Saturday, May 27, 2017

More than gypsies


I once worked as a cashier at a gas station/restaurant. One Sunday during the "after church" crowd, an elderly gentleman approached the counter to pay, and when I looked up, I saw his eyes roll back in his head and he fell straight back on the tile floor. If you dropped a watermelon filled with gravy it may have had a similar sound and spew. The skull smack was deafening, and when the white began to spill out his mouth and nose.... Well, let's just say it was my last day working there.

It was a 2nd job anyway. I was trying to save up enough money to buy a new guitar. I didn't need one that bad. I felt bad quitting, because I liked the job, and the people I worked for and with. The sight, sound, and smell of the experience was just too much for my psyche to process at that time in my life.

I've never really considered myself as an overly strong person emotionally... but I've also never thought I was a quitter. My experience over the last 5 years leaves me with a lot of questions though.

I understood getting burned out while pastoring. Not that it was necessarily the pastoring that did it, but it happened nonetheless. I felt like I worked through things pretty well and was maybe on my way to not only healing, but maybe even recovery. I took some time off, then got a job that didn't exact near the emotional toll on me. I'm beginning to have my doubts though. Maybe I'm just done...

What if what I thought was temporary is actually permanent? What if I'm never able to deal with stress again? What if there isn't a low-stress-enough job out there for me to have a worthwhile place in this world? What if I need to go on disability?

These are thoughts I'm having today. I have done a fair job of chronicling my struggles at work recently. Today I felled in for a fellow manager at his facility (SW). It was only for 3 hours. It's a holiday Saturday and I only had to work from 9-12. But... I feel like I just watched an old man crack his skull open on the floor in front of me again. I got over-stressed. The details don't even matter.

It also happens to be the last day one of my best friends works for the company. He works part-time at my facility, and sometimes drives me crazy because he doesn't always do things correctly, but I probably spend more time in soul-sharing with him than anyone. The fact that he's an atheist is beside the point.

So here I sit in front of the computer. Work is becoming too chaotic - maybe even schizophrenic - my nerves are frayzled (that's a new work I just invented for "frayed" and "frazzled"), I'm feeling pretty lonely, and I don't know if I have the strength to hold a job anymore. What if I can't do it? What if I'm washed up? Cashed in? Done?

GYPSIES
An old friend of mine wrote a song a long, long time ago. The name of it may have been "Liar to Liar" - I'm not sure. But there was a line that went, "Only gypsies are made in a day." I can't be sure exactly what he meant by that, but at the time my 20-something grass-fed brain took that to mean, "It takes more than one day (or experience) to make or break someone. Life is a process and there will be ups and downs and all arounds." I have to admit that I'm not sure why I think that now, but it's been a refrain in my head for a long time for days such as this. And now I'm wondering if I was simply wrong. Maybe it's not just gypsies who are made in a day. Maybe life is only a process up to a certain point. Maybe there's a breaking point and sometimes we can't come back from it. Maybe I really do have something wrong with my head and I'm NOT alright!

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I don't know. Maybe I just need to let the Monkey Shoulder scotch from last night wear off. I'm tired. Tired of so much. It shouldn't be this much work to get through a week at a no-future job. I'm going to have a beer and let the sweat from mowing the lawn dry. Then maybe a shower and a nap.

Two ducks waddled across my driveway this morning. I didn't think much of it. I think I should have.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Diet, kiosk, jane to buda

I actually started this post sometime last week. One day I wrote several - including all the Nouwen book posts - and haven't had time to get back and finish. So here's a few things.

DIET
I've started on a diet. Trying to drop a few extra pounds and hopefully get in a better weight range for longer running I guess. Jane actually ordered the supplies. It's the New Lifestyle Diet. We've done it before. We're only doing the 2-week plan. They say it's a total health thing, but basically it's one of those diets where you drink a lot of powdered mixtures. We eat one regular meal per day. I don't think it's the healthiest plan in the world, but I suppose simply fasting for 2 weeks wouldn't kill us either. I really don't have a weight-loss goal in mind, but I could stand to take off about 20 pounds.

KIOSK/WORK
My job has been "interesting" lately. It's actually not as bad as it was there for awhile, but the kiosk is now up and running! Tomorrow will mark one week that it's been operational, and not one single person has used it yet! Lol.

Otherwise, work is still as chaotic as ever. One of the things I liked about this company when I started was that all six facilities operated exactly the same. That way an employee at one place could go to another and know how to do pretty much anything. Now my facility operates different from all the others. As does another facility that has a kiosk and no manager on-site. We do not operate the same either. And, like that's not bad enough, I really have no idea what my operational procedures are supposed to be. They are different, but I've been told so many different things that I'm basically just on my own trying to figure it out. No one has any clue. I can manage to get through each day, but my fear is it's going to catch up with us one of these days and be a total fricking mess. But, no one seems to care. I'm still holding out hope I will find another job before that day comes, but I guess I actually need to be looking for another job if I want to have one. Argh.

And... to top things off... when I got back to work at the end of last week after being gone to Atlanta, we developed an email problem. Apparently someone clicked on something they shouldn't have or something, and Outlook has not taken kindly to us. We were notified last Thursday that we've been sending too many emails (spam), and as of this moment I am completely locked out of Outlook. I haven't been able to send mail this whole time, and now I can't even open the program. Our computer guru (in Michigan!) is "working on it." So far this week I've deleted over 3000 spam emails that were returned. Only a handful of those are ones I actually sent. I can hardly wait til they start coming back. As the "office" I get the bulk of mail for the company, and for almost a week now I haven't been able to send invoices, receipts, collection notices, rate adjustments, or reports and mail scans (to owners). It just keeps getting better by the minute here...

JANE TO BUDA
In other news, Jane went back home this past weekend. Her brothers oldest grandchild graduated high school. He is the first of that generation, so she thought she ought to go. I had to work Saturday, as well as about every Saturday for the next month, so I just stayed home. She said things were especially difficult with my parents. She took my mom shopping Saturday - which mom loved - but otherwise she said my dad is getting much worse. I/we feel bad, and hope it doesn't take too much of a toll on my mom. So we will likely be trying to go back more often. My sister isn't much help, so life may get a lot more interesting here shortly. We even talked about the possibility of buying a house back home, because staying at my parents might not be an option much longer. We'll see.

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Well, there, I wrote something. Finally. Now I suppose I should dive back into the confusion of work. I have no idea what I'm doing - or supposed to be doing - but, again, apparently it doesn't matter. I suppose this is the new normal in the "Trump era." As long as money's being made nothing else matters. Or it's just a messed up place.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Life of the beloved


This third post is just a brief and general overview of Henri Nouwen's great little book 'Life of the Beloved.' It is around 150 pages, and includes a reflection guide at the end. Basically the entire book is Henri's writings to a new friend who wants to understand how to live a spiritual life in a secular world (and he is not a Christian). It doesn't contain any church-y language and is perhaps better explained in the sermons Henri preached on the topic. You can find them in a link on the first post HERE.

There are three sections:
  1. Being the Beloved.
  2. Becoming the Beloved.
  3. Living as the Beloved.
The middle section is the focal point. We already ARE the beloved, so Nouwen asserts that becoming the beloved is the process of letting that truth become enfleshed in everything we think, say, and do. He identifies four movements of the Spirit in our lives that allow this to happen:
  • Taken
  • Blessed
  • Broken
  • Given
You may recognize this pattern if you have participated in Communion in a church service. Nouwen says these words also describe our lives each and every day. THAT is what the book is about.

For those who know me you understand my hesitance to make recommendations. I love Nouwen's writing, and this book did not disappoint. I think I might actually buy another copy and give to an atheist friend of mine. I don't know why, but it just feels like a good book to do that with.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Broken


In this second post on Henri Nouwen's incredible little book 'Life of the Beloved' I just have a couple quotes I pulled from the chapter on being "broken."

As I said before, this book is basically just writings from Henri to a friend. I was struck on p. 85 when Henri said:
"I told you about my writing as a means of dealing with my loneliness, my sense of isolation, my many fears, and my general sense of insecurity."
I've read loads of books by and about Henri, but this is the first I recall hearing anything like that. I think it resonated with me so because that is probably why I write, even though I'd never thought of it like that. I've always been a journaler, but I'd never considered it how I dealt with - or processed - the way I am. Even though it seems obvious now. I was actually somewhat encouraged to find that I have this in common with someone like this.

Speaking of writing, I do have to admit that it makes me feel better. When I am able to get in a flow and write something halfway decent - that's when I perhaps feel most alive. Unfortunately I don't do it much. It's also interesting that a friend of mine - who I don't think has ever read anything I've written - has suggested several times that I should consider writing a book. I don't know why he thinks that, or says that, but I also must admit that lately I've been thinking about it. I can't imagine it will ever happen because it would take up so much time, but I don't think I've ever noticed the impact writing has on me. So, who knows.

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The other quote from this chapter deals with suffering. I like how he points out that everyone's suffering is unique. There may be similarities, but no one can tell another person how to suffer.

Then on pp. 89-90 he shares this:
"In the Western world, the suffering that seems to be the most painful is that of feeling rejected, ignored, despised and left alone. In my own community, with many severely handicapped men and women, the greatest source of suffering is not the handicap itself, but the accompanying feelings of being useless, worthless, unappreciated, and unloved. It is much easier to accept the inability to speak, walk, or feed oneself than it is to accept the inability to be of special value to another person. We human beings can suffer immense deprivations with great steadfastness, but when we sense that we no longer have anything to offer to anyone, we quickly lose our grip on life. Instinctively we know that the joy of life comes from the ways in which we live together and that the pain of life comes from the many ways we fail to do that well."

This is something I have always felt personally, but I didn't realize it was that common. Nouwen certainly has the experience to know, so, again, I find some comfort in the fact that it's not just me.

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So, what do we make from these two tidbits? I don't know. It makes me want to slow down. Have slower conversations, a slower lifestyle, take my time in taking in what I see, hear, feel and sense. I guess, basically, it's to try to be more aware. Respond to people and situations slower and with less judgment, rather than thinking so much and forming opinions on-the-go.

I don't know... Yeah... I don't know. But I don't think being broken is all that bad. I don't think it lasts forever. It's not so much that we get repaired... but made new. That's my hope anyway.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The greatest trap in our life


I believe I mentioned awhile back that I am reading Henri Nouwen's 'Life of the Beloved.' It is a splendid book, and I very much like reading Nouwen. This book in particular actually comes from some writings he sent to a friend who was searching for meaning in life. I remember from back in my seminary days seeing Henri preach on this subject on the old 'Hour of Power' Robert Schuller telecast. 

Anyway, in this first post on the book I want to include a lengthy section from the chapter "Being the Beloved." It starts on p. 31 and runs through 33.
"Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can, indeed, present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection.  
When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking: "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." Instead of taking a critical look at the circumstances or trying to understand my own and others' limitations, I tend to blame myself -- not just for what I did, but for who I am. My dark side says, "I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned." 
Maybe you think that you are more tempted by arrogance than by self-rejection. But isn't arrogance, in fact, the other side of self-rejection? Isn't arrogance putting yourself on a pedestal to avoid being seen as you see yourself? Isn't arrogance, in the final analysis, just another way of dealing with the feelings of worthlessness? Both self-rejection and arrogance pull us out of the common reality of existence and make a gentle community of people extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attain. 
I know too well that beneath my arrogance there lies much self-doubt, just as there is a great amount of pride hidden in my self-rejection. Whether I am inflated or deflated, I lose touch with my truth and distort my vision of reality. 
I hope you can somehow identify in yourself the temptation to self-rejection, whether it manifests itself in arrogance or in low self-esteem. Not seldom, self-rejection is simply seen as the neurotic expression of an insecure person. But neurosis is often the psychic manifestation of a much deeper human darkness: the darkness of not feeling truly welcome in human existence. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved." Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence..."

Wowzers!!! That is some powerful stuff right there. He looked me straight in the eye and called my name out loud. This is so much my struggle, and somewhat always has been. I can trace this back through my life to my earliest memories as a child.

I also think this is the reason I spend so much time in the spiritual disciplines. I need to constantly be guarding against the negative voices I hear, and doing everything I can to get in touch with the "still small voice" that whispers my real name.

It is a battle, but it just might be the most important one in all the world.