The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tabula Rasa... again

Tabula Rasa = “clean slate”

I’ll have to admit - my brain isn’t really normal these days. (Of course, if you know me at all, you know that the word “normal” hasn’t really ever been something used to describe me.) But it goes a little beyond the usual eccentricity that I’m known for - beyond purple shoes, a three wheeled pedal conveyance, a walking staff with a bear on top, or a fez with a wingnut embroidered on it.

The only way I can express it is, I don’t know what I’m passionate about. I should say, I don’t know what I’m passionate about doing. I love my wife, I love the Lord, I love my dog, I love my church family - there’s no doubt about those. I love riding my trike - again, no question. But when it comes to what I should be or want to be doing, I’m not sure. Even as I’m writing this, there are a number of creative projects that I should be working on, but don’t really feel a desire to pursue.

“Grow up!” I know - there are times when we all must quit waiting for our muse, stop sitting around until the mood strikes us, and just get to work and get stuff done. I understand that - all too well. And one theory I’ve been kicking around is that I’m just lazy. Or that I’m being exactly the type of creative person I despise - the one who is of no use whatsoever unless “inspiration” strikes them. If they don’t feel inspired, they simply do nothing. Grrrr... Useless. But I don’t think terminal lazyness is the problem here. Granted, I’m an expert at putting off ‘til tomorrow what I ought to be doing today, but I think something deeper seems to be going on...

Over the past few months (almost 4, to be not quite exact), my world in general and my body in particular has been through tremendous changes. As I write this, my weight is 312.3 lbs, which is over one hundred pounds away from where I started before surgery March 30th, at 414. And is worlds away from when this whole process started at Weigh to Wellness in January of 2009, when I weighed 480. I’ve went from not being able to stand more than a minute or two before my knees wouldn’t hold me up to riding 14 miles on my trike without stopping. The only time I use my wheelchair these days is when I have time to shop for more than an hour and I want to work my upper body.

But my head hasn’t quite figured out what that means yet...

At times I’m overcome with excitement - the possibilities are endless of what I can be and do. From hopeless to unlimited is quite a journey to make, and it staggers me to think of where this path might lead even a year from now. Vicki can get her arms all the way around me to give me a hug, and that delights her. I can move, I can walk with her in the store, I can do things around the house, I can go down to the basement or upstairs for the first time in years...

But I have no idea what I want to do.

It almost feels like I’m waiting for something - something to happen, permission to be granted, an act of Congress (hope I don’t have to wait that long...), or some switch to be thrown that turns everything on. Maybe a door to be unlocked or at least a key given. I don’t seem to move forward... I just wait.

The things I seem to spend my time on are the most mindless things I can find... Spool knitting or kumihimo. Loom knitting. Riding the trike, where the body is engaged but the mind is in neutral - sort of. Anything that asks for more of me than those simple tasks gets put off. Why? I have no idea.

Some folks whose counsel I trust have said that time is needed - my mind needs time to catch up with the tremendous changes my body has been going through. It’s like someone who has spent the last 30 years imprisoned in one cell. That’s all they’ve seen for the last 30 years. Now, quite suddenly, the door has been unlocked and they’re free to walk out into the sunlight. But their head is still in the cell - still in prison. The body is walking free, but the mind hasn’t grasped that freedom yet. I notice that in myself somewhat - I’ll sit down, not because I’m tired but because “I can only stand for a minute or two before I have to sit down.“ The habit takes over before I realize it.

It’s been months - maybe even over a year - since I seriously worked on music. My keyboard has sat silent for a long time, and I’m not sure how to begin again. It’s been almost a year since my job ended at CBH when Gilead wrapped, and I haven’t done any serious audio work since then - I have projects waiting, but it’s like I don’t even know where to start to pick them up.

I play music every week, between my gigs at coffee houses and the worship team at church. But to work with it - to construct and compose, to arrange and record - I’ve been a long time away from it. Back when my energy was all used up just trying to live through a day. Somewhere along the way, between my most recent lowest weight (366) through being laid off and getting back up to 480, and now at 312, I’ve lost the process of making music - the routine of getting into a creative mindset, finding inspiration and working toward producing music.

When the Lord shattered my chains, when He set me free from food, He did it completely. The human side of me is waiting for the old habits to come back, but the part of me that trusts Him knows that they won’t. There’s a reason He put those words into my mind when I awoke in the hospital - “my chains are gone, I’ve been set free.” But Sightblinder is never happy unless he has someplace to nail us. I told Vicki I believe that my mind is the battleground now, and not my body. By His grace I’ve been set free from bondage to food, but the enemy won’t stop coming after me - he’ll just find a new place to attack.

In the end, I have to realize that I AM Tabula Rasa - a clean slate. And it’s going to take some time - a lot of time - to see that reality. I’ll never be the same, but in God’s grace I’ll be right where He wants me. So we keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. Finding my way back to creative pursuits, from a whole new perspective. And perhaps letting some things go - I’m sure that some of the things I’ve pursued in the past simply won’t seem as interesting or important anymore.

Patience. It’s not that the passion is gone, but rather that the scene has changed. The slate is clean, and what comes next will be from a heart that understands how deep and high and wide is the love of Christ. So I officially give myself permission to take time. Starting a new life doesn’t happen instantly. Living without chains takes some getting used to - all the opportunities and options seem more than I can take in. Time and patience along with an abundance of God’s grace will sort it out.

So ease up on yourself a little, Cal. Don’t stop moving, but don’t get frustrated when you’re not sure where to put your feet. Until recently, walking wasn’t all that easy for you. One step, one move at a time, “’till by turning, turning, we come ‘round right.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Chains are Gone...

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood, His mercy rains -
Unending love, amazing grace.”

- Chris Tomlin

The phrase “my chains are gone, I’ve been set free” is one of the first thoughts I remember when I woke up in my hospital room on March 30th. That sense that God had delivered me from a chain that had held me prisoner all my life was so overwhelming, that it brought tears to my eyes. And so far, He has shown me that breaking the chain is exactly what He did. No difficulties adapting to my new life, no long times of lamenting over cookies and rolls never to be eaten again, and no regrets on following His path into this new way of living.

In short, there is nothing I’ve given up that is worth everything He has brought me to. My body is changing daily, my health is improving, and I’ve smiled more in the last three months than I think I did in the previous three years (or more). (and did I mention that Vicki and I went twelve miles on our trikes last Monday??) Am I tempted to see what I can “get away with?” No, not really. Does food still look good to me? Of course - it was my stomach that was taken, not my eyeballs. So do I then grab what looks good and eat it regardless of the consequences? Nope. I don’t know what some things would do to me, and I don’t feel like finding out.

“Wow. You must have some will power.”

No - not really. I mean, look at me. If will power is what was needed, how did I end up looking like this? It took Divine mercy and grace to free me from bondage. Nothing less than the power of God to release me from something that had held me in its grip all my life.

And realizing something important that will help keep me on this path...

Long, long ago - so far away that I can’t remember when - I made a decision. I decided that I would never consciously consume alcohol. I’m sure that somewhere along the line I’ve eaten something at some restaurant that contained alcohol, but I made a decision to never drink. Ever. As the child of an alcoholic, I knew that the same thing could be released in me if I let it. Better to never know what it’s like - the taste, the effect it has on me, all of it - than to try and walk away after the fact. And that’s a decision I’ve never broken. I won’t consume it, I won’t cook with it, and even though I’m sure I drive Vicki to the point of wanting to drink sometimes, she’s joined me in this lifestyle.

(For the record, I have no issues with someone’s decision to drink. I do think it’s something that you need to give careful thought to, just as we should with most areas of our lives, and to listen to God’s guidance in that decision. That being said, it’s an area of liberty that believers can decide for themselves. My decision is just that - mine. Your mileage may vary...)

I was and am a food addict - my dad chose alcohol, and I chose cupcakes. And hamburgers. And fried chicken. And donuts. And... sorry. You get the idea. But then God intervened, setting me free in ways that I’m just starting to realize. And the decision not to eat things that I know will harm me is becoming a decision very much like a decision to not drink alcohol. That same resolve, that same “no question about it” has begun to apply to more than just drinking. When God released my chains, He did more than unhook them - He shattered them. Does that cinnamon roll look amazing, gooey and tempting? Oh yeah. Am I going to eat it? No - not really interested. I’d much rather keep on this path and see where it leads.

Finally, I do realize that I’m still in the “honeymoon phase” of my new life. Just over three months out, the weight is dropping off, I’m doing things I haven’t been able to do in years, and all is groovy. But at six months? A year? After I hit the first plateau and stop dead in my tracks? What will happen to all my sunny resolve then?

That’s why I’m laying these words down. I’ll need them soon, to keep my eyes and my focus where they should be. So that when it’s snowing and ten below outside, and the trike is all bundled away for the season, and I’m stuck inside with nothing but a recliner and a bag of chips to keep me company, I can be reminded of how incredible today is, and where God has brought us over the last three months. And I can remember that just like that decision I made so long ago, I’ve made another decision - with the same resolve - to keep on this new path and live this adventure that the Lord has put in front of us.

(My nephew has volunteered to help with this - something about “if we see you slipping, we’ll slap you.” That’ll keep a guy on the straight and narrow, eh?)

Then we’ll throw the trikes into the van, pack a bag and head down to Andy & Shan’s place. Hopefully they won’t have too much snow and we can get a little mid-winter trike riding in. Or really late fall. Or really early spring. Come to think of it, it might be time to go visit that lot in Arizona we’re interested in. Should be nice triking weather down there! We’re gonna be spending a lot on gas...

Saddle up, buttercup - it’s gonna be a great ride!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Come to the Table

I am so long overdue to begin writing again that I almost wonder if it’s worth getting back into the habit. (rhetorical question - I know that writing is something I need to do!)

As I’ve said before, writing is where I take some of the chaos that fills my mind and get it out there where I can take a look at it. Some of the stuff is “Stones” - reminders of places I’ve been on this journey and God’s faithfulness through it all. Some of it is lessons to be looked at, learned, and filed. Then there’s a whole pile of garbage - things that simply aren’t true, and that need to be taken out and exposed for the lies that they are. If those stay floating around inside for too long, they gradually become part of the way I think - lies that I begin to believe.

I guess writing is like flushing the biffy. Sort of. At least parts of it.

(Anybody from Oscoda remember this? “Go, Tawas, Go! Go, Tawas, Go! Around the bowl and down the hole - Go, Tawas, Go!”)

(Apologies to folks from the fine and friendly communities of East Tawas and Tawas City. Some old rivalries die hard - and probably should be flushed down the biffy.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah...

When I don’t write for long periods of time, the clutter in my head grows almost as fast as the clutter that fills my house - and that is truly frightening. Problem is, I always seem to need to go “somewhere” to write. So that means packing up my laptop, heading out, deciding what to drink at whatever coffee house I end up at, and then getting lost in reading feeds in Google Reader. Not very productive.

Today, I think I finally found a place to write at home...

Whenever my mom would come and visit us, her favorite spot in our house is what we call “the Nook.” It’s off the kitchen, not really a breakfast nook but the closest our old dwelling comes to one. It has windows on three sides, so it gets the most light of any room in the house. Mom would usually get up before us, head out here and make some coffee, and spend time in the Word and in prayer.

(Sometimes, she’d also make some toast... and our cross-eyed German Shepherd, Buddy, would make his way out here for a little toast date with Grandma. It was years before we knew that was going on...)

The Nook was overrun with clutter, and we haven’t used this room for a long time. (Other than a crap catcher, that is.) Earlier this year, my nephew and I made a start into reclaiming the Nook, but it was nowhere near useable, until today.

Today, I decided to make a path to the table, clear an area, and see if I could find a place where I could write. Not perfect, it’s an island in the midst of stuff. But it’s enough room for my MacBook, a chair, and a rug for Ezri if she feels like joining me. There’s even room next to me for a coffee mug. And it makes me smile to think that I’ll be sitting in Mom’s favorite room with a cup of coffee, writing and reading and praying.

But not sharing toast with Ezri. She doesn’t get people food, and I stay away from bread. Poor Ezri - life is so unfair.

The table I’m sitting at has a connection to her as well. This oak table is the only custom piece of furniture we’ve ever owned (or are likely to...). It was made in a size to fit here in the Nook, although it expands when needed. (Not that there’s room to expand it - the Nook is pretty tiny.) The finish of the oak matches the paneling in the Nook, and we even have a napkin holder and lazy Susan that match it. (There’s also a thimble case, which needs to be hung someday.)

We bought this table with money from our inheritance when Mom died. I think she’d be pleased with that - a lovely table for her favorite room.

So I begin to write once again, sorting through the thoughts, ideas, memories, lessons and garbage roaming around in my noggin. Trying to make sense of it all - one sentence at a time.

See you at the table in the Nook - soon.