Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dream: Basement Windows

I found myself in a back yard cookout at a certain house. I remembered touring this house after it had been remodeled a few years ago, before it was sold to the current occupants. Had I toured it as part of a class I had taken ? I couldn’t remember. But I remembered loving the house. I had envisioned it as a home that would be sold for a lot of money, well maintained, manicured lawn, in a white collar neighborhood. But as I looked at its current state, I realized the family now living in it did not fit this image. They had already let the house fall into disrepair, with paint peeling and cracking, the siding rotting. It hardly looked like the same house. They were not trashy people, but not wealthy either. Blue Collar, and rough around the edges. I wondered how they qualified for a house this size in the first place.  Were they trapped in it financially?  I wondered. 

The grill was fired up, the man was playing catch, and the woman was traipsing in and out of the back door with items for the picnic table. She looked stressed, haggard. I sat in my lawn chair, surveying the scene, wondering how I ended up at this cookout to begin with since I didn’t know the owners . Then my eyes became fixated—the large windows to the basement were opened, airing it out. There was light shining in the basement, and it looked as though the family had made it a work room or project room.
I suddenly  remembered being in that room at night just a few years before. The air was dark and dank and suffocating. No air movement at all. The windows were the only respite from the stillness. I was with a group, on a tour at night . . .a ghost tour.

“Is this house haunted? I heard it is.” Someone from the present asked, and it brought me out of my memory. I answered before the owners could, “Yes it is. That’s how I know this house. I came here looking for the spirits with a group of people, and we found them.” The family froze, tired eyes glaring at me, as if I uncovered a dark secret. They lived in this haunting, and likely were unable to financially get out of it. They were prisoners to this place. They had no idea at purchase what they were getting.

I have been in a dark, dank place in my own mind before. It’s a bit of a basement, and it’s full of ghosts. It’s full of fear and sadness. It’s a deep, dark depression. But I have also emerged from it and don’t care to go back. I have tiptoed around it since, looking into the darkness with curiosity, sometimes drawn to it. But the fear and memories pull me back to reality. The ghosts in that basement can damage a person, age them, destroy them layer by layer. Even the most beautiful and talented person, who was meant for great things, could be worn down quickly by their own demons, lurking in their mind. Who put the demons there? Experiences? Genetics? Abuse? All of the above? I don’t know.

Once you dwell in that darkness, your eyes and body adjusts to the surroundings. You get used to the atmosphere. An outsider can walk in and immediately lose their breath, but a dweller will feel at home. But even the dweller can get a glimpse of life outside the window and realize it’s time for some fresh air. Maybe they have a moment of clarity and open the windows and shades on their own, and maybe a visitor throws them open in disgust. But those moments of clarity are not constant, because the windows will eventually close again, and the fresh air will turn stagnant again.

Sadly, some people are trapped for whatever reason, and never escape the darkness. Sometimes it’s because they never change their surroundings, and stay in the myre. They refuse to walk away from relationships, jobs, and homes, even if harmful, simply out of familiarity. I think I escaped because of a moment of divine intervention—a moment where an opportunity arose to grow emotionally, and I was mentally ready to deal with the past. I took the first step, and followed through to the 2nd step. Instead of blaming the world, I blamed myself. So I was able to seek help for myself. Those that blame the world, generally refuse help, because they don’t think they need it. They are the most difficult to reach.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Am I "Right"?

My divorce decree is in a file for safe keeping. There was a time I felt like I was glued to it. I had to pull it out at random times as I changed my name, purchased my home, etc. I remember feeling like it was proof of my failure and yet, proof of my freedom. I wondered if I would ever be able to go a few months without pulling it out as verification of my single status. It has now sat in that file for probably 6 or 7 years, untouched. It has lost its power over me.

I was lucky. Because I had no kids, the divorce was swift, the anger was minimized, and the ties were cut. Finished.

I look at divorces that involve kids, and I now realize the way that one document can both protect and damn a parent. It is the lifeline of the divorced parents. It holds tremendous power. It doesn’t just give custody, it dictates money, rules of engagement, dating, holidays, expenses, and activities. It was created to protect the child’s best interests, but it does not have the ability to foresee the future. Jobs change, emotional states change, kids grow, and life is both cruel and gracious. But the document remains, attempting to keep a steady, straight road for the child, so that they are least affected by the chaos that may surround their parents. But as life evolves, it does not.

It is sad that we need a document to be civil--to prevent us from gigging our exes for selfish reasons. Money is usually the source of the anger and the division. It becomes less about the child’s needs, and more about the parent’s desires.

All this talk about this “Christian society” is ridiculous when you see a divorced couple leverage for money and time with their children—and one or both is a Christian. Wouldn’t a true Christian be willing to not only be the best parent he/she can be, but also allow the other parent to do the same without making efforts to debase or hinder them? But the truth is, even Christians suffer emotional problems, greed, and discord. Even Christians can be subpar parents, can stunt a child’s emotional growth from their actions, and can be as evil in action as any non-Christian. Yet, as Christians, we like to think we have God on our side, no matter what. I don’t care how much you go to church, if you are a card carrying church member, how much you pray, or how much you talk religious jargon, doing so doesn’t make you a better parent, a better person, or “right. It defaces Christianity—and God-- when you act in greed and selfishly, and yet claim you have God on your side.

I don’t believe God picks sides. I see one athlete thanking God for a touchdown, and yet I wonder how many men on the opposing team prayed before that same game. I don’t think God cares about touchdowns.

Can we all stop pretending that because we have Jesus in our hearts, that we are the “right” people or the “right” parents?

Thursday, August 18, 2011


4 months ago, I ran my dishwasher once every 2 weeks. I had gone 6 months without turning on my oven or stovetop. I did laundry once a week—2 loads.  I had money in savings. I had a cruise booked, a new gun to shoot, and went to the bars regularly with my friends to watch ridiculous shows and drink red bull. I worked out a few times a week at the gym, and pretty much did what I pleased.

Now, I’m drinking Xenergy for pep, running the dishwasher, cooking, and doing laundry DAILY.  I have canceled the cruise, depleted the savings, avoided the gym, and haven’t taken the time to shoot my gun even once. When I think about home repairs, refinancing, bills, birthdays, and extracurricular activities, groceries, and school clothes, I’m thankful for the simplicity I functioned in for so long. The merging of our households has been peaceful, albeit expensive at the onset. Even in the increased responsibility I have faced, I have still found my home to be stable.   

But at times, I get overwhelmed. Sometimes it’s because the presence of a child brings huge responsibility and even greater patience. I know a young girl’s mind is both na├»ve and manipulative, and sorting through her words to decipher motive can be difficult for anyone. Sometimes it’s when I’m looking at the unfinished remodel work, or the uneven settling that has occurred with the house. I know that fixing it up and selling it is not going to happen soon--and that was on my list of things to accomplish quickly. Sometimes it’s when I’m at work and trying to plan out my bills, knowing that we have birthdays, Christmas, and other activities arising that cost money.
But all of this is my choosing.  I do not regret or bemoan it. I love them.  I have made sacrifices specifically for them, because I believe what we share is truly great.

My biggest problem will be with myself. I know how my mind works….I will worry and toil over others until I am neglected. Then I will become frustrated. My expectation is that others will see my contributions and reward me for them without my demanding it be so. Isn’t that how it should be?  Yes, but life doesn’t work like that. People get used to the status quo. And they overlook the obvious among the chaos.

So the money, the house, the chores….none of those things are real challenges. The challenge will be within myself. I must remember to make time for myself. I must provide for myself as much as I do others and not play the martyr role. I must allow them to be as involved in my life as I am in theirs. And I must be willing to retain my own identity.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A house is not a home

I look forward to walking into the house I’ve had for 9 years—a house I’ve never felt completely settled into—and cooking, doing laundry, and relaxing with my family.

9 years of projects on this house, and none of them finished. Every project was an attempt to make it feel more like home to me. If the floors were this, if the walls were that, if I tear this out…….then it will feel more like home. No project was finished, because I quickly learned that it wasn’t the house that made the home---it was the heart. And a lonely heart dwells in a lonely house. Not a home. So my house has felt lonely to me on a very basic level since I purchased it—more of a jail than a home. Laundry, showers, and rest are the only things I used it for.

Right now, my house is full of exposed sheetrock, uninstalled lights, and unfinished paint jobs. But it is suddenly home. I have reason to be there, with people and things to look forward to. I have hope again. He has given me hope. She has opened my eyes.

I am thankful for the house now, after years of cursing it. I am thankful for the stability it has provided me, even as I tore into its walls, certain to make it change to fit my personality. In the end, it wasn’t about the layout, the finishes, the lights, or any of that cosmetic stuff. It was about my heart. The house is still the house it has always been. But my change of heart, and the presence of “their” hearts, has made it home.