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Anonyst Man

Bold Honesty

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Journal: 01/15/17

I woke up to one of my favorite new sounds: the kids were awake and their little feet were pitter-pattering on the floor while they were giggling and running to attack me on the couch.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to join them at church since I was a little concerned about getting home to cook and stay on my meal plan schedule. While I mulled it over I play with the kids on the floor with a puzzle.  As they were heading out I decided to join them and squeezed between the kids’ car seats in the van.

They decided to go to a church that met in the high school that I used to volunteer at through most of college. It was strange to be back on those grounds after all this time and remember some of the times I spent there with kids and the people I met. Aside from Carly, I haven’t kept touch with anyone else who attended or volunteered at that school with me so that was a bit strange to think about.

It took us a while to get the kids signed in and checked like they were a couple of coats. We did go back with them and try to get them comfortable with the little classrooms with all different ages of kids. While their parents were taking them in and I was happily observing the craziness of all the kids playing or just being herded around I spoke with a woman who was familiar with the work I did and the people I worked with.

Eventually we gave up on the kids getting comfortable since they were still clinging to their parents after a while and took them into the service. It was kind of surprising to see how bashful Arie quickly got around strangers since she was usually so in command at home. They stayed pretty good but eventually decided they wanted to join the other kids.

The service was about how Peter had denied Jesus three times, and then how Jesus later asked him three times whether he loved him and to feed his sheep. It had been a while since I’d been to church, and especially this one with a pastor who I’d heard before. I kept monitoring how I felt about the different things he said, what my honest thoughts were, and if I felt at all moved by faith or anything. I don’t think I was, I think that stuff requires you to be in a place where you already want to and are ready to surrender completely to what’s being taught.

Instead what I kind of realized is how much the message was essentially a lesson on the psychology of healthy relationships and sense of self worth through stories for the purpose of reflecting and applying to your own life. It got me wondering how much the purpose church serves for so many people is almost a lot like group therapy, and I wondered how many of those people would have been resistant to the idea of also accepting any kind of straightforward therapy out of fear or pride. As I think about it now, so much of my volunteering as a mentor with kids was to serve as a very close therapist who was able to earn their trust in a way that might be harder for professionals in an office or hospital environment to be able to.

When we got back home we played with blocks and trains and had lunch. The more time I spend with the kids, the less concerned I become with them liking and trusting me, and more concerned about how I can be a good influence and teach them. I had some pretty noticeable success getting Arie to finally let Cullen build the way he wanted instead of completely micromanaging his every move, and got both of them to actually ask for blocks or train pieces from each other instead of just taking it and flipping out. They listened almost right away when I told them that I didn’t like when they did those things to me, and they kept applying it to each other for the rest of our play time with hardly any need for me to remind them.

After we were done with that, Arie had the pretty sweet idea to build a fort, which I was immediately game for. She said that she was the “Director” and started barking commands. Early on when she would do that, I was flattered and wanted to encourage spending time together, but as time goes on that’s not really a behavior that I want to encourage. I told her that I wouldn’t play if she wasn’t going to ask nicely. Over the course of the fort building, she did slowly get a lot better at asking nicely the first time and thanking me for helping. My hope is that will spread to how she treats her brother who she often treats like a toy or tool as her service to use.

The fort ended up pretty sweet and I think I actually drifted to a light sleep for a minute before it was time to clean up and put everything away. Once everything was put away, I can’t remember what the family was doing but I told them I wasn’t going to join them and said some unhappy goodbyes to the kids and told them I’d probably be back again soon.

On my drive back down through Columbus to Cincinnati I sent a quick text to Amanda to see if she was around to meet up really quickly before I was out of town. She said to meet her out so I did and got to meet a couple of her friends Darrin and Sean who all invited me out to join them later at a Greensky Bluegrass concert they were going to. I told them I probably wouldn’t but I’d think about it.

I ended up driving them home since I had a car and they got ready so I hung out with them there for a little while and Darrin invited me to his house before the show to pregame and jam out on his instruments. I went and had a great time and ended up having a couple drinks so I realized I pretty much had to go along for the rest of the night instead of driving home. They were also nice enough to offer me some of their ecstasy and shrooms, but I don’t think I can handle that stuff so I passed.

We ubered to the show, I got some pizza, and I started meeting and talking with some girls that I was around in different parts of the venue. They were all pretty nice, and some were also really cute, but I ended up talking to one in particular while sitting with my friends. She was strawberry blonde, was taking care of her drunk friends, was able to have a fun conversation, and she had a cute freckled face. I noticed myself examining her face and feeling that she seemed like a good person and I just came right out. I asked her if I could tell her something. She said yes and I told her simply that “I think I like you.” She paused for a while, maybe not sure how to respond to such a straightforward statement. Eventually the pause was long enough that I got a suspicion. “You have a boyfriend don’t you,” I asked. She nodded and said yes. Now I wonder if that was true or if she either didn’t like me or didn’t know what to say so she said yes. I gave a disappointed nod, asked her what his name was, she said Trevor, and I told her that he was lucky to have her and that I was going to find some other friends on the other side of the venue.

Maybe she thought I was just trying to get into her pants because I just got up instead of continuing to talk to her, but I was actually a little embarrassed and part of it was that I was still looking for someone to kiss and cuddle with.

A couple of the other girls I spoke with either ended up also being in a relationship already, or starting out seeming into me and then becoming distant. I keep wondering if it’s because I don’t show enough interest early enough.

We ended up going to an after party at a bar where I saw many of the same girls and a couple new ones, who all pretty much ended up having a boyfriend or having that be code for just not liking me. While I was there I got to play with an LED hula hoop which I was really bad at and making eye contact level friends with other random dudes there.

To keep things going, after the after party, we went to another party at someone’s house. An after-after party if you will. There didn’t turn out to be a lot of people, maybe 10-15, but I got to meet them and they were alright. There was a girl that I thought was pretty cute, and might have been nice except she had some pretty thick walls up to everyone. I made friends with the house cats, and when some drugs came out I asked a couple questions that ended up surprising everyone how few times I’ve smoked weed and how I haven’t really done any other drugs. I got a lesson in packing and etiquette for sharing a bowl even though I didn’t take anything that I was offered. Then snuggled on the couch for a while listening to the conversation wrapped in a blanket and the cat came to snuggle under the blanket with me. One of the more boisterous guys who kept pulling out bags of cocaine was shocked that I’d never tried it and was dead set on getting me to try. He said he’s sneak me some if I fell asleep, but I asked him to be nice to me and I think he couldn’t bring himself to do anything after that.

Eventually after the conversation started to feel repetitive and the girl with her walls up kept herself at a distance, I saw that there was sunlight starting to show in the crack of the blanket over the window. When I checked the time it was about 7am. That’s when I let myself fall asleep and took a couple hour nap until about 9am.

All the people still there when I left really seemed to like me and told me that they really liked me. One guy gave me his card which I have and don’t know what to do with.

When I woke up Darrin and I ubered back to Amanda’s place where I fell asleep on the couch snuggled up with her dog Chavi. My Sunday night ended at 10am on Monday morning.

I don’t remember when exactly, but I know at some point in the night Darrin told me he thought I was a really cool guy. When I asked him why he said it was because I just be myself. I guess that’s true in the sense that there are things that I know I’m not and so I say no to, but I still don’t know if I’m really in touch and aware of who I am or have that figured out.

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Journal: 01/14/17

Staying at Molly’s was a good decision and got the day started pretty great. Her spare room was comfy, she made me coffee and pancakes with banana, we got to have some nice breakfast convo about her school part time and I asked her about how to talk to girls, it was fun.

As I was about to start getting ready to leave, the Helmlinger kids FaceTimed me to invite me to come over and play and stay the night. When I told her that I could, Arie’s little face lit up so big that my heart melted and exploded at the same time. Something about earning and having the love and trust of a precious little thing is maybe the single best feeling in the world for me.

When I pulled up at their house she ran outside to me and into my arms. I scooped her up an she gave me the biggest hug. When we got inside I got attacked with love by Cullen too.

We hung out and played for a little while, but they had plans to go visit and help some other family during the day. I was pretty exhausted from the night before still and was falling asleep on the couch so I decided to stay and take a nap and maybe catch up with them later.

I woke up to them arriving back home 6 hours later and it was completely dark outside. I had slept for about 6 hours from around noon-6. I groggily got up and made myself some tea. I was pretty disoriented waking up an another place again at the end of the day.

After some more playing and dinner (where Arie again tried to get me to sleep with her in her bed), the kids said they wanted to take a bath and head to bed. Their parents did not argue with that at all, and after they were done with that and running around naked, they got tucked in.

The rest of the night I got to spend some rare and quiet quality time with Andrew and Kyria. They ended up asking questions that led us to the latest developments concerning the long first call I recently had with Carly and how I had been feeling about and dealing with a lot of the new information.

When the conversation had started coming to a natural end, we watched a documentary about the food industry, particularly the influence and effects of the sugar and processed foods industry. Pretty amazing stuff to consider the power of an industry and the complacency of a government to prioritize the protection and interests of a damagingly powerful industry over the education and public health of its citizens. I don’t think I’m a radical thinker, they had top and respected public officials interviewed on the subject, but the analogy between the sugar and tobacco industry was more accurate than I expected it to be.

Before bed we watched a couple episodes of White Collar to lighten things up and they decided they’d be going to church tomorrow and invited me to join if I wanted.

Journal: 01/08/17

Ignoring my alarm at the Helmlingers after the late night for Scales’s birthday I’m not sure what time I actually got up. Arie had decided to sleep at her Grandma Marmi’s which I thought was pretty rude and inconsiderate since she’s the one who invited me over.

However, this was a rare chance for Cullen to get undivided quality time with me and I’d say he definitely took advantage of it. I think we played with trains first and built a decent sized though not really functional track. I think it was almost breakfast time by this point and Cullen walks in with a couple pairs of sunglasses and has me wear one of them in all kinds of different ways. We took a couple videos to see ourselves make faces.

Cullen just could not wait for me to be done so we could go play with the blocks next. He kept asking if I was done with my food yet then done with my tea yet again and again. I didn’t mind at all since he’s so cute and was a sign of how much he wanted to spend time with me since he could have played blocks with anyone else without waiting for me.

We build a pretty sweet castle if I do say so myself. We built it around a doll and Cullen wanted pictures with it. I think he wanted to reenforce the castle theme so before the pictures he ran into his sister’s room and came back with some kind of princess scepter thing and held it for the pictures. Once we captured the moment, he now wanted to switch to playing castle by dressing up. He kept bringing me different kinds of princess shoes from his sisters room which couldn’t reach past my big toe and felt like they’d break if I put my weight on them. He then decided that I was the King and he was the Queen and we did a little walk around the house before turning back into normal people again and he had me pull him around the house on a little plastic turtle.

All I can remember next is having a cup of tea while the family showered and got ready for the day. At one point little Cully was running around noodie holding his towel in the air and giggling. I tool my turn to shower and when I came out I decided that it was time for me to head home, but Arie had gotten back while I was showering.

I told her it was too bad that I didn’t get to see her this morning because she wasn’t home and both her and her brother latched onto my legs saying to stay just one more night. I was honored of course and tempted, but something in me was ready to get back home maybe to try to get closer to something resembling a normal week. I also knew I had a lot of cooking to do that would be thrown off if I didn’t get back in time to eat it that week. They took me to the ground and piled on top of me to keep me from leaving which made me feel so loved and happy, but I told them that I could come back soon. Arie pushed to know when and I told her maybe in a couple weekends from now.

The drive home started out just fine, but then fucking Bonnie Raitt had to go and ruin it with her song “I can’t make you love me.” Whenever I hear that god damn song all I can hear and see is Carly’s heart crying out to me over our years together and how she gave everything and would have done anything and I just couldn’t or wouldn’t do the same in return. I cried for the first time in a while thinking about how I wasn’t there for her and treated her so poorly.

I think the connection I made was that I also wasn’t there for or treating myself well at all because I was trying to be who I thought I should be and spending every ounce of myself towards an imaginary future. For years, and especially at school I was:

  1. Putting massive amounts of pressure on myself every day.
  2. Witholding and depriving and delaying so much of the rewards of my work that I developed fear and stress about spending any money on.
  3. Having an all-or-noting mindset. Not allowing or forgiving myself for any mistakes, and thinking and telling myself terrible things about myself if I did make any.
  4. Comparing myself to everyone around me, only seeing the strengths they had which I didn’t
  5. Probably more that I can’t think of right now

In short I was abusing myself terribly. One side of me was demanding, unreasonable, conditional, and abusive with what had once been the real me but had been beaten down into this overwhelmed, stressed, scared, lost, insecure, identity which eventually fully believed all the worst about itself that the abusive thoughts would tell it. I was killing myself, and eventually I broke myself, my spirit, my worth, my will to live,

If you saw a parent treating a child the way I was treating myself it would have been both heartbreaking and infuriating. I cried more thinking about it and wondering how many people I met in group therapy treat themselves similarly, and wondering if anyone else around me does also.

Something got me thinking of my trip back to school and if I’ll have some opportunity to tell my whole story. I immediately knew that there were parts of the story in my past that I would be ashamed of and want to avoid or minimize in sharing. Then I started thinking about how much our holding back from each other keeps us from really helping one another in times of need.

If we don’t own these problems and let them show, but keep them to ourselves, how are others and young ones going to recognize or feel safe enough to let their problems show to get the help they need? People like me don’t really get the help needed until after reaching the very end of our rope… otherwise the buildup of pain finds escalating outlets for relief through unhealthy attention seeking, isolation, substance abuse, workaholism, shopaholism, violence against themselves or others, reckless endangerment, suicide, homicide, mass killing, and probably even some if not many human atrocities. I don’t think anyone chooses to do these things for what they are. I think that there is so much repression from teaching and inability to find healthy outlets that pain builds up to the point of desperate and extreme behavior.

I know that is a relatively simplistic view, but after feeling the raw power of being completely under the control of my illness, how it possessed and enslaved me in another realm of consciousness, I believe there is enough power in these things to make it possible.

My conclusion was that if I ever get an opportunity to share my story with an audience of friends and loved ones at school I will not hold back, or hedge, but claim and own all the mistakes and weaknesses and flaws that I’ve recognized. I think that will be the most healthy for myself to not let those things influence me with shame, but also is the only way to really help others who may not recognize if they or anyone close to them is in a similar pattern.

Journal: 01/07/17

I slept in till maybe 11am after the 4am conversation with Carly laid out in detail here.

What I remember from the morning is that I was trying to debate whether or not to still go up to Columbus for Scales’s birthday or not.

I got a call from Adam Karl and I have him the down low on the long conversation with Carly and as always he was incredibly supportive and validating and encouraging regarding the parts of the conversation that were still weighing on me which was mostly 1) Finding out that she had been texting New Guy every day for the last month of our relationship and had developed feelings 2) How different her lifestyle and behavior seems to have become 3) Hearing more specifics about how I wasn’t there for her like I should have been and 4) some discussion we had about her exploration into casual rendezvous.

It was nice to receive his support and process a but more, but reliving the hard parts of the conversation wasn’t fun.

Towards the end of the conversation I got a facetime call on the other line from Andrew H. Just as I’d hoped, his kids were calling to invite me over to play and stay the night. Feeling stressed from the last night’s call I knew that was exactly what I needed so I accepted right away since I would also be able to use the trip to still go to Scales’s birthday.

It was early evening by the time I actually got up there. It took them a slow 5 seconds to give me hugs and warm right back up to me again. We played blocks and house and had dinner with another couple that they were friends with. Nice people but we didn’t talk much directly mostly because I knew the inevitable questions and wasn’t going to start them down that path unless they asked.

After dinner was more chilling and playing. Kyria’s 13yo brother Aiden and I ended up in a conversation about dating and he ended up asking a handful of questions about Carly which I answered fully. At one point he was interested enough to put down his phone and moved very close to kneel right at the side of the chair with his elbows propped up on the arm rest. I’m guessing he doesn’t often hear such vulnerability from adults very often.

Not long after I was on my way and met up with Scales and his friends for his birthday. I got to see Kyle and Shelby there, and meet Billy’s brother, and a cute friend of Scales’s who was of course in a relationship. Still, it’s nice to meet very sweet and very cute girls and allow myself to fully feel attraction towards them and explore how and why I feel differently towards different people.

There wasn’t a lot of really memorable or meaningful conversation, but it was just good to be there with Scales and celebrate him in a friendly and warm environment.

It was a bit of a juggle, but the party wound down in time for me to go meet Chelsea and her friends out. She barely reacted at all when I found here so I wasn’t sure if she actually wanted me there. I decided to assume the best, sat down, and we ended up striking a pretty good conversation about her interest in gambling. I gave her and her friends a ride home since I only had 2 drinks the whole night and then got back to the Helmlingers around 2:30 to crash.

Dear Self: Define Success

As a child, I knew that my father’s artistic career goals and ambitions were not going as well as he had hoped, and somehow sensed that it was coming at the expense of our whole family. At that age, I thought about how I was going to somehow avenge my father and my family’s struggle against the world by succeeding, either where he failed, or in whatever I went on to do.

When I was a little older as an adolescent, I recognized how our limited financial resources kept me from trying new activities that I was interested in and could have been a great bonding experience with my family or given me a positive outlet to learn discipline and grow as a person.

In my teens I went through a phase of rejecting worldly ambition, preferring to help other students by inviting them into the supportive family that I had obtained in a Youth Ministry community. I did well in school but made minimal effort and planned on making a career in the organization that I found a family in.

Graduating college I had left my plans for a career in ministry and while struggling to get my foot in the door and start a career, I thought about my future family and how I wanted to provide them with the all opportunities that my family couldn’t provide: able to afford trying any new activity as a possible lifelong rewarding activity and a family bonding experience, to travel and see different parts of the world, to have the best education possible.

My need to be prepared to give my future family what I wanted to be able to took me over in many ways. I remained radically frugal. Even as my career progressed and I began to make more money than my family ever had, I continued to live about the same as I did in college with the only exceptions being that I starting giving better gifts. I felt I couldn’t afford to let myself enjoy the present because I had to save everything to afford the future that I wanted for my family.

This line of thinking is part of what kept my attention in the future and distracted me from being present to cope with mounting stresses when life got very hard. All I could see was losing the future I had been working so hard and sacrificing so much for.

While I’ve had time to reflect on what is really important to me and in life, I have been seeing the error in my ways and have been reshaping my definition of what it means to provide for a family. On multiple conversations with family and friends recently, I’ve learned that regardless of the financial situation, relationship is really what they felt deprived of as a child. Amid financial trouble, they would have been happy to accept a modest lifestyle if it meant their family would have been all together more instead of spending all their time working for extra money. Those who had been very well provided for financially felt that their parent(s) worked so much in the name of providing for them, but had never asked what it was that they really wanted, which was more time together.

These conversations really shifted my perspective on what successful parenting is, and the few days that I just spent with my friend and his family have been an inspirational example of really living the values of putting your family first in the decisions you make about career and time and money.

It’s always been easy to play the comparison game and try to “keep up with the Joneses,” but it’s also gotten more difficult to provide the same level of comfort for a family without having a dual income family. My friend Andrew has felt called to the meaningful profession of teaching, and even though it’s not lucrative, he and his wife have committed to only having one of them work full time. That means more financial management and gymnastics, more do-it-yourself, and not being able to put up the appearances or do everything that wealthier families can. It also means that their children are given more of the attention required to be better understood by their parents, supported and encouraged emotionally, in an environment that feels stable and safe for them to be themselves, to take risks, to learn, and to have a surplus of love to be able to pour out onto others and have a meaningful and rewarding life.

Watching Andrew with his kids, I was able to see the fun and the love, but now also to see beyond it, to how valuable it will be to his children’s own success and happiness more than any financial resources would be able to and I thought “These kids have it all.”

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