Gunshot for an Alarm Clock

atirar-para-o-alto-3

Born as a son of a waitress and a railroad worker
who rode the rails out of here
and left her doing her best to serve me
when she married the a truck driving son of a truck driver.
Hard to persist against the blowback of that.
It stunted growth and twisted new wrinkles
programmed with pattern recognition.
It sees when the past is about to hit
point B from point A to loop back to the front again,
reincarnating the past into different forms of
ways to incur battle wounds that bloom into scars.

Trust exists outside a cage
and, so, I know why the bird flies against the wires;
it wants to believe the outside is embracing
while I embrace my perch and linger within my bars.
I am filled to the brim
my cup is full of anxiety
and it rattles, shakes, and spills all over
Truth be told,
I’m afraid of almost everything.
My forays into leaning into the wind
has left me sprawled across the dirt
and when I dust myself off
I’m ankle-deep in salt water;
it must have fallen out of my pocket
when gravity grasped my collar and pulled.

The pills are meant to keep me gripping
the lighter side but I still sink deep
and in the abyss I sit and wait and watch
life pass me by, year by year.

I’m terrified of you. Whoever you are.
Because ‘you’ have stepped into and out of this cage
and slammed the door in my face because I
was enamored by the glitter in your tail feathers,
the impossible beauty in your plumage,
And ‘you’ turned out to be someone I knew
So, I don’t know the you that is yet to come
or if you’re even on your way.
It’s just getting harder to burn down the world
when everyone has had an easier time than I.
I still feel like the child that grew into
the live wire of anxiety and the cold water of depression.
The door to the cage is almost too much to overcome these days.

Everyday strikes me like the same tuning fork;
the vibration igniting my nerves.
I’ve got a gunshot for an alarm clock
And the pills are easier to swallow
than the rest of my day.
I’m okay with being alone.
Loneliness is another story.

Alone with the Alone

Alone

I’ve spent a lot of time on my own lately.

The completion of my bachelor’s degree was not the victory I felt like it would be. You would think I would feel different about everything now that I’ve completed that four year stint of my life which consisted of nothing but homework, work and running mostly on fumes. At most I thought I’d be happy with the accomplishment. But when they handed me that folder with my diploma inside I gave it a glance and put it in the bag of goodies the Alumni association gave to all the graduates. Now I just feel like I’ve lost purpose and all I’m doing with myself is working, exercising when I can and trying to get some sleep. I’ve resorted to escapism in watching TV shows like ER and playing video games on my Nintendo DS.

I used to think I was an island. I didn’t need anyone to get me through the day. I’m finding more and more in the last few weeks that it was just the stress and preoccupation with homework that kept me from really feeling the gravity of what it feels like to be truly alone. It hasn’t helped that one of the only people I talk to on a regular basis has been off driving around enjoying herself. I don’t blame her. I just notice the difference in my life with the absence of communication we typically have on a daily basis.

God created us to be social and relational. I’m learning when you remove those elements from life it becomes lackluster and depressing, as if it’s not worth getting out of bed because I don’t know what to do with myself if I did. This became extremely obvious to me last Sunday when I woke up feeling this great weight on my heart, as if all the sadness and pain I’ve been containing was loaded into the barrel of the cannon in my chest and I just didn’t have the spark within me to light the fuse, to eject all the negativity that I had been swallowing that past week. But I sat up with a shot, got dressed and promptly exited my house and got in my car. This is an old coping mechanism that I haven’t had to utilize for a long time but I could think of nothing else to do to resolve the hell that was burning inside me.

So, I drove.

I-80 West is a lovely stretch of road. It doesn’t pass through many populated areas and the speed limit is 75 MPH most of the time. I cranked up some tunes and tried to catch up with my racing mind that’s been plaguing me for quite some time, keeping me awake and sending my anxiety levels through the roof. The purpose of this drive is not to have a destination. For someone like me who relies on planning and knowing where I’m going, the prospect of traveling without a destination is somehow liberating. The speed mixed with cigarettes and good music is soothing and helps me sort out the mess in my head most of the time. But I just couldn’t shake it.

And so I drove some more.

Anger, depression and anxiety are some of the hardest emotional states for me to outrun. They are poison to the soul; they latch on and it’s difficult to shake them loose. But as the drive continued I started communicating with her about what I was going through. The greatest people in the world are the ones that are the ones who care about you regardless of how crazy you are. Four and a half hours later I was in North Platte, NE. I stopped to use the bathroom and pick up something to drink. I got back in the car and decided to head back home. I had a realization when I was nearing the end of my journey West. I was listening to Killswitch Engage’s album “Alive or Just Breathing” and the song “The Element of One” came on. I’ve been listening to this album for years but it’s amazing how old songs can hit you in new ways. It was when I heard the following lines that my heart broke open and I was able to breathe a little easier. Yes, I even cried a little:

I will return to you
I am with you always
I will never turn away from you

Breathe me in
I am forever
Deep within.
I am eternal

It felt like God was speaking to me in that moment. No matter how lonely I was feeling, how dejected, how alone and isolated I was feeling that he is with me always and will never turn away from me. This is the most amazing thing to someone like me who, thanks to a number of painful experiences, has severe abandonment issues. And it was a good reminder for me as I have been feeling completely burnt out on church after 4 years of attending chapel services twice a week where God seemed more like a source of entertainment than someone to be honored and worshipped. But perhaps I’m just cynical.

I still haven’t figured out what to do with all of this yet. I still have my moments, especially at night when I can’t sleep. But I am never alone. I remember at the beginning of my first year at Bible college I wrote that I wasn’t alone anywhere. Sometimes, I need a reminder of that and I am happy when, in his providence, God shows me that I am not alone no matter where I am.

So, now the point is living life without a destination. To remember no matter how many friends I had that have since forgotten me and left me to my own devices, I have to remember what is here and now. No matter how tempted I am to dwell on the future and my ever-persistent fear that the Pulley song “Second Best” does not become my anthem:

I don’t care too much about anything anymore
There’s no difference between wrong and right
I’m tired of living life out of spite.
I don’t care too much about anything anymore.
Been here too long
It’s a change I can’t go through
You’re better off without me aren’t you?

I have lost my faith in finding humanity
For every girl that ever broke my heart
For every fucked up friend that played that part
I have lost my faith in finding humanity
Compassion isn’t enough for all I’ve been through
You’re better off without me aren’t you?

No Control

One thing most people know about me is that I’m, by nature I am an introvert.  As it has been pointed out to me, I’m also really good at being an extrovert when I want to be.  This is true and, on the whole, I like being around people and I like to socialize.  But, as with many things, there is a limit to how far that goes.  As it was also pointed out to me by my friendpastor Ben, I don’t like being in situations where I can’t control the chaos or the noise.  This was actually an apt perception on his part because, without realizing it, I do not like to abdicate my control of a situation so a small group, say 3-5 people is favorable to me rather than a group of 5-10.  When it gets to the latter extreme I start to lose energy from, what I surmise, is an attempt to maintain functionality and control.

I think Donald Miller described it best in his book when he said he was like the battery-powered drill that needed to be charged for 24 hours to work for a mere 10 minutes.  Please know that I’m not that socially handicapped but the concept is more or less the same.  There are some people who are energized by being around the right kind of people and then there are people, like me, who expend energy to the point of exhaustion in the presence of people.  It’s usually caused by a larger group of people in a short amount of time or a smaller group of people over a longer period of time.

The perfect example would be my current living arrangements.  This is not going to be me on a complaining bent about my roommates and how annoying they are.  I’m not that kind of person and this isn’t what my blog is about.  I actually enjoy being around my roommates most of the time but there are those times when I need to recharge.  There is an inherent logical problem with all of that because I live with 6 other guys and whoever else happens to be over visiting.  But I know it’s starting to get to me when I feel that fire building in my gut.

There are two solutions to this problem, I’ve found.  One of them is to get out my notebook and just start scrawling out every thought that’s going through my head to try to figure out what it’s thinking.  When I don’t have the patience, space, or the ability or whatever else I can think of, I go for a walk.  These aren’t your normal walks because normal walks are done during the day time and sometimes you take other people with you.  I don’t know, the only reason I walk is to save gas because I usually drive around when I get restless.  It’s the idea of being in motion that I like, I guess.

One specific time earlier this week I went on a walk to get rid of some pent up frustration I was having with what felt like a waste of my time and that there was nothing I could do about it.  So, I put my headphones in and went out for a walk.  It was about 10:30 PM if I recall correctly so it was dark.  My way was lit only by the streetlamps and the occasional headlight of a car passing by.  Why do I do this at night?  Partially because it scares me.  The night is unknown and, while I live in smaller town, the absence of control as to where, during the day I may have some semblance of control.  But, what I realized this evening was that I never was in control and I never will be.

It was a great relief, this realization.  That, if nothing else I had no control over myself.  You might say, “Well, duh, didn’t you know that all along?”  Of course I did!  But I wasn’t living it and I guess I didn’t believe it, at least not fully.  All things are in the hands of God.  My every step, my every movement is part of something greater than myself and how dare I be prideful enough to say that I can do anything without Him who created me?  The wave of this thought overtook my body and I was calm.  I was really calm for the first time in a while.  I can distinctly remember what I was listening to at that moment and it was amazing:

Lord I feel I’m struggling through this battle
Long for one peaceful day that I can call my own
Anger cast out and left for dead
These lies echo with no remorse
Shadows are a content plague
A Reminder of every failure
I will lay down my soul at your feet
God I feel your calling healer, you are my healer
Worthless and filled with anger
Here’s a chance to prove my worth
Surrounded, I’m surrounded
By sorrow choking the life I praise
Anger is setting in
I’ve lad claim and called you out
Fear starts to battle you with honor pumping through your veins

War of Ages
“My Resting Place”
Eternal

The Fear is What Keeps Us Here

There are a lot of interesting things about being as neurotic and anxious as I am.  There are things you do on a regular basis that actually cause me to panic slightly to moderately or I just don’t like to do because I want to avoid that feeling.  For instance, I am really nervous about doors.  I don’t like to sit with my back to them and I can’t sleep facing away from them.  Those situations make me unbearably nervous.  It gets weirder.  I don’t like new doors.  Let me explain that.  If  I’m going somewhere new, like if I’m going over to someone’s house where I’ve never been before, I get really anxious and typically if it’s a friend I call them when I get there.  I’ve gotten a lot better about this because it’s ridiculous and I realize how this all sounds.  So, what I do is tell myself that these fears that I have are unbelievably irrational and push my way through it.  I’ve had to do this more and more.  But what I’ve realized is that it all comes down to fear.

Fear is a concept we can all relate to because we’re all scared of something.  It can be silly stuff like spiders or snakes but it can escalate up to fearing men because of abuse.  No man lives without fear, even those guys at the circus who ride their motorcycles inside the big steel orb around the beautiful woman standing in the center of that maelstrom.  You can’t live life without fear.  At some point you will experience it and it will happen again and again.  Fear is actually an instinctual reaction to stimulates our brain to think we’re in danger and so we get that stab in the gut and the hair stands up on our neck.  In great extremes, people will urinate and empty their bladder.  In its most basic form it’s an animalistic instinct that is meant to help possibly scare things away that may try to harm us.

But that’s not really the direction of fear that I’m referring to. As with my personal examples above, the fear I’m referring to has more to do with fear of danger or man.  Fear of man is a huge issue that I’ve personally had to try to overcome at this stage in my life because I really have no choice.  I’ve been through a year of college, two missions trips, and everything else I’ve started getting into in the last couple of years.  A more recent example was having to tell a girl that I was interested in her.  I can tell you right now that was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do and I’m 24 years old.  Why was I so afraid?

Typically, fear of man is not just fear of man but it seems to be a fear of  consequences.  In the case of telling a girl you’re interested in them is the fear of rejection or screwing up the friendship you have already established.  Maybe we’re afraid that we’ll get made fun of or that we’ll do something wrong or maybe we’re just scared of the unknown.  What I’ve been trying to figure out is whether or not any of this is actually healthy.  What I found very quickly is that being afraid of what may happen to you in any context is a lack of faith and it really just boils down to that.  There’s a verse I’ve learned to really like that my friend and housemate James told me about.  Hebrews 13:6 echoes Psalm 56:4 when it says:

[6] So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?

So, through our faith we are meant to have this courage that God will take us through everything and we shouldn’t fear or be anxious about anything which Jesus pointed out to us when he talks about the lilies of the field.  But we continue to fear the things in this world that shouldn’t matter and shouldn’t scare us because God is there and God is sovereign which means, even when we don’t think we can handle it God puts his hand down and says “Hey, give that to me and I’ll take care of it.  I have a plan for this, don’t worry about it.”  I imagine that the hand of God sometime pats us on the head and tells us that everything’s going to be okay and that it’s taken care of but only if we chose to accept that.  We have this ridiculous tendency to block that hand and tell our Father that we’re not kids anymore, we’re all grown up and that we got this.  I can tell you from experience that trying to bear the load of  trials that life has a tendency to provide by yourself only works until you are forced to your knees and accept the help you’ve been offered.  And that help comes with no expectation of repayment.  It’s called grace for a reason.

I’ll finish with this excerpt from Desiderata:

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.