Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday - More Musings from the Neural Tangle

What a Week it's Been ...

There is so much happening for us now. I have a job, but I have an opportunity for a bigger, better, farther away one. I like the bigger (paycheck) and better (field of interest/demand), but not the farther away (this is plenty far; an hour or nearly each way is plenty, thank you). I leave that in the hands of He who does all things. It's not my decision, but I did throw my hat in the ring for consideration.

And our son has turned 5. "My son turned 5 just the other day ..." Heh. That's how it feels; like time is slipping through my fingers and the harder I clench my fists trying to clutch it in my palm, the faster the grains squeeze out and skitter away into eternity. If I had a way of slowing it, I would. Not so much for myself, but because I feel that my kids are rushing headlong into a world that probably won't welcome them with open arms. It certainly hasn't welcomed me. I was driving along thinking this morning (because there's nothing else I can do) and I remembered one sunny day when I was young. I guess I would have been in third grade? Maybe second; I don't remember now. It may have even been kindergarten, but I can't remember. I just remember being young. There I was, in my black horn-rimmed glasses, walking along and crossing a street to go home from school. As I was going away from the school, a much older boy was coming toward the school. He was tall, blond, and looked like a grown-up to me at the time. I really don't know how old he was, but he seemed very big and adult-like to me. I stared at him a bit, because I recognized him -- he was the older brother of one of my best friends.

He caught my gaze as I was approaching him, and I suppose that, shy and dorky like I was, I didn't smile or make any acknowledgement of him. I think I was under the impression that, if I knew him, he must also know me. I was in for a real surprise. He watched me watching him, and as I approached him, he snarled "What're you looking at, four-eyes??" He then punched me in the stomach.

I didn't fall down or anything, but I remember being a bit injured, and as I walked home, my eyes watered. I may have cried a bit from the insult, and I was stunned that he could be so mean for what I considered no apparent reason, but I didn't think I warranted being punched. I walked the rest of the way home wondering why he'd done it. As an adult, I still don't know.

My childhood is filled with all sorts of memories like that, and despite my best efforts to ignore them, they always seem to come back to haunt me. I've tried telling myself that those days are long past, and that I am not that scared and intimidated little boy anymore. In my twenties, I took great measures to separate myself from that little boy. For a time, I succeeded; I was not intimidated, but intimidating. I was not scared, but I could be scary. And I was not shy, but I was not welcoming either. I was someone to be reckoned with, a force that no one would dare punch in the stomach randomly for no reason without fear of reprisal. I was confident, arrogant, and I could be very, very mean indeed.

Time has a way of evening the playing field for us. When I was in my late twenties, I began to struggle with my weight. In my thirties, I got control of it again, but my physical presence wasn't what it had been. I never restored my body the form it had when I was 25 or 26, when it was at it's peak. Still, I had the potential to do it, I just lacked the discipline. I assumed, erroneously, that there would always be time for me to recover that physique, to work diligently at it. I just had to find the right time, the right motivation, and then pursue.

The problem is, it's nearly ten years later, and I still haven't done it. I'm nearly 16 years now separated from the sport I loved the most. I've grown fat again, and this time, I'm fatter than ever, and the recovery of what I once was may never really be possible again. I have two children now, and feel completely inadequate to protect them from evil, should the need arise. I don't feel confident, capable, sure and relaxed anymore. I'm nervous, afraid, shy and concerned about every eventuality. I've become that little boy who felt defenseless and vulnerable all over again, and God help me, I can't stand it.

How can I raise children to be sure of themselves when I am not sure of myself? I can't teach what I don't know. I can't demonstrate what is alien to me. I can't be what I'm not and expect my children to intuitively know what that should be. Even if, by some chance, they find that information on their own, it won't come without resenting me for not being what they needed. I know from experience, from the distaste I have for my own father. He was a failure as a father and as an example of manhood; the only male role model I had worth emulating was only a year older than I, and I couldn't spend enough time with him to learn enough to be like him. I even tried doing the things he did to try and capture some of it, to see if it would rub off on me. Of course, it never did, and it never will. How can it? It's learned over time, and in part, it's biological. My genetics are poor for this task; and I'm afraid my poor genetics may have been passed on to my own children.

Every once in a while, I get a flash of something that happened in the long ago, and I realize that the only thing stopping me from being that little boy all over again is the power to understand what happened and to make choices. But sometimes, when I'm alone, I still fight back tears in stinging eyes, because all of the effort I put into being something else is lost in the years of complacency, and I have returned to what I wanted to get away from so desperately. I grit my teeth and shout through tightened throat that, unlike that sad little boy, I don't have the benefit of a full lifetime ahead of me to recover what was lost. The grains of time slip inexorably through my clenched fist and skitter away into eternity, and that fist is so much more empty than it was when I was a scared little boy crossing a street on a sunny day so many years ago.