Monday, August 26, 2013

Bombastic Glorification

     I’m a little torn between bombastic showmanship and humility. The right choice is of course being humble. But here’s a confession: I like to show off, just like I did in that first sentence when I could have said pretentious instead of bombastic. Last Friday night I read my testimony at the Celebrate Recovery meeting at Judson Baptist Church in San Bernardino. I had given my testimony just over a year ago at my home church. Over the course of a year a lot can happen. So I had updated it.
     I added on how I am stepping up into the leadership position of our group. I also told more about how over the past year I have discovered more about myself though my second step study. A static year is not a good year and I was blessed to not just add things, but good things. Working on the update, I read over the text that I had written last year and was pretty happy with it otherwise. It was obvious to me that I had gone over it meticulously before delivering it last time. I am picky about my writing all the time anyway. But I had made every word count in my testimony. Each sentence was as good as I could make it. It’s how I will have to work eventually when I am ready to present something for consideration to publish.
     I read over the testimony and felt it was good enough, but I wanted to add something. So I took a scene out of the memoir I’m writing, the opening scene. I condensed it down and changed it to be able to fit in with the rest of my work. I was particularly pleased with how my testimony was now “bookended” starting and ending talking about a voice calling to me.
This opening scene talks about how I nearly left my son Jamie, who was one year old at the time, at the Costco register. I walked away, leaving my son behind only to be shouted back by the clerk to get him. Of course I had the feeling that I was missing someone. I ignored the feeling just like I ignored the clerk calling me. In my testimony, I state I was used to the feeling that someone was missing because I had lost Naomi weeks before.
My overall testimony has its light moments. The first time I gave it, there were a few chuckles here and there. Conversely of course, when I shared the part where Naomi dies even I cried. But the second time I gave the testimony with the “extended” beginning, there were no laughs at all, just tears from the listeners. I started out with a story that jerked the rug out from under everyone who was listening. I set a serious tone for the whole thing. I changed how the whole thing was received.
And what I am confessing here today is that I added the enticing incident on, not to make my testimony more relatable, but to show off. I used to love acting, and maybe I still do. But now I write. I stood up there and read my testimony, but I also tried to showcase my writing. How wrong was it? Wasn’t it okay to try to provide an engaging story as well as an encouraging one that inspired others? Sure it was. But what was my main desire? Was it to encourage others or to show off? The big question was this: Who was I trying to glorify? That is something I need to examine in myself.
The truth is if I want to show off, I can do it here. And readers can choose to ignore me or even message me and call me on it. Roadwalker is a writing exercise. It’s where I practice my and stick to writing at least once a week. If I show off, at least I am doing in a venue where it’s not unexpected.
But even if I get grandiloquent here, I promise I will always be truthful. I am a little nervous that I was very truthful in this entry. Perhaps being verbose like this is something of a defense mechanism to distract from that truth. Maybe if I was serious about stretching my writing chops, I would experiment in a straightforward, simple style. Maybe.
I am going to change my testimony again before I deliver it next time, which is October 4th at Yucaipa Christian Church. I may delete the whole opening scene, or I might just edit it so that it still engages the listeners but doesn’t set a dirge-like tone. My prayer however, is that I don’t make it about me.
I have received a lot of support when it has been time to deliver my testimony. Thanks everyone for that. So far, it has not gotten any easier. I make it easier for myself by showcasing my writing. Maybe it’s not wrong.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Help when I'm Lost

     Well, you’ve really made a mess of things.
I wonder if anyone really ever needs to hear that. It may be one of those statements that is the same as: It’s a nice day, you’re very tall, or so this is it, we’re going to die now, aren’t we? Some statements do little more than state the very obvious. Well, you’ve really made a mess of things is probably addressed to a person who caused and is well aware of the situation. And it does more than state the obvious, and may even hinder the situation from improvement by placing even more stress and guilt on the person.
     I was driving last Wednesday morning on roads I had never been on before. It was about 7:00 in the morning and the hilly Orange county parkways were foggy. I had written down my directions the night before and looked at the map of how to get there. After traveling Katella Road in the City of Orange and crossing under the double nickel freeway I continued on as Katella changed names and eventually became Santiago Canyon Road. That ended and I had to turn right on Jamboree, then left again on Santiago Canyon Road. After that I would hop on the 241 Toll Road. I had copied the directions the night before and Prajna was reading them to me. I came to the end of the first leg of Santiago Canyon Road and turned onto Jamboree. I passed Chapman Road and kept on, and on… and on. I saw roads that I remembered from the map that I should have passed on the 241. I noticed we were in Irvine. Then Prajna said she thought we had gone too far.
     How could I have missed my turn? Maybe we didn’t pass it yet? Prajna urged me to pull over and ask someone. Oh, swell. Get out and go into a fast food place and announce to the world that I was some country bumpkin in a minivan who didn’t know how to drive? But I got off the road and into a parking lot. Then I called my sister. When she picked up the phone I told her that I seemed to be just a little bit lost and I was in Irvine. She agreed that I was not where I should be. She got from me exactly where I was and told me how to get to where I needed to be from right there. She knew the area well enough so that she didn’t need to direct me backwards. I could get onto the street next to the mall I was parked in, cross Jamboree and then head a little backwards to make it to the 241. From there I could get to Lake Forrest where the first day of the Celebrate Recovery West Coast Summit was. I followed her directions. We made it on time.
     The summit was three intense days of teaching and encouragement. There was a wide spectrum of emotions. I did learn a lot and was inspired. But the one thing that inspired me that I wanted to share was how I was able to ask for help. No, it’s not that remarkable that I actually asked. But sometimes in life we might find ourselves lost. We might be going the wrong way. We might have been going the wrong way for a while. We might notice, or someone might point it out to us. It is then that the crucial thing happens. We can try to fix things on our own, or we can ask for help. And here is another thing. We can choose someone to ask that has experience and get this: Knows where we have been. The right person doesn’t have to point out how we’ve made a mess of things. They can tell us how to get to where we need to go from where we are.
     At no time did my sister say, “Well here’s what you should have done.” I knew I had missed a turn. Instead it was this: Here is where you need to go now.
     Celebrate Recovery is all about admitting that we are powerless over our hurts, hang-ups and habits. We come to believe that the one and only Higher Power can save us. And one of the most difficult things I have to do is one of the key steps. We have to rely on others for help. We get together a support team. Some people in our team may have been where we’ve been. They know the territory and can help us navigate our way to a better place. They also know how it feels to have been lost. Perhaps at one time someone led them the right way too. 
     Driving back that night after a long day I saw the mistake I had made. Chapman Road terminated at Jamboree and became the second leg of Santiago Canyon Road. The signs were there, I had just missed them. If I had a map on me it never would have happened. If I had printed out something or even if I had just written down the distance I should have traveled on Jamboree, I wouldn’t have gotten lost. If only… if only. But it did happen and I was responsible. And it took stepping out and asking for help to get me where I needed to go. I didn’t know where I was. I needed to hear from someone who did know where I was. That’s what we all need when we’re lost sometimes.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Back in the Saddle

     Climbing the hill, I sat behind the wheel and pondered with amazement everything that had happened over the past three quarters of a year. It was well into August. And I looked back with clarity over the past nine months.
In mid-October of last year I was short way into a much-anticipated road trip, or what I like to call, a sabbatical. I had spent a long time planning and even longer looking forward to this getaway. I had not been able to take a sabbatical the year before. I was aching for this. Looking forward to it strengthened me.
I packed up my truck the day before but had been planning for weeks. I had my route planned as well as a menu of what I would cook for myself. I even had a book I was going to read. And I also planned on spending a lot of my time at my campsite planning the novel I wanted to write for National Novel Writing Month. I was going to sit at a little picnic table and write in a spiral notebook. There would be mojo there. The campsite is only accessible to four-wheel drive vehicles and closes in the winter. The air conditioning in my truck doesn’t work so I planned the trip to be just a few weeks before the campsite closed.
After getting gas at the Costco in Victorville I headed up Highway 395 going north towards Ridgecrest. Less than 40 miles from Victorville the rear differential on my truck began to grind itself up. I got to the side of the road and saw smoke curling off of the rear end. My road trip was over.
Broken down on the side of Highway 395

The truck being loaded on along with my camping gear... and hopes for a sabbatical

Ready to unload at my house where it will sit for 9 months.

I had the truck towed home and tried not to wallow too hard in misery. I was going to skip blogging the next day but then went ahead and wrote what happened. It took months for me to even get up the courage to try to diagnose exactly what was wrong with it. I don’t know what held me back from trying to get it fixed. I don’t know if I was afraid of it being broken beyond repair or if I felt so miserable that I began to have self-esteem issues and thought I ought to never get it fixed and just be miserable.
I finally pulled myself together and had the truck towed to my mechanic. He diagnosed the problem and told me I would need a new gear assembly for my rear differential and he told me about a wrecking yard to get in touch with. All this initiative was exhausting. But I managed to contact Liberty Auto Dismantlers and play email tag with them regarding exactly what kind of drop-out I needed. I ended up taking them the old part. In less than a week they had my replacement. I took it right to my mechanic. The part was about the size of a human head and weighed about 70 pounds.
Last Thursday I was feeling sorry for myself again because I wanted to meet my friend for coffee like we try to every Thursday. Prajna and I have managed to get along with only one car most of the time. But now there was a scheduling snag and rather than try to solve it I contacted my friend and told him never mind.
I don’t know if I enjoy sulking or not. It kind of seems that way.
Then a few minutes after noon, my mechanic called me. The truck was ready. I felt giddy. I didn’t care that I needed to be a work in less than an hour. Prajna was happy to drive me to the shop. I got the keys and thanked my mechanic several times.
I wondered for a moment if I would remember how to drive a manual transmission. I did. I took the truck across the street and hosed it down. I ejected the Mark Knopfler CD of calm guitar-driven music that I had been listening to when I heard the sound of my differential failing. I put in one of my old favorites, Born in the USA. Then I headed home the back way. It still had a full tank of gas. As I drove I reflected on everything that happened over the past nine months.
I had taken the spiral notebook to Starbucks one Sunday afternoon shortly after the breakdown. I had planned my and then went on to an epic win at National Novel Writing Month. I had celebrated my 20th anniversary and turned 46 years old. I had gotten my thumb snapped in a rat trap. I had started writing my memoir and made a few significant choices in life. I had learned I would be an uncle again. A lot had happened without me driving my truck anywhere. 
I stopped at the top of the hill and took one picture to post on Facebook. 
 With the caption "I'm back." I left it up to others to decide if that was the truck saying it or me.
That Thursday was the first time I had driven my truck with eyeglasses. I took it gently over the hill, all the while breathing sighs of relief. It perhaps felt like a bitter thirst had been slaked, but that’s too bombastic. Because while I did feel like a part of me that had been missing was finally back, I couldn’t help the other feeling I had. Reflecting on all that had happened without my truck, I realized that a lot of good stuff happened. The mojo I thought would be at the campsite had been with me all along. I didn’t have to click my heals together. I just had to act on the desire to work hard at something. It was there when I planned out my November novel and it waited on me until I finally took some initiative and got the truck fixed. I don’t know why I waited so long.
So if there is another catastrophic failure, worse than the last, of course I will be disappointed and upset, especially if I don’t get a chance for a sabbatical. But it won’t be the end of the world. I proved to myself that I can manage without it. I also showed myself that if I want to accomplish something I can’t wait for the wind to blow everything into place.
I am thinking about taking the road trip that I wanted to take again this coming October. I want to take the same route I had planned the previous year and sit up at Mahogany Flats and write outlines and character descriptions. And here is the odd thing I realized. I am looking forward to National Novel Writing Month more than the Sabbatical. Planning out my Novel will combine the two though. Pretty soon it may turn into all I think about. And it will be a good thing to meditate on after months of blogging aboutloss.
Like in life, sometimes one just has to get their own rear-end in gear.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Self imposed Penance

     “How was your week David?”
     Fine. I know that answer tells people that it maybe wasn’t fine and that I may be trying to avoid answering the question or not thinking about it. Fine is an evasive answer and most people seem to know it.
     So if people ask me something like this, I pretend to consider for a moment and nod my head and say “It was alright… yeah it was good,” with a tone of realization.
     If I had a crumby week I don’t like to complain about it. If I had a good week then I’m telling the truth. And it saves me the trouble of trying to think back and reflect on things.
     One of my favorite answers to how I am is: “I can’t complain.” That’s always truthful. On the surface is implies that I have nothing to complain about. With deeper reflection someone might think I’m saying that complaining does no good anyway.
     It might sound like I’m boasting here about how savvy I think I am at being deceptive and false. But I have used my blog for this in the past. I’m trying to come clean. Confessing here may not make me stop, but I am hoping that by admitting it, then it’s not a secret anymore. And posting here gives people permission to call me on things that don’t sound sincere.
     So how has my week been? Busy. I worked six days this week. The first day was for only about five hours, the last two were about 9 hour days. Now that I’ve come clean I want to state that I am still being truthful here when I say that I had a great week. I don’t know if it’s a character flaw by wanting to be kept busy. But I like feeling needed. I like thinking that people rely on me. The first night I worked one small thing I did was make copies of forms. I had a key to the office and could work the copier. How many other people could do that? Quite a few actually. But I was there and available and willing.
     And here it is. I think that this desire to feel like people rely on me might go back to when I wasn’t so reliable. I’ve come clean once today, here is a little more confession.
     A few years ago I used to get home from work at 11 and stay up and watch TV. Prajna would go to work at 5 the next morning and I would sleep until 10 or 11. The kids? Oh yeah. They would get up and fix breakfast and walk the dog and homeschool themselves. I felt I needed to unwind after a long day at work and of course I needed my beauty sleep so I slept in. I usually woke up to the sound of Harrison banging out Maple Leaf Rag on the piano. I would get up and eat something. Then I would hang around the house until it was time to go to work. Prajna would get home usually a little before lunch. The kids were overjoyed at that. We didn’t see too much of each other.
     Eventually things got worse. More stuff happened and I finally hit bottom. I started going to Celebrate Recovery. I started getting up earlier. Then I got a new job with new hours. Now I get home from work at 10pm and try to get to bed as soon as I can. I get up at 6 or earlier and am responsible for breakfast. And I don’t feel right unless I’m doing something.
     I want to feel reliable. I want to be responsible. I wasn’t always like this. There was a time in my life when I was anything but that. I was irresponsible and selfish. I think I still feel like I need to make amends for that. I don’t get a lot of sleep anymore. Even though I am a morning person, sometimes it feels like self imposed penance.
     This is codependent behavior. When I was not doing well and sleeping in and being a negligent husband and father I felt rotten about myself. And now I try to be just the opposite of that, hoping that it will produce a feeling of satisfaction and wellbeing. But it doesn’t work that way. Typical of a codependent, I am looking for validation and contentment in giving of myself. When it doesn’t fulfill me, I start to feel like a failure and want to give up. But I fear that I will turn into the self-regarding swine I used to be. That keeps me from giving up. Sometimes I withdraw and just get snarky. Sometimes I share how I’m feeling with a safe person or group. Not often enough though. And here I am posting it on my blog.
     What is the point in my sharing this? First of all, I want to be truthful and real. This blog is about who I am. I’ve made it no secret that I’m working on a memoir now and I have had some startling revelations in the process of it. This deep stuff is on my mind.
     And second, some people don’t know what codependency is. They might struggle with it and not know or they might have to deal with someone with it. This entry was a glimpse of one manifestation of it, just a glimpse.
     I can’t cure myself of codependency. I can try to live a healthy life with good boundaries. That, like other life issues, can be an everyday struggle with some days being better than others.
     This has been someone healing to me to get this out in the open. I still have some stuff I don’t write about. I will be sharing my testimony at least twice before the year is up. Those in the San Bernardino area can come to the Celebrate Recovery meeting and hear it if they want.
     There is healing in disclosure. I also want there to be hope for anyone who hears it.
Nothing is impossible. Someone might need to know that.