Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Seeking Daddy Project Day 56: O Captain, our Captain.

He was a genius.

If you were to ask me what I thought of Robin Williams, today, yesterday, and any day before that, my response would have been the same. He's a genius.

There's not really much else to say but that. He was a genius, and his death is a terrible, heartrending tragedy.

I've often both esteemed and envied Robin Williams: envied his obvious brilliance, talent, and wit. His stand-up is hilarious and inspired. His impressions are scintillating. "Dead Poet's Society" is one of the main reasons I became an English major. His acting is at once deeply, cathartically funny and just as deeply, transcendentally poignant.

The world has lost a singular talent and an incredible man. We will be the worse for his loss.

I've ridden a wave of emotions all throughout the day thinking about it. Celebrity deaths often affect me because of their suddenness, but this one has even more so.

I myself have felt - in perhaps minuscule amounts in comparison - what it feels like: flying on the highest highs, then bottoming out to the lowest lows. Three distinct seasons in my life thus far, three seasons I remember viscerally - one as recent as two years ago - have left me at a place where I wanted nothing more than to end my life as well.

It is by the grace of God that I didn't.

A coworker and I were talking today about Mr. Williams, and his summation was, "He needed Jesus." I had to agree. He needed Jesus because he needed healing. He needed grace. He needed the unconditional love and peace that only our Father can give.

Later on in the day, another coworker said, "I wonder...I wonder if he could have seen all the grief, the love, the adoration and mourning that is being poured out for him...would it have made a difference?"

All I can say is, I hope that he has found Jesus now and is resting in His loving embrace.

Mr. Robin Williams, the world will be a gloomier place without you. Rest in peace, O Captain, our Captain.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Seeking Daddy Project Day 55: "You were RIGHT!"

This is one of my favorite stories to tell because it still, and, I imagine, will always resonate so very strongly with me.  Grab a blankie and get comfy, because it's story time.

I'm proud to say that I've never in my life taken any form of drug, nor will I ever; mostly because they're illegal, but also because I can't conceive of any substance that could give me the kind of high that I feel when I make someone laugh.

It's even better and richer with people I really care about, but no matter what, laughter is what I crave: more than romance, more than money, more than sex or chocolate or cheese or a good haircut. It is the best. I'm like a bug to a porch light, a plant to the sun with other people's laughter: it gives me life.

I've been directing plays for more than 15 years now, and I will always choose a comedy. I will pour my heart and soul and creativity and vision into something seemingly as inconsequential as a 10-minute skit, squeezing the funny out of every line like a well-worn washcloth, then sit in the wings and just listen, heart pounding, waiting for the audience's reaction.

When I first moved to Raleigh and started attending the small church that has now become like my family, I asked the pastor if I could direct plays that we could perform during the service. He said yes, and I was off and running, ready again to do the thing that gives me life.

One of the first skits I chose was a two-character play centered around Father's Day, acted by one of my best friends and another gregarious and good-sported man in the church who had never previously been onstage. It was set in a hospital waiting room, where my 25-year-old friend played a man whose wife was giving birth to their first child and the other man played a character who was waiting for his third child to be born.  It was witty and very talky, the perfect mix of comedic realism and sweet pathos.

We started rehearsing two months in advance of Father's Day, several times a week.  My friend had acted before, but, as I said, the other man hadn't, and though he took direction easily and tried hard, it was an uphill battle. As Father's Day inched closer, I started to get nervous.

Our rehearsals were rough right up until the very end. He had trouble keeping his lines straight, picking up on cues, and remembering the blocking. Through it all, I tried my best to be patient and encouraging.

One night was particularly frustrating.  "I just don't know if I can do it," he said, head in hands.

"Yes, you can!" I cheered, both for him and for myself. "Look, you have to believe me. The first time you hear the audience laugh, it will be all worth it."

Three weeks before the performance, I traveled back to Pennsylvania to pick up the little poodle puppy my parents had gotten for me (who's now the sunshine of my life) and I remember lamenting to my mom, who had taught me to direct in the first place, that I didn't think we were going to be able to pull this off.  Right then, I really didn't think we could.

Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Were we going to make fools of ourselves? Was this going to humiliate this wonderful guy who had volunteered his time and efforts to be in my play? 

It was too late to back out now.

On Father's Day in 2008, I stood in a back room in my little church's sanctuary and listened to those two men give a nearly flawless, perfectly timed performance of our skit - by far the best I'd ever heard them do it. The audience laughed uproariously. That high I feel every time I hear an audience laugh coursed through me. I couldn't have been prouder.

After the skit was over, my new actor bounded back to where I was hiding, ecstatically grinning from ear to ear.  "That was great! That was so much fun!"

I hugged him excitedly, and then he exclaimed, "You were RIGHT!"

That was six years ago, and on average I'd say I still think about that day once a week - especially on days full of the laughter I hold so dearly. There's nothing better.

I was RIGHT!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Seeking Daddy Project Day 54: Too much ME.

Did you ever get just really, truly, genuinely sick and tired of yourself?

I've heard it explained many times that there are only two focuses in life: either God or oneself. I'm either being selfless or selfish.  Giving or grabbing.

It's either Him or me.

I've realized recently that the wearing away of my faith, what happens when I just basically ignore God, isn't big or brash or overtly really noticeable in anything that evangelicals tends to preach at me about in "avoiding temptation" or "sin".  None of it really matters.

It's not the occasional swear word, or the bawdy joke, or the cocktail, or the fact that I'm thinking of going back on birth control. (Controversy!)

It's not the fact that I'd rather listen to standup comedy than Christian music, or flirt with guys, or...the list goes on and on and on.

I'm pretty sure I thought that when I stopped hemming myself in, when I stopped feeling guilty about and denying my own "secular normalcy," that the world would cave in. It didn't.

None of that frivolous stuff is really consequential.  It's much more insidious than that.

I've only recently started to notice it, actually. Here's what it is:  I'm starting to become so sick of myself.

The bottom line is that I don't like who I am without Jesus.

That sounds weird.  Let me put that another way:  I don't like who I am without Jesus actively working to make me more like Himself.  Because right now, I'm not letting Him.

In recent weeks, I've found myself to be an insufferable, lazy, sniveling little worm of a person.  I'm suspicious, negative, bitter, and toxic. I'm derisive instead of gentle, judgmental instead of graceful. I don't give the benefit of the doubt; in fact, I doubt everyone.

Nothing is worse than looking at yourself in the mirror and feeling the urge to look away quickly so you don't see the selfishness in your own eyes.

It isn't me. Wait, actually - it is.

It's me without Jesus.

To be honest, I've spent well nigh on almost two years pushing God away.  Two years of being just angry and bitter and frustrated, stewing in my own filth.  Two years at the turn of a decade that, when my birthday rolled around, everyone told me would be the best.

As I look at it now, I think it was that last burst of Peter-Pan-ness, like a teenager being dropped off at college. I was handed bitter disappointment and heartache, to be sure, and instead of stepping up, I sulked.  I sat down in the parking lot of my dorm and refused to move for two years.

Today marks four months until I turn 32. I don't want to spend another year as myself without Jesus.

I want to step into a faith that is more real, more mature, and more every-day than my faith had ever been before.

Faith that's more about purpose than a plan.

Faith that's more about kindness than blessings.

Faith that shows Jesus' love instead of talking about everything else.

I'm tired of myself - not of the stuff that makes me human, but the little, creeping, sneaky stuff that keeps me from showing Jesus' love every minute of every day to everyone - whether it be over a cocktail or in a church pew.

It's time to step up.  I'm almost 32.  No more sulking.

I choose Him.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Seeking Daddy Project Day 53: What This Woman Wants

At 31, I've been dating for 15 years now. Fifteen years, lots of dates, a few relationships, and no marriages later, I'm very familiar with being "crossed in love," as Mr. Bennet says in Pride and Prejudice.  Years of dating as an adult have worn me down from someone who believed in soul-mates to someone who now believes in really good fits, and also someone who recognizes the rarity of such.

I'm also a big sister to a young woman just beginning her adventures in dating as a grownup (may God have mercy on her soul), and my little sister now sometimes comes to me for advice on relationships.  I'd make some self-deprecating remark about how I don't know anything about men, but to be honest, y'all, I have some stories.

After one of our mutual-makeup-applying chats in front of the bathroom mirror this week, I drove to work thinking about the whole idea of how do you know?  I came up with a list of what I think are some of the most important characteristics - at least for me - in knowing that a man and I will fit well together.  This isn't a checklist of qualities or a row of boxes to tic off; it's that deep, in-your-gutness that I've only ever experienced, oh, maybe once or twice in my life so far.*

I'd be interested to see if any of you feel the same way.

1. Do you respect and admire him for his character, integrity, maturity, and strength?
I've had entire relationships fail because one of these four isn't met, but they usually go hand-in-hand...and usually it's either all or nothing. I'm not talking about strength as in physical strength, either, obviously:  I mean emotional, relational strength, usually manifesting itself in generosity and selflessness.

2. Do you feel safe with him?
Again, this isn't really about physical safety, though that's good too: I mean, does being with him feel like home?  Does it feel like coming home after a long day and wrapping up in a blanket, or a bubble bath, or whatever your preferred method of comfort is?  Life's rough and it will hand your heart back to you, shredded.  The right person should be a soft place to fall, not someone who makes you feel exhausted or on edge.

3. Do you value his opinions?
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with #1, because they'll naturally feed into each other.  If you respect and admire someone, you value and seek out his thoughts and his take on life.  I know I need someone who can help me see the forest when I'm stuck staring at one tree.

4. Does he get your jokes and make you laugh?
Dude, it's going to be a long life if I have to keep explaining my jokes to you.  I mean, seriously. I don't have the faintest memory of the outfits or the food or even often the restaurants of the occasional six-hour dates I've been on, but I remember every line I've ever said that made a man double over or throw his head back in laughter.  Every. Single. One.  Like, up until yesterday (when I wasn't even on a date), every single one.

Oh, and also, please don't be dull. Craig Ferguson, Patton Oswalt, and Louis CK are all middle aged fathers but they make me weak in the knees because of how smart and funny they are. Take note.

5. Does he challenge you to be better in some way?
This one's the kicker, and the one I've experienced far less than any of the others.  This one is rare.  A great smile will captivate me and a nice full head of hair will definitely turn my head, but all of that is circumstantial compared to passion, ambition, a willingness to pursue knowledge and a talent for leadership. I can count on less than one hand the men who, by the very virtue of who they are, have inspired me to be a better who I am. From an ex-boyfriend, to a coworker, to a good friend, these men have and still continue to push me in ways that are sometimes uncomfortable and always challenging but that are ultimately the most vital.  If life is about growth, I want a man who will always be asking me to grow with him.

So that's my list.  What do you think?  Have I learned anything in my decade-and-a-half of dating?

And now, because I must, I leave you with Charlotte York's similar wail, "I've been dating since I was 15. I'm exhausted! Where is he?"

*Here's hoping the third time's the charm, eh?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Seeking Daddy Project Day 52: Redirection.

I winced as Michael dug his fingers into the right side of my neck, willing myself not to squirm.

I'm a very petite woman.  Michael is a powerful guy. He's well over six feet tall and bench presses (lifts? I don't know the terminology, sorry) hundreds of pounds. He makes no apologies about the fact that his massages will probably hurt, but they'll be worth it.  As with so many things in life, they do, and they are.

"I joke that I turn my clients into masochists," he offered with a little laugh. "They end up needing the release of this type of pain once it's over." He was quiet for a moment as I caught my breath against that exact feeling. "It's not a sexual thing. It's just that release."

I thought about making a joke about how it's been almost two months since Tate and I broke up so at this point any kind of release is fine by me, but I decided against it.  Class before sass, at least right then.

I was actually seeing Michael for the second time in two weeks, after life (and things like the car accident) prevented me from keeping my regular appointment.  Trust me, my body really needs my regular appointment.  With Michael as my massage therapist, my mind does, too.

His fingers kept digging into my neck; the pain worsened.  Almost subconsciously, my right hand gripped the sheet covering me.  Suddenly, Michael gently slapped my hand. "Stop that!"

"Did you just smack me?!" I said, both incredulous and amused.

"No, it was...redirection!" he exclaimed.

"Uh-huh." I think at first he couldn't tell if I was angry or not.  "Redirection, you say?"


"OK, that's fine, sure," I said.  Truth be told, I was a little embarrassed, but mostly I thought it was funny.  He seemed to as well.

It's been more than a week since I last saw him, but I've been turning that word over and over in my head.  If I could describe my 30's, that word is perfect.  Redirection.

If I'm being honest, in my 20's, I hook-line-and-sinker bought into all the evangelical Christian hype I could shovel down my spiritual throat and carried it with me everywhere.  Mostly, I'm ashamed to say, my main goal was finding a husband.  Everything hinged on that.  I was told I needed to find not just a husband, mind you, but a "Godly man," a "solid Christian" guy who would be a "spiritual leader."  I'm frustrated to say that I spent so much time in pursuit of that goal that there are several years, countless prayers, wasted experiences, and many missed moments I wish I could get back and would just suck the marrow out of rather than trying to analyze them as potential to be an on-ramp to reach Perfect Christian Marriage and Lifeville.

As the years ticked by, I became increasingly frustrated with the lack of this "blessing from God" in my life. I felt gypped. Led down the garden path. Overlooked. Let out to dry. Lied to. Inconsequential. Invalidated. Forgotten.

The main problem, of course, is that I am a walking oxymoron.

I'm too liberal for a conservative, too conservative for a liberal.

I support gay marriage, equal rights, and feminism, but then get extremely frustrated with especially militant Christian feminists and anyone else who spends all their time crowing over their oppression.

I don't get offended by profanity - most of the time, I think it's hilarious.

I drink whiskey, make scandalous jokes on the regular, and crave intimacy with men, though I could never conceive of having any kind of intimacy without a deep emotional connection and mutual respect.

I'm a prude to many and a Jezebel to just as many.  My best friend says I'm "too friendly" with guys, and yet I have a personal rule that I won't kiss someone until I know his middle name.

Once I turned 30, something strange happened.  I'm now on the expired shelf to a lot of the guys I used to think I wanted, but I'm finding myself redirecting.  The last year or so - especially the last few months - have been some of the best of my life.  I've relaxed.  I'm easier with a one-liner, quicker with a laugh, and much more in-the-moment than I've ever been.  I've somehow (not always, not completely, but still) become much more comfortable in my own skin.  I know who I am and I like her, and instead of begging God for a "suitable" husband or trying to pretend things about myself that aren't true, I'm just relaxing into being me.  The results, I must say, aren't half bad.

I'm also realizing that instead of searching in vain for a "Godly" husband, I'd much prefer a man who's intelligent, thoughtful, open, reflective, and real.  One who will laugh at my jokes instead of being scandalized by them.  One who will consider nuance rather than knee-jerk labeling sin. One who isn't afraid of my intelligence, my ambition, my accomplishments, and - gasp - my sexuality, and gives me the benefit of the doubt with regards to all of it.

Faith is important, but just as much so are intelligence and maturity.  I'm no longer a horse-in-blinders, gulping churchy words and spewing them with virulence, but instead realizing that grace, hope, and love are far more nuanced and complicated.

If I've learned anything in the last year, it's that it's time I started looking around and really seeing people, not just potential - in my friends, in men, and in myself.

And that right there?  That's redirection for me.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Seeking Daddy Project Day 51: Unglued, Part the Second

I know it's been awhile, but at long last I'm finishing this story.  Go ahead and read Unglued, Part the First for a refresher first!

Anyway, so, back at the ballpark...

As I sat at the picnic table, drinking a $7 cup of white wine and fiddling with the little cork-heeled cause of my angst, I realized with some horror that I wasn't going to be able to make it the four blocks (uphill) back to the car.  I was trying to keep myself from spiraling into panic mode when Aaron and a couple of our other young guy coworkers came up to the table.

My only explanation is that we communicated telepathically, because before I knew it, classic hero that he is, Aaron had offered to go get the car and bring it back to pick me up.

I handed him my keys, and ten minutes later, my coworker/friend Meghan* and I met him in front of the ballpark.  Meghan asked us to take her back to her car, and I climbed in the backseat while she took shotgun.

We started driving around; Meghan didn't really remember where she'd parked.  It was understandable, really, in all the traffic.  We were only a few streets away from the ballpark about to go through a stoplight when she said, "Oh wait, I think it's down there!" Aaron braked slightly and turned the steering wheel to the right - and WHAM! We all flew forward.  My car had been rear-ended.

The next half hour went by in a blur.  Aaron pulled my car off to a side street, and the surprised, shaken young woman who had rear-ended us followed.  Another car had nearly clipped her; she was trying to avoid it and didn't see us. No one was hurt. We didn't call the police. Her mom, who was close by, came to her rescue.  I remember that I flew out of the backseat as soon as we'd stopped, quickly dialing my dad's number even though I'm in my thirties and live 300 miles away from him.

It took me awhile to realize that the bottom of my left sandal was now totally gone.  I hobbled around,  my right foot four inches higher than the left, the whole time we stood there.  One of the senior managers at our company had parked his car on that very side street, and he ended up taking Meghan back to her car.

I hadn't been in an accident in nearly 10 years.  I kept telling myself, don't freak out, don't overreact, this kind of thing happens all the time, but I can't say I was successful in any of that.

My car was driveable.  The bumper was badly damaged and the exhaust pipe and muffler hung down towards the back wheel, but I could get it home.  The other girl's car wasn't nearly so lucky.

We finally got back on the road; I drove shakily and Aaron was trying valiantly to be calming in the passenger seat.  I think he'd given me a hug. I remember thinking I'm so glad he's here.  I couldn't imagine driving back from Durham, a route that makes me nervous anyway, all alone after that.

Despite leaving the ballpark early, we got caught in the worst of the rush-hour traffic going back to the office because of the accident.  I turned the stand-up comedy channel back on, but in our heightened state neither of us could enjoy it; it just sounded like yelling.  Soon, I switched it off, and then we just talked. It was real talk, an honest dialogue between unlikely friends - friends who had both been admittedly surprised at the strength of our connection over the last few months.  We talked about our hopes, our fears, our pasts, our dreams. We dug deep. We blushed, we laughed, we opened up.

Never in a million years when I first met Aaron would I have dreamed we'd end up so close.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I went back and forth with insurance companies, leaving voicemails and memorizing claim numbers.  I finally got my car repaired and picked it up earlier this week.  All is well again.

My secret is that, other than a home invasion or a fire, one of my greatest fears is a car accident.  They're messy, they're expensive, and without my car I'm virtually helpless - I can't get anywhere.  Aaron was (again) a hero during the interlude, picking me up on his way to work and dropping me off on his way home, checking the bumper to make sure it wouldn't fall off and looking under the car to examine the muffler.  I'll be forever grateful.  I'm so glad I have my car back, though, because nothing compares to driving down a long stretch of highway at dusk on a summer night, playing my music and reflecting.

I've thought a lot about that day since it happened, and to my own surprise, I'd honestly do it all over again.  Parts of it were stressful and inconvenient, sure, but there were those moments: the moments when Aaron and I were laughing together at Patton Oswalt yelling "YOU STUPID DOUCHENOZZLE!" or on the drive back home, when I learned more about him than I ever thought I would, that I will forever cherish.

It's those moments that make life sweet.  It's those moments I'll carry with me and always think of with fondness and affection.  And if it took a fender-bender to get them, well, that seems like a bargain to me.

*Also not her real name. You know the drill by now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Seeking Daddy Project Day 50: Unglued, Part the First

"You have to hear this one Patton Oswalt bit," Aaron* said, grinning excitedly from across our cubicle. "It's hilarious!  He's talking about a girl he slept with and going to get the morning after pill..."

Aaron and I have shared cube space almost the entirety of his seven months at our company.  In that time, we've become fast friends, bonding over our love of standup comedy and just generally ridiculing the ridiculous.  He's a standup guy (pun intended): ambitious, witty, enthusiastic, encouraging, deep-voiced and football-player-muscled.  All in all, a classic hero.  He even rescued me during Raleigh's horrendous Snowmaggedon a few months earlier by driving me home in his huge SUV. I owe him several home-cooked meals at this point.

"I was thinking about it last night; you have to listen to it!" he continued. I raised my eyebrows.  He was already giggling.

"No, no, seriously!  I know it sounds bad, but it's so funny. He's telling this story, right, and then this guy in the crowd heckles him, and he just GOES OFF on him.  Oh my god, it's amazing.  He just YELLS at him for like ten straight minutes.  He's like, 'YOU DOUCHENOZZLE!'...wait, I can't do it, I'm gonna ruin it.  You just have to hear it...oh my god..."

He put his head down on the desk, shoulders shaking. His mirth was contagious; I couldn't help but grin too. 

A few hours later, we were headed to the Durham Bulls Ballpark.  Our company had paid for us all to go to a game as a team-building exercise, providing food and a half day to sit in the sun.  Since we live close to each other and have to drive the same way going home, Aaron and I carpooled in my Focus.  I plugged my iPhone in and turned to Patton Oswalt station on Pandora, and wouldn't you know it, right as we approached the exit, the very bit he was talking about came on.  He's right - it's hilarious.  Soon we were both helpless with laughter, and the traffic jam we got stuck in coming off the exit didn't seem nearly as bad.

The ballpark was packed yesterday, almost unbelievably so.  We spent an hour circling the area around it, trying in vain to get into several parking decks only to be told they were full up as we approached in a long line of equally frustrated drivers.  At long last, we found a parking deck four blocks away from the ballpark with some open spaces.

Now, here's the thing: I'm 4'10". My shoe closet is full of 4-inch heels. 

I've run down Broadway in stiletto mary-janes. I've clipped along Oxford Street in heeled boots. But yesterday, as I was hiking the four blocks from the parking deck toward the ballpark with Aaron, the heel on my 4" cork wedge sandal ripped in half.

We made it there, but unbeknownst to me, the front part of my shoe was hanging on by a thread - literally.  Many flights of stairs, bleachers, and a long saunter (well, toddle, on my part) around the arena looking at souvenirs didn't help.  By the end of the afternoon, I collapsed at a nearby picnic table with my coworkers/girlfriends, my left sandal holding itself together for dear life.

And that was only the beginning.

*Not his real name.  It rhymes, though.