Last weekend something cracked inside me.
I would say the pressure on the faulty dam was months in the making, years really, but I finally fractured internally on Saturday Night.
I'm 42 and have been "making up" my mind and constructing my life ever since I hit the age of accountability...and formatively even before that in the nurturing years when I was being formed and forged without my conscious knowing. As I've thought about what I've made of myself over the years, I see my mother's family tree in me more than my father's. If the Lavin heritage was grafted into the Holdridge heritage when my dad was wedded to my mom, I was spawned with a spirit that took on the nature of the Lavin lineage...it is stronger in my nature so to speak.
I see more of my Grandpa in myself than I see my dad. My dad is so solid and simple and steady. He is content with life and very much ok with the basics. He trusts and obeys without a second thought. He doesn't over-think things and spends little time fretting the past or fearing the future. He is consistent and constant. Those virtues are laudable and things I lean on and have learned from over the years, but I struggle to emulate them.
My Grandpa was born in 1915 and moved here from Spain with his parents. He learned to survive the streets of New York City before he knew any better or worse. It was what it was. He made a way for himself with his own will power and work ethic. He was driven and clawed his way to success with the fibers of his own taut muscles. If he was deficient, he would learn what he was missing and actively pursue mastery of that very thing. If he would hit an impasse, he would find a way to overcome. He was going to win. He was going to make something of himself. He wasn't into pity. He wasn't into regrets. He wasn't into charity. He was into self-made conquest. He was more than a conqueror.
He worked the streets selling papers as a newsy. He worked the docks lying about his age to make a wage. He would get into fights with kids and take his licks, but he would learn from them so that the next time them they messed with him he would know their weaknesses and exploit them. If they were strong, he would be fast. If they were fast, he would be smart. If they were smart, he would me strong. He adapted, figured stuff out, and overcame. He scraped in the streets to survive the elements and was always looking for ways to find a crack in the wall to slip through. If he couldn't find one...he would scale the wall and get over it. If he wanted to get into Madison Square Garden to watch a boxing match, he would weasel his way in between towering adults and slip through the ticket takers. He was a dreamer. He was a schemer. He was going to win. Eventually or inevitably. He would find a way to get to the top and be the king of the mountain. Others might have been better, but he was grittier...he would outwit the better and become the best. He fought his way from the bottom and hustled his way to the top.
By the time he was 42, he was angry and an alcoholic. Functional enough to keep up appearances with everyone and everything outside the home (charming, really), but behind closed doors, he was cracking and looking for relief for his manic manhood. He had a wife and three children. One of those children was my mom and she watched his pursuit of perfection turn on him. The let down of reality compared to his alternate reality left a gap...a gapping hole, really. That gap is something that grates on the soul. It makes you hate yourself...it makes you hate other people, the variables that they are...I makes you hate the violent machine that is life. (But now I'm imposing myself on the story).
Suffice it to say, I'm like Al Lavin, the Spaniard. The driven accelerant that makes things happen. But as my false self and my real self war within, I grew up in a home very unlike my grandfather. I grew up knowing that we "trust God", we "obey God", we "please God", we "love God", we "worship God", we "submit to God"...when any other vice seeks to replace finding our solace and serenity and security in Him, we shout them down and run to Him. He is our all in all. He is our peace. He is our portion, our deliverer, our strong tower, our shield, our buckler...all of our fountains are found in Him as the Psalmist posited. Yet these things are spiritual...and by that I mean, spirit. Unseen, Unsensed on some days, unheard, and unfelt. We know them and receive them "by faith" to use Bible-speak. We walk by faith, not by sight. - 2 Cor. 5:7 So yeah, same anger, same let downs, same hurts, same poser, same gap between expectations and experience, same disappointments, same crippling unknowns, same fears closing in, same uncertainties that used to seem so certain, same core emotions as any atheist born onto this cruel and corrupt planet who didn't ask to be here, but can't do anything about it. So you make your way forward until "it hits you".
What hits you? I don't know yet. I can't only refer to it as "it". I suppose it's a keen realization of your limitations, your waning energy, your insufficiencies and the realization that though everyone thinks you're indomitable and know some secret they don't, you are going with your best intuitions and "making it up". Your choice could be wrong. Your take could be flawed. And here's where I'll refer back to the aforementioned "it"...I am often wrong and I'm certainly flawed. To think otherwise is insanity, but a certain insanity ensues the minute you realize your construct is simply your construct. I have framed my life a certain way to survive and thrive. But it is just my fragile framework...it's not gospel truth and much of it is--at best--my version of truth whether that is good or bad on this day or that. Then you look around you and realize, everyone is doing this. I often wondered what I loved about the movie called The Truman Show, and it's becoming more evident by the hour. I would say by the day, but I'm being undone in hour intervals. Undone in the sense of deconstruction, not destruction. Life (or God) is dismantling my self-constructions. My versions. My frameworks. My paradigms. He is patiently peeling me apart layer by layer, hour by hour.
But let me climb out of the wormhole for a moment and address the reason I titled this blog "Prayed over by my dad". Last night, I stumbled and stammered as I explained to my dad over the phone what was occurring inside my psyche, the undoing as I called it. At first I was trying to convince him that just because I have gifts and success, that I am also a fragile and fractured man in need of assurance and a basic remembrance of the simple truths that have become platitudinal over the years. He began to talk to me about trusting God and resting in Him and I let him talk. When I sensed a pause, I tried to share my personal distance from these Christian virtues....they are currently dead to me, not because I don't desire them with all my being, but because I can't seem to be moved by them when I evoke them. They are close to me, and so far away.
I then attempted to utter words to explain my inner confusion and collisions of thought. What a fractured interior life feels like and looks like. I did my best to invite him into my struggle trying to pry him away from my blessings and my achievements and my current success...even his pride in me and what I've done with my life. As time when on I could hear him breathing as I poured out my heart. I was conscious to not overwhelm him in this season of his life with my disorientation, but part of my orientation is found in his voice. Somehow I still believe in the power of the father's voice. If Jesus needed it, how could I need be fearfully desperate to hear him speak over me.
And without my asking, he asked if he could pray for me. I wanted it more than my next breath. I heaved as I knelt by my bed and he spoke to God on my behalf. There is a "prayer voice" that my dad usually has that is different than his human voice. It is learned from pulpiteers and auctioneers...it is put on. For one of the first times in my life, he didn't employ that voice. It was the voice of my human dad praying for his human son about my human condition with his human emotions given expression by his human words. And yet, it was more than human, because we were talking by faith, in spirit, to the Unseen God. Dad wasn't asking for anything pie-in-the-sky, he was entering my world and pleading for my relief.
As I knelt by my bed in Lowell, MI and he prayed from his apartment in Pontiac, MI...I cried as I listened. His voice said to God, "Jason is my boy, and he is a good boy." As he finished his prayer he said, "Jason, you probably don't feel like anything you do is ever done, but you need to hear 'well done' and know that you're doing well and being faithful." I drank in his words as he shared that he and my mom love me very much, unconditionally.
As I hung up, wiped the tears off my face, and stood up to blow my nose in the bathroom, I moved back into the business of living life. I feel like a little boy starting over again. Maybe that isn't all that bad.