Category Archives: Essential Jason

Tell Me You’ve Done This Before

I don’t do well with the unknown. I don’t trust unfamiliar situations to turn out well. That’s not to say that I won’t tolerate new experiences like some people won’t try kayaking or sushi. There’s nothing unknown about sushi: millions of people have eaten it and enjoyed it. Just becauase I haven’t tried it doesn’t mean that it’s unknown.

An unknown situation is something like a late-night stomach ache. Not a minor, “I’m so full after eating that second brownie” stomach ache, but a queasy, nausea-inducing stomach ache. It could be caused by many different things, and who knows how to evaluate the real cause when the whole of your mind is distracted by the terrible urge to puke?

I had such a stomach ache on Saturday night. I woke up around midnight with a queasy pain in my abdomen. It got so bad that I eventually got out of bed in order to “be ready,” whatever that might mean. I felt that way for so long that I eventually had to sit back down again, exhausted from being ready.

Now, here’s where unknown comes in. Was this a stomach flu? Was it food poisoning? Was it an ulcer? A tumor? A burrowing intestinal worm swallowed while eating sushi? I’ve had stomach aches before, so this wasn’t a new experience. But I didn’t know why I had one now, so it was unknown. Something new can be analyzed for what it is, something unknown is frightening because of all the scary, unthinkable things it might be.

I think I’ve said before that I don’t do well with the unknown.

I spent hours that night sitting in the living room, hurting, queasing, fearing scary possibilities, and praying to God to help me stay calm and to please let this pain in my abdomen be something that would pass quickly, like a virus. And the pain had ceased by the morning. Nothing more to worry about.

Two days later my four-year-old woke up complaining of a stomach ache. Her tummy hurt, and she wanted daddy to hold her until it felt better. She spent the morning sitting on my lap, complaining of a sore stomach, and puking into a bucket. This was all fairly new to her: she’s not used to throwing up. She’d look at me just before each retch as if to ask, “What’s happening?” Then I’d lean close to her ear during and tell her, “It’s okay, this is what our bodies do when we’re sick. It doesn’t feel very good but it’s normal, and you’re doing a great job getting through it even though you don’t like it much.”

I was coaching her. I was telling her that she was not in uncharted territory so she didn’t have to be scared. She could have confidence in me, if not in herself. I’d been where she was now and, while it might be new to her, it’s not unknown.

And that’s when I realized what my prayers were about when I had been afraid. Not about miraculous healing, but about assurance. I was looking for someone more experienced to say, “It’s okay, I know exactly what’s happening. You keep doing what you’re doing and everything will be fine, even if you don’t like it in the meantime.” Something like that is found in Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

What is your goal? What are your dreams or fantasies?

Goal? No goals here. The term goal indicates an objective reached by consistency of effort over time. I am not consistent — I change my mind. I am not good at effort — I give up.

I’ve had goals: to run an 18-minute 5K; to pay off my fiance’s engagement ring before our wedding; to lose weight before that same wedding (the actual motivator was not to look good in my tuxedo so much as in my honeymoon swim trunks); to save a large downpayment on our house so that we could keep our monthly payment low.

Now it occurs to me that three of those goals were in partnership with my wife, and it may be no simple coincidence that those are also the three goals that I achieved. The sub-18:00 5K never happened…missed it by about 40 seconds. I suppose that’s a pattern that I can find in other parts of my life too: when I’m working toward a goal with someone else then I can achieve it; when I set a goal for myself I’ll more than likely quit early because no one is holding me accountable. I guess in my case one man cannot change the world unless someone else is there to make sure that he does.

Now so far I’ve just been mulling my ability to set and attain minor goals. But the question asks about a singular GOAL. I.e., the thing that you want to attain by the totality of your life. If your answer is along the lines of material things like, “A big boat,” then you’re a sad, sad person, my friend. The major goal of your life should be more of an accomplishment than an object. “To have raised great children.” “To have stretched the bounds of medical science.” “To have left an example of human determination and potential.”

I’ve never thought of myself as working toward a goal like this. It’s not that I don’t want to do it — it sounds great now that I think about it! — but it’s just never occurred to me before that I should try to steer the larger course of my life. Actually, it’s never occurred to me that I could steer the larger course of my life. Life to me is mostly about reacting to where I find myself now. That sounds pretty sad when just putting it out there like that.

Question Two was better suited to me because it asked about what I hope for or crave. Hoping and craving are much easier concepts to apply to me than goals and effort and consistency. But I’m going to start thinking about my goals now. I do want this life to go somewhere. I don’t want to look back, dying, and wish I had figured this out long ago.

What are the times when life doesn’t seem worth living?

First, because this is my personality that we’re dealing with, let me say that the question is worded atrociously and should be instead: When does life seem not worth living?

Second, answering the question. Life isn’t worth living when I feel like a failure at absolutely everything. When I let the girls watch too much TV and I don’t get any laundry done and I have no idea what I’m serving for dinner (Or worse, when I think I’ll have to serve rice and soy sauce again because I didn’t get to the grocery store for meat or cheese) and there are all those calls I was supposed to make but didn’t and the carpet looks like it should have been vacuumed or else set ablaze two days ago — Then I feel the most depressed. I don’t feel like killing myself because that would be decisive and I’m certainly not decisive. But I do feel like a perfect waste of intricately organized proteins.

But then there is that to feel good about: I’m nutritious!

Now let me try to analyze some of that.

Life is not worth living when I think everything is going to shit; when I think that a better person would not have let everything go to shit; when what I have done is nowhere near the best I could have done or else the best I could do was still short of what was needed.

When does life seem not worth living? When I don’t seem worth living it. When I, through failure, don’t seem worth living it.

Feeling defensive now. First, my girls always get more time with daddy than time with TV. Isn’t the problem with kids watching too much TV normally that they spend time with TV instead of time with their parents?

Second, laundry doesn’t need to be done everyday.

Third, more than 50% of worldwide humanity’s calories come from rice. What’s so wrong about me serving it as a main course instead of as only a side dish?

This update has been a reasoned response to the emotional honesty in my original post.