Thursday, November 16, 2006


My friend and former student, Nathan, has always challenged me to think. With my entry into "blogdom," he continues to do that as I now regularly read his "speciallimitededition." Many times he just makes me laugh with such comments as "I'm gonna polka my eyes out" (all we who have worn contacts have been there). But the blog that has been haunting me of late is one he wrote a couple of weeks ago equating his own spiritual struggle with the novel by Alex Gardner entitled The Beach (I heartily recommend a link and a read). He quotes the end of the book where the main character says:

As for me, I’m fine. I have bad dreams…I play video games, I smoke a little dope.
I got my thousand-yard stare. I carry a lot of scars.
I like the way that sounds
I carry a lot of scars.

I haven't been able to shake those lines . . . or Nathan's analogy to his own life. After ruminating about it for days, I finally realized it is because it struck a rather familiar chord.

I suspect we all carry a lot of scars - the difference is that some people are more willing to examine theirs than others. Nathan questions some of his scarring experiences as moments when he and the community with whom he identified became less than Christlike. What little insight I have to offer is that it is the inability of members in his fellow community to recognize their scars who exhibited less than a Christlike image.

Having been through a few more of those "scarring" and questioning life moments, I have felt the futility that Nathan has felt, but tempering it with age and experience, I have come to view these times (and scars) as passages for growth, rather than evidence of some sort of failure. It is the self-aware internal auditor that begins to view those scars as the heiroglyphics which mark the progress of one's personal journey. Some of these "passages" are longer and more tedious - even depressing - than others. But the caveat is that in ignoring scars, I fear we seek a moral certainty that is far more damaging. At the other end of each passage I have found myself stronger, more accepting, more certain of God's love, and less certain that there is only one way to experience that love. Do I seek to be more Christlike? Absolutely. And I seem to recall that Jesus became frustrated with members of his "community," that he had to spend some time in the "wilderness," and that ultimately, he carried a lot of scars. A lot of scars.
Time, Dollars & Sense

I hit my 46th birthday earlier this month, and assuming I make it to 90 (which might be a stretch), I suppose this means I'm starting down the backside of the proverbial "hill." Perhaps it would be better to say that I'm commencing with the second, and wiser, half of my life. At least, I hope it's a bit wiser.

I visited with my shrink a few weeks ago to talk about my weight, and why, in spite of all the positive strides and benefits in my life in the past few years, I can't seem to curb this one self-destructive streak. As is her custom, she quickly carved out the bigger picture for me, of which weight was just the primary symptom. Money management not being one of my strong suits, imagine how thrilled I was for her to attach monetary value to how I manage my time . . . "You need to evaluate how you are spending your time dollars . . ." Damn her for always making sense.

Actually, I thank her, as that pearl of perspective has cast me on a course of enriching, and perhaps saving, my life. (And no, although I sometimes feel like one, I don't believe she has cast her pearl before a swine!)

I've spent a majority of my time dollars in the first half of my life trying to overachieve and live up to the image I thought everyone expected of me. At times, I think I believed I was trying to please myself, but as the years have gone on, that line between pleasing others and pleasing myself has gotten somewhat blurry. And with that blurred vision, I sought identity in my so-called accomplishments. For my under-40 friends, let me assure you that this does not a happy person make. It is possible that some of my u-40 friends have learned this lesson already, and I'm just a late bloomer, having discovered the joy of a significant other somewhat late in life. The life of a single person does seem to provoke this external search for identity - at least in my case.

Old habits are hard for old folks to break, though. And even after being blessed with a reason to come home, I haven't said "no" as frequently as I should. As I heard a political comedian say a few weeks ago, "just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD." I have had a bad habit of agreeing to take on responsibilities because I can do them WELL, but not because I ENJOY doing them. And the identity that accepting them has given me is the increasing opportunity to be asked to do MORE things I don't particularly enjoy. Go figure.

Consequently, . . . u-4o friends, listen closely, I have "accomplished" the following:
  • "opportunities" to be in charge of multiple things that no-one else cares to take on (not even for the extra money involved)
  • little if any extra time for such productive things as regular physical exercise and nutritious meal planning
  • chest pains - probably due to stress (see above), unhealthy living (see above), and GERD, but the results of the stress test I took today and the trip to the hospital yesterday should confirm or deny this
  • less time with the Frau, the garden, and my books - three of my great joys in life (and where I would prefer to spend ALL of my time dollars - and which don't give me chest pain)
So . . . I am reassessing and reinvesting as the second half of my life commences - and I'd like to enjoy ALL of the second half. I'm giving up "opportunities" and the extra income that comes with them. I'm establishing a baseline for my health, and with my new found time dollars I will reinvest in some healthy life habits. I am anticipating spending lavishly on my three great joys, including FINALLY reading a book given to me almost six years ago that, ironically, I have "wanted" to read but haven't had "time" entitled: Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest (by Wayne Muller). It just makes sense.