Family dinner, IT’S A BOY!, & a journey to feeling…

One of my favorite things at this phase of life is getting together with my family – my kids, their spouses/fiance’ & families – for a meal. Being able to gather in one of our houses for a couple hours of good talks, laughter, fun, & of course food. This last Saturday we got together at Joey & Grace’s place for an early dinner – tacos. It was a little surreal for theBean & me as we brought drinks & let the rest of the family take care of the cooking. And goodness! Those Locke girls are really great cooks! I could get used to this.


Upon our arrival, we discovered that the girls had planned a surprise for us – not only were we going to eat great food… it was a gender-reveal party for Johnny & Joelle’s little 22-weeks-along-or-so biscuit… our grandbaby. They were really creative in how they set up the living room/kitchen… there was a white board where everyone not in the know could place their vote (Mister or Miss)… pink & blue balloons abounded… as did white-chocolate covered pink & blue popcorn… Nuts or No-Nuts M&M’s… lots of fun.

And then it was time to find out… a closed box full of chocolate strawberries was produced & Joelle teased the moment just long enough for my emotions to kick-in & my eyes to get misty… & then she popped the lid… IT’S A BOY! They’re having a boy. Which means grandson #3 for us. We couldn’t be happier.


Up until I was about 30 years old, I would have had a difficult time identifying the majority of emotions I felt. Mostly I cultivated a stoic, Spock-like (or Lt. Data, pre-emotion chip, for you TNG fans,) visage to cope with the overflowing cauldron of unidentified, powerful, & often incapacitating feelings swirling around somewhere near where I’d identify the location of my guts.

Sorting through faded memories I remember some of my early life’s painful things: being bullied… I was a pretty small kid who turned his L’s & R’s into W’s, which made me the target of a handful of boys (& one 5th grade girl) at ages 5 & 6. Being mocked for wearing Toughskins jeans sized “Husky” (which evidently got translated as “Fat” by my 3rd grade class). Being picked last for sports. Abuse at the hands of a relative. Being told in 6th grade I didn’t have a good voice for public speaking (I had had to do a speech for reading class & after I finished my ‘helpful’ teacher was evidently trying to point me away from a career path where I’d have to talk in public…) The list goes on.

I also remember GOOD memories. Positive things. Finding out I was going to be a big brother, 3x/over. Excelling in school. Making a real friend who would stand with me. Parents who worked long hours at multiple jobs to provide for our family. Falling in love with the Giants via my transistor radio & a headphone… knowing in the deepest part of me that I knew Jesus Christ, & even more importantly, He knew me too.

Through all of it, good & bad, joy & pain, I never really knew what to do with my feelings when they rose up, other than not being quick to get angry… (learned that from the Bible). So, I kinda just let them be, not realizing the impact that would have on my own life, but especially on my relationships with others. I kept people at a distance (physical & emotional). I rarely shared my real thoughts & feelings with others, & the few times I really risked, my over-correction/self-protection responses kicked in at the speed of a snapping resistance band that’d been stretched too far. This led to me being angry a lot of the time… or at least on the verge of being angry. Loved ones, esp. theBean, Pasty, iDoey, & theWeez, walked on egg-shells around me, never knowing what would make me ‘snap.’ And I never cried.


So what changed when I hit 30? I came home from work & heard my oldest son say, “Dad’s home!” This was accompanied by the sound of little feet scampering… AWAY from the front door. They all ran to hide. In their rooms. I was crushed… & asked theBean if I was really as bad as it seemed I was… & she bravely answered my pop-the-lid-off-the-can-of-worms question truthfully. And hearing her answers, watching her tears, & seeing her pain (& fear) hurt worse than just about anything I’d ever been through… I hated this, & felt powerless to do anything about it.

And then I felt a nudge. “Go see a counselor.” A guy I’d grown up with had just moved back into the area to open a counseling office… & his name was the one that I believe God popped into my head… so I called his office, & made an appointment. I saw him 12 times, (1x/week for 12 weeks). There were no real “A-ha” moments in those weeks, no ground-breaking, earth-shattering times when the angels sang, the heavens parted, & the lights shone down on me. But something definitely changed, or at least began to change. The counseling sessions, the questions asked, & the investment of money we really didn’t have to spare (still remember it was $120/session…) coupled with my drive for self-improvement & the insights of the Holy Spirit helped me identify WHAT I was feeling… another dear friend & mentor, Chuck, helped me through countless conversations & questions discover how to find out WHY I was feeling what I was. Through it all I was growing in what I’ve since discovered is called “Emotional Intelligence.” 


And then one day I was wrestling with a general feeling of “blah.” Like I was stuck in emotional quicksand, aware of the overwhelming-ness of being down in a hole with no real idea or ability to get out. I remember asking myself out loud, “WHAT is wrong with me?” And I got a response from the Holy Spirit… “You need to grieve the loss of your brother.”  I had no idea what that meant. I thought I’d done that when he’d died 11 years earlier.. How was I supposed to grieve him again?

So I talked myself through it, & verbally identified different feelings I had surrounding the memories of the discovery of Johnny’s cancer. The months of separation, distance, & treatment. Good news from the doctors only to be followed by news of a relapse. Nothing more to be done. The anger I felt at the nurse who asked him, “So, you want to die here in the hospital or at home…” His last weeks. Our last conversation. My heaven-directed, heart-rending desperate prayer in my parents driveway, asking for a hope-beyond-hope miracle. The phone call that came on Fathers’ Day, June 16, 1990 at the crack of dawn/doom. The empty spot in my heart. The funeral. The conversations with well-meaning friends who, not knowing what to say, said stupid things anyway. (NOTE:” If you don’t know what to say, limit your words. Sometimes your presence does more than any words you could say.” -Jerry Cook.)

And the tears started to flow. Like a summer rain, it started slow & then turned into a tempest. I was crying. Snotty-faced, out of control, can’t breathe, no sounds coming out/terrible anguish sounds coming out – Crying. The dam in my soul that had been there seemingly my whole life broke. And not just a little. It BLEW UP.  And I cried. About everything. Nothing. It felt like I spent the next year crying, & I didn’t know how to make it stop. Chuck wisely said, “Well, maybe you’re just catching up on all the years you DIDN’T cry.” And he smiled when he said it.


I don’t think any of my kids remember their dad who didn’t cry & who was pissed off most of the time. What they remember (& rehearse to the point that it’s an inside joke) is that I am a crier. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry at movies. When I listen to really great music. I cry when I’m proud of them, & I cry when they hurt. TheWeez said she didn’t want me to do her wedding because, after all, “You’ll just be a crying mess. You can sit in the front row & do that.”  She knows me :).


And so I go back to Saturday, to the gender-reveal party… I had already cried at finding out they were pregnant. And in that moment right before the pink box was opened to let us know IT’S A BOY!, I felt the flood of emotion overcome me. By this point in my life, I have gotten more comfortable with my feelings & emotions, & its not a foregone conclusion anymore that I’m going to be a weepy & melty mess when it happens. I can remember thinking, “K.I.T. Keep It Together.” And I only cried a little bit. A couple tears, rolling down the face in a most-meaningful way.

And we celebrated our soon-coming grandson. And a growing family. And I thought about the  journey of emotional discovery, growth, & freedom of the last 16 years… & I’m so thankful for a God who wouldn’t leave me bottled up & broken, but who answered my prayers with people to help me.

a perspective shift…

Today, I had to go to DMV to register the New Ex, acquired last week to replace the Old Ex, which had been totaled the weekend of 2/28. Now, going to DMV is not my idea of a good time, & the closing of the DMV Express has only served to make my reticence increase. However, today was as good of a day as I would get to go – not much on the calendar, & for all intents & purposes, a slow day in the life of scoey d.

Got my SMOG certification. Double checked to make sure the title was signed in all the right places. Gathered the VIN inspection paperwork. Got a copy of the “proof of insurance.” Took a deep breath & headed over to the DMV.


Seems like no matter how long its been between visits, DMV never changes. How many other places in life do you have to wait in line to get the opportunity to wait in line yet AGAIN to have your vehicular issues addressed? But I digress.

The line was long. Really long. Like for Indiana Jones @ Disneyland in the heart of the summer. People to my left & right decided it wasn’t worth the wait. But, I, resigned to the fact that this was My Day to register the New Ex, stepped boldly into the line. My special brain helped me count that there were only 77 people in front of me.

Sigh.


While I stood in line, I determined not to complain or grumble. I’d like to say it was because I am Such a Good & Mature Individual, but in reality, I was merely responding to the grumpy, frustrated, angry individuals around me; those that took the opportunity, time & time again, to voice their displeasure at having to wait. At bureaucracies in general & in specific. At the injustice of waking up to snow again, this far into Spring. & the list went on.

I spent 1 hour 15 minutes in that line. And when I finally arrived at the Info Desk, I hurriedly & prayerfully submitted all of my carefully prepared paperwork, hoping beyond hope that I had done all that was necessary to register the New Ex. My clerk was not easy to read. Her brow furrowed with concern. My mind & heart raced. She called in backup to review my documents. Again. And…

I was given a number. G485. Booyah! Now to wait for my turn.


Turns out, the next number called was G440. Meaning I was only 45 numbers (or so,) away from getting Dealt With by the DMV. Fortunately, I brought my books to study & multitask – prepping for next Sunday’s speech.

Only took another hour to get my number called. Have to say that after 2 hours, 15 minutes of waiting, I wasn’t in the best of moods, but I was ok. Ready to go back to work. And a bit exultant & giddy at finally Getting to the window.

And yet I was blown away by the tech that helped me.

She was absolutely exuding contentedness. She had a grin on her face that didn’t fit the circumstances surrounding us. I asked her how she was doing, how her day was.

She absolutely gushed:

I’m having a WONDERFUL day. It’s so beautiful. And I am so happy. I love that I have a job. I feel so fortunate to be able to do something that I enjoy, to help people. Life is SO good!

I was taken aback by my encounter; not expecting such a response, especially in the dreariness, rush, & general irritated atmosphere of the DMV. And yet…

I was touched. Reminded. Joy isn’t circumstantial. Sometimes what is necessary is a shift in perspective, to look at life through a different set of glasses. With hope.

Thanks Kathy.

Don’t drive angry…

The last several days, I have been pondering Ephesians 4… especially the last few verses that contrast the out-workings of the ‘old’ vs. the results (fruit?) of the ‘new.’

It is amazing to me that I can go from ‘new’ to ‘old’ in a heartbeat. And just when I thought I was doing so good, out comes the snippy-ness. Harsh tone. Hard edge to the voice. Mean face. Ouch.

The other day, I was ‘in the moment’ in a ‘strong discussion’ with theBean. And in the middle of it, she ruined it by saying, “Look at your face.” She wasn’t trying to draw attention to my beauty, but rather to the nasty ‘mean face’ expression I had on it. Ticked me off that she’d try to derail our discussion with such trivialities, so I didn’t look full into the mirror… but I did peeky-peeky out of my left eye. I was startled at what I saw.

It was a face that I didn’t recognize as mine. It was twisted at the corners of the mouth, eyebrows up, lips tight & in a snarl… I didn’t need Dr. Lightman to tell me that it was anger, rage, & disgust that were coming out…

It was ugly. And it was me. Is me. Is not what I want from me. I want the new. For me. For theBean. For the kids. Not to give full vent to my anger, or to let a response build up & ride the waves of feeling & emotion that so easily give place to wronging another, even if just for the momentary satisfaction of Letting. It. All. Out.

Reminded me…


A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Proverbs 29:11 New International Version

Self-control is me cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit – & not letting the groundhog drive the truck.

Peace.

Don\'t Drive Angry…