Saturday, December 01, 2007

Reflections, part one

As he drove the winding road, his eyes were following the twists, but his mind was a million miles away. The snow was falling in huge flakes, the song of praise turned up loud enough to drown out any road noise that might make him more than slightly present in the cabin of the car.

It had been such an emotional year. The very sound of the word 'emotional' resonated in his head in a way that he simply did not expect, and was still getting used to as the word continued to take on a new meaning in his life. And there was still so much that he was processing now, days, months, and even years distant from so many events. The insights had come fast and furious, starting with a slow roll from a stint in therapy at the beginning of the last fall, when it had been suggested that he had been "stuffing" his emotions, and from the sound of things, had been doing so all of his life. This was the reason for the explosive eruptions of temper, that while not really physical, were still powerful enough that he himself had been disturbed by their intensity. While the therapy had been brief, as the busy lifestyle had intruded to the point that continuation at that time was impossible, the consideration of the conclusions continued. He didn't mind. The part of his brain that usually occupied itself with more trivial matters like the name of the actor in the old movie he had watched the other night actually had something of consequence to do. The fact that he no longer was waking up in the middle of the night with the sudden remembrance of such pointless things proved to be a serious comfort as well. The net result was that he was constantly examining his actions, and those of the people around him and pondering the question that he had started out hating: "How does this make me feel?" Consequently, he had started to react differently toward his children. Persuasion and understanding soon ruled where only hegemony by force had reigned before. He wasn't a pushover, and had come to master "the look", which spoke volumes the right way without saying a word. The understanding meant coming to grips with his oldest child's condition, and realizing that he too, had certain characteristics of it, and that perhaps his own father had a very serious case of it. This understanding allowed him to draw on his own childhood experiences in a way that helped him to help his own son with his day to day struggles with social interaction. Along the way, he noticed that he started to feel more than two or three emotions. He also reflected on how unusual his own childhood was.

Of course, there were other troubles. A long abdication of any real responsibility in his marriage had created strains that would not stay hidden any longer. More work and exploration was necessary. He fell back on the one method that had always worked for him. He read. Relationship books filled his days and nights. The fiction that he had escaped into for so many years simply faded into the background. He made more discoveries as he worked through the books piling up next to his side of the bed. Some were very startling to him. One such revelation had to do with what communicated with him most effectively. Apparently, physical touch spoke directly to him in ways he never anticipated. In retrospect, it seemed like a big "Duh!" might have been appropriate. It explained the appetite for sex, and the feelings of dissatisfaction after. It wasn't that he didn't like sex. That really wasn't possible, but he'd spent so many years centering on it, when it wasn't what he really needed. After a childhood in a home where such expression "just did not happen", he was startled to find out that such a basic thing was so primary to his everyday needs.

Things were starting to come together. He was constantly surprised by the emotions he experienced daily. He felt like a man who had only been able to see in black and white; each emotion was a color, and his days were crowded with vibrant hues. The only thing he wasn't ready for was his own reactions. Feeling was a two way street, and he found it harder to shut out the emotions he didn't want to have. This made day to day living far more interesting than he would have liked at times. What he didn't see was the last piece to understanding lying in wait, like a predator, ready to strike him down.

Things were not good at home. One night, he stayed late at work, but found himself unable to concentrate. He left and went to the local outlet mall, hoping that the walk would sooth his troubled mind, the same way it always eased his anxieties. After rounding the building, he found himself standing outside the Christian bookstore. In the last few months, he had found himself getting more serious about religion, making church attendance a priority, and returning to daily reading the Bible. God had been a nebulous concept in his life for a very long time. Having grown up in the irreligious part of a very religious family, he knew about religion, but it was really more of an intellectual exercise rather than a grounded belief that affected his behavior or outlook. This continued until a conversation one night in bed with his then girlfriend, now wife, in which she had managed to convince him that it really didn't matter what man planned or did for himself, because it simply would not prevail against God's plans. After they were married, they attended a strongly Bible based church. A spiritual awakening of sorts had taken root in him there, and his study of the Bible and application of it to his daily life made him feel very spiritually empowered. Yet a shadow fell, and he started chasing things that he thought he needed, rather than being the spiritual leader of his household. He fell out of the habits, and they lived a life less fulfilled, without ever really understanding why. The power that was so real to him, that seemed to come from every pore, faded quickly and except for the guilt that this created, it became as a dream, fading in the rays of the morning sun. This previous intimacy that had been absent for so long was now slowly returning, and he pondered this as he stood outside the store, looking in at the patrons perusing the shelves. He finally went in. He started leafing through a book he had recently read about, and was surprised at how much it was speaking directly to his feelings, and the places in his life he was still reluctant to approach. He purchased it and left the store.