Sunday, August 24, 2008
I know I've been a bit quiet lately. I hope I'll be blogging more frequently in the near future. While you're waiting, I decided to switch my blog over to Wordpress.com. I'm still working on the design, but I've imported all of the old posts. Please bookmark the new address, astrangerinseattle.wordpress.com.
Posted by Clinton at 2:38 AM
Friday, August 1, 2008
It seems that a lot of my posts and poetry reflect something of a deep grief that I have carried inside for a very long time. Pain has never been too far from the surface for me, not for quite a few years at least, but the last year of study at MHGS has touched wounds that were so deep I had forgotten how to feel them. I have a complicated relationship with these wounds. If it hadn't been for this process, most of the words I have written here could have never formed inside of me. If it hadn't been for this process though, there would probably be many more entries on these pages. I can't say definitively which case would be better, but I hope that my silence is part of the price of finding a stronger and truer voice.
Diving inside the darkness of your own story can be a dangerous process. I was sure I could handle the "disruption" people talked about as I entered this program. My life feels like it has been in a constant state of disruption since my marriage began to fall apart in 2003. I have wrestled with doubt already. I knew the danger, but also the possibility of redemption. I thought I knew at least. I did not realize how quickly I could get tangled up in my own messiness as I started to name the more difficult parts of my own story.
I built really effective defenses at some point in my life, walls to keep people away from the messy places. Many of these were not conducive to healthy relationships, but they kept me safe from myself and others. I started to tear those walls down at MHGS. I could see how they had failed me, and I was done repeating old themes. I didn't really expect that I would fall right into the destructive patterns I was fighting to change. And I definitely didn't know how messy that would get without my dependable defenses.
My friend Nathan stated it well for me tonight. I don't remember the exact quote, but I'll paraphrase to say that MHGS keeps us living out on the edge -- of our relationships, our faith, our doubt, and our mess. When you're walking along that edge, you're likely to misstep and the consequences will be significant. I think I've had more than my fair share of missteps in the past six months ... you'd think I would learn eventually. I have failed. I have colluded in destructive relationships. I've hurt people I love. I've lost friends. I have made mistakes I can't erase, and my heart breaks whenever I think about some of them.
I have also learned a lot about grace. I've learned a lot about love and hope too. My default mode is to fight pretty hard against these gifts. They're dangerous, but oh so beautiful. I've learned to (every once in awhile) put down my gloves and enjoy their sweetness. I've learned that right and wrong is not as cut and dry as we'd like to make it. Sometimes we screw things up so badly that there is no way out that will erase the harm; the right thing is to quit trying to fix and accept the weight of our failures. I've learned that people are complicated, difficult, and still beautiful just like the image of the God that they reveal.
I could keep going, but I think it's better that I make my way to a point and get back to the paper I have due in 14 hours. I wasn't really sure when I set out to write this what that point would be, but I guess I just want to say how thankful I am that I'm not alone. It would be all too easy to judge me for the times I've stepped over the edge recently. There is just no way to sugar coat some of these failures. I know I am still loved though. I was told that twice tonight. I know that there are other people who are willing to walk that dangerous edge. Maybe we're wrong in doing things this way. Maybe MHGS is wrong in guiding us there. But I see something beautiful in people who are willing to carry a light into their own dark places. I don't know how else we learn to take that light into the rest of this world's darkness. I've walked a safe distance from the danger before. I've kept the mess and the wounds buried. I didn't feel alive anymore either. I didn't feel human. I felt like a computer running a program, meeting all of the conditions that would lead to the right answer and the right outcome. I wonder if we worry a little too much about doing the "right" thing ... maybe it's even a bit self righteous.
So anyway, I'm a total mess right now. I've fucked up a lot, and I'm going to be working through the broken pieces for a long time. I don't have the "right" answer, and this certainly doesn't feel like the "right" outcome. Thank you Lord for your gift of grace. I hope you meant it when you said that you make all things new. Thank you friends who know my story and still love me. It's good to feel alive and good to be writing again. On the other hand, it is not good to have half a paper to write between 2 am and 4:30 pm. ;)
Posted by Clinton at 1:06 AM
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
I've been buried in work and assignments for the last couple of weeks. I think I might have been a bit ambitious thinking I could post on a daily basis at this point in the semester. Maybe once a week is more realistic.
While I'm logged in, I guess I'll give you a quick peek into my life at the moment. In about three weeks, I'll be wrapping up my second semester at MHGS. To be completely honest, I'm more than a little bit behind right now. I never could get into a rhythm with studying this semester. I still have hope that I can finish all of my papers, but I'm not sure what that is going to mean for my sleep schedule. Be kind to me if you see me or talk to me before the end of April ... I know better than to promise I'll be in a nice mood.
Aside from school, work has really picked up. I've been doing security assessments for True Digital Security in Tulsa for a few weeks now. We're wrapping up an assessment in the next week, and I have a lot to do on the analysis and reporting end of things. I've also been contracting for my stepfather's company in Oklahoma City. After I wrap up this post, I need to get cracking on the slides for a briefing I'm giving at a telecommunications conference in May. The difficult part of both jobs is that neither is extremely exciting from a technical perspective, and it's tough to get back into the technical mindset after months of learning to think like a counselor. I have been grateful for the income. The lack of income early in the semester was slightly stressful with my mortgage payments.
An update on the house ... It's still on the market, but hopefully not for long. I have dropped the price significantly since I put it on the market last June, and the last adjustment has definitely had an impact. I'm getting email notifications of showings on a daily basis. My realtor was also called about a potential contract last week. We expected to have it in hand by now, but the buyers seem to be taking their time. I'm still hopeful since they haven't contacted him to say that they changed their minds.
Hopefully I'll post my #2 pre-30 goal soon. For now I will say that #2 is about my writing and what I'd like to accomplish in the next couple of years.
Posted by Clinton at 2:30 PM
Sunday, March 30, 2008
So right about now, you might be thinking that I'm taking this idea of putting flesh to my dreams a little too literally. ;) I guess I should explain a little bit.
Around Memorial Day in 2005, I was burned out from the strain of my divorce in 2004 along with trying to fulfill commitments for work, church, and unfinished home renovations. I'm not sure this is exactly how it went down, but I remember walking into my supervisor's office one day and saying, "I won't be here next week." He must have seen something in my eyes because I think he asked where I'd be week after that. He relaxed a little bit when I told him that I just needed a bit of a vacation.
A few days later, I packed up my camping gear and a few other necessities, hopped on a plane, and made my way to the British Virgin Islands by myself. I'd had my eye on a small island named Jost Van Dyke since I first heard about it on my honeymoon in December of 2000. I remember being told about Jost's spectacular seaside camping. I don't think Kenna would have ever gone for this plan, but the adventure seemed perfect now that I was single. By early evening, I had made my way by airplane and ferry to Jost. I hitched a sailboat ride to the other side of the island with a lovely British couple (and their pets) returning from a grocery run on Tortola.
That first evening, I set up my tent at Ivan's Stress Free (a wonderful beach bar and campground) and made my way to dinner. I was exhausted and becoming increasingly aware of all the anxiety that I had carried with me from home. I was anything but "stress free." On the walk home from dinner, the fun began. The first friend I made on the island offered to sell me some weed for my trip. He was very polite, and he never asked again after I declined. We headed back to Ivan's where I began to meet my neighbors for the week.
Ivan's is an honor bar, so if nobody is around, you just make your own drinks and keep your own tab. Somehow the stress began to melt, and I actually had a bit of fun. The highlight of the night was the group decision to go skinny dipping by moonlight in the beautiful Caribbean waters of White Bay. Even though this idea was pretty far outside of my comfort zone, I decided to go for it. As I played in the water, I quit worrying about being "seen" -- probably too dark for that anyway -- and I let myself enjoy the moment. I wondered why I had never allowed myself this sort of freedom before.
I won't recount every detail of that trip, but I can tell you it was quite an adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the favorite drink of Jost Van Dyke, the aptly named "Pain Killer." I made some interesting acquaintances, enjoyed some delicious meals, turned down plenty of pot, chased sea turtles, and got a touch of sun on my pasty white body. There was even a night stranded off the shore of St. John in an 18 foot Boston Whaler with no life jackets, a dinky anchor, a drunk couple from Puerto Rico, and a resident of the islands named Tal. I couldn't get too comfortable on the little boat, so I spent most of the night staring at the stars and laughing at myself. We got a tow early the next morning, and I had to hitch a ride back to Jost since I didn't have my passport to board the ferry. On the final morning of my trip, I woke up early to tear down my tent and enjoy the freedom of skinny dipping one more time, this time on an empty beach.
The week was a turning point for me. I never came close to releasing all the stress I carried to the island, but I never would have come as far as I did without such an absurd adventure. I unexpectedly discovered a new side of myself, my shadow as Jung would call it. It was the me that thrived on adventure rather than predictability and control. It was the me that knew there was nothing nothing bad about getting naked and playing in a beautiful ocean with total strangers.
My shadow has really started to come alive in the three years since I visited Jost. He has introduced me to my strength, to my creativity, to my joy, and to my desire. He teaches me to honor my own doubt, my anger, my grief, and even my shame. He's marked me with one tattoo ... so far. And I'm pretty sure I'd never have thought twice about attending MHGS without him.
Looking back even just three years, I see how far I've come. I want to celebrate that turning point. I want to commemorate it with another adventure. It doesn't have to be Jost Van Dyke, but a return certainly feels appropriate, and possibly affordable for my new graduate student budget. So I'm giving myself two years to make it happen. And when it does, you better believe that I am going to swim naked again in the waters of White Bay.
Posted by Clinton at 2:16 AM
I made a couple of tweaks to "unsettled" which are now posted below. It became clear to me this morning that it is still alive. I was going back through the poem, getting ready to read at Free Form (yikes!!!) and decided to play with it a little more. Let me know what you think, because it's not finished yet. I'm still wrestling with these feelings, and may even have a few more verses to add one day soon.
I also posted Rainier, another poem I read at Free Form. It's been locked safely away in my journal since I wrote it on March 11th. I'm still not sure the poem is complete, so it took a little bit of reassurance from friends for me to share. The poem is a reflection of my experience one morning seeing Rainier from Route 15 of the King County Metro. It speaks to those things in life which stop our hearts and take away our breath only to disappear before we are ready to let them go.
If you'd like to know more of what's behind some of my other poems, you'll have to nag me until I sit down and write those thoughts. I've been planning to do it for awhile, but clearly need some motivation!
Posted by Clinton at 1:33 AM
My birthday was a few days ago now. Just turned 28. Only a couple of years left now before the big 3-0. A friend of mine asked me that night to describe my top five things to do before that momentous occasion. It was a tough question to hear on Wednesday. I only survived that day an hour at a time, and thinking ahead even to the weekend was just a bit frightening. I did want to answer though. The question deserves some thought, but it also means stepping back into a territory that feels a little dangerous.
I've been discovering a freedom these days in letting go of my plans and just living a day at a time. I needed to learn again how to just be. To abandon control. To close my eyes, let go of the reigns, and finally trust. How could I hope without first learning to be present in the moment? But there is a danger in this freedom. Will it still hold its beauty when my fear perverts letting go as an excuse not to dream?
Earlier that morning, another friend took time out of her day to encourage me in my writing. In particular, she has challenged me to start writing and sharing more frequently ... even if I feel like I have nothing to say. So, I figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone, for the time being at least. For the next week or so I'm going to write about my dreams (at least five of 'em) for the next two years. It seems too easy to just write up a list. I don't want this to be another set of goals to be checked off. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. I take this to mean that we are supposed to put flesh to our dreams. So for my top five, I want to dream big. I want to imagine new adventures. If I start to give them flesh now, maybe they'll actually come to life.
Posted by Clinton at 12:48 AM