You Are Partly Right

Lately I’ve been slowly reading through a book called “The Art of Communicating” by Thich Nhat Hanh.  Why would I read such a book?  Well, because I often feel like I’m pretty terrible at accurately communicating my thoughts to people.  When it comes to the written word, when I have time to think about exactly what I want to say, it comes out pretty good most of the time.  But, there are instances where I feel helpless to communicate exactly what I am trying to say even then.  I tend to write very haphazardly as well.  While I’m writing a post such as this one, I will go back and insert a new sentence or paragraph here or there, or decide a different order works better and copy and paste things around.  So when it comes to speaking, where I only have one shot at it, I just am not as good.  I tend to hang on to whatever I have to say perhaps a little bit too long as I think it over before I actually say it.  I think this certainly CAN be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing.  At the very least I rarely blurt out anything that I immediately regret.

Anyway, I saw this book and was interested as I had found the only other book of his I had read “Living Buddha, Living Christ” to be pretty interesting, and so I thought it might be beneficial.  And I was right… although I feel like it hasn’t really addressed things I was expecting it to (at least not yet, I’m only about half way through.)
I like the idea he expresses that the goal of all communication should be to cause the other person to suffer less.  I’m not sure this should be applied to literally all communication, but certainly in most of our personal conversations with friends. family, and acquaintances this seems like a pretty good goal.  At the very least, being mindful of how your words are effecting those hearing them is a valuable thing.
Last night I read through a chapter on “mantras”.  If you aren’t familiar with Thich Nhat Hanh, he is a Buddhist, and so much of the book comes from a Buddhist perspective, though he often invites or suggests you think of things in other terminology if that suits you better.  In any case, he refers to these mantras as “magic formulas”.  I don’t know if he really means it in a literal sense, but if he does, and I get the feeling that he does, I don’t really agree with that.  However, I can see the benefit of all of them, and I could see how they could be something akin to a magic formula in terms of their being extremely likely to bring about a desired effect if used appropriately.
All of these mantras are simple phrases that are meant to be said to another person.  He starts with things like “I am here for you” and then, “I know you are there, and I am very happy.”  They are mainly about acknowledging the value of the other person and their importance to you.  Now, they also strike me as things that would often seem quite weird if carried out exactly as he suggests.  But I think the principles behind them are quite worth learning from.
He gives a total of 6 of these mantras, and the one that I found to be the most striking is the 6th one.  “You are partly right.”  This one is a bit different than the others, as it is meant to be said in reply to praise or criticism.  It’s about a balance between false humility and hubris.  Depending on the person, it can be easy to think very highly of one self to the point of arrogance, and for others, and I must admit I fall into this camp, it can be very easy to think very little of themselves, to the point of self deprecation.  This mantra is about recognizing and admitting the truth to yourself in either circumstance.  Whether the person sees good or bad in us: “You are partly right.  You know that I have other things in me too.”  He goes on to write “So we accept ourselves with all our weaknesses, and then we have peace.  We don’t judge ourselves; we accept.  I have these qualities and these weaknesses, but I will try to improve slowly, at my speed.  If you can look at yourself like that, you can look at others like that too, without judgment.  Even if that person has many weaknesses, he also has many talents, many positive things.  No one is without positive qualities.  So when others judge you wrongly, you have to say that they are partly right but they have not seen the other parts of you.  The other person only sees part of you, not the totality, so you don’t have to be unhappy at all.”
For some reason, it’s hard (for me at least) to give yourself credit for your positive qualities.  There is only a focus on the things that you’re not good at.  Then any time someone points out one of those things, it stings all the more.  This is definitely something I want to work on… to be mindful of the good things about me as well as the bad.  And then especially to recognize when someone else only sees part of me…  and then with that hopefully I will realize that I “don’t have to be unhappy at all.”

Language

A couple weeks ago I began studying Japanese.  I’m not sure why I suddenly got the motivation… I mean, I can point to reasons why I think it would be cool/useful to know, but there’s nothing particularly new.  In part I think it was because I was speaking with a friend on Facebook about it and he just sort of suggested “well why not learn it then?”, and I guess my thought was… “yeah… why not?”  And so I set about doing so.

My friend got me started a little bit and then I sought out some iphone apps to help in the process.  So fair I’ve been using Mirai Japanese and iStart Kana (which is also made by Mirai).  I feel like they’ve been pretty helpful thus far.

My only experience with other languages prior to this was a tiny bit of French (I switched schools and the school I switched to did not have a French class, so, I did not continue), and then Spanish.  Both of those languages use roman letters, so there is nothing new to learn in that regard, and it’s just vocabulary and grammar.  With Japanese, one must learn 2 syllaberies, hiragana (ひらがな) and katakana (カタカナ) and then also kanji (chinese characters), which I haven’t even really started on yet.  I can recognize a handful…  the main one being Japan (日本).  Kanji is rather intimidating as there are literally thousands of them… so I’m waiting until I have the kana down before I really make an effort to start learning it.

Since I started I have to say I have found it extremely interesting, if confusing.  Looking at a completely different language and thinking that to someone else your language is the strange foreign thing that is confusing and doesn’t make any sense is sort of fascinating.  It’s really sort of bizarre that these sounds and symbols are sort of intrinsically understood by us…  and in our native tongue, without us even thinking about it.

It’s also interesting to see the reasons why Japanese speakers have the accents they do when speaking english.  One of the things that I found interesting early on is that there is no tone change when asking a question in Japanese.  In english, consider the difference in how you would say “Follow me.” (a command) vs. “Follow me?” a question.  Japanese uses the question marker か to indicate a question… if I am speaking it to myself (I wouldn’t try to speak it to anyone else at this point.. haha) and I know I am asking a question, I find it very hard to NOT use the rising tone.  I don’t know if that changes the meaning at all in Japanese, but I know it’s not used to indicate that you’re asking a question.

Anyway, I don’t know how long it will take before I’m able to actually read or speak anything of use in Japanese, but for now I’m happy with the progress I’m making on learning hiragana.  I actually recognize most of the characters now.  Considering when I first looked at it I wasn’t convinced my brain would be able to remember any of them…  that gives me hope that I might actually be able to learn the rest of this stuff yet!

End of Day One

It’s been 24+ hours now from when I deactivated Facebook. I had an accidental reactivation briefly this morning when I logged in to Spotify… it seems my account is inseparably tied to Facebook, so, I had to create a new one. No big deal. I went into Facebook and immediately clicked the links needed to deactivate again. So there’s no need to restart the clock on it.

At the end of the first full day, I have to say I feel pretty good about the decision. I think I was generally more focused today on anything I was doing. I definitely kept having recurring urges to flip over to a Facebook tab in my browser that is now nonexistent, but after a while those urges made me start to think that it really is a good idea to cut it off. In addition to that, I would sometimes come across information that gave me that “I need to share this” feeling. For instance, some article debunking the whole iPhone bending issue thing. I started thinking about why I would want to share such things, and in all honesty I think it’s out of some need for validation

I thought about maybe using twitter or something else which provide part of what Facebook does with less of the negative impact I feel Facebook has on me, but, I decided against it. I also decided on a minimum timeframe to abstain from all of what I will define as “social media”. For the record, things like instant messengers and Reddit don’t fit in how I am choosing to define it, but anything approaching Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc, do. I guess the difference being things like Reddit aren’t primarily about me or interacting with people who I know. And with instant messengers, well, it’s a much more personal form of communication than Twitter or Facebook.

Additionally, I’m going to keep mum on the blog. I will keep updating it, but I’m not going to say anything to anyone about it. So, my guess is, the readership has dropped and will remain at an average of 1 (that 1 being myself). That’s good though, because I really just want to be writing this for me anyway.

Facebook-less

I did it. I pulled the plug on my facebook account. It’s something I’ve pondered doing before, but never did before now. I don’t know how long I’ll stay away. Permanently? I’d say probably not, but who knows. It’s kind of an experiment.

So what would make me want to kick Facebook to the curb?

Well, let’s start with the reason I talked myself out of deactivating my account for such a long time. When the subject of Facebook came up in real world conversation, any time someone would speak of it in a sense such as “I don’t really use it,” I would generally say something like “Yeah, I probably wouldn’t use it at all if it weren’t for it letting me keep in touch with people I otherwise probably wouldn’t.” That was a true statement, that is what convinced me that I should stay on.

I kind of hate shallow relationships. I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. If I like you, I’m in it 100%. I’m not a big fan of small talk and the like. Now, since I’m in it 100%, but I’m all or nothing, it gets weird when it becomes difficult to maintain that 100% (say, you live on the opposite side of the country). Well, Facebook offered this neat little thing where I can be “in it” in the world of cyberspace, but not so much in the real world. And that is kind of OK in some circumstances.

However, I feel like in some situations Facebook has been stressing me out on an almost subconscious level for some time. That can be for various reasons. There’s that whole effect of seeing the best of one person’s life and comparing it with the worst of yours, which can definitely mess with your head. It’s certainly a kind of addiction because it makes you feel that you need to see what is going on with people. Certainly, I was far less addicted than many people are, and also probably the least I have been at any point in my own life. Still, it consumed time and attention… and I’d flick over to it randomly so often that it really feels weird that I can’t do that right now.

The biggest reason goes back to that staying in touch with people and my hatred of shallow relationships though. I sort of realized Facebook is just sort of fostering ultra-shallow, casual, passive, not really real relationships. There are some people who I just sort of felt like I was bothering them when I’d message them, and well, I don’t really need that. Sometimes I’d want to actually talk to the person and I’d just get a few minutes of sporadic messages of fluff and then nothing. But I’d still feel compelled to send messages to certain people if I noticed them on and hadn’t talked to them in some time.

And so, I decided to rid myself of it. No more stress. If you have my email address, you can email me. If you have my phone number, you can call me or text me. With the exception of a short list of people, I’m not likely to contact you more than once without you contacting me, because I’m tired of being more in it than you are.

So we’ll see how this goes. Maybe without Facebook in the mix I’ll be better at all of this.

Reflection

It is safe to assume that everyone is familiar with the philosophical mandate to “know thyself.” What is seemingly a simplistic and easily achievable direction turns out to not be that way. Identifying who you are and why you are the way you are is a process that takes years. It may even take stepping aside from that mandate and answering another: “know thy kind”.

I find that my struggles have less to do with the reality of me than they do with my perception of others to include my perception of how they perceive me, which brings us back to me as the source of my own problems. Because in a certain sense self awareness *IS* easy. Conclusions can be drawn about things pertaining to one’s self comparatively easily because we have all the facts available. While we may delude ourselves for a time, if we’re seeking the truth about ourselves we will eventually come clean. But to know our kind, or to put it another way, to know others, is another proposition entirely.

One of the first conclusions that I can draw is that in many ways other people are exactly like me. It seems that most people probably assume that people are like them in most ways. As an example, people who lie generally have trouble trusting other people. Obviously, just because someone has trust issues that doesn’t mean you can simply assume they are a liar, but it is worth making such observations about people. So in a certain way the way that I see you is as a reflection of myself, just as you see me as a reflection of yourself. It would be nigh impossible for either of us to perceive the other as we are.

My thoughts on this were sparked by a talk given by Aaron Weiss. The thing that I like about his speaking, and also his lyrics, is that he has this ability to be so honest about who he is that it causes me to see who I am. He spoke of our perception of love versus I guess the reality of love… if you believe in God then you might say the sort of love that we believe God has. I’m too lazy to go back through the video to get the exact quote, but to paraphrase him, we treat love like a business transaction. You can watch it yourself if you want: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_EJZZHVKhI (the audio is terrible, but I promise it’s worth it).

He further elaborates that to us love isn’t really something that is selfless and unconditional. The thing that we call love is almost entirely based on selfishness. This is the case in both the love you have for a friend as well as romantic love. If you are my friend, I love you because of the things you do for me, or because you are pleasurable to be around, or because you are nice for me. If you were mean to me, or if you were miserable to be around, I don’t think I would have love for you. And it’s the same with romantic love, and it’s why so many relationships end in crushing depression. We all want love but none of us seem to have any idea what in the hell that means.

And so there is this game that we play, where we use that part of which we know to try to make people love us. And, at least for me, I can only assume for you, it all based on this obsessive need to have this thing called love. But if it’s based on how that person makes me feel, and on how I make them feel, or on what we do for each other, or us generally being nice to each other, that’s not going to be enough. The thing is, when I heard Aaron Weiss say that, I thought what I have to assume you are thinking: “well that’s not love!” But then, as I tried to mentally formulate a rebuttal as to why he was wrong, nothing really came to mind. I can choose to love someone in the sense that I can choose to do 2/3 of that list, even when the first third, the feeling, isn’t there. But I’m just not sure that is real love. But I lack any other definition.

So I put expectations on people. If I buy you a drink I expect to be thanked. Perhaps if I go on a certain number of dates and do the right things I expect reciprocation. If I do something nice for you, I expect that you will later do something nice for me. I don’t think I’m saying anything here that isn’t true about everyone.

There are things that I do or don’t do based on how I believe that you see me. I probably act differently around you than I do around someone else. When I think about it, the anxiety I feel in large groups probably mostly has to do with me not being able to figure out how I should be when I’m around person x, person y, and person z. And none of this is conscious. I don’t intentionally act differently, but at the same time, I know that I *DO* act differently.

My next thought is of why I think that is. The answer is that I think you’re better than me. I really do, almost regardless of who you are (yeah, I could probably think of a few people who I don’t think that about). The reason why I think that is pretty simple… I know all the bad shit about me that I wouldn’t want anyone to know. And well, generally speaking, I don’t know any of that about you. Just like I put my best foot forward in social interactions, so, I must assume, do you. And yet I seem to assume that I am somehow special and I’m the only one with that going on as I interact with people.

There’s a line in the song “Messes of Men” that goes “I’d never want someone so crass as to want someone like me.” Now that is a line that I can connect with. But I guess the real truth is that we’re all a mess, we’re all crass.

And so I wonder if love really has something to do with truly understanding each other… with somehow overcoming any distance between us. One of Jesus’ prayers was for us to “become one”. And it’s my view that he was speaking of something a bit deeper than agreeing on theology, and I don’t think there’s any danger of complete theological agreement happening any time soon. Another Biblical usage of this idea of oneness is presented for a man and a woman in marriage, and so it does seem to be connected to love. Perhaps seeing each other as reflections isn’t quite right, perhaps the lines should be blurred just a bit more, until we can’t tell us apart.

Long Time Coming

Well, that was bound to happen eventually.  A long period of no updates.  It wasn’t really intentional.  It just happened.  Sorry, I’ll try to do better.  I probably won’t actually do better though.

I think I’m just going to write sort of an update, mainly for the folks who are unfortunate in that they don’t get to see me all the time due to living places that are not southern California.

Still looking for the next job…  it should be just around the corner, but nothing just yet.  Not too much to say about that really…

I am in a period of great sadness due to being so close to the happiest place on earth, while having lots of free time, and being unable to go there.  Alas, I must power through the next month and a half or so, and then I can go again!

I continue to press on in my read through of the Bible.  I have made it all the way to Jeremiah, and so the end of the Old Testament is in sight!  There’s still a few big books to go though, so, we’ll see.

And… I spend way too much time playing Final Fantasy XIV and various other games, such as DOTA.

And now I’m enjoying an iced Americano outside of Starbucks.  Not bad.

I guess I will also mention, I am once again making a go of the slow carb diet.  I had some unexpected stuff throw me off last time and so I did something else for awhile and then eventually just did a terrible job of sticking to that, so, we’ll see how this goes.  As usual with it, 6 days on, 1 day off.    I’ll even try a little accountability experiment.  Once per week (yeah, I’m hoping I will post here at least once per week) I will include whether I have stayed on diet, have mostly stayed on diet, or have failed miserably.  We’ll see how much I care what you think of my ability to stay on diet… 😉

Until next time.

Disparate

I mentioned in one of my early posts since rebooting this blog that a very long post would be coming.  This is that post.

This is a very personal story.  Obviously, if I weren’t ok with all of it being common knowledge I wouldn’t post it here.  As with most things here, it is mainly for the benefit of my own reflection, but I hope that it might help you in some way.  Also, it represents one side of a story, I’m sure there are differences on the other side.  Probably only a handful of people know the story in its entirety, but here it will be very complete.

5 years ago, life was very different for me.  I lived in Maryland.  I worked as an integration technician for a government contractor.  Oh yes, and I was married to a girl (yes, I think girl is an apt description) named Holly.  I was generally quite content with life.  Then something happened.  That’s kind of the setup for most stories.  We have our hero, and all is well in his world, until one day, something happens that threatens the wellness of his world.  Not that I’m a hero, but, well, screw it, I’ll be a hero in my version of this story.

As was the norm, I woke up and got ready for work.  The night before Holly had seemed a bit down.  I approached her about it and she told me she was just tired, so I had decided to let her sleep, and left the bedroom so as not to disturb her.  However, that morning was not particularly memorable.  I’m not a morning person, so I’m sure that has a bit to do with it as well.  I do remember that we drove separately that day.  Oh yeah, we worked at the same place.  She was the receptionist in the building.  No, we didn’t meet there, I had helped her to get that job when I learned it would be opening, but that’s not important to the story.  Anyway, driving separately didn’t seem that significant, sometimes either she or I would be running late and rather than both of us being late, we’d just do that.  So, that day she seemed to be running late.  Fair enough.

At some point during the day, she told me that she wanted to meet and talk somewhere after work, and we decided to go to Baker Park. I arrived there first, and sat on a bench by the road and waited for her to arrive.  After several minutes, she drove up and walked over, sitting on the other side of the bench.  She told me that she wasn’t happy, and that she needed some time apart to think about things.  She also handed me a page from her journal that she had written the night before.

“I can’t sleep.  This is the first time I can remember something bothering me so bad I can’t sleep.  I keep thinking… about the countless nights I go to sleep alone.  About how far apart we truly are.  We still have our pet names and hold hands and kiss, but it’s all just habit.  For the past 7 months I think both of us have tried more than ever.  To understand, to love each other as man and wife.  My patience is waning.  How much longer should we try and hope against hope?  How much more can we put ourselves through?  What are we missing in the meantime?

The last time I had this gut feeling was 10-14-2005

It’s not very fair to either of us to go on like this.  How much happier would he be with someone who likes LOTRO and games and movie theaters and his friends?  How much longer can I tell myself “No you fit in.  It’s all in your head.”  Do I want to let my pride win by saying “I don’t care the cost, I’m going to stick it out.”  Even if it costs both our happiness.  I’m going to prove to everyone we’re going to stay together.  Even if we would both be happier with no one at all.

When we first started dating we said if we ever split up, it would be mutual.  I wonder if he still feels this way?

Also, if this would really be better for both of us… why do I feel that knot in my throat?  Why do I feel more pain now than when I left home?  Is it because I’m overreacting in PMS or is it because I’m facing a truth I’ve known about and ignored for years?”

At some point in the conversation she talked about how she had left the room after I came down to bed, because she hadn’t been able to sleep.  She said she hoped I would realize she had gone, and come up and talk to her, almost as though the fact that I didn’t was a sign of some kind.  For my part, I don’t recall her leaving the bed, and so I can only assume I was already asleep by the time she did so.

Oh yeah, an explanation is due concerning that date she wrote.  That refers to when she left her home in Texas to come and live with my family in Maryland.  She had… not the best home life, which no doubt contributed to this situation.  Anyway…

I can’t remember what I did say, but I do know that I was taken completely off guard, and needed to gather my thoughts.  After all, just maybe a month before for Easter she had given me a card in which she wrote “I love you more than ever.”  And generally by all appearances things seemed to be getting better between us, and not worse.  Regardless, we agreed to meet up the next day to talk.

That night was pretty rough.  I don’t think I slept much, and I thought a lot about what I wanted to say to her, and really what I could do to make things better.  I was determined to make things better.

The next day arrived.  It was a workday.  Being that I was miserable, I called in to say I couldn’t make it.  I can’t recall what I did that day, but I do know that when I tried to get Holly to meet me, she said that she wasn’t ready, and so, we didn’t meet that day.

Here is where I’m going to interject a bit of history.  This is a part that I don’t talk about really ever, mainly because even if the fact that I was married comes up in conversation (which is pretty rare), this part certainly doesn’t.  Very shortly after we got married, I found out that she was talking to some guy online, which included “cybersex” and the like.  This bothered me, and I confronted her about it, and it stopped.  It then went into the past.  Ultimately, it was only an online thing and she didn’t really know this person, so it wasn’t quite “real”.  I don’t recall exactly how much later, perhaps a year, maybe a bit less, and I again find out she is talking to someone online, doing similar things.  This time with a guy that was from her hometown.  I can’t recall exactly how I initially stumbled upon it, I think I was using her computer for something , but at any rate I saw something and then started digging and found several damning conversations.  The thing that actually bothered me more than anything about it was how hateful and mean a lot of what the guy said about me to her was, and that she didn’t defend me at all.   But, to make it as short as possible, this time there was a bit of a bigger blowout, but it ultimately resolved again.  Then there was the third time, just a few months later, but this time not online.  I still don’t know for sure how far things progressed, but it involved intimate talk and at least some physicality for sure (this is to say, I don’t believe they went so far as to actually have sex, but I have no way of knowing for sure).  This was with a person at work, who I worked with.  This time I was pretty enraged by the whole thing.  It’s hard to remember all the details, and summing it up it sounds pretty simple, but, after some time it sort of got patched up, with an understanding that it just simply couldn’t happen again.

Obviously, in hindsight, it seems odd that this would happen with any regularity and I would be caught off guard that something was wrong some 7 months later.  However, it is those 6 months in which I genuinely felt that things were getting better and better.  As she had said in her letter, we had both been working on it harder than ever, and to me it seemed to be working.  Evidently not to her, though she never told me about that prior to this letter.

Ok, so back to the part where it’s basically the worst day of my life and she’s telling me she’s not ready to meet up the day after she gave me the letter.  During this time, I later found out, she was in fact with a guy that she had been talking to and hanging out with (not secretly, I knew she was friends with the guy, and aside from one day when she was just gone an exorbitant amount of time I was perfectly OK with it).  Turns out, she had decided she might want to be more than friends with him.  So, that day she was spending with him.

We both went to work the next day.  Walking past reception was more than a little awkward.  Being in the back room with the guys was also uncomfortable, as I was fairly certain they knew something was up.  Over instant messages, I asked if we could talk at lunch, and she agreed.

We met in the cemetery  (fitting, I suppose) where she liked to walk around sometimes.  As a reminder, this is less than 48 hours from when she said she wanted to spend some time apart.  Apparently that day with the other guy was all that she needed to figure out that she didn’t just want time apart, she wanted to be divorced, and there was no room for any discussion on the matter whatsoever.  It was quite a departure from what I had been led to believe from our previous encounter.  We were going to talk about things, and from the sound of it try to work through some issues with some distance between us.  In fact, she had referenced our agreement to end things amicably if we had ever parted ways.  I realize that might seem a bit odd, because I don’t think most people make such agreements, but, it was something that I took pretty seriously.

The actual wording of what we agreed was that if we broke up, we would do so by mutual agreement.  Here is what the agreement meant: You can’t just get pissed and bail, or for any reason just leave without sort of giving the other person a chance to convince you otherwise.  The whole point was to convince the other person that it was for the best.  That she referenced it, and then made no attempt to abide by it was a bit shocking to me.  She basically told me what she had decided on her own before talking to me, essentially told me that she didn’t love me, and, in fact, had never loved me, and gave my back her ring.  Then, she left.

It’s difficult to describe exactly how I felt.  I wanted to be somewhere  that felt hopeful, and so I started to drive to the spot that I proposed to her.  It’s not a difficult spot to find, and I went there often enough, but my mind was such a flurry that I  kind of got lost, it took me quite a bit to get there.  I don’t recall much of what I did once there, but then I went to a mutual friends place to tell them what was going on. To that point, no one had known anything about the separation at all.

That night was, I believe, the most torturous night of my life.  I’m positive that I didn’t sleep at all.  There has never been a moment of more intensive self-examination in my life before or since.  I knew that it was possible that I had fucked up in some way without realizing it, but I was going to fix it, no matter what that meant.

Then a few days later, my cousin received a phone call and learned that Holly was in an accident.  As it turns out, Holly was so shaken by it that she accidentally called the wrong person (my cousin shares the same first name as the person she intended to call).    I was on my way to work, and I in fact got all the way there, but then, conflicted about whether or not I should go to the hospital, just went, because I decided that was what I really wanted to do.  It was at this point she was a bit shaken up, and she seemed to loosen on her apparent resolve to end things.  We had a pretty good conversation there.  I don’t recall the specifics of most of it, but the phrase she said that I remember taking away from this was that “you’re still my best friend”.  If that was true though, she had a funny way of treating her best friend.

We talked a few more times, with my primary goal being to understand the situation, because it just didn’t make any sense to me.  Her ultimate statement was that she needed to find herself.  She wanted to know who she was as a person on her own.  Due to her past infidelities, I had some suspicions about this being over some other guy.  I in fact specifically asked about this at that point, and she told me that she was not seeing anyone, and she didn’t want to see anyone.  She wanted to be alone.  I accepted that for that moment.

Shortly after this she informed me that she wanted me to basically not talk to her for a month.  Given what she had said before, I reluctantly agreed to it.  During the course of this month however, I learned from mutual friends that while she was telling me that, she was telling them that she didn’t want to speak to me ever again.  The reason for that was entirely unclear, and ultimately lead to our mutual friends no longer being her friends, because the reasons were unclear to them as well.

Also in the course of this month of not talking to her I discovered that she was in fact seeing that aforementioned guy.  I did not take that very well. I recall sending some very angry text messages her way because she didn’t answer the phone.  I also recall that her first response to me telling her that I knew was “Oh, so I guess we don’t need to do counseling then.”   (I guess I left that out earlier, at some point I had convinced her to reluctantly go to counseling, but it never actually happened.)

It was at this point that I took the unsavory action of informing friends and her family of exactly what her actions were, because, well, I was pissed, and I wanted people to see her for what she was.  In hindsight, it’s not the best possible action I could have taken, but, I think it was understandable and justifiable.    She was not happy about it.

I guess not much happened for a while following this.  I wrote an enormous letter which I still have a copy of on my computer…  I’m not sure whether or not she ever read it, but I am sure that she never replied.  It was sort of my last-ditch effort to show her that I genuinely cared about restoring the relationship despite everything.    It’s a little hard for me to understand why at this point.  As much as I would prefer that none of this had ever happened, as it did happen, I don’t know why I still wanted to be with that person.

After that not too much happened for close to a year, and then out of nowhere she sent me an email asking if I would be willing to meet up and talk.  Of course I was willing.  After I agreed, she sent another email asking if I could bring a copy of the marriage certificate.  I can’t remember why she said she needed it.  Anyway, I brought it and spoke with her, again I was trying to understand the situation, and again she said that she would like to be friends.  We spoke one more time, and then shortly after that conversation she sent me an email saying that she in fact did not want to be friends.  Well, OK then.

It was at about that time that she started up the divorce process and had me sign papers. At the time I was happy to sign them, because honestly I just wanted the process to be over with since it was clear that she was not going to try to make anything work.  There’s a small part of me that is a little bit vindictive and wishes I would have not signed them so she would have had to wait another year for the divorce, because as it turns out, while during that last conversation we had she told me that she just didn’t believe marriage was for her and she would never get married again, she did get married again.  Less than a year later.  Probably so that she could go to Germany with the guy that she married (he was in the military, so my understanding is, if she was not married to him, she wouldn’t be able to go with him).

Anyway, that’s the main thrust of the story.  There are lots of little bits that I do remember that I guess don’t have much bearing on story overall.

So it’s 5 years later, since we were separated, and functionally divorced, if not legally (legally divorced closer to 4 years, I don’t even know the exact date of that).  How do I feel about it now?

Well, I still feel like it is the worst experience I have ever gone through.  It was absolutely miserable and lonely and painful.  I also think it’s caused me to grow more than anything else in my life to date.  I am most certainly “over it” at this point.  I don’t long to be with her, or anything like that, but that said, I think that it still affects me in terms of how I approach relationships, and I do think it has given me some trust issues.  And there’s also still a definite part of me that wants her to get what’s coming to her.  I have no interest in trying to make that happen mind you, but I’d be lying if I said hearing that her life had fallen apart wouldn’t feel like vindication to me.  That’s probably wrong of me, but it’s also the truth.

I still miss being married, though, as I said, I don’t long to be in a relationship with her.  I do wish that she would speak to me.  It still feels like an unresolved issue in my life, and while there are people who I have grown apart from before, she is the only person where things ended pretty chaotically.

I had to fight to keep from becoming jaded toward marriage for some time…  as much as I miss being married, I think I am reluctant to pursue it again, not so much on an intentional level, but I guess on a subconscious level.

Wow that’s a long post.  If you read this entire thing you deserve some kind of award.  If you comment I’ll assume you read it all and buy you a coffee sometime.  You’re on the honor system.

That’s all I have to say about that.

The Problem of Evil

Usually I only post about things that I feel like I have figured out.  Not necessarily that I know I am for sure right, but that I know exactly what I believe about it and therefore feel comfortable sharing it.  That is not, however, the case with this one.

Really I have only been thinking much of this since yesterday.  I realized that in light of new ways of understanding things, my old model for this doesn’t really make any sense.  I’m not sure it ever really made sense in my old way of understanding either, and I guess not that much changes… because even still mankind’s evil choices only explain a certain amount of evil in the world.  Things like cancer, and birth defects, and natural disasters all seem to be manifestations of evil.

When one understands God to be the one who ultimately makes both the good and the bad to happen.  If you need Biblical support for that, try Isaiah 45:7 – “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”  This idea is present throughout much of the Old Testament.  As these are Jewish scriptures, it is easy to see why a Jewish person would not believe in an entity such as is the Christian understanding of Satan.  God brings both well-being and calamity, there is no need for a figure such as Satan to explain it.

This is quite naturally troubling to us as humans.  This is, after all, supposed to be a God of love, and yet He at best allows terrible things to happen to us (a la Job), and at worst is Himself directly causing those things to happen.  These are things that hurt us and cause us pain, and in the more extreme examples, we cannot see any satisfying purpose in the suffering.  When a young child dies in terrible pain from sickness or from abuse, is there anything that can come of that which would make us see it as not a terrible evil?

This question of evil is a very old one.  It is entirely what the story of Job is about, and Job is believed to be the oldest book of the Bible, dating back to about 1500 BC.  We as humans have been struggling with this idea ever since then, and we are perhaps no closer to understanding it now than we were then.  What is the great reasoning for Job’s suffering in the book of Job?   Apparently so that God could prove to Satan that Job really was a totally loyal guy that would still keep doing the right thing even if his blessings were taken away.  There you have it, as least God isn’t insecure or anything…

Oh, but if that isn’t satisfying enough we go on to get this answer (In Job 38-39):

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
    I will question you, and you make it known to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
    or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
    and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

“Or who shut in the sea with doors
    when it burst out from the womb,
when I made clouds its garment
    and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 and prescribed limits for it
    and set bars and doors,
11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,
    and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
    and caused the dawn to know its place,
13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
    and the wicked be shaken out of it?
14 It is changed like clay under the seal,
    and its features stand out like a garment.
15 From the wicked their light is withheld,
    and their uplifted arm is broken.

16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
    or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
    Declare, if you know all this.

19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
    and where is the place of darkness,
20 that you may take it to its territory
    and that you may discern the paths to its home?
21 You know, for you were born then,
    and the number of your days is great!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
    for the day of battle and war?
24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
    or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

25 “Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain
    and a way for the thunderbolt,
26 to bring rain on a land where no man is,
    on the desert in which there is no man,
27 to satisfy the waste and desolate land,
    and to make the ground sprout with grass?

28 “Has the rain a father,
    or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb did the ice come forth,
    and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?
30 The waters become hard like stone,
    and the face of the deep is frozen.

31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades
    or loose the cords of Orion?
32 Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season,
    or can you guide the Bear with its children?
33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
    Can you establish their rule on the earth?

34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds,
    that a flood of waters may cover you?
35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go
    and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts
    or given understanding to the mind?
37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom?
    Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens,
38 when the dust runs into a mass
    and the clods stick fast together?

39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion,
    or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
40 when they crouch in their dens
    or lie in wait in their thicket?
41 Who provides for the raven its prey,
    when its young ones cry to God for help,
    and wander about for lack of food?

“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
    Do you observe the calving of the does?
Can you number the months that they fulfill,
    and do you know the time when they give birth,
when they crouch, bring forth their offspring,
    and are delivered of their young?
Their young ones become strong; they grow up in the open;
    they go out and do not return to them.

“Who has let the wild donkey go free?
    Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,
to whom I have given the arid plain for his home
    and the salt land for his dwelling place?
He scorns the tumult of the city;
    he hears not the shouts of the driver.
He ranges the mountains as his pasture,
    and he searches after every green thing.

“Is the wild ox willing to serve you?
    Will he spend the night at your manger?
10 Can you bind him in the furrow with ropes,
    or will he harrow the valleys after you?
11 Will you depend on him because his strength is great,
    and will you leave to him your labor?
12 Do you have faith in him that he will return your grain
    and gather it to your threshing floor?

13 “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly,
    but are they the pinions and plumage of love?
14 For she leaves her eggs to the earth
    and lets them be warmed on the ground,
15 forgetting that a foot may crush them
    and that the wild beast may trample them.
16 She deals cruelly with her young, as if they were not hers;
    though her labor be in vain, yet she has no fear,
17 because God has made her forget wisdom
    and given her no share in understanding.
18 When she rouses herself to flee,
    she laughs at the horse and his rider.

19 “Do you give the horse his might?
    Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
20 Do you make him leap like the locust?
    His majestic snorting is terrifying.
21 He paws in the valley and exults in his strength;
    he goes out to meet the weapons.
22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed;
    he does not turn back from the sword.
23 Upon him rattle the quiver,
    the flashing spear, and the javelin.
24 With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground;
    he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.
25 When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’
    He smells the battle from afar,
    the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

26 “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars
    and spreads his wings toward the south?
27 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
    and makes his nest on high?
28 On the rock he dwells and makes his home,
    on the rocky crag and stronghold.
29 From there he spies out the prey;
    his eyes behold it from far away.
30 His young ones suck up blood,
    and where the slain are, there is he.”

And there you have it.  The explanation essentially boils down to this:  We have so little knowledge and understanding of the world around us that we couldn’t possibly hope to comprehend something like this.  That is the answer of the author of Job (and/or the answer of God) to this question.  It’s ultimately my answer to the question as well, as unsatisfying as it is.  I don’t believe a satisfying answer is possible here… at least not without answering a whole host of other questions which we likely don’t even know enough to identify.

I have spoken before of how I tend to understand God as a storyteller, and this does help me to understand some of the pain and suffering out there.  We discover who we really are in our suffering, just as we discover who the characters in the stories we love really are as they suffer.  No author delights in the suffering of those he created…  it can be hard to hurt or kill a character in your story, but sometimes it’s what the story needs.  Of course, life isn’t literally a story (or maybe it is, how would I know if it was?), but this is the most satisfying answer I can think of.

The title of my post is quite similar to the title of a book by C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.  I just sort of typed the first thing that came to mind, but I’m sure it was subconsciously inspired by it, as I almost immediately thought of that book when I started typing about this.  It’s been a long time since I read it, and after looking over some excerpts from it I don’t think he quite achieved a satisfying resolution on the subject, but I do want to share a quote that I think captures a good deal of truth.  It doesn’t outright answer the question of why such a world exists with the laws that it does, and I’m not quite sure what exactly it does answer… but to me it feels like it does answer something.

“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” – C.S. Lewis

One of Those Posts

I think the thing I miss the most about being married (or I guess any serious romantic relationship really) is always having a person to talk to when you’re feeling shitty, for whatever reasons you have or don’t have.  I mean, obviously one could talk to close friends and the like, but it’s not really the same.  There isn’t a substitute for that sort of relationship.  Actually, it’s not the thing that I miss the most, it’s the only thing that I miss.  There are other reasons that I would like to be at that stage of life again, but they aren’t things that I “miss”.

That said, today is one of those days that I find myself missing it.  Which is to say, I’m not quite feeling at my happiest.  I could write about things that relate to why, though I’m not sure I could quite explain why fully…  And I will write about those things, but I won’t write about them here, because they are things that I’m not really comfortable writing about on a public blog.  I’d probably be ok with a few of you reading, but not everyone who could potentially find their way here.  Ha, actually there’s a few people who could find their way here potentially that I’m not comfortable with reading the things I post here…

So instead of talking about why, I will instead lament about the predicament I find myself in and reflect upon it.  I haven’t really had a proper girlfriend since then, though yes, I have gone on dates and the like.  I usually disqualify people pretty quickly.  I’m not sure whether or not I’m always being fair when I do so.  I want to have that sort of relationship again, but I think there is also some part of me that doesn’t.  I think I know the reason why…

When I could talk to her about the sorts of things I have on my mind right now, it involved a great deal of trust and openness and sort of laying out everything bare.  Now, she had never betrayed my confidence in anything I told her (to my knowledge), but, in regard to how everything went down there was a pretty big sense of rejection there, and it’s impossible to separate those things.  While I certainly don’t consciously avoid finding that sort of relationship again, I think that’s the lasting damage…  that I don’t want to put that kind of trust in anyone again.  Or rather, despite wanting to, I won’t allow myself to because of what I feel it implies.

And so instead on a night like this one, I have conflicting emotions.  On the one hand I wish I had that sort of relationship again, on the other hand I don’t.  On the one hand, I would like to be with a friend to maybe talk a little bit about this stuff with, on the other hand, I’m glad I’m sitting here alone.  On the one hand I’m posting this blog for you guys to read, on the other hand maybe I shouldn’t.

But I am.  And now I’m going to go write down some things that I can’t write here.

Life Between Work

It’s been awhile since I simply wrote about what’s going on in my life, so it’s about time I write about that I suppose.  Not counting this week the past couple months have been pretty busy for me in regard to work.  It was pretty great to have a steady job and regular income.  I have one more paycheck still coming, so the income hasn’t quite ceased, but there’s certainly going to be a gap there even if I start working again tomorrow, so, that’s sad.

I recently had an interview regarding a show that would have been pretty exciting, it was a multi camera show filmed on a studio lot, which would have been pretty different from anything I had worked on before.  I thought the interview went well, but I guess not well enough, as I would have been starting today if they had decided to go with me.  I will just have to wait for the next, hopefully even better, opportunity.  I don’t expect I’ll be out of work for too long at this point, so I’m still quite optimistic.

One good thing that comes from being unemployed is having more time to do things, and so I’ve taken advantage of the time off to do some of them.  Last week I went to both Six Flags Magic Mountain and Joshua Tree National Park.  Both were very good experiences, though quite different.  It was not my first time at Magic Mountain, but I finally managed to finish up getting on all the coasters that I hadn’t yet been on.  Full Throttle remains my favorite overall.  Should any of you east coasters make it out here for a visit, I think Magic Mountain should be on your list of things to do, unless you don’t like such things.

Joshua Tree on the other hand provided a lot of cool scenery and some good walks.  It’s a huge park and required a lot of driving around, I’m torn on whether or not I think it would be a good place to do a multi-day hike.  I’m sure the camping there is great, but while there’s a lot of cool scenery, it all looks pretty similar even when you’re driving… I have to imagine after several hours of walking it, it would cease to be interesting.  I guess with the right people it would still be fun though.

Other than that I’ve continued to do lots of tabletop gaming when time allows, recently playing Tsuro of the Seas, which is pretty simple and fun.  I also spent some time sort of learning how to play the A Game of Thrones board game, which I still haven’t played a REAL game of (we did sort of a “mock game” to learn it, but there were only 2 of us, the game requires 3 players minimum).  Both of the games require strategy, but A Game of Thrones is quite heavy on the strategy and is extremely complex.  The interesting thing is that there is very little chance involved in A Game of Thrones… my feeling is that the best strategist is going to win almost every time.

Other than that, I had several Easter events yesterday which were all fun.   And now that it is monday my search for new employment continues!

I hope that life is treating you all well.  More posts will surely follow this week.