Easy Baby

This is my 4-year-old son, Caleb. The table he is sitting on here is one I had already told him twice to get off of today, which doesn’t0831141243 take into account the 100 or so times I’ve told him on other Sundays not to sit on it. With that in mind, you might wonder why I would agree to take a picture of him sitting on it today.

Two reasons: One, he asked me politely if I would, and, two, this seeming act of disobedience is not as rebellious as it might seem.

From the moment he was born, Caleb has been our most easy-going child. As a baby, this was great. He was always good-humored, not much of a screamer, an “easy baby.” Today, though, he may actually be too easy-going. Observe the moments when I hand him a pair of pajamas to put on, only to return to his room 10 minutes later to find him aimlessly wandering around in his underwear, said pajamas lying in a heap on his bed. Or when I arrive home one day and hand him something to take inside the house, only to see him turn and begin to walk back down the driveway with it. Or when we go through the buffet line at the local Chinese restaurant and I have to ask him at least three different times at every food item if he wants it on his plate.

He handles these moments with ease and nonchalance. I, on the other hand, feel my blood pressure rising with each second that passes.

See, Caleb (for now at least) is everything I am not when it comes to letting things roll off his back. Since he is 4 years old, he obviously still has his moments of impatience and immature reactions, but when he really doesn’t care, he really doesn’t care. I’m 40 now, so I don’t remember hardly anything about being 4 years old, but I can’t recall ever being like that. I am definitely not like that now. There are so many days when I want him to care just a little bit more … and then there are days when I hope he never changes at all.

As frustrating as he can be sometimes, I wish I was a little more like Caleb. In fact, most days I wish I was a lot more like Caleb. The fine line I’m walking right now is this: How do I get him to pay more attention and not be so spacy while at the same time ensuring he doesn’t lose his good nature? I want him to be responsible, but I also want him to be able to let things go easier than I do. I want him to think a little more deeply, but I don’t want him over-analyzing the crap out of everything like I do. I want to help him grow up, but I also want him to remain that “easy baby” somewhere down inside.

I could learn a thing or two from my son. I actually hope I do fairly quickly, because if I don’t adopt some of his personality soon I’m not sure he’s going to make it to his fifth birthday. Of course, I’m only joking, but I’m not so sure he’d even be rattled by a statement like that. I hope that never changes. I love my “easy baby.”

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Counseling, Abandonment, & God

I have only one sibling, a brother who is seven years younger than myself. As a result, I have no idea what it’s like to have a sister. At times, I’ve described certain women as being “like a sister” to me, but in actuality I have no idea if they’re like a sister to me or not. I just knew we got along well and I never wanted to date them.

It’s sort of odd, then, that I now have two sisters-in-law (Or is it sister-in-laws? I’m never sure what’s correct.). I mean, they’re not my sisters, but they’re technically a part of my family now. In fact, one of them is not even married to anyone related to me, except that he’s my wife’s brother, who is sort of my brother because we’re in-laws. I guess that makes her my sister-in-law by in-lawness … or something like that.

One of the unexpected results of my first writing about my depression online was the number of people who sent me messages about how they had dealt with issues of their own. One of them was my sister-in-law (the one married to my brother-in-law), and we’ve compared notes a couple of times since then concerning our different experiences. One day we were discussing feelings of abandonment, and I remember thinking, “Eh, I’ve never really dealt with that too much.”

Apparently, I thought wrong.

For the first time in my life this weekend, I watched the movie Good Will Hunting. Remember the scene where Robin Williams’ good will huntingcharacter finally gets sick of Matt Damon’s character screwing around and kicks him out of his office? Welcome to my counseling nightmare. Somewhere inside me, I am convinced that one day I’m going to tell a counselor something so bizarre and frustrating that he or she will throw up their hands and say, “Whoa, dude. That is jacked up. I’m not sure I want to work with you anymore. Take a walk, and come back when you’re serious.”

Upon further inspection, however, I’ve realized my fear of getting “kicked out” goes beyond the counselor’s office. One day, I’m probably going to do something someone can never forgive me for. Or I’m going to mess up a relationship so bad a person will never want to speak to me again. Or I’ll alienate a family member to the point I never see them anymore. In my mind, these are not possibilities; they are inevitabilities. The only questions that remain are how am I going to do it and when is it going to happen.

As can be imagined, this has affected my personality just a teeny bit. I can be ridiculously non-assertive. I’ve hung onto relationships way longer than I should have simply because I didn’t want the other person to leave. I’m very shy, mainly because I’m pretty sure I’m going to say something stupid and embarrass myself. I don’t want to bother anyone, which, ironically, has probably actually caused me to have fewer close relationships in my life.

Where it really shows, though, is in my relationship with God.

It’s hard to live with a God you’re half-expecting to just throw up His hands and leave you one day. That’s how I’ve viewed him for a lot of years, though. Surely I was going to trip and fall enough times that I would wear out His patience. I’ve seen a lot of people use grace as a license to do pretty much whatever they wanted, so I guess over time the word sort of lost its meaning for me. Why would I need to “fear God” if He didn’t have a hammer He was ready to bring down on me? To repeat a phrase I’ve used about a million times before, “I know God loves me; I just don’t think He likes me very much.”

It was a revelation to me last year when, on a day I was incredibly late to a counseling appointment, the counselor I was meeting with didn’t get mad at me. It was a revelation to me this week when my wife chose to forgive me for a massive sin I had committed against her. It was a revelation this weekend when a good friend of mine dropped what he was doing to take a phone call from me. And it’s a revelation to me every day that God has allowed me to live 40 years on this earth without striking me down with a bolt of lightning.

Living without the fear of rejection must be a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, I know about as much about that as I do about being a brother to a sister. Maybe that’s why I have sisters-in-law … sister-in-laws … whatever.

And

andIs there any more demanding word in the English language than and?

Take this weekend, for example. My mother- and father-in-law graciously offered to watch my wife and I’s brood of five children (which includes our 1-year-old daughter) from Friday night until Sunday morning. We’ve had a recent stretch of dry weather where I live, so my usual Saturday ritual of mowing the yard didn’t need to be performed. That meant we essentially had no schedule or obligations except those we set for ourselves.

Knowing this, my mind nearly exploded with possibilities. I wanted to go out with my wife and put a new string on my guitar and get outside and ride my bicycle and maybe see a movie and sleep in Saturday morning and shop for a couple of things and write a new blog post and catch up on my emails and

Well, obviously, I didn’t get all that done, mainly because no human being can possibly cram that many activities into an approximately 36-hour period. Time is not my enemy, however, when it comes to achieving most goals. My problem is I don’t know what to focus on, so I haphazardly bounce from one objective to another. I want to be a good husband and a good father and a writer and a performing musician and hang out with the guys and be in good shape and

This may sound like the mark of a very ambitious and successful person, but my experience has been much the opposite. I have spent much of my life pecking away at things and never quite becoming proficient at any of them. This tendency even led me to consider I might have Attention Deficit Disorder before I was diagnosed with Chronic Depressive Disorder. With either disorder, though, thoughts can become jumbled and priorities can be difficult to set. It’s not that I’m trying to overload myself; it’s just that every single option seems just as important as the other, and I can’t focus because it seems as if I need to complete them all at the same time.

I believe this way of thinking can lead a person in one of two directions: They can either work themselves to death trying to stay on top of everything on their list, or they can view the mountain of expectations they’ve placed on themselves and lock down and not do anything. Personally, I have had more experiences with the latter than the former. There have been times when I have felt so behind that I just didn’t even want to start, which only made things worse for me when actual effort had to be put forth.

A friend of mine has recently told me several times, “You think too much about things. Stop over-analyzing. Just take the moment for what it is.” They’re right, of course. I do analyze the crap out of everything (which you’ve probably picked up on by now from reading this blog). I have a very difficult time shutting down the noise in my brain and just doing something. I did have a brief revelation of what that might be like this weekend, however.

guardians_poster_via_marvelOne of the goals I did achieve was going with my wife to see Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Saturday afternoon. While I enjoyed the heck out of the movie, I can tell you, Shakespeare, it is not. Once I got past trying to figure out character motivations and comic book history and what we might do after the movie and where the movie ranked on my list of all-time favorite comic book films (and, believe me, such a list does indeed exist), my brain sort of entered this zone where it was simply having fun watching a darn good popcorn flick. I was there to be entertained, and I was. Simple, right?

I remember years ago hearing someone on sports radio talk about former Major League Baseball player Manny Ramirez’s ability to hit in virtually any situation. Now, for anyone who doesn’t remember, Ramirez was not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. One of the first articles I ever read about him was in Sports Illustrated and featured a moment where he and his agent were driving around one day and Ramirez (who played for the Cleveland Indians at the time) asked the agent if he could afford a house they drove by. The man literally had no concept of the money he was making.

This particular person’s perspective on the radio that day was that because basically very little was going on in Ramirez’s head when Manny-Ramirezhe stepped to the plate in a game, all of his focus was on just hitting the baseball. He didn’t have any distractions or complex goals or stats he was trying to keep up with; he was just trying to put the bat on the ball. And, even though he paved his own way out of baseball eventually because he wouldn’t stop using banned substances, he was remarkably successful as a hitter. That was what he did; he just hit.

Sometimes I wish I could be more like that, but I don’t think it’s possible for me. What I can do is dedicate myself to one decision at a time. I tried making lists for a while, and I may have to go back to that eventually. It’s odd that in an age where people seem to be trying to utilize more of their brain power I’m actually trying to shut some of mine down, but it’s the truth. I’m tired of standing in front of my closet spending five minutes trying to decide what T-shirt to wear. Some things just have to matter more than others.

That checks the blog post off my list for this weekend. Now all I have to do is go to bed and go to sleep and get prepared in my head for tomorrow and … well, actually, maybe I’ll just focus on the first two.

The Changing Face

It’s weird to be old enough to see perceptions change. Some things are judged more harshly than they used to be, and other things that used to be totally unacceptable are now permissible. I believe some of these changes have been for the better, and I also believe some of them were spawned straight from the pits of hell. I’ll leave it to your collective imaginations to guess what I might be referring to.

We live in a paradoxical society these days when it comes to infidelity in marriage. We’re constantly assaulted with music, movies, and television programs that glamorize affairs, but if someone is ever discovered to actually be cheating on his or her spouse in real life they take a public drubbing. So, basically, all in the same breath, marriage is a bond easily broken but is also sacred and shouldn’t be tampered with.

I’m old enough to remember the great Christian music scandals of the 1990s, specifically the cases of Michael English and Sandi Patty.michael-english-two It may seem strange to many reading this, but these were two of the biggest names in Christian music back then, and their affairs (not with each other, mind you) and subsequent divorces were absolutely shocking at the time. English’s affair even involved some returned awards and a pregnancy (which, sadly, ended in a miscarriage). It was the first real Christian music scandal I can remember clearly.

Fast forward to 2014, where you can view a repentant Steve Fee on YouTube discussing how “my entire life exploded … and I’m the one who lit the fuse.” I knew Fee had been off the radar for a while, but I didn’t really know why. The reason dates back to 2010, when he confessed to having an affair. I had no idea, and I work at a Christian radio station. Granted, Fee probably isn’t a superstar on the level that English and Patty were back in the ’90s, but I don’t remember hearing about this at all. Plus, while the video is well done, Fee doesn’t actually mention what his “secret sin” was.

webbPerhaps even more surprising to me, though, was learning Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken had divorced. I was a huge fan of Webb’s early work with Caedmon’s Call, but as his interest in electronic music grew and his politics became more liberal I listened to less and less of his music. Still, he and McCracken formed a sort of power couple for the independent music scene, with Webb starting the NoiseTrade website and McCracken proving to be a viable artist on her own. According to legal documents, Webb had an affair, and McCracken filed for divorce … in April. Again, I didn’t know a thing about this until recently.

Things are just different now. English’s music was universally pulled from Christian radio following the revelation of his affair, but I’m not aware of any of Fee’s music getting the hook (Webb’s latest efforts generally don’t get played on the radio anyway, making his situation rather unique.). Patty and English had to gradually work their way back into Christian music circles, while Fee has a nice new video and label backing for his new single, “Grace.” The public scars don’t seem to run as deep as they used to.

All of this causes me to pose a question: Are we becoming a more forgiving society or are we just becoming numb? I mentioned earlier that I’m old enough now to have seen perceptions change; I’m also old enough to have seen several people near and dear to me divorce. I was sad to see them separate from their spouses, but I didn’t hate them or want them to lose their jobs. Still, when the person in question is in a public role like Fee or Webb, should they still be in positions of influence, particularly if they are in the Christian arena?

A friend of mine today described his lack of grace in the following way: “I just want to judge people and send them straight to hell.” He’s trying to do better, but at the same time he knows that there are certain advantages to following a hard line. Situations generally don’t get out of hand with this kind of attitude. There’s not much room for mercy either, though. King David was an adulterer and a man after God’s own heart. He suffered severe consequences for his actions and possibly even deserved to die under Old Testament law … but he didn’t.

I’m not even sure if I have a point to be made with any of this, except to say the difference with which divorce is treated in Christian Shawn_Press_Image_33circles has evolved and should certainly be continually examined. As far as its effects are concerned, let me conclude by quoting Christian artist Shawn McDonald, who divorced his wife in 2010:

“It’s incredibly humiliating. I feel like I’ve failed, like I’ve let a lot of people down. I hate what happened. This definitely wasn’t something that I ever thought would be part of my story, but now it is my story, and I have to deal with it.”