Archives For journey

'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.

Folks, in our ongoing series on anger I’m privileged to bring you a post today from Shawn Smucker. In his own words:

Shawn SmuckerShawn is the author of Building a Life Out of Words, the story of how he lost his business, his house and his community, then found happiness making a living as a writer. He lives deep in the woods of southern Lancaster County, PA, with his wife and four children. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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My Anger is a Goldfish

My anger is like seeing an old friend from high school at one of the harvest fairs we have here in the fall, a friend with whom I had many good times doing things that are now embarrassing to recollect. When I first see that old friend, I smile and think about saying hello. But then I remember everything we did and I realize it would be awkward. We terrorized the community back in our day, stole road signs and drove like maniacs.

Things are different now. I am different.

Not knowing how to deal with such a friend, I duck my head and walk around to the back side of the tent where people are throwing ping-pong balls at fish bowls. Children walk by holding goldfishes-in-water by the crinkled necks of clear plastic bags, and I wonder how many hours or at most days those fish have left. And my old friend wanders by, chatting with someone I do not know, and I sigh.

So it is with my anger, this old friend who I cannot communicate with. This old friend who startles me with his sudden appearance. This old friend who causes me to hide in obscure alleyways and watch the random bouncing of ping-pong balls as they dance over the heads of goldfish praying, “Not me!”

* * * * *

According to Annie Dillard, Rabbi Isaac Luria “repudiated both anger and sorrow, for to him anger, especially, was the proximate source of all evil.” This is a foreign thought to us today, when we are encouraged to embrace our feelings.

Feelings cannot be judged as good or bad, we are told by everyone. Feelings simply are.

* * * * *

When I was a boy, I was taught in no uncertain terms that anger was bad. In the Amish culture, that murky, beautiful people from whom my grandparents emerged not unscathed, stoicism and emotional control are valued above all else. I have seen many Amish men venture towards anger, but they veer away from it by laughing forcefully, or scoffing. Ridiculing something is preferable to being angry with it.

Then I read somewhere that anger is simply the result of a blocked goal. I want something. I am blocked from attaining it. I am angry.

And so when I feel that dragon’s egg beginning to tremble, when I feel anger beginning to hatch, I search for what it is that I am being held from.

The constant activity of the children, when they are supposed to be in bed, is keeping me from a tranquil evening.

The person driving the car that cut me off is keeping me from feeling that I am an autonomous human being that owns the roads.

The person on the internet that disagrees with me is keeping me from feeling safe and secure in the little castle of beliefs that I have constructed, that help me make sense of an upside-down world.

But instead of addressing my old friend Anger, I scurry off to the side and simply wait for him to pass me by. I prefer avoidance, for now.

Then I realize that my anger is not my old friend from high school. My anger is a goldfish, because I believe that my anger can be submerged in the water of some other emotion and carried away, so long as I cling to the crinkled neck of the clear plastic bag that holds it.

For some reason, though, this particular goldfish never seems to die.

Friends, my friend Kevin Haggerty is a good guy, and a great friend of this blog. Kevin and I have guest posted for one another, swapped tweets, etc. He has keen sense of humor, has his finger on the pulse of pop culture, and writes some of the funniest posts I’ve seen (his “Friday Funhouse” series).

More importantly, Kevin loves Jesus, and strives to follow him where he leads. You may, or may not, know, but Kevin was let go from his teaching job earlier this year. Despite having a baby on the way, he and his wife, Kim, felt the Lord leading them into the direction of self-employment. Kevin fell in love again with design, and launched a business, KR Graphix. After some initial business, things seem have largely dried up. (More details are available on Kevin’s blog).

All of that is to say: please pray for Kevin and Kim. That they would hear clearly, and that Jesus would provide. And if you are in need of some design work, please check out his business, KR Graphix.

On a personal note, I’ve seen God do some amazing things for me and my family this; I know he can do the same for Kevin. Please join in praying that he does so in such a way that he alone gets the glory.

Thanks, friends!

Since about February of this year, I’ve been on what can be termed a “carbohydrate-restricted” diet. I’m sorry, I mean, don’t call it a “diet”–it’s a lifestyle. This lifestyle has been great for my waistline–I’ve lost close to 40lbs–but hasn’t improved my sleep apnea.

Not one bit. I thought by losing weight, I would improve my nighttime breathing. Well, not so much. In fact, if anything, the apnea has gotten worse.

Not only that, though I’ve lost weight, my total serum cholesterol is 212, and my LDL is 143. Not such good numbers.

This, despite my “lifestyle,” and moderate exercise. Guess it’s all in the genes, or something.

Thanks, mom and dad! Thanks a lot.

Anyway, I thought I could get a handle on this without any additional doctor visits, etc. But it’s not looking that way. (You in the peanut gallery: shut up! I know full well it sucks to be middle aged). So, it looks like another sleep study is in order, and with a recurrent staph infection in my left nostril, a visit to the otolaryngologist (otherwise, like Treebeard, known as an ENT) as well. I hate going to the doctor!

All of this added to what my wife is going through health-wise: diabetes, adhesive capsulitis (“frozen shoulder”–for which she has been enduring painful physical therapy thrice-weekly for sometime now), and various other health issues as well.

Added to which, our son has had some issues with bullies at school.

All of which is to say that this introvert’s heart is on overload. Life is too much right now. So much so, that I presently don’t really care about my healthy regimen. I mean: eat right, exercise daily, die anyway, right? So I may as well eat what I enjoy.

Awesome headspace to be in, right? Can I get an “Amen?”

As you can probably guess–if you read yesterday’s post–I’ve been somewhat surly and withdrawn lately. If you don’t believe me, just ask my wife. 😉

I’m sorry if this sounds like a pity party; that’s not why I’m sharing. I’m just trying to be real with you.

Insofar as I know, I ain’t dyin’, but I feel–chronically–only about half alive. I guess what I’m saying is: I could use your prayers.

Thanks, and God bless!

How can I pray for you?

'The Equal Rights Amendment' photo (c) 2008, dbking - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

In Western society, we are altogether too familiar with the words of Ephesians 5:22-24 (ESV), and how this passage has been abused, which says:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

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