the Jimmy John's driver has a rich inner life: do you?

This past week, several coworkers and I were cruising in the government car (aka ballin' in the Ford Escape), when a Jimmy John's driver drove straight towards us.  Her eyes were glazed, and it looked like we might crash into her Kia full of sandwiches.  When she swerved at the last minute, someone said, "I'm not sure she even noticed us!"  To which someone else replied, "Maybe she has a rich inner life."

A rich inner life is a gift, if you're not driving I mean.
It's a good place to spend time alone.  It's an even better place to go when you don't have the chance to be alone, but feel overwhelmed and need space.   I am trying to teach my children this lately.  It seems hypocritical since I'm only learning it in my 40s, but maybe we'll learn together.

Two people in our little family are a handful...of delightfulness, that is. 
I won't name which two of us, but let's just say that one child and I have a matching brand of angst and malaise.  I call it part of our charm.  Chris says, "No comment," and also, "Marijuana should be legalized."  I'm not sure how these fit together.

At first, I thought it was an introvert issue for my son.  However, I've always thought of myself as an extrovert, so maybe that's not the determining factor.  I know we are both people who like to know the plan, Stan.  We like to know what the day holds, what's on the schedule.  We need to know.  We need time to dread it.  I'm kidding, sort of.  But, we need time to mull and make our peace with what's coming. 

Maybe we're just homebodies.  I know we need to have plenty of downtime or "time no one is bossing us around."  "Bossed around time" can be anything from school and work to fun events and Disney World.  Basically, if something is on the calendar, even if it's "fun," we need enough downtime to counter it.  Otherwise, even the fun feels like being on one of those medieval torture stretching machines.

For example, if we leave for a trip on Thursday, then all day Thursday, we're thinking about what time we'll get home Sunday.  Mind you, there is nothing planned for Sunday, but that's irrelevant.  In fact, we're concerned about it Friday and Saturday and Sunday, while we are supposed to be enjoying the trip.  I'm slightly better about this now, because of age and medicine I guess, but I still fight a constant mental war to stay in the present.

Because we are alike, I understand my son in my deepest marrow when he mentions every 30 minutes during the three day trip that he "won't have enough weekend before he goes back to school Monday," or that "I just need downtime at some point this weekend," or "THIS IS FREAKING HORRIBLE WHY ARE WE EVEN ON THIS TRIP INSTEAD OF AT HOME?  I CARRY THE HEAVY HEAVY BURDEN OF BEING 11 AND NEED TO UNWIND!"  Yes, he's dramatic, but I don't think he can help it.  I think his insides are in a knot that he cannot unravel.  I know this, because I too am knotty.

It's hard to help him relax when I feel like I'm learning myself, but I try to give him some tools in case they help.

First, I try to meet his physical needs, just like we do with babies:  food and sleep.  But beyond that, sometimes we need space we can't have right that minute.  In that case, we need an inner peace to tide us over.  In the past, when I've needed those things and couldn't get them, eventually I'd just writhe, wail and wreak havoc for everyone around me -- WAIT, I just realized why Chris needed the marijuana!

Now, I have a few tactics I use for myself...

1)   One is my Snitch Book.


 
Okay, it's just a journal, but when I'm in the car (it's often in the car, because we take lots of "fun adventures"), and I start feeling angsty about not knowing what the day holds, I write and write and write.  I call it the Snitch Book, because from Chris' perspective, this is what happens: 

He says something seemingly innocuous like, "Hey, maybe on the way home from THIS adventure, we can stop somewhere else for ANOTHER adventure, like a hiking trail or a skate park," and instead of responding, I open that journal and start scribbling.  It probably appears I am tattling on him to God.  And I am.  And although this sounds bad, it's better than what I used to do, which was throw myself back dramatically into the car seat saying, "DEAR GOD HOW MANY ADVENTURES DO YOU NEED MAN?  IS NOTHING ENOUGH?  WHY WOULD WE ADD MORE ACTIVITIES?!  ARE YOU NEVER SATISFIED?!"  I know this, because it is exactly what my son yells from the backseat while I scribble.

But the journal works for a couple of reasons.  First, if you start writing, you calm down some.  You remember that you too are a handful.  By the time you speak words out loud, instead of yelling and rending garments, maybe you say something like, "Hmmm.  We could.  I wonder how long it will take?"  And sometimes the Tiered-Adventure Seeker realizes maybe we shouldn't add stops after all.  Or maybe he doesn't.  Either way, we avoid a huge fight.  Maybe.

2)  My other tool is the Cozy Nook. 



My Cozy Nook is a tiny corner of our home with a tiny desk with only my cute shit around it and no one else's shit.  It is where I sit and feel calm.  However, as tiny as it is, it can't travel with me.  But what if we could have a cozy nook in our minds and hearts? 
I know.  That was profound. 
Even though it sounds mature and monkish, I suspect we did it naturally as babies and young children.  We just have to relearn it in a new way.

You know how new babies seem to sleep all the time in public?  And people say stupid things like, "She's such a good sleeper.  You're so lucky!"  But when you read the baby books you discover the sleep is their protective mode when they're over-stimulated.  So when everything gets to be too much for them, they just check out (and rest so they can scream all night).

Later when kids are toddlers and preschoolers, if situations get too hectic for them, they might, as Walker used to do, walk away from the playgroup and stand by the door and say, "No more.  Other places now." 

Or like Courtney once did during her OWN birthday party.  She walked me upstairs by the hand to her bedroom, locked the door and said, "Let's just listen to a CD and hang out, okay?"  Unfortunately, when you get to a certain age, leaving abruptly is considered impolite.  Maybe you can't jump out of the car when your dad wants to hit the rad skate park, yo.  But if we can get to the Cozy Nook in our minds for a bit, we might survive it without causing a scene.

Hannah Whitall Smith says, "Must we just plod through it all?  If only there were an escape."  Psalm 55:6 answers, "Oh that I had wings like a dove - then I would fly away and be at rest!"  Amen.  Did David write that?  My life is like a thousand times harder than David's. 

But you can't always fly away.  Maybe you need to get somewhere quiet for a bit (maybe a bathroom, or walk to another room where there are strangers that don't know you and don't want to talk to you, or maybe 20 minutes of Minecraft with your face down in a screen).  The key is somewhere no one expects much from you.  During my wedding reception I hid in the bathroom for awhile.  There was only one girl in there.  She came as someone's date.  I said, "God, I'm glad I don't know you.  I just can't be out there anymore for now.  Weddings suck, am I right?"  I'm paraphrasing.  She just sort of scuttled away.

This is my dad not Chris. 
If this were Chris, we'd probably have hocked that Rolex
to buy more skateboards already. 


In college, I was known by my closest friends to be at a party one moment, and then just sneak out without saying goodbye.  Some nights, I'd not only leave the party, but leave town and impulsively drive home to Columbia in the middle of the night.  Once when all the college "everything" felt too much, I went to a hotel for two days. 


(Good lord, I hope my kids don't do this.  This is NOT safe.  Also it costs money.  We need different tools, people).

I try to act better than this now.
If I can't get away at all, I say, "Okay God, I can't get any space, but you know I need it badly.  I'm going to trust that you will give me what I need before I crack."  Sometimes digging deep within yourself isn't enough, and you need another source.

Okay, so in summary, some tools are:
1)  Remembering that some of it is just how you were born, and that's OKAY. 
2)  Your Snitch Book
3)  Your Cozy Nook (literally and figuratively) 
4)  Teaching your spouse/parent/sibling it does NOT help when they say things like, "C'mon, it'll be  fun!  Roll with it! Get over it already!  (Yes, they are right, but it just does not help).

Again, it does not help.





 










gas can

Last night I ran out of gas and rolled to a stop on an exit ramp just yards away from a truck stop. When I went in to get a gas can, the woman said, "You have to have someone vouch for you, before I let you use it."
Fortunately, my pastor was there napping in a bed.
At the truck stop.
And he was Steve Martin.
And since he didn't see me yet, I put my finger on the tip of his nose to wake him....
And he scowled at me.
But how good a nap did he expect to get a truck stop?
[my dreams are usually sort of tiresome]

tree scamp

"Remember: Resistance arises second.
What comes first is the idea, the passion, the work we are so excited to create that it scares the shit out of us....
[but remember] Resistance ISN'T the towering, all-powerful monster before whom we quake in terror. Resistance is more like the pain-in-the-ass schoolteacher who won’t let us climb the tree in the playground.
But the urge to climb came first.
That urge is love. Love for the material, love for the work, love for our brothers and sisters to whom we will offer our best. In Greek, it’s eros. Life force. Dynamis, creative drive.
That mischievous tree-climbing scamp is our friend."

Steven Pressfield, Do the Work


 

Seeing the Mississippi River for the First Time:


"Look kids - there's Arkansas!"
"Gross."

mcDonalds on wednesdays

"Listen Ramon, i know you're just a teenager working the drive-thru,
but it's been an emotional morning at the nursing homes,
so lemme just tell you how this 'dipped cone' is going down:
The ice cream and cone parts just irritate me,
so you're going to hold that bucket of magic shell out the window, and i'm going to dip my fist in it. ...
Then I'm going to drive around the block and eat it.
You stay by the window, bc I'm going to come back and repeat this as many times as i need to until i feel better. Got it?"

[Bracket Voice]

I'm just sitting in this chair wondering how I will get myself and two children dressed and clean and out the door within the next 45 minutes, and I am stymied.  and tired of it.  everyday, over and over.  hygiene and clothes and the repetition are exhaustifying.  and I feel this way so often.  this is why people become nudists and missionaries.

but when I start typing or writing, I hear what I call the [Bracket Voice].  Bracket Voice helps me and calls me [Honey].  btw it is opposite of Italics Voice that calls me Jack Ass.

so this morning, Bracket Voice said this in case it helps you too, Honeys:

[but remember, you are 44 and the kids are not.  routine is healthy for them.  if you have good normal structure, the interesting stuff can happen within it.  the friendships that grow at school, the creativity blooming, the trust between you and them...all of this happens when there is a good stable predictable foundation.  when a person is in a flurry of movement and transition, he/she is in survival mode.  adapting...trying to get a grip on something and function.  you don't want your kids to live in transition mode, do you?]

Lord no, I hate transitions!  with a passion.

[right.  so stand up.  put something on - no, not just a belt, those are clearly pajamas- and start the day.  you've done it a billion times, but they haven't.  don't be selfish.  there will something interesting for you in the day too once you start.  I promise.  maybe i'll even let you visit the prize box].

oh internet, how i don't love you. let me count the ways.

sometimes I hate everything on the internet.
social media seems to stress me out,
even when I don't know that it's happening,
and even though I really like you people.

so many things flashing at us.
videos, quotes, tragedies, jokes
such an emotional roller coaster to ride.
I think it might be hard on our brains and hearts.

I'm not saying it's never helped.
I've read words and seen pictures that have opened my heart or mind a bit more.
I've felt a new wrinkle grow in my grey matter,
or something was beautiful and encouraging, and I was thankful.
but I'm always wondering whether the trade off is worth it.
the anxiety of so much, so many, so often, so unpredictable.

I think our insides might be growing wide and shallow,
and it makes my skin feel thinner, but ironically more calloused at the same time.
how is that even possible?  it doesn't sound good, does it?

but we live in the time period in which we live.
we don't get to choose.
and even though I joke about it, I don't really want to be amish.
I need zippers.
I need space heaters.
(oh the amish have those now?
okay, well still, those weird beards).

but I guess we can carve out tiny quiet nooks
and try to teach our children the same.
it's mad hard though, you know?
but we just have to.

I have to quit fantasizing about a different way of life and adapt or wade through.
besides if there are a ton of people and words in one place,
I'm definitely not missing it.

[from the poem Dogfish]

"And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.
And look! look! look!
I think those little fish
better wake up and dash themselves away
from the hopeless future that is
bulging toward them.

And probably,
if they don't waste time
looking for an easier world,

they can do it."