Love me some daddy time

And now we’re on Day 4 of N’s trip to Colorado with me at home with Boo and the Troll and Riley.  Still not sure who got the better end of that deal between the delay leaving, dust storms, missed exits, etc vs toxic diapers, cranky baby and the neediest dog I have ever owned.  On the bright side things seem to be going well for all concerned.  Only 5 more days to go.

So to back up, it’s been a while since I posted.  In my defense it has been a little crazy like I said before.  After our vacation we got back just in time to start helping plan our annual congregational 4th of July party.  One of the joys of being a bi-vocational pastor (even a co-pastor) is that weekends don’t really mean time off from work, you just switch hats.  Anyway, we managed to get that off without a hitch but when it came time for the city fireworks show we all discovered, Boo included, that Boo does not like fireworks exploding…anywhere.  Whether she can hear them or not.  Neither does the dog for that matter.

4th of July
4th of July

As a result, instead of a fun-filled night of hot-dogs, fireworks and fun with the family we ended up running around like chickens with our heads cut off taking the baby and the dog back home before curling up on the sofa to a nice episode (or three) of Cat in the Hat Knows That on Netflix.  Ah….  The joys of parenthood.

The next week passed by in a bit of a blur as we readied ourselves for N’s trek to Colorado.  It’s not the first time I have taken care of Boo by myself while N is out of town, nor is it even the first time I have been a single parent.  But it’s been a loooooong time since I had to watch a toddler 24/7 without a break except for work and I had forgotten how exciting and how exhausting it can be.

It's more fun to eat with your hands.
It’s more fun to eat with your hands.

Since N left, we have gone to the city water park, survived church, built and played in our new water table, helped daddy do laundry and cook dinner and thus far at least…not burned the house down or gotten injured.  In my book, that’s a win.  I’ve even managed to get the child to eat some meat which, honestly, how does anybody get picky eaters to munch on stuff they don’t like (i.e. MEAT….I can’t believe I’m raising a vegetarian)

Dancing in the park

I did manage to avoid one major daddy snafu the other day fortunately…mostly thanks to the grace of auto-correct.  I know I know… grace isn’t usually the first word that comes to mind when we discuss auto-correct but in messing up my text to N about how we were all doing I managed to avoid unintentionally insulting her by telling her Boo wasn’t missing her.  As I have heard from a number of mothers since, it’s a good thing the text didn’t go or I might not still be breathing…or married.  Fortunately N has a pretty good sense of humor so when I tell her this story…well…  if more than 8 weeks go by and you don’t hear from me, I’m not saying anything HAS happened, but….

Like I’ve said before, we’re together until I die or she kills me, and now that’s true for both N and me and Boo and me.

Cuddle time with daddy
Cuddle time with daddy

Joint Parenting

How do we nurture the lives in our care?  My youngest is a precocious almost 2-yr old going on 35 and already has not only a routine for her days but also a strict regimen of who is allowed to do what.   In the mornings, mommy is the cuddle person, the “please sir may I have some more [milk]?” person, the only one allowed to dress her and get her ready to go.  In the evenings it’s my turn for cuddles, playing the part of a responsive jungle gym and watching music videos online.

We have joked about this to our friends and family, even as it has at times driven us nuts.

Trying to balance Boo’s desires with the reality of a dual working parent household has at times proven stressful and frustrating.  When we are running late in the mornings (like this morning) and we have not prepared for the morning the night before, something we’re still trying to figure out how to do, chasing down and wrestling the toddler into her jacket can feel more like child abuse than good parenting.  There is also the delegation of duty issues.  Who’s responsible for what at various times of the day can also feel like one person taking more and more of the work load, especially if we as parents have fallen into the trap of allowing Boo to dictate who gets to do what with/to her which, let’s face it, we have at times.  We’re only human.

Fortunately we are working on correcting this, but like most things with parenting that I have discovered, what’s easy in theory is a whole ‘nuther ball-game in practice.  And that leads to other questions and feelings that don’t have easy answers, especially when you as parents come at the whole parenting process differently.  Talking about how to parent a child is important and something every successful couple who has kids needs to do, but in some cases, you discover the differences in the practice, not ahead of time.  No matter how similar your upbringings may be, there will simply be things out of left field that you don’t agree on at least at first.  Such as, how many warnings and what kind does a 2-yr old get?

I don’t know about you but that’s not the kind of thing that I was ever really prepared to converse about, you just knew…it’s three times right?  Teaching her limits and that there are consequences to negative behavior may not be much fun but it beats having a spoiled brat growing up.  The trick is to do it in such a way that she understands and can link behavior to outcome and that doesn’t drive N or me nuts as the other parent does it.  Nurturing the lives in our hands becomes much easier when we also nurture our partner as we realize that the hands holding our little ones is part hers and part mine.

It’s weird.  After having been a single parent for so long and/or the custodial parent it’s really hard to share parenting duties fully in a way I can only imagine non-blended families do.  I am trying, but I know I have control issues with N sometimes.  Plus I also have a big bag of passive aggressive I sometimes break out when I’m feeling mulish.  I’m not proud of it, but I do it.  Knowing that however compels some sort of action on my part.  I need to set a good example for Boo so she sees her mother the same way I do, as a person worthy of love, respect and when necessary, able to deliver a whippin’.    Hopefully I can keep working on that and get better at it.  She’s lived with me for four years so far, so I must be doing something right.

Life is crazy…

Just about the time I think I get something figured out, I get turned on my head and have to find a whole new equalibrium.  Take my church involvement for example:  I agreed to start coordinating Young Adult activities mostly because I’m a bit of a social hound and really enjoy getting together, hanging out and meeting new people, so I thought I’d try to harness my talents in that direction.  I’m now in my fourth/fifth month of this and next month I’m jumping from one event a month to four (although I only have to be in charge of three of them).  I’m adding this on top of my son’s soccer practice, a weekly bible study, a monthly gathering of several of my close friends, bi-weekly game sessions and I’m not entirely sure what all else.  This is on top of taking over more responsibilities at work in dealing with the VA.

And of course, the whole point of all this… trying to raise my son to be a productive and positive human being.

I won’t say I’m feeling a little overwhelmed…or even a LOT overwhelmed for that matter… but it is a bit much to take in all at once.  Top that off with some happy, but surprising family news and as my father likes to say “Hang on to the roller coaster.!”

And whoa boy… I’m starting to feel it.  I can’t decide if I’m happy or not, or just hanging on for the ride.

My son and I have started talking, along with my father, about getting a family blessing for he and I to really ask for some joint healing.  It means as my son so pointedly put it “we’ll have to spend more time together?”  Hopefully we won’t kill each other.

He’s getting mouthier and flouting the boundaries a bit more, but that’s healthy and normal…even if I do want to strangle him when he cusses at the bus stop.  Fortunately threatening to wash his mouth out with soap still forstalls too much arguing and garners an apology.  Just the other day he tucked me into bed, got me a glass of water, and helped out around the house while I was down with a migraine.  All without asking.  I am so grateful for the kind and wonderful examples of people in my life.  He’s learning so much from all of them.

I’m feeling lead and have been granted some answers to questions my heart has been asking repeatedly and despite some effort on my part to not ask quite so often.  I would say I don’t like all of them, but that’s not entirely true.  I’m just not as patient as I’d like to be, but I’m learning.

I miss those friends I don’t get to see as often as I’d like to anymore.  My focus is shifting again and I’m only hoping it’s for the better.  I’m being challenged in subtle and obvious ways and trying to keep my eyes on the path.  There’s a reason they call it the straight “and narrow” one.  It’s so easy to get knocked off or pulled off.  Part of the reason I think I’m so looking forward to this weekend.  It’s going to be a silent retreat.  Away from the city and the noise therein, away from tv, phone, internet and all the distractions that come between us and God.  I need to take some time to visit with the Big G.  The next step is coming and  I need to make sure that I’m listening to where I need to be.  I can feel it coming…

“Hang on for the roller coaster…”

Still struggling with Single…but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it…

I had about ten people over last night.  May not seem like much to some and a really big event to others.  I threw the idea together for dinner and hanging out in about two hours.  Had food, had the time, had the desire.  It was also a realization for me…as weird as that may sound.  I’ve done things like this several times since the ex left.  I don’t need to ask anyone’s permission.  I don’t have to worry about double-scheduling (beyond what I do to myself).  I don’t have to think about if someone is in the mood to have people over or not.

I can just do it.

It’s a simple simple thing.  But something that for so much of my adult life I have not had the freedom to do.  I relax by hosting events and having people over.  This can be stressful for other people, I realize this, and as such was not able to do it much while I was married.  I like this.  I love my circle of friends, the ease with which they accept my invites, and the fact that if I want one or one hundred (although that might be a little much) over, I can do so.  I can go places, make plans, do things I enjoy (little things, or big things), hang out with people I want to.

I can have a full life.  And I don’t have to have someone’s permission to do so.

Do I miss being in a partnership?  Yeah.  But something else I’m learning is that most of what I miss from a partnership I can have in the relationships with the people I chose to surround myself with.  I’m still learning the dance, still make mistakes, still do too little or too much.  It’s a process.  But now it’s more of  a process of learning to be single, than perhaps the struggle it was a while back.  Maybe not a lot has changed.  But my perspective has… and that can make all the difference.

Single and likin’ it.

Thoughts on a Thursday night…never did get the hang of Thursdays…

Hear O Israel the voice of one crying in the wilderness…

the one crying may not be the one you think…

I know it’s been a while since I threw anything up here, it’s been a little crazy.  Work hasn’t been busy, but there’s always stuff going on that needs attention, which is good (job security), but after a days work I don’t really want to come  home to another dozen or so chores and things that need to get done.  Life… well, life is at the moment.  I think it’s funny that almost all my close friends tell me that their social calendar becomes fuller and busier the longer they hang out with me.  I don’t mean to do it, it just sort of swirls around me I suppose.  So why write those phrases at the beginning of this post?  What’s the big topic for discussion up tonight?  Well… it’s complicated… in part because people are complicated and peoples with theology even more so.

I was moved to put some thoughts up on one of my social network sites today in part to the way some members of my world church had been expressing their feelings about a piece of what we believe to be divine counsel to us, and what it means for our church.  The comment follows:  all our talk of toleration and inclusion is for naught if, in the midst of our celebration, we marginalize those who disagree. Remember our years as strangers in the land and be sure to treat them the way we wish they had treated us.

I was wrong to refer to the passing of support for the document as a victory.  Victory implies a loser and in this case I don’t believe there was, there are simply those who are accepting of this counsel and those who are not – honest, well intentioned people on both sides.  So how do we stay in community?  How can we?  How can those of us for whom this day was a wonderful blessing keep our hearts open and sensitive to those of our brothers and sisters for whom this was a major step in the wrong direction?  How can those who disagree so strongly keep the love of God for all of us in their hearts and keep fellowship with us?

The simple answer is “I don’t know.”

This is not something I’m good at determining, I only know I feel it needs to happen.  My friends who are more conservative help keep me grounded in the roots and traditions of my forerunners, keep me on the path of what has come before and how that shapes where we are heading.  They help provide me with a firm foundation from which to reach for the stars.  My more liberal friends are the ones who are standing on that foundation with me, lifting me up and encouraging me to stand upon their shoulders to reach for the stars, the ones who open my eyes to the wonder of creation in unexpected areas.

I need both to flourish.

I can survive with one or the other… but that’s not the point… not when we have the opportunity to do more than simply survive.

I am not always comfortable with either end of the spectrum.  To my conservative friends I’m too liberal.  To my liberal friends I’m too conservative.  To me I just feel a bit mixed and saddened by the sense I have that those on the fringe want to pull things so tightly to them that it rips apart the middle.  Fortunately we have avoided that thus far… but I’m walking on emotional eggshells as what has happened before still follows me, and shadows my thoughts on these issues.  I was just a child when it was finally passed…the counsel allowing women to be in the priesthood.  I watched over 3/5’s of the people I knew and loved… from a place that should be safe above all others…walk out, turn their backs and harden their hearts.  It made my relationship with God and my church very difficult for many years.  I still have problems with those dissenters sometimes.  But others are very very dear friends.  It’s crazy, but one of my best friends is Democratic, one is Republican and the other is an Independent.  We all know each other and we all get along.  How do we build bridges like that in our everyday lives?  To me, the mission of Christ is to build relationships.  Being in relationship with someone, whether intimate, friend, family or something else, is an opportunity to share, to learn, to grow, to love.  It’s what we are called to do and to be.

I’ve been humbled greatly by some of the things people I’ve seen for the first time in a long time, and some I see regularly, have shared with me this week.  Humbled and nervous.

I struggle still with the outcome of my life.  The long term goal, projections, etc.  I’m still trying to figure out what I want from this.  I’ve made many new friends, found a voice for the first time I feel like I can call my own, can occassionally be involved in things that impact more than just my own life.  I have witnessed miracles every day, both big and small.  I have seen the love of God made manifest in my life and in the life of those around me, through the smallest acts of kindness.

Why then do I still struggle so?  Part of me wonders if this isn’t part of the great mystery that is God, that Mother Teresa and others spoke of.  The sense that the closer we get to God the more alone we feel as the inadequacy of our finite vessel becomes clearer and clearer to us.  We are made to appreciate the mystery more and have to cling to hope and faith ever more the harder.  Faith…

“A belief in things hoped for but unseen”

I could share many testimonies of God’s love in my life.  But the truth of the matter is, I don’t need to know God exists.  I’ve had experiences that can’t be quantified, measured, etc.  I believe God exists… it is the faith that is a gift from God’s Holy Spirit.  A gift I don’t need science to answer.   And since I’m still more or less on the topic of conservative/liberal…sort of…I can talk briefly about this.

One of the things that drives me nuts about people is that they try to force religion and science to answer each other’s questions.  Religion and Science are not in opposition, but concert.  Science tells me how I got here, how the things around us in the wonderful creation act/work, the laws they follow.  Science tells me when things happen and how…and they can answer the little “why?”  But they can’t tell me why I matter, what the purpose of my life is, how to treat my fellow human being and the earth.  That is Religion’s purvue.  Religion answers the big “Why?”  That is not to say one is more important than the other.  I think it is too easily forgotten that some of the most influential early scientists in Europe were priests, men of God who wanted to better understand in our finite and limited way the glories of the world around us.  I think how wonderful that is… and how wonderful it could be again.

My denomination has just started a dialogue on several difficult issues, including homosexuality, baptisim and others.  It’s not the big dramatic step some hoped for and it’s too big for others… It is my earnest prayer that that means it could be just right… for all of us.  All of us are children of God.

http://www.cofchrist.org/wc2010/counsel/default.asp

Since I’m too miserable to sleep anyway…

I would ask who’s got time for a little dialogue on Nietzche or Plato but that takes a bit more than I’ve got in me at the moment, even if sleep, like a clear breath, is eluding me at the present time.  My best friend once asked me to consider if part of the reason I struggle with insomnia is because I don’t think I deserve sleep.  I think there is some truth to that…well, that and allergies and being so drugged up I can barely walk straight (*see allergies) but not so drugged I can fall asleep.  But in the meantime I wanted to articulate, albeit probably not really at the top of my form, what are some of the things I want out of this process.  I got a chip from my EPO marking the 1/4 portion of the way through.  It’s not quite, but close enough to matter, so this seems like a good time, since I’m sleep deprived, cranky and emotionally raw, to start…

1.)  I want to use this year and a day to review how I approach being in relationship with people, with particular emphasis to intimate relationships.  I was once told that “great sex comes and goes but it’s the company that matters.”  And I would like to learn how to be the second part of that phrase, be better company.  Honestly question what my motives have been over the years without becoming bogged down in minutae and hand-wringing, but seriously looking for the lessons I can learn and work to improve the man I occassionally catch glimpses of in the mirror and in the smile of others.

2.) I want to use this time to explore my relationship with my son.  Due to circumstances beyond his control I have had a number of issues being around him, particularly as he’s gotten older and I see more of his mother in him.  I’ve been uncomfortable with this duality, as my feelings towards her are hardly charitable at the best of times, but my feelings towards him are generally positive…but when they get mixed up…  I want to love and respect my son for who HE is, not what I have struggled to define… if that even makes sense.  Anyway, I want to be a better father.  I have managed to hold the two of us and this household together on my own these last few years.  I could NOT have done it without the love, assistance and support of my circle of family and friends, but I didn’t have to be in a relationship with someone else to raise my son.  I am NOT a victim of my circumstance, but a chooser.  And I chose to love my son and to be the best father I can learn to be…

3.) Regardless of what the first entry into this blog was about, I started this journey the moment I stood up in front of a crowd of people whom I had disappointed and hurt, but who loved me anyway and asked them to forgive me and promised to God that I’d stop running away from whatever it was God wanted me to do.  I started with a prayer… a prayer to be remade.  So the last thing I’d like to make progress on this year is my relationship with God and Christ.  Where does the ministry that I feel called to provide fall into my life?  Where, when and how will I make time for God and others?  How can I best respond to the love that is constantly being poured out upon me?  It’s a bit intimidating and in my opinion it aught to be…  The love of the Almighty should scare the pants off of us at first.  It’s not like anything our experiences here in this existence prepare us for and as it picks you up and wraps around you and gushes through you it takes your breath away.  There’s truly nothing like it… and that’s what makes it so special, and so freely given.  If I truly believe that God’s love has touched my life then how can I NOT respond?  I spent years looking…but I’m done with that now.

I WANT this.

I’m ASKING for this.

I’m WORKING for this.

To be or not to be… it really is the question.

Triumphal entry

How many in the crowd didn’t get it?  When Jesus entered Jeruselem…  Would we recognize any better than they?  I wonder…

I finished watching the movie “Swing Vote” tonight, and while some might consider it trite, there were a number of things about it I related to, including the struggles of drifting along as a single dad, just trying to make ends meet without any thought to what I might be or where I was headin’.  I too am ashamed.  I have been willing more than once to let others care for my son.  I have struggled to find a place for him in my life and in my heart.  The circumstances surrounding his birth were not easy and I have carried that as a burden over his head and mine for most of our relationship.

But that’s not the answer.  And while our relationship is so much better than it has ever been… that says more about how bad it was before than how good it is now.  At least now we play together sometimes, watch movies together, read some together.  We’re still trying to figure out what the boundaries are for just he and I.  What kind of a disciplinarian do I want to be?  What privalages does he want?  And the temptation is there to just chuck it all…I’m frustrated and tired, he’s stressed and a teenager… we endure, but enduring is not the same as journeying… and not all pain is equal, but new life comes into being with each pang…

This path…

Much like that of the disciples as they followed Christ, is one of discomfort, confusion, and fear.  But it is also a journey of discovery, hope, and love…in a way that has truly never been present in my life before, at least, not like this.  Do I cry out in praise of the miracles I’ve seen or the Messiah, regardless of how uncomfortable his message makes me feel?  I can’t just be a passive participant in this.  This isn’t something that’s being forced on me, and even though I DO wonder and struggle with where it’s going and what I’m missing and how far I have to go… this IS something I asked for, I believe in…I want.  If I didn’t there’s not way in HEAVEN or HELL I’d still be here dealing with this.

So I must do more than endure.

I must journey…and face my own triumphal entry…regardless of the cost.

Thoughts on Yesterday

What do I want to say?

What is it I want?

When do I I feel less alone?

I’m still trying to process yesterday and everything that happened.  I slept in, had been up late gaming, fell asleep on the sofa, climbed into bed somewhere around 4 or so.  Totally missed church, which my son had asked if we could do anyway, so that was one less fight I had on my hands.  We both woke up around noon.  Fixed breakfast, watched an episode and a bit of Stargate: Atlantis with him before I was reminded that I had rehearsal for a drama piece at church for Palm Sunday.  I checked FB before I went to get ready for the day, recieved a message from my Emotional Parole Officer who lovingly chastised me, which I both needed and deserved.  Went and showered…and then…

I don’t really have words for it.  I can tell you the thoughts that went through my head, what I did, the surroundings…but that’s not IT…or at least, not all the experience.  I started off getting angry.  Angry at myself for pushing the boundaries of my vow, angry at myself for making the vow.  Angry that the process of change that I’m in is taking so long.  Then ashamed that I was not more thankful for the blessings I have had along the way.  I’ve had several mantra’s on my bathroom mirror for the last two years, I tore off all but one (after punching the door-jam)…but the one I left up is the important one for me right now I think.

I admit that I am powerless over other people.  My need to be needed and my compulsion to rescue others has made my life unmanageable.

I am forgiven

There were others up about knowing my boundaries and being loved for who I am, but I realized yesterday, I’m not there yet.  I struggle with my boundaries, hence the Emotional Parole Office (a thankless job I’m sure, but I am so very very grateful for him).  And while I realize and hear others talking of loving me for who I am, and I appreciate that…first I’ve got to get to a place where I can truly believe I am forgiven.  And then I started crying.  Crying because I felt like everything and nothing had changed.  Crying because I felt very lost and very loved, because I finally admitted that for this change to be real, for me to be the kind of father, of man, of eventual husband I want to be – it can’t be something SOLELY from inside me.  I AM human….even if I hate to admit it, or at least to the weaknesses of it.

The only coherant thoughts I really have from the 45 minutes or so I was laying there, sobbing into my blankets, was that I had really mixed feelings about my son seeing me like this…and I was begging God to forgive me, asking God to help me forgive myself, and give me the strength to endure.  There were others but those were mainly feelings, emotions that colored everything else.  That and a profound sense of walls crumbling.  As I’ve mentioned earlier this year’s IVL was about letting go of the past, and old habits die hard.  It’s all too easy to fall into old ways of doing things if I’m not paying attention.  Much like an alcoholic’s first thought will be to drink when certain triggers are hit…I’ve got mine, and the reactions they produce.

So then I went to rehearsal – about 40 minutes late…and arrived right in time to hear my cue line:

“What’s going to happen now?”

my line – “Soon enough you’ll find out.” (did I mention that I HATE waiting and am NOT patient)

“Is everything alright?”

And of course….I’m there emotionally raw and bleeding and everyone knows it’s not entirely alright… but since I prefer joy to sorrow I laugh, a weary one to be sure and more than a little expressive, and we all laugh and rehearsal goes on as does the rest of my day.  After rehearsal I stay a while and pray, then visit with a minister there for about an hour before going home.  I check in with my EPO, chat with a friend for a while, watch some tv with my son, then tuck him in and stay up late – reflecting, reading, watching tv, etc.

Pieces of my life are still scattered all around me and I’m not sure what shape the puzzle is making.  I’m at a crossroads, the edge of the boat, as I’ve mentioned before.   My old life lies behind me, new self-destructive habits on one side, new life that I’ve been called to on the other.  I know which direction I need to go… what I’ve always struggled with is lining that direction up with where I WANT to go.  But the thought of turning back or away is a price that’s too high to pay… I just struggle with moving forward.  I feel like there is something I’m missing.  An insight, a clue – maybe some person I’m supposed to ask, some prayer to make.  I feel like I do when you reach that spot in your workout where you plateau and you have to kick it into higher gear to keep getting an effect, only I’m not sure how to kick it into higher gear.  And the dogpaddling is wearing me down.  I need help.  I need to ask for it.  It’s there, all I have to do is reach out for it, be willing to accept it.  But aren’t I supposed to be making this journey on my own?  I don’t understand.  And I feel like Luke watching Yoda effortlessly lift the X-wing from the Dagobagh swamp…I don’t believe it either… how am I supposed to do this?  And where do I find the strength to continue this journey?  (P.S. – b/c I know some of you will worry if I don’t, I’m NOT suicidal, that’s not the journey I’m talking about)  I’m just standing still instead of running… and I’m not entirely sure what’s next or what’s expected of me.  But I feel like the answer is right there and I’ll be ridiculed or let others down if I don’t see it…so I’m frustrated, and it hurts, and I turn away, because although my excuses sound exactly like what they are, I still can’t SEE any solutions…

but maybe there aren’t any…

more praying…and prayers would, as always, be appreciated…

Some days you wonder…

I.  As in me, myself and… I cannot do this alone.

This journey, this transition, this transformation… it’s something that utterly upsets the habits and balance of my life before and as such is beyond the entirety of my power to affect.  All I can do is be willing.  Willing and open to the opportunities and possibilities that are there for me to take if this is what I really want.  And I suppose at the end of the day that’s the question that matters more than all the rest.  I’ve been involuntarily liberated from my past and all the old ways of seeing and doing in my life.  Do I really want to go back to them?  I can, at least at times, see a partial picture of what might be laying on the horizon and I think it’s worth struggling for.  It’s just so bleedin’ far away…And I’m really tired.

I collapsed on my bedroom floor today for almost 45 minutes and cried…

Days after IVL

Last Saturday was my second IVL day.  According to one of my friends it’s my own national holiday, one I’ve even managed to convince others to celebrate with me.  IVL stands for InVoluntary Liberation Day.  It’s a day to remember what was lost and, more importantly, a day to look forward with hope.  It’s the anniversary of when my ex-wife and I split and the day I began this journey towards liberation.  Last IVL was more about survival than anything else.  I was still dealing every day with the fact that I was now on my own (in a relational sense, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by friends who love me) for really the first time in my adult life.  I had managed to keep my household together and even flurish as I was in the most secure financial position I’d ever been in…understanding that I was still somewhat precarious, but as least I was no longer being actively dragged under.  I was also several months into this blog, putting up thoughts about myself and my relationships and my son and my faith.

This IVL was different.  Very different.  We still had the obligatory barbeque with friends and loved ones over.  We start with that because one of the things that truly bring me joy is to cook for people.  And I LOVE to grill.  So, IVL is MY holiday, so I can say how we celebrate it, right?   People bring over sides and things and we have a good time telling stories, talking business, politics, movies and all sorts of things.  It’s fellowship at it’s finest.  Then we watched the movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend

Which is all sorts of creepy and hilarious and awesome in a number of ways…  And yes… I’ve had some of those same thoughts/conversations/etc with my ex’s.  But the movie itself helped kick up a number of emotions and stirred the pot so to speak so that when the last event of the evening occurred, I was ready.  Or at least as ready as I was going to be.

Bonfires.

There’s something special about fire.  I’m not talking about how much fun fire can be to play with for all you pyros out there (Yeah! BURN Baby BURN), but something else.  Fire is cleansing, sacred, restless, alive… in a way that not a lot of other elements are.  We had one built in the backyard of one of my closest friends and a small group of us gathered for what, for me, would be the hardest part of the evening.

I’d put together a box of things I’d found over the last couple months, letters, journal entries, old pictures, and other odds and ends that together represented a mass of painful memories, embarrassing moments, and guilt filled emotions from throughout my life.  Some dated back over 15 years.  I decided that part of what I wanted this IVL day to be was a chance to let this stuff go.  For you, my loyal readers, you know how difficult it is as I’ve talked about it, for me to forgive myself.  I think there’s something inherant in the human condition that makes it that way for most of us.  That night was my chance to offer up all this stuff to God and to let go of it so that it could flow from my life.

I talked about almost all of the pieces as I tossed them into the fire.  Some represented mistakes I’d made, others people who I had let hurt me and then kept that pain close, some things were easier to get rid of than others.  I’d been reading some in Leviticus in the Old Testament recently and so, partially influenced by that I also offered some things up as a wave offering.  It was a way for me to say goodbye to a lifetime of habits that have kept me from being who I truly want to be.  This doesn’t mean that the whole process is over now and I’m much better and everything’s hunky-dory.

As I’ve said over and over again, this is a process…and it will take time.  We started the process off with a prayer and ended it with one.  Each one of my friends gathered there offered up a hope and blessing for me to replace the badness that I had cerimoniously let go of.  That was when the tears truly started for me.  Then they one by one and in a small group, gathered around me and held me while the dam broke open.

I don’t like to cry.

I really don’t like to cry in public.

But this was sacred space.  With the people with whom I feel the safest and most comfortable.  And in that moment, and that time, it was a place where I could finally, truly begin to see what it looked like to let things go.  Our past affects us.  There’s no way around that.  But we have two responses to it.  We can either let it define us and the path we take in life.  Or we can choose to define IT, and by doing so, limit it’s power and harness the lessons from it to better ourselves.  I used to live the former…now I’m beginning to explore the latter.

Happy IVL Day.