I like to think I'm deliberate.
That I labor over decisions, both big and small. That I'm meticulous and make well-counselled decisions.
In something approaching 50% of the time, though, I think I operate more on impulse. This tends to be OK, as I trust myself in most matters. Deliberate, impulsive, these are things I'm used to both striving for an being, respectively. One thing I'm not, or at least up until recently have not been, accustomed to is calling. A decision calling to me is something than an impulsive one. Impulse is fleeting; I didn't buy those new $150 earbuds even though I liked them and seem to collect such technical doodads - better judgement, nay, deliberate decision-making, intervened. A calling, on the other hand, does not fleet.
When there's this feeling... in your chest or somewhere approximate. It's a nagging thing, isn't it? Even tainted around the edges to make you feel like not doing it is somehow wrong. A calling, being willed from the inside or some outside force, as near physical a thing as a pinprick. I was called to do the RV trip, did you know that? I don't say it, but I felt like we were supposed to do that; meant to bond and explore. Yeah sure, you're thinking that I'm likely also "called" to my daily bowel movements, that I'm some crystals and auras new-age type getting messages from the Pleiades. I'm not; as much as one can impartially judge themselves as such a one. I knew that trip was the right thing to do, while on it everything felt right, and looking back at it there's no denying the overall correctness of it. It was a calling I chose to heed.
Is "calling" even the right word? Not sure. When someone chooses the seminary, what's that... a calling? A desire? How do you tell the difference. In my life, I also desired (greatly) that past summer's trip. Called, or wanted? Maybe it's the persistence of the feeling that leads me to want to dub something a calling versus a desire. I desire a steak, medium rare, salt and pepper only. I'm called on a journey. What does one do, then, when one feels some compelling urge to do something seemingly irrational... like a drastic career and scenery change?
Why do I daydream about teaching middle-school math in upstate New York? What is that kind of fantasy. I even see the town in my head, all Bedford Falls and Mayberry. My kids know your kids and your wife and mine are in the same PTA meetings and church committees. I don't work until 10pm. I don't work until 11pm. I don't work until midnight. I don't think about work in the shower. I don't think about work on the weekend. My fucking till balance at the end of my grocery-checker shift doesn't weigh on my shoulders like an anchor. My paycheck loses decimal places. Our saving stalls. I wouldn't be able to do things like that RV trip I was "called" to; I'd have to pass-up the calling because I couldn't afford it. Right? Little devil on the right, little angel on the left. Warring.
I can't even write one-minded about it and I'm just manic-depressive enough about it to where it'll likely never happen. There is this part of me that wants it like an ideal, though. To get closer to my family, my God, my planet, the things I like about myself and the things I feel my time is best spent on. Why waste it working until 10pm, 11pm, midnight? Why waste it rebalancing my 401k? Why sow or reap or store away in barns? Why labor or spin? How long can I keep pretending to seriously ask myself these questions before I give up and admit I'm too scared or convince the family to take the first steps with me? I'm not serious, surely.
Self-indulgent catharsis. Feel better. More coming at a later time. Thanks for reading.
Just the other day I learned there's a word in German which is defined as the "vicarious embarrassment" a person can feel whilst watching another party doing something embarrassing The word is fremdschämen, and I'd like to get it integrated into my vocabulary as I'm very prone to experiencing this embarrassed-by-proxy emotion. In fact, I seem to be somewhat inclined to the "transfer" of other emotions, as well... let me expand.
Last week I took Keaton up to her school to watch the third-through-fifth grade spelling bee. Not just some rinky-dink thing, this was an "official" Scripps Howard rules bee, complete with fee paid to the aforementioned governing body to both use their rules and qualify winners for advancement to the state and national level (you know, the one they show on ESPN2?). She wasn't in the spelling bee, mind you, they don't let the K-through-2 kids participate, but she had been talking about the thing so much that I decided we'd do a daddy-daughter date night centered around it. Nevermind that, once getting there, the glam and seduction of the spelling bee seemed to dissipate quickly under the reality of the event and she was complaining of being "bored" within the first half-hour, for that's not where this story is going.
We were talking about "emotions by proxy," recall? What I came here to remark on was the sense of pride I found myself feeling watching children who weren't even my own. Pride that these kids were getting the words right, pride in the way they handled being on stage and mic'd in front of a crowd of adults, pride at their aplomb even after misspelling and having to leave the stage. Proud-by-proxy; it happens, at least to me. That fourth-grade kid named Pinder, the tall slender one who just spelled "dramaturgical," a word I'd never even heard, that kid's smile and triumphant walk back to his seat after the judge's "correct" was almost enough to bring tears to my eyes.
Is that odd? I get it too sometimes when I see a local kid sing the national anthem in their hometown before a pro ballgame. For real.
At work today I had this moment where I had to tell myself, "Shut up, Dave."
It's a somewhat cyclical thing with me. Work begins taxing me more and more and I have these little Popeye moments where I say to myself, "That's all I can stands and I can't stands no more!" I start daydreaming about vacation, start thinking towards the weekend, developing a case "senioritis," as they used to call it in those final months of high school. If I let my thoughts linger there for too long, my productivity is impacted. I get in some kind of work-depression funk where I start questioning the meaning of it all. That, my friends, is when I have to give myself a figurative slap across the figurative cheek and tell myself to snap out of it.
My job is awesome; my life is awesome; my family is awesome; buck-up and be thankful. I told someone today that the first problem on my brain when I wake up each morning is which car my wife is going to want me to drive to work, the big one or the little one. Some guy in India wakes up in a hovel and the first thing he worries about is feeding his kids for the day. Perspective.
Also at work today, and not related, I wondered to myself why my team can be so cynical all the time. I thought about it and realized, I'm a cynical person. Someone challenged me on this once, saying that if you studied the behaviors you most dislike in your team (as a manager), you'd find that most of them are modeled after the very same behavior exhibited by you. Ouch. A damning concept, but one that I think is probably true - at least in the case of my team's cynicism. I'm a pretty cynical and sarcastic person, or at least I like to entertain all reactions to things, a primary one being cynicism. So, your team is cynical and you're likely a cynic yourself. How to fix it? How to change the collective thread of behavior? Model it. You change, they change. A tough, but thrilling, concept. Sigh...
Yeah, time to get some perspective. Goodnight.
A thorough retrospective.
In the late 1940s, an Alabama-native named Anne met and wed man named Wesley. A religious man, Wesley introduced Anne to his church - one of the many smaller arms of the protestant Christian faith which sprung from the Restoration Movement of the 1800s. Soon, Anne found herself "born again." Wesley and Anne moved to Florida in the mid-1950s, soon after the birth of their middle child, a daughter, Gail. Gail inherited her parents' faith, and after marrying and having her first child, a daughter, my wife, raised her in the church.
Sharaun, that daughter, my wife, grew up in that Southern conservative Christian tradition. When she turned nine, that daughter sought special permission to go to "Bible camp" a year before she should've been allowed to. For those, like me, who didn't grow up in the Bible Belt, the notion of a "Bible camp" may sound odd (as it did to me). But, it's really just a week-long summer camp with a healthy dose of Jesus. Sharaun, my wife, Gail's daughter, Anne's grand-daughter, loved Bible camp. She looked forward to it all year long, and went every year without fail - although they made her be a counselor instead of camper sometime around twenty years old.
It was at that Bible camp, about seventeen years ago, when Sharaun was a sophomore in highschool, she met a girl named Melissa when the two shared a cabin. Over the next few summers, Sharaun and Melissa would be yearly reunited at Bible camp. Around the very same time, although definitely not at Bible camp, Sharaun and I started dating. We'd met five years before that when we were in the sixth grade, but I'd fallen hard for her during that same summer she first met Melissa at Bible camp. I courted her during those months, eventually won a boyfriend audition as we started dating as we went into our junior year. The summer before our senior year, Sharaun brought me into the church in much the same way her grandfather did her grandmother.
Three years later, after a couple years of junior college for Sharaun, she and Melissa again shared a cabin at summer Bible camp and discovered that they were planning to attend the same state University. As it happened, I was also packing bags after two years of junior college and was bound for those same hallowed halls. Sharaun and I, while not having been together the entire time, had been dating for almost four years when all three of us - Melissa, Sharaun, and myself - converged on that university town to earn our degrees. The three of us spent three years together being educated, and I got to know Melissa as Sharaun did.
Sharaun and I got engaged in 1999. That next year we graduated, got married, and moved across the United States, to California, where I'd accepted a job offer. We kept in touch with Melissa and that first year we were here I surprised Sharaun by inviting her out for Christmas (we were poor beyond belief, using credit card cash advances to pay the rent month to month, and couldn't go back to Florida as we'd wanted). Four years later, Melissa decided she wanted a change of scene and uprooted herself from Florida to move to Northern California. She'd consulted with Sharaun and I on the move, saying she wanted "something different" and taking advantage of an internal transfer through her employer. She showed up sometime in 2003 (her name is still on the mailbox).
Getting acclimated and looking for a place to stay, Melissa bunked in our guest room for her first month or two in California. Being co-located, our paths remained intertwined over the years and we stayed close. Ultimately, she'd end up buying a house just a stone's throw from our place.
A few years ago Melissa walked up to a hulking man in a dive bar in the city and, boldly out of character, kissed him flush on the lips. A South African native, Charl was introduced to us as Melissa's boyfriend a few months later. Charl, now Melissa's fiancée, is a beast of man; larger than life, sometimes even intimidating in his ebullience. Charl is also bald, having begun shaving his head back in college when he discovered his hairline was no longer going to behave. Like he is with most everything, Charl is passionate about his baldness; and ever since I've known him he's been working on converting me, proselytizing the bald lifestyle and all its associated merits. Hearing my woe over my thinning crown, he'd urge me to let him bring me into the fold. I like Charl, and have grown somewhat closer to him too.
Sometime in Spring this year, after a year or more humoring Charl about one day letting him shave my head, I relented and went through with it. It was after a few beers at an evening barbecue in our backyard. Fifteen minutes of buzzing and bic'ing and it was done.
Turns out Charl was right; I love being bald. Now that I'm hairless (at least on top), I'd not have it any other way. I shave every other day (with a razor, not electric); takes me about ten minutes extra in the shower.
And that's the story of how I came to shave my head.
Goodnight, and thanks Mimi.
I've heard my mom talk before about how my grandfather came down with "gold fever." Sometime in the 1960s I'm assuming. The family owned an irownworks down in Southern California at the time and he had them forge some homemade tools. He had a highbanker and sluice he'd assembled himself and he'd take off, alone or with friends I don't know, to the foothills and riverbeds of Northern California to dig up his fortune.
Maybe I'm wrong, but when I hear my mom talk about it I get the impression that his "gold fever" was more than recreation, and that he may have sought his riches to the detriment of the family. OK maybe not in an capering old-timer from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre way, but surely in a drag-your-family-around-and-make-them-work-the-pans kinda way. I didn't quite catch resentment in her memories, but maybe hinted accusations of overzealous folly on Grandpa's part.
As I kid, I remember the gold pans and equipment hung on the walls of my grandparents' cabin as decoration. Obviously the pastime was important to him, and I recall the couple decent size nuggets he had to show for his passion.
I wonder if my nuggets will be worth it? What mountains and rivers will my daughter recall as drawing me away or dominating my time? On the other hand, Grandpa took his family along with him at least part of the time... and that means something too.
There was a thought here that didn't quite come out. I tried. Goodnight.
Tonight we watched E.T. with Keaton; being not yet five it was her first time seeing it.
As a kid, I can remember the scene where E.T. is "dying" as something that absolutely broke my heart. I mean I had nightmares about those little round suction-cup monitors they had all over Elliot and E.T. I'd forgotten just how good the movie is, and just how sad the sad parts can be. I think I cried more because I could see Keaton working hard to stifle her owns tears than because E.T. had to leave in the end. As the spaceship lifted off she broke down and sniffed hard, letting a single hear dampen the side of her little nose. She snuggled up close to Sharaun (she'd moved to the couch with mom when things started getting a bit emotional) and worked hard to stem a flow.
I love movie nights with the family. More and more this is what I want from life. Not money, not a social life, not goods; just time where I can be still. Time with my family and my God and my thoughts and my self. In those brief moments I catch snatches and drifts of a more sublime existence; a place where it's Fall and my neighbors go to my church and I can send my kids out trick-or-treating without adult supervision - some unreal nirvana; a catchall fantasy that has me surrounded by only that which has meaning. Where work stays at work, summers are long and stress is low. Where the cost of living matters not compared to the quality of life.
Sometimes the urge to drop out and chase the fantasy is strong. Truly strong. Right now is one of those times. Lately all I want to do is give chase; my brain is dripping with sweat for all the dwelling I do on it. Feeling like, maybe, it's only a question of getting all the tumblers aligned just right and click, your every action has meaning and your every breath is fulfillment. Gaining distance from the folly of the past and a wide berth to define what matters and what's right. Between being consumed with these thoughts I manage to get some work done, but it's getting hard.
Happy Monday folks. I wrote this weekend, so I should have good material to draw on for the week's writing. Here we go with a personal one.
Sharaun's folks were in town all last week. As usual, I enjoyed having them around. The more we hang out the better our son-in-law to parents-in-law relationship seems to get. Yes I realize this makes sense, but it's still something that makes me happy about having them around.
Something that doesn't make me happy about having them around? The peculiar changes that come over the way my wife interacts with me. For see, consistently, since we've been married, Sharaun changes ever so slightly when her folks are around. In short, she becomes emasculating to me. In long, she adopts an overly-showy "I'm the boss of you; I'm the woman in charge; I run this marriage" way of speaking to me. It's an amazing thing, really, as this attitude only shows up in front of her parents; I never see it demonstrated elsewhere at other times in our lives.
And, despite the fact that I've made her aware that she does this, and that it destroys me, she says I'm imagining it; being over-sensitive or making something of nothing. But let me tell you this is not a simple case of my imagination or my sensitivity or me something-izing a nothing. No; it's a 100% real and observable change (I promise). She questions my decisions; makes it a point to illuminate my errors or faults; informs the room of my failures; and openly doubts my "leadership" and sensibilities. OK so that may sound justifiably overly-sensitive, and it's certainly not all of that all of the time, but you get the idea.
I'm a firm believer that this sort of thing is one of the worst fates a man and husband can be made to endure; for it's truly a humiliation. Women may not understand this, I cannot know, but for men pride is a living, breathing thing. And around the man that fathered the woman they are now charged with caring and providing for, pride snarls and bristles and wants fresh meat. After all, I've assumed his former role to some extent: his child is now my responsibility. The torch has been passed to me, in a manner of speaking.
I think of all the ways I as a father care for Keaton today, and have a better understanding of the implicit trust I'm granted from my own father-in-law. Not having been there yet, I marvel that a man can ever really wholly get over his God-given fatherly instinct and be secure in knowing that the husband his daughter chose is "good enough." I take care of his daughter while she's sick; my coin fills the coffer that feeds and clothes her; I listen to her when she cries. To say that I want to appear strong and capable and sensible and in-charge around this man is understating things grossly. I need to be strong and capable and sensible, for it's imperative that he understand I've got this; his progeny is safe under me; I am in-charge.
So when this unconscious bravado bubbles up in my wife it really derails me; pains me; sucks. It makes me mad, but an angry reaction only works against me in front of the audience I care so much about. So the best, and simultaneously worst, reaction is silence - synonymous with acceptance, I'm afraid, for said audience. Why o' why woman, woman whom I love so very much, do you seem to strive so hard at making me look and feel stupid and inadequate in front of one of the two men in this world I most need to be a man in front of? It's a rare thing that I care about how I'm perceived (outside of work, that is) but in this case it's of critical import to me. So it hurts. It hurts really bad.
But, in the end, I don't think my wife does it one purpose, nor do I even thing she knows she's doing it. I try and make her aware of it, and it's not like she ignores my feelings or writes me off (even though I may have made it sound that way up above)... I just think it's some unbidden thing. So what happens is I end up turning up the machismo in retaliation, projecting some half-hearted misogyny as an ill-chosen, but mostly subconscious, defensive response. Of course this just feeds the reactor and dials-up the whole thing. Problem is this "shut up woman I'll do what I want" attitude likely makes me look more a heel than does being seen as the wife's do-boy. What's that they say sometimes, damned if do, damned if you don't? Indeed.
I dunno; I'm,sure that there are some legitimate times where I deserve a little deflating, or am over-reacting out of pride or something....
Well that's about all I care to write on the matter. I could go more, but I think I'm done. Maybe tomorrow I'll get less introspective.