Tuesday Tuneup 65

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Why do you ask?

Q. Isn’t it Wednesday?

A. So what?

Q. Aren’t you supposed to write these on Tuesdays?

A. How consistent have I been with that? 

Q. Didn’t I ask you?

A. Well then.  You have your answer.   It’s Wednesday morning.   It’s Christmas.   I wrote two of them yesterday and hated them both.   I’ll be tempted to delete this one, like I deleted both of the others.  I hate this day.  It’s a day of celebration for others, and of mourning and grieving for me.  It’s this day that I used to love and have come to dread.  It’s finally here.  It’s upon me.   And I’m miserable.

Q. Aren’t you forgetting the “reason for the season?”

A. Thanks for reminding me of the most ludicrous cliche imaginable.  If Jesus Himself  down and expressed His own disgust with this ridiculous sham of a so-called holy day, would you ask Him that same question?

Q. Aren’t you only projecting your own disgust onto Him?

A. I beg your pardon!   I’m only asking a question.  To be honest with you, I don’t believe Jesus has any particular opinion about this holiday at all.   I believe He relates to individuals on an individual basis, whoever it is who seeks relationship with Him.  He is therefore pleased with some people on Christmas, and not others.

Q. And you are one of the ones He is pleased with?

A. I didn’t say that!   How can He possibly be pleased with me if I am not at all pleased with myself?

Q. Are you suggesting that He would suddenly become pleased with you if you were to become pleased with your own self?

A. Of course not!   I could become pleased with myself over the slightest success or victory at damned near anything — whether Jesus was tracking with it or not.

Q. Seriously?

A. Yes – seriously!  I’m the type of person who feels good when he’s accomplished something successfully, and feels lousy when he hasn’t.  Isn’t that obvious?  Aren’t I transparent?

Q. When was the last time you accomplished something successfully?

A. Too long ago.  It’s been days, at least.  Maybe weeks.

Q. So then it’s not really Christmas that is the issue, is it?

A. No, not really.  But I’ll make no bones about it.  I do not like this holiday!  I don’t believe it has much to do with the birth of Jesus, or His life or teachings, much at all.  We hear the stories at church, if we go to church, and then leave them behind.   It’s a sham; it’s disgusting – but yes, you’re right.  That’s my own disgust, not His.

Q. So why the disgust?

A. Because — it used to be — there was family.  There was connection, there was warmth.  We opened gifts.  We had a Christmas tree.  I played the piano, and we sang carols together.

Q. What happened to all that?

A. At some point, I just became  —  I don’t know.  Uninvited.   Mom and Dad are long gone, there isn’t a “parent’s house” anymore.   I tried to reestablish family, but I failed.

Q. Why is everything about your personal success or failure?

A. I don’t know.  My dad was kinda hard on me, kept saying I couldn’t do anything right.   I just want to prove that I can do some things right.  When I get something right, I feel warm inside.  Like loved.

Q. Loved?

A. Yes. Loved.  God loves me because He lets me get some things right.

Q. Isn’t that a rather limited view of love?

A. It’s a start.

Q. Wouldn’t you have started long ago?

A. Of course.  But maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.

Q. What do you mean?

A. It might not be in my destiny for me to be a very successful family man.

Q. But are you content to be alone?

A. Usually.  But not on Christmas.   And not lately, to be honest with you.  Ever since my daughter left, just kinda — lonely, and feeling like I failed.  

Christmas loneliness and grief 'very, very common', says clinical counsellor | CBC News

Q. How is it that Christmas brings about these feelings of discontent?

A. It is on Christmas that the pain of knowing that other people are with family, seeming to have a good time, is most highlighted.  The pain that I am excluded — for some reason.  Naturally this leads to misery.  Especially when combined with the fact that everything closes down.  No food services.  No Starbucks, no MacDonald’s.  No library.   No restaurants.   How do I get food?  I have to stock up — well, you know, you get through the season, you get through the day.   I’m thinking MacDonald’s might be open till noon on some kind of truncated schedule.   Might as well hoof it down there once this thing’s over.

Q. So that is your idea of Christmas?   Spending the morning at a McDonald’s?

A. No.  My idea is still to gather around somewhere where there’s family and play a piano — but that’s long past.

Q. Could it not also be future?

A. Do I have a very good history at holding a family together?

Q. Could you have given up too easily?

A. Perhaps.

Q. Might you be blaming yourself too much?

A. Maybe.

Q. So what is your strategy?   How will you get through the day?

A. Well – I can start by repenting.

Q. What sin have you committed?

A. I mean – repenting of my attitude.  Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.  I lack faith right now.

Q. How can you get faith?

A. By choosing it.

Q. And what then?

A. Um –  I can pray.  I’ll start praying again.

Q. Why and when did you stop?

A. It was a few days back, after — something horrible happened personally, involving the loss of a friend — or maybe just the misplacement of the friend — she did wish me a happy Christmas back this morning, by text —

Q. Then she has not abandoned you, has she?

A. Maybe not.  Then again, she might have just been being nice.

Q. Isn’t that a start?

A. Yeah.  Lots of things can be starts.

Q. So what’s the strategy?

A. You make it sound like I’m fighting a war.

Q. Aren’t you?

A. I shouldn’t be.  I should just be surrendering, trusting in God, having faith, looking expectantly for the good that will inevitably come . . .

Q. On this horrible day of Christmas?

A. You said it.

Q. I’m curious, though.   Why did the severance with your friend cause you to stop praying?

A. She has always reflected Christ in my life.  I can’t explain it.  Maybe I put too much of a burden on her.   There were times when nobody else even believed I was a Christian, and yet she still had faith in me.  And now she’s gone.

Q. Can you — pray anyway?

A. And not be reminded of her?   I can’t even read my Bible anymore.  I read it — but it’s not the same.  It’s as though I’m reading her Bible, not mine.   

Q. So you’re — experiencing loss?

A. Loss upon loss.  Here I’ve already given up.  I’ll just say it:

Christmas in America is a time for people of privilege to enjoy the presence of other people of privilege.   They could at least invite those who lack over to their houses.  But they don’t.   And what’s that got to do with the so-called spirit of Christmas?  It’s not spiritual in any sense to exclude others from a gathering that is supposed to be held holy and pleasing in the eyes of God.

Q. Come on now!   Do you truly believe that Christmas has been reduced to only this?

A. Only this and worse.  I used to have a friend.   And I don’t any longer.

Q. But don’t you have a friend in Jesus?

A. I do.  And honestly, thank you for reminding me.  If I can just make my mind turn to Him – maybe when I’m on the way to that McDonald’s — I bet they’re open — and it can’t possibly be as bad as that one Christmas was when I was homeless and it was raining — and nobody would let us in  . . . 

Q. Your Christmas has been a lot worse than this one, hasn’t it?

A. Well yeah – it beats that one year, I think it was 2015, the only people I saw all day were about twenty-five other angry homeless people, it was pouring rain, I remember logging onto Facebook and just screaming at everybody — it just seemed heartless that they could keep flashing all these festivities on their timelines — if one even suggested being invited over on Christmas Day, they made you feel like you were a horrible person for even thinking such a thing . . . 

Q. But you are not homeless now, are you?

A. No I’m not.   

Q. And have you not become heartless in your own rite?   

A: I have not!

Q. How many homeless people are you letting in on Christmas?

Pause.  

A. I’ve let a lot of homeless people in this house, and you know it.

Q. What about Christmas?

A. You know I have my reasons.

Q. Didn’t they all have their reasons?

A. No doubt.  To put it mildly, to let strangers inside your house is risky business.  But I wasn’t a stranger to any of those people I was buzzing on Christmas Day on Facebook in the rain that day.   They all knew me.   They knew exactly what my situation was.

Q. And their response was?

A. Denial and disdain.   

Q. Why do you think that was?

A. Who likes a party–pooper?   Why should I be raining on their parade?

Q. You’re not raining on them now, are you?

A. Not that I know of  —  unless some of the more lurkish among them are reading these words, and feeling the storm.  

Q. And you’re not being rained on now either, are you?

A. More like snowed on.  But not at the moment, no.   I’m indoors – and I should be grateful.

Q. Are you?

A.  Grateful?   One wishes the word did not apply.   But yes, come to think of it, I am grateful.   I should be, after all.  Things could be a lot worse.   I could be robbed of anything approaching a First Amendment right in some parts of the world.   I could be put to death just for writing these words.

Q. So – what’s your strategy?

A. Well . . .  I don’t know how strategic it is, but I just made a decision.   This tuneup needs to be wrapped up anyway.   It’s dragging on kinda long.

Q. What’s your decision?

A. I’m going to go down to that McDonald’s and find someone more miserable than myself.

Q. Then what?

A. I’ll take it from there.   I’m at least usually a happy person.  I can share my happiness with them, even if I don’t experience it at the time.

Q. But won’t you just be just like the people on Facebook, flaunting their festivities?

A. I’ll try not to be.  Thanks for the warning.

Q. Anything else?

A. Not that I can think of.

Q. Cold feet?

A. Some.

Q. Just do it?   

A. Wish me luck.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1289

1. Slept almost all day yesterday being sick. Awoke to Danielle’s call in the morning, and have noticed that I have much more functional energy today in general. This too has passed.

2. Am here at the local cafe, slowly getting oriented at the round table.

3. There’s the feel of a new day with new hope and promise.

4. Read Proverbs 7 and all of Titus. Stuff in Titus stood out for me, bearing further consideration.

5. Heard from Jeff X on Shenandoah.

6. Echo helped so much when I was sick, made food, gave me water and tea and ibuprofen. It’s nice to have her around the house, and my heart is warmed for her being here.

7. Helped to talk with Danielle.

8. Echo should get paid today for her job at the brewery.

9. I think I’m awake enough spiritually that I can get into my work now. The work is not the most important thing, and when I think that way, I begin to err.

10. His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

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Gratitude List 1253

1. Slept about 5 hrs — an hour and a half from 10:30 till midnight, and then another 3 1/2 from 2:30 till 6. Grateful to have fulfilled the requirement.

2. Ran only 2 miles at a snail’s pace, neither for speed, distance, or tempo. It was a good warm-up for the Big Five tomorrow morning, hopefully combining all three.

3. Very nice talk with my friend Holly last night. She’s doing well, house-sitting in Grass Valley on a large acreage with swimming pool.

4. Sold another $45 worth of Abandon albums on Bandcamp yesterday, in addition to the $30 I made in hard copy CD sales. So, a $75 day yesterday, once all proceeds manifest.

5. Saw an amazingly gorgeous sunset walking home from the cafe last night. I took it to mean that the sun is setting beautifully on a newly completed stage of my life.

6. Set up Discord to chat with Emily, and fixed Google Hangouts. Had a great talk with my daughter on Hangouts & squared some things away.

7. Remembered something about the psychic stage where I get onto the massive creative roll (which I call “Stage Three.”)  It’s not good to let the high creative flow be interrupted, because it can transform the passion to total frustration and irritation, if not outright outrage. Next time I’ll remember.

8. The September Street Spirit is the best since Alastair took over, and my column the best of the three.   Expect a pertinent blog post on Thursday.

9. Looking forward to good work on the 4th draft today and to playing piano at 4pm at the hospital.

10. The upstairs section of the cafe, where nobody from next door is likely to find me, and the Muses hover almost visibly over my comfortable creative chair.  God is Good.

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Pitfalls of Forgiveness: Part Two

I wanted to subtitle this one: “How NOT to forgive somebody.”   I got this crazy idea that  if somebody whom I have resented would only answer a few questions for me, I would finally “understand” the situation, and therefore finally “forgive” the guy.   After all, isn’t there a French proverb that reads: “To understand all is to forgive all?”   Sure there is!  Therefore,  if I could only understand this fellow’s baffling behavior toward me, then naturally I would finally arrive at a moment like this:

“Oh!  I get it!  That’s why you said all those weird and totally hurtful things!  I understand now!   It all makes sense!!  Finally, I forgive you, man!!!”

Believe me, this is not the way to approach the matter.   To illustrate this, I’ve prepared a fictitious email, sent to someone named “Tom” who hypothetically had offended me.  The nature of the offense is based on truth, though the names and variables have been altered and mixed, for the sake of discretion and taste.  Observe the absurdity of such an entreaty:

Hey Tom –

As you know, I’ve been having a very difficult time forgiving you for nearly two years now.    Largely, this is due to a single conversation in which you suddenly decided, among other things, that you were not really my good, close friend, but only a “casual acquaintance.”

Being as we have had many close conversations over a twenty year period of time, this demotion seemed a bit unfair.  Come to think of it, however, it was only I who kept revealing all kinds of personal information to you, thinking you were one of my very best friends.  Perhaps this explains why you would often take the information I conveyed to you in confidence and freely distribute among your many associates.  Had I been your friend, and not just some random guy, you might have been more loyal.

It appears that either you are one of the most malicious people I’ve ever met, or one of the stupidest.  I sure hope the latter is the case.  If you are stupid, then you simply don’t realize the implications of your statements, and therefore it is more difficult for me to find fault with you.

I have therefore provided you with a 12-point questionnaire, designed to determine whether or not you are an evil genius or a stupid idiot.  Once I know the answer, I will understand you perfectly; and therefore forgive you.  

Best Regards,

Andy

Do you see how ludicrous that would be?  If the situation were reversed, and I knew that someone hated me, and the person who hated me was insisting that I alter my behavior in some form or another, until he would no longer hate me, how would I feel?

I would be incensed!  It is not my purpose in life to adjust my behavior to please him who hates me.  That person who hates me is not God, and has no right to insist that I change in any way.

Scrummaster Needed Desperately at LAST Conf 2016 in ...

But the aphorism above comes to mind and is wise.  This person whom I am calling “Tom” also had a way of lecturing me.  Lengthy dissertations on how to live my life, flavored by little gifts he would buy me — running shoes, a cell phone, and lunches.  It took me a while to realize that he must not have been all that bright.   People who give a lot of advice generally mean well.  They’re just not smart enough to realize that they shouldn’t be doing it.  

Of course, this begs the question: “Why on earth did I listen to all these uninvited lectures in the first place?

The answer is this:

When you’re homeless, and you’re out on the streets, and you’re not sleeping very well, and you’re being treated left and right as though you are a totally worthless scum bag with no clue how to live your life, you eventually begin to believe it.

So you turn to those who appear to be doing well, and you eat up their worthless advice as though it were manna from heaven.  Somehow, you don’t realize until you finally get inside that their advice pertains only to the world of the wealthy.  It has no relevance whatever to the world of the underprivileged — the world where you actually live.

As far as forgiveness is concerned, as Bryan Wagner has pointed out, it has nothing to do with the other person at all.   The idea of requesting that someone alter their behavior in order that you might forgive them is absurd.   Had they been willing to do something like that, you’d have never resented them in the first place.

Forgiveness is an inside job.  It can only be accomplished in that place inside you where you meet your True and Highest Self.  It can only be accomplished in the heart.

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Gratitude List 1138

This week’s gratitude list is fetched from Tuesday, six days ago, April 16th.

1. Finally waking up.

2. Slept a solid six hours from 11pm to 5am.

3. On #1, in this case, the doppio is what it took.  I must have slept very deeply, because I honestly wasn’t fully alert till 4 1/2 hours after awakening. This is a good thing — I’m likely to be energetic and focused throughout the day ahead.

4. Ran into Jim the Janitor who bought me breakfast, and had a wonderful conversation with him at the Courtyard.

5. Putting out fires already — the leading role issue, the audition form issue — but at least there are fires to be put out. For a long time, everything was a deluge, and nothing ever caught afire.

6. This is the perfect day for Proverbs 16. It’s my favorite chapter in all of the Proverbs of Solomon.  In fact, 16:1 has already bombarded me.

7. As of yesterday. I can see the light at the end of the current tunnel. I don’t feel “submerged” in the work anymore. I feel on top of it, like I can breathe again, and it’s all good.

8. It feels as sad as it does good, but a friend I made at the Center has told me that I am the only true friend that she has right now, and the only person in her life whom she feels she can completely trust.

9. Heard from Kent, and from Holly. Both sounded upbeat & positive. Just had a lengthy convo with Kent (post-doppio) and am happy for our longstanding, mostly mutually beneficial friendship.

10. All systems go. Excelsior.

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Gratitude List 898

(1) I’ve had a flu, maybe food poisoning — but it seems to have past with lots of rest and water.  It would have been a lot more difficult to take care of, if I still lived outside.

(2) Life is a colossal, colorful miracle that may be appreciated on multiple magical levels.

(3) Courtyard Cafe, free Starbucks coffee & refills.

(4) It helps during times of trial to remember His blessings: past, present and future.

(5) That doctor was a really nice guy, when I had to go to Emergency the other day.

(6) Most people I’ve met are pretty nice, and it helps their niceness not to make too many demands upon them, in this life.

(7) Self-sufficiency, not being dependent on too many other people, is a good thing, and a blessed thing in the eyes of the Lord.

(8) I’ve been blessed with some pretty good, loyal friends in this life — Danielle being one of them.

(9) Nobody’s perfect, and to expect too much out of people is not wise.

(10) But God is perfect.  We can expect the Universe from Him.

Note: I’ll be taking a week off from this blog, starting this morning.  Will return on September 3rd, God willing.  

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Gratitude List 866

(1) Something tells me this is going to be a very productive week.

(2) I slept incredibly soundly last night.

(3) Just now awoke and noticed immediately that I was back in my “usual good mood” — no more of that funk I was in for a few days there.

(4) Coffee was ready without even having to flip a switch.  Tastes good, too!

smiling computer(5) My computer is right here where I left it.   Turned on my tensor lamp and voilà –  the O.G. is ready to roll.

(6) Had a really nice Skype with Howard last night — noticed once again how insightful and good-natured he can be.  This is especially illuminated over the Skype interface, where one can actually see the guy.   Will wonders of technology never cease.

(7) Nice of Norman to have dinner with me at the Co-Op.  Another very insightful and compassionate man.

(8) I am not at a loss for true friends at this time in my life.

(9) This honestly is the best I’ve felt in ages.

(10) I get to meet Jan at the station tonight and walk her back home.  It sure is nice having her around.   The Lord has blessed me so much.   And I can be whom I’ve always wanted to be.   Thank God for the good things in life.

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