Fine, I’ll throw my hat in the let’s-put-it-all-on-the-table year-end personal exposé and see what comes. For the most part I’m a pretty happy guy, well, inasmuch as any guy can be happy given our predisposition toward competitive postures toward neighbor and friend alike. “Ha, you call that happy? I’ll show you happy, damn it.” Come to think of it, I don’t even really know my neighbors. But, that’s a conversation for another time and place.
Because I’m so bloody important and people hang on my every word, how could I be so callous as to deny my legions of adoring fans a delightful tidbit they can read on their phone over and over again? No, really, it’s not a problem at all. Glad to do it.
Hence, in answer to all the emails (Mom, about that…), I begin.
2013. It came and has almost gone, taking with it 365 days, each containing 24 hours and enough accompanying minutes with which to continue in my patterns of living, some helpful, some not so much. Just enough time to sell tickets to self-adulation duking it out with self-loathing in the ring of life-lived-chaotically. In all honesty, the gloves came off in 2013. Not because I wanted to fight harder (although that does sound tantalizing), but because I wanted to quit fighting altogether.
Because I have nothing better with which to do battle I generally excel at doing so with my own personal demons whose asses have grown too fat from hangin’ around the refrigerator door of my life. It’s like the little bastards crouch just behind the kitchen door waiting for me to quietly slide on the hardwood floor in sock feet and grab what small victories might be forthcoming tucked behind the out-of-date mayonnaise. They know how to startle me and, when you wet yourself in fright as often as I have, it starts to get old.
This year, my mantra (breath-prayer to those friends more spiritually astute than I) was “heal and restore.” I gasped and belched it more than breathing it frankly, but you get the idea. I’ve spent far too much time feeling sorry for myself as a victim of any number of relational conflagrations with my wife, with myself, with others I love, only to discover that I’m merely caught up in a monkey finger-trap of self-pity and desperate grabbing after whatever leftovers might be still microwaveable.
2014. This coming year? My new discovery (apparently Jesus said stuff about this…who knew?) is that, love and laughter and life most often come to us when we’re not placing unfair expectations for it to do so. It’s the interpersonal equivalent of “fine, I’ll stop pissing in your coffee as soon as you straighten up and fly right.” I mean, with an attitude like that, what could possibly go wrong, right?
Grace, forgiveness acting as its best representative, is always easiest to reach but the hardest to hold. It’s a bit like trying to move the cookie sheet quickly from stove top to counter without the puffy mitts since that’ll save time in getting to the yumminess staring at us from on top. We must treat our dearest relationships with great care, due consideration for potential pitfalls, but also an ants-in-your-pants yearning for the goodness that will surely come when we are patient enough to wait.
(Beware of awkward segue): I don’t have many close friends. It’s a little baffling to me since I’m so incredibly awesome in every way, a fortress of humility and character. Therefore, I must come at this bewilderment from some other direction. My awesomeness can feel a bit overwhelming to people at first, like kissing a wild fire, hugging a pregnant polar bear or playing leapfrog with a unicorn, none of which are generally advisable given the intensity of the ensuing experience. I’m an intense guy and can be very off-putting to folks. I’m a really interesting pizza with too much garlic and a sizzling tomato sauce just waiting to remove the top layer of your mouth.
I am loyal – to a fault. It makes me a pursuer, which is great if one is caught in a rip-tide and needs someone to grab them from the drink. It’s not so good when that same person looks out and sees the pregnant polar bear as the one about to “save them” from the foamy deep. I have trouble knowing my own intensity levels, boundaries, opinions, and whose crappy fridge stuff I’m supposed to leave alone. It doesn’t feel safe generally speaking when one’s limbs are being gnawed off in the interest of neighborly interaction.
I need deep connection. As an Enneagram 4, I’m the guy you absolutely require at your company Christmas party. I’d hire myself out for the task but don’t want the paperwork. Most likely, I’ll offend your boss’s wife, belch a little too loudly at inopportune times, scare your kids with NR jokes even George Carlin wouldn’t touch, and eat too much cake but I promise you a better time than you’ve ever had. Ever. But, God forbid that you don’t think so! That, my friends, is a gauntlet that has been thrown down even before leaving the hand. I’ll take that challenge to exponential levels and leave you breathless, either from laughter (which is only the means to the actual end of “please like me…or else”) or from running from me as I chase after you with my next clever quip. “Wait, wait, this one’s even better…!”
I am brilliant at faking how not hurt or angry I am. Oooh, everyone loves a needy passive-aggressive. Nothing quite like finding out what they REALLY thought ten years after everyone else has forgotten what they were even arguing about. I’m discovering how much I actually DON’T practice grace by hanging onto things internally for far too long. It’s always better to leave a short-term stink early on than to let it brew like that well-fermented but highly toxic fart after an equally toxic burrito night. Losing one’s dignity and sense of smell for an hour is a better option than being paddled back to life in the ambulance on the way to the ER.
Last year, I learned a number of things about myself that, under the right circumstances can be really good things. I’m the most loyal friend you’ll ever have but only if you massage my feet or wash that trouble spot. I’m one with whom you can deeply identify and find meaningful connection, as long as you reciprocate, or I’ll find you and come to know well the taste of your gizzard. I am profoundly forgiving, unless the infraction was sufficient enough for me to silently hate you for years…giving just enough time for it to pass out of memory. Then, I do my best work of lashing you back to a pole you only thought had been uprooted!
So, you see my dilemma? And, of course, my dilemma is instantly yours.
I have a new mantra this year. It’s one that leaves less potential of my dropping the baby on its head in the driveway and more to the God who is the only one who truly fixes this stuff anyway. “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Jesus said that. He says a lot of cool stuff like that. But, this one is for me this coming year. I intend to go on loving who I am. I mean, you adore me after all. How bad can it be?
More than that, though. I’m going to love who I’m becoming as much as who I am right now.
That was a long and complicated way of saying this: I love my wife, my family, my colleagues present and past, my friends close or lost enough to stay on top of my idiosyncrasies (they’ll look a lot like hypocrisies to you, but…tread lightly, I’m unpredictable, remember?). I’ll continue basking in my delightful self but only to the degree that it helps you to see the same. Where my beauty begins to wear thin, be patient with me.
I’ll eventually get to it. You’re worth it.
I guess perhaps I am, too.