I really shouldn’t be typing. I should be sleeping – or at least trying act like I plan on getting to sleep at some point tonight. I haven’t been getting very many winks lately and it has started to take it’s toll on me. My outward appearance now resembles that of an extra from the movie “Trainspotting”. The dark circles under my eyes make me look like the son of The Hamburgalar. This newfound inability to nod off has also compromised my already limited cognitive functioning as well. I spent way too much time yesterday attempting to navigate the complex waters of an electronic gas pump. It kept insisting for my understanding of the basic commands that are needed to operate it and I kept insisting that it shut the hell up and quit beeping at me. Eventually I had screwed up enough times that the manager was forced to come outside to assist in helping out a customer that she must’ve thought had to have either been Amish or a person who had just escaped from a stroke clinic.
She approached me with a fake wide smile and a small wave. It was her eyes, though, that gave her irritation away. They indicated that this was the part of the job she hated the most. She probably would go home to her husband and over a vodka tonic complain that the worst part of her day “is always when assholes like this jackass today show up and attempt use the electronic gas pumps if they don’t know what they’re doing.” I needed to take control of this situation early and assure her that I wasn’t her typical type of asshole that she was accustomed to dealing with. I was going to be a special kind of asshole.
I think your machine is broken.” I said before she could even greet me with whatever pre-scripted language she is supposed to use when dealing with a techno-schlep like myself. There you go young lady. I’ve just established that I understand technology enough to know where the problem lies – and it isn’t with me. So get on with fixing the problem so I can get home and watch some quality reality television programming.
The manager replied with a quick “Huh.” or “Meh” – I couldn’t tell due to the fact that the mother-scratching gas pump wouldn’t stop beeping at me. Either way her response was fairly dismissive in it’s delivery, so I decided right away that the two of us were going to be blood enemies. She walked over to the little half inch screen and studied it for a moment. The manager then let slip a small sigh that indicated that she was about to counter my original troubleshoot with her own assessment to what the problem was.
“You see this little keypad here, sir?” The fake-friendly Manager asked in a professional tone. Too professional if you ask me.
“Yes.” I responded curtly. I didn’t like where this was headed.
The well-intentioned manager (who I swear had to be eleven years old!) then opened up the palm of her hand in front of the machine in a manner that replicated how the models on The Price Of Right do it when they are peddling a food processor or vacuum. “Good. Okay, so when it asks for some information on this small screen here, the only thing you have to do is enter it on this keypad, and then you should be good to go.”
“You mean like my pin number and zip code? I asked. I entered all of that.” I had really wanted to say “I entered the shit out of it.” but I chickened out at the last minute. I often fantasize about what it would be like to be the kind of dude who can cuss in front of complete strangers. Those are the alpha males who get
shit stuff done.
I was at the eye doctor last week when a gentleman in a very dapper suit had walked up to the appointment desk and dropped a couple of F bombs. He wasn’t mad or anything, he just was really excited that his insurance had picked up the full amount of his eye prescription. The ladies behind the desk didn’t seem to mind his colorful language either. In fact, they all lit up when he let fly his foul mouthed flag. I’m certain that if they weren’t concerned about their job they would have matched his choice of words with a “We are so fucking happy that your vision plan picked it up too, Mr. Johnson! A lot of the time most insurance companies don’t do jack-shit when it comes to frames or those prescriptions!” There is no doubt in my mind that people who cuss at will are probably a heck of a lot more successful than I am. I bet Steve Jobs could weave a tapestry of filth in a moments notice. I would need to practice in front of a mirror in order to make it sound somewhat realistic. Whenever I use an obscenity my face cringes like I have a serious case of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Anyways, the point is I didn’t cuss in front of the gas station manager, but I really wanted to.
“Okay, but did you enter the right information?” She asked. I stared blankly back at her. What kind of question is that? Is she implying that I don’t know my own zip code.
“Of course I did.” I said confidently. Perhaps a little confidently, if you ask me.
“Because if you don’t put in the info that matches your debit card has on file it won’t work.” She said. Then she gave me a look as if I was some sort of feral man who had just stumbled out of the woods after being raised by a family of possums and she was showing me how indoor plumbing worked.
I needed to change the direction of our conversation. I wasn’t the problem here. The machine was. “I know that. I did all of that. I think it’s your machine. It is probably broken.”
Her smile was gone. I had insulted the gas pump one too many times apparently. She then asked for my card and led me on a painful step-by-step lesson on how an automated gas pump works. First you swipe your card. Like this. See? Then you press the credit/debit option. Make sure you don’t accidently press both of them. Then enter your pin number. Do you remember your pin number, sir? Then you enter you zip code. Then you press the grade of gasoline you would like. Through her every instruction I could feel the managers soul slowly die. After a bit I started to feel bad for her as it reminded me of how I used to feel when I used to try and teach my mom to use the remote control on her TV. With her at the helm she breezed through the process of getting my card to work.
“There. See it works fine” The Manager said handing me back my card. Her smile was back. Balance had been restored. Then she continued on with the script she was most certainly instructed to say when helping a rube like me “Anything else I can do you for you today?” I’m sure had I responded with “I need help remembering how to use my face hole to breath!” she would not have been surprised. I hate looking like an idiot. Especially when I do that in front of people who are half of my age. I thanked her and mumbled something along the lines of “I must have a case of the Mondays..”
To which she responded with “It’s Sunday.”
The real problem here is I need sleep. I’ve been operating on zombie mode since my season of insomnia has begun.
My drought of sleep has not come due to a lack of effort on my part – I’ve crawled into bed every night at a responsible time – it’s just that The Sandman has stood me up. I simply lay there in the dark switching my gaze from watching my ceiling fan churn above me and the numbers of the clock advancing next to me. Insomnia is beyond maddening, as it allows me way too much time to think, and that is not something that is ever good for me. Just like a death row inmate I need to be kept busy. Being alone with my thoughts is never a pleasant experience. The voices in my head have formed a barbershop trio and now sing a three part harmony of doubt, regret, and worry. Some of their greatest hits include numbers like
“Why didn’t you get more done today?”
“Tomorrow John Roedel will get probably get rabies”
“I think you gained five pounds this week!!”
“Do you ever worry that you are 40 and without a life plan?
“How come your LinkedIn profile is so lame?”
“Bills. Debt. And the growing cost of living expenses. Good luck with all of that.”
While the titles of those songs are a bit wordy, the messages that they convey remains fairly simple: It’s impossible to sleep well when I have too much grown-up poop on my mind. I just sit there with my head on my pillow and administer myself a toxic dose of needless concern and worry. Some folks are really good at building furniture, while others are fantastic singers – my talent is I’m adept at the creation of worries out of nothingness that I then give the breath of life to. These worries of my mind have an incubation time of about three minutes before they transform into full fledged monsters that end up taking residency under my bed with their other brethren.
I worry about everything and everyone. I try not to watch the news anymore because I can take everything so freaking seriously. Just yesterday I found myself really worrying if Scotland was going to vote itself out of England. Why in the hell am I worrying about that? I don’t know the first damned thing about Scotland except for what I have learned by watching the first season of “Outlander”. I worry about money and when I’m done I worrying about money I worry about it some more. I worry about my children even as I watch them flourish. I worry about my wife and how she must worry about me. I worry about my extended family – even the certain people within that sect who probably hold me in as high regard as they would a piece of toenail fungus. I worry about my friends and then I worry about my friends pets. I defy time and space by being able to worry about my past mistakes and the ones I’m sure to make in the future all in the same moment – one of these days I will most likely cause a universe swallowing black hole with this time-bending feat. I worry about cryptic Facebook posts people make – was it about me? I’m sure it was!!! I worry about people who aren’t on Facebook. Are they still alive? Or are they so enlightened that they are above being on Facebook? If that’s the case, how do I become that enlightened??? If you can name it I can worry about it. Nothing is beyond my reach of worry.
Why do I worry so much? I don’t know for sure – but I have a theory. It’s a theory that I’m going to try and flesh out tonight here on the screen. So instead of going to bed tonight and partake in the charade of slumber, I’m going to spend it with you and my laptop to try and come up with an answer to why I’m so consumed with worry and anxiety. Upon some reflection and a quick splash of Irish Whiskey I have a working hypothesis to why I worry. It’s not something I’m very excited to share, though. I’m afraid of writing it down because it may mean that there is a chance that it’s real. It will require me to dig into it a bit – and that is not something I’m particularly looking forward to doing.
I think worry because I’m a terrible Catholic.
I worry because I lack faith.
The act of worrying seems to be the direct opposite to the act of having faith. I worry because as I grow older I find it harder to find the fingerprints of the divine in my life, and that fact leads me down the path to the shadowy land of doubt. When I was younger I enjoyed how ridiculously easy it was for me to identify and mentally log the graces in my life. Now a days I have a difficult time seeing the hand of God at play in my life. My spiritual eyes have grown cataracts. I observe things only through a lens that is filtered with a billowing grey fog. It’s not that I don’t have faith in the fact that God exists. I’m pretty confident that based on the amazing world we live in and the complexly organized universe we are surrounded by, that there is a holy engineer behind the whole thing – but I feel like I’ve slipped through some sort of celestial crack in the ground and become forgotten; I feel invisible to God.
Folks often tell me to “Let go and let God” which is a sentiment that never quite finds a home in me. I can’t do that anymore because God and I are in the midst of a trial separation. He must be working on other people because I haven’t seen him around here in a long time – or probably more accurately I haven’t been looking for His handiwork. I don’t see miracles anymore.
I don’t think I ever stopped believing in the existence miracles, it’s just that I’ve stopped expecting them to happen in my life.
Other people get to be witnesses to divine wonders – never me. The closest thing I have ever seen to an actual physical miracle occurred when I was 17-years old and had somehow just successfully parallel parked during my drivers license exam. Despite having never been able to do it during my countless practice sessions I had inexplicably managed to back in and squeeze my father’s white zephyr between two parked cars. Jesus must have taken the wheel and allowed me to get a gruff “acceptable” from my super-mustached driver exam guy who had all the markings of a guy who was about a month away from retirement. I wanted to unbuckle from my restraint and jump into his lap so I could look him in the eyes to deliver my sermon. Acceptable? That’s a bullshit response, buddy! What you just witnessed was a full-fledged miracle that demands more respect than you simply just check-marking my attempt on your exam scorecard. If you only knew how many damned orange cones fell victim to my inability to navigate a car through a practice run in a large parking lot you would not be so quick to dismiss what just happened! Had you been with me just last night when I tried parallel parking in front of my home only to end up about twenty feet on my dad’s perfectly green lawn you would be able to fully appreciate an act of God when you see one! Come on, Mr. Mustache! We live in a world of miracles!
I couldn’t even elicit a quick high-five from him. I had done what I was supposed to. Nothing more. We went on with the rest of my test and against all odds I passed it with flying colors. He shook my hand and told me “congratulations” while I held back the strong urge to hug him like he had just saved me from a cobra attack.. Life had gotten to my examiner. Everything was ordinary to him – even parallel parking was just part of the daily minutia. Can’t he see that being a spectator to an idiot like me who just completed the process of backing up a vehicle into a narrow space where there was little room for error was not an ordinary event? It was proof that God was real. There was no other way to explain it. Me and Mr. Mustache had just had front row seats to a miracle and he treated it like just another moment in a sea of a million moments. What a horrible way to live.
I’m just like him now. I have a difficult time acknowledging the phenomena’s that occur in my life on a daily basis because I refuse to look for them. I get stuck in the mud bath of the world. I only look at the negative and never the positive.
I’ve decided to succumb to worry, instead of prayer.
Shame on me.
I have stopped looking for God in our world.
Shame on me.
I have stopped looking for miracles.
Shame on me.
All of this is embarrassing for me to admit as I actually used to work for The Church. The fact that my present faith life is as shallow as a daytime drama plot makes me feel like I’m a fraud. I feel like my time in ministry was all an unintentional lie. It should be noted that I don’t often blog about my faith life. That is because that I feel it is woefully limited.
This is how I’m sure I used to sound like when I used to talk about God.
This is how I feel most days now.
The truth is I’m surrounded by miracles and graces that I refuse to pay attention to. My reluctance to recognize miracles is because I have wrongly assumed that they always have to be spectacular and highly produced. I’ve been waiting for a burning bush and in doing so I have probably missed countless soft whispers from God. I should be redefining my definition of what a miracle actually is. Instead of being loud and noisy – miracles are often simple, gentle, and without loud gongs to announce them. I just have to open my squinty eyes and give my brain a chance to honor them. For example:
I have seen miracles first hand in the heart of The Rocky Mountains at a camp for children who live with severe disabilities. There I have seen ten year old kids who have never spoken before utter their first words to their crying parents. There I have seen children in wheelchairs take their first steps. There I have seen the miracle of kindness and service change the life of countless families – of my family. Those moments were not natural – they were supernatural.
There have been times of weakness in my life when I have been lifted up by the random generosity of a stranger. Is that not a miracle? There have been moments where I have been sat under the canvas of beautiful starlight that reminds me how vast and wonderful creation can be. Is that not a miracle, too? I met the love of my life when I was in eighth grade. And the fact that she has stayed with me this long is absolutely all the proof I will ever need in the divine.
I am certain that the work of God encircles me – even if I don’t ever notice it. That if I just gave a moment of my time to reflect on the miracles in my life I wouldn’t be so quick to worry. The problem is I treat God like an electronic gas pump. I show up only when I’m empty and start wildly punching buttons expecting to be filled up. When nothing happens I assume that He is broken, so I give up and drive away toward my eventual breakdown. I may never become a man of deep faith and prayer, but I have to become a person of lesser worry. I have to begin to trust that there is divine hand guiding my path. The alternative is to not believe – and that is far more terrifying. I’m just in the midst of a terrible spiritual drought.
When I die I don’t think it will matter how much time I spent in a state of anxiety. I think the only thing that will count will be the time I spent honoring the beauty that surrounds me. My never-ending worry comes from my lack of faith that God is present and working in my life. I will work on that. Unlike my drivers examiner, I need to learn to believe in miracles when I actually get to see them.
Well, time for bed. I’m glad I got that
stuff shit off of my chest. (Alpha Male status here I come!)
Goodnight. Tonight I will pray for the end of my needless worry and fear.
Hopefully someday I will have a moment like this:
A moment where my spiritual drought will be over.
Let Go and Let God?
Just as soon as I get some sleep.