The Void


At times when my life seems out of control, I close my eyes and imagine that I am floating in a total void.  I used to think it was escapist, a fantasy of being alone.  But it also occurs to me that for an instant, the void was the last moment when all that is was a singular point

It is not a fantasy of isolation, but of homecoming.

By Ben Posted in Life

The Music of Sorrow


Kashmir

Music is very important to me.  I am not a musician and I cannot create music of my own.  But when I listen, I really listen.  I sometimes think of music as an old testament alter with smoke wafting into the air.  The prevailing winds determine the patterns and intensity of the listening experience.  When I am in a state of musical rapture, I just wish I could dissolve into the smoke.

Yesterday, I found out that my son has had a previously undiagnosed stricture in his urethra.  It requires that a semi-permanent foley catheter be left in for a couple of months.  This would not be such a big deal, were we not in the midst of having his let extended, an extremely invasive procedure.  I took the news badly and have been in a dismal funk since hearing the news.

Then this morning, when I got to my desk, I started listening to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir.  I closed my eyes and just absorbed the sorrowful tones.  This is not peppy music to raise your spirits.  It is gut wrenching notes of mourning.  But when I let my soul commingle with the sounds reverberating in my ears, I have a sense that I am not alone.  Many have traveled this road before and I will not be the last.   It pulls me from the brink and gives me sanguine sense of peace.

The Long Slog


Most days, VACTERL is just a pain in the ass.  It’s just time consuming and it wastes your child’s time, your time and family time.  There is a checklist of tasks that you must worry about every day, which normal families take for granted.  But over time any set of tasks can become routine to the point that they just become background noise.  This is how it has been most of my child’s life.  It is our normal and for the most part, we are happy.

But periodically, life is disrupted by a major crisis.  There is a new set of tasks that MUST be performed to prevent dire consequences.  Some of these crises are predictable others are totally random.  It is in the midst of these major crises that despair can set in.

I am in moving through one of those periods right now.  We are working through a painful procedure and a long road of challenging physical therapy.  Sometime it is just unbearable to watch your child go through excruciating pain.  While his peers are dealing with the loss of a soccer game, my kid is learning to walk again.  It rocks your world view and it is a drain on the soul.

The day after my son’s latest surgery, I got a call while I was eating in the hospital cafeteria informing me that my closest friend at work died suddenly of a heart attack.  Add to that problems at work in general and you have the perfect storm.

Fortunately, I have learned that these times of despair are transient.  As bad as I am feeling, as disappointed I am with the world and my problems, I know that this is not forever.  Things may suck for another month, another quarter or for a year.  But eventually balance will be achieved and some measure of happiness will be a part of my life.

Joy may be elusive today.  But at some point it will be in my grasp again.

The Swinger


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When my son was first born, I was on the cusp of going into the ministry.  Because I was quasi clergy, I felt that I had to put a positive spin on everything.  I said obnoxious things like, “thank God this happened to us.  We have the resources and a strong relationship.  We can deal with this.”  Or, “God is good all the time.”  I tried to be publically upbeat.  When we were in the hospital or at doctor’s appointments, I was always upbeat and even joked with nurses and orderlies.  I avoided any public display of emotion.  Only when I was completely overwhelmed would I let it come out.  (One notable example was when I was in the hospital gift shop.  I was getting something, I do not recall what.  The cashier asked me how my baby was.  I burst into tears and left without making my purchase.  I avoided the gift shop the rest of the stay.)

As guys, we have it drilled into us from a young age to keep our shit together.  I occasionally would allow myself to cry in the car.  But for the most part, I just stuffed it down into a dark part of my soul.  People would ask me how my son was doing and I would give a very clinical description, sometime more than they wanted to know.  But if they asked how I was doing, I would just say, “I’m hanging in there.”  It was complete and total malarkey.

This was a recipe for disaster.  I began having road rage.  I would blow up and my employees and colleagues.  I swore like a sailor.  My face began to change.  At work I went from being the Gentle Ben to the Mountain Troll.  For the first time in my life, people were afraid of me.  My stellar career and my clergy calling quickly dissolved.  The angrier I got, the more I stuffed it into the dark place, this made me angrier.  It was a vicious circle.

Eventually things just started to disintegrate.  My world got smaller and smaller, to the point where I had just two friends at work and my immediate family.  Something had to change.  Then, quite by accident, I discovered blogging.  My first blog was all funny stuff.  I have a decent sense of humor and I wrote whimsical little stories about my life.  But every now and then I gave peeks behind the curtain.  People would occasionally be offended but for the most part they were very supportive.

As the years went by, I became more honest and graphic.  I stopped sugar coating what was happening and just went with the brutal truth.  I occasionally cringe when I read those entries.  But on the whole, I felt better.  I also started attending seminars on spirituality.  I started sharing my story in real time with other people.  What I found was that they had equally heart breaking stories with different themes.  Slowly the realization sunk in that everyone is carrying around these heroic stories of survival.  The more I told my story and the more I heard their stories, the better I felt.  I learned to embrace my darker emotions.  If I was sad, I found an outlet for expressing my sadness.  If I was pissed off, I would find a way to vent my anger.  Denying that I had these feelings was pointless and self-destructive.

So if you read my blog and you see that I am in the pits of despair, it is OK.  I am just letting off steam.  Writing is a freeing experience.  I am not always an emotional wreck.  Often I am happy.  Sometimes it is just for a moment, sometime for days.  The pendulum of my life swings wildly.  I am at peace with that because no matter the state, nothing is permanent.

So whether you’re having a great or a rotten day, don’t be afraid of it.  Recognize it for what it is and know that it will not always be that way.

The Winter of My Discontent


VACTERL occasionally gives you a little break.  Though you may have an onerous lists of tasks required to keep your child happy and healthy, you get into an offbeat rhythm that mimics normal life.  You find a place of serenity and you think that you have beaten back the deadly predators.

But really you are kidding yourself.  The minute you think you have it whipped, it knocks the shit out of you and leaves you breathless.  VACTERL is an evil minion of death that is desperate to get its talons into you and your child.  If it does not kill, it ravages both parent and child alike. 

But you keep plodding on.  Because that is what you have to do.  You have to force yourself out of bed every day and go through the life-giving rituals that allow your child to continue.  There is no quitting.  There is no time for quiet contemplation.  There is just the continuing dance in the quicksand.  You flail about to keep your heads above the sand.

Peace will never come, just an end.  Whose end is unclear.

I’d rather laugh with the sinners, than cry with the saints


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The older I get the more I think that I may not be compatible with heaven. It is most assuredly not for a lack of information. I have heard about heaven and hell for all of my life. I have spend most of my life surrounded by people that knew beyond a shadow of a doubt where there eternal destiny lies. They know who they are, they know where they are going and they can tell you how to go there too. The same could be said of purveyors of Amway. But I don’t want to become a distributor, for much the same reasons.

My life is a mess. It always has been. I’ve make one bad choice after another. And the consequences are often harsh. But I do not see my life improving by eliminating the mistakes. I do not want to follow a formula of success. Because avoiding mistakes, just means that you can follow the instructions of others. Being enmeshed in problems and struggling to free yourself of their consequences, that is the beginning of knowledge. I learn from mistakes. I learn from the mistakes of others. I sometimes find unique solutions to problems and learn new things about myself simply by wrestling with my own stupidity. I find camaraderie with those who have traveled the same broken path as me.

So why would I want to go to a place where there will be no sorrow or sadness, with people who have spent their lives avoiding mistakes and explaining away tragedy? They are most assuredly nice people and they make one hell of a casserole, but they are not my people.

My people are messy, deeply flawed and oftentimes permanently damaged. And when they overcome their ineptitude, it is beautiful, fleeting and fragile. But for that moment, that moment of clarity, I stand with them and revel in their triumph.

Then back in the muck.

Anything…mostly anything…something…this…nothing


I just finished reading a 9 book series of Star Wars books that revealed why Anakin Skywalker was the “Chosen One.”  <insert geeky sounds here>  It was funny because only a true geek would have picked up on the reason (you had to have read the whole series and watched all of the cartoons to understand it).  None of it had anything to do with the movies.  It was, oddly enough, something that happened in the animated series. 

Now stay with me, this has nothing to do with that plot except to serve as a setup for my musings today.  Basically, at one point in his life, Anakin is faced with a decision that alters the course of history.  He is faced with a choice, chooses the familiar and everything that happens from that point on is merely fallout.

When children are young, they are often told, they can be anything they want to when they grow up.  That may be true for a brief window, but as the days, weeks, months and finally years start creeping up, the scope of possibility narrows considerably.  While the years eek away, it is critical that they find their passion.  Passion keeps the scope of possibilities wide and vibrant.  But if you ignore your passion and just go with the flow, you wake up like me in your middle years and realize that you are wedged in the small in the tip of a funnel.

It’s both funny and tragic, I am 46 years old.  I am being thrown back into cube world at work, doing work that really benefits no one.  But because of commitments both financial and familial, I am trapped.  Due to a lack of imagination, I cannot even fathom what I would do were those constraints removed.  I mean I could hang out in a coffee shop all day, but that does not pay as well as one might think.

With the benefit of hide sight, I know where some of my missteps were.  I should not have majored in psychology.  I should not have gone to Bethany.  I should not have taken the first job I was offered out of school.  If I had not made any of those three choices, I would be in a very different place.  But would it have been any better?

My original major was biology.  Would that have led to a more fulfilling career?  I am not a psychologist…my major might have been immaterial. 

If I had never gone to Bethany, would I have finished school?  Would I have made the great friends I made?  Local colleges are fine, but they are not the best for meeting intimate friends.

If I had not taken the first job I found out of school, would I have found a better job?  I had no hard skills when I graduated.  At least I found a career that led to a semi lucrative position.  I wouldn’t have met my wife.  I would not have my family.  I might have spent my years lonely and isolated.

It is hard being past the half way point of life.  My life could certainly been better and more fulfilling, but it could also have been much worse.  So what do I do with act three?

I stew, meditate and stew some more hoping that I find fulfillment before the hour glass runs out of sand.  There has to be something out there.  I am waiting.

By Ben Posted in Life

Two Lives


Brown bottles have given birth to a second life.  Long ago lost, the lands of my youth.  Old men dream dreams.  Though my ideal self, the days are more varied as the world we share.  Delights and despondence share the same infinite space.  Prince and pauper are but masks in the darkness.  Sets are built and struck with frightening speed.  My bed a castle or a crypt beyond my control.  Two lives.  Two games.  Strategy and chance.  In one I am losing; the other I’m lost.

By Ben Posted in Life

Rain soaked day


Rain drops clinging to the windowpane.

Some a solitary droplet surrounded by empty space

destined to evaporate, to fall again, a different path foreordained.

Others flow as steaks joining a more substantial place

Trickles

     Gullies

          Streams

               Rivers

                     Oceans

Isolation a peculiar notion

By Ben Posted in Life

Stuff


Who I am

And who I should be

Is clouded by the stuff I pretend to own

By Ben Posted in Life