Category Archives: Head-Scratchers

When I have a situation on my mind that I don’t understand.

Callous

Previously unpublished. Originally written on:

February 2, 2014:

When I was younger, I wrote a few bleeding heart essays about my hopes for the future in the realm of my own bleeding heart. The titles don’t really matter anymore. Many of them were speculative, ideas I had about love, the fulfillment of it, what it is, what it should’ve been, and so on. They were written during an exceptionally depressed period in my life—a time when I was supposed to know what I wanted, made cautious advances into trial and error, attached myself to pointless devotions, and never really knew which side was up. Years later I should know something by now. But I don’t. I know nothing. I’m 37 years old and I know absolute jack.

I used to write these kinds of essays to find some kind of peace, a chance to blow off the steam that pressured my heart into bursting. I had desires I couldn’t quench. Writing about it kinda helped, kinda left me with an insecure hope that maybe something will change now. And the steam would lift a bit, and I’d feel better. But it would always come back. In time, I learned how to ignore it. Pretend I don’t care. Eventually, my pretend became real life. I stopped caring. I stopped believing that the future I had wanted since I was a kid was even mine to have.

I had this belief when I was a teenager that I’d start my family at 21. My parents were 21 when they married. Both sets of grandparents were in their early twenties. My own sister, who is 16 years my junior, is now engaged; she, too, is 21. I thought that was my time. I thought the prayer I had started when I was 17 would come to fruition by then. I even had a glimmer of hope when I had gotten the opportunity to meet a woman who, after just two weeks of casual friendship, would somehow steal my heart away in a way that no one else before her ever could, and I was 21. Then a month into getting to know her, I had finally found out about her boyfriend. Even after many intense nights in prayer over the four years I had begun praying for God to put someone worthwhile in my life, I was stuck with a deep interest I could not act on. But I still had hope that circumstances would eventually change. I still had hope that I’d have a chance to say how I felt, if only I had just ridden out the waiting until the very end. I had waited four and a half years for that relationship to end, and when I finally had the opportunity to say something, I did not get the response I had hoped for. I had lived four and a half years in what we now call “the friend zone.” Back then, I had no idea that was a thing.

Why am I dwelling on a hope that had ended 12 years ago? Why should I care? Those feelings I once had are long gone. The friend that I had hoped I could grow with had since found and married another. That door was never open, but it had since closed so tightly that not even a termite could get through. Why did I, in spite the warning from many friends, hold on to something that was hopeless? Misplaced faith, perhaps? Did I think God would change her heart for me? Since when did He start infringing on His own gift of free will? I had to accept the fact that it was never meant to be, and if I had an opportunity with anyone else during those four and a half years that I was purposely ignoring (which sadly I can think of only two who were of any interest to me, and I’m not even sure they were single—the pattern in those days was if I was interested, they weren’t single), I didn’t take it. I still don’t know if I had made a bad call, or if I had simply made the only call I could. College was a hotbed of dead ends for me. Why am I dwelling on the past? The past is supposed to communicate with our future so that we can make a different, and hopefully better choice. Unfortunately, my past isn’t speaking to my future, because so much other randomly confusing crap had clogged the phone line during the years in between.

It has now been twenty years since I started asking God to provide someone special to take my side and join my life—literally, just one. I’ve never believed in random or shotgun dating. Even when I was 13 and stupid, I was still thinking of my future and the consequences of wasting my heart on someone who didn’t deserve it (aka, anyone I wasn’t going to spend my life with). Yes, I was a shy kid who was afraid to ask someone out. I had two elementary school crushes, both crushes lasting about two years, and neither crush shocking me with an ounce of courage. I was a friend to both, and that was comfortable to me. But expressing my heart—not a chance—too scary. Thanks to my deadly combination of shyness and forward-thinking, I had blown the opportunity to receive my first kiss at the age of 12 when a girl I had never met before or seen since had intercepted me in the front yard of my neighbor’s house, began to flirt, and asked me if I had wanted to kiss her. It was a thrilling question, certainly, but strange considering I was just going next door because I had forgotten my key, and I needed to get the spare from my neighbor, and I really wasn’t expecting to have someone coming onto me just fifty feet from my front door. Yet, there she was, the nameless girl, who I don’t remember being particularly cute, chatting me up, wanting me to take her to the beach, and, well, I don’t remember everything she had asked me or what I had responded to. I just thought, “I gotta get out of here before this girl steals away my first kiss.” So I left. Then I immediately blamed the episode of Full House that addressed the topic of first kisses for stealing away my first kiss. To this day I think allowing whatever was going to happen, if the girl was even serious, would’ve encouraged me more in my teenage years to take those risks that I had never actually taken, and maybe I would’ve had my partner beside me by the age of 21. All speculative, of course. I also think letting the girl take that first kiss away from me would’ve made me too comfortable in my teen years to sample the buffet line and weaken my standards, as many who start dating young seem to do.

I don’t technically regret that missed opportunity. As I said, I have no idea whether the girl was serious or just playing a game with me. Even as a 12-year-old, I didn’t understand teenagers. But, sometimes I do kinda regret it. What had I forfeited by rejecting her? What life had I closed the door to by listening to my fears rather than listening to my curiosity? What about the elementary school crushes? The second crush took place during the early dawn of my adolescence. What if I had spoken up about it before that last day of school (which I missed because I was sick, and the girl who I liked, who, on the second-to-last day of school had asked me if I was coming tomorrow, I never saw again)? Maybe I dodged promiscuity. Maybe I dodged what Lifehouse calls a “sick cycle carousel” of bad choices and callous feelings by avoiding that first kiss as a 12-year-old. I know plenty of people who have taken that curious leap early in life. Many of them have since jumped from relationship to relationship to relationship like rabbits jump from carrot to carrot. I guess they’re content. I mean, why wouldn’t they be? Culture teaches us to experiment. We’re made to satisfy our curiosities until we find something we like. Isn’t that why we’ve got ten thousand religions as opposed to one? Isn’t that why we can commit to our spouses as long as someone better doesn’t come along in time? As a culture, I think we’ve stopped caring about the baggage we carry because we no longer seem interested in guarding against the acquisition of yet another bag.

I don’t know if avoiding that risk was actually smart. Maybe I avoided all kinds of baggage, but maybe I also avoided the path that would lead me to my dreams coming true. I’ve since taken risks that I might’ve been afraid to take when I was younger. My brief stint with online dating sure helped with that. Talking to strangers does not normally fit into my comfort zone, and talking to them with the intention of maybe dating just complicates comfort even more. But online dating forced me to get comfortable with it. Sadly, however, it didn’t change my circumstances. There were very few that genuinely appealed to me. Only one of those few had actually spent time getting to know me, and she lived eleven states away. She decided she wanted to stay single just three months after we had begun talking to each other. Apparently she had never gotten over her ex, who had dumped her ten months earlier, and didn’t think a new relationship would fix it. Whether we were building a relationship or not, she didn’t want to invest any more toward it, for the sake of her spiritual or emotional healing. After waiting years and years for someone to take me seriously (after that summer day when I was twelve), I couldn’t believe my ill luck. I had truly liked her. The only one I had any real interest in, in all of Internet dating. That moment, as far as I know, was my first step onto the pirate ship plank called “the friend zone” with her. And we had met on an Internet dating site! Honestly, I don’t know that skipping that first kiss at 12 years old had actually changed anything.

Why am I dwelling on the past? Why do I care about those moments long out of reach that have no more concern for my life? Those circumstances are over. They can’t hurt me worse. I’ve since healed from each of them. Why do I care? I’m dwelling on the past because time is flying by so quickly, yet so little has changed since those days. I’ve been silently struggling with the crippling fear that soon I’m gonna be too old to enjoy the beginnings of my own family and still live long enough to watch yet a new generation begin. I have to cast that thought out of mind if I’m to prevent it from crippling me. It’s the only way I can handle it. It’s not like I’ve had much power to change it or encourage it. To make a family requires a partner, and that is not something I can just make happen. Pretty much every attempt to invite someone new into my life ends with someone else (or something else) stealing her away. Often, the thief is her own strict unbreakable rules that make no exception for me or the time that she gives to other matters that she makes more important than me. Sometimes it’s just the cold, hard truth that she prefers another man, maybe a bunch of other men, to me, and that man decides the iron is hot, so he strikes. Whatever the case, it leaves me hopeless. That sucks. I care about the moments that are long out of reach because history repeats itself all too often, and that also sucks.

I’ve grown tired of caring about this. I’ve grown tired of wanting it. Truthfully, I haven’t lost anything by rejecting that kiss when I was a kid, or ignoring the potentially good women in college because there was literally one that had my full heart and focus, or taking chances where chances shouldn’t have been taken. I think I’d still be where I am today regardless of those curious risks. Long ago I had prayed that God’s will be done in my life. Long ago I had prayed that God would find me just one to love, to grow with, and to spend my life with. I imagine God has taken those two prayers seriously. But that’s okay. I’ve invited God to help me with my choices. He is, after all, the only one with the ability to see the consequences of my choices completely. Every new friendship with a woman of quality, especially those that begin by “coincidence” (read: God’s bringing us together for a purpose), inspires me with a little more hope toward finding that one. But I don’t say anything. I don’t act. Why? Because I’m afraid of loss. Because the few times I’ve taken that deadly chance, I’ve taken the knob in hand and slammed the door in my own face. I didn’t risk that first kiss that summer of 1988. But I have risked expressing my heart to those I’ve believed in, aware of the pain that would follow if that woman rejected me and consequently decided she was finished getting to know me, and I have since taken that pain that I knew could come, multiple times. Maybe the problem is that I don’t acknowledge life for what it is: a series of choices that have positive and negative effects, where the positive effects are rewards and the negative effects merely expose a bad fit for what it is.

Maybe I shouldn’t be callous about any of it. Maybe I should care. But maybe I should also not be so afraid of making potentially catastrophic chances. Maybe I should also just be who I am, say what I have to say, and stop caring about the hurt that might follow. Maybe life doesn’t just pass us by like a freight train. Maybe life is too short to care about the pain that comes with risk and uncertainty. Maybe, for those women who did mean something to me back in the day, I should’ve just said something early on and gotten it over with. Maybe I would’ve lost them sooner, but the pain would’ve been less than what I actually experienced. Funny how too much caution can sometimes make things worse than they need to be.

Anyway, I know my thoughts on the matter are a bit scattered, but that’s just how relationships make me feel: scatterbrained. I don’t know how anyone can make any sense of them.

Advertisements

Safe Guy Manifesto

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

February 17, 2012

For the ladies, and for any guy who’s just as confused about women as I am.

Two nights ago I lost a friendship that mattered to me. I don’t fully understand the reasons for this ending, nor, with the exception of a growing lack of response, did I sense the warning signs coming. But it had everything to do with me (a man) trying to maintain a friendship with a woman I cared about, and not realizing how uncomfortable my words were making her when my intentions were honorable. It’s not the first time I’ve lost a friendship for caring more than I probably should have (and showing it). But hopefully it’ll be the last. Below is a compiled list of realizations I’ve gained over the years about the opposite sex friend I’m expected to be, realizations that came to me after having made silly assumptions about the stability of certain friendships, including, but not exclusive to this current failure. I should note that not all friendships (including this) were ruined by breaking all of these rules, but each rule has been a source of trouble to someone at some point when I accidentally violated it, and I think it’s time that I make new assurances to my lady friends to keep them happy and give the guys something to think about for the future. After all, I know that the lady friends who matter most to me are the same ones who want safe guy friends (that’s been my experience at least). So, ladies, if I (or any other man you deem safe) start following these simple rules, then I (or we) should make you, the lady, content, and you won’t feel so compelled to walk away forever. So please accept this safe guy manifesto as your ticket to friends zone harmony:

1. I will no longer compliment your appearance. Maybe deep down I think you look beautiful today (and in general), and I want to tell you so. Maybe you’ve chosen to wear a shirt I really like, or a fragrance that really gets my attention. Perhaps your jeans even make you look thin. But you’ll never know, because I’ll never tell you. Heaven forbid you should think I’m coming on to you.

2. I will no longer tell you that you’re important to me. You probably are important to me, and I would love to tell you so because I think you deserve to know that. But doing so may make you feel uncomfortable, because that risks creating an emotional connection, and I have no desire to make you uncomfortable. So for all you know, you mean nothing to me.

3. I will not invite you to dinner. Maybe a lunch is okay. Lunches are safe and I know you want safe. Dinners are associated with dates and business deals, and you probably don’t want to believe you’re on either. Even if you’re hungry. I know I’m not an option for you, even if you think I’m a better guy than the ones you’d normally date. I won’t pretend that I am by inviting you to dinner. I know that dinner with me will weird you out.

4. If I call once, I will wait for you to respond. It may take you weeks or even months to realize you haven’t heard from me for awhile, and you may begin to wonder what happened to me. But that’s your cue to remember that I’m still waiting for your response. I will not call you or write you a second time until I’ve heard back from you first. I don’t want you to think I’m pushy or “needy” or have an unhealthy attachment to you. I hope that in knowing this, you will also know how rude I think it is to make someone wait for a response to a simple hello, and how much I’d rather call or write again just to wake you up. But I won’t because you’ll think I’m needy, and I know it wouldn’t have occurred to you that maybe I think you’ve forgotten that we’re friends, or that I think you’re becoming careless with me, and that if you don’t respond within a reasonable timeframe, then we’re not actually friends.

5. Anything you tell me as truth, I will believe you. You may one day show me that you never meant what you said, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt because I care enough about you to trust you. I will never question what you believe is true. But you’re welcome to doubt me if you’d like. I know that if I violate any of these rules, even by accident, I’ll have given you ammunition to distrust me.

6. I will forgive you of all of your mistakes. Even if you burn my house down on accident, it may hurt me severely, but I’ll forgive you. I believe in dealing with problems and resolving them properly. I know that giving up on you or your friendship for any reason is unfair to you, and I will not subject you to the worry that you’ve lost my friendship. I will also do my best to avoid making a mistake around you, because I know you’re not as forgiving, and I don’t want to give you an excuse to end our connection.

7. I will work extra hard to conform to your rules. I realize that I don’t have a voice in this relationship, so I will make sure that I don’t step on your toes by telling you what I might want. I realize that you won’t give my interests or values much consideration anyway. Doing so might cause you discomfort. And discomfort leads to your back swung in my direction. I don’t want that. (Oops, I just told you my want. Sorry. Won’t happen again.)

8. If I develop a warm interest in you at any point, I’ll be sure to keep it to myself. I know that’ll also make you run for the hills if you ever found out. On a related note, even if I decide I’d like to pursue you for romance because I see a wife-like quality in you that I don’t see in anyone else – and I’d like a wife someday because I’m not dead – I won’t act on that. I know that a good safe guy doesn’t try to improve his friendships or pursue his dreams with a decision so dangerous. I know that you don’t really want a good man to love you for who you are – you only say that you do – and you could never believe that the good guy who actually wants to give you his heart is the same man who should have yours. So I won’t even talk about romance with you. No need for me to be the guy who puts such a wicked thought in your sensitive head.

9. If for any reason a problem should arise, I’ll be sure to work with you as much as I can to fix it. It may take some time, and I may not know all the trouble areas right away, but I’ll work on them as you show me what’s bothering you. I know that my chances are limited, so I’ll do my best not to waste those three chances that you allot me before you decide that our friendship is unhealthy and that we should call it quits.

10. I will do my best to read your mind. I know that if I can’t figure out what you want when you yourself have no idea what you want, then I’ll eventually pay for it with your frustration and become discouraged because now you won’t call me back.

11. I will never express my discouragement over the things that bother me because you don’t want my negativity. If it’s not full of butterflies and rainbows, then you don’t want to hear about it, and I respect that. I know that a real friendship doesn’t include sharing the difficulties of life with each other. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’re already turned off by my honesty as you read this. You probably won’t have trouble unloading your troubles on me, though.

12. Despite the pain that will inevitably follow, I will be sure to protect your heart by lying down on that bed of nails and take my emotional scarring for you because I don’t want you to get scared by the slightest hint of appreciation and turn around and punch me through my heart with that bed of nails.

This list may be incomplete, but by following these twelve rules, I’m pretty sure I can offer you what you want. I realize that in doing so, I will have denied my own heart and sense of being, and perhaps violated my own sense of manhood, but I will do it anyway because it will make you happy, and because I value you and think you’re worth more than you give yourself credit for. Sure, in the end, most of the elements of this plan may leave me feeling inadequate, lonely, severely unhappy, and eventually resentful of you, but that’s okay because, while a good friendship is two-sided, a safe friendship is one-sided, and math teaches us that one side is better than none. So, from this day forward, as I enact this “safe guy manifesto,” you may now refer to me by my proper name:

“A lump.”

Is this adequate for you?

If for any reason the safe guy should depress you, though, and he will, then maybe instead of abusing him and kicking him to the curb when he doesn’t perfectly fit your rules all the time, you should lighten up, give him his room to breathe, and if his words or actions crosses your comfort zone, tell him so, tell him why, and give him the time he needs to correct his mistakes (and correct him again if he screws up again because he will; I promise you that). A good friend will work with you. But you have to work with him. Only kick him to the curb if he’s a sleaze bag or narcissist who doesn’t give a crap about you. Sadly, you seem to be slower at placing that kick, and I don’t really get that. Truthfully, I wish you’d stop acting so unreasonably because I, and other decent men like me, have got far more to offer you in friendship than you give me, or us, credit for. You’ve just got to lighten up and allow us to be men, and forgive us if we step on your toes, and inform us if we’re causing you trouble somehow, and, if you can stand it, show some appreciation once in awhile. I don’t think you realize what you’re missing here by limiting our hearts or running away so easily. We really are trying to consider and support your best interests. You just fail to see that because you’re too busy ignoring ours.

Backwards

Originally written (but never previously posted) on:

January 11, 2012

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a journal, even though I’ve had a number of topics culled from real life worth blogging about in the last few months. Drivers who honk at me from behind because I’m not cutting off the guy who’s trying to turn in front of me. My walking into a park restroom to find two guys forgoing the privacy of a stall to change into their athletic clothes while in the open (awkward). Missing my self-imposed deadline to finish writing a novel before Christmas because it’s ballooned to the length of four novels and needs to be split. The joys of losing three weeks’ pay during the most expensive season of the year, every year, because I work in education, something that has less time devoted to it than common vacation-free stupidity. And, of course, discussing my favorite books or movies of the year in an effort to convert anyone reading this to my side. You know, just a few of the topics I’ve missed writing about because I was too busy devoting my time to things that didn’t matter (computer games), and looking back I regret that.

Kinda makes you wonder what’s snapped me out of that dry trend, right?

Truthfully, I don’t see this turning into a real blog. Real blogs spend time investigating an issue. They ask the question: why are those junky cars in back of the college upside down? Oh, because that’s part of the firefighter training facility. Why is that water fountain marked with a sign that warns potential thirsty people not to drink from it? What’s unsafe about that water fountain, but is perfectly safe about every other water fountain within a hundred-foot radius of it? Did somebody spike the pipes there? Is it too close to the firefighter training facility where that gas tanker nuzzled up to the roof of that junky car on its side is possibly leaking into the underground water table? Is it just to make those warehouse guys in the back of the building hate their job? Am I only concerned about this because the Property Records Office wanted me to walk all the way across campus, not to return my lockdown key, but to confirm that I still had it? A real blog might attempt to speculate on these questions until it returns a viable answer. For now, I don’t think I care to do that. For now, I just want voice a concern that has suddenly become clear to me after having stealthily given me a number of headaches over the years.

The human race is a backward one. We want answers before we ask the questions. We want flat bellies before we bother to exercise. We expect money whether we work for it or not. It’s kinda crazy. If I’m waiting at a turnabout for the driver with the right of way to finish clearing the circle, is it too much to ask of the driver behind me to lay off his dang horn? If something in government already works fine, is there some reason why Senator X feels compelled to break it and then sink the economy with his new plan to fix it? If I want to finish fixing my novel before the 23rd to make a contest on time, do I really need to be wasting my time writing blogs? I’m beginning to suspect that we, as a human race, are approaching our decisions with ignorance. We think, therefore we are correct.

I’m not one to complain about this. I was once infamous for my tendency to fall asleep after drinking coffee. I think I’ve tricked my body enough in the last seven years to recognize that caffeine is supposed to wake me up. But it still doesn’t understand that five-mile walks in the park are supposed to encourage the same outcome. Nor does it understand that thirty minutes of cardio at the gym three days a week is supposed to trim a pound or two off my weight, not add three back. My body and I are still working on the things it’s supposed to do versus the things that it does do. It’s kind of an idiot, but I’m patient.

Women are still an enigma to me, and are the leading cause of most of my blogs, including this one. In most situations, a single lady who is available should be more readily accessible through texts, e-mails, or phone calls to a man than are the several married female friends he knows. I mean, I think that’s how things are supposed to work. If I were to conduct an impromptu Man on the Street interview right now in some crowded city, asking the question, “As a single man, who do you have better connections with, the single ladies you’re interested in, or the married ones who are forever platonic toward you?” I would assume that the common answer would lean toward the single ladies. Isn’t that the ideal response? Isn’t that the ideal truth? For some reason, whether through irony or cruelty, that’s never the case with me. And I know that “never” is too extreme of a word to use in any case, but I’m pretty sure that “never” is pretty accurate here. Perhaps that bears opening a window into my life.

When that show The Office was still in its prime, my married male friend wasn’t the one who called me every Thursday and insisted that I come over to watch it with him and his wife; his wife was the one who generally invited me over. Sure, he was happy to have me over to watch the show with them. But it was never through his insistence that I actually went over there. If I told him I didn’t want to come over this week, he’d usually say okay and that would be that. If I told her I didn’t want to come over this week, she’d try to bribe me with a pizza or a soft drink or something until I said, “Fine, I’ll be over soon.” As irony or cruelty would have it, in that same era when I would get these weekly invites to hang out with my married friends, usually through the wife’s suggestion (and that didn’t include the other occasional days in the week when the three of us would go to a movie or to Applebee’s—some weeks, not all weeks), I was waiting several to many weeks for the single lady I was interested in at the time to respond to my last three or more e-mails that I had sent her. Back then, I knew something was off about that dynamic. But I realized I couldn’t change it. At the time, I chalked up the single woman’s increasing lack of response to disinterest on her part. I didn’t want to believe that was the case, but the signs were evident. I kept writing anyway because I was in denial. I thought there was hope, therefore I was correct. In the meantime, I would hang out with my married friends, week after week, almost consistently by the wife’s invitation, wondering why in the world the single girl I was interested in wanted nothing to do with me. But now, when history repeats itself again and again, I have to start questioning whether I’m delusional, or part of a society that has missed an important ingredient in the recipe for a sensible life.

Ever since those Thursday nights when The Office was still hot on NBC’s lineup and people were still wondering if Jim would ever break through the thick shell around Pam’s heart, things had finally died down, the players in my life had gradually shifted, and I now have a new series of married friends that I hang out with on occasion. But the dynamic between the two social groups hasn’t shifted. The married female friends in my life are still quick as ever to respond to funny texts or questions I might have, and in some cases invite me on a group outing. And the single ones still take forever to even say hello. The married ones are generally speedy to help me with a problem. The single ones…well, I’m still waiting to hear back from them. In 2011, I started devoting special attention to a new single lady, the first to really catch my attention in about five years. Most of my married female friends have since spent time listening to me defending this girl even when it was clear that something in my connection with her was gradually failing. I, of course, didn’t want to believe that anything was failing—that the current situation was just the way things were supposed to work for us. The breakdown, of course, comes down to communication and expectation, and a clash that both have with the current season in her life. I still believe that frequent contact is imperative for the growth of any relationship, friendship or otherwise, and when that comes under threat, so does the relationship. This lady of interest had explained to me a couple of months ago that it isn’t normal for her to chat on a regular basis with a man she’s not committed to (as in preparing for marriage—I know this sounds a lot like disinterest, but this was happening even when she admitted to enjoying messages from me). When a single woman is the only person who tells me that (and I don’t think this is the first time I’ve heard this from a single woman), I realize something is off, and I become utterly confused by the logic. I’d expect this kind of statement from the married ones. Yet, none of them feel the conversational distance is even necessary. Is it because they’ve already established their emotional ties? I’m really confused by this. I actually want to be okay with her statement because I want to be okay with her viewpoint. And I know she has said this in context of committing to her singleness (another detail that isn’t this blog’s business). (The background story is too complicated for a blog, so I’ll just say that against modern logic, I’ve been supportive of her decision to keep a certain distance, even if it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense to me, and even if it secretly pains me.) This has not been easy, though. After going nearly a month without a phone call (in spite of my requests for a response), I realize my frustration has nothing to do with her lengthy breaks from communication, even when it’s obviously eroding the possibility for growth and even more obviously a repeat of my painful past that I’m certain is leading to disappointment if things continue as they are, but from the simple fact that my married (and notably emotionally off-limits) female friends are, on average, responsive within four hours or less. I feel like that’s kinda backwards. Aren’t the single ladies supposed to be the more readily available ladies?

So…. May I ask a simple question? Is this really my life? And is it supposed to be this way? This is the very reason why I’m tired of meeting new people; inevitably I’m just gonna have to start over again and again, remember a new name, discover a new face, again and again, get my hopes up, again and again, and then accept yet another reason why I’m not allowed to draw close to the single one who matters the world to me, again, again, and yet again, and I have no more interest in doing that. Many times I’ve prayed to God to give me a heart for singleness if He’s just gonna keep throwing me in the path of wonderful women who will ultimately break my heart. It’s not my boyhood dream to run face-first into so many dead ends. This is the kind of pain that offers no gain. It’s really just soft cruelty.

As I stated a moment ago, I don’t really need to explore this issue in-depth any further. It’s just something that has crossed my mind again, and I felt like writing it down. I don’t expect it to be the key to my resolve. Early tomorrow morning I’m supposed to visit the college dental school to sit in a chair for an hour and a half while dental students poke around in my mouth trying to figure out what state my teeth are in. I expect that in that hour and a half, they’ll reach the conclusion that my four-year absence from the dentist will render me in need of a new cleaning, and possibly an X-ray. At that point they will schedule me to come back at another time for the actual cleaning, which I’m told can take about four hours at the school. And this is good because when I tried to get my teeth cleaned at the school last month, the person responding to my card didn’t leave a message on the first call, nor did she answer my calls any of the times I tried to get back to them to schedule an appointment. The only reason I got in now was because I came across a dental student in the computer lab on my first day back at school for the new semester (on a Friday) and told him in my most formal and polite way, “Hey, get me an appointment, dude. Sheesh.” I got the call right after the weekend ended to come in Thursday morning bright and early. I filled out my first request for a cleaning in early November. But that’s why I don’t really have time to invest in this question further tonight. I should be asleep now. But I’m not because only normal people go to bed early enough to get adequate sleep. Nope, I’ve got to do things the nonsensical way because I am human, dangit!

My Lament

March 23, 2014:

Note: The following is an excerpt from a letter to a friend that I had written on October 17, 2009. The main question she asked me had to do with formatting a manuscript. But this friend also asked how things were going with me after I had apparently told her I was dealing with something that had rocked me to the core. I had replied with the answer to the formatting question as technically as I needed to make it simple to follow, which I’m not posting here, but lost all dryness and broke into an impassioned response when it came time to address the matter of how I was doing.

This is probably the truest of my thoughts about the relational misses I’ve had in my life, since I had no desire to filter anything out or try to think through it logically when I wrote it. Looking back, I can see how my life’s journey really was quite unfair at times. This letter is extremely personal, and the breakdown of things leaves me quite vulnerable, but I’m posting it anyway because we men rarely talk about what we’re thinking, even if we’re thinking it anyway, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be this raw again. Granted, I’m posting this four and a half years after I had written it, and the events to trigger this impassioned writing are long behind me now. But the circumstances that brought me to this state sometimes repeat themselves, so I thought it might be worthwhile to let others see how badly they affect me when they do.

Just for the record, I know that we, as men, are supposed to suppress our moments of anguish Ron Swanson style, but I also know how unhealthy that can get if we’re turning our hurts into violence, anger, or other unwanted outbursts, so I don’t care how the following might be perceived. It’s healthy. I probably felt better for writing it. I might’ve even believed it would put me on the path of healing. So, get over it. It’s fine.

Also, I’m withdrawing names and identifying words to protect the privacy of those that I refer to in my response. It’s no one else’s business who they are.

October 17, 2009:

I’m not sure the thing going on with me is fixable. Years of wounds came to a head this week and I’m tired of dealing with it. I feel like the more I deal with it, the more the problem wants to persist.

It is what it is. There’s nothing I or anyone can do but to accept what sucks. I’ve done all I could to keep encouraged throughout the disappointments, and I just don’t have it in me anymore.
It’s one of those gaping holes that God can fix if He wants, but just hasn’t really given me the help to fix, and I need it fixed, and there’s nothing else I can do about it but to wait for the repair. It hasn’t been fixed. The specific thing that brought all this out is irreversible. The broader thing is unattainable under the circumstances I’m given. And it’s a struggle to face the day anymore. I’ve had all I can stand, and yet, the solution is absent. And now my heart is broken. However, I’ll get through it because life likes to distract me.

Yes, I found out that someone I once loved and pursued, but never won over, got married recently. And in all those years, I had never been able to stop thinking about her. I buried it because I couldn’t do anything about it. But every time I see her face it all comes back up. And when I saw her wedding photo, it all came back up. And call me emo if you want, but I just don’t know how to deal with something like that. She wasn’t perfect, and probably not even the best girl I knew. But my heart was with her. And I don’t know how to get past something like this. I think there’s something wrong when my lament of this has already outlasted my lament over my dad’s death and my uncle’s death.

So, as you can see, there’s nothing anyone can do. I wasn’t able to win her over and I had to release her. And I feel gypped because I haven’t been able to love anyone the same way since. The one or two that I tried taking the chance on, they were surrogates for a dream that was already crushed. They were good for who they were, but they never carried the weight on my heart that she carried, and I don’t feel like there’s anyone out there who can get my mind off of her. I prayed for someone better to come along since 2002 when I got the initial rejection (after waiting four and a half years for the right time to speak up—who does that?). And each one that I thought might’ve been that answer turned around and ignored me or rejected me, too. And nowadays the only girls I meet are just that—girls. [Late teens, early twenties]. Big freakin’ whoop. All they ever do is talk about their boyfriends. It’s irritating. Everyone else is married or unsuitable in one way or another. And I feel like there’s no way out of this misery. All I can do is fall into a distraction because if I’m not busy, my mind goes right back to the heartbreak. What sucks most of all is that I want to be happy for her. She’s happier now than I think she’s ever been. She certainly seems that way judging by the last couple of e-mails I got. I want to be glad that she finally trusted someone enough to take that leap. But I feel like this is preventing me from having any real excitement for her good fortune. And I don’t know how to get past it. She deserves the joy. She put up with a lot from a lot of people over the years. She deserves her happiness, and I want to feel that for her. And I’m pissed that I can’t let go. And I’m pissed that I never found that adequate “replacement” since the day seven years ago when this reality was officially on course. I’m pissed that no replacement has come since then. No man my age can handle this, and I’m annoyed that I’m still expected to. No one can say I haven’t tried. I’ve lost friends—other people I cared about—because I tried. But what can I do when every woman I meet refuses to take a chance, or even to return a phone call? I can’t change anyone else’s mind or heart. I can only take care of myself. I can only make my own decisions, no one else’s. And if everyone I meet is on another page, that doesn’t really help. And then the girl I loved most marries someone else and I have no one around to help cushion that fall (or better yet, to invalidate it, because a better woman would’ve made this inconsequential and would’ve given my heart permission to celebrate the transition into a new way of life). I’m tired of doing everything alone. And I’m tired of every journey I take leading to nowhere.

In the end, it’s one of those things that most people will treat as a common part of life, as something that really doesn’t need to be lamented. I was never with her. We were always just friends. In the end, this is nothing more than something a teenager would stress over. But when I consider how I responded to her, versus everyone else, I feel like this is an unfair conclusion. I don’t lament the people who lose the hearts of those they never respected. I lament those who choose badly. Love isn’t lost if it isn’t actually love. I feel like I’ve suffered a loss on the scale of death. It feels exactly the same. Am I being dramatic? Or was she that important to me? Did seeing her face really quiet me that much?

I rarely wish I could turn back time and do something different. I tend to accept what is, as is, and adapt accordingly. This is the one time, however, that I wish I had the power to travel back to 1998 and start over, to go through all the hellish moments I suffered again if there was any chance at having a new outcome (or to at least relive the moments when I still had hope). The fact that this, too, is impossible kills me. I don’t know what else to do now. All my other prayers, physical, financial, everything seems to get answered without a beat. But this, the emotional needs, the relational needs—it’s as if none of this is important enough to warrant an answer. I’ve been praying for a way out of this dread in one form or another since I was in high school. I thought for sure it would come to pass before I’d have to suffer something like this. And yet, here I am, miserable, hopeless, my imagination for what better would even look like lacking, and I feel like no one gives a crap.

This isn’t something I like to share. One of the reasons I drove her away was because I’d express my sadness openly to her. But what I could never tell her was that her involvement with someone else was the cause of it. Now, I’m just sad. And I have to bury it because no one in this life knows how to handle other people’s heartbreaks. If I try, that’s it for me.

I’ve fallen into a no-win situation. And it was all because I took a chance.

I hate everything there is about this thing called singleness. It’s become a poison to me. And all anyone ever cares about is being a friend. Not a date, not an option. Not that I’ve found enough women to want to date, granted, but that in itself is a problem. I think I hate this town, too. And this society. This busy, busy, kill-the-human-heart society.

I used to look forward to each day. I had to walk through Ikea yesterday just to feel like a man with hope again. This is ridiculous. I may not be much when I’m miserable, but I’m full of great qualities when I’m not. And these girls today won’t pay attention to the days that I’m not. They only seem to look at what’s unrealistic—that I can only be a “safe” friend, and that I’m always “down.” I regret the letter I sent to the girl from [location redacted]. She genuinely freaked when she read it. Despite my encouragement, generosity, and whatnot, she never saw the possibility of interest coming. And when I made it clear, she didn’t want to know me anymore. This is what I’m given? These are my choices? Take no chance and maintain a stale friendship or take a chance and lose the friendship? This is what these women give me? Who the hell do they think I am? Some emotionless retard? That “nice guy”? The one who’s a male girlfriend? Such lack of consideration! No wonder I’m a mess.

I don’t know what it takes to get some respect for a change. I don’t know why the guy she married was able to win her over, and why I never had the chance. I don’t know why I was ever led to her when it was clear I’d fall in love but never win her over. And I don’t know why in almost twelve years God never put anyone more suitable in my life. My years are slipping by fast. For every day I’m alone, that’s one less day I have to spend with the one that maybe will finally supplant [that girl] from my heart. She can be out there, if she’s made right, if she’s positioned right. How can it be that in twelve years, such a woman hasn’t arrived? I’m not bad. I’m not a lost cause. Why am I treated as such?

Sorry, [friend], I didn’t think I’d go off on this tangent. I kinda forgot I was writing a response to your questions. But that’s what you get for asking.

So that’s what’s going on. If you think you have words of encouragement that would help, then feel free to try. I can guarantee, however, that this is entirely on God’s shoulders to provide, and nothing’s gonna change until He moves in my favor. I don’t think it’s free will when I’m not given an adequate choice in the matter. I suppose those frickin’ websites like match.com are an option, but your experience has proven that they’re not much of one. If God won’t provide someone suitable to me in my everyday life, how can I expect to find one in the cyber world? That’ll just open me up to worse decisions. The Internet seems to be a breeding pool of liars and fakers. Last thing I want to do is to go out with someone who has a liking to pot or some tattoo fetish (though, why would they ever reveal that in the questionnaire?). I’m not even in the dating game and I already hate it. And I hate how impossible it is to even enter it.

Never in my youth had I thought I’d become the crusty old man. I’m really disappointed with the choices people make, including my own.

I don’t know if this can be fixed. It took me years just to get past my negative nature. I feel like in one swoop it all came back. And all it would’ve taken to repel it is some courtesy, like returned phone calls, regardless of how many houses or states away a girl might live. I feel like hope is a dead weight. The girl I loved most is forever with someone else. What else is there left to say? I can’t bear it anymore.

So there you go.

—Jeremy

[Note from March 23, 2014: I’ve long since gotten over the event that triggered this response, and I’m legitimately happy for the person this was largely about—because I’m still occasionally in touch with her, I have been able to express this legitimate happiness and well-wishing to her in the years to follow. But, as earlier and later journals will testify, the core problem of being poorly matched has not gone away. I have since met better women, which wasn’t the case when I wrote this, but they’ve put me in the same category as these earlier ones, so nothing has changed. Well, I don’t make a big deal about it anymore, so that’s changed. However, I couldn’t say whether the experiences have made me stronger or more callous. There’s a point when you have to throw up your hands and say, “Whatever.” That’s basically where I am now. I’ve stopped looking. Trying to stop praying about it. Sometimes I get thrown into a situation I didn’t ask for and find myself dealing with the aftermath. But that’s the nature of life. A good woman can still hurt me. Whenever I meet one who is unattached, I wonder if God has a plan for us. It’s natural and inevitable. If all goes well, I’ll stop thinking that before it causes me to walk down a troubled path. Sometimes it’s not enough, though; sometimes I can still believe in her, foster a little hope for her, and sometimes she can still find a way to hurt me. But I’m convinced that none of them intend to, and none of them actually know when they do. I have a habit of keeping to myself in those moments so I don’t end up hurting them back. That’s probably unhealthy for all involved. I’m trying to get better about that.

So, I hope this has opened some eyes. At the risk of moving into another tangent, I really do hate being shunted to the side without getting a fair consideration. Don’t get me wrong; I like the friends I have, quite a bit. But friendships alone can’t start families, which I want, and friendships can’t survive when another party comes in and sabotages the time needed to maintain it. If you’re single, a good woman, and I don’t find you repulsive, then don’t assume that I’m disinterested. At least consider me before you friend zone me. If I have to keep dealing with heartbreak over and over, then I’m gonna stop taking on new friends, just to let you know. Trust me, I have enough. I can’t keep up with the friends I already have. I don’t need new ones. I want a companion. A partner. Please stop assuming I’m not good enough for that. Trust me, I am.

Maybe you think I’m not interested because I don’t officially ask you out on a date, so let me clarify something important here: I don’t put walls around my relationships. I prefer to start with friendship, if I’m being honest. It makes the growing process and the looking back at where we came from all the more exciting for me. But, if you’re single, a good woman, and you don’t repulse me, don’t assume our time together doesn’t count as future-building just because I don’t end the night with a kiss. If anything, I’m trying to make the point that you’re worth the journey toward romance, and I don’t have to see you as the latest lipstick flavor of the week. It’s called wisdom and forward-thinking. It’s called consideration for you. It gives me a better chance to actually love you. I’d like to think that’s an attractive quality. Jumping into a romance without knowing you well is a bit like drawing a gun on me and saying, “Love me, dangit!” How can I legitimately love you if I don’t even know you? That’s why, if you’re a good woman, I want your friendship first. I want to choose you for who you are, not for who I hope you might be. Quit punishing me for doing things smart. The only thing you’re accomplishing by putting a glass ceiling over my head is to ensure that you and I have a dying friendship. That does not incentivize me to give you my time. The last thing I want is to knowingly walk into a situation that will inevitably rip my heart out. So, please stop doing things backwards and please stop being unfair. Yes, you should put the glass ceiling over me if I repulse you or don’t line up with your goals in life or simply can’t work well with you. But I’m asking you, please don’t do it just because we’re friends. Awkwardness goes away, often quickly. It’s nothing more than a state of mind. Don’t damage my heart, my faith, and my sense of hope because you’re afraid of a passing awkwardness. It’s shallow and it makes you look bad. Be realistic here: Taking the glass ceiling away is the only way we can keep the friendship alive in time. I hope I don’t have to explain why. If you’re rejecting me because I didn’t ask you out on a romantic date the moment we met, then you clearly don’t understand me. I will ask you out, officially, when I know we’re good together and can work toward a future. Not before. I have no desire to commit to the wrong woman, even if she’s single, good, and beautiful. Don’t expect me to dive off a hundred-foot cliff into shallow, jagged rock-filled waters because you have to label your men “friends” or “lovers” and not simply see them as just “good men.” I’m not crazy.]

So Where’s the Liberty?

Originally posted to Blogspot on:

August 20, 2009:

Just found out that the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to prosecute a high school principal and athletic director and a luncheon organizer for “blessing a meal” at an afterhours school event…for adults.

If convicted, they could face a $5000 and six months of jail time.

For saying a prayer before they ate.

Seriously?

Are we that paranoid over civil rights that we’ll punish those who try to practice their freedom of speech and right to organize just because they don’t line up with your comfort zone? Who but the people praying were hurt in this exchange? Certainly not the ACLU.

Really, if you’re gonna attach the word “Liberty” in your name, at least understand what that word means.

The Christmas Reaper

More than five years later, the subject matter behind this one still kinda haunts me.

Originally posted to MySpace on:

December 21, 2008:

Three weeks ago, I was told to start leaving my cat, Sniffy, inside the house at night. Raccoons had built a nest somewhere near the backyard Schefflera tree and they’ve been sleeping only during the day. Not that I’d consider that a problem, of course, because they’re just raccoons and don’t really bother anyone. But someone had told my mom that raccoons are overgrown rodents, and natural enemies of cats, and can kill cats. So my cat, Sniffy, the backyard prowler, has to stay in at night despite his whining.

I left him inside overnight maybe three times since.

He can take care of himself. He always does.

Two weeks ago, I went for a walk to clear my head. My creative life had hit one disappointment after another, and I just had to re-collect myself, so I put on my flip-flops and headed for the sidewalk. It was pushing eleven o’clock at night. It was also chilly. And I had no jacket. And my incentive to walk was replaced by a thirst (for an actual beverage, not a metaphor for anything else), and not strong enough to warrant continuing, though I continued anyway because I was still discouraged over creative problems. So I walked about a block or so, contemplated whether to keep walking; then I stopped. I saw something furry in the street.

It was small, lumpy, lying in a puddle of liquid or some kind of grease spot, and clearly road-kill. Cars were coming—it’s a busy street after all, not some quiet residential road—and probably destined to do what other vehicles had already done, which was to run it over some more. And since road-kill wasn’t my problem, I kept walking.

Until it moved.

I looked back. It was the size of a kitten. And lumpy. Not squished.

Traffic had drawn closer; though, being that it was eleven o’clock on a Sunday night, it wasn’t coming in volume, or particularly quickly, so I had time to investigate this moving object.

And it was definitely a kitten. And it was still alive.

I thought it was dying—maybe three inches from death—so I wasn’t sure it was worth going into the street for (a girl from high school had died over something similar years ago). But it still moved, and traffic had yet to run me over, so I took the chance and scooped the creature off the pavement, uncertain if it would even come up in one piece. And it was shaking.

Then I had to figure out what to do with it. It was, after all, eleven o’clock at night in a not-so-upscale neighborhood, and the closest neighbor it could’ve belonged to had a “Beware of Dog” sign on his front door.

I took it home.

My sister is something of a pet nurse (not officially; she’s just good at taking care of animals), so I told her she had a “project.” She immediately took the kitten and started cleaning it up when she noticed its mouth was bleeding. The kitten had bitten through its tongue.

We kept it overnight, gave it water (which it didn’t drink), and waited to see what would happen over the course of the next couple of days before deciding whether to take it to the shelter or chance contacting neighbors about it. Because I found it in the middle of the street at one hour to midnight, however, I decided that taking it to the neighbors—if it had in fact belonged to anyone at all—would’ve meant dooming it to another night spent underneath passing cars, so I decided that if it lived for the next couple of days, we’d take it to the shelter.

“How’s she doing?” I asked my mom the next day, when I was heading off to work.

“She’s dying. Or still in shock. But she hasn’t been drinking anything.”

I prayed, of course. I didn’t rescue a kitten from the street just to have it die on me. It was supposed to go to the shelter and bless some kid. Or best case scenario, Barack Obama would hear about the kitten, request to adopt it, and the kitten’s story would become a feature in Time magazine and tickle the world. Either way, it wasn’t supposed to die.

Well, it recovered, we didn’t take it to the shelter after all that, and now she—my sister called her Nami—thinks she owns the house.

Now I have a third cat.

My other cat, Nova, has this tendency to get nervous around new felines, regardless of their age. Nami is the third rescued kitten to come into this house since the summer of 2007, and the third one to put Nova’s whiskers in a bunch. To show her contempt of the situation, she has spent the last two weeks running outside at any chance she could get.

A couple of nights ago, I heard a really aggressive cat fight take place out back. I went out to break it up, but all participants had already scattered. With my socks now covered in grass, I went back inside.

The following evening, or last night if you’re keeping score, my family told me to start covering the furniture with blankets. Apparently, Nova was the one in that fight, and was still bleeding from it (a day later). She didn’t seem off-kilter initially, but then I took a closer look and realized just how bloody she had gotten.

Turned out, though, it was just her mouth that was bleeding, and all that red fur had to do with her cleaning and biting herself.

That was last night.

This morning, I heard a knock on my bedroom door. Well, not a knock—a pounding. I got up, opened the door, and saw my sister standing there with a somber look on her face.

“Really bad news,” she said.

Oh no, I thought. What happened to the cat now?

“Uncle Lee died this morning.”

* * *

It was just before 9:30 when she woke me. My alarm was about a minute from going off anyway, but 9:30…it wasn’t the first time that had happened. I just stood there, as anyone would from receiving such news first thing in the morning, and didn’t really know what to say. What was I supposed to do with that?

He was 44.

I didn’t know what to do with it, so I turned around and closed the bedroom door.

Everyone deals with this kind of thing eventually. These surprises, in essence, aren’t surprises at all but inevitabilities with undetermined clocks. Sooner or later the alarm goes off.

But then, after considering this moment, I have to wonder just how undetermined that clock can be. When you’re fast asleep, you have no idea the end of dreams is coming. Or you might, but you’re not aware of the time. Then it comes and snatches you away from your vision of purple monkeys dancing in a tree. And it’s over.

Always. It always ends.

Freaking alarm clock.

I suppose the news itself isn’t what bothered me, though. Well, it did, but I had known for several weeks that the possibility was coming (though I refused to believe it—he had to be the one man in my family to break the fifty barrier by more than two years)—just like I knew that when my head hit the pillow last night, my alarm clock would buzz soon enough. No, the thing that weirded me out most about this was the patterning. And the timing. The fact that maybe the clock had already been set.

First of all, Christmas is coming. In just four days. Four days. Never a good time to lose a family member. The holidays are brutal enough without that cherry on top.

But I suppose it’s not unusual that someone, somewhere, has to lose a family member so close to the holidays. The peer group for such an occasion, I imagine, is larger than I realize.

But as I said, there’s more to this than timing. There’s the patterning. The fact that my alarm clock goes off at roughly the same time every morning, regardless of my dream state.

Thirteen years ago, at just a few minutes before 9:30, my mom burst into my room and woke me. It was on December 29th, 1995. Four days after Christmas.

“The hospital called,” she said. I was still groggy. “It’s more serious than we thought. It wasn’t a heart problem. Dad had an aneurysm and he’s in a coma. They don’t think he’ll make it through the day.”

And they were right. He didn’t make it through the day. In less than twelve hours he was gone.

Four days after Christmas.

Christmas. Four days.

I suppose that peer group is a bit smaller now.

My uncle was beside him when that alarm clock finally buzzed thirteen years ago. I doubt that, as he saw his brother pass away before his eyes, however, he knew his own Christmas alarm clock was about to set.

Now, I’m not gonna pretend I understand any of this. It could just be weirdness through and through. But then I think of a New Year’s invitation I have this year and wonder how many different clocks are running. There’s a woman my mom had worked for back in the eighties and early nineties that I’m sure I haven’t seen since my dad’s funeral, which happened ten days after his death. This year, that same woman is throwing a New Year’s Eve party and we’re all invited. That’s ten days from now. I haven’t seen her since January 8, 1996, if memory serves me.

How many clocks are really running here?

That said, I’m now officially the oldest male in my family. And I’m only thirty-two. And I’m reeling. And while my biggest question in all of this still remains, “Why the hell am I sleeping in the same room after thirteen years—is the economy really that bad?” I still have to wonder, do I have a chance at breaking fifty? Only one man in four generations has done it, and he made it only to fifty-two. Will I be the first to see fifty-three? Sixty? Or will I have to hear that blasted alarm clock at a few minutes to 9:30 again?

This has nagged me since I was nineteen. And I’ve tried to make the most of my life since. And while I’m not particularly afraid of death, I am afraid of dying without having anything to show for my life. As of now, despite my bloody, sweaty, tear-filled efforts, I’ve yet to achieve my dreams or create a legacy. I’ve written a couple of novels, yes, but I have close to twenty ideas still on my plate, and I have to complete each one if I’m to feel like I’ve done my job. And none of them are published yet. And none of them have been made into a movie. And ten of them belong to the same story arc. I have to finish them. Sometime between now and the next twelve to twenty years. And then there’s the legacy. I’ve had zero luck with women. My whole life. Zero. And I’ve never gathered why. And while those same women I’ve had zero luck with have tried to convince me in subtle ways that I don’t need romance, relationships, or whatever, and that to expect it from anyone, especially them, is to lessen my need of God—easy way out for them, I suppose, though I never figured out why they even wanted the escape clause—they somehow conveniently forgot to understand that the whole point of seeking out marriage and intimacy, and those little dates that lead to marriage and intimacy, is to ensure that I can leave a legacy behind once my clock finally expires, which I’m certain now, is coming, and probably sooner than I’d like.

People used to ask me when regarding the affairs of my life (like the career, marriage, and all of that), “What’s the hurry? You have your whole life ahead of you.”

My answer, though never in so many words, has generally boiled down to this: “Isn’t it obvious?”

Now, after the events of today, I can add a secondary response that states, plainly: “You’re delusional if you really think that,” in case they still don’t get it.

Though, in fairness, they don’t ask the question much anymore. In fact, they don’t ask me much about anything. I suppose they think thirty-two is kinda late for one to be getting his life in motion. Even when he’s spent every day since high school trying to make life happen.

What’s the hurry?

In case it isn’t obvious, my head is still spinning.

AOL Strikes Again

Originally posted to MySpace on:

May 15, 2008:

Well, I’ve been spending a lot of time writing chapters for my third novel (my first needs to be rebuilt, thanks to an error in judgment, and the second is on hiatus, since I don’t want it to be my “first”), so I’ve slacked considerably on every other form of writing I’m known for. Journals, or blogs as they’re called on MySpace, are the chief among the neglected areas, and I owe part of that to common distraction—the Playstation 2 is a strong proponent of temptation. But I also have to owe part of it to the Internet, as AOL hates me.

I’d imagine AOL hates a lot of people, actually, so I think anyone reading this might sympathize with my situation. But for those who can’t sympathize or for those who don’t use AOL (pure geniuses) here’s my story:

The thing is, when I sign on, AOL plays nice for about five minutes. First, it coddles me, making me think everything’s gonna be all right when the news page loads up (AOL tends to give a choice of five lists to read from, starting with world news, then moving toward entertainment, then medicine, then real estate, then finally to the random nonsense page). Then, when I decide I’m not interested in the news, I’ll hit the “X” to vanish the main page; though, the AOL options menu and instant messenger refuse to die. When all the stuff I don’t care about is gone, I start checking messages. So, I log onto Hotmail to see five or six different organizations trying to get me to use their services. From there I ignore them, search for something relevant, nod my head as nothing fits the bill, and “X” out of Hotmail on another washed mission. It’s about then that AOL starts cashing in on its tease.

Lately I’ve gone straight to the messaging boards that I’ve frequented for about eight years after signing out of Hotmail. For a season, however, I followed Hotmail with MySpace. In either case, AOL uses the second site, the one that comes after I’ve been online for five minutes, to assault my nerves. Everything starts out okay, usually, loading the first page with as much speed as dial-up allows. But then it pulls the plug. Everything stalls. I can be in the middle of scrolling through someone’s message, hanging in suspense as I wait to read the final words, when all of a sudden the system locks up for at least two minutes, with no reason as it’s not loading anything, and then resumes as if ignoring the fact that it just got caught in a two-minute hiccup. What’s worse, it stalls my whole computer with it. Microsoft Word, usually friendly to me, also gives up life two minutes at a time. The calculator? Twenty times ten equals…equals…wait for it…

There are several reasons why I don’t visit MySpace much anymore. A big part has to do with the fact that nothing ever happens here. I probably don’t need to go into details, as I’m sure many witness the same lack of activity. But it feels like a waste of time. Blogs are written; no one responds. Friendships are requested, but not from real people. Plus, the whole convention is superficial. But AOL is the element that kills the experience.

Having said that, I officially deleted AOL yesterday in an effort to regain functionality out of my computer again. Yes, I will reinstall it, as DSL does not service my area and a cable hookup might cause more cracks in my bedroom wall than I already have and one false drill might bring the whole house down, so I’m short on options. But as of now, I’m writing everything blog-related out in Word (which works great when I’m not online), and will transfer it to MySpace when the time is right for the rest of the world to read it.

Which I suppose has already happened if you’re reading this.

So, what’s the moral of this story? Find a new information source, as the Internet demands too much performance out of simple machines.

Too Complicated

Originally posted to MySpace on:

June 29, 2007:

It’s too complicated, too heartbreaking to have something to say and not the freedom to say it. It’s too strenuous to have a truth to share and not the proper reception of others to receive it. It’s too horrible, too painful to watch a friend throw away something she knows is true, to allow something in place that intentionally tries to dismantle truth, replacing it with a new truth (a fabricated truth). But then, who am I to judge? If the Christian world is quick to judge those who step away, then why should I cater to that stereotype if I’m to be the example of love?

There are two bulls staring each other eye-to-eye. Both stand on opposite sides of a pen, but they’re ready to charge, ready to headbutt, until both knock each other to the ground. At one time they ate from the same trough, but now the circumstances have changed. Now one refuses to share with the other. The one wants to understand the other, but the other wants to be left alone. What once served as common ground has been split in two, divided at the trough. The one can ask what happened, but judgment is implied. Now the truth must be concealed, for respect is endangered. And though love might convince the one to “rescue” the other from separation, the other’s perception of judgment is already implied, and now the horns have been lowered from the other side, for no agreement can be made.

I’ve been criticized for explaining too much, and maybe that’s justified. I’ve been criticized for needing too much, and maybe that’s false advertising. I’ve been criticized for being too nice, and maybe that’s a fault. I’ve been criticized of not laughing enough, and maybe that’s a joke. I’ve been criticized for being too closed-minded, and maybe that’s a stereotype. But then, who are they to judge? Clearly, to judge me without knowing me is to misunderstand who I am.

A famous line from The Usual Suspects claims that “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world that he doesn’t exist.”

In scouring the testimonies of ex-Christians, of seeing what could possibly convince them to forsake the truth they knew, one element that seems surprisingly absent is the Devil himself. No one acknowledges the fact that he knows us very keenly, and knows how to trip us up. No one acknowledges that there’s a war for the heart of man and that Satan is pulling every trick he can to pull us away from God. No one acknowledges the fact that he can use our quest for understanding against us if we let him. No one acknowledges the fact that he can use anyone, regardless of race, gender, or religious affiliation or stature for his own malicious purposes. No one acknowledges the fact that his first attempt at playing the deception game was to tempt Eve with knowledge (and understanding)—the contradiction to relationship (experience). They just “see” something wrong with Christianity—whether something failed to line up in their understanding or if they trusted the doctrine of a false witness, or even if they find fault with the Bible itself—and so their understanding of truth is lost.

It’s as if the line “lean not on your own understanding (for the heart is deceitful)” actually speaks truth.

Unfortunately, we cannot explain the truths that we know to them—the ones who fell away—for their hearts are now hardened. We cannot adequately provide the love they need because they refuse to let us into their hearts to understand them. All we can do is to be nice, so that we don’t step on their toes and drive them further away. And though we might want to laugh like old times, we can’t separate ourselves from the fact that our hearts are now broken, for the friend we once celebrated with has turned down another path, and has no interest in coming back. And all we want is to understand what brought them there, even if it means, too, that we want to find a way to return them to the truth that we know, whether what we consider truth is true or not, just because we love our friends too much to see them slip away. But alas, that comprises the love that they want from us—the love that says, “I won’t try to ‘rescue’ you.”

These are haphazard thoughts that I’m sifting through, with details far too complicated to flesh out. And I suppose much of me is in disarray, for this revelation came out of the blue, and I wasn’t prepared. But bear with me.

This happened once before, ten years ago, with another close friend, a friend who loved God, a friend who not even a year earlier had written research papers on grace because he was so enamored with the subject. He tried to analyze the depths of God, beyond what God shares with us, and couldn’t do it. His secular college groups couldn’t help. Now he’s an atheist, for his intelligence couldn’t process his investigation. He had leaned on his own understanding.

When a devout, passionate Christian falls away, based on his or her findings through the investigation, I can’t help but to be suspicious. Sure, our faith as a whole is criticized for being one that we just accept without investigation. But these same people who criticize us fail to realize that there are accounts of mathematicians and science scholars who set out to disprove the Bible and the truths behind it, through investigation, only to get saved because they couldn’t find the inconsistencies that so many skeptics and information hunters claim are there. So I find it suspect when those who decide to dig deeper end up falling away because something they found didn’t line up to their current beliefs. It makes me, first, suspicious of their researching skills, but second, and more importantly, suspicious of the sources that fed them these “truths.”

In an attempt to understand this friend’s position better, I decided to retrace some of these tracks that led her to these conclusions. The one I found most startling, as a source, was a group of academicians and scholars called the Jesus Seminar who claimed to be on a mission to uncover the real sayings and actions of Jesus. It seemed like a worthy group, if not somewhat unnecessary, that wanted to bring the deeper truth of Jesus to light. The most notable work of this group is a book called The Five Gospels, which color codes phrases from the four canonical gospels and the Gospel of Thomas—a Gnostic work discovered in the 1940s full of “sayings,” most of them mystical in nature—and bases those colors on the likelihood that Jesus really said that, or that it was said by someone else, or that it was too “out there” to be said by anyone at all. According to ChristianAnswers.org, nearly the entire Book of John was “black-coded,” meaning invalidated as the actual words of Christ, because it refers too much to supernatural instances, and “science” cannot support it. On the contrary, the only sayings to get “red-coded,” as in there’s absolution here, are the ones that sound like fortune cookie lines. In other words, The Five Gospels, after everything is color-coded, makes Jesus look like a hippie, and nothing more. In the end, I can see where a serious Christian looking for serious answers would be disheartened by this revelation—as I would, too, if I thought my Savior was not in fact who He said He was but just another hippie.

Including a Gnostic work into the collection left me suspicious anyway, especially when it received the most red marks of all the Gospels combined (ironic for a Gospel that was never accepted into the inspired Word of God). But I still had to understand more. I mean, these people are former professors, theologians, etc., many with doctorate degrees, so they have every right to be considered authorities on the subject of Christian investigation and truth hunting and the personage of Christ, if that’s what they spent their lives doing. But when the membership drops from 200 to 78 because ill-feelings about the project surmount its scholars, and when half of the remaining members are full-blown liberals, while only a tiny fraction consist of Christian, Catholic, or Jewish faith (a fraction that has very little popularity or say in the “consensus”), and when the consensus that votes on the authenticity of the words (or actions or whatever) can be between as few as two people, and when the founder (a Unitarian in practice) claims toward the end of his opening speech that the Bible is just a work of fiction, with a beginning and ending that have already been voted “hard to accept,” that needs to have its middle portions reevaluated and rewritten (yes, rewritten!!!) to portray a “new Jesus” so the new fiction holds water, then I can’t help but to be suspect of the validity of this group’s “findings.”

I could go on speculating for hours and days and never find an ending to these examples. But for Christians to investigate faith without also investigating the sources behind various claims, I think it’s foolish. If anyone were to accept the statements made by “scholars” and “experts” such as these without questioning whether or not the founders were purposely trying to discredit the Christian foundation, then it’s no surprise that the person investigating would step off the path if the answers looked like truth but were deceptive.

It would be naïve of me to assume that this is the only source of this new confusion, of course. I’m under the impression that many sources contributed to this loss of Christianity (most of which were not listed). But, though the source of the information is unknown to me, the biggest stab through the heart for my friend was the discovery that the Bible we have today doesn’t contain the original text that was written in that first century. Something to do with translations being messed up and whatnot, if I comprehended correctly. Ultimately, the subject of contradictions also came about (something that my other friend who walked this path ten years ago had claimed). Never mind that the translation problems that are present had merely altered the details rather than the messages—an alteration of any kind is still grounds for dismissing the Bible as truth, according to the critics. Never mind that the contradictions are in “scenery items,” like one gospel reporting Jesus interacting with two blind men, while another reports Him interacting with just one. In filmmaking, the screenplay rarely includes any such detail, while the film itself shows everything. It’s still the same story, but with different imagery. In truth, the scenery isn’t what matters. Since the Gospels were retained as memories before they were written down, it’s easy for two different authors to remember (or hear) differing accounts of scenery items. But, because the infallible Word of God was described through different authors with different memories (though the written narrative of the messages was still under the direction of the Holy Spirit), the minor inconsistencies caused the infallibility to fall, according to the critics, and thus the Bible is no longer truthful. And that’s not to include the corruption of those who handled the translations throughout the generations. Never mind that hundreds of people risked their lives (many of who lost them) to get the scriptures to the right people, to keep them preserved and properly translated. They did it for nothing, because the church corrupted it with its own agenda, writing in its own sayings as truth, so say the skeptics. Again, translations against the original Greek and Hebrew versions show that the changes were minor, affecting only the inconsequential details and not the messages, but that’s just not acceptable, is it? In truth, the only big corruptible change that the Bible did incur during those early years was not in the content, but in the order of the books. The original Bible was written a specific way (with a specific number of Books), but the Roman church decided to mess with the order a bit and split a few books into separate accounts. And though that might get the skeptics roaring with “a-ha!,” it doesn’t change the fact that the original order has been recorded, and that anyone wanting to read it in the right order can just refer to the list when reading the Bible they have. In fact, this would be recommended since certain verses might make more sense if the reader knows what it refers to (oftentimes to the book that follows it in the original order).

I don’t know—this is all philosophical, and biblical philosophy isn’t my strongpoint. I’m probably missing a lot of points here. Then again, a subject like this can have points to support and criticize all across the board and the board stretches the span of the world. I can’t address everything, nor can I understand everything. Maybe there is a deeper truth that could challenge our faith. But then, what would be the point of Jesus? I guess logic can run a healthy course, but common sense should have its rightful place, too. And let’s not forget personal experience. Ex-Christians are quick to point out the “emotional” response to things that current Christians might refer to as healing or spiritual. But that doesn’t explain the personal relationships with Jesus, or the interpretation of tongues, or the ability some people have to prophesy, or the specific gift of healing (one ex-Christian refuted this by justifying the timing of his body’s natural healing—on a related note, I may have a 9 1/2 shoe size, but I can justify being a size 11 if I stuff cotton in my shoes or change my interpretation of the measuring scale), or even (gasp!) the origin and purpose of love (not the romantic kind, but the unconditional kind).

In the end, I’m heartbroken because a friend in Christ became disgusted with Christianity and thus “jumped ship.” And I’m heartbroken because I think she got there by trusting false sources for truth. And I’m heartbroken because now she won’t listen to what I have to say because she just wants to accept her new beliefs in peace. And I’m heartbroken because I know in my heart that I have to honor this request, despite my desire to share the truth that I know, a truth that clearly validates all the points that were made invalidated, the truth that goes beyond logical findings to invite experience, and even common sense into the picture, because to dishonor it would be “unloving.” And it sucks because I don’t know how to respond. Our common ground was through Christianity, through faith. Without that common ground there isn’t much else to share. And yet, the stereotypically Christian thing to do would be to abandon her now for her change in faith. But, ironically, abandonment is not what Jesus would do, and thus, despite my uncertainties about the state of our connection, I can’t do such a thing, either, even if other Christians might find judgment and abandonment easy.

I may not be perfect. I may have my share of sins. I may have my problems with relational issues. But I hope I’m not a hypocrite. I hope. I hope. I hope. In this hour of my friend’s confusion, it would be unfair of me to become one now.

Though, I admit that I don’t know where I stand in this friend’s life now that this is reality, as the tendency, it seems, for ex-Christians is to detach themselves from fellowship, or at least trust, (for fear of judgment) with other Christians. Though, I argue that it’s just another confirmation that the Devil has her hand, as it’s his every intention to divide the Body of Christ, and what better way to do that than to lead the confused away from the very people who could (and should) offer support? Again, the ex-Christians fail to see this. I wonder why.

Some may criticize my actions tonight. I stepped into the hornet’s nest to see what drew her in, and it was risky considering the effect that it had on many others who ventured in and never returned. I admit that I didn’t go in searching for myself, as I really have no interest in sabotaging my faith, since I’ve already gone through the trials that would test the truth of my faith and found that my faith endured (Praise God), and I could care less about the things that agnostics, liberals, Unitarians, cult leaders, etc. are trying to pass as biblical truth for my own understanding. But I did want to know what the thorns were that made her bleed, and discover for myself their validity, so that I might understand where she’s standing. In the end, the above is what I found. Based on what I found, I’m sad to say that a good, strong, inspiring, and gifted Christian seems to have slipped off the path for nothing. And I can’t show her why.

Just like my namesake, I have a message to share, but to deaf ears. And like my namesake, the hardened heart makes me cry. And to be honest, I hate being here, for the tears of frustration seem never ending on my side.

The Great Frustration

Note: In an effort to bring my blog up-to-date, I’ve been reading old journals and looking into old issues, investigations, and funny stories I once had. Rereading this journal reminds me that I don’t always see the bigger picture. Having said that, I don’t know how much of this I still agree with. When I wrote it, I was hurt because someone accused me of not being “close enough to God” and used it as a weapon to tear down my heart when that person had no knowledge of my spiritual journey and just assumed the accusation was correct. Like all things that frustrate me, I had to write down my thoughts in an effort to make sense of them. I don’t necessarily agree with everything I once wrote here because I can see where I’m basically making similarly misunderstood assumptions about people. But writing under the influence of pain can blight our ability to think with love and wisdom. So, the following is another example of what happens when my heart is broken.

Originally posted to MySpace on:

March 6, 2007:

I’m tired of letting this control me: this issue of who I am, and how I’m perceived. Since when was it anyone’s business to define my identity for me?

I still find myself asking God to heal my heart. And I think that’s a given for any of us—we all have something that breaks it. But I’m tired of asking for the healing when the things that keep breaking it are out of my control. Just a few minutes ago I caught myself asking for this—for this healing—and realized I’m asking because I haven’t let go of my hurt.

And why not?

I don’t know if my relationship with God is exactly what it’s meant to be, or if I’m missing something. Frankly, I don’t think God is keeping score. I have a relationship with Him—He knows it, I know it, what more is there to say about it? As far as I know, I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I know my relationships with people falter, though. Today, for example, I had one of the worse days at work that I’ve had in awhile. There wasn’t any one defining thing that made it horrible, it was just a medley of sour feelings, great frustration, and all around chaos that made being there awful. And I found myself getting angry. Over what? Over picky people? Over low pay? Over my own exhaustion? Frankly, there was nothing worth getting angry about. And yet, I still had to ask God for the strength to love others.

Such a strange thing to ask for at 2:30 in the afternoon, isn’t it?

Truth was, I found myself resenting the people around me: the strangers, the friends, the whole bloody circumstance. And it was torturing me. It was just another Tuesday in Boynton Beach, but I wanted so badly to run away and never look back. Much like I’ve felt about my place here for the last, say, decade or more.

It comes back to my broken heart—that lonely thing that has hope, but little outlet; the thing that allows me to appreciate my family and the few good friends that stuck by me for years and years, despite my bursts of intensity and self-reflection, but recognizes that they can only give so much; the thing that relies on God for fulfillment, and yet becomes seduced by the holes that He leaves open for others to fill. That broken heart—a device weakened by misunderstanding, unfairly shaped by frustration—that thing I offer to God for healing but can’t seem to free from the things that broke it.

The wounds have festered. They’ve mounted on top of each other. Simple joys have been compromised by stupid things. And I’m tired of it.

It’s time to get honest here: my wounds are relational. There are several things I’m unhappy with, but only one seems never-ending. Lately, I’ve found myself resenting women—that frail gender that wants to be more like men every day. And it makes no sense. My mom faced trial after trial just to make sure I had a decent upbringing. As my first example of what a woman was supposed to be, she did one of the best jobs a mom could do, enduring all sorts of crap from my dad, from demanding employers, and even the church (the ‘80s / no grace version) just to make sure her family had provision. That character should’ve engrained a firm understanding of what a good woman looks like in me. It was a true testament of strength.

To have that as my base, my respect for women should currently be through the roof (as it once was). But then, that might be part of the problem. Maybe she’s one of the few women in my life to ever understand what it means to be a good woman. And maybe as a kid, it blinded me from the reality that I’d face as I grew older, when that gender would come to mean more to me—that women, for the most part, just don’t get it anymore. And maybe it’s the realization that a good woman is such a rare thing to find that brought my heart into this accelerated descent that I can’t pull out of. In the end, it’s a scary thought. What do I do with that?

Not to say I think all women have missed the mark, granted. But I do wonder why, out of more than a thousand examples to shape my view, only fifty or so seemed to get the point.

In the end, I’m just frustrated. If not for the media blitz of Bennifer, Brangelina, Ronald (Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump—one can hope for such a pairing), Maybelline, Victoria Secret, and Budweiser, then I probably wouldn’t care that there are so few good women out there who might respect me. But add that to the endless words buzzing my ears at work, the endless surveys poking my chest on MySpace (which I usually don’t read, but you get the point), and pretty much 95 percent of the things and the people I encounter each day telling me it’s so bleeding important, and I can’t help but to kind of care. So the frustration mounts when good women chase after dirty guys, when bad women creep around in their shadows, and all women think I’m a nice guy and therefore must run for the hills.

Of course, I’m probably responsible for most of my broken state. And that’s the point here: I’m tired of letting these creatures with their psychological imbalances (not the fifty or so good ones that actually take sensible risks and demonstrate a fair amount of strength in the face of chaos) shape my identity. And more so, I’m tired of dwelling on the ones who broke my heart.

I hope by writing this journal, I can start releasing the hurt, to claim that I won’t be beaten by unfairness or disrespect. Though, I know I’m taking a great risk in posting it, since it might consequently leave me branded as a jerk (or at least a misguided soul). But then, that assumes the people labeling me in such a way think they know me, when the truth is, they don’t, and I’m far from this.

Of course, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that we guys aren’t screwed up, too. (My father didn’t get the point, and it often pissed me off that a careless guy like him still ended up with a good woman. And maybe that lessened my mom’s quality—she herself would admit that she can’t choose a good man worth crap, probably because there are fewer good men in this world than there are good women—and, to be honest, that’s part of my gripe with women—that they can sit here telling me I’m a great guy, and then go run off with some complete A-hole who doesn’t give a flying flip about them (my dad cared, granted, he just had a LOT of baggage that he couldn’t shake and it wrecked the family).) But, as a man, I know where I’m weak and I know where I’m strong, and I’m at least trying to improve on those areas where I’m not the latter. Therefore, for a girl to tell me I need greater intimacy with God because I admitted I was interested in her (and was hurt that she didn’t reciprocate) is just disrespectful—it attempts to invalidate my relationship with God to get her off the hook, which frankly, I don’t need—and I don’t need such a wound infecting my identity. Like all men, I have my issues, too, but I’m still a good man as far as I know; unless there’s something I fail to see. But if everyone who’s taken the time to know me can agree to this, then it’s probably true.

The women to come and go in my life, friends and family alike, I care for. I still believe in Chivalry, even if everyone else thinks it’s dead, I still believe in kind words, and I still believe in that dangerous little word called “love.” To let resentment creep in about these same people just sickens me. That is my issue, and it’s something I’m giving to God, even as I type this. But to let go of the resentment, I have to accept the fact that the people I care about will continue with their issues, and I have to be man enough to deal with it. To let a few misguided souls try to make me into something I’m not so they can feel better—so they can feel less challenged (accepting that I have a deep nature), or conversely, let themselves continue with their own destructive habits (choose a jerk over a good man)—I just can’t accept that. I am who God made me, and I’m not going to apologize for that. My family accepts me, my close friends accept me, and most importantly, God accepts me. So why should I start becoming the A-hole? Why should I lower myself into the shallows so a girl won’t feel “crowded”? I won’t resent women anymore—why bother?—but I won’t lower myself to their standards, either. If they don’t want a good man, then that’s their problem. I’ve gone thirty years without a girl by my side—I think I’m getting pretty good at it.

The important thing here is that I let it go, that I stop letting the arrows of discontent pierce me.

My prayer: “Lord Jesus, spare me the burden of becoming something I’m not. Give me the grace to be who I am without accepting misguided influence, or to offer it back for the sake of pleasing others. Let truth speak through my lips, even when it’s hard to hear it. Put people in my life who will help me grow, but let me love those, still, who have been like weeds to me, and let me know which is which, that I might recognize life-giving words from the poisonous ones. Most of all, be enough in my life that these things, for better or worse, will be merely a side trip, where You are the Great Adventure. Let nothing, no woman, no circumstance, no hurtful thing steal my joy. Don’t let me slip into despair from a broken heart—what’s done is done, and it’s up to You to heal me now. Help me to let go of the things that have damaged me, but transform me with Your Spirit that they may not strike another successful blow. Shield me from Satan’s onslaught, as he will do whatever he can to destroy me. You alone are good, though I thank You for the blessings you give, and for seeing the good in me. Be who You are through me, and let not my identity or my faith be damaged. Give me Your grace that I might reflect it back to others, especially to those who’ve injured me. Give me the grace to forgive myself when I still fail in spite of these things. I love You and thank You for helping me through all things. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Long Distance Strangers

Originally posted to MySpace on:

September 29, 2006

A guy you know sees a friend he knows sitting on a park bench in March. The air is cool, the lake smells of algae, and the birds chirp some rhythmic beat that you swear sounds like “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5, but it all seems trivial to the fact that the guy you know hasn’t seen the friend he knows in several years. Even on a nice spring morning, where Frisbees have the right of way, the guy you know (who we’ll call Billy from this point forward) breaks through the norm to say hi to his long lost friend.

As we ponder this scene for a moment, we can deduce a number of outcomes that dear old Billy will face:

1. Billy walks up to the friend and smiles as the friend immediately recognizes him. The two bond like the days had never passed, and wind up fishing in the algae-covered lake just moments later.

2. Billy feels hesitant at first—it’s been a long time since he’s seen this friend and doesn’t know if the friend will remember him—but takes the chance anyway because the friend is sitting in a reachable place, and Billy recognizes that no place is better than the one that’s accessible. When he approaches the friend, his fears are alleviated. The friend, of course, pats Billy on the back, because no friend of Billy’s would ever forget him. The two celebrate the reunion by stopping at McDonald’s for lunch.

3. The seasons have drifted uncontrollably throughout the years, yet Billy feels responsible for losing contact with this friend, so he makes the effort to say hello—whether through guilt or curiosity, only God and Billy know. Turns out, the friend admits to that same feeling of responsibility, and the two, therefore, reconnect through the laughter about how crazy the world has gotten since the ‘90s.

And many other happy outcomes are possible from such a joyous reunion.

But, that’s not what happens. The story that really happens follows:

Billy knows it’s been a long time—the last time he saw this friend, he was moving away. But, he tried his best to stay in contact. Phone calls, emails, letters—he did his part to keep the connection alive. But somehow, his efforts had failed. After numerous attempts to keep this friend in his circle, he gave up. Long distance claimed another victim, and Billy was left dangling the phone cord.

After all these years, he, by no surprise, feels nervous to approach this friend, but confident that lost time will vanish in an instant.

Because, that’s the way friendships work.

Boldly, he approaches his friend, ready to bridge the edges of time, hoping he still knows what makes the friend laugh. But, the friend, in some twisted act of fate, throws him a curveball.

“Hey, remember me?” says Billy.

He waits for an answer, but the friend stares at the lake.

“It’s me, Billy. We hung out a few years back. Remember?”

The friend yawns; then pulls out a book.

“How’s life been?” Billy continues. “I’ve been doing well. I invented a backpack for Rollerbladers that prevents them from falling forward, though I’m still working on the stomach pack. How about you?”

The friend starts reading the book, but sets it down to answer a ringing cellphone.

“Hello?” says the friend, to the cellphone. “Nothing, just reading. How are you?”

Billy stands at the park bench for a few minutes while he waits for the preoccupied stranger to finish the phone conversation. When he realizes there’s no end in sight, he calmly waves goodbye and returns to the life he knew ten minutes before.

And that’s the last he sees or thinks about the stranger that he once called “friend.”

Now,

I know what you’re thinking:

“This is farfetched. What friend would be so rude?”

Excuse me?

Why is this rude? Billy clearly had no place in this friend’s life. The past might have told a different tale, but it isn’t the past that defines him now, is it? Just because he was a friend back in the day, doesn’t mean he is a human being today, does it?

Here’s what you should be thinking:

“What kind of genius did he think he was, approaching the stranger like that? Didn’t he see that the person was busy? Too busy, in fact, to acknowledge him? If he had looked in the mirror that day, he would’ve seen, quite plainly, that he was a moron, thinking he might be important to an old friend. Complete tomfoolery.”

What? You’re not thinking that? But, aren’t you the one that ignores me in the same way? Aren’t you the one that lets my voicemail and email greetings sit in your inbox for years without response? How could you not be thinking that?

Here’s the thing:

I understand that distance creates rifts in friendships. I’m not going to argue that it doesn’t. The problem I have is that rifts do not equate total abandonment. Sure, any of my friends (or distant family members, as the case may be) can go weeks, months, or even years without initiation, and I’ll accept that as the way life is. People drift, just as the planks of a shipwreck drift—there’s no stopping it. That’s not my issue.

The issue I have deals exclusively with rudeness. If someone sends a message—voicemail, email, or some other form of communication—that elicits a response, then by all means say something. It doesn’t have to be the next great epic. It doesn’t even have to be a paragraph. Just answer the bloody question. If it’s a generic, “How are you?” then pretend that my initiative question is a sign that I still care, and that a simple answer such as, “I’m fine,” even if you’re not, is a sign that you still care.

Last I checked, that’s called “common courtesy.”

As much as I like writing, I don’t like writing complete garbage that I know will fall on deaf ears, so assume that this message has been eating away at my soul for years. Also assume that I wouldn’t write this if I didn’t think it important enough for you to see that truth.

And don’t assume this is geared toward any one particular person. This is geared toward most of the people I know, and anyone else who might happen across this journal who thinks he or she is too important to pay attention to the lives around him. Just because we all have our own private worlds doesn’t make us the center of the one Big World—the one that everyone else lives in. As busy as you are, pretend, at least, that you still have the time to not be a jerk. It’ll make the rest of us happier, and possibly more productive.

Here’s a reprieve:

Obviously, there’s a point where dialogue has to end. I’m not making an issue over who gets last rites over the conversation. I’m simply saying, if someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time says, “hello,” then say hello back. If he or she asks you about your favorite color, either tell him, or tell him that it’s against your religion to speak of such matters—just tell him something. Sooner or later, there will be a breather. Just ride it out. It’s hard enough to wait on the blessings of life; we don’t need it coming in additional doses of old friends ignoring our hellos, too.

What human being does that, by the way? That’s the equivalent of asking your friend to hold a lit stick of dynamite for you while you search for a foxhole. Makes me wonder why any of us bother.

If this is harsh, then suck it up, because that’s your conscience telling you to get with the program. No one’s asking you to a movie. I’m just asking you to show some courtesy.

And if you truly don’t have time to respond, then leave a polite message saying so. For all I care, you can send a copy/pasted default message saying you’re busy right now—anything to prove that you’re still alive and functional.

Let’s pretend our parents did a good job making us into ladies and gentlemen, okay? Is that too much to ask?

All right, I’m done now.