A Post pretending to be about a Marriage..

So it seems that marriage and family will be topics that I hover over for the next couple of post as I try to talk aloud to myself and try to get a better understanding of where I am.

The sense of having ot locate yourself with these two institutions isn’t too far off, I don’t think.

These institutions are millenia old. Older than the church, older than most modern religions. Older than any standing building or arrangement of stones.

With the momentum they’ve gathered – it’s no wonder people can feel either, crushed under their weight, lost in their movement, or simply feel that they’ve gone out of style and need a Generation now makeover. America itself seems to be perpetually having and identity crisis, it’s fascination with the now and urgent often placing it at odds with the old, staid, traditions of yore.

This is a boon for a country who like to play act that it is actually a company.

This is perhaps not so good for the people and families who seek to find solid footing and support as they embark upon the age-old tradition of raising a family.

I now find myself in that number, and the difference in perspective is startling.

What is the objective of tonight’s missive?

I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s just to plant a flag in the grass as an orientation maneuver. To declare where I am at this very millisecond with the understanding that I’m gestating information, different viewpoints, and seeking understanding and wisdom. With this new wisdom I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to look back and see where the tectonic plates of truth take me.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

I’m married.

I’ve been married for 1.5 years and I think I’m just now understanding that there is a deeper game afoot in the pursuit of a healthy, whole marriage. This game, for me, includes a curious bait and switch. I’m finding that in order for me to work on my marriage, I must actually not focus too much on my marriage in its current form. I actually must turn my attention towards a higher purpose. For me this is found in the seeking of God and his plan for my life. In that pursuit I find that I am able to access the strength to make some of the changes necessary to survive and potentially to thrive inside a marriage.

At least that is my working theory. I’m smack dab in the middle of testing this hypothesis.

Will report back.

Fly or Fall.

Family – Pt. 1.

Family life is about sacrifice.

Leadership is guided sacrifice.

Having a Good family life requires deep emotional connection.

Photo by Lisa on Pexels.com

Ok, can I be honest with ya’ll (i.e. My future self) – Leading a family is the hardest thing I think I’ve ever had to do.

What makes marriage and raising a family so difficult?

One of the biggest things is the level of emotional investment it takes. Especially in the context of the secular western society that we are raised.

Society at large values very different things then the things you will need to successfully remain married and raise a family. Society values or glorifies individualism, self-prioritization, machismo, image over substance, microwave level relationships, and external accomplishments. In contrast, at least in my estimation, getting and staying married will require huge levels of self-sacrifice, humility, the ability to wholeheartedly apologize, a jesus-level ability to forgive, and the prioritization of emotionally taxing internal work.

Needless to say when you spend the first quarter of your life practicing short-term relationships, and learning how to guard your heart from true intimacy – it can be very difficult for people to cross the threshold over into true emotional intimacy. Lump in things like emotional abuse from bad childhoods, or even unintended emotional trauma from good childhoods and people have a lot of headwinds that they must come to terms with in order to allow room for a marriage to bloom.

Let’s talk for a moment about pain.

Pain is powerful. Pain is not something we often reference in a positive way but some of my most transformational changes and biggest accomplishments rode the tidal wave created by significantly painful events in my life. I think of pain like fire – there are situations where pain can be useful. The pain of overexertion gives us signals that we should rest, the pain of heartbreak can signal to us that our mate- choosing abilities could use some work, and the pain of muscle fatigue can signal to us our current exertional limit.

Emotional pain can also tear down the walls of ego or pride and help us to connect with the humanity of other in new ways. Significantly painful times can often remind us just how human we are. The loss of a loved one doesn’t stop to ask about socioeconomic status, race, or zip codes. These uniquely painful human experiences bind us together with a shared human experience.

Now, even though pain can be useful and transformational, no one is going out of their way to experience a fresh hot batch of pain.

This is the crossroads where new marriages find themselves.

Marriage can be and feel a lot like pain. Not the useless pain of a random ailment or an sports injury. Marriage can expose its participants to a level of emotional pain that they previously could use evasive maneuvers to avoid.

Let’s take a hypothetical couple of Fran and Bobby. Fran and Bobby met each other at work. They share similar values and after a whirlwind romance they find themselves married and settling into their first months of the oldest institution on earth.

Reality sets in and Bobby finds that Fran isn’t quite as enthusiastic about certain things as she was in the past and finds that after a couple of conversations that strayed into shouting matches finds himself sitting in his car outside their shared abode shocked by how upset, afraid, and angry he is. In the past, when Bobby found himself in uncomfortable situations like this he would invariably find a way to make his slow exit from the relationship. However, this is Marriage. Bobby feels like there is too much to lose by leaving and thus adds feeling trapped to his emotional milieu.

What are bobby’s options at this crossroads? What has he trained himself over the last 20-30 years to do? What is popular media telling him? What are the inputs from his friends and family? What is Bobby’s emotional/spiritual mentors telling him is the right thing to do?

If your like the typical western adult male:

  • You’ve trained yourself over the last couple of decades to leave when things get difficult
  • Popular media trumpets that feelings of pain are NOT NORMAL and that when a relationship gets too hard you should consider yourself first and LEAVE
  • Friends and Family may have a biased view and hate to see family members in pain, constructive or not, and will start to form a viewpoint that paints the partner as a source of friction or frustration. This can eventually lead to situations where advice starts to lean toward negativity
  • Depending on the relationships that Bobby has cultivated the response from mentors could range the gamut – if he has single older friends or bitter divorced friends/mentors or men who view women as tools to be used and then thrown away the advice can vary from “leave immediately if she wont get her act together” to “find something on the side to ease your pain”.

None of this necessarily will lead Bobby back to himself to examine his assumptions, his behaviors, or his patterns of relating to his partner. Not a lot of the “default” things that surround Bobby will support him in using the pain of this partnership as a pushing off point towards greater self-realization.

I’m going to stop here because it seems good enough for today to just realize the state of affairs when it comes to some of the challenges of pursuing a good family life.

Hopefully the next post will dive into the solution I’ve found for these challenges.

Fly or Fall

Faith. vs Laziness.

There is a perennial question that haunts me whenever I have weeks like this.

What’s a week like this?

It started with one car overheating and having to be taken to the dealership to get diagnosed. Unfortunately – the turnaround time doesn’t seem to be anytime soon and in the meanwhile – we were down to one vehicle.

24 hours later the second vehicle shudders to a near halt and suddenly we’re scrambling to obtain a rental car and the emergency fund and correlated security that we’d try to build up is suddenly looking more like an endangered species on the way to extinction.

This all coincides with the struggle I’ve been in over the last two weeks to try to work my way towards some level of financial abundance. I have a tendency to think that these events are God’s way of trying to communicate with me.

A verse comes to me:

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:4-5)

Proverbs 23:4-5

This verse definitely speaks to me because this is exactly what I have been doing over the last two weeks – trying to work enough to get to some level of financial security and abundance. The timing of this unlikely event makes me feel like potentially there is a message that would go something like: “Don’t get distracted by the temptation to try to make finances your security. Instead – relax, wait on God and trust Him to make sure that all your needs get met.”

The rational part of my brain thinks this is soo crazy. How can I possibly not work hard as I can? Isn’t that laziness?

But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters].

1 Corinthians 2:14

I have the hardest time with this. I don’t want to be lazy. I have all these goals to accomplish and I want to be a good steward. Everything I see from the people who are super-successful seems to point to extremely hard work being a vital component of the recipe for success. I’m not sure how to square the circle.

I’m probably going to need to just take God’s word as truth and his schedule as a good model. Working 6 days is probably OK, because that was the schedule he kept. Working till my body is screaming is probably due to me making money the most important thing in my life and it is probably a good time for me to reconsider my relationship with work at that point.

Fly or Fall.

The battle within.

The theme of the past week has been that I’m discovering the battlefield is all in my mind. The hardest things I’ve had to do last week were all related to wrangling my mind into compliance.

It puts me in the mind of a quote I heard from Lebron James about how being tired is a frame of mind. While I don’t know if I 100% believe that to be true I can say that my ability to accomplish things is deeply tied to my mental fatigue or discomfort than any true physical limit being reached.

Last week was an exercise in meeting the self-imposed limits of my mindset.

By brushing up against the limits of my standard mindset I hope that I’m in the first stages of a dramatic change in what I’m capable of.

Photo by Matteo Basile on Pexels.com

How do I imagine this happening?

Phase 1: Find the limits of my mindset – run into the things that make me uncomfortable. Notice the things I do to escape that discomfort. What am I willing to do to prevent myself from experiencing the mentally tough tasks that I must complete? What compensatory things do I do to make myself feel better? What money do I spend to make myself feel better? What story do I tell myself about these behaviors?

I’m knee deep in this phase. This is the phase where I start to ask myself questions that seem to revolve around self-care and work/life balance.

Not that these are bad questions – but in my case often these are questions I use to grease the wheels toward quitting.

While those things are definitely important – what is more important for the future of my family and I, is that I learn how to achieve the goals that I’ve set for myself. Or at least give the pursuit of these goals my absolute best effort.

How can I actually know what my best effort is until I have given absolutely everything I have to the goal in front of me?

I can’t.


So what is the goal I’m looking to achieve?

Mentally:

  • I want to learn how to work hard while maintaining mental flexibility and toughness (a.k.a Not Quitting until goal is achieved)

Financially:

  • I want to pay off some consumer debt.

This year we finally had the celebration for our COVID postponed wedding and managed to rack up around $23k of debt on two different credit cards.

In the two months since the wedding I put in some extra shifts and budgeted very precisely to be able to pay off $10,500 of our wedding debt. However, we’re heading into month 3 and austerity historically hasn’t served as a great long term plan for me. Right around this time I usually end up letting my foot up off the pedal.

This time I want it to be different.

That means that continuing to work long days is the plan of attack for me. What started as working Saturday’s to gain a couple of extra dollars has started to grown into 16 hour days where I work two jobs in order to speed up the process.

For me, 16 hour days have a special ability to play with my mental toughness. Usually ten hours into a sixteen hour shift I can come up with all sorts of reasons why this is no longer a good idea. The other thing that can happen is that I start to make all sorts of unnecessary purchases on account of the fact that you “deserve it”. All this of course ends up just short circuiting any progress you’ve made financially.

It’s very interesting that a lot of my posts this week have all been related to mental health and the challenges we face when we choose to do hard things. Focusing on growing the mental toughness necessary to accomplish the tasks that will significantly move my life forward has been intriguing and helpful. It’s allowing me to get a 30,000 foot view of my habits and weaknesses.

Now that I have a family I’m feeling like if I ever want to experience the life that I’ve dreamed of – I have to become a better man. A more patient man. A man who is capable of being able to accomplish more. A man who may have to suffer more without spewing his pain onto others. A man who is also still able to love and express joy.

A man who is deeper than the man who I am today.

Photo by Sondre Dahl on Pexels.com

I know that one missing part of me achieving the things I want to is that I need to find communities to plug into that will support me in getting to the outcome that I desire. My family is a great support but I’ll need to seek out men who are on similar journey’s and who can inspire me to be more than I am today.

Fly or Fall.

Mind Games.

Happy Friday! I’m going to throw a couple topics into the ether of the internet and hopefully find a couple that I want to riff on longer than others.

I might have mentioned that this week has been very long.

The 16 hours days are thankfully not too physically demanding. I’m not lifting heavy things or having to dig ditches outside. The real struggle has been mostly mental.

Maintaining the right frame of mind when putting in extended hours. I find my mind wanting to slip into a particular frame of reference that can be quite insidious. I’m going to try my best to describe the circumstances that bring it about and try to get my hands around the type of thoughts that bubble up from my subconscious.

First: The Environment

What is happening internally or externally that makes these thoughts more prevalent?

Boredom is a risk factor. When I’m doing something that is completely passive or that requires memorization or no active engagement from me I can find myself wanting to make decisions that would shorten the amount of time that I had originally committed to the activity.

Hunger is another risk factor. It’s funny because I don’t think I have a good gauge of what mild hunger feels like. I’m very familiar with ravenous hunger and total satiety but I think I struggle with the grey area between these two extremes.

Second: Results

When I’m beset by these thoughts I find that my immediate temptation is to cut short the activity that I’m currently endeavoring to complete. I’m tempted to try to seek the fastest shortcut to make the negative feelings disappear. Then I get disgusted that I’ve moved the goalposts that I initially set.

I can sometimes be dragged into a tug of war between my high expectations and the reality of how my body is experiencing the current activity.

It’s been interesting how fast these feelings can resolve with a bit of food, water, or a mindset vitamin- usually in the form of reminding myself of what the ultimate goal is for the activity and also hopefully being brutally honest on whether the activity is actually moving me toward the goals I’ve set for myself or is just a time-waster.


What is the balance between goal-focused intensity and “wholeness”. I’m operating under the assumption that “wholeness” for the most successful people is a myth and that they just apply intense levels of effort to the goals that they are pursuing. They also probably have learned to ignore or manage the physical discomfort that comes with high levels of effort.

I’m still navigating and learning how to manage these emotions and stressors.

And that will have to be enough.


What is the ultimate goal for the hard work that I’m undertaking?

Goals..

Short Term (3-6 months):

Debt freedom with a lowercase d.

This year we celebrated our wedding and with it came a bill that seemed to balloon like Pennywise’s head in the last couple months before the actual event.

I hate debt.

We have around 18 months to knock out the consumer debt before our promotional 0% interest rate expires. I’ve taught too many financial freedom courses to fall victim to the usurious rates that are attached to these credit cards.

Medium Term(6-8 months):

I want to save up to take a data analysis bootcamp certification at a well known school in my region.

This course cost about $10k – which while not a huge sum will require some extra efforts as there are so many other start up costs to consider when starting a family.

  • Emergency Funds
  • Debt Paydown
  • Retirement Savings
  • Lifestyle expenditures
  • College Savings

So in order to keep some semblance of financial consistency – it’s going to require me to put in some serious effort to get all these things rolling before any other significant financial obligations present themselves (read: more children)

Reminding myself that I have both clear goals and some timeline constraints helps me to get refocused on the task at hand.

Long Term:

I’m not sure there is a long term objective with this particular level of effort.

I’m hoping that by accomplishing the goal that I’ve set above the end result will be skills that will continue to pave the way for more freedom.

Keep me in your prayers.

Fly or Fall

Go-Zone.

Two things are true about me today:

This is a 18 hour day for me filled with work and intermittent touch bases with the people I care about.

Also I’m really enjoying this day.

Interesting the expectations that the first statement raises for me and the surprising truth of the second statement. I think the difficulty of this day is only eclipsed by the purpose and utility that I’m finding in the things that I’m doing within the day.

Let me be clearer.

Although today is a very long day – definitely one of the longest in recent history. I can also see quite clearly the positive impact that the decisions that I’m making today are going to have on my family and my future and it makes me feel like every minute is worth it.

Also I recently got clarity that this is actually a blessed time for me. I’ve been very blessed to be able to have the opportunity to pursue the type of work that I’m doing. I’m also hopefully building in myself the capacity for a new level of focus, time management, and stretching out my ability again to tackle the hard things.

This day is very nostalgic – it reminds me of college and residency.

I’ve always been more effective when I’m a very busy person. Although there is of course a wall I hit over a certain amount of time with no rest. For some reason, too much rest makes me less productive. I guess the adage that says your work will expand to whatever amount of time you have available is true.

Photo by Darli Donizete on Pexels.com

I also know by applying hard won wisdom that I will need to make sure that I’m scheduling some deep rest to ensure that I’m not going to run into a wall later which usually includes full body shutdown and some variation of a severe 24-hour cough and cold.

I also can’t express how great it has been to keep the small commitment of writing everyday for my mental well-being.

It makes me feel like a person who can keep promises to himself.

I confess that there is a dream I’ve always harbored of starting a company or building something that would enable me to push myself to my limits and beyond. The dream of laboring deep into the night creating something that I would be proud is a pretty common theme in American work culture.

I also have had that sneaking suspicion of a truth that I’m not always willing to face full on. The whispered doubt that I am not always giving every endeavor my best effort. In the past there has perhaps been tendency has been give enough to do a good job while prioritizing my sleep schedule, or desire to not be uncomfortable.

Which can be fine I guess.

But unfortunate consequence is that you run alongside people who give everything they pursue their absolute all. Usually, while your in the midst of the struggle to create something or invest in the future – their next level sacrifice can seem nonsensical. What is the benefit of all those bleary mornings, coffee-laced nights, and the obvious frustration of perhaps trying and failing.

Why swing so hard at the fences that you fail spectacularly and publicly?

What is the difference between the prodigious amount of seeds they spray and the calculated but much more modest seeds I carefully place?

Time passes and eventually seeds bear fruit. Even the ones you can’t see.

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

A mustard sized seed can still grow a tree.

And those friends who push themselves and run up against the limits of themselves over time seem to steadily move ahead and reap the rewards that only full engagement, sacrifice, and faith can grow. They also gain a confidence that can only come from the self-knowing that whole hearted pursuit gives.

Meanwhile the rest of us must do battle with the insecurities that grow stronger in the shadows. And wrestle with the silent disappointment that not living on 100% gives birth to.

I’m hopeful that in this season of my life I’ll be able to learn the skill of deep commitment and the habit of excellence even in the midst of the raging storm of doubt, fear, and the unknown.

Fly or Fall.

Adulting in Overdrive

Whew. I thought being single was hard but nothing seems to be quite as hard as being married and raising children.

The days are always too short, money seems to be shorter, and there are so many competing priorities.

It’s difficult.

I had originally thought I was going to post something positive and uplifting but that doesn’t seem to be the vibe for tonight. There is soo much prayer and personal growth required in order to try to meet all the different demands and I can’t’ help but wonder if I’m doing something wrong.

Am I trying to do and be too much? Am I being too accommodating?

Father what needs to change?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Some of my goals for the next year:

  • Pay off Wedding Debt
  • Complete 24 week boot camp or start it at Ga-Tech for Data analysis
  • Pick one big project at work and finish it
  • Figure out how to woo my wife
  • Make more money! Figure out how to bring in an extra 8 hours per week of income
  • Have a pathway to max out 401k in 2023-2024
  • Save up 15k Emergency Fund

My Prayer:

Lord be with me and replenish my strength as I try to figure out how to be leader of this family.

I know that you have a plan for me and are working out the weaknesses and failures of my past. Lord help me to lean into the work and the “lil bit of straightenin” that you are in the process of completing in me.

Give me strength and help me to lean into your strength.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

Dreams and Decisions/

Day #2 of the daily writing experiment and it’s been an interesting one.

Today I got the opportunity to have a conversation with a friend who I look up to professionally. It was a great conversation and gave me quite a bit to think about.

First some context.

I’m about a decade into my working life and starting to look at options for what I can do to move things to the next level of my career. One of the things that has come up over and over is the desire for further learning. I want to grow my expertise and experience by broadening my skill set. There are a couple avenues and of course a million potential side streets that I can use to this end.

This conversation was to help me to get some perspective and context from someone who is a bit further down the road.

The conversation more than delivered on things to think about – with a couple of big ideas that will give me something to chew on. I’ll try to communicate them here to help my future self as I look back on this moment.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One.

My path is my path.

I have the bad habit of wanting to heavily rely on other peoples experiences instead of trusting my own internal truth. I think I may find other people’s certainty as a comfort for the uncertainty that making a decision based on my own desires invites. This may be based on historical failures or insecurities about what I’m capable of. Regardless of the reason – this conversation made it clear that I can take in other people’s opinions, but at the end of the day I must circle back to my internal voice (and God) to make a choice that I’ll be happy with in 5, 10,15 years.

This conversation was so helpful in giving me the perspective that my opinions and feelings matter even in when making decisions that can so easily be tied to dollars and cents.

Photo by the happiest face =) on Pexels.com

Two.

Err towards the Future.

This conversation really helped me to look toward the future and dream of what could be.

Often times I can get so mired in the realities of the present that I can forget to invest consistently in the future. I don’t want to become the human version of the Kodak company. I can look back at previous points of my life and see how I was able to make decision with a future focus that allowed me to be where I am now. At this point of my career – it’s still important to invest in a hopeful future even as I worry that I’ve picked up more responsibilities.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Three.

Do it.

You only live once. Don’t be afraid to invest. To spend the money. To potentially lose your capital. You have to try something in order to know whether you’ll be able to move forward with something successfully.

Don’t be afraid.

Fly or Fall.

Small Commitments.

How small is too small to matter?

Is a small pebble in a pond big enough to cause waves miles away?

I’ve been pondering what I can do to make changes that will show up in my life. There are a couple different areas where I feel like if I could just get over a mental hump that it would significantly change both my and my family’s lives.

One of the ways that I’m going to try to make this happen is to pick the smallest commitment that I can in order to build the muscle that hopefully will help me lift these areas of my character to a level that will impact my life for the better.

So what is my small commitment this week.

I’m going to try to write everyday this week – about what I’m not certain but everyday – I’m going to try to create something. No matter how bad or good the goal this week is just to produce something that will exist that didn’t before.

So that preamble aside – I did have a quick note that I hope to convey before my energy levels plummet.

And A Fortuitous Event.

Today I had a interesting occurence that spoke to me about the providence of God.

I was struggling with an issue of faith today (As I perennially do).

This month for some reason the bills have been coming hot and heavy. And our checking account has taken the repeated blows with a stiff upper lip although I could feel my concern growing with each new unexpected negative cashflow event.

As a result there was some waffling going on in the back of my mind about whether I should honor my spiritual discipline of trusting God and honoring Him through my tithe.

After some mental gymnastics and listening to a well-timed sermon by Andy Stanley – I finally followed through on my spiritual commitment and gave my tithe to the local church that I support.

A couple hours later my wife texted me asking me to come and see her on her floor of the hospital. I braced myself for some potentially bad news as this wasn’t a normal communique from her.

After settling ourselves on a bench that overlooked the parking lot of the hospital I waited for the unfortunate news.

Photo by Mizzu Cho on Pexels.com

Which never came.

My wife proceeded to tell me that the pending job offer had come through and that counter offer for her salary increase had been accepted. This was good news and I breathed a sigh of relief. What was even better news came right after – the recruiter had forgotten to inform her that there was a $5k bonus that would be awarded periodically throughout her first year at the new position.

This news floored me and reminded me that I wasn’t the final arbiter of whether my family was cared for. God is actually intimately involved in the things that concern me and that I didn’t have to bear the burden of that by myself.

I’m glad I get the opportunity to be in relationship with a God like that.

Wishing you your own fortuitous events.

Fly or Fall.

Creating.

One thing that seems to be on my mind more and more is making sure that I am carving time out to create.

The days seem to be overful. Squeezed to the gills like luggage on international flights.

The time that I do get are the scraps of the day. The hours where the moon spreads its quilted blanket of light over the land and sleep is hounding the corners of my eyelids.

These slivers of day are where I make my daily stand.. or hope to. Dragging myself through the crucible of creation in order to draw closer to God and to understand myself better.

I’m thankful for these moments because they are labor with a joyous ending of something created. I love looking back at the products of this labor even if others consider the result misshapen, broken, or useless.

I wonder if that is how God looks upon us. Never regretting it even if the results don’t quite live up to the original design.

I’m grateful.

Fly or Fall.