Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dodge Duck Dip Dive Dodge...

Note:  This is an old post.  The argument referenced in this post is LONG since gone.

I *hated* my Pierce College English teacher. If you ever come across someone there named Mrs. Tierney, please feel free to say I called her a tree-hugging hippy. Her emesis-inducing postulation that nature was infinitely wiser than humans made me grab for the nearest container. Truly a horrible way to start my college education. And yet, some of the things we read in Walden continue to stick with me, no matter how hard I try to beat it out of me. And here we go:

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."

Some background: In High School youth group (High Impact at COTW), there was a LOT of pressure to fit kids into the ministry somehow. Those that made the decision were almost deified in the youth group. My gifts did not lend themselves to evangelism at all. The feeling was that if you were not planning on being a youth pastor or starting a church to convert the penguins, you were deficient in some fashion.

So, my sense of humor took a very attacking tone. I didn't know why at the time, but I was angry at everyone for making me feel excluded because I intended to be an engineer when they felt that anyone of any intellectual capacity should be going to LIFE, APU, etc.

In 10th grade, Rock Solid was asked to provide the Worship team at Camp Cedar Crest. While up there, I was very clearly directed to examine the hurt I was inflicting people with my pointed sense of humor.

After I returned, for a while, I had to humble myself, and actively seek out people I knew I had offended, and ask their forgiveness. It was a tough thing to do, but I discovered that I didn't want to be that person again.

My Senior year, while at another camp, for the only time in my life thus far, I honestly feel like I heard distinctly from God. It was a confirmation that I was not intended for the ministry at all. The release from bondage that I felt was so extreme that for the first time, I actually thought that God's plan for my life might include using the talents that he had given me.

This included my sense of humor. My earlier experience had shown me that using my outgoing sense of humor to hurt people is a path I never want to go down again. However, my experience Senior Year showed me that God gives us our personalities, desires, and strengths for a reason.

Fast Forward to about five years ago. I was new in town, and, as I've said in previous posts, the people here in Santa Barbara are very close-knit, and I was coming in as an outsider. My lack of social interaction caused me to literally go to bed crying myself to sleep some nights. I knew that I thrived on social interaction.

My former roommate Paul Laufer put it very succinctly, but I'll have to paraphrase: "Joe is, at all times, unabashedly Joe."

I love to include people.

I love to mix people from various facets of my life and see if anything gels.

I love saying what everyone is dying to, but can't bring themselves to say.

I love releasing the tension in a room by talking about what everyone is thinking about.

I love to make people laugh.

To that end, I've found that the best fit for my sense of humor and personality, besides being pointed at someone, is to bring the surreal and unexpected into a given situation. I imagine that strangers walk away from a chance encounter with me going "WTF was that?" Not in a bad way, mind you, just with a chuckle and a shake of the head.

And my fearlessness to be in a difficult social situation, whether at the center of attention, for bemusement/possible scorn, or to launch into the unknown, has served me well.

I've gotten up in meetings and asked difficult questions that everyone wanted to know, but were all too afraid to ask.

While working for the Navy, during a crowded lunch room during a three-day meeting, I asked if I could sit at a table with two gentleman I didn't recognize. My Team Lead informed me shortly after that the two gentlemen were the Program director for Land Attack (PMS 529) and a one-star admiral (to be fair, the admiral was in civilian clothes). We had a good lunch, despite my Team Lead sweating bullets three tables away. (He thought I was going to whip out my thoroughly tasteless Helen Keller Jokes.)

The Walden quote from above has gotten me thinking about marriages. It's been said that women enter into marriage hoping their men will change, whereas men enter into it hoping the women do not.

There is a very (unhealthy) stereotype in most churches that the women will eventually "domesticate" their partner, and mold their men into being more like them. This can be seen in various cute quips and jokes that go back and forth, remarking on the establishment of women as the puppet master of the husband.

For the most part, it is only humor.

However, there are those marriages where the husband, in his efforts to appease his wife, has given up all vestiges of having anything he finds interesting. The ironic part is, in most cases, the wife is still not happy with him;  now he's boring.

During a particularly dry point in my dating career, my good friends Jeff and Sarah loaned me a collection of pastor's take on the initiation and continued success of healthy marriages.

Surprisingly, it didn't contain the expected recurring theme of: "whatever the wife says goes." Most of them discussed the distinction between compromise versus collapse when it came to concessions when dealing with conflict; the need to provide the other person with boundaries to respect, as opposed to being a shapeless mass of goo. Being who you are, and yet supporting the other person.

I came to the realization that with my first girlfriend, in my eagerness to be supportive, I neglected to give her anything she could respect. My newfound realization to be true to who I was fit well with my earlier resistance to High Impact's pressure to force people into the ministry.

Let's go back a three and a half years ago. I was seeing this young lady, who, while a lovely girl, was exceedingly quiet.

Any conflict we had she would internalize, and she thought she should take any trampling of her personality as her burden to bear. I felt like I was dating someone that I could accidentally hurt to excess, and she would never let me know.

I came away from that relationship with a newfound respect for the verse "like iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another".

Not to say that she wasn't capable of it, but I doubted that I would ever be able to sharpen her without absolutely breaking her spirit, and I didn't think she would be able to correct me unless I made her so mad she couldn't see straight. It wasn't healthy.

This got me to thinking about the verse again, and how it might be likened to sparring partners (don't worry Petrie family, I'm not advocating any actual violence). But sparring partners are used to toughen up a competitor, but they are matched up by weight divisions.

You wouldn't take a heavyweight sparring partner and match them with a lightweight fighter.

In the same fashion, I know I need someone who can let me know when I've hurt them, and isn't afraid to tell me how they feel about it.

So why do we have all these disparate parts of my life in one post? Why post all this internal monologue concerning things that people could very well not care about?

Tabitha and I had a rough fight last night. It seemed small enough, but I didn't realize the full implications, or why it affected me so much until I had a chance to think about it.

The long and short of it had to deal with two situations in close proximity to each other. One of which I was being my loud self, and she tried to reel me in. The second dealt with a drive from LA to SB in which literally nothing was said.

I love being loud, happy, inviting, surreal, and sometimes embarrassing. It's who I am, and, unless I want to live a "life of quiet desperation", it's who I need to be.

I could quash that side of me, but that would leave her little to respect if the result of any argument was the removal of large sections of my personality. My experiences at High Impact showed me the importance of being myself, and the passive/aggressive nature that I exhibit when I'm being railroaded into something.

In the same light, I also don't want to quash her. I want to hear from her when she's upset. I want her to tell me when I've made her mad.

The entire car ride over, I was giving her the chance to speak when she was ready. I had told her what I thought, and didn't want to railroad the conversation.

Afterward, I realized I was still upset because I HAD wanted her to speak up. I had already told her how I felt, and I wanted her to feel confident and safe enough to let me know how she felt.

The whole reason I fell in love with Tabitha is because of her ability to tell an inappropriate joke. I love her confidence, I love her enthusiasm, I love her ability to point out when I've messed up, and to tell me how she feels. My frustration is in her reluctance to bring it out fully. My hope and desire is for her to feel safe enough to be able to express the amazing person she is with full confidence of my support in any situation.

I want to go through life together. I want her to be just as excited and confident about life as I hope to be. I want her to allow me to fuel her interests as much as she encourages me about mine. I want to be weird together. To have a passion and love of life that is infectious to all we touch.

The title of the post is a quote from the movie "Dodgeball". I include it because it because there is another quote that I think is relevant to this situation: "You gotta grab life by the haunches and hump it into submission!"

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