Filed under: Stuff | Tags: bedtime routines, daughter, fatherhood, God, parenting, trust
it was nearly bedtime and she wasn’t back yet.
i nervously looked at the clock, debated calling, but instead convinced myself i could do this, even if it was a half-hearted effort. Bella was 2 years old. up until this point, her bedtime routine consisted of mom cuddling her until she fell asleep. i had tried a select few times to take on the role, but if my daughter caught wind i was trying to put her to bed to the exclusion of mom, all hell would break loose. you can say i should man up and do my job as a father. you’d probably be right. so that’s what i decided to do that night, more out of necessity than grit and determination. My wife was out with a friend she hadn’t seen in years. i know, right. how selfish of her!
i hummed and hawed and postponed and let the girls stay up later than they should have been until the moment came when i knew i could no longer postpone the inevitable. i could see the look of distrust in her eyes when i carried her to the bedroom. my oldest went to bed in no time. we were visiting grandma and grandpa’s house, and she had played herself out. Bella just sat on her bed and waited, refusing to lay down or close her eyes. refusing to give in to the tyranny and injustice about to happen. refusing to cooperate with her dictator father trying to corrupt her evening routine of mommy snuggles.
the crying started lightly when i firmly told her it was time to sleep. the screaming started when i tried to cuddle with her. not wanting to wake my eldest, i picked up Bella and headed to another room, still determined to make this young person like me, feel safe with me, be willing to give in to something new. the screaming grew louder and more desperate. Bella has a stubborn streak like no other. it will serve her well someday, but as a child…i was at a loss for what to do with this. if you met Bella today, you’d quickly learn this hasn’t changed. some who know her parents would say she comes by that honestly. they would be correct.
i tried cradling her, rocking her, laying her down in a different bed, leaving the room, rubbing her back…with each new effort, the crying intensified until it was a window rattling scream. so i picked her up and as i grew deaf in one ear, walked circles in the dark, at my wits end, wondering why i had been duped into thinking i could care for this little life. i was convinced in that moment she hated me. maybe she did. maybe my own self-esteem was so shattered i just couldn’t see this is part of parenting. but i was doggedly determined even as i felt defeated. i had started this, and i couldn’t quit now.
i kept hoping my wife would walk through the door and rescue myself and Bella as she had in the past, calming the cries of my Bella and allowing me to wallow in self-pity and drown my sorrows in TSN sportscenter.
but she didn’t rescue us this time. the time ticked on, and the crying and screaming intensified. my mother in law came to check on me a few times, making sure i was alive but knowing i needed to do this. she probably wondered what i had done to her precious granddaughter to torment her so. but she knew better than to ask in that moment what was going on.
i started singing. over and over, the same few lines, made up and sung to another popular kids song i stole the tune from.
“I love Bella, yes I do. I love Bella, how about you?
Bella is so beautiful, Bella is so smart.
I love Bella with all my heart.”
it took a long time, what felt like an eternity. in truth it was 1.5 hours. i must have sung those two lines 1000 times in the span of an hour. at first, the impact was not noticeable. slowly, she calmed little by little. it might have been simple exhaustion rather than the song that began to calm her cries. i like to think the latter. either way, the screaming gave way to sobs. the sobs gave way to gentle cries. the gentle cries gave way to deep, heavy breathing. and then she was asleep.
1.5 hours of screaming, crying, hitting and feelings of failure and embarrassment came to a conclusion in this peaceful moment. i was exhausted. tired and grumpy, having shed many tears in that 1.5 hours myself, all i wanted to do was put her down and go to bed myself. but i couldn’t. i just kept staring and holding her, my arms numb from carrying her so long, but feeling closer to her than i ever had. it felt like a battle of wills in which neither of us won, but we both submitted. i gave in to her, not by relinquishing to Missy as I always had, but by not quitting and taking the easy way out, by standing with her in her fear and uncertainty. she gave in to me, realizing i wasn’t going anywhere and that she could be safe in my arms.
she still screams at me sometimes, usually for my dumb jokes and dying when we play Nintendo. but we are close now. something broke that night. she woke the next morning and hugged me like she always had, but it was a longer hug, one that said to me that she trusted me now. maybe it’s all my imagination, but i believe it’s true. i started putting her to bed more often after that. she still didn’t like going to sleep, but now it was not a matter of screaming distrust at her less than present father. it was a matter of stalling your daddy who was wrapped around your little finger. to this day, she will snuggle in close and try to make me play and laugh, postponing bedtime in any way she can. and i’ll usually give in for a little while because i remember the days when to step into mom’s territory would not be so fun and exhilarating. it took one determined battle, but something broke that night. i became a better father. and i’ll never forget the moment. without it, i don’t believe my girl would trust me the way she does now.
the hardest moments in life are often the ones that make you grow the most. my daughters love for me is a testament to that. my love for her will never be any more or less after that night. but it is deeper and i understand fatherhood better than i did before. it gives my a glimpse of what my relationship with God has felt like many times. i kick and scream. i still am. but Abba still holds me, singing that silly verse over and over again because i refuse to believe it. maybe someday, i’ll give in the way my daughter did with me. hopefully sooner rather than later.
Filed under: Stuff | Tags: derek webb, everything will change, eye of the hurricane, pretending, the man i am becoming
Pretending is so damn hard.
Tonight, I wandered the house. I paced, back and forth, feeling uneasy, having an idea where my angst came from, but not completely sure why it was hitting me now. After all it’s been with me for years. On this night, it became too much. Even as I realized part of what perplexed my heart was a garbage day at work and exhaustion, the logical reasons failed me and led to me running away from myself.
So lost in my own world, I announced to my wife I was going to Safeway, as if that was a thing I did. When asked why, my answer was simply, “I don’t know.” There was a vague idea of ice cream and chips, as if that would solve my anxiety and rising anger and discomfort with my inner turmoil. Sometimes those things work, but tonight it wouldn’t. I left, Missy knowing I just needed to run away for a while. Not from her or my beautiful girls. Definitely not. They were my only sense of sanity anymore. I just needed to go because to stay would be to wallow and drag down my family into the pit with me. So she let me go, always sensitive to when I need to be alone with my annoying self.
I went. I walked down the chip aisle. There were good sales, but nothing looked good. I went to the ice cream. Everything looked good, but nothing was on sale. I refuse to buy things that aren’t on sale. That’s not totally true. I just make myself sick thinking about the $1.50 I might have saved. So I pick up the ice cream, only to put it down again, knowing it won’t solve the swirling, rising mountain of emotion building up inside of me. I walk to the Redbox, flip through stupid movies I’ve looked through 20 times before, knowing I’ll find nothing worth my time. There is no distraction to solve this, not this time. Not ice cream, chips or Hobbits in imaginary lands could stop the wave from coming.
The drive home feels long. I want to arrive as if my leaving served a purpose. With something to show for my random disappearance. To act like all is well and it was actually normal for me to wander off. I can’t muster the strength. So I drive slowly with the music loud. I skip song after song after mind numbing song until Derek Webb, “Eye Of The Hurricane” comes on. The catchiest chorus I know speaks directly to the depths of my soul. Tears begin, but I do my normal thing and pull them back into their ducts. After the first verse, I can’t hold them back anymore, not even certain why.
The chorus describes my life beautifully. The idea of running from myself, being stuck with who I am, being the man I am whether I like it or not seemed to fit in the moment. Because I’m so sick of myself. I’m a 30 year old, failed holy man trying to be more than what I’m capable of being without the grace of God, which on most days feels too good to be true for me, so I run the other way. I feel the full weight of being a saint and a sinner (minus the saint part) and can’t bear the weight anymore of pretending to be the saint when I feel anything but.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Only that I am tired of running. I’m just so damn tired. Tired of not measuring up. Tired of a broken world, a broken me, broken trust and broken facades that used to be easy to hide behind. I have a history of being overdramatic, so forgive me if this sounds like a sob story wrapped in a big pile of give me a break. But I am oh so tired of pretending. And Derek Webb gave me permission to be honest about the garbage man I feel that I am. I beg of you. Please don’t comment here with how wonderful you are sure that I am. That only makes me believe it less.
Because this isn’t about my self esteem, which will rebound into arrogance in no time once I meet someone on the interwebs I disagree with. This is about the man I am becoming. And if I can’t be honest about the sorry state I’m in here and now, then what’s the point of the rest of my journey? If my recurring smoking habit doesn’t catch up with me, I should have a good 40ish years left. If I have to fake it for that long, I won’t be able to stand myself.
So I don’t know what this is. A prayer? A confession? A scream in my dark corner?
I skipped ahead 4 more songs for some more Derek Webb truth and profundity.
That’s another writing session for another time. But for now, it feels true. It at least gives me hope that there’s more than my veiled eyes can see at the moment. For now, I hope in the day when I wake and won’t be the same.
My friend tackled an old man into the lake.
Ok, it wasn’t an old man. It was my other friend dressed as an old man. But it was definitely the most hilarious thing I’ve seen since Ricky getting hit by a car.
It was before the days of every 5 year old having a cellphone camera. I lugged the handheld mini DVD player down to Wascana Lake. I don’t remember why, but we got this brilliant idea to make a short film about us being the Wascana garbage collectors, taking out the human trash since 1991. I was the cameraman. My friend Ryan played the ringleader. My other friend Ryan dressed up as an old man. It wasn’t too hard for him, since his style mostly matched that of an 80 year old anyway. He only needed a cane to complete the ensemble.
The plan was to talk about the human trash residing in the park, and how it was our job to get rid of it. It was set up perfectly, with Ryan #1 angrily ranting into the camera about the ills of society. Ryan #2 took his place by the path along the lake. Ryan #1 said to the camera something about seeing some human trash that needed to be taken care of. He then proceeded to tackle Ryan #2, who had a fake cane and was far enough away from the camera to be mistaken for a stranger, into the lake.
It was perfect. The timing of the tackle…the gasp that left Ryan #2 as he flew through the air. We even asked another couple walking past to join the charade and feign concern for the old man as he splashed around the water.
It was around this point I realized I had forgotten to hit the record button.
I won’t rehash the look of disappointment on Ryan #1 & #2′s faces. Even the passing by couple was disappointed in me, shaking their heads in disgust for me having wasted their valuable time. You might wonder why tackling old people into a lake would be considered fun, and if you are wondering that, you have a solid point. I had recorded some speaking parts, but missed a few key portions, making the whole thing choppy and missing the climax tackle. If I remember correctly, they had to redo the tackle. Nothing was as brilliant the second time around.
I often feel like I’m missing my mark. In life, you only get one shot. Yes I did just quote an eminem song from 8 mile. And no, I don’t regret it. I feel like things are passing me by and I’m the oblivious bystander, fiddling with the record button. I had one job…
Anthony DeMello is a brilliant writer. His book ‘Awareness’ contends that to be alive is to be in the moment, seeing what’s happening all around you in people and events. So many of us sleepwalk through life, focusing on what’s next or what’s happened before. But he calls us out of the craziness of everyday life into paying attention to the deeper realities going on beneath the surface.
It reminds me of Jesus call to consider the lilies. To love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. To give to those who ask without expecting a return. To love God and love people. Jesus lived in the moment more than anyone. The beauty if a life well lived is seen in Jesus. I’m jealous of Jesus. Man, that guy had it soooo easy. Minus the crucifixion part.
I’m not Jesus. I’m Blair. And I have attention issues.
I can’t be Jesus or Anthony de Mello. But I can be me. It might not seem exciting, but it could be. I just have to start paying attention.
The first time I had a clean shot at a deer, I missed on purpose.
My brother and I had hunted since early morning, starting as the sun broke over the ‘wannabe mountains’ Manitoba hilltops. I still remember not really being certain if hunting was for me. All I knew is that my dad loved it, my brothers did too, and I had fun pushing bush with my cousins when I was a little guy. If I didn’t try, I’d never know. Plus, I hoped to discover the first evidence of a Sasquatch, and I thought hunting might lead me to meet our future overlords. Trust me, it’ll happen. They are just biding their time until we are too fat from Cheetos and McD’s that we can’t fight back. Oh wait…it’s too late.
This time was my first actually holding the gun. The first time feeling the weight of the weapon, trying to be ready for the moment of truth. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I wanted to be the hero.
Instead, we got skunked. We only saw one Buck, which ran out of the trees in the opposite direction before we could get a shot. The rest of the day was spent sitting quietly and walking through empty bush. Before we knew it, the sun was setting and dark fast approached. To increase our chances in the final minutes, my brother dropped me on a hill where he had shot a buck the year before, then he drove off to scope another spot.
After waiting for about 15 minutes and darkness nearly upon me, my teenage brain couldn’t comprehend sitting still any longer. I walked the dusty mile road back to the highway. Just as I got to the bottom of the hill, I saw her. A beautiful doe. Medium size, nothing spectacular by trophy standards, but a beauty nonetheless, especially based on the lack of luck we’d experienced that day.
I lifted my gun. It felt heavy from carrying for hours, and I couldn’t keep it steady. It could have also been that my scrawny boyish figure weighed about as much as the gun, but we’ll go with the ‘tired’ excuse. I tried lowering to my knees to get a better stance. She saw me move and froze. She must have thought to herself, “what is that strange, tiny, gangly creature that I could definitely snap like a twig with one kick?”
We stared at each other. It wasn’t nearly as intimate as I paint it out to be, but I imagine that she knew my fear as much as I knew hers, and wanted to call truce. I felt as if she could sense my anxiety and desire to be a man. Of course she couldn’t, but my mind raced on. In that moment, I knew I didn’t want to kill her. I looked to make sure my brother wasn’t nearby. She had eased from my initial movement and was walking towards the tree line, believing I wasn’t a threat. She had no idea how right that was. I took a couple shots, close enough that I could pretend I actually meant to hit her (in case anyone was watching), but knowing it would miss. Mostly so I could say I tried and tell a tall tale of ‘almost got one!’ to my friends. The truth is, even if I wanted her dead, I’d have missed anyway. I was a 16 year old punk kid who could barely hold a rifle, let alone load it. I’m sure there are many worthy teenage hunters, but I was not one of them. So I missed, and felt a strange mix of shame and peace as she ran away from the noise.
When my brother picked me up, I’m sure I claimed it was a buck, hundreds of yards away, so far away that an expert marksman would have surely missed. We cursed our luck and drove home.
14 years later, I’m still a terrible hunter. Last year, I went again, had several shots, actually tried to hit several deer, and missed. My best chance was from about 50 yards. A young, love drunk buck had been chasing a doe that was running away from us. He was thinking with his nether regions, so stayed in the wrong spot just too long. You know what I’m saying, gentlemen. We’ve all been there.
I opened fire once, twice…thrice. I was out of bullets and hadn’t come close as near I could tell. My brother was about 50 yards behind me and to my right, and got him. We watched the handsome beast breathe his last, and I had a hard time holding back my tears. I acted excited, and was for my brother, but truthfully felt unworthy of the gift this beautiful animal had given us.
I’m not cut out for hunting. It’s not that its wrong. It’s just that death breaks me. A loved one. A stranger. An animal that could feed a family (Insert vegan-power comment here). It’s so real and final, no matter how much I rationalize or justify it, it just doesn’t feel right. It’s the broken place, and I don’t know how to deal with it.
As Mufasa would say, it’s the circle of life, or some crap like that. But it doesn’t mean it feels right just because the Lion King says so. People die. Animals die. There’s a time for everything under the sun. Until then, I’ll avoid it like the plague. Coincidentally, the plague also causes death.
I don’t know what to do with deaths reality in my world. As a Christian, I know I should be less afraid to die and for loved ones to go, but what I should feel and do feel rarely align. In the meantime, I’ll miss shots, both on purpose and because of my poor skills, hoping to cling to life in all her forms.
I’m a bad hunter. Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, they say. Well don’t bring me to one either, because I’ll cower and cry and miss on purpose.
Hammocks might be the best things ever invented.
As a child, we’d go to our friend Jonathan’s house, and a game we’d play was to see how many of us could fit in the backyard hammock . Then the older kids would swing us until we inevitably fell out and scraped our knees and smashed heads. But it was awesome. And we’d climb back in and do it all over again. A form of self-torture that was too much fun to pass up.
The next time I used a hammock was the first time I got high. Much like when I was a child, my friends and I piled inward and were swung back and forth, cackling like idiots. It was much like being a child, only more obnoxious. My friend and I laid there for what seemed like hours staring at stars and feeling like grownups, even though we were proving to be anything but. I remembered the joy of the hammock as a child, and although this could have been the drugs talking, this felt even more meaningful.
A few years back, I set one up between two monstrous trees in our back yard. I tried to replicate the joy of my youth, minus the drugs and friends. It was okay. Nothing too special. I never felt I had the time to actually relax long enough to enjoy it. Toddlers will do that to a man. I took it camping and slept in it a few nights, in hopes that if would take me back to more carefree days. I tried afternoon naps on sunny, summer days. It was nice, but nothing could take me back to a past that was no longer attainable.
Nostalgia is funny. You can build up memories into these giant panoramas, making them out to be much more than they were. It’s like you paint a mural in your mind, only to realize it was nothing more than a finger painting.
My kids ended up using the hammock more than I did, often asking me to swing them as they giggled and got scared, the way I did as a child, minus the swearwords. Then my dog chewed holes in it, and I threw it away, much too cheap and unwilling to pay for a new one.
The truth is that memories only hold the power that we give them. While objects and people can take us back to certain places in time, nothing can replicate what brought us joy in the past. It wasn’t the hammock that made me happy. It was being with friends, laughing until I couldn’t breathe, experiencing life and growing up. A product can’t do that. If we spend our time trying to manufacture nostalgia, it will truly be a wasted life. If we expect items to bring us real joy, then we have no chance at experiencing the memories now that create nostalgia in the present, and will again in the future. We’ll be left unsatisfied.
Hammocks went on sale today, half price. I couldn’t resist, so I purchased another one. Can’t beat $25 for a chance to relive your dreams. I no longer expect to be taken back in time, though. That’s silly to expect out of a hammock. Besides, you need drugs to do that.
Maybe hammocks aren’t the greatest thing ever. But if your favourite thing to do is lie down, it might come close.
Filed under: Stuff | Tags: fight club, Jesus, practice resurrection, resurrection, wendell berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
-Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from his book of poems “The Country Of Marriage”
This poem kicks me around quite a lot. It speaks to the power of doing something new, of bringing life to death, of following the path that hasn’t yet been trodden. The world expects us to be corpses, separated from the lifeblood that comes from following a different way than the consumerism our world sets out before us. Take a look around you. Death is the norm. Life makes no sense. UNTIL you experience resurrection. Then nothing else makes sense.
Yesterday was Easter. I have no spiritual treatise to share. Only a longing for resurrection. Because as long as I’ve put faith in Jesus, resurrection has been at the tip of my fingers, yet felt just out of my grasp. I’ve tasted it, caught glimpses here and there, yet it remains just out of my reach. It doesn’t make sense. I’m sold on the devouring mentality, the way of death and mindless consumption. To live a resurrected life, to live the siren song, so appealing yet incredibly dangerous and counter cultural…It makes so much sense one moment, then feels impossible to grasp the next.
A man on a cross dies and comes back to life three days later. They even say this man is God himself. How believable is that? Not very to the logical mind. BUT, if it’s true…if resurrection is real and possible…not only attainable, but the place where TRUE life is found…If that’s even remotely possible, then we must not remain content to be bloated corpses, walking miserably and meaninglessly through life. How sad would that be to walk through 80 years, living for nothing more than the quick profit, the annual raise, paid vacation and that which is ready made for our ‘convenience’? As the great prophet Tyler Durden proclaims in Fight Club, “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
There has to be more than microwave ovens and TV dinners. If there isn’t, this is all just a cruel joke. Convenience and consumption kill our brain cells, one by one, telling us we are getting the deal of our lives when all we’re getting is more garbage to fill our houses. Resurrection offers something new, exciting and real, as unreal as it seems. I’ve yet to experience it’s true power, as culture has it’s grip tight around my throat. But if resurrection is possible…new life out of dead things…a counter culture like none we know…a way of hope rather than emptiness…then what have I got to lose? Why do I hold so tight to the grip of emptiness and hollow satisfaction? Isn’t it worth the risk?
As a Christian, I’ve never fully known the resurrection. I know the theology, the dogma and the story. But I’ve never truly KNOWN resurrection. Because if I did, if we did…then everything would be different.
This has become rather more preachy than intended. My apologies, I just needed the sermon this morning. I’m tired of living for the newest movie and to put gas in my car. That’s not resurrection. That’s putting one foot in the grave.
It’s time to do something that won’t compute, to ask questions that have no answers, and to not be afraid when they leave you with more questions. Resurrection is real. If you don’t believe in Jesus, believe in the power of resurrection. Because without it, Jesus is irrelevant. The power of resurrection breathes new life into these dry bones. Resurrection is my only hope. And if Jesus was resurrected and is the place where resurrection life is found, then all else is meaningless.