Saturday, June 21, 2014

i can't believe this is the end

I am devastated.

Standing in the middle of GIANT--in between an American flag outdoor chair and a table stacked high with Entenmann's mini muffins--I received a phone call from my dad on Monday at 7:23 pm, informing me that my grandfather had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

I can't breathe.

I've had a week to process, and while the tightness in my chest has died down some, it's still there.  And no amount of distractions (real life or purposely invoked), have been able to stop the sudden, constrictive flashbacks I'll have at the most inopportune moments.  But life goes on.  So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut was so fond of saying.

This is the way the world ends.

But what Vonnegut and so many Modernists (Post-modernists?) failed to mention was how much death actually hurts.  It hurts so badly.  And it's not as though I'm a stranger to death.  After all, I'm a product of 9/11, and just three years ago, I witnessed my grandmother's final days in hospice, her battle with Alzheimer's finally lost.  I'm not naive enough to think that my experiences measure up to someone who has lost an immediate family member (I can't even imagine), however I've earned my share of battle scars from my grandma's death.

But this is different.

My grandfather was like a stand-in dad for me.  While my father was emotionally distant and physically unavailable (because he had to financially provide for our family), my grandfather was steadfastly available.  Where my own father was quick to wound with his own words, my grandfather was quicker still to tell you how much he loved you and how proud he was of you.  When everyone else had given up on the idea of me ever learning how to ride a bike, my grandfather was out with me every day until I finally learned how.  When my little sister and I missed the bus (because we'd been watching The Ink and Paint Club), it was the first time I'd ever heard him swear, but he came all the way over to our house to drive us to school.  A month ago, at the age of 86, he helped me move when I lost out on my apartment in Harrisburg.  We're talking a man who wholly understood what Christ meant when he said learn to be the servant of all.  Granted, my grandfather smoked for a decent portion of his life, and he was believed to be exposed to some kind of asbestos during his time in the Navy serving his country in WWII.  But he quit smoking cold turkey, and up until maybe five years ago, he would run up to ten miles every day of his life.  He even beat colon cancer close to ten years ago.  The guy's a machine.

And now, he has lung cancer.

This is the way the world ends.

Now, at this point, I have no idea what stage his cancer is at; hell, I don't even know if it's treatable.  I've heard radiation come up, but at his age, is treatment even a viable option?  These are all questions I never thought I'd have to answer at this stage in my life, and given the choice, I'd opt to never have to answer them.  But this seems to be the hand I've been dealt this retched year of 2014.

I know as a Christian, I should view this experience as the the book of Ecclesiastes does.  That whole,  "A time to be born; a time to die" thing.  That he's heading back to his heavenly home, to sit at the feet of his Father.  But realistically, my attitude is far more selfish and, in all honesty, resentful.

My grandfather was supposed to dance with me at my wedding.  He was supposed to be around to meet his great grandchildren.  He was going to be the first person I told when I won my first publicly elected position.

If you'll indulge my petulance for just a moment:  it's just so unfair!

This is the way the world ends.

What really concerns me, though--what truly terrifies me--about the whole situation is the well-being of my soul during this time.  When my grandmother passed away in 2011, watching her waste away in hospice was one of the most difficult things I have ever witnessed.  To watch someone so smart, so capable, and so independent simply waste away, to watch attendants change a grown woman's diaper decimated the very foundations of my faith.  I spent the next six months or so angry with God, wondering why he would allow such a demeaning and humiliating end for for one of his children he claimed to love unconditionally.

My faith has been no stranger to the crucible of life in the years since, but I don't trust myself to be able to recollect God's goodness in times such as this.  And perhaps that's the point.  My depraved nature shouldn't be trusted.  My inability to face death straight on, my weakness, is where God's strength is able to shine most brilliantly.  I am not the first Christian to struggle, to doubt, and I most certainly will not be the last.  But in this moment, in the days following that harrowing phone call from my dad, I will make 2 Corinthians 12:9 the cry of my heart because I don't have the strength to audibly utter the words, and because honestly, I don't have any other options.  "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"

Today is my grandfather's 87th birthday.  The irony has not escaped me, nor has it ceased to piss me off.  This is a man who served overseas in Italy during WWII, who worked two jobs to put his two kids through college.  A man who lost part of his finger  on the assembly line at Mack trucks, who cared for his Alzheimer's ridden wife for fifteen years.  This is a man who is my best friend.  And after all that, to celebrate his 87th birthday tomorrow, we're having salads and eating ice cream cake.

Not with a bang but a whimper.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I've [The General's] Got [Has] NOTHING To Say!

For the past two to three hours, I have been staring at a completely blank "New Post" document because I literally have nothing of profound impact to impart to my audience.  ("But, General," you all begin, "you've never said anything pro--" To which I promptly and succinctly shush you all.)  Initially, I had wanted to write something on the topic on Introversion, and I think I still will next week, but I just didn't have the will (or the motivation) to complete it.  So!  That being said!  Rather than trying to impress with my classic witticisms and ethereal prose, I will impart something that God has taught me, ever so quietly, this week.

Last Saturday, huddled under my covers, playing Mass Effect as male, Renegade Shepard, I could barely focus on taking down what appeared to be a whole colony of Rachni.  I was dreading the upcoming work week because I knew--I just knew--it was going to be hell, and what was supposed to be a distraction (i.e., my addiction to video gaming) was only serving to ratchet my anxiety meter through the roof.

It didn't really make sense.  I was no longer working at that Video Game Retail Store.  I had a sweet place of my own now.  I didn't quite understand where all this anxiousness was stemming from.  But as a deep seated Perfectionist from my early days as a zygote, I secretly knew it was all related to my unshakable fear of failure to perform at 100% for others around me.

I'll be completely honest, I don't absolutely not care about people approving of me.  I can tell myself otherwise, but as a naturally introverted person (SELF INSERTED PLUG, j/k, j/k) it is that much harder for me to get to know people, and it takes that much longer for other people to get to know me.  Ipso facto (I think I'm using that correctly, if not #sorrynotsorry), I try that much harder to come across normally because it's just easier in the end, but it's also much more exhausting (I'll get more into this next week).  So, in addition to my boss, there are my co-workers, my family, and then my roommate, and then people I run into on a daily basis, and then on top of all that, God.  By the end of all this people (and deity) pleasing, I'm drained.  There's not a single speck of "me" left, and the parts that are have withered and paled beyond recognition.

This is Psalm 30:5.  It reads:
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
I think sometimes I get so wrapped up in the present, in the temporal, that I forget that God transcends the limitations and boundaries man places on his own time and abilities.  I know in the past that I've remarked I don't pick up well on subtlety, but this week was different.  God reminded me of His ability to rescue my weary soul in small, seemingly random moments this week.  Whether it was in a friend dropping off Chipotle for lunch (well within my 3 times per week, thank you), or the trust of my boss to entrust a letter writing assignment to me, there was always rejoicing following the dread of the night prior.

Logically, I think I understand that not everyone will think I am as delightful and charming as I think I am.  But if there's anything I've picked up on this week, it's that even if I'm not feeling it in overwhelming waves, I worship a God whose favor in me is everlasting.  And in comparison, that seems pretty okay, to be honest.

Keelah Se'lai,

The General

Friday, January 10, 2014

Scrub is a Guy Who Can't Get No Love from General Kenobi

About a week ago (or was it two?), a friend of mine, frustrated by my lack of interest in the whole dating scene, came right out and demanded of me, "So what exactly are you looking for?  I just don't understand."  And, to be perfectly honest, neither did I.  I mean, besides the obvious (The Doctor, Coach Taylor, Indiana Jones, Tony Stark, etc.), I always had a list of standards, some more shallow than others (i.e. must love Firefly), but I had never really taken the time to put aside the attributes that really mattered.  So in an effort to have a response to my friend, and in order to understand where my underlying priorities lie, I penned this post.  Leave your gag reflexes at the door, folks, 'cause this is me being real, AND it's nowhere near February 14th!  I've called it:


1.) Love God and Pursue Him -  Above all else, this is a MUST.  While I believe in freedom of religion in the public sector, this is a potential life partner we're talking about.  I need someone who's on the same page with me for the huge doctrinal issues because on the bad days (and there will be bad days) I need to know that this dude will be encouraging me and hitting hard with the same spiritual truths I'd be feeding him on his bad days.  Doesn't mean we'll always agree (far from it), but it does mean that I will never have to hide who I am and what I stand for, and he won't have to worry about that either.

2.)  Treat Others (e.g. Ladies, Family, Service Personnel, etc.) with Dignity -  This is also huge with me.  Working at that Video Game Retail Store, I met some of the scummiest guys imaginable:  guys who were rude, guys who were foul mouthed, guys who wore grody t-shirts with scantily clad women on the front, etc.  They were disrespectful and crass; they were little boys.  It is super important to me that dudes treat their parents, their siblings, and other women with honor, dignity, and respect.  This is especially pressing with wait staff or any other customer service staff:  like Christ's Sermon on the Mount says, it's the meek that will inherit the earth, so it's paramount that the lowest of the low be treated like royalty.  If a dude does this, then I can guarantee that--to quote the philosopher Nicki Minaj--the panties comin' off, off, uh.

3.)  Sense of Humor - Why did the chicken cross the road?  Because if he tried fording the river, he probably would have died like his oxen brethren in The Oregon Trail.  True, that's some quality, grade-A comedy right there, but I'm not so much of an egotist that this dude's gotta think everything  I say is high-friggin'-larious, but there has to be some level of humor similarity in existence there.  If he can't pick up on my sarcasm, and the thought of this dude using one more pun has me driving a screwdriver into my inner ear , then there is a problem. 

This isn't just a superficial issue, either.  Given my proclivity toward comedy writing in some aspect of my future career, I need my future partner to be at least somewhat invested in this endeavor in some way as a supportive player.  If the roles were reversed, I would never want a dude to settle for me when I'm not invested in his future endeavors because they're boring/uninteresting/trigonometry related, etc.  In the same vain, I don't know if I could be with a guy who was also pursuing the comedy field because I feel like there would be a whole clashing of egos thing.  But give me a funny guy?  See the above re: Nicki Minaj and panties.

4.) Similar Political Beliefs - It's not that I'm saying I could never get together with a Democrat.  I'm just saying it's a highly unlikely possibility.  Why?  Because my passion for politics goes far beyond that:  it's a vocational calling, too.  Does it supersede my identity in Christ, and my call to love the lost?  Absolutely not, but it affects the way I vote, the way I speak, the way my worldview looks (or maybe vice versa?).  Either way, it's a topic I don't want to have to censor in the privacy of my own home.  Some couples can make that whole bipartisan thing work, but I don't think I could; I want that common ground.  Again, we don't have to have carbon copy political views--I couldn't possibly expect that--but some commonality should exist. 

Similarly, I am quite passionate about ending the objectification of women and engendering their empowerment.  I will NOT budge on this issue.  Joss Whedon gives me hope that there are other men out there who believe women can pretty much do whatever they want.  I want a dude who's as passionate about (and equally not as threatened by) the empowerment of women to fulfill their God designed destinies, whether that's mothering five children, becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or doing BOTH because as a woman WHY NOT

The fact that human trafficking is still such a huge epidemic internationally and domestically and that there are still countries where the societal norm is for women to cover their faces should upset this guy about a thousand times MORE because it reflects poorly on his gender; plus, these ladies are his sisters in Christ.  Show me that guy, the one that gets upset about the unjust treatment of ladies, not just when it's convenient for him politically, and I swear I will exercise my first amendment right to protest the need for clothing, stat.

And, finally...

5.)  Chiseled Jaw and Buns of Steel (i.e. Attractive) - Here it is, folks.  The shallow one.  Granted, this is the least important one on the list, but I disagree by how much it differs in importance.  Sure, looks aren't everything, but they are something!  When I picture a guy cherishing me, I picture someone who is so irrevocably head over heels into every aspect of me--physically, spiritually, and emotionally--he's like Tex Avery in those very old, very sexist cartoons, with his eyeballs popping out of his head and the old timey car horn going, foot thumping, only more romantic, and love of my life-ish.  Point is, I wouldn't want a dude to "pity" marry me if he thought I was awesome personality-wise, but just wasn't attracted to me physically.  That would be the worst.  In fact, I'd be super offended.  And if the roles were reversed (i.e., me pity marrying some non-bodacious dude) that dude would be upset, too.  No one likes the words 'pity' and 'date' in the same sentence; it's an absolute bummer.

I made a vow before God to hold off on all sexual activity until after I'm married.  It hasn't always been easy.  In fact, I'd say, like, 87% of the time, it sucks, it blows, it's the worst (puns NOT intended), but most of the time I am okay--even content--with my decision because I know God made the commandment out of love for his people, myself included.  Excluding procreation, God designed sex to be fun.  Call it selfish, but I feel I owe it to myself (and my future spouse) to be super into the way that dude looks.  Because in the event that marriage is something God has in store for me somewhere in my future, I can't imagine in that first year that this dude and I will be doing much else than each other <3

Keelah Se'lai,

The General

Thursday, January 2, 2014

[2014] Came in Like a Wrecking Ball; Or, How General Kenobi [Will Get] Her Groove Back

Long time, no blog, amirite?  There's really no proper excuse for the delay, save for crippling self-doubt and a healthy dose of procrastination by lethal injection.  Soooo...basically, the internal workings of my brain on a regular basis.  But alas!  2014 erupts as as a flaming phoenix from the embittered ashes of 2013, and with it, I plan to redeem many of my regrettably ill-adopted behaviors from last year.  What follows is a General (get it???) list of resolutions I solemnly(ish) swear to abide by in the following months.


10.)  I Solemnly Swear I Will Learn All the Lyrics to My Favorite Songs - Rather than fading off during the parts I don't know, or humming, or else making up my own lyrics.  Boston's "More than a Feeling" has been around for DECADES; there is literally NO excuse.

9.)  I Solemnly Swear to Be More Politically Active for Causes that Matter - As fun as it is to debate Second Amendment rights (not), there are other issues, such as fighting for the unborn, or eradicating human trafficking, that should be taking up so much more of my time and energy.  I swear(ish) to be more informed about the world around me, and, NO, The Onion, is NOT a valid news source (and not just because I can't access it from work).

8.)  I Solemnly Swear to Eat at Chipotle Once a Week - Okay, FINE, no more than three times a week, and that is FINAL.  I'm only human, for goodness sake.

7.) I Solemnly Swear to Lower My Expectations for Video Games This Year - In the first half of 2013, you had Tomb Raider, BioShock: Infinite, and The Last of Us all before the Holiday season, which is when all the amazing blockbuster games are supposed to drop.  You also had LEGO: Marvel Superheroes, which is seriously the most addictive and most adorable game I have ever played.  I have no expectations this year, except for TellTales' The Walking Dead: Season Two.  It had better be AMAZING.

6.)  I Solemnly Swear to Actively Participate in More Physical Excursions - Pushup?  I'm sorry, I've never seen that word not PLURALIZED.

5.)  I Solemnly Swear to Be More Selective in My Netflix Viewing Habits - There's no REASON I should be even remotely TEMPTED into viewing a film titled "Holiday in Handcuffs" when there are at least 156 titles in my queue, and about a thousand others that are just begging to be watched. (Here's looking at you, Scandal and my third watch through of Friday Night Lights).

4.)  I Solemnly Swear to Be More Socially Active - Role playing video games count as socializing, right?  Because otherwise my seventy-five plus hours clocked on Dragon Age: Origins last September would just be desperate and sad.

3.)  I Solemnly Swear to Stop Saying I Want to Be a Comedy Writer and Start Actually Writing Comedy - It's ridiculous, right?  You wouldn't say you're a legislator if you don't pass any legislation (ooooh, Federal Congress BURN!).  Comedy has long since skipped being a hobby for me; it's a passion.  This year, I swear(ish) to start writing some actual jokes or amusing stories, really ANYTHING that could be considered funny.  Here's a freebie I've been working on:  Two-in-one shampoo and conditioner is about as useful and nutritiously beneficial as a deep fried wheat grass shot.  I'll hold for the applause.

2.)  I Solemnly Swear to View and Serve Others as Christ Would - Sorry, Pride and Insecurity, you had too much pull last year.  You get to ride in the trunk along with  flare jeans and crocs.

And finally ....

1.)  I Solemnly Swear to Fall For and Pursue Real Men as Opposed to Fictional/Celebrity Men -LOL, J/K

Here's to 2014!
Keelah Se'lai,
The General