Consistency

There’s a guy who used to be my former supervisor in the Army that I had a love/hate relationship with.  We’re best friends now and the “hate” just came because he kept pushing me out of my comfort zone for my personal growth, for my professional growth, and because it was his responsibility both as my boss and as a friend and mentor.

I was a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in the Army, which meant that I was both a tactical and technical leader of young soldiers and young men and women.  These people didn’t just need to be trained in soldier skills, they needed to be trained in basic life skills; balancing a check-book, shaving, marital/relationship skills, parenting, etc.  It was a daunting task.

As an NCO, one of my primary obligations was to enforce standards.  The guy I started this post off talking about used to have this saying: “If you see a violation of the standards and do nothing to correct it, you’ve just set a new standard.”  To this day, even though I’m not longer in the military, I still hear his voice in my head saying that damned thing.  And it’s always when I least want to make a correction.  I can’t tell you how many times in the Army I just wanted to walk along, conflict free.  I didn’t want to make an on-the-spot correction.  Especially to a peer or superior.  Or someone else’s troop.  I just wanted to walk along, lost in my thoughts or enjoying the sun on my face, or hurrying out of the rain, or anything but noticing and correcting an infraction.  But that was the job, and as long as I was taking the paycheck…

Consistency is what it was all about.  And the more I did it, the more my soldiers actually appreciated me.  When I made a correction, I was always sure I was 100% right according the regulations.  And so my soldiers knew if they followed the regs, they were always good.  And if they didn’t, there weren’t as many arguments as I would’ve expected.  They knew when they were wrong.  The NCOs that had problems were the ones who were lax one day, then hard-asses the next.  The ones who wanted to be “one-of-the-guys” but then yelled when they were having a bad day, or when they got yelled at because one of their soldiers was in the wrong.

I’ve carried that over into parenting and into my civilian leadership roles.  And kids and employees both like knowing that they can count on me.  That they know where the boundaries are, and know that my support for them will always be there as long as they weren’t being stupid.

Relationships are kind of like that, both friendships and romantic.  And it’s tough and a lot of pressure to maintain that consistency.  Obviously it’s not about enforcing rules or standards.  But there definitely are expectations of behavior.  When I started therapy, my counselor recommended that I get ready to lose some friends.  I was going to change, my behavior was going to change and my friends had come to expect something from me.  And when I changed that, it was going to change their worlds and they weren’t going to be getting what they wanted or needed and come to expect from me.  Fortunately, things worked out a lot better than that for me.  I already knew who was hanging out with me just because they were using me for something and who was sincere.  So there were no big surprises.

J and I are coming up on 5 months now.  She’s had an incredibly rough go so far.  And those terrible experiences have left scars.  She’s done a lot of therapy and a lot of work and it shows, but…  it’s a lot to overcome.  We’ve had a lot of issues in such a short time, which hasn’t been all bad.  It’s caused us to really define how we’re going to be in this relationship, how we’re going to communicate and work through things.  It’s also put me into a little bit of a box, behavior wise.

She’s pushed me a lot.  She admits it.  Fear of happiness has caused her to over-react to certain things, to throw up walls.  And I’ve just been patient and taken a lot without getting defensive or over-reacting in order to break through those walls.  And that’s been good.  In a lot of ways.  I’ve learned a lot from it.  There’s been some much needed growing-up happening.  But…  it’s kind of expected now.  I’m supposed to be the calm, level-headed one.  She over-reacts and I talk her off the ledge.  And I don’t want to paint her out to be too evil or crazy here.  There’ve been some posts where I haven’t followed up with the happy ending and details on the extenuating circumstances that came out later.  Her reactions are settling down a lot.  As she’s getting comfortable with me and tackling her fears head on, she’s gaining control over each of them, and they’re influencing her behavior less and less.

When I started writing this, I thought it was going to end up taking the form of a complaint.  I thought subconsciously I might’ve wanted to gripe about not being being able to get defensive when attacked, having to swallow my pride sometimes, resist my urge to be the one that gets to fly off the handle from time to time and be a little irrational myself.  I’m not saying I sat down with a rant in mind, but when I thought about writing about having to have consistent behavior, I think my initial reaction was that it was going to end up with me complaining.  But I sat down and just let it flow over the course of a couple of days.  And I’ve got to say, I was a little surprised that isn’t the direction it took.  Instead, I find myself really comfortable in how our relationship is forming.

I like that I’m finding healthier ways to react to someone that I care about expressing their concerns.  That I’m able to hear them talk without immediately feeling the need to get defensive because I’m hurt and scared that they’re going to take their love away from me, that I’m going to feel un-lovable again.  Or that I CAN be scared, but still face it instead of trying to misdirect it or hide from it.  For several years I hid from carrying the weight and responsibility of a relationship, and now I find myself happy to take that on as well.

 

 

Music

music

 

When I see pretty pictures and words on my social media feeds, I tend to take them with a grain of salt.  At first glance, some of them seem really deep and impactful, but then when I’m thinking about it while driving or running or trying to fall asleep I end up seeing a different side.

This one is a little different.  For me, personally, it seems to really ring true and I’ve felt it a lot in the last couple of years.  It started five or six years ago.  That was a rough year, with multiple deaths of people very, very close to me, my divorce and my separation from the military.  That was a low point for me (in hindsight, one of the lowest).  All of a sudden I started hearing the words.  All of a sudden there was meaning.  For most of my life, I just listened to faster music, stuff that would wake me up and get me to work on time.  There’s a joke that everyone comes back from combat zones listening to “angry white man music”.  There was some truth to that for me, it wasn’t the only thing I listened to but I listened to more of it than I had before.

Music was funny.  I could sing every word to a lot of country music, Johnny Cougar songs, Petty, etc.  But did I ever “hear” them?  Rarely.  Probably “Fire and Rain” was the only song that kicked me in the feels in my younger years.  Maybe “Drifting” by Harry Connick, Jr. and “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt.  But “Fire and Rain” was because my Dad mentioned it, so I paid attention, “Something to Talk About” was because I had a close friend I crushed on and could identify.

But all of a sudden, all that pain and heart-ache and identity crisis?  There were two or three songs that just spoke to me and shook me to my core.  Then a couple years later?  After therapy and the break-up?  Wow.  Every.  Single.  Song. seemed to have meaning to me.

Now?  Things are going better.  And I’m back to just hearing beats and tempos.  Glossing over meaning again.  Is that just human nature?  Or just my nature?  I suppose I should be Zen about this and say that it’s neither good or bad, it just is.  Do I need to try and change it?  Do I need to try and be deep all the time?

Listening

I’m reading a book “Dude’s Guide to Marriage:  Ten Skills Every Husband Must Develop to Love His Wife Well”.

The first chapter is about listening and after you read it you’re supposed to ask your wife a couple of questions for growth.  Now, my mom beat a love and respect and appreciation of books into us as kids.  Because of this I can’t write in them these days.  We’re not married and we’ve only just started to date, but I asked J the questions and wanted to annotate her her answers, because some of them were surprising to me.  And I don’t really do a diary or journal so…  here (and here) it is:

  1.  How would you rate my listening skills, 1 being awful, 10 being pure awesome?  Why?  – I didn’t actually ask her to rank them.  But she said she thinks I do pretty good.  I asked her if she thought I actually “hear” her when I’m listening and she said she does.  We both acknowledged that when it’s about an issue between us I can default to a defensive posture, but eventually we get past that.
  2. Who is the best listener you know?  What makes him or her a good listener?  – It was late.  She didn’t have an immediate answer so we’re coming back to this one.
  3. What practical things can I do to improve my listening skills?  – This was the surprising one to me.  And I have to figure out how to approach it.  She said that I don’t do the best job with follow through.  The example she gave me was that I didn’t follow up with her on some quasi plans we made.  In my mind, we said that she was going to call me, because her schedule is the weird one during the week.  In hers, I just should’ve called because I’m the guy.  Which is fine.  But it’s weird to me, because I feel like I’ve put a lot of effort into following through, to show that I’m listening, that I’m in the moment when she’s talking, to try to improve my memory…
  4. Are there any bad listening habits that I need to drop? – Sometimes I interrupt.  She’s not wrong, sometimes I get really excited and can’t wait my turn.  Especially since my memory has started to drop out with the TBI.  So I definitely need to stop that.  I need to find a better coping mechanism for my bad memory than talking over others.
  5. What are the best times of day for us to have important conversations? – Later in the day.

 

It was a good exercise and I’m looking forward to reading more in the book.  It felt more than a little goofy at first to ask her the questions and start the conversation, but once we started talking it was good.  It took us to a lot of places I didn’t catalog up above and that’s always good, as long as it’s done in a healthy way, right?

So much of my work over the last couple of years has been internal.  It was painful at first, mainly because of the realization of stuff that was broken and how it’d hurt relationships and interactions.  Then it was frustrating because I didn’t feel like myself anymore.  And I kept feeling like I couldn’t turn it off.  These changes were happening quickly and I couldn’t stop them.  I’d wake up in the middle of the night because some dots had connected and I couldn’t stop working on the new issue until I had it all figured out.

This is different.  It’s not all introspective and looking in the rear-view mirror.  It’s positive and forward looking, exciting and invigorating in some ways.

Laughter

J and I are both pretty quiet, dry people, she a little more-so than I.  We both open up with people we know and trust, but we can be comfortably quiet as well.  Not only are we internal, self-contained people, but she’s also soft spoken which actually worries me a little bit.  After so many years shooting big guns, riding in loud military vehicles for hours on end, and being exposed to numerous explosions (all largely with inadequate ear protection), my hearing is starting to go.  She’s got a softer voice which also falls perfectly in that range where I’m starting to go deaf and so there’s times when her voice blends in with background noise perfectly.  I hate having to ask her to repeat herself.  Not, surprising enough, out of vanity but because I don’t want to annoy her or ever make her think that she’s not important or that I’m not hanging on her every word.

She’s opened up around me a lot this past month, and we’ve been pushing the boundaries, finding out what’s safe to joke about and tease the other about.  We’re both sarcastic and we’ve been zinging one another and chuckling.

I don’t know, but for some reason “Waterfalls” by TLC has been stuck in my head for the last couple of months.  I really disliked the song when it first came out but for some reason I can’t stop listening to it now.  So we were hanging out today and I kept coming back to it, singing it under my breath.  At some point she was making fun of my lack of masculinity and a few minutes later I started singing it again, and then we both giggled a little when I looked at her and said “Huh.  That’s probably not helping with the whole masculinity thing, huh?”  When we got back to the car I plugged my phone into stereo and we started listening to it and talking about it.  She mentioned Beyonce and Destiny’s Child and I told her the joke:

feyonce
Feyonce

 

It was stupid and corny.  And we both knew it.  But for the first time since we started dating we cracked up hard.  One of those gasping for breath and laughing so hard, you can’t make a sound anymore, you just kind of wheeze a little and laugh silently kind of laughs.  And of course, because it’s so stupid, every time we looked at one another we started cracking up again.

I love those kinds of moments.

Meds

For years I’ve had problems understanding why people with depression or other mental issues would refuse to take meds, knowing it could help them.  If you knew all you had to do was pop a pill and you’d be healthier, why wouldn’t you?  Logically I understood not wanting to have your feelings flattened out too much.  I understood not wanting to not feel like yourself.  But seeing how bad some people could get, why would they resist help so much?  Wasn’t that worth some side-effects?

I started taking Adderall a couple of months ago.  The effects were instantly noticeable.  Work-life got much easier.  Stress ratcheted down a lot.  I was focused and more evenly productive.  I’m always a good worker, but without Adderall it is just a lot more stressful to be that way, a fight between the ADD like symptoms and a struggle to focus  vs. things just being easy and the work day over before I realize it.

So.  Guess who I am now?  The guy who struggles every morning to take the pill that’ll make things easier and better.  It’s a frequent internal battle, and it’s not even that big of a deal.  I mean, it helps, but it’s not like the lows of depression.

I’ve been aware of it for a couple of weeks now, but haven’t thought about it a ton yet.  I was talking to Dad today about something, and the topic of depression and suicide came up.  The discussion wandered to people who don’t take meds and I told him about the Adderall.  Then he laughed and admitted that he doesn’t take his aspirin everyday.  All the other meds, but not that, even though if he doesn’t, he knows he’ll regret it in the afternoon.

I was just making it up on the fly, but I was wondering if it’s because the Adderall is a choice.  I mean, it’s always a choice whether or not to take the pills.  But some choices are a little more “choice-y” than others.  When the doctor says “take these pills or you’ll die” you take the pills.  But when you can not take the pill or take the pill and it’s just a matter of…  having a rougher day vs. having a better day?  Is whether or not to take the pill a choice I’m luxuriating in?  Something I can control vs. the other things going on with my body that I can’t?

Just an excerpt from an email I sent

Just tracking my day to day here.  So, “Dear Diary” :

Had some weird discussions with my Dad last night.  A couple of days ago he gave me a lecture about making nice with my sister, because after he and mom die it’ll just be her, me and my son.  Then the my-sister-being-super-close-friends-with-my ex-gf-and-trying-to-hide-it-from-me thing popped up.  So I told him that I’ll always love her, she’ll always be my sister.  I won’t keep her from spending time with my son, and I won’t cut all ties like my older sister did with us.  But there’s just a limit to what I’m willing to do.  She’s hurt me repeatedly now, and I’m just not going to give her that access anymore.  He wasn’t thrilled about that, but he acknowledged it was between us, and I had to do what I had to do.  Originally he tried to defend her, said that I need to get over the ex-gf thing, and why would I care?  It’s been a long time since he’s been single and he forgets what it’s like.  And once we talked about her lying to me about it, and now getting her fiance to lie to me to cover things up as well…  So he said he won’t get involved and he won’t make judge-y comments.

Also talked about leaving the Catholic church.  That was interesting.  I want to stay a Christian, just not a Catholic.  He was defensive about the Catholic church, understandably so.  But surprising supportive of me leaving.

Thoughts on my Vasectomy

So, probably not the best thing to write about.  But it was of some comfort to me to read things before I went in, so I’m going to try to summarize my experience in case someone out there can find it useful.

General comments/suggestions:

  • The most frustrating part of the whole experience for me is the conflicting information.  The pre-surgical consult said that I could plan on going back to work the next day.  I did, and this was fine, but everyone in post-op said that I should stay at home and laying on my back as much as possible for the next 2-3 days.  This was a little disconcerting.  I’ve heard that I should wait 5, 7 and 10 days before resuming sexual activities.  Which is it?  The paperwork they gave me instructs me to wait 3 months before doing a test sample, the lab paperwork is made out for 2 months.  When it’s all handled by the same group, I wish they’d have more consistency.
  • The office I went to only does these procedures on a Wednesday.  Much better if your doctor does it on Friday, then  you only have to take the one day off of work.
  • It was the most awkward/discomfort filled ten minutes of my life.  But it was over quickly.
  • They taped my penis to my belly to keep it out of the way.  Wasn’t painful or anything, but definitely added to the awkwardness of the moment.
  • I was back at work the next day.  Other than the Novocaine injected for a local, I took no pain-killers.  No Tylenol or Advil.  I spent the rest of that day on the couch/in bed, icing regularly.  Got dressed and went to Walgreens and to pick up the Boy from practice later.  Worked an almost full day the next day without any major incidents or pain.  There’s a big difference between pain and discomfort.  I’ve experienced discomfort in the last 5 days, but very little pain.
  • Kind of.  There was about 30 seconds of some extreme pain when he was injecting the Novocaine.  They take the needle and insert it under the skin.  That stung.  Then they hit the plunger and let a little out to numb the skin.  That stung/burned some more.  Then they push the needle in further, into the vans deferens.  That hurts like a mofo.  Seriously.  It hurt.  Bad.  Then they hit the plunger.  Then you know what real pain/burning is.  Oddly enough, one side hurt/burned way more than the other, but they both sucked hugely.  I was prepped for the pain the second time, but it was still pure pride and fear of someone accidentally slicing off my penis that kept me from jumping or screaming.
  • Having them rip the tape off my belly/penis was nothing compared to pain of the injection.
  • Painful as it was, I’ve already forgotten what it felt like.  I just remember that it hurt.  So in the end, it’s still worth it.  (I think.  I haven’t actually gotten to “the end” yet).
  • I was able to drive myself home without any issues.  They recommend you have someone else drive you, and I can understand why, but this shouldn’t be a deal breaker for you.  Unless you don’t tolerate pain well and take some painkiller that makes you loopy, or Valium to calm nerves, you should be fine.
  • Oh.  Yeah.  I didn’t, but apparently if you’re sure you’re going to freak out, they’ll prescribe you Valium to take the day of.  Maybe.  You have to be able to sign your consent to the operation.  Some docs will let you sign the consent the day before, some will let you do it, then you pop your pill because it’ll be awhile before surgery.  So don’t let anxiety keep you from doing it if you think it’s the right decision.
  • You definitely need enough pairs of briefs/boxer briefs to last for a week+.  Or someone to do laundry if you’re not feeling up to it.  The support is a must for at least the first 4-5 days.
  • The ends of the stitches will stick out a little bit.  Those ends can/will snag on things.  You only have to pull your pants down once and have those get stuck on the inside of your underwear or athletic supporter once to learn never to do that again.  Learn from my pain.  Which leads into the next point:
  • Stock up on 4″ gauze.  You might be lucky, and they might send you home with clean gauze.  My doctor didn’t.  I was still bleeding a tiny, tiny little bit the 2nd day and the gauze was good for that.  But what the gauze was better for was to put over the stitches.  This kept them from getting caught on anything.  That area was more tender than usual from the bruising as well, so it was a nice cushion.
  • Oh yeah.  You will bruise btw.  And not pretty bruising.  No.  Like blackened bruising.  Where you’re wondering if they screwed up and killed tissue or something bruising.
  • Go out and buy some cheap ice-packs.  The thought of putting a back of peas on my junk, getting blood/sweat/whatever on the bag, then later eating the peas is kind of gross to me.  They’ll tell you to put the bag of peas/ice pack directly on the wound.  Don’t do this unless you’ve got the kind with a fabric-y outer shell.  If it’s a smooth plastic outer, when you put that directly on your skin there can be some condensation that will freeze/adhere/create suction between your skin and the ice-pack.  When you pull it away it can be a little uncomfortable.  If you are sticking with the peas/plastic ice pack, then pull the wadding out of your underwear and just keep the underwear between your skin and the ice-pack.
  • While you’re buying stuff, find out if they will provide you with a disposable/medical jock strap.  My doc did.  If they don’t, go buy one.  Even though they’ll tell you to wear briefs, the extra support is much, much appreciated the first day for the ride home.  Don’t buy anything fancy, there’s likely to be some blood on it at the end of the day.
  • If you have pets, pre-plan.  The last thing you want is a dog or cat jumping on your junk right after you get home.
  • Don’t shake-it after you pee.  Shaking jiggles the parts of you that just had a hole punched through them.  For the first day or two, just blot excess urine off with a wad of toilet paper and flush it.
  • Definitely take it easy/ice/inspect it the first day.  The fear is that you’ll bleed internally and that your sack will swell.  This can be way more uncomfortable than the rest of the procedure.  If you notice swelling, you can put pressure on the incisions until it stops.
  • Shaving.  Ugh.  I’m an old guy.  We didn’t do “manscaping”.  That was the worst part of the whole thing.  I was nervous about it.  I used trimmers to take it down a bit and ended up nicking myself.  Blood from down there doesn’t calm you down any.  Pain down there doesn’t calm you down any.  And this is BEFORE the operation.  But the actual shaving wasn’t bad.  Just stretch the skin out with one hand, and shave with the other.  You don’t need to be as precise as with your face.  Just do the bare minimum and get out unless you’ve decided you want to try something new.  But don’t over-think it, or read too much on it, or you’ll freak yourself out like I did.  Just get a pair of electric trimmers or scissors and trim the area down a bit to make it easier to shave.  If you’re using trimmers, don’t try and take it down to the skin or you’ll nick yourself.  Just trim it a little bit away, then get in with the razor.  Get some good shaving gel, spread the skin tight with your thumb and forefinger of one hand and then shave in short strokes with the other.  Too easy.  I promise.
  • You might want to ask your doctor how long you have to wait to masturbate.  They’ll tell you “sexual activities” but I don’t think they’re one and the same.  You might want to take things for a test ride before having sex again to make sure everything “works”.  And I think you can comfortably masturbate long before you can have sex because of the bruising, stitches, etc.

In conclusion, my penis is still intact and everything appears to be working properly.  I haven’t conducted the final tests yet, but I’m assuming all will be well.  Hope this helps!

The Moment

Warning – this post is long, potentially boring and gets into religion.

 

So I’ve been going to J’s church with her since after Christmas.  It’s been nice, we jokingly say we’re in a bubble together in a lot of different places, at parties it’s just the two of us together, out and about downtown, and at church.  She’s trying to be more public about her faith and as such, is a little self conscious and worried about being judged, and having her faith judged.

It’s a mega-church.  There are multiple campuses around town and the original one is closing down soon.  We went there for the first time together a couple weekends ago, she’d already been but I wanted to go at least once before it shuts down.  We’ve gone to a couple of different campuses already, so when we walked out, I made some comments on the service and the campus, both positive and negative.  It was my way of cataloging my thoughts on the place.  I did it out loud, thinking we were having an open conversation.

When I was a kid, we went to church faithfully.  Every weekend, my sisters would complain and tease me about my singing, that I was horribly off-key.  Every weekend, I’d try not to sing and every weekend I’d get a tweak from one of my parents to start.  What made it worse was that my Dad would tell stories about singing in groups as a side-job when he moved out on his own.  He always had a great voice and I always wanted to be like him, but apparently could just screech like a dying cat.  I was really self conscious about my singing, and only in recent years have started doing it more in front of people.  In the car on road-trips for sure, but more recently at church, really seeing it as a means of worship.

One of my comments when we left the church was that I didn’t like the way the worship leader (what they call the lead singer of the music group) changed some of the words in the songs.  In the Catholic church they have hymnals.  But in these other churches that I’ve been going to, they just project the words on a screen behind the band, a verse at a time.  For some reason J got really defensive on the musician’s behalf.  Saying she’s a creative and allowed to change things on a whim, etc.  I didn’t mean to get into an argument about it, but I felt the need to explain my point of view.  If she wants to put on a concert, then tell us to sit back and enjoy the music.  But if they tell us to stand and join them in worship, and her paid job is “worship leader”, then she should stick to the words and help us sing along.  Eventually we got through it and I didn’t think much of it, other than that it was odd that she felt the need to defend her so much.

The next morning I got some kind of…  snarky texts from her about how she didn’t want to hear my opinion anymore.  I called her that night to hash it out and it went much further downhill from there.  The next four days were hell.  This crazy, chaotic argument that I didn’t understand.  I spent the entire week just lost and sad and hurt.  Originally she talked about being a creative and worried that I’d start judging her so harshly.  Then it jumped to something else, and something else, and something else.  I couldn’t keep up.  Every time we’d talk through one thing, she’d bring something else, something out of left field, unrelated to whatever we were originally talking about.

Finally Wednesday night I said I thought she either didn’t want to be in a relationship, or she didn’t want to be in a relationship with ME and was trying to push me away.  We had an okay-ish talk, and started seeing eye-to-eye on things, but it was hard to see how we could move forward.  She’d hurt me a lot, scared me a lot.  Said some things that tapped into my fears.  But we agreed to keep talking.  Thursday morning she texted me.  She’d spent the morning working with a close male co-worker and talked about it.  Talking to another guy helped.  He was able to explain a lot of how I look at things and process.  The fact that my job used to be life and death and I took it seriously.  And I probably had problems turning that off and not judging people through that lens.  That I probably thought someone should take the role of “Worship Leader” pretty seriously, since it could be saving peoples’ souls.  He also seconded my opinion that she was trying to sabotage things.

She and I had talked about fear before, and her trying to push me away, months ago.  She had to think about it and admit that it was probably true.  So she texted me that stuff a little more concisely than I just typed it out.  We texted some throughout the day, then when I got home had a long phone call.  We talked more about her being scared and trying to sabotage things in depth.  I asked if her sub-conscious was trying to tank the relationship because deep down she felt something was wrong, or if it was something else.  She said it was something else, that she was scared of being happy.  Then she asked me if I wanted to keep trying.

I did.  I do.  But at that time it was really, really complicated.  The relationship has been fairly bi-polar from the beginning, but this was different.  It was significantly meaner than it’d ever been before.  And after so long, and that perceived meanness, it was hard for me to say “yes” right away.  I told her I wanted to keep trying, but she had to do some work.  And she had to be patient.  I didn’t think we were going to snap right back from this one.  I felt like it was going to take awhile to get over being hurt and to feel safe with her again.  When someone tells you they don’t want to hear your opinion, even if they take it back and apologize for it later, it’s hard to get past that.  So I was worried that it’d be awkward and uncomfortable and that it might not work out.  But she said she was willing to try, and understood that it might be a bad situation for awhile.  I also told her that I probably wasn’t going to be singing at church.  That it wasn’t me trying to be stubborn or do it out of spite to prove a point, but that the situation had gotten so big and weird and it just felt too forced or contrived or something.

We talked about getting together on Friday night.  Originally it was kind of a “Well, do you want to get dinner?  Or go see a movie?” kind of thing, but then I said “Look, just pack a bag for the weekend and come over like usual.”  Figured if it didn’t work out, or was too weird, she could always go home early, but if we were going to try and make it work…

She walked through the door and within about ten minutes, things were just great again…  The distance thing kills us.  We’re adults, with busy lives.  It’s hard for us to see one another too often during the week.  And that time apart and alone hurts us.  We spent the weekend talking about the various issues that had popped up during the week, and being face-to-face made things so, so much better.  Every weekend for the last couple of weekends, things have just gotten better (when we’re not fighting, that is).  Walls are coming down, she’s relaxing more with me, we seem closer and seem to be having more fun.  So things were going great.

But then…  It was time for church.  This particular church generally opens with a song, then the sermon, then generally two-three songs at the end.  Kinda sung with the first one, kind of didn’t.  The sermon was powerful to me.  It was about weaknesses, and God using our weaknesses, and sometimes forcing us to have them for various reasons.  It applied to me in a lot of different ways.  Then they did communion.  This isn’t like the Catholic church, where every service centers around the communion.  In the months that I’ve been attending, this was the first time that they’d offered it.  There might be a whole other blog later about it, but I like the way these churches do communion.  I like that fact that instead of it being a relatively individual thing, me and the priest, that it can be a communal thing.  They asked us to take the communion juice and wafers, then as we felt the time was right during the final songs to partake.

Then it was time for the final songs.  The worship leader came out, started singing, and immediately screwed it all up, to the point where her band couldn’t follow her.  So she stopped, hit her head for a second, then apologized to everyone and made a joke.

I dunno what happened.  But there was a feeling that overcame me.  I’ll never be able to explain it in a way that you can understand.  I think part of why this has taken so long to write is that to me, it’s just going to sound silly to anyone reading it.  There was just peace and certainty and the anxiety just left me.  I felt safe and loved and all the good things we could ever hope to feel.

That’s the first time I’ve ever seen one of those worship leaders just stop everything and start over again.  I don’t know why, but it was just the perfect thing to happen.  It just…  made everything ok.  I’m not sure if there was a takeaway from it.  Did it remind me that they’re human and make mistakes?  Probably not, I think I knew that.  Did it make it ok for me to be a terrible singer?  Maybe.  Did it remind me that in church, we’re all accepted and cherished for our imperfections?  Dunno.  Haven’t really thought on it til now, and I probably won’t finish up before I’m done typing.  But it was moving and I was wiping away tears.  In public.  Again.  Thanks for breaking me there, shrink-lady.  But as I was doing it, J moved closer to me and put her hand on the small of my back and I just felt so, so safe and loved and accepted.  That “Daddy” feeling I didn’t have before?  That was it.  As I was putting my glasses back on, a new verse popped on the screen.  I wish I could remember its exact wording, but the gist was that God could heal all broken hearts.  A few moments later, while in this bubble, we shared communion together.

We talked about it in the car on the way to lunch.  I’m not sure what she felt in that time and place.  There’s still a tiny little bit of roller-coaster in our relationship.  I’m sure we’ll continue to disappoint one another.  But hopefully we’ll also surprise and delight one another as well.  I don’t know where this is going, but I wanted to type this out.  I wanted to remember this next time I’m complaining about not feeling like God ever speaks to me.  These events can be deciphered any which way, but I’m choosing to read it as His blessing on where we are and what we’re doing right now.