Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nobody's Perfect All Of The Time (We Are What We Are)

That's the title of a Mike and the Mechanics song, off their second album. For you 80's music fans, it's the same album that has THE LIVING YEARS on it, which was their big hit off that album. It might have been their last hit, now that I think about it. That was the lead single, but it didn't make much of a splash. The next single was THE LIVING YEARS, which I'll post those lyrics on here sometime, now that I think about them. A great song.

I’d had some thoughts last week about allowing outside things to define us. It’s pretty easy to allow other people to slap their perceptions on us. It’s a bit tough to avoid taking on the shapes that others want us to wear.

An outsider’s attempt to define us and make us fit that description can be very, very bad. For instance; if you have two people in a relationship, and the other is insecure about something (or a lot of somethings), the insecure one is likely to try and define their partner in terms that make the insecure partner feel better about themselves. In other words, they mercilessly attack the other, running them down, calling them stupid, telling them they’re no good at their job, they’re a lousy father, etc. This is just an example with no basis in reality, of course.

As noted, it’s easy to allow this to define us. It’s especially easy to become vulnerable when the target loves the other person, and craves their respect, their admiration, and their attention. How damaging is it when the one person in the world that one wants love and admiration from suddenly starts cutting them down? It’s absolutely devastating coming from parents or spouses.

When your mother tells you that you’re a lousy son, you start to believe it. When your wife tells you that you’re no good at the career that you’ve chosen or a lousy father, it hits home. You believe it. These people are the closest people in the world to you. You’d not do ANYTHING to deliberately hurt them, so they have to be doing what they’re doing out of the same motivation, right? They’d not try to run you down unless it were true, right?

Wrong. People can be absolutely evil. Even those who should be the closest to you. I guess that's why it hurts so much. You can't be hurt unless your first love. You can't be betrayed unless you first trust.

The real problem here is relying on flawed, damaged, and sinful people. There’s an old maxim that people will always let you down, in some form or fashion, and that’s absolutely true. Whether your friend runs habitually late, fails to return a borrowed tool, etc. People are going to let you down in some form or fashion. It’s just the way things are.

So to allow a flawed human being to define us is pretty darn foolish. When their motivation is simply to run you down to make themselves feel better, it’s actually quite stupid to allow them to get away with their cruelty. It only works if we believe it.

The only way to avoid it, I firmly believe, is to have an internal definition of who and what we are. Only by knowing ourselves are we strong enough to resist what others want to define us as.

The thing I came to realize the other night is that God doesn’t make trash. He’s got some sort of use for every one of us, and has given each of us gifts and talents specific to us, and specific for his purpose. So I’m not Mr. Fix-it around the house. I’ve got a few other things going for me. So I’m absent-minded in some areas. Find me somebody who isn’t. These things don’t make me a bad father, a bad human being, or anything like that. They’re just me. They’re who I am. I probably won’t be able to teach my son to build a kitchen table. I will be able to tell him about the invasion of Normandy in 1944. I’ll be able to tell him stories about General Patton, Miyamoto Mushsashi, or Alexander the Great. I’ll be able to walk him a bit through the history of the Middle East. I’ll be able to show him how to field-strip a 1911 blindfolded. I’ll be able to help him with his homework.

All this follows God’s purpose. I am as I was meant to be.

That’s not to say I don’t have a whole host of problems that need to be fixed. I’ve got things that need working on. But putting me down about them isn’t going to help. What I’ve got to do is allow God to fix those areas that he wants fixed, and use the things that don’t need fixed to his purpose. And I’ve got to allow the same thing to happen for others. They are as God meant them to be, and that’s perfectly ok. I can’t condemn them for it, I can’t fix them because they aren’t really broken. They fit into the grand scheme of things just as I do.

So the thing is, we can’t allow failed, flawed humans to define us. We have to allow God to define us. As noted, he’s perfect. He doesn’t make mistakes. So if we are as we are, it’s purposeful. I’m taking a bit of joy in that realization. It’s boosting my confidence a bit. I KNOW that I’ve got things to offer this world, to a spouse, to my family, my career, and most importantly, to my son. They're good things, too. As was intended.

Friday, June 20, 2008

An Exemplar

This was given to me on Father's Day. The author is unknown, but it got to me like you wouldn't believe. It was printed on a silk handkerchief, with my little boy's footprints on them.

"Walk a little slower, Daddy,
Said a little child so small
I'm following in your footsteps,
and I don't want to fall.

"Sometimes they're very fast,
Sometimes they're hard to see
So walk a little slower Daddy,
For you are leading me.

"Someday when I'm all grown up,
You're what I want to be,
Then I will have a little child
Who'll want to follow me.

"And I would want to lead just right,
And know that I was true,
So walk a little slower, Daddy,
For I want to follow you."

How could somebody bring a child into this world, and not want to be a better person?

I caught my son imitating me the other day. I was sitting with my chin in my hand, ruminating on something. I look over to see my little boy studying me intently. He was sitting just like I was, with his chin in his hands. When he saw me, he just grinned from ear to ear.


For him, I want to be a better person. I want him to be proud of me. I want him to keep imitating me, to find things about me that are worth imitating. I want to set an example that he can then pass on.

What an incredible responsibility we take on when we bring a child into this world. How this is taken so lightly by so many of us out there is beyond me. People shoot out kids like they're getting candy out of a vending machine. The kids are seen as an afterthought, kind of like the wrapper off the candy.

We had a guy escape from one of the courtrooms the other day. His girlfriend was having a baby on the same day that he was about to be sentenced to 20 years for aggravated robbery. He breaks out, then spends the next few days in a hotel with his girlfriend. Her mom brought them food during this ordeal.

Great. They get caught, of course. Now Dad's going away for a minimum of ten years before he's eligible for parole. He'll have an escape charge on top of that, which will not begin to run until his time is discharged for the first offense. Mom is going to be lit up for harboring a fugitive, as is grandmother.

And a baby born three months premature now has no father, and might lose its mother and grandmother as well. Bodes well for its future, doesn't it?

Not to mention that this all sounds like a bad movie of the week off the LIFETIME or OXYGEN channels (Or the Emasculation Network, as I like to refer to them).

I guess if you can't be a shining example to others, be a grim warning.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tear Down the Walls

Sometimes the walls have to be torn down, so that something new and better can be built back up again. It’s not an easy process. It’s certainly painful. But pain, I think, should be a sign of weakness leaving the body. I was listening to the story of Marcus Luttrell, a Navy SEAL that survived some pretty horrible stuff over in Afghanistan. After hearing about his training, I can see why he survived. There wasn’t much that the Taliban could throw at him that was any worse than what his training was. Read LONE SURVIVOR, and tell me if these guys aren’t about the toughest human beings on the face of the Earth.

Anyway, I realized that I can either let this pain and agony bear me under, or I can tough through it. It can break me, or I can come out the other side better than what I was going in. That’s what I want to happen. I’m not going to be broken.

When the core of what you are has been attacked, you find yourself awash in a sea of doubt, and that’s where the Enemy’s got you right where he wants you. You’re weak, you’re struggling, and you feel like you’re all alone.

Questions that I’ve found find myself asking are: am I really good at what I do? Have I redeeming qualities and values? Can I hold a decent conversation with another human being without coming off as a complete idiot or condescending jerk? Am I actually a likeable human being? Am I a good father? Am I really that complete a failure at my life?

These are basic things, but so very important. How much of our identity is wrapped up in what we do? Of how others perceive us? We’re often defined by it. I’m a lawyer. That’s a good chunk of identity, or at least it used to be. If I’m not good at that, then am I a failure?

The problem is allowing others to define us. Not everybody’s going to like me. Tough. Not my problem anymore. Don’t like the way I talk? Sorry. Don’t like the way I do things? Your problem, not mine.

God created me the way I am, and he darn sure has a use for me. Just as I am, thank you very much. I can simply do what I can, and the rest is not in my power.

I’ll let God worry about it. A minute spent on worrying is a minute that changed nothing, and I’ll never get back. I WILL survive this, and there’s better things on the horizon. I don’t think God wants anybody to be miserable. I’ll just simply lay it at his feet, and he’ll sort it out as he sees fit.

I’m just thankful to be here, to be a father to a wonderful little boy, thankful to have the mind that I do, the heart that I do, and the personality that I do. I’ll let God do with that what he wills.

So this is painful, but it’s training for something better. It’s not for me to decide how this whole thing is going to come out. It is up to me to be open to God’s plan, and to go with it. I should be his to command.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Couldn't Have Said It Better.....

I blatantly stole this from Dr. Laura. The book the guy mentions is absolutely great, if you haven't read it. I think every bride should read it, and be prepared to live by it. Every prosepctive husband should read it, and seriously ask themeselves whether or not they believe their bride will live by it. For your reading pleasure:

"Two months ago, I left my wife and children and moved into a condo about a mile from our home. This morning, I was moved to write the following, just to help me vent my frustration over the treatment from my wife that led to this painful and damaging decision, called “For Years:”

For years, you behaved as if it didn’t matter whether I came or went, so I went.

For years, you were unsatisfied with the income I brought in, even though it was way more than enough to allow you to stay home with the children. Now you have less, and you get to go to work.

For years, you behaved as if my touch meant nothing to you. Now, it’s gone.

For years, you never complimented me on the household repairs I made, keeping up the lawn and garden, cleaning and organizing the garage and the hundreds of things I did to keep our home balanced and running. Now, you can do them.

For years, you complained I didn’t do enough housework. Now it’s all yours.

For years, you chose not to attend community and social events that were important to me. Now they’re not an option.

For years, you expected me to read your mind when you were hurt or upset. Never could, never will.

For years, you punished me with your silence. Now you have plenty.

For years, you would not share information about our kids’ schedules, doctor’s appointments and so on. Now some attorneys will help you polish your communication skills.

For years, I chose to love you, protect you, provide for you, confide in you, and have fun with you. Now, I don’t.

For years, you behaved as a long-suffering martyr. Now you can be one.

For years, I chose to raise your son as my own. Now, he’s hurting.

For years, you treated me as the lesser parent. Now I am.

For years, our precious young daughter has watched this debacle. What do you think she’s learned?

For years….

P.S. I bought and read “The Proper Care and Feeding of Marriage” months ago, and asked my wife to read it with me. She laughed.”


Still My Kids’ Dad
in Southern California"

Thursday, June 05, 2008

A Small Ray of Sunshine.....

So I got somewhat of a boost today. It’s small, it’s petty, but I take what I can get these days as far as getting the ego stoked a bit.

I was dealing with some witnesses for a hearing. One case gets sent on its way to the proper authorities at a different office.

Later, the receptionist tells me something to the effect of:

“Hey. They called from the other office. There’s a witness over there that said they talked to somebody over here, but couldn’t remember the name of the guy they dealt with. It had to be you.”

It was. I was trying to figure out how they ID’d me, though.

Me: “Oh yeah. How’d you know it was me?”

Receptionist: “They said it was a real good looking guy in his mid-20's. Nobody else around here fits that description.”

Flattery will get you everywhere.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Criminal Mind Revisited

Some time ago, I wondered about the criminal mind. Hellinahandbasket postulated that criminals live strictly in the moment, with no thought as to the ramifications of their actions.

I’d have to say that I agree with that theory, but I have a new one. Whether my new theory below is part of it, or something else entirely, I’ll leave it up to the reader to sort out for themselves.

Now that I’m in the business of prosecuting, I’ve observed the following: 98% of the crimes we prosecute are drug-related in some form or fashion. That might actually be on the low side, now that I think about it.

You’ve got your criminals that possess drugs. They have some sort of drugs for their own use, or to sell it. Then you have the peripheral crimes and criminals. They kill, rob, burgle, and steal to fund their drug habits. They forge checks to buy drugs, and false ID’s to verify their forged checks. Their impulse control and inhibitions are nil, so they lose their tempers and kill somebody over a soft drink, a beer, a perceived slight, or because they think somebody’s coming after their drugs or territory.

Legalization is a fallacy. An addict’s going to do whatever they can for the next fix. Making the stuff available to them like beer is going to do nothing but force them to steal, kill, rob, burgle, etc. They still have to afford it. The mind-melting properties of this stuff make these people unable to function in society, period. You’d simply create another legal industry that would in no way, shape, or form cut down on all the peripheral crimes that go along with it.

Think about it. Legal drinking hasn’t cut down on DWI’s any.

One Day....

One day, food will start tasting better again.

One day, I’ll not have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, knowing that I’m going to have to go home at the end of the day to a person who doesn’t seem to really like me, nor respect me.

One day, I’ll be able to sleep a night through, without waking up with my heart racing, my mind going over the million worst-case scenarios that leap out of the shadows of my subconscious when I try and rest.

One day, I’ll quit thinking about all the missed opportunities, the years lost, and the mistakes I’ve made.

One day I’ll not shut my office door to keep my coworkers from seeing my red eyes.

One day I’ll lose the feeling that I’m a dismal failure at my career and family life.

Sometimes hope is all we’ve got.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My Life Is On Fire

They say the hottest fires forge the best steel. But fire also pretty much devours anything that it touches that isn't steel.

I am not a man of steel.

I haven't posted anything in quite awhile. There's reasons for that, mostly because I no longer have internet at home, and I have to post after-hours at work. That's the main thing. Also, it appears the muse has left me. I haven't been able to produce anything that even closely resembles creative thought in about 9 months, at last count. It's just not in me.

The reason, I suppose, is a good bit of depression. I think I can safely say that I'm at the lowest point that I've been in my life. Even back when I was dealing with an alcoholic parent, life always had the promise of something more, something better. It just doesn't seem thataway these days. Life seems pretty bleak.

To being with, my mom's dying. She's in the last stages of lung cancer. Simply put: this sucks. Those of you out there that have lost a parent know what I'm dealing with. Those that haven't, treasure your time with them. You have no idea how precious that time really is.

So that's bad.

To make matters worse, I'm pretty sure that I have a troubled marriage. I'm not going into a whole lot of detail. This is cathartic, but geez, I don't want everybody to know all my business.

Having done a whole lot of family law, I can understand some divorces. Where a spouse is cheating, beating the other one, etc. I get that. No problems. But where one spouse decides they just don't like you anymore, and treat you like total crap, that I don't get. I don't understand where it went wrong. I don't understand what I did wrong, other than to fall in love with somebody. I guess you can't make somebody love you, no matter what you think or feel.

I know I'm not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But I know where I'm lacking, and I'm working to make up those deficiencies. But it doesn't seem to be enough. In other words, this is out of my hands, and I don't like that one tiny bit. I'm going to keep working on being a better person.

If nothing else, I've gotten the most wonderful little baby out of the deal that you could possibly imagine. I'd like to have a passel more of them, some day. Doesn't look like that's going to happen, either.

Anyway, that's really bad.

Then I get to thinking about how possibly God's pretty much washed his hands of me. There's nothing I can do about all of this, so I give it to God. The problem is, he doesn't seem to be really doing much with the problems, either. My studies and faith would indicate otherwise, but it's hard to feel loved by God when your entire world is collapsing around your ears. If he loves me, this is a darn funny way of showing it.

I can see where people lose their faith. I'd be lying if I said that mine hasn't been weakened a bit. It seems like all the prayers are unanswered. That all the hopes and dreams are being crushed. Do the sins of the father have to visit the son?

So that's really, really bad. I don't doubt that God's there. I can even convince myself that he's going to get me through this mess, sometimes. But I think he's letting this happen for some reason, and that I can't understand.

Fire is the great destroyer. But it also burns away imperfections. Fields blossom after being scorched.

I guess the catch is to see whether or not I'm destroyed, or renewed by the fire. Maybe something better is going to arise from these ashes, like a phoenix. Surviving the inferno is going to be the trick.