Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beer and Self-Loathing in Guayabitos

I write this as I fly home from a wedding celebration for my longtime friend, Erik and his now wife, Jen. I’m trying to reflect on this week being that it is something I have never really done before.
I suppose I’ll start with my reluctance to go on this trip. I’ll be honest, there were a few things that bothered me going into this. I was originally thinking this was at one of those resorts you see in the movies where it’s over-indulgent and supporting some big company at the detriment to the local community. I was not looking forward to spending my week with many people I didn’t know. I was even concerned with spending it with the people I did because I haven’t spent much significant time with any of them in a very long time. They were friends from high school and although we meet up every once in a while in the last few years, how will a week go with them. This trip was not cheap and I am in no shape to even attempt a trip like this on my own and now I’m going on this thing because a friend is supplying the money. Borrowing money never sits well with me due to my memories of family doing so and how it’s strained relationships.
Let me give you the spoiler right now that the trip was fantastically better than I thought it would be. The money thing still bugs me, but many of the other aspects of it surprised me.
It was not the opulent resort that would ratchet up the guilt for me, but rather a smaller, independent operation and as opposed to some faceless company, our group has really bonded with the family that runs the restaurant attached to the hotel. It was business how I’ve heard of in other places of the world, where a more personal approach is used for business relationships. There was one example of operator of one of the boating companies came and was upset that we did not go to him when we had our excursion because of a previous transaction with some of the folk in the group. 
I’ve never, as a Rogers employee, gone and guilt-tripped a customer for going to Blockbuster but that was what kind of happened. It was strange and interesting, but I digress.
It was good to see the world work a little different and definitely eased my mind about that aspect.
I was also relieved to have the time spent with the people there to be really good. It felt like I was building relationships and not just rehashing what was in the past. I also met new people and felt comfortable most of the time. I mean, there was still the difficulties of traveling with a group in that it always feels like you have to be spending time with others and I had relatively little personal time.
That all said, what stood out to me as a point of reflection were certain moments in the week. I’ve found that as I’ve gained more experiences I have started to see more and more parallels between my life and others’ or my life and even my previous experience. It’s simply that history tends to repeat itself. There are times when I go through experiences and I recall previous moments from my life or other’s stories and it strikes me. I begin to make connections and realize the bigger picture. In this case, I was thinking about my dad.
I remember him telling me a story of when he stopped drinking alcohol. I believe it was shortly before he started going to church in his forties’ and before he ever met my mom. The details are a little fuzzy, but he used to drink often. I don’t know if it was every night or every weekend and I don’t know if was always a great amount or a little. However, one night he drank so much that he blacked out in the bathroom and fell and hurt his ribs leaving them severely bruised. I don’t know if they were broken or what the extent of the damage, but he didn’t remember at all how it happened. It spooked him and it made him quit.
Flash forward forty years and I find myself suffering from a cold the last month and the coughing had gotten real bad before I left for Mexico. It was to the point that it felt like ribs on right side were pain and any cough, sneeze, and laugh would strike more pain. Laying down was uncomfortable and sleep was difficult. However before I left, I was taking some anti-biotics and I was feeling much better and the pain was subsiding and I didn’t notice it that much. That was until the stag party.
We were heading into Puerto Vallarta on a bus hitting every bump on the road and it was on one of the bumps that I coughed and it hit me hard. My ribs hurt and would hurt for the rest of the night. We headed out to a restaurant where I didn’t order very much because the prices were so high which would be my undoing. Later in the night, we went to some club where you buy a wristband and the drinks were free for the rest of the night.
It was the first time I’ve ever felt like I was some rich dude. They had two staff on stand by the entire night for our table. Anytime a glass was being emptied, another was there to replace it. If one of the guys knocked some ashes from their cigarettes into one of the trays, the staff would immediately grab it, clean it and replace the tray. We were treated like celebrities. As time went on with no concern with how much the drinks came, it eventually caught up with my one-hundred-fifty-five pound frame. I found myself sleepy and not feeling well and realizing I was going to be sick. I get to the bathroom and throw up and feel the pain in my ribs aching even through the deadening of my senses, I immediately flashed back to dad’s story. I saw the parallel in our stories that seems to echo many times through out my life but unfortunately I do not have the opportunity to really explore that with dad directly, but rather through half-remembered stories.
I think what was surprising about my trip to Mexico was the great reversal that happened. The concerns I had turned out to be nothing and the thing that I thought I had a handle on got out of control. It was not the scenario or the people that were the issue, but rather me.
I had underestimated how close to the surface the dark version of myself hides. I didn’t do anything that night that hurt anyone and no one was offended, but people definitely saw that in that moment that alcohol was my master. The issue here is not that someone gave me grief, because I was basically doing what some would expect at a stag, but that was the problem. I also didn't stand out as someone who reflected the higher ideals that I intellectually believe.

I should underline that it's not like I did something that was inherently evil, but rather it did not show the life of discipleship that is one that is challenging and reflects what I believe to be true through action.
It was too bad, because the week also had such fantastic moments where the heroic version of myself shone through. The one that attempts to emulate Christ. I had great, late night conversations about the nature of my faith that reminded me of Jesus and Nicodemus. I had a conversation that encouraged another in a sad time in their family history. I did well as the emcee at the wedding and doing a speech that was entertaining yet poignant. My hope is that those who were there do not remember the failures of me but rather the goodness of God.
As I come to a close on my overall review of the trip, I still had a great time and I was happy I went. I had a moment on the last day where I climbed up to where a cross overlooked the town and the staircase there were thirteen stations from the story of the crucifixion. I was up there and read a psalm and read from The Call by Os Guinness. I feel refreshed and hope that I will push hard to fulfill my calling despite my shortcomings and trust that it is never over due of the grace of God.

"Warm sun feed me up
And I'm leery loaded up
Loathing for a change
And I slip some, boil it away
Swallowed, followed
Heavy about everything but my love
Swallowed, sorrowed
I'm with everyone and yet not"
- "Swallowed" from the Bush album "Razorblade Suitcase"

Thursday, November 03, 2011

My Poor Brain

I've been reading Os Guinness' book named "The Call" which delves into what God's call on our lives may be. This is not the general call to being good, moral people in right relationship with Him, but rather the specific call of our talents and skills. It draws examples from all over human history to reflect on all the various aspects of God's call. It has got me thinking about what where I am heading in life.

This has been a very appropriate book as the idea of where I am going is something I've been thinking about recently. Last year, I did not consider much of the future as I saw what I was doing in Nelson as something that I was doing. I was very present with my task. My wandering was my place in life and I liked it and was comfortable with it. It was simple. After my time in Nelson was done, whenever that would be, then I would move to a new place and do something different.

I was getting used to the single life and was especially looking forward to really embracing it and finding adventure. I still kept the dating aspect an option, but even there I was realizing that perhaps it would be best to live life with embracing the One Thing. I was considering the next place I go to would be a larger city centre and actually try to move towards pursuing a comedy career. Even if it was a side thing and I would support it through another job, I would try to hone my skill and try to get into the field.

Then Kyla came along.

Now, I am thinking more of the future and what should my plan be. That was not a big deal with me last year and it even seemed like other people were more interested in what my plan would be than I was.

I have been thinking of how big of a challenge it would be to bring Kyla into this life. I've been thinking about being responsible and what does that look like? I should point out that she is not wanting me to abandon comedy but rather it is me.

In the last little while, I've been listening to Pete Holmes' podcast called "You Made It Weird". He is a stand-up comedian who I've found to be very funny and have been following the last while. In his podcast he brings on other comedians and they talk about stand-up comedy and how they approach it. It's been fascinating to take a peak behind the curtain and hear these guys talk about it. I've also been surprised by Pete's questions. Each of his conversations has involved a discussion of God.

Aside from that, you also find out that he was married at the age of 22 and was divorced by 28. He references the religious Christian upbringing that got him to marry so young. He looks back on the time as being a child. What was interesting was the divorce itself. As he describes it, it was not because they were not spending time together. She would be home by four, they'd be together until he went to the comedy club at 9, do his set and be done an hour later. They spent much time together.

When it turns out that she cheated on him, she told him it was like he was already in love with comedy. It consumed his life. It's what drove him. It was his calling and it became a barrier in the marriage. Obviously it is much more complicated than that. However, it did make me wonder about what do I want to have as my priorities.

I know I've been very distracted as of late and it feels like I'm in a bit of a fog. I've been sick recently, so perhaps that has an impact on it. However, I feel stuck as I'm trying to write scripts. I'm thinking about money. I've been thinking about obligations. I've been thinking about things that were not concerns a year ago, but they are now because I have another person in my consideration.

Do I have the ability to pursue comedy well? Is it my call? Do I have the discipline? Will I be able to balance it with a relationship and not neglect either? These are the questions that weigh heavy on my poor brain.

"Real life is so hard
We hide in the stars
That's where our heads are
My head and your heart
This is a black out
Don't let it go to waste
This is a black out
I want to detonate
When you are so far
I'm falling apart
Lose all my sonar
You jam my radar"
- "My Poor Brain" from the Foo Fighter album "The Color and the Shape"