Such is my brain

It’s sort of like how web software continues to increase the amount of RAM it needs to run its Javascript routines that handle all the AJAX and updated GUI features on its software. The longer you stay inside the system with a browser window open, the more of your computer’s RAM resources get consumed, and apparently, there is no way to re-allocate memory or close processes when this is going on. Eventually, everything is so bogged down, that you end up with over 1GB of RAM being used by your browser that is only running web software.

Such is my brain.

I wake up from a long sleep or a nap, and I am cleansed, cleared, emptied of so much buildup of thoughts and emotional stresses. Things that were taxing the limits of my nervous system are gone, for now. Then, a pressing call of nature. Then, a whiny pet. Then, problems with fumbling around in the kitchen to make coffee, or fumbling around with contact lenses. Then, I check my email. Then, I remember some bill to pay or errand that hasn’t been run yet.

And, the stresses just keep coming, piling on top of the previous ones as I get in the car to go to work or run errands, and notice every single idiot driver cutting me off and not using their turn signals properly.

The day grinds on, and little things I see on Facebook or the news prompt an ancient memory that I thought I’d put to bed–suddenly, I’m seized with irrational stress over how I was slighted by someone 5, 10, 20 years ago.

And all of the former stresses do not subside or abate or go away until I’ve had an opportunity to at least take a nap.

This is a mechanical thing, almost, rather than a psychological thing or a spiritual one.

I’m sure at one time it made sense for my species to have this as a survival instinct–to always be thinking of every possible way the outside world might be trying to kill you and your family. And, obsessive, taxing thoughts can in rare moments be helpful ways to break through a life problem–sometimes dogged persistence is the only approach that gets things done.

But, by and large, they are distractions and consumers of energy resources that could otherwise be used to deliver a set of more coherent, focused problem-solving thought-patterns.

Worlds

Intellect, cerebral world.

Emotional world.

Sexual, appetite, animal world.

With a calm repose of a Buddhalike state above these. Constant turbidity in the waters that flow through me. I’m unable to think clearly, because I’m disturbed by emotional content associated with memories.

I reach an exulted intellectual state, a clearly defined world of crisp edges and perfect logic, but immediately know that I have lost my humanity, that which gives me true power.

I reach the Buddhalike state, but all it takes is a picture or a word to yank me back down.

Going up the mountain isn’t the hardest part. The hard part is staying up at the top.

If I am to believe in a Christian God, then I must accept there is a purpose for me being who I am, as I am. There may be soul-healing reasons for me coming into this life as a man of my social standing, my physical appearance–but, on some level, I must take who I am as I am, and not force myself to be a saint or an Einstein when it isn’t working.

Everything worldly (including above-worldy acts made in this world) seems to carry with it the proverbial double-edged sword. If I aspire to become wealthy, I forsake many things of value that economists can’t put a price on. If I aspire to become Christlike, I run the risk of becoming someone who continually judges others for their sins, and congratulates himself for remaining sin-free. If I seek out marriage with the purpose of starting a family, then I must forsake many of the intense, self-transforming activities that can only come with being single.

In all of these things, I seek my own will (or what I alone believe to be God’s will) instead of being led by God. My will is tainted with the sins of my father and mother who did their best to raise me up perfectly while having human imperfections and imperfect information. My will is likely tainted with the sins that stained my soul when I came into this world. For while I don’t necessarily believe in brute reincarnation, I do believe that we are all connected with lives lived in the past, and do not come into the world completely free of the past.

Our own misconceptions about personal identity lead us to believe that we are like gods over our persons–our bodies extended by personality, will and character. Making mental exercises to eradicate self while seeking the arms of the Trinity, I find myself in a space unencumbered by the stain of sin or the imperfect, misguided will of my intellect. In this space there is no “myself” or “my intellect” though these things may still exist outside of it. It then becomes my responsibility to use the newfound grace to control my self at all times, to keep my intellect in step with God’s will and mind at all times.

At this point in my life, I can maintain such discipline only for minutes. For, I spent many years believing that such discipline wasn’t necessary, relying on the rule of law and the tenuous social order around me to keep me in line. I let the looks on the faces of others tell me when I was misbehaving, which might be fine for some simple souls who never want to stray in their minds from how the crowd tells them to think and act, but such an approach never deeply heals and changes all that is sick inside a soul like mine.

What is so wrong with wanting to be filled with something that brings me joy?

What is so wrong with wanting to be filled with something that brings me joy? Is it true that all forms of entertainment and art are essentially of the world and therefore the devil, if they are not completely Christian? The feeling of guilt over wanting to spend a period of time away from the Bible, or even anything spiritual, really. The sense that sometimes art and philosophy, music and poetry–can provide better nourishment for the soul, and an overall grander sense of well being.

I would think that all things have their proper place. A man of certain worldly qualities cannot be expected to cut off all of those things and simply thrive on the Bible and religious writings and music. I do believe that men without a spiritual component to their intellectual diet are much poorer, smaller and petty in ways they don’t even know.

It’s easy to make a metaphor out of food for intellectual things when you are comparing, say, pop music to Tchaikovsky or Jersey Shore to 19th Century paintings. One is obviously bubble gum, cotton candy or at the most McDonald’s, the other is a dinner at an upscale restaurant, or at least a nice meal cooked at home. In terms of nourishment, these things are obvious, and the metaphors are probably trite to most people, even if they would prefer to eat cotton candy all day long.

But what of the food of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? There is no earthly food that can compare. For, no earthly food can ever completely fill you up, completely nourish you, and yet he can, at least at the level of the eternal.

However, does Jesus expect me to only meditate on him and his love all day? Does he disapprove of reading Plato and looking at Renaissance sculptures? Is jazz music of the devil?
When I arrive in heaven, will all of these human endeavors seem terribly cheap and empty, unfocused and even pain-inducing, though they might have brought pleasure to me while on this earth? Will pursuits such as cultivating knowledge of history be seen as an utter waste of time, given that the mind of God knows everything, and whatever you need to know about a past event will be available on demand?

I think most of it depends upon the attitude I have when approaching these things of the world that bring me joy. Am I of a mind to allow my immersion in them completely cut me off from listening to God and reading his word? Or, do I see the truly great works of man as manifestations of God’s own infinite Beauty and Truth–and these worldly works are like sparklike hints of what the truly sacred things that are not of this world might be? I think it depends on the intent of the creators of the worldly works, too.

Even if they are works written by Atheists and other ungodly men–were they written with a desire to improve humankind in the utmost way possible, or were they created with simply an eye to making a buck, or even worse, created with an eye to spreading evil and darkness, whether the creator wants to admit it or not?

And that, I think is the real distinction between what was worldly but beautiful a hundred years ago and what is worldly and cherished by so many today. Movies where there is some kind of heart-related message are often created fully with the intent that the movie will make a buck, and the meaningful message is thrown in as an afterthought. The primary focus of all created things in our culture, for at least the past hundred years, has been making money. So, if money (and the love of it), is the root of all you see and hear, then you are probably going to become more and more alienated from God.

God doesn’t stop talking to you, though, after you reject him. I’ve known a few people who call themselves atheists or agnostics that probably act more genuinely Christian than many Christians do. Some are ever-mindful of the accusations leveled against them that stipulate people cannot be good without God. So, they make extra efforts to be good to show that rational humanism works. But many still possess the light and spirit of God’s love in a clearly evident way that transcends what the intellect may or may not rationalize. Is it proof that beautiful characteristics can live in humans without God? Or is it proof that God is still going to try to get through until these people turn completely to evil?

I think it’s proof that people can be listening to God even when they think they aren’t–and that the converse is also abundantly true. I’ve encountered more than a few Christians who let you know they are Christians within hours of meeting them, but they do not make any effort whatsoever to demonstrate the light of Love in their words and deeds. Perhaps they are shy, or perhaps they know how awful they are and how much more they need religion to keep them straight. Or, perhaps they are in love with some self-created idea of Jesus and his love that has nothing to do with the real thing. You could hang a picture of Jesus on your wall and begin gradually to worship the pigments smeared on the canvas first, while gradually forgetting about the substance of the Spirit that is the most important thing of all. The same certainly could happen with an image you hang in your brain.

I notice this when I seek guidance from God, when I seek some kind of true insight. If I take the words of the Bible or words of a religious thinker, and try to rotely run them through my brain as if I were an athlete training his spirit muscles, I quickly become disillusioned by all of it. If I take anything written about Jesus or allegedly by Jesus and do the same–holding it up as a preconceived notion, as a fixed and static “thing” that I own, it quickly becomes just as cheap and meaningless as the dull entertainment on TV.

On the other hand, if I am ever-mindful of the deeper well that opens out inside of me, and always seek God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as my true North when I am wandering there, and approach them sans any expectations of what they will say to me, then I end up feeling much more nourished and rewarded.

The primary problem with mental hints of things that could bring me joy is that they lead nowhere nigh 100% of the time. For example, I had the mental hint in college of what studying abroad would be like, among many other mental hints like the hint of a springtime romance on the campus quad. But the promise of the joy these things would bring became the substance of primary importance–my pursuits compelled me to wait for these joyous events to merely happen in my life. The actual realities I faced when going to the office where you learned more about what it takes to study abroad–the costs involved, the paperwork, the applications and essays–these brought up even more latent fears–fears around living so far from home in places where too many social norms would be altered or completely different–the amount of sheer will and effort involved in making a quaint fantasy into a reality became such that I was never capable of carrying through. Instead, I opted for the ever-hopeful fantasy that one day a professor might just discover how brilliant I was, and invite me to be part of a program or fellowship just by virtue of me being brilliant. It never really occurred to me until much later that any professor who wanted to take a male student under his wing and show him the world or do such uncommon things for his student, would likely be a professor who greatly expected things from that student in return–either above-the-board displays of brilliance or unseemly bedroom favors.

The same thing with the campus quad romance. The idea of such a thing brought me almost unbearable joy every spring and fall–really, the promise or potential that such a life event had was more wonderful than any real opportunities that came up. For the most part, I was simply too shy to ask a girl to do anything other than study with me when it appeared that she might be interested. When I was almost certain a girl might be flirting with me, I might be quick to have excuses–oh, that was J’s ex-girlfriend and she is a known slut; oh, this chick has a boyfriend and clearly that must mean she is in a serious relationship; oh, she does something that terrifies me, like skydiving…

The incongruity between the utter joy that was hinted at with the idea of the event, vs. the intense pain felt in what it would take to perform the steps necessary to actually make the event happen–wider than the chasm between angels and demons, or so it seemed.

But, when so many fantasies (and all of the mental processes that would encourage them) have been put to rest, the mental hints at the potential of a thing to bring joy are there. They rise up any time I stand at a bookcase, and run my hands along the books, creating with each book a new impression of the kind of delight my intellect would take in receiving this information. Such are the excessive purchases from used book stores and racking up of overdue fines on stacks of books I never get to before I need to return them.

And, it’s not just books, either. It comes with wistful nostalgia for eras I never (as far as I know) lived in, and yearnings to be in museums in big cities far away. It comes with each new year. Here is the potential, here are the promises, now see how quickly you can try to make each one manifest, or give up on ever achieving or obtaining it. See how many turn to lies when you do actually dive deeply into making a potential thing full of promise into a reality.

The mental hints aren’t always related to me, either. Walking through so many old houses when you’re looking for a house to buy, you start to get these impressions of how people lived there, and who they were, when you pass through so many rooms. Of course, the ones that still have furniture and decor are much easier to asses, but you also pick up on these mental hints that aren’t always true, but make for good prompts to invite the imagination to run wild.

At one house, you might picture a family from the seventies returning in their Bronco from a fishing or camping trip down at the nearby lake. You might hear the television chirping a jingle for Budweiser or Coke in the background. In another house, you see the children are still hanging on the walls from when they went up thirty years ago. At first you think they are the man’s grandkids, until you look at how the photos have faded and note the styles of hair. Is the man lonely, wistful, lost in memories of when his home was full of laughter and noisy children playing? Is his wife gone, and with it, his sense of this house being his home?

You think about your own grandma, your dad’s mom, and how she lived in the same tiny house your dad lived in when he was in high school. How your father rarely visited her. You maybe visited the Pampa house with your family four times tops before she died when you were sixteen. Your other grandma moved around too much, and died in a home that never had children growing up in it before she died–just grandkids come to visit each summer.

And those houses feel completely different, too. The one we might decide to buy after looking at it today. You can tell that kids haven’t been growing up in it for at least twenty years. It’s become an old lady house. Her husband likely hasn’t been alive in the house with her for at least ten years, judging by the state of abandonment and decay the workshop is in vs. the rest of the house and yard. Can you make this house your own, without killing off its soul completely?

I was hit so hard when I saw the house I grew up in for the first time, the only time, since I helped my parents move away on that awful day in April after having recently broken up with G. H was dead for only a couple years. I never really liked the house that much–I really would have preferred to have grown up in one of the first two we lived in when I was a kid. But, I didn’t understand how much that house had become our house, with its warts and all. A house when emptied still had all of our dust and expelled air and hairs and fingernails…the essence of my family, living and dead, lingered in the air. I knew it was the last vestige of something permanent from childhood, other than my parents themselves.

And, their Bastrop house was very much for them a resting home, and a place for me to come and visit, and a place for my dad to piddle about with a retired man’s projects. What lingers there now when I come to visit is an endless strata of objects that haven’t moved since my mom died five years ago, and dust, and new objects and garbage, and more dust and cat hair, and all of the artifacts for this or that project my dad has picked up.

Seeped throughout it is the rot from my dad not caring for it, and the sadness of how he’s done his best to freeze Time where he can. The guts of the house I grew up in lie cramped in boxes everywhere, waiting to be unpacked or properly buried.

Can any of these mental hints be of actual use? Are they portents of something greater, fragments of a sixth sense, or are they nothing more or less than illusions cast by demonic forces, readymade distractions for a weak soul like mine?

The odd lack of optimism around innovation that I used to feel so strongly

The odd lack of optimism around innovation that I used to feel so strongly. I was caught up in the Web 2.0 hype at the time that Facebook was practically unknown, and but one of many new community sites headed up by MySpace. I didn’t think that the focus would become so heavy on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. as the big money makers. Maybe my general profession of Marketing skews my perception, and other web technologies are often talked about outside of my circles. Maybe my general dislike of things mobile for the black box that they present to me has left me stuck with my marketing colleagues on an unbalanced obsession with social media. Not that I have it, but it is certainly the one I am most acutely aware of.

None of the technologies that are supposed to be the big money makers seem like they should garner so much market attention. Even hearkening back to someone like Google, and the concept of search–it’s such a basic, utilitarian type application, that it makes you wonder why these particular tools and online platforms, and not some other app that a guy cooked up for the Droid or iPhone.

I woke up this morning and had Silent Night running around in my head. I wish I could always have this sort of thing running when I must have an out-of-control morning thought process. I sensed the more unsavory ones lurking below the surface.

After I got a taste of what it must have been like to once grow up while receiving the gift of culture (plus often a solid math and science education), I really didn’t want to go back to the conversations I was hearing out there in the world. A man makes his profession be nothing but living inside computer languages, and then tries to fill out his spiritual poverty with the exact same things that the man who drives a truck does. Some of the music and film may be slightly different (at least by the estimation of the affluent), or the dining places, or the cars–but, at the end of the day, you hear them both pretty much enjoying the same things. And, once they meet on the common ground of football, and begin talking of football as if they were Socrates and Plato, or Buddha and Ananda–it’s ridiculous.

The so-called cultured man of today is supposed to get excited about the new Tarantino film. A man who has completely embraced the demons inside of him to unleash more sights and sounds of bloodshed and revenge upon humanity is held up in high esteem as the filmmaker of the moment. And, his inarticulate ramblings about why his movies don’t need to be held up to any moral light whatsoever seems to somehow sufficiently pass for anyone who still might care about that sort of thing. Tarantino was raised in a California bubble where the threat of war and attacks on his family were all kept on the television set. This permitted him to indulge his demonic fantasies, and take such primitive longings to their logical conclusions, making them manifest on film. People who have lived in times where threats to their peace were completely real would find such fetishizing of violence to be incomprehensible.

Will our country survive its current state of decadence? The difference between this generation and previous ones, is that when previous generations watched a black and white film or read a story that was violent, they usually had it presented within an historical context. They had a completely different context of what was good, true and beautiful, and when they opted to indulge themselves in a little trifling entertainment, they could see it for what it was. The difference is sort of like this: the older generations knew when to have a few drinks and stop, the generation before ours didn’t, and our generation and the ones that are following it don’t even know what sober is.

Frankly, I don’t personally care if everyone who matters and is relEt decides that a Tarantino movie is the epitome of what our contemporary producers of higher culture have to offer, or if otherwise very intelligent people want to live in a world of thinking about the problems football players and coaches were trying to solve last weekend and analyzing what they could have done better. But, I don’t want my children growing up with the same senseless expectations I had–that in order to be anyone with your life, you have to embrace all of this and do as much as you can to stay informed about it so that you will be accepted by your peers and hopefully one day become one of the elite purveyors of pap.

I don’t want it for myself, my children, or anyone I call my friends. But, I can’t even go to a church, it would seem, without the focal point being football–we went to a church for a few weeks here in Waco where every single sermon was a football sermon with a scriptural metaphor.

I’ve brought so much of this upon myself. Do I go online and seek out cultural things? Often, no. I seek out sensational news items, both from my Google news feed of the world, and my Facebook news feed of my friends. I want the stories of murder, mayhem, chaos, divorce, disruption, death–I’m completely conditioned to move quickly through stories of normal people living normal lives, and get straight to the scandal.

Every morning I should be required to sit like this

Every morning I should be required to sit like this and stare at the blank digital paper and the cold, blinking cursor. This should be the time to air the thoughts that claim to be the most pressing, and force myself to practice the habit of focusing on only letting the ones that can get out on the page continue to abide.

This Christmas, I cautiously approach the traditions, music and movies with the expectant soul of one who is no longer a child, but wants very much to be as far from a bitter, jaded cynic as possible. Going to the recital of the church we’ve adopted here in Waco, I am on high alert to critique the performances of individuals–noting the flatness of the French horn player, the off-timing of the bassoon player, the soloist who starts to go for a really high note, but opts for a lower octave instead. The slowness of the program, the reluctance of this stodgy audience to clap at the performances because they are much more traditionally of their denomination. I let these thoughts come and go, dismissing them.

There are other thoughts, too, that are the work of the devil–I can stand erect far above them, and see them coming from a mile away. Well-dressed ladies, young and old, can’t excite in me the twisted passions of old. I am comfortable with who I am and the wife I have, and can look upon so many errant thoughts as if they are prisoners calling from their cells as I, a free man, walk by.

This Christmas, I find all of the old hymns to be moving in a deep and lasting way. They don’t make me weep anymore for all the wasted years, and they certainly aren’t met and dealt with as tired old cliches. The Christmas hits that do something for me, but aren’t hymns, and don’t speak of the Savior’s birth, are few and far between. I am 100% disgusted with the songs, shows and individuals who want to fervently celebrate Christmas without Christ. Frankly, I’d much prefer the atheists/agnostics who don’t want to celebrate the season at all to someone who loves the holidays but can’t bring themselves to anything more than a vague sense of God and spirituality.

I don’t want to become like my mother, sharply judgmental of the practices of others. I don’t have her courage, either, to interject the reason for the season into conversations with worldly folk.

I do want to see the Christmas season as an opportunity to rearrange much of what’s inside me to align more with my goal of becoming a solid, family man. Things about myself I never thought I’d be capable of doing now seem within my reach. The small surprises, like being able to measure and accurately place where nails on a wall need to go to hang a picture frame straight and level and in line with the objects around it. Maybe it was my work at MCE doing paste-up of figures and photos into documents, or maybe my brain has changed over time as I’ve reached down more deeply to cultivate my masculine side, and leave off from my flighty, feminine, creative brain.

I look at people that I knew in high school, and for the most part, none of them seem to have radically changed who they were. They are extensions of their former selves. I don’t feel that way about myself.

But, the part of me that I should be focusing on the most is the one that looks to inject more love and her sister qualities into any situation. Patience, self-control, meekness, etc. Situations at work where I am clearly losing the battle to keep my job may be opportunities for me to begin to see in an increasing fashion what my true calling is supposed to be. If I continue to try to win battles that aren’t in any way related to this, then I am just prolonging my stay in the web marketing world.

I did indeed make a choice twelve years ago to be a web designer instead of letting the Lord guide me. I made a choice twenty-four years ago to leave off from Christian things in the coming years, and become whatever I thought the other kids at school would deem to be cool–sending myself down the terrible path of embracing folly, ignorance, stupidity and seeking out friends who openly and actively despise the Lord and the Christians who worship him. Six years ago, I made the decision to begin turning the ship around, but I was still caught up in the notion of ultimately seeking out glory for myself in everything I do–when I embarked upon volunteer work with the political campaign and then professional work at UW, I made choices to get the work I knew best–web marketing related–when there were other opportunities to get involved in the community in other ways where I would have to sit in the back of the room and not be the expert, and maybe not get paid as much for many years to come. I made choices about Church based on concerns of what R and other God-hating friends in my life would think, and choices based on where I might find a wife or perhaps just a girlfriend.

In everything I did, while I ultimately wanted to return to God’s grace, I was actually still very much seeking out glory for myself, and turning down opportunities where self-glory wasn’t immediately available. Sure, I would volunteer here and there, and pretend to be a humble, meek man at work, but since my heart wasn’t in the right place, I always ended up in situations like the one with J and L, or a situation like the one I faced with J at C–I wasn’t getting what I really wanted, and ended up stuck in a compromised kind of role, and I was very unhappy.

Naturally, you can’t for very long go through life on one hand saying that you want to be closer to the Lord again, but at the same time you are making choices based on what would serve you better.

Christmas Eve morning and the in-laws will be here in a few hours

Christmas Eve morning and the in-laws will be here in a few hours. I’m 36, closing out the sixth hexade of my life — seventh, if you count my birth year.

I moved again, and in my true compromising fashion, I’m still stuck between Austin and Waco. There are no jobs up here in Waco for me. I will have to create one, or take an unappealing job in a furniture store, or something.

I feel at times that I’ve progressed further in my relationship with God this year, than I ever have since the age of 12, but I seem to have the emotional maturity of a 12-year old when I’m alone. I can see how helpful and necessary marriage is and will be to keep me grounded, and steered on the right course, but I still vacillate at times in my head to what life would have been like had I opted to become a priest, or if I’d swung wildly in the opposite direction and flown to LA or NY to be a slave to television and film–most likely some kind of whipping boy, underpaid writer in a thankless job.

Obviously, my nature is such that I am too worldly to be a priest, and too spiritual to embrace the superficial life of seeking mammon.

I’ve decided to abandon my blog of writing in the second person four months early from the date I promised I would abandon it if nobody ever came to visit and appreciate it. Two years and eight months is the longest I’ve ever maintained a blog without giving up in frustration at the lack of an audience, and it was enough for me to see that God doesn’t intend my writing to be used for even the purpose of guiding others like some pop culture sage in the vein of Deepak Chopra or Tony Robbins.

Maybe one day it will have historical value, like anything else, but for now, I don’t care–it isn’t moving me forward anymore. It was started before I ever met my wife, and during the time of writing the blog I’ve bought a house, changed jobs twice, gotten married, flown to Italy, NYC, SF, and moved up to Waco to live in this town almost full-time.

I’m feeling intensely irritated right now, and trying to keep that part of me at a distance from myself. The ennui of having gone months and months without exercising, of having times where I started to sink back into drinking too much or taking some kind of OTC medicine to make me sleepy and less acutely aware of my environment and everything that I don’t like about it.

The inevitable memories of all the loss surrounding Christmas that spring up, and the herculean effort not to ruin Christmas for everyone around me. The shocking way that A and her family can still appreciate Christmas in a traditional way, and how her dad likes Christmas music unironically. It’s not necessarily innocence or naivete, but it’s a possession of things I and many others cherished about Christmas that they haven’t seemed to have lost. I can’t say the same for her brother and sister-in-law. They seem to be more of the young, hip vein of spurring many, if not all traditions.

I wanted so badly to have a traditional Christmas again, the Christmas before I met A, so I guess my wishes mostly came true. I went into the local Catholic church on the 100th anniversary of its first mass, and was certain that this was the direction I was supposed to head down. I think I’ve had a history these past ten years of thinking I knew what God wanted from me, and charging headlong into things that ended unwell or just trailed off into nowhere. I don’t believe that God expects me to sit around limp and unmoving until he starts to pull my strings like a puppeteer, but I do think that I haven’t devoted but perhaps a fraction of the time required to listen to the still small voice that should be guiding me into what life my direction should take.

Walking down at Cameron Park today, I got the old urges to self improve–to launch a myriad of self improvement plans with the cornerstone of running at five in the morning. I got the urges to study a new language, to take voice lessons, and seriously learn to play the guitar. To write a journal every day and attempt a poem. To read the Bible every day, and read other books of wisdom and history, and literature, too. To most utterly and completely throw myself into cramming self transformation down my throat until something gives. To force myself to set aside at least thirty minutes a day for pure meditation. To reduce my hours of sleep to be never more than six each night.

Of course, any given year is also launched with a thousand accompanying reasons not to do any of this. Pressure from coworkers to go drink with them on someone’s January birthday. The random distractions of life–like presently, how we are trying to find the right home to start a family in.

I occasionally get these assurances from God that perhaps I don’t need to destroy myself trying to eradicate the bad stuff in me, and make me into the kind of person my parents and other elders always hoped I’d be. There are years like the past couple of years where I set no New Year’s resolutions at all–it seemed more healthy and sane that way. But, this year, I kind of feel like if I don’t make at least a few, I’ll end up being one of those proverbial married men who grow a big gut and don’t feel any need to improve themselves until their kids are long gone and they are on their fourth bypass surgery, or the wife is signing divorce papers to be with a younger, healthier man.

I don’t ever want to become just another average American man, but I don’t want to be anything but a man, anymore. I don’t want to travel back in Time and relive some chunk of the past, or try life as a woman, or try my hand at being someone else. It’s a mockery of God to question too much who you are, why you are the way you are and why you’re not like someone else.

It’s no longer anything other than a voyeur’s game to go on Facebook and see what other people obsess over, and compare myself to them, and congratulate myself for not being like them, or punish myself with angst for why I couldn’t be more like some of them. It’s a fool’s game to study people who were once so promising as friends or lovers and wonder why they turned cold and dismissive and walked away from me. It’s a sad little charade of evasion–forsaking responsibilities of improving self for another year.

It’s no longer anything but a masochistic process to let some sad song bring forth memories of my mom and H–not simple, happy memories of when they were alive, but the bottomless well of sadness that comes with remembering their losses that I can so readily put myself in.

The simple truth is that I was very lucky to have the family I had when I did, and I took them for granted far too often, and now I feel guilty about this, and if I have too much alcohol around the holidays, I will find myself deep in that bottomless well, but always pulled out by God when the New Year arrives with new opportunities to go on and keep trying to make myself a better person. Then, it feels good to be washed of that pain, but never do I attempt to seek out solely the One who washes that pain away–in a continual fashion, anyway–so that I might grow and become a truly happy soul, a soul deeply nourished by Christ’s love.

It’s like I’m stuck as a broken record, because I somehow think that a self improvement program at the start of the year requires me to first ache and hurt and be self mutilated in some fashion, so that the renewal is all the more accentuated. Of course, a cycle like this means that one will never completely grow out of it to become someone or something more than what he is at the utmost peak of goodness in the cycle.

I woke up this morning and I still had the urge to write

I woke up this morning and I still had the urge to write. I don’t think I feel the need anymore to be a writer in the sense of one who is praised for his crafty turns of phrases. Writing urges come solely from a need to communicate outwardly, probably mostly for myself, with the experience of seeing my thoughts concretely composed before me as a vehicle for gaining further insight and feedback into resolving life issues that appear to be insurmountable.

Where it all goes wrong is in the moment that I start to admire my writing in the same way that I often used to admire my ugly mug in the mirror — choosing to ignore the flaws, the shortcomings, blissfully glossing over all that is common, vulgar and unappealing to most anyone else. Never mind that life experience has dictated time and again that almost nobody has ever been wowed and impressed by my writing, or my face.

Perhaps a few hundred years ago, my writing might be something remarkable, as the number of literate people was much smaller. Then again, had I been born into similar circumstances a few hundred years ago, I probably would have gotten an eighth-grade education at best, and never written much of anything at all. So, my writing is essentially like the writing of everyone else I know and work with–it comes from having a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in a Liberal Arts field, and some combination of work experience or MBA degree that has dictated we write more clearly and free of obvious errors when we communicate with the written word.

Like anyone else in this category, I am probably splitting infinitives, ending sentences with prepositions, misusing commas and semicolons, and any other number of grave mistakes that someone trained to be a writer a hundred years ago would be chafing over. But, on the other hand, I and most of the people I communicate with via email throughout the day, tend to for the most part, not misspell words or create any glaringly obvious errors in our writing (like loosing/losing and your/you’re kinds of errors that people from High School with no further education make all the time on Facebook).

Since I’ve decided to completely remove the purpose of my writing from being that of one who seeks to perfect his craft, and secretly yearns for recognition as a writer of some stripe, I can now focuse more readily on the service writing has provided me over the years. Living without ever writing anything down, and always trying to form arguments and plans of attack in my head–this approach almost makes me feel as if I’m living without a vital organ or limb. To have a cacophany of thoughts in my head that can’t be tamed simply by trying to repress or excise them–it becomes increasingly frustrating to meet and deal with the same thoughts over and over again–as none of my mental exercises are ever realized as lasting approaches.

In short, the act of writing must for the rest of my life be a function of self transformation–I say it this way though it may seem kind of quaint because it can’t just be a kind of psychotherapy–an act of journaling at the behest of a therapist that is intended to eventually be unnecessary. And, I most definitely cannot fall back into the old traps of idolizing my writing to the point of being absolutely certain I could make a living off of it if only the right pair of eyes came across it and recognized it for the genius talent that it is.

In other words, I must with each attempt, raise some of the ongoing questions and problems I face each day, where I find myself to be lacking, and determine if there are solutions to these problems, or if they perhaps need to be seen in a different sort of light altogether. And all problems of the day must be met and dealt with, not repressed. But, at the same time, I can’t keep digging up old problems if the wounds have as healthy scar tissue as they are ever going to have. The psychoanalytical insanity of having a patient continually open old wounds and dig around in them for decades seems to be at best a means of providing interesting literature, and never offers a real methodology for delivering change to the patient.

For me, the bigger concepts must always be present. God doesn’t go away, no matter how much I’d like him to. Death is always there. The abhorrent qualities of my character, that I’ve worked for so long to remove, must be carefully probed for signs of where and how they are still extant. The problems of the past decade around searching for a true life calling and a group of dear friends who aren’t derived from nights of drinking–these problems should be considered, but perhaps the degree to which the lack of them actually contributes to my unhappiness is debatable. The old hurts of losing my mother, little brother and oldest brother should probably be approached in the same manner–as I get older, I find myself more and more capable of keeping the happy memories of when these individuals lit the earth in the best way, and losing all of the sorrow and conflict that came with my strange family never learning to understand itself.

Of course, the anger that arises in me over people not being awake on this earth–fellow motorists practically asleep at the wheel or engrossed in phone conversations, texting or even watching television while they drive. Men who can talk of nothing else but football. People refusing to get any perspective whatsoever on beliefs and political viewpoints that aren’t precisely their own. The really painful crises come, of course, when I completely lose my temper and find myself in a state where I simply cannot control myself and honestly don’t know if I would be capable of preventing myself from seriously hurting myself and others.

And, obviously, the old sexual urges, fantasies, fetishes, etc. that marriage has calmed but not completely cured. These are the earmarks of an infantile or at least adolescent sexuality–moments of having sexual awareness as a child, but having true, healthy adult sexuality kept hidden from me. Mostly, I feel like these kinds of things are conquered. I don’t find my brain and emotions careening out of control when I read a story about teenagers or college students having sex–and the old problems of jealousy for how all of my own social shortcomings prevented me from having those experiences mixed with the Puritan imprint my mother left upon me that makes me certain the present generation will all be burning in hell.

The two problems inside of me, probably the primary ones I’ve struggled with since adolescence, are both problematic ways of being that aren’t me, but can quickly become how I am viewed by others who only glimpse me at my worst–when I am acting out from my anger and fear toward other sinners but doing it in such a way that leaves other people baffled and/or frightened by me. The biggest issue with them that I have, other than that I am acutely aware of them being modes of identity I’d hate to still have with me come Judgement Day, is that they cloud my ability to get any further ahead in my goal of learning to love others and take them as they are. I know too well in my rational brain that I am not in the judgement business, except maybe for myself in a constructive sort of way. I know that the world will never march to my tune, for my tune is simply one line or strain in the overall chorus that is the Kingdom Come.

For all of these people, the ones that are easy to love and the ones that aren’t, God has a plan for them, and it would be me at my absolute worst to begin to readily assume which humans are destined for hell and which ones are heaven-bound.

And, this is the real diamond point focus that writing should become for me: finding a way to daily reset all of me that has blown off course so that I do come back into the straight and narrow way that is easy to be on when I’m alone, or alone with my wife and pets and free of distractions like television and conversations about financial things. I once did a most grand and wonderful thing when I was in college–I wrote into the night in a most childlike way variations of “I love…” and thought of everyone I could think of, including all who I probably continued to hold grudges against from high school days. I fell asleep, but then woke up in some kind of altered consciousness, where I was being bombarded by an almost ferocious intensity of light and Love. I knew this force to be the most powerful one in the Universe, and at the time, I carried no sense of any particular belief system having propriety over it.

All of my attempts to return to this state have failed. There are probably many reasons why, but primarily, I can’t return to such a state, or even return to a way of being that is consistently neighborly and Christian after reading the Bible and Thomas Merton a lot. I get drunk on the idea of being good, but haven’t set up a framework for how to control myself from a practical standpoint when actually faced with taxing situations, big and small.

I’ve carried on my shoulders the weight of enormous responsibilities that are self-imposed or imaginary. The responsibility to make something of myself to justify all of the years of not fitting in well, and make H’s death not be in vain. The responsibility of thinking that I could, with my writing, actually one day influence others and change opinions–that people of importance would listen to what I had to say. The responsibility of trying to accomplish something before I die, before the world ends, before Jesus returns…before something apocalyptic happens. The responsibility of thinking that I am in many ways better than almost everyone immediately around me, and because I am better than them, I must go home after work and write while others go out and socialize and likely get the experience and form the connections required to be more successful in this world.

All of these responsibilities have been lifted, one by one, as God instructs through life itself, that I am seized with the manias of false prophecy, both ones originating in myself and ones originating from childhood Church elders–but, all of them being perpetuated by my own obsession with controlling outcomes instead of opening myself up to whatever plans God actually has for me.

But, certainly they do and will linger. It’s unavoidable. At the very least, I’m aware of them now more than ever, and will seek in my writing to avoid slipping into a tone of the foolish prognosticator, who thinks he’s been handed gifts, talents and a mission that he hasn’t. These false responsibilities have made me utterly inhuman, and blind to the true gifts that God often presents me with each passing year.

Writing itself is certainly not to be abandoned, as I’ve stated above, but it can now become the kind of fully realized tool it was always meant to be–a guide and resource for my chaotic thoughts and emotions, a way to distill things, and give them edges and borders to quarantine and treat them.

Responsibilities that come with being a married male in my society are not to be abandoned, either. If anything, this removal of so many false responsibilities will sharpen and focus what matters. Should I let myself go, and stop exercising and eating healthy for good? Of course not. But, now I no longer have even the slightest pretense about doing it for the sake of preparing for some inflated moment of greatness.

The hard line I’ve taken toward becoming more of a straightforward Christian can be stepped back to some degree, too. I think I needed desperately to return to the Church so that I would have some structure in my walk with God, and so that I could have something to ground me and pull me back into a right-facing attitude when weeks go by where I’m tossed and turned about by secular matters. But, do I need to continue to obsess over how old friends who were once vocally Christian are now vocally Atheist, and what the state of their souls may be? I don’t think so. It’s not as if I had the guts to tell them straight up that they were headed for hell.