Tuesday, May 22, 2012

5 Things You May Not Know About Me

You may have noticed that most of my posts here lately have consisted of silly picture compilations, absurd short fiction, and other amusing stuff. Not a whole lot of substance. Not much in the "Keeping It Real" Self-Revelation Department. Admittedly, this was by design – I'm not too good at sharing my thoughts or feelings sometimes. Make that most of the time. But since forcing myself to talk about my thoughts and feelings was one of the main reasons for my starting a blog in the first place, and since I'm long overdue in that area, here goes nothing. Please bear with me if I ramble; this sort of thing is very difficult for me.

So here you have it...."5 Things You May Not Know About Me":

1)  I have struggled with self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth issues for most of my life.  Even though my parents were always supportive of me and encouraged me as much as possible, I have never felt like I was good enough. Not that I was not good enough for them necessarily, but not good enough to share air with the rest of the world.

Self-esteem issues kept me from making a lot of close friends in school or church when I was growing up. I didn't think anyone would want to spend a significant amount of time around me, and I didn't blame them for feeling that way (whether or not it was true was irrelevant). I had two best friends from the time I entered junior high till I graduated high school.

One of my two best friends was – not unlike myself – very insecure, mostly unpopular, and somewhat socially ostracized. To this day, he and I are still close, though several hours of physical distance now separate us. We are kindred spirits – quite different in personality, but so alike in our insecurities. We  are the brothers neither one of us ever had.

My other friend was über-intelligent, somewhat popular (and always seeking the attention of others to climb his way higher up the social ladder), and extremely self-confident. His superior likeability actually gained me a few peripheral friends in the coming years, but I never grew as close to any of them. This friend and I went to college together, and still spent a reasonable amount of time hanging out together whenever we weren't in class, or whenever he wasn't spending time with his girlfriend (who later became his fiancee and later his wife). I naturally assumed that we'd keep in touch after college, and – like my other best friend – we'd remain close for the foreseeable future, if not the remainder of our lives. But it didn't quite work out that way.

After college, he moved to a bigger city where he had a nice job in his field waiting for him upon his graduation. I stayed here, and worked a series of somewhat menial jobs in the ensuing years. I attempted to keep in touch with my friend for a while – I was even the best man in his wedding. He would occasionally stop by and see me at work whenever he was in town. But then we lost touch. Not gradually, but abruptly, and without a discernible reason.

With the advent of social media a few years later, I found my friend online and attempted to contact him and "friend" him, albeit virtually this time. Being a very tech-savvy guy, I was sure he'd seen my attempts to contact him, but for some reason he chose to ignore them. A few more half-hearted attempts to contact him in the next year or so all went unanswered, and I finally got the hint. That part of his life – and mine – was over.

It's been years now since I've seen or heard from him, and though I should understand that people and relationships change over time, I can't help but feel rejected in a way.

Finding the love of my life and getting married eight-and-a-half years ago did wonders for my self-esteem – I still don't know why she wanted me, and still wants me for her own – but it still didn't cure all that ails me. Sometimes I watch her sleeping beside me, and wonder – how did this happen? How did I get so lucky? Well, I should probably say blessed. My wife has her share of insecurities as well, mostly stemming from a less-than-stellar childhood. You might think that the two of us coming together might serve to "fix" what's broken in each of us, but it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes it does, and those times are great. And at other times, we feel the self-doubt and anxiety and insecurity in duplicate, and that's not so great.

What's the cure for all of this? I wish I knew. "Succeeding," so to speak, in things like writing, acting, directing, and singing or playing music can be fulfilling and serve as a temporary high, but the lingering doubts are always in the background waiting to resurface. If I could only convince myself that what I already know to be true actually is – that it's not about me anyway, that my ultimate purpose in life is to reflect God's glory – then maybe I'd finally feel full. But it's an everyday process, growing, maturing, failing, and starting all over again.

2)  I've given up on far more dreams than I've pursued.  This one might not come as such a surprise, because I think it's fairly common for most people. I've mentioned this before, but when I was very young – eight in fact – I became fascinated by the Challenger space shuttle explosion – and, like many other boys and girls my age, I wanted to make good on the unfulfilled mission that those brave astronauts never got the chance to complete by becoming an astronaut myself. Like many boyhood (and girlhood) dreams, it quickly passed.

A year or so later, I decided that I was going to become a writer. And so I started writing. Well, that dream isn't one I've given up on, because it's been twenty-five years now, and I still haven't stopped writing. If anything, I've written more in the past five months than I have in the past five years.

A few years after deciding that I was going to become a world-famous writer (the world-famous part's not gonna happen, but still...), I decided that I was also going to become a world-famous movie director, a la Steven Spielberg. Believe it or not, I haven't completely given up on that dream either – well, I have on the "world-famous" part. But time is running out on doing anything about it seriously. It is true that advances in technology and social media have made independent filmmaking not only more affordable, but also more marketable these days. So you never know, but it hasn't happened just yet.

Around the time I started college, I started becoming interested in acting as a potential profession. After taking a few acting classes, and doing a couple of plays at my old church, I found that I had a bit of a knack for it. Enough at least that I seriously considered pursuing a career in show business. But I quickly found, after working alongside far-superior actors and actresses in college, that I would never get far with that dream. Even if I were truly talented as an actor – which I'm not – I'd have to have to have another, far more important trait which I did not then and still do not possess: good looks. Let's face it: Outside of the UK (watch any Masterpiece Theatre production and you'll see what I mean), unattractive actors and actresses simply do not get consistent work in show business. Even parts that call for ugly people are played by beautiful people under tons of makeup. Add to that the fact that I held (and still hold) strong convictions about what I would and would not say or do in plays or films, and it became clear that acting professionally was never going to happen for me.

When I first started playing backyard baseball at the age of thirteen, I found that I had a reasonable amount of talent and thought that maybe I could one day become a professional baseball player. I would stare at one of the many baseball cards I collected and imagine my face on it (although hopefully not a close-up) and then I'd turn it over and look at the statistics on the back, and dream that one day those numbers – or even better ones than those! – would describe my own success and that I'd enjoy a long career in professional baseball. When I actually joined the baseball team in high school a few years later and "rode the pine" all four years, it became clear that I'd never succeed at this level, or any other level in baseball either (or any sport, for that matter).

The other dream that I toyed with off and on for many years was becoming a radio disc jockey. One of the only things I've ever really liked about myself was the sound of my own voice. That feels awkward just typing those words, but it's true. I like the varying contrast between a higher pitch and a deeper register that my voice makes. I like the variety of accents and sounds that I'm able to put on, seemingly at will, and thought that these qualities would play well as a radio announcer and disc jockey. As a preteen, I would often hold a "radio show" (completely imaginary, of course) with my friends in after-school care. I even had call letters and everything. ("You're listening to W-H-A-T. What? Radio!") After college, I applied for a job at several local radio stations, but quickly found that they weren't interested in my particular abilities. For one thing, I had the wrong degree for it: a B.A. in English isn't quite as impressive as a degree in Communications or Broadcast Journalism. For another, who's gonna hire a kid fresh out of college to do a job that – in the case of most local radio stations – some middle-aged guy has been succeeding at for years and who is the undisputed "voice" of the station? Answer: Nobody. I never even got called back for an interview.

All in all, I'm happy with where I am currently. I'm employed full-time as a writer, albeit more on the technical/business side of writing than the creative. I have the time and ability to write creatively on my own, and an instant avenue (this blog) for sharing my writing with the entire blogosphere (or at least those few folks who read me regularly). And with the advent of e-books and readers, I have the opportunity to self-publish my writings to gain an even larger audience for my writing (hopefully).

3)  While I enjoy writing, saying, and doing things that make people laugh, I am often doing so to avoid sharing or dealing with my thoughts, feelings, pain, fears, and insecurities.  Again, I think many people do this, but I'm not talking about many people right now, I'm talking about me. If you see me posting one funny piece after another after another – like I have here lately – it's probably because I have something else on my mind that I don't want to talk about, or don't feel comfortable talking about. It's not always a bad thing that I prefer not to discuss.

Sometimes it's a very good thing, but the timing is wrong. Sometimes it's something that's not entirely appropriate or worthy enough to share with the masses. If it's something worth saying, it will eventually come out. Writing is self-expression for me, so revelation is ultimately inevitable.

Often, I will drop hints or clues in other pieces that I write, in particular in the lines of my "alpha poetry." There's a lot more meaning in those than you see at first glance, believe me. When I am ready to share, I usually do; but it often takes a great deal of time for readiness and circumstances to align perfectly.

4)  I don't always "walk the walk" – and sometimes I don't even "talk the talk."  Like many people, I often put on a facade of "I'm just fine" and pretend that I don't struggle with the things that plague others. It simply isn't true. In particular, I struggle every day with keeping my focus, and this manifests itself in a number of ways.

Sometimes it means that I don't put forth my best effort at work – I get lazy or distracted, and don't give it my all. When I do that, I'm cheating my employer, and ultimately cheating myself.

Sometimes losing my focus means losing my patience – suddenly and without good reason – which leads to me losing my cool – we're talking big-time bursts of rage – and that rage often results in me thinking or saying words and phrases I ought never to think or say. Most of the time, no one else even hears these angry rants. Well, no one else on earth at least.

Sometimes it manifests itself in my looking too long at a movie or TV show or website that I have no business looking at. Maybe I did stumble upon it by accident, but when I don't turn away, my looking becomes intentional.

I'm not proud of these things, and admitting them is difficult. But I'm telling you all this so that you won't get a distorted picture of who I am. I'm not perfect – nobody is. I'm not righteous – nobody is. I'm not a role model – only one Person truly ever was. And He was God in the flesh.

To paraphrase a popular song, when I lose my way, I get back up again. I bask in the forgiveness that He offers me, time and time again, even when I make the same mistakes. I confess my sin, and promise that I won't stumble again. Of course, I do stumble. Because I'm fallen. Everybody is. But some of us are redeemed. And grace is a very good thing.

5)  I have almost been a father twice before.  This is unquestionably the biggest "we don't talk about that" thing in my life. I have always wanted to be a father, and thought that I would be a good one, despite my plethora of problems. My wife Mary has also desired to be a mother, despite her fear that she (or we) would make mistakes that could ruin a child's life. (I would like to think that these fears are common, as are most "what if" questions that prospective parents face.)

We decided when we got married that we would wait a couple of years before we started trying to have kids. A little over two years later, we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting, but understandably concerned. You see, we found out that we were pregnant after Mary went to the doctor to figure out the cause of some sharp lower-abdominal pain she'd been having. In one fell swoop, we got the news: You're pregnant...but there's a problem.

Two visits to the OB/GYN over a ten-day period ultimately confirmed our worst fears. Ours was an ectopic pregnancy: the baby was implanted in the tube and not in the uterus. The baby would not survive. And without surgery, there could be serious health complications for Mary as well. We were devastated, brokenhearted, and back to square one. The irony was that we hadn't even started trying when this happened. It just happened. And then it didn't.

It took quite a while to heal, not only physically but emotionally, from our loss. About a year and a half later, we decided that it was time to try again. Even with an increased risk of another ectopic pregnancy, we prayed about it and felt at peace that the potential reward far outweighed any risks that might be involved. We tried, and we waited. For three years.

The second time we found out we were pregnant was, unfortunately, not so very unlike the first. Sharp abdominal pain – on the same side as before – woke Mary up one night. We thought, hoped, prayed it was just gas. I even went to the 24-hour Walgreens at two o'clock in the morning to buy Gas-X, willing to do whatever it took for her to feel some relief. In the back of both our minds, there was that lingering thought: What if it's not just gas? What if it's...? But no, it couldn't be. After all, the doctor said there was only a 15% chance of us having a second ectopic pregnancy. Which meant there was an 85% chance of us having a normal, successful pregnancy. So it had to be gas, right?

It wasn't. The results of the next day's ultrasound broke our hearts yet again. A second ectopic pregnancy...another doomed baby implanted in the same tube. This time surgery wasn't required. An injection of methotrexate resulted in a miscarriage, and once again we were childless.

A year and a half later – after we had continued trying unsuccessfully to conceive – Mary went back to our OB/GYN doctor, who ran a test to determine if there were any issues with her tubes. The doctor determined that, physiologically, there was no reason why we could not get pregnant again, and there was no reason to think that a future pregnancy would not be successful.

That last doctor's visit was just over a year ago. We continue to hope for a healthy pregnancy....

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What you wrote takes a lot of courage, I am proud of you!