What A Wonderful World.

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While I was studying to become a social worker I got to intern in a transitional corrections facility. It was a wonderful experience for me. I conducted biopsychosocial examinations on arriving inmates, conduct family systems assessments, and engage in supervised therapy. Alongside me conducting these operations I was under clinical and direct supervision in which I reported my activity and debriefed in regards as to how I treated clients and why I used the particular methods I did. I also was seeing a personal therapist on a weekly basis.

This was a deep and meaningful period of my life in which I did lots of work on myself and processed the baggage of my past. As I conducted biopsychosocial examinations on arriving inmates I had to submit to a biopsychosocial examination of my own. I was grilled like I was on Oprah and was challenged by my supervisor until I broke. This was painful for me. I was invited to deal with the growing edges of my life in order to better serve my clients. I had to get to know myself before I was able to guide these men and women towards a truer and fuller version of themselves. As painful as that process was it paled in comparison to me having to interview my family and conduct a family systems assessment on them.

This was agonizing. It bared all those deeply hidden secrets of my youth and shed light to the perspective of my parents. Up until then I have witnessed my parents as human only in the idea that they are aging (as am I) and the full faculty of vigor is waning. I have unjustly denied my parents full humanity.

I have been particularly hard on my mom for things I perceived to have gone horribly wrong and I have not questioned my father for his part in these same horribly wrong events.  This is the kind of shit that one wants to write about but waits until their parents die or that their own kids find tucked away in some half-ass leather bound journal filled with shaky, hastily written script. This is one boogeyman.

I had to engage this head on and write a paper about it. I put it off for as long as I could. Then at the 11th hour I made a phone call to my mom, she didn’t answer. I left a message. Then I called my pop. He answered.

I tried to explain to him what I was doing in a way that someone tries to explain away the fact they got caught masturbating to this year’s SEARS catalog. I stuttered and struggled through my words. Finally, I asked my father, “Could you tell me about the five years before my birth and the five years after my birth?”

My father retorted, “What?”

I explained again what family systems entails and invited him in to the conversation, again. I was silently nervous. I am asking my John Wayne, my Superman to engage the emotions around my birth. I felt like I was treading on holy group. I waited for God to strike me dead and send me to the place of Uzzah.

Silence slowly started to lift and my father told me that he and my mom had experienced several miscarriages and had all but given up on having children of their own. So, my parents entered in to the adoption process. They were knee-deep into the process and even had a little boy staying with them when my mother found out she was pregnant with me.

My father’s words were filled with sorrow, wonder, and reservation. It was like he had opened up a part of himself that he had long ago closed off and worked to bury. You see, when my mom found out she was pregnant the adoption process was going to end. This potential brother was removed and my parents were sent on their merry way. My father’s voice ached as he shared this with me.

The conversation flowed a little more freely after that. I seemed to have stepped upon a place in which my father no longer feared my questions and even welcomed having a safe face to explore these long forgotten memories. We talked for almost two hours and I learned more about my father than I ever had. My pop became Dorothy’s son, Karen’s brother, Liz’s first love, and Arlene’s soulmate. My pop was human. He has dreams independent on mine. He has a heart for others. He loves strangely and imperfectly.

When my son was born I remembered this conversation. I pondered how I would live in a manner that my son could know I am human, I have faults. How will I live so that my son will not suffer the fate of many of the men of my family? The longer I ran these scenarios through my mind the more and more I wanted to rest near my father as I did when I was a child.

Parenting is the hardest thing I have embarked upon in my life. Sometimes I feel like I am doing great and in other moments I worry that I am utterly fucking with the health of my child. It is in these moments I wish I could lay in my father’s lap as he strokes my head and we watch Elvira together. Most of all I pray that my son gives me more grace to me than I did to my parents. I pray he understand that I am human as well.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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This year has been a year of change. I graduated from Social Work School. I became a substance abuse therapist as I ended my hope of returning to vocational ministry. I embarked on a journey towards whole body health in preparation of the end of my “young adult” years. I became a father. I celebrated the 10 year anniversary of me finishing my undergrad studies and embarking on a life changing adventure in Kenya. I look back on these past 10-years and am amazed at where I find myself.

I have not always been the best at reflection and healthy processing. My natural state is to push through the moment or risk getting bound by reflection and mired in a melancholy state of being. In this state I do not really do much of anything but regret, hope, pine, and have the occasional moment of clarity. There has been a common theme in my life that has come to my attention, the search for identity.

I have been on a quest to discover who and what I am for as long as I can remember. I am not sure if I had any solid identity growing up. I can remember ebbing and flowing amongst my friends and contemporaries likes and dislikes. I was a very impressionable youth that most aptly played parts over lived life. I tried to fit in and be affirmed by damn near anyone. As an adult I am not sure this was a bad thing. As a youth it led to a series of heartaches and many bad decisions in my quest to identify with others and find a place in this world.

In the last 10-years I have discovered my place in this world and am recently becoming comfortable with it. I have chased myself in seminary and sought to get answers in answering a call. I chased identity in a bottle and found myself struggling to understand my destructive side. I have come to grips with my battle with food and moving through the unglamorous addition to food. I have found and lost an identity as a minister. This may have been the most painful of lessons for me to learn in the past 10-years.

I discovered a depth of love that I have never known in my partner, friend, and love, Mere. I found a piece of me in marriage that I adore. And it has been this love that has delivered me to my most human of identities, fatherhood.

I have only been a father for 5 and a half months. Yet, I have dreamed of this identity for decades. In middle school I dreamed of being a husband and father. It has always been a matrix to which I have measured myself; the dream to which I lost myself in the most. Now that I am a father I dream different dreams.

I stare into my sons eyes and see my life reflected in him. I want so much for him. I want him to be compassionate, caring, and loving. All of these things I hope to model for him to learn. I want him to be happy and learn early on that happiness is an inside job and that who he is today is wonderful. That he is fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s Image. I want to spare him the ills I suffered for being a chubby kid. I want him to avoid the painful humiliation of poverty. I want him to speak truth in a way that is peaceful and full of truth. I want him to appreciate the beauty of life and wander more than he searches this world for the thin places.

I would love it if he played First Base for The Los Angeles Dodgers. I would settle if he never played football or grew up. I want him to never forget that I love him dearly and that those hushed whispers of dawn were in fact my hungry heart willing my love around him. I want him to know his smile makes a bad day good and that I am proud to be his father. I want him to know that if I ever depart this moral coil early, that I will do all that is possible to watch him from afar.

My search for identity has not ceased. The shame, guilt, or woe of who and what I am, is no longer the sharp pain it was. Rather, those emotions are the currency to which I paid for travel to this place of fatherhood and I regret none of it.

I hold my son in my arms and reflect on the pride my parents had in holding me in their arms. I see the painful struggles of poverty that eventually split my parents. I see the joy in their eyes as they watch me hold my son with tears caressing their cheeks and pride illuminating theirs smiles. The hurt of my youth is not trivialized as much as it is put in to perspective. I have always been loved, even when I did not feel it nor had the ability to realize it. The search for identity was about finding a place to be loved. I had that love all along. The one thing I want my son to know is that I loved him before he was born.

I loved him when I was lost amongst the living trying to awaken to love. I loved him as he grew in his mother’s belly. I dreamed of his face as I felt his internal kicks for liberation. And now that I see him that love continues to grow. I love myself because I was a party in loving him to life. And if he doesn’t play for The Dodgers let it be anybody but the Yankees or Giants.