For, what seemed like the five-billionth time in my life, I was on the phone with my father, the successful businessman, asking him to help me out of a jam of my own making. I was in my 324-square-foot studio in St. Louis’s Midtown, while he was on his 50′ yacht, with my stepmom, in Key West.
“I don’t even know what to ask you, anymore, because you’re very selective with what information you give me,” he said, the tone of his voice going from pleasant to exasperated in about the time it takes a speeding driver to go from 80 to 55, upon seeing a traffic officer.
I won’t get into all of it, because it’s standard stuff – frustrated father lecturing his kid. I’ll only say that I got what I needed, financially from him – as seems to always happen. But, at what cost?
They say that both failure and rejection are a part of life…whoever the heck “they” might happen to be. “They” haven’t lived MY life, wherein such events happen on the regular. Failure and rejection have, in fact, defined my life – and, continue to do so, despite my best efforts to rewrite the story.
And, with every closed door, every “no,” and every avoidance by others (I believe the kids call it “ghosting“) – with every conversation that starts off with “you’re so good at this, but…”
Every time I’m faced with acknowledging how much I fail at life, the feelings of unworthiness only grow. And, that’s where a drink seems like a good idea – only because I haven’t found a foolproof way to painlessly and successfully end it all.
Sometimes, I feel like I would be relieving those close to me of a heartbreaking burden. No more would my failures exasperate them, no more would anyone question what could have been done differently. No more would anyone wonder how it is that I could be destined to a life of futility.
Even then, the chances of acting on any thoughts are slim, if for no other reason than this: given my track record, the thought that I would end it all properly is wishful thinking. I’d probably fail at that, too, and do so in such a way that the consequence would make my pathetic life even worse.
And, that’s why escape through substances always seemed like the best way forward. Depending on one’s perspective, it’s either a good or bad thing that I am so broke, I have no money, with which, I could purchase alcohol. This, more than anything, has saved me, over the last six months, as I’ve struggled to pay for a 324-square-foot studio with the well-below-livable wage that I’m paid, at a menial job.
I am unemployable, anywhere else.
The Christian faith teaches that those who don’t believe Jesus is God – and/or those who do, but who don’t submit their wills and lives to Him – are destined to be separated from God, forever . In eschatology, this eternal separation is referred to as The Doctrine of Hell. In Evangelical circles, this has become the primary sales pitch for becoming a Christian. All over America, there are thousands of awkward conversations going on, right now, wherein some well-meaning believer, is trying to sell some well-meaning non-believer, that they’re gonna go to Hell. And, that’s why they need Jesus.
I’m living out mine, right now – the unholy culmination of bad decisions, traumatic experiences, and dysfunctional support networks. I don’t disagree with the concept of eternal separation, or in the twin doctrines of grace and mercy. I just don’t think “fire insurance” is the most important reason for me to believe in Christ, and submit to the will of God.
What I would argue, is that the most important thing a broken human can hear is that God loves them. No matter what.
No matter how many times one gets into financial trouble, or falls into addictive behaviors, or gets rejected by another broken human being – or no matter how many times we allow our hurt and pain to negatively impact the lives of others, through our own hurtful actions.
This is a love beyond anything we can imagine as humans. Those closest to my situation, who have witnessed my decades of travails, have shown an incredible level of grace and mercy – along with the very human emotions of anger and frustration. I would imagine that most people see me as someone to pity, rather than admire or respect. Or love.
Which, ultimately, is why I would rather not be here. In the end, I stay because it’s not my place to check out. That, I guess, is me – quite literally – submitting my will and life to God.
And, that must seem insane to anyone reading this, who has read how I feel. I wouldn’t disagree totally. I would only say that such a submission has produced some good things, too: more authentic relationships with friends and family, a continued friendship with my ex-wife – a woman I hurt deeply over an 11-year period, and who deserved much better in a husband. I have a boss who believes in my ability to change attitude, outlook and behavior, such that I can become a better person, and a better leader. He’s seen me remain teachable, and that I attribute to submitting one’s will.
I get to serve with a group of creative and technically-minded folks at my church. I’ve never had so much fun doing something I love, while pushing – each time in the booth – to learn one more new thing, get better at one more element, to give my very best.
And, I have a handful of friends – people, with whom, I can be honest, who love me for my imperfections and hold me accountable for changing my behavior.
“I would miss you,” one of them said to me, recently, “you’re one of the most intelligent people I know. We’re able to have discussions about anything. And, you can write. I can tell that you’re focused on using the exact word.”
If I were putting the good and the bad down on a list, I’m not certain the good would outweigh the bad, right now. And, I don’t have a ton of hope that things will change. This morning, I’ll clock in at my low-paying job, and deal with some of the most high-maintenance customers I have ever encountered in my life. I’ll do my best to lead and coach a group of coworkers, and serve our guests in a way that’s memorably good. Tonight, I’ll go to a meeting, to which, I’m committed, and find someone who can cover my weekend commitment, related to tonight’s group meeting. Because work.
Today, I’ll block out some hours in several days, over a week in November, so I can pick up several hundred dollars worth of work in what’s becoming a second job. Today, I’ll have to deal with more BS, related to my poor financial situations. And, I will go to bed alone, tonight; the dog will eventually make her way to her own bed.
And, today, I just might pray that something changes drastically. Because, if this is as good as it gets, I can’t accept it. I simply won’t.