Friday, February 18, 2011

I Was Born A Year Ago Today

"How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight? I don't wanna die without any scars..." - Chuck Palahniuk, author of  Fight Club

I think people would agree that a fight that's one-sided isn't really a fight. That's just a beating. That's a bully taking advantage of someone weaker than he or she is. A real fight is back and forth; you trade blows.

The keeping of one's faith is similar. If you want to be a Christian or even remotely God-conscious, this life will fight you for it. It's going to hit you, and as commonly said, nobody hits harder than life. The world tries to take your joy and your peace with every unwanted circumstance, every unexpected tragedy, and every unforeseen pitfall.

So what do you do? You can curl up in the fetal position, block your face and just take it. Truthfully, there are times when that's the only thing you can do. Some hardships are simply tests of endurance.  But how we deal with our battles says more about us than the outcome of the battle itself.

You can help the enemy by inflicting wounds on yourself. That's when you just agree with every negative thought that comes in: "I'm not good enough, not smart enough, etc." Your opponent doesn't have to do anything then. You will beat yourself up.

Then there's the third option: you can fight. You fight by remembering God's promise that no weapon formed against you will succeed at taking you down (Isaiah 54:17). You hide His words in your heart and wear them out on your sleeve. You stand up against the lies that seek to sink your ship.

And it's going to be rough. You'll get wounded. You'll get dazed. The enemy doesn't fight fair, and he's very aware of your weak points. Don't think for a moment that he won't sucker punch you right where it hurts targeting what means the most to you.

It's difficult to imagine emerging from any fight without scars. Even Jesus has scars. He showed them to the disciples after His resurrection (see Luke 24:39). In fact, His scars were proof that He had died and came back to life. I think our scars bare the same resemblance. They are the evidence that we are over comers. They qualify us to speak to those in pain and say, "I've been there." I have many scars.  Scars from life and its many arrows that were aimed at me.  Black is one my many scars.  I have scars that I am not proud of.  But I can always say, "I've been there....but now I am here." That's why I now tell so much of my story.

I've been asked of the title of my blog; that of its meaning. "What does it mean?" "I know what prodigal means. Like the prodigal son? What does it have to do with you?" "What's quickening?" "What's a recycled-dad?"

It took three revisions before deciding on this final title. As I'm sure all writers I wanted to convey the essence of where I'm coming from. After deciding on this final version I figured its meaning would be somewhat of a mystery. So I had intended on providing the complete interpretation at some point. Logical suggestion to help spark blog interest would be to tell this story at the beginning of my blog's life. Instead I chose today, February 18, 2011, the story of my second birthday.

It's 3:00am. One year ago today at this moment I was sitting in a "bull pin" in the county jail. It was the third time. One year ago today the events of the previous five years had taken its toll on me. One year ago today I left the house at a point in my life not caring what was going to happen next.

Quickening. It has two meanings. One physical and another spiritual. In pregnancy terms, it's the exact moment the initial motion of the fetus in the uterus as it is perceived or felt by a pregnant woman. In the English Dictionary, to "quicken" means to reach the stage the child shows signs of life. But that is not the life giving quality I'm referring to.

On February 18, 2010 I was arrested for DWI. Even worse my step-daughter watched me be handcuffed and put into the police car. I was placed in a pin with over twenty other men that was made for 8. It wasn't the first time. I got my due, my consequences. I got my wake up call too. I had spent 5 years prior trying to avoid the anger, the pain and hurt of divorce, separation from my kids, the custody battles, the false child abuse allegations, the personal attacks, the tolls it was taking on my marriage and family, and the progression of my Parkinson's. Not to mention each little problem the drinking itself had incurred.

I hated my ex and her husband for what they were doing to my kids, me and how it affected my family. I carried it around and it fueled my drinking. There were times I hated my wife. I hated myself. I hated life. And my life was hell. I did as much as I could to avoid it. I drank and starved myself. I pushed my wife away. I buried myself in work and education. I sought control through anorexia.

One year ago today I realized how dead I was. How I had been dwelling in a personal hell of darkness. Hell was waking up. Hell was not finding joy in anything because of the anger in other things. Hell was trying to escape every minute of every day. Hell was planning drinking into your daily schedule. Hell was not being able to eat because all you saw were numbers. Hell was thinking food was your enemy. Hell is when these things are never enough. Hell is when you put everything you have into being in control only to realize you were fighting a losing battle. I glorified my scars from life. I lived in self-preservation.

One year ago today, February 18, 2010, in the midst of twenty plus other men in county jail I woke up. I thought to myself, "What am I doing?" I knew what my potential consequences were, jail time, losing my financial aid, but worst of all losing my family. In that pin I cried out to God, "I can't do this anymore. It hurts too much and I can't let go of this anger by myself. It's killing me." Instantly it was as if I heard God audibly say to me, "Sometimes we are our worst enemy."

No, not a deep theological epiphany. But a God send none the less. I've learned most of the time He uses the simple things in life to get the job done. Otherwise we'd focus on the method rather than the results. My results hit me like a slap in the face. Throughout the past few years I had sought God and His help, but I never truly allowed Him in. It's the same as if I was to be married to my wife yet try to live single. Looking back during all those attacks I see His presence even when I ignored Him.

I literally once was the man that was beaten who was rescued by the Good Samaritan
(Luke 10:30-35)

I was one of those Christ spoke of taken to court out of hate and said He would speak for you (Matthew 10:17-27)

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam (Christ) was made a quickening spirit. 1 Cor 15:45

A year ago today I was quickened. Quickened: "to produce alive, to cause to live, make alive; by spiritual power, restore to life, endued with new and greater powers of life."

I became the Prodigal in Luke 15:11-32. From hungry to full. From lost to found. From death to life. From mine to His.

But what of a "recycled-dad?" I mean what is that all about? Think about what recycled means: "to reuse or make available for reuse for biological activities, to adapt to a new use, to bring back, to make ready for reuse." Ask any number of divorced dads and step-dads you're sure to get a consensus, "recycled" is how we feel..."reused, adapted." Out with the old and in with the modified new. Roles and relationships are redefined when it comes to biological children in spite of the fact they shouldn't be. They are your children. No one should be allowed to tell you your boundaries. But when the mother walks away and you are provided limited information and various court orders it produces cause for change.

Step-parenting produces its own special line of challenges of feeling recycled. You wrestle with the question, "are you recycling your role as a father to your own children?" "Are you recycling your role as a father and trying to replace their father?" All out of some need to fill that emptiness that was created in the divorce.  If so you are robbing them of the precious love and security they need.

Every moment you feel recycled. That original "dad" feeling was stripped away from you as if it was written in the child custody papers. You start over scrounging around as if looking for scraps to put together to make some kind of father figure. You look in "that" corner for ideas to stay connected with your children trying not to be that "weekend dad." You look in "another" corner to connect with your step-kids trying not to be "just" their mom's husband but not be too much at the same time.

It becomes a balance that you eventually let go of the "dad" you used to be. You don't get comfortable with the being a recycled dad. To do so would mean being complacent seeing your children every other weekend and missing those little things that regular parents take for granted and complain about. I missed my daughter's first rollover, her first steps and her first words. I missed my two youngest first days of school.

I was 29 when my first Parkinson's symptoms showed. That's half the average age of 60, of when the first sign normally shows. There's a different criteria but generally Parkinson's under the age of 50, 45, or 40 is known as "young onset Parkinson's." It presents itself as it does in the elderly but with special concerns. Had my brain decided to develop this disease according to its, for lack of better term, "normal," behavior, I could be anticipating these 20 to 30 or more years symptom free without their consequences. But since the substantia nigra in my brain has decided to die off at any early age I'm looking to deal with this condition 20 to 30 years longer than the average person with Parkinson's.  A young Parkinson's may also have a family and career to keep up with. The many symptoms of Parkinson's has the potential to alter any plans, whether they be immediate, short-term, or long-term. Not to sound undermining but these typically are not concerns that an elderly person would seem to deal with. Their own children are grown and they've fulfilled their careers.

I can't say I never grieved. It's natural to grieve at loss. I grieved at the loss of abilities. I grieved at the new ways of doing things. I've grieved at the loss of part of me. Months after February 18, 2010 my Parkinson's had progressed to the point that I decided I needed to make an appointment with my neurologist. I was moving slower, my hands were stiffer, my cognition was affected, my speech was affect. It was upsetting on some level. One night my wife asked me if the progression of my symptoms angered me after all the work and effort put into getting clean and recovering from my eating disorder. My answer was no. The physical symptoms are easier to carry than the emotional symptoms. God dealt with some instantly and is dealing with others as a process.

A year ago today I was quickened, I was dead, but now I am alive. 

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite one! Good job on not just this blog but on everything you've done in the last year. I love you!



Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

Blog with Integrity\\ Auhor Lupe Picazo

Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

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