Friday, August 28, 2015

Day Four: What Now, Anxious Owl?

This morning I awoke from what I am calling a "Jurassic World" dream. I haven't seen the movie, mind you, and the name of the dream is the name only because it is more likely the movie title is more expansively understood than the name of the PBS cartoon which more closely describes it: "Dinosaur Train".

Like most dreams I lost a considerable amount of the story upon waking. I recall there were friendly herbivores, and man-eating carnivores, and I believe there were some ambivalent species for whom eating me could have gone either way.

I remember we were all on a train, but the train was about the width of a large double-wide or triple-wide mobile home, with a central hallway down the middle and individual rooms on either side. Obviously the dinosaurs were relativistically sized, but still large enough to eat me, or too small to really defend me. I remember a group of us humans were trying to survive. I also remember a moment when I walked through the rooms as both herbivores and carnivores (in their respective rooms) were asleep beneath their covers, and I desperately wanted them all to stay that way, especially the tyrannosaurus and raptors. I wish I could keep my kids covered the way the dinosaurs stayed covered.

I also remember there being some young lady with a romantic fancy for me (and with whom I could only occasionally connect emotionally until she was carried away by dream-plot), and likely a scene or two where she and another attractive, nubile, younger (than middle-aged me) lady were un-observably naked. It doesn't take a Freudian scholar to see the elements of frustration there, but it was all more at the feeling of allusiveness of satisfaction with / in fantasy.

Unlike the PBS cartoon, regrettably, there was no time traveling. That would have been awesome. Likely more frustrating than unattainable love interests.

So, I awoke this morning to Day Four. Yesterday in the gym I found myself looking over to the childcare room with a sense of missing them, my kids. Today I find I could stop and be confused, asking what I am supposed to be doing with this time, and thusly getting confused and loosing the time. Looking up from the plow and questioning if I am supposed to be plowing, as it were.

It is just that there is a lot I feel I want to do, or could do, and then those thoughts are attacked like men aboard a train full of carnivorous dinosaurs by thoughts of what I should do.

There is a freedom I feel to be writing, and writing allows me to transcribe "meaning" or "sense," so there is a freedom to be attempting to make sense of me, of my world, of my thoughts of my own experience.

And all of this is just kind of lead-in. It was a fun dream to talk about. What is life for me is making sense of experience, my life as a father. Kinda what the blog is (mostly) about anyway.

My son seems to be ... anxious with going to school. I see his tendency to want to want just play as he did during the summer, to not be "outside of" that with which he is familiar. Things have to come to him on his terms, normally, and becoming a student has not happened on his terms.

We did a Rite of Passage for him, just as we did for his sister. In our family Rites of Passage are important, conferring identity. They should be socially endorsed, but sadly our society is increasingly devoid of both tradition and any underlying, unifying ideology that would give rise to such communally engaged in, value-and-identity conferring practices.

This Rite, which was for the entrance into the stage of  the 12 year season of formal schooling, consists of buying school clothes together, buying school supplies (and whatever attendant school function exists prior to first day) together, and most importantly, a party. At this party we allow the one undergoing to rite to select their type of dessert, and then we pray a blessing over them after the meal.

For my son -- who was histrionic in his response to the repetition of the notion of Rite of Passage over the several days of its occurrence -- was only marginally engaged in the being prayed over, very unlike his sister. My prayers for my son revolved around thanksgiving for the sense of destiny and purpose of his life, and this (12 year) season of it.

In the mornings I see the anxiety upon his brow, furrowed in a way I never expected, and yet he acts like he doesn't want me to stick around. I think that would other moms, maybe some dads. Me, well, I am just wanting to be what he needs to be.

I know I expected the Rite to have transitioned him, now, as I write this post. Clearly I have not asked him what he wants, or provided a way in which he can receive this as something he might want.

2 Corinthians 5:6-7 (NLT)

"So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. "

Other translations have verse 7 as we "walk by faith.." While this is a little out of context of how the verse sits within the surrounding epistle, I think firstly, for me to be who he needs me to be, I need to have faith, need to believe in who he, my son, is. And I trust, have faith my son is a hard worker, and will work hard, even at receiving the gift of schooling.

I need to walk by faith in who my son is, who I know him to be,which is someone who really applies himself, and who has passion, created with a destiny. We all are, really, created with a destiny, unique to our individual natures as creations of God's.

I need to not let the obvious, the outward and contradicting displays color my attitudes.

Now, here is the rub, and where I am thankful I have a wife who sees things I don't, and can explain him to me. When he gets home he has a little attitude with me, one almost of ... rude backlash? Having faith in him, in who he is, means having faith, maintaining sight for him of how much better a person he is than the one which reacts as he does... me doing so in place of taking his rudeness personally.

I don't think I take it personally. I think I just don't accept the rudeness as acceptable, as just, as right. But the human heart is deceitful above all things, and I often argue myself into a position of rightness through a belief in my own clear-sightedness.

Maybe there is not something else I could have done differently, in order for my son to receive this gift and season of schooling. Maybe I just need to trust in the Spirit being able to bring my son around to accepting this gift/season. (That makes trusting the effort and discipline of remembering, perhaps.) I think ultimately it means remembering there is a destiny, and destiny means it is writ to happen.

Of course, here is an interesting re-direction of the question: where, like a kindergarten boy, am I dragging my heals, anxious, and seeing only the unwanted loss of control, missing the grand destiny?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"Gym Pastor" Tales (cont.)

Those who know will know. It was my first workout since the kids have gone back to school. Funny how 3 days of more time than I am ever used to having and I am behind in everything. It was chest and arms today, and I am satisfied with the feeling of heaviness to my arms, especially the triceps -- you know, I am praying to not have to open any push doors.

It's been a while since I have seen my little Catholic grandmother friend, and I have missed getting to pray with her. But today I did get to see my firefighter buddy, and found out he has an 18 month old son, and a four year old daughter. You could just tell he was burdened. Boys will do that to a father. Sometimes it seems a never ending battle of wills.

I tried my best to encourage him that it got better, especially once they were old enough to interact a little more. He seemed relieved. That little exchange, coupled with my asking him what he likes for biceps and riffing about changing up the routines to break plateaus seem to have had the effect of making a connection. That connection, as a father of "littles", is often absent in our lives, and I am feeling almost as blessed to have made it as I am to have gotten to pray.

He leaves and I reach out, after an exercise, to a fellow whom I see frequently in the gym. I don't like to offer advice, ever, about anything to anyone, but this guy obviously loves his leg routines, and I loved this trick, so I dared the awkwardness. Turns out he too was a firefighter, in the military. We riffed on that a while, then found out he had older kids.

I have started asking dads of older kids about what it is like to be a father of a teenage boy, if they encounter a lot of pushback. Interestingly all these fathers have said no, most of their sons are good sons.

It is amazing how asking about someone's children, and just talking about these common experiences (say, those experiences of father and son relationships) opens up dialogue and a sense of community with people. It is heartwarming to me. These moments of connection always feel real, and good. And this gets me (in the direction of) to a point, but I have to tell another story first.

I don't know if i have told the story of the last time I got to pray for my Catholic grandmother friend. Afterwards, as I was about to leave, I felt that little check, that little tell-tale sense that there was some thing to do, that excitement to get to meet someone and to pray for them. Keeping in mind the person who knows me was gone it meant that I was going to be taken outside my comfort zone and talk to a stranger.

 Well, there was a young man who wore a large cross around his neck. He was a young hispanic male of college age. I was a safe bet that this guy was likely the candidate. The cross, and the excitement lead me to the conclusion. I know, Capt. Obvious much?

As always needing to find some random way to open up dialogue with him I decided to ask about his cross. Turns out is was a crucifix where the Jesus had fallen off. Yeah, I made a few jokes about that right off the bat.

At any rate, I found out he had just taken the Bar exam and was from a small town near my home town. Having had chit chat I asked point blank if I could just pray for him. He seemed a bit hesitant at first but as I prayed I prayed along similar lines as I had with my grandmother friend. He had been a little worried about where to go and what jobs to accept, so I prayed that he would find God right there if he turned to right or to the left.

As I prayed his demeanor changed. You could tell he was touched, bowing his head a little more, agreeing a little more reverently with "amens". I left almost immediately after praying for him and saying a very sweet goodbye. I don't recall why. I have not seen him since, and yet, even to today I marvel at how the Lord orchestrated for this young man the opportunity for a stranger, whom he would likely never see again, to pour out blessing upon Him. Someone of a historically different faith background even.

 This young man, my firefighter buddy, these were moments when God was offering some bit of salve to the hearts of these folks. Frederick Buechner, on "The Longing for Home," talks about how, no matter the darkness around us and in us, nor the horrors and pain we cause to others and mostly to ourselves, no matter all this we were created in joy for joy, and bear the mark of that creator creative God, being made in His image. This is our holiness, bearing that mark. And all this humbles me, blesses me. These are moments of joy, these moments of connection with holiness and moments of prayer.

At any rate, I got home, decided the fruit trees needed watering before making my eggs during my protein window. After making my eggs and eating them while watching a few minutes of Duane the Rock Johnson in "Scorpion King" (because, hey, that seemed fitting) I dumped my plate into the sink, only to discover I had previously dumped the sprinkler head in there. Seems it was a much better workout than I realized.