Will launch later

I have no idea where to begin with this post. It’s hard, when you stop writing, to come back months later and attempt to unload all of your thoughts, feelings, and ideas.  I can never summarize all that has transpired in the time between posts, so it usually ends up being about a specific, relevant thought, feeling, or idea.  But you have to start somewhere. You have to reach down, through the muck, and pull the plug.  And the draining begins.

I am so full of stress. It’s crazy how invisible and hard to diagnose stress is. But it’s heavy, super heavy.  If a scale could measure stress as well as body mass, I’m sure my scale would be off the charts right now.  Perhaps my greatest cause of unrelieved stress is that I never talk about it.  I never pull the plug, and let it drain.  I guess I never think I have to – like I said, this is some invisible stuff.  But right now I feel awful, and it’s either a health issue – or its stress.

So what is so stressful…?  Well, maybe I should make a list:

  1. We just moved to a new town
  2. … right next door to my in-laws
  3. … a new town in which I have no friends
  4. … and I know nothing about.
  5. I’m working from home (if you don’t work from home, you don’t know how stressful this can be)
  6. I’m running my own business
  7. I’m parenting when I am not working
  8. I’m working on the house when I am not doing one of the two things I just mentioned
  9. I have no local friends, no one to call to go see a movie, go get a drink, or to bitch to about how stressed I am
  10. Robin is pregnant. And I’m trying to be helpful.
  11. Add all of this up, and add on top of it the guilt of feeling stressed, the inability to say anything because I feel like I am complaining – even now I want to apologize for making this list and say I’m not trying to complain. Sheesh.

There you go.

I feel sick. Literally. But I don’t think it’s a disease.  I think it’s stress.

So what do I need?  God, that’s such a hard question.  I have no idea. Somebody help me out here… what do I need?

Our first session of marriage counseling, me and Robin’s counselor asked me: “Jim, what do you need?”

And do you know what I told him?

“I have no idea”.

Why is it so hard for me to admit to what I need? No. Not just admit, I can’t even think of what I need.

Ok, I think I know:

I need someone who cares about me. Is it bad to say, I need someone, who is not my family, and not my wife, to care about me.  You know… usually we call them: friends.  But not friendS – just

—————————————— UPDATE ———————————————-

Weird… I wasn’t done with this post and for some reason WordPress published it.  Strange. Maybe I scheduled it without even knowing.  Hopefully my site was not hacked.

Tracie, thanks for the response, even though I guess this post wasn’t ready yet.  In a way I’m not even sure I was going to publish it…but I guess I’m glad it got published.  I don’t even remember titling this “Will launch later” – strange.  Anyway, more complete thoughts to come in the future.

Kids

There is a left turn red light I will always remember.  It was the left turn that led into Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills, CA – and the day was September 30th, 2007.  I sat there, staring at the light, and then turning my head to glance at my very pregnant wife, and I could feel the butterflies in my stomach.

I had no idea what lie ahead.

I guess I mark that moment in my head as the last moment of my life before I had kids.  Amalea was born the next morning, on October 1st, 2007.  Maya came two years later, and now we have one more little girl on the way.

See the thing is, once you have kids – you always have kids.  There is no going back, ever.  See it’s different than having a friend or being married.  Because those relationship status’ end. But kids… it does not matter if they were to pass away, you can never rip that relationship away, no matter what.  They have your eyes. They have your personality.  They have your sense of humor and your temper.  They came from you and they are yours, forever.

And so you’re life changes, drastically, when your first child enters the world.  You do not realize it until some time later, but everything changes and there is no way to return to the you-before-kids.

The moment… at that light.  That was someone else.  I was someone else.

But this isn’t really what I wanted to write about tonight, though it does serve as a good introduction.  What I wanted to write about, is in fact this relationship – parent / child.

Having a child is unlike any other experience in life.  It is exhilarating and terrifying.  It is liberating and stifling.  It is magical and it is mundane.

Kids… no wait, not just any kids, YOUR kids – are magical. They are.  I say, YOUR kids, because people without kids hear the word “kids” and immediately think of something 1. small and cute and 2. semi-annoying.  Which is true and all, but there is so… soo….soooo much more. And you can’t see past 1 and 2 unless they are YOUR kids.

Anyway, back to “magical”.  They are. Think about it.  They pop out all bloody and attached to their mom, kicking and screaming.  They barf and crap everywhere and they suck the life out of you, literally.  They demand your attention for every waking hour (and let’s face it, you can’t stop thinking about them after they fall-asleep either).  But over the first two years, they develop into this little person.  This little walking and talking person who has feelings (as primitive as they might be) and has thoughts (like remembering a person or place and stating that they remember).  They play make believe with toys and live in this alternate universe sometimes.  They smile, and frown, and cry, and laugh.  They lash out when they are angry, and they passionately hug you when they are scared or hurt.  In their most precious moments, they tell you they love you (even if it is the young 2 year old who repeats it “I wov you”) and they throw their arms around you and they laugh and scream and run towards you when you have been away from them for a long time.  In some of their forgettable moments, they swing at you, bite you, and tell you “I don’t want to talk to you right now” or just “No. Nothing.”  And there is so much going on inside of them.  It’s such a mystery.

Where did this little person come from?  Seriously, all I did was… well, most of you know what I did.  (-;

Life is so strange.

In the course of 4 years I feel like my life has, in one sense, ended, and in another sense, begun.  And this is how it is, I suppose.  For most of us that choose to procreate, we have kids and there in lies the death of our purposeful, self-important life, and the beginning of a time when we live for our kids.

I suppose it is not this way for some… or maybe most.  They have kids and it is more of a hurdle or a flat tire on their career path.  They struggle through the young years, keeping the kid alive, and then engross themselves again in their pursuit of glory and forget about their offspring.

But that’s not how it is for me (I hope).

I suppose I should be a little more self-indulging and care more about the effect I am having on the world and how I might contribute to bettering the world outside of my family.  But I can’t seem to rekindle my passions outside of my kids!  It’s crazy, I know.

And it’s a little depressing at times, I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I look at all of this and it feels like this big circle.  Like, there was a time when you were preparing for something.  You went to school and you prepared for the adult world.  You learned how to get a job and support yourself – and for what?  Well, to have kids and then to do the same for them.  Feels small and insignificant – but I’m finding it actually just might be what it is all about.

Life that is, what life is all about: kids. No, seriously. Ok, I know, you’re reading this and you don’t have kids – you think I’m one of those nutso parents who have completely lost it… maybe.  But I don’t think so (they all say that ^_^).

People make life out to be some grand adventure (and to some extent, it is) but what they really mean is they want to experience as much for THEM as they possibly can.  And that’s fine and all, go be the “world’s most interesting man” but at the end of your life, what do you have to show for your life and all that you’ve done?  Memories stuck in your head that only benefit you?

The ultimate fulfillment at the end of life, is knowing that you contributed in some small way to continuing life.  And not just continuing it – but creating loving memories that you share with a family.  Experiences that will be passed on long after you have died and are gone.  You raise your children and you leave your fingerprints all over them (and in turn, on their kids and their kids and so on).

And this is what it is all about. Family.

I may have missed out on the club scene and getting drunk and going to crazy parties.  I may never have lived in a fancy condo on the 30th floor of some exciting town, and have a big time job at some big time company.  I may never drive a sports car or drink mixed drinks.  I may never have sex with another woman for the rest of my life.  And I’m ok with that, with all these things I may never experience… because I know, that when I am dying and ready to say goodbye – or even now if I were to pass suddenly – I know that my legacy (if you can call it that) lives on in my children.  I know that I have created life and (hopefully) offered all of who I am to my children so that they may do the same for their children.

Having kids, it’s not the end. It is the beginning. The beginning of a meaningful life – a meaningful future for all my descendants. I am grateful for the opportunity to have kids and to be able to hold them, and love them, and nurture their curiosity.  I am trying to keep my head above the smog that is the day in and day out demanding routines of a 4 year old and a 2 year old, so that I can relish in the overwhelming satisfaction that comes from knowing that you have created life – and a future.

Kids are so great. MY kids, are so great.  And I would, in an instant, give up my life for theirs – because my life is theirs, and I hope someday they can pass their lives on to their kids.

The First 4 Months in the Cruz

My last post was about 3 months ago and it talked about how I moved to a new town, Santa Cruz, and started a new chapter in my life.  In OUR life, I should say, as really it was a move more about family than it was about me.

So how are things going? How is this new chapter’s first few pages?

That’s what this post is all about.

Things are good. The family is healthy.  We are living next door to Robin’s parents which gives us lots of freedom, breaks, and financial relief.  Not to mention it’s just nice to have family near-by to go to dinner with, to come over and share a laugh or a memory with.  It’s healthy.  Robin is pregnant and we are having another girl, which, I am excited about.  The girls are growing up so fast, and they are really enjoying being here and playing in the sun.  We go to the park on a weekly basis (sometimes on a daily basis) and it is nice living so close to the beach.  I’ve had a few projects around the house, so I have been working on those which has kept me busy and active.  I joined a band. (-:

Life is good.

I’ve been working as much as I can, and work has been coming in steadily.  Robin has been working and we have been sharing the parenting responsibility like we did when I was a youth pastor.

I guess I should say, life is fairly easy; comfortable.

But good?

I’m not sure.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, my girls are absolutely wonderful.  My wife is supportive, loving, and a really great mom.  I have no complaints or regrets when it comes to my family.  That part of life, is perfect. (and I am beyond thankful for that)

But good?  Like… if I died I would be satisfied good?  I’m not sure.

See, my entire belief system, my entire paradox has shifted the last few years – and is still shifting.  It’s unnerving.  It’s terrible.  It’s hard.  And I wouldn’t change anything.  I’m so glad that I have escaped the chains of the past; of conservative religion and dogmatic beliefs.  The part of me that kept me from me – kept me from others – and kept me from experiencing most of what life has to offer.  I am happy that I am not closed to different cultures and people.  I am happy that I am not working in a church, expected to tell people what to think and how to act.  But it’s not easy… it’s a long, dark, cold, lonely corridor. It feels like you’re a lone leaf blowing across the open sea with no land in sight, and wondering how long the wind will carry you, and unsure where it is headed.  You just hold on and enjoy the ride.  And if the ride ends in the middle of the open sea and there is nothing there to save me, so be it.

But, something is missing.

Charity is missing.  But charity will surface again.

See, before, I think I did charity to feel good about myself.  Which sounds crazy, because what I am essentially saying is that I am excited to get back into charity and giving to others so that I feel better – but it’s different now.  Now, I know it feels good to give back to others – but that is NOT the reason I will do it.  I will do it because I care about others.  It’s a subtle difference, and most people do not even begin to think about it… but the last 4 years have been about refocusing on the heart of others, and not on the feeling helping them brings to me.

It’s hard right now, because most (if not all) of my charity goes to my kids right now. They have my hands and feet and heart and soul.  They have my everything. I work – for them. I play – with them.  And in my free time, I try to take care of myself so I don’t lose it on them.  There feels like such little room for charity right now.  But that’s ok.  I think that’s ok. I’m living with the emptiness of not serving out there in the world – not building houses anymore, not feeding the hungry, not teaching kids to look past themselves – but it won’t always be this way.  There will be a day when I reemerge and I – with my family – server the world again. The big and the small worlds.

This year I turn 30. 30! I will have three daughters.  It’s a whole new world.  A world I hope lasts for a few more seasons.  I still have so much to learn and to experience.

A New Town, A New Chapter

I think I’ve been thinking about this move to Santa Cruz all wrong.

It’s hard to let go of a place that you love, and so it has been hard to let go of my time in Portland, Oregon.  Probably one of the best places I can imagine living, anywhere in the world.  The Northwest is just a different type of place.  A slower pace of life, a more earth centric way of living, friendly down-to-earth people, and unbelievable food; just to mention a few things.  I really did love it there, but we moved to Santa Cruz to be closer to family – which was a VERY good decision.

But like I said, I’ve been thinking about this all wrong.  I think, deep down, I’ve been a little bitter about having to leave Portland – but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It just depends on how I look at it.

What I realized tonight, is that now begins a new chapter in my life.  Sure it’s cliche and all to say “thus begins a new chapter” – but it’s true.  Let’s see, I can summarize the last 10 – 15 years in chapters:

  1. 1997-2001 High School
  2. 2001-2003 The Dark ages (aka, Moorpark College, travelling, and the lung collapse)
  3. 2003-2004 Azusa Pacific, transformation, Robin Dawn Harrold
  4. 2005-2008 Youth Ministry years, married life, the beginning of Parenting
  5. 2008-2011 Portland, Oregon, Web Design, more parenting
And now… a new chapter: Santa Cruz.
And I have no idea how long this chapter will be, but I know a few things:
  • I can learn a lot from my in-laws, as well as my parents
  • I will learn a lot about building things: fences, patios, play-houses, gardens, etc.
  • I can enter into my thirties, and actually become an adult that cares about adult things (like my children’s education, our communities safety, etc)
Basically it hit me… I’m in a new place, with new people, and new situations.  Rather than being bummed about that, or focusing on what I left behind… I can focus all my attention and energy on what I can learn from this period of my life.
In the last period of my life, I learned a lot about how to interact with people.  The Northwest is a great place to learn how to be hospitable, friendly, and community oriented.  I learned how things like how to shake someone’s hand, what to say when you pass a stranger on a walk, how to start a small conversation with a stranger at a store… little things that I was never taught and was always afraid of.  I grew a lot in this way in Portland.
I wonder how I will grow in this chapter…

Sunday Movie Night: Ides of March

Sunday nights are movie nights. Not for the family; that’s Friday nights. No, for me.

Not every Sunday night (I’m not that rich) but about once a month, I try and go out and catch a movie, alone. It’s a way for me to refuel, collect my thoughts, prepare for the coming week, and just relax. But it’s also a place for me to be inspired/influenced/taught.  Movies have always played that role in my life, even if my fault has always been being too gullible with Hollywood and allowing cinema to effect the way I see the world a little too much.  Movies serve a number of functions, but mainly: a source of entertainment (used to make money), propaganda (used to influence people and sell them on an idea/concept/belief), and as an open ended art form (used to inspire and stir the imagination).  There may be others, but these are the three categories I can think of now.

Some examples:

  • Entertainment: The Hangover
  • Propaganda: An Inconvenient Truth
  • Art: Koyaanisqatsi

Again, there may be more or these may be bad examples, but this is what I can think of right now.

The movie I saw on this particular Sunday night, was “The Ides of March” (with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling, among others).  Of course every movie is going to have some percentage of those categories I listed above, but I would mainly categorize this movie under Propaganda.  That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining or art. But mainly, I think it was propaganda.

I won’t get into the movie, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, but I do want to say this about propaganda: It’s not all bad unless you are completely unaware that it is, in fact, propaganda.

Personally, when I think of propaganda, I think of something like Nazi Germany – and the way they used art and ads and songs and film to convince people that Jews should be hated, even killed.  Definitely not the birth place of propaganda, but it stands out as a horrifying way propaganda was used for bad in the modern era the Nazi’s utilized modern mediums such as film and poster art.

But I suppose not all propaganda is bad.  I mean, advertising is, in fact, propaganda.  It is trying to convince you of something.

You NEED this car.
You will be happy IF you buy this TV.
Boys will date you IF you use this face cream.
Girls in short dresses will talk to you if you drink Bud Light.

Maybe I should not have given those examples after stating that not all propaganda is bad.  But, I suppose it will suffice to make my point.  Propaganda is only bad when you are unaware of the fact that it is (whatever IT is) in fact, propaganda – a message that is being communicated to deliberately get you to change your mind, or change your perspective on something, some person, some product, or even yourself.

When people are unaware of this fact, they may mindlessly buy into the  propaganda, which is usually aimed at their emotions, and thus results in horrible consequences, such as genocide. (that would be an extreme, and I won’t say that genocide is caused ONLY by propaganda, but you get the idea).

And what pisses me off is that propaganda is ALL AROUND us and most people are so UNAWARE of it, and in fact model their entire lives around the messages they receive from propaganda.

But here is the fascinating thing about propaganda: why does it work?  How could some commercial of a hand holding a pretty little iPhone, make me desperately want to buy one and feel worthless if I don’t have one?  How could a commercial cause me to buy something I absolutely do not need (not need, in the survival sense)?  Why are we so manipulative… or not manipulative (though that is a valid question too) but, you know, so easily manipulated?  We are like little lemmings (forgive the example if you have no idea what I’m talking about) who walk off the cliff because the person in front of us did.

I saw this video of this old Candid Camera episode (from like the 60’s or something) and they had a camera on an elevator door.  Three or four actors would walk in with one unsuspecting person.  The actors would all then immediately face the rear of the elevator – and all of these non-actors would walk in, look around, and then face the rear – not questioning it at all.

In fact, they had this one poor kid, probably in his early 20’s, come in and look around, totally confused, but wanting to not be the odd one out, so he faces the rear.  Then the actors turn, before the door closes, to the left – and the kid does too!  Then the doors open again and everyone is facing the rear again, even the kid!

I’ve seen other experiments like this too, where people do not want to be… I don’t know, wrong?  The only one NOT doing something?  Left out?

But why are we like this?

This is some people’s ENTIRE existence… to attain whatever it is they are told by whoever is doing the selling that they need to attain.

Seems so… controlling. NOT-free. Like a prison.

On the flip side, and I’ll end here, you have to at least listen to the propaganda, because like I said – it’s not all bad.  Sometimes the message is something you need to hear, or be taught.  To claim that you are an individual, in no need of instruction and teaching, is to be just as dangerous as the fool who listens and obeys, without questioning or at least contemplating what he or she has been shown or taught.