Leaving

My last post was about returning home. Whenever one goes somewhere, they also leave somewhere else. Thus, it is true that I am leaving San Diego, quite possibly forever. It would be easy for me to look back on my time here with bitterness. After all, I have had some very difficult times of loneliness, emptiness and sorrow right here in the spot where I am sitting now. I can’t look at it that way, though. In some ways, this has been an experience of a lifetime. Many people never get a chance to completely leave their familiar surroundings and live alone in a new place. Although it wasn’t what I wanted at the time, it was what I needed. There can never be any doubt about that in my mind. I needed what I would call a “hard reset”. What I got was a complete change of scenery, a different job, and a life, albeit temporary, in a new and different place. I can’t say that I loved it, but I can say that I learned from it.

So now I’m leaving. What, exactly am I leaving? Well, at my new job here, I met a guy from Austin, of all places, that I really hit it off with. I’m pretty sure we will be friends for a long time, and I’m looking forward to seeing him back in Austin. That’s one. Here at the house where I’m living, I have met a couple of guys that I became friends with. Rick, a former musician, who is now a mortgage banker, and Peter, who is, gasp, a mortgage banker who writes poetry. Pete’s first book of poems has just been published. Together, we form an odd trio that mysteriously gets along pretty well. Our place is pretty mellow, which we all like. No drama, no conflict, no extraneous noise. It’s good, really. I will miss these guys, but I hope to stay in touch with them. They both have expressed interest in coming to Austin for a visit and I would love to show them around.

I am leaving a very mellow work environment as well, which is pretty unusual for the business I’m in. I will miss that. There is a very diverse group of people who are all working together very well. It’s good to see that, and be a part of it. My boss, Betty, is one of the most laid back bosses I have ever had. Hats off to you, Betty. I will miss you too.

The room I have been living in, well, it’s more than adequate. Thank you, God, for that. My landlord, Bruce, has been super. He’s a good guy. The weather here has been fantastic for the most part. When it rains everyone freaks out a bit, but that’s ok.

So, while I am anxious and ready to go home, I am still leaving some things that I really like. I wasn’t prepared for the way that hit me today for the first time. There are people here, and places, I will probably never see again. That’s the way life’s seasons change. Even when the change is for the better, there is almost always something to be given up in the process.

Peace.

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Coming Home

After three months of living and working in a strange city, I am coming home. Now, I originally thought I would title this blog “Going Home”, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that wasn’t accurate. I’m not really going home because a large part of me never left. What’s really happening is the part that was away is coming back to rejoin the part that was always there. My heart was always at home.

These past three months have seen a lot of change. Neither the situation nor the man who left is the same. Back in those early days of December I was pretty much of a mess. I was emotionally shredded by all the events of the previous months. I hated leaving my family behind, but I knew I had to leave. There was a job here that I really needed. WE really needed. The financial situation was desperate. Almost a year of trying to make it outside of high tech had taken its toll in so many ways. That’s a whole other story for another day. In those days, I was so emotionally lost I couldn’t decide for myself how to feel. In that state, I was vulnerable to the emotions of the people around me in a dangerous way. I would let them control my emotions because I wasn’t controlling them myself. Being emotionally co-dependent with another person or persons is never a healthy way to live.

The night I arrived here I thought I was the saddest man alive. Driving in the dark, in a rented car, through a totally alien landscape, I have never felt more disconnected from my life than I did in those first few hours.  It still hurts to even think about it. I was utterly alone as far as human company was concerned. I had no idea what the future would hold or how I was going to handle this new situation. All I could do was take one step at a time and continue to take the next step after that and the one after that. In that manner I got through those first few days, never looking past what had to be done next. Sometimes that’s the best way to get through a difficult situation. One step at a time.

I won’t go into all the details, but over the next month or so God started to work some pretty amazing changes in me. In the first few days or even weeks, there was a lot of loneliness, desperation, anxiety and sadness, but through it all God was speaking to me, and I finally started to listen. What I heard may have saved my life. I heard him telling me over and over that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t weak, that I was strong enough to not only survive but to change in ways that would carry that strength into every part of my life. I had to give up some things that I really love. Give them up to God, and stop trying to hold onto them. I had to learn to trust my Papa with everything, including my family, marriage and children. I had to learn to let go of the illusion of control that I had held onto for all my life. Give it up. It wasn’t real anyway.

This obviously wasn’t an overnight process. In fact it was very gradual, one small step at a time, until I started to notice the change. The first thing to go was my anxiety. Worry never added a day to anyone’s life. That’s what Jesus said. I started to believe it and trust that worrying wasn’t going to make things better, only worse. I may not be able to control circumstances, but I can surely control how I react to them, and that’s the key.  How I choose to handle every situation is all the control I am ever going to have. I’m good with that idea now. Along with the anxiety I lost the fear and the desperation. God is in control. Whatever happens, I’m going to be ok. I’ll find a way to live with it and go on living. I can love people, but not need them in a selfish way.  Relationships are more about what I have to offer instead of what’s in it for me.

Spending all that time alone with myself and God was both hard and good. I’m not sure I would ever want to do it again, but I’m pretty sure I’m glad it happened. I can’t imagine going back, emotionally, to the place I was three months ago. No thanks. And I don’t have to go back to there. That’s not who I am anymore. The old man is dead.

So, I’m coming home. There’s much more to the story of my time in the wilderness, but it’s not relevant to this post. I’m coming home. Home. There may be no sweeter word in the English language. Some of the circumstances have changed, and some of them haven’t, but I have changed, which makes it all different. I am not a victim. I’m not lost. And I’m not confused about who I am or who God is to me. I don’t believe for a second I’m done. I haven’t “arrived”. I’ve just taken one more step on a long journey toward being more like Papa, and in the end that’s quite enough. I am thankful for the circumstances that gave me the opportunity to support my family once again and at the same time be refined in an emotional fire like nothing I have ever seen before.

This doesn’t have to be just a story about me. If you are living with anxiety, fear, doubt and worry, maybe it’s time for you to put that old man down too. I can tell you with certainty that letting go of all that stuff will make a major difference in the way you walk through every moment of every day. You don’t have to be cast out into the desert to make the change, either. All you really need is a few quiet moments every day to spend with God and ask him who you are in his eyes. Listen. There is love available to every one of us that is much greater than any problem we ever imagined. All we have to do is receive it.

The journey continues. But first, I’m coming home.

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Patience

Impatience. It’s rampant in modern society. Everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere or get something done. When circumstances, or other people, don’t cooperate, most of us have a tendency to get a little irate. That’s the definition of impatience, isn’t it? I don’t get what I want, when I want it, so I get annoyed or just plain pissed off.

I know a lot about impatience. In fact, I have been an expert practitioner of it for more years than I care to count. It has only been recently that I have begun to think about just what my impatience was speaking to the people around me.

I’m learning just how destructive impatience can be. For one thing, impatience is based on the belief that my schedule is more important than someone else’s. “I want what I want and I want it now. Who cares what you want?” There’s no doubt that our culture actually encourages this, especially through advertising. “Why wait? You need this now!” Waiting for anything is viewed with disdain in the high tech age. We’re conditioned to want it now.

What does all this do to the way we treat each other? For one thing, impatience is not a loving way to treat anyone. 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter”, even begins with “Love is patient”. Well, love IS patient, and impatience is not founded on love. Since we are called to love one another, you would think we would try cutting each other a little slack!

If impatience says “I’m more important than you”, what would an attitude of patience speak to the people in our lives?

1) I respect you enough to give you the time you need.
2) My time is not more valuable than yours.
3) I will not rush you to satisfy my own agenda.
4) I love you enough to let you control the situation.
5) I trust you.

Love is patient, and being patient is a tangible expression of love through actions rather than words. Now, some of this may just be my opinion, but it is certainly true that impatience is contageous, and patience can be as well. What if my acts of patience not only affirmed the people around me but also showed them a better way to interact with one another?That’s a virus I would like to see going around!

What if everyone slowed down enough to let other people in their lives do things at their own pace? Wouldn’t that take a large measure of tension out of almost every situation? What would it cost to try? What’s more important, love or time? Why not take a deep breath and give the people in your life a gift of love by being more patient with them? Try it. It’s the Wild and Free way to live.

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Deconstructed, Part 3

When I wrote my last blog on November 4th, I still had no idea how bad the storm would get, how hot the inferno would become. It is still almost too painful to think about. Rather than chronicle all the gory details, I will just say this – in the days and weeks since then I have had the opportunity to seriously contemplate bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce and suicide more than once. It has been that bad. What I experienced was the total destruction of every assumption I had been living for years.

We were saved from bankruptcy in the nick of time by a job offer I would have flatly rejected in better times. It would require me to live 1300 miles from home in a strange place, but my family would be fed and sheltered. God is good. I seized that opportunity for all it was worth, seeing for the first time in years the true value of the unique gifts God has given me. I had spent so many years despising them and wanting to get away. What really needed changing wasn’t my career, but my attitude and my heart. I saw that clearly for the first time.

The first week of December I left Austin with a heavy heart. I was relieved to know I would be working and supporting my family again after 9 months of unemployment, but I was devastated to be leaving them behind, knowing that for the forseeable future my time with them would be limited to weekend visits every few weeks. My marriage to Morgan was in pieces on the ground. I was being stripped of everything I had taken for granted for so long.

In the midst of this, I was about to experience the most incredible transformation. In my desperate loneliness and emotional devastation I began to hear God, and he was telling me something very important. Specifically, he was telling me to stop looking to other people for my emotional cues and validation. In those lonely nights I spent journaling and meditating, I heard God telling me that he is enough and that I was enough. I could, and would, get all the validation I needed from him.

It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly I felt myself emerging, as if from some dark coccoon, into the light of a whole new way of thinking and seeing myself. My emotional neediness, which had virtually crippled me for most of my adult life, began to fall away. I could face any future, confident that I would be ok. Fear lost its grip on my heart. I realized that I didn’t NEED anyone. That sounds harsh at first, but let me explain. Needing and loving are polar opposites. Need is about what comes to me. Love is about what flows out of me. What you can give me vs. what I can offer you. If I am need focused, I am always wanting more than you can give. When I am love focused, I offer all of myself as a gift to you or anyone who would receive it. Viewing relationships from a perspective of what I have to offer, rather than what I need, changes everything.

The story doesn’t end here. It never ends really. I can’t say that I just woke up and started living this perfectly. It’s a learning process that may take the rest of my life. There is much left to be resolved in my life at this point, but I have found peace in the moment by taking each day as it comes and appreciating all that’s good in it as a gift from God.

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Deconstructed, Part 2

Ok, if you read the first part, this is kind of an interlude from the story in which I express my thoughts about what was really going on…

All this time, what I was really wanting was to get in touch with my heart and then LIVE from that place! At this particular point, it had not happened. No. Not even remotely. I had spent so many years living from my HEAD that I may have thought that I was living more from my heart but I really wasn’t. I was TRYING to, but failing miserably. What was really going on was this – I was still trying desperately to control everything about my environment. The business. My marriage. My family. Everything. When things didn’t go the way I wanted them to go, I got pissed off. I wanted what I wanted. I wasn’t living in the moment, allowing things to happen and dealing with them accordingly. I was trying to micromanage every little thing. It’s no wonder I was so unhappy. You just can’t do that. Ever. When you live from the heart, you deal with events on a very intimate level, but it’s genuine. Dealing from the head just relegates everything to some cerebral realm where events are categorized and filed. That’s what I was doing. I had a plan. That  plan called for certain things to happen at just the right times. When my plan was thwarted, I was frustrated and pissed off, which happened pretty often.

This is the context in which everything happened. Before I go on, I need you to understand that. Stay tuned…

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Deconstructed, Part 1

How do I begin? How about this?  For the last few years I have been wanting to change several things about my life. First, I wanted to change careers. I have been working in the same type of job for over 28 years, and was getting very tired of the rat race. I wanted a simpler life without all the “stuff”. I wanted a better relationship with my wife, but wasn’t sure how I was going to get there because of my own personal issues. In all of it, I wanted to get in touch with my heart, which had been AWOL for too many years to even count.

I really thought 2008 was going to be the year when it all happened. I had been working with a life coach who helped me make some major progress toward finding my heart again. My wife and I purchased a business that I was sure would help me make my exit from the high tech meat grinder. Morgan and I renewed our vows that August on what was surely one of the happiest days of my life. The stage was set, right? Surely everything I had wanted was about to come to pass. Well, not quite.

I was still working in high tech on a contract job I really needed to finish. I was also working weekends at our new business. Morgan was handling all the day to day duties for that business plus the other business she already owned. We were working ourselves to death. I could see as the year wound down that we were headed for some kind of trouble. You can’t be that overworked and tired all the time and escape the consequences. I just didn’t know how it would all play out.

Then, in February, I was given notice that my contract job would be ending on March 1st. I was concerned, but also somewhat freed by this. I was confident that I would now have time to devote to our new family business and we would somehow make it into the income source we needed to keep the finances healthy. I was also planning to get my life coaching business up and running as another source of income. It all looked good on paper. The problem is, it didn’t work out that way.

The life coaching business was pretty much DOA. In a bad economy no  one has the disposable income to pay a life coach to help them with their problems. I tried all kinds of tricks and changes to my web site to get people interested, and many people told me how great it was that I was doing all that. No one wanted to lay the money down, though, so there was no income from coaching. That was a major disappointment and somewhat of a shock to my expectations.

The family business, a unique wedding venue, was doing a little better but not much. It was supporting itself most of the time, but not paying us anything. Morgan, the kids, and I all worked our butts off repainting rooms, landscaping, and generally improving the place in hopes of bringing in more clients. I think it helped, but not nearly as much as I had hoped and not nearly enough from a financial point of view.

I believe that’s when the wheels really started to fall off, and I was right there loosening the lug nuts. The real trouble was just about to begin. More later…

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Woodstock +40

The 40th anniversary of the legendary music festival is now upon us. No doubt, many men and women who are wiser than me will have alot to say about it and I’m looking forward to reading what they write. I believe it’s safe to say that Woodstock was a symbolic event in many ways, representing the high water mark of the youth revolution that was going on in America at the time. I wasn’t there personally, I was only 16 at the time, but I did meet someone a couple of years later who claimed to have been there. I was pretty awestruck by that. If you were alive and aware of what was going on, it would have been pretty much impossible to not know that something really big happend in New York that summer.

I have often heard it said that if you remember the ’60’s you weren’t really there. It’s impossible to understand the phenomenon of Woodstock without understanding its context. I remember that well.  A few years earlier, the United States had nearly gone to war with The Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba. We had conducted air raid drills at the elementary school I attended. A few years after that,  I had sat in my 5th grade classroom and heard the announcement that President Kennedy was dead, assasinated 30 miles down the road from where I sat. In rapid succession, or so it seemed, were the assasinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, punctuated by riots in Watts and at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. On top of it all, the US was involved in a protracted war in Southeast Asia that would eventually take the lives of over 58,000 Americans. During those years, every  teenaged boy in America knew exactly when he would be old enough for the draft. Many young people my age and older had a profound sense that things weren’t working so well in this country. I was one of them.

A segment of the youth population was already rebelling. The hippie movement, as it was known, was about rejecting everything that was perceived to be wrong with America. The hippies have been characterized in retrospect as a bunch of stoned out bums who wore their hair long, didn’t bathe, and had sex with everyone.  They were viewed with suspicion, at the least, by most middle aged, middle class adults. The people I knew were quite different. They were mostly more intelligent than average and willing to think outside the box. I was challenged to question everything I thought I knew, and it was a positive experience.

Along came Woodstock, which turned out to be the largest gathering of hippies and music lovers ever assembled. Yes, it was a disaster in some respects. The organizers were totally unprepared for the huge turnout. I still remember the news stories about surrounding towns being overrun by festival goers. I would have given anything to be there, not just for the music, which was outstanding, but also for the cultural experience of being in such a completely unplanned and outside the box event.

That’s what I remember about Woodstock. Not that Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Santana, and nearly every other famous band of the time played there, but that for three days some of the youth of America did it their way. Imperfect, without a doubt, but totally new and different. For a while there was hope that maybe America could take a new direction that wasn’t about war or materialism or the same old same old. Sadly, most of us eventually “grew up” and got back in line. Those who didn’t were looked upon as hopelessly stuck in the past. Forty years later, having taken my tour through the middle class American status quo, I sit and wonder if we didn’t miss our chance to change things profoundly for the better. I guess that makes me an old hippie, and I can live with that.

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