Archives For dreams

'Dysfunction Junction: Cold Spring NY Photowalk' photo (c) 2010, Nick Harris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I don’t want you getting the wrong idea–I wasn’t beaten as a child. The spankings I got, I earned (helping your buddy try to burn down his grandmother’s garage, anyone?). I wasn’t a battered child, but I’ve got come to the conclusion that abuse is never just physical.

There are psychological, and emotional, abuses, too. And if I was abused, it was in this way:

I was ignored. One of my earliest memories is being told to go away, relax, unwind, watch T.V. And then later, when she checked on me, my mother was aghast to find me drinking a beer in front of Sesame Street. Why? “Because it wat daddy do.”

When I fell, got hurt, got a boo-boo, there was precious little soothing; instead, I was indoctrinated with the mantra “I’m alright.” Even though I most decidedly was not alright. They say the lessons learned earliest go the deepest.
And are hardest to overcome. I’ve been alright far too many times when I shouldn’t have been. Been okay in places I never should have been…

If my mother’s chiefest failing was practiced indifference–emotional diffidence, my dad’s was indifference followed by the bitter wash of sarcastic chasers. I would go from being ignored to verbally masticated, spit out, left to put myself back together…

And I had to be alright.

After their inevitable divorce, the neglect only deepened. My mom, of course, didn’t share her pain; instead, losing herself in work, she hoped (I think) to give others something she couldn’t give herself: an intact family.

And my dad? Our relationship was as defined in the divorce decree: I saw him twice a year. His second wife hated my brother and I…

Divorce touches millions of families. And my life, seen from the outside, may have appeared to be, while perhaps less than ideal, a privileged one. I was white, lived in Scottsdale, had a roof, clothes  food. In short, the basics.

It has taken me years to pin down just exactly what I didn’t have:

A sense of love.

Part and parcel with growing up latchkey was, I guess, a sense of parental guilt. There were precious few boundaries, and even fewer consequences. I was left to my own devices, to indulge in whatever I wanted.

It’s a wonder I just got into smoking, and not drugs. My interest in porn was labelled “healthy curiosity.” If my childhood was defined by anything, it was these three things:

Neglect

Pornography

And Stephen King

I turned inward because there was nowhere else to go, no one to go to. My mom eventually had a live-in boyfriend, who’s example, and idea of culture, consisted of pizza, cigarettes, and “martoonis” in front of the T.V. This was my exemplar of manhood.

I wanted to escape, but had nowhere else to go. My dad didn’t want me, my mom was too busy, and this is “white privilege?”

None of this was talked about. I had to navigate a broken family, adolescence, on my own.

Habits developed then have not always been conducive now to  building healthy attachments. I’m almost 45 years old, and still bitter about what I didn’t have. Why couldn’t I have a normal, loving family? Why don’t I have meaningful relationships with my parents, brother, etc?

For years, as a growing Christian, I thought it was my job to put up, shut up, keep the peace. I allowed so many unhealthy things to happen, so many hurts to go unaddressed. I want to let my parents off the hook, say they did the best they could…

But I don’t believe it.

That’s why I want so much to be done with them. I can’t seem to get past the things which they’ve done, or I’ve done in relation to them. I want to say there’s too much water under the bridge. I don’t feel listened to.

I want to be done, but can’t. Because…

Because God.

He’s the God of second, third, thirty-third, and seventy-times-time chances.

Because He’s given me chance after chance, though I’ve blown it time and time again, I can do no less. I have to try.

If there’s a lesson I’ve learned in life, it’s this: the things we like least in others are usually the things which dislike about ourselves. That hurts to admit.

I’m not perfect (far from it), and neither are they. They dealt with their own demons, as I’ve dealt with mine.

God help me, I’m willing to try.

That’s the best I can do.

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Hi! This is my daughter, Bella; she’s a Daisy Scout. This is her, and our, first year involved with scouts. We’re heading into cookie season, a fun time for the girls (and their families). Cookie sales fund a number of scout programs, such as camp, troop activities, etc.

Ours being a brand new troop, expectations aren’t very high for sales. Even so, her mother and I always try to encourage Bella to dream big.

You have a dream; you might be pursuing it now. Or maybe you had a dream, and have forgotten how. You remember what it is dream–what it feels like to see it out there, shimmering on the horizon before you. It’s so sweet, you can almost taste it.

It’s right there at your fingertips.

You didn’t get there alone. You had a lot of help, a lot of encouragement, along the way.

My little girl has a dream, too:

She wants to sell 1500 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

If she can, she’ll earn a one-day trip to Disneyland (one of her favorite places). 'Take that, Girl Scouts!!' photo (c) 2012, An Mai - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

From the Girl Scout’s website:

“When a Girl Scout sells you cookies, she’s building a lifetime of skills and confidence. She learns goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, success, and life.

By putting her mind and energies to something, a Girl Scout can overcome any challenge. There are no limits. She can be anything. She can do anything. Help her build a lifetime of skills and confidence.”

The Cookies

Can I count on you to order cookies, and help a little girl’s dream come true? They’re only $4.00 per box. Contact me at: Chad Jones, and we’ll work out the details.

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I wrote the above to myself in response to a challenge. If you’re like me, you’re afraid to launch into that next thing. It’s good that you’re afraid, because it tells you something: you’re onto something. If it weren’t important, there would be no fear–nothing to be afraid of.

But there are no gains without risks. That next thing you do might well fall flat. Yet you can’t know that.

It might well soar!

The only thing you have to do is try. And failure isn’t failure if you’ve learned something from it.

I’ll leave you today with a paraphrase of something I heard John Eldredge say:

Don’t veil your glory anymore. Let people feel the full weight of who you are, and let them deal with it.

Now, go! Blaze that trail!

I have put off writing about Packing Light for some time. Reading it, for me, was like the frigid splash of a mountain stream to my slumbering face. It represents the antithesis of how I have lived. For somehow, rather than packing light, my life has been one of encumbrances; both the emotional, and the physical.

I hold onto things.

God knows why. Perhaps it’s growing up a child of divorce, having my family sundered, that compels me to hold onto the things I think which will make me happy. Yet, it never seems to work. Not the books I buy (I have hundreds sitting on the shelf unread), nor the gadgets–phones, tablets, computers, televisions, what have you–not the clothes with which I try to regain my lost youth (“Dad,” my son says, “stop dressing like me”).

Nothing, not one blessed thing, has been able to fill that gaping void left in my soul.

And yet how I’ve tried. How we’ve tried, my wife and I. The house we moved into twelve years ago, the one we called our “dream home,” came with the reality of a mortgage, maintenance, upkeep, stairs that we we tire of climbing…

The dream has become a reality. And expenses multiply. Yet, we hold onto it, for where else would we go? We have family here, friends here, our kids have lives here. But when the air conditioner needs work, when the carpets need replacing, when the garage is full to near capacity with clutter–it feels far more burden than blessing.

The weight of the quotidian obligations weighs far heavier on my shoulders than I ever thought they would. And this Atlas can’t shrug: a family counts upon him to provide: basic necessities, stability, love.

There is (it seems) neither time, nor energy, for the kind of journey which Mrs. Vesterfelt’s book describes.

All the energy goes to holding on…

It is into this life, this mind and heart, that Packing Light came as a slap in the face. I wanted to hate it, to vilify, and excoriate it. But I could not.

First, because the prose was so lithe and supple–beautiful in a way that I was both jealous, and couldn’t stop reading: “Your starting point matters when you go on a trip. It is your only frame of reference for what to bring, and what to leave behind. It is your foundation, your beginning. If, along the way, your realize you’ve been heading the wrong direction, you might change your trajectory, but you can’t change where you started. You have to leave home to go on a journey, but you can’t leave home without having a home.” Second, because I knew she was right: it is not the things to which we should cling tight, but rather the people:

It’s relationships, and shared experiences, that are to be savored.

None of things will take us–take me–anywhere in life. And I certainly cannot take any them with me when the faith shall become sight. This deeply personal tale of a trip across America was a deeply convicting read. Which, if I’m at all honest, is reason number three why it’s such a necessary tonic:

The book made me uncomfortable.

I do not presume to speak for you, but I’ve seen–particularly in conservative, evangelical America–uncomfortable is not something we like to be. It’s far easier to call down fire from heaven upon our neighbors (or family) than it is to traverse the dark rivers of our own hearts. We don’t want to go there.

We want, and know we need, to cast off our baggage. But we don’t want to do the work.

Because we’re afraid of what we’ll see there.

In Packing Light, Allison Vesterfelt takes our hands on this inward journey, and says in a gentle voice (redolent of Another’s voice), “You can do this. I’ve been there. It’s not easy. But it is worth it. Come along. You’ll see.”

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How are you, or are you not, packing light?

It has been said that age is but a number. That we are only as old as we feel. “As a man thinketh,” etc.

There is a certain truth to this. And having a positive outlook certainly has benefits. In this sense, age is just a number.

But aging is cold, hard fact. I first became cognizant of this in my late twenties: a few of the whiskers in my beard took the inexorable spin on the color wheel to gray.

But I didn’t feel any older. (The gray has since spread like a disease, slowly making its way from the center of my chin up the sides of my face).

A little later, the early thirties, my metabolism showed signs of decline: I could no longer eat what I wanted without consequence.

And then one morning I awoke to find that, while they never had before, consuming too many sweets precipitated nausea. It was around this same time I discovered that any amusement park rides which involved spinning introduced a rather greenish cast in my otherwise lily white skin.

The late thirties brought with them: bladder problems, sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism. All treatable, but all nevertheless leaving me (subjectively) feeling much older than I ever had.

The last several years have been a time of transition, evolution, and entropy:

I’m objectively, quantifibly becoming something: older.

My body is evolving (or devolving) as time goes on (evolution=change over time).

And I’m slowing down. Entropy–the second law of thermodynamics. “Things wear out, the center cannot hold…”

Just at the time when things are heating up professionally, and personally, my get up and go has got up and went. I have ideas, but no stamina to execute on them. Such cruel irony.

My son recently asked if I wanted to live forever. My reply? In this body? God, I hope not. I want an upgrade! I want one that doesn’t get weary, one that doesn’t have sleep apnea, one that doesn’t have upper eyelids that are puffy and drooping.

I want an upgrade.

Thankfully, one is coming. It’s only requirement is that I die. That’s the deal: birth requires some kind of death. Sperm cells and ovum, once united, are no longer what they were–have in fact died to their old natures to bring forth be life. So it is with the Christian: “though the outer man is perishing, the inner man is being renewed day by day.”

So in the meantime, between now and when God calls me home, I will practice the only death afforded me:

Death to self. Pressing on in spite of life’s hardship and frailties. Trusting that what He says is true. And I’d like to think that, because I need it so much more, I understand grace just a little bit better. His grace suffices, and I fall upon it everyday. I fall, and He makes me to stand.

I can–because He did, and does.

I’m not too old, too busy, or too tired to dream. Sure, I’m older, and my body is (as is yours) marching towards decay, I’m not dead yet.

And neither are you.

Let’s choose to die daily to the desire to give up, to throw in the towel.

A story is written one word at a time–line upon line. Likewise, a painting is made one brush stroke at a time. Weight is lost one pound at a time, walking happens one step at a time…

Dreams are achieved when all the small steps we take are added together into a new whole. We can do hard things.

So take the next step, my friends. There is always grace sufficient for that. We can do it.