Efforts on Essays

I’m continuing to write on topics related to this post, Speaking Quick and Slow, [which I thought was going to be a two part post, but has some how expanded] and I’m finding it difficult to sort out my thoughts on the topics 20 minutes at a time in the early morning. It’s hard to distill the unexplored thoughts of the mind in just a short moment and then go on to the rest of the day, picking up your thoughts from the last two weeks and getting started writing again without a hitch in your step. I guess the lesson to learn from this is I need to do more thinking and note taking on those thoughts before sitting down to position them on the page as eloquence.

At any rate, out of that initial post, I’ve decided there are a couple of areas related to thinking and speaking that I want to explore: speaking with authority, speaking apologies, and the nature versus nurture perspective of how and why we speak/think the way we do.

As I’ve struggled over the last two weeks to get these thoughts on page and am now thinking about my commitment to posting these sorts of thoughts once a week on Mondays, I grimace to think that time is fleeting and 52 posts a year is not much and here, now I’ve wasted two of them on filler made up on the fly. The time and the effort is the magic, not the appearance of your work. Here’s to the next 49 Mondays.

New Year New Me

Official subtitle:Pacific Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) juvenile bull resting, Bristol Bay, Round Island, Alaska
My subtitle: Wallowing Walrus AKA Me

I had a long holiday break and instead of being productive on my personal projects, I wallowed about in my life like a walrus. And honestly it was great. While it was terrible. Before the holidays, my wife and I decided our new years wouldn’t start until today, because she was going to work the holiday and I’m terrible at starting anything new in the middle of the week [it’s all in my head]. So, now, today, Jan 7 is the start of my new year. You know, no smoking, no drinking, working out. I’m probably over committing myself, but I’m not making progress trying to slowly change; if anything, I’ve just been slowly morphing into the man I never wanted to be.

Anyway, I did spend some time working on the second part of Speaking Fast and Slow this morning, but it’s not quite ready; I’m hoping to have the final draft of that published by next Monday. Otherwise, I’m hoping to announce something else this week on Friday – so look forward to that.

Peace.

P.S. Me writing a blog like it’s fricking 2006. I really missed the boat on this.

Start Here

I wrote the following in a fit of inspiration at the start of summer 2017. I’ve tried to read through to start every day as a reminder and inspiration to myself. Start here.

Start here, this morning, and avail yourself to the power greater than yourself.

Start here, this morning, and become greater than you’ve been.

Start here, this morning, and cause your will to be deepened.

Start here, this morning, and depend on the great mystery of God rather than your past.

Start here, this morning, and engage your whole head and heart.

Start here, this morning, and don’t float down the river of complacency.

Start here, this morning, and grant yourself an opportunity to live deeply.

Start here, this morning, and hear that you are good and caring and kind.

Start here, this morning, and ignite your heart with greater living.

Start here, this morning, and justly stand for good and righteousness and humility.

Start here, this morning, and kindly lend your ear to the broken.

Start here, this morning, and lovingly remember your wife and your children.

Start here, this morning, and marinate on how great it is you want to be.

Start here, this morning, and narrate your story.

Start here, this morning, and open your eyes to the beauty all around you.

Start here, this morning, and peel away the layers of resentment and regret.

Start here, this morning, and quiet the voice that tears you down.

Start here, this morning, and remember who you are and who you are going to be.

Start here, this morning, and start fresh on this day.

Start here, this morning, and tremble with joy at the chance to live anew.

Start here, this morning, and undeniably stand strong in the face of your fears.

Start here, this morning, and verify that you are good and brave and strong.

Start here, this morning, and welcome your heart home.

Start here, this morning, and examine yourself and this opportunity to be strong.

Start here, this morning, and yell out: “I am successful!”.

Start here, this morning, and zone in on who you are and who you are becoming.

Start here this morning.

Speaking Quick and Slow

Slow to Speak

I think many more thoughts than speak the words that would bring those thoughts to life. In conversation, I hesitate; I wait just a moment or two to identify the precise words I want to use to express what I think. Arguments are difficult because my thoughts hold my words back and I end up using an imprecise word to convey what I mean or prove my point which inevitably makes my point fall apart. Words of advice come slowly, even if my thoughts have been building steam for some time. It is a blessing and a curse – at times I am viewed as a sage of sorts [a mute sage, perhaps], building mystery with each brooding thought and rarely revealing the tempestuous and tedious thoughts of a quiet man. Other times, I haven’t had enough time to think and either blurt out nonsensical, hurtful, or incomplete pronouncements about a situation. I don’t know how to describe it well, but I often sense that others look at me while we’re in conversation and think, “Huh. That made no sense at all.” That perceived reaction leads me back into my cycle of not using many words. Conversation is hard for me solely based on this impression; I shy away from introducing myself to new people or even having second conversations with people I’ve recently met. In public, I hide my face when I encounter almost anyone from my past spheres of influence. Long story short: I don’t find it easy to converse, so I keep my mouth shut and avoid people.

Fast Talkers

There are others in my life who do not seem to have the same “problem” as me – my wife has adequate wording on the tip of her tongue in any given moment. These others that I see, speak often with efficiency but not always with grace. They don’t seem to need a moment or two to figure out how to better articulate the thought – it just comes out, makes sense, and exits stage right. I have a friend who speaks wisdom into others’ lives – it’s not that he speaks quickly, but with apparent ease [though I would venture he doesn’t think it easy]. It is as if there is a sense of authority from within his command of his own life that permeates the air of the relationships that surround him.

These “fast talkers” meet new people, hang out at parties, and engage in meaningful and meaningless conversation free of anxiety. I watch them with a hint of jealousy and a shade of admiration. Why are they able to do that with strength and a command of the language and a knowledge of leading the conversation along? As with many other things in my life, I wonder who taught them this skill, because I missed that class long ago.

Sticks and Stones

It’s not just conversation with strangers that I’m addressing – it’s the whole idea of words being used in everyday life: story time with your significant other at the end of your day, yelling at your kid for how they’re talking back [when all you want them to do is listen to what you say the first time, dammit!], or casual water cooler conversation with your coworkers. What strikes me about the spoken word is the effect it has on others. I see some people speak into a situation with little regard for another person involved. Sometimes those people are present – other times not; still the words spoken have an effect that is detrimental. Others have an innate sense of caution without a delay on their words – they know how to eloquently dance conversationally through a situation without harm. I find myself stumbling clumsily through those situations because I am working so hard to not step on the toes of my dance partner.

There are many celebrities famous for terse responses to common folk – they don’t have time to be nice so they’re not. Instead of pretending what someone brought them as an idea or criticism is any good or worthwhile, they dismiss it. They don’t have time for people’s feelings, don’t have time to be polite, don’t have time to engage with someone who is “less” than them. But there is no real authority there – that’s just a person being a dick because they’ve attained a certain status that allows them to tread on people without having to apologize. They cast their words about however they deem necessary to accomplish whatever they need to accomplish. In my estimation, the people who speak quickly without concern for another’s feelings is no better.

What is interesting to me is those who speak clearly and concisely in a manner that encourages others to move on, to move up, to move forward. Where did they find that authority? How did they attain that ability?

Balancing Act

So, at this point, I’m counting three different types of thinkers/talkers. 1) The Slow Speaker [too busy thinking], 2) The Quick Spewer [without regard for others], and 3) The Eloquent Motivator [quick thinker with good words to give]. And my question is this: is there a time and a place for each one of these in every person?

Full disclosure:

I first wanted to write about this idea after a fight with my wife – our fights are generally like this:

  1. I do something dumb.
  2. My wife brings it up.
  3. I tell her she’s being [insert adjective].
  4. My wife doubles down with conviction.
  5. I get sensitive while still trying to sort out my thoughts.
  6. My wife triples down with more conviction.

[insert at least two if not seven more rounds of steps 3 – 6]

  1. I explode and say some shitty things.
  2. She leaves which angers me more.
  3. I pester her until we have a real knock down drag it out fight.
  4. I beg for forgiveness for the dumb thing I did.
  5. Fight is over [eventually].

Anyway, after this fight, I was caught up thinking about our differences in approach: she starts out very direct with some harsh points raised while I deflect, trying to think of the “proper” response, while she hits me with more and more until eventually, I become the spewer. Obviously, a couple fighting is a very specific scenario – in an ideal scenario, I don’t ever do the dumb thing and my wife doesn’t have to bring it to my attention.

But outside of that specific scenario, I’m searching for the answer to the above question: Is there a time to stop, think, and speak slow, AND a time to spout off, AND a time to be that eloquent quick-thinking smooth-talking type of person? Digging into it and thinking about it more, the answer seems yes, obviously. The important part is practicing the art of speaking while also enhancing situational awareness.

The long and the short of it is there is a time and a place for each behavior with, I would argue, the third type being the goal for, let’s say 70% [because I don’t have any real math or statistics or scientific measurement to base this on], the slow to speak type coming in at 35%, and the spewer piping in hot takes only 5% of the time. My nature is very deferential, so I have a harder time comprehending using words with little to no regard for others regularly. I don’t like to stir pots or make points that would trigger another person. But there are plenty of people who do, and I would guess their argument would be that people need to get over it and not be so “mamby pamby.” Even then, it is my opinion that the less often this type of speaking is done, the better off the whole will be. I’m all for being direct and to the point, but I also believe in the idea that people deserve to be treated respectfully [and I believe you can do both].

I think being slow to speak should be higher weighted for the simple reason that too many things in life are grey. Also, too many people think a lot of those grey things are black and white – and that makes navigating a conversation with those people a much more circumspect thing. I think there is a strong case to be made for more thoughtful dialogue when discussing the harder aspects of humanity, instead of the spiteful, dismissing retorts that are shared so easily. It is easy to believe you know the answer but a lot harder to speculate that maybe you don’t have it all figured out.

Which leads us the third and most important idea – being the one who can speak quickly but having clear, concise thoughts that make sense and which uplift those to whom they’re being directed. This third type of speaker is one that takes her time to evaluate situations, read people, and have a deeper well of understanding on the topic at hand.

My brother called me the other day – he wants to bring his boyfriend home to see where he grew up, but he doesn’t know how people will respond. He thought I would have some wisdom to share – so he expressed his angst, and I kicked some pebbles asking some questions to get a better feel for what he was looking for and I finally had to admit to him: I had no idea how he felt because the one person that I have chosen as my person has been fully embraced by everyone in my sphere of influence. AND there wasn’t ever a chance of rejection [not realistically]. I simply couldn’t relate – I gave him my thoughts, but really, what else could I offer him? My ability to gauge the scenario and read the people at play is one thing; it’s completely different when I can’t intimately relate to what he is experiencing. But I still spoke with empathy and worked to insert myself into the situation to embrace him and his experience more completely.

Final Thoughts

Well, this turned into a much bigger post than I was anticipating and I still have more to flesh out – in my next post, I’m going to continue these thoughts and will write about how you find that authority to speak into others lives, whether or not apologizing for what you said is necessary, and why people lean one way or the other in this spectrum of speaking quick and slow.

The Day the Music Died

I’ve had so many attempts at blogs over the years, its seems sad to look back on. I happened on one such blog that is surprisingly still live and came across a post from 2011 that shockingly revealed a moment when I “died”. The space in time when my creativity died, though I continued to drivel things out for a few months after that.

It’s emotionally difficult to discuss life changing moments. In any sort of emotional way, for me any way. I wrote the first paragraph of this on April 11 of this year. But I never added on to it afterward because I didn’t want to go through the emotional labor of examining the gory details of why I stopped creating.

—–

Shortly before my creative “death” in 2011, I had been doing a lot more than just my job as a worship leader and youth pastor. In 2006-7 I went back to school, enrolling in an online school to get my bachelors degree. I basically did all of my homework and schooling from about 5 am to 7 am every day at a coffee shop before going to work for the day. In 2008, I ended up taking a pay cut for that job because of the economic downturn and my “faith” that “my” God would provide for me and my little family. Shortly after that decision I picked up my first paper route to help make up the slack. A bit after that we found out my wife was pregnant with our second daughter (SURPRISE!). I picked up two more paper routes after that, routinely waking up at 3 am and running my routes until 6 and then doing my school work, followed by my day job.

I ran those paper routes through my daughter’s birth while also picking up a new job for the holiday season with Costco. I remember being woken up by the night nurse because I couldn’t stay awake. She was angry with me – my wife understood. A few weeks after that I dropped the paper routes, even under threat from the newspaper that I couldn’t just quit [I mean, I gave them two weeks notice]. My Costco job ran through New Years but I didn’t get picked up for a full time position. I went without a second job for a few months before getting hired at City Brew, working 20 hours a week there while still trying to do my day job and then getting hired with the roasting side of the company to do packaging and learn the trade. Finally, later that year, I landed a job with an IT company working with some flexibility around my pastor job.

Here’s where it gets hard. At the very end of that year (2010), I confessed to my pastor [again] that I was struggling with pornography and masturbation. I was exhausted. More so, I was tired of this struggle and was ready to bring it to the light and looking for help. His response was that he thought my time with the church was over. I was devastated and begged otherwise. He in turn placed me on a three month sabbatical [unpaid] while we would meet once a week to discuss it. Frantic, I met up with my newly acquired IT job boss and asked him if I could go full time. Fortunately for my family, that shift changed everything for us. But it was the end of this season that killed my creativity.

Before all of that happened, I had been brim with ideas and working to create – I was in a band [shout out to Sky Collide], working on my own music [Triumph!], wrote and “self-published” a book [Porn and Cigarettes – email me if you want it], and had two or three other ideas in the works that I was just starting to get off the ground. [Sorry that suddenly turned into a Jake advertisement!]

But April of 2011 was when my creativity left me and my desire to produce dissipated until nothing was left. I’ve been tired ever since, even though my workload has changed. The beginning of 2018 was supposed to be my new lease and then I reverted without awareness. At first I put off finishing this post because it was too hard – I’d finish it tomorrow. Then I was going to do it the next tomorrow. Then next week. Then I stopped logging in to my site. A month went by and I logged in and stared at it. Then three months went by and I logged in a didn’t remember what it was supposed to be about. Then another month and another and all the sudden, here I am, in December.

I’ve heard it said that you should never stop working/creating/pushing/growing. It seemed tiring; but now I know it’s more exhausting to do nothing at all because it’s harder to start back up after all these years.