Worrywort….

There he sits. My dad. In his chair, with his cushions, playing video games. His figure is more gaunt that it used to be. The slope in his neck and shoulders belies the tall, proud man he used to be. But in there, you can still perceive a glimmer of quiet strength. The strength that now is imbued on me and runs in my veins. The same strength that undoubtedly runs in my son’s veins. He has lost much, and sacrificed much in his life. But God has seen him through all of it.

Now, though, the Parkinson’s has taken away that man from us. The dementia resulting from it has addled his mind. He weaves conspiracy theories everywhere and is paranoid to a fault. He is a shadow of the man he used to be. 

But what he used to be wasn’t always that great. He made it clear to me far more times than not that he saw me as a complete failure in life, thought all my decisions were horrible and held me in the shadow of himself and my little sister. He left a legacy in me of self-doubt, feeling incredibly insignificant in life, and a terrible fear that I will be a father like he was.

It wasn’t all bad, though. He’s the one that sparked my passion for science, he built the foundation for reason, strength, and a hard work ethic in me. Taught me right from wrong, and how to treat a woman.

Why do I write all this? Because in my father’s life one of the few constants that he held onto were fear and worry. These things motivated his every decision, every motivation. He spent a lifetime running from them. Guarding against them.

Sure, they led to a lot of really good safety precautions and wise decisions. But, it also led to the very thing that is now killing him. The intense stress from a lifetime of fear has put him in that chair, in the condition he’s in now. And yet, he still clings to it. Still killing him.

I write this to illustrate what worry accomplishes. Nothing at best, decay of our lives at worst.

Christ said in Matthew 6:25-33

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

I especially like verse 27:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?

 

Luke 12 adds this part after that line (verse 26):

Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

 

Worry does exactly that: nothing. Think about it, just by the act of worrying itself, what has that ever accomplished? I can worry about getting a job, but that does not make a job appear. I can worry about getting into an accident, but that doesn’t make me a safer driver. With all I’ve gone through it’s become incredibly clear to me how little worrying actually accomplishes…..

Now, there is a difference between concern and worry. There’s also a difference between judicious decision making and worry. Worry is a feeling. You might think that “Well, this feeling may not accomplish anything, but it can lead to me doing something which will accomplish something.” But, I would add, worry is not a necessary component in that equation. You can decide to do what is needed, wise, or right without worrying. I can be concerned about something without worrying about it. But the key lies in the decision. Neither of those things necessarily leads to a decision or action. I can decide to be a safer driver because it is the wise thing to do without worrying about getting into an accident. And I know that getting a job is something I need to do to support my son and myself without worrying about it. 

Sometimes we need to separate feeling and action.

This is where trust is inserted. Trusting in the Lord is usually a bigger leap than trusting in another person. A person you can see right there, get verbal or even written confirmation that that person intends to do such-and-such a thing. You can have all sorts of visual or other types of confirmation that it is being or has been done.

With God, you just have to trust the big, abstract guy in the sky.

But, with trusting, with doing, comes ability. It is only through doing sometimes that you can learn to do anything. It’s one of the hardest things you will ever do, and just when you get better at it usually it will suddenly get harder again. But, oftentimes, it is the only way to see results.

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Not too much to take…. part 1

There are two sides to the problem of evil. That is, the logical problem of evil, and the emotional problem of evil.

Maybe I should back up a bit.

By “problem of evil”, I mean, of course, the problem people have reconciling the coexistence of both God and evil in the world.

Maybe I should back up more.

The logical version of this, struggles with purely the logical concept of the coexistence of a good God and the presence of evil. This is well addressed through a variety of logical arguments showing there is no logical contradiction here. This is beyond the scope of this post and more on it can be found here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/the-problem-of-suffering-and-evil-aalborg-university and many other sources. But, the version of this is of a completely (in my opinion) different type. That is the emotional problem. This does not deal with any apparent logical contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of God on an objective, universal level, but instead is more personal. This is rooted purely in emotion: in hurt, anguish, and pain. Instead of saying “I don’t see how this can be…”, it says “How can this be???”

It is that point when you’re so broken down, so torn down, in so much pain, when you conclude there must be no God because if there was, He wouldn’t let this happen.

I think we’ve all been there.

But I’m not.

Usually the only way to deal with this version of the problem of evil is through counseling and experience. But I would like to suggest that there is a logical way to address this. Either way you boil this down, you are ultimately dealing with an issue of personal belief, because there’s no logical way to justify the position that there is no God in all of existence just because you yourself are having a hard time (to say the least). That’s incredibly narcissistic and you honestly aren’t that special. At most you can conclude that as far as you can determine from your own experience, there is not likely to be a God (because there could be a God, just one who’s punishing you, not looking after you, basically not a good version of God). But, this is ultimately rooted in the problem that you are emotionally and intellectually seemingly incapable of believing in the existence of a good God and this evil going on in your life. Because, let’s face it, if you did still decide to believe in Him despite what’s going on in your life, you wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. So, it stands to reason that if just one person has gone through a terrible circumstance in life and is still able to believe in God, then it stands that God can still exist, and the problem is merely a personal one in which you find it hard or impossible to personally believe in God in your circumstance, but that He really does exist.

So let me tell you my story….

November 2009: marry the woman I love. February 2011: birth of my first son. August 2011: Got a cushy, well-paying government job. December 2011: Graduate with my masters pursuing my dream of an academic career in paleontology. Sound like I had everything going for me? Yes and no. Behind the scenes, my life is miserable. My wife has severe emotional problems and I am practically a single dad despite being married. Every morning I go to work sick to my stomach with worry that my spouse will be able to handle taking care of our son, anticipating one of the week’s several intense emotional crises, and despite my best efforts I can barely keep a decent balance in the bank account and pay all the bills. In the midst of all this, I was getting progressively sicker. Starting really in January I was regularly experiencing intense gut pains that would make normal men want to curl up in the corner and cry, but I still had to take charge of child care every night and weekend. My wife’s demands and instability led me to miss work regularly, and my sickness caused me to miss even more.

April 2012: Missing work catches up with me, and I am let go. Suddenly I have to figure out how to provide for my family. Fortunately, I pull out what retirement money I built up on the job, and I got unemployment insurance when that ran out. Little did I know my troubles were just beginning.

May 2012: I go in for a routine procedure at my gastroenterologist’s office. By the time I get there, I’m experiencing the worst pain yet. I was curled up on a bed, barely able to talk. They admit me to the hospital. The treatment: stick a tube up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach to pump out the contents and starve me for several days. In the meantime I have to deal with my wife’s constant emotional breakdowns trying to deal with our son all by herself for the first 24/7 time in our marriage. I expend just as much energy calming her down and convincing her to take care of him as I do recovering.

I get out, still in pain but put on a special low-fiber diet. For the most part, I can’t eat much. I was still in pain, though not quite as much. I lost some 15-20 lbs in the hospital.

Within a month, I would go back in. The ironic part of what comes next is my wife and I started a marriage class at our church a week prior. But this night, I was in intense pain again. Unable to straighten up or hardly talk, I’m taken back to the ER. This time, they operate. Everything goes fine. Then, that night, I get a call from my wife.

“I cheated” She cried. She invited some random guy into our house, and slept with him in our bed. The nurse has to give me some sort of muscle relaxant to calm me down. She says she’s sorry and I say we can get past it and move on. I work on forgiving her.

Two days later she comes into the hospital room with hickies covering her neck.

She swears it’s over. We argue, I forgive her, and we try to move on.

After I get out of the hospital, the lies continue. I find text messages, pictures on disposable phones, catch her at his house late at night, messages to other guys on dating sites. Each time she swears up and down, sometimes with tears in her eyes, that it’s over and she won’t do it again. So I ended it, contacted to guy and told him to stay away. Her response? She was furious at me. Then, I catch her going to meet a second guy one night. I contact him and tell him she’s married and he ends it, too.

She comes home, and I tell her I’m filing for divorce.

To make matters worse, while I was in the hospital my former employer takes me to court and sues to remove my unemployment benefits. They succeed, and I’m required to somehow pay back everything they gave me over the prior two months. So now I end up draining my savings while waiting for welfare to kick in and help out with bills.

Did I mention our lease was about to end at the house we were all living in?

Fortunately, God intervened and a good friend of mine stepped in saying they need someone to occupy their rental property before her parents moved in and took over the place next year.

And, during that, I found out my wife was pregnant. The big question became: with who’s baby?

Picking up the pieces….

I’m still impressed by the frequent bouts of depression that plague me from time to time following my divorce. It’s been almost nine months since the divorce was final, and two months of going through the divorce prior to then. But, despite that length of time, I still deal with a lot of emotional fallout from that. Now, my situation is a bit different because I let my ex live with me for seven months after the divorce was finalized, which caused a great deal of emotional stagnation. So, I’ve only really been separate from her for two months now. Needless to say, this has created a lot of undiscovered country for me and everyone I talk to. Most of the time, even if you have to still deal with your ex because of shared children (which we also have), you are physically and geographically separate from your ex even before the divorce is final. So, while dealing with the normal emotional issues of a divorce, you also have that separation to facilitate that. But, for me, it’s all muddled up.

Part of me is fairly far along in the recovery process, but other parts are still in early stages of the emotional roller coaster of divorce recovery. It’s like I walking back and forth on the path of life picking up parts of me that shattered and were windblown all up and down it.

I was doing some thin sections recently, and in the process I realized the particular brand of glass microscope slides I bought are of poor quality and thus extremely fragile. Almost all of them shattered and required me to glue the shards back together. Some of the pieces were easy to put back together, but some pieces were lost and I had to carve new pieces out of other pieces of glass to make the necessary repairs. Sometimes the glue job was good and pieces fell off again, leading me to re-glue them and modify how I glued it.

Right now, I feel like the glass slides. Parts of me were easy to pick up and glue back on, others are completely lost and I have to create new ones. Sometimes when I feel a piece is glued back on well and taken care of, it will fall back off again and I’ll have to redo it.

The truth? You can’t handle the truth!

I’m constantly perplexed by peoples’ persistent tendency to….um….I ran our of long words that start with “p”. Basically what I mean is they hide the truth. Even tiny, irrelevant truths. As someone with Asperger’s, I have a tendency to bluntly state what’s on my mind or going on in my life without comprehending or at least knowing the social consequences ahead of time. Once I say whatever it is that is then eliciting a shared shocked facial expression to all those within earshot, I spend the rest of the day confused as to why what I divulged was received so poorly. Sometimes, though, I don’t get a shocked reaction but one of pity.

Let me clarify a tad more. I’m an open book. I’ll gladly share anything about my life, even things that people normally would conceal. Some of it is understandable, even to me. You probably don’t want to know the consistency of my bowel movements because that is generally considered disgusting (though seems to have become general topic of conversation amongst my family [a real winner with any women I might bring home in the future, too….]).

But one thing that confuses me is how people conceal the hurt in their lives. The bad things going on. I tend to be quite open to that, and as a result I’ve gotten some weird reactions. People tend to think I am somehow to be pitied or think I am less than them or some version of that. Or they just fidget uncomfortably and try to find a way to get out of the conversation. Maybe they need to go have a bowel movement, I don’t know….

Instead, people will only talk about the good things in there lives when around others. They will only bring up the bad if it’s too apparent to conceal (“So, what did the doctor say about that soccer ball-sized tumor on your forehead?”) This I don’t quite understand. People will get together and talk about their latest raise, how they’re expanding their kitchen, how they just bought a new great car, how they finally got that soccer ball-sized tumor removed… etc. What they don’t tell you is how they haven’t felt happy since 2002, how they’re three months behind on their mortgage and the bank is threatening foreclosure, that she thinks her husband has been sleeping with another woman for the past year, etc.

It makes me wonder a lot about my friends and other people I know. When they’re sitting around putting on a happy face and talking about all the good; how many of them feel like they’re stuck in a loveless marriage? What if this friend of mine has been secretly cheating on her husband for months now? How many of them are on the edge of filing bankruptcy, etc., etc., etc. I recently went through a horrible time in my life. Losing my job, health, and wife amongst other hardships in the course of just one year. I was very open about all of it. People knew. It made me wonder what a normal person would have hid. Makes me wonder sometimes if my story isn’t so unique.

The only two reasons why people might do this which I’ve been able to derive are that either a.) people hide this stuff as a form of social competition (especially amongst females) and/or b.) people are worried about being judged and/or looked down upon by others. But, at the same time, you sacrifice a lot of potential support and closeness that could be invaluable in your time of need. Also maintaining the charade that everything is just fine usually takes a lot of effort, and seems to be energy best spent elsewhere (in my opinion). I guess because I have Asperger’s I’m not prone to the concern of social judgement as much as others are. Perhaps the shame they feel outweighs the effort they put forward to maintain the deception.

Overall, I feel largely lied to in social settings. More so since I’ve learned to read minutiae and microexpressions. It adds to the general unpleasant feeling I get being around other people, and the things I have to keep running through my mind to do and not to do in order to act normal around others. I spend a lot of time questioning if saying such-and-such a thing is socially appropriate to say, or if so-an-so is even telling me the truth or the whole truth.

In closing, I really wish people I knew were more open about the struggles in their lives. It would have helped immensely during my trial, and I honestly would just like to know. Everyone’s lives always seem so happy and blessed, but I know that, even just statistically, a few of them have to be going through some tough circumstances.