Another Brick In The Wall

(I suppose to avoid legal entanglements, that title should be changed to “another heavy masonry object secured into the large masonry construct.” Yeah, that rolls right off the tongue.)

Since April 9th (my “official” hire date), I now have a day job. Actually, it’s an every-other-day job. Or a two-days-in-a-row-off-then-unmercifully-early-Sunday-morning job. Or something like that. Anyway, it’s a job. Part-time. Much effort for minimum wage.  

Lest I convey the wrong image, it’s also a whole ball of mercy wrapped up in a red shirt and a pair of hopefully comfortable and supportive shoes. (I haven’t quite dialed that last bit in yet, but am getting close to figuring out what is needed.) It teaches me stuff, it allows me to get out there and shine some light, and it helps me learn the new things my new body and life can do. 

It’s six to eight thousand steps, between one and two miles a day, being on my feet for hours at a time, learning to deal with machines and processes and forms and procedures and time clocks and rules and conduct and uniforms and expected behavior and expected output and a whole lot of other stuff that makes me feel like I just got hit by a bus. 

Steve the Mental Hamster is having a field day. I, on the other hand, have been curled up in a fetal position, sobbing into my pillow, “Dear Father, what have I done?”

Ok, that was a little overdone. And overdramatic. And over easy. Yum. Eggs. 

At this point, I hear a great chorus of witnesses crying out, “Suck it up, wimp boy! Welcome to the REAL world, Mr. Sit-My-Flabby-Hiney-At-Biggby-And-Spend-The-Day-Writing-Meaningless-Prattle-That-Nobody-Ever-Reads-Anyway! Join the rest of us, who actually WORK for a living! Stuff a sock in it, toughen up Buttercup, and get over it! Get to WORK!” 

Don’t have to. Today is a day off. Nyah nyah nyah! I are not immature! *phbbbbt!* 

Perhaps I are after all. 

So, one might rightly ask,  why I have I been sounding like a spoiled teenager lately? 

“Dude, I have to be there on time, and I have to like, work all day, and -get this- I have to punch in to like, take a break, and I only get a couple of those, and like, I have to punch out to eat lunch, and then I have to like, punch in a half hour later, and I have to like, punch in no later than two minutes after I’m supposed to be there or else I’m marked down for being late, and like, dude, it’s just not fair!”  

I sound like a sixteen year old, not a fifty-something. (And if you know some sixteen year-olds and take much umbrage to that last bit, I do apologize. I too know some fine folks of that age range, any of whom are wiser than me by leaps and bounds. Comedy is sometimes stereotypical. Although, you do have to ask yourself about the seeds of truth that blossom into a witty stereotype. Not a hurtful, hateful stereotype – nobody need ask themselves anything about those, except why the heck do I even know stuff like that? Just the witty, tongue-in-cheek kind. Yeah, those ones.) 

I sound like someone who’s never had a job before, or at least not a real job with real requirements and real consequences. 

NEWS FLASH: I haven’t. At least, not in this present life. 

“Wha’?” 

Yeah, it was bugging me too. After all, I am a fifty-something. Actually, I’m fifty-two going on fifty-three. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve earned most if not all of these silver hairs on my head through experience, physical changes or mental adjustments, and they’re ok with me.

(They’d be more ok with me if they’d all make up their mind to go one color, and quit mixing it up. I’d vote for all white – I’d love to take my place among the white-haired wise of 1st Cov. Or at least among the white-haired part.)

But this chapter in my life is confusing me. And leaving me a little impatient with myself. And making me wonder just what sort of wussy boy I really am. It’s like I’ve flipped back to high school and don’t have many more years than that on my clock. 

That sounds disturbingly familiar. Hold on – let me check the underused, over-hyped, non-award-winning archives of that beloved piece of electronic wasting of space, “The Whistler’s Wonderings.” Steve, would you spin up the archive wheel, please? 

Please? 

What if I give you a Yummy Chewy Crunchy Tasty Hamster Bite?

Yeah – mental hamsters don’t eat. I know that. Work with me here, ‘k? Thanks.

(“The Whistler’s Wonderings” is exclusively powered by the awesome computational ability of the Commodore 64 – the personal computing wave of the future. Hamster-powered mainframe optional.) 

Alright, let’s see… Hmmm… I know it’s here someplace… 

Ah HAH! I knew this sounded familiar. 

“When coming out of addiction, one sometimes goes back mentally to the place where they entered into addiction, and often must learn or re-learn lessons that they missed while they were addicted.” (to paraphrase my counselor, She Who Knows Stuff)

Oh – that one again. Poop. 

I hates that one.  

Perhaps ‘hates’ is too strong of a word. Perhaps ‘strongly dislikes’ would be better. Perhaps not. 

Perhaps I’m stalling.  

Yeah, that’s it. 

Last time I got to saddle up with this particular lesson, we were thinking I was around toddler age, having to deal with flailing motor control and the demon persistence of the single-digited, insisting that “I CAN DO IT MYSELF!” 

It wasn’t pretty. 

We were hoping that I’d moved ahead, perhaps all the way to early college and were beyond some of the drama of my teens.

And again, perhaps I’m stalling. 

Welcome to TeenAgeCal, without the raging hormones and all the joy therein. So, to join me on this little journey, think back to your very first job. Think about the things you had to learn about balancing school, responsibilities at work, and a HUGE social life. About how reasonable expectations seemed like a chain around your ankle, how requirements for dress and behavior were an affront to your individual expression, and finding acceptable corners to cut were your major field of study. 

I know – that’s awash in stereotypes, unfair to the teens of this day and age, and certainly not how it was when you were that age. You were a fine, upstanding young employee, maintained a great GPA, were elected to various important positions in student government, involved in sports, the arts, still had time to make award-winning projects in shop class, and spoke not only at your high school commencement, but at your rival school’s as well, so profound were your oratorical gifts. 

You are dead to me. Just sayin’. 

But mixed into all my pondering and wondering and whining about my new life circumstance is one little truth that changes and balances it all: 

This IS my first rodeo.

I didn’t have a job in high school, except for a short stint at a photography studio my senior year, hardly enough to effect a change in either work ethic or life behavior. (The correct usage of “effect” there courtesy of She Who Must Proof, correcting Cal’s many spelling and grammar errors since 1982.)

*ahem* 

Yes?

*actually, since we started dating in the fall of 1981, it would actually be “since September, 1981.” It could be August, 1981, but I’ll allow a month of leeway here.* 

Thanks, really.

*You’re welcome. :-D*

(Those of you who know She Who Must Proof well know that I’m really not stretching things too far to paint that picture… In fact, if you were to ask her, she’d probably ‘fess up to it. Go ahead – ask her if when she read the words, “Since 1982,” she then started doing the mental computations to make sure that was accurate. Really – go ahead – I’ll wait. 

….

…..

……

To quote Master Yoda, “Told you, I did.”)

Carrying on…

I didn’t have a job in college, because my Mom wanted college to be my only occupation and gave me the support to not have to work – support that I squandered, wasted, and generally used to continue my lazier than thou lifestyle and mindset… 5 years, no degree, no actual career path or aspirations, majoring in performance on an instrument that I really despise the solo literature for, and enough issues to fill a few trucks. 

And I never thanked her enough for her sacrifice, nor did I apologize for wasting it. I have since – but it came, as does so much in our lives, too late.

– Grace is a gift from God. Regret is a tool of Sightblinder. Yes, I do know, apply, and show gratitude for that life-giving lesson. –

I “fell into” work in radio, and kept a toe in it for years, though if I were to apply now, I doubt I’d be hired – I just don’t possess a “radio voice.” God brought me into it full-time, kept me there just long enough to get onto the edge of the cliff, and kicked me off of it in 2006 to begin the long fall into my ReBirth. 

(And for those of you protesting that crack about not having a “radio voice,” I’m just speaking truth as someone who has long experience in the industry. My voice worked for kids’ radio, and it works well as an overnight voice on WCSG, but it’s not a drive-time, mainstream kind of voice. It’s truth, not a slam or self-esteem issue. For the record, it kicks tushy as a storyteller’s voice… although one kiddo in Children’s Church accuses me of “screaming.” Heaven help him if I ever do actually *scream* – his head will probably implode.)

So, no – I’ve never learned the whole thing of balancing work responsibilities, home responsibilities, social life (fortunately, a fifty-something tends to have less need of a social life than a teen, although Vicki and I are waiting for more of our friends to become empty nesters so we can hang out with them and catch up on life, while watching the slide shows of their grandchildren cycle through on their computers), and creative pursuits. I’m a little (“lot”) clueless about the demands that a job, even a part-time one, makes on one’s mind and body. And I’m very, very inexperienced at how to walk gracefully from one role to another, one responsibility to another, or from activity (like work or chores) into inactivity without interpreting “inactivity” as “hibernation mode.” I don’t yet know how to keep ‘down time’ from becoming ‘veg mode.’

I’m learning all those lessons that most of you learned many, many years ago. After all, Tabula Rasa DOES mean “blank slate.” Mine is starting to have some stuff written on it, but there’s still a LOT of blank space waiting to be filled. And lessons still lurk out there, waiting to be learned. Shouldn’t catch me off-guard by now, but like the dumb sheep I am, they do. 

The important thing, which has been slow to come as well, is this: I’ve learned the necessity, the joy, the wondrous freedom of extending grace to myself. In other words, I know how to “give myself a little slack.”

Not to be confused with “letting myself be a slacker,” just so’s we’re clear.

Once I finally realize that this isn’t a flaw, a weakness, a place where I’m just being spoiled, stubborn, lazy, or any other manifestation of EvilCal, then I can apply the grace lesson and sit back for the ride. I can go into learning mode, ease up on my personal expectations, and open up the space needed to insert some new programming into life 2.0.

As one of my earlier posts states, “I did it before, I can do it again.” Which, by the way, is why there even IS an archive for TW’sW’s – It’s less of a blog or status update, and more of a reference library for the care and maintenance of Cal’s ReBirth.

So, open up the space, apply the grace lesson, and mindfully approach the changes, the challenges and the stresses. Step away from being frustrated, and instead look for accommodation – moving gracefully from step to step, from change to change, from challenge to challenge. Along the way, keep the essentials that must not be lost, pick up the important things that have been dropped, set them all into their proper place and order, and continue to move. See the new things added for what they are – a gift, a provision, an opportunity, an assignment. 

Go where God has made it very, very plain that you are to go, do what God has made it very, very plain that you are to do, and become who God has intended from the beginning you should be. 

After all, He’s always gone before you, He always walks beside you, and He always knows the steps ahead of you – He prepared them for you. His timing is perfect, His faithfulness is eternal, and He loves His kids. At no time are you ever out of His reach or His care. 

Nothing catches Him by surprise, yet we delight Him when we reflect His light. He smiles when we praise Him with everything and anything we have and are. And we have the ability and privilege to give Him glory with anything and everything we do.

Alright, I’m putting on my hopefully comfortable and supportive shoes, my black pants and red shirt. I’m aware that I have exactly the number of seconds, minutes, hours, and days that He knows I need to be and do what He has planned for me. I can gracefully move from place to place and from job to pursuit to rest to fun because my Dad made me flexible like that. I can navigate the changes and the stresses because my Father goes ahead, holding up the light, illuminating the path. And I don’t have to be afraid, because He’s right beside me.

And He loves His kids. Even in their terrible teens.

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