Pt. 1: On being a new husband.

Hard is interesting word. Like many words its ambition is greater than its ability.

Hard can be used to describe a range of experiences that span the gamut from a math problem to basketball tryouts to childbirth. And as you can imagine, the word hard doesn’t do a good job at the extremes of human experience.

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I find that relationships and marriage specifically have the same problem. Words aren’t really helpful when trying to explain to other people the intricacies of relationships. No matter how articulate you are, it’s hard to properly paint an accurate depiction of the many layers that can exist in the extremes of human relationships.

I’ve been married for ~ 4 months. By no means am I a veteran when it comes to love and marriage. Because of this inexperience and rawness of a new reality, I think it’s important to memorialize my experiences as early as possible before things become so normal that it’s hard to remember the growing pains that accompanied my process.

Just a couple baseline things to get out of the way before I begin.

  1. My wife is wonderful and absolutely one of the best things to happen to me
  2. I got married in my mid-30’s
  3. I believe in God – a god that is personally involved and cares about my day to day experiences.

Ok, with those caveats – which of course will color and influence my worldview I can begin the process of remembering.

First off. If I was talking to a younger version of myself – I would probably try to give him an indications of how to proceed and of how hard marriage can be. I would use phrases that people tried to use to communicate similar things to me:

  • “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and also the most rewarding”
  • “Don’t let your expectations of your spouse ruin the reality of your spouse”
  • “Don’t try to change your spouse, Focus on what you can – changing yourself”
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What people forget to add, or can’t because the level of intimacy it would require would take these locker room or office chat’s and turn them into therapist couch confessionals – is that the things that make marriage hard (for me) have nothing to do with logic, or effort, or trying harder.

The things that make marriage hard are intangible and insidious in the most growth-producing way. The pain of having your spouse angry at you for a couple hours is agonizing in a way that nothing else can be. Because this is your one person in the world – and if your emotional make up is tilted toward worrying you can create whole timelines of fabricated endpoints that end up with you divorced because your wife didn’t like the way you put (or didn’t) the trash can bags back.

The weight of “forever” also adds a hefty emotional punch to even the most mundane actions. You can begin to wonder how you’ll deal with a behavior that you used to find charming, but that is now so irritating that you wonder how you’ll make it through the next week, let alone the next 40-60 years.

It’s the strength of these emotions that can lead to wild reactions to small arguments and depending on your “virgo-ness” trying to control or “manage” your spouse.

What no one tells you is that , often the answer in these situations is not to double down on action and planning.

Instead the answer can often found in the opposite course of action.

“Anybody who decides to get married – should hold on lightly to their idea of themselves.”

-Chima Ike. (My cousin)

Often our (read: my) issues with our spouse stem from identity issues or expectations that are deeply rooted inside of ourselves.

Instead of externalizing to your spouse, take a look at the desires inside of your heart that make a certain course of action seem to be the only appropriate one. What experiences have you had that make you so sure that your way is the only way forward?

A question that I’ve found to be helpful when I’m about to enter a discussion is:

“How important is it that I’m right in this particular discussion?”

For me this helps me to contextualize an argument or discussion and remove some of the emotional weight that marriage can tempt me to bring.

The other thing that is helpful is remember that your spouse can be trusted. That they are not out to hurt you nad that the things that they do that do hurt your feelings are not on purpose.

“Don’t ascribe to malice, what can be better considered ignorance” –

Author Unknown (maybe me?)

Giving them grace and remembering that, God is with you and has blessed your coupling (especially if you make sure God was involved in the process previous to jumping the broom) is also helpful. Being conscious of the things that make them great partners and the reasons you chose to be with them is also a helpful tactic when things get stormy.

fly or fall.

OFO

From F.I.R.E. to On Fire.

I grew up in an immigrant household. I have by popular consensus the best mother in the world. My Father was the right amount of disciplinarian to help balance her out.

My immigrant family growing up was/is like a lot of immigrant families.

There was an abundance of love and enough money for all the necessities, coupled with an extreme focus on achievement and “making it”.

The last two decades of my life has been spent trying to make up for the perceived lack in money of my childhood.

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It’s been in many ways a worthwhile pursuit.

The chase led me to pursue an education with a clear return on investment. To a degree path that led to a career that I love but that also paid well and that had room for growth. This chase has led to making sound investments that will continue to (hopefully) pay off for years to come. The desire for wealth has also led to tens of thousands wasted on hard lessons in the school of knocks.

Hare brained schemes, bad investments, bad or incompetent partners, partnerships made out of fear, crooked contractors, and chasing fast returns in the stock market – all of which, incidentally, turn out to be fast tracks to losing money.

Along the way I discovered a movement that helped me to put context around all of my savings and investment efforts.

The F.I.R.E. movement, which stands for Financial independence, retire early, helped to give me words to describe the shining target for my desire to be financial free. Previous to the F.I.R.E. movement all I could say was that I knew there was a world with more options that I could envision but I wasn’t sure of how to get there.

The F.I.R.E. movement isn’t what I’m here to talk about though.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that the pursuit of a financial endpoint is just not enough. As nice as big deposits are, they are inherently meaningless at some point. They ease discomfort but can’t usher in happiness. They can ward off hunger but never really leads to satisfaction.

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This realization has been growing in tandem with my net worth. I’m nowhere close to the financial goals that I had set for myself but I’m making steady and consistent progress, and lord willing, will arrive there someday. The steady progress in net worth at some point becomes un-linked from a steady growth in happiness.

At that point you have to make a conscious decision to turn your attention from financial goal setting to goals that have inherent meaning and lead to increased happiness.

Nowadays, I’m trying to prioritize seeking fulfillment over paychecks. Now every financial decision has to be run through a decision matrix that balances peace of mind with purpose. I’m less interested in profits without purpose.

I still prize freedom these days. In fact, I treasure the thought of this freedom even more than I did as a younger man because I know that my time grows shorter with every day lived.

I am really working on making the shift from working to be F.I.R.E. to be working on Fire. Filled with purpose and focused on fulfilling the vision that God has for me.

I wish the same for you.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

Workplace Attire

“Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.”

Nehemiah 4:17-18

I’m doing a 30-for-30 challenge this month with some members from my church.

We all are endeavoring to walk/run/jog an additional 30 miles outside of our usual activity in order to jumpstart some physical health related goals.

It has been an interesting experiment so far.

The leader of the pack at the moment is a lady who could be my mother. She logs 4 miles every day as consistently as a german clock tower.

During my walk today, the Nehemiah story in the bible came across my Spotify, and a specific passage struck me as a good example of the type of attitude that I should have consistently.

For background – Nehemiah is the central figure of the Book of Nehemiah, which describes his work in rebuilding Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. He was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes I of Persia. 

His big project was the rebuilding of the wall even though there were a LOT of powerful people who were arrayed against him in this task.

So much so that in order to ensure success Nehemiah had to command the workers to not only work but also carry a sword while they worked.

This image of workmen who were busy being productive but who also stood at the ready to pull their sword and defend their work struck me as a great metaphor for how we should approach our daily lives.

Photo by Rodolfo Quiru00f3s on Pexels.com

I like to think that all of us are in the midst of a great work. We’re building, day by day, a hopefully exciting and meaningful life. Perhaps that structure includes the responsibility of a family, or the pursuit of a great purpose, or even the cultivation of the self-love it takes to take care of yourself.

Regardless of the work that we’re involved in – making sure that we’re engaged in both the work of building and being prepared to defend what we’re building is beyond important.

We must carry both hammer and sword.

While not necessarily literal we must stand ready to defend our great work from internal and external foe.

If you’re building a family – we may have to say no for a season to the distraction of what would otherwise be worthwhile pursuits in order to ensure that our “great work” isn’t given less than what it deserves.

If you are early (or late) in a marriage – you may have to defend your relationship from old habits, old ways of thinking, shifting societal norms, or friend’s and family’s unrequested opinions.

If your learning to love yourself – you might have to delete social media accounts or unfollow the fabulous people who inspire envy, social comparison, or insecurities for a bit until you build the self-confidence and foundation of your self-worth. You may have to avoid celebrity gossip and reality shows that may, in and of themselves, be harmless.

“So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand”

Nehemiah 4:23

One thing I realized was that if I can maintain this attitude and position of readiness – resistance less often knocks me off my course.

Regardless of the work, we shouldn’t be surprised when we encounter those at our gates who are determined to destroy what we’re building.

It was that way in the 5th Century when Nehemiah was building his wall and it is that way today.

I wish you the best in your Building.

fly or fall,

OFO

Stagnant.

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For me, there is no feeling worse than stagnation.

Feeling like I’m not making any progress; like everything i’m doing is ineffective or even worse a waste of time.

Oftentimes when I get into spaces like this, I’m not exactly sure how to shake myself loose. The uncertainty seems to soak down into my pores. My speech becomes halting. My bellowed greetings become mumbled and smiles seem tentative. I start to feel like people can see the insecurities in the furrow of my brow.

In times like these I’m tempted toward extremism. Pushing myself to the limit to see if the pain will awaken me or numbing myself with TV marathons to see if extreme slumber and inactivity will goad me towards normalcy.

Meanwhile all the while I thrash about searching for something to hold on to that will give me something stable to stand upon. Something that will ignite my ambition and refuel my fire.

Usually this is the part of the essay where I reference Jesus. Similarly in my life I try to reference Jesus during these times. Poring over scriptures, listening to gospel, talking to him about my fears.

Something just occurred to me.

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I’m on this fitness journey right? One thing I’ve noticed is that the results of the actions don’t show up at the same time as the action. This is especially the case with food. The past couple of days I ate a lot of gummi bears. Now, nothing really changed in the 30 minutes after I ate except for any hunger I might have had lessened. As a result I ate a couple more gummi bears- enjoying the burst of flavor and the consistency of the fruity candy.

Three days later however, I feel the effects in the heaviness of my body when I try to run at previous paces. The seeds I planted 36 hours ago finally grew their fruit.

Maybe the seeds of these feelings of ineffectiveness were planted many days to weeks ago?

What are the areas where I’m not being obedient to God, and to my best self?

How can I fix those areas of unfaithfulness?

I’ll investigate and report back.

Fly or fall,

OFO

Be careful what you pray for..

The last couple of weeks, a theme that I’ve been running across in my devotional time has been the need to be quiet after praying in order to actually make room for God to speak to us.

To me, theoretically, this made sense.

I mean, in no other conversation in my life do I speak incessantly for a couple minutes then turn around and jet off to do something else.

Every other relationship requires a steady back and forth of ideas, thoughts, hopes, and fears. Only in my relationship with God do I find myself constantly bombarding him with a laundry list of requests, questions, emotional status updates, and then turning on a podcast and wondering why he remains silent.

This week I got the opportunity to travel away from home and my normal routines for a work trip.

Because of the different age groups in the line of work, I found some of the conference to be somewhat isolating. Even worse was when I got back to my lodgings. I found that nothing greeted me at my abode but the sound of a ticking mechanical clock that hung over the double doors to my bedroom.

I can literally hear the seconds march by.

round silver colored wall clock
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This silence filled me with unease at first. It felt unnatural.

Initially, I tried to fill it with social media. That worked for a while. Eventually even the infinite scroll of beautiful places and faces was not novel enough to distract me.

Then I tried Netflix. I made it through a season of an intriguing show or two before I felt boredom and an unsettledness invade my streaming habit.

Eventually I hit the wrong button on the remote and seemingly nixed the TV’s internet connection. My friends were already in bed in a different time zone. The coffee from the conference lingered in my bloodstream, keeping me alert as I watched the minute hand  sweep the roman numerals on the clock face.

I was left alone, awake, and in silence.

Somewhere in this process I realized that I was not just trying to entertain myself – I was  also avoiding, not just silence, but stillness.

I finally capitulated. I pushed my phone away from me. Turned off the television and I laid in the bed and allowed my mind space and time to hear from God.

Discomfort with stillness became more comfortable.

Soon, thoughts bubbled up from somewhere deep inside and led me to tackle and complete a sermon topic that had laid unfinished for longer than I was comfortable with. Even more important than finishing this project was the comfort in knowing that God had been waiting to talk to me.

It was comforting knowing that although He wouldn’t yell above the noise He would always find a way to whisper into the void in my heart. A God-shaped space that is always yearning for something more fulfilling than the newest Netflix original series.

The previous weeks, I had been praying for God to speak to me. Little did I know that He had been speaking to me the whole time. He had probably been praying for me to be quiet enough to hear him. I’m grateful that He forced me to slow down and be quiet, and yes, be uncomfortable until I could discover Him.

I still have some time before the din and noise of regular life resumes.

I’m hoping that I can make the most of the quiet by not making the most of every moment.

Fly or Fall,

OFO

Uncomfortable Conversations.

What’s the most difficult conversation that you need to have?

Do you need to save more money? Stop self-sabotaging yourself in relationships? Stop dating people who remind you of painful relationships? Stop dating potential? Start saving for retirement? Go back to school? Be more trustworthy? Be more disciplined? Be less rigid and more relaxed with the people who love you?

Maybe you suspect that some or one of these things may apply to you but you can’t be certain.

Things get a lot more simple when we’re trying to figure out what physical appearance we’re presenting to the  world.

We simply find a quality mirror.

How do we do that with the internal blemishes that we aren’t even aware are there?

You have to create room for friend-mirror’s.

You have to invite people into your life that are empowered to give you bad news in a way that’s not malevolent or aimed at creating pain but to inform and encourage change.

I had this conversation recently with my girlfriend when she commented that there are certain truths that I wouldn’t be able to hear from certain family members.

 

I bristled at that comment at first, protesting that of course any member of my family could give me bad news about myself.

When I stopped to think about it – she was definitely right.

There are certain topics that it would be hard for my younger siblings to talk to me about.

And not so much hard for them to tell me as it would be hard for me to listen.

And I mean really listen.

Take-it-to-heart -&-figure-out-how-I-should-change listen.

..

In a sense I’ve made it so that the people with the best mirrors who are close to me can’t use them.

I think I’m going to work on making space so that the people in my life can speak and I hear.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

 

 

I got some good news.

And I’m very thankful to God.

He’s been good to me in ways that I’ve yet to come to terms with.

I’m learning how to be more vulnerable.

I’m learning how to recognize fear and move forward regardless.

I’m learning how to love.

I’m learning what my triggers are.

I’m learning.

I’m growing.

I’m grateful.

-OFO

 

Growth

“Growth only occurs in a state of discomfort.”

“Complexity is nothing more than changed order”

I was listening to a great ted talk – about how discomfort is the siamese twin of growth. And how comfort is the true enemy.

It’s really made it clear to me that the growth i’m searching for is hidden behind tackling new challenges.

I’m going to look for ways to switch things up and find new complexity this week.

OFO

Blind.

This is less a post for other people and more of a reminder for my future self.

The last couple of days have been eye-opening.

I’ve been stumbling across example after example of the limits of my reason. Most of these examples have involved watching the run-on sentence of thoughts that elucidate on the risks vs. benefits of a particular decision.

Its also making me realize how many amazing (but risky) things I’ve avoided because my brain has rationalized the opportunity away.

The ability of my brain to explain why I shouldn’t do something is absolutely astonishing. I’m been blown away by how solid, how real, and how rational the explanations I’d been giving myself have seemed. I have also been realizing that if I sit with the emotions and try not to react negatively (and give the fear life) the emotional storms eventually fade away like morning mist in July.

woman with blindfold
Photo by Bruno Feitosa on Pexels.com

I’m finding out that in certain situations – it might be better to be blind. 

Finding out that my brain is capable of such subterfuge has effectively reconfigured the way I need to look at the world. Being that my brain acts as my primary sensory organ, this realization is the equivalent of finding out my eyes have been deceiving me.

If I was blind – at least I wouldn’t be fooled into thinking I was right.

Now I’m trying to figure out the best way to move forward.

How do you move forward when you find out your eyes are lying to you?

I’m thinking the answer may have something to do with Faith (and walking sticks).

Fly or Fall

OFO

 

 

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

-Jeremiah 17:9

The last couple weeks I’ve seen wild swings in my feelings.

Wild Swings.

people riding on swing rides under gray sky
Photo by Isabelle Taylor on Pexels.com

It’s made me realize that I really don’t know what drives my emotions and even worse, in certain situations, I can’t really trust my emotions.

Fear can hijack my emotions and leave me moving in a direction that I don’t want to simply because I can’t see the underlying motive.

It’s crazy.

What’s been interesting is that in this particular sphere of life, I’m learning to live more on faith. I’m suppressing the voice in my head that seems to be “logical” but is really just fear parading around with my voice.

Instead I’m having to trust God/the Universe to guide me and to take anything out of my path that I don’t need.

I’m thinking that I’m going to try to do more of this conscious living by faith and stop depending so much on the logical part of my brain.

Lord help me.

OFO