Category Archives: Emotions

Raising Queens and Kings

As a father of a nineteen year old daughter and a fourteen year old son, I often reflect on the direction on which I’ve sent each of them. The standards differ based on their ability and their expectations. Because I do not expect my son to behave like a woman, nor do expect my daughter to behave like a man, I must model for them what I’ve determined to be appropriate gender roles.

When my son is left to his own devices he exhibits childlike mannerisms: wanting without working, playing until exhaustion, but feigning any responsibility to his home or for his actions…

And so I address it. We discuss it. I model an alternative to what he does and emphasize positive outcomes. It’s not easy. But it’s not supposed to be.

My daughter has always been more mature, but not without childish mannerisms. The women in her life, of course, take every opportunity to bestow upon her how to be a successful woman.

As I watch, I cannot help but observe some of the practices they’ve taught her. I wish we could simply raise our children up to be ADULTS; model citizens, hard workers, self-sufficient. But it is not enough. My daughter must also be a strong woman (especially when her counterparts are weak). She must be caring even when no one else cares. She will undoubtedly become as much of her mother as she becomes a fruit of me.

I worry that I’ve not given her enough. I see around me women who struggle with the world around them. It is men who’ve stopped caring that force the women to compensate. But more often I notice the women in our lives, the matrons of our family, and our lady leaders who must compromise–women who are forced to make tough decisions because their men were unable or impotent.

I wish this world were kinder to our women. I wish my daughter were not being taught how to “handle” men to get what she wants. Although her “compromise game” is weak, her “compensate game” is strong. She needs no one. But she’s offered the support from women who had to resort to manipulation and trickery for their own survival.

She’s accompanied a grandmother who chased her husbands away and a mother who couldn’t trick her husband into giving her what she wanted. They now press their prodigy to take their advice. She’s told to give to the young man who hasn’t found his way yet, but to spend no time with someone who challenges her ability. They’ve denied their own role in driving their lovers away. But they offer encouragement on how to find happiness without a “good man.”

The narrative changes depending on who tells the story. As a father who hoped he’s modeled what a strong man looks like, what a dedicated man does, and how a passionate man loves, no man can truly deserve my princess (in my opinion). I encourage her to hold on to what I’ve modeled.

But there’s another perspective–the female perspective. The mother perspective counters most of what this father models. This mother says, “forget him!” It says,”you don’t need him…”. It pronounces that, ” he’s nothing because he refused to GIVE me what I want…”

A mother’s distaste of the father equals poison in the development of a child. As a father I see it. And although I have no antidote, I can offer a vaccine.

“Daughters, we love you! Listen to what your mothers tell you, but recognize that there’s another side to that advice,” urges this father.

Don’t take the advice from a bitter person. Know that your father’s revenge is a successful life. We seek Queens to build our kingdom. This is why we’ve raised you to be princesses.

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Guiltless

A few years ago I was dating someone who was living what she called an abstinent lifestyle. Her consecration dictated that she’d have no lover before marriage; and further her courtship was to be a spiritual walk during which she’d be able to determine how’d “equally yoked” they’d both be. A relationship like that brings with it all types of challenges.

I may have thought that I was confident and spiritually grounded, but I learned some very interesting things about my tolerance of others’ beliefs during my journey.

40 Nights

One Lenten season, I asked my girlfriend what (if anything) she’d given up for Lent. I’m not catholic but I believe in self-sacrifice in the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. I smile at the idea of giving up chocolate or soda in hopes that the sacrifice may evolve into a healthier lifestyle. I’ve been successful on a few occasions, but usually become glutinous on the other side of the “fast.” But my faith has not required me to give too much of myself. Moderation. Moderation… A mustard seed of faith is all that is required. No need for extra!

Well, she didn’t see it the same way. Her response sent us down a path of true faith-building that would last years. She said, “I’m giving up intimacy.”

Intimacy…

Our relationship had already been defined by abstinence that was occasionally diluted by kissing and heavy petting. I was in uncharted territory but defended (to myself) that I had already endured a sexless marriage. If distance can make the heart grow fonder, then abstinence can make for short engagements, RiGhT??

So to try something new would be as easy as offering a kid an amalgamation of fresh uncooked vegetables. Carrots, celery, broccoli, and cauliflower…

Not so fast!

And that’s what she said…often! Shaking my head sadly, I accepted the rules of engagement. (Pun intended!)

So she’d given up intimacy. In search of just one more simile, it was like asking a diabetic to give up chocolate. I had to question the lunacy.

“Who told you to do THAT!?!” One of the stupidest questions I could ask, I realize now.

“God!” she affirmed.

“Well, did He tell you that you couldn’t stay here anymore?”

“You mean I can’t spend the night?”

“No!”

I suppose at the time I was more superstitious than religious. My faith wavered more towards punishment than grace. And I was already certain that if I pressed this 40 year old virgin to give in to her hormonal urges, I would be struck by lightening for sure.

I had figured that this would signal the end of the relationship. I was not offering a compromise, nor did I plan on playing games with our emotions. After all, a direction from the Lord did not require my consent.

For me it was a spiritual awakening–an opportunity to assert my own beliefs, develop a sense of responsibility, and most importantly model for my own daughter a balance between religion and self-love.

She asked, “what will you be giving up for lent?”

“Guilt! I’ll be giving up guilt.”

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean IS that I’m tired of feeling guilty.”

Lust, gluttony, sloth, greed, wrath, pride, envy…cardinal vices. Carnal too. Flesh. The world…

I’m being asked to live according to someone else’s standards. I’m expected to live a life of decency despite the temptations that my brothers (and sisters) in Christ lay before me (?) and, AND, and…

This was years ago. I recount the years that have passed since my life changed. The seasons have cycled many times, but one theme has become constant in my life. I now live guiltless.

That doesn’t mean that I live carefree; nor does it mean that I allow myself to discard the beliefs of others. What it means is that I refuse to allow someone else to project their values on to me.

I can not feel bad because someone else has regret. I must not be held accountable for someone else’s hang ups. I must be free from their sin.

“You mean I can’t stay here for 40 nights?”

“You can not stay here at ALL!”

The love I had for her changed that day. It grew less as my heart and brain began to work together for the first time in my life.

Reason

I began to reason with my own conscience. I began to question how my faith drives my actions. I developed the ability to stay “no”. And only after years of practice have I become proficient is saying this too:

“I don’t believe that I can offer you what you deserve…”

What do we deserve? We deserve to be happy.

Happiness requires our own actions–our own growth and development–hard work and dedication–and most importantly…faith.

No one can give us that.

And that is what she wanted. She wanted me to have faith in HER. She wanted me to adhere to her belief system and to honor her in the ways that she wanted (that were also subject to change whenever HER god saw fit). The god in her was not the God in me.

And the God in me said, “no more”.

The God in me said, “I release you from your own chains and the invisible chains that have shackled you to your ‘future queen'”.

“You can never stay here again.”

“But I’ve come all this way for you!” she exclaimed.

“Don’t come here. I have children who are watching me closely. I have a daughter to whom I should never have to explain that we sleep next to each other, but we don’t touch each other. I don’t want to lie… down to anyone. I don’t want to feel guilty!”

I stood up. Standing on promises. Standing up for my future generations. Building a new legacy. Starting now…no wait. Starting NOW. No wait! StArTiNg…NoW

Christ died for my sin. He spread his arms wide, and His believers cried…so that I may never have to cry again.

“I don’t have to die. I don’t have to cry. And I don’t have to lie (or lay) next to you again.”

She left. And although she came back, she didn’t stay.

She didn’t stay.

Forty days passed. And 40 more. Till there were no more.

“Don’t let the door…hit you on the way out.” What began as a challenge, became a life lesson and a new diet–a diet filled with moderation and understanding and a relationship with God that was far greater than a relationship with any person.

Someone else can bear that cross. Some other man will make her sacrifice. If it goes well, it won’t be a sacrifice at all.

But isn’t Love a sacrifice. Must it be? I may never know again. But that’s a beautiful thing too. Not knowing…there can be beauty it not knowing. But it can be painful as well. Devine agony.

What agony, to love no more?

And now her beliefs are beheld by another, till death do them part.

I recall a time when that destiny was mine. But with the will to change (my mind) and the desire to live for me, I am guilt free.

And no less…

I am guiltless.

Guilt-Free V-Days

Two days before Valentine’s Day, I find myself sitting at a kitchen table while my student reinvents herself through a group science project. A project that is designed for a group, yet doled out for an individual student while she’s on medical leave….

THIS is what I’m facilitating as a blog from one of my favorite bloggers catches the corner of my eye.

Beauty Beyond Bones is one of the few blogs I read–mostly because I get an email every time the author publishes. But it’s easy to proclaim a favorite when there aren’t many others for which I will sacrifice my time. For as long as I’ve been on this reflective journey as a blogger, her blog has caught my attention. I suppose it’s because her persona reminds me of someone who I once loved. I say this with no guilt, however. And that’s because I gave up guilt for lent nearly four years ago.

That’s right! I gave up guilt for Lent. Here’s why:

This person I once loved, she has a name. But for simplicity, let’s just call her Love. She had convinced me that she was the one the Lord held aside just for me. She’d been praying her whole life for what she called “my sweet king-to-be” (MSKTB) for which became the moniker for this blog thread. She waited her whole life–and I mean she WAITED.

Her unrelenting chastity was something I honored. I’d figured that she was worth the sacrifice especially since she’d already sacrificed so much. But as the years passed I began to question the validly of a “sacrifice” of something that was never experienced. I longed for the integrity of a pure relationship. After all, no relationship prior had yielding a godly outcome.

This particular relationship did not come without its conflict and confusion. This was uncharted territory for me. I’d been divorced for nearly five years. My beautiful children and much-needed experience where the fruits of that union. Alas I’d experienced a sex-free marriage. How hard could an abstinent courtship be?

And believe it or not, it wasn’t difficult at all. The challenge was understanding the “rules” of an abstinent relationship. Love, well she didn’t make it easy. This courtship, as she called it, forced me to recall medieval times when marriages were arranged and fathers held the key to the mystical chastity belt. Weird!

It made me wonder if there were occasions where restricted access was circumvented somehow. Or if the whole concept was more-or-less a myth. I suppose I had a front row seat to my own private show. It was an interactive one-act play where I was both the star AND the antagonist. It hinged on torture, but Love led me to believe that it was necessary to truly appreciate the sanctity of marriage.

She had a hold of me. To my circle of friends, it looked like a circus. I thought I was the lion-tamer. Nah, I was merely one of the clowns (the one without the makeup).

As our relationship entered its first Lenten season, I asked her if she’d given any thought to what sacrifice she’d make for 40 Days. I figured it would be akin to my own fast of soda or chocolate. No! Hers was much deeper!!

Intimacy!

Huh? What?

I was confused. How much more un-intimate could we be??? I pressed her for an explanation. She obliged.

She said she’d spoken to God about it, and he told her to take her sacrifice deeper.

I thought this was a joke. But Love doesn’t joke about God. I began to plead with her. And then I realized that there was no integrity to in that at all. So I encouraged her to explain further. She said “no touching!”

Yeah ok.

“No kissing…”

Huh?

“No lustful gazing…”

To which I replied, “where will you be staying?”

This is where she became confused. I continued.

“When you spoke to God, did he tell you where you’d be staying when you come to visit me?”

I realized at that moment that I was venturing into a very ugly territory from which there’d be no return. But there was no turning back.

I gestured gingerly, “Hun, I know that you come a long way to see me. I know the sacrifice that you make to be with me. You are tired when you arrive, and most weekends you want to lay down; which results in you spending the night.”

“But you’ve also got to realize the challenge that comes from you spending the nights here when my children are home–the challenge created from trying to model this righteous behavior in the face of being “chased”.

My daughter had begun to emulate pristine behavior. She asked for a purity ring of her own. She spoke of the importance of waiting…

What father wouldn’t want that? Now I was offered an opportunity to step up. I’m not taking one for the team. I’m embracing a responsibility far greater than a “man-in-waiting” (is there such a thing?); or was my search for masculinity manifesting into a fatherly responsibility?

It didn’t matter. For a moment–perhaps minutes at best, Love melted. Her eyes gazed upon me and I felt appreciated.

But that too was confusing for me. And so I did what I do best. I stuck out my chest and…

Ruined it!

She asked me lovingly, “what will you give up for Lent?”

“Guilt! I’m giving up guilt!”

Love was lost.

I defended that if God was going to have a private conversation with my love, I was going to assert my role in my relationship with God. I looked up to the ceiling and continued, “you can’t stay here, wear sexy pajamas in my kitchen, tell me I can’t look at, touch, or kiss you and stay here. It’s teasing and it’s mean.”

Well maybe I didn’t say it was mean. It was a bad memory. What do you want from me?

“I Am giving up guilt for lent!” The Lord died for my sins. The fornication, the lust, the adultery, and all the other illicit stuff that I reluctantly confess to. I don’t need to harbor any guilt.

I sorta thought that I should have consulted a priest on this one, but…

I’m not catholic.

Love left that night. She went home to her father’s house where he and her mother later praised me for raising my own daughter to be a queen. I’m not sure how I felt about that, but…

Now THAT Ash Wednesday did not fall on Valentine’s Day (like it does this year), but the sheets have been cold ever since. Well, cold on Valentine’s Day at least.

As a middle-aged man who is on the cusp of denial, I will love myself this Valentine’s Day. And once you get your mind out of the gutter, you’ll probably do the same.

In case you didn’t know, the boxes of chocolate go on sale after 6pm at most pharmacies. And the Ex-lax is a few isles over.

Happy Ash Wednesday!

Holiday Dream

I had a holiday dream…

I opened my eyes. I thought I was in my own bed. It looked like my bedroom. The linens smelled fresh like my own. As I descended the staircase, the silhouette of an undecorated tree and the chore of unwrapped gifts still lay on the floor. Running water from the aquarium invited my gaze. The house mascot pawed at me–an unfamiliar sight. My bags were packed and sitting by the door.

The draft from the cool outdoors blew in from beneath the door as I noticed my canvas shoes laid out for me next to a cozy work jacket I once wore in a career long ago.

I looked in the mirror by the door. I was already dressed and my hair and face were well-groomed. With my key fob in hand, I pressed one button, and the lights in the driveway lit up. Was I driving somewhere?

Dishes washed, laundry folded, and trash taken out, there’d be no mess awaiting my return. The most recent message on my phone read “Merry Christmas and traveling mercies”. Where was I going?

I snatched the pre-packed backpack in and headed out the door. There were no voices acknowledging my departure. I turned back for a moment. No lights, no lingering fragrances, no melody looming in the darkness…

Good bye, fare well?

Will I return?

I turned the ignition and a voice from OnStar greeted me with no recognition of the holiday. “Your destination has been sent to your onboard navigation system. Enjoy your day.”

Reverse…creeping into the street; none of the neighbors were watching. The traffic light at the end of the block faded from crimson to go-green! There’s no turning back.

A half tank of gas won’t take me far. But the airport is only 43 miles away. Not a car on the road, the engine hums past 80mph. Whoosh up the highway. Record time!

My destination still a blur. The sun rises over the bridge. All tolls paid. Valet awaiting, and a chauffeur ushering me to my flight. Weeeeeee

I’m not coming back. I can just feel it (at least until after Christmas).

Where am I going, Denver?

Catylist 

He was the catylist. He brought about an inadvertant change.  And her life would not be the same.  First in his mother, and then in the life of every woman whose life he touched thereafter.  

After every guilt-ridden argument he had with his mother (especially in his teenage years), he was left reminded that he was a complicated birth. “The doctor told me that I shouldn’t have you.”

“But you are our love child…”

“We wanted you!”

“And this is how you behave?!?”

And in true Oedipus psychology, he fell in love with a woman who is very much like his mother. He overlooked mental health and insecurity when he proposed. And their love-child was not only conceived in love, but raised with praise. He loved his daughter with his whole heart.  And that level of insecurity was too much for his wife.

He discarded the insecurity as jealousy. And he excused the jealousy to keep his own sanity; and by ignoring what he thought might be wrong, he enabled a woman who otherwise would not be able to get out of her own way.

He watched her destroy a relationship after relationship. She eventually partnered with his mother to collaborate and destroy his inner being. They wanted him to believe that he was crazy. Their private meetings were filled with how to manipulate him.

When he realized what was happening he confronted them both.  He refused to deal with the recent loss of both his brother and his father. He mustered what strength he had to assert his authority in his own life.

The fallout was immeasurable. This was his first lesson (of many to come) that he can no longer be too nice to the wrong people. He internalized that he created this problem.  He believed that the turmoil in his life was a direct result of him being kind for too long.

Every relationship thereafter came with caution-and a fear of betrayal. He would trust strangers more than his loved ones. It did not take long for new relationships to deteriorate as a result of his mistrust.

He began to realize that building walls was not only good for keeping others out, but keeping the wrong element in.  He wondered if he was keeping the wrong people too close. So he removed his walls and let everybody in.  He had to be on guard more than ever.  He began to question everything.  

Questioning everything evolved into challenging authority or anyone who tried to have dominion over him.  He believed that only if he understood the world around him, he could be a part of positive change. All he wanted was to leave the world a little bit better and he had found it.

He knew that if he modeled strong manhood and effective leadership, his daughter and son would come to have the moral fortitude that others lacked.

He wasn’t wrong.  

He grew stronger.  His eyes opened.  He awakened to a world that loved…

He became excited and built new relationships.  These relationships were stronger and healthier.  He became discerning.  He began to choose his own destiny.  His energy inspired others. But he didn’t want to inspire as much as he wanted to help.  Instead of allowing his passions to keep him from the people he loved, he encouraged them to love life with him.  

He loved. He loved life.  He loved people.  He loved the creations that God formed.  He acknowledged bad things as necessary evils to evoke change.  

He became aware of his passion.  He prayed more.  He took better care of his body.  He considered the alternatives.  He explored his options.  He moved away from what he knew.   He became uncomfortable.  His discomfort became tradition until he learned to be more mobile.  Now he can’t stop.  He was once lured drama.  But he learned  that drama can inhibit. He wanted to focus more on growth.

He became a catylist for change by rejecting the norm.  He won’t look back.  Never look back…

her Roeck

What we want is a reflection of who we are. Why would you want someone who would give so much of themselves that they would neglect their own needs? What is it about someone who is so forgiving and so giving that they would neglect themselves? How desirable is a person who would forget their own needs? Are their gifts so great that it’s possible to overlook their own self-care?

A firefighter who goes into a burning building to save another (without putting on his protective gear) is no more likely to save the victim then he is of becoming a victim himself. Although it seems heroic, it borders on the careless. More often than not such a hero will need to be rescued as well.

Women who want a man to put her needs before his own may be overlooking the fact that he may not be able to take care of anyone’s needs for a larger period of time.

“Here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice…”
Ladies reconsider what it is that you seek. Gentleman think twice before you leap.

The Ultimate Rejection

Women refuse men all the time. They refuse eye contact; they refuse conversation; they refuse any acknowledgement of anyone with whom they are not interested.   Men don’t refuse as often.  But men are hunters, no?   They seek out and find partners that are suitable. The are rejected sometimes (some more often than others). Charismatic men know how to mold and shift those rejections into challenges and opportunity.  Those less skilled often give up. 

Women however get to choose more often.  Now, there are surely some women who are thinking, “not me…”.  We are subject to the standards that we set for ourselves.  Some of us have high standards and refuse to settle for less.  With that decision comes periods of loneliness abbreviated with occasional opportunity.  Others have lower standards.  Those people to whom less is given, less is required.  And those whom don’t demand as much are seldom disappointed.  

But there’s more…

There’s the afterlife (said in my Prince “Let’s Go Crazy” voice). 

There are folks like you and I. We have flexible standards.  We reserve the right to change our minds.  We say “no” sometimes to the invitations we receive.  We celebrate those people we allow to come into our lives by giving them our time, attention, and devotion.  And in between we wonder how things could have gone differently if our decisions conflict with circumstances outside of our control.  

It’s natural to wonder why things didn’t work out.  It’s reflective to suppose how things could have had a more favorable outcome.  Weither we realize it or not, we are building relationships daily.  Each one is an opportunity to change our lives; to build on our experiences; and to create positive outcomes.  

But there are negative experiences too. We reject those (hopefully).  

The ultimate rejection is not when we say “no!”   It’s when we shun a relationship or when we shut someone out of our life.   When we refuse to communicate with them…

When we refuse to perpetuate a relationship…

When we insist on ignoring someone that wants to be in our life…

When we find contentment in never talking to them again…

This is the ultimate rejection.