wrong with me. The kid was polite and respectful, and didn’t seem to be like all the kids I remember from that age, myself included—just all-around messes and mouthy little shits.

G from C was there. I redevelop an intense crush on her every time I see her. I hopefully will be seeing her again on Friday, when U has to present our dog and pony show to the non-profit partners who’ve agreed to participate in it. From day one, the whole thing has seemed like a giant clusterf, with U basically cooking up something to bring in cash since their new funding model has totally alienated us from 75% of the community. Instead of sticking with our guns, and trying to figure out how to build a marketable vehicle around the new programs we’re funding, we’ve pretty much spent the past year or so grasping at straws—throwing up anything that we think might get someone to give us money, whether it’s the Hurricane, or the holidays, or these new “products” we’re trying to push—where we carve out of thin air a new brand and beg the non-profits in the community to let us piggyback off of their success and promote some of it as our own.

Since we have literally no budget whatsoever for Marketing, other than the salaries of the three people who didn’t get fired, most of the Marketing collateral ends up being new microsites that fundraising will refer existing corporate partners to.

It means that I have a lot of job security in the tough economy—as long as there is a U that wants to do more than just “ra-ra” fundraising, I have a job. However, it hasn’t really given me a whole lot of faith that they know what they’re doing, among a zillion other things that have happened since I started there. But after all the shit that happened with me actually caring about the business health of MCE, I try really hard to stay out of it unless people are just making completely inane decisions that affect e-Marketing.

I honestly think that the first time I became aware of my own mortality

I honestly think that the first time I became aware of my own mortality was during a commute into work a couple months ago, parked in downtown traffic on 15th St. No kidding. Yes, I’ve seen my share of dead family members, and yes, I’ve had a few moments where I probably could have died, including the bicycle accident and a few nights of ingesting way to many pills with booze (quantities that killed folks like Heath Ledger). And, it is likely that I swore I was going to die a couple times when I got really sick from a bug going around. But, a crystallized notion that I could drop dead at any moment, for any number of reasons—and the realization that I will most certainly not live indefinitely, that the chapter ends, and what comes next may very well depend on what I’m doing right now—that didn’t materialize until that morning.

Then, death started to follow me around everywhere, catching me in the mirror, and finding me while doing any number of trivial things. I had dreams of hell being this endless sink into a deeper and deeper Void, where nobody comes to pull you out, hear your cries (which are only “in your head”), or offer some light. I began to wonder if simply asking Jesus into my heart was enough to save me from Hell, or if I needed to witness more to those around me, risking their wrath. Perhaps I lost out on Heaven when I decided to have premarital sex that first time, and not follow through with asking her to marry me. Maybe my last relationship was my last chance at getting into a marriage blessed by the church, and now all of my carnal sins are to be left flapping in the violent winds that blow in when Jesus returns.

But more and more I kind of feel like that way of thinking is like the man who hid his talents. Yes, he knew his Master was coming back some day, and could potentially judge him unfairly. So, instead of risking what little he had been given on a chance to make more of it, he socked it all away. And really, nobody is going to understand just how much I’ve started to change if I continue to sit around worrying about dying and being judged, instead of going out and giving of myself and helping others.

Finally, what washed over me on my way home from my Dad’s this evening was a true sense of gratitude—possibly for the first time as well. Total and complete gratitude for God allowing me to be alive to experience the clear, sunny finale on another weekend, while in good health, while driving a decent car and going home to get ready for a week at a job instead of unemployment. And, to add to this, I got a real sense of needing to just let go of all these ominous cares, and learn to just pay forward all of my gifts. Every day I get to live really is a gift, and I can thank that flash of sensing my mortality for this, but I certainly should approach my awareness of mortality with gratitude for my life and share it, rather than a selfish clutching and jealous guarding of it.

So, why am I bothering to write, anyway?

So, why am I bothering to write, anyway? For almost a year, I had almost everything I’ve ever written online for robots to grab and searchers to find, and only a handful of people came to my site, usually looking for their particular perversion, and finding my writing instead. At this point, I needn’t bother myself with the illusion that somewhere, someday, someone is going to discover my writing and crown me the next Thoreau. I can’t possibly think that I am writing for an audience at this point—other than this audience of one.

I found myself getting careless a few times with my words around J, the new dog walking chick who will no doubt be scared off soon enough if she hasn’t been already. I heard my voice getting all pompous, as if I’m the world’s foremost authority on everything, and I caught her murmuring noncommittal grunts shaded with doubt in response. Since I have no outlet, other than God, dog, roommate and Dad—and none of these are quite as satisfactory as a pretty female who will let you bend her ear—I am turning once again to this strange method of catharsis.

I skipped church again yesterday. I couldn’t work up the slightest nerve to go. I was a little disappointed by the Catholic church I started to go to. The group of new Catholic adults who are a step or two ahead of me in the process of initiation completely ignored making eye contact with me, even as I stood there smiling and wanting to hear about their experiences. I found myself in a room with older people—the one younger lady was married. There was one lady in the group whose social justice program I’d read about on the church website made me interested in learning more about this church—and, after the class was over she promptly struck up a conversation with the younger lady and gave her a business card, totally ignoring me.

The girl I kind of liked from the first Catholic classes (who wasn’t the least bit interested in me anyway—offering up the standard scowling response to any of my smiling efforts at friendly eye contact) isn’t showing up anymore. I realize I didn’t start this to exclusively discover a wife, but it would help to at least have someone roughly my age who is going through what I’m going through so that I don’t feel so all alone. I mean—at least a friend, Lord.

Being alone when I’m away from a group is fine—I could spend the rest of my life that way if I had access to food and knew I wasn’t totally pissing God off for not serving his people. But, getting into a group and finding myself the outsider, the loner—that just looks like a chasm I’d rather avoid standing over.

it’s unnerving, to be at the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the month, the end of the winter, the end of the ten years–and realize you’ve said pretty much all you care to say.

it occurred to me a few times throughout the week that i could rant some more about the workplace, and all that needs fixing.

i could compose a list of all my regrets, and all the things about me that are going physically wrong or were never quite right.

i could write about mental issues–urges that won’t go away, phantoms the mind makes, emotions that spin out of control.

i could tell you about these fearful moments i have–one happening most recently in the men’s room at work–where i realize i could conceivably die at any given moment and find myself standing before God, and damned for eternity because i never told my roommate i believe in Christ, because i never stopped seeking out porn on the internet, because i still occasionally scream literal curses at drivers on the road–among other things. i mean, what if i have it all wrong–God has no special plan for me on this earth unless i completely start following him in every single way? what if the higher plane is something even more horrible than simply eternal hell or heaven–where, you do have the opportunity to be reincarnated, but if and only if you can make it into a womb before Judgement Day–and only if an angel will let you pass back to earth. otherwise, you’re screwed unless you were completely saved before you died. the concept of life seems to me to be a most fragile thing–a few degrees up or down, you’re dead. a random careless auto accident. food poisoning. an undetected heart problem. our culture seems to bizarrely either fetishize death or completely ignore it, as if it no longer happens to most people.

i could tell you about moments where i think my coworkers’ love for obama borders on the worshipful–scary moments. i could easily agree with them all about how bad bush stunk, but i am finding it heart to swallow this complete inability to view obama objectively.

i could easily write until i died anything and everything that pops into my head, because the stream hasn’t dried up–its waters just aren’t that fresh anymore.

i could write about future uncertainties–do i move forward with a health-related profession, and if so, which one, or do i tough it out at the iah for another year, build up a list of contracted clients, then go off and work anywhere, anywhen i want to?

i could possibly force out some more fiction, parodies of the things i see in the world around me and short stories.

but–writing, once my certain bridge to fame and sanity has taken me nowhere near the former, and works only like a mild drug to help me reach the latter. writing was also once my certain bridge to God and Man–but, nowadays neither seem to be any closer to me, whether i write or not. in fact, writing may very well just be that pair of crutches i should have tossed a long time ago, those training wheels on the bike that are slowing me down.

it’s not normal to need coffee all the time, just to avoid sleeping eleven hours a day.

it’s not normal to walk through life without finding a single other soul whom 1. you resonate with 2. you can stand.

it’s not normal to spend ten years trying to get out of debt, and having every single plan crash and burn.

it’s not normal to wind up all tied up, at the beck and call of one annoying person at your job.

it’s not normal to be turning thirty-three and wondering who you’re going to be when you grow up.

it’s not normal to drive through downtown austin when it’s eighty and sunny and sxsw is going on, and wish you were someplace else.

it’s not normal to allow your heart to entertain hopeless possibilities just because she paused to speak to you.

it’s not normal to sit on the unmade bed typing your thoughts like this.

it’s not normal is what they say when they see your face.

it’s not normal is what they say when they hear your voice.

peals of laughter and guffaws ensue. the audience is amused by you, and you are not in on the joke. you never left the bus you rode in junior high. you are terrified of what lies beyond the veil–it is between your vision of yourself and their perception of you.

oh, God, it makes you so tired just thinking about trying to hold your head up and make it smile. it used to be so easy to find a friend or little brother whom you could suck the energy out of. it wasn’t terribly hard to believe your strangeness would one day make you wealthy, and abusing the credit cards didn’t matter. but, you found yourself time and again at these jobs where some anal woman who was clueless about how to use basic software stood over your shoulder and had you move objects and text millimeteres this way and that–kw or pl — does it matter what her name was/is? by the time you got home, you were just too damn tired to explore the path required to make a career switch; you simply know that what you do isn’t who you are or should be. and so, even events that should make any normal person happy, and want to be part of the community having fun–these events and where they take place–get caught up in this general dissatisfaction. which means you spend a lot of time alone if you don’t want to have fun and do what everyone else is doing, and so any time some pretty face pauses just to talk to you, you grow one of those mini-crushes. finally, after hammering it all out on the laptop, you realize you’ve hammered it all out before a thousand times, and so you try to picture yourself changing your behavior and thoughts enough to modify whatever scowls and tics enter into your facial muscle movements and speech patterns–but instead, all you picture are crowds of happy, well-integrated people passing by and pausing only to stare into your eyes and see something that brings them a good laugh.

and, the black night catches you again too soon for you to be of any use to anyone.

early morning place of peace surrounds me. it’s totally fake, as we all know, as we all see, by the time i’m pointing the car toward the mopac onramp.

i love the pockets of freedom that appear between sleep and work + driving to work. i take them for granted when i’m inside them, though. i forget how to stall time.

when you watch the clock incessantly during a slow-moving moment like church or waiting in line, time slows down. you add thirty minutes for every minute. one would think you could intensify this experience to the point where you are forcing time to move backwards.

but, time knows you’re trying to fake it when you do something like that, and it starts moving again rather swiftly–all-too-aware of the fact that you are actually inside a pocket of freedom, a place of peace.

the perturbances of the day are like swimming from a placid lake into a whitewater stream that is rushing toward a waterfall, and you are charged with the task of trying to keep yourself as calm as you were when you swam in the lake.

the perturbances of the day are but the ripples of the mind, as we all know. theoretically, you are supposed to keep your mind calm and at peace even as the world around you descends into chaos. but, how many zen meditators successfully go back to stressful dayjobs and traffic-heavy commutes? most of them find lives where they can sit calmly at the back of a bookstore, art gallery or temple and not have to concern themselves with how to duplicate the peace from meditation in a setting of high energy and potential conflict.

the trick, then, is to try to create another artificial place of peace around you like a shell–one that doesn’t block the outside world from coming in, but doesn’t allow it to win, either.