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My Life, My Testimony: Part 2

Matthew 9:36 “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”

Being a sheep can be very wearisome. And, in the second half of my youth I had discovered new ways to stray as far as I could from my future, true shepherd. I had found many wolves to follow, to be a part of, to give my life over to. I had no purpose, no path lit up guiding me, showing me the way. My parents never forced me to finish anything. I failed at school, sports, music. Whatever was attempted was never important enough to see through. So those things never became important, never became purpose. Yet because of what I learned growing up Catholic, I knew there was a God. Perhaps He wasn’t impressed by the ceremony of Mass. Maybe, He wanted us to find out for ourselves the way we should go. I had heard many things about how drugs opened up parts of our mind we never even use. This was the way for me to go, to figure out a prime purpose. I had always believed myself to be destined for some amazing purpose. I had narrowed them down to two choices: to be abducted by aliens, or be in prison my whole life. Some picks, eh? But, drugs offered me so much more.

I started in with the cool kid in elementary school: smoking weed before baseball practice in 6th grade. Moving on to hanging out at the mall, carrying paraphernalia, getting busted. High school was well met with more divergent groups, leading me further astray from school, from family, from what was decent and right of my moral learning in the private schools I’d attended. They were all seeking some way to escape from lameness or to be badder or it was just who they were. I was seeking a purpose, seeking solutions, trying to expand my knowledge, in very many ways to escape from what I saw as a hopeless life leading to abduction, imprisonment, death, or worse: priesthood.

Failing out of Judge Memorial High was a conundrum of the highest proportions. I had failed where everyone else in my immediate and extended family had succeeded. The connection with this Catholicism was broken. My God was gone from me. He no longer had this hold on me that kept the slightest check on my behavior. Yet, where was He, why had He allowed myself to go this deep, this far away from Him? Maybe I needed it. My parents were definitely upset, but it didn’t seem as earth shattering as I thought it was supposed to be. It was some sort of release. I had more freedom. To go where no one else in my family had gone: public school. (I believe part of my parents attitude was relief: JMCH was expensive, and sending four children there was quite a drain on their meager finances.)

I began at Brighton High School meeting a friend from St. Vincent: Kenneth F. He was a slight outsider at St. Vincent; people thought he was dirty and shaggy. He was called the Bushman. I don’t know why he left, I liked him, but forgot about him when he was gone. He only went to school there to about the 6th grade. It’s strange how people disappear in our lives. I didn’t think about him for years, and now here he was, needing a friend as much as I did. The experiment in expanding understanding continued in new and unusual ways. This was soon a part of who I was, my identity. We’d get high before, during and after school. His mother had rented a room to someone who turned out to be a drug dealer. We’d break into his room and steal stuff. He’d have weed and mushrooms. Getting high and staying high was my main goal this year, this single year I had with Kenneth. It was marked with drinking, with wandering the neighborhood at night, with climbing the nearby mountains in the frozeness of night, but we didn’t care. We had no feeling. We were getting rid of feeling. No discussions, no learning, no building, or growing occurred this year. All memories fade from this time. It was all a frenzy of acquiring and consuming. Then Kenneth moved to Maine.

In this time I soon started perfecting the art of my depression. All depression is, is the art of self gratifying inwardness. At least it was for me. With Kenneth gone and not much drugs to be had, all I had, was myself. I had no God. He had deserted me. I went from full awareness of filling my time with a friend in need of me as much as I was of him, and the drugs and alcohol that kept us laughing, ignoring what I sought through the beginnings of drugs, to complete awareness of what a failure and how lost I truly was. My time in high school continued, with a friend here or there that provided me what I needed, never continuing the pursuit of meaning, of purpose. I got drugs or alcohol from them or my brother. My brother saw what was going on inside me, at least I think he might have gotten a glimpse, but he had his own life to lead.

Going to Utah State University, entering into the Forestry department, didn’t help matters much. When I was in high school, the mountains were my true escape. I would go up there with the intention of getting high, then feeling all paranoid and getting depressed, I’d go home and seek solace with food. It was the times that I went hiking, without any drugs, that I truly felt something fit, that I belonged there. I filed it away in the lock-box of my selfish brain, not really knowing what to do with it. What could I do with it? What purpose did it fulfill? Besides solitude, it gave me some exercise, some challenge. But, to fulfill what? It wasn’t until the college choices came up that I thought, I like hiking, I like the mountains. Maybe Forestry is what I ought to get into. Besides, USU was some distance from Salt Lake City, but not too far. So, I went. Deeper in to self I dived. I needed people, yet no one needed me. I was disillusioned by the Forestry department, I was depressed and isolated in the dorms. I went to the place where I could find people: the Fraternity my brother was a part of. It was a brotherhood, right? So, I did what I knew. I took drugs when I could find them, drank whenever it was offered and isolated myself in my room. Here all sense of purpose was gone. My main focus was finding something to eat, someplace to sleep, and get away from all the failure in my mind that I knew this was headed toward.

No part of this University experience was right. It was the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong people, the wrong me. College was not a gateway to a brighter future for me. It was a confused place of darkness and mockery. Where people pretended like they cared, then they left you lost, alone, depressed, directionless.

From the 6th grade to a few years after losing my grant at Utah State University, I was so deeply involved in who I was, I had forgotten there was a world outside. Year after year grew more wearisome then the past one. My mind was scattered and I needed guidance. I needed purpose. I needed God in my life. And this is where Part 3 will take up. Hope comes home at last.

Luke 15:4-7 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lay sit on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

~Stranger

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My Most Embarrassing Moment, Part 2

Strange Confessions…

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.

Haze.

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.

~Stranger

Strange Confessions: In Which I May Have Finally Admitted What I Want to be When I Grow Up

Strange Confessions: I am a little bit jealous of my wife, my best friend, for getting a teaching job at the local Christian school.

For years I have not known what I wanted to be when I grow up, and being forty-four years old, I still don’t really know. Perhaps, until now.

When I was in elementary school I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was told I had a way with animals and I did like them; I could make friends with any animal that I came in contact with. Slowly, slowly that desire started to fade away. I envy people who see what they want to be at a young age, and then with every intent and purpose they go after it with zeal. There are those who get into college, take a few courses, change majors a few times, and graduate in their chosen field. Sure maybe they didn’t have such a pursuant desire as the former, but their goals are achieved nonetheless.

Ferguson Canyon: My favorite hiking grounds, just a 15 minute walk from home.

Ferguson Canyon: My favorite hiking grounds, just a 15 minute walk from childhood home.

When I got went to college, my chosen field was the Utah State University, Forestry program. I hiked a lot in my latter years of High School and just loved and appreciated all the outdoors had for me. Living in walking distance of the Wasatch Range in the Salt Lake valley sure improved my outlook when I was down. We would occasionally go camping and the rangers would make their rounds in the morning, talking and meeting new people everyday was such a thrilling outlook for me, that, that is what I wanted. Alas, as I have written before, I struggle with some depression, and this time in my life, Fall of 1987 to the Spring of 1988, occurred some of the absolute worst bouts I had against the dreaded lurking blackness. I grew disillusioned with the staff and the students there. More likely what affected me there was my depression. It was the first time away from home, I was poor, I was hungry, I needed a good friend, and most people were only interested in studying or partying at one time or another. I see that now what I really needed then, my strong sense of needing to belong, needing to know people cared had to be fulfilled or I would whither away and perish, which I did metaphorically. I stopped going to classes, started partying too much, isolated myself in my room for longer periods of time. I had a grant that I lost that year because of failing or incomplete grades. That year was I time I would most like to forget, but like most things I see now, it was a part of who I am now, and I should never forget it.

I tried again the next year to go to USU, without classes, without money. My plan was to get the job back I had, a copy dude at one of the many campus copy centers, work hard, stay away from bad influences, and make enough to start classes again. But, the first week there, all the pain and emptiness poured over me and I froze in panic, called my Mom and begged her to come and get me. My Nana had to come and get me. On the ride home, I was defeated. Low and empty I said nothing. It was a bitter disappointment. For me, people or places in which I was with during strong depressive states, I cannot revisit. There was this guy named Carlos I went to High School with. Even now thinking about him causes me anxiety and an inner sadness I find hard to deal with. Well, that is what I learned with the USU campus. We would travel through Logan valley years later and stop at the dairy college to get some ice cream and it would make me feel hollow just looking around. Although I loved driving up Logan Canyon. I remember two specific instances up there that I had a very good time up there, so that is a good place.

I ended up getting a job at Fred Meyer and worked there for several years with a small break in between. My second stint with Fred’s introduced me to my future wife and a friend who started working at Kinko’s. After a few years of marriage, I too began working at Kinko’s and I’ve been in the printing industry since. Hrrmm, looking at that now, I’m none too proud of my work “choices”. For it seems that almost all my jobs were taken out of desperation. Even now, the one I have, which took me several hundred miles from my  home of forty years, was taken to get away from things. I am extremely jealous of people who have a job that they enjoy, or that they chose, or that brings them fulfillment, or a good profit. Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful to God for getting me in a position where I can provide for my family. It’s just that… I would like to like it. I would like to have chosen it.

Which brings me to this Strange Confession: I have always loved working with younger people. It brings me such a sense of fulfillment and belonging and purpose that I cherish the time I have with them. When I left Salt Lake, the hardest for me was leaving the kids I worked with on Tuesday night at AWANA with my local church. Sure, I was going to miss my family and friends that I had, but those kids were really very special to me. I actually had adults think I was a teacher because of the way I could relate to them. This sparked things in my mind, but I never followed it up. So some people knew about my wife’s commitment to Christian education, and thought she may be available for a few hours during the week, and they put her name forward, and through a series of interviews she got the job. I have been a little upset with her lately, easily offended and the like, and never knew what it was until just a few days ago. I am jealous of the position she received. I pictured myself standing in front of kids, bringing thoughts of history, writing, math, doctrine and expanding their minds, revealing more of the world to them, caring for them, talking to them, answering questions. I realized that I was jealous. I want to be a teacher. But how? We aren’t in an area where I can get a degree, I don’t have the time or money or resources for this. All I see are walls.

But God doesn’t see any of that. I see no way , but God does. I believe God has given me this gift to relate to kids and this may be it! In some ways I am so discouraged because it is so late in coming and I just don’t see it happening, but God can do whatever He wants with me. And I give Him this. May I bear fruit in this area through Him, and give Him the glory when all is accomplished.

~Stranger

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