Tuesday, October 28, 2014

We interrupt your scheduled blog to bring you this public service message: Some choices suck...

You will have to forgive me this time around, I'm a little raw. I've had to go through with something I didn't want to do, yet I had to.

You may have heard me gloss over something I didn't want to do, well, this was it.

I had to hurt someone.

I've been dating a girl for a while and she's the most undeserving of the pain I had to inflict. If in anyway I could have spared her, I would have.

I couldn't.

I've been agonising over how things didn't feel right and how I was feeling miserable, opting to sacrifice myself rather than hurt another. I'd begun loosing sleep, having horrific nightmares when I did sleep. I'd feel fatigued and restless all the time...

To say I wasn't doing good was an understatement.

I had been trying to find meaning to life, a way to make things OK again, I abandoned personal projects to make time for the relationship, it was never enough.

I tried to pretend, to convince myself that I'd feel better soon, I didn't.

I wrestled with feeling like crap, felt like I was lying on a daily basis and I just couldn't do it anymore.

I just ended it this week.

It hurt, a lot. I imagine it her hurt more.

I didn't fall out of love or stop caring, it just wasn't right and I needed to end it before any further pain was caused. I don't like causing pain, and I take it hard if I am left with no choice. I felt weak, unable to go through with it.

I've been there, I've been rejected and cast aside, I know from the darkest deepest depths of my heart the sheer agony it is to have someone whom you care for reject you.

It wrenches my own heart to think that I've done that to someone else.

Some choices suck, there's no good or bad choice, just the only choice and it's bad, but it's worse if you refuse to make it.

This is one of those numb moments where I just have to trust in God that I've done the right thing. It feels like I have, but I still feel bad.

This is definitely a Romans 8:28 moment:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

I dunno how it's going to be worked to the good, I guess I just have to trust that it is.

At the end of the day I think Hebrews 11:1 sums it up nicely.

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

I don't see how this will work to the good, but I hope for it and if I have faith for that then I can be confident in the knowledge that it will.

Some choices suck, but we just have to make them anyway and let God do the rest. He has to, because I don't want anyone to hurt for any longer than they have to...

This is the challenging this of attempting to live an open and transparent life, something significant happens and I can't quite focus on what I wanted to, don't worry normal services will resume next time.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The attitude of loneliness (Part 3): I'm such a burden, you're better off without me.

This series was originally a two part series, but I think there's more to be said, I might not be able to figure out enough in my usual two week window to coherently author a whole post, so like last time I might need the occasional change but I'm learning that I'm not alone, there's others like me.

Who struggle and try not to let it show.

Who stumble and hope nobody noticed.

Who hurt almost daily and pretend it's OK.

This is for you, as much as it is for me, if you don't understand what this is like, maybe this blog post might help enlighten you.

"You don't know what I've been through, if you did, you wouldn't be talking to me. I'm broken and not worth fixing and if you tried I'd bring you down."

This is how it is sometimes, for some of us at least. 

It sucks, because those two sentences are life sentences. Everything that can hold a mind prisoner can be contained in those words. A mind prison is the most effective prison in the world, it requires very little work to build, simply words, events can build one too, but words are enough. I have, at some point or another said them to someone, or acted as if I had said them.

I'm ashamed of many of the things that have happened to me, some were my fault, some weren't. 

Somehow though, I rationalised that because stuff kept coming my way I accepted it as the norm, perhaps I even deserved it. It's wrong, but it's so easy to believe it.

I was set on fire: Not my fault.

I was beaten up regularly because I didn't fit in: Not my fault.

I was assaulted at uni by a guy on PCP: Not. My. Fault.

I believed it was though and this is how it begins.

Stuff happens, we all react in our own way, but I adopted the identity that was pushed upon me. 

This was a negative identity, one I imagine most people would dislike if they had seen my past. I assumed (was almost afriad) others would agree with what my past and my mind prison stated rather than who I am.

I'm sorry, I truly am, I struggle with this. I struggle with accepting I am not the words that were spoken about me. I sometimes feel smaller than my past, I sometimes wake up thinking that the people in my life somehow disapprove of me because of my past, not approve of me for who I am.

I really am sorry for feeling like this some days.

This conflict between current self and past self caused cognitive dissonance. It felt like my brain was burning and my heart was breaking all at once. It felt like I was loosing my mind.

It created brokenness, in myself, in relationships, in opportunities...

I struggled with this, I occasionally attempted to open up but sooner or later I get hurt again and I retreated, hiding my face, my feelings and my interests. 

Sometimes I was betrayed by those I sought comfort in and I hurt, but I rationalised it, my past piped up, reminded me that I'm not worth it. It wasn't their fault, it was mine, I relied on them too much, I pushed them away. Either by being too open or too closed, I could argue it either way.

It causes me to reach the next step, I was broken, but worse, I believed not worth fixing, I had my reasons for this. My friends wouldn't have left, that relationship wouldn't have ended, etc. I sank further and further down.

Eventually I meet new people because that just happens in life and I had so much stuff that I felt I was a burden to anyone who might seek to get to know me, because my past interfered and trapped me in the never ending cycle of not knowing how or when to open up in a healthy manner (if at all).

So I lied.

"Yeah, I'm ok."

But, I keep believing what my past defined me as, so I remained cut off from some pretty amazing things.

There's was a way out, I had to learn to recognise when it was my time to change (and I did have to change), it's not something anyone could do for me.

My problem was another attitude: "This is my pain, you can't have it!"

I didn't want to let go of it, because I'd lived with it so long, I didn't know how to live without it, on days when I felt numb, I could trawl the depths of myself and find pain, I'd feel like crap, but that was something.

The fact is, you can't just extract someone's pain, you're left with a void, a great big emptiness where once an identity was.

It needs to be replaced, maybe all at once, maybe a bit at a time, again, everyone is different. This is the hardest part, because it's almost impossible to imagine anything beyond what there is, survival is the only priority, if there's any priorities at all.

I learned that the only way to do this was to change who it is that speaks over you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 states: "So then if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, look, what is new has come."

God has authority over my past, it is gone, but, it explicitly states that something new is put in its place.

When I changed the author of my identity I changed the nature of my identity and when I did that, I started to see things differently, little victories here and there, slowly adding up til the battles become sure victories.

I'd like to say I'm over it, I'm not, we are all works in progress after all. I am just thankful that I have more days defined the way God sees me than the way I saw myself.

Til next time.

Of sheep and psalms.

I want to do some bible study... Of sorts. I'm not an expert, but a long time ago I tried to understand a passage using my own frame of reference and I thought I'd share it.

I want to explore other things to include in my blog and this is one of the things I have in mind.

The passage I want to study is Psalm 23, now the Psalms are quite artsy and use a lot of metaphors, some of which the 21st century world in which I inhabit might not make a lot of sense anymore. So I decided to attempt to understand the metaphor and just post what I had.

I broke the passage into six logical sections and study them piece by piece, so with nothing more ado here's my humble interpretation.

Psalm 23 (English Standard Version) reads as follows:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters and he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Section 1:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."

OK, so I'm not a sheep, but it's all about historical context, you see before CCTV, ABSOs and the mass culling of country critters someone had to keep watch over the sheep personally, a Shepard.

They lived outside with the animals, they would have honked worse than a bevy of swans! You think some people on the bus smell bad? Imagine an adolescent male who lives outside.

In a field.

With animals.

And regularly engages in mortal combat with apex predators for a living.

Trust me, you've got it easy.

Sheep were their life, you don't take on big beasties if you're not invested in what it is you're responsible for.

In short, a Shepherd loved the sheep.

This is saying that God is basically our bad-ass beast slaying guardian that has our needs covered.

I like to read it as follows:

"With God as my provider I have everything I need."

Section 2:

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters and he restores my soul."

So, I'm supposed to be a sheep and what do sheep like, other than sheep nuts? Well, grass and water I suppose!

And because I'm a sheep (in the metaphor), I guess really green grass and a nice calm lake to drink from would be a pretty sweet deal actually.

It basically means that through God I've got all the things I could ever need, and I'm able to rest, relax and feel restored, I kinda read it this way.

"He brings me to a prosperous place where I will be refreshed."

Section 3:

"He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake."

Righteousness is a tricky one, it's one of those words I can use in context but could I define it? Well, I looked it up and it means that ones actions are just or right. So, God leads (or gently guides me) down right and just paths, but why?

This is where the second part comes in, if there's a for, then it's an implied answer to a why, so why does God do this? Well, for his name's sake, again, this was another thing that sounded fluffy and artsy and hard for me to understand, until I read it put this way: For his 'reputations' sake.

So I read the section this way:
"He guides the direction of my life towards goodness and justice because he is true to his word."

Section 4:

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

That's some heavy stuff, but, sometimes life is.

I think the first part is rather self explanatory, up to the rod and staff bit, what the heck are rods and staffs?

Well, it keeps making references to sheep and shepherds, so I figured they were tools of the trade and I looked them up. A shepherd didn't have much in the way of possessions and could only take what he could carry, these two things were the two things he'd rely on to keep the sheep, but what did they do?

A rod was a handmade weapon by the shepherd himself, it had a clubbed end and the shepherd would use it to defend the sheep from predators.

A staff was different, it's not a walking aid, as it might sound, it's closer to a crook (that thing Bo-Peep carries in Toy Story). It was another long stick with a curled end, if a sheep was wandering off in the wrong direction and shepherd would hook the staff around the sheep and yank it back into walking in the right direction.

So, basically the two tools a shepherd had in his possession at all times were a stick to defend the sheep and a staff to herd the sheep in the correct direction.

And so the passage according to Neil continues to read as such:

"Even though the direction may go through a dark place, I have nothing to fear because I am never alone, I can rest easy because he knows, protects and guides me."

Section 5:

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."

The first element to this is again, a bit arty in the language but basically it meant to have a meal served in your honour with all the people who hate you invited as guests. That's pretty audacious, only madness or sheer confidence does that. 

It gets bolder though!

To anoint someone with oil means to show great favour, or setting aside for a special purpose. At a meal full of people who hate you and to have you selected and proclaimed to be set aside for greater things, to be blessed. These 'guests' must be grinding their teeth so hard they're almost down to sawdust in their mouths.

And yet, there's more!

We are then blessed so much that we can't keep it to ourselves. At this meal full of people who have it in for you, to be set aside for a greater thing than those there and to be blessed so much you are overflowing and presumably blessing these people who hate you, they must be so confused!

So, to modernise this a little bit:

"He will honour me in the worst of times and bless me in front of those who would do me harm, more than I can contain, so that I will overflow and bless everyone I meet."

Section 6:

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

I thought I had this tied down, but then I looked deeper into this and looked up 'mercy' because, it does have a few different possible meanings depending on the context and what I found was fascinating!

1) Mercy, from the French to mean 'price paid'.
2) Compassionate treatment.
3) Something to be thankful for.

So, all my life, I have my life paid for, I am treated compassionately and I am thankful for that! 

We know that our lives have been redeemed, that is, we've been bought back, price paid: John 3:16.

We know that we have a compassionate God: Jeremiah 29:11.

I'm certainly thankful for that!

My final interpretation comes in this form:

"My life has been bought back, I am thankful because God is compassionate and will never stop loving or caring for me, forever more will I be in his presence."

In full:

"With God as my provider I have everything I need.

He brings me to a prosperous place where I will be refreshed.

He guides the direction of my life towards goodness and justice because he is true to his word.

Even though the direction may go through a dark place, I have nothing to fear because I am never alone, I can rest easy because he knows, protects and guides me.

He will honour me in the worst of times and bless me in front of those who would do me harm, more than I can contain, so that I will overflow and bless everyone I meet.

My life has been bought back, I am thankful because God is compassionate and will never stop loving or caring for me, forever more will I be in his presence."

That concludes the first time I've ever revealed my own personal study of the bible, if you liked it and want to hear more, let me know, feedback is always welcome.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The attitude of loneliness (Part 2): I don't fit in, so I won't even try to.

This is part two of a series I started called "The Attitude Of Isolation", I previously wrote about an entitled attitude "People don't make an effort to get to know me", I'll be following this up with a second attitude "I don't fit in, so I won't even try".

Yeah, it's gonna be a long one, best make it a venti!

I'm a nerd.

I know, I know, it's hard to believe, but I am.

In college, I was the only one seemingly fascinated by what I was being taught, in a class full of nerds, I was to those nerds what nerds are to regular people.

University was a very similar experience, I thought I'd escaped the usual high school cliques and banal conversation that was basically its own pidgin English of sports, dull pop culture references and the obsession over who had achieved the most admirable feat regarding alcohol/women/money/whatever.

There were some guys in particular I didn't enjoy spending time with, we didn't have a witty term at the time, but I understand we now call those people "brogrammers". The stereotypical 'bro' who chest bumps and "woos" while clenching fists when an indeterminate team score a goal or point, or whatever it is in the sport that's on the tiny bar TV.

Disclaimer: Not all men are Bros and not all Bros are men.

I was invited out a few times and discovered the opposite to the "brogrammer" the self proclaimed "alpha geek", someone I later discovered achieved this title by learning the dungeons and dragons rulebook backwards, yet after four years had not successfully transitioned into his second year. I'm still not clear how that merit awarded him the title he held...

Everywhere there was an event I might have wanted to go to, the alpha nerd was there, everyone knew him, he was ubiquitous. The mind boggling thing was, most people just accepted this mentality of there being an "alpha nerd" and they'd have to fall into line, and they did! 

It really was like a wolf pack with him snapping at everyone else's necks if something happened in the wider nerd subculture he didn't like. 

Social life became a frustrating exercise of trying to avoid speaking to this guy because if you had a real need to discuss some uni work with someone on the course, he'd sooner or later hijack the conversation and talk about vampire the masquerade for half and hour and invite the person you were talking to away to meet someone new.

I never got the chance to get to know even those that looked like I might have wanted to get to know. I wasn't in the inner circle of the alpha nerd and all those I did share some interests were more concerned with fitting in and being someone else's minion than getting to know anyone outside the circle.

This had a long term effect on me. I gave up, I stopped trying to fit in. I closed myself off and in my final year I barely left the house. I poured myself into study to the point of sickness and that was the worst thing I could have done.

I thought I was protecting myself. In reality I was only teaching myself to not get involved in things I might want to.

I'd already decide before I had went somewhere that I wasn't going to fit in and wasn't going to have fun. So, having assessed that I wasn't going to have fun, was going to be on my own and would feel awkward all evening, I could do that from the comfort of my own home without needing to put shoes on.

The most dangerous part of this attitude is that it creates a prison in your mind and it'll trick you, it'll give you reasons to not do things, reasons to hide away and disengage.

I found ways to justify myself, well reasoned and perfectly logical arguments to others about why I "can't make it" when in reality I just didn't feel like there was a place for me at any given event.

When I see people retreat and close themselves off, I feel a great sense of empathy and if I feel like I want to connect with those people. I understand, I might not know the story, but I understand the feelings.

I always operated by giving to other people but I never allowed others to influence me. It was rather selfish of me and wasn't very healthy. It's taken me the best part of two weeks to get to this tiny little revelation into words and that is:

If I want to fit in around people, I have to take the initiative and create a place in my life for people to fit in.

I really can't place enough emphasis on that statement, so I'll say it again.

If you want to fit in, create room for people in your own life to do life with you and see what happens!

Proverbs 18:1 (English Standard Version) reads:

"Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgement."

Well... That's pretty black and white in regards to the matter, it's not easy, in fact it's downright challenging, pretty much like everything in life, but it does show that everything I'm having to learn the hard way is pointing me in the right direction.

Once again I hope that this makes sense and it if not then opps, better luck next time.

This stuff is hard to pour through so I'm going to take the next blog off from this series but I'll be coming back to it, with part three: "I'm a burden, you don't want to know me."