Strange Confessions: As said in a previous “Strange Confession” I told you I like to explain to people, who couldn’t care less by the way, about my dreams. So here I go again… (think this last line to Paul McCartney’s Silly Love Song).
My little sister is elected president, of the United States of America. Yes, those United States of America… not the other ones. The thing most in my mind is that they are going to vet her and find me, then they’ll have to throw her out of office. It doesn’t occur to me why they hadn’t already vetted her before the election, but there you go. They are going to see all these posts and facebook stuff, my basic online profile, see that their new president is brother to some big, lame doofus of a guy and get rid of her quick. I’m wandering around some mall somewhere, possibly Fashion Place Mall, fretting about what I’m a gonna do. The illustrious “They” are going to ruin my sister’s dreams, all because of me and my desire to spill my guts to the technological god of spew. Who am I to be so thoughtless? Didn’t I even consider the consequences of telling the whole stinking world every blasted thing about me? Did I not care about my family and friends who would lift the eyebrow in consternation at all my foibles laid bare? Oh the agony! Maybe I could go drown my sorrows in a nice pretzel or lemonade or chicken sandwich with waffle fries.
Sorry sis. I didn’t mean to ruin your future, but I still gotta do this. Go buy yourself a chicken sandwich and waffle fries on me, ’cause I obviously can’t buy you one here and mail it to you. When you announce your candidacy for president, if you say you don’t know me… I’ll understand.
Strange Confessions: I would much rather have a conversation, or hang out with those of the 6-18 year-old set. Adults make me very uncomfortable, and I seriously don’t make it easy for them to talk to me.
Since I became a Christian, I have always known that I have been blessed with the ability to relate with those of the younger type. Back in Utah I would try to recruit people to become an AWANA leader. One of the answers that really surprised me was, “Kids really intimidate me.” I’d stand there, shocked and amused, wondering how in the world kids could expose these people’s insecurities in such a way. Kids are the most honest people on the planet: they have nothing to hide, and they say what is on their mind. It has always been so refreshing to me, to not have to interpret what they are saying, whether or not they have some agenda, or are just trying to make me feel better. I have even had kids tell me that I am fat. It was annoying, but they told me the truth, as they saw it. I enjoy any time I can hang out with kids, finding out about them, playing with them, teaching them, learning from them. It has been a little different here in West Plains, but, you get right down to it, and kids are the same everywhere. I’ve held some pride in this gift and have given God the glory for it. I’ve always believed it was a blessing. Until last week… when I started to question my motivations for avoiding adults.
I’ve talked about in previous posts about another church family joining with the one we have recently become a part of, and now there are lots of kids in our congregation. Lots of new names to learn. Lots of new friends to find out about. Another commitment I’ve made, when we have joined here, is for me to be more involved in people’s lives. You know, the iron sharpening iron deal, the relationship with peers, the making myself available for discipleship, the being an integral part of our congregation. Essentially, being the hands and feet of our Lord here on earth. I know, I know… perhaps part of that is having a great relationship with the children in the church. But, last week, I annoyed myself.
Before I explain about the crazy thoughts that went on in my head last week, I want to explain again, one of the many purposes of this blog: I write, to find out about myself. I get the idea in my head that I want to tell you something, something short and sweet. But, my brain works out things as I type, and I need to discover something that my subconscious keeps tap-tap-tapping away at my conscious part of the brain about. I need to understand this thing, and I need you to understand this thing too. I started this blog knowing that not many people would actually read this, and that is fine, so when I say “reader” or refer to “you” it just may be me that I am talking about. Well, whatever. I am a strange one, and I’ve never attempted to hide it. So, onward…
We have been having meals after services every week. It has been a chance to share a meal with those who have heard the same sermon we all just listened to, and to discuss our thoughts on it, sharing our lives, concerns and praises. I get my plate, look around the room and pick a spot that looks the most comfortable. The most comfortable is usually a table not full yet, but has people at it who can talk well and are already involved in conversation. I can sit, maybe answer a, “How are you doing?” question or two, but then I just blend in. I’m like camouflage: hidden among my surroundings, keeping the attention away from me. I am a professional conversation divertée: ask me a question, I’ll answer mildly, then ask the person next to me something a bit deeper, transferring attention with ease. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s not that I don’t want to really know people, or let them know me, it’s just that the standard situations we make to figure these things out are incompatible to my personality. Give me a pool table and a pitcher of beer and I’m a go! Set-up a game night where it goes deep into the night, to reveal Mr. Goofy-pants, and we’ve bonded. Take a hike on a strenuous trail together, friends for life… well, for a time: a good time I promise, maybe.
I suppose I had some more to say before I got to what happened last week. Remember? It’s about writing, about finding out more about me… Hmmm… sounds a bit narcissistic, no? Oh well, that was addressed in the last post. Whatever.
There is a lot more kids at church now than there was a few weeks ago, and they go out to play when they quickly eat up their meal. Since there are so many now, some might get in a bit of “trouble” out there. I’ve decided to make myself an adult chaperone. I go out and watch them, organize plays, have a bit of fun myself, talk to them, know them. It felt a bit like an excuse. It is a bit of an excuse. It is so much easier, so much more comfortable, so much more fun; to be with the youngins. My wife even asked me, “Are you ever going to be in with the adults?”
One of the reasons we came to West Plains, is because our life was “easier”, more comfortable in Salt Lake City. We only really knew, I mean, really knew that, was a few years of living here. Now, here I am choosing the easier, comfortable, fun way. Instead of the hard, uncomfortable, work that I need to do, to be the Christian God is calling me to be now; I’m taking the easy, wide road.
And I did it again this week. In fact, a couple of guys came out today to talk to me. They asked me how I was doing, what is going on… I gave the easy answers. I’m feeling a bit ashamed. One of them was the pastor, or head elder, (I still don’t know what to call him), I was about to tell him my thoughts, then my wife came out… probably to save me from some embarrassing statements on my part. I have to get out of this position. But, I have to admit that I don’t really know how to do it. Do I tell them this whole bit? Well, not the “whole” bit, but just my difficulty. I’m feeling like… no, I shouldn’t. I’m not like normal men. So I shouldn’t think that something that separates me from the others would be the thing that binds us. I appreciate where we are now, I just don’t know how to move on.
I have a very fulfilling relationship with the small group I have been a part of for the last couple of years. It has been only the last few months where I have truly been able to open up. Sometimes I believe I’m sharing myself deeply, but for myself, it might have been what I believe they may have wanted to hear. Which may account for some of the depression and lack of desire to attend for the first year or so. I protect myself by being open to the point of driving people away. I see that now… as I write. I do not want to be this way anymore. It is too fake for me. No, nevermind… I am moving beyond this, slowly.
One thing I do know, is that God knows what I need to do. He will lead me and guide me. I thank God that He is on my side, He is even on their side. I know there is no superficiality in their dealings with each other, I want it to be that way for me. Perhaps I do need to be a bit open about what I think, just limit it until things get… easier.
But not too easy.
He walked down the dark, dank smelling hall, seeing the light coming in through cracks of the awkwardly leaning door that was ahead of him. As he reached it, he gingerly lifted his hand to caress its cold hard surface. The padlock that was always there was gone, the hasp oddly twisted. Flakes of metal paint was coming away from dents slightly marking the surface. The bending twisted dent angled up toward the hinge on the other side, exposing grey metal, looking like some strange, rusted canyon of the future. He pushed the door open hearing a kink in the movement only felt from badly fitted doors. Outside sat two of his brothers, not by blood, but by the bonds of fraternal consensus found at universities. These guys frightened him in a way. They seemed so much older, so sure of themselves, so knowing, like they could see into him, his thoughts and especially his fears. That is what he was afraid of; that people would discover his fear, and expose it, laughing as it flopped there on the dirty ground, wet with beer, dust and food particles never swept up. The fear that his heart would be exposed and it would be stomped, uncaring into the ground. Although it was more than that. It was that no one would want to see his heart; take it into themselves, cherish it and share their heart with him. He’d been so transparent all his life and never really understood those reasons. It would be something he would never see until the time that he would give God his heart, and God would share it with him. But before that happened he would have to reveal it to a family who would always be there for him and then he would truly start to trust. Truly ready to believe in a God who would never leave, unlike his father who left at the worst possible time. Is there ever a good time?
“You just about got through there,” one of his brothers said with a laugh in his voice.
“Yeah, just a couple more kicks and you would have been free. We probably would have never found you.” They looked at each other and laughed. They didn’t know how right that statement was. He had spent most of his life trying to kick down doors forever blocking his path. Why did he choose this hall, when there were so many other, much easier ways out? Although he never tried as hard as he did last night. Last night was different. He had such hopes and dreams for last night, only to be dashed to the beer drenched floor.
He had come to this fraternity only because his brother was a member. It was his first year of college and things weren’t turning out like he expected them to. He was so dishearteningly lonely, hungry, and unconcerned. So much of what this experience was turning out to be mattered so little anymore. His first quarter he had an 8 am class, then one at noon and rounding out the day one at 3 pm. It confined him, that schedule did. He started missing his 3 o’clock classes. Eventually he couldn’t work his way out of bed for the early one very much either. The consequences of missing classes weren’t showing themselves. He’ll see them eventually for sure, but not until the end of the year, when he has nothing to show for the year up here. But, he did feel it. He felt it in his loneliness, his despair at realizing what a foolish choice his major was. They were all jerks. They thought themselves so much better than they were, even before the whole environmental thing took hold in its manic way that it did in the ’90s. Perhaps that is just what he saw though. He knew he could never succeed, for he’d never been driven to. The given-up guitar lessons, the tortuous basketball games, the fear that there were better, much better baseball players than him: so why go on with… anything. Then there were the girls. Even at a young age he wanted someone exclusively to dedicate conversations and time with. But, there was always someone better, so why try.
He was in the semi-real world now. This University, this Institution of higher learning. How did he even get here. He’d proven himself unreliable in elementary and high school. But he had made it, although he was scared and lonely. His brother was the only one he knew, who was with him from the beginning. He went to him and where he was. He got in only because he was Little Mayo. Little Mayo always to his bigger sisters friends and his big brothers friends. It seemed that even his little sister had it more together than him. He felt sorry for himself. That was a trick his father always would use, his mother would always remind him. He would never realize that feeling sorry for himself would never work, until years later, when he would become a different man.
But now is where he lived. As he always did. There was past and there was future. Past bright and fun and adventurous and friends. The future: misty and grey, only echos of his father’s mismanagement of his job, his marriage, his children, his legacy. His life was like walking down a dark hall, only there is no light indicating a door, only knowing for sure that when he reached the end he would have to completely turn around and go back. Go back down paths the opposite way that he didn’t enjoy the first time.
“I don’t even remember going down the hall to the door,” he said to the brothers, unsure about whether he was being funny or not.
“Well, you’re going to have to pay for that door.” Uncomfortable tightness worked it’s way through his stomach as one of his “brothers” eyed him with anger and maybe a bit of disappointment. This is all wrong, he thought. Yesterday was supposed to be his time. It was planned long ago. He had even picked out the song they were going to dance to. “Prove My Love” by the Violent Femmes: it was perfect! Great beat, good message, especially for what they were going to do, and they could all mouth the words. Then they’d wind it all up with R.E.M.s “White Tornado”. He had to prepare to do this though. He was going to be no slouch when it came to getting up the courage to get on that stage. He started drinking in the early afternoon. All afternoon he would walk up and down the halls, excitedly chatting up the brothers, for what could… no would happen! An hour or so before the show, he walked by one guy’s door and glanced in. What exactly was going on here? he wondered. The brother was bending over something, looked up sideways at him and gleefully asked, “Wanna try some?” “Sure,” he said, and walked in the room and closed the door.
Later, their dance was awesome, although he couldn’t see a thing because he had to take his glasses off, because they were all wearing Ray-Ban style sunglasses, and he was basically blind. But he could feel people and see faces cheering. Oh this was going so swimmingly!
Then the clean-up. Had to clear the floor for the real party. He was wearing his good ole stand-by moccasin type slipper shoes, and the floor was a bit wet. He never really got his footing out on the floor. He kept falling down, flat on his face. Frustration began building inside of him and anger on top of that. A monster was about to be released he never knew existed. Although not green and never twice the size of his true form, it was just as fearsome and unholy as any monster born through sin, rage and unmet expectations. He was looking up, glasses never put back on, and saw only blurry, laughing faces. Holding to themselves the cups of unbridled liquid courage so cursing him now in his combined illicitness and ineffectiveness, they were curling it around their arm protectively as if they could ward off the demon slowly changing form on the floor at their feet.
GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE! he raged within himself, dealing blow after blow of furiously aimed kicks to an innocent heavy metal door. He finally felt four men tear him away from the door and drag him down the hall to his bed, and proceeded to sit on him. Oh the seething explosive force he was using against his prison guards, that captured him as he almost made his escape. Okay! okay! it was getting hard to breathe for him, “I’m fine! I’m calm, I’ve calmed down.”
There was doubt and hesitation in their eyes as they slowly released him. Free! He lashed out at the window above him and heard and felt the satisfying crash of glass as it rained down on him, his bed, everyone. They grabbed him again. Held him surely until they knew it was over, but it was gone. Once the window shattered the spell was broken the monster was gone, and he broke down and cried. Wailed his sorrow, his fear, his angst and anguish. Until there was one left in the room with him. This one shared his own doubts, fears,… suicide attempts, foolish as they were. This here was a brother! A com padre. Oh if only Little Mayo knew. People just don’t open up and let you in the let you in to their true self. No. This discussion was too much for the one left with him, and leave he did. Perhaps he saw the folly of his ways in this young newbie. Maybe he turned around and dedicated his last years there to studies, seeing how near he came to giving himself to someone. That may have been unacceptable. He never talked to the younger one, the little Mayo again that year. Just for that night. He fixed it just for that night.
But, like one trained to know that there is someone out there to give your heart to, he kept to travelling the sad and lonely, the fearful and dark paths of this world, trusting that there was someone who never gave up, even after all the let downs. The embarrassment of knowing you’ve given so much and that the other wasn’t real, wasn’t true. He would though, wear his glasses a little bit tighter to his face from now on, hoping to see a little more clearly than before. For that day would come and he wanted to be full witness to it. That night when demons were released in more than one way, he would hold to his heart, until the time of release, so that he could realize that what he had hoped for all His life was there all along. The Creator was there all along, knowing that these things would have to be gone through in the proper time. Knowing that even though he wasn’t His at the time, he was still securely in His hand. Somehow he knew the Savior was there. He could never put it to words, but how else was he to explain that he still went on, of failure after failure after failure. God knew he would need to remember so he can give hope, that he can see it in other’s eyes when all but a glimmer was gone. Like a light at the end of a dark hall, the door someday for someone will be pushed open easily, because of the experience he had that day. He would also never receive someone’s heart and turn his back, no never. For the world had turned it’s back on His Son in the darkest time. People will always hurt him. But as far as he was concerned and as far as God would allow and remind him, he would never… betray a trust… given to him.
Strange Confessions: During my freshman year of high school I would occasionally don a black felt, pointy topped mask, and acted like a weirdo in public.
At Judge Memorial Catholic High School, during my freshman year, I fell in with the wrong crowd. Or, wrong individual, is perhaps closer to the truth. This was a very transformational period for me. I gained much experience of who I was to turn out to be, from my standing back and observing this person, let’s call him Wayne, and how he treated his friends and me. I also, for the longest time, blamed Wayne for my lack of dedication, direction and hard work at Judge which led to my expulsion for poor grades. But ultimately, I knew I had no one to blame but myself, which took a long time for me to see. I still regret much of the consequences: seeing people I knew all through my childhood going on toward their purpose and being successful in their endeavors, united in their struggles, forming friendships that would last a lifetime, that should have been with me and for me. I still regret it but not in the same way, for that is another story.
I became friends with Wayne under delicate circumstances. Several of us were hanging out in the Boys’ room, I don’t remember who they specifically were or how I came to be there, but I was standing by the sink, messing with the soap dispenser. The nozzle on the dispenser was built up with layers of hardened pink goo. I pulled forward the release lever and several inches of the soap shot out from the only hole it could escape from under such extreme pressure. Do you know where the soap dispenser was aimed at? Right at the crotch of Wayne’s pants. Wayne stood there in amazement looking down and then looking up at me, with anger building in his face. I remember Wayne chasing me through the halls, but can’t for the life of me remember him catching me. I know he didn’t hit me or anything like that. I don’t even know how we came to be friends.
Isn’t it strange the things our minds eliminate from memory and sometimes the stuff we do remember is baffling to say the least. Either way a week or two later, we were wandering through the halls, Wayne blasting Rainbow through his boom box he brashly brought to school. We’d receive annoyed and disgusted looks from upperclassmen, but Wayne didn’t care. He… we were cool. Our group consisted of the big, but lovable; Tram, the scrawny and goofy; Mash, the pliable and eager to please; me, and the thick eye browed and grinny; Wayne. Joining this group was like becoming a Mormon: I was accepted immediately, once I professed any type of interest and loyalty, but the stuff that was revealed, in bits and pieces at a time, disturbed me enough to question what I’d gotten myself into, yet I was in too deep to back out, and there was nowhere else for me to go. In my immaturity, I began to believe that the loyalty to these friends was more important than school. I believed that I had found more than my past friendships I made a St. Vincents, and in my own stupid way shunned them for this new acceptance. Tram was a good guy, he had lots of other friends and didn’t make our group exclusive. Mash; oh I really think I could have been good friends with Mash. For he was smart enough to know that this group wasn’t as all fired up important as I thought it was, and he wasn’t around as much as I. Neither was Tram for that matter. Well, it eventually became just Wayne and I.
Soon going over to Wayne’s house after school everyday became the norm. I learned how to cheat the bus system with different types of transfers, or stolen ones off of an unmanned bus, where the driver had taken a break to a convenience store in Wayne’s neighborhood, just so I could get home at night. Wayne’s mom was divorced and seemed to be always at work. So going over to his house was a sort of freedom. But there was always something niggling at the back of my neck. An uncomfortable feeling that I was not doing my school work, that I was neglecting my family, that nothing else seemed that important anymore. Wayne wasn’t putting a lot of pressure on me, I’d just follow him.
Looking back, as in former Strange Confessions, I’m embarrassed by my conduct, by the way I just did things, without thought for anyone else around me. It’s times like this, spent with Wayne, that I most wish for a time machine. To go back and slap myself, and say in a british accent, “Get on ye yargle! What d’ya think you’re doing with this gormless nutter!? You are better’n this. Go on back to school before I knock yer block off.” Ha! I’d do it in a british accent just to confuse myself. Wouldn’t that be funny to go back and give yourself a message in a different accent. I’d imagine a lot of mental gymnastics would be goings on at night,… well perhaps it’d be a bit too much.
Wayne didn’t command or order things to be done the way he wanted, he just expected them. I see now that he wanted to be a leader, but didn’t have the charisma or the surroundings to accomplish this at a high level, except that he had me. He was a bad boy, and I did bad and stupid things when I was with him. Which leads to my Strange Confession. Wayne had knitted this mask that looked like a KKK mask, except it was black and it was slit from the bottom up to the nose, so you could see the mouth. He’d put it on on the bus and squeal, and look around sharply, and pound on windows. Basically, the mask gave you to power to be an idiot. He’d have me do stuff with the mask on sometimes, like jump inside a store, squeal, look all around like some wild animal, then jump out again. Or, run after a bus that had just left it’s stop and pound on the windows, jumping up and down, probably freaking out the bus driver. His favorite was to pound on the greenhouse windows of some fancy garden center, then just stand there with your face and hands pressed against the windows if you caught someone’s eye, like we usually did. Wayne called this thing “The Masters”. Why? I don’t know.
I felt stupid doing these things, but Wayne thought it hilarious, and he gained such enjoyment from freaking out people himself. I wanted to make people laugh not think I was some sort of freak. But there I was. Doing whatever Wayne wanted to do. I was wasting money, wasting time, wasting my future, wasting my reputation. Throwing it all away for a bit of approval. We’d go over to Tram’s home and that was enjoyable. We never did that The Masters garbage when we were at Tram’s house, and his sister was so cute too. Wayne would make fun of me that I wouldn’t get Tram’s sister, and he would always be after her. I was shy, had no ambition of my own, and just a sad sack. Being a freshman at Judge was not all I had expected. I wanted to be friends with my old friends again, but by then the year was over. I had not made the grade and was kicked out.
After that year I never sought the approval of my peers, at least that I didn’t consciously think about. I’d make my own paths, find friends who liked me for me. Many times it is hard to have this attitude, especially with my personality. But, I did find others. I did see Wayne again a couple of times after this, once when my new friend at Brighton and I stole my mom’s car when she was in Italy, (but that is another story) and the other when I was taking out the garbage at work at the Pizza Oven Connection. Boy, I felt like a real winner then. All three of them are on Facebook and I don’t think I want to “friend” Wayne, but I’d sure like to talk to Mash and Tram. Maybe I’ll get up the courage to private message them.