stories of a failed holy man


on bedtime routines
July 7, 2014, 3:52 am
Filed under: Stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

it was nearly bedtime and she wasn’t back yet.

i nervously looked at the clock, debated calling, but instead convinced myself i could do this, even if it was a half-hearted effort. Bella was 2 years old. up until this point, her bedtime routine consisted of mom cuddling her until she fell asleep. i had tried a select few times to take on the role, but if my daughter caught wind i was trying to put her to bed to the exclusion of mom, all hell would break loose. you can say i should man up and do my job as a father. you’d probably be right. so that’s what i decided to do that night, more out of necessity than grit and determination. My wife was out with a friend she hadn’t seen in years. i know, right. how selfish of her!

i hummed and hawed and postponed and let the girls stay up later than they should have been until the moment came when i knew i could no longer postpone the inevitable. i could see the look of distrust in her eyes when i carried her to the bedroom. my oldest went to bed in no time. we were visiting grandma and grandpa’s house, and she had played herself out. Bella just sat on her bed and waited, refusing to lay down or close her eyes. refusing to give in to the tyranny and injustice about to happen. refusing to cooperate with her dictator father trying to corrupt her evening routine of mommy snuggles.

the crying started lightly when i firmly told her it was time to sleep. the screaming started when i tried to cuddle with her. not wanting to wake my eldest, i picked up Bella and headed to another room, still determined to make this young person like me, feel safe with me, be willing to give in to something new. the screaming grew louder and more desperate. Bella has a stubborn streak like no other. it will serve her well someday, but as a child…i was at a loss for what to do with this. if you met Bella today, you’d quickly learn this hasn’t changed. some who know her parents would say she comes by that honestly. they would be correct.

i tried cradling her, rocking her, laying her down in a different bed, leaving the room, rubbing her back…with each new effort, the crying intensified until it was a window rattling scream. so i picked her up and as i grew deaf in one ear, walked circles in the dark, at my wits end, wondering why i had been duped into thinking i could care for this little life. i was convinced in that moment she hated me. maybe she did. maybe my own self-esteem was so shattered i just couldn’t see this is part of parenting. but i was doggedly determined even as i felt defeated. i had started this, and i couldn’t quit now.

i kept hoping my wife would walk through the door and rescue myself and Bella as she had in the past, calming the cries of my Bella and allowing me to wallow in self-pity and drown my sorrows in TSN sportscenter.

but she didn’t rescue us this time. the time ticked on, and the crying and screaming intensified. my mother in law came to check on me a few times, making sure i was alive but knowing i needed to do this. she probably wondered what i had done to her precious granddaughter to torment her so. but she knew better than to ask in that moment what was going on.

i started singing. over and over, the same few lines, made up and sung to another popular kids song i stole the tune from.

“I love Bella, yes I do. I love Bella, how about you?
Bella is so beautiful, Bella is so smart.

I love Bella with all my heart.”

it took a long time, what felt like an eternity. in truth it was 1.5 hours. i must have sung those two lines 1000 times in the span of an hour. at first, the impact was not noticeable. slowly, she calmed little by little. it might have been simple exhaustion rather than the song that began to calm her cries. i like to think the latter. either way, the screaming gave way to sobs. the sobs gave way to gentle cries. the gentle cries gave way to deep, heavy breathing. and then she was asleep.

1.5 hours of screaming, crying, hitting and feelings of failure and embarrassment came to a conclusion in this peaceful moment. i was exhausted. tired and grumpy, having shed many tears in that 1.5 hours myself, all i wanted to do was put her down and go to bed myself. but i couldn’t. i just kept staring and holding her, my arms numb from carrying her so long, but feeling closer to her than i ever had. it felt like a battle of wills in which neither of us won, but we both submitted. i gave in to her, not by relinquishing to Missy as I always had, but by not quitting and taking the easy way out, by standing with her in her fear and uncertainty. she gave in to me, realizing i wasn’t going anywhere and that she could be safe in my arms.

she still screams at me sometimes, usually for my dumb jokes and dying when we play Nintendo. but we are close now. something broke that night. she woke the next morning and hugged me like she always had, but it was a longer hug, one that said to me that she trusted me now. maybe it’s all my imagination, but i believe it’s true. i started putting her to bed more often after that. she still didn’t like going to sleep, but now it was not a matter of screaming distrust at her less than present father. it was a matter of stalling your daddy who was wrapped around your little finger. to this day, she will snuggle in close and try to make me play and laugh, postponing bedtime in any way she can. and i’ll usually give in for a little while because i remember the days when to step into mom’s territory would not be so fun and exhilarating. it took one determined battle, but something broke that night. i became a better father. and i’ll never forget the moment. without it, i don’t believe my girl would trust me the way she does now.

the hardest moments in life are often the ones that make you grow the most. my daughters love for me is a testament to that. my love for her will never be any more or less after that night. but it is deeper and i understand fatherhood better than i did before. it gives my a glimpse of what my relationship with God has felt like many times. i kick and scream. i still am. but Abba still holds me, singing that silly verse over and over again because i refuse to believe it. maybe someday, i’ll give in the way my daughter did with me. hopefully sooner rather than later.



on crying and stuff easier to keep inside pt 2

Pretending is so damn hard.

Tonight, I wandered the house. I paced, back and forth, feeling uneasy, having an idea where my angst came from, but not completely sure why it was hitting me now. After all it’s been with me for years. On this night, it became too much. Even as I realized part of what perplexed my heart was a garbage day at work and exhaustion, the logical reasons failed me and led to me running away from myself. 

So lost in my own world, I announced to my wife I was going to Safeway, as if that was a thing I did. When asked why, my answer was simply, “I don’t know.” There was a vague idea of ice cream and chips, as if that would solve my anxiety and rising anger and discomfort with my inner turmoil. Sometimes those things work, but tonight it wouldn’t. I left, Missy knowing I just needed to run away for a while. Not from her or my beautiful girls. Definitely not. They were my only sense of sanity anymore. I just needed to go because to stay would be to wallow and drag down my family into the pit with me. So she let me go, always sensitive to when I need to be alone with my annoying self.

I went. I walked down the chip aisle. There were good sales, but nothing looked good. I went to the ice cream. Everything looked good, but nothing was on sale. I refuse to buy things that aren’t on sale. That’s not totally true. I just make myself sick thinking about the $1.50 I might have saved. So I pick up the ice cream, only to put it down again, knowing it won’t solve the swirling, rising mountain of emotion building up inside of me. I walk to the Redbox, flip through stupid movies I’ve looked through 20 times before, knowing I’ll find nothing worth my time. There is no distraction to solve this, not this time. Not ice cream, chips or Hobbits in imaginary lands could stop the wave from coming.

The drive home feels long. I want to arrive as if my leaving served a purpose. With something to show for my random disappearance. To act like all is well and it was actually normal for me to wander off. I can’t muster the strength. So I drive slowly with the music loud. I skip song after song after mind numbing song until Derek Webb, “Eye Of The Hurricane” comes on. The catchiest chorus I know speaks directly to the depths of my soul. Tears begin, but I do my normal thing and pull them back into their ducts. After the first verse, I can’t hold them back anymore, not even certain why. 

Cause I am the man from which I am running.

So even if I wanted to, I can’t escape.

This is the man that I am becoming.

Running in the eye of the hurricane.

The chorus describes my life beautifully. The idea of running from myself, being stuck with who I am, being the man I am whether I like it or not seemed to fit in the moment. Because I’m so sick of myself. I’m a 30 year old, failed holy man trying to be more than what I’m capable of being without the grace of God, which on most days feels too good to be true for me, so I run the other way. I feel the full weight of being a saint and a sinner (minus the saint part) and can’t bear the weight anymore of pretending to be the saint when I feel anything but.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Only that I am tired of running. I’m just so damn tired. Tired of not measuring up. Tired of a broken world, a broken me, broken trust and broken facades that used to be easy to hide behind. I have a history of being overdramatic, so forgive me if this sounds like a sob story wrapped in a big pile of give me a break. But I am oh so tired of pretending. And Derek Webb gave me permission to be honest about the garbage man I feel that I am. I beg of you. Please don’t comment here with how wonderful you are sure that I am. That only makes me believe it less. 

Because this isn’t about my self esteem, which will rebound into arrogance in no time once I meet someone on the interwebs I disagree with. This is about the man I am becoming. And if I can’t be honest about the sorry state I’m in here and now, then what’s the point of the rest of my journey? If my recurring smoking habit doesn’t catch up with me, I should have a good 40ish years left. If I have to fake it for that long, I won’t be able to stand myself. 

So I don’t know what this is. A prayer? A confession? A scream in my dark corner? 

I skipped ahead 4 more songs for some more Derek Webb truth and profundity. 

“It’s hard to keep from giving up. It’s easier to just close up your heart.

You place your votes, misplace your hope on men who let you down

with loaded words and broken promises, it’s hard to trust in anyone.

It’s easier to just fold up your arms.”

“Everything’s gonna change and nothing’s gonna stay the way it is.

One day you’ll wake and the curse will break and even you won’t be the same. 

Your hope is not wasted on the day when everything will change.”

That’s another writing session for another time. But for now, it feels true. It at least gives me hope that there’s more than my veiled eyes can see at the moment. For now, I hope in the day when I wake and won’t be the same. 



on crying and stuff easier to keep inside

it’s always been easier for me to cry in front of people than to cry in front of the one/ones. what i mean by ‘the one/ones’ is those people that mean the most to you. it can be a friend, family member, the montreal canadiens. i’ll never let Pacioretty see me cry, no matter how much it hurts when someone slanders Carey Price.

but if i’m in a crowd, it’s easy to let my guard down. there’s something about being vulnerable on your own terms that makes it manageable; when speaking in church or addressing my youth crew. but when someone else tries to set it on their terms…screw that. that’s when things get tough.

when i was a kid, crying only happened on other people’s terms. when i was in trouble. when people made fun of me. which happened more than i care to admit. i remember hating it with a passion. i remember feeling weak and vulnerable. like when Troy kicked me in the chest. im so tired of crying on others terms, that i fight the instinct telling me to let it out. no matter the situation, it seems that i try my hardest to keep it all in in front of my loved ones, even when it’s reasonable to let it out. it’s as if my reflex has become to do the opposite of what my heart tells me to do.

lately, this has changed. my protective instincts are gone and i am wide open and vulnerable as if i’m a child again. i feel like crying all the time. luckily, the Canadiens are still in the playoffs, or I’d be a mess. like i said, Carey Price completes me (my wife and i have an understanding). everything is as good as it should be, but nothing feels good as it could be. so the tears come even as i fight to hold them back.

wrestling with depression has kicked me into the gutter. it’s subtle and sneaks up on me. the over reactions to minutiae; so small, it doesn’t warrant a notice, let alone a full fledged man cry. a new job and an early 30’s faith crisis have taken me to the brink of what i can handle.

i’m tired of holding it in. but i know me, and i will continue doing so until i break. learning to be comfortable in my own skin is something new to me. much of my life has been spent trying to be someone i’m not. faking my toughness so my man-card can get punched (yes, ladies. that is a thing). putting on a smiley face and pretending my faith is in check so i can be a good pastor and not freak out the children (even though i know that’s the opposite of what Jesus wants from me). pretending i know what i’m doing, even as I run like wile coyote off the edge of the cliff, unaware of my imminent demise and fall.

i keep telling myself, “trust in Jesus. have more faith. just pray.” and those are all true things that i should strive for. but no matter how hard i seem to try or how much truth is in those statements…it doesn’t take away the intense pressure chasing me down that says i’ll never measure up to God, who is so very, very disappointed in me. and so i feel like crying, knowing deep down this isn’t how i was meant to live, knowing that it isn’t even the truth. but feeling more entrenched than ever.

that got dark fast. get back to the love affair with Carey Price jokes, already.

i know i’ll be okay. my God and my family have too tight a grip on me to let the depression win. i started writing again to be honest. to share not only my stupid stories and terrible jokes with the world, but my heart and soul as well.

so there it is. not crying is overrated. time to start listening to my instincts and kick depression in the ass. write more. love more. open myself up more. pray more. play more. play with my kids more. play tennis more. date my wife more.

and give less attention to the lies…more. just felt like i had to add ‘more’ one last time.