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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Skin Game

in my time as a male, i've noticed conceptions of sexuality are often butchered-- wait. i suddenly see what i did there. in two places. dang it.

whatever.. what i'm trying to say is, it's almost inevitable that people in the US (regardless of religion, formal education, etc) will form some unhealthy idea[s] about sex, at some point. this is one of the most damaging things that can happen to a person, because life is about relationships, and sexuality affects relationships (even non-romantic ones).

sexual experiences (which are inevitable as well) also deeply affect the brain itself, by itself. anyone who studies any psychology can see this. anyone who studies oneself can see this.

i say all this to explain why i choose to be so vigilant in my own life. i guard against unhealthy thought patterns and seek useful tools for repairing the damage unintentionally done to me (by others and by self). i debate issues to ferret out the truth; i welcome input and critique from many and disparate viewpoints, because i want the best of what's available. i *need* that.

having read the first fourteen chapters of this book, i find our hero no less beset by moral struggles than he has ever been. the mantle of Winter grows heavier; it animates, and i find i can relate to Harry easily. sadly, Jim Butcher writes a very narrow spectrum of female perspectives on sexuality. uncertainty? confusion? fear? i find little-to-none in the women of the Dresdenverse. (in the real world, these abound in both genders; i don't mean to say these traits are more characteristic of females than males, i just mean that all the women in the Dresden Files are super-confident and forward, sexually speaking, and i think that's almost always bad writing. parody and parable would be two examples of ways to use that appropriately.)

having considered these things, and having spent many years purposefully wrestling with my own sexuality in a variety of difficult situations, i feel i am adequately equipped to process sexuality in fiction, in a healthy way. this post itself is evidence of that (to me). however, i recognize that others will react differently.



if we progress far enough in the audiobook, i will skip over what they call a 'scene of graphic nature,' because i both feel and am responsible for this event. even if no one objected to the material itself, it would feel kinda weird to experience that together on purpose.

if something prior to chapter fourteen bothers anyone, i will skip over that as well. we also have the option of simply ceasing, and listening to any other Dresden audiobook at any point in any story. so if we needed to, we could relive the good old days, like the battle at Chichén Itzá, or maybe that one time Harry rode a dinosaur.

i trust each of you to make careful decisions about how you think about what you think about Jim's writings. please let me know if i can be of any assistance in this matter.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

my Name

"Names have power.

Everything in the whole world has its own name. Names are unique sounds and cadences of words that are attached to one specific individual - sort of like a kind of theme music. If you know something's name, you can associate yourself with it in a magical sense, almost in the same way a wizard can reach out and touch someone if he possesses a lock of their hair, or fingernail clippings, or blood. If you know something's name, you can create a magical link to it, just as you can call someone up and talk to them if you know their phone number. Just knowing the name isn't good enough, though: You have to know exactly how to say it. Ask two John Franklin Smiths to say their names for you, and you'll get subtle differences in tone and pronunciation, each one unique to its owner. 

Everyone's Name says something about them, whether they're aware of it or not. A wizard can use that Name to forge a link to someone. It's difficult with people. People's self-concepts are always changing, evolving, so even if you get someone to tell you their full name, if you try to establish the link when they're in a radically different mood, or after some life-changing event that alters the way they see themselves, it might not work. A wizard can get a person's name only from their own lips, but if he doesn't use it fairly quickly, it's likely to get stale.


When someone, anyone, says your name, it touches you. You almost feel it, that sound that stands out from a crowd of others and demands your attention. When a wizard says your Name, when he says it and means it, it has the same effect, amplified a thousandfold."

- Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden

~     ~     ~

i've heard my Name spoken twice in my life. each time, the stopper at the bottom of my mind was pulled, and every worry drained away; every mental thread was cut. each time, the sudden cessation of my otherwise constant analyses created in me a vacuum, and some sixth sense then, with frightening eagerness, flooded that space with the awareness that i was intimately known. and that knowing: i was certain it was the kind gained only by direct contact with another sentient being.

each time, when i later attempted to explain what had happened, the speaker eagerly tried to duplicate the spell. these attempts failed. perhaps they had the magical spark required to stumble upon it, but not the skill to cast it again; or, perhaps it must be spontaneous. either way, i have since then been both wary of and hopeful to feel that feeling again: the feeling of being benignly invaded. it's akin to eye contact, except that eye contact can usually be anticipated. one who speaks my Name can do so without warning, and in both cases so far, i was at my most vulnerable when le did so.

neither of those wizards knew me as well as some do now. those few who know me so truly and deeply now, hold great power over me, whether bringing the power of their soul-windows or their voices to bear, and i find myself preparing for potential ourcane bewilderment by imagining those relatively brief moments from start to agonizing finish. at most they last a few seconds... but they can feel like minutes. perhaps longer. i've not collected enough data [yet] to say for sure.

this method of preparation is like exposure therapy. i find it useful for self-administering "natural" shots of adrenaline, on long boring drives or while waiting for inspectors (because it awakens me no matter how little sleep i've had).



as my Name changes, i find that i can choose whose knowledge of it is maintained. so, in the end, whatever enchantment befalls me is probably my own doing. the giving of my Name, from my own lips, is a ritual that makes me both stronger and more open to invasion with each willful utterance.

i like that. it's strange to me still, that i like it, because i have in every chapter sought solitude and alone-ness. i have often ignored or denied people any real closeness with me; but perhaps that makes this vulnerability ritual even more important. i admit i find it necessary for my quest, which i only recently took up: to never be alone again.

Monday, May 19, 2014

happy holidays

"with great power comes great responsiliberty." - R

~     ~     ~

today i said goodbye to people when they couldn't hear me. i packed my things when they weren't looking, gave out extra hand-hugs, said persons' names when i greeted them, and made jokes like i was in a normal good mood. but, i was not in a normal good mood. i felt relief, excitement, wistfulness, longing, regret, pride (in myself and others and all of us together), and some other things i haven't identified. most importantly though: as i wrestled once again with my decision[s], i found myself winning easily. i guess i've gone up a weight category due to copious quantities of shit, processed with thoughtfulness, and with support from the few close friends who remain.

this morning i ghosted away on the perfect early summer's breeze. i think only some will be surprised that i'm gone. those who aren't are the ones who matter most, and i don't think they'll put up a fight. a few verbal tears and it will be done.

today i unfriended several friends, changed my 'name,' skipped the cocktail in favor of an extra workout, said no to hanging out in favor of i-time, napped without setting an alarm, ate well, played well, sang well, spoke well, reasoned well. i gave gifts and made as small a deal as possible out of it. i triumphed over things that used to bother me, overlooked things that have always frustrated me, accepted praise from others, and said "thank you" from the heart of me.

i discussed my newly renovated hermeneutic (and critiqued hermeneutics in general) with my favorite pagan. i ignored two calls and two texts from someone who previously held a great and terrible power over me. i complimented well-deserving people, in secret. i smiled wide enough to make my face hurt... and my eyes shone a little.

i re-read some recent posts, and realized that tonight, i know who i am again. and though i hardly recognize me, i like him.

so here's to you, me. i'm glad we're on good terms once more-- the best terms yet, in fact. don't stop changing.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

epilogue

disclaimer: i wrote this with the expectation that i would read it aloud, so... readability may be lacking somewhat, in comparison with other posts. i've taken liberties with emphasis via formatting, as well as contractions and how things are worded, and with grammar, et cetera.

also: normally i italicize posts written as letters to people. i forgot to do that this time, and since i used italics in it, and since it would be a huge pain to invert the use of italics, i'm leaving it the way it is. for now, at least. perhaps i'll update in the future.

more than that, i hope to follow-up in the future. i would like to think that most of the significant endings in life, especially those that we effect, are also beginnings or, at the very least, precursors. so the alternate title for this post is, of course, "prologue."


~     ~     ~

i've never re-written one piece so many times. i think it's because i never clearly defined my goals for it. i'm learning in this chapter of life that making strong decisions based on both thoughts & feelings is one of life's most important skills, and that the process of defining a goal precisely, and thoroughly, can make the difference between failing and succeeding.

it was so difficult to write also because i had so many strong feelings and difficult memories to process, and not enough help in doing so. i hope the words i've chosen so carefully (over a period of months) will be meaningful to someone other than myself; if not, i'm very willing to answer questions.

i'm angry with you, and have been since... the beginning of this year, maybe longer. i'm angry because you didn't really "pause" our friendship. i don't know if a friendship can be paused. it's being either nourished or neglected, and the latter has consequences.

i know i "paused" our friendship for a couple weeks in early 2013, but you remember how that turned out. i ended up driving to La Mirada on a work night because Melody "ratted you out," so to speak.  :)  and maybe a friendship can be "paused" for a brief time, especially with planning and communication that happen in preparation.

this situation wasn't like that.

i was really happy. content, even. sure it wasn't always the most comfortable-- i won't say i was entirely at ease, picking out paint colours with you at Lowe's-- but i was happy. that's not to say i couldn't have enjoyed even more time, more closeness with you, but i didn't feel the driving need for more, like i had the previous year. i think getting all of that off my chest, letting it air, was really helpful... and, i hope you know how much i value your hard work in adapting to that issue.

i'm proud of the work we did.



most of that work started unraveling, late September last year, when you left my place in the middle of a project. i say it started to unravel because, if we had spoken again within, say... a week, to make a plan, to talk at least a little bit about what we wanted. to come up with some kind of goal... maybe in the wake of such strong emotions we couldn't have been very precise, and certainly not thorough, but we could've begun the work, at least. if we had done that, things wouldn't have had time to unravel completely.

instead, i waited for you.

this is a really crucial part of the story, from my own perspective; and to others, it might seem like an attitude-of-entitlement problem on my side. i don't want it to come across that way. i just want you to understand what it's like, to be abandoned by one's best friend, and then wait... while still seeing that person on a regular basis. tertiary shti completely aside, it's still one of the harder things i've had to do in life.

i was ready, friend. i didn't need to wait. honey badger don't care what's in the way of something supremely valuable. i mean, i don't believe exceptional initiative & determination can solve any problem... i would never claim that. but they're certainly helpful when paired with thoughtfulness and good communication. and when have we ever lacked that? (except recently.)

i'm coming to accept that there are many things about this friendship that i could never understand, even if we talked openly about them for hours. okay, well... honestly, that's okay. mysteries are, eventually, acceptable. the things that trip me up, the things i seem unable to accept, are contradictions. and since i'm aware of the strong negative connotations of that word, i wanna take my time explaining why i'm using it.

Brittany, my cousin, wants to sing like Christina Aguilera. she states this and other similar wishes fairly often. she's been in choirs, sung on our worship team, and sings along with the radio or Spotify all the time. and every time she expresses this wish with me nearby, i respond, out loud: "you can sing like that! just takes the right kind of practice."

i know Brittany really does want to sing well. i know how much she would enjoy it, because i see how much i've enjoyed my own progress over the years. i know she is capable of hard work, capable of thinking constructively about how to improve herself, capable of a great many things. but the reality is that, vocally, she's improved very little. does she sing well? yes; much better than many. does she sing better than she did five years ago? ... not sure about that one.

and maybe "contradiction" is too strong a word for this kind of thing (which, as you know, is present in probably everyone's lives): we want things but don't take any steps toward them. this has been true of me in every chapter of life, in big and small things. but i haven't found a replacement word yet, and really, if i want to challenge myself, i should keep the word with all its strength and potential to convict.

i think the way to deal with these "contradictions" is to set aside a time to either begin pursuing them (the things i want), or else discard completely my expectations for them. easy example: my room is messy, and i dislike that. i should either stop being bothered by it (which i am capable of doing), or else begin putting things away. i don't have to finish it right then; i just need to believe that my desire for change is real. if i want to retain my right to be disappointed in myself,  :)  then i need to be actually trying to succeed.



so there i was last winter, waiting for you to be actually trying something. anything. a few messages here and there. you asked me a couple times how i was doing. and almost every week, i endured your company, and tried to figure out a way to both be more comfortable, and also make you more comfortable while i waited. and the friendship, not paused but rather neglected, um.. atrophied.

i think you were right about the five love languages. i thought about your question for several more hours, and realized your guess was dead-on. i'm not sure how you arrived at that conclusion about me, but.. uhm, good job! quality time is the clear victor. everything else i could do without, and still be close with someone. as i get older time becomes more consciously valuable to me, and i have less and less of it to give to each person or pursuit in my life... and therefore i value it more when i receive it from others.

at a more fundamental level, though: i need it. i need quality time in order for a friendship to be noureeshed. furthermore, i seem to be in more desperate and immediate need of it, lately.



i feel obligated (and glad!) to acknowledge the lasting value of long-established friendships which, when free of conflict, can often be picked up again after years of neglect. if King Andrew moved back to Fresno, we'd hang out again like we did every day (and many nights) during my first year at Vanguard. same with Stephanie (my Stephanie), same with Caleb, although we had to work through his transition into family life.

this ^ is different for me because of all the shit we've been through. not the external shit that we've helped each other through, but the internal. and because i see in you a "contradiction."

you want to be friends, but you're not willing to do the things that friends do. do we have different definitions of friendship? sure. different definitions of true friendship? probably, somewhat different at least. but for me-- and, i should point out that this is increasingly true of me-- i define friendship very, very narrowly. it's more than being careful with words, which i almost always am. it's about being careful with my heart and mind... it's about being careful with my life. if i keep someone at a distance nowadays, it's most likely for my own health, and in many cases theirs as well. if i invite them close, it's either because i'm addressing a specific need using one or more of my specific giftings... or, it's because i'm trying to build friendship.

so: if you're avoiding 1-1 time with me for the sake of your health, then... i have to support that, even if i believe that it could be good for you. i know how good it is for me not only because i've considered it from so many different perspectives and emotional states of being, but also because i've experienced it, over a period of years. the Israelites knew that the Lord their God was one; they gave mental assent to the idea, and they felt it at their core.

and maybe it's possible for someone to be both good & bad for your health. that's true of people for me. my parents are a great example of that. you can probably relate.

so, if that's what i am-- someone both good and bad for you, as a close friend-- then i will have to accept that. i'm working on it. it's difficult for me because i don't see the bad side of it. i neither give mental assent to it, nor experience it. there were times like 4th of July last year, when things felt so perfect. if Jesus had come back and asked me, "hey uhh... is now a good time? i'm gettin' kinda antsy up there." i would've asked Him for but a half hour more, so i could finish that stolen cigar. and then i would've happily gone, despite all my projects half-done, despite all the unsaved souls... hm. i'm not a good person.

my point is, i was good to go. i could've gone on that way, with our friendship exactly the way it was, indefinitely. my opinion of you is unchanged. i still hold you in the highest esteem, still consider you unsurpassed in multiple kinds of beauty, still grateful beyond what i can express for everything you've given me, and for everything you've accepted from me.

but this waiting i've been doing needs to stop. it is poisoning me. i've felt anger and pain turning into bitterness. worship team in particular has been.. torturous. singing with you was, partly, an expression of our friendship, and even now i still feel pseudo-close to you when we harmonize. i feel fulfilled. ...but, it's a lopsided fulfillment. the 'pseudo-' prefix comes from the fact that you are intentionally keeping me at a distance, so i don't feel free to enjoy your company anymore. i guess that's because i'm really not free to enjoy it anymore.

but i'm so drawn to you, every time i hang out with you, and since it isn't allowed, and since i don't understand why it isn't allowed, my agitation builds up and combines with everything that's happened and creates bitterness. and there's nothing i can do about that. i need to stop wrestling with something i can't beat. i am very happy to wrestle anything, for the sake of such a valuable friendship, but honestly, the ball's not in my lane. it's in yours. and i am moving on. fighting for something without a plan for winning that fight may be... noble? ...in a twisted sense, but that doesn't make it a good idea. even fighting for something simply by being patient, isn't a good idea in some cases.



if at some point in the future you'd like to hang out, you know, like... without a chaperone... i'd like to talk about that possibility. i'm not waiting for you anymore, but i'm not saying goodbye forever either. i just can't do these... pictures of cigars, and beer, and reviews of wine, anymore. i need to actually smoke a cigar with someone in order to engage in friendship. i need to actually eat and drink with them in order to be merry. the stuff of true friendship makes the casual stuff meaningful for me, not the other way around. i understand some people use those things to ease into friendship, but for me all of that falls into the "fake it 'til you make it" category. i possessed an inherent aversion to fakeness already; it's only grown, over time, and i find myself making new boundaries now, of necessity.

another thing that bothers me (in addition to casual interactions unsupported by substance), is watching you form friendships with other individuals. Gianna, Stephanie, even Jerad, whom you interact with throughout the week. and i understand that Gianna & Steph are... well, female. but you know how insignificant that boundary is to me. i respect the inherent differences between male-male and male-female friendships, but you and i approach them so differently (now). maybe if you had never let me so close to you, i wouldn't be having such a hard time with the distance now. who knows.

full disclosure: even though a lot of the interaction you have with Jerad revolves around ministry work, practical stuff, et cetera, i'm still jealous of that. i would love to have that. working together can be a substantial investment in a friendship. i miss that. i would be nourished by it. but watching it occur from a distance, between two individuals who don't have much time for friendship with me, and with whom i have been very close in the past? it isn't healthy, no matter the amount of good intentions on their end[s]. at best it's painful. at worst it feeds my bitterness. i feel as though everything i put into these friendships is falling apart. so, being around the two of you, but not with you, is actually terrible for me. it goes even further than that: if you're around Jerad when i am, i feel less inclined to interact with him, because his closer friend is present. (i know it isn't a competition; this isn't junior high. but there are some valid social dynamics at work that hinder me.)

similarly: talking about good things that we want to happen in the future is not enough for me to have a friendship with someone. this applies really well to Jerad. we have so many good things that are technically available to us to enjoy, yet it comes down once again to my most important love language: quality time. i don't just prefer it. i need it. my friendships will atrophy without it. when i do have it, every thing else falls into its respective place of value: all the inside jokes, common interests, etc. but without it i can't function in a friendship. so despite the superlative quality and potential that my friendship with him has, i have to accept the reality of things: that he may soon be taking on some very demanding responsibilities, and that these will likely leave him with even less time for me than he has currently.



these are the decisions i have to make, and my explanations for making them. i welcome your questions; i'll even take them in writing (or typing). or on the phone, despite how much i normally dislike phone calls.

what i will not welcome any longer, is all the trappings of friendship, without the substance of it. outside of a friendship that's sustained by quality time, i don't want any casual texts. i don't want any casual interactions. at best they're empty; in this case they're painful, like... ghost pains in an amputated limb. people pay $$, to go through therapy, to eliminate those. i'm doing away with them. to be extra clear: i would withstand any amount of pain in defense of an actual, current friendship. but to go through that for something that hasn't existed for months is foolishness.

our friendship has been doing the zombie walk. i won't support that any longer. i would be glad to resurrect it, given the opportunity. i would be literally overjoyed. please believe that.



since high-school i've campaigned for a narrow definition of the verb 'love.' acts of sacrifice, and the giving of intangible resources have become my favourite ways to express it. and i recognize myriad other modes of expression. but one of the ways people often use it, seems to indicate fondness or affection. it's that definition that's becoming the norm for me with each of you, and, ironically, our increasing lack of closeness will make it easier for me to think of you fondly.

worded more simply: most of the time, when someone says "i love you" what they really mean is "you matter to me in my heart." this feels a little bit silly to me, because what difference is that supposed to make in my life?

i know both of you have made many, many sacrifices for me. you've both expressed your care for me in very tangible ways, in the past. i treasure those memories. most of my favourite ones consisted of mutual care and enjoyment of life. those experiences made our friendship very well-nourished; some of the best-nourished of my life, in fact. ...but they are in the past.

and this is me, accepting that. now i'll be able to listen to the Weepies and the Honey Trees without getting upset. i'll actually enjoy some of my favorite artists again! even Nickel Creek has been somewhat of an emotional battle each time i played them. i'll play them more often now, without any of those dark feelings that should never have obscured them. i tell you this because i want you to know that this decision is good for me in many ways. it may seem a small thing, for me to be able to freely enjoy certain musicks, but for me it's big, and represents something even bigger: health.

for everything you've given to me, including but not limited to health, i am endlessly grateful. i would enjoy regular opportunities to love you and to be loved, to enjoy and to be enjoyed. but for now i'll start learning how to be content with simply valuing what we shared.

thank you over and over, and again after that.