There is something great waiting to unfold

There is something great waiting to unfold. It is not unfolding because I am trying to figure out what it is, and anticipate it before it can begin. So, it waits.

I am worried about whether the great thing will be from the Lord, when I shouldn’t be worried at all. If I am one of the chosen, it can’t be from anyone but the Lord. If I am not one of the chosen, then there is no point in continuing a relationship with the Lord.

I am one of the chosen.

Being one of the chosen means that I will have to stop pretending that God’s chosen and Man’s chosen look anything alike. The people that our culture holds up before others for praise and adoration are not the same people that God does and will. I only have to think of the recent fall of America’s Dad to completely know this. Even those people who the Catholic church holds in high esteem may or may not be the same saints on God’s roster. God is God, and the church is the church. Perhaps the church is better aligned with God than Western pop culture and mass media, but it is most definitely not perfectly aligned with God.

I respect the church and love it dearly when it is behaving like it should, but the church is nowhere near as great as God. And, when I say the church, I mean all of the churches that more or less affirm the same creed.

I was living my life in such a fashion that I allowed little pieces of me to be carved off and placed on paths that would make this or that person nod their head in approval. I thought I’d come up with a strategy to please most of the people most of the time, and please God as well. My strategy was about as effective as if I’d literally been dividing myself up for others.

What matters in life from now until death?

I know what doesn’t matter:

Worrying about whether I will go to heaven or hell.
Trying to anticipate and know God’s will instead of letting God’s will flow to me naturally.
Worrying about how to have enough money to support my child and retire.
Any thoughts tied to whether or not I will have enough money.
Worrying about things that I don’t have that I think life owes me.
People from my past who were never there for me, but I still allow a bit of wistful thinking to linger in hopes that I might reconnect with them someday.
The opinions of people in my present, especially in regards to how I am conducting my life.
Worrying about death itself.
Worrying about career and how I can become a great thought leader at some specialized subject matter.

I am inclined to not even write about what does matter. There are the obvious things in life that matter. But, those should go without saying anything about them at all. I think if there is anything else that matters, I’ll find it and know it as I go about living my life.

I tend to think that when I create ambitious life plans around all of the important things in life that matter, I become frustrated and incapable of seeing how to accomplish whatever I wanted to do.

I used to see myself as being someone who would one day be called great, and held up by humanity as a great person. But then, I started to dive into the lives of the people who were called great, as well as all the people who we hold up in high regard today. It no longer has any sort of appeal. I am no longer full of the heady fear that comes with imagining a scenario where I become a notable, but I am no longer in possession of any of the desire for it, either. The people we hold up in high regard today as being worthy of our praise are mostly treated as such because of many lauded characteristics that they didn’t have any control over.

The ones who appear to have no lineage connecting them back to notable parents or grandparents all seem to have managed to get in the right place at the right time (they are lucky), or they developed much of their poise and self esteem due to their good looks and athleticism (again, they are lucky).

I suppose it is quite possible to live an entire lifetime never really knowing just how much or how little you had control over the outcomes of things that happened in your life. You could veer off in either direction, thinking you were responsible for everything and made many bad choices or thinking you were responsible for nothing and life just moved you this way and that like a Forrest Gump feather. You would probably be wrong and utterly shocked to learn of all the opportunities you had that you blew because you didn’t have the courage to speak up or change the way you behaved in any given situation. But, you might be similarly surprised to see how many things you took to the grave as guilt that were simply beyond your control.

I wasn’t feeling grateful on Thanksgiving

I wasn’t feeling grateful on Thanksgiving. I just wanted to sleep in and do nothing. It’s not that I don’t feel grateful for good things in my life. I do experience gratitude throughout the year. I think I don’t like the idea of being forced to express gratitude on one particular day. Generally speaking, I am averse to only appreciating veterans on Veterans and Memorial Days and the 4th of July. I am not in favor of showing appreciation for Jesus only for Christmas and Easter. The same goes for anyone on their birthday, and so on. However, it’s easier to accept that we have holidays to express appreciation for people on special days of the year that are set aside for them, but expressing a particular sentiment on a certain day is different. It’s different because you can still appreciate a veteran on the 4th of July even if you don’t feel like celebrating as much that year. With Thanksgiving, it’s almost imperative to make some assembly of family and friends feel like you are thankful for them.

At any rate, I was really just wanting to sleep in, and had to drive down I-35 to visit my Aunt and whatever family showed up that year. There was my dad, who made absolutely no effort to communicate or interact with my baby boy. There was my pompous cousin from my Aunt’s last marriage, who can’t have a conversation with you without critiquing everything you are doing and suggesting all the ways he knows how to do it better. Most of these people I am not related to by blood at all. They are cousins by marriage or adoption, and it is simply more convenient for us to all gather here than elsewhere. But, the ones who are related by some blood, usually a shared great-grandparent, don’t feel any more or less like “my people” than the ones who aren’t related by blood.

I would argue that I’ve never met “my people.” I’ve always ended up hanging out with the people in school or at work who were kind of the default misfits along with me, for whatever reason–and often their reasons were very different than mine. I’ve never met my people partly because I have never completely been able to define who I am.

The older I get, the more I can see that I’ve allowed parents, teachers, older siblings, so-called friends, bosses, etc. define who I am, and more or less went along with it. Am I more masculine than feminine? Am I more of an intellectual elitist than a populist? Do I prefer being surrounded by nature over a bunch of large buildings and crowds of people?

If I could be anyone at all, who would I be?

I wish I were someone who had a lot of friends, and I don’t. I wish I lived in a large city, and I don’t. I wish I were making more money, and I’m not. I wish I were younger, but I’m not. I wish I could say that I’m having a career, but I can’t. I wish I’d spent so much more of my life travelling, living abroad, and living in places like NYC and SF, but I didn’t.

I am 38, and my patterns of graying and thinning on the top of my head look apace with my cousins who are 20 years older than me. I am 35 pounds overweight. I have repeatedly hopped jobs in hopes of gaining traction at a company so that I could move up and become a manager, and I have not until very recently had any success at this.

I can’t stand where I live right now, but I can’t leave because I am no longer single and free to leave when I want to. When I was single, I was so full of fear and debt and craziness about what would happen if I left Austin, that I never did the whole time I was single.

Look, I try my damnedest throughout the year to be optimistic, look on the bright side of things, and not whine and complain. I get that I don’t change anything by thinking about all of the things I wish I’d done, but at the same time, it also feels like I am just bullshitting myself and covering up serious issues that might well up and cause me to lose it some day.

If you have the ability to never let any regret get the better of you, great. Here’s a gold star for you. But, I’m a realist, and I have my moments of intense sorrow and grief for all the things and people that I’ve lost. And, at the end of the day, I’m hardly expecting life to be perfect, I’m just expecting there to be a few good things that bring happiness–and none of them should be chemicals.

I guess I have an ego like everybody else does

I guess I have an ego like everybody else does. I am still concerned with my ego than I am with seeking the Truth and God’s perfect will for me. The thing that I am only beginning to realize is that God, in his infinite mercy, is willing to work with me where I am at today in my spiritual journey, even if I am still far from perfectly enlightened.

Maybe it’s the footprints metaphor that every child raised in a Christian home knows about. Jesus is carrying me through the years of my greatest sin and most obvious imperfections.

Like a lot of people who seek to get closer to God and further away from the things of the world, I have my moments where I start thinking I could have been a priest if only I hadn’t had my head so far up my ass. I could yet become a Protestant minister of some kind.

My constant anger when I’m interacting with other people who are slower than me or more egotistical than me is a clear indication that I am not ready yet for this kind of calling. My head, heart and sex are still not aligned in a more spiritually-focused direction, either, but I think I am getting closer.

I continually have to get my bearings and adjust my course to try to get back toward the path I feel most closely resembles the one I should have always been on. I think that my ability to do this is most certainly less about my own will than the past and current prayers of others who were concerned that I would fall away from the right path altogether.

My own will, when it is perfectly aligned with God’s will, appears to be a more ego-free will, and yet, I don’t think I’m supposed to lay around in bed all day waiting for God to be solely responsible for animating me like a puppet, and driving me like a robot or car to wherever he wants me to go.

I also think that I can be just as dangerous about letting my ego get out of hand with self-made visions of me being a great spiritual leader as I can with visions of me doing great things in business, art or literature.

What I wanted to do when I started to write this, was think about it in more concrete terms.

I started to become egotistical when I realized that there wasn’t going to be a huge amount of freelance work coming in right away, and that my baby son was going to need a lot of financial support, in addition to non-material support. I got extremely upset when my last full-time employer sent me work that I thought was very much beneath me. I still had this strong vision of myself as someone who not only needed to be a bread winner in the family, but also someone who was still having a career.

After accepting full-time employment with another previous employer in a director role, and seeing the daycare my baby son would be going back to when my wife returns to work, I started feeling guilty and worried–if anything happened to him while he was in daycare, I would feel forever guilty about it.

Bearing the burden of guilt for something that was only peripherally my fault is something I am pretty good at doing, and probably a perverse sort of egoism of its own. Because I forfeited the pickup truck I’d been driving when I got my DWI, and that truck became the death trap for my little brother, I forever find myself feeling solely responsible for his death. Of course, he wanted the truck because it was much cooler than the old family econosedan. And, as harsh as it sounds, he was the one who failed to stop at the stop sign. But, whether it is myself or a spirit of self destruction, I do have moments where I still claim sole responsibility for his death.

I guess this kind of egoism is a clear indication of a lack of faith.

Faith works for me, because I can visualize the world beyond this one as being one outside of time–where what is happening here ultimately does matter but it doesn’t always matter the way we think it does. In other words — why do bad things happen to good and innocent people, and God seems to not do anything about it? Because, there is a higher plane of consciousness that is the ultimate reality above and beyond this one — a higher dimension than the three space + one time reality we know. On that plane, there is a nontemporal accounting system, a kind of cosmic karma that can rectify the terrible and evil of this world. And, even beyond that plane, lives God, Jesus, the saints–those who have achieved complete perfection again. God, being a perfect being of love, cannot directly interface with a world this corrupt, but Jesus did and will again, and the Holy Spirit does.

On this plane, we are given the opportunity to realize a perfect faith in the Holy Trinity, and we are given free will to do this. In order to have free will, there must be the choice of the Other, or evil as we know it.

I tend toward believing in reincarnation, which means I probably never will be a priest or pastor of any Christian church. I don’t believe that we get unlimited chances–we aren’t sent back to screw up and have a good time over and over again. I think that what we do here on this plane does matter and make a difference, and that we are held accountable for it — but, I also believe that God’s mercy is more abundant than anyone can imagine, and that you will only spend eternity in hell if you have completely committed yourself to evil. That said, I think it’s not up to human beings to judge others for the way they are–we should certainly keep evil offenders and disruptors of the peace off the streets, but we shouldn’t be directly injecting our own personal morals and doctrines into the political arena in the form of various kinds of legislation.

My views have changed radically, but I also think they have maintained a core sense of what is right and wrong, and that I have always come back to seeing Jesus as the ultimate bridge between me in my corrupt state or me in my immersion of the void and me reconnecting with God.

I don’t know why I went off down that path, but I guess I needed to write it for myself, to better understand why I’m choosing to believe the things that I do.

I have these moments where twenty years seems like an utterly impossible proposition

I have these moments where twenty years seems like an utterly impossible proposition. I have many first cousins who are approaching 60 and talking about retirement, and I am the younger of the family generation on my father’s side, so I am 38 and just had my first child. 38 may seem ancient to people in small towns like the one I grew up in and the one I now live in, but it is fairly common in a larger city where you go to screw off for ten years and then try to have a career for ten years. It’s not uncommon to see people getting married for the first time (or seriously married for the first time, anyway) when they are 42, and having their first child in their 40s, or just skipping marriage and/or children altogether.

I spent about six years screwing off and six years trying to have a career before I gave up and decided I needed to think soberly and pragmatically about marriage and children. At the time, I had an overwhelming desire to see my mother’s wish for grandchildren come true, even if she is no longer on this plane of existence to enjoy them. I also thought that my father gave more of a damn about whether or not I passed on the family line, but now I can clearly see that he does not. Anyway, if you think about it, you need at least six months to date someone before you can propose to them, six more months to be engaged, and a few years to enjoy being married together and traveling and experiencing life without children. All told, if you want to do it right with some careful planning, you have to expect your firstborn to appear a good four and a half years after you meet the person you plan on having the firstborn with.

When I do the actual math and consider how careful I was not to marry any of the crazy, bitter, psychotic or weird women I dated in my twenties and early thirties, it seems perfectly obvious to me that I should be just now experiencing fatherhood. However, my own DNA has not been especially kind to my head of hair and my face, and I do look at times like I should be my son’s grandfather. Because I’ve gotten to be extremely lazy and careless about my health, there are plenty of times I also physically feel twenty years older than I actually am. I added the word “physically” because I almost never socially, emotionally or intellectually feel myself to be anything other than about 18.

All of this is to say that I have no idea how I’m going to pull off raising at least one child, providing for his college, giving him enough of my attention that he doesn’t completely hate me when he becomes a young adult, and have enough money saved up so that I can retire before I turn 70. I don’t have any great expectations about living that long–I suspect from all of my skin issues and swollen lymph glands that I got the gene of cancer that killed my mom and grandmother when each of them were 61. So, I guess maybe the good news is, I don’t have to worry about saving for retirement, because I never will retire–I’ll just drop dead one day at work.

However, even the next twenty years seems incredibly daunting. Both in how I will provide for my child and stay in good enough shape to be mentally and physically alert enough not to be relegated to some low-level data entry job, and also in how the heck I’ll get my internal act together so that I’m cleaned up enough spiritually when I die that God doesn’t send me straight to hell. Because, let’s face it, I am still a bit of a mess on the inside. There is no need to share details here–I mean, I’m not any more screwed up than any other guy of my generation–I don’t need to be locked up or anything–but I personally have always had a vision of myself being above a lot of the sex sin that men get caught up in, even to the point where I could one day seriously consider the priesthood.

Well, that ship sailed. And, of course, when I refer to my notions of the priesthood, I am thinking of the most saintly and best-behaving priests in history, not all of the sickos and corrupt ones who should have been locked up quite early in their careers. It’s unfortunate that the bad priests have gotten all of the press–but that’s at least in part due to the Catholic church being so tone deaf to what most of the world thinks about them. Being in the middle of a still very Catholic country probably has prevented the Vatican from really understanding what the common western man or woman’s perception of the Church is nowadays.

I, of course, am not your common western man, although I do share many of the same characteristics of him. It is my cultural milieu, and I was raised as a middle class, Midwestern, Protestant, white boy with all of the pop culture and media exposure I could get my eyes and ears on when my parents weren’t suppressing such things from me. I am a child of the 80s and 90s, but I do think my peculiar upbringing gives me at least some perspective that is out of step with other fellows who were raised during the same time and place as me. Perhaps I flatter myself too much, and I am no more of an exception than any other given individual you would get to know past the generalized straw man, but the ways I think I’m different are probably the things that keep me going most of the time.

Lately, the big concern for me has been a question of what my identity is–and this more so than my legacy. I am okay with being forgotten when I die, but I’m not okay with dying and still not really knowing who I am. In every journal entry I write I try to dedicate at least some time to wrestling with this.

Who am I?

One day, I hope to wake up again

One day, I hope to wake up again. I hope to be capable of thinking with some of the clarity I only believe I once had. I hope to be free of the tendencies toward lust and escapism, anger and impatience. I hope to be free of the need to work full time at a job that looks nothing like a calling. But today is not that day, and tomorrow is not that day.

The good thing about my life is that I’ve gotten to live the American Dream exactly as my ancestors dreamed it would be for me. One grandfather fought in the first World War, the other one fought in the second World War. My dad took all the money he’d saved up from a dreary office job, which was, in fact, a huge step up in the world for the generations of my family, and he spent that money on my college education. My mom had a bachelor’s degree in teaching, so I wasn’t the first person in the family to get a degree.

But, I think my dad had this idea that I would be able to pick up where he left off on my first day after college, and take the torch and run with it to some place grander. Of course, with an English degree, you don’t start out making much of anything at all. Over time, though, I fought my way through endless office politics and always positioned myself as the indispensable one in the room.

All of this is to say that I will probably walk on down that path of trying to get somewhere further than middle management, as I take my first true middle management job. To be for sure, I’d still like to find the hours to write that novel that never materialized over the last three months, and sock away enough money that I can drop a few grand into playing the markets and traveling abroad.

The vision that my father had for me is most likely not the one that my Father has for me. In fact, I am mostly pretty certain that my dad’s dream of me becoming an engineer with a respectable salary is not my calling. I’ve been running like Jonah for too long, so I don’t know if I will get my sense of calling back. I may very well end up being able to merely say that at least I didn’t hide my talents away completely, even if I didn’t make as much of them as I could have.

I want to wake up one day and be free. I want to be free of the false dreams and delusions. I want to be free of needing to deal with difficult people who don’t need or want my help. I want to be free of worry and doubt and insecurity. I suspect that I will wake up one day and experience this freedom. I might be in some other body, or in no body at all.

I’ve given up waiting around for signs and visions, dreams and revelations.

I want to have a radically different relationship with my son than the one I’ve had with my dad. I call my dad up and he isn’t the least bit curious about what I’ve been doing. When I tell him that I’ll be managing a bunch of people, he tells me that I probably should go back to school and take a few classes with the clear implication that I don’t know what I’m doing. There’s never a: wow that’s amazing, I’m really proud of you son.

He’s not been up here much to see my new son. I thought he’d be delighted to see that I of all people have carried on the family name with a brand new boy child. He seemed more incline to mess around with the light and shutter settings on his camera than pay much attention to his new grandson.

All those years ago when I let him get on the other line and yell at me until the recruiter hung up, and scream at me that I most definitely was not going to join the military–it really makes me wonder if bothering to heed his words was worth anything at all? The happiest job I ever had was at a hotel kitchen the summer after high school. I’ve hated pretty much all of my office schmuck jobs, but I’ve gotten too old and lazy to change myself and become something else. If I could go back in time, would I study harder and try to get a STEM degree, or would I join the military, or would I say screw it, and go back to working in a hotel kitchen somewhere?

I don’t know.

I’ve spent many years asking those questions, and I still don’t know. Perhaps I’d become a priest and then a monk once I saw that my little brother survived his teenage years and started a family of his own. Maybe I’d go nuts with the newfound youth and freedom and try to make a go of it in New York before 9/11 happens.

I’ll decide I am most definitely an X,Y,Z kind of man, and then wake up one morning with plenty of evidence to the contrary. I’ll ask for God’s help and to have a sign, and nothing will happen, but then some months will pass and things will work themselves out, no matter how impossible the situation seemed to be.

Maybe my biggest problem is trying to visualize what kind of man I am without letting the Lord in to take the lead in this visualization. I start to cobble together a pathetic figure out of a scattershot collection of memories of when someone said I was good at doing this or that. I block out all evidence to the contrary. The next thing you know, I’ve formed a vision of me that I am calling “the Lord’s will” and my true calling without doing much prayer or consultation of the Lord at all.

I have had a lot of days of feeling waves of nostalgia over times in my life that didn’t see me feeling especially happy when they were actually happening. The primary period is probably college, and such nostalgia has benefited my alumni association without any effort on their part at all.

I find myself missing friends I never had.

I never learned how to properly make friends. I made friends with misanthropic people, and thought perhaps I was one, but I am pretty sure I was just shy. I was too scared to throw myself into the mix of a social club, where people would contradict what I said before the words had barely left my lips. And so, I declared myself to be above it all and not interested in participating, when I really was dying inside to be a part of something other than my sad little troupe of friends who drank, watched movies and never got members of the opposite sex to hang out with them.

Which is not to say that I couldn’t lose myself inside the main library, pulling down stack after stack of books, if you were to pick me up and drop me down inside my eighteen year old body and let me do as I wish. I would at least make somewhat of an effort to meet new people. I would poke my head inside the Newman Center, and see if there was any chance I could become a good Catholic boy with proper Catholic college chums.

But then again, I probably wouldn’t be a good one, because I am full of a lot that is bad. Except, I’m not nearly as bad as I thought I was back then.

I don’t like drinking booze as much as I wanted everyone to think I did. I love jazz and classical so much more than rock and blues, but I don’t hate rock and blues. I have managed to never get a tattoo. When I descended again into the world of people who live for drink and drugs, back during that first summer in Austin after I broke up with Olivia, I discovered pretty quickly that I had little or no tolerance for people who appeared to be doing absolutely nothing with their lives.

Now, of course they might all have been secretly writing like mad, the way I did and do. But, they didn’t seem to be maturing at all on the outside, either. People I knew who were 32, 42, 52 in Austin seemed to be little changed from who they must have been when they were 22. The ones I did get to see grow old confirmed this suspicion. Sure, they slowed down and didn’t stay out as late on weeknights, but they were pretty content to schlepp along at whatever job they’d landed after college.

I suppose I am more of a romantic than I’ll ever admit. I fall in love with the idea of being this way or that, but I rarely get comfortable enough with being that thing to proclaim: this is it, this is what I was made to do.

Was I made to sit and write randomly at length until I wake up and realize my inner monologue has come full circle? Maybe, but it never really feels like it. Writing often feels simply like a need my mind has along with sleep and exercise, eating food and getting intellectual stimulation from books or art. It’s simply a thing I need to do often enough so that I don’t go completely crazy.

Everything is tied to the spiritual quest

Everything is tied to the spiritual quest. That which is sought in life is an attempt to feel fulfilled in the spiritual sense, or it is an attempt to get as far away from the need for spiritual fulfillment. The mind and heart are mad with desire to know perfectly that which is most beautiful, true and loving.

I look with longing sometimes at those people who appear to find complete contentment in pursuing things of this world. An old boss who’d long since abandoned God had the largest collection of records I’d ever seen outside of a store or radio studio. Music was pursued with the fervor and focus that Jesus was pursued by the saints.

I realized after so many of my experiments with drugs and alcohol that I was on a completely different page from my friends. They were seeking the pleasure of the experiences themselves, with nothing more expected from the experiences. I was seeking spiritual revelation that wasn’t provided via books, meditation, prayer and coffee.

My friends who loved seeing pretty colors and shapes dance before their eyes, and enjoyed listening to music with their senses altered or enhanced–they don’t seem that different to me than many of the people I meet in church who go there to socialize. They are not focused on getting closer to God, but are primarily interested in renewing friendships with people they haven’t seen in a week or more. The church is a convenient backdrop to fulfill their social needs. Sometimes I wish I had a more sacred space to go to, where people felt the absolute need to be reverent and in awe of God’s power while in that space.

But it could be that I am too keen on obtaining a sense of being drunk in the spirit, and finding outlets that will help me escape the everyday and commonplace, instead of seeking out more intently the spiritual every mundane thing.

After all, if I am still quite full of my problems and sin after coming down from whatever mountain I put myself upon, then am I really growing spiritually or simply getting temporarily drunk in that which is spiritual?

I am in the process of turning a huge corner. This I’ve known for some time, but I think I’ve been reluctant to admit just exactly what that corner looks like. Because I am now a married man with a young son, I have thought at times over the past month that I need to be more focused on the material world in the short time in order to secure a good future for my son. While it may be true that the best choice is for me to go back to work, there is absolutely no reason that my inward focus needs to be one of obsessing over having a successful career.

If I am choosing to come home and read mostly secular books and fantasize about being a writer some day, then I probably haven’t turned a corner yet. But, I also am trying to understand completely why I can go through a period where I am completely devoted to reading about only spiritual things, and end up frustrated because I don’t seem to be sinning any less or altering my unsavory character traits.

Oftentimes, I get so frustrated that I will put down the Bible and any books about the lives of religious people, and not return to reading them for months.

I also reach a point a lot of times where I don’t feel like anyone around me cares about having spiritual things be their priority. I’m not living among nearly as many atheists as I used to, but it still seems like most everyone I meet has some secular topic or life pursuit as their primary interest.

The question you are going to have to ask yourself

The question you are going to have to ask yourself is: when are you going to decide that caving into the concepts of the devil isn’t the way to get you to the Promised Land? You cave in so easily, and then complain about it unceasingly to the heavenly Father.

The problems you are facing may have originated inside of you when you were still young and naive about things. But, the entity who will decide whether or not you ultimately solve your problems before you die, is you.

The part of you that is still living is the part of you that is connected to something much bigger. The part of you that thinks you are insignificant, irrelEt, and soon to be forgotten is the part of you that is already dead.

You have to make the decision by yourself as to whether or not you are going to keep telling the same story.

The story of you needs to be told anew, or it shouldn’t be told at all.